Monday, June 29, 2015

Liberal economics on display in Athens

Because the Greek government wasn't willing to accept a partial cut in pensions and government wages as a condition for additional help from the E.U., they are now shutting banks down, resulting in a 100% cut in money available for significant portions of their population.  All I can say is that it's a good thing that Greece is one of the most obese nations on the planet, so they'll be able to survive missing a few meals.

Given that the level of thinking in the American left isn't much better than the money quote from Powerline, let's just say that going forward, Mrs. Obama's health initiates could ironically end up being lethal to many Americans in a few years, when the results of our financial profligacy come home to roost.

Now this is interesting.....

I was struck with how the White House was lit up in rainbow colors the very evening after the Supreme Court ruled in the case regarding same sex marriage mirage.  Since color filters for the large, hot spotlights probably aren't sitting on the shelf at Wal-Mart or Target, I would have to guess that the White House was planning this well in advance.  It's almost like they knew the result long before it was announced, and that observant people might question whether the Supreme Court is independent of the executive branch anymore.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Supreme Court puts the hidden factory into law

One of the axioms used by every decent quality engineer is to watch out for the "hidden factory"--the things done by workers to get through each day when the "right" way doesn't seem to be working--and one of the things we get to do from time to time is to tell those operating the "hidden factory" that they need to stop doing that and let the process (pardon my French) "go to Hell" if it must.

The reason for this is simple; if you don't know well what the consequences are to the current process, you're not going to be willing to change it.  Letting the process "go to Hell a little bit" makes that case to management.  If you don't do this, you end up with no control over your process--and then things get bad quickly. 

Fast forward to the Health Insurance Deform Act, aka Obamacare, which has once again been rescued from the plain (and Unconstitutional) meaning of its text by Chief Injustice Roberts.  More or less, the law clearly indicates that subsidies will only be awarded to those in the state system, but the court has decided that given the impact of negating Obama's illegal executive order is so severe that they must interpret "State" as meaning any level of government.

In other words, a law poorly written and not debated with horrific consequences in effect gives carte blanche to the President to "fix" things with a hidden factory.  The consequence of this decision, which Justice Scalia rightly mocks?  Just as tolerating the hidden factory makes work instructions and quality documents effectively obsolete, this decision makes the law and the legislative process effectively obsolete.

Liberals, we warned you that this was going to be part of the "hope and change" Mr. Obama was offering back in 2008.  An additional note is that when President Obama referred to the White House as "his" house while responding to a heckler, he just might have been saying a little bit more than simply that he was hosting the event.  Just sayin'.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Reasons that massive buildings don't make sense

To follow up on why making massive housing projects--or really any other massively tall public works building--don't make sense, I figured I'd make a list of the reasons they're a bad idea.

1.  Politicians want to put their name on them, and all financial concerns go out the window in the rush to honor politician X.
2.  Pilings
3.  Elevators
4.  Too high for water pressure from fire hoses.
5.  Too high to jump into a net.
6.  Can't see what's going on at street level.
7.  You talk to people at street level, but not in a long hallway.
8.  Large spaces devoted to stairwells.
9.  One mishap can render the whole building useless and put thousands of people into temporary housing.
10.  Politicians play games with the store fronts for rent, or don't provide them at all.
11.  Easier to vandalize vehicles in big parking lots/structures than in a closed garage.

Now you can get around part of this with a privately owned structure, especially in an office setting, but even so, there seems to be a limit to the size of building that can be efficiently operated.   For example, the cost per square foot of the new World Trade Center is, at about $1000/sf, about five times the average for office space.  Now it's cool to look out when you're 1500 feet above the streets, but is it cool to the degree of a million bucks for an executive office?

Really, it has a lot to do with what was going on when Diesel made his famous engine.  The world was going to ever greater scales with the steam boiler, and part of Diesel's motivation (beyond efficiency) was to provide an engine that would work on a smaller scale--say for the individual craftsman or small factory. He succeeded, and in the process severely limited the economies of scale we can, or ought to, try to achieve in various areas of our daily life.

In other words, our society, and our urban planners, need to catch up with what Diesel would have told them around 1900.  We don't need to design everything around a steam boiler anymore.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Urban planning; a disaster in principle

From sea to shining sea, one constant in urban planning is the desire to build ever taller buildings to house ever more people--we have been seduced by the mantra that it is more efficient and more humane to build taller with green areas in between the buildings, and the memorials to this thinking include Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis and Cabrini Green and the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago.  Mercifully, none of these abominations still stand--it was learned that community simply broke down in these inhuman buildings.

And did I say "from sea to shining sea"?  Well, I should have added "across the sea" as well, as in England, they did the same thing to a working class city named Everton, famous for its football club and rivalry with neighboring Liverpool.  It raises a simple question; are there limits of scale beyond which cities ought not progress? 

Certainly the examples I've mentioned would suggest this, and we might also note that people often choose smaller towns, smaller colleges, smaller churches, and smaller employers for precisely this reason.  For that matter, the governmental doctrine of federalism is based on the economic doctrines of Hayek and von Mises, where limited knowledge makes central control impossible.

In other words, there is a point where we lose our economies of scale, and in housing, it appears to be when a bridge is crossed from dozens of units to hundreds or thousands of housing units, or perhaps once the roof is over 100 feet from the ground.   We might do well to look at those old city and old world communities and figure something out before we try again.

Many thanks to friend "Mansie Wauch" from Liverpool for introducing me to the "Lost Tribe of Everton". 

Want to put the kibosh on worthless degrees?

Apparently, parents are required in many/most cases to co-sign for their children's student loans.  So if you don't believe your child's proposed degree in "gender and ethnic studies" is going to be worth it, don't sign the papers.  They will figure things out quickly enough and thank you in a few years for refusing to trash their financial future.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Release of classified data: a bigger issue than just Hilliary Clinton

Fox News releases this interesting bit (including mostly un-redacted email) that indicates that former Secretary of State Hilliary Clinton and her peers in the State Department actively discussed the terms of an agreement being negotiated on pretty much unsecured email servers.  Now the former Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, is correct to note that this information would ordinarily be classified, as it touches on defense agreements and the like.

More significant, however, is what the article gets to later; that Hilliary has an "out" in that obviously her peers were representing that data which should have been classified as unclassified.  So technically, her statement of never discussing classified data on that account is correct, but....

.....only because it appears that a large portion of the State Department has decided to be rather lax about classifying information.   This just might explain part of why our "geopolitical opponents" seem to be running circles around the U.S.   They may be reading things that ought to be classified before John Kerry does.

A side note is that I wonder whether high State Department officials are breaking the law by refusing to classify such information, and at whose request was this done.  I'm guessing the law was broken at the request of someone whose name is very interesting. Don't hold your breath waiting for the Department of Justice to investigate, of course.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Interesting bit about dinosaurs that touches on climatology

Fox News released this article about an interesting hypothesis about why dinosaur remains are not typically found at tropical latitudes, but rather those far away, like in the Dakotas, Mongolia, and the like.  The hypothesis is that dinosaurs are not found at these latitudes because the climate was too hot and dry for large reptiles, and it also notes....

.....that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air was about four to six times what it is today.  Now while the article makes the obligatory nod to the IPCC hypothesis, I take this somewhat differently; the earth has a self-correcting mechanism by which it removes excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Of course, those who want to U.N. and related agencies and NGOs aren't going to allow that hypothesis to get much traction, even though the failure of their own computer models to come close to reality seems to indicating that climate is self-correcting as well.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Greece refuses to cut public pensions and wages.....

.....because running the printing press to meet public spending goals worked out SO WELL in Weimar Germany, interwar Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Zimbabwe, and half of the countries of Africa and Latin America. 

I understand not everyone tends towards the classical and Austrian understandings of economics that I tend to hold, but one would hope that even the Keynesians and socialists out there understand that the choices facing Greece (and, ahem, the United States pretty soon) are (a) painful austerity through pension and wage cuts and (b) extremely painful austerity as no sane lender wants to do business in Greece.

In honor of Rachel Dolezal,

...former NAACP leader in Spokane, Washington and current African-American studies professor.  Enjoy!

And hey, anyone getting caught doing this can't escape the wrath of Al.

Looking for a gift to console the good professor at her loss?  Look right here

Job one for the new pastor?

I was talking with the son of a pastor last night, and he mentioned that one of the biggest things that can kill a small church is when two or more families in the church really don't like each other, and quietly sabotage each other's service in the church.  It strikes me that one of the key things for a new pastor to do, then, is to figure out who they are, and bring them to peace with one another.

Come to think of it, it strikes me that this also happens in bigger churches.  It's like the pastor is supposed to...shepherd the flock, or something like that.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A tiny house that's a little bit better

A firm from Slovakia has come up with an "eco-pod", powered by wind and solar, looking roughly like an egg with aluminium skin.  Weighing in at less than two tons, it's about 14.7 feet long and 7.9 feet wide, and fits two people. 

With all due respect, it looks like they took the axle and tongue off this and added solar panels and batteries.

Well, good job, Nice Architects.  You've caught up to what Airstream was shipping 54 years ago..  Except the Bambi weighs half a ton less, can be pulled behind a standard automobile, and can sleep three and not just two.    And it's a little more difficult for rowdy kids to roll it down the mountainside with you inside, and you'll have heat on cold winter mornings.

Money quote from the article about the Nice Architects is how it can charge your electric car while it tows the eco-pod.   Well, yes, if they put the Tesla on a frame from a half ton pickup or something.   Not quite sure, but I reckon that might have some adverse effects on range, ecological impact, and the like.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A missing scale on the global warming Sauron?

Apparently not only are scientists disagreeing with a recent NOAA study that has been found to "adjust" climate monitoring numbers by those who watch these things closely, but a Georgia Tech researcher has said the unthinkable. 

While I'm sure this latest analysis from NOAA will be regarded as politically useful for the Obama administration.....

Chew on that one for a while.  Judith Curry is all but accusing the Obama administration of tightening the thumbscrews on NOAA to get the results they want, and in the process is admitting that all too often, the data is fudged.

Now speaking as a guy who works with numbers for a living, this is troubling.  I can see creating a proxy to overall climate analogous to the "q" factor in human intelligence and correlating various other factors to it, but as a rule you don't mess with the original measurements or present "adjusted" measurements as original.  Apparently this is the rule in climatology, however, and that tends to mean that the data mean exactly what the researcher intends them to mean.

Just like Professor Curry noted.  Ouch.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Regarding the Bruce Jenner saga.

.....I won't say much, but a couple of Monty Python skits seem to be applicable.

Au revoir, Kmart

CNN reports that sales at Kmart and Sears stores have imploded.  Well, yes, if your advertisements show the "same junk as Wal-Mart" with a 1970s era sign saying "get yer polyester here!" to everyone who remembers, good luck keeping the stores open.

And really, Kmart hasn't been very relevant to my life, ever.  I remember the bankruptcy--thinking "good riddance" of course--and than was appalled that they gobbled up a decent store like Sears in the process.  Regrettably, I've been close to right about the outcome--Sears would get their prices and Kmart's products.  

The good news is that the companies are eligible for bankruptcy again, so maybe someone can buy them for pennies on the dollar and make them worthwhile again.  Well, at least Sears. 

Monday, June 08, 2015

It's called "Judicial Review", Mr. President

President Barack Hussein Khalidi Blagojevich Jackson Sharpton Pfleger Wright Ayers Daley Obama once again decides that Marbury vs. Madison  does not apply to programs he likes, despite the fact that lower courts have come to differing conclusions about the legality of his executive order.

My take is this; yes, the law sucks.  That kind of thing happens a lot in Congress, especially when you don't allow time to debate it and modify it, or even for staffers to read it, prior to voting it into law.  But that doesn't mean you get to change it to avoid the inevitable blowback.  It's called Article 1 of the Constitution, Mr. President.  Perhaps you read it one time.

Friday, June 05, 2015

More on the ecology of "tiny houses"

Here is a post from advocates indicating that they're getting about 8-10mpg towing their 10,000 lb home with a Powerstroke F250.  But actually, given that the price of diesel fuel in Oregon is (like here) edging below $3/gallon, they've actually gotten about 8.5mpg or worse.  That's about what my aunt gets towing her 30 foot travel trailer (she works at renaissance fairs, that's how it goes) with a one ton dually with.....big block gas engine.  

But that said, that's not quite fair to the "environmentally sound" tiny home, because a 30 foot travel trailer with slide-outs has over 250 square feet of living space.  The Tumbleweed Cypress 20 has only 144.  Let's choose a better comparison.

My choice?  The Airstream Flying Cloud 19' again, of course, which has almost precisely this floor space, a reputation for 50 year durability, and again about the same price as the Tumbleweed.  It weighs 3852 lbs, about the same weight as the twin axle U-Haul trailer I towed with a ton of wood with my 1997 GMC Sierra K1500.  My mileage from Chicagoland to the Twin Cities?  15, with a gas engine. 

Let's translate this into carbon impact.  The Airstream has about a ton more metal than the Tumbleweed, but towing it with an F250 adds about 1400 lbs to the tow vehicle weight vs. my Sierra or Acadia.  So if 4 lbs of carbon dioxide are emitted for each pound of metal, the "vehicle plus camper" part of the Airstream releases about 2400 lbs more carbon dioxide than does the Tumbleweed.

On the flip side, pulling the Airstream 15000 miles would require only 1000 gallons of fuel for my vehicles, while towing the Tumbleweed appears to have required 2100 gallons of diesel--an increase of about 6000 lbs of carbon or 22,000 lbs.

In other words, these "tiny" houses, if towed, are a serious environmental problem, not a benefit, and we haven't even quantified the environmental impact of the materials used in the home, or the mileage I could have gotten with my SUV or an appropriate diesel.  Cool, yes.  Beautiful, often.  Environmentally sound? Only if you never move it, and then why bother with the trailer?

Once again, it seems that environmentalists are all too often "people who cannot do math", and along those lines, the amateur accountant in me notes that they haven't depreciated their truck or house to calculate the entire cost of the home.  You can get a lot of home for just the figure they forgot to include.  "Oops".