Sunday, March 26, 2017

NASA missions

In a country that plays "Star Trek" on TV for fifty years, and flocks to "Star Wars" movies, there are probably votes to be had from space exploration.  Perhaps as many votes as the greenies have for shutting stuff down.  As long as we are funding NASA we ought to ask them to do something for the money.  The last eight years under Obama have been uninspiring.  NASA got it's funding every year and produced little to nothing.  They did manage to spend all the money though.
 Four NASA missions for the future occur to me. 
1.  The Obama mission, draw your pay and do nothing.
2.  The return to the Moon mission.  This is clearly doable, we did it back in the '70s.  Question:  What could we accomplish?  Setting up a permanent moonbase is surely possible, but what would it do?  Mining, manufacturing, hydroponic farming?  Astronomical observatory?  I read as much science fiction as anyone, but I think a permanent moonbase might turn out like the International Space Station, cool, but what does it do? 
3.  The Mars mission.  This could be a toughie.  The flight to the Moon is a matter of days, round trip to Mars is a couple of years.  The lunar mission can carry enough air, water, food, and fuel to last the trip.  A two year Mars mission would have to recycle air and everything else, and grow food in flight.  This means a bigger ship, more equipment and gear,  much higher standards of air tightness.  Plus make a jet landing on Mars, a blastoff back to orbit, and have enough fuel for the return to earth.  None of this is impossible, but it's harder.  The payoff?  It's a first, it will go down in the history books, and we might discover life on Mars.  Even some fossil bacteria would be exciting. 
4.   The asteroid mission.  Fly to the asteroid belt and match orbits with a medium size asteroid.  This is actually easier than the Mars mission.  It doesn't have to land and blast off again which simplifies things a lot.  The time to fly out and back is a little longer than going to Mars, but not that much longer.  Scientific payoff might be high, examination of the asteroid might give important clues to the origin of the Solar system.  And it would be a first, go into the history books. 
   It would pay Trump politically to pick one and get cracking on it.  Long as we are funding NASA we might as well have 'em do something to earn their pay.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

So what does Trump and the GOP do now?

Should they try another Obamacare repeal and replace?  Maybe this time telling us who gets gov'mint subsidies and how much?  What will it take to get the "Freedom Caucus" on board?  Are they actually responsible legislators or do they just enjoy gumming things up?  We never did hear just what they wanted that they were not getting.
Should they press on to a tax reform bill?  And just what will get reformed?  Lower top bracket rates? Lower all rates, close some loopholes? Simplify the 1040 so it doesn't take a week to fill out?  Make health insurance payments deductible?  Some thing else?  Is there anything  the Republicans can agree on? 
   How about a federal law to allow any insurance company, located in any state, to sell health insurance policies in every state, without requiring they file paperwork with the state regulators.  Could they even get some Democrats on board with this one?
   How about a law allowing duty free import of medicine from any reasonable first world country, e.g. Canada.  Big Pharma hates the idea, but it would lower medicine prices, a lot. 
   How about a law limiting FDA medicine approval to a safety check only.  Any medicine that doesn't harm patients gets approved.  Let the doctors and the insurance companies decide if the medicine is effective.  Insurance companies can refuse to pay for quack remedies, and doctors will refuse to prescribe them.  We don't need years and years of FDA paperwork proving whether the medicine works or not. 
   How about a law declaring that manufacture, sale, or prescription of and FDA approved medicine is NEVER malpractice.  The lawyers hate this, but it would do a small bit to reduce the malpractice problem. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

RINO's rule

The RINO's like Obamacare.  After a whole bunch of happy talk about repeal and replace, the RINO's had the votes to retain Obamacare, and they used them, successfully so far.  The Ryan bill to replace Obamacare was withdrawn from the floor of the house today, presumably 'cause they lacked the votes to pass it.
 Thanks RINOs.   We need to publish the names of House RINOs and find better people to fill their seats in 2018. 
  And we need to know the names of all the members of the "Freedom Caucus"  aka RINO headquarters.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Should health insurance pay for...

Used to be, you could buy low cost but effective health insurance.  "Major medical" or "Hospitalization only" coverage.  You paid the ordinary stuff, yearly physicals, colonoscopies, prescription drugs, children's doctor visits, etc, yourself.  The insurance paid for the biggies, operations and the like.  Such a policy was cheap, $3000 a year.  Compared to the covers-everything family policy that cost $12000 a year.  If you and your family were in decent health (the usual case) you could cover the ordinary stuff and still have a lot of money left over at the end of the year. 
   Obamacare outlawed major medical policies.  The medics loved that.  They could proceed with all sorts of expensive procedures without patients objecting to them, because "it's all paid for".  The insurance companies sent Harry and Louise on vacation.  Chiropractors loved this.  Obamacare policies have to have pregnancy coverage even for men, let alone women past child bearing age.  No wonder heath insurance premiums have soared under Obamacare. 
   Now that the heat is on, and the MSM is finally talking about the contents of Ryan's health insurance bill, we find that Ryan's bill does nothing to drop all the cost enhancing " essential health benefits" from Obamacare.  At first the excuse was "Senate rules".   "Reconciliation" a Senate rule that Harry Reid slipped in to get the budget approved some years ago, allows a bill to pass the Senate on simple majority (51 votes) but "reconciliation" could only be used for "budget matters".  No reduction of "essential health benefits", that's not budgetary.  Or is it? Today the Wall St Journal is suggesting that they could indeed repeal the costly "essential health benefits" in the Ryan bill and still get itl thru the Senate on "reconciliation".
   Let's hear it for "Senate Rules".  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Advertisers object to Google and Facebook content

According to the Wall St Journal, HSBC Holdings and L'Oreal reduced spending with Google because Google was serving their ads on controversial websites, or worse, on U-tube videos made by terrorist groups such as Islamic State and a violent pro-Nazi group.  This made the Journal's front page.  Google promises to move the ads away from the objectionable content.  But Pivotal Research Group stock guru
Brian Wieser has downgraded Google stock from buy to hold.
   Question for Google:  Why are you allowing posts so raunchy, and from crazy extremist groups, on your platform at all?  No newspaper or commercial radio or TV station would carry slime like this, why should Google?  If it's offending advertisers, it's gotta be really bad.  Advertisers are happy to snuggle up to all sorts of repulsive things and people if only it gets their ads out.  The stuff has to be really bad before advertisers care.
   All those "self radicalized" terrorists, (Pulse nightclub shooter in Miami, Nidal Hassan, and plenty more) claim they joined ISIS or Al Quada and went on to real terrorism after watching extremist rants and videos on the internet.  Google should not be aiding and abetting Islamist terrorists. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Windows 10 weirdnesses

All of a sudden I found a new program that called itself TiWorker, which I had never heard of before, was active and sucking up 24% of CPU time.  Arrgh.
   So I Googled on it and found quite a bit of discussion.  Not all of it consistent.  The least harmful suggestion was to bring up Windows Control Panel, select "Troubleshooting"  Then select "System and Security" and under that, Run Maintenance Tasks".   The only task that showed was "System Maintenance.  I ran it, and TiWorker disappeared, back to where ever it came from.  System Maintenance didn't brag about what it was doing, but it ran fast and whatever it did made TiWorker go away and stop eating 24% of my CPU.
   Your mileage may vary.  

Monday, March 20, 2017

Water Vapor is a bigger deal than Carbon Dioxide

The greenies have been crying for years about the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.  They say that CO2 is a "greenhouse gas" which absorbs the infrared heat the earth is trying to radiate into space, thus warming the earth and the root cause of GLOBAL WARMING.  Analysis of ancient air bubbles trapped in arctic icecaps shows the CO2 content in ancient times was around 300 parts per million (PPM)  Analysis of modern air shows a CO2 level of 400 PPM.  A 25% increase, which the greenies say will lead to the heat death of the earth day after tomorrow.  Or sooner. 
   The greenies claim that the CO2 increase comes from burning coal starting with the industrial revolution (1750 or so) and burning oil starting with the development of the automobile (1900 or so).  To halt the CO2 growth the greenies want to put us all back in to a Hiawatha lifestyle,  no cars, no oil furnaces, no electricity after dark, and a bunch of other uncomfortable ideas.  Gotta save the world you know.
   In actual fact, the air is also full of water vapor.  Which is as strong a greenhouse gas as CO2.  And there is a lot of it.  About 11,000 PPM give or take a scosh.   It varies from time to time as we all know, some days are very humid others are bone dry.  Take 50% relative humidity at 20 C as representative.  An increase of 100 PPM of CO2  compared with 11,000 PPM of H2O isn't going to matter for world temperature. 
  The greenies are getting all hot a bothered by a 1% increase in greenhouse gas in the air. 
Relax people, we can drive our cars, travel by air, light our furnaces, and generate electricity and the planet will be just fine. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Putting a nuclear warhead on a missile

Pundits have been on TV claiming that making a nuke small and light enough to go on a missile is very difficult and it will take the NORKs years to accomplish it.
   I doubt it.  The first nuke, the one we used on Hiroshima was so big and heavy that it was all a B29 could do to get off the ground with one on board.  By the 1950's we had one small enough to fire out of an 8 inch cannon.  Which is small enough to fit on any missile.  At least any missile bigger that a 4th of July skyrocket.
The NORKs probably have a little work yet to do before they can nuke the western US, but not much.  Secretary Tillerson is saying the right stuff about the NORKs and their nukes. 

54.5 MPG. No way

That was Obambi's fuel economy regulation.  Trouble is, nobody will buy the resulting automobile.  Heck you cannot get 54.5 MPG out of motorcycle, let alone any sort of decent car.  Gasoline engine technology was well understood by the 1950's.  We had cars that could do 20 mpg back then.  Fifty years later the average car is not doing much better, maybe 24 mpg.  No way will the technology get to 54.5 mpg for anything more than a motorcycle. 
  Especially as the Environmental Pollution Agency limits what they call "NOx" emissions.   Air is 20% oxygen and 80% nitrogen.  Heat air hot enough, say in an engine combustion chamber, and the oxygen and nitrogen go together forming various nitrogen oxides, nitrates,  NO, NO2, N2O4, and a bunch more.  Old style LA smog formed when the nitrates mixed with oily vapors and sunlight formed that yellow cloud we used to see over city skies.  So, rather than clamp down on oily vapors from leaked fuel, the EPA decided to clamp down on NOx emissions.  The only way you do that is lower the combustion temperate in the engine cylinders.  Which ruins fuel economy and power.  Car engines are heat engines, the hotter you can run them, the better they perform.  If we dropped the NOx limit we would get a 10% maybe 20% performance improvement right then and there. 
   Or we could convert to battery powered cars.  Trouble is, the best battery powered cars can barely get you to work and back.   And they cost twice what a real car costs.  No way could a battery car get you to a ski resort for a weekend, or even to grandmother's house unless grandmother lives right next door.  The battery is the most expensive part of a battery car.  Nobody dares say what battery life might be, but battery replacement is so expensive that you might as well scrap the whole car and buy another one, new.   Plain old lead acid car batteries only last 4 winters.  How long will your Tesla battery last? 
   So, Trump is telling Detroit that he is going to "review" (drop) the 54.5 MPG regulation which allows Detroit to keep making cars that people will buy.  Good oh.  Right on Donald.
   Market pressure is there to get fuel economy up and keep it up,  all things being equal, customers will buy the car with better fuel mileage and everyone in Detroit knows it.
   And, don't fault people for buying SUV's  You need an SUV to get Mom, Dad, the kids, and the luggage onboard.  The little econo-boxes are horrible on a long trip with kids.  Trust me on this.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Woe to the Republic!

Turbo tax won't run on XP any more.  I will have to do my taxes on FlatBeast, my HP laptop running Win 10. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

So was Trump wiretapped or not?

Who knows?  Certainly his first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was wiretapped.  And Trump's phone call with the president of Mexico was tapped and passed to the media.  And probably more that we don't know about.  So, when Trump says he was wiretapped, I'm inclined to believe him. 
   So who dunnit?  Again, nobody knows.  But loosely speaking, I'd say Obambi did it.  Not that I think Obambi himself put on lineman's climbing spikes and went up pole and popped the alligator clips over the right telephone pair.  He has a slew of federal employees to do that.  And with modern technology you may not have to stir from in front of your computer screen to tap phones and read email.  All the 17 Federal intelligence shops worked for him up to the inauguration and perhaps some of them still do.  Most federal civil servants are Democrats.  It was reported that the rubberstamp FISA court did issue a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower.  Media has kinda stopped talking about that, although they haven't claimed it didn't happen, yet. 
   We did have a couple of Congresscritters claim that they found no evidence of a tap, but they did NOT say it never happened. They just said that they didn't have written evidence in their hands.  Doesn't mean it didn't happen.
   The newsies love this kind of stuff, it's simple enough that they can understand it.  More so than understanding just what the Obamacare replacement bill will actually do.  I haven't figured that out yet, and I am smarter than the average newsie. And so they burn up their airtime talking about wiretaps. 

Note to Congressional Republicans

You gotta pass the Obamacare replacement act.  If you don't, your party is toast in 2018.  We voters have been watching Congressional Republicans fail to do squat after winning the house in 2012 and the Senate in 2014.  Republicans funded all of Obambi's socialist schemes, they approved his appointments (TWO Supreme court justices!), they failed to pass departmental appropriation bills, and they stood still while Obambi issued outrageous executive orders. 
   Which convinced many of us that the Republicans have back trouble, namely a big yellow stripe.  Lack of stones.  Or, they are just RINO's.  The electorate is made up of 40% Democrats, 40% Republicans and the remainder 20% Independents who will vote for either party depending upon how well they like them.  The Independents voted for Trump this time 'cause the alternate was worse, but there is little love between Trump and the independents. If the Republicans cannot get their act together to pass something, anything, then the Independents won't vote Republican next time.  Bye bye Congressional majorities, bye bye White House in 2020. 
    Time will tell.  Do Republicans have any guts?  Or are they just RINO's in league with the Democrats?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Hard power vs Soft power

The MSM is trashing the Trump budget for cutting money for the State Dept and foreign aid.  The implication is that State Dept cookie pushers somehow increase the power and influence of the United States.  Not true.  State Dept personnel draw their salaries.  Few of them actually do anything constructive.  US power and influence comes from our robust economy, Hollywood, pop music, superb universities, the internet, our inventors and entrepreneurs, our amusing and vibrant domestic politics, our rock solid currency, our ideals as set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the warm and generous welcome we offer to foreign immigrants and tourists.   These things, and some others I have missed,  create US soft power.  The State Dept has little to do with it. 
   We pay some 15000 bureaucrats at State to handle relations with less than 200 countries worldwide.  That is some 85 bureaucrats per country.  That's far too many.  All they have to do is take care of US citizens in trouble abroad, operate an embassy, and do some straight forward legal intelligence gathering.  I think State could manage with a lot fewer useless mouths.
   Foreign aid is harder to assess.  Clearly a few Yankee dollars passed to the right person can accomplish wonders overseas.  Just how many dollars, and who we give them to, are matters of pure judgement.  Loyal and experienced US diplomats can get the balance right, some of the time, perhaps even more often than not.  We should leave the foreign aid debate to the very few people, like Henry Kissinger, who really know what's going on. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

There was NO Mrs Bilbo Baggins.

Tolkien even mentioned this in the trilogy itself.  "Bilbo and Frodo as bachelors were very exceptional."  I'm reading an Op-Ed in the Wall St Journal, a book review of "Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve" by Ben Blatt.  It's about what can be done with computers to count up every word an author uses, and the patience to wade thru the resulting mountains of histograms.  Apparently they were able to resolve who wrote which of the Federalist Papers by looking at the frequency of the word "whilst" versus that of "while".  Hamilton always wrote "while" where Madison always wrote "whilst.  Good interesting stuff but I would never have the patience to sort all this out.
   Then the reviewer mentions that Tolkien used "he" 1900 times and the word "she" just once when he refers to Mrs. Bilbo Baggins.  The first part I can believe, Tolkien's protagonists were all guys, no chicks in the fellowship of the ring.  But Mrs Bilbo Baggins?  No way, Bilbo never married,  Frodo was NOT Bilbo's son, he was a nephew. 
   Talk about blowing your credibility in one short sentence. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The vanishing supermarket chicken

Used to be, the butcher's shelf in the supermarket would have plenty of whole chickens, fryers, broilers, and roasters.  Must be some kinda plague killed them all off.  Now a days all the market has are chicken thighs (second joint) drumsticks, breasts (skinless and boneless) and chicken fingers (breasts sliced thin).  The whole bird seems to be extinct.  Must be global warming...
   Wonder why.  There is less labor to prepare a whole chicken, than to prepare a whole chicken and then butcher it up into parts and wrap it.  Is there customer demand for chicken parts over whole chickens?  If so why?  With a whole chicken all you have to do is pop it in the oven for 20 minutes to the pound and out it comes and looks festive and tastes good.  No great culinary skills here.  Serve it forth with a few side dishes and you have a party grade feast.  I guess people just send out for pizza now rather than cooking. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Free Enterprise and CAFE

The modern US economy manages to supply a humongous variety of products to us citizens.  Groceries, auto parts, gasoline, new cars, clothing, housing, toys, smart phones, building materials, books, computer games, new movies, freeways, air travel, you name it, the US economy provides it. And provides the right amount.  When something is in short supply, the price goes up, which encourages more supply.  When we have too much of something, the price drops, and people stop making it and turn to other products.  Works beautifully and we produce just the right amount of  a zillion different things. 
   The old line Soviets didn't believe in the free market.  They set up a central planning bureau in Moscow to issue production quotas to all Soviet producers.  Central planning never got it right. Sometimes the producers could not produce as much as Central Planning demanded.  Many times Central Planning demanded more than the market could absorb. Result was constant shortages and surpluses. Clearly the free market worked better than the Soviet command economy.
   So then we invented the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program.  Auto makers are required by law to manufacture a fleet of cars that meet crazy fuel economy targets (54.5 mpg last time I looked) So they manufacture a vast number of tiny econoboxes that nobody will buy, but they get credit for on the fuel economy average, so that can produce the vehicles that customers will actually buy, mostly pickups and SUV's.  The greenies believe that virtue comes from reducing gasoline consumption no matter what.
   Me, I think people ought to be able to buy the car they want to buy.  If it uses a bit more fuel than the greenies approve of, too bad.  The frackers have increased US fuel production enormously, to the point that we will be independent of middle east oil producers in a few years. You want an SUV to haul your family around? Go for it.  It's free country, or at least it used to be.
   We (Congress) ought to repeal the entire CAFE law.  It would reduce the price of the cars we actually7 buy.  I don't know what Detroit does with the hordes of fuel efficient econoboxes they churn out to meet CAFE requirements.  I don't think even the rental car companies will take them.  It would mean cheaper cars for all if  Detroit didn't have to produce a horde of econoboxes that nobody wants to buy. 
 
  

Costing the Ryan "replace" bill

Congressional Budget Office released their study of the effects of the Ryan bill, costs, loss of insurance and other things.  According to CBO the Ryan bill would reduce the federal deficit by $370 billion at the cost of 24 million people losing their insurance.
   Lets be simple about it,  $370 billion divided by 24 million people yields $15416 in savings per person losing insurance coverage.  That's a lot.  Used to be full house family plan company insurance ( the best you can get) ran $12000 a year.  Hospitalization only insurance ran $3000 a year.  So the Ryan bill reduces costs to us taxpayers by MORE than it would cost us taxpayers to buy outright, a full house family insurance plan for each person loosing their insurance policies. 
  Sounds like a deal to me.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The US Flag still means something in the Middle East

TV has been showing a video of a small convoy of military vehicles moving into some obscure town in Iraq. Some hummers, some trucks, a Styker armored car, but no tanks and no Bradleys. Every vehicle is flying a decent sized US flag on a pole above the vehicle. 
   The troops driving must figure that showing the flag won't draw fire and might help establish useful relations with the locals.
   Not bad for Old Glory. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Let's dump ALL the Senate rules and start over with clean slate

All we ever hear about Senate rules, is how some obscure rule is holding up something good.  Senate rules were started by Southern Democrats looking for ways to block abolitionist legislation before the Civil War.   Southern democrats carried on this disgraceful tradition in the 1950's looking for ways to block civil rights legislation.   Then the "rules" were expanded to block Supreme Court appointments, all federal judge appointments, and pretty much anything.  It got so bad that they couldn't muster the votes to pass the federal budget.  Harry Reid (former Democrat Senate majority leader) had to create a new "rule" called reconciliation to allow the budget to pass on a simple majority, rather getting hung up going for 60 votes.   Today the Republicans are trying to use "reconciliation" to repeal Obamacare by a simple majority.   Which is why they didn't put interstate sale of insurance in it.  "Reconciliation" can only be used for budget matters Later Harry created another rule allowing appointments ( except Supreme Court) to pass on a simple majority.  And the Senate has "rules" requiring 60 votes in order to bring a bill to the floor, and then 60 votes to pass it.  In short the Senate spends half it's votes, voting to have a  vote.  Senators can vote one way on one vote, the other way on the other vote, and tell their constituents that he voted their way, for or against, what ever the voter wants to hear.  And there are secret "blackball" rules that allow a single Senator to blackball a nomination to anything.  They keep Senator Blackball's name secret too. 
   Let's scrap all the existing Senate rules.  Every Senator gets to submit one (or maybe more) bills, that will come to the floor for debate and a vote.  All votes are simple majority.   Every nomination comes to the floor for a vote within 14 days of the nomination.  Senator's may no longer talk on the floor as long as they please.
  

Thursday, March 9, 2017

NHPR calls president Trump crazy.

Just this morning I heard this.  On FM radio.  To cloak their position, NHPR  said they were  quoting a Democratic Congressman from California.  "California" is a land of fruits and nuts, "Democratic" is a party of lefty greenies, neither adjective lends credence to the Congressman's words. They did mention the Congressman's name (once) but I didn't catch it. 
   Congressman didn't right out call the president crazy, instead he spoke in psycho-babble, but I have been hearing psycho-babble for years and years and know how to understand it.  He was calling president Trump crazy.
   Which is an extreme thing to say about an elected US president. 
   It's also pretty extreme for NHPR to carry the story.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

NHPR quoting UNH. There is no electricity shortage in NH

Heard on my clock radio this morning.  A UNH study claims that we don't need to bring down the NH electric rate in order to grow business.  They made the further claim that NH electric rates were no worse than the national average.  And we didn't need more pipelines to bring in natural gas.
  The greenies love this kind of "stuff". 
  Pure poppycock.  My residential electric rate is 25 cents a kilowatt-hour, the nation average is 10 cents a kilowatt hour.  Lack of gas pipeline capacity causes radical prices spikes in the cost of natural gas.  Which in addition to ripping off those who heat with natural gas, causes price spikes in electric rates, because most electricity is generated by natural gas. When natural gas prices go crazy in a cold January, the electric rates do the same.
   Did UNH actually run this study?  Or did NHPR misquote them?  Who knows? Both groups have enough greenies in them, to support any amount of  greenie propaganda.  
   But that was this morning's news on FM radio.   

I taped over the camera on my laptop

I did it a year ago or more.  After seeing posts about some PA school that was spying the their students, via school supplied laptops, I put a square of masking tape on the camera lens of my laptop.  If I was really serious about it, I would find the microphone and tape that over too.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The "replace" plan is out this morning.

It's ONLY 120 pages, which makes it possible to read, unlike the thousand pages of Obamacare.  I haven't read it myself, so what I am writing here I get off the TV.  The bill keeps the ban on preexisting conditions, and kids up to 26 years old can stay on there parents insurance. 
  It offers "Tax Credits", presumably for buying insurance, possibly for paying medical bills.  If I remember my IRS form 1040, tax credits are better than deductions.  A deduction reduces your taxable income (adjusted gross income) whereas a credit reduces your tax.  For example, a $100 deduction reduces your tax bill by your tax rate times the deduction, usually amounting to $20-$30.  A $100 credit reduces your tax bill by $100.  This is a good idea.  It levels the playing field between most of us, who get our health insurance tax free thru our employers, and the self employed who get no kind of tax break at all. 
   On the other hand, half the population of the country is so low on the economic ladder that they owe no income tax at all.  Tax credits don't do you any good if you don't owe any income tax.  
   The plan fails to allow sale of health insurance across state lines, a measure that would increase competition
 and lower costs.  Everybody except the insurance companies is in favor of interstate sale.  Failing to put it in is a squishy soft cave in to the insurance companies.   Insurance companies don't vote, nobody likes them much, but they have a lot of money to buy Congressmen with.  Looks like they bought themselves a lot of Congressmen on this one.  Congressmen go for cheap this year.
   The bill also fails to require Medicare and Medicaid to bargain with big pharma over drug prices.  Again everybody (even insurance companies)  thinks this is a good idea.  Nobody likes big pharma much and they don't have the vote.  But big pharma  does have money, same general amount as the insurance companies, and they have bought themselves plenty of low priced Congressmen. 
  The bill fails to do anything to reduce the cost of health care, like clamping down on malpractice suits (lawyers like malpractice and nearly all Congressmen are lawyers). It doesn't allow duty free import of drugs from any reasonable first world country, which would do a lot to lower drug prices.  It doesn't rein in the ever growing FDA requirements for more and more testing of new drugs.  It does nothing to rein in the outrageous marketing expenditures by big pharma. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

The buck stops here

So Obama is claiming that HE never authorized a tap on Trump's phone.  He failed to say that Trump's phone was never tapped, he just said he didn't do it.  Old Harry Truman would not have seen it that way.  If any government agency tapped Trump's phone, then Obambi is responsible, at least as long as he was in office.  There is a report out on TV saying that the rubber stamp FISA court DID issue a warrant to tap Trump's phone.  Nobody has denied that report, yet.  If the report is true, then Trump's charge of wiretapping is true. And Obambi is doing a weasel.    As usual. 
   TV is doing a long song and dance about the FISA court and what it can or cannot do, aimed to showing that the court won't do a wiretap on just the president's sayso.  Since the court meets in secret, the justices are secret, and the records are secret, it can do anything it wants. And probably has.  

Why the Republicans haven't announced a "replace" plan.

It's due out this morning according to the TV.  Democrats have been sniping at it, claiming that the Republicans should have a replace plan already.
   I'm pretty sure that actually the Republicans have a plan.  In fact they must have a dozen plans.  Problem is, they cannot get everyone (or even 51%) to agree on WHICH plan they are going to support.  Health care is a gravy train for patients, doctors, big pharma, insurance companies, hospitals, medical device makers, ambulance drivers, ambulance chasers, state governments.  Health care is 19% of the US GNP, that's a huge amount of money.  With that much gravy the spread around, no wonder everyone wants their fair share, and more if they can get it. 
  To pass anything at all, the Republicans need nearly every single Republican vote.  The Republican margin is thin, and in the Senate, a mere three defectors could sink anything.  I'm thinking that they won't keep their party in line, or even attract a few Democratic defectors, without president Trump getting behind ONE replace option and pushing it hard.  Which he hasn't done yet.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Who knows what a Gryf is?

Good question.  The Economist compared the EU to a triceratops, a big, extinct, dinosaur, generally believed to be a plant eater along the lines of the dinosaurian rhinoceros. Only with more horns up front.  Then they went on to call for conversion of the triceratops into a gryf. 
   So what's a gryf?  Tarzan, on one of his adventures into darkest unexplored Africa, encountered them, and they looked like triceratops (Tarzan even recognize them as such in the book) but they were ferocious man eaters instead of herbivores.  I happened to have read that very Tarzan book as a child.  My summer camp library had a copy.  The book (Tarzan the Terrible) was published back in the 1920's and I never saw it for sale anywhere. It's like really out of print.   
   Anyhow, an Economist writer read the long out of print Tarzan book, and  thought the Edgar Rice Burroughs fictional monster would make a good simile or metaphor in 2017.  Groovy.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Drain the Pentagon Procurement Swamp

Disneyland East we used to call it.  That humongous five sided office building from WWII times, filled with civilian bureaucrats, who soak up a good slice of the military budget themselves, and spend the rest of it.  With a giant 100,000 page set of "procurement regs", containing paragraphs tailored to jack up the price of everything the services buy. 
   We could save a lot of money, at least 10%, maybe 50% of the cost of military procurement, by burning ALL those procurement regulations.  And then fire all the civilian bureaucrats.  For a military budget,of some $600 billion, we are talking saving anywhere between $60 billion and $300 billion.
    Replace those 100,000 pages of cost jackup regs with just a few simple ones.
1.  Always obtain THREE bids for anything, even super high tech weapons systems.  If you cannot get three bidders, do without.
2.  Never do "cost plus" contracts.  Always push for "firm fixed fee" contracts.   Settle for "cost plus fixed fee" contracts only when the product is badly needed and you cannot get firm fixed fee contracts..
3.  Avoid gold plating the specifications.  In all possible cases, procure standard commercial items, using the commercial specifications common to industry.  Make the specifications public for review by possible bidders, bloggers, and the press.  Make the requirements testable features of the completed product, not directives to use over priced mil-spec parts in manufacture. 
 4. And on the subjective side, qualify all bidders.  For instance on an aircraft contract, clearly Lockheed, Boeing, Northrup, and Grumman,  are qualified, they have track records of building aircraft going back to before WWII.  Whereas AC/DC Power Supply and Storm Door Company is not qualified, they have never built so much as a toy aircraft, and nobody has ever heard of them.  You cannot give a contract to an unqualified bidder, they will be unlikely to actually deliver the product, but they will most certainly, spend all the money.
  

Thursday, March 2, 2017

You gotta call 'em something.

You gotta name the enemy before you can fight him effectively.  Obambi refused to name them and they took over Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and other places.  The Trump administration is calling them radical Islamic terrorists. 
   Democrats and even some Republicans object that the word Islamist makes Muslims worldwide feel we are persecuting them.  Which has some truth to it.  But what else to call them?  In the past, we called enemies by their ideology (Nazi, Commie, Fascist).  Far as I can see, this enemy's ideology IS Islam and so calling them Islamic is fair enough. 
  I suppose we could call them Jehadis.  Except that word doesn't carry enough  juice to be a biting epithet.  Using acronyms, ISIS, ISIL, AQAG, also doesn't seem to cut it.  Using their own names like Al Quaeda suffers when they stop using the name themselves. 
   Perhaps we could call them scumbagies? 

Jeff Sessions schmoozing with the Russians??

The New York Times, a sleezy rag that's been spreading disinformation for 70 years that I know of, quotes an unnamed Justice Dept official the the effect that Jeff Session had two contacts with the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.  Sessions has denied the reports.  The TV newsies are going full bore with this story, this morning's Fox News has talked about little else today.
   I got some questions.  1.  When did these alleged contacts occur?  2.  What's wrong with a US Senator talking to anybody, including the Russians?  3.  Sessions was a US Senator until very recently.  How does a Justice Dept official know anything about what a Senator is/was doing?  4. Who is this mysterious Justice Dept official that the Times hangs the story on?  5. Are there any other sources?  Named or anonymous?  6.  Sessions has a pretty good rep for honesty, why should I not believe him over an unnamed source? 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Can we cut the State Department?

Good question.  State has 13000 employees.  It has missions in 172 countries.  That's 75 employees per country.  While 75 employees might be reasonable for a major county like Russia, it is overkill for minor countries like Luxembourg, or Bermuda. 
   In the 21st century, State has two missions that make sense to me.  First to gather intelligence.  There is a lotta useful stuff we can pick up by just reading the local newspapers.  Like who is who in their government, and in the government's opposition.  What are the important industries and businesses?  And who runs them? How does the general population feel about things? Geography, good maps are important, and they remain useful for years.  During WWII North African operations relied on maps made by the US marines fighting the Barbary pirates of old.  All this stuff is important, and gathering it and filing it, is legal. 
  Second is to give aid and succor to US citizens abroad.  Lost or stolen passports, arrest by local authorities, kidnappings,  and Lord knows what else.  As a mid to lower class American, I like to hope that if I get into trouble in a foreign land I can call on the US consul or ambassador for help. 
   And, in this day and age of air travel and world wide instantaneous communications, heavy duty international negotiations are handled out of Washington DC, not by US ambassadors abroad.  In fact president Eisenhower created the National Security Counsel to bypass a State Department that he considered inefficient, and infiltrated by communist agents like Alger Hiss.
  So, if we allowed 20 state department employees per country, that yields a headcount of 5120, a helova lot less than the 13000 bodies they have warming chairs today.  If we figure each state department bureaucrat costs $100K a year,  than laying off 7840 of 'em would save $784 million a year.  That's not quite real money in DC speak, but it's still a useful piece of change.