Thursday, December 15, 2016

Much ado about nothing

Powerline and others are making a big deal out of how President-elect Trump will prevent his Presidency from being a massive subsidy to his businesses, but quite frankly, I'm not terribly persuaded that this is a big deal.  His businesses include hotels, golf courses, casinos, apartments, and the like, and reality is that these businesses are regulated at the state and local levels here in the U.S., and by foreign governments outside our country.  Exactly what can he do to benefit his businesses without alerting the bureaucracy that "Trump" hotels and casinos are not the best deal, but are the chosen ones?

Yes, he should leave the day to day operation of his companies to his children and other executives, but there is nowhere near the conflict of interest shown by, say, the Clinton Foundation, which was receiving large payments right after favorable State Department action.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A failure in management

Powerline reports that where President Kennedy's 2.5 million executive branch employees had 17 different levels, President Trump will inherit a bureaucracy with about 2.7 million employees and 63 levels.  Despite the fact that the number of employees has (mercifully) not grown much, the number of men at executive levels has grown from 450 to over 3000.

To put it gently, from a corporate "span of control" viewpoint, this simply boggles the mind if true.  In 1961, what's being said is that the average manager oversaw only 2.4 employees, which is pretty bad--good companies have 5-10 subordinates per manager.  Today, the number, assuming a uniform distribution of subordinates, is 1.24.  It reminds me of the time I saw that two VPs of a company--one reporting to the other--had no subordinates besides the next level VP down and their secretaries. 

It suggests that if a department head takes a careful look at his org charts, he ought to be able to trim payroll by a lot very, very quickly.  Judging by the number of layers, there are only about half a million to a million "individual contributors" in government, which would mean with the 1961 "span of control" of about 2.43, you would only need a total of somewhere between 600,000 and 1.3 million federal workers to get the work done, reducing federal payroll by 60-90%.  If you get the span of control to a reasonable value of 5-10, it's even more drastic.

Now this isn't a perfect analysis, as some departments are likely more top-heavy than others, and some are bigger than others.  On the flip side, the situation may be worse than I suggested, as the guy at the top of the bureaucracy--the President of course--has 15 direct reports in the Cabinet plus his personal staff and issue "Czars".  It may indeed be possible to trim hundreds of billions from the national budget without impairing government services one iota.  Time to look at those org charts, as it's arguable that the civil service has far more layers than does the Army, but without the need for redundancy that military organizations have.

Missing the point....

Passed this morning by a Prius going about 80mph, I wondered how much mileage would go down at that point.....more or less, it goes down to about 40mpg, probably a bit lower when you include the fact that it was five degrees out this morning.  One would have to argue that those who live 70 miles from work and commute in a Prius--burning about three times the gasoline I burn in my daily 13.4 mile commute in my 1997 GMC pickup--are kinda missing the point of the car, to put it mildly.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Russians worked for Trump?

The recent revelation...more or less...that the CIA had (according to President Obama) found evidence that hackers perhaps connected to the Russian government had revealed emails favorable to Donald Trump's candidacy really...raises more questions than answers, starting with the Obama administration's "famous" reputation for honesty--"if you like your doctor, you can keep him" and all that.  They say they "didn't want to interfere with the election" (which explains all that business with James Comey of course), but....perhaps this is really more about knowing that if they'd revealed the information in September, that would leave two months for conservatives to figure out they were lying.

Also of note is that if the hackers had really wanted to favor Trump, wouldn't they have done a little bit more than....reveal factual information about Mrs. Clinton?  Is this a mean trick, or is this a public service? 

The biggest reason, though, that we would doubt Mr. Obama's story is that it simply does not make sense.  The Russians presumably have a LOT of Mrs. Clinton's emails that they could have used to have their way with her had she become President--making her the political equivalent of a marionette, really--and it was not Mrs. Clinton, but rather Mr. Trump, who is in favor of expanding permissions to increase U.S. oil production, which would hurt the Russians badly.  It is worth noting as well that it is Mr. Trump, not Mrs. Clinton, who desires to rebuild the U.S. military and reverse course in Iran and Syria, both of which the Russians are strongly against.

Really, the only explanation that would make sense would be if indeed the Russians had an agreement similar to that which the English had with Benedict Arnold.....but given that half of Congress still hates Mr. Trump's guts, and that Trump has put a lot of "dominant" people in his list of Cabinet and other nominees, it's not certain that that would go far, either.

So what really happened?  I think the Obama administration knows that a large portion of his legacy has a short half-life with Trump, and he's trying to hamstring him before he gets into office.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Pure brilliance in environmentalism

A town's windmill project in Port Angeles, Washington (near Seattle) is said to have cost $100,000, but yields a grand total of $42/month (about $500/year) in electricity, an ROI of about 0.5%.  Typical corporate ROI requirements are 15-25%.   Suffice it to say that this "environmentally sound" installation will result in far more carbon emissions than it will save, something they might have figured out if they'd looked at a weather report to find that average wind in the area is only about 5mph.

That degree of due diligence, however, appears to be too much for them, and each of the city's residents will be out a Starbucks latte as a result. 

Toughie here....

This article indicates that over the past five years, the long term trend in life expectancy--increasing since 1993--has slowed and now reversed.  Gosh, what happened five years ago that could have led to this?

Well, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare", but more accurately as the "Health Insurance Deform Act"(HIDA), was passed on March 23, 2010.  Once again, we see that having health insurance is not the same thing as having competent health care, and apparently the cost of HIDA is not measured merely in dollars and lost jobs, but in thousands of human lives.  Mrs. Pelosi said we'd have to pass the law to find out what's in it, and apparently it's a Pandora's Box of grief for all of us.

(to be certain, this isn't the only thing going on, but any law that costs hundreds of billions of dollars per year, and was said to cost half a million jobs annually as well, is going to leave a mark in terms of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, opiate overdose, suicide, and more...and now we have evidence for exactly this)

Monday, December 05, 2016

Not clear on the concept

Powerline writes about the desire of the left to have "great books" seminars like those of conservatives, and one interesting quote from their source is indicates that the books one liberal "great books" advocate was using for his program were all written by "progressive" authors, and moreover he himself admitted that his goal was "ideological training".  Apparently, he didn't read much by Mortimer Adler, but was quite enamored of Lenin and the Young Pioneers.  Good luck to the left in participating in the marketplace of ideas with this kind of work!

A few years ago John Halpin, a fellow at the Center for American Progress, started the Progressive Studies Program. His reading list ran from early Progressive reformers to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Port Huron Statement on to President Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech. But he could afford to bring students together for only a day or two. Soon his resources dried up altogether. “It’s hard to get long-term funding for ideological training of this sort” from liberal donors, he told me. “We get a lot more support for demographic work.”

Saturday, December 03, 2016

About that efficient transit system

Here's an interesting article which indicates that, for all the hype about how compact cities like Chicago and New York City are "built for transit", the economics simply aren't working out even there.  The price of a 30 day transit pass in Gotham may become as high as $121, which is saying something in a city of 470 square miles where you can hardly find a place where you can go more than 25 miles in a direction without leaving the city.  Here's an interesting picture of the transit system: in 2012, the total cost was about $9.5 billion, of which about $4 billion was covered by fares and the like, $5.2 billion was from subsidies, and the system had an operating loss of $300 million.

So that $121 monthly pass really costs a total of close to $300, which means that a daily trip of ten miles each way--say to work and back, shopping, etc...has a cost of about 50 cents per mile, or just about identical to the cost of driving.  This in the best possible city on the continent for transit, no less.  It is also worth noting that if indeed revenues from fares and such are only $4 billion, that in turn means that most New Yorkers (there are 8.5 million of them) are not riding the bus or taking the subway.  Keep in mind as well that the MTA is not paying road taxes to keep the roads in good condition, so this is an underestimate of the total cost, and keep in mind as well that most of the infrastructure for the subway system was built and paid for decades ago. 

Transit may be necessary in many cities, but suffice it to say that it's in general not a good deal for the taxpayer.