Interesting Items 01/01

Happy New Year from Interesting Items.  Enjoy –

In this issue:

  1. Rail
  2. Coyotes
  3. Apple
  4. Nukes
  5. Taxes
  6. Lee
  7. UN
  8. Bundy

  1. Rail. Alaska Governor Bill Walker announced a $4.5 million-dollar study into the feasibility to set up commuter rail between Anchorage and the MatSu 45 minutes to the north.  He will steal the money from Glenn Highway repairs (connecting highway between ANC and the MatSu) and the Knik Arm Bridge that has been pursued for decades.  What is it about democrats that they want to force people into publicly sponsored mass transit?  Answer:  It’s all about control, as the government gets to write the schedule, execute the schedule, and most importantly hold you hostage by cancelling / modifying / otherwise changing the schedule during the budget wars.  They can appeal to democrat donors by claiming to be more environmentally friendly as they pull people out of their vehicles and put them into taxpayer funded and subsidized light rail.  The other problem with this is that the Alaska Railroad, which already has passenger service between Anchorage and Fairbanks (the MatSu is on the way) is hemorrhaging money, cutting 8% of its workforce just this last year.  My guess would be that the real, live, actual traffic simply doesn’t support commuter rail, for if the need was out there, it would have been met decades ago.  There are some ride-sharing businesses that own one to several vans taking people into ANC from the MatSu.  There is also at least one commercial bus company that does the same thing.  Walker’s commuter rail will compete directly with those businesses.  Since he has been in office, Walker and the democrats running his office have been hostile to infrastructure- roads, and bridges – derisively referring to them as “mega-projects.”  He cancelled work on the Kink Arm Bridge using the excuse that expected traffic would not generate sufficient tolls to pay for it.  He cancelled the Juneau Road extension to the north via the excuse that the Alaska Ferry System (public transportation once again) would be able to pick up the slack.  He opposes a mining road out of Fairbanks westward to Ambler on environmental grounds.  Alaska is and always has been woefully short on linear miles of roads and bridges (infrastructure).  Today, Alaska has 21 square miles of land and water served by every single linear mile of road.  The next closest state is Wyoming, with 1.6 square miles served by linear mile of road.  And this governor, his party, the unions that support them, are not concerned about the ability of Alaskans to access their state without asking permission.


  1. Coyotes. NYT did an article about nature repopulating the cities, this one about coyotes returning to the cities and the people who hunt them.  In the words of former Alaska Governor Wally Hickel, “You can’t just let nature run wild.”  As the animals return, they go after people and pets, triggering a need for people referred to as urban hunters.  Here in Anchorage, we have moose, black and brown bears, and a few wolf packs on the bases and Eagle River.  The article describes an urban hunter working his part time business in Ohio.  A coyote pelt fetches $100 there.


  1. Apple. Apple’s sales technique to push their iPhone customers to new models hit the fan last week when they admitted that they were secretly throttling (slowing down) the older phones to encourage customers to move to the new model.  This has long been suspected by the user community.  Apple confirmed the suspicion with the excuse that the throttling was being done to prevent older phones from shutting down unexpectedly.  They have been throttling their phones for at least a year.  They were forced to acknowledge the practice after GeekBench released charts based on data that showed older iPhones were not performing as quickly as they were when launched.  This opened Apple, long suspected of behaving in ways to increase mistrust of it, to some well-deserved criticism, for it took an entire year for them to be forced to acknowledge the practice.  Apple does have a history of rolling out new capabilities in a way to encourage planned obsolesce of current products and customer purchase of new models.  For example, the iPhone 4 was capable of running Siri but the feature was not enabled.  That feature was turned on in the next model.  The iPhone 3G camera was capable of recording video, but nobody knew about it.  That feature was made a signature capability of the next version, the iPhone 3GS.  Nothing like giving your customers a reason to trust you no longer to keep sales numbers high.


  1. Nukes. I am a long-time fan and advocate of nuclear energy, both on the small and large scale.  It is one of the safest forms of baseload electrical generation here in the US, producing perhaps 19% of total baseload electricity.  Most of the reactors generating electricity today were built in the 1970s, and with a normal 30-year long lifetime of operations, they are starting to be shut down.  Last year, announcements to shut down five plants more were made.  Total generation out of these is about equal to the total solar output here in the US today.  Why would we shut down clean, emissions free electrical generation?  The reasons are varied and include:
  • Incompetent government licensing
  • Incompetent construction by firms with little experience in large, complex projects
  • Too many accidents in the US and worldwide
  • Ever-changing government policy and regulations, many of them after the fact during construction leading to cost overruns and delays
  • Development of cheaper and more flexible energy sources

While the reasons for plant closures vary, they always, always include some sort of government regulatory buffoonery and local opposition, both of which were deftly used by former NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko, an anti-nuclear jihadi who worked for Harry Reid and Edward Markey as a staffer before he was appointed to the NRC.  In the next 13 years, another seven reactors are expected to be shut down, idling 24 gigawatts of current generation.  Natural gas will mostly replace them.  While there are some solutions on the way, including development of thorium-burning reactors (India and China), and small modular reactors (Japan), most if not all the development work is being done overseas.  The best thing we can do to bring back clean, abundant, low cost energy via nuclear fission is to clear the regulatory and legal minefield so carefully constructed over the last half century.  Alternately, we can purchase them from India or China after the new designs are perfected.


  1. Taxes. Looks like the tax bill signed just before Christmas has triggered a worldwide run on corporate tax rates.  Soon after passage of the legislation, Australia’s Finance Minister warned that Oz was falling behind in global tax competition.  He then promised that Oz would be slashing its own corporate tax rate to 25%.  Austria’s new government announced it is considering a similar reduction.  Norway did a one percent cut to 24%.  France’s Macron announced a cut from 33% to 27%.  The UK last April cut its corporate tax rate from 20 to 19%.  Finally, newly elected Argentinian President announced a cut from 35% to 25%.  South Korea, Mexico and Chile are all considering similar rate cuts.  Who says we aren’t leading the world anymore?  While not a solution, this is most certainly progress.


  1. Lee. I always love it when black congressional racists demonstrate that they have become everything they claim to hate.  The latest story comes out of United Airlines, which gave up a paid for, booked first class airline seat to Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D, TX) and would not seat the purchaser.  The hop was the second flight of a trip for the passenger and there was no specific seat assigned.  United waffled nicely, claiming that the passenger canceled her flight via the smart phone app.  The passenger did no such thing.  She was ultimately booked on the same flight in another seat.  For her part, Lee claimed complete ignorance of United’s action, though she saw the passenger take her picture, and blamed the entire thing on her being an African – American woman in a tweet.  As it turns out, the bumped passenger is a photo-journalist who worked human rights abuses in Guatemala during the 1980s.  The bumped passenger was put in Economy Plus on the same flight.  It is always Good to be King (or Queen in Jackson Lee’s case).  And the instant anyone calls you on your self-importance, they are racists, the ultimate get out of jail card.


  1. UN. President Trump and his UN Ambassador are about to educate the clown car that calls itself the UN on the dangers of screwing around with the United States.  A couple of weeks ago, the UN General Assembly voted 128 – 9 to condemn the US for Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Israel to Jerusalem.  At the debate, Haley promised the US would be taking names and retaliating against those who voted against us.  Last week, she announced a $285 million reduction in US contributions to next year’s UN budget.  Hayley’s announcement was couched in all the expected diplomatic language:

“The inefficiency and overspending of the United Nations are well known. We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked. This historic reduction in spending – in addition to many other moves toward a more efficient and accountable UN – is a big step in the right direction. While we are pleased with the results of this year’s budget negotiations, you can be sure we’ll continue to look at ways to increase the UN’s efficiency‎ while protecting our interests,”

The cut is around 25% of the yearly money paid by the US to the UN.


  1. Bundy. A federal judge ordered a mistrial last week in a trial over the 2014 Bunkerville standoff between ranchers Cliven Bundy, his two sons, and co-defendant Ryan Payne on the grounds that federal prosecutors withheld evidence.  The feds failed to share video surveillance, maps and FBI interview reports with the defense.  The mistrial was declared following BLM investigator release of a memo that described massive problems in the BLM Office of Law Enforcement.  Among other things, they found a widespread pattern of bad judgment, lack of discipline, bias, unprofessionalism, misconduct, and policy, ethical and legal violations among senior and supervisory staff.  The BLM was everything Bundy and his co-protesters believed they were.  Also cited was the use of excessive force in grinding Bundy’s son’s face in the gravel, and an observation that federal officials were intent on “… the most intrusive, oppressive, large scale and militaristic cattle impound possible” so as to send the proper message to the citizens.  Federal prosecutorial misconduct closely mirrors that of the trial of Ted Stevens.

More later –

– AG


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