Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hunger in the land of plenty

Food Stamps or SNAP benefits have been cut just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas by Conservative Congressmen that brag about their Christianity, (never mind JC saying to never do that). To be fair, 'real' Christians like them practice their faith every day, they keep as many people as possible poor and hungry whether it's a holiday or not.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

"More power, Scotty"

Meet the USS Zumwalt DD-1000, a new multi-task fighting ship design that in its description sounds more like the 23rd century USS Enterprise than a common Navy destroyer. Impossibly sleek with improbable angles that are fundamental to its design, it doesn't exactly sail, more accurately it flies through the water, capable of cutting through the waves and making high speed turns in such a way so as to not leave a detectable wake.

She has a totally integrated electric drive system, all of the considerable power its turbines produce can go to any system on the ship as directed by Her skipper. This includes such Sci-Fi favorites as Rail Guns capable of throwing a projectile into space, high energy particle lasers able to take out missiles, or high energy radar capable of overwhelming enemy 'scanners'.

The USS Zumwalt's first CO lends a bit of futuristic flare to the story of this 'Next
Generation' warship as he is none other than Capt James Kirk USN. From his list of accomplishments as an officer at an young age for his rank, he's likely on the fast track to Admiral's stars or maybe going war with the Klingons.

Th DD-X class has actually been designated by the Navy to fulfill the Congressionally mandated landing force artillery support role that was previously filled by the Iowa Class Battleships. In theory this ship can throw high speed projectiles hundreds of miles with pinpoint accuracy and collect instant integrated intelligence confirmation of the effect, while at the same time land troops in shallow water. This is a relatively large ship, but going against Navy tradition it has a small crew dependent on high tech automated systems.

However this Bush era project has its critics. Rumors that the Zumwalt's carbon fiber hull plating has a habit of coming apart at the seams have been denied by the contractors. The really high tech weapons that are supposed to justify the obscene cost of this weapons system have yet to be demonstrated to actually work, and aren't yet even scheduled to be installed. It's totally integrated power systems could lead to a totally integrated failure of the ship in combat. Modular 'combat support' packages, 'imagine those giant Chinese container ships', the already configured systems that are supposed make the ship capable of serving multiple roles take so long to swap out, that any high speed Navy ship could sail far faster from the US already equipped for mission at a lower cost.

This will either be the most revolutionary ship since the Ironclads of the Civil War, or just variations on earlier boondoggles like 50s era Nuclear Reactor powered bomber, MacNamara's F-111 do everything but really nothing fighter plane, or Reagan's Star Wars Missile Defense system that turned out to be just a trillion dollar money drain. Did I mention that Dick Cheney was involved in letting the contracts?

Twitter @BruceEnberg - where it's already the 23rd century. One to beam up.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Living in John Galt's America

The Federal Reserve announced today that the $85b per month QE3 purchase of bonds from the open market with freshly printed money will continue for the foreseeable future. This policy is starting to have an effect on the economy with banks who are able to sell their bonds to the Fed being more willing to provide home mortgages & retailers are beginning to offer store brand credit cards again in a big way. Banks are also offering high limit cards with 18 months at zero interest offers to anybody with a passable credit rating.

Easy credit sounds like one of those nasty bubble economy things that I have a habit of ranting against. The thing is, that this is a perfectly acceptable practice when the economy is in the tank and you need some stimulus to 'prime the pump'. It's not okay to push easy credit when the economy is supposedly doing great, but you simply want to hide the fact that Reagan's 'trickle down' economic policies are in fact destroying America. That's not to say we don't need all those New Deal policies back again instead of letting the people whose behavior is right out an Ayn Rand novel run things.

Speaking of  'works of fiction', Alan Greenspan has come out with a new book. One of his doozies is that he claims that the Housing Bubble was easy to see coming. This completely contradicts his sworn testimony before Congress where he completely dodged responsibility for the crashing of the Housing Market. Only Bush (or Cheney) could be said to be more responsible than Greenspan, but you can put anything into a book since right wing corporations publish all the books.

Janet Yellen is the nominee to be the next Fed Chairperson, Rand Paul has declared that he'll hold up her nomination until the Senate votes on a complete Fed audit. A small problem for the Senator from John Galt's mountaintop paradise (Ayn Rand's rich guy utopian hero), is that as Vice-Chair, Yellen will simply take the position regardless of Ayn Rand Paul's theatrics. Rand Paul used to brag openly about his adherence to his namesake's economic principles. He's a little more coy about it now, but his beliefs haven't changed that the rich are the makers and the workers are the takers.

Let's not forget that Alan Greenspan was an actual disciple of Ayn Rand when she was alive, he personally brought flowers to her funeral. Greenspan's culpability in keeping Vice President GHW Bush's children out of prison during the S&L crash when Reagan sent 800 bankers to Federal prison is the only reason a hack like him was named to head the Federal Reserve. But he served his billionaire friends well, they were just millionaires when he took over the Fed, and he made them into billionaires in a few years. A billionaire has a 1000 times as much wealth as being a mere millionaire.

Obama didn't send any bankers to prison, and you hate to think of him as a worse President than Reagan, but the truth is that it was a different time. There were a lot of people around in the 80s who could remember the last big bank crash in 1920s & 30s. Today we live a sort of Dark Ages, where people think that economic policy is just magic. The elder Bush called Reagan's proposed policies 'Voodoo economics', but today it's considered normal that zombie banks wander the land. Today, every economic sector is dominated by billionaire owned monopolies, and you can have three jobs but still starve in John Galt's (I mean Allan Greenspan's) America.

Twitter @BruceEnberg  - telling you the things Ayn Rand and Allan Greenspan don't want you to know.