Sunday, October 22, 2017

Driving down to a Boston Train Show

It was a lovely day, dry, warm, sunny.  Leaves are a bit past peak in Franconia Notch, but are at peak down south.  I93 was in good shape except the widening project south of Manchester hasn't gotten anywhere since I was thru there last.  More NH infrastructure money spent with out improving the road at all. 
   The North Shore Model Railroad Club of Wakefield MA, of which I used to be a member until I retired to NH, put on the show.  They had the swap meet at the Wakefield Americal Hall, across the street from the club layout.  The vendors had a lot of rolling stock and some structures, no tools or parts.  A fair number of steam engines that could serve as project locomotives, except I have two such project locomotive in my shop awaiting work.  The crowd was mostly older guys, a few very small children who were entranced, no kids old enough to be into electric trains on their own.  The hobby is not recruiting new hobbyists to replace the older guys who are dying off.  The North Shore club had three member who I had known die just this fall. 
  The club layout is down stairs from Brother's restaurant on Main St.  The layout is 90 feet long.  The newest and last section toward the back is largely done.  Benchwork is in, track is laid, trains run.  Scenery is coming along nicely.  The old core of the club was still there, still guiding the work.  This layout was large enough to make a cover story of Model Railroader back in 1985, and it's bigger now. 
   Anyhow a nice day.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Something must be happening that isn't Donald Trump

All the TV newsies talk about these days is Donald Trump.  Nothing else is covered.  Not even the stock market.  Surely there is something significant happening somewhere in the world that isn't about Donald Trump.  But we will never know.  Unless we do some web surfing. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Oh Say Can You See

Small patriotic ritual, performed before sporting events.  Americans are expected to stand and place their hand over their heart as the national anthem is played.  It's a symbol of respect for the flag, and the Republic for which it stands, to borrow a line from the pledge of allegiance.  And it's a sign of unity.  Anyone who fails to participate is saying they don't like the flag, they don't like the country, and they don't like other other Americans. 
   No beef with anyone or anything justifies failing to stand for the national anthem.   I don't like it, and a whole big bunch of my fellow Americans don't like it.  It may be legal. but we don't have to like it.  And we don't accept any excuses for failing to stand.  

The Microsoft Computer scammer calls again

This guy pretends to be from Microsoft, and wants to fix your computer.  The first time he called (maybe a year ago) I played along until he tried to get me to upload a piece of malware onto Trusty Desktop.  I used some salty service language on him and hung up.  Since then he has called back about once a month, giving me another opportunity to insult him. 
   Anyhow, if you get a call from someone who says he is from Microsoft, he is trying to plant a virus on your computer.  The real Microsoft never calls anyone. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Print is up, E-books are down

According to the Wall St Journal, sales of printed books are up 5% this year whereas sales of e-books are down 17%.  The Journal gave no reasons.  Wow! 
   The electronic wave of the future stopped cold by Gutenberg's printing press from the 1400's.  
    I'm in favor, I like reading a printed book better than I like fussing with a laptop to read an e-book.  I only mess with e-books to read old favorites no longer in print.  Old Edgar Rice Burroughs, old E.E. Smith,  old Andre Norton for example.  The laptop is bulky but it has a decent screen, the special e-book readers are micro screen devices which don't excite me much.   Even the idea of having the Library of Congress packed into a hand held device doesn't really excite me.  Apparently the market agrees. 

   

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Leaf Season in Franconia Notch








Does Weinstein affair account for poor Hollywood movies?

No doubt about it, Hollywood is making fewer movies, many of them are comic book movies, and box office has been terrible this season.  And then we have Harvey Weinstein, allegedly a top man in Hollywood.  Maybe he doesn't pay enough attention to making decent movies, and wastes too much time harassing and raping actresses?  If Harvey is typical of Hollywood management, no wonder the movies are lacking. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Cost Sharing Payments

President Trump has raised yet another firestorm from the Democrats.  He has decided to stop "Cost Sharing Payments" to the health insurance industry.  This is in accordance with a federal court decision calling the payments illegal, because Congress never appropriated the money for them.  Plus the concept of my tax money going to private insurance companies boggles my mind.
    Democrats claim these payoffs are necessary to keep Obamacare insurance premiums from going even higher than they have.  To which one might ask why they haven't appropriated the money.  And why the money should go to insurance companies, rather than to patients. 
   The Democratic whining over "Cost Sharing Payments" has drowned out Trump's other Obamacare reform, announced the day before, allowing sale of economical insurance policies, instead of the "covers everything under the sun" Obamacare policies.  The medical industry loves the Obamacare policies, they pay for everything, whether it does any good or not.  Patients don't complain about cost, 'cause it's all paid for.  Used to be you could buy "covers everything" policies for $12000 a year.  They cover routine physicals, the wife and kiddies, prescription drugs, out patient treatments, chiropracty , drug rehab, maternity, mental health, and all the cat scans, ultrasounds and MRI's the patient can stand.  This was the usually deal for employer provided health care. 
   But, they was another option, one that paid for the big stuff that nobody has the money for, and let the patient cover the little stuff out of pocket.  This coverage could be had (before Obamacare outlawed it) for $3000.  If you were in reasonably good health (most of us are) you could save $9000 a year by going with "big stuff only" or "hospitalization only" policies.  The $9000 difference was more than enough for yearly physicals, out patient treatments, pills and plasters, just about anything.  I used to go this way until Obamacare outlawed such policies, and I became eligible for Medicare.   My doctor never approved, he wanted me to get an MRI, I asked what it would cost, he didn't know, it took months to finally get someone to quote me a price ($ Many Thou)  at which point to matter was quietly dropped. 
   Trump is going to allow writing policies that only cover what the patient wants to pay for, rather than cover everything under the sun policies, which are outrageously expensive.   Good deal. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Republicans don't really control the federal government

So what is a Republican?  Really.   A real Republican votes for measures (Obamacare repeal!) important to the party.  There is a shortage of real Republicans in DC these days.  We have a lot of RINOs, who call themselves Republican but believe in Democrat policies like tax and spend.  They actually like robbing their constituents of  as much tax as they can get away with, and then using their ill gotten proceeds to buy votes in their districts with pork barrel spending.  And we have a lot of just plain weirdos, like John McCain and Rand Paul and Susan Collins who stick it to the party every time they can, just because they can.  And we have the "House Freedom Caucus", a bunch of "Republicans" from safe districts, who will bolt the party at the drop of a hat, for any reason at all, or no reason.
   As we have seen on Obamacare repeal, these people cannot be depended upon to vote for crucial bills.  In the Senate the Republicans have only 52 members and four or five of them are undependable weirdos.  Things are a little better in the house, but not much. 
   Rather than saying  "The Republicans control the government."  it would be more realistic to say, "The weirdos have enough votes to stop anything."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Girl and Boy Scouts of America??

Just heard about this on the TV.  Apparently the Boy Scouts have announced that all ranks of scouting are now open to girls as well as boys.  The Girl Scouts of America have objected to what they see as a grab for their membership.  Actually, a co-ed scouting program sounds like a good idea in many ways.  Maybe the leadership of both the Boy and Girl Scouts can get together on this.  Or maybe not.   Stay tuned.  

Forgiving Debt would Hurt Puerto Rico ??

Headline of an op ed in today's Wall St Journal.  Author is a John Tamny,  director of Center for Economic Freedom at Freedomworks, editor of RealClearMarkets, and author of "Popular Economics".  He has some credentials, although the name is new to me.  His arguments make little sense to me, even after re reading the piece several times.  He says "By erasing Puerto Rico's debt, Mr. Trump would be handing the territory's political class more money to spend inefficiently."  Let's be real here.  Fixing up after Hurricane Maria needs lots and lots of money.  Puerto Rico doesn't have any money at all.  There are only two ways for Puerto Rico to get the needed money, borrowing it, or getting it as a free gift from mainland taxpayers.   Lenders are scarce on the ground.  It's obvious to real people (but perhaps not to dumb as rocks Wall St bankers) that Puerto Rico doesn't have the money to ever pay off the $93 billion in debt they have already racked up.  Those lenders won't get paid back, not ever.  New loans won't get paid back either.  Lending to Puerto Rico is just plain charity, loans that won't get paid off are charity, not banking. 
   The other source of money to fix up the hurricane damage is for the US Congress to appropriate the money out of  federal tax revenue, or by selling some more T-bills, or both.  This is charity, and there is a decent chance that the Congress will feel charitable and will cough up the money, especially if the MSM and the Democrats get on board with the idea.
   The concept of "forgiving" Puerto Rico's debts is just psycho-babble.  They don't have the money, they will never have the money, and the lenders are never gonna get paid.  For that matter Puerto Rico declared bankruptcy a couple of months ago,  which means they won't pay anyhow, even if they had the money, which they don't. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Decertifying the Iran Deal?

TV newsies have been talking about it.  But they say "decertifying" isn't like canceling the deal.  If so, why do we care?  It may be a way of expressing disapproval of the deal, but if it doesn't do anything, why does it matter? 

Monday, October 9, 2017

US Immigration reform

The TV tells me that the Trump administration has laid some 70 changes to current immigration law on Congress today.  Of course the TV newsies don't bother to list just what these changes might be.  They did manage to say that the Democrats oppose them, no reasons given. 
   For myself,  I like the idea of a DACA program.  People who were brought into the US as children, who have stayed out of trouble with the law, graduated high school or college, who have served in the armed forces, who are gainfully employed, and who want to stay in the US, sound like good and decent citizens to me, and more good and decent citizens make America stronger.  We need all the good and decent citizens w can get.
   I think anyone who served in the armed forces and received an honorable discharge ought to be offered citizenship if they lack it.  For that matter foreign nationals who worked with US forces as interpreters ought to be offered citizenship.
   America can take in a lot of immigrants, but there is a limit.  I'd set that limit at 1% of the current population, which is like 3 million immigrants a year.
    Since a lot of people want to come to America, we can be picky about who we let in.  Make a list of desirable characteristics,  young, educated, married, married with children, English speaking, no matter how poorly, parents already in the US, healthy, valuable skills, and many more.  Assign a point value to each desirable characteristic, and we let in the 3 million with the top scores.  Everyone else gets to try again next year.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Un diagnosed mental illness.

That's what one TV commentator said about the Vegas shooter.  And, it's kinda true by default.  We believe anyone who would shoot 500-600 innocent strangers to be mentally ill.  A week of investigation has failed to find (or at least report on TV) any sort of motive, history, or association that would give a motive, or suggest some kind of mental illness.  So, we figure he must have been acting out a horrible mental illness when he opened fire, and no investigator has found any evidence of mental illness before the shooting.  On the other hand, they have reported that he had been buying a lot of guns, legally, for a year before, which surely suggests that what ever it was, it started back when he started buying all the guns. 
   And this is really unusual.  In all the previous awful cases, the shooter had given clear signs of mental illness or some kind of dreadful political fanaticism.  Unfortunately these signs were ignored until it was too late.  In this case alone, we haven't seen any signs of mental illness or political craziness after a week of investigation. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Smart Phones bad for you

Thus sayeth the Wall St. Journal this morning.  They cite some studies, but do not get down to the nitty gritty such as how large was the sample, how did they measure increase of stupidity of subjects. There were some vague and subjective statements, using the blandest of language. 
   Me, I'm an old fogey, I don't have a smart phone.  I do have a laptop that will do anything a smart phone will, and I pack it along when I travel.  The laptop has a real QWERTY keyboard and a mouse, which the smartphones lack, and I find essential.  I do notice that my smartphone equipped children tend to whip them out during discussions and pop up information to support their points of view. 
  And I an old enough to remember all the things teachers and parents said against television back when it was just coming in.  My buddy Dewey Walsh's family had a 21 inch B&W TV back in the late 1940's.  I do remember watching Howdy Doody and Hopalong Cassidy on it.  My family didn't get a TV until 1956. 
   Could it be the people railing against smartphones are the same sort of people who railed against TV?

Friday, October 6, 2017

There must be something in the water

On Wall St that is.  Something that turns brains to mush.  Only a totally mushed  brain would have loaned $93 billion to Puerto Rico over the years.  It was obvious to anyone that Puerto Rico, a nice place to visit during the New England winter, had no way of ever paying the loans back.  The money was frittered away on salaries and graft, and this and that, it didn't create anything like industries that made money.  Most of  the new loan money went to rolling over old loans.  But Wall St kept on making loans to Puerto Rico.  Must be something in the water.
   And then Puerto Rico, after getting a special act of Congress to allow it, declared bankruptcy last month.  You would think that lower the value of outstanding Puerto Rican loans.  Not on Wall St.  They kept right on trading Puerto Rican bonds at around 90 cents on the dollar, right up to last week.  After Hurricane Maria blew down every electric wire on the whole island and President Trump made an off hand comment that Puerto Rico's loans would have vanish, then finally did Wall St start trading Puerto Rican bonds at 60 cents on the dollar.  Not quite worthless, yet, but a solid hit.  Anyone with two brain cells firing knew that after filing for bankruptcy, Puerto Rico was never going to pay off those bonds.  Which makes them worthless.  But Wall St kept swapping them around at a mere 10 percent discount for weeks.   Must be something in the water.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Let's outlaw Bump Stocks!

I never heard of "bump stocks" until the Las Vegas massacre this week.  And I am a medium savvy gun guy.  Not a total expert, but reasonably knowledgeable.  From what the MSM is telling us (you can believe as much of that as you like) the bump stock is some kind of spring loaded rifle stock that gets an otherwise legal semi automatic AR15 to fire at 700 rounds per minute, machine gun speed.  And the Las Vegas shooter used some.  Apparently the Obama administration ruled bump stocks to be legal a few years ago.
   And the Congress is so happy to find something to ban, that most of us would not object to banning.  They can pass a law, gain some favorable publicity, what's not to like? 
   Depends upon what the letter of the proposed law might be.  Congress critters (mostly dumb as rocks) might vote for language so broad as to outlaw perfectly ordinary shooting accessories like slings, sights, cheek pads, and rests.  I agree that such a law needs to define what it is banning.  Just banning "bump stocks" doesn't work, the makers simply rename the product some thing else, anti recoil stock for example, and go right on selling them.  They gotta come up with words that only ban devices that raise the rate of fire.
 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Gerrymanders, how to detect them, what to do about them.

The term goes way back.  Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, vice president of the US under Madison, fairly heavy duty guy for his time, signed off on a Massachusetts redistricting.  One district came out long and thin and looked kinda like a salamander.  Gerry's political enemies, of which he had a decent number, called the district a Gerrymander, designed to make Gerry's party win the next election. The term stuck.
   Today, skillful politicians attempt to draw district boundaries to win elections.  The idea goes like this.  Pack the opponent's voters into a few districts where they form 100% of the vote.   Spread our voters out so they form 51% of the vote in as many districts as possible.   This way we win more districts than the opponents do, which gives us control.
   Wisconsin Democrats have gotten a case to the Supremes claiming the last redistricting by Republicans is unfair to Democrats because the "Efficiency Gap"  exceeds 7%.  What is the "Efficiency Gap" you ask? Good question.  I never heard of it before.  According to the Wall St Journal it is the sum of "wasted" votes from Party X less the  sum of "wasted" votes for party Y over the sum of all votes.  Chief Justice John Roberts wasn't fond of "Efficiency Gap".  He called it sociological gobble-de-gook.
   I could get with rules against weird shaped districts, such as "The longest distance across a district shall not exceed 1.5 times the shortest distance across the district."  I can get with rules requiring all districts to have the same population, give or take 10%.  I could get  with rules against districts formed of several blobs connected by ultra thin connecting strips.   But I don't like the "Efficiency Gap" idea, it sounds like "You have to redistrict until my party wins."      
  

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Electric cars

The Chinese are pushing sales of electric cars.  To keep down the traffic in their biggest cities, they conduct license plate lotteries. Out of millions of hopeful car owners, only a few tens of thousands get plates.  Unless it's an electric car, electric cars get plates immediately. And, the Brits and the Euro's are talking about the same thing, everybody drives an electric by 2040.  Yesterday GM and Ford made similar noises over here.  GM has actually made and sold electrics for twenty years now, abet not many of 'em.
  Is this really the wave of the future?
  Not for me.  The best electrics only go 200 miles on a charge, most of 'em are worse, like 100 miles.  I regularly drive 400 miles down to see my daughter, my new grandson, and my son-in-law, who is a perfectly nice and decent guy, but I am a little closer to my daughter than my son-in-law.  My Buick will make the trip on a single tank of gas.  A best electric would have to recharge once, the lesser electrics would have to recharge three times.  Even with a high powered 440 volt charger, it takes two hours to get a charge.  Lesser 220 volt home chargers take all night.  I don't want to spend two hours waiting on a charger, and turning a 10 hour trip into a 12 hour trip.  I'm sticking with 87 octane gas engines. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Las Vegas Shooting

Just awful.  My sincerest condolences to the victims, their families, and the wounded. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

This Blog is now TEN years old.

Yep, started posting back in October 2006.  For the first years I got no page views at all.  Nowadays I can count on 10-20 pages views a day  Some hot days the page view count hits the hundreds. That doesn't happen all that often, but it feels good when it happens. 
  Any how, thank you all for reading here. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Hugh Hefner. the Playboy guy

He died the other day.  That got some press coverage.  I first encountered Playboy way in back in high school.  It was boarding school, so parents weren't cleaning up your room and discovering your Playboy stash.  The centerfolds, and other porno shots were cool, but for what the magazine cost, we got darn little good photos, and a load of not very convincing editorial comment.  I learned not to pay attention to Playboy's writings on man's fashion, stylish cars, and art appreciation.  And, it wasn't long before there were other skin mags out there with more juicy photos and less boring editorial comment, and lower prices.  I  don't remember ever buying Playboy with my own money, but I was happy to read, and leer at, Playboys that my buddies had bought. 
   Back then, effective contraceptives hadn't made it to market, and the chicks were very reluctant to have sex with guys, fearing pregnancy.  I am convinced that the arrival of effective contraceptives had far more to do with the sexual revolution than Playboy ever did. 

Cambridgeport librarian trashes Dr. Seuss

I used to live in Cambridgeport, a not-very-tony district of the Peoples Republic of Cambridge, MA.  Owned a triple decker right off Western Ave for years.   The neighbor hood is mostly black, some public housing, and so tough the FBI didn't dare do stakeouts down there.  Last time they tried it, the locals thought they were casing the joint for a robbery and beat the tar out the them.  The natives I knew were mostly decent, hardworking, open hearted folk.
   I'm a fan of Dr. Seuss.  When my children were young, we had a lot of Dr Seuss books, and I read them all aloud, over and over again.  The children loved them.  I found them witty enough to enjoy, time after time. 
   Gotta wonder about that Cambridgeport librarian who trashed a gift of Dr. Seuss books.  Is she a real Cambridgeport native?  Or is she a SJW, imported from the suburbs, with a fancy sounding degree in something like gender studies?  And a dyed in the wool Trump hater?   I cannot imagine a real Cambridgeport native failing to speak well of, and kindly to, the giver of  any sort of gift. even if the giver is of the other political party. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Tax reform is getting some TV coverage.

I'm ready for it.  I'm tired of the non stop NFL dissing the national anthem talk that has taken up ALL last week. 
  The Democrats are pushing the old line about how any tax change (up down or sidewise) is "for the rich" and thus evil.  The MSM is playing this line for all it's worth, when they aren't talking about the NFL.  Dunno about that.  Doubling the standard deduction is good for the poorer folk.  Carly Fiorina had it right when she said "Close every loophole, lower every rate."  I haven't seen much about loophole closing.
   I heard somewhere on the Web that the NFL is a "non profit" operation and thus pays no taxes.  We ought to fix that. 
   I heard somewhere on the web that a big lot of companies are paying no taxes.  We need to find the loopholes they are using and slam 'em closed. 
   Taking away the loophole for state and local taxes is good.  Coming from a state with no income tax and no sales tax, I don't get diddly out of the state and local deduction. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Does the GOP have enough party discipline to do tax reform?

They certainly blew it on Obamacare repeal/reform.  Pure backstabbing and infighting killed it.  For instance John McCain killed two Obamacare reform bills this summer.  On the last one he killed, he gave as a reason that the bill had not gone thru some arcane Senate procedures before coming to a vote.  He had no objections to the contents of the bill (at least not spoken ones) he just didn't like the process.  That's childish.  McCain doesn't like Trump (Trump has given him plenty of reason to dislike him) and so he torpedoed a bill essential to the survival of the GOP, just to irritate Trump.
   If you claim to be a member of the Republican party, you ought to support your party, even if the party is going places you don't want to go.  If you just cannot take where your party goes, the honorable thing to do is to resign from the party, not to stab it in the back.  McCain isn't the only offender here.  That "House Freedom Caucus" of some 30 weirdos is just itching for a chance to show their stuff by killing an important bill. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

GE to sell off the corporate jets

New CEO John Flannery , replacing long time GE CEO Jeff Inmelt, is doing some cost cutting.  He shut down  GE's flight operations and is putting the aircraft up for sale. 
   Good move Mr. Flannery.  Corporate jets cost like crazy and your people can get there flying commercial.  I know they are nifty perks for company brass, but the money would be better spend on building new factories, developing new products, and boosting wages and dividends.  A corporate jet costs nearly as much as  a real jetliner, say a 737, and costs nearly as much to fly.  And you gotta keep on paying on the planes and paying the salaries of the flight dept whether they fly or not.  The airlines pay a lot for their planes, but they fly the hell out of them, ten flight hours a day or more.  Corporate jets seldom fly as much as one hour a day. 
   If your company people need to travel, fly commercial, coach is cozy.  Running your own mini airline just costs your company barrels of money for no good reason. 
   Stockholders should take notice if your companies are wasting money running a company mini airline. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Catfood Quality

My local backwoods market carries 8 or 10 different brands of dry catfood.  Price ranges from $3.50 a bag to $9-10 a bag.  Cat will eat them all, and in fact shows a little more interest in the low end "Alley Cat" $3.50 a bag stuff.  I mix things up, even to the point of occasionally buying the $9-10 stuff.  I worry that the cat food producers may leave some essential-to-cats nutrient out of the mix, causing Cat to curl up and die.  Cat only eats catfood, she won't touch people food or dinner leftovers. 
   Is Cat missing something in her diet?  She is now a senior cat (12yo) so she is slower than she used to be.  She gave up hunting some years ago.  Should I pamper her with expensive catfood?  Or doesn't it make a difference? 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Dissing pro football gets more coverage than Obamacare repeal

Senator John McCain pretty much torpedoed the latest last ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare.  He said he would not support the current effort at repeal.  He said he disapproved of the procedure used to bring it to the floor.  Didn't say a word about the contents.  This will probably cost the Republicans control of Congress in the 2018 by election.   Given majorities in both houses of Congress, and the presidency, the stupid party is unable to get their members to vote out Obamacare.  We voters are noticing.  We will remember in November.
  And then Trump disses some pro football players for remaining seated while the national anthem is sung.  Wow.  TV has been talking about nothing else since.  The NFL and it's commissioner have come out four square for letting the players do what ever they like.   Most of us citizens recognize the player's rights of free speech, but free speech doesn't mean we have like what they say.  We would happily boil those football players in oil for what they have said.  But, this red meat issue, abet low importance issue, has completely overshadowed  the really important issue of repealing Obamacare which is impoverishing every one, and wrecking the economy as a side effect. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Red Phoenix, Larry Bond

An old action thriller in the Tom Clancy mode, written in 1989.  Describes the outbreak, combat, and outcome of a second Korean war in 1986.  Features pudgy, crazy Kim Jong Il, taking power from his aged father Kim Il Sung, and launching the second Korean war.  A decent read.  And it sounds so much like what is underway today, lacking NORK nukes and ballistic missiles.  Let's hope we can settle today's NORK crisis with out starting up the Korean war again. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Where does CIA hire these losers from??

Valerie Plame, worked for CIA until she was outed by Robert Novak in a Wash Post column back in 2003.  The resulting furor went far to destablize the Bush administration and resulting in the conviction of "Scooter" Libby on shaky evidence.   That was then.
   Now, many years later, Valerie pops back into public view with some internet postings where in she claims that Jews are responsible for getting America into war, and ought to wear special ID badges when on TV.  In addition to being despicable, this is pure fantasy.  What did this screwball do back when she was working for CIA?  How did CIA ever hire such a weirdo?  She must have contributed to CIA's many intelligence failures in at least a small amount.  
   CIA has needed a serious housecleaning for many years.  Valerie Plame is just one more reason to get on with it. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

NHPR talks about opioid prescribing

It was a long piece on the FM radio this morning.  A lotta talk about how prescribing opioids for pain is humane and proper.  Several doctors spoke at length, guardedly in favor of giving patients enough opioids to kill their pain.  Much of the doctor's talk was baffle gab, nice sounding words that don't mean anything.  Nobody gave any numbers.  No surveys, no comparisons of opioid use now and opioid use in the past. No figures on how many addicts got started with medically prescribed opioids. No discussion of the difference between a dose strong enough to kill pain and a dose strong enough to create addiction.   Assertions that things had been tightened up so much that legitimate patients could no longer get prescriptions, or had the prescriptions filled should they have them.
   I'd rate this as a NHPR editorial supporting prescription of opioids. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Prisoner of Zenda. Best costume drama.

Turner Classic Movies had this on last night.  An old favorite from 1952.  Rudolf Rassendyll, a British gentleman on vacation, played well by Stuart Granger, while traveling in a Central European country gets sucked into top level intrigue and skullduggery, involving the king of the country, to whom Granger bears an uncanny resemblance.  The gentlemen all wear snappy uniforms, with great coats and rakish service caps.  The women all wear ball gowns.  Granger, in full uniform, gets crowned as king, a really memorable scene, fancy interiors, massive chandeliers, organ music, cheering crowds, hundreds of well dressed extras.  He meets and falls in love with the beautiful Princess Flavia (Deborah Kerr), takes Flavia to the royal coronation ball, and then with derring-do rescues the rightful king from captivity, and defeats the wicked half brother Michael and the slippery Count Rupert of Hentzau (James Mason).  The movie ends with heartbreak as Rudolf Rassendyll has to leave the country and Flavia has to marry the true king, who she has known since childhood and doesn't like much. 
   The original story was a novel by Anthony Hope, published in the late 1800's.  IMDB shows that it has been made into a movie seven different times, the first in 1913, the latest in 1988.  IMHO the 1952 version is the best, Technicolor, flawless camera  and sound work, great cast.  Romance, action, humor. Very enjoyable. 

Dawn over Marblehead

The Stupid Party finally wises up.  Failure to repeal ( or at least do some fixes to) Obamacare will torpedo the party's chances at the polls in 2018.  This fact is sinking in, slowly, but better late than never. They are making another try to pass something.  Anything actually.   I wish them luck.  They are gonna need it.   

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Navy orders ships to turn on electronic beacon

They called it Automatic Information Data Beacon AIDB.  I never heard of it before.  Let's assume it is like IFF, an electronic beacon that gives identification.  It also gives away your position, and apparently the Navy usually operated with AIDB turned off for stealth reasons.  Now they have ordered warships to turn it on claiming that it would talk to merchie autopilots and get them to change course to avoid collisions. 
   Yeah right.  the big merchies, supertankers and the like, draw so much water that they will run aground if they steer out of the dredged channel.  Running a big merchie aground costs like crazy and the owners figure running anything down is cheaper than running their ship aground.  Their skippers are not going to maneuver to avoid cross traffic like US destroyers.  They are going to steer straight ahead, and lesser vessels better get out of their way.  It seems like our Navy doesn't understand this. 
   Old Admiral Dan Gallery, writing in the 1960's, understood this.  He wrote "Steer well clear of any merchie, lest he decide to liven up your day by ramming you."  I wonder what orders the officers of the deck on those two US destroyers had.  Were they ordered top steer well clear, or were they ordered to insist on their right of way?
    

Monday, September 18, 2017

Viet Nam War, Ken Burns

As a Viet Nam veteran the subject is of interest to me, so I had to watch it.  The first episode aired on PBS last night.  It goes all the way back to the French colonizing Viet Nam in the 1860's.  It brings the story up to about 1960.  They mention Ho Chi Minh showing up at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 with a petition for President Wilson to get some moderation of the French rule in Viet Nam.  They cover Ho Chi Minh's establishment of an independent Viet Nam right at the end of WWII, and how the British and the French moved in troops to turn the place back into a French colony.  This was a key moment, if Ho's regime had survived, running all of Viet Nam, the later Viet Nam war would not have happened.  If we Americans had been paying attention (we weren't) we could have told the British and the French to cool it.  This was 1946, and that year nobody dared talk back to the Americans.
     The show had an annoying number of "flashforwards"  Right in the middle of showing events of the 1940's or '50's they would cut to a scene from the 1960's, usually American soldiers in combat gear with a voice of from some veteran explaining how awful the whole thing was.  I didn't need this, I was there, both my brothers were there, I know how awful it was.  The antiwar movement in the '60s is still alive (smaller but still there) and they have made it plain to everyone how awful it was.  I was watching this to see what really happened not to hear yet another voice over telling me how awful it was.
   They told the story pretty straight, the way I remember it happening.  One minor goof,  in the early '50s they described Charles De Gaulle as president of France.  Actually that De Gaulle didn't come out of retirement and take over France until  December 1958.  One thing was new to me, they said that President Truman authorized $23 million in 1949 to support the French in Viet Nam.  They didn't explain just how this happened.  Did Truman just come  up with the money out of some fund somewhere in the vast federal budget?  Did he slip the money into an appropriate bill somewhere?  Who in the Truman administration  thought backing the French against the Viet Minh was a good idea in 1949? 
   The rest of the history, Diem Bien Pho, the partition into North and South, the promised election that was never held because everyone thought Ho Chi Minh would win it, the rise of Nguyen Do Diem in the south, is they way I remember it.  The episode ends before Tonkin Gulf, Johnson landing the Marines, but it's a good opener, covering important background.
   They did not discuss any "might have beens".  Times where someone could have changed the course of history and prevented the war from happening.  And they didn't discuss the mind set of most Americans, especially the American leadership.  Everyone remembered Munich, where decisive action could have deposed Hitler and prevented WWII.  They saw Ho Chi Minh as a communist (he was) and thus an agent of Russian expansionism.  In those years we saw the communist takeover of China as Russia taking over China (not true) and we were not going to permit any more communist expansion anywhere.  Opposing Ho Chi Minh was seen as what we should have done at Munich back in 1938.  This widespread attitude goes far to explain how we Americans got sucked into Viet Nam.   
  

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Federal Flood Insurance

It's the only kind you can get.  Commercial insurance companies won't write flood insurance.  Cause, only homeowners liable to floods buy it.  When the flood occurs, all the insurance policies make claims.  Insurance only works when the majority of policy holders don't make claims, and their premiums go to paying off the few policy holders suffering losses.  Like fire insurance, the risk of fire is small, most homes don't burn down. Everybody buys fire insurance (homeowners insurance) because the banks won't do a mortgage unless the property is insured. At the end of the year, the insurance company has to pay a few claims and they have collected a lot of premiums.  With flood insurance, at the end of a flood year, the insurance company has humongous claims and not much in the way of premiums.  After the great Mississippi flood of 1927, the commercial insurance companies decided to not write flood insurance ever again.
   This caused a great hue and cry among owners of waterfront property, who found they could not sell their property, 'cause the banks wouldn't do a mortgage without flood insurance, and nobody would write flood insurance.   And so Congress created the federal flood insurance program.  The humongous losses now fall on taxpayers nationwide.  In effect, everyone is subsidizing owners of waterfront property.  And, since insurance is available people are building on scenic but flood prone properties.
  And, the federal insurance goes on and on, no matter how many times the property gets flooded.  There are properties that have been flooded and rebuilt up to 7 or 8 times.  On the taxpayer's dime. 
   The federal flood insurance program is up for renewal in Congress right now.  We taxpayers ought to get on our Congresscritters to put a limitation in the program.  A one flood policy.  The flood insurance pays off on the first flood, but won't renew after that.  Get flooded out once, and you ought to build on higher ground somewhere else.  If you rebuild on the same site, it's on your nickel, not the taxpayers. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Why Hillary lost in 2016

She has a book out about it, she is on a book tour peddling it.  But speaking as a plain NH voter, she is missing the point. 
   She made no campaign promises.  We voters expect candidates to say " Vote for me, and I will to this, that, and some other thing, and life will be wonderful."  We  voters have been around the block a couple of times, so we understand that campaign promises are often broken.  Hillary didn't promise us anything.   We voters knew there were a lot of things wrong in 2016, 1% GNP growth, flat wages, high unemployment, skyrocketing health insurance premiums, ISIS, crazy shooters killing at Christmas parties and night clubs and more.  We expected a presidential candidate to promise  to fix some ( or maybe all) of this stuff.  She failed to do so.
   She brought a ton of baggage, accumulated over many years to the election.  We voters remembered travelgate, the Vincent Foster death, the Monica affair, Whitewater,  the email server, Huma Aberdeen, a top aide married to that Wiener guy in New York, and Benghazi.  Many of us thought she should have divorced Bill over the Monica affair, and failure to do so meant Hillary valued being First Lady, more than she valued a wholesome married life. None of this stuff did Hillary any good.
    And Comey did her no favors, first declaring that the email server business was not prosecutable, and then in October he changed his tune and said he was reopening the investigation.  We voters figure where there is smoke there is fire.  Comey created lots of smoke.  Never did get down to the fire, but the smoke was damaging.
   And, her opponent was a master of live TV.  He was so popular that the TV networks covered his every move, every campaign rally, everything.  More free media than anyone had ever seen.   And Trump put on a good show, drew excellent ratings.  Neilsen is his friend.  And he made a lot of campaign promises.  He has even kept some of them. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Who is in the "House Freedom Caucus"?

Karl Rove, writing in a Wall St Journal op-ed,  calls them the biggest obstacle to tax reform.  I'm inclined to believe Karl Rove, he has been around a long time, he was a key player in the last Bush administration.  I wonder who the 30 members of the "House Freedom Caucus" are.  They were responsible for the Republican failure to pass Obamacare repeal and replace, which may cost Republicans their control of Congress in 2018.  Karl thinks they will scuttle tax reform too. 
   We ought to publish their names, publish their voting records, and try to primary them in 2018.  If we don't know who they are, it's hard to lower the boom on them. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sorting Fake News from Real News

NHPR was going on and on about this just today.  It's a good point, especially for younger folk, teenagers, who lack experience, and find the Internet is full of all sorts of BS.  Used to be, to get your ideas before the public, you had to do a deal with a man who owned a printing press, either a newspaper/magazine editor, or a publishing house.  To get your ideas printed, you had to convince one of these guys that your ideas were worthy.  This screened out a lot of weirdos. 
   Now in the internet age, everyone has the small change it takes for an internet connection, there are no barriers to entry, on the Internet no one knows you are a dog. So how do you sort out the fake from the real news?
   First, you look to the source.  For instance on the net, Instapundit is pretty fair, Republican, and reliable.  HuffPost is leftie greenie and not so reliable.  For the professional media, the Wall St Journal is very reliable and Republican.  The New York Times has been flaky for 80 years and is Democratic shading into Communist.  The Washington Post is Democratic and fairly reliable, less reliable than the Journal, more reliable than the NY Times.  On TV, Fox News is pretty good, abet Republican.  MSNBC is mostly worthless.   One thing to watch out for, the people who write for the professional media are poorly educated, not very smart, all lefties and greenies, and they think they know it all. And they all watched "All The Presidents Men" and they all want to do a Woodward and Bernstein number.  They love to trash American presidents, especially Republican ones.  You need to keep track of sources and build up your own list of reliable and flaky sources.
   Next you make an opinion survey.  Do several sources tell the same story?  A quick Google will find you a slather of pieces on any imaginable topic.  Do all the pieces agree? or do most of them trash the idea? 
   Then we ask ourselves some questions.  Is the piece you have fallen in love with describe something too good to be true?  If so, it probably isn't true.  Have I ever heard of this author before? Have I ever heard of his platform (website, newspaper, TV channel) before?   For instance, if the subject is physics and the author is Albert Einstein or Richard Feynman it's most probably true.  On the other hand if the subject is global warming and the author is Michael Mann, it's most likely false. 
   Does the piece use numbers?  Number of years before catastrophe, number of dollars to do whatever, etc.  Newsies are innumerate, any piece that never mentions a number is suspect.  Does the piece give evidence or examples to back up it's claims?   How is the author on spelling , dates, and names?  An author who fails to get simple stuff right is suspect. 
   Good luck wading thru the swamps.

New Record for Household Incomes. Wall St Journal

They show a graph of the median income, the income where half the country earns less and half the country earns more.  For 2016 we get up to $59,039, but it was nearly as good ($58665) way back in 1999.  In short, median income has only risen a measly $374 over the span of 17 years.  Pretty chinsy (0.6%)  in my book.
  Things looked so bad that Obama changed the methodology in 2013 giving everyone a $400 wage boost.   Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics. 
   We have a long way to go before we can say everyone is getting better wages. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Why buy drones??

Current drones cost $1 million apiece and up.  Whereas a two place light plane, say a Cessna 172, can be had for closer to $100 K.  Drones and light planes are about the same in range, payload, speed, anything that counts.  Drone pilots only get to see a TV image (blurry, low res, low contrast, small screen).  Light plane pilots get to see  up close, in real time, and with a pair of 7X50's, they can see really close up. 
   The only justification of the pricey drones is for operation in dangerous air space.  When a drone gets shot down we don't loose a pilot.  But for missions like patrolling the US border,  reconning hurricane damage in Florida,  looking for marijuana grows in California,  we don't expect hostile ground fire or shoulder fired SAMs.  A plain old Cessna works better and costs a tenth of what a drone costs. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Can any student expect real justice from a college administrator?

Especially your son or daughter?  Betsy DeVos, Trump's education secretary, is talking about rolling back the infamous "Dear Colleague" letter that caused colleges countrywide to set up campus kangaroo courts, run by social justice warrior administrators, to punish young men whenever  young women complained about "sexual assault". 
   I don't know about "sexual assault", that's a new one whipped up by the Obama administration, that can mean just about anything.  But rape, that's been a serious crime for a thousand years, so serious it carried the death penalty.  College administrators are unfit to handle cases of rape.  When a young woman complains of rape, the college should offer her a ride to and from the police station to swear out a complaint, and the case should be handled by the regular courts.  American  courts are far far better than college administrators in providing due process.  And they can hand out serious punishment, far more serious than a college administrator who is limited to just expulsion from college.  In my book, expulsion is too mild for a rapist. 
   And if the case isn't rape, but just "sexual assault", should the college get involved at all?  You would think just peer pressure, which I remember as being damn strong, would be enough. 
   I think Betsey DeVos and the education dept should tell colleges to refer cases of rape to law enforcement and the courts, and to drop this "sexual assault" stuff. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

We are richer than we realize Martin Feldstein

Op ed piece in the Wall St Journal.  Feldstein, economist, Reagan's chairman of Council of Economic Advisers, argues that although wages have been stagnant for decades, improvement in the quality of products amounts to an improvement in the standard of living.  He cites television sets and audio speakers as examples.  Strange choice of examples though.  TV sets have been good to us, a 1950's RCA color TV, table model in a cheap sheet metal cabinet, 21 inch round picture tube sold for $500 in the 1950's.  I bought a new Sony flat screen 31 inch recently for $400 at Walmarts.  But audio speakers are not the glamour product they were back when Acoustic Research AR-2's ruled the land.  I don't think they even sell decent stereo speakers up here anymore.  Clearly a product whose time has passed.
   Feldstein should have mentioned automobiles.  Back in the day you could buy a brand new low end six passenger Chevy sedan for around $2800.  It got 18-20 mpg, and only lasted 60,000 miles or 6 years, what ever came first. Today you can buy a 4 passenger Chevy Cruz, which will get better than 20 mpg, and last for 100,000 miles or 15 years, but it costs $17,000.  Better quality, off set by six times the price.
   Dunno if I buy Feldstein's argument.  Modern products are better, but they mostly cost like crazy.  If you haven't had a decent pay raise since the 1950's, you are hurting.   

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Trump talks to Democrats. Beltway in flames

Congressional Republicans proved they cannot do much, if anything, in the Obamacare repeal.  Obamacare is killing jobs, forcing people to accept part time work, raising health insurance premiums to awful levels, introducing $6000 deductibles which makes the insurance worthless. And Republicans had been promising Obamacare repeal for years.  But they still could not come up the the votes to actually do it.  Too many RINOs, to many extreme right wingers who do not understand "compromise", and too many just plain right wing kooks.
   So, the country needs  emergency funds to deal with Harvey and Irma, and we need to raise the national debt limit so we can borrow to roll the existing debt over.  Schumer and Pelosi  only asked to tie the two bills into one, and limit the debt ceiling relief to a mere 90 days.  This gives them an opportunity to use the debt ceiling as a hammer to get something they want all over again in just 90 days.  PITA from Trump's viewpoint, but doable.  So Trump, figuring he cannot rely on congressional GOPers, said "Deal", and he signed the bill into law yesterday.  Not too shabby. 
   The republican media has been bad mouthing Trump over this deal for the last couple of days.  I haven't heard Ryan or McConnell bellyaching about it, at least not in public, I'm pretty sure neither of 'em are happy, but done is done, and they don't want to get into a public feud with Trump.  They fear they might loose. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Did doctors cause the opioid crisis?

Yesterday's Wall St Journal suggests that is the truth.  A paper by Princeton University economist Alan Krueger shows correlation between a decline in workforce participation and the rise in opioid prescriptions over the period 1999 to 2015.   Krueger admits that he cannot prove cause and effect, but it is certainly worth more investigation.  Correlation does not prove causation is the cliche.  But it is certainly suspicious. 
  Previous Journal articles said that 75% of medicaid patients receive prescriptions for opioids, which is way, way outta line. 
   Maybe all we have to do is clamp down on the doctor's prescribing habits? 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The country is more divided than it used to be

Yesterday's Wall St Journal published these figures reflecting a serious divide between Democrats and Republicans.  With this kind of attitude differences no wonder Congress cannot muster the votes to pass anything.

Issue                                                                                Democrats        Republicans

Support traditional marriage, one man one woman?           17%                 42%

Support the NRA?                                                             4%                 34%

Support immediate action on global warming?                    31%                  4%

Support Black Lives Matter?                                             28%                  1%

OK with social changes of recent years?                            77%                  30%

Support immigration?                                                         80%                  40%

Confident life will be better for our children                         25%                  48%


Radio Shack isn't quite dead yet

Yesterday's Wall St Journal had a piece about Radio Shack's survival.  They declared bankruptcy a second time in 2015. They have closed all the Radio Shack owned stores, except for a mere 100.  The brand is being carried by independent retailers. 
  The lawyers are talking about (and billing for)  exiting the second bankruptcy this year.  No details were given.  The Journal wishes them well, and quotes an independent retailer at length.  The retailer was enthusiastic but he didn't have any info either.
  I wish them well.  I remember shopping  Radio Shack back when it was a single store on downtown Washington St in Boston.  That was before Tandy bought them and built them up to a nationwide chain.  Shopping Radio Shack in the old days, when they sold Realistic hi-fi (later stereo), ham radio gear, electronic parts, and strange surplus items, was fun.  The current stores, selling kids toys, cell phones, batteries and cables are not so fun.  They still have small collections of electronic parts, which I go to buy, but these are small low cost items that won't keep a store afloat.  They seem to have given up on personal computers, a market they pioneered in the '70s.  Radio Shack needs some product, some big ticket items, with some decent margin, to pay the rent.  And they cannot compete with the big box stores on price.  Walmart can always demand lower prices from its suppliers than anyone else can. 
   You would think there would be some openings.  Up here in the sticks, the only place that carries computer stuff (paper, ink cartridges, laptops, monitors, routers, etc) is Staples.  Hardly a computer oriented kinda store. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Were the Nazi's lefties or righties?

And why should I care?  We know the Nazis were really really evil.  They caused WWII, they slaughtered six million of their own citizens, mostly Jews, but some gypsies, mentally retarded, political opponents, Poles, Russian POWs, they weren't fussy about who they offed. 
   Does it matter if what little ideology the Nazis had is called part of the left or part of the right, whatever we mean by "left" and "right".  They were evil.  If they had lasted a little longer we would have nuked them.  As it was, the Nazis collapsed just a few months before the bomb was ready for action.  And the few nut cases running around today carrying swastikas deserve serious police surveillance, followed by arrest and prosecution if we catch them doing anything actionable. 
  Same thing goes for the Klan, and the Communists.  I don't care if you call them left or right.  They are bad evil people.  That's all I need to know.  

Will the snowflakes kill off free speech on campus?

School is starting up again.  Last school year was full of stories of campus vigilantees driving speakers off campus, rioting, demanding resignation of the president, and other misbehavior.  The target was any speech or speakers coming from the right, or even the center right. 
   College administrators caved to the protesters every time.
   I never saw any suggestions to expel student rioters.  Easy enough to do, we have lots and lots of video of them breaking windows, slugging faculty members,  lighting fires, and other antisocial acts.  Just expel them, problem solved.  Publicize the expulsions.  Most of the students will get the message that misbehavior is the end of their college career.  And tuition is non refundable. 
  Unless the colleges show some backbone, the US college education will degenerate into four years of lefty greenie political indoctrination, mixed with heavy duty partying.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The FBI wants to build a new headquarters building.

The J Edgar Hoover office building on a prime lot in downtown DC, built especially for the FBI back when Hoover was director, is loosing its cool with the Bureau.  Could it be traffic and parking?  Moving out to the Beltway would make for easier commuting, and free parking. 
   Seems like money ran out, and GSA canceled a plan to buy new land, erect a new building big enough for 11,000 workers, and in return, the winning bidder gets the Hoover building and the downtown land for redevelopment. 
   The FBI and GSA had requested $1.4 billion in the 2017 federal budget to get the project started.  Congress cut that down to $523 million, meaning a smaller lass jazzy building.  In July GSA announced the project was dead.  Apparently the FBI figured they would do better in their old digs than in a half priced project out on the Beltway. 
   The contractors, who had put time and money into bids, are annoyed.  Doing a bid is a lot of work, especially bidding on Government work for which there is always double paperwork.  To find that all the time and money is wasted 'cause the Government decides it cannot afford it, is a PITA.  Industry sources are threatening to no-bid the next big Government job. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

DACA

I feel for immigrant kids, who came to the US as children, have grown up here, attended school, maybe college as well.  As a kid, when your folks decide to move to the US without paperwork, what can you do?  If mom and dad go north, you go with them.  At age six, or twelve, or even eighteen you go with mom and dad.  Speaking for myself, I'm in favor of giving a big break to any kids who were brought here at a tender age.
  But, as a matter of process, should not this policy be set by act of Congress, rather than just a president's say so?  Is Congress so dysfunctional that it could not pass a bill giving people brought in the country as children a break?  If for no other reason, we ought to bring a DACA bill to a vote just to see who is for it and who is agin it. 
  For that matter, how about a bill giving full US citizenship to anyone who completes a hitch in the armed forces and wins an honorable discharge?  It worked for the Romans, they would enlist anyone, and they gained Roman citizenship after twenty years service in the legions. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Wall St "repos". Legitimate financing or just plain gambling?

It's a very short term lending scheme.  The borrower sells some financial paper (often US T-bills) to raise money, but promises the buyer that they will buy the paper back shortly, at a small profit.  The deal is actually a short term loan, but on paper it looks like a sale. 
   Question:  what useful purpose is served by short term loans?  Legitimate reasons for borrowing are to build or buy plant and equipment, buy inventory for later sale, finance real estate (buying, building, whatever) finance research and development, in short to finance useful economic activity.  All of this stuff takes time, years sometimes, to pay off.  Short term loans, over night loans in some cases,  don't cut it.  All I can see a short term loan doing is making your books look better (more cash on hand) for a financial report, or to finance stock trading.  I think short term loans are gambling pure and simple and ought to be taxed out of existence. 
   Used to be, J.P. Morgan handled a lot of these deals.  For undisclosed reasons J.P Morgan decided to get out of the business last year.  Perhaps they see it as dangerous and high risk. At this point 85% of the deals go thru Bank of New York.  Wall St players are worrying that if anything goes wrong (power failure, fire, flood, hacker attack, whatever) at Bank of New York, the whole repo market is toast.  A good reason not to get into repos in my book.
   Repos are widely seen as one of the triggers for Great Depression 2.0.  Fear of repos caused everyone to stop lending to Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, which crashed both firms in the fall of 2007.  The Federal Reserve has wanted to overhaul the repos business for nearly a decade (with little luck).  The Treasury's Office of Financial Research estimates the repo market at $3.5 trillion, which is a lot of money.  Enough to touch off another great depression if things should go wrong.  
   Sounds like a land mine waiting for someone to step on it. 
  

FDA approves Novartis $475,000 cancer treatment

It's for aggressive leukemia in children and young adults.  It's a fancy procedure actually, the patient's blood is drawn, its T-cells separated and then genetically modified, and then injected back into the patient.  Sounds pretty costly.  And it is.  I don't want to answer the question "Is a human life worth $475,000?"  Nor do I want to have to pay $475,000 to stay alive.  Nor do I want to die, at least not just yet.  Clearly I have some unresolved philosophical issues here.   Norvartis calls this product/procedure "Kymriah". 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Reverse Mortgages

They advertise them on TV all the time.   The ads make it sound like free money.  Today's Wall St Journal has a piece that fills in some of the gaps.  According to the Journal, the bank gets your house when you die.  So much for leaving it to your children.  And us taxpayers anti up for program losses, which ran $12 billion since 2009.  That's $1.5 billion a year.  Ouch. 
   On the other hand, it's cheaper than nursing homes. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Words of the Weasel Part 50

"Epic" in referring to Harvey.  The correct word for a flood is "biblical".  Noah himself would be appalled by what is falling on Texas this weekend. 

And, rainfall is measured in inches, not gallons.  I have seen what 10 inches of rain will do.  I can imagine what 50 inches will do.  A few trillion gallons of rain means nothing to me.  I have no idea what say 6 trillion gallons means.  The TV is going over to reporting rainfall in Texas by the trillion gallons, rather than by the inch.  Another example of newsies doing the talk but not informing anyone of anything important.  

Fantastic Beasts and where to find them

Disappointing.  Strange.  First movie I ever watched that had a narrator.  Since the soundmen cannot make the dialog understandable, this movie comes with a voice over commentary explaining what's going on to the audience.  It is supposed to be a Harry Potter prequel, set in 1920's New York. No characters from the previous Harry Potter movies or the books appear in it.  I never did figure out the plot.  Whenever the protagonist got in the tight spot, he apparated out of it with a flash and a bang.  The 1920's costumes and sets were nicely done.   But I fell asleep before it was over. 
   The Wall St Journal had a piece the other day about how poorly movie tickets are selling this summer.  This movie is one reason for that.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Harvey

The damage in Texas is horrendous.  Fortunately there are few deaths, so far.  The TV news has been saying nice things about the number of civilian volunteers pitching in and helping out, especially with boats.  That is a good thing.  Too bad we have to suffer so much to bring out the good and heroism in our citizens. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

ICE is running a roadblock on I93, south.

I drove thru Friday afternoon.  It was around Ashland. Not sure what they were looking for, they didn't even ask me my name, just waved me thru.  I assume a four door Buick sedan, with New Hampshire plates, no bumper stickers, just me in the car, looked innocent enough.  I wonder what would have looked suspicious enough to pull over.  ICE was still at it the next day when I drove home.  I understand that ICE has authority to run roadblocks as much as 100 miles inside the US border.  This one was pretty close to 100 miles from Canada.  ICE has done this before, couple of years ago I hit an ICE roadblock at about the same place. 

Now they are coming for Big Frank Rizzo

Big Frank has been dead for some years now.  He was first police commissioner and then got himself elected mayor of Philadelphia.  I was living one state over (Delaware) in those years.  We got the Philadelphia Inquirer, which was solidly anti Rizzo and the Philadelphia TV.  The Inquirer ran hit pieces on Big Frank every other day and the TV was unsupportive, to put it mildly. 
  Frank was colorful and had pretty solid political support in Philadelphia.  He had some rough edges, and managed to offend a lot of people.  He was not an "affirmative action" kinda guy.  Anyhow, after his death his supporters got a stature of him erected in Philadelphia.
   Now, after demonizing statues of long dead Confederate generals, Frank's surviving enemies, of which there are quite a few, want to get rid of the statue of Big Frank.  They couldn't vote him out of office during his lifetime, so now that's he is dead and gone, they want to spit on his statue. 
   Seems like a waste of effort to me.  Big Frank is a part of Philadelphia's history, for better or for worse.  Taking down his statue won't change that history, it will just erase today's memory of it. 
   I didn't approve of Big Frank back in his day, but I think he deserves a statue in his beloved home town. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Has the Navy Reached its Breaking Point?

Title of the Op-Ed in Thursday's Wall St Journal.  The writer, Seth Cropsey, former naval officer, currently with the Hudson Institute,  writes a lot about the Navy's need for more funding, and the size of the job the Navy is tasked to do, and extended deployments.  But he doesn't talk about the real causes of this accident.  Things like the following:  Were navigation lights burning on both vessels?  Was the destroyer's radar manned and operating?  What was the range to the tanker when radar reported the contact to the bridge?  How many lookouts were on duty at the time of the accident (o'dark thirty)  How close was the tanker when the lookouts first reported it to the bridge?  Who was officer of the deck?  Was he on the bridge?  Was he awake?  How long had he been on duty? How much experience did he have?  Did the officer of the deck order full speed to avoid collision?  Could the engines produce full speed (30 knots or better for a destroyer) or were they worn or broken?  What were the skipper's standing orders regarding steering clear of merchant vessels?  Did he quote Admiral Dan Gallery, "Steer well clear of any merchie, lest he decide to liven up your day by ramming you." Where was the skipper anyhow?  Was there radio traffic with a shore traffic control center?  If so, what was it? 
   In short, do our sailors know what they are doing? 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Economist trashes the construction industry

They complain that the industry has not modernized and improve their productivity.  That ain't true.  I can remember hanging around construction sites as a boy many years ago.  Studs were cut to length with handsaws.  Now a days a Skilsaw or a radial arm saw zips thru two by fours in seconds.  I remember the chink-chink-chink as the carpenters drove nails home with 20 oz framing  hammers.  Now one pfhht with an air nailer and a 10 penny nail is sunk right up to the head.  Sheet goods, plywood, siding, sheet rock, go up faster than nailing boards together.  Now a days even the smallest job does earthmoving with back hoes, bulldozers, and front end loaders rather than picks and shovels.  CPVC piping goes in faster than copper tubing and cast iron drain pipe with oakum and lead joints.  Romex cable goes in faster and easier than the old steel armored cable. 
   I'm thinking the Economist is written by the type of folk that cannot change a light bulb. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I got a push poll from my old Alma Mater

At least it claimed to be from Franklin and Marshall, but it displayed the name of the survey company as much as it did the name of my old college.  It came to me on Facebook. The survey writer was deep into "diversity"  and asked a lot of questions about it, with answers slanted toward "diversity is good".   This survey was more into shaping my opinions than in finding out what I think about things.  Diversity was the shtick, no questions about safe spaces, micro aggressions, care and feeding of snowflakes, anti free speech. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

US Navy does it again

How does a destroyer, with vastly great speed, maneuverability, and the best radar money can buy,  get hit by a tanker?   And this is the second such incident this year.  On the first one, the Navy has relieved the captain and the executive officer of duty.  They never have said just how the accident happened.   Admiral Dan Gallery once wrote "Steer well clear of any merchie, lest he decide to liven up your day by ramming you."  I guess modern destroyer skippers don't read Dan Gallery any more.
    Could it be the destroyer thought he had the right of way over the tanker, and expected the tanker to change course to avoid him?   It doesn't work that way, big tankers don't maneuver all that well and if they are in a narrow channel, they won't maneuver at all lest they run aground.   Grounding a big tanker costs a lot more than running down anything, so the tanker skippers just plow on ahead.  You would think a US Navy destroyer skipper would understand this, but you never know. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Boston Law Enforcement did better than Charlotte's

Boston had a bigger demo.  The Boston cops prevented anyone from bringing in weapons, and kept the two sides (lefties and righties) apart.   There are internet postings and TV pieces saying that Charlotte police stood to one side and let the two sides fight with each other.  Charlotte city  democratic party gave the stand aside order, hoping to create a national news feeding frenzy, which happened.  MSM has been talking about nothing else for a week.   I'm not sure if this theory is real news or fake news, but it is certainly plausible. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Is the F35 any good?

It's been in development, sucking down money, for 20 years, and it's just now coming into squadron service.   It lost five out of five mock engagements with an F16 last year.  The cost per aircraft is outta sight,  maybe $80-90 million.   It won't turn very hard, g-limited to like 6 G.  Plenty of jet fighters going back 50-60 years can pull 8 G, no sweat. 
   They sent a demo model to the Paris air show where it  pulled enough fancy low altitude maneuvers to  catch some attention.  
  Aviation Week ran a three page piece where two experienced individuals debated the merits of the aircraft.  Pierre Sprey, experienced aircraft designer, panned the F35.  Retired Marine Corps colonel David Berke likes the F35.  Both men agreed that the demo sent to the Paris air show had been stripped way down to lighten it and improve it's maneuverability.  Neither man offered any numbers to support his position.  Numbers like range, speed, payload, maneuverability, rate of climb, maxt takeoff weight,  landing speed.  Nothing solid or hard, just unsupported "I like it"  or "I don't like it" 
   Colonel Berke said nice things about the F-35's  blended display system, claimed that it gave the pilot more intelligence to make better decisions.   Back in the day, all the pilot cared about was range and bearing to target.  Radar can do this.  Ground radar and the radar intercept officers give target location to the pilot over voice radio.  When the fighter closes to like 100 miles, his on  board radar will see the target.   They have spent a lot of time and money "blending" the radar, the IR, the ground datalink, and other stuff onto a single big cockpit display all at the same time.  They claim this is cooler than just showing the radar on the main cockpit display.  Maybe, but radar is the sensor that does the heavy lifting, might as well concentrate upon the radar, that's where the targets are. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Would you buy a used airliner from this man?

Air Force One, a specially modified Boeing 747 has been flying for 25 years now.   Getting on in years, but still young compared to the B-52's and the KC 135's which are still flying after 50 years.  The Air Force budgeted nearly $4 billion dollars to buy two new replacements.   That's $2 billion per airplane.  Boeing's catalog price for a brand new 747 is $387 million.   President Trump did some jaw boning on the president of Boeing and came away with a small (nit noi) cost reduction. 
    And now we have a new deal.  The Air Force will buy a couple of brand new 747's that were built for a Russian airline Transaero, now bankrupt.  The check bounced, and two nice new 747's have been sitting on a back lot  in Victor California.   The Air Force has refused to say just how much it is paying for them.  Let's hope it is no more than list price new, $387 million each.   
   Now comes the expensive part,  jazzing up the planes with super fancy interiors, nice paint, and radio and comm gear  that lets the president talk to every part of the military, internet, TV, and probably alien deductors.  Plus anti missile warning systems, flare dispensers and laser jammers, plus God knows what other cost enhancers.
   All this work is scheduled to last until 2024.  That's seven highly profitable years for some contractor.    Can you spell gold plated?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Paying the bills

I do this once a month.   First I sort the month long pile of envelopes into two piles,  real bills that I gotta pay, and begs, dear party member please send money letters.  At this point the pile of begs is always taller than the pile of bills.
   This month was a triumph for the window envelope bills.  The idea behind the window envelope, which gives you 8 different ways to insert the check and the payment stub, only one of which results in the Post Office actually delivering your payment.  The other idea is that the company can change their billing address without reprinting a whole bunch of envelopes with the old billing address printed on them.  This month my phone company joined my TV cable provider and my electric company in changing their company name (Fairpoint Communications got bought up) in changing their company name as billing address.   Lotta churn for just one year.
    The new idea in begging this year is the survey.  Big fat envelope with a survey form inviting you to express your opinions and enclose a check.   I don't  bother with them. 
    And the bill people are trying to get everyone to pay by web.  They no longer print "Make checks payable to" on the bill stubs.  I don't trust the web enough to want to put my money on it, or over it.  I like checks that I hand sign. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Civil War Memorials, Confederate version

The US civil war was the most terrible war the country ever fought.   The Civil War killed more Americans than all the other wars in our history, all put together.   I am a New England Yankee, and  every village and town up here has a Civil War memorial.   Even though it has been 150 years since Appomattox,  the pain is still remembered.  Naturally New England war memorials bestow honor upon Union men. 
    I don't seen any reason why Southern towns should not bestow  honor upon the Confederate men.  One of the amazing things about the US Civil War is how well we were able to re unite the country after the terrible bloodletting was over.   Surely allowing  Southern villages and towns to put up memorials to Confederates was part of that.   And, all Americans growing up need to know the history of the Civil War.  It was fought to preserve the Union and to free the black slaves, and it succeeded in these aims.  The Confederates fought to repel Yankee invasions of their territory and to allow them to run their own affairs to suit themselves.   They lost, but they fought hard for four years, and compared to later wars, they fought cleanly.
   I can understand that our black citizens are less than enthusiastic about Confederate leaders.   But they need to know about them, and about the Civil War.  If the South had been a little luckier, they might have won.   As it was, Union war weariness by 1864 was strong, almost strong enough to defeat Lincoln's re-election, and just pull the Union Army back and let the South go.  If that had happened, blacks would still be slaves in the victorious Confederacy.
   In the interests of preserving a heroic history for future generations, and keeping the United States united,  I think we ought to keep all the Civil War memorials and statues, Union and Confederate.   I think our black citizens are just going to have to put up with the Confederate ones.  These men have been dead for better than 100 years, let's leave them and their memories in peace.
  

Monday, August 14, 2017

High Tech didn't used to be so political

I worked in high tech for 40 years.  We never got into politics, political correctness, diversity or that sort of stuff when chatting in the shop or at lunch.  At work we gossiped about  co -workers and we talked about the product.  We were always real manufacturers, who made stuff, packed it in cartons, shipped it off our loading dock.  Topics such as how to make the product better, more saleable, more reliable,  faster, lower cost were popular.  And Pine Wood Derby when the local Boy Scouts were running it.    And cars, sports, boating, skiing.   Don't remember much political talk, even in presidential years.  
   Judging from the Google brew-ha-ha that's all changed.   To have a software guy write a readable memo is all new, all the software guys I remember were functional illiterates in English.  They might write a mean stick in Fortran or C but forget it when it came to writing the instruction manual.  
   Had I been running Google, my first thought would have been, "Lo, a software guy that can write, lets get him write stuff explaining how our product works for our customers."  Let me talk him into retracting/modifying/explaining anything truly beyond the pale in his thinking, and  getting him writing stuff that brings in customers. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Correlation of Forces, North vs South Korea

In a nutshell, the Norks have twice the force of the south.  Saturday's Wall St Journal gives a breakdown, based upon a South Korean Defense White Paper of 2016.  The South has 655,000 regular troops (including a mere 20,000 American troops) against the North's 1.28 million troops.  As backup, the South has 3.1 million reserve troops but the North has 7.62 million.   Which gives the NORKs twice the number of soldiers as the South.  And, these force levels are enormous.  Consider that Hitler only had 2.5 million soldiers in the army that he sent to attack the Soviet Union in 1941.   And Nazi Germany was a much bigger country, fully mobilized for war, supported by a population about three times the size of North Korea.   In short, both Korea's have really really big armies, and a war between them would be bad.   Notice also that our troops in Korea are dwarfed by the South Korean forces.   Note that our 20,000 troops is twenty times the size of the force we moved into the Baltic states a few months ago  amid much fanfare in the MSM. 
    The article goes on to give numbers of warplanes, helicopters, tanks, armored personnel carriers, conventional artillery, rocket artillery, missiles, warships, and submarines.  All the quantities are impressive.  For instance the North is credited with 4300 tanks.   Rommel at his best never had more than 400 tanks.   The North is believed to have 70 submarines,  which is twice what  Admiral Donitz  had in 1940.  Granted these are diesel electric subs which lack the speed and range of nuclear subs, but are every bit as deadly when they get within torpedo range.  
   Another interesting but scary fact.  The North has 5500 rocket artillery pieces against a mere 240 in the South.  These weapons are descendants of the old Soviet Katyusha rockets of WWII.  They fufill the same role as conventional artillery.   The rocket launchers are cheaper and lighter, and have somewhat better range, and throw heavier projectiles than conventional artillery, at a sacrifice of accuracy.  If you are bombarding Seoul  rocket artillery is plenty accurate enough.   Presumably a lot of those 5500 pieces are dug in around Seoul, waiting for the word to open fire.   Cleaning them out with counter battery fire and air strikes will take forever.   Especially as the fire finder radars only work on unpowered artillery and mortar shells.  Rockets keep accelerating, the radar has no idea how long they have been under acceleration when they first detect them and they cannot compute the launch site for attention by our own artillery.
  In short, both sides have very large forces,  forces the size of WWII forces, ready for combat.  Starting up the Korean war again promises to be really bloody.  The Journal's commentary explains that the South Koreans are expected to win thru better training, better equipment and high morale, even when outnumbered 2:1.    But it won't be easy.
  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Henry Kissinger on the NORKs

Op Ed in today's Wall St Journal.  Kissinger has been around a long long time and is a pretty savvy guy.   The shrewdest thing he wrote was this:
"But American diplomacy will, in the end, be judged by the outcome, not the process."    Which means just bringing the NORKs to a conference table doesn't count.  We need a plan that the Chinese, the South Koreans and the Japanese will go along with.    We have had plenty of conferences with the NORKs over the last 30 years.  Each time the NORKs signed a communique, and then proceeded to violate it.   
   Kissinger says the key player is China.  We need a deal that the Chinese are OK with, and will support.   Just what this might be is unclear.  The Chinese like the NORKs the way they are.  They form a buffer between the Americans and the pushy South Koreans.   They have a way of getting the Americans all wrapped around the axle without  getting them mad at China. 
   Kissinger goes on to say that leaving the NORKs with nukes will cause Japan, South Korea, and Viet Nam to go nuclear themselves.   Talk about  instability.   This threat might make the Chinese more interested in settling the NORK nuke matter.   
 

Friday, August 11, 2017

What to say to Kim Jung Un

We gotta remember that Kim isn't very bright, isn't very brave, and isn't very well informed.  I don't think he has ever visited the US.   Does he even speak or read English?   His ideas of what we might do are formed from the Communist propaganda he must have been raised on, and eight years of Obama's opaque weasel words and red lines. 
   It's right and proper for Trump to tell him "You nuke anyone and we will nuke you down to bedrock,"  Kim may not have understood this before Trump said it.  Even if Kim didn't catch on this time, I bet  there are some people in the regime that did. 
   It will make them cautious.   That is a good thing.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

If someone knocked on my bedroom door at 5 AM

I'd shoot.  I keep a .45 in my bedside table.  Anyone inside my house without my permission at 5 AM is a bad guy.   This happened to Paul Manaport yesterday.  The FBI raided his house in DC "before dawn" according to accounts.  Presumable they defeated his door locks and entered his house.  That's breaking  and entering in my book, and I'd shoot right thru the bedroom door.   Unless their body armor is good enough to stop .45, they are dead. 

The two party system needs some carrots and sticks

The two party system is an improvement over the multi party system.  For any political issue there are always 6 or 7 different policies to deal with it.  If you have 6 or 7 different parties, Murphy's Law guarantees that each party will take a different policy, none of them will have enough votes to push their policy thru, and so nothing gets done.   For historical examples, look at Britain and France during the 19th century.  Britain was steady two party.  France was lots and lots of parties, every party for itself.
    In two party system  the party leadership decide which of the 6 or 7 options to take (or invents yet another one more palatable to the party members) and when the vote comes, the entire party puts all it's votes on one option and it will pass.   Things happen.   Progress occurs. 
   To make this work, the party leadership needs to get all the party members on board.  Good policies help, good leadership speeches help, but when push comes to shove, the party leadership needs to be able to say," Vote with the party and these good things will come to you.  Buck us and these bad things will happen to you." 
    Used to be, Congressional leadership could offer (or deny) desirable committee assignments, and juicy pork for your district.  And money and presidential support in your next campaign.  Or money and presidential support to your primary opponent. 
   Now, not so much.  I forget the details, but the good government types have taken away the leadership's absolute control of committee assignments.  The Republicans outlawed "earmarks" special bills giving money to special causes.   Nobody is sure that they even want Donald Trump's support in their 2018 campaign.   And so,  poor old McConnell tried hard but he couldn't get all the RINO's and rightwing screwballs on board for repeal and replace.   Perhaps he could have made it with a few more carrots and sticks in his hand to bring members into line. 
   Next time the good government types are out there pushing some reform that weakens the leadership's incentives, maybe we ought to vote 'em down. 

We must be doing something right No. 7

Forbes just did a ranking of all 50 states for taxes.  Worst was New York at around 12%.  Far far better is good old New Hampshire at Number 7 with an 8% tax rate.  We are the best in New England by a lot. Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine are all far worse. 
    If we could just pass right to work up here we could even attract some industry, like that Toyota plant that is out looking for a location. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Opioid Crisis Part II

They had a big meeting about it at Trump's place in NJ.  Lotta talk.  Promises to crack down with law enforcement.  Pleas for more money for treatment and drug rehab. 
   No mention of reforming doctors' prescription policies.  Right now we lack any kinda guideline on what medical conditions justify the use of opoids, how much to prescribe, how to prevent doctor shopping.  A lot of patients actually are suffering from various  mental conditions, often depression.  They find that a good solid hit of opioids makes them feel better.  So they search out a pain pill mill and get a prescription for opioids.  And some time or other they find that street heroin works as well and costs less.    I think we need to tighten up on opioid prescriptions.
   Clamp down on doctors.   Doctors hate this. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dealing with the NORKS

It is easier to deal with them BEFORE they get nuclear tipped missiles with the range to strike Japan, South Korea, and America.  Doing regime change on a nuclear armed regime can be very dangerous. 
   And the NORKs are really close to having such missiles.  I don't think they have them today, but it looks like they will have them in a year or two. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Wind and the Lion 1975

An oldie but a goodie.  I  popped my video tape into my yard sale VCR and played it last night.  It's still a good flick.  Sean Connery is The Rasuli, "last of the Barbary pirates".  Candice Bergen is Eden Pedicaris, American widow with two young children living in Morocco in 1904.  The movie opens with The Rasuli's horseman galloping along a North Africa beach, gorgeous color, very scenic shots.  He is out to create an international incident to support his cause by kidnapping Candice Bergen and her children.  She is having afternoon tea, in a the formal garden of a plush house in Morocco with a very proper English gentleman.   Very civilized scene.  He is wearing a white suit with tie.  Suit matches his white hair.  They are discussing  the proper wine to drink at this time of day.   Quick change of pace, The Rasuli, followed by a dozen horsemen come crashing thru the garden hedge and start laying about with swords.  Our proper English gentleman turns out to be practical as well as proper.  He produces a large revolver from his shoulder holster and starts blowing Arabs off their horses.  He does pretty well until he runs out of ammunition and is slain.  
    There is a lot of riding and fighting and scenery for the rest of the movie.  Lot's of priceless dialog between Sean Connery and Candice Bergen.   Candice gives as good as she gets.   Where Sean Connery is waxing poetic with quotations from the Koran, Candice Bergen tops each one with a Yankee saying such as "A stitch in time saves nine".
   We get to see the Theodore Roosevelt administration reacting to this outrage.  You get the impression that Teddy has as much pirate blood in his veins as The Rasuli.  Plenty of people have criticized this movie for modifying actual history, but heh, it's movie, not a history lesson.   Shakespeare did the same thing with English history and we like it.  The plot sticks together and makes sense.  The portrait of Teddy Roosevelt is vivid and in accordance with what I know of the period. 
   A fun watch. If you haven't seen it, try it, you'll like it.