Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snow is forecast

They can't just forecast snow any more, they have to do this "Winter Storm Watch" thing. They are predicting 4-10 inches in the White Mt's which is where I am. We shall see if we get so much as a single flake.


The Wall St Journal Weekend edition had one of those lifestyle articles on nifty things to drink. This time it was the Manhatten. Sounded tasty, and easy to mix, and I decided to bring some class to my 5 o'clock happy hour routine. So I picked up a bottle of sweet red vermouth, and a bottle of Angostura bitters. When I started to mix the first one, I found I was out of Maraschino cherries. Damn, back to plain whiskey & soda. And back to Mac's Market next day for cherries.
With all ingredients on hand, it mixes easily. Two shots bourbon, a shot of sweet red vermouth, 6 dashes of bitters, and a cherry. Pour all the stuff into a short glass and add all the ice that will fit. It's very smooth. Resist the temptation to mix a second one, you will never make it to dinner after two of these babies.
Remember that American cocktails were invented during Prohibition to cover up the truly awful tasting booze served in those days. The Manhatten is effective at that. Slides down the throat with nary a tickle.

They are tracking you

Couple of days ago Instapundit posted about a sale on watches at Amazon. Being in a window shopping mood, I followed the link and looked at a huge sport watch chronometer. It looked so cool I did some web surfing for it and looked at a few other watch sites.
Well the trackers picked up on that, and for days and days moving flashing blinking ads for sport watches from popped up all over my Firefox screens. I finally got tired of them and told Firefox to zap all my cookies.
That worked, I'm back to less offensive static ads, no moving blinking or flashing.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Un extravagant bomber

USAF is wishing for a new bomber. They built a humungous fleet of B-52's back in the 50's. About 200 of them are still flying, 60 years later. According to Popular Mechanics, the Air Force plans yet more upgrades to keep 'em flying until 2040. The B-52 will be the first aircraft of any type to remain in service for 90 years. Clearly a successful design. It's big, has a long range, and a long loiter time and a big payload. It's dead meat against enemy fighters, but we have a lot of enemies that don't have fighters.
Subsequent bomber designs haven't been as successful. There was the supersonic B-58. It was quick, but short ranged, and a small payload. They have all been scrapped. There was the B-70, of which only a couple of prototypes were built. I don't remember the details, but it failed to get funded. Then there was the supersonic B-1. B-1 had better range and payload than the B-58, but it still could not match the B-52, and it was expensive and not many were built. And finally, the invisible-to-radar B-2. If the radar can't see you, the fighters can't find you. B-2 has reasonable range and payload, but cost $2 billion apiece. We only built 20 of them.
So what do we do for an encore? USAF chief of staff Norton Schwartz wants a plane for intelligence gathering, electronic warfare, linking to offboard sensors. No mention of delivering bombs and missiles on the target. Retired Gen. John Corley wants a lot of them. "How creditable is a force if you only have a handful of assets? " Good point.
Rebecca Grant, a Washington think tank thinker, must read a lot of science fiction, she wants laser weapons. She also wants supersonic. Supersonic sucks fuel like a sewer pipe, shortening range to the point of unusability. Plus, a big bomber is never going to outrun the fighters.
No discussion of what missions a new bomber needs to fly. The chances of carrying nukes into anywhere is low. We don't nuke people anymore. The B-52's are useful for carpet bombing places like Khe Sangh and backing up ground troops with smart bombs laid on key spots, like bridges. The B-2's were responsive enough to pour an avalanche of iron bombs into a Baghdad restaurant just a few minutes after a spy reported that the Saddam Hussein family was having dinner there. What should a new bomber do?
I don't think USAF will get the funding until we have a good answer to that question.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Words of the Weasel, part 28

"The Iranians aren't building the bomb". Yeah, Right. They are busy enriching uranium, and that is the hard part of building a nuke. It may be that they haven't fabricated a bomb yet, but they will, as soon as the enrichment program furnishes enough weapons grade (90% U-235) uranium.
The ever clueful NYT befuddles the issue here.
It's probably true that the Iranians haven't fabricated the sub critical masses for a gun-type fission bomb yet, but so what? The only reason to enrich uranium is to build a bomb. So long as they are enriching, they are building a bomb in my book. Just 'cause they haven't performed the very last step in the process doesn't mean they are not building a bomb.
The NYT offers some silly talk, "The Iranians want the capability but not a stockpile." That's how Saddam Hussein got the Americans to do a regime change on his ass. Thanks to CIA, we really thought Hussein had, or was close to having, nukes. And we took steps. Unless the Iranian mullahs are dumb as rocks, they will understand that the same thing might happen to them. Until you actually have a nuke, you are vulnerable to invasion. The mullahs watched the US Army chew up Saddam Hussein in a few weeks. They know we could do the same thing to them.
Only when the Iranians can threaten to nuke our invasion force, and/or nuke Israel, can they feel safe from an American imposed regime change. They don't dare sit around on a stockpile of weapons grade fissionables without making a fission bomb.

What makes Manufacturing so special?

We have Rick Santorum out there plumping for extra special good tax breaks for "manufacturing". We already have a 9% tax break in the the federal corporate tax for "manufacturing" companies. Under that law, oil drilling counts as manufacturing. Obama was on the warpath about that a few months ago, calling it an unwarranted tax break for the oil industry.
There are a raft of crucial-to-the-economy businesses which are not manufacturing. To name a few, airlines, railroads, farms, mines, telecommunications, broadcasting,construction, electric power, and shipping.
Why should manufacturing get a tax break that these industries don't? Better is to treat all businesses alike.
Remember that free market is better at allocating money than central planners. Moscow central planning used to allocate the Soviet Union's economic resources, so much to heavy industry, so much to collective farms, so much to this and so much to that. How well did that work out for the Russians?
Free market means that if there isn't enough of something, the price rises. When the price rises people make more of it. When there is too much of something, the price falls, and people produce less of it. This system works. It's produced the largest and most advanced economy in the world, with the highest standard of living in the world.
Let's not mess it up.
Corporate taxes should be a level playing field, not special tax breaks for those with the best lobbyists.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The mystique of winter driving

Just thought I'd share some simple things about getting around in New England winters. First of all, always back into your parking spot. Why? Well, if it snows over night, and/or you get plowed in, you have a better chance of ramming your car out if you are going forwards. Plus, if your car should fail to start on a cold morning, it's a lot easier to jump start it, if the hood is facing the curb, rather than the trunk.
Have a snow shovel in the trunk. Also jumper cables. One dark morning, I get off the red eye and find the car, which was parked on the roof of the Logan garage, was completely buried in snow drifts. With the snow shovel it was 10 minutes of brisk exercise, and I was in the car on the way home. Without that shovel, no telling how long it would have taken to get the Logan workers to dig me out.
If you have a garage, take the trouble to put the car into the garage. Just an unheated garage will be 20 degrees warmer than outside. When it's 20 below, the garage will be at zero, and your chances of the car starting are a whole bunch better at zero than at 20 below.
Leave plenty of space between you and the car ahead of you. That clown ahead of you can spin out and block both lanes at anytime. A little extra distance improves your chances of getting stopped before you smash into him.
Keep your speed up climbing a hill. The momentum will carry the car over an icy patch. Without the momentum, the icy patch wins, you are stuck, and so are all the cars behind you.
After a snowfall, take the kitchen broom out and sweep the snow off the car. The car will warm up in the sun, if the sun can play on the bare metal. The snow is a mirror, reflecting all the sunlight and keeping the car stone cold. Again, just a 10 or 20 degree warming vastly improves the chances of the car starting from cold. Additional bennie, you won't have to chip ice off the windshield.
In real cold weather, you only have one start's worth of juice in the battery. Don't waste it by starting the car any more than you need to. Try to schedule engine start from the warmest part of the day, say 2:30 in the afternoon, that improves the odds of the car starting. Once you get her running, keep her running til the battery is fully charged again. Say 45 minutes of running. Another consideration, when the engine is stone cold, combustion gases blow by the rings into a stone cold crankcase. Where they condense and mix into your engine oil. The condensate from combustion is not nice stuff, water, acids, ugly corrosives, this stuff does your engine no good at all. You want to run the engine until the temp gauge reads good and hot, the heat will evaporate the condensates and keep your oil clean.
Happy motoring, and come up skiing. We need the business.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

John Carter, the movie

It's coming next month. After being "in production" for nearly ten years this time, and after a failed attempt to make the movie back in the 1930's.
It's based upon Edgar Rice Burroughs very first novel, published just before WWI. Burroughs had not even invented Tarzan yet, so this is the Ur-Burroughs adventure story. I read it as a child, and it goes even farther back. I read it in hardback Grosset and Dunlap volumes that had belonged to my father.
John Carter is an American civil war veteran prospecting for gold in the Arizona desert. By some not well explained mystical means he is transported from the Wild West to Mars, a living Mars with breathable air, plant life, animal life, green Martians (10 feet tall, six limbs, nasty dispositions), and red Martians (just like Earthmen except for red pigmented skin). John Carter meets and falls in love with Dejah Thoris, a stunningly beautiful red Martian princess. The rest of the book is filled with rip roaring adventures and in the end, John Carter's strong right arm and keen Martian long sword win the day and he and Dejah Thoris marry and live happily ever after.
As a child I thought the Mars stories were even cooler than the Tarzan stories. Everyone went around well armed (longsword, short sword, radium revolver) at all times. There were exotic riding animals, radium powered flyers, deserts covered with red ocher moss, and vast cities, some living and some dead. Burroughs books served as inspiration for three generations of science fiction novels and movies. Star War's Princess Leia owes a lot to Dejah Thoris.
Anyhow I will go and see the movie when it comes out next month. I hope they do it right.

After much sound & fury, 3.5 inches of snow

We had a Winter Storm Watch, hourly, in fact half hourly dire predictions of snow on the radio. It did start falling, about 24 hours later than predicted, and we got a light snowfall.

Friday, February 24, 2012

They are forecasting snow.

Six inches forecast for Northern NH. It hasn't started yet. Let's see how much we really get.

Corporate tax rate set by who cooks the books

Corporate taxes are levied upon corporate profits, not revenue. Profit is the money "left over" after expenses have been paid out of revenue. There are easily understandable expenses like payroll, rent, heat, light, advertising and so on.
Then we have depreciation, a biggy. And adjustable to suit the guy doing the books. What is depreciation? Suppose a company owns an expensive machine, say a blast furnace or a locomotive, or a CNC machine. These things have a definite service life, they wear out with use. Wise companies prepare for the day when an expensive replacement must be paid for, by setting aside some money each year so that there will be enough money to pay for the replacement. Otherwise the company will go out of business when the key machine wears out.
This set aside money, called depreciation, reduces profit. Set aside a million dollars, and reported profit goes down by a million dollars. So how much to set aside? Depends upon who I show the books to. When showing the books on Wall Street, I want to convince investors that my company is making lots of money, so I depreciate as little as I dare. When showing the books to the taxman, I want to show little profit to reduce my taxes.
Incidently, we would be better off if taxes were levied upon the books shown to Wall Street. Right now the IRS permits depreciation that the SEC does not. The books would be more honest if the desire to show a high profit on the street was balanced by the desire to show poverty to the taxman.
Obama released his corporate tax reform plan the other day. He is going to reduce the rate, (Hurrah) AND, in dozens of pages of obfustication, he is going to change the rules for depreciation. I read thru some of it. You gotta be a better lawyer and accountant than I am (I'm an engineer) to figure out if corporate taxes are going up or going down.
The economy would grow more, if taxes were predictable, and understandable. Obama's changes make taxes less predictable and un computable. After your expert and expensive tax accountant does the company's taxes, some IRS bureaucrat will demand more money. And he will point to some obscure paragraph in the 10,000 page tax code to support his claims. And the company will pay up because going to court is too expensive and too risky to be worth it.
Visualize a would be entrepreneur brainstorming his new idea. "And how much will our taxes be?" some one asks. "Who knows?" is the correct answer. "Is this business plan going to make any money?" someone asks. "Who knows." is the reply.
Question: is that startup company going to launch?

Under the smoking Koran

The riots in Afghanistan are not about a burned Koran. Those riots tell us that the Afghans hate our guts. Which makes any kind of nation building over there pretty much impossible. It's hard to win their hearts and minds when they really don't like us at all.
The only reason to keep the Army over there any longer is to prevent Al Quada from taking the place over.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Obama does NOT believe in Drill, Baby, Drill

I heard Obama on NPR just now. He was saying that drilling for more oil doesn't work. Instead we need to "use alternate energy". Yeah Right.
Tell me about running my oil burner on sunlight. Or wind.
Tell me about putting alternate energy into my car.
Tell me why we won't build Keystone XL.

At least we do the hospitality thing right

The man expected to become premier of China, Xi Jinping, did a year abroad in America as a young man. We must have treated him right back then, 'cause he still retains a warm nostalgia about the trip, according to the MSM.
It won't solve everything, but the world is a nicer place with a Chinese premier with a good warm feeling about the Americans, as opposed to one who hates our guts.

Why are they bailing out Greece?

The Europeans (mostly Germany) have poured E200 billion down the Greek rathole. After all this money, Greece will still give its bondholders a 70% haircut. It would be cheaper for Europe to just let the Greeks go broke. Greece would be unable to borrow, and would have to lay off civil servants, cut benefits, stiff creditors, and issue IOU's to cover its bills. This would be tough on the Greeks, but so what?
One unspoken reason for European generosity, is a fear that a Greek default will break their banks too. Euro bankers have bought staggering amounts of Greek bonds, suckered in by the high interest rates the Greeks promised to pay. If the Greeks default, all those banks will take a big hit. So why not hang the Greeks out to dry and put the Greek bailout money directly into your own banks? Why give the money to the Greeks and hope the Greeks will pay off their bonds? Putting the money right into your bank is less error prone, and less opportunity for sticky fingers to steal the money.
Another unspoken reason to bail out the Greeks, is the hope of making a killing. Plenty of Greek bonds have already been dumped for a song. Bondholders estimate the chances of Greece making payments as low (less than zero) and take advantage of getting a tiny bit of their money back, as opposed to losing it all. So Europe is full of speculators holding Greek bonds that they bought for a tiny fraction of their face value. These speculators are hoping for bailouts that let the Greeks pay off at full face value. If this happens, they get rich. Really rich.
One of the sticking points in the the wheeling and dealing between Greece and the EU has been this very matter. The Greeks want to pay off their bonds for what the bond holder paid for them, rather than full face value. I believe the Greeks won this point, which will save them a LOT of money.
At any rate, it's hard for an American to believe that Euro speculators have enough clout to get EU governments to use citizen's tax money to make them rich.
Is there some other hidden reason for bailing out Greece?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Stolen Valor

They passed a Federal law making it a crime to boast of military medals that had not been issued. The ACLU is challanging this law, claiming that free speech gives scumbags the right to boast of having the Congressional Medal of Honor when no such award had occurred.
I'll agree with the ACLU that the Stolen Valor act is a bad idea, and not needed. Once exposed, such scumbags are shunned, their reputations are destroyed, nobody will do business with them, or hire them. If that won't discourage the practice, some jail time isn't going to do any good.
If the ACLU wanted to actually help the cause of free speech, they ought to look into the laws that make lying to the police a crime in itself. These laws are just catch22. If the cops care, all they have to do is grill the suspect for a couple of days, and then do a little investigation. It won't be all that hard to find something that the suspect said that ain't true. Then they got him for lying to police. Even when the cops cannot find enough evidence to bring the suspect to trial on the original charges, they have a slam dunk case of lying to the police.
To my way of thinking, this is unAmerican. The suspect can try and get off by saying anything he can think of. He isn't under oath. Locking the suspect up for trying to get off isn't fair.

Price of Gasoline

You must have noticed that the price of gas is pushing toward $4 a gallon, maybe $5 this summer. The MSM always follows this downer news item with the observation that Obama cannot do anything about the price of gas.
That's not true. Obama could resume issuing drilling permits in the Gulf. He could have OK'ed the Keystone XL pipeline. He could authorize oil exploration in the "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge" (a barren piece of tundra on the shore of the Arctic ocean). He could stop shutting down gasoline refineries in the Caribbean. He could issue leases to develop oil shale in Colorado. He could junk the boutique gasoline blending rules that prevent selling gasoline across state lines. Obama thinks we will all be happy on solar and wind power after he drives the price of oil thru the roof. He wants to price oil out of the reach of citizens so they will have no choice but to go to "alternate energy". He's making progress toward that goal.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Over on PJ Media we have Whittle and Klavan discussing the sad state of the Oscars. Both of these guys are movie buffs, and both admitted that they had NOT seen most/all of the Oscar nominated movies. In short, this years crop of flicks was too boring for them to watch.
Whittle brought up the pacing of today's CGI based flick. Too intense. The classic flicks would start off slow, follow the hero around, meet his associates, ride around the ranch, get acquainted stuff. The movie would work up a a climax (a stampede, a car chase, a battle, and then end. Whittle says the modern flicks just go from one climax scene to another, non stop action, and the audience doesn't have time, or breath, to take much of it in.
Whittle is onto something here. And it was Raiders of the Lost Ark that started this trend. Just action scene piled upon action scene.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Mitt has some problems. First and foremost, he hasn't told us what he would do if elected. No campaign promises. Mitt apparently believes that the less he says the better. Talking substance only makes you enemies, never friends, so he has decided to say as little as possible, while standing four square for motherhood and apple pie.
Second, it should be apparent to anyone that Mitt is not going to go to bat for all those favorite wedge issues like gay marriage, abortion, birth control, gun control, and you can fill in the rest. Mitt is a business man and he will do whatt he can about jobs and the economy, but he won't mix it up in the social issues area.
But Mitt is acceptable to the middle of the road independents, who actually control the election. Rick Santorum still looks like a right wing crazy to the independents.
Me, I want to win the election, four more years of Obama will bring the US down to where Greece is.

Words of the Weasel, part 27

"closing tax loopholes" actually means "tax hike".
"Balanced deficit reduction" actually means "tax hike".

Friday, February 17, 2012

Do I believe this?

Prominent bloggers are suggesting that Obama kicked off the Catholic contraception furor just to distract voters and Lame Stream Media from the really awful lack of jobs in he country , and the just as awful Federal debt.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Nortel Hacked

Nortel Networks, a famous but defunct Canadian maker of telecom equipment (central office switches to be precise) was hacked ten years ago, really thoroughly hacked. Their customer lists, payroll, product plans, email, everything, had been a wide open book to the hackers for at least ten years. The hackers buried rootkits on Nortel computers, which are probably still active, and moving on to infect the companies that bought up parts of now dead Nortel. This was a cover story on the Wall St Journal the other day. And the story has turned up on the Web.
Not discussed. Did the hacking have anything to do with Nortel going bankrupt? Did Nortel's competitors learn what Nortel was bidding on a job and then under bid them? Did Nortel's competitors read Nortel's plans and duplicate Nortel's equipment?
Few suits understand or care about computer security. Suits need to understand that if the competition knows everything you know, you are gonna loose the business.

Alternative Energy

NHPR was pushing this one. Wood pellets. They are locally grown, so if you heat with wood pellets, the money stays in NH, rather than going to the Middle East. Groovy. Then they gave some numbers. Unusual that, especially as the numbers are unfavorable.
NHPR gave the price of a wood pellet furnace at $16,000 (WOW). The pellets only cost $243 a ton, and a ton of wood pellets gives the same heat as 125 gallons of oil.
A standard oil burner only costs $2000, new, installed. So how long will it take to get your money back on a $16,000 wood pellet furnace?
I use about 800 gallons of furnace oil a winter at $4 a gallon, total $3200 . In wood pellets that would be 6.4 tons at $243 a ton, total $1552.2. Let N be the number of years to pay off the VERY pricy wood pellet burner.
Cost of oilburner + $3200 * N = cost of woodburner + 1552.2 * N.
Solve for N (high school algebra)
N = 8.449 years.

That's right, it takes 8 and a half years to pay off the wood pellet furnace. That's a long time. I wonder if the price of wood pellets will stay at $243 a ton for the next 8.5 years.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Math Education in Vermont

Vermont? Why Vermont? Here in the border regions Vermont Public Radio comes in stronger than NH Public Radio. It was one of those interview shows and started off with a Vermont state ed bureaucrat, I missed his name. This bureaucrat admitted that Vermont students were doing no better than mediocre on the "kneecap" (his word) test. Kneecap? That was a brutal Irish Republican Army treatment for captives, leaving them in great pain and crippled for life. Good name for a school test.
Then he admitted that many or most Vermont elementary school teachers had never taken a math course in themselves. And, Vermont high school students can graduate without taking algebra or geometry. And most of the science courses taught in Vermont high schools are Geology, a descriptive science with no mathematical content at all. The real high school science courses are physics and chemistry, which are sparsely attended. In short, Vermont schools allow a student who wants to, to avoid taking any mathematics at all. And he personally believes that math is "difficult" which is why so many students avoid it.
They brought on a new guest, a practicing elementary grades math teacher. That's a new one. My elementary grade teachers all taught math (arithmetic) them selves. They didn't need to call in a specialist. This guy stressed the importance of mathematical learning in the very early grades.
He's onto something there. Kids have to know addition and multiplication cold in order to go any farther in math. Addition and multiplication involve memorization, of the multiplication table and the addition table. The kids just have to memorize those tables and get drilled on them. This isn't fun, and isn't creative, it doesn't let the child demonstrate originality, it's just hard work, for both child and teacher. But unless the child comes out of grade school with a really solid base in arithmetic, he/she has come to the end of the road in math. And locked him/her self out the science and engineering track,the track that leads to real jobs.

Signs of Spring

Fresh Strawberries, only $2.99 a box. From Florida. So I bought some. Bad idea. The humungous berries (some as big as lemons) are from the old tasteless giant berry strain. I thought the strawberry people had mastered growing giant berries that taste good. Last year I ate a goodly number of nice sweet strawberry tasting berries from Mac's Market. This year isn't starting off so well.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Enemies list

Media Matters has an enemies list. It's a short one, just Fox News. MM mentions that they need an enemy to trash and Bush doesn't work anymore.
I knew we had some left wing crazies out there, but I didn't think they were this crazy. And they are tax exempt too.

Monday, February 13, 2012

What not to Wear

On TV. Plaids, Houndstooth sports jackets, striped shirts. Busy ties. Anything with a fine pattern to it, cause the TV cameras and sets cannot handle a fine pattern, little tiny dots or stripes. Instead we set a shimmering rainbow of color interference patterns. Most distracting, and yet I keep seeing people show up on TV for interviews wearing this stuff.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Will the Catholics back off?

Obama gave Catholics nation wide a slap in the face, demanding that Catholic schools and charities offer birth control "services" (pills) to all their workers. It must have been pretty bad to get Catholic bishops (normally a leftie lot) to speak out against Obama. Heat got intense enough for Obama to offer a "compromise" on Friday.
It ain't much of a compromise. They still got to offer the pills for free, but the insurance companies will route the paperwork directly to the insured, bypassing the Catholic institution. The institution still has to pay for all this, they just don't have to dirty their hands touching the actual insurance paperwork. Big deal.
Will this fig leaf be enough to get Catholic's off the war path? Catholic clergy have traditionally been democrats, so a lot of them will be happy to accept Obama's compromise for political reasons. Catholic laity are all over the map, 'cause they are real Americans and hold a diversity of views. Obama wins if he can just get the Catholic clergy off his case, 'cause the clergy still draw a lot of water with the laymen.

Words from a Weasel

Channel 9 is interviewing a democratic lady who is running for governor of NH. "Cilley" was her last name, I didn't catch the first name. "So how are you different from your opponent/the incumbent?" asks the channel 9 newsie. "I have a different life experience." is the answer to both questions.
Highly informative, that.
Ms. Cilley was highly indignant about the Republican's balanced budget. When asked how she would pay for her enhanced spending plans, she waffled, and the newsie let her get away with it.

Out of the mouths of babes

Watching "Meeting the Press" this morning. E.J. Dionne says "There aren't many leftists in the United States."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Felt tip

I'm watching one of those woodworking shows on NHPTV, you know the kind where a museum quality flawless colonial highboy is knocked out in a 45 minute show.
He is using a FELT TIP pen to mark his cuts. I never do that, felt tip ink doesn't come off. It sinks into the wood and stays there. Forever.
Use a pencil, pencil marks rub off no sweat.

Super Pac

Super PAC, faster than the 24 hour news cycle, able to leap hostile MSM with a single bound. And just born this year. So this is what "campaign finance reform" has brought us to?
Obama and the dems blame it all on the Supremes and the Citizen's United case two years ago. Obama was so bummed out about Citizen's United that he bad mouthed the Supremes in a State of the Union speech with all nine Supremes sitting in the audience, in uniform. Which pissed them all off. Obama must have been really bummed out that day. It's considered stupid and hazardous to your health to go around antagonizing people at the top of the food chain.
Citizen's United was about a small citizen's group with an axe to grind, they made a hard hitting (not to say partisan) movie pushing their issue. And the Federal Election Commission forbade them from showing it. Claimed it was illegal electioneering. Citizen's United felt it was a plain issue of free speach, and they sued. Took it to the Supreme Court and won. And the Supremes said free speech means anyone, citizens, companies, unions, churches, you name it, can spend as much as they like to support any candidate or any issue they like. First Amendment, free speech.
This blew 50 years of "campaign financing reform" out the window. "Campaign Finance Reform", darling of good government groups and liberals, means rules limiting the amount of money political candidates can raise. All of a sudden, the Supremes say that limits are unconstitutional.
This resulted in today's comical situation. Ordinary PAC's and candidates are still subject to all sorts of rules, like no contributions greater than $2500 (chickenfeed). But Super PACs can do anything they want, just so long as they are "independent" of any candidate. Which leads to the comedy routine where Romney says "By law, I have no control over my Super Pac, and there fore I cannot tell them to stop trashing Newt Gingrich."
Elections would be cleaner and less comical without the Super PACs. Just repeal all the "campaign finance reform" laws and replace them with a single simple law that merely requires candidates to report who gave them how much. We voters can figure it out from there.
All the money would flow to the candidates, who have a certain sense of decency, and would not do things like the Swiftboat campaign that did so much damage to John Kerry. Or all those negative ads on Newt. It would be better if the candidates were responsible for their campaign ads.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hackers slow the F-35 program

F-35, USAF's newest fighter, is in a limbo between the R&D phase and the "approved-for-mass-production" phase. Small numbers of the aircraft have been built and flown. They have passed some their acceptance tests. Schedule has been slipping, and costs rising.
According to Aviation Week, enemy hackers have broken into contractor's computers and downloaded plans, specs, software, and listened in to on-line video conferences between F-35 project managers. Ouch.
Apparently F-35 avionics software is being rewritten and antennaes are being redesigned after the original designs were compromised by hackers.
Let's hear for Windows and video conferencing.

Words of the Weasel Part 26

Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft. MMRCA for short. We used to call them fighters. The Indian Air Force used this choice bit of jargon to refer to the French Rafale fighters it is going to buy. Rafale has won a lengthy competition, beating out Eurofighter's Tornado, Saab's Gripen, and Boeing's F/A18.
The Indian's don't have fighter pilots, they have MMRCA pilots.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ice, thickness there of

Back in the day, my mother was VERY firm about ice. The lake had to be frozen four inches thick, as measured by whacking a hole in it, before we were allowed to skate on it. Four inches was it, no skating until the lake froze four inches thick.
On the radio today, some happy safety freak was claiming the ice ought to be SIX inches thick before walking on it.
So what happened? Has the rise of childhood obesity required and extra two inches of ice to keep fat kids from falling thru the ice? Have the safety freaks chickened out again?

Greece, a Mexican Standoff

You gotta hand it to the Greeks, they got chutzpah. They are so broke that nobody will loan them any more money. They borrowed so much that the lenders don't dare cut the Greeks off, 'cause if they do, all those Greek bonds the lenders hold will dry up and blow away, leaving the lenders as broke as the Greeks. There was a saying "Borrow one dollar and the bank owns you, borrow a million dollars and you own t he bank."
Greece has a E20 billion bond repayment coming up next month. They don't have the cash to pay it off. So the rest of Europe (Germany mostly) is talking about a Greek handout to let the Greeks make their March repayment. But the Europeans want the Greeks to shape up before handing them another E130 billion. The Greeks don't want to shape up, they have riots in the streets every time shape up (cutting back on pensions, salaries, civil servants) is mentioned.
So far, the Greeks have won a significant concession. Greece will only have to redeem it's bonds for what the owner paid for them, not at face value. Needless to say, a lot of folks have been bailing out of Greek bonds by selling them for cheap and taking a loss. The buyers are hoping for a windfall when bonds they bought for some small fraction of face value get redeemed for face value. This latest deal says "Oh no you don't." Beware of Greeks at the negotiating table. The spirit of Odysseus lives on.
Clearly some of the confusion in the Greek bond wheeling and dealing has to do with speculators who want to get rich quick.
The Economist never talks about these messy details, but the Wall St Journal does.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

So what does it all mean?

Rick Santorum sweeps all three caucuses yesterday? Can he rise up and beat Romney? Is Newt really dead? Do these caucuses mean anything? What happened to Romney, coming off a solid win in FL?
Which way is up?

Charlie Bass opposes Keystone XL pipeline

According to The Hill, Charlie Bass of New Hampshire was the sole Republican to vote against a House measure to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
WOW. Talk about stabbing your constituents in the back. Charlie, just in case you don't remember, ALL your constituents have to buy heating oil at $4 a gallon. Keystone XL would improve the supply and lower the cost of heating oil. Also the cost of gasoline which everyone needs to get to work (if they still have jobs). You still have a primary election to win, to say nothing of beating Kuster in November, if you survive the primary challenge. I glad I voted for Jennifer Horn over you last time.
The greenie arguments against the pipeline are totally worthless. A pipeline is the most spill proof way to move oil, many times safer than sea going tankers. The oil is going to come in one way or another, if it doesn't come by pipeline, it will come by tanker. That "environmentally sensitive" Sandhills area in Oklahoma (or is it Nebraska?), is just one more stretch of prairie already criss crossed with 25,000 miles of pipeline. One more won't matter. The Canadians will sell to the Chinese if they cannot sell to us. It doesn't make any difference to Gaea if the oil gets burned in China or in the US.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Solidarity of the Sisterhood

Andrea Tantaros of Fox News in a discussion of the Obama decision to force Catholic schools and hospitals to provide birth control pills as part of their health plans. After some heckling from a pro-Obama commentator Andrea said:
"It doesn't really matter, those poor Catholic women are too ignorant/retarded/stupid to use birth control even if was given to them free."
Ohh, Andrea. That's an unkind slam at your own gender. And it's not true. All women, rich or poor, Protestant or Catholic are aware that pregnancy is a life altering event, (to say the least) and they take all kinds of measures to prevent unwanted ones.
Andrea, that remark blew away any respect I might have had for you as a commentator.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people

Law firms are buying lots of expensive liability insurance now, because companies are more liable to sue their law firm when things don't go right. What's more, the companies zero in on the bigger law firms who actually might have some money to pay off, rather than mom-and-pop outfits that can barely make payroll.
Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.

Naming Rights

Over here the Weather Bureau assigns names to "tropical depressions" aka hurricanes. They used to only do girls names, but the gender police caught up with them and now they use boys names too. In Europe, the Berlin Institute of Meteorology used to do the same thing. Then after a budget cut some brilliant German thought up the "adopt a vortex" plan whereby anyone could sponsor a name.
BMW marketing paid E199 to buy the name "Minnie" for one storm system and E299 to name another one "Cooper". (Mini Cooper, get it?). Unfortunately for BMW, "Cooper" turned into a monster bringing Arctic temperatures, dozens of storm related deaths and heavy snow as far south as Rome.
The BMW people issued a public apology for the inconvenience. It is not known if they plan to persist in this marketing effort.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Literature and Arts vs Science and Engineering

Starting in middle school, education breaks into two tracks, Literature and the Arts, and Science and Engineering. Literature is English, Latin, and modern languages. Arts are history, painting, architecture, sculpture, music. Science and Engineering includes physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, electrical, mechanical, civil, and chemical engineering. We will ignore the nothing studies like physical education, gender studies, black studies,sociology, education, political science, and underwater basket weaving.
Science and engineering requires some (sometimes a lot of) mathematics. It also leads to jobs in the private sector. Literature and Arts requires no math, and only leads to teaching positions. Of the nothing studies, at least an education major can lead to a teaching job, if the student can survive the boredom of a major with little to no intellectual content.
Looking back on it, my str0ng recommendation for new students is to pick the science and engineering track. The subjects are intellectually interesting, which is another way of saying "fun". They are intellectually rigorous, theories have to be supported by repeatable experiments and observations, which means the conclusions reached are highly likely to be true.
Note, I did not say "bound to be true". In science, we know our history, we know of many instances of new discoveries that invalidated or radically extended existing knowledge. Now a days we like to say, "it's true as far as we know today". In science and engineering it is extremely useful to know the limits of our knowledge. When troubleshooting is it valuable to be able to say "This and this and this are well understood, but that is cutting edge technology and not well understood, yet."
Pure science is the pursuit of new scientific knowledge. Engineering is the application of science to make useful devices, products, and structures. Engineering is fascinating in itself, the question "what science will make this new device work, or produce that new product, both at cost low enough to sell?" It's puzzle solving.
Mathematics is essential to a career in science and engineering. Algebra is the barest minimum. Plane geometry and trigonometry are just about mandatory, and calculus, ( from derivatives, to integrals, and then differential equations) is used just about everywhere. In high school, the wise student will keep his options open by taking the right mathematics courses. High school ought to teach algebra, plane geometry, and trigonometry. If you miss these high school courses you will be behind the power curve in college. College math ought to start with calculus, and without the algebra and trig, the calculus student is doomed unless possessed of genius level mathematical ability. The high school student who dodges the math courses, or gets sucked off into "business arithmetic" or "statistics" even "matrix algebra" has locked himself out of the science and engineering track. Algebra, geometry and trig are required, the others are not. High schools these days tend to call "pre-calculus" what they used to call trigonometry. Either way, you have to take it.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Victory at Sea

Shortly after WWII they gathered together endless feet of newsreel movie footage into 26 episodes of war fighting footage. Broadway's Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the original score. I remember seeing it on TV as a young child. It turned up in a Wal Mart bargain DVD bin and so I brought it home.
It's all black and white, color film in the 1940's was hard come by and so insensitive to light that everyone shot the faster black and white. Looking at the images today, you marvel at how bad the film really was. Out door scenes are over exposed except in the shadows which are pitch black. No dynamic range, no grays, at all. A good deal of the footage is captured enemy film, showing Japanese and German troops from their side of the trench.
Lots of quaint shots of horses and horse drawn carts, French Navy sailors wearing red and blue striped T-shirts that no American male would be caught dead wearing. Dramatic shots of a great steamship capsizing and then exploding.
Containerization is 20 years in the future, hence endless shots of wood crates being hoisted into and out of ship's holds in rope cargo nets. Plus shots of tanks and army trucks and fighter planes swinging up onto decks. And shots of troops trudging up the gangplanks onto transports. That's all gone now, the troops board jetliners, nary a ship in sight.
Anyhow, if you want a good quick rundown on how WWII happened, this is a good watch.

Friday, February 3, 2012

We have a replacement for Global Warming.

Now that global warming is getting debunked, the disaster industry is looking for a new menace. They think they found one.
Solar storms.
Sounds bad doesn't it? There is a bit a added drama in the reference to "every eleven years the sun goes ballistic" . What is the author talking about? He is referring to the sunspot cycle. The number of sunspots rises and falls on an eleven year cycle. This was discovered back in the 1600's. Sunspots do effect the earth's ionosphere, a fact well known to high frequency radio operators. Radio propagation is best at sunspot maximun, and worst at sunspot minumum. Radio amateurs have known about this for nearly 100 years. Nothing new here.
Now the disaster industry is beating the drums about a massive solar storm knocking out the electric power grid.
Highly unlikely. All those wires running thru the air get struck by lightning, every day, thousands of times. A lightning bolt can do real damage, start fires, blow out electrical equipment. Nothing keeps out a lightening bolt, the voltage is high enough to arc thru any amount of insulation, including thousands of feet of air. A bolt struck the powerline leading to my mother's house a few years ago. It destroyed her satellite receiver and burned the insides of her CD player black. Took out some light bulbs too. But the electric grid kept right on working, her lights stayed on.
Bottom line, the electric grid shrugs off lightning hits strong enough to fry consumer electronics.
No solar storm is going to be a strong as a lightening hit.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

can we believe CBO estimates?

CBO Congressional Budget Office, makes predictions of Federal government revenue, deficits, debt, and so on. Typically they are asked to predict the effect of laws (Obamacare, Bush tax cut extentions, hiking taxes on the wealthy) upon the Federal fisc. Unfortunately, CBO predictions are often pure BS. For instance CBO predicted that Obamacare would save money. Yeah right.
CBO predictions are based upon unrealistic assumptions. Such as, Congress won't ease the Alternate Minimum Tax (which they do every year). Or that Congress won't pass a "doc fix" easing Medicare fee cuts (which they do every year).
The House of Representatives spent today arguing over reform of the CBO estimating process. The Republicans want more realistic estimates. The democrats stand foresquare for bull crap estimates.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Romney wins Florida, Thank Goodness

Big relief last night. Mitt beat Newt decisively in Florida. A good thing. Mitt can beat Obama, Newt cannot, Newt is too flaky, and has accumulated too many enemies over the 30 years he has been in national politics.
Unless something really strange happens, Mitt will get the nomination, and Newt will go back to consulting.