Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Navy orders ships to turn on electronic beacon

They called it Automatic Information Data Beacon AIDB.  I never heard of it before.  Let's assume it is like IFF, an electronic beacon that gives identification.  It also gives away your position, and apparently the Navy usually operated with AIDB turned off for stealth reasons.  Now they have ordered warships to turn it on claiming that it would talk to merchie autopilots and get them to change course to avoid collisions. 
   Yeah right.  the big merchies, supertankers and the like, draw so much water that they will run aground if they steer out of the dredged channel.  Running a big merchie aground costs like crazy and the owners figure running anything down is cheaper than running their ship aground.  Their skippers are not going to maneuver to avoid cross traffic like US destroyers.  They are going to steer straight ahead, and lesser vessels better get out of their way.  It seems like our Navy doesn't understand this. 
   Old Admiral Dan Gallery, writing in the 1960's, understood this.  He wrote "Steer well clear of any merchie, lest he decide to liven up your day by ramming you."  I wonder what orders the officers of the deck on those two US destroyers had.  Were they ordered top steer well clear, or were they ordered to insist on their right of way?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Viet Nam War, Ken Burns

As a Viet Nam veteran the subject is of interest to me, so I had to watch it.  The first episode aired on PBS last night.  It goes all the way back to the French colonizing Viet Nam in the 1860's.  It brings the story up to about 1960.  They mention Ho Chi Minh showing up at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 with a petition for President Wilson to get some moderation of the French rule in Viet Nam.  They cover Ho Chi Minh's establishment of an independent Viet Nam right at the end of WWII, and how the British and the French moved in troops to turn the place back into a French colony.  This was a key moment, if Ho's regime had survived, running all of Viet Nam, the later Viet Nam war would not have happened.  If we Americans had been paying attention (we weren't) we could have told the British and the French to cool it.  This was 1946, and that year nobody dared talk back to the Americans.
     The show had an annoying number of "flashforwards"  Right in the middle of showing events of the 1940's or '50's they would cut to a scene from the 1960's, usually American soldiers in combat gear with a voice of from some veteran explaining how awful the whole thing was.  I didn't need this, I was there, both my brothers were there, I know how awful it was.  The antiwar movement in the '60s is still alive (smaller but still there) and they have made it plain to everyone how awful it was.  I was watching this to see what really happened not to hear yet another voice over telling me how awful it was.
   They told the story pretty straight, the way I remember it happening.  One minor goof,  in the early '50s they described Charles De Gaulle as president of France.  Actually that De Gaulle didn't come out of retirement and take over France until  December 1958.  One thing was new to me, they said that President Truman authorized $23 million in 1949 to support the French in Viet Nam.  They didn't explain just how this happened.  Did Truman just come  up with the money out of some fund somewhere in the vast federal budget?  Did he slip the money into an appropriate bill somewhere?  Who in the Truman administration  thought backing the French against the Viet Minh was a good idea in 1949? 
   The rest of the history, Diem Bien Pho, the partition into North and South, the promised election that was never held because everyone thought Ho Chi Minh would win it, the rise of Nguyen Do Diem in the south, is they way I remember it.  The episode ends before Tonkin Gulf, Johnson landing the Marines, but it's a good opener, covering important background.
   They did not discuss any "might have beens".  Times where someone could have changed the course of history and prevented the war from happening.  And they didn't discuss the mind set of most Americans, especially the American leadership.  Everyone remembered Munich, where decisive action could have deposed Hitler and prevented WWII.  They saw Ho Chi Minh as a communist (he was) and thus an agent of Russian expansionism.  In those years we saw the communist takeover of China as Russia taking over China (not true) and we were not going to permit any more communist expansion anywhere.  Opposing Ho Chi Minh was seen as what we should have done at Munich back in 1938.  This widespread attitude goes far to explain how we Americans got sucked into Viet Nam.   

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Federal Flood Insurance

It's the only kind you can get.  Commercial insurance companies won't write flood insurance.  Cause, only homeowners liable to floods buy it.  When the flood occurs, all the insurance policies make claims.  Insurance only works when the majority of policy holders don't make claims, and their premiums go to paying off the few policy holders suffering losses.  Like fire insurance, the risk of fire is small, most homes don't burn down. Everybody buys fire insurance (homeowners insurance) because the banks won't do a mortgage unless the property is insured. At the end of the year, the insurance company has to pay a few claims and they have collected a lot of premiums.  With flood insurance, at the end of a flood year, the insurance company has humongous claims and not much in the way of premiums.  After the great Mississippi flood of 1927, the commercial insurance companies decided to not write flood insurance ever again.
   This caused a great hue and cry among owners of waterfront property, who found they could not sell their property, 'cause the banks wouldn't do a mortgage without flood insurance, and nobody would write flood insurance.   And so Congress created the federal flood insurance program.  The humongous losses now fall on taxpayers nationwide.  In effect, everyone is subsidizing owners of waterfront property.  And, since insurance is available people are building on scenic but flood prone properties.
  And, the federal insurance goes on and on, no matter how many times the property gets flooded.  There are properties that have been flooded and rebuilt up to 7 or 8 times.  On the taxpayer's dime. 
   The federal flood insurance program is up for renewal in Congress right now.  We taxpayers ought to get on our Congresscritters to put a limitation in the program.  A one flood policy.  The flood insurance pays off on the first flood, but won't renew after that.  Get flooded out once, and you ought to build on higher ground somewhere else.  If you rebuild on the same site, it's on your nickel, not the taxpayers. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Why Hillary lost in 2016

She has a book out about it, she is on a book tour peddling it.  But speaking as a plain NH voter, she is missing the point. 
   She made no campaign promises.  We voters expect candidates to say " Vote for me, and I will to this, that, and some other thing, and life will be wonderful."  We  voters have been around the block a couple of times, so we understand that campaign promises are often broken.  Hillary didn't promise us anything.   We voters knew there were a lot of things wrong in 2016, 1% GNP growth, flat wages, high unemployment, skyrocketing health insurance premiums, ISIS, crazy shooters killing at Christmas parties and night clubs and more.  We expected a presidential candidate to promise  to fix some ( or maybe all) of this stuff.  She failed to do so.
   She brought a ton of baggage, accumulated over many years to the election.  We voters remembered travelgate, the Vincent Foster death, the Monica affair, Whitewater,  the email server, Huma Aberdeen, a top aide married to that Wiener guy in New York, and Benghazi.  Many of us thought she should have divorced Bill over the Monica affair, and failure to do so meant Hillary valued being First Lady, more than she valued a wholesome married life. None of this stuff did Hillary any good.
    And Comey did her no favors, first declaring that the email server business was not prosecutable, and then in October he changed his tune and said he was reopening the investigation.  We voters figure where there is smoke there is fire.  Comey created lots of smoke.  Never did get down to the fire, but the smoke was damaging.
   And, her opponent was a master of live TV.  He was so popular that the TV networks covered his every move, every campaign rally, everything.  More free media than anyone had ever seen.   And Trump put on a good show, drew excellent ratings.  Neilsen is his friend.  And he made a lot of campaign promises.  He has even kept some of them. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Who is in the "House Freedom Caucus"?

Karl Rove, writing in a Wall St Journal op-ed,  calls them the biggest obstacle to tax reform.  I'm inclined to believe Karl Rove, he has been around a long time, he was a key player in the last Bush administration.  I wonder who the 30 members of the "House Freedom Caucus" are.  They were responsible for the Republican failure to pass Obamacare repeal and replace, which may cost Republicans their control of Congress in 2018.  Karl thinks they will scuttle tax reform too. 
   We ought to publish their names, publish their voting records, and try to primary them in 2018.  If we don't know who they are, it's hard to lower the boom on them. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sorting Fake News from Real News

NHPR was going on and on about this just today.  It's a good point, especially for younger folk, teenagers, who lack experience, and find the Internet is full of all sorts of BS.  Used to be, to get your ideas before the public, you had to do a deal with a man who owned a printing press, either a newspaper/magazine editor, or a publishing house.  To get your ideas printed, you had to convince one of these guys that your ideas were worthy.  This screened out a lot of weirdos. 
   Now in the internet age, everyone has the small change it takes for an internet connection, there are no barriers to entry, on the Internet no one knows you are a dog. So how do you sort out the fake from the real news?
   First, you look to the source.  For instance on the net, Instapundit is pretty fair, Republican, and reliable.  HuffPost is leftie greenie and not so reliable.  For the professional media, the Wall St Journal is very reliable and Republican.  The New York Times has been flaky for 80 years and is Democratic shading into Communist.  The Washington Post is Democratic and fairly reliable, less reliable than the Journal, more reliable than the NY Times.  On TV, Fox News is pretty good, abet Republican.  MSNBC is mostly worthless.   One thing to watch out for, the people who write for the professional media are poorly educated, not very smart, all lefties and greenies, and they think they know it all. And they all watched "All The Presidents Men" and they all want to do a Woodward and Bernstein number.  They love to trash American presidents, especially Republican ones.  You need to keep track of sources and build up your own list of reliable and flaky sources.
   Next you make an opinion survey.  Do several sources tell the same story?  A quick Google will find you a slather of pieces on any imaginable topic.  Do all the pieces agree? or do most of them trash the idea? 
   Then we ask ourselves some questions.  Is the piece you have fallen in love with describe something too good to be true?  If so, it probably isn't true.  Have I ever heard of this author before? Have I ever heard of his platform (website, newspaper, TV channel) before?   For instance, if the subject is physics and the author is Albert Einstein or Richard Feynman it's most probably true.  On the other hand if the subject is global warming and the author is Michael Mann, it's most likely false. 
   Does the piece use numbers?  Number of years before catastrophe, number of dollars to do whatever, etc.  Newsies are innumerate, any piece that never mentions a number is suspect.  Does the piece give evidence or examples to back up it's claims?   How is the author on spelling , dates, and names?  An author who fails to get simple stuff right is suspect. 
   Good luck wading thru the swamps.

New Record for Household Incomes. Wall St Journal

They show a graph of the median income, the income where half the country earns less and half the country earns more.  For 2016 we get up to $59,039, but it was nearly as good ($58665) way back in 1999.  In short, median income has only risen a measly $374 over the span of 17 years.  Pretty chinsy (0.6%)  in my book.
  Things looked so bad that Obama changed the methodology in 2013 giving everyone a $400 wage boost.   Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics. 
   We have a long way to go before we can say everyone is getting better wages.