Friday, December 31, 2010

So how to end Great Depression 2.0? Pt 4

Spend less on health care. The United States spends 19% of GNP on health care. That's twice what every other country on the globe spends. We cannot afford to divert that much money from economic development. Every dollar spent on health care could have built new factories, new products, schools, roads, bridges, airports, and contributed to real economic growth.
Every US made product costs 19% more just to pay the worker's health care. Our international competitors pay half that.
Much of the health care money goes to trial lawyers, over priced drugs, expensive procedures of limited benefit, insurance company bean counters and other undesirables.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

So how to end Great Depression 2.0? Pt 3

Drill baby Drill. Economies run on energy. Right now the US sends better than $1 trillion dollars abroad for oil every year. Much of the money goes to countries that don't like us very much. For instance Saudi money pays for madrassahs in Pakistan that turn out Al Quada and Taliban fighters.
The Pacific coast has huge oil reserves that have been untouched since the Santa Barbara blowout in the 1960's. The Atlantic coast hasn't even been surveyed. There is a huge field in Alaska that got designated "Alaska National Wild Life Refuge" and closed to oil drilling. We have vast tar sand reserves in Colorado. We have gigantic newly discovered domestic natural gas fields.
Developing these reserves would put a lot of people back to work. The oceans of money we send overseas would be better spent employing our own citizens to develop our own resources.
Right now an aggressive US Green movement is doing all it can to block energy development of all kinds. They point to the BP spill and claim that possible environmental damage is too great a price to pay.
I beg to differ. We have 10% of the population out of work. That's 30 million people. Being out of work is really miserable for the workers, the spouses and the children. Getting laid off is about the worst thing that can happen to a worker.
I'm willing to accept a BP sized spill every ten years or so in order to put 30 million hard pressed citizens back to work.
The oil industry is going to be super careful after the BP spill. That spill cost BP everything the company will earn over the next ten years. We have a herd of tort lawyers currently harrassing doctors. They could be retrained to sue oil companies over every spilled bucket of fuel or lube. That will learn 'em.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

So how to end Great Depression 2.0? Pt 2

Gotta get the housing market running again. The banks, egged on by Fannie and Freddie, have completely screwed up the housing market to the point where no one is building new houses, no one can sell their old houses, no one can sell their new houses, and zillions of people (and their lenders) are taking a bath when they cannot pay their mortgages. Construction workers, and building tradesmen are out of work, building supply firms cannot sell their products, and appliance makers cannot sell appliances. This is a big slice of the economy, and it's flat on its back. Banks and the investors have lost so much money on home mortgages that they aren't lending to anyone.
The key to housing is credit. Nobody has enough cash to buy a house, they have to get a mortgage. The market is a disaster today because lenders gave credit to people who could not afford the house. These people are defaulting on mortgages they never should have signed. Each defaulted mortgage means another house put on the market at firesale prices, driving down the price of houses. For the average Joe, whose savings are mostly in his house, each price drop comes right out of his hide. Price drops in housing hurt more than a drop of the Dow Jones.
To tame this monster, we gotta have rules limiting mortgages to those who have the income to pay them off. To insure the rules are enforced, lenders who break the rules need to loose their money.
Right now, that doesn't happen. The mortgage market has Fannie and Freddie, who buy shaky mortgages from lenders. If the lender can sell the mortgage before the borrower stops paying on it, he is home free. And that is the major cause of Great Depression 2.0. We need to shut down Fannie and Freddie, cause they encourage disasterous loans, loans that hurt the borrower and hurt the housing market as a whole.

Monday, December 27, 2010

So how to end Great Depression 2.0?

We have a new republican house coming in a few days. We have a democratic party sufficiently scared by the 2010 election to listen to a little reason. We ought to be able to do something.
Firstly the economy is suffering from a want of demand. People just are not buying anything that they don't have to. Cars, appliances, new clothes, home repairs, lawncare, books, and a lotta other stuff doesn't have to be bought now, it can be postponed. And that's what everyone is doing, postponing the purchases of everything and anything they can. So the makers of everything and anything are cutting back production, laying people off, and sitting on their available cash, waiting for better times.
How to stimulate demand? Simple, introduce new products that people are willing to spend on. In the past, automobiles, radios, refrigerators, television, vacuum cleaners, stereos, chainsaws, power mowers, cell phones , and PC's were irresistible products that people bought, 'cause they needed them or 'cause they were cool. This has slowed in recent years. About the only guy still doing new products is Steve Jobs at Apple.
We need to get more new products going. First step would be to straighten out the Patent Office mess. Today's Patent Office grants patents on totally obvious stuff, grants patents on stuff that has been common knowledge for decades. Result, invent something that makes money and get sued. Doesn't matter much what it is, some patent troll will sue you. The Blackberry makers got ripped off for $600 million by a patent troll who had a couple of patents on totally obvious ideas.
Large companies have lawyers, and stock of their own patents, and defend them selves by countersuing. Small startups without deep pockets cannot afford these suits.
Net result, we have a patent system that discourages innovation and new product development. Not what we need to get out of Great Depression 2.0
A cleaned up patent office would go back to where it was in the 1970's. No patents on computer programs, business methods, and intangibles like file formats and communications protocols. A good patent office would put the entire backlog of patents onto a computer searchable data base on the internet for all to see. It would conduct a serious search for prior art before granting a patent, and it would solicit industry responses to all new patent claims. New patents should be only granted for things are are truly new, and advance the state of the art. Allowing patents on one click selection on a website (which is done today) merely give welfare to lawyers.

Snow Bonanza

Just went out and stuck a yardstick into the snow on the porch. 29 inches. Skiing at Cannon will be fantastic. Think about taking a day off from work and coming up skiing.
Its still falling. Weather guy thinks it might snow all day.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Words of the Weasel Pt 17

Bi-partisan (or Bipartisanship). Now that Republicans have gained control of the US house of representatives, the media has been overflowing with pitches in favor of "bipartisanship". Doesn't matter what the issue is, the right thing is the bipartisan thing.
Actually, coming from the mouths of politicians, "bipartisanship" means "vote my way".
This is not a good thing. Politicians should vote their district, or if the district doesn't care about the issue, vote in the best interests of the United States. They shouldn't vote for the other side just to be nice or bipartisan.
Laws should not be passed unless a solid majority of the voters favor them. If the country is evenly split on an issue, then we shouldn't legislate on that issue.
No politician should vote for something he or his district doesn't favor just to be "bipartisan".

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Save your Dixie cups, the south will rise again

Actually, save your old Verizon phone books, 'cause the new Fairpoint phone books don't have a lot of stuff they oughta have. Like PSNH, the electric company, isn't in the Fairpoint book. When the lights go out, that's a number you need. And the Littleton Wal-Mart isn't in the Fairpoint book.
Of course Fairpoint is in, or going into bankruptcy, so they don't have money for little things like phone books.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Smart Phones fink on their owners

According to the Wall St Journal, some popular smart phone applications, (apps) transmit the owner's location, contact information, and website choices to advertising companies. In short, buying the app makes the owner vulnerable to tracking, stalking, spamming, identity theft and undercover photography.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Narnia, Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Went to see it in Lincoln this afternoon. Things are a little slow today, and we had the entire theater to ourselves. The movie is OK, but not great, just barely drawing even with the first Narnia movie. The ship Dawn Treader is wonderful, looks totally real and has the neatest cabins and decks and lookout spots. The story is down to Edmund (Skandar Kaynes) and Lucy (Georgie Read). Peter and Susan are too grownup to return to Narnia this time. Acting is quite passable. Costumes are very good, especially Lucy's. If you are a Narnia fan, you need to see it. If not, it's a decent fantasy movie, as good as the last Harry Potter.

Monday, December 20, 2010

DADT vs Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)

The UCMJ was adopted in the early 1950's and it defines gay and lesbian as "sodomy" and a court martial offense. The UCMJ is the working criminal law for all the armed services. It's an act of congress, and the executive branch cannot change it. The Clinton era Don't Ask Don't Tell did NOT change the UCMJ. Clinton figured he didn't have the votes to do that.
Don't ask Don't Tell told commanders not to snoop and gay and lesbian troops to keep it quiet. But it was still "sodomy" and a court martial offence.
Amid all the hoopla surrounding this week end's revision, I still haven't heard if Congress actually revised the UCMJ this time, throwing out the articles on sodomy. Your news media at work...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Defeat of 2000 pages of Omnibus Spending

And a good thing too. It killed $8 billion or more of pork. Compared to the $1.3 trillion in the whole package, the pork isn't all that bad, but killing it is a good thing. We also killed funding for Obamacare, another good thing. The Senate ought to approve the House "continuing resolution" today. A continuing resolution is less damaging, it says in effect "You agencies can continue operating using last years budget." This means no spending increases, a good thing. The 2000 pages of "omnibus spending" undoubtedly had all sorts of spending increases buried deep inside.
Even better, some pet Congressional spending projects like the extra engine for the F35 jet fighter may die. Or at least give in incoming Republican Congress another chance to kill them.
The other good reason for killing the omnibus spending bill was nobody really knows what is hidden in the 2000 pages. I'm sure the staffers who wrote it tucked in all sorts of things that I might not approve of.
We should never allow omnibus spending bills. We should pass one appropriation bill for each agency (Defensive, Homeland Security, Agriculture, etc). Then resulting appropriation bills will be smaller, and people have a fighting chance of reading them, understanding them and critiquing them. There are plenty of people who know the ins and out of a single government agency. Nobody knows the ins and outs of the entire US government. When you take the appropriations for the whole government, mix them together at random, omit a table of contents, and make it 2000 pages long, nobody can figure out what it means. I think such bills should be voted down just cause they empower bureaucrats to do anything they want to.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Does the Iphone add to the trade deficit?

Apple's blockbuster Iphone is made in China. Last year Apple imported $1.9 billion worth of Iphones from China. Making the US-China trade deficit worse by $1.9 billion.
But, the Chinese merely assembly the I-phones. They have to import all the parts. Of the $178.96 wholesale cost of the Iphone, China only gets 3.5% or $6.50 a phone. 6% of the cost comes from US made parts, nearly twice the value add of China. The big hitters are Japan (34%) Germany (17%) and South Korea (13%)
But the Commerce Dept just credits the full price of the Iphones to China, since that's where they come from. Nobody has the time or expertise to do a manufacturing cost breakdown of every imported manufactured product.
From a standpoint of computing the US trade deficit it probably doesn't matter. Whether you charge the Iphones all to China, of split it up by national content, it's still an import. To us, it doesn't matter all that much who the trade deficit is with, it matters that we have such a deficit.
To the Chinese it matters a good deal. The Americans are pressuring China to revalue their currency upward to reduce their trade deficit. If the Iphone costs were partly laid upon Japan, Germany and South Korea, it would help the Chinese resist American pressure.
The most interesting thing is the narrow slice of value add given to China. For that little work, I'm surprised Apple makes them in China. Better to make them at home, under Apple Corp control. It's easier to keep the quality up in your own factory. And, you keep your technology to yourself, rather than sharing it with a potential competitor.

Republicans, the party of the working man

I did a lot of door to door campaigning as a Republican candidate this fall. It got so I could make a pretty good guess about the political sentiments just by looking at the house as I walked up to knock on the door.
Manicured green lawn, a BWM or Prius in the driveway, carefully maintained house, figure a Democrat. Shaggy lawn, with a few weeds and some kids toys, a pickup truck, some do-it-yourself home repairs in progress, figure a Republican.
I did better in Bethlehem, which has a lot of residents who work for a living, than I did in Franconia, which has a lot of wealthy retired folk.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter's back

I got 8 inches of new snow on the porch, and it's still floating down. It's 18 degrees F (seasonable) and the sun is trying to break thru the clouds.

Tom Clancy, Dead or Alive

Clancy's latest book is out, in hardback. As a long time Tom Clancy fan, I splurged on the $28.95 hardback. It isn't as good as the previous Clancy thrillers. It's set in the "future" after Clancy's last book "Tail of the Tiger". It has a dozen protagonists and villains and the narration jumps from one to another every couple of pages. There is a "co author" and the book reads like Clancy did the outline and the co author did all the writing. Sort of like the "Op Center" books.
Proof reading must have been done by Word for Windows. It allowed "site" to pass where "sight" should have been used, "Y-turn" for "U-turn", and other oddities.
Wait for the paperback, or wait for your library to get it.

Tax Freeze has the votes in the Senate

The great tax deal of 2010 seems to be moving forward. This is the "no income tax hikes for anyone, 35% estate tax" deal that has enraged the left. There was plenty of talk about how holding taxes steady would cost $zillion in tax revenue. But to be real about it, a tax hike during Great Depression 2.0 will make the depression deeper. Holding taxes steady might make the economy perk up. And the estate tax (death tax) is a killer of small business. When the small business owner dies, the small business is required to cough up incredible amounts of cash, which it does not have. So the business is liquidated to pay the estate tax.
What has not been discussed on TV is the pork attached to the bill. Ethanol tax credits, money for windmills, and extension of 50 strange tax loopholes. Essentially Obama got many of his pet spending projects, in return to agreeing to not hike taxes on anyone. I can only hope that the cost of Obama's earmarks isn't too bad. I have never seen anyone in the news business, not even Fox, comment on the cost of Obama's goodies.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Aviation Week tribute to the Space Shuttle

No discussion of the Shuttle program is complete without mentioning the two horrible accidents, and the loss of all on board. Aviation Week feels that both accidents were caused by NASA corporate culture, a culture of "press on regardless" controlled by inexperienced and poorly educated suits.
The first accident to Challenger, where the solid rocket boosters leaked flame onto the external hydrogen tank, causing an explosion 73 seconds after liftoff, was clearly a management failure. Morton Thiokol, the maker of the solid rocket boosters, called the cape the night before the launch and expressed concerns about the low temperature. The Thiokol engineers feared that the silicone gaskets that sealed the solid booster joints would stiffen in the cold and fail to seal against combustion pressure. The Thiokol engineers had it exactly right, that's what happened and the leak of white hot flame from the booster exploded the shuttle and killed the entire crew.
NASA management, rather than postponing the launch, demanded Thiokol put their fears in writing. When the Thiokol suits demurred, NASA pressed on with the launch.
This was incredible to me. In USAF, had we received a telephone call from our engine maker expressing concern about the J75's powering our fighters, we would have believed them. We knew those engines had problems, we were used to company tech reps making light of deficiencies. Should Pratt & Whitney have volunteered information about problems, all hands, from crew chief up to wing commander would have taken it VERY seriously.
NASA management seems to be all political appointees, paper pushers with no practical experience. That can be a killer.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

RGGI rides again.

According to this, money raised by the RGGI tax on electricity, which was supposed to go for virtuous greenie things, is being diverted to paying the bills.
New Hampshire's budget is opaque, but last year there was $50 million budgeted for "Greenhouse Gas Abatement". Whether it actually got spent or not is unknown, at least to me. That's a lot of money. That's 10% of this coming year's budget deficit ($600 million estimated).
The "Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative", a joint deal involving the New England states and New York, was going to tax electric companies and earmark the revenue for "Greenhouse Gas Abatement" what ever that might mean. Which is one of the reasons we pay the highest electric bills in the nation. We get hit with 20 cents per kilowatt hour which adds up to $100 a month just to keep the lights on in a small house.
We would do better to drop the RGGI tax, drop the "Greenhouse Gas Abatement" and recover the New Hampshire Advantage.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Double Brrr

It was only 6 degrees F this morning. Coldest its been all winter.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

English Muffins toast in 6 minutes, used to take 7

Trivia moment. I like my English muffins buttered and then toasted under the broiler. They come out crispier that way, than running them thru the toaster.
Several years experience showed that the muffins came out golden brown if I set the kitchen timer to exactly 7 minutes.
Last couple of days, golden brown has become dark brown with blackened edges. I've backed off to 6 minutes on the kitchen timer to recover the golden brown.
Same oven, same timer, same kitchen, same broiler. Could it be that PSNH has jacked up the voltage coming into the house? I never measured my line voltage so I'd never know if I measured it now. Line voltage anywhere between 110 and 130 is legitimate these days, and stuff that cares about line voltage has electronic regulation built into the product.
Plain old electric ranges don't care. They do run a little hotter if the line voltage is higher, but except for toasting muffins, it doesn't matter.

Nanny state gets into the real nanny business

"They" want to pass a federal law to require "safer" child car seats. "Safer" means rearward facing car seats are mandatory for children up to age FIVE. Speaking as a veteran parent, kids are gonna hate that one. Kids don't mind riding in car seats much, 'cause the seat boosts them up so they can see out the windows. Rear facing seats would retrict the kid's view to the back seat upholstery.
While "they" were at it, "they" want to require infants travel in car seats on airlines. Which would require parents to buy a ticket for infants. Right now, infants under two can travel for free sitting in a parent's lap. Many parents, including yours truly, decide that enduring transcontinental squirming is worth the savings.


It was 12 degrees F outside this morning, and the weather folk on the radio are predicting colder for tomorrow. Furnace is working just fine, forty year old Andersen thermopane windows are still tight. An inch of snow fell last night, and the town plow went by at 6 AM to clear it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Zap Zing Pow. Obama takes a hit, on TV

The federal tax dustup is in full view on national TV. Obama is mad, and it shows on TV. He wanted to hike taxes on the upper middle class ($250K). He didn't have the votes to make that happen. He doesn't want to impose a tax hike on the entire country, that would leave us stuck deeper in Great Depression 2.0, and everyone would blame him for that disaster. The Republicans said the only income tax they would accept is no tax hikes for anyone. And they have the votes to make that stick.
So Obama cut a deal, no tax hikes for anyone (good idea) in return for more unemployment payments (mediocre idea). Plus some other tax breaks that I don't fully understand yet, and 35% estate tax with a bigger exemption. The Republicans signed on. The Democrats are furious, they think Obama got rolled.
Obama clearly is mad at everyone. He called the Republicans "hostage takers" which is sorta dumb. After you cut a deal with someone, you don't call them names. He then proceeded to lecture his democrats on the virtues of compromise, which came across as patronizing.
Politics as a blood sport. Can be fun to watch on TV.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Estate Taxes (death taxes)

Large estates are mostly family businesses, farms, gas stations, retail stores, truck stops, dry cleaners, restaurants, homebuilders, and dealerships. The deceased's estate is pretty much the business. He may have a few thou in the checking account, a decent house and a nice car, but most of the estate is the business.
So, lets look at things from the standpoint of the business. It's been humming along, employing people, making a profit, getting by. It hasn't been growing 10% a year, its cash flow is on the tight side, but as long as the owner stays alive, it will continue being an asset to the community.
Then something bad happens and the owner dies. The business is willed to the heirs, and all of a sudden, it/they (business/heirs) is/are liable for humongous amounts of estate tax. The heirs don't have that sort of money. Neither does the business. In many cases the business is liquidated to pay the estate taxes, the employees are laid off, and the community looses a local business.
In short, the estate tax, death tax, is a killer of small businesses. Those of us who have operated small businesses know how difficult it can be to keep the doors open. That's tough. Even tougher is starting a business up from scratch. So the liquidated businesses don't grow back. When the estate tax forces them to liquidate, they stay liquidated, and the community looses the employment, the services, the taxes, and the civic support that local businesses provide.
In short, the estate tax anti small business. The really fat fat cats, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have foundations and pricey lawyers to keep their fortunes out of the clutches of the government. The estate tax doesn't hit the rich, it hits small business. Estate tax demands that small businesses cough up incredible amounts of money every generation and few small businesses have that sort of money.

Skip the "Dream Act". Grant US citizenship to vets

Anyone who has borne arms the the defense of the United States of America is entitled to US citizenship. I say anyone with an honorable discharge from the armed forces should be granted US citizenship, 'cause you cannot find better citizens anywhere. That "Dream Act" they are talking about sounds kinda complicated, rules about how old the kid was when his parents brought him into the country, how old he is upon discharge. And give credit for going to college, which isn't the same as serving in the military. I say just grant citizenship to all honorable discharged veterans and we will gain a lot of valuable and loyal citizens.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow

I have 8 inches on the porch and it's still coming down. Ever faithful town of Franconia plowed at 6:30 this morning and again at 11. It's light dry and fluffy, perfect for sking. Cannon will be in good shape for this coming weekend.

School Lunches

Somehow I survived public school on brown bag lunches packed by dear old mom. My children got by on brown bag lunches packed by yours truly. Two generations of my family did fine with out a school lunch program.
So, in its infinite wisdom, in a time of austerity, the Congress decided to blow an extra $4 billion dollars on the federal school lunch program, after the $12 billion already spent this year. To add insult to injury, the bill bans school bake sales, because the brownies contribute to childhood obesity. Congress has been unable to pass any appropriation bills, but it has time to blow $4 billion on school lunches. Or is it really $4 billion handout to agricultural interests?
Now with deficits in the trillions, a measley $4 billion isn't all that much. But we gotta start somewhere. Who was it that said "A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you're talking about real money"?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rolls Royce engine failure, followup

Aviation Week believes the catastrophic in flight engine failure suffered by the Trent 900 engine was caused by an oil leak. The engine oil leaked from a piece of tubing, pooled in the bottom of the the engine casing and caught fire. This is back in the hot section of the engine, there is plenty of heat to ignite darn near anything. The oil pipe leaks are attributed to welding flaws at the factory. The extra heat of the oil fire caused the intermediate turbine to run too hot and fail. Jet engine turbines always operate as hot as engineering dares, the hotter, the better the fuel economy. It wouldn't take much additional heat to push the turbine over the temp limits.
If true, this is good news for Rolls. They merely have to inspect all the engines for oil leaks, and replace some engine piping. The basic design of the engine appears to be OK, it just had a weak part installed. Change out those parts and problem is fixed. There should be some hearty sighs of relief coming from the Rolls engineering dept.

Friday, December 3, 2010

That Deficit Commission

They have been getting some air time on TV. They want to do a tax hike by just eliminating deductions, mortgage interest is the big one. They claim to have some spending cuts.
Question: Are these real spending cuts, or fake spending cuts? Real spending cuts happen when the agency gets less money next year than it got last year. Real spending cuts are very rare. Fake spending cuts are when the agency gets less than it asked for. This game is really old, and the agencies always ask for much more than they expect to get, on the theory that what they do get will be enough so they don't have to do layoffs.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Big all day storm, but less than an inch of snow

Yesterday was wild up here. Wind gusts strong enough to shake the house. Big trees whipping back and forth. Plastic trash cans and empty drywall mud buckets flying thru the air. Nearly as bad as the April tornado three years ago. The lights stayed on, mostly. The power would occasionally die and confuse the computer and the Bose clock radio. Trees down on the roads, Town of Franconia trucks cutting them up. The show lasted for nearly 24 hours.
For all the fury, darn little snow.

Deathly Hallows

Of course I went and saw it. I've seen the previous ones, I have the books, alledgedly purchased for the children, but I read them too when no one was looking. It's all good fun.
It's a Harry Potter movie, pretty much like the others. The cast is a year or two older than the last time. Emma Watson / Hermione is very pretty. She has an interesting face that looks lovely when photographed from the right angle, but plain photographed from the wrong angle. For most of the movie they are wearing "urban grunge" the fashion statement of the ugh-oh's (2000-2010). The two boys just look baggy and wrinkled wearing this stuff, but Emma always looks slim and elegant. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) has grown up to be fairly handsome, more so than Rupert Grint (Ron) has. Rupert's hairstyle did nothing for his appearance. He needs to find a better barber if he wants to stay in pictures, after the last Potter movie that is.
It's long, 2 1/2 hours. Even at that length, it would be hard to follow if you hadn't read the book, and in fact read it fairly recently. It follows the book quite closely, but there is little dialog to clue the unread into what is going on.
For one reason or another, my favorite scene from the book was omitted. Hagrid and Harry are airborne, in/on a motorcycle, with Death Eaters in hot pursuit. Hagrid pushes a button on the handlebars, the cycle emits a great flash and cloud of smoke from the exhaust. Right there, in mid air, the smoke solidifies into a stout brick wall, into which the Death Eaters crash at Mach 0.5.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Giving thanks for small favors

Broadband just got broad again. I'm on a Time Warner cable modem and band width sucked. I couldn't play a U-tube video with out constant pauses waiting for more video to trickle in from the cable.
Time Warner just fixed something. UTube now plays like a champ.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Three can keep a secret. If one of them is dead

The Great Wikileak has the TV news baying for the head of Julian Assange. Along with pseudo intellectual arguements about freedom of the press. Although hanging Mr. Assange out to dry isn't a bad idea, it's a side issue.
The real issue is the astounding foolishness of our government, putting zillions of secret documents on line, and allowing access by everyone in the government. Information sharing they called it. Classified is not information to be shared. That's why it's classified. The way you keep secrets secret is by not telling them to everyone. That's the "need to know" doctrine. And by not putting them on line in the first place. The real villains are the idiots who created the great classified database, and the Cabinet secretaries who signed off on permitting their department's secret documents going into the database.
With all the classified in the US government on line, one disgruntled PFC was able to carry a quarter million documents off base on a single CD. If all that classified had been real paper, locked in real safes, in secure locations, the PFC wouldn't have been able to move that much paper to the door, even with the aid of handtruck.
Let's see if the government is bright enough to do the right thing, namely destroy the classified database. Wipe all the disk drives, invalidate all the passwords, take the file pointers off the net. Classified should not be kept on computers, it is too easy to steal.
By the way, how long do you think your computerized medical records will stay confidential when the US State Dept cannot keep its classified off Wikileaks? Are we all looking forward to seeing our operations, prescriptions, X-rays, and doctor's opinions shared with our employers, our insurers, the media, and all the nosy neighbors?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Robin Hood with Errol Flynn

It surfaced in the $5 a DVD bin at Walmart. It's an antique, 1938. Talkies are only 10 years old. The Technicolor process was new that year. It's still entertaining. The colors have lasted, still bright. Lots of derring do, chases on horse back, sword fights, quarterstaff fights, non stop action. Characters are divided into good guys, bad guys, and love interest (Olivia deHaviland as Maid Marion). Claude Rains is a convincingly nasty Prince John. Basil Rathbone takes a week off from being Sherlock Holmes to be Guy of Gisborne.
Given the age of this flick, it's darn good. Better than the Kevin Costner version from a couple a years ago.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Computer security? do we have any?

US traitor Bradley Manning, while an Army private managed to access a zillion secret army documents and feed them to Wikileaks. Now it appears he was able to access 250,000 state department secret documents and they are appearing on Wikileaks at this very moment.
There are a few questions I'd like answered. Such as how does a low level Army enlisted man gain access to State Dept classified? And how does he gain access to so much of if? What ever happened to "need to know"?
Who issued this traitor a security clearance?
Why is all this classified on computers anyhow? It would be more secure if just one copy was hand typed using a manual Remington office typewriter. And the one copy kept in a safe somewhere.
As of this writing, the Wikileaks site is off the air due to a distributed denial of service attack, but the ever patriotic New York Times is going to publish the juicer items tommorrow.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Bush Tax Cuts"

The subject of much talk, and a blizzard of disinformation. The real choices facing Congress are three, Raise taxes on all Americans, raise taxes on higher earning Americans, or don't raise taxes on anyone.
Does anyone think raising taxes on everyone will get the country out of Great Depression 2.0?
Does anyone think raising taxes on people who have serious money to invest is going to get us out of Great Depression 2.0?
Keeping everyone's taxes where they have been for the last 10 years is better than any kind of tax hike.
Even better would be to cut taxes. Worked for Bush. Might even work for Obama.

Of course raising taxes helps pay the vastly increased spending of the Obama administration.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What to fear in Korea

The current Shoot-Ex on the Korean border is a sign of weakness of the North Korean government. North Korea is attempting a power transfer to the third member of the Kim family. This guy, Kim Jung whats-his-face is a perfect zero. Nobody knows anything about him. Whether he has the stones required to run the nastiest dictator ship ever is unknown. North Korea is dirt poor, unable to feed its people, and yet maintains a humongous army, builds nukes and missiles. There has gotta be a LOT of unhappy campers up there. The rifle carrying privates in the North Korea army all come from somewhere, have family that is going hungry, and might not obey an order to fire on civilians. Nobody really knows.
In short, North Korea could come unglued, overnight. The army and police stop obeying orders, and what little national economy they have comes to a stop. People start dying for lack of food and water.
In this case, South Korea would be under enormous pressure to do something. Lot of South Koreans still have kin living in the North and they will demand their kinfolk be saved. So the South Korean army will drive north in trucks full of food and water and peace flags waving from bumper mounts. If it were just up to the Koreans, things would settle out, the north would become part of the south. But the Chinese won't like this.
China likes having North Korea. It gives them a border shared with a pliable client state. It lets them poke a stick at the Americans and get them all hot and bothered, at little cost to themselves. The idea of having a pushy economic rival, who is hand in glove with the Americans, on their border is anathema to China. To prevent this, the Chinese will send in peacekeepers.
Now we have the People's Liberation Army and the South Korean Army cruising around the same turf. The possibility for nasty shooting incidents is very great. We don't want to think about escalation. The PLA is very big and formidable, but so is South Korea, and the South Koreans have that American connection. A lot of Americans, like myself, have been to South Korea over the years, and brought back very favorable impressions of the Korean people. The Koreans have been loyal and faithful allies for 60 years. The US government would be under great pressure to back up the South Koreans. And that could lead to hostilities between the US and China, which is not a good thing.
I don't know just how to avoid a catastrophe here, but I can at least see the dangers involved.

The existential meaning of Standard Time

NHPR is having a fine time discussing a book about time. As you may or may not know, once upon a time each town and city kept its own time, 12 o'clock was when the sun crossed the zenith. Since the moment of local noon changes from place to place, the time would be different between Boston and Salem and Lexington and Hartford and every place.
Railroads needed time tables, both to let passengers and shippers know when to be at the station, but also to prevent head on collisions on single track lines. Creating an accurate time table is difficult enough (how many minutes to travel from East Overshoe to West Gumstump) but to then compute a time correction to account for the fact that East Overshoe is a few minutes ahead of West Gumstump, is just too much to keep straight and get right. Plus, what keeps the train on time is the train crew looking at their pocket watches, all set to railroad headquarters time. Train crew needs a time table with uniform times, the time indicated on their watches.
And so, the railroads met and carved the US up into the four time zones we still use. Then the station clocks were set to railroad time, and timetables printed in railroad time and that was that. Pretty soon passengers and shippers (nearly everyone) found it convenient to set their clocks to match the railroad clocks.
All this colorful history was too much for NHPR to cover. They bloviated about the deep inner meaning of standard time, the existential meaning of local time, the blessedness of having no time at all and other poetic subjects.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How many gallons does an electric car use?

Dunno. Word has it that Chevy Volts are piling up at the factory but they cannot ship them until EPA issues a mile/per/gallon sticker. Which seems kinda dumb. Plenty of Volts are gonna go to people whose daily commute is less than 20 miles, at which, if they plug in every night, they never need gasoline. Assuming the Volt's battery-only range lives up to Chevy's advertising.
But we have to have a gas mileage sticker in that window.

Clueless Clinton

Hillary was on the Sunday pundits and the subject got around to Gitmo. Hillary was all in favor of civilian trials, but she never mentioned the real reason we want to give a terrorist a trial.
We do trials to convince the rest of the world that good old whats-his-face is a nogoodnick and deserves what he got (or is about to get). We have a number of problems here. First problem, so much time has gone by that memories have faded and anger has cooled. We should have tried 'em all back in 2002.
Second problem, US judges are mostly from another planet and might well turn them all loose on a technicality.
Final problem, most of the Gitmo "detainees" are not guilty of crimes in the ordinary sense of the word. They are guilty of bearing arms against the United States, on foreign soil no less. If they were fighting for a recognized government they would be prisoners of war. Few Americans, jurors or military officers, are willing to convict people for fighting for a cause, even if the cause hasn't achieved the status of a legitimate government.
The final problem is these "detainees" are clearly dangerous. Over the years we have released a couple of hundred of ones that looked less dangerous. Something like a third of the released terrorists went right back to terrorism and got caught by the Americans a second time, in Afghanistan, doing terrorism.
In my estimation, the least bad option is to just keep them in Gitmo til they rot. I fear US judges will bungle civilian trials, and military tribunals will go easy on them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Can they hide enough explosives to bring down an airliner?

Good question. I remember the aircraft that took a direct hit from an air-to-air missile and still flew back to base. It was a heatseeker that locked onto the engine flame and flew right up the tailpipe before exploding. Blew the back of the plane to shreds, but the engine kept running (good old P&W J75) and the single hydraulic system remained unpunctured.
Then there was the Boeing 737 that lost the entire roof of the cabin, from the cockpit right back to the galley. It landed safely.
My point is that Boeing airliners are extremely rugged and can shrug off a pound of high explosive. Can terrorists hide enough explosives in shoes or underwear or body cavities to actually damage an airliner? I doubt it.
Think about that as you do the electronic strip search or endure the TSA groping.
The real reason terrorists have not succeeded in hijacking an airliner since 9/11 is passengers. Now, post 9/11, passengers know that allowing anyone to take control of the plane means that they are all dead. And so, some misbehaving persons have been treated quite roughly by passengers. One case involved a fire axe applied to the perp's head, another involved so much duct tape that the perp suffocated.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stenting for fun and profit

Back on the 4th of November my plain old primary care physician, Dr Silva in Littleton took my EKG in the course of a routine office visit. His sharp eye noticed something unusual in the EKG. He followed up with a stress test and a gamma camera scan. I had not complained of anything, this was a straight check of standard tests. The stress test and the gamma camera pictures convinced Dr. Silva to refer me to cardiologists. Some days later I was scheduled for an angiogram down state at Dartmouth Hitchcock down in Hanover.
I double checked the appointment time a day or two in advance and was told that my 8AM appointment has slipped to 10AM. We showed up on time and learned that emergencies had slowed things down. It was 4 PM before they got me into the Cath Lab for the angiogram. Results were confusing. The angiogram showed six places that might need s stent. The angiogram was not unpleasant, they started off with a big Valium and followed it up with a lot of happy juice fed in thru an IV. Didn't hurt a bit, and I was VERY mellow thru out a two hour procedure.
There was some discussion as to the proper treatment, either a coronary bypass operation or a LOT of stents. They didn't feel it was fair to ask my opinion while I was still zonked out on happy juice. So I got admitted for over night. Next morning the cardiac surgeon (nice guy) pitched the cardiac bypass (open heart surgery) and the the stent guy pitched stents. I picked stents, 'cause the coronary bypass surgery involved sawing my breast bone in half and pulling up my ribs to access the heart. Whereas stents go in in a matter of hours and you can walk out of the hospital in a day. An hour or two later Dr. Kagan told me he had access to the OR that afternoon and could stent me if I was ready. I was ready, he slipped three stents into my heart that afternoon. They popped me back in a room on the heart surgery wing after the stenting and all looked OK.
Except my blood pressure cycled from 210/106 (scary high) to 140/70 (not too bad) over a period of hours. They were reluctant to let me out of the hospital with the 205/106 reading lest I keel over with a heart attack on the way to the elevator, which would reflect poorly on Dartmouth Hitchcock.
After two days of pills and blood pressure tests they found a blood pressure medication that worked and managed to release me this afternoon with a raft of new prescriptions.
I have to complement the Dartmouth Hitchcock people. They worked very hard to get me well, and they managed to make my stay pleasant. Nurse and doctors were patient oriented and did a good job. Much better than Mass General which was my last hospital stay some 30 odd years ago.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The loudest noise at 60 MPH is the ticking of the clock

So went the Rolls Royce car ads years ago, back when Rolls actively marketed cars in the US. They used to do TV ads for Rolls. Haven't seen one for 30 years.
Actually, Rolls Royce sold off the car operation and makes its money on jet engines. And they are in trouble now. Aviation Week has a writeup on the catastrophic engine failure on the Quantas A380. Apparently the intermediate speed turbine failed, and flung turbine buckets out thru the engine casing, punching holes in the wing, a fuel tank and damaging hydraulic lines. Engine failure doesn't get worse than this.
Even worse, the Quantas engine failure looks to be related to the engine failure on Boeing's 787 program. Rolls-Royce may be in for an expensive recall and redesign.
Other problems showed up. The crew attempted to shut down the blown engine by closing a fuel valve. The digital engine control would not let them, it was programmed to keep the valve open in flight, lest the engine shut down for lack of fuel. Microprocessors can be really stupid sometimes.
Jet engine design is always a compromise between stoutness and lightness. The engine has to contain enormous forces and extreme temperatures. This calls for stout. To save on fuel, the engine wants to be as light as possible. Lightness reduces stoutness. It could be that the Rolls designers went too far in the lightness direction. This might be hard to fix, short of a complete redo.
What's worse for Rolls, is the A380 and the 787 can accept American engines and the airplane customer can order the planes with Rolls engines or American engines. Guess which engine maker is not going to be specified on future airliner orders?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Glen Beck needs a sense of humor

Watching Glen this evening. He was getting all bent out of shape about the press coverage that Prince William's and Kate Middleton's engagement were getting. He did a small rant about the media covering trivia.
Well Glen, in principle you are right. But, the Brits do such marvelous weddings and coronations. I enjoy the h**l out of them, every one. They are good fun and nobody gets hurt. What's not to like?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The internet is NOT secure, Anyone knows that.

Anyone except the TV newsies that is. Big story running today about internet traffic being diverted thru servers in China. Oh the horror.
Note to newsies, the public internet is PUBLIC, and anyone in the world can see the traffic. It's the World Wide Web. Putting anything on the web is same as posting it on the bulletin board down at your town supermarket. If you don't want to share it with the world. don't put it on the web. This goes for email, Facebook, Google, and just plain web cruising. If you don't want the whole world, including your employer, the IRS, and every noisy neighbor in the world to know, don't but it on the net.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What goes around, comes around

Obama comes home from Korea with a bit of egg on his face. He wanted to sign a Korea America free trade pact, but he wanted a few last minute changes and the Koreans balked.
Chickens are coming home to roost. George Bush negotiated the Korea free trade agreement back in 2007. But in 2007 the US Senate, of which Obama was a member, refused to ratify the agreement. Unions objected and the democrats caved to them.
Now, three years later, Obama wants to ratify Bush's old agreement, but with a couple of last minute changes that the Koreans didn't like. So, Obama comes home with bupkis.
What's worse, the original agreement, which the Koreans would have signed, is quite favorable to US automakers. It liberalized the Korean auto emissions standards to allow US built cars, that met US emissions standards, to be sold in Korea. The "minor change" Obama wanted, was a retention of a 2% US tariff on Korean cars. The Koreans are selling lots of cars with the 2% tariff, and/or building their cars in Kentucky, and the 2% tariff makes little difference in the number of Hyundai's sold here in competition with Government Motors.
For this insignificant tariff, Obama gave up a real opening of the Korean auto market to us. There are plenty of Koreans with money who would love to own a real Detroit car, say Corvette, or Cadillac, or Ford Explorer, just like they see in the movies. Right now such cars cannot be imported to Korean because of emissions laws. The Koreans were willing to essentially waive their emissions standards and allow Detroit iron in. And Obama didn't understand how important this is.
Stupidity can be embarrassing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

No pain spending reductions

Newt Gengrich on NBC this morning said the he and Clinton had balanced the US budget for years without inflicting enormous pain upon the voters. Today, the Democrats (progressive tax and spenders, all of 'em) protest that Federal spending reductions just can't be done because of the pain involved.
I think Newt is onto something here. Just reducing health care spending from 19% of GNP to 9.5% of GNP (a feat every other country in the world has managed) would free up a river of money that would solve the deficit problem.
Could it be that the Democrats are attempting to keep their tax and spend policies in place by predicting intense pain if they are not continued?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Northern Pass, Power to the People,

The Northern Pass project will run a new high voltage power line down from Quebec to Franklin NH. It will bring in 1200 Megawatts of clean Canadian hydropower to New Hampshire. Quebec has a vast surplus of hydropower which they have been exporting to the US for better than 50 years. Hydropower is a green as it gets, no CO2 emissions, no coal mines, no oil spills, no nuclear waste, freedom from fuel price hikes. Long as it keeps raining, we have juice.
To bring jobs to the North Country we need to offer reliable and low cost electricity to industry. No company is going to put in a plant without good electric service at a reasonable price.
The new power line will largely follow existing power line rights-of-way which mitigates the unsightliness. Big power lines are an eyesore, but adding a second set of towers side-by-side with an existing power line doesn't make much difference. A pair of side-by-side power lines is no more unsightly than a single line. We already have the single line, making it a double line doesn't change things much.
After much advocacy from anti-electric-power advocacy groups, the National Institutes of Health published a comprehensive study of the safety of electric power lines in 1999. The furor over power line electromagnetic fields was started in 1979 with the publication of a report linking leukemia to power line exposure. This study was inconclusive, and the effect reported was small. Numerous follow up studies failed to resolve the matter one way or another. Some studies showed no effect, some showed a small effect, and many showed different results depending upon the method used to measure intensity of the electromagnetic fields. These studies were all statistical, counting the number of cases of leukemia and using statistics to decide if the number of cases was abnormally high. Mark Twain once said there are lies, damned lies, and then statistics.
No laboratory experiments on animals has ever shown adverse effects from the electromagnetic fields around power lines. The science of physics and of chemistry shows no mechanism by which electromagnetic fields could alter the biology of humans or animals. The NIH report concludes that the risk from power line fields is unproven, probably non existent, but cannot be totally discarded because of those few statistical results.
Electromagnetic fields drop off rapidly with distance. A simple calculation shows the fields from your house wiring are as strong as the fields from a power line at the edge of the cleared right of way. So, even if there were some adverse effects, just keeping off the right of way keeps you safe.
So, in view of the great economic benefits (1300 construction jobs, $2.5 million/mile added to the tax base), the savings in fossil fuels, and carbon emissions, the Northern Pass project ought to go ahead. We need the jobs, we need the juice, and it's as green a project as there is.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Carnivale Cruise Lines

I gotta wonder how that Carnivale liner lost all power from an engine room fire. Did they have sprinklers in the engine room? Why does not a ship of that size have two engine rooms? Both with sprinklers.
We should be thankful that no one was hurt.

TARP prevents the sky from falling

Some people think that Wall St is the entire US economy. It's an easy thing to believe if you work on Wall St. For instance, Henry Paulson, Bush's secretary of the treasury was a long timer Wall Streeter, prior president of Goldman Sachs. Or Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, academic whiz kid specializing in the history of the Great Depression and prior head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.
Two senior guys, steeped in Wall Street saw the sky falling in October of 2007. Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, AIG ran out of money, Merrill Lynch (remember them?) went bust and got bought. These two guys feared that failure of the big boys would bankrupt everyone else on the Street. Street trading is incestuous, everyone trades with everyone else. If the biggies go bust and default on their debts to the smaller players, the small guys might go bust too. To Bernanke and Paulson, widespread failure on Wall Street might wreck the US economy and trigger off Great Depression 2.0.
So, being men of action, Paulson and Bernanke went to the Democratic Congress and said in effect, "The sky will fall on Tuesday". Congressmen believed them, and $750 billion TARP was passed to bail out the losers.
The alternative was to let the more foolish Wall St players to go broke as a warning to others. They tried this with Lehman Bros, and it was scary.
With hindsight, I think we should have let more Wall Streeters, the ones that didn't (still don't) understand the difference between gambling and raising capital to finance economic expansion, go under. It's clear that a lot of Wall Street business, mortgage backed securities, credit default swaps, and secondary mortgage trading is pure gambling. And I see no reason for taxpayers money, my money, to bail out gamblers who go bust. The economy doesn't need gambling.
Back three years ago, it was a harder call. Seeing famous old time Wall St firms go bust was scary and the urge to "do something" was strong. So something was done. The downside is everyone thru out the entire world now believes that the US government stands behind all the big Wall St firms. Which allows those firms to take bigger risks and borrow more than if lenders worried about them going broke ("counterparty risk" they call it). And makes us taxpayer liable for humongous debts everytime some Wall St executive makes a dumb bet.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ask the right questions

The TV news is going crazy with the California missile launch story. They have been quoting the Navy, the Pentagon, NORAD, Boy Scouts of America, just about anyone, saying "We don't know nothing".
Questions they ought to ask.
1. Was this launch detected on radar?
2. Was the launch flash seen by missile warning satellites?
3. What is the predicted impact area of the warhead?
4. Did the payload achieve orbit?
5. What was the launch position? And when will we have ships and planes there?

Of course, a bunch of klutzy J school graduates wouldn't know any thing about it.

Waiting for "automatic" tailights to turn off

Yesterday, a dark and rainy day, I parked the Merc and started for the store. Then I noticed the car lights were still on. The car was being helpful, leaving the lights on long enough to get to the house. Except, fifty years of experience was saying, and saying loudly, you-left-the-lights-on-and-the-battery-will-run-down. So, I stood there, in the rain, waiting for the "automatic" mode to turn the lights off. Just to make sure the lights would really turn off.
Somehow, "automatic" is not improving my quality of life. I'm going back to "Off-Parking-Headlamp" control.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Town truck salted my road this morning

The true start of winter, sanding, salting, and plowing. It's starting early this year.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

RINO sighting

Charlie Bass was on NHPR this morning. He thinks global warming is a problem and something oughta be done about it. Perhaps not Cap and Tax. Maybe an "Alternate Energy" program will reduce carbon emissions.
Arghh. The election is only 4 days past and Charlie is taking his eye off the ball. The real threat to our well being is the Federal budget deficit, not global warming. "Alternate Energy" means spending money on stuff that doesn't generate real power. It's ethanol, and windmills, and solar cells, none of which will keep my electricity on thru a cold winter night.
Whereas continued Federal deficits of the Obama size will destroy the worth of the dollar in just a few years.
Let's get real here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

So what do the Republican do now? Pt 2

Jobs, Jobs, and more jobs. Step one in the more job operation is to bring some stability to government policy. The private sector of the economy is waiting for the other shoe to drop. We have to stop that. Republicans should make it perfectly plain that there will be no new taxes, no new regulations, no more bailouts. The house ought to repeal Obamacare, just to make a point.
National debt is destabilizing. The current level is unsustainable for more than a another year or two. Everyone knows that. As long as everyone, business, consumers, and investors see the US dollar driving off a cliff next year, they ain't gonna create job one, they are running for the exits. Why do you think the price of gold is soaring?
Where do we cut? Healthcare. We spend 19% of GNP on healthcare. That could be cut in half and everyone would get all the health care they need. Every other country in the world manages on 10% of GNP and so can we.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

So what do the Republican do now?

I suppose number one duty is to prevent the lame duck session of Congress, that will get going shortly, from doing any more damage. Despite the election, the old Congress remains in power until next year. The democrats will surely call a lame duck session to pass as much stuff as they can before next year gets here. Cap and tax, card check, appointment of democrats to every vacancy, more Obamacare, tax hikes, and who knows what else. Hopefully the Senate Republicans will be able to stop all or most of it.
Then next year, with a solid Republican House, what should the Republicans do? The house can pass anything it likes, but the Senate Democrats will be able to stall it, and the President can veto it. The Republicans have to convince the country that they are serious about cutting spending and getting the economy moving if they want to win in 2012. If the Republicans just vote thru things in the House and have them die in the Senate, or get vetoed, the public ain't gonna like it. And they will remember in November. The public doesn't care why nothing happens, they will turn the rascals out in 2012 just for doing nothing.
So what can a Republican house do that works, given a hostile Senate and executive?
For openers, they could vote down pork. For instance, the periodic "Farm Bills" lavish our tax money on farms largely owned by corporations. There are few family farms left, and not enough family farm voters to make it worth the cost of the farm bills. Same goes for the "Highway Bills" that benefit road contractors and real estate interests, and the "Energy Bills" which subsidize the oil and gas industry.
Tighten up, or even better, kill entirely, earmarks. Congressmen love earmarks because they act as bribes or payoffs to supporters. Voters hate them because it's pure waste money. Voters are more important to re election than paid off supporters.
Refuse to pass omnibus spending bills. Each executive department (Defense, State, HHS, Energy, and so on) get one, separate, budget bill. If the bill fails to pass, that department can no longer write checks. This way the voters and the newsies have some idea of how much money gets spent on what. An omnibus spending bill for the entire federal government is so damn big that nobody can figure out how much is going where. Break it up into smaller pieces and it becomes manageable. Divide and conquer still works.
Reduce appropriations for economy killing agencies like EPA. EPA was created to clean up airborne smog. That's been accomplished, the skies over our cities are blue again. They used to be yellow. Now EPA is full of bureaucrats trying to stay employed by making red tape to hinder economic growth.
Find some utterly worthless government operation and shut it down completely, lay off all the employees, sell the office, and burn the files. That will generate a flood of favorable press, AND scare the bejesus out of the rest of the bureaucrats. A scared bureaucrat is a good thing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tax cuts for corporations that ship jobs overseas

Have you heard that sound bite recently? In fact it's getting to the point where the noun "corporation" is always followed by "that ship jobs overseas". A sign of corporation hatred common to the Democrats.
It's really too bad, corporations provide jobs, health insurance, and a flood of products that make life comfortable. If we in the North Country could persuade a corporation to locate a new plant up here we would be better off. Corporations are a good thing to have around, and it's counterproductive to bash them.
As far as "shipping jobs overseas" this is free market competition. When overseas factories produce goods at lower cost than domestic factories, they are going to get the orders. To create jobs here, in the US, we need to look at ways to lower the cost of doing business in the US. Taxes, red tape, jackpot justice, environmental impact statements, Obamacare, and a hostile attitude raise the cost of doing business here.

Words of the Weasel Pt 16

"Gridlock", as in "A republican win tomorrow will cause gridlock in Congress". This is always followed by a diatribe against the Republican party. The actual situation is the Democrats will no longer have the votes to pass their programs. That's democracy for you. There is no divine right of Democrats to always get their way.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halliburton did it?

Botched the cement job on BP's blowout well in the Gulf. Long article in the Wall St Journal. But some things are unclear. The Journal speaks of Halliburton whipping up a new cement recipe for the BP well.
That's a little weird. We have had decent cement since Julius Caesar's time. The Pantheon in Rome with an enormous concrete dome, was built by an army buddy of Julius Caesar and is still in service today. The Romans built the harbor at Ostia with hydraulic cement that could harden underwater. You would think that a good cement recipe for oil well work had been developed years ago. Had I been the BP manager on that rig, I would have demanded that Halliburton use a well tested standard cement mix and not fiddle around with custom stuff.
The Journal also mentions that cementing oil wells is a tricky business with a high failure rate. Something like a quarter of cement jobs leak. This means that proper engineering practice is to test each and every cement job. This testing was omitted on orders from the BP manager on the site. So, that makes it BP's fault in my book.

Where is the money coming from?

The perennial political question once the subject drifts onto budget. US governments, local, state, and federal are in trouble. They are spending a good deal more than they take in via taxes. Voters are getting restless about government debt. The opposition to anything (there is ALWAYS opposition to anything) can say "Well that's a nice idea, but where is the money coming from?"
Hmm. Right now the US spends 19% of GNP on healthcare. All other countries in the world spend half of that, and citizen's health in the first world nations is as good, maybe a bit better than it is in the US. If the US cut its health care expenditures down to the level of the rest of the world, that would free up nearly 10% of GNP for other purposes.
10% of GNP is a whacking great sum. The entire Federal budget is only 24% of GNP. 10% of GNP would cut the federal deficit to zero and leave money left over. If the rest of the world can keep healthcare spending below 10% of GNP why can't we? If we did, it would free up rivers of cash to put to better purposes.
We even know some of the reasons US health care is so expensive. Malpractice suits, high drug prices, lack of competition in the insurance business. None of which was addressed by Obamacare. Much of which is a matter of state law. Malpractice suits go to state courts. Changes in state law could make it harder to win a malpractice suit. Drug prices could be reduced by purchasing drugs overseas or from Canada. Competition could be increased by a state law allowing health insurance companies from every state in the Union to sell policies in New Hampshire.
If we work at it, we can find the money in reduced health care spending.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Terror comes by UPS

A couple of packages, containing bombs, sent from Yemen, to a pair of synagogues in Chicago, have consumed more airtime than the World Series gets. From the newsie's commotion you'd think a second 9/11 was in progress.
The explosive was hidden inside toner cartridges, which are not all that big. Not big enough to knock down a building. That's enough to do a door, or put one giant scorch mark on a carpet, but nothing more.
Could these have been a diversion? Get the Americans all excited and running around about nothing, while something more lethal is going on somewhere else? Or maybe just a Halloween trick?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

138 pages "Medicare and You"

"This is the official U.S. government Medicare handbook". Came in the mail yesterday. Am I going to read 138 pages of gobbledy-gook? Probably not. Is it worth filing away just in case I develop some strange malady and need to know if it's covered? Dunno, I think I filed last year's and never touched it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wikileaks and leakers Part II

Wikileaks is right out there, making the world safe for democracy by publishing 400,000 secret US Army field reports. The reports, filed by junior officers after action, some times describe intelligence sources, name Iraqi informers and describe Iraqi Army prisoner treatment that makes the Marquis de Sade look like a pussy cat.
A treacherous US Army enlisted man is responsible for sucking all this stuff off Army computers and passing it to Wikileaks.
In the old days, 400,000 reports would be on paper and kept in GI steel safes, the kind with the user hostile combination lock. Carrying that much classified out the door without being noticed was impossible. But now we got automation, the reports are all kept on disk and anyone with a password can sweep them onto a flashdrive and be gone. So number 1 mistake was putting this stuff on computers in the first place. Windows computers are so insecure, you might as well publish the classfied on the base bulletin board as put in on disk.
Second mistake is keeping it. Back when I was serving my country, we had a January ritual. Every January we cleaned out the classified from the safe and changed the safe combination. Junior commissioned officers (like me) were required to haul the out dated classified up to the base power plant and heave it into the furnace. This was Duluth Minnesota, and the base power plant ran a huge coal furnace to heat the whole base. Any classified more than a year old I burned. And signed each one off as destroyed on our classified documents inventory.
Finally, the Army seems to have forgotten about compartmentalization. This one enlisted traitor should never have had access to that much stuff. His pass word should have been limited to just stuff from his unit, not everything in every unit over all of time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Laptops on Airliners

Atlantic magazine has an article about the difficulty of providing 120 volt AC power at each seat to charge passenger laptops. Clearly the Atlantic people are journalism majors who have trouble changing lightbulbs. (How many J school students does it take to change a light bulb? Five, one to hold the bulb and four to rotate the stepladder.)
Allow 100 watts per laptop charger on a 200 seat aircraft and you have 20,000 watts, about what five electric kitchen ranges take. It's a respectable amount of power but nothing that the jet engines cannot provide. The engine drives an AC alternator thru a power takeoff shaft. In fact airliners since the DC-6 (and maybe earlier) have 115 volt AC alternators, one on each engine. There is plenty of power available to drive the alternator. A 20 Kilowatt alternator only needs 26 horsepower to turn it and jet engines furnish thousands of horsepower.
In fact, it's only a matter of wiring up each seat. All jetliners currently generate 120 Volt AC power at 400 cycles per second (hertz). 60 cycle electrical equipment works just fine on 400 cycle power. We used to operate delicate electronic test equipment out on the flight line off 400 cycle power. Worked fine and lasts a long time.
So, all that is required to bring laptop charging outlets to all the passengers in coach is will on the part of the airlines. Doing it right would be to have Boeing and Airbus do an engineering change order (ECO) to fit a passenger charger alternator into a couple of engine nacelles and do a cabin wiring diagram. An ECO of this nature would have to be reviewed by FAA for safety and and that takes time, but it's doable. Installation would take the plane out of revenue service for three or four days. Not cheap.
Cheaper for a small outfit like Virgin Atlantic, would be to just wire the cabin, and either install an inverter to convert aircraft power to 60 cycle AC or just run 400 cycle aircraft power to the seats. Cabin wiring can be customized by each airline and changes, like laptop charger circuits, probably do not require FAA approval. That's the low cost way to go.
As soon as one airline decides that offering laptop charger plugs will bring in business, they will put 'em in. As long as the airlines think the passengers don't care all that much, they won't. It's a matter of economics, not technology.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

NPR does bait and switch

Listening to the clock radio this morning, NPR did a piece that started out wishing for scientist's who can make science clear to non-scientists. That's good. We used to have people like Willy Ley and Jerry Pournelle and Isaac Asimov who were superb science writers. They have not been replaced and I miss them.
Just as I was getting with the program, the interviewer changed the subject to global warming. And right off the top of his head, the interviewee said the Hadley Climate Research Unit (CRU) people should have counter attacked the great document leak, and called it theft, copyright infringment and mopery and dopery.
Wow. big switch from explaining how the science works, to tactics for winning a political argument.
Hadley CRU was a British center of global warming. Somehow a vast internal collection of emails, memos, computer programs, and data files from CRU appeared on the Internet last October. The emails and memos concerned discrediting other climate scientists, and the computer program code had places that fudged the data to create warming graphs no matter what the data was. Every technical person who read thru this stuff became convinced that Hadley CRU was all propaganda and no science.
NPR a year later is explaining how to wish the great document leak away. In my book that is NOT explaining the science to the laymen. That's selling a political point of view.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Picking your college major

University of Texas is the subject of this article on the cost-benefit ratio of various majors. The spreadsheet shows the tuition money brought in vs the salaries of the professors for a variety of majors. Chemistry comes out on top, with history and English running very respectable seconds. Three trendy hard science majors, oceanography, physics&astromony, and aerospace engineering actually loose money for UT, faculty salaries and expenses exceed tuition income.
Very interesting. How does chemistry, with twice the class room/laboratory time, expensive labs, lab assistants, glassware, plumbing and whatever, pull in more money than easier-to-teach history and English. Easier-to-teach means just an ordinary classroom with a blackboard is required, no pricey labs. Clearly the chemistry department is onto something that the other departments ought to copy.
And what of the money loosing departments? Is it just lack of students or too many faculty members, or expensive field trips and facilities? The tuition numbers seem reasonable for these departments which ought to mean decent enrollment.
This article gives hope that decent education can be done for less money.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Juan Williams Part 2

I saw Juan on O'Reilly Factor last night. It was clear that the firing had upset him. Firing is like that, it's upsetting. O'Reilly made a serious effort to cheer Juan up, speaking of good things that will happen, books he will write, positive stuff intended to make him feel better.
Strong contrast to the lady reporter from the Washington Post who, just a few minutes earlier on Bret Baer's show, coldly said that if Juan had kept his mouth shut he would still be at NPR.
The conservative reporters are showing a lot more sympathy and support for a fellow reporter than the liberal ones are.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Heresy, penalty therefore

NPR just fired Juan Williams. Williams apparently sinned against the doctrine of NPR when he expressed reservations about flying on a plane with Muslim passengers in traditional garb. Plus probably a few other things, I didn't pay close attention to details of the heresy charges.
Wow. NPR is running a very tight ideological discipline these days. Juan was a good solid liberal/progressive. He used his airtime on Fox to good advantage for the liberal cause. I thought he was a nice guy, liberal but not misguided. I didn't agree with him all that often, but that's what freedom of the press is all about.
In the showdown between NPR and Juan, I'm on Juan's side.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Trouble brewing for banks

Remember all those "mortgage backed securities" that triggered off Great Depression 2.0? Well, now the suckers are lawyering up to get their money back. This might mean a $40 billion hit on the banks.
Theory is, say the suckers, the banks selling the mortgage backed securities didn't do their paperwork right. For proof they say, look at the foreclosure mess where the banks don't have the paperwork to prove that they own the mortgages that are defaulting.
Naturally, nothing will happen until lawsuits are filed and get to court, which will take years, but should the banks loose in court it will cost them.

How the mighty have fallen.

Apple posted a profit of $4.31 billion, acing out IBM's measly $3.59 billion. Time was IBM was the bluest of blue chips, the computer maker, so big that the US Justice department tried to break them up. And now, Apple, maker of Mackintoshes and nifty consumer gadgets, makes more money and has a higher market capitalization than mighty IBM.
Apple is run by a new products man, Steve Jobs, rather than a lawyer or a bean counter like GM. This might has something to do with their success.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

First Snow

We had flurries on the mountains. Summit of Cannon and Lafayette are white. Just the summits, the ski trails on Cannon turn green at the bottom of the summit chairlift and stay green down to the parking lots in the valley.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the press oughta mean the right to print anything, especially political thoughts. Then we got campaign finance laws. Now we have democrats crying unfair when Republican political groups run anti democrat/pro republican ads. It must mean something when the democrats complain about Republican political ads, rather than explaining to the electorate why it should vote democratic.
The democrats are crying that everyone who runs a political ad should make public their name, address, email and phone number. Democrats don't acknowledge that many people are reluctant to furnish their contact information for fear of avalanches of junk mail, spam, and telemarketing. To say nothing of the fear of retaliation. To me, freedom of the press means freedom to print whatever, nothing about having to make yourself vulnerable.
Kinda like secret ballot. We cherish secret ballot so that voters can vote their conscience without fear of retaliation. Same works for running ads, you oughta be able to print what you like, without fear of retaliation.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Reviving Lincoln Part 3

Just noticed a Lincoln ad on TV the other day. It claims the new hybrid Lincoln will do 41 mpg. It was one of those arty ads, all in black and white. Showed a digital gauge indicating 41 mpg. Some voice over. No good picture of the car, no discussion of range or price or cushiness.
Question. Do people with the bread to buy a Lincoln really care about gas mileage? If you want to make a statement about how green you are, why not buy a Prius?
So this morning, a Lincoln ad popped up on one of my favorite blogs. Clicking on it got me a picture of the car, the typical rounded over melted down jelly bean sedan with a corny chrome grill. Best I could say about the styling was "inoffensive". Some clicking got a video Lincoln ad. A young couple sitting in the car, talking it up, as they drove it. No discussion of battery size and life. I don't think this is a plug in hybrid although the web ad was unclear on this. The car name is "Lincoln MKZ Hybrid" which is something of a mouthful. Apparently there is also a plain "Lincoln MKZ" without the hybrid drive.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Coothing up the Minivan

The Wall St Journal has a favorable review of the Honda Odyssey minivan. The reviewer waxes eloquent about the great family values in minivans. He trashes the styling, which is something of a stretch. The pictured minivan looks like all minivans look, abet with a more agressive grill and slanty headlights than most. Then he talks about avoiding "minivan embarrassment" and opines that chicks like guys who drive minivans 'cause it makes the guy look like he is into child raising. Especially if the minivan is full of kids.
The Odyssey must be a fine machine. Sticker price is $44030. Comes with a four valve per cylinder 248 hp V6 and a six speed auto trans.
Consider that a Caddy DTV has a sticker price of $43k and 275 hp V8. That's one pricey upscale minivan.
Back when my children were smaller, I had Dodge Voyageurs. The cost $12K new and came with a 100 hp 4 banger and a five speed manual. They would not win at the stop light grand prix, but as a married man with children on board I was supposed to be above such things. They had double the power of the classic VW microbus and would maintain highway speed all day, unlike the VW's which needed a foot flat to the floor to maintain 65 mph and tended to blow their engines after 45K miles of such driving.
The Voyageurs made fine family cars, each child got his/her very own seat which takes much of the curse off long car trips with small children. They were great for carpooling kids to school, ski trips, going to the lumber yard and bringing furniture home from the auction. We liked them well enough to buy and wear out three of them. Good thing they didn't cost $44K each.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chevy Voltage gets short circuited at NewsWeek

This "mechanical link" business on the Volt got mentioned in yesterday's Wall St Journal and on NewsWeek. Only trouble, the NewsWeek guy is fairly clueless and doesn't understand that "direct mechanical link" is a bulky, breakable and pricey transmission.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Denouncing Freedon of the Press

Freedom of the press really means the freedom to run ads to get your candidates elected. This morning NH PR was complaining about Republican ads running on newspapers and TV. It's terrible they say, the people running the ads are not filling out the federal election forms properly. Boxes on the forms are sometimes left blank. The republic will fall if the forms aren't completely filled out.
Then they claimed the donors of of money to run the ads should be required to release full contact information (name, address, phone, email). Jeez. I don't let that kind of stuff show on my personal Face book page, lest I be swamped with junk mail, telemarketers and spam.
But NHPR wants anyone who makes a political contribution be forced to reveal their contact information, and those who don't are enemies of the republic.

Rain on a parade, the NHPR way

Was listening to NH Public Radio this morning wailing about the Berlin wood fired ("biomass") power plant project. According to NHPR the entire project is suspect or even a boondoggle because the 200 plant jobs mentioned in the project proposal are not "certified". What ever that may mean.
The project was estimated at $100 million or so. That sounds like a God send to any place in Coos county, or Grafton County, be the jobs "certified" or merely estimated. NH PR did some additional wailing because the plant might ship wood in from a distance. They felt the plant should be contractually prohibited from buying wood from more that 20 miles away. Sounds like a call for interstate tariffs to me.
Dunno why NH PR has turned upon a wood fired project. It's renewable energy, and green to boot. It's a whole bunch cleaner than paper mills which use nasty chemicals in tank car lots. It offers a wood buyer to support all the loggers who used to serve the paper mills and who are now unemployed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

HIgh Voltage, Chevy Voltage that is.

The auto bloggers are all worked up over GM's announcement that the Volt will have a mechanical drive from engine to wheels to keep the car going after the battery runs down.
Initial GM announcements claimed the Volt would be built in the obvious way. Electric motors to run the wheels, battery to funish juice, and the engine would turn an electric generator to recharge the battery when needed. You get dual power sources (engine and battery) and you don't need a transmission.
Transmissions are big, heavy, pricey, and breakable. You need a tranny (or a clutch) to allow the engine to keep running at speed when the car is stopped at a light. The tranny also changes the gear ratio to keep the engine running at a safe and economical speed as the car speed goes from city traffic crawl to Interstate cruising speed. Trannies are expensive. Those automatic transmission shops will ask for a couple of Kbucks should you visit them with an ailing tranny. The tranny is the second must expensive part of a new car, after the engine. So the straight electric drive design has some real engineering advantages, plus a certain elegance that will appeal to any real engineer.
According to the autoblogs, Chevy has committed sacrilege against something by installing a mechanical "link" between the engine and the wheels. Me, I wouldn't know. I'm not in the market for an electric, but if I was, I'd be really interested in the battery range. Last I heard, Volt was supposed to be able to do 40 miles on battery alone. That means if I live within 20 miles of work (many of us do) then I can commute without using any gas. Charge the car at home, drive 20 miles to work, drive 20 miles home, and then plug her in again. As long as that works, I'm happy with the car. Unless the "mechanical link" prevents battery only operation, I don't have a problem with it.
But the autobloggers are up in arms about it. Not sure why.

Modern Phone Banking

We did a phone bank last night. We had a grocery bag full of cell phones, neatly printed lists of numbers to call, large coffees and donut holes from McD's, and some volunteers.
If answering machines could vote, we would win the election. We reached three answering machines for every live voter. Compared to two years ago, phone numbers have deteriorated. A lot more "This number is no longer in service". Could this represent a migration away from land lines toward cell phones? We are in Fairpoint Communications country up here. Fairpoint is in bankrupcy and service is going down hill.
And, the voters are dialed out. Two years ago, doing the same kind of phone banking, most voters were pleased to get a call from the party. Made them feel wanted. Not this year. Every voter I reached was fed up to here with phone calls. I could relate, I have answered a whole bunch of calls this year that I would just as soon not have answered. But, two years ago the voters were receptive to a phone call from the party. The year they are not. Could it be that the phone salesmen have worn out people's welcome?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Banks mess up again

You must have heard that the big banks are putting a moratorium on foreclosures. They didn't do this out of the goodness of their hearts. They are doing it because they fear their records are so shabby that they will loose in court.
Taking a man's house is a serious business, and a decent court will demand more evidence than just a bank computer ticket saying the mortgage is in arrears. For openers the court demands that a responsible bank official review the paperwork and sign to attest it's accuracy. That's an antifraud measure. The responsible officials know that the judge will hang them if the paperwork is false, forged, altered, or missing. Sounds like the responsible bank officials, fearing to put their names on the line, found some gullible junior employee and had him/her sign the forms, thousands of them.
Now that the judges are wised up, the banks know that the paperwork won't fly. Next, comes some other issues. The bank needs to produce the original paper mortgage with the borrowers notarized signature. Can they do this? Or did they microfilm the mortgage and discard the original to save space? Like they do with my canceled checks. Did they sell the mortgage to Fannie or Freddie or GMAC or Merrill Lynch to turn into mortgage backed securities? What happened to the original during the sale? Can the bank prove to the court that they still own the mortgage after so many were sold?
What brought the mortgage paperwork issue to light at this inconvenient time? Could it be that bank record keeping has been shabby for years and the courts were accepting the shabby paperwork. And now that foreclosures are peaking one scrappy homeowner cried out "The emperor has no clothes"? And sure enough, once someone points out the problem, it is a problem.
So, give the banks one black mark for sloppy record keeping. Give them a second black mark for not having the brains to cut a deal with the homeowners. Foreclosure sales only recover a half of the loan value. Guy defaults on a $200K mortage, the bank will be lucky to recover $100K selling the house. If the banks had any brains, they would have cut a deal with the homeowner, drop his mortgage 25% and let him keep the house. That way the bank only looses 25%. Go to foreclosure and the bank looses 50%. What would an intelligent bank do?
How smart does one have to be to become a banker?

The Nanny State marches on

On Fox TV news I learned that Congress is working on a federal law to ban texting while driving. I will agree that texting behind the wheel is dangerous and should not be done.
But do we need a law prohibiting a stupid practice? Surely some public information ads will do just as well. (This is your cell phone, this is your cell phone on drugs)
Proving the crime of texting while driving is gonna be next to impossible. The driver will simply deny it, and then it's his word against the cop's word. Traffic laws are enforced by state and local cops. Should they be enforcing a federal law? If the voters feel so strongly about this issue will they not pass state laws banning the practice? Massachusetts and New Hampshire have already done so.
Finally, why the concentration on texting? I've had a couple of hairy moments when youngest son tunes his Ipod while under way.

Then to add insult to injury, I hear the EPA is planning on raising efficiency standards for household appliances (water heaters , air conditioners, washing machines and the like). The "improved" appliances will be pricy, as much as $900 extra for a small reduction in power consumption. How to lower the standard of living, make stuff more expensive. Reducing power consumption means adding insulation, making the heat exchangers bigger, making wires thicker, all of which raises the cost. I think homeowners are better fitted to make cost benefit tradeoffs than EPA bureaucrats.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Reviving Lincoln Part 2

Ford is still talking about it. They claim to have funding for seven new Lincoln models over the next few years. Now they are talking about culling the Lincoln dealerships. Ford has something like 1200 Lincoln-Mercury dealers, whereas Lexus and Ifiniti sell more cars from dealer bases of about 200.
Of course, this desire to cull out the dealerships says that excess dealers cost Ford money. Normally companies like a solid distribution network. More dealers is better because it insures that even customers in remote locations can find a dealer. So the extra dealers must cost Ford money to keep them in operation.
Dealers are supposed to be semi independent businesses, making money as middle men. Ford should not be subsidizing them. Rather than culling extra dealers, Ford ought to consider changing the dealer arrangement so that the dealers pay their own way. That way the hopeless dealers will just go out of business, leaving the efficient dealers to service customers.

Retraining is the solution to unemployment?

Some people think you can retrain anyone to anything. I heard a pundit on Fox claim that construction workers (currently highly unemployed due to the construction slump) could be retrained as programmers for Google.
Right. Guys that do construction do it cause they like working out of doors in the sunlight and fresh air. They like working with their hands and doing heavy lifting. They like seeing something real, that they can touch, take shape under their hands.
Put a guy like that in a cubical, facing a PC monitor, and ask him to debug some ugly C++ code and it just ain't gonna work. It will drive the construction guy crazy. This just isn't what he considers work. It isn't a matter of training or intelligence, it's a matter of liking the stuff. No way is a real construction guy going to be happy turned into a code geek.
There are plenty of things construction guys might consider other than working construction. Mining, logging, truck driving, railroading, airline work, heavy equipment operation, shipping, plumbing, HVAC, and lineman (power or telephone) come immediately to mind. But forget programming, selling, and jockeying paperwork.

Friday, October 8, 2010

No fingerprints says Aviation Week

Stuxnet is a large and powerful bit of malware that someone unleashed on the Iranians. The Iranian victims accuse Israel. Israel and everyone else denies having anything to do with it. Stuxnet may be slowing down/crippling/destroying the Iranian A-bomb program. The Iranians claim the harm is minor, nobody else is talking at all.
Stuxnet is designed to target Siemens built industrial control systems which the Iranians use in their A-bomb program. Mahmud Liai, an official if Iran's industries and mines ministry says 30,000 systems have been infected. Since Stuxnet hasn't appeared over here (yet) it may be programmed to favor Iran over other countries.
How destructive could Stuxnet be? Very destructive. It could destroy the infected computer by overwriting the boot PROM. Once overwritten the computer won't start until the prom is removed and replaced from the motherboard. The proms are surface mount parts and replacing them is a tough job for even the best of technicians. It could break the machinery under its control. In a US test called "Aurora" malware caused a $1 million electrical generator to shake itself to pieces by flipping circuit breakers rapidly on and off.
How to defend against malware like Stuxnet? Simple. Don't use Windows computers anywhere near an important system. Stuxnet spreads by USB port. When a flash drive is inserted in a Windows system USB port, Windows helpfully loads and executes code on the flash drive.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thou shalt not speak ill of the dead

At funerals, it is appropriate to express condolences, grief, and to eulogize the dear departed. Anything else (political demonstrations) is unbearably painful to the bereaved family. All families are entitled to a dignified funeral for their loved ones. Especially so are the families of servicemen who died for my country.
The case of the Snyder family and the "Westboro Baptist Church" just went before the supreme court. The Snyders were conducting a funeral for their son, a marine killed in action in Iraq. The "Westboro Baptist Church" conducted a hateful political demonstration at the funeral.
Much of the Supreme court argument centered around the right (or lack of right) of the "Westboro Baptist Church" to express hateful opinions. This is wrong. The real issue is the right of the Snyders to conduct a funeral for their son free of hateful and improper political demonstrations. The "Westboro Baptist Church" is perfectly free to express their opinions, just so long as they don't do it at funerals. There are plenty of other times and places where they can speak as freely as they please.
America prides itself on being a land of law. American law must provide families the right to bury their dead in peace.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reviving Lincoln

Once upon a time Lincoln had as much status as Caddy. Lincoln used to furnish presidential limo's, at least in Democratic administrations.
Used to be the proper noun "Lincoln" meant a luxury sedan sold by dedicated Lincoln dealers. Now "Lincoln" denotes a merely plusher level of interior trim on Ford cars.
Ford Motor company, hoping to make a bit more money, announced that it would "revive" the Lincoln brand. For car companies, luxury cars are profit sources. They can be sold for twice the price of ordinary cars but they cost little more to make than ordinary cars. Instant profit margin. The current Lincoln lineup is merely Fords with a Lincoln badge affixed to them, the public recognizes this, and hence Lincoln doesn't sell very well, or for very much, and the resale value sucks. Most people won't pay luxury car prices for a Ford with just a badge on the trunklid and a different grill.
Assuming Ford actually puts up the cash to design a new Lincoln, one wonders what they will make. They could stick with the 6 passenger American sedan. It may be a geezer mobile, but there are a lot of geezers out there and they tend to have money. If they did some design work to gain more trunk space for taking kids to camp and to college, they might really have something. Say arrange for the rear seat backs to fold down and extend the trunk right up to the front seatbacks.
Or they could switch to making Mercedes/BMW type Euro sedans. Caddy is working on this. They are having customer perception troubles. When the customer thinks of "Caddy" he thinks of a full sized sedan and has trouble seeing the compact Caddys as real Caddys, especially the six cylinder ones.
Or they could do a luxury SUV. For a while Hummer made money for GM, but the gas price spike killed it and GM sold it to the Chinese. But it might be possible to build a less thirsty SUV, say 25 mpg and sell it. The SUV is popular with married folks cause it holds all the children, will carry plywood home from the lumber yard and furniture home from the auction. On the down side, married with children families tend to be a little cash strapped and buy the low end brand to save money

Monday, October 4, 2010

NH 2nd District Democratic Platform (Kuster)

In the 2nd District we have Anne Kuster (d) going up against Charlie Bass (r). Here is Kuster's platform, take from her campaign website ( Here are a lot of reasons to vote for Charlie Bass.

Kuster wants to build a new Veteran’s hospital in NH.

Kuster wants to eliminate capital gains taxes on small businesses. This is a disguised tax hike. Income that doesn’t qualify as capital gains gets taxed at the higher ordinary income rate. Just what we need to get out of Great Depression 2.0

Kuster wants to spend more tax money on “clean energy”. She doesn’t define “clean” so let us guess she means wind and solar. That means she is in favor of electric power that fails when the sun goes down or the wind stops blowing. When the power goes off my furnace goes off and my pipes freeze. How about yours?

Kuster wants to raise taxes on corporations. She calls this “closing tax loopholes”. Just what we need to get out of Great Depression 2.0

Kuster wants to raise tariffs on imports. She calls this “fair trade” or “proper currency valuation”.

She thinks Great Depression 2.0 was caused by the repeal of the 1930’s era Glass Steagell act. Actually it was caused by government sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac doing too many junk mortgages with taxpayer money.

Kuster wants to limit executive pay. Well, I would too, but do you want to grant the federal government the power to set wages? First they come for the bank executives, and then they come for the rest of us. Pretty soon everybody’s pay is set by Washington. They used set everyone’s pay in Moscow in the old Soviet Union.

She opposes the war in Iraq and Afghanistan

She supports Obamacare. She claims it will cut the deficit by $130 billion over 10 years. She wants to expand Obamacare by having the government offer its own insurance directly to consumers. And Obamacare should be expanded to cover abortion services.

Pro choice. Enthusiastically so. Has won awards from pro choice organizations

She is in favor of raising taxes on all incomes over $250,000. You and I might not be up there today, but inflation will push everyone into that tax bracket in a few years.

Kuster is a global warmer and will tax our furnace oil and gasoline in the belief that she is saving the world from warming. She wants to tax oil and gas companies harder.

Kuster is anti nuclear power.

Kuster favors a “path to citizenship” aka amnesty in immigration. And getting tougher on businesses about checking immigration status of their employees.

Kuster supports Affirmation Action, LGBT equality, gender equality. She opposes Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Kuster supports Net Neutrality. She isn’t too clear on what that is, but she is in favor of it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Druids draw level with the Church of England

In England of course. A whole lot of stiff upper lips must have quivered about this one.

Gubernatorial Debates

John Stephans (r) and John Lynch (D) debated on NH Public Radio Friday morning. When asked about the FRM scam, where apparently three different state agencies had some kind of jurisdiction, both candidates said "I will increase coordination between state agencies"
Wrong answer. Assign ONE state agency to handle FRM type scams and pillory them unmercifully if they fail to prevent scamming. For this scam, since three agencies were responsible, hang all three agencies.
The only way to keep regulators working hard is a good healthy fear of loss of job, loss of pension, and loss of cushy benefits package if they sluff off on the job.