Saturday, December 31, 2011

Something to think about.....

...the next time you're pulled over for a traffic violation.  Apparently, it's a bad thing if a police officer is too intelligent in some municipalities, according to this article uncovered by Vox Day.  Worse yet, we have courts that, despite abundant evidence that intelligence is just as hereditary as skin color or sex, find that discrimination based on this hereditary factor is acceptable.  I would guess that the kinists and klansmen of the world are hoping that this court's precedent gets applied to cases involving other hereditary traits.   I'm personally hoping for a Supreme Court slapdown of this insane decision for that very reason.

And of course, it's not like you would want detectives with a high IQ on the force, people who could pull a "Sherlock Holmes" and solve those difficult cases, is it?  After all, it's not like large numbers of crimes remain unsolved, and it's not like one approach might be to increase the caliber of individual looking at the evidence, is it? 

It's not surprising, either, that the brain surgeons who came up with this idea are the same guys who felt that stealing a thriving neighborhood from its rightful owners was a great way to stimulate development.  That neighborhood is now an empty lot filled with weeds.  Great job, New London.  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why you don't want your company paying health insurance.

Yes, it beats the alternative, especially if your company will pay for company paid health insurance, but won't give you the same amount for you to spend yourself, but I had an experience today which brilliantly illustrates why the post-WWII health insurance mandates for companies are foolish.

It started simply; my insurer didn't pay a claim, and I found out that it was a lactation consultation--yes, after four years, Mom and Dad do forget some tricks of the trade and find these tremendously helpful.  At first, I was incredulous that they were unwilling to cover this, as back in 1997, a Kaiser Foundation study found that breastfeeding reduced first-year medical costs by $1500.  OK, $200 for a lactation consultation versus $1500 in medical costs--OK, close to twice that today, most likely.  ROI looks pretty good on that from my perspective, even if these consultations don't always make the difference between nursing and formula.

Then I considered what a nursing mother represents to many companies; a wife who will not be available to work and split insurance costs with her husband--my company requires spouses who can get coverage with their company to get their own coverage.

And so suddenly, it made sense.  My company isn't seeing $1500 or $3000 in savings, but rather a $5000 cost as they need to insure not just employee and children, but rather employee, wife, and children--and a greater cost as they consider that when that employee gets tired of them, it's a lot easier to move to a new opportunity when one doesn't need to find a job for one's spouse, too. 

So just like in Truman's time, employer paid health insurance is not a benefit, but is rather a "golden shackle" to make it more difficult for employees to demand better wages and working conditions.  Perhaps it's time to equalize the tax status of employer paid health insurance and individually paid health insurance, and require employers who provide this shackle "benefit" to provide an equivalent amount should the employee prefer to find his own insurance.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

An insult I'm glad to see

Evidently the President of South Africa is blaming Christians for the existence of orphanages and homes for the old, claiming that european influences are responsible for a breakdown in the extended family.  Because, of course, it's not like Moses told us to honor our father and mother or anything. 

So what are the older ways Jacob Zuma is referring to?  Well, here is a quick history of some of the peoples of South Africa prior to European colonization.  As far as I can tell, there were plenty of orphans being created by the wars of the Zulus and others, but on the "bright" side, those same wars did reduce the need for homes for the aged by....well, greatly reducing the likelihood that someone would survive to become aged.

I think I'll take my faith even if it does reach out to help the orphan and the widow, thank you very much, over what apparently is Jacob Zuma's preferred alternative.

Checking the logic on light rail

Apparently, advocates of high speed light rail in California are arguing that two rail lines are the equal of six to eight highway lanes.  Let's check that assumption.  You have one rail line each way versus three to four highway lanes each way.  What is peak capacity?

Well, if what I learned in drivers' ed is indicative, you can have a car every four or five seconds, generally with one or two people on it, and quite frankly you can run a bus every ten seconds or so without endangering anyone.  So a lane of traffic can carry about 900 vehicles per hour--legitimately up to 2000 people or more.  So those three or four lanes can carry 3000 to 8000 people per hour, plus trucks and buses.  If one in ten vehicles is a bus with 30 people on it, each lane could carry as many as 5000 people per hour.

OK, now a rail line.  If you get more than one train every ten minutes, you're really going to run into timing issues, and if you have more than three or four cars per train, you're stretching the limits of mass transit there.  If there are 50 people per carriage, we have up to 200 people per train with six trains per hour, for a maximum of 1200 riders per hour.

In short, the $98 billion California high speed rail idea would achieve about the same as not four, but rather one, lane of traffic in each direction.  Now the cost of one lane each way; apart from buying the rights of way, a lane of highway each way costs about $10 million per mile when done in good reinforced concrete, for a total of about five to ten billion dollars.

In the same way, to get 1200 passengers per hour, you need about 50 more airliners for....about five to ten billion dollars.  So once again, high speed light rail ten times the cost of competitive technology, a solution in search of a problem.

Note: yes, you could theoretically "squeeze" in longer trains with more passengers, but trying to run them more often while maintaining a safe following distance for trains running on steel wheels at 250mph--I'm guessing that's measured in miles just as it is with planes--is going to be very, very difficult, as the horrific deaths in China's high speed lines demonstrate.  Here's an example of a more responsible schedule from Chicago, one of the two or three most rail-dependent cities in the nation. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How do they do that?

I have, over the years, been able to eat a number of things others disdain.  Piglet ears?  No problem!  Haggis?  Sure!  Brioche a la roy?  Absolutely.  Vienna-style fried chicken?  Ducks' feet?  Yum!  Chitterlings?  Sign me up.  You would think that I would qualify for the Iron Stomach Award.

Then, on the other hand, you've got anything canned from Hormel,KFC or Dead Lobster.  Ugh.  I don't know exactly what the big restaurant chains do to make their food so indigestible--huge amounts of oil, white flour, and sugar are of course probably involved--but there are some amazing depths of indigestibility that have been achieved by those fellas.   Do they have chemists working all day to figure this out?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Who's on Sam Hurd's clients list?

If he was serious in claims to be the fourth best President ever, I'm guessing the former Bear was doing business with the President, if you catch my drift.  And yes, it would be refreshing if the entire Chicago political machine got to do a second term in taxpayer paid housing as a result of Mr. Hurd getting caught.  Or, like the abortive investigation of Rod Blagojevich, was Hurd "outed" too early for the clients list to get really interesting?

An interesting thought

I finally made my grandfather's fruitcake recipe the way he sometimes did--soaking the candied fruit with a touch of rum--and when my wife tasted it, she wondered whether the modern disdain for fruitcake might have some of its origins in Prohibition. 

Now, my granddad's fruitcake is still pretty good (it's about 75% fruit and nuts, just like California) even "teetotaler style," but I had to admit she had a point.  It's also worth noting that a key ingredient for baking, diastatic malt (look at the side of your bag of flour), comes from breweries.   One doesn't need to be a lush to see what nasty things legally enforced sobriety can do even to the teetotalers of the world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Worldly secularism

This top 11 list is inspired by this post by our dear sister Elspeth.  The top 11 plus one ways you can know your embrace of secular things is leading to worldliness:

11.  You listen to, and appreciate, Satchmo's "Wonderful World."
10.  You bake, and enjoy, brioche.
9.  You enjoy technology developed by secularists like Henry Ford and Karl Benz.
8.  You enjoy technology developed by secularists like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein.
7.  You enjoy music written by secularists like Beethoven and Mozart.
6.  You enjoy books written by secularists like Samuel Clemens Mark Twain.
5.  You enjoy Kirkeby and Waller's "All that Meat and No Potatoes."  (this counts even if you enjoy it in private with your spouse!)
4.  You go to a doctor trained at secular medical schools.
3.  You do #9 on roads developed by Roman pagan engineers.
2.  You read the book of Esther, which since it never mentions God, must have come from a secularist.
1.  You make casatiello and enjoy it. 

Plus 1; you think Samoset and Squanto had their priorities in order when they first met the Pilgrims and greeted them.  Looks like I'm pretty worldly by this score, which makes me pretty glad for the doctrines of sola fide and sola gratia.

Monday, December 12, 2011

More "brilliance" from Harry Reid

Apparently, Harry Reid is claiming now that millionaires do not create jobs, apparently under the idea that millionaires somehow manage to buy the things they enjoy and make capital investments without anyone ever getting employed as a result.  In a just society, Reid's closest advisers would be telling him to resign his office for making a comment that stupid.  For the record, I am personally acquainted with several millionaires who have provided jobs for others; my stepfather (a retired dentist), the owner of the local hardware store, a farmer out in far eastern Colorado (unincorporated Nebraska; it's on the state line), and others.  And yes, taxing Jim, Charlie, or Lee more heavily will put someone out of work. 

One would figure that men who portray those who purchase luxury cars (as opposed to having the taxpayers pay for them as Reid does) as enemies of the people would at least figure out that the people working at the Mercedes, Cadillac, or Lexus dealership benefit from the deal, but apparently not.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Now this is depressing

Evidently, President Obama's "stimulus" plans are more or less based on a sample of 150 undergraduates saying (honestly or otherwise) how they'd spend an unexpected windfall. 

Of course, it's not as depressing as the fact that too many economists have fallen for the Keynesian fantasy that consumer spending, and not capital formation, drives prosperity, but it's still pretty darned depressing that people in positions of authority and power are taking their lead from people who think that Falstaff, Milwaukee's Beast, or Bug Light are something worth drinking, instead of signs that your family might be eligible for WIC.

Speaking of depressing.....

Monday, December 05, 2011

How do you spot a pathetic bread snob?

Easy.  Show him this picture, which claims to be a brioche:

He will notice that not only did the baker use (shudder!) bleached flour, but he also didn't use too much butter or eggs, either.  This is determined simply from the color of the loaf.  Exposed areas of less-carmelized dough should be yellow, not white, if enough eggs, butter, and unbleached flour are used.  Plus, the baker didn't allow enough time for the Maillard reaction to take place.

This is more what brioche is supposed to look like:

There, that's better.  Note the deep yellow tone of the lighter areas and the deep brown Maillard zones.  And yummier!  Remember, everyone, the Maillard reaction is your friend, at least if you enjoy good food.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Yes, "Environmentalist" too often means "Person who can't do math"

How so?  Look at this plan, here and here, to turn the Eiffel Tower into the "lungs of Paris" by covering it with approximately 400 tons of plants.  OK, first of all, 400 tons of plants would be the plants growing on a few acres of land (especially if forested), so this would be an effort dwarfed by the grass on the Champs Elysees.  Never mind that 400 tons of plants aren't exactly going to counter the fuel use of that fair city of millions, either. It might compensate for the half ton pickups driven by most people on my block, but that's about it.

More distressingly for those who love architecture, 400 tons would also be the weight of a watering system for this kind of thing, which would in turn spray water throughout the summer on all portions of that venerable structure while making it difficult, if not impossible, to paint.  In short, it could result in the Tower's collapse within a few years. 

In related news, Aptera, an aspiring maker of electric cars, is bankrupt because they couldn't even get funding from the Obama administration, which is saying something. 

Or, rather, they are bankrupt because no one wants to pay a premium for a car that doesn't go as far as an ordinary gas powered car, which is a natural consequence of physics.  Electric car power comes from lithium or heavier atoms--atomic weight six or greater--while that from gasoline comes from hydrogen.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that physics more or less dooms battery power in all but niche applications.

But, of course, it appears that environmentalists, including Dr. Chu of the Obama administration, are not aware of the work of Dmitri Mendeleev.  Or at least aren't paying attention to it.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Minnesota surplus?

Prediction; tax revenues leave Minnesota a billion in the hole.

Reality: tax revenues leave Minnesota almost $900 million in surplus.

Conclusion; the Keynesian methods for econometrics are not working well in St. Paul.  I think it's time to revisit the Austrian/classical economic view that given man's propensity to act in his own interest, econometrics is largely a fool's errand.  And Mr. Dilettante throws cold water on the figures; the surplus is a figment of our imagination that will be paid back with interest in the future.

In other news, the economic "good news" continues with the unemployment rate dropping from 9% to 8.6%.  So apparently about .4% of workforce adults, or about 500,000 people, found work, right?

Nope.  Only 120,000.  What happened?  Well, the other 400,000 (or so) people dropped out of the work force, as is shown by the drop in workforce participation from 64.2% to 64%.  Again, can we please, please, please revisit the idea that the government knows how to stimulate the economy?  It does not seem as if the hypothesis is working too well right now!

Finally, a prayer and praise note; I'm starting to look for other work for a variety of reasons, and I heard from a recruiter already.  Don't know if it's what I "want," but it's certainly encouraging.