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.