The demise of common sense

Author is unknown, but it does reek of common sense,

Obituary printed in the London Times…..Absolutely Dead Brilliant !!
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense ,who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

– Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
– Why the early bird gets the worm;
– Life isn’t always fair;
– And maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

He declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death,
-by his parents, Truth and Trust,
-by his wife, Discretion,
-by his daughter, Responsibility,
-and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers;
– I Know My Rights
– I Want It Now
– Someone Else Is To Blame
– I’m A Victim
– Pay me for Doing Nothing

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

Malaysia Flight 370. Some serious questions on the search areas.

Yet another idea

Most of the location information to date has been provided by Inmarsat. The potential accuracy of position data from this source has been questioned. So how can we know the most probable search areas?

First, lets look at data that has the potential to be accurate;radar. There are two kinds of radar of interest in this case. First there is air traffic control (ATC) radar. This type displays position of aircraft. Altitude data is not provided unless the aircraft being tracked has a transponder. The transponder provides information which includes altitude, flight number and ground speed. Other parameters may also be transmitted along with the radar “blip”.

If the aircraft does not have a transponder, or it is turned off, the radar return is known as a “skin paint” This is what is usually described as a “blip”. No altitude data is available.

The other type of radar is one used by the military for defense purposes. It is capable of determining altitude from a skin paint, a reflection off the aircraft surfaces. Military radar would be available to all nations in the vicinity to the north and west of Malasia. The maximum range for a skin paint of these radars would depend on the elevation of the antenna and the altitude of the airplane. For example, if the radar antenna was at sea level and the airplane was at thirty five thousand feet the range might be on the order of 250 miles. The range wold also be dependent on size of the aircraft, power of the radar and weather obstructions.

Radar earth curvature

The various tracks shown by the media indicate the initial track toward Bejing and the left turn.The southerly track to the Indian Ocean has been provide by Inmarsat. This data has ben questioned as to the methodology and potential accuracy.

My personal belief is that had the aircraft turned back to the north or northwest it would have reentered the radar coverage areas for the military radars. The countries involved are very serious about their airspace and would have attempted to contact MS 370 or scramble aircraft to investigate. By eliminating a west or northwest track we fare left with a) the Inmarsat track or b) a potential track to the west or southwest toward Africa. The Inmarsat data is suspect so perhaps we should be looking to the west.

Indian ocean map

Hawaii and GMO crops. Big debate.

Isles’ key role in GMO corn sets off battle

20 B2 seed crop 2You can trace the genetic makeup of most corn grown in the U.S., and in many other places around the world, to Hawaii.

The state is so critical to the nation’s modern corn-growing business that the industry’s leading companies all have farms here, growing new varieties genetically engineered for desirable traits like insect and drought resistance.

But these same farms have become a flashpoint in a spreading debate over genetic engineering in agriculture.

Kauai and Hawaii counties have moved in the past several months to regulate genetically modified organisms and the pesticides the farms use. In Maui County, a group is collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would impose a temporary ban on the crops.

Read the rest of the story here:

http://goo.gl/jJ6y9R

This Is How Detroit Found Itself a Mysterious Pot of Gold

Detroit pensions 0416

The cycle of public unions electing officials who in turn hand then fat contracts does a disservice to the workers. Ultimately, the largess is not sustainable and workers unfortunately are hurt when the end comes. If public unions operated as private ones with real negotiations instead of those with a wink and a nod, the pensions would be more sustainable.

The following article from Time shows how fudging the numbers is used in these pension programs.

Suddenly the cops and firemen and other municipal workers’ retirement doesn’t look so bleak in the Motor City. But don’t try this at home.

To the great relief of firefighters, police and other public employees in bankrupt Detroit, city fathers recently plugged a huge hole in their pension plans. For now, anyway, something close to these employees’ retirement dreams have been restored.

But how did they do it? Just a few weeks ago, Detroit leaders pegged the pension shortfall at $3.5 billion—about 20% of the city’s total indebtedness—and they were threatening to slash benefits beyond already expected cuts of up to 14% for cops and firemen and 34% for other workers. Miraculously, workers are now being assured that benefits cuts will be comparatively tame, amounting to less than a 5% reduction for those hardest hit.

Where did the money come from? Who found the pot of gold that is enabling the city to fill such a big funding gap? The answer, of course, is that no one found so much as a single hard penny. Actuaries simply juggled a few numbers on the city ledger and, voila, a paper windfall appeared. Don’t try this at home.

The most important accounting change was the assumed rate of return on investments held in the city’s two big retirement funds. Previously, the annual rate of return was estimated at 6.25% and 6.5% on the two funds. Now the city is assuming a rate of return of 6.75% on both funds. Why the bump? In part, anyway, the city seems to be taking heart in the stock market’s big gain last year, when after lackluster returns the past decade or so the S&P 500 rebounded with a glowing 32% total return.

A sustained higher rate of return would mean more annual income for the funds, making them better able to meet benefits promises with the same amount of assets. But the question remains: Is the higher return assumption realistic? One year is not a trend. Many planners believe we have decades of slow growth and modest returns ahead. A bankruptcy judge still must rule on the rosier projections.

A pension fund manager boosting the return assumption because stocks finally had a good year is a little like you at home predicting next winter won’t be so cold and slashing your heating budget. You might be right. But it’s just a guess—and if the guess is wrong you will have to find the money elsewhere to heat the house. Your finances only looked better briefly; the picture dimmed as soon as another cold winter hit.

So how realistic is the 6.75% return assumption? In the Detroit General Retirement System, annualized returns over the past seven years have been 3.9%, according to one analysis. The past five years, public pension funds have had a median annualized return of 5.3%, according to another analysis. Not so good, right?

But let’s not throw Detroit’s leaders under the bus just yet. Because people generally work and accrue benefits over 40 years or so, pension funds can take an extremely long view. The median pension fund return over the past 25 years has been 8.6%. The typical pension fund manager today assumes long-term rates of return between 7% and 8%. So Detroit has company, and may even seem cautious.

Among others, Warren Buffett has scolded pension managers for not recognizing a fundamental shift to slower growth and lower returns. But the new assumptions in the Motor City aren’t completely unsupportable. Maybe the city’s employees will catch a much-needed break and get the higher returns that pension managers hope for.

Electric car facts. Green or not?

172px Pylon ds

Proponents of plug-in electric cars would have you believe they are “green”. I wish it were true.

Forty two percent of the electricity in the US is produced by coal burning power plants, although this is projected to decline in coming years as natural gas and renewables take more share.

However, regardless of the fuel source for producing electricity, there is always a loss in transmission. Some transmission lines are more lossy than others. Transmission and distribution losses in the USA were estimated at 6.6% in 1997 and 6.5% in 2007.

So, now we have the electric car powered by coal and subject to a loss of efficiency of over 6%.

Hardly green.