Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Economist hates Republicans

The Economist, for those that don't know it, is a weekly news magazine published in London. They do a lot of real news, unlike Time and Newsweek, but they also have some of their own ideological hangups. According to the Economist the Republican party is handicapped by the following beliefs.
1. Pro-life. Tut-tut. Actually we Republicans make a strong effort to avoid this wedge issue and concentrate on matters of real public policy.
2. Anti-gay marriage. Another Tut-tut. Again, this is a divisive wedge issue that we don't campaign on.
3. Anti-amnesty. This is a hard one. No one wants to let illegal immigrants into the US ahead of legal immigrants who have been waiting in line. No one wants to send out SWAT teams to round up the illegals and bus them to the border. If there is a decent solution I don't know what it is.
4. Anti-Obamacare. True. Obamacare will destroy company health insurance where most of us get our health care. It does nothing to reduce health costs. It imposes rationing and death panels. And endless paper work.
5. Anti global warming. True. Global warming is a scam. The climate gate emails revealed a conspiracy between climate "scientists" to exaggerate the warming and edit the data to create Michael Mann's hockey stick temperature graph.
6. Anti-gun control. True. We Republicans strongly believe that a piece in the cash drawer or the bedside table reduces crime. Most Americans agree with us.
7. Anti tax increase. True. Raise more revenue and the government will just spend more.
8. Pro Israel. True. The Israeli's have created a decent and humane democracy in the face of intense opposition. They are to be admired.
9. Anti-EPA. True. The EPA is on a tear to shut down coal power plants, the auto industry, pour money down "green" ratholes and throw people out of work.

Other than this kind of bigotry, The Economist is an interesting read.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Those limo's are Lincolns.

The Wall St Journal had a good clear picture of the Kim funeral and you can see the Lincoln hood ornament on the limo.
I wonder how a Lincoln limo gets to Pyongyang. Sure they don't have a Lincoln Mercury dealer up there.

Popevers finally popped

Half a dozen batches of popovers made in the last few months have failed to pop. They would come out edible enough, but without the high rise crustiness that makes a popover a popover.
Today it all came together and the popovers rose, got crusty, and were delicious.
The recipe is simple, cup of milk, cup of flour, two eggs, pinch of salt (1/4 tsp actually) and a tablespoon of melted butter. NO BAKING POWDER! Preheat oven to 400F. Add the milk, eggs and salt into a mixing bowl. Beat with an egg beater til smooth and fluffy. Melt the butter (I cheat and use margarine) in a big spoon on the stove. Beat the melted butter into the eggs & milk. Sift in a cup of flour. Only this time I used bread making flour instead of all purpose flour. It has more stickiness than the all purpose flour. Grease a muffin tin liberally, the popovers can stick and their hollow nature doesn't support prying out of the muffin tin. Bake 25 minutes at 400F, back off to 350F and give 'em another 15 minutes.
Yummy.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Frosty

It's below zero this morning. Coldest it's been so far this winter. Must be global warming.

Where do they get those cars?

The North Koreans did a state funeral yesterday. Vast empty street, Snow on the ground, crowds of mourners confined to the sidewalks.
Humungous long black limousines, with a '70's look to the styling. They weren't Cadillacs. I don't thnk they were Lincolns. Were they Russian? Do they Russians make such cars? And export them? And what do they do the rest of their lives, when they aren't hauling coffins in state funerals?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hyping your headlines

Today's airliner incident, a 737 aborted its takeoff. According to Fox TV News, the tires "exploded".
Yeah right. Any motorist knows that tires blow out, they don't explode.
But the writer's must think "explode" is catchier. Or maybe they are just ignorant. TV people are poorly educated.
But for those of us who drive or fly, "blow out" gets our immediate attention.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Words of the Weasel Part 24

Underperform. Fox News Speak (heard on air this morning) for lose. As in "Newt Gingrich may underperform in the Iowa Caucus."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Should party primaries be open?

Well, they are in New Hampshire. We allow voters to change their party affiliation at the polls on election day. And to change it back again on the way out the door. Party members often complain about this, saying it is wrong to allow non party members a voice in party candidate selection.
I disagree. To win office, candidates must attract votes from the undecided middle. The independents or the opposition. The way things are right now, about 30 percent of voters are die hard Republicans, who will vote Republican no matter what. Another 30 plus percent are yellow dog Democrats. And the remaining 40% of the electorate can vote for either side.
Allowing that 40% middle to have a vote in the primary helps nominate candidates acceptable to the middle, and thus have a chance of winning the general election.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Did Congress slip on over on us?

The news is full of talk about the "payroll tax reduction" bill that might have passed the House yesterday. Actually it's the FICA tax they are talking about. Used to be, FICA was levied only on the first $110k of income, income over that limit was not subject to FICA.
According to Tax Prof here, the new law levies a 2% FICA tax on all income over the $110k cutoff point. That's a pretty stiff tax bite. And right out of the blue, too. This is the first I'd heard of this new "revenue enhancment".

Do your Christmas shopping in Littleton

Went out Christmas shopping yesterday. You gotta do it, websurfing and Amazoning just lacks the flavor of going into stores and looking at stuff and exchanging Merry Christmas greetings with strangers met in stores. Main drag of Littleton can be walked, lots of neato stores carrying stuff you can't find at Walmarts.
Much better than mall crawling.
Then we had family over to decorate the Christmas tree and consume a bit of Christmas cheer.
Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tis the season to go virus stomping

Got another one. This guy called him self "XP Antispyware 2012". He tries to look like he is official Microsoft issue, although he isn't. He throws up a window that looks like an anti virus scan and shouts about infections. And he gets into the registry and fixes it so that anytime you run an .exe file, he get run instead.
I'm so glad Microsoft gave us the Registry with the power to reprogram every part of Windows.
Fortunately good old Bleeping Computer had a fix for him.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Model Number, lack of

Trusty Hoover upright vac is running on it's last bag. So I note "Vacuum bags" on the shopping list on the refrigerator door. Then I look at the vac for a model number to put on the list. Damn, no model number or name (e.g. Supersucker 1234) on the vac. I turn it over, no luck. Hoover didn't bother.
So tomorrow I'll be in the supermarket looking at a dozen different dirt bags wondering which one will fit.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

60 day extension of Pay Roll tax, meaningless

Obama is on TV right now whining about the failure of the 60 day extension of the pay roll tax cuts. Is there much of a difference between a tax hike in January as opposed to the same tx hike in March? Is a mere 60 days worth all the speechifying and bloviating?
Far as I can see, makes no real matter.

Double Tap. A space age derringer.

Full page ad in my January American Rifleman. It's a double barreled belly gun chambered for .45 ACP. It gives you two shots and then you break it open to reload. It holds two more rounds in a compartment in the grip. Only 14 ounces, available with either a titanium or aluminum frame.
No price listed in the ad.
Hmm. two rounds of .45 ACP ought stop most anything, if you can hit it. It's small. I don't want to think about recoil or muzzle blast. The .45 round kicks hard and is loud fired from the big government model 1911. It will be worse fired from a smaller lighter gun.
All in all, I think I would rather have five rounds of .38 Special than just two rounds of .45ACP.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Whither North Korea?

Medium duty dictator, Kim Jong Il, croaked last night. We have no idea what comes next. The South Koreans might have a clue, but we don't. Perhaps heir Kim Jong Un (28) has the stones to take over from his father and actually run the country. Perhaps the North Korean establishment will run things with Kim as a figurehead. Perhaps the North Korean regime will collapse under the pressure of starvation and famine.
The last possibility is the most worrisome. If the North collapses, the South Koreans will be under enormous pressure to do something. A lot of South Koreans still have kin in the North. They will demand relief efforts to keep their relatives from starving to death.
The Chinese have been very happy with North Korea. It gives them a friendly border state, who can tie the Americans in knots at the drop of a nuke. The idea of having a pushy capitalist South Korea, hand in glove with the Americans, on their border is anathema. So the Chinese are under pressure to intervene to save the communist regime in the north.
So now we have South Korean army units, trucks loaded with relief supplies and peace flags fluttering from bumper mounts, tooling around in the north, with Peoples Liberation Army units doing the same thing. The nasty possibilities should be obvious.
If things blow up, we will be under enormous pressure to back up the South Koreans. They are good people, lots of us have been to their country and come back impressed with their country, their industry, their people, and their army. We will see the issue as support of a loyal long time friend of America, against Communist aggression.
We don't really want to get into a scrap with the Chinese, with whom we do a lot of very profitable business, but we don't want to leave a long time friend in the lurch either.
With luck, this issue won't come to a head until we have replaced Obama with a real president.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Why we love Microsoft

Trusty antique laptop had been running Office for years. For some damn Microsoft reason Office suddenly decided to stop working and whine. It wants "activation" and threatened to die for good if not "activated" within the next few usages. So, I clicked on "activate by Internet. The program hummed and whirred and then choked up. "Cannot contact Microsoft Activation Server, check your internet connection." Lovely.
So I tried "activate by telephone". At least the phone answered, a robo answering machine. The robo responder wanted me to key in a 54 digit magic number displayed by the program. After a lengthy button pushing orgy, the robo server decided the number was no good and hung up on me.
So I did some internet searching. Apparently I'm not the only one whose Office got surly for Christmas. But no real fixes were posted anywhere. I was hoping for a registry patch. No such luck.
Finally I tried the "activate by telephone" trick again. This time it worked. I keyed in all 54 digits and the roboserver responded with a second 48 digit magic number, which I copied down and then input to Office. Must be that I messed up keying in the magic number to the telephone last time.
I love Microsoft.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Teebow?

All I know is
1. He plays professional football. (Nothing wrong with that)
2. He is apparently pretty good at it. (Commendable)
3. He has been observed praying on the field. (Commendable)

And for this he is getting more air time than a Presidential candidate.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Coffee makes the age of reason possible.

This one is cool.

Aviation Week doesn't know why the drone crashed

They said it wasn't shot down, 'cause the picture shows it all in one piece, no blast damage, no scorch marks or bullet holes. Makes sense.
The undercarriage is hidden in the photo the Iranians released which suggests "The lack of crash damage would indicate the standard UAV flight-termination procedure after an airborne mishap of going into a flat spin."
That's cool. A flat spin slows the drone down enough to recover it in one piece. Just what you need on a peacetime test range. It's nice to have a chance to fix what broke and fly it again. Not sure if that's what you want in wartime. I think it ought to do a power dive into the ground leaving a big hole. And a lot of scrap metal.
Aviation Week said the nobody was very concerned about compromising secrets. They claim the payload was a "full motion video sensor" aka ordinary TV camera. As far as the air frame and engine go, the experts claim there is nothing new there. Right.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

California Cognac

Cognac, the brandy of Napoleon. Comes from just one district in France, and is so smooth you can sip it neat, from a special glass (a brandy snifter). Under French law, only brandy produced in the Cognac district can bear the Cognac label. Everyone else must label the product "brandy". And just plain "brandy" is so rough that us ordinary mortals must add ice and soda to make it drinkable.
Out in California the E&J (Easy Jesus my son calls 'em) has long distilled an ordinary brandy and sold it in cathedral shaped bottles. E&J was OK as a brandy, but you don't want to sip it neat. Now E&J has gotten better at it, and offered a brandy marked "V.S.O.P." the traditional mark of high class Cognac. The NH liquor store carries it, at 1/3rd the price of Hennessy.
It's not bad. It's smooth enough to sip it neat. If they can keep it up, E&J might have a real product here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

HR whines again

This was on Vermont Public Radio this morning. An aircraft maintenance company out in the mid west is complaining about the lack of qualified aircraft mechanics to hire. An lady HR rep from the company said on air "You cannot just hire high school graduates to do this work."
The hell you can't. That's all we did in USAF. We enlisted high school graduates, put 'em thru a few months of tech school, and then put 'em to work on the flight line as apprentices (3 levels in USAF jargon). They worked under the supervision of journeymen and masters. After taking some courses, getting lots of hands on experience, and passing some tests, they got promoted to journeymen (5-levels). Took about three years for the average guy. And with more experience, and training, and testing, the journeymen became masters.
That maintenance company could do the same.
Then they revealed that they only paid people $12 an hour to start. No wonder they have trouble filling vacancies.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bad day at the Green Hill Mall

It's Christmas shopping season, the sun is out, the snow is melting, great day to be out and about. I needed some electronic parts. The local Radio Shacks are all out of business, so I drove over to a surviving one in St Johnsbury. It was in a nice new mall, with a micro Sears, a J.C. Penny, a dollar store, a bank, couple of shoe stores, you know, the usual. Christmas carols are playing on the PA system.
One thing wrong. The place is deserted. The halls are empty, the stores have more clerks on the floor than customers. The mall has four giant gaping vacancies, the parking lot is nearly empty. Great Depression 2.0 is hard at work around here.

Need to Know, We have a democracy

Was watching a new PBS Sunday pundit show yesterday. "Need to Know" they call it and it has Ray Saurez of the Newshour as one of its hosts. They had a panel of elderly Congressmen and newsies, bewailing the current problems of Congress. They had a clip of Elmo from Sesame St saying that a nice playdate would solve all the problems. The panel talked as if Congressmen were both the cause and the solution to the current deadlock. They talked about the good old days when Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan, or Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton could get together and cut deals that would stick. If only Congressmen would socialize with each other more, all the bad partisan feelings could be soothed and we could pass some of each side's favorite bills. The entire focus of the discussion was upon Congress and Congressmen, as if the real world didn't exist.
In the real world, Congressmen have to vote their district. A lot of democratic Congressmen became former Congressmen last November because they forgot that rule. On issues that the district cares about, Congressmen have to toe the line.
In the real world the country is evenly and deeply split over many issues, taxes, spending, abortion, immigration, oil drilling, coal burning, Iraq, global warming, Afghanistan, bailing out Detroit and Wall St, to name just a few. Many districts have strong views on these issues and insist that their Congressmen support their views. When the country is split, Congress will be split too, at least a democratically elected Congress. Which is the way it ought to be.
Not only that, Congress is set up to to prevent the "tyranny of the majority". We cannot allow a slim majority to impose its will on a large minority that is dead set against the change. The country won't hold still for it. The way things are now, the country closely split, it's better to keep things the way they are, than pass laws that 49% of the country will detest.
And that is what is happening. On the deeply divisive issues, the Congress is leaving things the way they are, because it cannot muster the votes to push thru changes that are stoutly opposed by one side. And that is the way it ought to be.
Too bad no one on this panel of supposedly wise men understood that.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

David Gregory, master of stupid questions

He is interviewing Ron Paul this morning on Meet the Press. "Who is the real conservative, Romney or Gingrich?" he asks Ron Paul. Who cares? What we want to know is where the candidates stand on healthcare, taxes, global warming, budget cutting, Israel, nuclear power, Syria, Iran, and numerous other important questions. In particular, when you are interviewing a presidential candidate we want to know where he stands, not what he thinks about his competitors.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Whap!

That's the noise a bird makes flying into my Thermopane windows. They been doing it more and more. Just this morning I watched a blue jay perched on my porch railing. The jay spread his wings and took off, gathered speed and whap! Right into the window. He must have survived, I didn't find him lying dead in the driveway.
And it ain't like that window wash commercial "Our Stuff makes glass so clean it seems to disappear." My windows have a goodly selection of bug smears, condensed wood smoke and they all need cleaning.

Mitt or Newt?

Newt is an interesting guy. I'd love to have him over for dinner. Newt is an idea man, he has ideas running out of his head and all over the floor. Most of them are good ideas, some of them are bad ideas. We could be in a lot of trouble should a President Gingrich push thru one of his bad ideas. Mitt is a nice guy, nice wife, nice kids. He has real executive experience and can get uncooperative legislators, investors, and promoters to cooperate. Mitt is a middle of the road guy. He isn't going to go to the mat against abortion, gay marriage, legalized grass, amnesty or any other wedge issue. He will do his best for the economy, employment, and the deficit. The independents are more likely to vote for Mitt, which makes Mitt a better bet to beat Obama.

Friday, December 9, 2011

How did that US drone come down in one piece?

Iran is displaying a futuristic looking drone it claims is of US origin (despite the lack of USAF markings) . How did it fall into Iranian hands in one piece? Did the Iranians get onto the drone's command frequencies and order it to land? Did the drone encounter some kind of in flight failure and the on-board artificial intelligence made a safe landing in a field? Were the Iranians merely lucky? Like the US was in WWII when we found a crashed Japanese Zero in Alaska in good enough shape to salvage and even fly.
If Iran did force the drone down via the radio command link, how come said radio command link was not encrypted? There are plenty of uncrackable encryption schemes that can be realized on a 3 by 5 inch printed circuit board. Why did not this top secret drone have encryption?
And, why is the US admitting that the Iranians have a top secret US drone in their possession? We don't have to lie about, we just say nothing. In response to reporter's questions refuse to answer. That way anyone who wants to believe the Iranians are not being truthful, can go right on believing. But once some big fat mouth in DC says "Yeah, that's ours" the jig is up. Once the Americans themselves confirm Iranian claims everyone will believe those claims. If we could just say nothing (difficult for politicians and bureaucrats) we would leave the matter in some amount of doubt.
Finally, does this drone have anything to do with the series of massive explosions plaguing the Iranian nuclear program?

Plumbing

My least favorite household activity. The bathroom sink faucet has been leaking for months. Not on the floor, just a little dribble on the sink. I finally got irritated enough to fix it. Drive in to Littleton, all the while thinking to myself "Lowes or Home Depot?". We have both, next door to each other. Eventually I found myself in the Lowes parking lot.
They had a lot of faucets. Shiny Chrome, gun metal, porcelain knobs, all pricey. I settled on an el cheapo Pfizer model for $18, thinking that the fancy jewelry grade faucets would look out of place in my humble bathroom. Only when I got it home and unpacked it did I see the "Made in China" sticker on this old line American plumbing fixture company's product.
Now the fun begins, getting the old faucet out of the bathroom sink. That fellow has been peacefully rusting in place since the house was built in 1962. The brand new $15 basin wrench was able to loosen one of the four nuts holding it in place. A heavy shot of PC blaster loosened a second nut enough for the basin wrench to turn it, but the last two were stuck fast. A half an hour of groveling around on the floor and using bad language convinced me that those two nuts were really stuck. So I disconnected the pipes lower down and took the entire sink off the wall and down to the shop. There a one and one eighth inch Craftsman deep well socket made the last two rusty nuts say uncle.
More fun was in store. Replacing the sink on the wall revealed that the new faucet was a quarter of an inch shorter than the old one, and the hot and cold water supply tubing didn't quite reach far enough. Damn.
Make a quite speed run to the hardware store, arriving just before closing time. Bought two new supply tubes. Returned to the job, and found the new supply tubes were the wrong size.
And now it was after five o'clock and the hardware store was well and truly closed. Another struggle and I was able to stretch the old supply tubes just enough to fit. And wrenched them good and tight, and Halleluiah, they don't leak.
I hate plumbing.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bankers must do their own risk assessment

Rather than depending upon ratings agencies. Well how about that? Bankers will have to work at their trade, inside of accepting outside opinions. About time. The secret of banking is making loans that will be repaid. Any turkey make made a loan, the trick is to make loans that get repaid. On time, with interest.
The Wall St rating agencies, Standard and Poor's, Moody's Investor Services, and some others, have been "rating" investments, banks, and even countries as AAA, A,B,C just like grades on report cards. Trouble is, the ratings agencies made some astoundingly poor ratings over the years, such as rating mortgage backed securities AAA. Banks have been dumb enough to accept agency ratings and been burned badly.
Apparently the word is getting around. Congress required the the FDIC to remove any language referring to agency rating from the banking regulations. This is finally filtering down to even the dumbest banks.

Don't blame Wilileaks

Blame some government weenie who gave Army privates access to State Dept classified. Today's WSJ has an op-ed piece by Floyd Abrams decrying the really bad effects of Wikileaks posting classified State Dept cables. Numerous US diplomats expelled after their classified cables containing perfectly true but uncomplimentary information became public.
Abrams blames all this on Julian Assange, Wikileak's founder.
Wrong. The blame belongs to the un named bureaucrat who gave Army private Bradford Manning access to State Department classified. Manning turned into a traitor of the Benedict Arnold class and stole thousands of classified documents and gave them to Wikileaks. Manning is in custody, but the unnamed bureaucrat who gave Manning access is getting away scot free.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gotta prove intent in order to prosecute

That's the whine I read in the Wall St Journal. Some investigator working to nail somebody, anybody, for causing Great Depression 2.0, or at least profiting by it.
What is this? Intent is thought. Are we trying to prosecute thought crimes? Real crime, which juries will convict for, involved actions, not thoughts. Taking cash out of the vault, out of safety deposit boxes, out of customer accounts (Corzine!), forging signatures, that's crime. The law has been real clear on this sort of thing since Moses's time.
Buying a stocks and bonds that go down in value ain't criminal, dumb maybe, apt to get you fired, but it ain't a crime.
What this guy is complaining about is really one of two things.
A. Nobody committed any crimes.
B. He is too stupid to prove the crimes. (You gotta be smart to be Sherlock Holmes. Few guvmint employees are very smart)

Crime should not rest upon mental attitude. Proof of a crime should be proof of some action, not wheither the perp was thinking impure thoughts as he did the actions. Juries largely agree with this, and have been returning verdicts of "not guilty" when the government brings a thought crime case.
And no, we do not need more vague laws making impure thoughts into felonies.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Banking with Basel

Or, how banking regulations drove the world economy over the cliff. The Basel agreements on international requirements for banking capitol drove banks into unsound lending.
To understand the issue, we have to understand "capital" as related to a bank. Let's try a simple case, a medieval bank that gets its funds from depositors, in gold, and makes loans. Obviously such a bank cannot loan out ALL the money in the vault, they have to hold onto some money to cover withdrawals and losses (some borrower fails to repay his loan). Obviously the amount of capital to keep is a delicate balance. Money sitting in the bank's vault pays no interest, so the banker is motivated to loan it all out. On the other hand, the banker knows that he can't go THAT far, if he does he will be unable to pay off a depositor, and then a lot of bad things happen, like a run on his bank, tar and feathers ...
Now a days things are more complex, but the issue of capital reserves is the same. Banks ought to keep adequate capitol reserves to cover bad loans. But, now "capital" is more than gold coin. We count paper money, US treasury bonds, and less safe things like mortgages, Greek bonds, common stocks, anything that could be quickly sold for cash to meet obligations. Things like real estate don't count as capital because they cannot be sold quickly. Suppose you needed to sell the Empire State building to raise cash; how long would it take to find a buyer? Who knows.
To create a level international banking field, the big boys got together at Basel Switzerland and set up rules for how much capital banks must hold, and what things count as capital. They even talked the American SEC into imposing these rules on US banks. Trouble is, the Basel rules are bad rules. And every bank got pushed into doing things the Basel way. Under Basel , banks had to hold 8% capital against corporate loans, 4% against mortgages, and 1.6% against mortgage backed securities.
Right there you can see we are in trouble. Everybody knows that mortgages are pretty sound investments ("Safe as houses" they used to say), but mortgage backed securities are extremely risky. But the Basel rules encourage investment in flaky mortgage backed securities instead of genuine mortgages.
It gets worse. Basel defines sovereign debt (Greek bonds) as risk free, so a bank can buy any amount of sovereign debt (loan to flaky Euro governments) and not have to hold any capital at all. This was pure crazy. What is sounder, bonds issued by the likes of IBM, Southwest Airlines, Caterpillar Tractor, or bonds issued by Greece, Iceland, Ireland, or Albania? What kind of loan does more to develop an economy? Loans to flaky governments to pay for welfare benefits, or loans to productive corporations that create jobs?
Basel "regulation" is responsible for the Euro debt crisis. It encouraged banks to load up on high paying but flaky bonds, and now the flaky is coming home to roost (default) Plus, no longer do bad things happen to bankers who make dangerous loans. TARP or the ECB or somebody bails out the loser banks and nobody looses their job or gets prosecuted.
Regulation can be a disaster.

Neverland

Watched it last night in the SyFy channel. It's a made for TV miniseries about the Neverland before Wendy, Jon and Michael Darling fly in. It's an origin story of Peter Pan. Naturally I watched it. I've read the book, I've seen the movie,and I'm ready for more.
The sets and costumes are good, the actor playing Peter is the right age and the right size, and cute enough. The girl who plays Tiger Lily is not cute at all, neither is Tinker Bell.
The two hour premiere is kind of unsatisfying. Peter never gets a clue as to what he should be accomplishing. We hear some talk about getting home to London, but we all know that ain't gonna happen. We know Peter Pan will establish himself and the Lost Boys in Neverland and have adventures going up against pirates and Indians. So when he talks about going back to his previous Oliver Twist like existence in turn of the 19th century, Dickensian London, we know he doesn't have his head screwed on nose to the front yet.
Matter of fact, the opening of the story looks more like Oliver Twist than Peter Pan, right up to including a Fagin, who Peter wants to work for as soon as he is old enough. Fagin gets transported to the Neverland along with Peter and morphs into Captain Hook somehow. Peter has a confusing emotional relationship with Fagin/Hook. At one point they confront each other with large bore flintlock pirate pistols at four paces, only Peter looses his nerve and gives up his gun. Bad Form! The real Peter Pan would have pulled the trigger, blown Hook into next week, and escaped by some magic/acrobatic trick.
The second episode is on tonight. Despite the numerous flaws in the script I'll watch it just to see if something good doesn't happen in the last reel.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Euro land woes

We have all heard about Greece, Italy and the Euro bond/bank disaster. Essentially, private investors will no longer buy Euro land government bonds, not even German bonds. Investors as a group now doubt that any Euro land government is good for the money. The 50% haircut on Greek bonds is an object lesson.
The dead beat Euro governments are crying for the European Common Bank to print barrels of Euros, and buy their worthless bonds with the freshly printed Euros. The bank is resisting this pressure, so far.
Friday, Angela Merkel was quoted in the WSJ as saying that euro members would have to accept a certain loss of national sovereignty. In plain English, she means that deadbeat members would have to accept outside (IMF, ECB, or German) control of their taxes and spending. Wow! Somehow I don't think that is going to work. Any national government with a speck of pride would rather do without borrowing at all than allow outsiders to set their taxes and spending.
Perhaps the Europeans could take a lesson from the Yankees. American state governments somehow manage to maintain their bond ratings without Federal supervision. The penalty for states that overspend is simple, they have to pay more on their bonds, or in extreme cases, they cannot borrow at all. And, like Euro land governments, no American state can print it's own money.

Line Item Veto vs Balanced Budget Amendment

A line item veto for the president would allow him to delete costly pork barrel projects from budget bills without vetoing the entire bill, and giving the budget writing treadmill another turn of the wheel. In real life it's hard for any president to veto a highway bill or a defense appropriations bill just because Senator Fogbound has slipped in a little $1million bit of pork for his district. If the president could kill off the pork without throwing the entire department into budgetary chaos quite a bit of money could be saved.
Congress critters are dead set against a line item veto just because it would let the president deprive them of the fruits of much hard lobbying and bargaining with mere a tick of his pen.
I am dubious about the value of a balanced budget amendment. Too many ways to weasel around it. First and easiest way, over estimate tax revenues. The budget next year is "balanced" if taxes are as large as spending. Those taxes have not been collected yet, so no one REALLY knows how much tax money will come in. So they make an estimate. And since estimates are subjective, it doesn't take a very smart politician to raise the estimate enough to declare the budget "balanced". Then they can go home and not have to face worrisome questions about budget cuts.
The second way is the "off budget" scam. Declare certain activities, a state toll road authority, the state retirement system, the state university, the social security system, the federal home mortgage bank, stuff like that, to have their own budgets, independent of the state or federal budget. New Hampshire practices this to perfection. More than one half of New Hampshire spending does not come out of the general fund, it comes from a myriad of special purpose funds. It is not hard to show the general fund running a surplus by pushing expenses off on the special purpose funds, who can borrow to pay bills. The general fund can look really good when overall the state is spending more than it takes in by way of taxes.
This simple scheme works; New Hampshire newsies are so clueless as to fall for it and only report on the general fund, ignoring the overall picture. National newsies are as clueless as the New Hampshire sort.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Cat Listener

Cats are not pets. In actuality cats run the house. Humans are placed under some kind of spell that causes them to feed the cat, pet the cat, let the cat in, let the cat out, etc etc.
Cats say many things. The attentive human will understand most of them. Cat sayings:

Meow (plain meow): I want attention.
Meow (with some snarl to it): Don't do that.
Purr: I am happy and contented.
Tail lash: I am loosing my temper, beware
Tail Twitch: Something ain't right.
Siren Howl: Get off the property, Right Now
Mewrrp (soft): Pet me.
Hiss: Watch out you. I am planning violence

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Republicans" who voted AGAINST Right to Work

Right here on Granite Grok

http://granitegrok.com/blog/2011/11/republican_defectors.html#more

I'm sorry to see John Tholl's name on this dishonorable list. We supported him. I went up and poll watched for him one frozen February day.

Cutting the Defense Budget

Now that the super committee has failed to do squat, the Defense Dept is facing up to some deep budget cuts. Aviation Week published a list of big defense projects that might be canceled to save money

1. Joint Strike Fighter, F35. They are outrageously expensive and killing the program would save really big bucks, more than any other program. Cancellation would piss off a lot of allies who have ordered the fighter and who would now have to scramble to find something to replace it with. A compromise would be to kill the VTOL version which is having technical troubles, and proceed with the standard version.

2. V-22 Osprey. This is in production and has entered squadron service with the Marines. It' been in "development" for nearly 20 years. Trouble is, ordinary helicopters, Chinook, Blackhawk and such, can perform the V-22 mission. And they cost less.

3. Next Generation bomber. The Air Force wants a B-52 replacement, without one, the nuclear deterrent mission goes to the ICBM's sitting in silos. Last time the Air Force went for a next gen bomber it got the B-2 stealth flying wing; a cool plane but so expensive that they could only afford 20 of them.

4. Ground based Midcourse Defense. A legacy ICBM based missile defense system that I never heard of before.

5. Ground vehicles (Tanks, Hummers, MRAPS, Bradley's) What exactly do the Army and Marines need after Afghanistan and Iraq?

6. Ford class aircraft carriers. These are super carriers and super expensive.

7. C-27 Light transport. This is a cargo plane that looks like a miniature C-130 with only two engines. Trouble is, the good old C-130 can do every thing the baby C-27 can do; plus carry more stuff farther.

8. Helicopter modernization. A never ending black hole for money. You can spend the price of a new helicopter on add-on gadgets, bigger engines, and "stuff". In actual fact the existing helicopters are flying missions without expensive modernization.

9. DDG-51/DDG1000 new Navy destroyers. As usual, new Navy warships cost more than existing ones.

10. Littoral Combat Ship. I think "littoral combat" means shore bombardment. Do we want to buy warships so specialized that they can only handle a single mission? Warships are so expensive that I expect them to be able to handle more than one mission. Like deep sea escort, raids on enemy oil platforms, and anti submarine work. Put a couple of decent sized guns on existing warships and they could do shore bombardment. A lot of modern destroyers only have a single three inch popgun.

The real defense funding issue. Should we not have more infantry, so the poor infantry men don't have to serve back-to-back tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and other nasty places?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Right to Work vote.

The email lists were buzzing. I received nearly a dozen invitations to go down to Concord and demonstrate in favor of the Right to Work law (HB 474). It was hinted, but no promises were made, that it would be voted upon today. The house speaker, Bill O'Brien, has been biding his time, hoping to scare up a few more votes. But time is running out, and right-to-work will be dead at the end of this session, with out a vote, so maybe it's time.
Any how I passed the invitations along on the up country email list, and set the alarm for 6:45. I set off for Concord thru early morning ground fog and light rain. I parked in the big shopping center, the one with Market Basket, the state Liquor Store, and Burlington Coat Factory. Our side had coffee and muffins and bright green T-shirts in the capitol cafeteria. I encountered a few stalwart north country types, Omer and Henry Ahearn, and Russ Cumbee. At nine o'clock we all file into the capitol visitors gallery. I was pleased to see we had as many of our people in green T-shirts as there were union guys in red T-shirts. Apparently the email gets around.
Business opened with CACR 14, a constitutional amendment having something to do with schools. I'd heard of it, but cannot remember whether it continued Court supervision of schools, or ended it. CACR 14 used up an hour before it was voted down and killed for the rest of this legislative session.
Then Rick Perry addressed the legislature. Perry laid into Wall St and Washington, accusing both parties of engaging in corrupt crony capitalism. Looks like it could be a grim year for Wall Streeters. The union guys were rude enough to boo Perry.
After Rick ran down, Huntsman popped up and spoke as well. Huntsman sounded more mature and less "hot button issue" than Perry.
Finally we moved onto the main event, HB 474, the right to work law. Both sides put up some speakers, and by noontime, the speaker called for a roll call vote (actually a push button vote recorded by computer). In New Hampshire, the push button vote lasts for a mere 30 seconds, unlike the US Congress which can let 25 minutes go by on a push button vote. In New Hampshire the legislators have to stay in their seats and make up their minds.
Too bad, when the red LED stopped blinking, the vote was 240 in favor to 139 against. Since this was a veto over ride vote, we needed two thirds (253 votes) to override Lynch's veto. Close but no cigar.
Too bad. Kiss that automobile assembly plant goodby. Apparently the campaign donations and votes of a mere 9% of the New Hampshire workforce are enough override the needs of the 91% of our workforce who are not in a union. Democracy in action.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Return to Harvard Square

I love Harvard Sq. I've been going there all my life. I visited it again yesterday, after an absence of a year, due to living in upcountry New Hampshire. Drove down on I-93. New Hampshire is widening I-93, making that four lane strip between Manchester and Mass, into 6 lanes. They are building the new lanes in isolated bits and pieces, so that they won't do us motorists any good until all the road is widened, in maybe four to five years. Smarter would be to start the widening at one end and build methodically toward the other end. That way as sections are finished they can be placed into service.
Harvard Square is still there, but it saddens me to think of all the great places that are no longer there. Ferranti-Deggi, that great camera store, where once upon a time I acquired a Kodak Retina SLR is gone. The Sunflower, with it's magnificent copper topped bar down stairs, got turned into a Pizzarria Uno. The Crate and Barrel in the three story concrete building out Brattle St, is now a ladies clothing store. The great book store that used to be across the street from it is gone. Wordsworth books in the basement of that strange round brick building on Brattle Sq is gone and the space is "For Rent". Abercromby and Fitch wiped out The Tasty and the Wurst House. Now Abercromby is gone and the space has a bank and a Starbucks. Boring.
The Starr bookstore in the Harvard Crimson building is gone. Brine's Sporting goods is gone.
There are a few survivors from the old days. The Million Year Picnic is still there and so is Charlie's Kitchen.
After three hours of Christmas shopping all I found were some comic books (aka graphic novels) for daughter, and a used Andre Norton paperback for myself.
Pretty soon it won't be worth going to the Square at all.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lack of skilled workers says WSJ

Front page piece on the terrible troubles finding skilled workers, welders, heavy equipment mechanics, repair technicians, network installers. To read the piece you would think the entire world was devoid of skilled workers.
Sorry about that. Those are the workers companies are failing to train. Every company needing highly skilled workers has a bunch of entry level guys on the payroll who would do just about anything to get some training on the job. If the company needs skilled workers, it ought to be training up it's unskilled workers.
Companies bitch that after training someone, the newly trained worker then leaves to take a job with some other company. Tough. Maybe after training someone, you ought to pay him enough to keep him around.

I got infected. System Fix is a PITA

I paid my Bill Gates tax today. A virus drove right in thru Window's wide open barn door and set up shop on Blackbox, my Compaq desktop. This one turned the screen black and issued an alarming series of messages indicating hard drive failure, RAM failure, file system meltdown, and urged me to download a "fix" program. It turned off TaskMgr, and hide all my files.
I was able to use the Start menu's run option to start up Firefox and go out to www.BleepingComputer.com. Wonder of wonders, good old Bleeping Computer had a fix for this baby. I printed out seven pages of detailed instructions for killing this sucker off. Too bad the instructions only worked halfway.
Step 1 is to download and run a program (rkill.com) to kill the active virus out of memory. While running, this virus keeps throwing up whole bookcases of scary error messages that sit on top and make in difficult to run anything else, cause the damn error messages (all false) block your view of the screen. Rkill reported the filenames of the two programs it kills.
You ain't done yet, Rkill just zaps the virus out of memory. The sucker is still alive on disc and will load and execute next time you boot. What you should do as soon as rkill finishes, is use Windows Explorer to zap the two filenames rkill reports, clean off your disk.
Bleeping Computer's seven pages of kill instructions don't mention this. They direct you to download and run antivirus "Malwarebytes". This baby spends 2 hours scanning your disc for bad stuff, finds a few, but doesn't find the damn virus.
So reboot and the "System Fix" virus comes right back to life. Repeat the rkill run to zap it, and then use Windows Explorer to delete all the files and Regedit to zap all the keys the virus planted in the Registry. This works.
Total virus zap time, 6 hours.
Thanks Bill, so glad you gave us WindowsVirusMagnet XP.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Go Newt

Newt is getting hammered over his stand on immigration. He said that married couples who have been in the country long time, have kids, have jobs, pay taxes and keep out of trouble with the law ought not to be thrown out of the country.
I agree. These are model citizens, and we need more of them.
Plus, I cannot stand the thought of sending black uniformed SWAT teams to seize them, cuff them, drag them from their homes, throw them and their children into paddy wagons, and dump them at the border.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Words of the Weasel Part 24

"Call upon the IMF to play an enhanced role." What an artful way of saying "Give us some money 'cause we are broke."

The sky is warming.

"CO2 may not warm the planet as much as thought" is the title of an article in New Scientist magazine. Groovy, I like it, maybe we can get off this economy killing war on carbon. I was going to post a link to the article but Blogger is feeling ugly this morning and won't make the link. You can get to it from Instapundit.
Of course, there are a few caveats:

"Schmittner plugged the atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations that existed during the Last Glacial Maximum into a climate model and tried to recreate the global temperature patterns. He found that he had to assume a relatively small climate sensitivity of 2.4 °C if the model was to give the best fit."

And how do we know what the CO2 levels were during the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago? There has been some work done testing bubbles of air trapped in Greenland glacier ice, but I never heard of an ice core going back 10,000 years. Best I ever heard of was a core going back 5000 years. And we are sure that a few tiny air samples are representative, and haven't changed over the millennia.

And he plugged questionable data into a computer model. Computer models are nothing special, they are just computer programs, and as such, subject to all the problems of computer programs, like bugs. Plus, when a computer model fails to give the desired answer, it gets reprogrammed until it does. You cannot trust computer models. Especially models written by someone else.

So here we have a fairly reputable magazine reporting a scientist feeding questionable data into an equally questionable computer program and thinking the result is meaningful.

GIGO, Garbage in Garbage out. Old computer business acronym.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Double Negative again

According to a review in today's WSJ, the double negative was proscribed by Bishop Lowth (never heard of him before) in 1762 in a short book " Short Introduction to English Grammar". I mention this tidbit because I posted about double negatives a couple of months ago and was intrigued to find a time and a book that first put the hex on them.

It's snowing for Thanksgiving

We got 4 inches last night and it's still coming down. It's warm, above freezing, so it isn't accumulating much more. Town plow went by at o'dark thirty, Ken King's boys did my driveway by 9:30.

Dexia Bank failure will cost France it's AAA rating?

Dexia, a big European bank based in Belgium and France failed a couple of weeks ago. Presumably (the newsies didn't say) Dexia ran out of money to pay bills and depositors and no one would lend to it any more 'cause everyone thought they were broke. At least that's what happened to Lehman Bros, and Merrill Lynch, and some other late lamented Wall St brokerages.
Belgium and France were going to bailout Dexia, but now it seems that isn't gonna work. An internet post speculated that Dexia's failure and non-bailout, might be enough to knock France's bond rating down from AAA.
What the post did not say was what the bailout plan was. Dexia, of course, wants the Belgian and French governments to just give them money (grants or loans, they will take anything) to continue in business, and avoid laying everyone off. I have no idea how much money this might need, but it could be big. On this side of the pond, AIG sucked up $140 billion.
What would be cheaper, is to pay off just the depositors, and let the bond holders, the stock holders, and the idiots that lent to Dexia go whistle for their money. This would impose some economic discipline, and put the idiots who drove Dexia over the cliff out of work. Europeans need to learn that lending money is risky, it is not a guaranteed never-loose-a penny sinecure. The hard part of banking is predicting if the borrower will be able to pay off the loan. Predictions are hard, especially when they are about the future.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Frank Luntz does a focus group

Representative, that's what our focus group should be. Frank is running an after-the-debate focus group currently televising on Fox's Hannity show. His focus group is ALL FEMALE. Representative that is.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The sound of a can kicked down the road?

That can called Super Committee has finally stopped bouncing. And it looks like nothing happened, not surprising when you consider WHY the can was kicked down the road back last summer.
Neither side had the votes to push thru their vision of budget balance. The Democrats want to hike taxes to continue spending, the Republicans want to cut spending and not hike taxes. Neither side wanted to suffer the 40 percent spending cut that failure to raise the debt limit would have forced. So they punted. And now the punt is falling back to earth.
If the country is lucky, a Republican victory next November will give the Republicans enough votes to push thru their plan. If our luck fails, we go the way of Greece and Italy, within a couple of years.

LED's for Grow Lamps?

Enthusiastic aditorial for a European company advocating LED grow lamps for indoor farming. LED's are described as "efficient".
Yeah right, but a glass window letting in sunlight is more efficient. Like in a greenhouse.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Need to Know, new TV show with Ray Suarez

It's a new Sunday pundit show, I caught it on NHPTV this morning. Trouble is, this show is deceptive. They were talking grand strategy, like keeping Saudi Arabia in the Western orbit. They show a graph saying that Saudi only supplies 11 % of US oil needs, and obviously, we can let Saudi fall to Islamic terrorists, Iranian mullahs or the Klu Klux Klan, and it will only cost us 11% of our crude oil. Right.
The three top oil producers in the world today are Saudi, Russia and the US. Loose production of Saudi and a world wide oil shortage will drive the price of crude up to $200 a barrel, twice what we pay today. This is a problem, and the Need to Know TV show tried to sweep it under the rug.
Ray Suarez should be ashamed to moderate this slanted TV show.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Atlas Shrugged

Went to see it at a friend's house. Friend had a VERY nice home theater with a huge screen and room shaking audio. Comfy movie theater style seats, popcorn, it competes well with the Jax Jr.
The movie can be reviewed on several levels. I never read the Ayn Rand book upon which it is based. The plot held together and was coherent to a non-book-reader. That's better than Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, which cut so much and moved so fast that if you had not read the book you were lost.
The plot has a Colorado railroad tycoon rebuilding a worn out branch line to current standards. She orders new rail made of a supermaterial from another industrialist. There is a lot of nice photography showing giant tracklaying machines pulling up rotten wood ties and rusty rail and plunking down fresh new concrete ties, shiny rail, and replacing bridges. Naturally the lady railroad tycoon and the supermaterial industrialist form a romantic attachment. Thruout the movie we see key employees disappearing from both firms. After each disappearance someone will ask "Who is John Galt". We never do learn who John Galt is. We also see a lot of idle rich going to parties, and a lot of political scumbags passing New Dealish share-the-wealth legislation, and union scumbags attempting to scuttle progress both on the rails and back at the supermaterial foundry. This could become a rail fan's movie, a lot of nice closeups of huge trains barreling along.
The movie carries a lot of ideological freight. The friend who showed it did it as a Tea Party activity. The original anti new deal slant of the book is still there in the movie. In fact the whole movie has a new deal/great depression look-and-feel about it.
Viewed just as a movie, leaving out the ideological stuff and the Ayn Rand tie in, it's an OK but not great movie. The plot lacks conviction and has too many Tom Swift science fiction elements, the characters are cardboard (although pretty or handsome). The photography is good, lots of great scenery, gritty urban decay, lush office interiors. Most reviewers panned it, but you have to suspect that the movie's political points rubbed lefty movie reviewers the wrong way.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Should the Supercommittee fail to agree

The Supercommittee is running out of time. They have to produce a deal by Thanksgiving and that's only a week away. By all accounts the Democrats refuse to reform Medicare and the Republicans won't go for soak-the-rich income tax hikes. The Republicans did offer a $200 billion "revenue increase" (aka tax hike) but that wasn't enough for Democrats.
So what happens after Thanksgiving?
Ans: nothing.
So what happens in 2013?
A little bit of tummy suck in. The 2013 spending plan is right now $1047 billion. The suck in would reduce that to $953 billion. A horrible 9 %. Oh woe. The sky will fall. And this world shaking spending cut is just a plan. Congress usually goes over plan by the time the fiscal year is over.
With the Feds borrowing 40 cents of every dollar spent, a 9% spending reduction ain't gonna save a thing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Words of the Weasel Part 23

"Austerity". Used to mean reducing spending to the point where it hurt. Going without stuff. Not any longer. Today "Austerity" means tax hikes.
Just the other day a piece about French "austerity" imposed to keep their AAA bond rating. Read the piece, and we find that all the "austerity measures" are all tax hikes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Psychiatric-drug use climbs 22%

From the Wall St Journal. Hmm. Does that mean that Americans are 22% crazier than they used to be?
We are talking prescription drugs here, so that means doctors are writing 22% more prescriptions. Have we developed new drugs to treat the previously untreatable? Is this a reflection of the decline of Freudian psycho-analysis in favor of drugs to set the head right? According to this article 20% of the population is taking psychiatric drugs. That's a lot.
Apparently a lot of the growth is in ADHD prescriptions for grownups. Ritalin is rising.
Anyhow, it's bound to increase the awful cost of American health care.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A few WSJ words about Credit Default Swaps

For those who tuned in late, a credit default swap (CDS) is paper insurance, if the financial paper you hold defaults, the credit default swapper will pay you off. For a slight fee of course. The swapper will charge a percent or two to cover his expenses. So eager beaver young hi-roller can buy Greek bonds that pay 28% and tell his supervisor "It's OK, I bought a credit default swap on them, so when the Greeks default, we get paid off."
Only, the Greeks or the ECB or somebody worked some kind of evil magic and the Greek CDS's won't pay off after the bondholders took a 50% haircut. Woe is me.
"investors concluded that the CDS's of other EU countries weren't to be trusted either. So when fears mounted over Italy's solvency last week, investors bailed out of euro-zone debt."
Oh the horror of it. Investors will stop pouring money down an Italian drain. The world will end on Tuesday. Francesco Guerrera, a Wall St Journal editor, thinks this is terrible.
Actually, it's a good thing. Capital ought to be invested in economic development, factories, mines, off-shore oil platforms, sea going ships, roads, bridges, airliners, you know, stuff that employs people and makes money. Money loaned to EU governments just goes to pay pensions of retired bureaucrats. The bad part about CDS's, is that they encourage investors to invest in loser government bonds instead of useful things.
Far as I am concerned, anything we can do to stamp out CDS's is a good thing. Investors ought to look at the risk involved in any investment. CDS's (when they work) shuffle the risk off on the third party, and allow the investor to put his money into really risky stuff but without assuming the risk himself.
Society's capital will be better directed, resulting in greater economic growth and more employment, if the investors have to face up to risk.

Do I believe in stimulus?

In this day and age of scary big budget deficits, some governments (like NH) have reacted by cutting government spending. Others (like CA, USofA and Greece) have not. Each time a thrifty government cuts spending a whole bunch of pundits pipe up and say "Reducing government spending reduces economic stimulus and casts us deeper into Great Depressions 2.0". Is this really true?
The pundits have all been brought up on Dr. Maynard Keynes, British economist from Great Depression I. Keynes claimed that the Great Depression was caused by a "failure of demand" and the proper role of government was to create demand by spending money, and if necessary, printing it in order to spend it. This theory is attractive to politicians (who love spending money), business (who receives this largess), and liberals.
But does it work in the real world? Certainly Obama's $1 trillion porkulus bill didn't do much for Great Depression 2.0. Keynesian spending requires money that has to come from somewhere, either out of taxes, or inflation (which takes money out of everyone's hide). Could it be that taking all that money away from taxpayers reduces those taxpayer's ability to spend?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Maxims

Napoleon is remembered for saying "In war the moral is the the physical as three is to one". By which he meant that his army won because his solders believed in the cause they were fighting for. And there must be something in it, Napoleon repeatedly beat enemies as numerous as his and equipped with the same weapons that his men carried.

Of course we should remember that Napoleon is also the man who said "Le feu est tout", which translates into English as "Firepower is everything".

Words of the Weasel Part 22

"Nuanced." As in "President Obama's nuanced response to the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Quoted from Elizabeth Warren, currently running for Scott Brown's Massachusetts senate seat. Nuanced. Speak softly and slink out of the room. The Iranians are dead set on getting the bomb. Only military action or regime change will stop them. Nuanced won't cut it. Once the Iranians get the bomb, they are immune to invasion. With nukes they can pretty much do anything they like, and if we move to stop them, they will threaten to nuke someplace we care about, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Tel Aviv.
"Firepower." As in "The European Stability Facility needs more firepower". The Economist and even the Wall St Journal have taken to using "firepower" in place of "money" which is what they are actually talking about. Not quite sure why. Can it be that all these good liberals really think "firepower" sounds nicer than "money"?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Back to the Civil War

Whenever times get slow, the services change their uniform. The US Army has gone back to Civil War style blue uniforms and rank insignia. I just saw Chief of Staff Gen Ray Ordiero on TV. Instead of the traditional silver stars on the shoulder loops, he was wearing gold shoulder straps of the sort that William T. Sherman and U.S. Grant used to wear.
Only took 65 years for the Army to get back to blue. When the US Air Force got started in 1947 it picked blue for it's uniform. To prevent anyone from confusing Army soldiers with Air Force airmen, the Army promptly switched over to green uniforms. Now the Army is over it's snit with the Air Force and the soldiers are going with two tone blue uniforms.

Friday, November 11, 2011

After doing something stupid, sue

Something called "FairPoint Creditor's Trust" is suing Verizon to recover the purchase price Fairpoint paid Verizon for the privilege of going broke. For those of you that tuned in late, some years ago Verizon decided that operating telephone lines in rural New England was a money loser. Few paying customers, spread over a wide area means lots of wire to maintain and few bill payers to fund the thing. So Verizon found a bigger sucker. Small backwoods phone company from down south somewhere , name of Fairpoint, thought they could make money running land line phone service in New England. Verizon wasn't making any money off a fully paid for physical plant. Fairpoint was going to borrow a zillion dollars at 12 percent, give the money to Verizon, and then make enough money to operate the system and pay off the debt. Right.
Not only did Fairpoint fall for this scam, the public utility commissions of all the affected state bought into the scheme. And some bankers somewhere (Wall Street?) were dumb enough to loan out the money.
Things happened as any idiot could have predicted. Fairpoint couldn't make money, couldn't service the debt, and declared bankruptcy a few years ago. I haven't been following this closely, but I hope all the idiots who participated in this stupidity lost a lot of money.
Anyhow, the suckers, after getting thoroughly plucked, hired some lawyers to try a get some money back from Verizon. Let's hope it doesn't work. Far as I am concerned anyone who got mixed up in the Fairpoint scheme was too stupid to be allowed outdoors without a keeper.

Obama's Jobs plan

Kill the XL pipeline. That will create a lot of jobs. Although he claims merely to be delaying approval until AFTER the election, in the real world putting a one year delay on a big project often kills it dead. The oil producers in Canada need to market their oil. There are plenty of countries in the world who need oil and have money. China for instance.
So kiss the jobs, and the oil goodby.
That's really good for the country.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Yet another Republican debate

This one was televised on a channel that Time Warner Cable carries up here. It had the usual semicircle of podiums on a stage, a candidate behind each podium, and NO name tags on the podiums. Which is OK for a political junkie like me who knows the candidates faces, but for a more casual viewer, not OK.
The studio audience cheered many of the candidates when they made a good sound byte. Romney and Cain did especially well on applause. They booed the newsie moderators for asking Cain about the sexual harassment thing. Makes you wonder how that studio audience was selected. Just passer's bye off the street? By invitation only? Each candidate given a block of tickets? Who knows. Anyhow they cheered for the candidates and booed the newsies.
And Rick Perry suffered an embarrassing brain fart on stage. He declared he would eliminate three federal agencies, named two, and then couldn't think of the third.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rick Perry

So I emailed an old college buddy who has been living in Texas for better than 20 years. What do you think of Rick Perry I asked.
The answer came back "Not much".
The friend pointed out that Texas's economic success during Perry's governorship is mostly due to vast deposits of oil and gas in Texas, rather than any particular cleverness on Perry's part.
The Texas housing market is in trouble due to crazy mortgage lending. The cost of home owner's insurance is thru the roof.
The state budget is out of balance and they have been cutting school funding despite a massive untapped rainy day fund.
There was a case called "Willingham" in which a probably innocent man has been convicted of arson and executed. Perry fired the review board.
"Perry looks good, has good hair, but a whiny wife."
He is close to the religious right, he is OK with creationism.

I've known this guy for 50 years. He is pretty level headed and an astute observer. With a recommendation like this, I don't think a wanta go with Perry.
His final comment was, "Republicans can do better."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Close encounters of the Asteroid kind

Front page of the Wall St Journal has a big drawing of asteroid 2005 YU55, which crosses earth's orbit and came within 201,000 miles of earth (inside the Moon's orbit) Pretty science fictiony for the staid old Wall St Journal.
This one missed.
Question: what should we do when we detect one that's gonna hit us? The only thing that might do some good, it to nuke it. Good big nuke, close up, might blow it into gravel. Or it might break it up into a dozen pieces. But the pieces keep coming. What causes more damage, one really big hit, or a dozen smaller hits?
Do any of those ICBM's have the oomph to boost a big nuke up that high? These asteroids are small and dark and hard to see, so they will be real close before we spot them. No time to build a special rocket, we would have to use something off the shelf. That's an ICBM that's been standing silo alert for decades. Or possibly a satellite launcher from Space-X.
If we have enough delta-V to do a rendezvous and land on the thing (heh, works in the movies) we could set a big nuke on one side of it it. Set it off, and that rock is gonna move. Trouble is, it may not move all that fast, which means we gotta nuke it when it's far out there, to give it time to move far enough to miss the earth.
Do we have any rockets with that sort of delta-V?

Monday, November 7, 2011

What do you lead with?

Tonight and last night The Newshour led with the Herman Cain sexual harassment story. Where as Fox News, put the story on "page 2", after other lead stories. Looks like the Newshour wants to torpedo Herman more than Fox does.

Internet censorship bill in Congress

US rep Lamar Smith (r -Texas) is supporting a bill to allow the Dept of Justice to shut down any website it wants to. No trial, no nothing, if DOJ wants the site off the internet, bang, it's gone.
This measure is the darling of Hollywood, 'cause they want to use it to "prevent piracy".
Rep Smith has accepted a few hundred thou from the entertainment industry.
What does it cost to buy a US congressman? Not much apparently.

News from the People's Republic of Cambridge

Cambridge public schools will close for a Muslim holiday this year.



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Glad I no longer live in Cambridge.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Strange Obit in The Economist

The Economist wrote an obit for Dennis Ritchie, who died October 12. The obit writer was so ignorant as to fail to mention that Dennis Ritchie is the Ritchie of Kernighan and Ritchie, "The C Programming Language", a slim paperback book owned and revered by every programmer on earth. The book is so basic and so well known that it goes by the name of "K&R" in the programming world.
Then the obit writer makes a few wild claims. "C fundamentally changed the way computer programs were written". Not quite so. That honor belongs to FORTRAN which goes back to the early 1950's. FORTRAN was the first widely accepted higher level language and made portable (will run on more than one brand of computer) programs possible. It was so popular that all competing computer companies were obliged to offer a FORTRAN compiler on their machines.
C came later, 1960's, from Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson at Bell Labs. C caught on and became wildly popular because it was a vastly better FORTRAN than FORTRAN was. Not that C could do anything that FORTRAN couldn't do, but programming in C was infinitely easier. C swept away the myriad of pit falls, gotcha's and spaghetti coding practices of FORTRAN. I can still remember the pleasures of doing it in C after years of struggling along in FORTRAN.
C had a lot of great features, foremost among them was manual, K&R. This thin book was clear and lucid and above all short. Everything you need to know is in it, well organized and so well written you could read it for pleasure. Compared to the massive, wordy and opaque manuals that came with other computer languages, The C Programming Language was pure poetry and contributed mightily to the success of C.
Today practically all commercial programming is done in C. So in honoring Dennis Ritchie we are honoring a man who created modern computer programming, not single handedly, but with co workers. Dennis didn't do all the work, but he did do a lot of the work.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Firewall, or is it a ring fence

With Greece sliding down the tubes, and the rest of the EU running around crying out "The sky is falling, the sky is falling", newsies on NPR and at The Economist keep agitating for a "firewall" (American speak) or a "ringfence" (European speak) around Greece to "prevent the contagion from spreading".
I wonder what they are talking about? Do they mean a great big sugardaddy who will step in and guarantee that all lenders to Greece and every other shaky country will get paid off in full and nobody will ever loose any money?
That would be nice, but neither the Americans nor the Chinese have that much money, and even if they did, they are not inclined to spend it on Europe. Nobody else in the world is big enough or well heeled enough to be a creditable sugardaddy.
The fundamental problem with Greece is nobody in their right mind is gonna lend them any more money. They are broke, owe more than they can ever pay, and still want to borrow more to cover their government spending. Their economy, never very good, is not growing, and doesn't throw off enough cash to pay their way. What kind of "firewall" can change that?
Then come the other shaky European countries. They aren't as bad off as Greece, yet, but everyone of sense can see where they are headed. Already they have to pay 5 and 6 percent for money while Germany and America can borrow for under 3%. As confidence wanes, they are going to find it harder and harder to borrow money. Soon it will become impossible.
Again, what sort of "firewall" will convince people to lend to deadbeats?
Or are we just hearing naive newsie's wishing for Santa Claus?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dances with Dragons George RR Martin

It's the latest and fifth in the Game of Thrones/Fire and Ice saga. It's thick, and takes some time to read. It ends like the first four books of the series, all the good guy protagonists get killed, and the bad guys are still alive and ready for use in the next book. Actually I think one or two of the Starks are still sort of alive at the end, but the rest have bought the farm.
If you have read the previous Fire and Ice books, you will want to read this one, just to learn what happens, but toward the end I found myself just skimming hoping to get to where something happens. I'm afraid Mr. Martin has been reading too many of the Robert Jordan fantasies which just go on and on and nothing ever gets accomplished. Good old Tolkien, who invented the genre, at least made things happen. At the end of the trilogy the ring was thrown in the fire and the dark lord destroyed. Tolkien's modern imitators don't do that sort of thing anymore, the story just rambles on and on and never seems to get anywhere.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dr. Watson on NPR

NPR ran a piece this morning about Watson, the IBM computer that is now the world's Jeopardy champion, having beaten the top human players on live TV a while ago. Watson has been hired to do legal scutwork, replacing 500 lawyers. (Question: What's 500 lawyers thrown out of work by a computer? Ans: A good start)
The NPR piece ran on speculating that massive unemployment awaits as computers take over from humans in other places.
Funny thing, the piece was all science fiction, things that might happen in the future. They didn't talk about draftsmen, clerk typists and travel agents. All of which have gone away since I started working.
Back when I started in industry, I sketched the needed drawings on squared paper and then went down to drafting. Where a full time draftsman would make beautiful D size drawings in ink on vellum. Or, even more time consuming, "tape out" a printed circuit board, laying each trace out with thin sticky tape. My first real design, a 4 by 8 inch CPU board, took a draftsman four weeks to tape out. Back then companies had more draftsmen than engineers.
Then we engineers got desktop computers with CAD programs. I could produce better drawings, faster, right on my desktop. The last few places I worked, before retiring, had no draftsmen at all. The engineers did all the drawings, using desktop CAD.
Back when I started work, everything written, memo's, proposals, instruction manuals, test procedures, parts lists had to be typed. And companies had clerk typists who took hand written rough copy and typed out fair copy using the legendary IBM Selectric typewriter. Then we got Word for Windows. Pretty soon everyone typed their own stuff on their own desktop computer. Again, the last couple of companies I worked for, didn't even have one clerk typist.
And, back then, to go on a trip, you called the company travel agency and they arranged air tickets, rental cars, and motels. Not any more, everyone makes their own arrangements using Orbitz or Travelocity. The travel agencies are mostly gone by now.
So, fairly humble automation has already replaced a lot of workers. I mean a $600 Windows desktop is peanuts compared to Watson. The cheapy desktops ought to replace a lot of pure paper shuffling jobs. Which isn't all bad, who really wants to shuffle paper for a living?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Grade school math scores improve, reading flat

Scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, show a solid 9% rise on the math scores, whereas reading scores are flat. The test results cover the years 1990 to 2010, twenty years in all. Assuming they haven't watered down the test over twenty years, this says that the math teachers are improving their performance and the reading teachers ain't. Wonder why?
Could it be that reading teachers assign nothing but awful books? I made a point of reading all of my son's assigned middle school and high school reading and wow, every one of 'em was awful. Wimpy protagonists who get sand kicked in their faces for 350 pages. Hard core distopias that make 1984 seem like summer camp. Totally boring tales. Age inappropriateness, books that would make sense high school junior year, assigned in 7th grade. Minor works assigned in place of the author's best work. Books of pure political indoctrination thinly disguised as literature.
Could it be a steady diet of awful books turns kids off from reading?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Obama doesn't negotiate, at all

A week ago, Obama announced he was withdrawing ALL American forces from Iraq. Despite objections from the Pentagon and leaving Iraq wide open to invasion or subversion by Iran. At the time Obama claimed this unfortunate result was caused by Iraqi intransigence; the Iraqi's refused to sign a status of forces agreement exempting US troops from Iraqi law.
Say it ain't so. Well, Max Boot, writing on the Journal's op ed page says it ain't so. According to Max, President Bush used to have weekly video conferences with Mr. Malaki. Where as the only time Obama video conferenced was just once, to announce that negotiations had failed. In short, Obama didn't bother to negotiate, he just picked up his marbles and went home.

Monday, October 31, 2011

There is a shortage of truck drivers

Truth. I heard this on NPR this morning. Better than 120,000 long haul truck driving jobs are going begging. NPR even explained that only a high school diploma and a little practical training (like backing up a semi) was needed. There were at a loss to explain the shortage of truckers.
Somehow I think the NPR "reporters" must have been talking to some human resource droids at a trucking company.
I cannot imagine not being able to fill up a class of trainees by advertizing "Good jobs, good wages, no experience necessary."

Why are the years of the 21st century numbered 20?

A long time confusion factor for me. When presented with "umpteenth century" in the text I always had a mental hangup. Why are the years of the umpteenth century always numbered umpteen minus one? E.G. the years of the tenth century are numbered 900 to 999, the years of the twentieth century are numbered 1900 to 1999.
It's because we don't have a zeroth century. The year and century numbering system goes back before the invention of zero, and even today we have trouble with the notion of a zeroth anything.
In the case of century dating, it got started early. It was natural to refer to the years between the birth of Christ and the year 99 AD as the first century. It still does, only computer programmers would dare call it the zeroth century. Once you call years 1 to 99 the first century, then you HAVE to call the years 100 thru 199 the second century. And there we go, and the confusion persists into the twenty-first century (years 2000 thru 2099)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

We got 8 inches



Second snow of the season, this one is for real. The over achieving town plow came by at 7 AM, Ken King had my driveway plowed out by 8 AM. Electricity stayed on all night. But the lawn is gonna suffer. We did not have the leaves raked off, and unless we get a big meltout, those leaves will stay there until spring. Cannon now has enough snow to open. Opening for Halloween hasn't happened for 20 years or more. I remember the last time it happened, they opened the top of the mountain, there wasn't enough snow to ski all the way to the bottom. This is better, we have 8 inches at the bottom and more up higher.
Bottom picture is a foot rule stuck in the snow on my porch railing. Top pix is my mailbox, looking cold and lonely. Street has already been plowed.
I wonder how much snow fell on the Occupy Wall St folks. And how many of them have adequate winter clothing.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Batten down the hatches

The radio has been using the S word in the weather forecasts. The sky has clouded over and now is threatening real snow.
So. Get youngest son's "stuff" off the garage floor so I can get the car into the garage and out of the snow. Take down the deck sun unbrella and stow it for the winter. Get the new-to-me Weber grill, and the charcoal, and the lighter/chimney into the garage. Roll up the American flag and take it indoors. Take in the garden hose.
Matter of fact I just saw the first flakes fluttering down.
Now that all is stowed safely for winter, I can light the fire and read the Wall St Journal.

Unwritten Constitution to become written?

New Hampshire has a thing against income tax. It goes back many years. It's so strong that you could call it part of the unwritten NH constitution.
Now the Republicans have proposed a constitutional amendment to outlaw state income taxes in NH. Sort of making the unwritten constitution into a written on. The Democrats are objecting loudly.
These is a real good chance that the Republicans have the votes in both houses to pass it, and that the voters will approve it in November.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Security chief caused Upper Big Branch disaster?

A year ago, the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia suffered a catastrophic explosion that killed 29 miners and wrecked the mine. It was the worst mine accident in decades.
At the time, the miner's union blamed management, and management blamed an act of God. Inspection records revealed a number of safety writeups, but those of us with practical experience know that inspectors always write up something, it's their job. The seriousness of the safety writeups was never discussed in the public press or the internet, at least not at a level that rose above partisan fingerpointing.
After a year of investigation, the government finally prosecuted and obtained a conviction yesterday. Trouble is, Hughie Elbert Stover, the convicted defendant, was the mine security chief. They convicted him on charges of destroying paperwork, and being obstructionist.
The SECURITY CHIEF caused this disaster? Security chiefs supervise the guards on the gate, the night watchmen, and issuance of security badges and parking stickers.
The mine explosion might have been caused by a lack of ventilation, broken gas detectors, inoperative fire extinguishers or failure to wet down coal dust. None of these things is under the control of the security chief.
Sounds like the Feds were unable to find or prove negligence on the part of mine management. But after all the furore, the Feds had to bring home a scalp. Well, they have one. Maybe Mr Stover didn't preserve all the paperwork, or maybe he just called the prosecutor a Yankee carpetbagger, but his job didn't give him the power to cause the disaster.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Even green projects get protesters.

Vermont just finished up a wind farm project. The guv'nor spoke movingly about rolling back global warming, and putting an end to the evils of fossil fuels. Outside the plant gate they were protesting.
God help us if we ever tried to build something useful around here, something that made products and employed people. Like an automobile plant.

First Snow.


It's light, but it's sticking in places. Winter is coming.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day of Reckoning?

Could the European debt crisis really be the European welfare state running out of other people's money?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Perry's 20 % flat tax.

Ouch. Over all the years I worked and made good money and filed my own income tax, I never paid more than 17% real tax. Real tax is 100 * (what you paid Uncle/what you made). That calculation takes into account all the wonderful deductions that I worked so hard to take advantage of.
Perry offers a 20% sorta flat tax ( he still has various deductions). Tax payers get to chose between current law, and the new 20% tax. That's easy, most of us will take existing law, tiresome as it may be 'cause it's cheaper, like 17% or less. The "rich" (any one paying more than 20% under current law) will take the new Perry tax and save money. This doesn't sound like much of a budget balancer to me.
Was it me, I'd scrap the existing income tax law, all of it. Declare it repealed completely. Then pass a brand new law that has just three tax rates, one for the poor, one for the middle class, and one for the wealthy. No deductions for anything, except charitable donations, in CASH, with receipts. Everyone pays something. No tax credits, no dependents, no mortgage interest, no state&local tax deduction, no married/single/head or household. you make it you pay tax on it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Optimistic or Pessimistic about America's Future

Title of a longish article in this month's Commentary magazine. The editors collected 41 essays by "leading American writers and thinkers" on the subject. I skipped thru them, only reading essays by people I had heard of before. Max Boot, David Brooks, Hugh Hewitt, William Krystal and some others.
With the exception of David Brooks, they were all optimistic. Brooks writes for the New York Times, and doubles as a talking head going up against Mark Shields on the Newshour. Not a good background. The rest of them think America can pull out of Great Depression 2.0 and go on to enjoy a second American century.
I'm all in favor.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What's up with Iraq withdrawal?

Obama has agreed to withdraw ALL US troops from Iraq, leaving only an Embassy guard. The original plan was to leave a few thousand men to train the Iraqi forces and deter an invasion from Iran. The Iranians know that we would like to stop their nuclear weapons program and do a little catchup for the embassy invasion of 20 years ago. They would think twice, maybe three times before marching into Iraq and getting in a shooting incident with the Americans. 'Cause for all they know the Americans are looking for a good excuse to bomb their nuclear program to bits.
Anyhow, the Iraqi's are on their own now. And they don't have any reliable American troops to take care of any little domestic problems, like Moctadar Al-Sadr, who might need dealing with. And once out, it will take another 9-11 to get the US to send troops back there.
Was it me, I would have bargained a little harder with the Iraqis about an acceptable status of forces agreement. But Obama doesn't listen to anyone, let alone little old me.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

So what's an Infrastructure Bank?

The phrase has been floated by democrats recently, with no description of what it is. Presumably an infrastructure bank would loan money to cities and states for infrastructure projects. Roads, high speed rail, bridges, broadband, Big Dig style tunnels, maybe even electric power plants. It would get the money to loan by selling bonds on Wall St. It would be a "government sponsored entity" (GSE) like Fannie and Freddy are. As such, investors would be willing to buy its bonds cheaply because the full faith and credit of the United States stands behind them. That's how Fannie and Freddy worked. Infrastucture Bank could borrow at 3 and a skosh percent, much lower than cities and states can borrow, and loan out at 4 or 5 percent, still better than cities and states can do.
Infrastructure Bank would have a large, well paid, staff with full benefits, and members of Congress get to hand out these plum jobs to friends, relatives, and supporters. Always a good thing for incumbents.
Infrastructure Bank borrowing would not show up in the Federal deficit. It could borrow as much as it liked and not make the official deficit worse. At least not until it went broke like Fannie and Freddy did a couple of years ago. Then all of Infrastructure Bank's debts become US taxpayer debts.
Infrastructure Bank gets to say which (or whose) infrastructure projects get funded. Projects for friends and supporters get loans. Projects in political enemy's districts don't.
All in all, it's a way to run up the public debt, hand out cushy jobs to the well connected, and centralize control of infrastructure spending in Washington.
What's not to like?

Friday, October 21, 2011

UNH does a bear survey

It came in the mail, big 8x11 envelope, full of a survey about wild bears. Questions like do you see bears on your property? (yes) and should fish and game shoot them, or chase them away with noise makers. The survey was aimed at classifying responders as pro-bear, tolerant of bears or anti-bear.
Pro-bear means feeding bears.
Tolerant means bears are OK to have around but don't feed them, don't leave unlocked trashcans or dumpsters for them, and keep your distance.
Anti-bear means seeing a bear is scary and disturbing and bears ought to be relocated or shot.

It is amazing how the bears have come back. We have a lot of 'em now and I see 'em walking on town roads several times a month. Didn't used to be that way. Back in the 50's and 60's bears were extinct in these parts.

So what's up with European Banks?

BNP Paribas, a big France bank, owns 198 billion Euro's worth of Greek bonds. Which will become officially worthless real soon now. The same bank says that it has increased its capital reserves to 57 billion Euros.
So when ever BNP Paribas faces reality, they will find themselves underwater by 141 billion Euro's. Reality being that the 198 billion Euros worth of Greek bonds are really worthless.
They aren't the only European bank stupid enough to buy Greek bonds.

E-books

There is hope for the ink on paper kind. With some assistance from youngest son, I downloaded a .pdf of the latest George R.R. Martin fantasy novel and I'm reading it on my ordinary laptop. The experience isn't as nice as reading a real book, even a mere paperback. Seated in my favorite reclining chair, the laptop is heavy and hot in the lap. Page turning is awkward. And the pages are not numbered, so finding your place is problematical. So far I have avoided shutting the laptop off, for fear of loosing my place.
All in all, I'd druther have a tradition hardback.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hitler's biggest mistake.

Which was? Hitler made a lot of big mistakes. He attacked the Russians, who were so terrified of Germany that they were never going to cause him any trouble what so ever. He failed to crush Britain. He ordered his revolutionary jet fighters to be converted into bombers. He refused von Paulus permission to withdraw from Stalingrad. He ordered the fateful counterattack at Mortain, and then refused to allow his generals to withdraw German forces from the Falaise pocket. He abandoned Rommel's army to capture in North Africa. He failed to develop nuclear weapons.
With a list like that, what's left to screw up?
His biggest mistake was to declare war on the United States. He didn't have too. He had no formal or informal agreements with Japan. At the time Germany was locked in mortal combat with the Russians and the British, he didn't need to add to his enemies list.
At the time, the week after Pearl Harbor, the infuriated Americans were about to go after Japan with every thing in the shot locker. Although the American high command and the Roosevelt administration knew that Germany was the more dangerous enemy and they wanted to "Do Germany First", public opinion might have forced a "Do Japan Now" strategy on the administration. Hitler's declaration of war solved that problem for Roosevelt.
With Hitler's declaration of war, Roosevelt was free to do what he wanted to do, namely defeat Germany before flattening Japan.

The Ascent of Money

Most irritating TV show. It's on PBS, has a British narrator, and it talks about high finance, stock markets and banks and such. The irritating part is the lack of causes. Every thing in life has cause and effect. This TV show talks only about effects, totally avoids causes.
I caught it where they are talking about an economic Renaissance in Chile after the overthrow of Allende. According to the show, Milton Freidman of the University of Chicago went to Chile after the revolution and talked economics to the new strongman, Pinochet. Freidman sold the Chileans on a new pension scheme, essentially the "individual retirement accounts" they talk about up here, and the economy boomed. Irritating part of program, I don't believe that a new pension scheme alone is enough to turn an economy around. Betcha there was other stuff at work too. And they never showed any numbers about the boom. I wanted a nice line graph showing GNP over ten years, some numbers. All they showed was shots of shiny skyscrapers down town. So how good was this Chilean boom anyhow?
Then we move up to Great Depression 2.0 They do talk about a "disturbance in the American housing market" started the trouble. Well, so what? We all know that. Not a word about Fannie and Freddie's role, not a word about mortgage backed securities and credit default swaps. Not a word about the role of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd. No discussion of the secondary mortgage market, when and how it got started, and it's role in promoting "NINJA" mortgages (No Income, No Job, No Assets). They talked a lot about the evils of red lining, racial discrimination in housing but nothing about government pressure to do sub prime mortgages.
Essentially this show takes us to the scene of a disaster, and does a lot of handwringing about how horrible the disaster is, but doesn't tell us what caused it.
Irritating. I finally turned it off and went to bed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hand Cannon

From the American Rifleman. Taurus introduces the Model 405, a 2 inch snub nose revolver. The quintessential American hideout gun, Small, dependable, and powerful. Usually chambered for .38 Special.
Only this snubbie is chambered for .40 Smith and Wesson, an automatic pistol cartridge. Revolver cartridges have a rim that seats on the cylinder and holds the cartridge in place against the blow of the hammer, and gives the extractor something to grab onto. Automatic pistol cartridges are rimless, to make them seat nicely in the magazine and feed smoothly. The maker sells the gun with half moon clips, a steel disk with cutouts to grab onto the .40 S&W rounds extractor groove. One half moon clip accepts 5 rounds, ready to drop into the cylinder.
The .40 S&W round is hot, the 405 achieves 900 to 1000 foot per second with a 180 grain slug out of a 2 inch barrel. This compares favorable with the .45 ACP round which does 850 foot per second with a 230 grain slug out of a 4 inch barrel. In short, the tiny Taurus 405 hits nearly as hard as the big Government Model .45 automatic.
Was it me, if I wanted a belly gun that hits harder than .38 Special, I'd look for one in .44 Special, or .44 Magnum, both of which are revolver cartridges with rims, so I don't have to mess around with half moon clips.
The Taurus is a throwback to the old Smith & Wesson .45 cal model of 1917. The Smith was an ordinary service revolver chambered for .45 ACP. The idea was an Army revolver that could fire the standard Army pistol cartridge, .45 ACP. It made partly for Army officers who didn't like the new fangled .45 automatic, and partly 'cause Smith could make revolvers all day when the makers of the .45 automatic were falling behind wartime demand.

Why such concern for teachers

Obama is on tour, promising a bright future of more jobs for teachers. Sounds OK, but why do teachers get all the jobs? What about jobs for factory workers, truck drivers, construction workers, retail salespeople and all the other folk who actually create wealth in this country? Why does Obama care more about teachers? Is it because teachers always vote Democratic?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Martin Luther King memorial

I don't like it. The statue has Dr. King standing there, arms folded across his chest, and a "Shape up or ship out" expression on his face. A hardcore father getting ready to chastise his children.
I don't remember Dr. King that way. I remember a warm smile, a resonant and ringing voice, a warm man who offered sympathy, comfort, support, and leadership. Not a USMC drill instructor getting ready to put the fear of God into a squad of recruits.

The Eagle.

The 2010 movie, I just got it from NetFlix. I read the book ("The Eagle of the 9th" by Rosemary Sutcliff) back in middle school, so naturally I wanted to see the movie version.
If you haven't seen it you haven't missed much. Young Roman legionary officer Marcus Flavius Aquila, serving in Britain, sets out to redeem his family's honor. The 9th Legion under the command of Marcus's father, had set off into the wilds of Scotland some 20 years before and never returned. Marcus sets off north of Hadrian's Wall to recover the Legion's standard, one of the famous golden eagles of Rome. His only companion is Esca, a British slave of Marcus's.
It's a dreadful trip. It rains all the time, their rations run out. On the way up they pick up clues to the location of the lost eagle. The way back is worse, with angry Picts chasing them all the way on foot. The have to eat their game raw lest a fire give them away. Their horses wear out and in the last reel they are on foot, still pursued by war painted Picts. The Picts go in for olive drab warpaint from head to toe, that dehumanizes them completely. Marcus and Esca work out a number of personal differences on the trip. In the end Marcus and Esca return to civilization alive, unwounded, with the Eagle, and good friends.
My objection to the movie is it is a long, uncomfortable, dangerous, rainy trek thru the wilderness. Never a dry campsite, a good meal, it's just endless misery. It's not a trip I care to make, ever. The sets and costumes are good, the score is acceptable, the camera work is up to standard. Acting is OK, characterization is decent considering that the book was a Young Adult book with no girl friends or love interests.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I have a bridge to sell you

Today's Wall St Journal Op-ed page title. "How Billionaires Can Build Bridges to the Middle Class". The author's quote billionaire William Conway of the Carlyle Group lamenting that he just cannot find a good way to put $1 billion of his money to work creating jobs.
So helpfully they suggest that Mr Conway could fund "infrastructure" namely he could use his money to finance building a bridge somewhere. Cool. Let's suppose Mr. Conway takes them up on it.
Next paragraph they suggest all sorts of government regulations that should be created to make sure Mr. Conway does the right thing with his money. A public something-or-other would create a list of eligible projects and Mr. Conway would be allowed to pick one.
Wow! Here we have a public spirited billionaire, who has decided to spend his own money on a public project, and we have the chutzpah to tell this guy what projects he is allowed to finance and which ones he is not allowed? Methinks Mr. Conway would put his checkbook back in his pocket and go away, mad.
Clearly the authors have been smoking controlled substances. And spend too much time in academia.