Thursday, February 28, 2019

Yeah, I'd Watch That

Yeah, I'd totally watch this over the better known one.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

About HR8 and HR1112 in the US House

Miguel at Gun Free Zone has been leading the charge to contact your representatives regarding these two Democrat gun right restriction bills.  HR8 is a "universal background check" bill that seeks to redefine "transfer" from selling a gun to letting anyone use your gun, and (I swear I'm not making this up) is justified by making background checks apply at gun shows and internet gun sales.  I guess they have a 100% perfect record of never telling the truth about these things, so at least they're consistent.  HR 1112 makes buying more obtuse than that.  Miguel says:
H.R. 8 criminalizes the private transfer of firearms and targets law-abiding gun owners for persecution. It would make criminals out of law-abiding gun owners for simply loaning a firearm to a friend or some family members. This bill would not stop criminals from obtaining guns because criminals do not comply with the law. And the legislation would be unenforceable without federal gun registration.

H.R. 1112 would allow the government to arbitrarily delay firearm purchases for over 20 days and make it more difficult for law-abiding Americans to defend themselves and their families.
HR 1112 is aimed at giving the government more time, up to 20 days, to do a background check.  Currently, if a background check is taking too long, a buyer can get provisionally approved to buy a gun after three days.  Much like the bump stock ban, it seems to be a law based on the fact that one time in recorded history, someone who was provisionally allowed to pass his background check committed a crime.  This was the Charleston church shooting.  "Once in the history of the world" appears to be the new standard for outlawing something.  I suppose no one ever considered regulating the government's ability to do their job and improve their performance.  

Maybe it's my general disgust with the tribes running DC, but I take a more cynical view of the goings on.  I can't help but think of these as the Evil Party's version of the Stupid Party voting something like 45 times to repeal Obamacare when it would never pass the senate and then rolling over and doing absolutely nothing to repeal it when their votes would actually matter.  These bills are all for show.  They can pass outright national door to door confiscation legislation in the House to give their financial backers a thrill up their legs, feeling sure it's never going to see the light of day in the Senate so they don't experience consequences, such as people voting them out as they did back after the passage of the '94 Assault Weapons Ban.

Chances are that even Milquetoast Rubio and Voldemort Scott wouldn't cross party lines to vote for either one in the Senate, if they even come up for a vote, but right now there's absolutely nothing we can do to stop both passing in the house.

My representative is very good on this, but I gave him a pat on the back by email for opposing them FWIW.   HR8 passed today on a mostly party line vote, although 8 idiot Stupid Party members crossed over to vote for the bill.  BTW, that link is to the NPR story.  I've read and listened to some propaganda in my day - I was a shortwave listener during the cold war - but that is a masterpiece of propaganda reporting.

Both are perfect gun control bills.  They make advocates feel good, but won't do a damned thing to prevent bad people from doing bad things.  When those bad things inevitably happen, the sheeple will cry out for even more gun control which the controllers will be only too happy to suggest.  In Bloomberg's - and his minions' - eyes, that's perfect.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Just How Bad Was the Cold on Electric Cars?

Back during the strong cold snap a few weeks ago... sorry, let me turn on the reverb, during the Po po po lar lar lar Vor vor vor tex tex tex ...  there were stories about how badly batteries were affected by the cold weather.  So how bad was it?
AAA recently studied the effects of cold on EV range and found that when temperatures dropped to 20°F, EV (electric vehicle) range dropped an average of 41% compared to range measured at 75°F.
It does freeze in my corner of the planet, but not very often.  I think the last day we had when it was under 32F around here was in 2010.  Still, I realize that freezing happens on much of the earth and I don't think a fuel source that loses half its capacity in the cold is something I'd be trying to stake the future on.  Perhaps the bigger problem is that it's not only worse in the cold, it's worse in the heat, too.  The range vs. temperature curve is shaped like an upside down "V".
 AAA tested five electric vehicles, all with a minimum EPA estimated driving range of 100 miles, in partnership with the Automotive Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. For this study, AAA researchers used a 2018 BMWi3, a 2018 Chevrolet Bolt, a 2018 Nissan Leaf, a 2017 Tesla Model S 75D, and a 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf.

The BMW i3 was most sensitive to temperature change in both hot and cold conditions, losing 50% and 21% of range in cold and hot conditions, respectively. The Nissan Leaf was the most temperature-resistant, losing 31% and 11% of range in cold and hot conditions, respectively.
All the cars had between 1,000 and 6,200 miles on them before the test, and all of their battery packs were tested to rated limits before and after the tests.  Tests were conducted on a dynamometer in a temperature chamber.  No warning lights were allowed before or during the test runs.  Lots of details for how they were tested on the Power Electronics magazine article's website.

The striking difference between the BMW i3 and the Leaf makes me wonder what the two companies did differently.  If one car is significantly different from the others, why?  What did the bad one do wrong or the good one do right?  Can we make them all like the good one?

I hope it's evident that hot weather is a problem, too.  Just as running a heater when it's 20F outside sucks battery life and vehicle range, when it's 95 outside and you're running the air conditioner, that sucks battery life, too.  Of course, the air conditioner puts some load on gasoline consumption, while most internal combustion engine cars use at least some waste heat from the engine to warm the cabin, too.  With an EV, everything has to come out of the battery. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

On the School Kids Put Up in Feinstein's Face

As others have said, I think Diane Feinstein handled the obnoxious kids sent to destroy her rather properly.  As the Daily Caller summarizes:
The interaction was filmed and posted on Twitter by the Sunrise Movement, an organization dedicated to “building an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across America, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and well-being of all people,” according to their website.
In the days when journalists were serious, a publicity stunt like this would get just about zero attention.  No reporter would interview children of that age, and no politician would talk with them, because everyone would know that the kids are only parroting what they've been taught to parrot.  An organization like Sunrise Movement couldn't exist in a non-Saul Alinsky world. 

The only reason there are kids in her office at all is to try to make her look bad: heartless, child hater, hate the earth and so on.  This whole thing was done at the least to embarrass Di-Fi and possibly to make her look bad for an attempt to primary her in her next election cycle.  Judging by the Twits on Twitter, most of the adults can't see that. 

Their cover story, all their carefully indoctrinated talking points, were Green New Deal talking points.  Di-Fi had the sense to tell them it's not likely to pass under current conditions, but that wasn't good enough for the little Wokescolds.  (H/T Sense of Events)
Feinstein went on to explain that she doesn’t believe the Green New Deal will pass in a Republican-controlled Senate, adding that she has drafted up her own version of the bill that she believes is more likely to pass. She had copies of her version of the bill printed out and distributed among the group.
Sunrise Movement indoctrinated the kids to claim that the world will end in 10 years If We Don't Pass This Right Now!!!  Again, as I've been talking about lately, that's simply not true.  The UN IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body formed specifically to find a way to blame humans for bad things, to extort money out of rich countries, that IPCC, in their latest report doesn't say anything remotely close to what Sunrise Movement or Occasional Cortex say.  To borrow a money quote from Dr. Judith Curry - a "warmist" - posted by Borepatch:
“Every single catastrophic scenario considered by the IPCC AR5 (WGII, Table 12.4) has a rating of very unlikely or exceptionally unlikely and/or has low confidence. The only tipping point that the IPCC considers likely in the 21stcentury is disappearance of Arctic summer sea ice (which is fairly reversible, since sea ice freezes every winter).”
Dr. Curry goes on to say (from this post on her blog):
Thinking that catastrophes like major hurricane landfalls, massive forest fires etc. will be ‘cured’ by eliminating fossil fuel emissions is laughable.  Well its not really funny.  Thinking that eliminating fossil fuel emissions will ‘solve’ the problem of extreme weather events is very sad, sort of on the level of doing rain dances.
Putting small children in positions like this is child exploitation, pure and simple.  Sunrise Movement should be subject to arrest for it. 

Crap-cam photo apparently from someone's phone, on Twitter, and from Daily Caller.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

A Year After Cutting the Cable TV Cord

A year ago this week, Mrs. Graybeard and I started down the road of cutting the cable TV cord.  It began simply enough, with researching whether it was possible from where we live.  As I posted last year:
We've been cable TV subscribers since around the time we moved here into central Florida in '82.  There was broadcast (OTA) TV available, but a few networks and all of the transmitters were far enough away that we were considered fringe or beyond fringe for reception: not very good quality without a fairly serious outside antenna.  To get a good picture, and then for the larger variety of choices, we started cable. 
Our cable provider was bought a series of times and in the course of the last six months that we had cable, our monthly charge had gone up twice.  Looking at my old checkbook records, going back to 2010, the cable service and Internet had gone up almost 400%.  By last winter, we had finally gotten to the point where we were ready to do things. 

How We Got Where We Are

Some initial conversations with friends and folks who sold antennas got us to understand it was entirely possible to get OTA television with a modest outdoor antenna.  A few days later, I updated that previous post, when the test results with the small antenna were in.
We get the major networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS, a bunch of shopping channels, a bunch of old TV show/movie channels, and lots more.   Far more than we're likely to watch because the reason we started this effort was that we watch two hours a week of TV in a typical week, and we're paying far too much for two hours.  The local news is good for "boil water" or "road washed out" news, but I sure don't trust those national networks for news.
I concluded that update by saying that we were going to research streaming services and try that approach to complement the OTA.  In the intervening year, we've had two streaming services and I'm really not happy with either one.  

To start with, you guys know me - a spreadsheet was involved.  We had a couple of "must have" channels and a bunch that we also wanted.  It turned out the two "must have" (Fox News or One America News and the Outdoor Channel) were the hardest to get while the "nice to have channels" were easy.   The hardest to get, by far, is the Outdoor Channel. 

When we started this,  YouTubeTV had a $35 offer that we signed up with and it stayed that way.  You can see that Hulu offered essentially the same lineup as YouTubeTV, although I think that's the price I entered when YouTube was $5 cheaper.  YouTube, though, doesn't provide the Outdoor Channel at all.  This past fall, when the new season of Gun Stories was starting, we looked into starting a second streaming service with their own service, My Outdoor TV.  It's $10/month (25%), which was painful enough, but they didn't start showing the series when it was broadcast on the channel.  IIRC, the customer service guys said shows are held six months before they air.  If that's right, last October's Season 8 episode 1 should be available in March.  If the whole series has to at least six months, then it will be at the end of June. 

By comparison, a service called FuboTV advertised as a "sports centric" network was $45/month (what we would have been paying for YouTubeTV and the MyOutdoorTV combination), and a $5 add-on package would include the Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, World Fishing Network, and another three.  We switched to FuboTV when my month of YouTubeTV ended in October.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The good part is that the streaming quality of the video we get from both YouTubeTV and Fubo are excellent.  I'm told you need a wireless speed of about 20 Meg/second and our system typically holds that with no problems.  Our OTA pictures are beautiful, and while we haven't watched the OTA TV as often as the streaming services, it's an excellent backup for hurricane season, should the internet connection be down (which it almost always is).  Curiously, we get one streaming channel (Comet - old sci-fi shows) over the air and through our streaming device (Roku) main menu.  It was on YouTubeTV, too. 

Roku has their own service and more services get added every month if not every week.  We have watched a couple of Amazon Prime movies.  Yes, we're that one family left in America who does not subscribe to Netflix.  OK, that was an exaggeration. 

Another good part is that I expected to need to buy a DVR.  No need with these particular services.  YouTubeTV includes an "infinite DVR".  You record any show you want and keep it until you watch it (I think the limit was they kept it for 9 months).  Fubo provides 30 hours recording.  For OTA broadcasts, I would need something like a TiVo DVR.

The worst of the bad parts is that the user interface could suck the chrome off a trailer hitch, it sucks so bad.  With the cable service, if I wanted to see what was on another channel at any time, I could hit the "Guide" button and get an onscreen list of every channel and what was on it.  With the streaming services, there is simply no equivalent.  If I want to see what else is on, I have to quit the show I'm watching and change to another way of looking at what's on each channel (which doesn't provide the information the cable guide carries), and whether I change channel or go back to the one I was watching it takes 5-10 seconds to change channels.  It was faster to change channels back when I had to walk across shag carpeting to turn a knob.   

The horrible user interface applies to the DVR features, too.  Both YouTubeTV and Fubo do different stupid things to you when want to record a TV series. 

A chronic bad part is the difficulty getting the channels we want, especially Outdoor and Sportsman's Channels (they're the same company, after all).  Everyone with cable TV gets a version of this problem.  Of the $50/month we pay for Fubo, I consider most of it a waste of money.  The only redeeming feature the streaming service brings is that while I may be throwing away approximately $40/month, with our cable TV bill I was throwing away more like $120/month. 

Ugly, or just plain weird, is that the "sports oriented" service we get doesn't include ESPN.  All I ever watch on ESPN is college football, and going through the "bowl season" without them was annoying.  We used the OTA TV more than streaming to watch some college games.  Minor bowls that we honestly didn't care about.  On the other hand, if you're from Europe and trying to keep up with your soccer team or you just love soccer, Fubo is the channel for you 

We're watching the latest season of the Outdoor Channel's series The Best Defense, which should end around the end of March (rough guess - that would be a 12 week season, which seems to be what they do).  Right now, I think there's a 75% chance that we go back to YouTubeTV.  Maybe more options will be available by next fall.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Non-Surprise of the Day: A "Wealth Tax" Won't Pay For the Green New Deal

It's probably not a surprise to you that the Democratic Socialists of America are completely economically ignorant.  Politically, they probably aren't.  Politically, they unabashedly say they want to destroy capitalism and the US.  It isn't a surprise, then, that their "Green New Deal" economics is all about destroying the US economy. 

Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute took at look at some of the real numbers behind the story and the tax increases we've heard talked about are so short of funding this Green New Deal fiasco that there's no way anyone can think they're being serious. 

There aren't many proposals that can really be looked at.  AOC did that famous screed on TV about the marginal tax rate on any dollars earned above a person's 10 millionth dollar (the "tippy top") being taxed at 70%.  We've heard about 90%.  How much does it really cost?  Jill Stein, the Green Party Candidate in the 2016 elections, proposed a “Green New Deal” costing between $700 billion and $1 trillion per year for public jobs and clean energy initiatives.  But that's 7 to $10 Trillion over the next 10 years, which is clearly not enough spending for the Democrats today.

Instead, the plans that have been widely talked about come closer to $50 trillion over 10 years.  Over and above the current deficits.
(W)hen assessing the needed tax revenues, a green-energy initiative costing $7–$10 trillion over the decade should be examined in the context of $42 trillion in additional Democratic-socialist proposals that include single-payer health care ($32 trillion), a federal jobs guarantee ($6.8 trillion), student-loan forgiveness ($1.4 trillion), free public college ($800 billion), infrastructure ($1 trillion), family leave ($270 billion), and Social Security expansion ($188 billion).

That 21 percent of GDP cost would double federal spending. And that does not even account for a baseline budget deficit rising to 7 percent of GDP over the decade — bringing the total budget gap to 28 percent of GDP.
Riedl then goes through some additional numbers.  Let's start here.  Let's not bother with taking 70% of income over $10 Million, let's take every penny of income over $1 million - you know they want to.
Analysis of IRS data shows that this would raise 3.8 percent of GDP — not even enough to balance the current budget, much less finance a Green New Deal. And even that figure implausibly assumes that people continue working and investing. Slightly more realistically, doubling the top 35 percent and 37 percent tax brackets, to 70 percent and 74 percent for singles earning more than $200,000 and couples earning at least $400,000, would raise roughly 1.6 percent of GDP. That figure also ignores all revenues lost to the economic effects of 85 percent marginal tax rates (when including state and payroll taxes) as well as tax avoidance and evasion.
Is he being reasonably accurate?  I think so.  A few years ago, I calculated if you took 100% of income for the "top 1%", which was around $300,000 at the time, you couldn't run the government for more than a few weeks.  Bill Whittle said it well in this video.  Even though it's dated 2011, I think the numbers aren't so different that the concept is worthless - it's within a factor of two. 

Riedl does the same sort of disassembly of the current tax proposals as Bill Whittle talked through in that video (taken, BTW, from Iowahawk, whom I used to link to when he still blogged).   There is simply no way to pay for this with "tax the rich" proposals; they need to raise taxes radically on everyone.

Writer Mica Mosbacher for Townhall adds a piece on Riedl's article and adds an important nugget of information. 
To make the math work, though, Democrats would have to revise their definition of “super-rich” to encompass pretty much anyone who can afford to pay their bills on time, which is precisely what Senator Warren seemed to suggest in a recent MSNBC interview about her wealth tax proposal.

“When we’re only taxing income, we’re taxing two people who may have the same income but are in wildly different economic circumstances,” Warren complained, making clear that the intention of her wealth tax is to punish people who manage their finances responsibly.

Yet, even Warren’s own economists estimate that her wealth tax would only bring in about $2.75 billion over 10 years.
It's a clue by four when the candidate alludes to taxing everyone and her staff economists say her wealth tax falls pitifully, abysmally short of raising the funds she needs (not even .01% of it).  If you haven't figured this out yet, when they say they're going to "tax the rich" and the corporations, they mean YOU.  You may not consider yourself to be rich, but they simply can't make it work without taking everything from everyone. 

We have to assume that's the plan.

(Tell ya what.  AOC gets entirely too much publicity.  Let's skip "bucktooth Betsy" and use Faux-cahontas for variety).

Friday, February 22, 2019

Guess What? Min Wage Goes Up, Hours and Jobs Go Down

It occurred to me some years ago that I'm really tired of arguing minimum wage because every time we argue that the people it's most supposed to help end up being the most hurt by it.  We're right every time, we get ignored every time, and those people get hurt every time.

Guess what?  It's happening in New York, just as predicted.  They're calling it the Restaurant Recession. 
In a survey conducted by New York City Hospitality Alliance late last year, about 75 percent of the more than 300 respondents operating full-service restaurants reported they’ll reduce employee hours this year because of the new wage increases, while 47 percent said they’ll eliminate jobs.
Note that this rising wage trend has been going on since 2015, so that cuts in numbers of jobs and hours worked go back to 2015.  The survey also reported that “76.50% of respondents report reducing employee hours and 36.30% eliminated jobs in 2018 in response to mandated wage increases.”

As an example, the website Eater NY tells the story of the small chain, Rosa Mexicano. 
Every afternoon at 4 p.m., each of Rosa Mexicano’s four Manhattan locations used to have a pre-shift staff meeting. “That meeting created a really nice family atmosphere,” says Chris Westcott, Rosa Mexicano’s president and CEO. “It created energy and synergy, and people were pumped going into the shift.”

But as of last month, the meeting doesn’t happen anymore. Now, start times for shifts are staggered through the evening, and employees receive a document with the day’s updates when they arrive.

It’s one sacrifice the Mexican chain has made to help offset the additional $600,000 that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s minimum wage increases will cost them this year. The changes — announced on November 10, 2015 as part of a gradual growth — brought wages up to about their cap on December 31, representing a minimum wage hike from $13 to $15 per hour for businesses in New York City with more than 11 employees. Tipped employees’ hourly wage also rose from $8.65 to $10, with a tip credit that guarantees they’ll receive at least $15 per hour, and the changes extended to workers on salary; the overtime exemption rate rose to $1,125 per week in New York City ($58,500 annually).
Servers who still have their jobs are reporting that they're being pushed to do more - work harder - to try to utilize every minute of that $15/hour rate.
Merelyn Bucio, a server at a restaurant in Soho that she declined to name, says her hours were cut and her workload increased when wage rates rose. Server assistants and bussers now work fewer shifts, so she and other servers take on side work like polishing silverware and glasses.
Similarly, prices are reported to be rising as well.  For example, Lalito, a small restaurant in Chinatown, has increased menu prices by 10 to 15 percent.  The restaurant business is a tight margin business so increases in labor costs will pinch the bottom line and may require price increases to break even.  Some try to hold off price increases by reducing "little things" that distinguish the restaurant:
John Seymour, founder and CEO of popular fried chicken restaurant chain Sweet Chick, is holding off on raising prices in his four New York locations. Instead, he’s trying to reduce maintenance costs and cut non-essential expenses. Details like candles on tables at dinner are being reconsidered so customers don’t have to take on the extra cost. 
The Foundation for Economic Education posts this graphic of Year Over Year (YOY) restaurant employment changes for full-service restaurants in New York City: 

Although they mark recessions (gray vertical bars) and the drop in YOY employment, they leave the two red arrows on the left too steep; starting well before the recessions when YOY employment was doing much better.  Those drop precipitously  in the recession, as opposed to the one on the right that starts its decline to lower growth since the start of Cuomo's minimum wage laws in 2015.  It's obvious that restaurant employment growth has been in decline since the start of 2015.  With a YOY chart, anything above the zero line (horizontal red) represents growth, everything below it is shrinkage.

The article at FEE goes on to explain:
December 2018 restaurant jobs were down by almost 3,000 (and by 1.64%) from the previous December, and the 2.5% annual decline in March 2018 was the worst annual decline since the sharp collapse in restaurant jobs following 9/11 in 2001.

As the chart shows, it usually takes an economic recession to cause year-over-year job losses at NYC’s full-service restaurants, so it’s likely that this is a “restaurant recession” tied to the annual series of minimum wage hikes that brought the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour at the end of last year. And the NYC restaurant recession is happening even as the national economy hums along in the 117th month of the second-longest economic expansion in history and just short of the 120-month record expansion from March 1991 to March 2001.
It doesn't take a Ph.D. in economics to predict this is going to happen; you might have to be a Ph.D. in Modern Monetary Theory economics to be so delusional that you believe these things won't happen.  I talked with a kid working in a restaurant several years ago who said he didn't want to see our state raise min wage exactly because "everything will get more expensive and the jobs will get harder to find".  This was back in 2013.  Yes, we've been talking about a $15/hr min wage since 2013.

(Commieus americanus var. laborus)  | Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Thursday, February 21, 2019

A Little More on Modern Monetary Theory

Back at the end of January, I did a piece on the new economic theory sweeping the Democrat party:  Modern Monetary Theory.  The theory and name are the products of economist Bill Mitchell of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales.  When we marvel at Apoplexia Occasional Cortex saying, "just pay for it" and ask no one in particular, "she really has a masters in Economics?" - this is how you get a world full of people like AOC.

Economist and financial advisor John Mauldin writes on MMT this week and has lots to say:
Let’s get the official definition of MMT from Wikipedia. My comments inserted are in brackets.

 In MMT, "vertical" money (money created by the government and spent in the private sector) enters circulation through government spending. Taxation and its legal tender enable power to discharge debt and establish the fiat money as currency, giving it value by creating demand for it in the form of a private tax obligation that must be met. [And thus higher taxes create more demand for the currency and help to maintain the value thereof.]

In addition, fines, fees and licenses create demand for the currency. An ongoing tax obligation, in concert with private confidence and acceptance of the currency, maintains its value. Because the government can issue its own currency at will, MMT maintains that the level of taxation relative to government spending (the government's deficit spending or budget surplus) is in reality a policy tool that regulates inflation and unemployment, and not a means of funding the government's activities by itself. [The more you want the government to spend, the higher the taxes have to be in order to keep from creating inflation, or so the theory goes.]

Proponents argue that unemployment is caused by lack of demand and lack of demand is caused by insufficient money entering the private sector, a problem the government can solve by creating money and spending it in the private sector. Voilà, demand is created and unemployment goes down. Inflation? That can be controlled by higher taxes. Hey, it’s their theory. Don’t ask me to explain it.
Take a look at that first sentence in the last paragraph: "Unemployment is caused by lack of demand, which is caused by insufficient money entering the private sector..."   I can see how the lack of demand for some company's products could lead to unemployment for people who work at that company, but how does money the government created and spent in the whole "private sector" matter to that specific company?  If you really don't like the products, or don't like the company (cough - Dick's Sporting Goods) how does that Gubmint Money affect you?  Are you really going to buy that product or shop at that company if the government buys their products?  If the .gov does buy their products, then what?  Do they buy their products and bury them in a landfill to create more demand?

The whole thing is this sort of borderline lunatic thinking from top to bottom.  "Fines, fees and licenses create demand for the currency" - oh, great!   Let's fine people to death, demand fees for everything, and licenses for everything because it will "create demand for the currency"?  It creates a demand for money, but that's money the government will create and then pay to itself.  You're just a hapless channel for that money.  The same goes for the first paragraph and the idea that the Taxation creates demand for currency - they're creating money to pay to themselves through you.

Be prepared for more fees, more taxes and licenses for everything in life.

The problem is that this idea is gaining traction in one of the major political parties.  Economists advising major presidential and congressional candidates on the progressive and even “moderate” left are more and more openly talking about MMT and its practical applications.
Why should this be on your radar? Let me give you just a few scenarios…

Politicians are increasingly talking about “free stuff.” Free college, guaranteed basic income, more total healthcare paid for by the public, basic housing, and more. It is almost like there will be an auction to see who can promise the most free benefits, paid for by taxes on the rich. They will cite economic advisors who say it is completely doable and even necessary for the general welfare.

“The richest country in the history of rich countries can easily afford to spend more on its citizens ensuring basic income and wealth equality.” More or less a direct quote from several interviews. Forget mere income taxes. The new political ante will be a wealth tax.

That means these ideas will be increasingly promoted in the public space. More politicians will argue for increased spending and/or at least different spending priorities. Guns and butter.
Over the next few years, this is likely to spread as a "great new theory" on the left.  Since younger voters are led by feelings rather than experience and logic, they will feel a natural affinity with the idealism. Why shouldn’t a rich nation help those who are less advantaged?

The lurking problem is that the business cycle, well, cycles.  Boom gives way to bust; expansion is followed by recession.  At some point there will be a recession. Unemployment will rise and deficits increase until we are on our way to a $30-trillion debt in just a few years. This will crowd out private investment, slowing whatever recovery there might be and making us vulnerable to a quick second recession, not unlike the recessions of 1980 and 1982.

That could also raise the potential for a true “throw the bums out” election. The frustration among voters that led to Trump will still be there, but it will also be shared by many on the left who will see the MMT promises as a way to change things.   
It is not far-fetched to imagine a White House and Congress beginning to work around the principles of MMT, if not adopt it outright with sharply higher taxes and spending.
Is this a threat?  I think so.  Is it a big threat?  That's much harder to answer.  Right now, no, but given the right combination of an inopportune recession and an election as close as the last, it could get a foothold.  There are definitely constitutional issues that have to be resolved; to wit, the Federal Reserve can buy US bonds, but it can't directly create money as this requires.  For all the pounding we all did on Quantitative Easing, it was rather subtle compared to this outright money printing.  

From a long (21 page) article on MMT at Seeking Alpha 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Today I'm Turning 9

The first post in my little corner of the world was on a Sunday: February 21st, 2010.  Today, I'm turning nine.

That post was my first economics rant, and Blogger tells me I've used the post tag "Economics" 481 times.  I talked about the US Debt Clock (with the abbreviation ATTOTW meaning "at the time of this writing"):
The national debt, about 12.4 trillion ATTOTW, is financed largely through the sale of long term bonds. Note the line in the middle, “US Total Debt”; ATTOTW 54.8 trillion dollars – that’s the outstanding total of these bonds and other debt instruments.
Tonight, the clock is telling me those numbers are $22.03 Trillion for the National Debt and $72.27 Trillion for the "US Total Debt".  Quite some growth, isn't it?  The national debt is up 77.7% while the Total Debt is up 31.8%. 
Now take a look at Social Security, bottom left of the debt clock. ATTOTW, the obligation is around 14 trillion dollars.
Notice the bottom line, the total “unfunded liabilities”. At the time of this writing, it’s somewhat north of 107 ½ trillion dollars ... . This is money the .gov has promised to us citizens and is obligated to pay, but (using a method that would get any business in America thrown into prison) keeps “off the books”. If you or I did that, we would be room mates with bad men in heat.
Those numbers updated for today are Social Security $19.98 T and Unfunded Liabilities $122.7 T.  The Social Security debt has gone up by 43% in these 8 full years, while the unfunded liabilities have gone up 14%.  Comparatively, that's a better sounding increase.

It's helpful to swag that the gross domestic product for the entire world is about $60T.  We don't need to have the money for those Unfunded Liabilities today because that money isn't all due today; that includes liabilities spread out for many years to come.  Still, needing an amount that's twice "all the money in the world" is sobering.

Count me still among those who think a bad financial reckoning will happen.  One thing I've proven to myself over and over is that I simply can not predict the timing of things.  When I wrote that piece in 2010, I thought the whole collapse and recovery could be over within 10 years:
We could go into a full tilt, great depression-style collapse, but with Ben Bernanke literally promising to drop currency out of helicopters to prevent it, a Weimar or Zimbabwe-style inflation is also possible. I just know that after it’s over, in – perhaps – 10 years, there will be more sanity in government finances. My hope is that liberty survives and that my kids, and their kids, can live in a place more like the Founder’s Republic.
Today, I still think it's possible that we could have a worldwide reckoning in the next year, but being over the effects in a year seems unlikely.  Every nation in the world is playing the same games: fiat currency systems, gaming their exchange rates or using asymmetric tariffs to get advantage.  If we go down, it's likely to cause a global collapse.  To borrow the old saying, "when the US sneezes, the world gets a cold".

Image courtesy

Earlier in the month, we read that Subprime auto loan defaults were spiking to the highest levels since the 2008 crisis.  Danielle Di Martino Booth, a former Fed Insider,  now CEO of Quill Intelligence and author (her Twitter feed) has long said that those defaults were a bad harbinger she kept watch for.  There are more of them out there.    

These days, I tend to take the Captain Capitalism motto to heart.  Enjoy the decline.  Does the economy have to collapse?  Of course not!  It just needs political leaders not afraid of doing the right thing; leaders who are grown ups that make tough decisions and are willing to be unpopular.  The victim society has to realize that sometimes life is tough.  The socialists have to realize that people are either free or equal, but making all outcomes equal makes no people free.  They need to learn that they're not smarter than the decisions of the market. 

In other words, not a freakin' chance we don't collapse.  There's nothing we can do to prevent the collapse and coming dark ages, so enjoy the functioning society while we have it. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

I Never Thought of It Quite Like This

I've never thought of eating Tide pods quite this way.  To be honest, I've never thought of anything quite this way.  From the Vast Time Wasteland of Pinterest.  Language warning. 

One of those days that I spent as a moving target and didn't collect thoughts or ideas to put down.  So humor.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Clever Idea for Powering Medical Implants

Do you have a cardiac pacemaker?  Someone you know?  How about an implanted defibrillator?  

All of the current implants are battery operated, which means the batteries need to be replaced.  Battery replacement is generally minor surgery, but it's still surgery and cutting someone open brings risk of infection.

But this is the era of energy scavenging.  For example, hybrid and battery electric cars use regenerative braking.  A motor and a generator are virtually the same arrangement of parts looked at from different ways.  When you no longer want to power the motors but want to stop you can get power out of the motors (now generators) and dump it back into the batteries.  The battery charging load on the generator slows the motor shaft, slowing the car, and some energy that might go into heating the brake pads and wheels goes back into the battery.

There are energy sources in our bodies; can anything be tapped to provide power for pacemakers or other implantable electronics?  Could we harvest body heat?  What about motion of arms or legs?  In what might be the most ironic arrangement, Engineers at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth have designed a way to get energy from the beat of the heart itself to keep the pacemaker battery recharged.  The charger is:
... a dime-sized piezoelectric cantilever that is both flexible and porous. The new design incorporates a polyvinylidene fluoride-trifluoroethylene thin film within a dual-cantilever structure wrapped around a pacemaker lead with two free ends. The free ends extend out from the pacemaker to harvest energy from the heart’s motion.
It turns out it doesn't harvest much energy, at least in its current version.
The initial test results demonstrated a maximum electrical output yield of 0.5 V and 43 nA under the frequency of 1 Hz. The team found that adding a proof mass of 31.6 mg on the dual‐cantilever tip results in a 1.82 times power enhancement.
The initial values of 0.5V at 43 nanoAmps (billionths of an ampere) is a mere 21.5 nanowatts (nW).  Adding that 31.6 mg mass got that up to 38.7 nW.  That naturally made me wonder what the power requirements really are.  How big of a battery does an implantable pacemaker carry and how long does it last?  I like to bound problems with numbers to help see how big those problems are.  I found this article on Trends in Pacemaker Batteries from 2004.  The first thing I learned is that batteries aren't replaced like you'd replace batteries in your mouse or flashlight: most often, the whole assembly is replaced.
The most important factor for a cardiac pacemaker battery is its reliability. Unlike many consumer products, batteries in implantable devices cannot be replaced. They are hard wired at the time of manufacture before the device is hermetically sealed. From that point on, the battery is expected to power the device during final testing at the factory, during the shelf life and throughout the useful life of the device while it is implanted. In general the power source of the implantable device is the only component, which has a known predictable service life, which in turn determines the service life of the implanted device itself.
Since the first (experimental) pacemaker was implanted in 1958, batteries have changed quite a bit.  That survey article goes through various battery chemistries from Nickel Cadmium through various Lithium battery chemistries to Lithium Iodine, which it implies is the current technology.  It lists some characteristics of a current battery.
  1. Open Circuit Voltage: 2.8 Volt
  2. Control Circuit minimal voltage: 2.2 Volt
  3. Control Circuit current drain: 10 μA
  4. EOL battery resistance: 10 k Ohms
  5. Chold: 10 μF
  6. Oscillator frequency: 167 Hz
  7. Ah rating: 2 Ah (typical rating)
The Amp Hour rating of 2 Ah is a little surprising, but think of it this way: that's total use for 8 years, or a bit over 70,000 hours.  2 Ah spread out over 70,000 hours is 28.6 micro amps per hour, and 477 nA per minute.  The output voltage of the little scavenger is too low, but that could be stepped up to what's required with a switching regulator at a loss of about 5 to 10% of the energy being harvested.  That looks like if the person's pulse was 72 beats/minute, there's about twice as much energy in the heartbeats as the pacemaker needs.  In rough numbers, it seems like there's enough energy recovered to be useful in these very low energy devices.

In reality, though, it seems this would lead to total redesign of pacemakers because of the change in what they're doing.  According to that survey article, the pacemaker's controller literally counts every pulse it applies to keep tabs on battery life.  Consider a pacemaker implanted with a fully charged battery that is then kept constantly topped off rather than discharging day after day.  It would be a rechargeable battery because if the person's heart stops, the little circuit wouldn't supply energy to the pacemaker when it most needs it.

The research team is currently working under a National Institute of Health funding grant and has two years left to finish the pre-clinical process and obtain regulatory approval. Engineers on the program have also started to investigate how the technology can be used to charge other implanted devices as well.

 a.) Concept of piezoelectric thin film energy harvester for implantable cardioverter defibrillator and a flexible porous PVDF‐TrFE dual‐cantilever energy harvester on the AICD lead. b.) Video analysis of chronically implanted pacemaker leads from a dog. c.) A dual‐cantilever energy harvester within a soft tube on the AICD lead. (Image credit: Dartmouth College) 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Airbus Announces The End of the A380

On Thursday, Valentines day, Airbus confirmed the production of the A380 double-decker jumbo jet will end when currently booked sales are delivered.  That's currently scheduled for 2021.  The main problem the aircraft had was that it didn't fit in existing airports, so any airline wanting to fly the aircraft had to fly to a few specific places.  The infrastructure problem also meant that getting self-loading cargo on and off could take longer than it might have.  To get into other airports would require paying for the construction work.

Jonathan M. Gitlin, writing at Ars Technica adds:
Unlike the 747, it doesn't appear set to have a continued career carrying cargo, either. You'd expect the biggest passenger plane of the skies to make a pretty decent freighter. But there's no folding nose variant, so you can't take full advantage of its commodious interior to carry really big stuff.
While the aircraft never seemed to capture the public attention the Boeing 747 did, it was a masterful engineering job.  When I saw my first 747, I'm sure my reaction was typical: "it'll never fly"; I'm sure most people's reactions to the A380 were the same.  It's always awe-inspiring to see these marvels of engineering take off and land as gracefully as they do.  Few outside the industry know that even with its massive size, the A380 had to be tested to ensure it could be evacuated by a plane full of passengers, who needed to be untrained volunteers (with a defined mix of females to males and ages over 50 to under 50) in less than 90 seconds.  853 passengers and 20 crew disembarked in the dark in 78 seconds, with half of the plane's exits arbitrarily blocked.  (I've commented on this before)

What probably caught most peoples' attention is the opulence in the first class and business class areas of the aircraft.
Flying long-distance in an A380 can be an opulent affair. Both Singapore Airlines and Emirates have private first class suites on board, and the flying bar—first seen on the original jumbo jet—has made something of a comeback, too. The promo shots have a certain air of "crew quarters on NCC-1701D," although you'll see from the gallery (or on YouTube) that they're a little smaller than that. Further aft things are more spartan, and pick the upper deck because the 2-4-2 layout is less cramped than downstairs' 3-4-3.

I've only been fortunate enough to fly an A380 once (of late 747s appear to be the preferred type for Dulles to Heathrow). But that one trip made me fall for the big plastic bird. It was a quiet and smooth ride, and the bathrooms at the front of the upper deck were bigger than the bathrooms of some houses I've lived in. Here's to you, you majestic flying cruise liner.
I've never flown one of these "carbon composite skywhales" as Gitlin calls them.  I've never been closer than seeing one out of window in the airport or from another plane.  A friend I worked with told me about working on the HF Radio antenna on the vertical stabilizer and being so wrapped up in his task he was blind to where he was.  When the job was done and he stood up to get his tools together, looked around himself, and was suddenly shocked at how big the airplane was; at how far away the wingtips were.  I know, however, that every A380 contains radios on which I was on the design team, and I enjoy knowing that. 

Workers at Airbus in Hamburg, Germany working on two of the three floors in the aircraft.  Getty Images, Jason Alden photo from a nice photo spread on Ars Technica

Friday, February 15, 2019

Don't Call it the Green New Deal ...

Call it the Amish New Deal.  They live an agrarian, pre-industrial civilization, which is what the leftists and greenies want for us all.  True, they have too many farm animals in their lifestyle for the Democratic Socialists, but the rest of the Amish lifestyle seems like exactly what the DemSocs want.  I don't think there are any (or many) Amish vegans, but that seems what they want us all to become.

H. Payne at the Detroit News. 

I know that Evita Guevara Castro wants us to "invent technology that's never been invented yet", but getting rid of all your petroleum and nuclear power plants expecting the replacement that nobody has ever thought of to be invented and ready when you shut off the existing plants is a rather idiotic plan. 

Let me give a concrete example: high efficiency solar cells.  Because some influential "futurist" (cough) publicly said that Moore's law applies to solar cells so that they'll get better every generation, an idea has emerged that says, "the solar panels to power your house will be the size of a postage stamp in the mid '20s".  You might have heard this.  That violates the laws of thermodynamics at the very least.  The solar energy influx, called the "solar constant" is a bit over 1300 Watts per square meter.  Since square meters are bigger than square yards, and I like to have Nice Round Numbers to do mental calculations, I usually say 1000 Watts/sq yard, instead of the more realistic 1100 W/sq yard. 

A typical house is budgeted to have a 20 kW service.  That instantly tells you need 20 sq yards of solar cells; 25 kW service would require 25 sq yards, and so on.  Except that would only work if they're 100% efficient, which nothing ever is.  Assume they're 20% efficient, a conservative number to make up for times when the panels are dirty, or covered with bird crap and you find you need five times that area, 100 sq yards of solar cells.   It is physically impossible for a cell to put out more energy than it gets from the sun, so that means the smallest imaginable solar cell array to power a house would be 20 sq yards at 100% efficiency.  I stress that the 100 sq yard "budget" is the only realistic answer now.  Solar cells the size of a postage stamp delivering 20 kW - or even 1 kW - just aren't possible. 

I have no doubt that another company like a Solyndra would say they can do it to get grafted onto the Fed's infinite checkbook, but at least what the real Solyndra was selling didn't violate the laws of physics.

I've talked about fuel cell cars and I've talked about battery electric cars.  Fuel cell cars carry the threat of hydrogen explosion from their 10,000 PSI hydrogen tanks.  Both types have inadequate range and difficult charging problems.  The best batteries available for cars deliver about 5% of the specific energy (in Watt*hours per kilogram) of gasoline.  Or less.  Neither technology is within 20 years of being competitive.  Could someone "invent technology that's never been invented yet"?  Of course.  With every major university and every major car maker, along with a ton of startups working on the problem for years, why would anyone think it's just around the corner? 

Do you want to jump out of an airplane hoping someone invents a parachute before you hit the ground?  That's the essence of what they're asking for us to do. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

2nd Amendment Attack Via State Constitution

As you've undoubtedly been reading lately, the fight for gun rights has been moving to the states.  Apparently Michael Bloomberg realized he can buy state legislators at a very substantial discount over federal legislators.  You might be tempted to say, "he's a billionaire, why should he care?" but people don't get to be billionaires by being stupid about money.  Bloomberg might be the most dependable asshole in American politics, but don't think he's an idiot. 

Where this moves into Florida is a group has started an effort to amend the state constitution to ban so-called "assault weapons".

Florida has a bizarre mechanism for amending the constitution.  Anyone can start a petition drive (pdf warning) to get a proposed change on the ballot.  Once it's on the ballot, a supermajority pass of 60% amends the constitution.  The persistent, shining example of the problem lurking here is the 2002 pregnant pig amendment story, which was the passage of  an amendment to the state constitution to outlaw a practice that I've heard was used by only two farmers in the entire state.  Two.  I don't think it's necessary to amend the constitution, which is forever, to change something that's a simple act for the legislature.  It's what we have a legislature for.

BAWN Florida (like hell I'll link to them) is still trying to get the signatures to put this on the 2020 ballot, and the legislature already has assault weapons bans in committee this year.

Since there's no such thing as an assault weapon (I assume my readership has been around guns long enough that everyone knows that story), it all comes down to what they say they're banning.  The Truth About Guns' reporter Luis Valdes does a little digging for us.
First, let’s look at the broad definition of an “assault weapon” under this ballot initiative.
a) Assault Weapons – For purposes of this subsection, any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than ten (10) rounds of ammunition at once, either in a fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition-feeding device. This subsection does not apply to handguns.

b) Semiautomatic – For purposes of this subsection, any weapon which fires a single projectile or a number of ball shots through a rifled or smooth bore for each single function of the trigger without further manual action required.
So pretty much any semi-automatic rifle or shotgun that can take more than 10 rounds of ammunition would be banned.

Now let’s look at what they determine a magazine to be.
c) Ammunition-feeding device – For purposes of this subsection, any magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device for a firearm.
[bold added: SiG]
Banning anything "capable of holding" means any detachable magazine semi-automatic gun from a Ruger 10/22 to a Barret M107A1.  They're assuming voters will think of only AR-15s and perhaps AK-47s, but a lot of modern rifles fall in this ban.  Since the ban on magazine capacity says it applies to a fixed magazine gun, my 50 year old Nylon 66 (.22LR) first gun will be banned due to its 14 round tubular magazine built into the stock.

Ruger's 10/22 is often called "America's rifle" and there are more of them in the field than just about anything else.  The 10/22, the Marlin Model 60, Savage Mark II, Remington 597 or Mossber 702 are all similar in that they're semiautomatic, magazine fed guns that are often purchased for young shooters to learn with, for plinking, and fun.  All of these will make the owners third degree felons. 

A lot of us have said it a lot of times: "billionaire money gets this stuff passed", and I've almost worn out the bits that say, "money doesn't mean everything in politics".  I haven't see any commercials for BAWN, but I don't watch much TV and no "mass entertainment" TV at all.  No sitcoms, no reality shows, no singing competitions.  It's also very early for TV commercials about this.

While looking for the ballot initiative on the Division of Elections page, I found one for extending background checks that they're trying to get on the ballot.  
Extends the current 3-day waiting period between purchase and delivery at retail of a handgun to all purchases of all firearms. Requires that before delivery is made, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conduct a background check on the purchaser and the seller receive a response approving the transfer of the firearm. Defines background check. Deletes current exclusion for concealed weapons permit holders and trade-ins. [Bold added: SiG]
Keep your eyes open for this stuff. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Bullshit About Cattle Farts

If you pay attention to the Green New Deal and the incessant screaming from the vegan community, you'll think that cattle farts containing methane are the worst threat to the climate.  The UN has backed this lame idea before but their claims have some serious mistakes in them.  Mistakes or lies.  I have several good sources on that, but The BlazeTV released a short video of an interview with Dr. Sara Place, an academic researcher in animal science and sustainability.  This is only five minutes long and gives a good start.

First off, the methane from cows is 1.8% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the US.  Second off, methane doesn't come from cattle farts, it comes from cattle burps.  I realize that might be a minor distinction, but the EPA, those high priests of junk science, jumped on the "regulate cattle farts" bandwagon under Obama.  The UN claims cattle create 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions - more than comes from transportation - but they're lumping in all livestock, not just cattle, to include poultry, lamb and all sources of meat.  They're also including the effects of animal feed production, feed harvesting, feeding the animals, the farm vehicles that tend to these animals and everything up to the emissions from the slaughterhouse.  A third of that 18% is blamed on deforestation specifically in Brazil.

Both of those summaries are dishonest.  First, it's not fair to blame methane production in chicken farming on cattle farming, and it's unfair to include everything that the goes into food production to just the tailpipe emissions of vehicles rather than the equivalent entire life cycle associated with transportation.  Second, the part about deforestation is dishonest for two reasons; the easiest being that there's no equivalent deforestation in the US, or in other parts of the world.  In the US the story is reforestation.  We have more trees today than a hundred years ago.  The other reason is that not all grassland could be forest and not all forest can convert to grasslands.  There is some relation between the two, but it's not simple subtraction.  Simply, much of the planet can't be dense forest and can only be grassland. 

One of the most interesting videos from Ted talks about science is a 2013 talk about desertification by Allan Savory.  Dr. Savory talks about discovering that large herds of grass eating animals restore grasslands and reverse the damages to the environment.  Yes, herds of life stock "save the Earth".  It's a story of how a hundred years of following the agricultural scientists' best recommendations and removing livestock converted lush grassland to wastelands, and how reintroducing livestock has restored millions of hectares of that wasteland to productive grassland.  The before and after pictures toward the last few minutes of the video are jaw-dropping. 

Dr. Savory recommends eating the livestock, which naturally makes the the vegans haaaate him with a white hot, burning hate.

An interesting guy I've heard talk on this subject several times is Dr. Peter Ballerstedt, who calls himself a leader of the Ruminati.  He's an infrequent blogger, and regular speaker at various conferences.  Here's a quick summary of the basis for a new video, We Need A Ruminant Revolution.
Human beings exist because of ruminants. Today’s societies rely upon them. Humanity’s future depends upon improvements in the productivity and efficiency of worldwide ruminant animal agriculture. Like the general public’s confusion of what constitutes a “healthy diet,” tremendous misunderstanding exists regarding the environmental role of ruminant animals. Human beings didn’t evolve to eat meat, they evolved because they ate meat - and because they learned to cook and process meat and other foodstuffs. Unsurprisingly then, diets rich in butter, meat and cheese have been shown to promote human health and development. Of significant worldwide impact, such diets can correct the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, offering hope in arresting the current worldwide epidemic of chronic diseases.
The dire predictions from Anorexia Pistachio Kotex and her Democratic Socialists of America comrades that say we need to end cattle farts would be laughable without the need for a single fart joke.  Except it's not funny, it would kill many people and make the planet worse off because the planet needs livestock.  The planet needs ruminants.  You can say they were designed for each other or you can say they co-evolved this way, but the result is the same.  Like everything they say, this argument is demonstrably wrong.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Another Major Anniversary Slips By

45 years ago last Thursday, February 7th, one of the greatest movies of all time was released.  I'm talking about Blazing Saddles.  It's regularly referred to as the greatest movie that couldn't be made today.

In 1974, most of us thought that the worst of the race problems we faced in the 1960s were over with.  To borrow the overworn expression, by that time we really did have friends of all races, creeds and colors.  Entertainment media became mandatorily diverse.  Blazing Saddles took advantage of that and poked fun at everybody, every racial, or cultural stereotype you can imagine.  I'm going to borrow a little from the PJ Media link (first one) because they quote movie reviewers from 1974 and it's worth seeing it through those eyes.
The Hollywood Reporter celebrated the occasion by republishing its original review of Blazing Saddles. Here is an excerpt:
The screenplay by Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor and Alan Uger (from a story by Bergman) is totally irreverent, never passing up a chance to point up a cliche and sparing nothing or no one along the way. The language is definitely R-rated but it never becomes offensive. In fact, the incongruous pairing of the language and the characters accounts for a great deal of the boisterous humor.

Brooks' fast-paced direction is a masterpiece of comedy detail, filled with delightful and perfectly timed sight gags. The predominant style is one of the extremely broad burlesque but the film is also packed with more subtle touches, especially in Morey Hoffman's clever set decoration and in Peter Wooley's production design.
The line about "sparing nothing or no one along the way" is key. Blazing Saddles seems to send up almost everything. And it does it brilliantly. The humor employed is filled with what today would be known as triggers for the emotionally weak, politically correct, Social Justice Warrior crowd.

Ethnic jokes abound. There is enough juvenile sexual humor to keep a thousand generations of pubescent boys entertained. The movie also has the most memorable fart joke scene ever.
These jokes couldn't be written into a movie today.  In fact, there's probably not a scene in the movie that wouldn't trigger today's snowflake audiences.  The snowflakes haven't learned one of the most important lessons of life: when everything is offensive, nothing is offensive.  What Mel Brooks, Steinberg and the creators did was to offend everyone, so that nobody felt offended.  Instead, everybody laughed.

The problem with curing racism and getting people to not care is that there's no money in it, while there's tons of money in race-hustling.  When society started to get along better, that's trouble for those who want to tear it apart and rebuild it, or fundamentally transform it into some sort of dystopian horror story.  They need to always enforce on some that they're the victims of something, anything. 

Final thoughts to PJ Media's Stephen Kruiser:
It's almost sickening to think of the fact that we've gone from a society capable of creating and supporting something as masterful as Blazing Saddles to one filled with humorless youth who would protest it to death before it could get released in just forty-five years.

A humorless society that seeks to make words criminally offensive is a society in severe decline. Hopefully, we're just in a phase from which we'll soon emerge.

Should we be that lucky, maybe movie comedies will one day again be funny.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

New Green Deal, Same Old Lies and Distortions

The news is all abuzz over the Green New Deal that several Evil party presidential candidates are getting behind, but it's another example of Same Shit, Different Day.  New Deal, of course, is FDR speak from the '30s and adding the Green label shows you it's really watermelon socialists: green on the outside, red on the inside.  There's a copy of one of the originating documents on NPR (Document Cloud) from an interview, and it's being widely ripped apart.  This Tweet from Wall Street Journal columnist and TV pundit Kimberley Strassel is probably the best.

It is so stupid, it's a whole new level of world class stupid.  Let's start here.  The justification they claim for economically destroying us is to end climate change.  Nicolas Loris of the Heritage Foundation, writing in the Daily Signal points out that if you use the same numbers the IPCC is using to calculate the effects, we could shut down everything in the US, set carbon emissions to zero, and it wouldn't make a significant difference in the projected temperature in 2100. 
Using the same climate sensitivity (the warming effect of a doubling of carbon dioxide emissions) as the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assumes in its modeling, the world would be only 0.137 degree Celsius cooler by 2100. Even if we assumed every other industrialized country would be equally on board, this would merely avert warming by 0.278 degree Celsius by the turn of the century.
Occasional Cortex claims the world will end in 12 years if We Don't Do Something NOW!!!!  What isn't being mentioned is that NOBODY in the "climate science community" is saying that.  What she's referring to is an October UN report that demands the entire world totally replace all fossil fuel energy by 2050 to avert the climate crisis coming after 2100.  Neither 2050 or 2100 sounds much like 12 years away.

Those "ZOMG, we have only (insert number) of years left!!" predictions come out every couple of years and since the predictions are always wrong, they issue another warning and pretend they never issued the first one.  

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Passing of Another Rock Music Giant You Never Knew

I learned today that one of the giants of rock music died on Thursday the 7th: Jim Dunlop, founder of Dunlop Manufacturing.  Jim was 82.

If you grew up with electric guitar-driven rock music, you know Jim's inventions, you just don't know his story.  Jim invented the Wah pedal.  Their most generic product is called the Cry Baby, but they have customized and refined the design many times over the years, tagging them for musicians from Jimi Hendrix to Joe Bonamassa and dozens of more models that are sold by (arguably) small variations in tone.  Hendrix's Voodoo Child is unrecognizable without the Wah pedal, as is the guitar solo in Chicago's 25 or 6 to 4 and hundreds or thousands of more songs.  (BTW, I'd recommend you just listen to the sound track on Voodoo Child and not watch the random, disconnected video).

Dunlop's corporate page dedicated to Jim opens this way
Born in Scotland in 1936, Jim traveled to Canada as a young man looking for new opportunities. There he met his bride and mother of his children, Bernice, and the two of them headed to California for warmer weather. By the 1960s, he had started a family and was working as a machinist and then mechanical engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Off-hours, he turned his lifelong interest in music to creating accessories for guitar players.

Jim’s fearless, innovative spirit led him to turn his hobby into a livelihood, and in 1965, he founded Dunlop Manufacturing, Inc. Finding local success with handmade capos, he made the life-changing decision to become a maker of guitar picks when his obsession for precision drove him to design guitar picks gauged by their true thickness.
The big problem that guitarists thought they were facing at that time was that the preferred material for guitar picks, sea turtle shells, was disappearing as the harvest was starting to be restricted.  Jim invented a nylon pick he called Tortex.  It's still a very popular product.

It has been said that the sound of modern rock was invented by a handful of guys.
  • Les Paul for inventing the iconic guitar bearing his name.  It has almost become a class of guitars with kit makers referring to the body shape as an LP guitar
  • Leo Fender for inventing the Telescaster and Stratocaster guitars as well as vacuum tube amplifiers that are still sought after for their tone
  • Jim Marshall The Father of Loud, for his amplifiers.  Often informally called a Marshall Stack.
  • Seth Lover for inventing the "humbucker" pickup that overcame the horrible line frequency audio hums that haunted early electric stage performances.  
I find it easy to accept the argument that Jim Dunlop should be added for the Wah pedal.  With his passing, all five of these greats are no longer with us. 

I also acknowledge that whenever you see a list of the five most important people in any field, it says at least as much about the person who made the list as the people in the list. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Our Annual Orlando Hamcation

This weekend marks the annual Orlando Hamcation, marking 37 straight years we've been going  This time I wasn't looking for anything in particular and found it.  That is, I found nothing work buying.  A battery vendor I know and trust was selling over-rated 18650 batteries like I talked about last fall, so I passed on those and noted a decline in trust levels.  Other than a couple of LED incandescent bulbs, which were about half the price of the big box home improvement stores, I found nothing worth picking up. 

A table of old, vintage radios in one of the tailgate areas.  It's 100% certain some of those models of radios were on sale back in 1982 when we went to our first Orlando hamfest.  Heck, it's possible one or more of the radios on that table or others around the hamfest were on sale at Orlando back in 1982.  See those big black boxes in the left front?  Those are Collins Radios, a favorite among collectors, and the second one from the left says "75A-2 Receiver".  According to this site, the model was introduced in 1950 so one could have been sold many times.  

Table full of laptops and netbooks in one of the three buildings they use.

I honestly have to say it was an almost completely uninteresting hamfest, and that's a bit sad to say.   I rush to add that my interests in radio tend toward the unconventional, so it's not really surprising that I'd find the same old 40 or 50 (or 69) year old radios not particularly interesting. 

We ran into friends and catching up with several whom we see yearly or less was what the hamfest was mostly about. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Panera Bread's Socialist Restaurants Failing, Shutting Down

I know, right?  The headline that a restaurant which is socialist in concept is going out of business is probably the least surprising headline in the world.  For me, the only surprise was that Panera Bread had started the chain called Panera Cares in the first place.
...Therefore, it created Panera Cares. The cool and different restaurant’s MO? It offered food at a “suggested donation” price.

Doesn’t that sound nice? Let’s all join hands and sing “Imagine” and just pay what we can afford. Personally, I’ve had my eyes on the Mercedes-Benz Maybach Exelero, suggested retail $8 million. I appreciate their suggestion; I’d like to give $124.92 — I have that exact amount on a Kohl’s merchandise card. I hope they like (sorta) high-quality yet affordable clothing and jewelry.

Now here’s a shock to us all: Panera Cares’ll be officially closing on February 15th. As it turns out, when you don’t make people pay for stuff, people don’t pay for stuff. Though there’s no “I” in “team,” there’s a big one in “Incentive,” which the non-capitalist Panera Cares (initials = PC; coincidence?) failed to grasp.
Panera opened the first Panera Cares in 2010 in a suburb of St. Louis, the corporate home town, and eventually extended the chain to Chicago, Boston, Dearborn, and Portland.  When they started the chain, their initial model was that they'd make it if 60% of customers paid regular price and 20% paid somewhat more, allowing the remaining 20% to eat for little or nothing.  Founder Ron Shaich coordinated the launch of the first store with a Ted Talk, saying:
“In many ways, this whole experiment is ultimately a test of humanity. Would people pay for it? Would people come in and value it?”
To me, it's surprising the company kept the chain afloat but I guess the love of socialist ideals dies hard.  One of the capitals of fail was Portland, Oregon, a city apparently striving hard to win the coveted title of Most Dysfunctional City in America.  The Portland restaurant was recovering only 60% of its costs.
[S]ix months after opening in 2011, leaders saw things at the Oregon cafe they hadn’t seen in Missouri or Michigan. Grant High School students mobbed the cafe daily, ordering multiple meals and not paying for them. Homeless people came for every meal — every day — as if the cafe was a soup kitchen. Hollywood neighbors complained of an increase in crime and loitering.

Many problems came down to “a sense of entitlement,” said Panera spokeswoman Kate Antonacci. Though the cafes are an experiment, they must become self-sustaining to survive. The money coming into the Portland cafe was so far below meeting costs at one point that the cafe seemed poised to close.
Founder Ron Shaich delivered an empassioned message in which he tried to convince the Free Shit Army that colonized his store that it wasn't a hand out; it was a “a café of shared responsibility”.  The response was what we've come to expect: “let someone else pay for it”.
By 2016, the Panera Cares experiment appeared to be winding down. The Dearborn restaurant shuttered in 2016, followed by the Chicago and Portland locations. Panera was sold to a private equity firm, JAB Holding Company in 2017. Shaich stepped down as CEO of the fast-casual chain in January 2018, around the same time that the pilot Panera Cares in St. Louis closed down. Shaich told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at that time that all the Panera Cares restaurants together served roughly 2 million meals during their operation, but “the nature of the economics did not make sense.” With only one location left in Boston, Fast Company rang the death knell of the pay-as-you-go experiment last June, with official confirmation of the final closure coming earlier this week.
The Boston Globe reports the story saying their store will be the last one to go dark on the 15th.
“Despite our commitment to this mission, it’s become clear that continued operation of the Boston Panera Cares is no longer viable,” Panera Bread said in an emailed statement. “We’re working with the current bakery-cafe associates affected by the closure to identify alternate employment opportunities within Panera and Au Bon Pain.”
Another stellar success for the root socialist concept: “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs”.  The concept has been flawless in its history, never having its perfect record of 100% failures ever marred by success. 

(Panera Cares' Boston location.  John Tlumacki/Boston Globe Staff photographer)