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  The Ryan bill to replace Obamacare was withdrawn from the floor of the house today, presumably 'cause they lacked the votes to pass it.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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Game of Thrones, Season 6

I'm three DVDs into it and it loosing its cool for me.   The TV miniseries has run off the end of the George R.R. Martin books, which are decent and I have read them all.  Now that the TV is running it's own course, independent of the books, I am loosing track of what's going on.  The show's habit of never calling anyone by name makes things tougher.  An actor will appear on screen, I will say to myself "This guy was in the show a while ago, but I cannot remember his/her name or what he did."  Not knowing frustrates this viewer of the show.
   Then things don't seem to ever get anywhere.  Denarys is still leading the Dothraki toward invading Westeros.  In six whole seasons she hasn't been able to get her Dothraki to the seashore, let alone boarding ship for Westeros.  Arya is still wandering around looking for something to do.  Brendan is still a paraplegic having visions that don't lead anywhere. 
   Then they killed off so many characters over the past seasons that they have decided to bring some back to life, by witchcraft and magic.  Running out of talent I suppose.  They bring Jon Snow back to life in an early scene, but they never spoke his name.  The episode was half over before I decided it was Jon Snow and not his half brother Rob Stark.
    And the camera man is still refusing to turn on the lights.  Pure black scene follows pure black scene.  Arya has gotten her self into a strange place where another girl her size takes some pleasure in beating the stuffing out of Arya with a quarterstaff.  In the fight scenes both Arya and the other unnamed girl wear identical black ankle length dresses.  The scenes are so dark, I can't tell Arya from her opponent.  
   Continuity is weak.  The show has at least six story lines (Denarys and the Dothraki, Brenden, Sam Tarly and his wildling wife, Jaime and Cersei Lannister,  and Tommin the new teenage king)  They cut from one to story line another so fast there is no time to get anything accomplished, and we viewers get confused as to where we are.  And if the rapid story line shifts don't confuse the viewers, they do flashbacks and dream sequences.
   Anyone know if they will do a season 7?

Monday, February 27, 2017

The news, All Trump, all the time

Fox News and the Wall St Journal cover Trump every day, all day.  Nothing else in the whole wide world gets any coverage.  And most of the Trump coverage is repetitive and negative.  I've heard every kind of anti-Trump trash talk there is.  I don't need to hear more of the same.
  I propose the newsies cut back the Trump coverage to maybe 10% and go out and cover some other stories.  For instance the Iraqi Army, backed by USAF and US special forces has taken half of Mosul and is planning to assault the other half.  All the coverage I have seen is from independents like ITV.  No American newsies are on scene, talking to the troops and the locals, and using a Mosul byline. 
   How about some coverage from the South China sea, maybe some close up video of Chinese gun and missile emplacement from a drone? 
   How about some live coverage from the Ukraine?  Or Poland where we deployed a US Army tank brigade last month? 
    I'm tired of the all Trump, all the time news coverage.  I want to see/hear what is going on in the rest of the country and the rest of the world. 

Words of the Weasel Part 48

"Substance" as in "substance abuse".  Used by snowflakes who shrink from calling them druggies or drunkards.  If you cannot name the problem, you cannot deal with it.  And a good strong dose of social disapproval helps druggies kick their habit. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

What's with all this Russia talk by TV newsies?

First they make a big deal about the Russians hacking the DNC and releasing some embarrassing emails to WikiLeaks.  Then they have a field day over the Mike Flynn affair.  Meet the Press spent a lotta time yakking about Russians this morning.   They were clearly trying to sell the idea that the Russians tipped the election to Trump AND that talking to the Russians before the inauguration is treason. 
   Does anyone in the real world believe either idea?

How long do curly bulbs last, really?

The traditional incandescent bulbs claim a 800-1000 hour life.  That's the best compromise between light per watt hour and bulb life.  They sell long life incandescent bulbs, and they do last longer, but they don't give much light.  A 60 watt conventional bulb throws as much light as a 100 watt long life bulb.  800-1000 hours for say a living room lamp that goes on at sundown and burns til bedtime, is 200-300 days, call it a year. 
  The curly bulbs claim 8000 hour life, ten times the life of an incandescent.  That ought to mean ten years service life. 
   And I suppose some curly bulbs do last that long.  A lot of 'em don't.  I have had at least four, die in place after only a year or two of service.  That's out of a total of 8 curly bulbs in my house.  Half the population of curly bulbs dies young.  Mostly the dead ones come out of the fixture with a burn mark on the base, suggesting that some electronic part inside the solid state ballast has failed, rather than the glowing curly tube.  Let's guess that the marketeers who pushed for the 8000 hour life claim  were thinking that the only part that could fail was the curly tube, analogous to the filament in an incandescent bulb.  Solid state ballast failures were ignored.
   On the other hand, as a homeowner, I don't care why the curly bulb died, I gotta replace it for $5 or live in the dark.  But I do think anyone computing lifetime costs of incandescent vs curly bulbs ought to call the curly bulb life as 4000 hours rather than the 8000 hours marked on the package. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Clean Energy's Dirty Secret

Cover story of this week's Economist magazine.  Comes with a cute graphic cover.   The secret?  Between heavy subsidies and falling costs, a lot of solar cells and windmills have been installed.  Once installed, this equipment runs whenever the sun is up or the wind is blowing.  So on a sunny breezy day there is plenty of juice, and cheap juice at that,  and the expensive central power plants have to shut down until sundown.  The Economist is halfway wised up, they do understand that we need those central power plants to keep the lights on after sundown.  The problem as they see it is to find away to pay for the necessary central power plants when they only get to run and make money for half a day.  The "alternate energy" is supplying power for the daylight hours. 
   There are a few unmentionables with the Economist.  Not once does the phrase "nuclear power" appear in the multipage article. The Economist is virtuously anti-nuclear.   They do briefly mention batteries, suggesting that eventually they will be able to carry the load after dark.  Not likely, anytime soon.  We have been fiddling around with battery technology for better than 200 years.  Best we have now (Lithium Ion) is only maybe twice as good as Alexander Volta's first copper zinc cell of 200 years ago.  We need an improvement of ten times to get a battery good enough to carry the electric grid thru the night. 
   Another unmentionable was "fracking"  In North America, the frackers are producing so much cheap natural gas that the electric companies have given up on nuclear and coal because natural gas is cheaper and cleaner than coal. But the Economist can't breath a word about that because fracking is a dirty word in Europe.  
    The Economist wants, but doesn't quite say so, is government subsidies for central power plants to keep them on line for backup when the sun is down and the wind stops blowing.
   Simpler and cheaper would be to drop subsidies for "alternate energy" and drop "net-metering" which forces power companies to pay "alternate energy" producers for juice they don't need.   But the greenies would freak.. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Combat Readiness

No military unit is ever 100% combat ready.  Troops will be taking leave, some weapons will be out of commission, there are always some shortages in compliment, authorized slots unfilled, some gear worn or obsolete.  So,  something less than 100% is as good as you can do. 
   Back when I was pounding a flight line in USAF, the standard was 71% of squadron aircraft ready to fly every day.  We had to report our percent in commission every morning at 4 AM.  That gave maintenance most of the night to fix the planes that the pilots had broke flying them the previous day.  We had 20 fighters and to make 71% operationally ready, we had to have 15 aircraft in commission, every single morning.  We usually had one aircraft in periodic inspection which took days to complete.  Or undergoing engine change, which took a day and a half.  So we could only afford to have four aircraft down for maintenance after the witching hour of 4 AM.
  Aviation Week ran an article this week about readiness rates.  Somehow USAF was still making 71%, but just barely.  Army, Marines and Navy were only doing 50%.  Back in my day, a USAF squadron commander who failed to make 71% got relieved of duty.  Dunno how the other services feel about the issue, nowadays. 
   Distorting the numbers is the huge amount of aircraft out for depot level maintenance (DLM we used to call it).  At squadron level we only had to report on squadron aircraft.  If we sent an aircraft off for DLM, it no longer counted as assigned to our squadron.  About once a year we would send a plane off to depot, and it would take depot a matter of months to get it back to us.  So something like 2.5% to 5% of the force was in DLM.  That was then
   Now, the Marines are reporting 171 F/A18 fighters assigned to squadrons and 109 F/A18 fighters in DLM.  That's 38% of the fleet out of commission for DLM.  That's bad. Really bad. 
   Aviation Week (staunch industry supporter that they are) is calling for more funding for aircraft maintenance. 
    I wonder how you rate the combat readiness of infantry or tank units. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Harbor Freight comes to town

They took up half the space in a small deserted strip mall, giving them a big store, about the size of a Staples.  They remodeled, and opened for business the other day.  I stopped in to browse this morning.  They have a lot of stuff in there, hand tools, power tools, ladders, jackstands, welding rigs, a neat little metal working lathe ($569) just about anything you might want. 
  I hope they prosper.  They have to overcome a terrible reputation for quality, actually lack of quality.  I looked hard at the stuff on display trying to judge the quality.  The stuff looks OK, the socket wrenches are nicely polished and bright chrome.  With sockets the only way to tell quality is put the socket on a two foot breaker bar and give it the old heave ho on a stuck nut.  Low quality sockets will break under this stress test, good ones will survive.  Their prices are right, rock bottom low, and for Harry Homeowner who doesn't use his tools nearly as hard as the professionals do,  Harbor Freight can be a deal. 
  I did like that little metal working lathe for $569.  Didn't buy it though. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mosul, Iraq

The TV has been talking up the battle of Mosul.  They claim to have taken the half of the city on the west bank of the Tigris river, and are now talking about taking the half the city on the other bank of the river. 
   The TV does not say if allied/Iraqi forces have surrounded Mosul and cut it off from food and supplies.  Since the TV doesn't talk about it, I guess that the surviving ISIS half of Mosul is still in contact with the rest of the ISIS lands.  Which is not encouraging.
   Thruout all history, the way to conquer a city has been to surround it and starve it out.  It's been true since the Greeks besieged Troy.  The Germans tried to take Stalingrad by frontal assault rather than surrounding it.  Did not work out for them.  Cities are man made defensive works.  Fighting from house to house with grenades and assault rifles is the toughest kind of fighting anywhere.  If you have the combat power to push into a defended city, you have plenty of combat power to surround it and then just wait for the defender to get hungry. 
   So what are we doing in Mosul anyhow?  Do we have any US newsies with our forces at the front?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Whither the retail business

I went shopping with youngest son on Saturday.  We went to the North Shore Mall on Rte 128.  I worked on the north shore for ten years, back before I retired.  Used to stop into the North Shore Mall  regularly.  This was the first time back there in ten years.  It was a nice Saturday, no snow, temperature in the 50's, sunny, a nice day.
   And the place, a truly big mall, was far from crowded.  There were some shoppers, but not all that many, compared to what they used to have.  And the shops were women's clothing, cosmetics, GMC herbs, new age crystals.  Nothing much to attract a guy. No Radio Shack, no men's wear, no hardware. The North Slope didn't have ski gear or snowshoes, or ice fishing stuff, or winter camping gear.  They only had two colors of parkas, black and International Orange. I don't like either color.   We did find a Lego store, and a Brookstone, but that was about it as far as stores selling guy stuff. 
   Any how, I'm glad I don't have to make a living in retail.   Let's guess, Amazon and Walmart and Target, and Home Despot have taken the North Shore Mall customers. 

How to tell fake news from real news

Graph department that is.  The Internet is awash in graphs claiming to show the growth, or shrinkage of all sorts of things.  Net Worth, employment, GNP growth, income inequality, and on and on.  The graphs typically show a bunch of colored lines, rising dramatically, and implying that something is getting bigger, or better, or worse, or something.
   Lies, damn lies, and statistics.  How can you tell a real and true graph from fake data trying to convince you of something that isn't true?
   These tricks may not work all the time, but they will weed out a lot of fake data graphs.
1.  Are both axes labeled?  With what they represent and what the units are (gallons, pounds, feet, furlongs per fortnight, dollars, whatever).
2.  Are the scale divisions of the axes uniform?  A graph with scale divisions every 10% except for a few on the end scaled out to 2%,1%, and 0.1% is attempting to bend the plotted curve somewhere.  Any graph with non-uniform scale divisions is trying to lie to you.
3.   Does the vertical axis go all the way down to zero?  I can take a straight line and turn it into a jagged mountain range if I expand the vertical scale enough.  If the vertical scale doesn't go down to zero, the graph is trying to make bumpiness bigger than it really is.
4.  If its a graph of something versus time, does the time axis go back before 2007?   Great Depression 2.0 started in 2007 and just about everything went down the drain that year.  A graph that starts in 2009 will show a steady increase as we pulled out of Great Depression 2.0  Same graph restarted in 1997 will likely show a great dropoff in 2007 and may show that things have not recovered to where they were in 2006.  Two different messages.  
5. Do the numbers at the extremes of t he graph make sense?   For instance I saw a graph claiming that of the top 0.1% income individuals in the country, 40% of them had not completed college and were out of work.  Somehow I just don't believe that. When I find one unbelievable data point, then I figure there are more that I don't find.  Put that graph into the damn lies category.

    I'm picky.  If a graph fails any one of these tests, I put in into the "damn lies" category.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Got a call from my old Alma Mater

It was a young female student, a senior, getting in some work for the alumni office, calling to thank me for a contribution I made a few weeks ago.  We got to chatting, about majors and the job market and how things were back when I graduated better than 40 years ago.  She thought things must have been better back then, especially after I mentioned that I had a job offer before I graduated.  I asked here what shw was majoring in.  "International relations" she said.  I refrained from saying anything while I thought to myself, "A real dead end major unless you want to join the State Dept or the CIA."  So I asked her if she had taken a course in computer programming.  "No, but I wish I had" was the reply. 
   After the phone call was over, I thought to myself, "There goes a nice young woman who is graduating with a major that won't help her get a job.  Let's hope she can marry the right guy."
   Lesson: if you are a student, or a parent of a student, you need to do some serious thinking about your college major.   The right major will get you a job upon graduation.  The wrong major and you are out of luck.  Decide now what you want to do for a living when you graduate.  Pick your major to make you employable in your chosen field.   Engineering (real engineering, chemical, electrical, mechanical, or civil) worked for me,  is fun to do, plenty of jobs, and decent pay.  The sciences, computer programming, business administration, and mathematics are also good bets.   
   Avoid the talky-talk "sciences" (sociology, anthropology, psychology, ecology) and anything with "studies" in its name (ethic studies, gender studies and so on). 
   If you just cannot stomach a STEM major, learn to write.  There is a tremendous demand for good English writing in business, industry, and government.  An English major or a history major will teach you how to write. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Words of the Weasel Part 46

"What did he know and when did he know it".  The old Watergate cry.  Congressional Democrats are in full cry on TV this morning.  This is an accusation of thought crime.  And I don't believe in thought crime.  Liberty means the right to think anything you please.  Crime has to be action of some sort. 
  The proper questions  are "What did he do?  When did he do it?  Where did he do it? And what evidence do you have? "  To be a crime it has to be an action.  Thought (or knowledge) is never a crime.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

$3000 health insurance vs $12000 health insurance

Used to be, before Obamacare, you could purchase health insurance for your and your family for about $3000 a year.  It was "hospitalization only" insurance, it only paid if you got really sick and got put into the hospital.  Routine stuff, yearly physicals, taking the kids to the doctor for earaches and such, you paid for out of pocket.   The savings, $9000 a year, paid for a lot of trips to the doctor and a lot of yearly physicals.  If you had some money in your checking account to handle the routine stuff, hospitalization only made a lot of sense.  You were protected against catastrophe, at a price you could afford.
   The medical community detested hospitalization only.  It led to patients asking how much that recommended CAT scan might cost, and checking prices on pills and getting prescriptions changed over to cheaper drugs. 
   When they slipped Obamacare over on us, they remembered  how opposition from the medical community had killed Hillarycare.  They remembered those Harry and Louise radio commercials, and decided to get the medical community on board by giving them everything they ever wanted in Obamacare.
  And so, Obamacare outlawed hospitalization only insurance.  No more would medical providers have to explain how much treatments would cost to patients.  Since every thing was all paid for, patients didn't care what stuff cost.  While they were at it, Obamacare made all kinds of weird and wonderful medical scams mandatory and all paid for, like osteopathy.  The practitioners love it.   

In like Flynn

Some things I don't understand.   It's perfectly reasonable for Trump's national security advisor to talk to some Russians.  Flynn is an old intelligence guy, knows some Russians, and contacting our biggest international problem is a good idea.  Let 'em know that we won't nuke 'em, that we could make a deal, pass on a bit of sweetness and light, is always a good idea.  We aren't at war with the Russians, reaching out and schmoozing them is a good thing.  Far better than calling them names. 
   How did Flynn manage to get himself cross threaded with Mike Pence?  Just what was it that he failed to say, or "misspoke" ?  And why would a senior retired Army general officer not live up to the code of the services and tell the truth? 
   And, who in the intelligence world leaked the phone taps on Flynn?  And leaked them to the press, not just Congressional Democrats?  You tap a senior guy's phone and that's serious business.  When the senior guy finds out, he will retaliate.  Clearly Trump has a heavy duty leaker on the loose.  He needs to call a plumber ASAP.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Words of the Weasel Part 45

"Border Tax".  A euphemism for tariff.  I listened to some talking head on Fox News spend five minutes explaining why Trump's proposed "border tax" was not a tariff.  Tariffs have been a hot subject thru out American history.  And the history books all use the word tariff.  We are doing our children a disservice to introduce a new  buzz phrase for an old old concept.
   Could it be that a century of free trade agitation has made people think that tariff's are bad for them?
   In real life, tariffs are good for domestic makers of stuff, for obvious reasons.  Tariffs are bad for everyone else because they have to pay more for stuff.  Everyone else is more people than the makers (both labor and company) of any one kind of stuff.  Since this is a democracy, it is reasonable to support free trade since more people benefit from a free trade regime. 

Father of Dodge Viper says it died because it ran out of reasons to live

Bob Lutz, product champion of the Viper, back some years ago, said the idea of the Viper was to have more power and go faster than anything else.  When Chevy put out some Corvettes that were even faster than Viper the car lost its reason for being.
   Piffle I say.  When the competition comes out with a product hotter than yours, it's time to soup up your product.  Chrysler just didn't want to spend the money. Or didn't have the money.
   If some car maker was looking for a new product, how about a sporty car that can handle driving in snow? I've driven Camaros and Mustangs, a lotta fun on a dry road but totally worthless after the first flake hits the road.  Up here in NH, people laugh at you if they see you driving a sporty car in winter.  Which cuts into the market for sporty cars.
  What someone ought to make is a sporty car that works in winter.  Fifty fifty front rear weight distribution is a good starting place.  Then it needs four wheel drive, with limit slip differentials fore and aft.  Maybe a built in ski rack that doesn't whistle at 65 mph.  Decent tires with rubber that sticks in snow.  They make 'em.  Plenty of defroster heat.  Good strong windshield washer to cope with the salt spray.  Bleed some engine heat to the washer bottle to keep it from freezing.  Outside thermometer so you can tell if that glittery black stuff up ahead is ice or just wet asphalt.   Give it some decent styling and I'd buy one. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ivanka Trump and her clothing line.

All I know about Ivanka Trump is what I see on TV.  She sure looks like a nice, good looking, pleasant, mother of three.  The sort of young woman any father would be proud to call his daughter.  And so, when Nordstroms and some other retailers drop her clothing line,  her doting father says a few words.  What does anyone expect him to say?  And Kellyanne Conway says a few more words, good for her. 
   The newsies are making a federal case out of this.  Which is one reason why polls show president Trump has more credibility than the newsies do. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Can I trust US courts anymore?

Good question.  Seattle district court judge James Robart certainly doesn't believe in following the written law.  The 1952 law says the president has total authority to ban any immigrant or class of immigrants from entry to the United States.  Judge Robart ignored this and forbade the president from barring immigration from seven Middle East countries.  In short, the judge ruled in accordance with his personal political ideology and not in accordance with the law on the books.  Plus the two plaintiff states clearly lacked standing to sue the federal government. 
  What's worse, the 9th Circuit court of appeals backed him up.  So, we have the federal courts in the western part of the country making judgements based on personal prejudice rather than written law.  I wonder what they were teaching in law school back when these so called judges were doing law school.  Scary.
   So much for the procedural argument.  The substance of the issue is of only medium importance.  We don't get all that many immigrants from the seven middle east countries in Trump's executive order.  On the other hand, these seven countries are so screwed up from civil war or just plain collapse into failed states, that we cannot believe anything they tell us.  We ought to be vetting immigrants to weed out criminals and select for people who will become loyal and productive members of American society.  Vetting means contacting the authorities in the immigrant's home country to verify his name and home address, see how much schooling he has, see his police record, and so forth.  This only works if the home country has authorities in charge.  The seven countries on Trump's executive order are all  so war torn that we cannot find the authorities, and even if we find someone who claims to be an authority in an enemy country like Iran or Syria, we suspect that they would lie to us.  Surely an Iranian mullah who wanted to infiltrate an agent into the US would have no problem telling US authorities that "Yes Omar is a good boy, never been in trouble, good marks in school. Yada-Yada." 
   So, it's a twofer, the so called judges are wrong on the issues as well as procedures.  Very scary.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

How much should that wall cost?

I'm not a great wall fan myself.  New Hampshire is about as far away from the Mexican border as you can get.  But ABC was just claiming that the border wall would cost $25 billion.  Which is rediculous.
The US Mexican border is 2000 miles long.  At 5280 feet to the mile, that comes out to 10 million feet in round numbers.  Chain link fence material, the chain link, fence posts, ties, and everything is about $5 a foot.  I looked it up on the internet. Let's assume installation is about the same as the cost of materials, so make it  $10 a foot, or $100 million to do the whole border.  That's a far cry from ABC's $25 billion.
    Actually, there is a bit more to doing it right.  To prevent people from digging under it,  we ought to put a solid concrete footing under the fence, all the way across.  That might cost another $100 million.  Then we need an access road on our side of the fence to allow the border patrol to get men to the site of an illegal crossing in a hurry.  It can be a dirt road, just good enough for a jeep.  And we ought to fly air patrols in Cessnas (not $1 millon UAVs) daily.  The real purpose of the fence is to stop vehicles from crossing, or at least to leave an unmistakable hole where someone crashes thru.   You need air patrols to spot the big  holes in time to get the border patrol in pursuit of the fence crasher before he gets away.
   Even with all this stuff  I'm thinking we could do the wall for less than $1 billion.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Adventures in Router Land

The virii and trojans and  ransomware are getting aggressive this year.  I decided to upgrade the firmware in my router.  Router is a $40 plastic box that plugs into the cable modem and offers WIFI and four internet connectors.  The router faces the raw internet, and needs to reject incoming messages that would take over the router and do evil.  The router acts as a firewall, and if it should be penetrated, the hacker has direct access to the Windows machines plugged into the router.  And Windows is like Swiss cheese, fully of holes.  If the tougher software in the router is compromised, the Windows machines are toast. 
   My router is a NetGear N300 purchased a couple of years ago.  I Googled the router maker name, model number and "firmware".  This gave me an offer to download new firmware.  On this particular router you can talk to it using your web browser.  You put in a special URL and the router picks up and displays a groovy little user interface.  From this I learned that my current firmware was v18 while the new downloaded firmware was v42.  Hmm, been a lot of patching of router code over the last couple of years.   The router offered an "upload firmware" function, which was sorta flaky.  I had to run it two or three times before the upload "took". 
   So, me router firmware is all up to date, which is the best I can do against the swarm of malware running around the internet.  Upgrading the firmware did not mess up any of my computer connections to the router.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Wall St Journal Pushes a Carbon Tax???

Yesterday's Journal Op-Ed had a piece authored by James Baker and George Schultz.  Both of these guys have been Secretary of the Treasury AND Secretary of State.  So they have some experience.  They may not have any common sense, but they have lots of experience.  They claim that a $40 a ton carbon tax will clear our air and improve the economy.  They propose the revenues from the carbon tax be paid out to all citizens rather than going to reduce the deficit and pay the government's bills.  They think this payout will avoid the downturn that just socking everyone with a hefty tax hike will.   They make it sound kinda sweet, mentioning a $2000 a year refund to the average family. 
   What they don't mention, is that everyone will have to hike their prices to pay their carbon tax.  To put it in perspective, each time I fill my 275 gallon furnace oil tank, I'd get hit for $40 in carbon tax.  Call it $200 a winter.  
    And surely, avoiding a $40 a ton carbon tax would be a strong incentive for business to expand overseas, or anywhere outside the US just to avoid the tax.  That carbon tax will undo all the good work of frackers in getting the price of oil down. 
   And, they want to impose all this pain to reduce global warming.  We haven't had any global warming that you could measure with a thermometer for the last 19 years, and they want to sock it to me for global warming?  As I write this it is 14F outside with snow swirling in front of my windows.