Monday, May 2, 2016

Book cooking for fun and profit.

Companies are required to publish periodically their profits or losses.  Computation of profit can be pretty slippery.  In principle, profit is gross sales less legitimate expenses.  Legitimate expenses can vary a lot.  When doing the books, any clever accountant can find various ways to make profit come out higher or lower.  When doing the books to show to the taxman, the accountants work real hard to make profit as low as possible, since the company is taxed on profit.  When doing the books to show Wall St investors and sell the company's stock, the same accountants work real hard to make the profit higher. 
  This is natural, not good, but natural. 
  But, in the United States, we allow companies to keep two sets of books, one to show the taxman, another to show to stock buyers.
   This should not be.  We should insist that companies keep one set of books, and the profit they brag about to investors is the profit upon which they pay taxes.  In fact, the IRS could do investors a favor by merely publishing all the company tax returns.  They are public companies after all, and so their tax returns are public information. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Winning World War II, Combined Arms Operations

WWII broke out in September 1939 with Hitler's invasion of Poland.  From there, going on til 1942, the Germans' won every battle.  They crushed Poland, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Yugoslavia, Greece,and finally France.  They drove the British into the sea at Dunkirk. 
   What accounts for the amazing German combat power?  Answer: combined arms.  German attacks had tanks as the spearhead, with the infantry right behind them.  They had artillery support and air support.
This is effective as all getout.
   It took the Anglo Americans three years to catch on and launch their own combined arms attacks.  It's tricky.  For something real simple, just order an infantry battalion, about 1000 men, to attack somewhere.  This is straight forward, you pass the word to the colonel of the battalion.  Where, when, and that's it.  Now lets add artillery support.  You have to get the guns moved up into range, get the ammunition (heavy stuff that) moved up and the guns emplaced.  Then you have to coordinate so that the artillery knows where and when the infantry will attack.  You want the enemy's front lines shelled just before the infantry moves up, but not too early, shelling tells the enemy that an attach is coming and all chance of surprise is lost. And you want the barrage lifted just before your troops get there. You want the enemy head quarters shelled, you want enemy artillery batteries shelled, and you DON'T want your infantry shelled as they press the attack. You need to make sure the artillery and the infantry are using the SAME maps, with the same names and numbers for terrain features.  You want to have artillery forward observers, with radios, with the infantry so they can let the artillery know when the infantry falls behind the schedule.  All this is complicated. 
   Then if you have tanks, you want the tanks to lead the attack, at least as long as the terrain allows the tanks to pass.  Tanks are maneuverable, but they cannot climb roadless hills, cross swamps, or climb vertical cliffs. Takes more coordination to get the tanks to show up at the right place and do what is necessary.
   Even trickier is arranging for close air support.   Step one is to avoid fratricide.  Your ground units need to be distinct from the enemy's units lest the Airedales bomb your own men.  More coordination.  Get anything wrong and lots of bad stuff can happen.
   It took the Anglo Americans about a year of fighting Germans in North Africa to get all this straight. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Retraining for workers whose jobs have fled overseas

NHPR was pushing retraining for the jobless this morning. But if there are no jobs, all the training or retraining in the world won't help.  We gotta do the hard stuff, create new jobs, foster new business formation, drive off the hordes of bloodsucking paper pushers and their job killing regulations, make taxes lighter and fairer.  Keep the NIMBYs and BANANA's from stopping projects. 
    Liberal NHPR isn't going to understand any of this.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

I watched The Donald's foreign policy speech yesterday

It was fairly sanitary, no gratuitous slams on Mexicans, women, Chinese imports and other things that have made the headlines over this campaign.  He used a teleprompter, which means he took this one seriously and didn't want to make off-the-cuff blunders.
   It was pretty vague.  He came out for defending and advocating American interests, with out ever saying what those interests might be.  He said ISIS would be gone, soon, but he never said how, or how far he would go to waste them.  Would he send in the US Army to deal with them? Would he nuke them?  Who knows?  
   He never did really say where he stood on free trade, although he made disparaging remarks about NAFTA.  He is against "nation building" but he never addressed the problem of weak or failed nation states that revert to wildlands, harboring terrorists.  You need to remember that Osama Bin Ladin settled into the wildlands of Afghanistan, where there was no effective national government.  From this safe haven Bin Laden set up the 911 operation.  This would not have happened had the United States done some nation building in Afghanistan after the mujahedin drove out the Soviets in the 1980's.  Go watch the movie "Charlie Wilson's War". 
   The Donald made few to no concrete promises in this speech.  Applause sounded kinda thin, to the point where I wondered how full the room was. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Democratic Turnout Down 4 million

So says the Drudge Report.  Does this show a significant party switch in the electorate?  Or does it show four million democrats who wanted to vote in the Republican primary, but will vote Democratic in the general election?  Who knows? 

Progress in DVD burners

After ten years of service, the DVD burner in Trusty Desktop stopped playing.  Something got jammed and the tray would no longer open.  Even after pulling the drive from Trusty Desktop and prying it open, I could not get to tray to move, at least not with the amount of force I dared apply. 
  So ho, for a new one.  A bit of internet research disclosed that the design of DVD burners changed a year after Trusty Desktop left the factory.  The DVD burner that came with him has an IDE connector, a parallel interface with 40 odd pins in the connector.  The new DVD burners have a serial interface (only four wires).  They haven't made the DVD burner that fit Trusty Desktop for the last ten years. 
  OK, so there is a salvation.  They now make USB DVD burners, USB is universal, Trusty Desktop has plenty of USB ports.  So I bought a Verbatim model down at Staples, only $50.  Very small, only 1/2 inch high, compared to old one and 1 1/2 inches high.  It's faster too.  Burns a 4.7 Gig DVD in about half the time the only one needed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

To Alpha Centauri in just 20 years?

Sounds good.  Ultra small spacecraft, one big silicon chip containing camera, radioactive thermal electric generator, comm and nav systems, to weigh a couple of grams.  A light sail one meter square.  A 100 Gigawatt laser plays on the light sail for 10 minutes and accelerates the micro probe to 20% of the speed of light.  That will get it the four light years to Alpha Centauri in 20 years.  Then it radios back what the camera's see. 
   One sticky point, how does a micro probe, weighing only grams, have enough transmitter power to drive a radio signal back to earth? 
   Idea comes from internet investor Yuri Milner.  He is making grants to fund research.