Monday, November 30, 2009

Easy come, Easy go.

Saturday we got ten inches of snow, just what we needed to get Cannon to open. Prior to Saturday's snow, Cannon was completely green, it has been too warm to make snow. The ten inches of natural snow covered all the trails and put the mountain into fine shape to open on the traditional opening day, this coming weekend.
Too bad. Today the temp is up over 40F and it's raining. It hasn't rained it all out yet, but a helova lot of that wonderful snow is gonzo. Less it cools down and snows again, Cannon probably won't open this weekend for lack of snow.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tree rings warm the world

The global warmists look in many places to find the temperatures in times gone by. The thermometer wasn't invented until 1654, and the Farenheit temperature scale wasn't defined until 1724. In consequence we only have thermometer data going back a few hundred years. For temperatures before the thermometer it is necessary to look at other indications, types of pollen in sediments, various kinds of isotope analysis, date of grape harvest, accounts of the freezing of lakes and rivers, accounts of the extent of alpine glaciers.
To my surprise, the global warmists now look at tree rings as an indication of temperature. Trees lay down thicker layers of new wood in good years and thinner layers in bad years. The patterns of thick and thin rings are distinctive and have been used for dating for more than 50 years. It's possible to match up the ring patterns of living trees with the patterns in trees long dead and in this fashion extend the tree ring dating back many thousands of years. Timber from ancient Indian pueblos was dated in the 1930's. Timbers from a sunken Viking vessel were both dated and located by tree rings. The ring patterns indicated the vessel was built of Irish oak.
The global warmists looked at tree ring data (there is quite a bit of it) and decided that ring width was controlled by the temperature, wide rings in warm years, thin rings in cold years.
There is a problem with this approach. Moisture, rain fall, is much more important to trees than temperature. Nice moist years, even cool moist years, are good years from a tree's point of view. In short, the width of tree rings has little or nothing to due with the temperature and everything to do with the amount of rainfall.
The global warmists noticed that their tree ring data didn't show a warming trend in modern times. So, they merely dropped the tree ring data for the last 50 years from their graphs.
The hacked Climate Research Unit files show us the use of questionable tree ring data, and even more reprehensible, the editing of the already questionable tree ring data to make the hockey stick graphs look more alarming.
In short, don't use tree ring data to indicate ancient temperature, 'cause the width of tree rings doesn't vary with temperature.

Running barefoot, no antivirus

I finally decided to pitch the anti virus program. I have used a bunch of them over the years, Norton, Mccaffee, Eztrust, Fprot and AVG. I have scanned the disk for years without finding a virus. The scans take hours, the downloading of fresh virus definitions slows the internet. The newer antiviruses (antivirii?) have moved beyond scanning the harddrive and now stay active all the time, soaking up CPU time, diskspace and RAM, inspecting web links, slowing the computer, and never catching anything. So I'm now running barefoot, no anti virus installed.
You have to be a little bit careful. I run a router on my cable modem. The router has a pretty solid firewall to keep the internet from infecting the computer thru the various holes in Windows XP security. I never click on email attachments. I don't file share. I don't use thumb drives. I have auto-run turned off. I don't use Internet Exploder. I'm a home user, I don't plug into a company network. I run Windows Update and install the patches regularly.
We will see how long this lasts.

Another Thanksgiving successfully executed.

My sister in law did the honors. We had myself, two children, one son-in-law, my mother, a three week old granddaughter, and a second cousin. The menu was the traditional, it always tastes good. Weather was decent. Today's weather is not so decent (rain with snow promised) and dark.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What makes a Republican?

After the NY 23rd disaster, where the RNC backed candidate withdrew and then supposed the democrat, I suppose we need to make it a little clearer who is a Republican and who is not. The RNC has offered this: My comments are in italics.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Republican National Committee identifies ten (10) key public policy positions for the 2010 election cycle, which the Republican National Committee expects its public officials and candidates to support:

(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama's "stimulus" bill;

(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;

(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;
Awkward wording, but OK

(4) We support workers' right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;
I am uncomfortable with this one. Immigrants become intensely loyal citizens. I’m for cutting them as much slack as possible. Current US immigration law is a tangled mess and decent hardworking people who apply for admission wind up waiting for decades. We are a country of 300 million, we ought to be able to assimilate a million immigrants as year.

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;
Good, but it could be shorter and sweeter, just a plain “We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan. Period.

(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;
Weak. Are we willing to use force to deny either country nuclear weapons? If not, then giving them a diplomatic cold shoulder after they test their first nuke seems irrelevant.
And speaking for myself, the use of force seems awfully drastic.

(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;
I’m against this one. It’s a divisive issue that offends as many voters as it gains. If two guys or two girls what to shack up and call it marriage, I don’t approve, but I don’t need to make it illegal.

(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing, denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and....
Seems redundant. We are against Obamacare, and if we can defeat Obamacare then this becomes irrelevant.

(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms.

RESOLVED, that a candidate who disagrees with three or more of the above stated public policy positions of the Republican National Committee, as identified by the voting record, public statements and/or signed questionnaire of the candidate, shall not be eligible for financial support and endorsement by the Republican National Committee.....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cannon to construct a new chairlift next year.

Cannon Mountain is on a roll. This year they renovated the Peabody Slopes base lodge, added a Cannonball Pub, a Peabody family room, more ski shop space and a bigger deck. Now they announce plans to put in a new chairlift, running up the old Baron's Run chair track. This will give chair lift access to the Mittersill slopes. Right now you have to climb the Saddle to ski Mittersill.
Cannon gained owner ship of the Mittersill slopes early this year in a land swap. The State of NH gave the US Forest Service a bit of state land containing part of the Appalachian Trail, in return NH gained rights to ski on Mittersill trails which were cut thru Forest Service land. Cannon mowed the trails and cut the brush back this summer. This winter will be skiing for souls hardy enough to climb the Saddle. No grooming or snow making this season. Next year the new chairlift will be operating and presumably some grooming will be done.
Bicknell's Thrush is still hard at work slowing things down. There was an assessment of the impact of skiing on the Thrush's habitat. "There is so much habitat it's hard to disturb it." said John Devivo, the Cannon Mt manager.

Roger Aldrich receives WWII medals from Jean Shaheen

Front page news in the Littleton Courier. Who is Roger Aldrich you ask? He is a helova nice guy, I know him, he is a friend of my mother, he is a pillar of the local community, he and his family operate Polly's Pancake House up in Sugar Hill.
US Senator Jean Shaheen got some nice local news coverage for clearing up 60 year old Army paperwork, and getting Roger's WWII medals awarded to him, some 60 years later.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Global Warming Data hacked

Some 61 megabytes of data, computer programs and emails was extracted from Britain's Hadley climate research unit and posted on the internet a couple of days ago. The Hadley troops have admitted to the data loss. This blog posts a very damning email admitting to data fudging to avoid showing a temperature decrease. The blog goes on to explain how the data was being "smoothed" to make it "look better".
Smoothing data by computer used to be my day job, so I know a little about it. The discussion in the blog makes no sense at all to me. "Smoothing" can be abused to create "trends" where no real trend is present. I think this true of the Hadley data.
The amount of global warming detected by the warming true believers is only a fraction of a degree. The raw data jumps around more than that. In short, the global warming is not really visible in the raw data, only after the data is "smoothed" heavily does a tiny trend emerge.
It's always best to look at the raw data, on a graph. The human eye is superb at detecting tiny trends. If you cannot see trend by eye looking at the raw data, the trend probably doesn't exist.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Innumeracy and Mammograms

Quite a bit of heat, but little light, has come from the government's recent declaration that yearly mammograms are no longer necessary for women under fifty. Neither side has shown any numbers defending or attacking the proposition. How about some graphs showing deaths from breast cancer over the years, number of breast removals, number of less drastic treatments, survival rates after treatment, number of mammograms administered, number of false positives for mammograms, false positives from breast self examination, number of breast cancers detected by mammograms, number detected by other means.
The proposition that yearly mammograms after age 40 saves lives, and/or reduces breast removals, is a numerical proposition, and the advocates on either side could strengthen their arguments with some numbers. If the numbers cannot be found, perhaps a study could be funded.
So far the public debate has been number free.
Probably because reporters are innumerate.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In Fed We Trust by David Wessel

Good read. Blow by blow account of the Fed and the Treasury reacting too, and dealing with, the onset of Great Depression II last year. Describes how Bear Stearns, Lehman, Merrill Lynch, and AIG failed, and the decisions to bail them out (all except Lehman that is). The story is told largely from the Fed's point of view. Essentially the senior government money men, Hank Paulson at Treasury and Ben Bernanke at the Fed feared total system collapse and decided to pour in taxpayer money to keep the system afloat. Much as they would have enjoyed watching the stupids go broke, they didn't dare, for fear the country would be thrown into a bottomless economic disaster. At first Paulson and Bernanke used Fed money. By fall things were so bad that they went to Congress for the $750 billion TARP appropriation. As Wessel tells it, things were so bad that fall that Congress passed the TARP within days. The money guys walked into the room and said Great Depression II would start next week without TARP, and Congress believed them.
The writer is a Wall St Journal reporter, so he knows some of the stuff. The weakness of the book is the failure to describe why these enormous financial companies failed. What killed them? For instance Lehman folded up after rumors of insolvency ran around Wall St and nobody would loan them any more money. He doesn't tell us how the rumor got out, how it spread. What mistakes did Lehman make that turned them into a pariah? Was it mortgage backed securities? Credit default swaps? some big loan going sour? Bad karma? Wessel is silent in this most interesting aspect of the disaster.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

GM lost $5000 per Saab sold for the last 8 years.

From The Truth About Cars. GM senior management had brains made of solid concrete. Buying into SAAB was a dumb idea in the first place, and running it at a loss for 8 years is even dumber. SAAB made an interesting niche car that had a loyal fan base. But you can't make money on niche cars. They don't have the sale volume to afford the mass production tooling needed to get the cost down to compete with real volume makers like Toyota. If they reduce costs by replacing expensive handmade European engines (and other items) with nice cheap dependable Detroit production line V-8's the loyal fan base stops buying, insulted by the presence of mass produced Detroit iron in their beloved European hot rods. It's a no win situation for a US company buying a European luxury maker. If US management had been real car people they would have understood this and saved their money. But at GM senior management is all bean counters and MBA's.
Ford made the same mistake getting mixed up with Jaguar. But Ford brought in a savvy CEO (Mullaly from Boeing). He figured out that Jaguar and Volvo were losers and was able to sell them back before Great Depression II made raising money for takeovers impossible.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It ain't political correctness, it's ultimate job security

So why wasn't something done about Major Hasan before he ran amok at Fort Hood. How about excessive job security that makes it impossible to fire anyone short of a felony conviction? Back when I was in USAF we had GS civil servant types who did nothing but cash their paychecks, substandard enlisted men who were just a burden on the unit, and marginal officers who just slowed things down.
No way could we get rid of any of these jokers. Unless you got 'em a felony conviction, you were stuck with them, forever.
Even if FBI and NSA had shared Major Hasan's emails to Yemen with his Army superior, the only thing that superior could do is write Major Hasan a bad Officer Effectiveness Report (OER) that might deny him a future promotion.
Since Hasan seems to have made major recently, looks like not even that slap on the wrist was administered.
In fact, we ought to be demanding publication of Major Hasan's OER's. Let's see what his superiors thought of him over his service career.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Economical Health Insurance insurance taxed

The most economical health insurance comes from your employer. It's good stuff, pays for everything for you and your family, and only costs a few bucks in co pays. Unbeatable.
However if you are self employed, un employed, or work for a small place that doesn't do health care, things get expensive fast. The insurance companies want about $12,000 a year for that kind of coverage. That's new car money, every year.
A better deal is "major medical" or "hospitalization" insurance. It doesn't pay for everything, just the break the bank stuff. You pay for everything else, office visits, prescription drugs, CAT scans, out of pocket. It's a good deal. The insurance only costs $3000 a year, leaving you with $9000 savings to cover the out of pocket stuff. Unless your health is really really bad, you won't spend $9000 a year.
Obamacare outlaws "major medical" insurance. Under Obamacare all insurance policies must be the $12,000 cover everything kind. If you don't buy it, Obamacare will sock you with a $2500 a year fine. In short, the Volkswagen health plans get taxed right along with the Cadillac health plans.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

So what is wrong with a few show trials?

The Obama administration's decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammad and four henchmen in federal court in NYC has provoked a lot of criticism/comment. The idea is derided as a "show trial".
Got news for you newies. The purpose of a public trial is to show that the bastard is guilty so people feel right about hanging him. This goes way back, thousands of years. If you don't bother to show the bastard is guilty, the bastard's friends and relatives will start up a blood feud.
So let's have a show trial. Should have done it years ago. Let's hope the US judiciary understands their duty and makes a decent job of it. Lots of testimony from grieving loved ones. Ugly pictures of smashed bodies and people jumping to avoid the flames. Introduce every sort of derogatory evidence. Allow recorded testimony. Don't rule out incriminating evidence just because the accused was made a little uncomfortable in the course of gathering said evidence. Deny defense requests for classified information. Trial conducted in English, with on-line translation into Arabic, by our translators, not Al Jazeera's translators. Don't allow the accused to make speeches, limit him to answering questions put to him by counsel.
Get it moving, and don't waste time. This kind of show is good for a week or two on TV. Don't drag it out like the OJ trial.
Keep in mind that the purpose of this trial is to convince the entire world that the bastard is really really guilty.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Snow Blitz rides again

Years ago cores from New England pond bottoms suggested that the last ice age came on fast, with in a year or two. If I remember aright this was based on analysis of pollen grains in the pond bottom cores. This was called "snowblitz" at the time. People pointed out that snow is positive feedback. The white snowcover reflects mucho solar heat back into space, so that once the northern hemisphere bcomes snowcovered, it won't melt out. This was a topic of discussion back in the '60s or '70s when people worried about the ice ages coming back.
Right here is another pond bottom mud core study, this time in Ireland, where the investigators show another rapid onset of an ice age.
The global warming people have backed off a little since the world started cooling down ten years ago. This report suggests that it could get a lot colder, real fast.

Hacking thru the radar Part II

"In the famous "Suter" series of electronic attach experiments as Nellis AFB Nev. a data stream was fired into an integrated air defense network's antenna's by an EC-130 Compass Call electronic attack aircraft. " So saith Aviation Week.
Cool. Couple of years ago Aviation Week reported that the Israeli's used this technique in the air strike on the Syrian nuclear reactor.
Couple of things to wonder at. How do radio frequency data streams get inside the "integrated air defense network"? The network antennas are radar antennas which are mostly analog, mixed with Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system. Transmitting analog signals can confuse the radar, but the process is called jamming and has been around since WWII. Sending phony IFF digital signals is called spoofing, and has been around just about as long. Neither process would be called "firing a data stream" by any one in USAF.
"Firing a data stream into network antenna's" implies the airborne attackers are getting into the digital data links between the radar sites and the fighter/missile direction centers and inserting false targets, or erasing real targets, or doing other kinds of mischief. It's a neat trick, but the counter measure is simple, use land lines or optical fiber for the data links. Don't use radio data links. No way can radio frequency energy emitted by aircraft get into plain old telephone wires or optical fibers.
I dare say some air defense systems use radio data links 'cause you just have to aim the antennas and switch on the power and your data is linking, out for maybe 50 miles. Might take a week to string wire or fiber that far. But was I in charge, I'd order the boys out to string the wire or fiber the day I arrived in theater, and after a week, I would have secure data links. And I would no longer be transmitting "here I am, come bomb me" over the air. For a radar site the extra emissions probably don't matter, but a fighter/missile direction center, fighter base or missile site could maintain radio silence and become harder to find.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Windows worm grounds French Air Force

According to Aviation Week the "conficker" worm got into French air force mission planning software. Rafaele fighters were grounded because they were unable to download flight plans from infected databases. Once on the loose, the "conficker" worm got into French Navy networks, the Villacoublay air base, and 8th Transmissions Regiment. French investigators think someone plugged an infected thumb drive into a machine on the network.
Additional grief happened in Britain where a virus infected Royal Navy and Royal Air Force computer networks, including aircraft carrier Ark Royal, and was emailing god know what intelligence to a Russian internet server.
The Americans got theirs last year about this time, when a cyberworm got into Pentagon computers. The US thinks they were infected from a thumb drive, since they banned use of all such devices shortly afterwards.
Wow. James Bond would be proud. So would Kevin Mitnick.
Lesson to be learned. Any Windows computer on the Internet is totally vulnerable to hackers. They can take over the machine, run their own programs, and cover their tracks so well that no one will really notice. Even if you keep the Windows computers off the internet, the thumb drives can still infect them.
Bottom line, never use Windows computers for anything important. Linux is life.
And, never computerize anything that you don't need to computerize.
For instance, that French mission planning system isn't really necessary. In USAF we wrote out flight plans with pencil and paper and filed them over the telephone. Worked just fine. If the fancy software goes west, the French should have been able to go back to the good old manual way of doing things.
The thumb drive problem is harder. The things are so convenient, so small and easily concealed (about the size of a 50 cent piece) that just putting out an order not to use them ain't going to cut it. Just plugging an infected thumb drive into a Windows machine will infect it because of a Windows "feature". It's a feature not a bug. And you can believe as much of that as you like.
Back when CD-Rom drives were new, Microsoft arranged for CD-ROMs bearing software to "auto-run". Just inserting the CD in the drive was enough to start the install program on the CD running. Or a music CD playing. Cool. Trouble starts when the CD contains a virus instead of new software. Microsoft is so in love with this "feature" that they added it to the USB ports, and now thumb drives with viruses will infect whole networks.
I'm glad I'm not a security guy trying to keep my computers un infected today. You gotta figure that sooner or later someone will stick an infected thumb drive into one of your computers. That infects the first computer. The infection then spreads itself over the network connection or thru any other thumb drive ever inserted in the infected machine. If the infected machine is networked, it will infect all the other machines on the network within a short time.
You really cannot remove the USB ports that thumb drives plug into because the computers need those ports for mice, keyboards, printers, cameras, et cetera, et cetera. You can disable the "autorun" feature in software, but it has a tendency to come back to life spontaneously. You'd have to inspect every computer every day to make sure it was still disabled. That could be automated I suppose, but it would be a major PITA.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

V, the new series on ABC

Disappointing. For those that don't know, V is a remake of a science fiction miniseries from nearly thirty years ago. It is/was an invasion of earth by nasty aliens plot. The original wasn't bad, not Shakespeare, but watchable light entertainment.
The new episode on ABC last night suffered from the curse of the soundman. You couldn't hear the dialog. The actors mumble or whisper, the mikes aren't placed right, and the score and the sound effects drown the actors out. PITA. It's early in the story, we in the audience are trying to sort out the good guys from the bad guys, and half the time I miss a key revelation 'cause I cannot hear the dialog.
Cast is all new faces except Morena Baccarin of Firefly fame. She gets the snooty and villainous alien leader role, which isn't going to do her any favors, careerwise.
Plot is weak, it has five or six sets of characters, all doing unrelated things, and the camera cuts from one to the next to the next with wild abandon. There is a lady FBI agent (didn't catch her name) who is fighting with her superiors, hiding important evidence, and generally being an unprofessional. Scully and Mulder were more effective investigation wise.
I'll watch a few more episodes but I fear the worst. ABC Tuesday night at 8 Eastern.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Terrorism or Treason?

Lot of talk on the TV about that Major Hasan, the Ft Hood shooter. Is he a terrorist? Who knows, and what's a terrorist anyhow. Skip that. He is a traitor though.
"Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, providing them aid and comfort." US Constitution, Article III section 3.
I'd say shooting 30 or 40 US soldiers, on an Army post, is levying war against the United States. It's treason for a plain civilian, and it's infinitely worse when the shooter is a commissioned officer of the US Army.
And it is also premeditated murder.
So what to charge Major Hasan with? Let's not grant this awful man the glory of political martyrdom. Let's charge him with plain old murder, which still carries the death penalty in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Let him plead the insanity defense. Better to have him proclaim to the world that he is a maniac rather than a glorious martyred jihadi.
Our enemies are trying to make Major Hasad into a hero of Jihad. Let's not help them.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Compact Fluorescents go blue

In order to bring light to the shaving mirror, a four bulb (60 W per bulb) fixture was installed over the medicine cabinet many years ago. Couple of years ago I replaced the 240 watts worth of plain old light bulbs with those curly que compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). After 3 years of service one of the CFL's died. So I did the ordinary thing, bought a new CFL down at Franconia hardware.
Put the new bulb in service, turned on the juice, everything lit up. But WOW. New CFL shines a bright blue along side the three old bulbs which glow a cheery pink. Put the cover on the fixture an it does look odd, a bright blue spot in the midst of cheery pink.
Looks like the CFL maker in China decided to save a few pennies on phosphors. Phosphors for blue and green are cheap and bright. Red phosphors are expensive and not so bright. The old line fluorescent lamps were done in "Cool White" a very blue mix popular for years that was cheap but threw an unpleasant shade of light. Which is why fluorescent lamps never made much headway in the home, the light was just plain ugly and made rugs and furnishings look ugly.
When the CFL bulbs first came out, they had the more expensive red rich phosphor mixes and the light looked pretty good, for a fluorescent. Looks like that's going away now that the CFL's have caught on. Back to cool white ugliness.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Massacre at Ft Hood

The terrible news from Ft Hood dominated the TV news yesterday. At this point it seems that one man, an Army major and psychiatrist, named Nidal Malik Hassan is the sole murderer. He was shot resisting arrest but is alive and may recover to stand trial.
My heart goes out to the victims and their loved ones.
One unasked question. How did this weirdo stay in the Army long enough to make major without anyone noticing that he was homicidal? Doctors come in as captains, to be a major this guy had to have been on active duty for at least 18 months. He was supposed to have a superior officer write an Officers Effectiveness Report (OER) on him once a year. I wonder what those OER's say. For that matter, how did he get thru med school ?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"V" rerun on SciFi (SyFy) channel

V was a TV miniseries way way back in the early '80s. Aliens come to earth in mile wide flying saucers. They look just like humans and after the humunguous saucers hover over all major cities, alien ambassadors establish friendly diplomatic relations with earth. Some earthlings go for this, but the doubts grow. Gradually, over several episodes, it is revealed that the aliens are green and scaly, wear "human suits" to sooth the earthling suspicions, and have repulsive table manners. A resistance movement forms and the war is on. There are some good scenes. Such as alien antigravity shuttlecraft parked on a California street. An innocent looking little old lady walks past, extracts a Molotov cocktail from her shopping bag, lights it with a Zippo, and flips it thru an open cockpit window, producing a most satisfactory explosion. Or, a resistance camp is under air attack from alien shuttlecraft. Reinforcements come roaring up in a trash packer truck, the truck's rear hatch pops open, and the resistance fighters pass out M-16's and shoulder fired missiles. We see a couple of alien shuttles crash after taking missile hits.
The series has everything, dedicated resistance fighters, cynical mercenaries, quislings, traitors, scumbag alien enemies as well as honorable aliens. Every cold war hawk vs dove hot button (except nuclear weapons) is pushed at least once.
I saw this thing just once back when it first came out on over-the-air TV. To my knowledge it never went into reruns. Saturday's airing of all episodes (some 12 hours worth) was the first time I'd seen it since the '80s. Apparently ABC is planning to revive or remake the series on TV, and the SyFy channel piggybacked on the ABC publicity. It will be fun to see if the new series can push as many hot buttons as the old one.
The old series shows hawks as heroes and doves as race traitors. I figure that slant was a turnoff to TV people and the reason it never went into reruns until now.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NY 23rd, Why did Hoffmann loose?

Hard to say, since the media gave little-to-no coverage of the candidates. There was one very short clip of Hoffmann speaking and it didn't go well. He sounded inarticulate and tongue tied. I wonder if the real situation was like the situation up here, lack of decent candidates. It's hard to find intelligent articulate candidates who are willing to put up with the abuse and the long hours of running for public office.
From what I hear, Scozzafava was the choice of the Republican party leadership in the district, but didn't appeal to the voters much. That happens, as a very narrow gauge Republican leader myself, I like to think I know what Republican voters want, but I can easily be wrong. I can visulize a dozen guys, part timers, getting together to find a candidate, and settling on Scozzafava as the only experienced politician willing to run. They are all good old boys, and a daresay Scozzafava was a good old girl, and well known to them, whereas Hoffmann was a total amateur, new to the district, and so they didn't consider him.
Net result, the Republicans nominate a weak candidate. A third party candidate comes out of nowhere and blows her away. But that third party guy, Hoffmann, isn't all that strong a candidate himself, and the Democrat wins the election.
So, rather than a Republican electorate moving to the right, we really have a Republican party unable to come up with strong candidates.
As I said, I don't really know all this, but based on personal experience, that's the way it might have been. Too bad we don't have any real reporters up there in NY 23 to tell us what really did happen.

Dark Sun by Richard Rhodes (1995)

This turned up at the Franconia library booksale. It's a long thick history of the development of nuclear weapons, starting back before the Mahattan project. We see the physicists, the spies, the politicians. Rhodes is not a very technical guy so the coverage of the technology, the great industrial efforts, and the military efforts is a little thin. He does have a fascinating look at the Soviet nuclear program. The Soviets couldn't spare the resources for atomic weapons until after WWII, but they had a lot of good scientists, who working from a limited industrial base, and aided by brilliant Soviet espionage, acheived a bomb very early.
It's a good read. Could have been better if the author had been more sympathetic to the subject. He clearly feels the entire nuclear weapons effort was misguided and only the grace of God prevented destruction of the world. Writing in the safety of the mid 1990's, after the Soviets collapsed, (and before 9/11) it isn't hard to make the quest for the hydrogen bomb seem foolish. But as one who lived thru the cold war, that forty year faceoff with a nuclear armed super power, the desire for thermonuclear weapons (and an Air Force to deliver them) seems perfectly rational.
Rhodes tells the story of the nuclear spies, Fuchs, the Greenglasses, the Rosenburgs, Burgess and McClain, Philby, Harry Gold, and the rest. There is plenty of detail, we learn of nearly every dead drop and brushpass. Rhodes skims over the most interesting part of the spy story, the motivations. What made these people risk their lives to give the secret of the atomic bomb to Stalin? Rhodes doesn't even speculate.
Rhodes has it in for General Curt LeMay. He accuses LeMay of empire building, disrespect of superiors, unauthorized provocative actions, and offering bad advice to Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis. He fails to mention the famous Kennedy quote, "If we had a war tomorrow I'd want Le May in the lead bomber. But other than that, he's a wild man".
All in all, interesting. Could have been better, but it's still pleny OK.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Health Care according to Democrats

Fox News interviewed a Democratic Congressman this morning. This fellow claimed that the $1 trillion 2000 page health care bill would save money. "Well, yes costs do go up, but it would be worse without the bill. " Then he says "Health care costs inevitably rise".
Actually, US health care costs are twice the costs of ANY OTHER country in the world. They could be reduced by half and we would still spend as much as anyone. Two steps toward reducing costs. Medical malpractice reform ought to save 10% or more. Allowing health insurance companies to sell insurance thruout the United States would bring real competition to many places.
Far as anyone can tell (with 2000 pages to read, who knows anything really) Obamacare does not do either thing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Regulate Wall St

Wall St is supposed to finance economic growth, funnel society's scarce capital into things that make us healthier, wealthier and wiser. Most economic activities require a lot of cash up front before they pay off at all. You have to pay construction workers while the building is under construction. Money from the sale of the building, or rent, doesn't come in until AFTER the building is finished. Manufacturing automobiles, airplanes, consumer goods, machine tools, damn near anything, requires paying the workers, and the parts suppliers, long BEFORE the product is shipped and paid for. To say nothing of paying for the factory. Most business is like this, you need to borrow money to get things going long before the profits come in. No loans, no business.
Wall St firms are SUPPOSED to take investor's spare capital and lend it to businesses that need it. Unfortunately, a lot of them were using investor's funds to play poker with each other. The entire "credit default swap" swindle was such a poker game. Credit default swaps sank AIG for $150 billion taxpayer bailout. The "secondary mortgage market" aka mortgage backed securities, sank Lehman and Merrill Lynch. In short, regulation should encourage loans to real businesses, and discourage gambling between themselves.
Banks in particular need regulation to keep them from gambling with FDIC insured funds. The real free market, where firms fail and go out of business when they do stupid things, or are merely unlucky, is stressful. Bank failures are painful, not only for the bank, but for all the depositors who loose their savings. The pain was so intense, that back in FDR's time, Uncle Sam guaranteed bank deposits. If the bank goes broke, Uncle pays off the depositors. No too big to fail here, Uncle guarantees EVERY US bank. With that kind of backup, we need stiff regulations to prevent banks from doing risky things with taxpayer money.
For instance, the depression era Glass-Stegall act used to prevent banks from playing the stock market. Banks lobbied against Glass-Stegall for 50 years and finally got it repealed under Clinton. Big mistake. Great Depression II was caused by banks speculating in mortgage backed securities, credit default swaps, and the stock market. We ought to outlaw all three activities for FDIC insured banks.
Let the un insured hedge funds do the gambling, not taxpayer insured banks.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cap Wall St Salaries

Watched Meet the Press with David Gregory this morning. He interviewed Tim Geithner (Obama's Treasury Secretary) . Geithner managed to evade most of Gregory's questions, but when the conversation drifted around to salary caps for bailed out companies it did get interesting. Geithner is unhappy to see companies taking tax money and handing it over to the suits who drove their companies over a cliff, and took the world economy down as a side effect. Gregory worried that salary caps would cause a flight of talent.
Not to worry David Gregory. The people having their salaries capped are the turkeys who caused Great Depression II. They are not talent, and the companies would be well rid of them. Plus in the toughest job market since 1929, they are unlikely to find work anywhere else.