Sunday, April 30, 2017

President Trump's 100 days

   Must be a slow news day since all the newsies seem to be talking about Trump's 100 days in office.  Most of 'em claim that he hasn't done much, or done enough.   As for me, a medium speed Trump supporter (I voted for him but I think he has foot-in-mouth problems),  I will give him a B for achievement and an A for effort.  He has gotten Gorsuch onto the Supremes, OK'ed the Keystone XL pipeline project that will lower my heating oil bills, killed off a lot of Obama regulations with executive orders, and done good on foreign affairs.
   He hasn't gotten his REPUBLICAN Congress to pass Obamacare repeal, let alone Obamacare replacement, or to get onto federal income tax reform.  To be fair, both bills are complicated, have a zillion lobbyists pushing from every direction, and the Republicans have failed to explain to the country just what they are trying to pass,  and both issues are too tricky to deal with in a few months.  It took Obama a couple of years to get Obamacare thru the Congress, it gonna to take Trump more than a few months to kill it.  And the Congress critters are getting all soggy and hard to light. 
  So I think Trump's heart is in the right place, he is working hard on it, but he has a long long way to go.  I don't think we will have a good feel for how he is doing until mid summer. 

Driving home

It's a great grandson.  Cute, three weeks old as of Friday.  Eats and sleeps well.  Doesn't fuss much, and well he does, picking him up and walking around the house quiets him right down.  Likes to nap in parent's (grandparent's too) laps.  Laps are better than cradles, ask any new born.  Has nice fine hair, looks to be blond or perhaps red.  Not unusual considering the both mother and father are still blond. 
  Drove back from DC on Saturday.  I took the scenic route.  Picked up old US 1 off the Baltimore beltway.  It dwindles to a two lane route thru Maryland farm country and gets over the Chesapeake Bay on top of the old Conowingo dam.  Must have been low tide, the down stream side of the dam was going dry, lots of mud flats all across the bay.  Upstream seemed to have plenty of water.  Crossed the Mason-Dixon line in the Pennsylvania, and US-1 widens into a nice 4 lane divided highway, light traffic, clearly a 1950's road project.  Zipped thru/by Chadd's Ford, the Wyeth art museum, Brandwine battle field, Longwood Gardens and picked up old US 202 for West Chester.  PA has finally gotten some infrastructure finished.  The construction on US 202 around King of Prussia is finally (after 10 years!!) finished.  And they have fixed a bunch of bottle necks/bad spots along the way to NJ.  They repaved using that old purple asphalt which looks nice and you don't see much of it around. 
   Got to Tappan Zee bridge at noon.  The new Tappan Zee bridge is still under construction, although progress has been made.  They have the steel girder work up clear across the Hudson, and the towers to support the cable stayed high center section are up.  The old bridge is still there, traffic was moving quickly, all 10 lanes.  The toll booth on the eastern shore is gone.  I zipped right thru, no EZ Pass, either I got thru for free, or they got my license plate on a well hidden camera and will mail me a bill. 
   All and all, the scenic route is nearly as fast as the straight-thru I95 all the way route.  Straight thru took ten hours in the rain.  Senic route was only 10 1/2 hours in good weather.  Saves about $20 in tolls. 
   Good trip.  Got to love the grandson.  Mom (Karen) and Dad (Justin) are looking fine and enjoying their first child. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Politics and Prose, Washington DC bookstore

I  love to read, and the thought of visiting a bookstore bigger than the Village Bookstore in Littleton is always cool with me.  So we loaded Wyatt into a carseat into the back of my Buick, and set off.  It's a fair piece over there.  Wyatt is OK with car trips, he slept all the way, and was perfectly happy in his baby pack walking around the bookstore. 
   It's big, and has an enormous stock.  Their shelving policy can slow you down.  Usually you shelve history books by date (of subject) so that revolutionary war books get shelved next to each other, likewise civil war books and so on.  Not at Politics and Prose.  It's all mixed together and you have tribute works to Obama shelved next to books on Plymouth and Jamestown.  I splurged on "The Anglo Saxon World", soft cover, slick paper, lots of illustrations. 
   Their science fiction shelf was weak,  many really OLD authors, books I either have, or have no desire to read.  The "graphics novel" shelf was no better.  The science shelf was mostly biology and arguments for and against Darwin. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Random road impressions

Drove down to Washington DC to visit new born grandson.  Weather was poor.  Ran into rain around White River Junction and drove thru on and off rain showers the rest of the way.  Spring is working on it.  Trees around my place are still bare.  By the time I got south to Brattleboro they were all leafing.  In DC they are in full leaf. 
    NJ turnpike seems to have misplace their toll booths.  Got off GW bridge, and onto the Jersey pike.  No toll booth, could not get a ticket.   Drove to the end of pike at Delaware Mem bridge and paid full toll.  Which is OK since I had driven the pike from end to end, but  beware if you are getting off early, say Philadelphia. 
    Coming thru Connecticut I took the old road, Merritt Parkway.  Conn had done some work on it, fresh black asphalt, brightly painted lines, no potholes.   New York, not so much.  Inside New York, the Cross Bronx expressway was it's usual shabby self.  I notice that most of the calls for "infrastructure" spending come from New Yorkers like Trump. Hoping the feds will bail their roads out of decades of neglect.  The other states keep their roads in fine shape, what's wrong with New York?
   Got on the infamous DC beltway by 3 PM.  Traffic was heavy heavy.  By 5 PM it was a lot lighter.  I guess the civil servants all quit work by 3 PM.  My tax money at work.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The NORKs are getting us hot and bothered.

Trump has invited all 100 senators to the White House for a classified briefing on the NORK situation.  That's some kind of a first.  I never heard of that happening before.
   The NORKs have threatened to sink the USS Carl Vincent. And to nuke the US mainland.  As for the carrier, they could get lucky with a diesel-electric sub, of which they have some.  They would have to be pretty lucky to avoid detection and destruction by the carrier's escort destroyers, and they would have to get several torpedo hits, but it might happen.  If they actually sank the carrier, as opposed to just launching on it, they could expect retaliation, probably air strikes.   If the NORKs have a working nuclear warhead for a missile, that they have never tested, they might be able to nuke the western US.  That ought to buy them wall to wall airstrikes, with nukes.
   Going up against the NORKs with ground forces amounts to starting up the Korean War all over again.  The NORKs have strengthened their army since the 1950s.  The South Koreans have a large army, probably more motivated, better trained, and better equipped, but probably not enough to bring a quick and easy victory.
   Our best bet is to convince the Chinese to cut off the NORKs imports of food and fuel.  The Chinese may or may not go along with this.  They want to keep the NORKs around for all the grief they can give the Americans and the South Koreans.  And to keep a unified Korean, which would be run by the South Koreans, off their border.
   If the Chinese option doesn't work (pretty likely) then the only other option I can see amounts to assassinating Kim Jong whats-his-face.  That would bring the regime down in a welter of back biting and attempts to seize power.  This might be our best option if we want to put the NORKs out of the nuclear business.  The current NORK regime is dead set on getting nukes and the missiles to launch them.  We will need to do regime change on North Korea to change that. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

That march for science.

I wonder how many of the marchers had a minimum of scientific education.  I strongly feel that all high school students should take chemistry, physics, and biology.  In the 21th century when so many policies and issues have science (or claim to have science) at their base, all citizens ought to have some science at the high school level in order to understand the arguments pro and con.  Simple concepts, conservation of energy, the difference between compounds and elements, conservation of mass-energy, the difference between acid and alkali, specific heat and the heat of fusion, invariance of the speed of light, and more, are essential to real understanding.  This isn't happening right now.  Kids can coast thru high school with no science what so ever.  A lot of 'em come out of high school unable to read an ordinary ruler. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tax Cuts bring prosperity? Heard on Fox News this morning.

They cited the prosperity that followed the Kennedy tax cuts (early 1960's) and the Reagan tax cuts (1980's)  However back in those days the Feds mostly paid their bills with tax receipts, rather than by selling T-bills.  Now a days taxes are not paying for the Feds, they are selling nearly $1 trillion worth of T-bills to keep those US treasury checks from bouncing.  That's a scary amount of money.  GNP is about $17 trillion, so the $1 trillion yearly deficit is about  6% of GNP.  That's a bunch more than the deficit back in the Kennedy or Reagan years.  It's one of the reasons GNP growth was 1% under Obama. 
   If we just cut taxes, we will have to run a bigger deficit.  Sooner or later, people will stop buying T-bills and then things get dicey.  Do we stop paying social security and medicare?  Do we stop paying the troops?  Do we just let the checks bounce?  I don't want to go there. 
   Plus, selling T-bills is very close to just printing fresh dollar bills to meet our expenses.  Look at it from the T-bill buyer's point of view.  He gives Uncle cash, Uncle gives him a nicely printed bond, green ink and everything, just like a dollar bill.  There is a market for T-bills, runs 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, and should our bondholder need cash, he picks up his phone, orders his broker to sell, and he will have cash in his account in a day or so.  Does our bondholder feel any poorer after buying that T-bill?  No, he figures the money is still his, he just put it into a T-bill which does pay a small amount of interest.  As opposed to bank accounts which pay no interest at all these days.  
   And we all know that just printing more money causes inflation, the price of goods goes up, and we all agree that is not good. 
   So before tax cuts can bring prosperity, we will have to cut some spending.  There are a lot of things that could be cut right down to zero.
   Start with farm subsidies.  There aren't that many farmers any more.  I worked in industry for fifty years and we never got a penny of federal subsidies.  Why should farmers get free money?
   Then we could eliminate block grants to the states.  If the states want to spend money they ought to have to raise it themselves.  When you have to raise the money you will be more frugal in spending it.  When you get free money from Uncle, it will be spent, every penny of it, whether the project is worthwhile or not. 
   Then we could shut down the federal dept of education.  Education is controlled and funded at the city, town, and state level.  We ought to leave it that way.  The federal funds the ed dept hands out are really bribes to get the staties to do things Washington's way.  We would be better off dropping the bribes and letting the locals do things their way. 
   And there are other things which will come to me as I think things other. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Dodd-Frank. Welfare for big banks

The Dodd-Frank bill, passed in the depths of Great Depression 2.0,  essentially promises US taxpayer support for big US bank, should they screw up and go broke.  It makes a list of "systemically important" banks, adds unwilling banks to the list now and then.  These favored banks are required to file a ton of paperwork, including a financial last will and testament,  supposedly to guide the Feds in a bailout, should they go over the cliff.
  Bad idea all around.  The bank managers are encouraged to make stupid loans, because they know the feds will bail them out should the stupid loans go bad.  The rest of the world is reassured that US banks will live up to their commitments,no matter how stupid, using money from us long suffering taxpayers.
  Better idea.  Use the ancient Sherman Anti Trust act to break up any bank so big as to pose a threat to the financial system should it go broke.  The justice department still has an entire office full of anti-trust lawyers, who haven't done squat in the last 20 years, other than draw their pay.  They ought to be out earning their pay by breaking up banks "too big to fail".   

Budget of only $609 Million.

That's the 2016 budget for the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.  That's a lot of money.  Figure you can hire a bean counter for $100K, that budget will hire 6000 bean counters.  Erica Groshen, former BLS commissioner, writing an op-ed in today's Wall St Journal, thinks BLS needs more money to fulfill it's duties.
  These duties include publishing the monthly jobs report.  Crucial work that is, especially as ADP, the big payroll agency, publishes it's own jobs report, a week ahead of the BLS report, based on very credible data. Funding for BLS got so tight last year that they dropped the "International Labor Comparisons" program, and the "Mass Layoff Statistics" program.  Awful that is.  Of course I have never heard of either program before, and from the titles I gotta wonder if they were worth a plugged nickel. 
   The most important thing BLS can do, is compute the numbers the same way, every month, every year, so that changes in the number indicates changes in the real economy and not merely changes in book keeping.  Only if you forbid book keeping changes can you tell if things are actually getting better or worse.  Which is why we care about the numbers.
   Today, they ought to get the jobs report out by putting the numbers into an Excel spreadsheet.  Use the same spread sheet every year.  I don't see why we need a staff of 6000 bean counters to get this done.  I'd think 60 would be plenty.
  $609 million isn't "real money" in Everett Dirksen's phrase (A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money).  But it is getting close to a billion, when I think it ought to be $6 million.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Farewell Bill O'Reilly

Fox News announced Bill's "retirement" on air last night.   Too bad.  I'm not a super great O'Reilly fan, I watched him when there was nothing better on (often) and I had nothing better to do (not so often).  He had an attitude, and expressed it on the air, frequently.  Mostly his attitude was OK by me, sometimes I found him a bit simplistic and jingoistic, but never as bad as lefties like Rachel Maddow.  Most of the time Bill seemed to have his head screwed on, nose to the front. 
  Tucker Carlson gets O'Reilly's 8 o'clock time slot, "The Five" moves from 5 o'clock to 9 o'clock.  Tucker is pretty good, The Five is merely OK. 
  Message to everyone.  Keep it zipped. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dominating the news cycle

Mother of all Bombs soaked up fantastic amounts of TV coverage for days on end.  Some video showing the Mother getting dropped.  Not so much bomb damage assessment (BDA) video.  But as a publicity stunt, this one ranks right up there with things like the Doolittle raid. 
   Not quite sure why it got so much press coverage.  It was 21000 pounds, big, but the British had a 20000 pound bomb (Grand Slam) in service back in WWII.  So a ten ton bomb in 1944, a 10.5 ton bomb in 2017, this is  astounding progress? 
   Lets assume this one bomb hit did our side some good.  But you don't win guerrilla wars with air power.  You gotta sap the guerrilla's morale with effective propaganda, and astute political moves.  And you have to have ground troops to provide security to your civilians and kill the guerillas.  More MOAB strikes might get us more good press, but it isn't gonna win a guerilla war for us. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Republicans gotta get something done.

First they have to deal with Obamacare.  Nobody has ever figured out just what Obamacare is doing and what it is gonna cost.  The health insurers are dropping Obamacare as fast as the can after loosing barrels of money.  Right now it looks like Obamacare promises taxpayer funded health insurance for everyone who doesn't have health insurance from their employer or is 65 years old and hence eligible for Medicare.  Nobody has ever published an estimate of what Obamacare is gonna cost.  A reasonable guess is it will cost as much as Medicare.  There are more people without employer health insurance than there are people over 65.  Since they are younger than 65 they ought to be in better health.   Any way you slice it, Obamacare is a black hole down which we toss money.  A lot of money.
  To do tax reform, we have to get a handle on Obamacare costs.  Unless we at least know what the taxpayers have to fund, you cannot do any tax cutting.  And every one agrees that taxes are too damn complicated, too damn high,  and too unfair.  If tax reform doesn't happen, there will be a LOT of unhappy campers for the 2018 by election.  Might be enough for the Republicans to loose control of the house or the Senate, or both.
   It's do or die time for the Republicans.  They have to reform Obamacare.  They have to do tax reform.  If they don't,  they are gonna get clobbered in 2018.  

Do I care about President Trump's tax returns?

No.  Those returns are being audited by the IRS.  For us ordinary taxpayers, there is nothing worse than getting audited.  I dare say it causes Trump less pain and he has tax lawyers to handle it.  But still.  And I think they have audited him every year now.  The IRS, whose bureaucrats are all Democrats, who would love to get something, anything, on Trump.  If there is anything bad, flaky, or off color in Trump's 2016 tax return, the IRS will let us know.  Never fear.
  The newsies would love to get a hold of those returns.  There is always plenty of stuff that can be made to look bad, with just a gentle slanting.  Not enough charitable donations, donations to politically incorrect causes, capital losses, too much alimony or not enough alimony.  Lots of stuff. 
   And talking and demonstrating against Trump's tax returns diverts public attention from serious stuff, like Obamacare reform, tax reform, international trade, real stuff, not fake news. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Dealing with the NORKs.

The NORKs have an army, stronger than what they had for the Korean War.  South Korea's major city and capital is so close to the NORK border as to be withing artillery range.  The place is run by a pudgy dictator who appears to be a crazy man.  They are building nukes and the ballistic missiles to deliver them.  They are so cold stony broke that they are having trouble feeding their people.  They have little to no international trade, travel, or connections. 
   We want them to drop their nuclear program.  They are dead set on getting nukes for the international respect (outright fear) that a nuclear weapons state commands.  Their nuclear facilities are well dispersed and underground, probably proof against airstrikes. 
    We would like the Chinese to cut off their crucial imports of food and fuel to force them to drop the nuclear program.  The Chinese could do this, they are the only source of supply for the NORKs.  Trouble is, the Chinese don't want to squeeze the NORKs that hard, for fear the regime might collapse.  If or when that happens, enormous attractive political forces will try to pull North and South Korea back together.  A lot of South Koreans still have kin in North Korea who they would insist on saving.  If that happens, South Korea, with an economy so advanced it can export automobiles to North America and make state of the art semiconductors, plus an educated population, will run the show, just like West Germany ran the show when East and West Germany reunited.  The result would be a capitalist, successful, pushy, Korea running right up to the Chinese border at the Yalu river.  The Chinese hate this idea.  Especially as the Koreans are so tight with the Americans. I doubt that the Chinese will push the NORKs very hard, certainly not hard enough to gt them out of the nuke business.
  Maybe we could get the Chinese to repatriate North Korean refugees to South Korea instead of handing them back to the tender mercies of Kim whats-his face Number 3.  Give this a few years to work, and the population loss would hurt the NORKs.  
  So what's left?   We could assassinate Kim whats-his-face  Number 3.  He deserves it, and the NORK regime would probably collapse into chaos as the various survivors and number two men struggle to take over.  And it would probably stop the NORKs from shelling Seoul into rubble.   On the other  hand, collapsing the NORK regime is scary all around.
   We could start up the Korean War again.  Nobody likes this idea. For good reasons.
   We could shoot down, or shoot up, any more NORK missile launches.  There is already newsie speculation that we caused yesterday's launch failure by computer hacking or black magic.  

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Watched PBS show "The Great War" last night

Disappointing is the best I can say.  WWI was the greatest catastrophy of the 20th century.  It wrecked Europe.  Before the war, Europe was the center of civilization.  All the great powers were European powers.  The Great Powers had colonized most of the rest of the world and ran it to suit themselves.  Production of coal, iron, steel, steam railroads, steam ships, electric telegraph and telephone, airplanes and airships, electric light, and modern weapons, was all done in Europe.  Scientific advances were all in Europe. 
   WWI wrecked all this.  It destroyed the Austro-Hungarian empire, and the Ottoman empire.  And it created Communist Russia, a menace that would last seventy years. 
   The  pity of it, is no one in Europe could explain why their country was at war.  The Americans, led by Wilson, asked the major combatants, the British, the French, and the Germans, what their war aims might be, thinking that if you know what everyone wanted, and you could get them to a table, you might be able to work out a deal.  None of the Europeans has an answer the the question "What are your war aims?"  Either they didn't know, or they feared that they would sound so petty, squabbles over colonies and the like, that revealing them would subject them to ridicule.  Wilson had to create the famous 14 points as a rational, before he could get the US to join the war in 1917. 
   So what did the PBS show talk about?  A lotta footage about US racism, and the anti German feeling whipped up by the  Wilson administration.  Good deal of footage on the  black 15th New York regiment, little to nothing about any other American unit.  You'd think the 15th New York won the war single handedly.  Nothing about war production, the Navy, British and French leaders, or any other topic.   Too bad, Ken Burns showed PBS how to do a war mini series years ago with the Civil War.   Judging by this bit of politically correct anti-American propaganda,  PBS has totally forgotten how to do things right.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer forgets Godwin's Law

Godwin's law is a widely known Internet adage.  "After any discussion goes on long enough, somebody will compare someone or something to Hitler.  And the first to mention Hitler looses the argument"
 Sean Spicer forgot about this the other day when he compared Syria's Basher Assad to Hitler.  The press room has been ragging him about it for days now. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Words of the Weasel Part 51

Used to be they talked about military action, meaning engaging the enemy on land or sea or air.  Now they talk about "kinetic action" or "kinetic military action"   Kinetic is a word dragged in from physics, where it means "motion"  A moving body carries kinetic energy (1/2 mv**2).  A textbook titled "kinetics" will talk about motion, acceleration, collisions, orbits, and that sort of stuff. 
Dunno why the newsies have taken to adding the word in front of "action".   There is probably some good left leaning reason, but I have no clue as to what it might be. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Doing my taxes. Adventures with Turbotax

The thing about Turbo Tax is that it is a black box.  You key in all the numbers on your tax forms, and it thinks about it and then issues a dozen totally incomprehensible error messages and asks you to correct them.  After a couple of day of screwing around I got it down to just ONE error message that didn't make any sense. 
   I used to do the taxes by hand and with Excel.  That way I had a fair to middling idea what was going on.  When I started with Turbotax, it saved me about $1000 over doing taxes with Excel.  So I have stuck with it for the last few years.  But I no longer understand what's going on.  You plug your numbers into TurboTax, and it prints your tax form, but I no longer know diddly about it. 

 So I ignored it and pressed on to print the 1040.  I don't like to efile, it makes things too easy for the IRS.  Efiled returns go right into the IRS computers, and their audit software looks things over and decides to zap you.  Send 'em paper and they have to scan it, page by page, and the scanning software often makes mistakes that have to be corrected by hand, slowing things down.  To really slow things down, hand scribe your 1040, that will baffle the scanning software even worse. 
   So,  I took the laptap over to the printer to get some hard copy.  Plugged in the USB cable from the HP D4260 Deskjet.  Clicked on print in Adobe reader.  This opened a weird window that " registered" my printer with HP.  Opening me up to a flood of spam.   But, it would not print.  This used to work back before I upgraded to Win 10 last year.  Far as I can see, Win 10 broke the printer driver[s].  Win none, loose one.
   So,  Lets burn the tax returns to a CD, I always do that anyhow for backup.  Then copy the return onto Trusty Desktop, running XP, and get on with it.  Clicked on VLC media player, which used to burn CD's just fine on laptop.  Damn,  Win 10  broke VLC too.  Then I noticed that Win 10 offered to burn CD's all by itself.  That's new,  XP never did that.  So I put in blank CD and drag and drop the tax returns and some back up data (check books) onto the CD icon, and things happen.  CD drive spins, a green progress bar crawls across the screen,  the drive makes seeking noises.   I hit eject, and Win 10 does the CD close burn.  Groovy, but when I stick the freshly burned CD into Trusty Desktop, it shows up as blank.  I finally have  to copy the tax form to a thumb drive to move them over. 
   Anyhow, if you are doing your taxes on Win 10, you might want to make sure the printer still works before April 15 or 18 rolls around. 
   Thank you Bill Gates.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

$15 billion slush fund. From the Wall St. Journal

Friday's Journal had a piece about an attempt to sweeten the Obamacare replacement bill.  A $15 billion fund will be established to pay insurers for the extra costs of insuring "previous condition" patients.  This would somehow keep premiums down for the regular customers.  Groovy.  I love insurance companies, and of course we need to give them an extra $15 billion. 
  The Journal neglected to tell us taxpayers just how the money would be doled out.  Would it be on a per patient with previous conditions basis?  Or just sliced up between insurers?  Is $15 billion enough to cover all the patients with previous conditions?  Or will it grow much bigger in a few months.  What might premiums look like  after this $15 billion fund is created? 
   To run a real democracy, us voters need to know about the issues.  The Journal piece skipped a lot of stuff we need to know.  The Journal used to be better than this. 

Words of the Weasel Part 50

"Exit strategy" is a weasel phrase with a true meaning of "cut and run".  
The only decent exit strategy in any war engaged in for the United States is victory.  If we are unwilling to expend the necessary blood and treasure to obtain victory, we should stay out of it.
   The best sort of victory is to defeat the enemy's armed forces, occupy their land and capital, do regime change upon them.  We achieved this after WWII and turned two deadly enemies into friends and powerful allies.  And it has lasted for 70 years. 
   There are lesser forms of victory, such as the Korean War.  We didn't occupy the North, and there was plenty of criticism about that back in the day.  But 60 years later South Korean is a major economy, able to export new cars to North America, something few countries manage, where as North Korean is a pesthole. 
   And there is defeat, most notably in the Viet Nam war.  We had an exit strategy, involving fleeing by helicopter from the roof the our embassy in Saigon. 
   And now we have Syria.  We could produce victory there.  It would require landing a sizable armored force in Syria, driving to Baghdad,  catching Bashar Assad and executing him as a war criminal, establishing a new Syrian constitution and government, cleaning out ISIS, enforcing the peace, creating a trustworthy Syrian army.  All this might take 10 years and a LOT of money. 
   And at best it would get us a low speed and flaky Middle East ally, not worth very much. But it would ease the destabilizing flow of refugees into Europe. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Words of the Weasel Part 49

"Weapons of Mass Destruction"  or "Chemical Weapons".   That sounds nicer than "poison gas".   I haven't heard a newsie use the phrase "poison gas" in connection with the Syrian incident.  They stick with the innocuous sounding weasel words.

$44 million worth of Tomahawks.

We launched 59 Tomahawk missiles onto a Syrian airbase last night.  Those missiles cost $750000 apiece last time I looked.  So that's $44 million, just for ordinance.   It appears to have taken effect.  Fox  News approves, the Russians haven't declared war, and we didn't loose any pilots.  All good things.
   We could have done an airstrike with 1000 pound smart bombs.  Plain iron bomb costs about $1000, the smart bomb guidance kit probably doubles that.  Jet fighter bombers cost about  $10000  an hour to operate.  Call it a four hour mission, and dispatch 30 aircraft, two smart bombs per plane.  Comes to $1,260,000 for the mission.  It does risk loosing pilots, which has a terrible political fallout.  
   Time will tell how things turn out in Syria.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

How we ought to deal with Syrias gassing civilians

Step one.  Put a smart bomb thru Assad's bedroom window.
Step two.  Move one or more aircraft carriers into range of Syria.
Step three .  Land a strong armored force, a brigade or stronger, in Syria. Navy provides air superiority. Advance to the gas storage site[s].  Confiscate all stores of gas for destruction in our facilities. 
Step four.  Install our choice as new president of Syria.  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Income tax reform

Doing my taxes.  PITA.  I'm ready for tax reform.   Here what we ought to get in a tax reform.

  1.   Income is income, no matter where from.  Right now you gotta split your income up into ordinary income, interest, capital gains, foreign income, dividends, qualified dividends, rent, royalty, and who knows what else.  Income should be income, and it's all taxed the same way.
2.   No more crappy little work sheets in the 1040.  It's loaded with them.  They give 20-30 step instructions to calculate stuff.  By the time you reach the end of the 30 instructions you have no idea what you did, and what it means, or have any idea if you did it right.  IRS shall be required to state in ONE, English language sentence, how to calculate EACH box on the 1040.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Don't weep for the Senate Filibuster

Senate rules, most notably the filibuster, may get nuked this week.  Senators and newsies wax nostalgic over the looming loss of the good ole filibuster. 
   They shouldn't.  Senate rules, the filibuster foremost, have been used for ignoble purposes since before the Civil War.  Before the Civil War they were used by Democrats to defend slavery and block abolitionist legislation.  After WWII Democrats used the filibuster to block civil rights legislation.  Now they want to use it to block Republican judge appointments. 
   Weep not.  The republic will be in better shape without the Senate filibuster. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Just revisited good ole Tweakhound.  He has a whole up to date section on Windows 10, lists of RAM hogs and CPU hogs that can be shut down to make Win 10 more lively.  Also  Tweakhound has a good description of Microsoft's "telemetry", where by your computer reports all sorts of stuff back to Microsoft, and instructions for shutting much of it down.  Microsoft has sworn up and down that "telemetry" is only used for bug fixing, and all data is anonymous, and data will never be sold on the open market.  You can believe as much of that as you like.   I shut as much telemetry down as I dare, thinking to free up RAM and CPU cycles for my purposes rather than Microsoft's.
   I am not a gamer, I just use the machine for email, photo storage, web surfing, some writing, nothing demanding compared to games.  I find Win 10 slow.  Running on a fairly new HP laptop, WIN 10 is no faster, in fact somewhat slower, than XP running on my ancient desktop.   The new laptop has double the speed, both CPU and RAM, 8 gigs of RAM, and yet the software load of Win 10 slows it down to worse than a ten year old machine. 
   Out of the box, Win 10 was a good deal faster than Win 8 from which I upgraded the laptop.  And after a bit of tweaking here and there, it is now noticeably livelier than it was out of the box. 
   Some of the stuff Tweakhound recommends is pretty drastic.  He strongly recommends you do a full disk backup before proceeding.  I agree with him.  My laptop has some 60 Gigs of hard drive used, which would take  maybe 15 DVD's to back up, which is just too much work for me.  So,  I didn't do the drastic stuff, and stuck with the tamer stuff, going thru Settings, or Services.  No register editing, and no massive deleting of stuff.  Works for me. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Wall St Journal calls Internet Privacy bill phoney panic

That was the title of a Saturday WSJ editorial.  I assume they were discussing a bill that has made the news in the last couple of days.  So I read the  editorial, hoping to understand just what the bill was and what it would do.  Especially what it would do to me. 
   No luck.  The Journal's standards are slipping.  The editorial was unreadable.  And it made at least one big whopper.  The Journal said " The crew pushing the rule say cable companies deserve scrutiny because it is easy to change websites but hard to change internet service providers.  The reality is the reverse:"  Many of us live out of town and we don't get a choice of ISPs.  Up here Time Warner is the ONLY ISP offering broadband.  It is not hard the change ISP, it's impossible, there is only Time Warner. 
   The rest of the editorial jumped around, issued blame, with out ever getting down to the real issue, how much privacy are we giving up and to who. 
   There isn't much privacy left.  I figure my browsing history, all my email, all my purchases on the net, all my facebook posts, every app installed on my laptop, and probably some other stuff, is on the net, and anyone (cops, political opponents, nosy snoopers, the Russians, anyone) can see it.  I only post harmless stuff, photos of local scenery, cat pictures, cute kid pictures.  I don't visit porn sites and I don't visit music share sites.  I don't do Internet banking, I pay the bills with paper checks.   Since I am retired, out of the job market, and the children are grown up, I don't worry much.  Those of you still in the job market and still raising children need to do the worrying. 

Hillary wearing black leather?

She was on TV, behind a podium, campaigning again.  They didn't say what she was campaigning for.  And she had given up on the brightly colored pants suits she wore in the presidential campaign.  Now she is wearing a slick black leather coat, not quite motorcycle leathers, but close.  I wonder what voters she thought might find leather attractive.  Her former colorful pants suits outfits at least fit in with who she is, a little dowdy, fully mature (let's not say old), lady politician.  Her choices are limited, she lacks the figure and the looks to do the Jackie Kennedy or Melania Trump fashion look.  She doesn't want to do the Barbara Bush grandmother look.  But the black leather look?  At her age?