Tuesday, December 31, 2013


The Russians have a security problem.  Terrorists bombed a railway station (awful video showing the bomb flash and smoke is on TV) and then bombed a trolley bus.  Thirty or forty people dead.  These atrocities occured in "Volgograd" , "400 miles south and east of Moscow". 
   It wasn't until the next day that one newsie finally figured out that Volgograd is better known in the West by it's Word War II name, Stalingrad.  The newsie vaguely mentioned that a battle had been fought there. 
  The newsie didn't mention that the battle of Stalingrad was a turning point in World War II.  It was the first time the Russians managed to beat the Germans in a big standup fight.  Before Stalingrad, the Germans beat the Russians every time.  That turned around after Stalingrad and the Russians beat the Germans every time. The Russian victory at Stalingrad was crushing, they surrounded the German army and took them all captive.  Germany lost 250,000 men at Stalingrad.  The movie "Enemy at the Gates" was about the battle of Stalingrad.
  You would think that after such a legendary victory in the Great Patriotic War, the city would still be known as Stalingrad.  But, when "deStalinization" happened under Khrushchev in the late 1950's, part of "deStalinization" involved taking Stalin's name off his city on the Volga.   


My computer survived Combofix.  This car climbed Mt. Washington.  Poor old desktop was still sluggish so I tried the roughest toughest anti virus out there.  Combofix, spoken of in awed tones by computer geeks. I downloaded it from Bleeping Computer and turned it loose.  It took it's time, made at least two passes.  On pass one it reported another rootkit Zero.Layer.something or other, hiding in the TCP-IP stack.  Claimed to have killed it.  Warned that I might encounter some problems getting back on the internet, but promised a fix.
Any how, after a long run it reported success and printed out a LONG log file.  It listed a lot of files that it zapped, all the "run" keys it found in the registry, and a bunch of other Windows files.  Surprisingly it didn't list the rootkit it claimed to have zapped.  You would think the programmers would be happy to claim a trophy like a root kit.  The log file looks a lot like the file created by Hijack This, in fact the Combofix developers may have borrowed all the Hijack This code to print the log.  I haven't acted on anything in the log file yet.  I recognize all the run keys, they are running legitimate programs like the wireless modem driver.
   I'll Google on the windows files it lists, and see if I can find Microsoft certified, pure as the driven snow, replacements, just in case.
  But not tonight.  It's bed time.  And the desktop is running better.  Quicker keyboard and mouse response.
   Anyhow, if you have a really tough virus that ordinary anti virus programs cannot see or cannot zap, try Combofix.  It's powerful.  And free.   Just running it ain't hard, just click on it and it goes to work.
   The log file is kinda cryptic and you do have to know stuff to understand it.  Don't blow anything away just cause it shows up in the log file.

Monday, December 30, 2013

MSM is STILL out there selling Obama Tales

The New York Times on Sunday published a big story to support the original Obama excuses for the Benghazi disaster.  As you might remember, at the time, the Obama folk blamed the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on an obscure video posted on the Internet.  They sent Susan Rice, high ranking adminstration official to appear on all five Sunday pundit TV shows to push the video theory.
  Anyhow, the Times just printed a big story retelling the "nasty video caused attack" theory.
  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is even handed MSM support for a beleaguered  Obama administration.

Microsoft Security Essentials

Poor old desktop, just hasn't been the same since the root kit got into her over Christmas.  So I been looking for virii, anti virii, rootkit killers, anything.  There is something in her that makes her boot slow, load slow, and its so bad it makes the sound stutter.  Just the the normal Windows "Ka-ching" boot noise comes out funny sounding.
  So I tried the Microsoft Security Essentials package, from the Windows Update site.  It took an hour to download, another hour to update itself, and another hour to scan my hard disk.  Didn't find anything.  Speedy it is not.  Typical Microsoft.  So I shut down last night and went to bed.
   This morning I boot up to check email and the slows are worse.  Like really bad.  It's good old Microsoft Security Essentials, it's hogging up to 95% of CPU time.  Apparently it loads itself and starts a disk scan every morning whether I need it or not.  It' not a polite program, it hogs so much CPU time as to freeze the mouse and everything else.  So I removed it this morning.   I don't recommend it to anyone.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Real jobs vs Govt Jobs

Real jobs.  Take a manufacturer for example.  They make valuable product.  Proceeds from product sales pay the work force, buy raw materials and parts, pay the bills, and buy production machinery.  If the product is a good one, sales increase, the factory expands, more people are hired.  The money that sales brings in, goes right out again, increasing demand for food, clothing, housing, raw materials and so on. 
Govt jobs.  Take a bureaucrat for example.  They don't produce anything valuable.  There are no proceeds from sales.  The bureaucrat's pay is money taken away from the citizens by way of taxes.  The citizen's could have spent that money just as well as the bureaucrat does.  The more bureaucrats the government hires, the more money it takes from working citizens.  Government workers are a drag on the economy, they consume but they don't produce. 
  And yet, lefties will tell you that government hiring is required to "get the economy going".  I heard that a couple of times over Christmas. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Words of the Weasel, Part 35

Vegetative Barrier.   Why can't they just say "hedge"?

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Nasty virus.  Lovable daughter, who is up for Christmas, was web surfing on my machine. One website she surfed thru infected my trusty Compaq 1750 NX
.  It's nasty.  It slows down the boot, slows down loading programs, slows down the internet, freezes the mouse, and crashes the whole machine erratically. 
   It's a rootkit, which means it hacks out a piece of hard disk to live on that is not part of the Windows file system.  This means that Windows, and Windows tools like Explorer cannot even see it on disk, even if you knew where to look. 
   I tried Anti Malware Bytes (that crashed before it finished) Spybot Search and Destroy, Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool,  and Regclean without any luck.  But Kaspersky's TDSSKiller nailed it, or at least crippled it a lot.  Trusty Compaq is now running mostly normal, although there are moments of sluggishness that make me think the damn thing is still active. 
   Damn Microsoft for making Windows so vulnerable.  Damn virus writers.  Writing a virus ought to be a felony punishable by stoning to death in the public square.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Gunfight at the OK Corral

1957, classic Western.  Some how I got thru the 50's without seeing it in theaters.  So while surfing Netflix for something to watch, I clicked on it.  It's got Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas as Doc Holliday.  Douglas does the gambler/gunfighter role beautifully.  His suits are well tailored and pressed, he drinks too much, he mistreats his long suffering mistress.  Lancaster's role is plainer, he is just the principled lawman.
   Then it has DeForrest Kelly in a bit part. He isn't on screen very long before a Clanton shoots him dead. And we have Dennis Hopper as the youngest Clanton brother.  Burt Lancaster tries to talk him into giving over his gun, but he makes a sudden move and Kirk Douglas shoots him dead.  Both of these guys will have much better roles in coming years.
  It's long.  2 1/2 hours.  And somehow in all that screen time, the director fails to really show why the Earps, lawmen all,  band together to shoot down the Clantons.  Yes, the Clantons shoot some friends, and relatives of Wyatt's but the film doesn't really blacken the Clanton's rep and it doesn't really show why high principled Wyatt Earp gets into extra judicial killings.  And there are some scenes missing.  After Morgan Earp gets gunned down in the street, we don't see the funeral, with weeping friends and relatives, and we don't see Wyatt Earp with tears running down his cheeks swearing eternal vengeance on the Clantons.  In short, the director doesn't show motives and emotions behind the central conflict.
    Sets and costumes were first rate, nice score, a theme song and all.  The various western towns all had one helova lotta giant cactus growing on every street corner.  But now that I've seen, I can say I didn't really miss much by not seeing it in the '50s. 

Green Christmas

Two days ago I had a foot of new snow on the front lawn.  Today it's green grass (marred by snow plow scars) again.  Yesterday was terrible, rained all day, temperature right at the freezing point.  It made walking treacherous.  Today it's chilled down to 20.  Skiing at Cannon has suffered.  Coming back thru the Notch you could see a lotta grass coming up in the middle of the trails. 
  Forecast is for a hard freeze, down below zero, tonight.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Innumeracy on NHPR

NHPR ran a horrible story this morning.  About some frightful disease with a strange name (Crap A?) that I had never heard of before.  This disease causes dementia, blindness and death  It can be detected in infancy by some fancy bloodwork, and New York state now requires all newborns to be screened for this disease.  Fortunately the disease is very rare.  Unfortunately the test has a high rate of false positives, and the treatment is heroic, dangerous, and not very effective.  A case could be made that running these tests causes untold misery and suffering to the parents of the false positives, and does not save very many children, since many of them die under treatment.
   Saddest of all,  NHPR failed to report any of the numbers that would enable voters to reach a sound conclusion.  Such as number of newborns tested, number of true cases detected, number of false positive cases, number of children who survived treatment.  Numbers.  Newsies seldom report numbers because most of 'em have to take their shoes off the count higher than ten.

The Economist waxes lyrical over Bowhunting

This is the Christmas edition of the Economist, extra thick with lots of punditry.  They had a three page article on the joys of  bowhunting  in America.  They quoted Teddy Roosevelt, they talked about a hunting trip in Wisconsin, about legalizing cross bows.  Hunting is good for the ecology, helps cull excess deer, all sorts of good stuff. 
   But only if done with a bow.  Using a gun is unsportsmanly, crass, and bad for the environment.  Only the archer is a pure hunter.   I suppose this represents the anti gun opinions of the Economist. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fossil Fuels make the world greener

Click here to watch the original lecture on U Tube.    And if the link doesn't work you can just go here:


Mr. Ridley's talk  outlines satellite observations of the whole earth showing the world is showing more green and less brown to the satellite cameras.  The increase in atmospheric CO2 is stimulating plant growth world wide.  And advances in agriculture are reducing the amount of land farmed, with  abandoned farms going back to woodland.  It's an interesting talk, showing things getting better and better, as opposed to the greenie legend of planetary desertification.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Mars is hot

Radioactive that is.  Actually it's not uranium or thorium in the red sands of Mars, its cosmic radiation from deep space.  On Earth the magnetic field and the atmosphere shields us from it.  Out in interplanetary space it's more intense.  Mars has no magnetic field, so cosmic radiation on the surface of Mars is as bad as it is in space. 
  NASA using data from the Curiosity rover, found that astronauts on a 500 day round trip to Mars, would absorb a dose of one whole Sievert of radiation.  That's a lot.  A Sievert is a Euro unit invented in the 1980's and it's big.  One Sievert is 100 REM, the more usual US unit of radiation.  
   US safety standards call for not more than 5 REM per year for civilian workers.  NASA is more daring and permits the Shuttle astronauts to absorb 25 REM  in one shuttle trip.
   If memory serves, 300-400 REM is the 50% lethal dose, half the people exposed to that level of radiation die within weeks.  100 REM for a trip to Mars is scarily close.  NASA estimates that such a dose would increase the risk of cancer over a lifetime by 5%.  That sounds optimistic to me.
   However, I expect no shortage of volunteers to fly to Mars regardless of risk.  
   Shielding a space craft with lead probably does not work, the required shielding would weigh so much the space craft couldn't get off the ground.  An ingenious design might put the crew compartment in the middle, surrounded by the fuel tanks.  This might work on the way out, but on the way back with empty tanks, not so good.   Or the space craft might shield itself with a powerful magnetic field, created by neodymium super magnets, or a super conducting coil of wire.  The Earth's magnetic field isn't all that strong at the surface, but it is very deep.  My electromagnetic field theory is no longer strong enough to calculate  just how strong a magnet would be needed to give the same shielding effect as the Earth's field, but the number is computable.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

NYPD, a force in international relations

Two years ago, NYPD arrested Dominique Strauss Kahn, a frenchman serving as chief of IMF, and a potential candidate for president of France.  The charges were later dropped, but that was the end of Strauss Kahn.  He resigned his IMF post and never ran for president of France.  In fact nobody has heard anything from him since.  Scratch one Frog.
  Yesterday they arrested a female Indian diplomat, and strip searched her.  Charges are obscure, by have something to do with her relationship, or wages or visa for a servant.  So much for diplomatic immunity.  All of India is hopping mad, threatening to storm the American embassy, break diplomatic relations, join the Russians, anything.  Scratch one promising international relationship. 
   NYPD is becoming a real international mover and shaker. 
   And every foreign tourist must be thinking about NOT visiting NYC.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

New Technology makes it to the store

So I was in Walmart's today, looking around while they filled my prescriptions.  Wandered over the the television display.  They are all flat screen, and this year, is the year of no bezel.  The fronts of the TV's are all screen, no ring of plastic around the edge (the bezel).  And they are bigger.  55 inch for $800.  And the labels all say LED (light emitting diode) rather than LCD (liquid crystal display).  This is a forward step technology wise.  The LED screens are a little brighter and a little more vivid than my LCD Sony (state of the art a few years ago).  LED's emit light by them selves, and are very efficient, say 80% of the juice in comes out as light.  An LCD doesn't make it's own light, it acts as a shutter, blocking or passing a light source behind it, (the backlight).  I'm not sure just how backlights worked, but I expect LED's to use less juice than the backlight uses. 
   The surprise to me, was this major technological step forward got all the way to retail shelves before I heard of it.  No mention of this appeared in any websites, trade rags, or blogs that I read.  Or if it did I missed it.

FDA declares war on anti microbial soap

Just what the manufacturers need, an FDA order to run a bunch of expensive tests to prove that the anti microbial chemicals are safe in hand soap.  Fairer would be to require the FDA to run some tests proving the stuff is harmful.  The soaps have been on the market for 30 years or more and in all that time nobody has been hurt enough to sue. 
   I'm neutral on this one, I figure no germ can stand up to plain old soap or detergent and hot water.  So I don't buy anti microbial things.  I'm not deep enough into chemistry to really know one way or the other.  But I have noticed the tendency to label ordinary things hazardous material.  Even solid brass castings.  So I'm a little suspicious of the new born discovery of hazards lurking in something that's been on the market for years and years. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Volcker Rule

Paul Volcker, former head of Federal Reserve bank, widely admired financial expert.  He ran the Fed for many years or more with steady economic growth and no depressions. 
    Few newsies actually understand what the Volcker Rule is, but they are all in favor of it.  Volcker wants to restrict bank trading in stocks.  He wants to forbid banks from trading stocks "on their own account".  If a bank customer orders the bank to "get me 400 shares of XYZ corp", that's trading on the customer's account, and that's OK.  But for the bank to guess that XYZ stock is gonna take a dive, and dump it, or even worse, sell it short, that's verboten.  There are some other tricky exceptions, but Volcker clearly desires to keep banks from playing the market.
   Why you ask?  First off, banks have enough money to move a stock's value.  Buy up all the shares in sight, and the price of those shares goes up.  Dump a bunch of shares on the market and the price tanks.  Corporations hate this.
   Second, investing in the stock market is riskier than doing home mortgages.  A low speed, dumb guy bank can loose it's shirt in the market, and fail.  Fail means the depositors loose their deposits.  Everybody hates that.
   Back after Great Depression I, Congress decided that banks playing the market had caused the depression.  They passed the Glass Steagall act which forbid banks from buying or selling stocks at all.  That was 1933.  Glass Steagall was in effect right up until Willy Clinton was president.  The banks hated Glass Steagall and  they lobbied hard for its repeal and ten presidents after FDR turned a deaf ear.  Finally we came to Clinton, he listened to the pleas of the banks and got a repeal of Glass Steagall thru Congress sometime in the 1990's.
    Then we had Great Depression 2.0 in 2007.   The Fed people didn't want to actually reverse themselves and call for re instituting Glass Steagall.  But they did call for the Volcker Rule, which is Glass Steagall in more complicated language.  Welfare for lawyers. 
     Me, I think we oughta bring back Glass Steagall.  Any outfit, no matter what it calls itself, that has FDIC insured anything, may NOT play the stock market in any way shape or form.  You wanna trade stocks, you go to a stock broker.  Uncle Sam does NOT insure brokers or stock accounts, no way, no how. 

Amnesty for Snowdon in return for?

TV news was talking about a deal for Snowdon, we give him amnesty if he gives us all the juicy secrets he still has, the ones he hasn't let out yet. 
  And so how do you do this.  All the stuff Snowdon took fits on a thumbdrive, may be two thumbdrives, but still , real small.  Fits in a coatpocket without a bulge.  And, any computer geek like Snowdon understands about back up of essential data.  He must have made a bunch of duplicates and hidden them the best he can.  With friends, buried in his back yard, bank safe deposit boxes, with his folks, and somewhere in the cloud.  We will never find them. 
  So,  Snowdon gets amnesty back here, and he still has every thing he took from NSA. 
  Although I cannot imagine what stuff he has left being anything as juicy as the stuff he has released.  But then maybe my imagination is weak. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ammunition shortage caused by consumer demand

Not government hoarding.  Despite some staggeringly large ammunition buys from HHS.  This from American Rifleman, the NRA magazine.  The shortage is real, at least up here the shelves down at Cory's Sport Shop, are empty of all but the most common calibers.
   Although HHS has placed some massive buys, these are multi year contracts, and according to American Rifleman, the quantities are about what the agency has bought in past years.  The real increase is in the number of American gun owners.  Particularly striking is the increase in woman gun owners.   The increase in demand is real, and you can see it in the revenues from the federal ammunition tax.  That's gone up and up and is showing no sign of slowing down.   The number of federal instant background checks has also grown significantly, supporting the ammunition tax data.     

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Thanks goodness for gridlock

According to Fox TV News, this year Congress only passed 51 bills, as opposed to last year when they passed 350 odd.  
  This is a good thing.  Most bills are bad for the country.  We don't need another farm bill passing money to corporate farms.  We don't need another highway bill to keep road contractors fully employed.  We don't need Obamacare.  We don't need Dodd Frank or Sarbanes Oxley.  We don't need more special favors for special interests. We don't need to extend unemployment benefits from two years to three. 
   Since the country and the Congress is evenly divided,  neither party can push its pet programs thru.
Which is what democracy is all about. 
   Until one party or the other can muster the votes to control both House and Senate, things will stay as they are.  And that's the way it should be.

Cannon gets some decent snow.

We have 6-8 inches down, and it's still falling.  Plus we have good low temps forcast for next week so the snowblowing can continue.  They ought to have all the trails open by tomorrow.  Christmas week ought to be good skiing.  We need it up here.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Security Fail

We now have two insecure databases, in which evrybody has an entry.  And both of them are wide open to hackers, crackers, and worms like Stuxnet.  All thanks to Obamacare for putting our lives on line for anyone to read. 
   Healthcare.gov is the first problem area.  Its security problems have been getting some attention from the newsies.  As well it should.  It's running on Windows,( everything runs on Windows) and anytime you connect Windows to the public internet, the knowledgeable hacker knows about 50 secret ways to take the Windows machine over completely, load and execute his own code, and force the victim Windows machine to do anything he likes.  Such as send all its data back over the internet to the hacker.  The only defense is to use the strongest possible encryption and even that isn't fool proof. 
   The second problem area is "digital medical records".  Obamacare is forcing all doctors to put all their patient's medical records on line.  Used to be, your medical records were kept in a file folder in a cabinet in the doctor's office.  Short of burglary, they were secure.  And it would take a very savvy burglar to find them, and a small truck to haul them all away. 
   Obamacare demands all the medical records be digitized and stored on line for everyone in the hospital to see.  This is supposed to be a cost cutting measure.  But, on line means hackers can get to it, and they don't need that small truck to haul them away. 
   Less than scrupulous employers will take a peek at the medical records of any prospective new hire.  Should that new hire have an preexisting condition, or treatment for drugs, alcohol, or mental health problems,  he can kiss that job goodbye.  In practice,  this guy will be unemployable.  Privacy means the ability to keep bad things in your past secret, to start over, and press on.  Now that we have Obamacare and on line medical records, forget about privacy.  

Minimum wage, a bad idea

Lefties and unions are pushing for $15 minimum wage for flipping burgers at McD's. Right now McD's pays $7 or $8.  They think it will raise the living standards of McD's workers.  I think it will get them all laid off.
As a society we have a LOT of young, untrained, not very productive people who need a job.  Since they aren't very productive, employers cannot afford to pay them much.  Double the pay and the employers will say, " I have to pay these guys more than they bring in, I'd be ahead if I laid them off .  I can automate, outsource, or reduce service to my customers and make more money."  Net result, no jobs for the workers just entering the job market. 
   There is no requirement for entry level jobs to pay enough to raise a family on.  Entry level workers are un married, probably living at home, still in school.  After they have been filling an entry level job for a bit, they can get promoted, find a better job, move to boom areas, or something.  Flipping burgers is fine for high school students, but you cannot plan on flipping burgers all your life.  You gotta make something of yourself. 
   So, bottom line, boosting minimum wage cuts off entry level jobs, throws people out of work.
   That first job is important to anyone's career.  The first job will get you a recommendation when you apply for the next job.  As a hiring manager I always checked a guy's references.  If his last boss said good things about him, he was hired.  Very important to have a last boss, and for him to think well of you.  Which means we need entry level jobs, to give the new job seekers some experience and some references.  Cut off the entry level jobs by hiking the minimum wage and it gets harder and meaner for the vast majority.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Conspiracy theories of History

One of them that's been going around since 1941, the Pearl Harbor disaster was caused by treason in the American government.  The government knew the Japanese air raid was coming a failed to warn the Pearl Harbor commanders.  Roosevelt's numerous enemies have accused him of conspiring to bring the US into WWII by setting up the Pacific fleet.
    I don't buy this.  Roosevelt wanted to intervene in WWII and was prevented from doing so by a powerful isolationist movement.  But, Roosevelt wanted to use the fleet to do the intervention.  The idea that he would sacrifice the fleet he looked to do the intervention, merely to silence domestic political opponents is absurd. 
   Pearl Harbor happened because US commanders thought Pearl was so far away from Japan as to be immune to Japanese action.  They just could not imagine getting hit at Pearl.  Even though the Royal Navy had pulled off a very similar air strike on the Italians at Taranto just a few months before. 
   Pearl even ignored a radar warning.  The US Army had a working radar station on Hawaii.  It picked up the incoming  Japanese strike 180 miles out.  The Army radar operators telephoned a warning to fleet headquarters but the junior officer of the day ignored it.  If  fleet HQ had had it's act together, this was enough warning to scramble aircraft and call for battle stations, get the guns manned and the ammunition broken out of locked storage. 
   Pacific Fleet also ignored a report from a picket destroyer that had detected, depth charged, and sunk a submarine lurking right off Pearl, in a restricted zone,  where no submarines had any business being.  To ignore both a submarine warning and a radar warning the same morning takes a remarkable degree of stupidity. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sonic is a Hedgehog

Just noticed this evening, Chevy has renamed their lowest end car from Avio  to Sonic.  Note to Mary Barra.  Sonic is a Hedgehog.  Any kid knows that.  It's as bad as when Chevy named a car Beretta years ago.  Everyone knows Beretta is an Italian handgun. 
    Picking a car name is an important part of marketing it.  So far Chevy has been screwing it up.  Volt is a unit of electricity, not a hybrid car.  Cruze is a height challenged movie star. 

Blood will get them gun control

NHPR was doing a piece on last year's Newtown massacre this morning.  Just what I never wanted to hear.  It certainly isn't news, everybody on earth heard about it.  They interviewed a couple whose daughter had been killed.  I didn't need this, I know all I want to know about the misery and suffering that comes from the loss of a child.  So does any parent.   I'm sure the interview didn't help the bereaved couple either.
  So why do they run a piece that conveys no information and makes listeners feel sick to their stomachs?
  Is it to drum up political support for gun control measures?
  If so, shame on them.

Would you see either of these movies?

Oscar nominations  are piling up for "12 years a Slave" and "American Hustle".  The Oscar people may like them, but I cannot imagine myself paying admission, or even Netflixing, either of these movies. 

Cannon gets some snow.

We got four inches, biggest snowfall this winter, yesterday and last night.  Nice light fluffy powder, the best kind.  And no wind to speak of, so it will stay on the trails and not get blown into the woods.  It's a good start, four inches of natural snow is as good as days of snow blowing, so we ought to have a few more trails open.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

GM gets a lady CEO

This was all over the news.  Mary  Barra is a old time GMer.  She started with GM 30 years ago and is still there.  She is an engineer and comes up thru manufacturing, which is closer to the core of GM than the bean counters who preceded her.  I figure any woman who lasts 30 years in place like GM has gotta be pretty competent, or she would not have survived.  Of course, I never heard of her before now, but then I don't follow Detroit news much.
   The real question for the survival of Govt Motors, is she a car person?  Can she bring to market cars that sell?  Can she champion  new cars that sell the way that Iacocca's Mustang, Arkus Dutov's Corvette, and Bunkie Knudsen's GTO did?   Cars that make enough of a dent in popular culture to be the subject of pop songs.  As opposed to GM's current lineup that  is so bland that only renta-car companies like them?
  For GM's sake let's hope.  A lot of this is perceived value.  Back in the good old days, Chevy had more perceived value than Ford.  Used Chevys sold for more money than used Fords.  This was due to good styling, that successfully steered a middle course between too radical and too stogy.  Chevy engines were less troublesome and more powerful than Ford engines.  Chevy 409's dominated NHRA drag racing.  A generation of block head GM management has pretty much destroyed this legacy.  At this time, Toyota commands more respect than anything from GM.
  Ms Barra first needs to understand that GM  is a huge company, which means it has to compete for the center of the car market.  Which is the low cost four door four passenger sedan, the commute to work car and the go to the store car.  GM needs to gain share in this market.  This is Chevy Cruze and Impala turf.  GM needs a well styled, competitively priced car in this market segment.  Real volume.  About 12 million new cars a year are sold in North America.  Of this, a quarter, say 4 million cars, are plain four passenger sedans.  That's enough volume to keep GM going.
   Contrast that with Corvette.  There simply ain't enough guys with Corvette money to keep GM alive.  It's a great car, but you need a bread and butter seller to keep a behemoth fed.
   How to proceed?  Simple stuff like reliability and ruggedness is a good place to start.  Some favorable mentions in Consumer Reports.  Some top of the charts gas mileage.  For instance Cruz is only doing 30+ mpg, whereas you need to hit 40 mpg before anyone cares much.  Cruz has a good deal more horsepower than it needs.  You can trade off power for gas mileage.  A 40 mpg 60 hp car is a better seller in that market segment than the current 28 mpg 138 hp car.   The old VW Beetle was perfectly driveable with only 36 hp.  The Dodge Caravan's were driveable with 80 hp and a lot more weight and airdrag.
    Better styling.  The current Cruz is nose heavy and bland.  The silhouette is round, slopes up the front, slopes down the back, boring, and so many others have it too.
   Anyhow,. Mary Barra has her work cut out for her.  She has to get decent sellers designed, and then force them thru all the institutional resistance and NIH, get them on sale, and promote them properly.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

FAA sniffs at Amazon's package delivery drone

After an avalanche of good press from Amazon's video clip of a small whirry helicopter type drone landing a package at a customer's doorstep,  FAA has announced that it doesn't like the idea and will cause trouble for it.  FAA announced in Aviation Week the drones would be limited to 55 pounds total takeoff weight, line of sight operation, daylight only, and altitude not to exceed 400 feet. 
   Line of sight is the killer restriction.  I mean how many customer abodes are within eyeshot of the Amazon warehouse[s]?  Even using binoculars?  Darn few. 
  We will pass over the technological challanges of beyond line of sight operation.  Even after the drone has found the delivery address using GPS, it still has to locate the door, or the mail box, sort out apartment numbers,  distinguish between walks and driveways, and other stuff that mailmen have no trouble with, but robots will find challenging. 
   Anyhow, Amazon created a lot of good publicity for itself, and FAA managed to look like the Grinch. 

Winter Storm Watch

Well, we got one yesterday.  The TV was babbling on and on about snow and ice and flight cancellations and ugly weather.
   Well, it didn't make it up here much.  I got a light dusting of snow, fraction of an inch against a TV forecast of 2 to 5 inches.  Lotta wind yesterday, but not much precip. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pearl Harbor. Day that will live in Infamy

Actually Pearl Harbor day was two days ago, 7 December.  This one event changed the course of WWII.  Prior to Pearl Harbor, the US population was isolationist, what would be called anti-war 25 years later.  America had entered WWI, the results at the peace table were less than expected, writers had been blaming WWI on munitions makers attempting to boost sales, and the population was bound and determined that the US would not, repeat not, get mixed up in another European war.  This feeling was so strong, that Franklin Roosevelt, one of the canniest and most powerful presidents of the 20th century, was unable give support to Britain.  What little he could do, destroyers for bases and lend lease,  was hotly opposed in Congress. 
   Pearl Harbor turned all that around instantly.  As Admiral Yamamoto put it, " I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve."   It took us three years, but we sank their fleet, killed their soldiers, nuked their homeland, did regime change on them, and occupied the place.  And, had the Japanese understood Americans, they would have realized that they could have continued their aggression against China, and seized the oil fields of Dutch Indonesia without starting a war with the Americans.  It is clear to all American historians that we would have done nothing more than send diplomatic protests to Tokyo no matter how agressive they became.  The Japanese stuck their hands into a hornet's nest and got stung, hard.  Their leadership, with the exception of Yamamoto, simply did not understand what they were doing.  They had been reading too much Mahan (Influence of Seapower upon History) which has a simplistic premise that winning control of the sea by destroying the enemy fleet wins the war.  From Mahan's point of view, the Pearl Harbor attack was perfect, one daring strike and the entire American battlefleet, eight decent battleships, was sunk.
   Two things spoiled the victory.  That year, 1941, was a year of transition from battleships to aircraft carriers.  Our aircraft carriers survived Pearl Harbor.  So, in actual fact, the US battle fleet survived Pearl Harbor.  The second thing was American resolve.  We raised all the sunken ships, we built a LOT of new ships and LOT of other stuff,  we enlisted 10 million men in the armed forces, we developed superweapons so advanced that they did even appear in 1940's science fiction.  We shrugged off our losses at Pearl and came back stronger than ever.
   The other effect of Pearl Harbor was to doom the Nazis.   For some reason, Hitler declared war on the US a few days after Pearl Harbor.  He didn't need to, he had no obligations to Japan, he was locked in a death struggle with the Soviets, he didn't need any more hostilities, especially not with America.  But he did it.  At the time, Hitler convinced every American that he was in league with Japan.  We only found out after the war that Hitler was acting on his own hook.  Hitler's declaration of war was a great help to the Roosevelt administration.  The whole American establishment, the administration, the military, the foreign policy establishment, the industrialists, the union people, all feared the Germans, much more than Japan.  The establishment wanted to beat Hitler first, and then take out the Japanese.  With Hitler's gratuitous declaration of war, they could do just that.  If Hitler had been smarter and kept his mouth shut, there is a good chance the Americans would have departed upon a Pacific Ocean crusade, and left him deal with the Soviets and the Brits unmolested by Yankees.      
   Both ways, Pearl Harbor was a turning point.  It didn't have to happen, it wasn't inevitable, and history would be a lot different if the Japanese had not attacked. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Good Day at BlackRock

The Economist is unhappy about BlackRock in a cover story.  The cover cartoon shows an enormous jet black Rock-of-Gibraltar leaning over the two lane road ahead, threatening to topple and block all traffic forever.  BlackRock is a Wall St brokerage house, that buys and sells stock for its clients.  It was founded in the '80s and has done pretty well, it has $4 trillion in assets.  Part of BlackRock's success is a computer back office that tracks stocks and has made some canny predictions.  It was canny enough to keep BlackRock out of the mortgage backed security black hole back in 2006.  In fact it was so good that BlackRock now leases access to the system, bringing in $400 million in fees per year.  The system, dubbed Aladdin, is so popular on the street that the Economist reckons that another $11 trillion in stocks is controlled by Aladdin, giving a grand total of $15 trillion under the influence, or perhaps control, of this one piece of software.  That's quite a chunk of change, the entire US economy is about that size.
   This concentration clearly bothers the Economist.  If they had a say in the matter, they would put BlackRock under strict government regulation, lest they hiccup and crash the stock market.  Good thing the Economist isn't in charge. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Facebook has started posting ads on your home.  Used to be, you only saw posts from your facebook friends.  Now they are giving me 10% straight ads from companies and organizations I never heard of and don't care about.  And  Firefox doesn't have filters to dump the ads. 
    There will come a point when the ads become so obnoxious that I will dump Facebook. 

Executive Council

We have a vacancy on the NH executive council.  Beloved north country councilor Ray Burton died of cancer last month leaving his seat open.  The democrats have picked their man, Michael Cryans, to run on their ticket.  We Republicans have some competition, at least we think so. 
  Anyhow, Christopher Boothby is running.  There will be a primary in January, 21st I believe.  I never heard of Chris before he decided to run.  I don't know who is running against him in the primary. 
   Anyhow, Chris is doing the reasonable thing, he is traveling round the district and talking to voters.  I sent out an email blast to north country Republicans and Tea Partiers to come and meet the candidate.  We had the back room at the Oasis Restaurant and it filled up with north country political types, including yours truly.  I must be  getting into the swim of things, I knew everyone who showed up.  Lotta hand shaking and how-are-yous and chit chat.  Chris and his wife Mara showed up on time, we had a pleasant give and take.  Everyone in the room was an old friend of the deceased Ray Burton, and a lot of Ray stories were told, back and forth. 
  Chris looks OK to me.  He won't be Ray Burton, but then its unreasonable to expect anyone to fill Ray'sa shoes.  We will have to see if the competition makes it up to the north country.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Vodka Triumphant

The State Liquor Store has re organized again.  Now the vodka shelf is twice as long as it used to be.  Serious booze, whiskey and gin has lost shelf space.  I figure shelf space allocation is a fair measure of popularity.  Which means more people are drinking vodka than anything else. 
  Too bad.  Vodka is for drinkers who don't like the taste of booze.  They distill all the flavor out of the stuff, and then mix it with orange juice or tomato juice or Kahlua or whatever. 

The Aerospace Plane

The idea has been around for ever.  I have a beautifully illustrated children's book from 1951 with a drawing of such a machine.  Basically a high performance aircraft that would use wings and jet engines to lift an orbiter space craft high and fast.  It would be reusable (you fly it back and land it after launching the orbiter) and hence lower cost than  a throwaway booster like Atlas.    
  Attractive as the idea is, so far nobody has ever built one.  There are five NASA design studies, the earliest going back to 1986.  Since none of them ever flew, it's fair to say that the concept becomes less attractive when you actually have to build and fly one. 
  Anyhow, hope springs eternal and NASA is going to try again.  This time with a rocket powered craft dubbed XS-1.  Design goal is to loft a 3000-5000 pound satellite into low earth orbit for $5 million or less.  NASA is talking about $3-4 million study contracts early next year, with a $140 million "build-a-flying prototype"  contract  in 2015.  XS-1 is supposed to reach Mach 10 (roughly half orbital velocity).  Gross takeoff weight might be 224,000 pounds.  That's airliner weight.   Presumably  XS-1 burns all its rocket fuel on the way up and then glides back to a dead stick landing, the way the shuttle used to do.   

Retirement before entering service?

Airbus Military announced that the prototype A400M transport aircraft has been retired.  A400M is the pan European heavy transport program.  The aircraft are huge 4 engine turboprops.  The first deliverable model only handed over to the French air force this summer.  It will take years of production to fill all the back orders for the aircraft.  Surely Airbus will have some engineering change orders needing flight check soon.
  So why retire the prototype?  These things ain't cheap, something like $100 million each.  Is the prototype so bent and broken that nobody wants  to fly it anymore?  Why not fix it up and bring it up to standard and ship it, and get paid for it?  Or use it for research and development.  Surely there are programs that could use a truly big airlifter for something?  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela died today

The news came over the TV late this afternoon.  He was 95, so it cannot be called an untimely death, but he will be missed.  Mandela saved his country from a bloody racial war.  I don't understand how he did it, but it happened.
   In the 1960s and 70's, a small white minority ran South Africa to suit them selves.  Blacks were disadvantaged at law, herded into ugly slums, denied a decent education or a decent job.  The whites owned all the property, all the companies, ran the army, the police, the courts, the government, everything.  The whites had everything except numbers.  The white minority was being as nasty and unpleasant as possible, and the majority blacks had had it up to there.  They formed the African National Congress, were getting weapons and organizing for a war of extermination.  They had the numbers and it looked like South Africa would explode into civil war that would go on until one side or the other was exterminated.
   Working inside this powder keg, Mandela somehow convinced the ruling whites to open the country to free elections and allow themselves to be voted out of power.  And, after obtaining power, Mandela was able to prevent the now empowered black majority from wrecking an awful vengeance on the white minority. 
   I still do not understand how Mandela pulled off this miracle, but he did.  It saved his country. 

Broken Glass

Apparently Google has banned face recognition software from their "Glass" wearable computer, the one that looks like a pair of eyeglasses.
I wonder why.
Glass would be really useful if it would prompt you with a name when you meet some one.  About a zillion times I meet some one whose face I recognize but I cannot for the life of me, remember their name.  If Glass could recognize the same face and look up the name, it would be a killer app.  

Gas Tax Hike.

On Fox TV news Neil Cavuto was raking a Congresscritter over the coals about a gas tax hike.  The Congresscritter (his name escaped me) was bound and determined to get a gas tax hike to preserve the infrastructure.  Cavuto was hammering the Congresscritter to explain where all the billions of dollars already authorized for infrastructure had gone.  The Congresscritter clearly had no clue, and no clue about how much has been appropriated in the past. 
   Cavuto has a point.  The federal gas tax paid for building the interstate highway system.  But that is done, the system is built, has been built for the last forty years.  Routine maintenance, mowing, plowing, repaving, bridge repair, cleaning storm drains and culverts, is one hell of a lot cheaper than building the road in the first place.  The state highway departments have been taking care of it.  In well run states like New Hampshire, the asphalt is smooth and black, the stripes are bright and freshly painted, the bridges get rebuilt every thirty years or so, and the road doesn't wash out in the spring.  In poorly run states like New York, the interstates are not as well maintained, and in fact can get pretty shabby.  For instance I-95 across the Bronx.
   But that is a state problem.  If New Hampshire, with no income tax and no sales tax, can keep its interstates in good shape, there is no reason why New York (which has both) cannot do so too. 
   Either way, we don't need the feds slinging money around for "transportation" or " infrastructure".  The real needs are handled be state governments, using state tax money.  Which is the way it should be. 
    The last big federal project was the Big Dig in Boston.  Taxpayers all over the country got soaked for years to pay for a massive project that did make Boston prettier, but didn't improve the traffic flow at all.  You gotta ask, why should citizens in, say North Dakota, be paying for a project of benefit only to Boston real estate interests. 
   Cavuto has it right, we don't want to hike taxes during Great Depression 2.0 just to maintain full employment at some state road contractors. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hunger Games, Catching Fire

So I went to see it last night.  Not bad.  Not quite as good as the first one, but that's sequels for you.  The Jax Jr wasn't very full, and half the audience were oldsters like me.  I assume the teenagers all saw it over the weekend.  If you liked the first one, you will want to see this one, just to learn what happens next to Katniss and Peeta.  The director had more money to make this one, so the costumes and sets are richer and fancier
   The plot is more complicated and harder to follow if you haven't read the book, which I haven't.  Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has a much more complicated romantic life, with two or three guys seriously in love with here.  Everyone has grown up a bit since the first one.  They are taller and more heavily muscled, clearly adults, where as in the first one everyone looked young enough to be in high school, if they have high school in that world.  The costumes show off everyone's figure to advantage. 
   Poor Peeta has to put up with a lot.  Turns out, that Katniss is no longer madly in love with him, and in fact is interested in one or maybe two other guys.  He knows about this, in fact he knows the guys, and he doesn't show any jealousy, in fact he is loyal and supportive all thru the story.
   Anyhow, I am glad I went to see it.  It's one of the very few movies good enough to get me out to Littleton in the dark, rather than just netflixing them later.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Perks of being a Wallflower

I don't know just why I netflixed this one.  Must have been the cast, Emma Watson, and Logan Lerman. Logan has had some decent roles, The Lightening Thief, Three Musketeers, and this one.  And everyone wants to see Emma Watson as anything besides Hermione.  (Is there life after Harry Potter?) 
   Emma steals all the scenes.  She is pretty, slender, well dressed, the life of the parties. And there is a lot of partying.  She is vivacious, and Logan falls in love with her at first sight.  But by the end of the movie, despite having spent a lot of time together, Emma complains that after all that time, Logan never asked her out. 
  The flick is about surviving high school.  Logan, entering as a freshman, has his doubts.  For a shy freshman he does OK, manages to get into a clique with pretty girls (Emma) and the class clown.  He finds a sympathetic teacher, he gets invited to all the parties.  Kids have done worse. 
   Especially as Logan's character (Charlie) is a zero.  He never does anything, at least not on camera.  He has no skills, he isn't into sports, either as a player or a fan. He has no hobbies, he doesn't ride, or camp, or hike, or boat, or drive, or hack computers, or play computer games, or fly model airplanes, or anything.  Hell, he doesn't even watch TV.  And he dislikes high school, keeps counting the days until he can graduate and get out.  This despite having a decent social life. 
   The irritating thing about this flick, is that neither Logan or Emma ever DO anything.  Stuff happens to them, but they never take any action to swim up stream.  Or down stream, or anything.  They just show up, and somebody else does something to them, and they just take it.  No guts.  Or the director doesn't want to show anything.  What should have been the climax, where Logan stands up in the cafeteria and defends the class clown with his fists, the camera just blacks out, we don't see anything.  By most people's standards, standing up to the football team to keep them from beating up a friend is heroic.  But, we don't see this happening, they tell us about it afterward.  And, although it gets Logan and Emma back together after a quarrel, that's about all it does. 
    There are some anachronisms.  The high school students all dress too well. Someone's favorite song turns up on a 45 RPM record as a gift.  Hell I haven't seen a working 45 RPM record player for 30 years.  Emma gives Logan a manual typewriter as a gift (Logan wants to become a writer).  I ditched my manual typewriter shortly after I got my dual floppy disk MS-DOS IBM PC back in the '80s. 
   Then to round out the movie, Logan suffers a nervous breakdown right after graduation and spends a month in a funny farm.  Although the director had been hinting thruout the movie that there is something wrong with Logan, the hints are ambiguous, and we are looking to see Logan get well as things work out for him in school.  But, soon as school is over, and Emma is off to summer school at Penn State, Logan falls apart and gets hospitalized.  And then after doing some time, he recovers.  We don't see Logan doing anything to make himself well, it just happens.  Like everything else, it just happens.
   The critics liked this flick even though I didn't.  That's movie critics for you.   
   Anyhow, a low speed movie.  Hunger Games is gonna be better.  


Monday, December 2, 2013

Newsies screw up a story

A team of archeologists working in Ethiopia uncovered a really fine projectile point in an old site.  The point, pure jet black obsidian, would be a fine addition to anyone's collection of Indian arrowheads.  It's inch and a half to two inches long, and finely chipped, very symmetrical, and obviously made by hands.  Not one of those border line chipped pebble tools that look like plain pebbles to most people. 
   Website "I f***ing Love Science"  said this point, dated at 280,000 years ago, is older than humans, so it's existence proves humans are older than we think they are.  They didn't mention the dating method.
   National Geographic  talked about analysis of wear patterns on the edges of the point proved that it was a projectile point for a thrown spear, a javelin.  Geographic claimed wear patterns showed the point had struck its targets while doing 1900 miles per hour.  Whoa Nelly.  1900 miles per hour is Mach two, the speed of a rifle bullet.  Somehow I don't think Alley Oop could throw that hard.  
    Some clicking around the web found the original technical article in "Plos" an archeological webzine.  The dating comes from Argon-Argon measurements.  The site is underneath a layer of volcanic deposits, the Argon-Argon dating tells when the volcanic deposit cooled down, stopped being molten lava, and hardened into stone.  Anything underneath the deposit has got to be older.  Which sounds like a better dating than you get from stratigraphy (counting layers in the rock).  So the 280,000 year old dating is solid, assuming the lab did their work properly. 
   The speed of projectile issue speaks to the question of whether the point is a projectile point or just the point of a hand held spear.  We consider a culture with projectile weapons to be more advanced than one that has to close up and go hand-to-hand.  Certainly their chances of taking wary prey like deer is better with a projectile than with a club.  The 1900 miles per hour is the speed of micro crack propagation inside the obsidian point.  As the point cleaves into it's target, microcracks start at the edge and zip into the body of the point.  This has some relationship with the speed with which the point strikes its target.  The relationship was unclear. 
  As to the "point is older than humans" bit.  The point is older than modern man, homo sapiens, but  it isn't older than earlier human species, Home Habilis, Homo Afarenis,  Lucy, etc.  Early man goes back 2-3 million years at least. 
   The remarkable thing about this point, is that it is exceptionally fine, as nice a bit of work as anyone ever did, and it's pretty old.  It shows that early man, Homo something-or-other, 280,000 years ago was as good at point making (and presumable spear throwing) as anyone who came after him. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dissing our friends and sucking up to our enemies

Obama's people decided to close our embassy to the Vatican.  Smooth move.  Although the Vatican wisely refrained from complaining, I'm sure this act of disrespect disheartened them.  Too bad.  The Catholic Church has been a powerful force for good, since Christ was a corporal.  The United States is a powerful force for good.  That makes us natural allies, and  dissing each other is counter productive. 
   On the suck up side, Obama's people promised to lift economic sanctions against Iran in return for little or nothing.  Iran has been a force for evil ever since the mullahs took it over in Jimmy Carter's time.  The economic sanctions have finally begun to bite hard enough to bring the Iranians to the bargaining table.  The proper action is tighten them up some more, bite them harder, until they give up their nuclear program, turn all their fissionables and centrifuges over to us, dismantle their reactors, and allow no knock inspections every where in the country.  Iranian goodwill isn't going to get us the time of day, we need to squeeze them til they crack.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Self Driving Cars

The subject came up over Thanksgiving.  Some of the older generation thought there was a place for self driving cars when they got too old to drive themselves. 
   As for me, it will be a cold day in Hell before I left a microprocessor drive me to the store.

Movies on TV for Thanksgiving

Mostly old favorites, Bond movies from years ago, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Indiana Jones.  Nothing that I don't have on DVD.  Seems like Hollywood hasn't made much that people like to watch in recent years. 

Single Payer Health Care == Death Panels

All the democrats like a single payer health plan.  By which they mean the government pays for free health care for all.  Like they have in Britain and Canada. 
  But, what this really means is all health care come from the government, and if the government doesn't like you, you don't get treated.  If you are too old, or a member of the political opposition, or an unpopular group,  or just the wrong astrological sign,  they don't treat you, they just send  you home to die. If they think your pills are too expensive, you do without.   
  No choices, no options, the government controls all.   

Thursday, November 28, 2013

FDA gets squeamish.

From it's shiny tiled laboratories and ivory towers, the FDA wants to ban the spreading of manure on farmer's fields.  FDA claims manure contains germs that will contaminate the crops grown in manure fertilized fields.  Wow! What a discovery.  Must be a Nobel prize waiting for this one.
  Farmers have been spreading manure on fields since 1000 years before Moses.  We have cuneiform tablets from Akkad in Mesopotamia describing the use of manure. That was 5,000 years ago.  In all that time, the practice hasn't killed us.  I doubt that manure turned deadly just last week.  It's the same stuff today as it was in Sargon of Akkad's time. 
   Plus, spreading the stuff out where the sun and rain and wind get at it, will kill just about anything. 
   Anyhow FDA is out there trying to ban the use of manure in agriculture.  Your tax dollars at work. 

So what's a nomad?

When I learned the word, nomads were hunters or herdsmen with no fixed abode.  They followed the game or the graising, striking their tents and moving on as the food sources moved them.  Like Abraham. 
   So I am reading "Stonehenge, the Indo European heritage", by Leon Stover and Bruce Kraig, some European archeaology, discussing the earliest European site.  And this amazing phrase pops up.  "a nomadic people who farmed,clearing forest land for dispersed settlements as they passed." 
   Oh really.  Once they put in the hard work to clear the land and plant, they aren't going to strike their tents and move on, not until the harvest is in anyhow.  And probably not after harvest either.  Harvest ought to produce enough food to get thru the winter, which is entirely too heavy to take with them.  It's generally accepted that farming makes the settled life possible.  The transition from hunter and herder to farmer is the end of the nomadic life.  So, "a nomad people who farmed" makes one wonder about the author's common sense.
   He is describing the "Danubian" or "Linear Pottery" folk, who settled western Europe before the coming of the Indo Europeans.  But he doesn't offer any evidence (potsherds, flints, gravegoods, etc) that the Danubians were nomadic.  So he throws out a hard to swallow concept with no backup.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Three Musketeers, a Steampunk Spoof

Another remake.  They do most of the famous scenes from way back when, D'Artagnan saying farewell to his father, D'Artagnan getting whipped by Rochfort at the inn, going to England to recover the diamond studs.  But the sword fights all degenerate into 20th century kung foo.  Both the musketeers and the Cardinal's guard have airships, the baddies like milady DeWinter turn into goodies.  The cast is pretty much unknown except for pretty boy Logan Lerman who plays D'Artagnan, and Orlando Bloom who plays an undistinguished Buckingham.  They manage to crash an airship onto Notre Dame cathedral.  The steeple punctures the gasbag so they cannot lift off.  Which leads to a sword fight along the roof of  the cathedral. 
   Trouble is, the spoof is so heavy that I could not take anything seriously.  It just goes on, sword fight to kung foo to air ship collision, to sword fight, and on and on.  Nothing seems very real, nobody is ever in jeopardy. 
   It can't hold a candle to the 1970's version with Michael York and Raquel Welsh.

When Obamacare cancels someone's insurance

Ask them if they voted for Obama. 

Weather is clearing up here

TV news has been reporting horrible weather, travel delays, lots of bad stuff.  They show a storm center still down around Philly, heading my way, arriving this evening. 
  You couldn't tell it by me.  Over night snow turned to rain, it's warmed up and rained all the snow off Cannon Mt.  It was blowing and raining hard this morning, but it's tapered off, and its clearing a little now.  Either we get another hit when that storm center gets here, or it blows out to sea and we get dried out.

Would you buy a used COD from this man?

Carrier on board delivery aircraft that is.  An unexciting but vital aircraft.  COD flies high priority cargo from land bases out to carriers at sea.  Back in the day, I well remember LogAir, who flew a big turboprop Argosy transport into our base in Minnesota every day, loaded with spare parts for our fighters.  Plenty of times we would tell Maintenance Control that we would have fighter so-and-so back in commission as soon as LogAir came in.  That was on a stateside Air Force base in peacetime.  I dare say the spare parts situation is worse at sea. 
   Anyhow, the existing fleet of C-2 Greyhounds, after many years of service, is in need of replacement or refurbishment.  The Navy has a bid from Grumman to rebuild the weary Greyhounds, and a bid from Bell-Boeing to furnish V22 Osprey tiltrotors.
  And now, Lockheed Martin is proposing to pull 70 or 80 S-3 Vikings out of the boneyard in Arizona, refurbish them, build new and larger fuselages for them.  Cargo aircraft typically cube out before they weight out, in other words you run out of room to pack stuff into them long before the cargo gets too heavy to fly.  So a new a bigger fuselage would make a better freighter and still be competitive on price.  The S3 Viking is/was a twin jet carrier based antisub aircraft that the Navy retired  a few years ago. 
    So, looks like the Navy is looking at rebuilt Greyhounds, rebuilt Vikings, or brand new and pricey Ospreys.  I have my doubts that the Osprey has enough range, but I don't have any figures.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Greenies want to hike food prices

Heard on NHPR this morning, the greenies are going to push for a state law requiring all food containing "genetically modified organisms "  carry a special warning label.   . There is no evidence that "genetically modified organisms" have ever harmed anyone, in anyway.  The ultra conservative FDA sees nothing wrong with them.  They have been in widespread use for many years with no evidence of problems. 
   Never mind, they must be evil and we shall drive them from the market with a scarlet letter on the package.  That will let us feel good about ourselves for weeks and weeks. 
   For farmers, grocers, and everyone else in the food business, such a law is yet another government regulation, raising costs, exposing them to lawyer predation, and making it harder to stay in business.  For lawyers, fixers, and bureaucrats, such a law is a full employment act. 
   For consumers,  it's just more fine print on the back of the package.  When was the last time you read all the fine print on a box of frozen veggies? 
   If I was in the grocery business, I'd comply with the law by putting "GMO" stickers on everything in the store, just to cover my ___. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Just 'cause you got a cancelation notice

Doesn't mean you are uninsured.  You aren't uninsured until the cancellation notice takes effect.  So sayth Allan Colmes,  Fox News liberal gadfly.  So all of us who received cancellation notices effective in January, we aren't uninsured. 
   Great.  Thanks Allan for letting us know.

Picky software reduces dispatch reliability of 787 Dreamliners

The 787 has more powerful computers than anything flying, more sensors for temperature and pressure and such than ever before, and the software checks all the sensors and keeps issuing warnings to the crew when there is really nothing wrong.  But the crew has to do something when the computers are crying "Failure". Especially, when the computer issues an alarm before takeoff, the aircrew will call maintenance to check it out before they taxi out, leading to late departures.  Boeing claims a dispatch reliability of 97.5% which sounds pretty good, but it means that out of 100 departures, 2 or 3 will be delayed by computers crying wolf. 
   Any how Boeing is updating the software to make it less hypochondriac.   They want to get dispatch reliability up to 99.2%
   Dunno how we ever flew anywhere back in the '60s and '70s before microprocessors.

NSA snooping kills jet fighter sale

Brazil was close to buying Boeing F/A 18 fighters to replace their ancient F5E (1960's) fighters.  But revelation that NSA was eavesdropping on Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and national oil company Petrobras  has soured relations with the US.  The fighter deal may now be dead.
   Thanks NSA.  Keeping America safe by throwing Americans out of work.                                                                                                

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Obama goes for the deal

TV news reports that a deal was reached with Iran last night.  No details are given.   What ever happened to "open covenants, openly arrived at"?  (One of Woodrow Wilson's 14 points from 100 years ago).   One suspects that the deal isn't that good for us. 
    Oh By the way.   The right to enrich is the right to make nuclear weapons.  Iran lacks any right to enrich, or to have the bomb.

Iran goes for the bomb

All the Iranians (or anyone else) needs to make a nuclear bomb, is enough fissionable material, either 90% uranium 235 or plutonium.  U235 occurs in nature. 0.7% of natural uranium is the fissionable U235, the rest is stable U238 which won't make a bomb.  Plutonium does not occur in nature, it has to be made in a nuclear reactor. 
   The Iranians have built up a huge battery of 19,000 centrifuges to separate the fissionable U235 from the inert U238.  They have been running the centrifuges long enough to create tons of uranium enriched to 20%.  Concentrating from 20% to 90% is easier than what they have already done, concentrating from 0.7% to 20%.  Iran is withing spitting distance of the bomb.
   The last thing the world needs is nuclear weapons in the hands of Iranian crazies. 
   So, as the Iranians moved closer to the bomb, we set up an economic blockade on Iran. The US Senate made it law.  They can't import anything technical, not even auto parts, they can't sell their oil.  Surprisingly,  this is working.  Iran is hurting enough to start bargaining. 
   Only the deal the Iranians are offering is "We promise not to make a bomb, and you lift the blockade."
Such a deal.  And Obama wanted to accept it. 
   Fortunately the French were wise enough to reject this "deal".  And probably the US Senate won't fall for it either.
   The deal we want is "You Iranians turn all your uranium and all your centrifuges over to us, and permit no notice inspections of every place in your country.  And you don't get to have reactors.  After that is accomplished to our satisfaction, then we will lift the blockade." 
   If we let the Iranians get the bomb, their neighbors, Saudi and Iraq will build their own bombs.  The Pakis and the Israelis already have the bomb. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Death Spiral

For taxpayers that is. 
TV talking heads worry about Obama care going into a death spiral.  By which they mean only older and sicker patients sign up for Obamacare and the young and healthy won't.  Which means the insurance companies have to raise premiums to pay the bills, which means fewer and fewer healthy patients would sign up, 'cause it costs too much.  As the TV newsies tell it, the entire Obamacare plan would emit black smoke, burst into flames and make a big hole in the ground where it hits.
  Don't you wish. 
  In real life, the insurance companies will cry a lot, and head to the White House for a taxpayer funded bailout. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Nuking the opposition.

Harry Reid decided to do it, he pulled some kinda magic and now the Senate Dems can approve Obama appointments by a simple majority, instead of the supermajority that has been required since Thomas Jefferson's time.  Needless to say, the Republicans are pissed.
   They been talking about doing this for a decade.  I'm wondering why Harry decided to do it now.  Is it cause he figures the Dems are gonna loose the Senate in 2014, so he might as well stack the courts with as many liberal judges as he can?  Is it to give the TV newsies something besides the Obamacare disaster to talk about? 
   Harry must not care much about bipartisan anything.  The Republicans are now mad enough to give the Dems trouble just for spite.  And, when the Republicans do take the Senate, they have a whole list of crusty conservative judges to appoint. 
   On a longer term viewpoint, Harry has thrown the classic Senate mission into the trash.  The Senate rules on filibusters/super majorities have been there since the beginning, to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority.  Used to be,  the majority had to have a lotta votes to jam anything thru that the minority hated.  Not any more.  Granted, yesterday's nuclear option only covered presidential appointments, but next week, we can go for legislation and Supreme Court appointments. 

Broadband is back.

I've been off the air since yesterday.  Today I called the Time Warner service number.  They tried a few things and we decided the modem might have died.  So I went into Littleton, to the Time Warner shop on Union Ave, our a little past Lahout's.  They gave me a new modem.  I took it back and plugged it in and no joy.  I'm still off the air.  So, call the Time Warner trouble number again, and they say they can have a service man out today.  Groovy. 
   And, the service guy gets here. Swaps out the splitter, replaces some tired looking J connectors, still no joy.  He has a clever box the can  plug into the coax and make like a modem.  They track back to the pole, and decide to change out my coax drop.  That does it,. I'm back. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Immigration bill

There are a lot of angles to immigration.  There is a "comprehensive" (something for everyone) bill floating around.  Democrats would love to get some press and maybe a vote on it, anything to deflect the obmacare flak heading their way.  So what's in it for real people?
  Well, it could let in more low end workers for picking crops, construction, retail.  Planters, growers, farmers, and business are in favor of more low price workers.  For the same reasons, unions are against it.
  It ought to do something about the estimated 11 million illegal  immigrants already in the country.  These poor people have no legal standing anywhere and live in terror of a routine traffic stop that gets them deported.  Anyone, employers, the mob, petty criminals, cops, the Border Patrol can abuse them at will. This is unfair, unjust un American, and we ought to fix it.  
   Hispanics and Democrats want to turn all 11 million of 'em into instant citizens.  Hispanics like this 'cause a lot the illegals are friends, relatives and neighbors.  Democrats like this 'cause they think Hispanics will vote a straight Democratic ticket.  11 million voters for your party is not to be sneezed at.  A whole lot of other people see no reason why illegals in the country should get better treatment than the millions of legals who are waiting in line to enter the country. 
   Maybe we could compromise and issue work permits to illegals who have been here for a while, have jobs, look stable, and have stayed out of trouble with the law.  The work permit doesn't let 'em vote, or let them draw welfare, unemployment, medicaid, food stamps, or social security benefits.  But it does let them hold a job, get a driver's license, buy a car, buy car insurance, and send their kids to public school. 
   Or, we could deport them all.  I don't approve of that, most of 'em have jobs, contribute to the community, pay taxes and stay out of trouble.  We need citizens like that. Arresting them and packing them onto buses for shipment back to Mexico is the sort of thing the Nazis used to do.   American is what it is because we have a large and loyal population, both immigrant and native borne.  In fact, immigrants are as loyal, and often more loyal than the native borne.  
   And then honorable service in the US armed forces ought to earn US citizenship.  And illegals who were brought to this country as minor children deserve a break.  It isn't the kid's fault that their parents decided to slip into the US without doing the required paperwork. 
   We ought to have an immigrant quota of 1% of the current population, per year.  America can easily assimilate that many immigrants.  1% would be about 3 million immigrants a year.  We ought to favor the young, the healthy,  the educated, the skilled, the married.  Current policy favors relatives of American citizens, which gets us a lot of grandparents just about ready to retire and draw US social security. 
   If we cannot do enough log rolling and horse trading to pass a "comprehensive" immigration bill, then we ought to pass things that every one agrees on.  Getting something is better than nothing. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Was JFK a Conservative?

With the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination coming up,  TV news is full of chit chat about JFK.  Some of the chitchat  cites JFK policies, his tax cut, his strong anti-communism, and calls JFK a conservative.  I suppose, but fifty years ago, JFK was a liberal.  Sides have changed, the left has moved way left compared to where they were 50 years ago.  By today's standards, JFK is conservative, but by 1960 standards he was liberal.  Standards have changed. 
   It's one thing for modern talking heads to claim a popular 20th century president supports their 21st century political programs.  But if you want to understand want was going down in the 1960's, you need to understand what the words liberal and conservative meant in the 1960's. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Gaza Strip Misery?

The Gaza strip is very small,heavily populated, and miserable.  A nearly full page article in the Economist details how bad things are.  The Israeli's won't let anything but food in, the Egyptians are closing the tunnels that used to smuggle in arms and luxury goods, electric power is mostly off.  Then they printed a picture, two small boys, probably seven or eight, playing on a sand pile in front of a crumbling poured concrete building.  The background is pretty miserable, but the two boys are dressed in brand new clean jerseys and patterned shorts.  The clothes look fresh off the rack at  Walmart.  My kids never looked that spandy clean playing out of doors back here in suburban US of A.  Methinks the photo was carefully posed, presumable by Hamas which runs the Gaza strip.
   One wonders why they didn't dress the boys in rags for the photo.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Three-D Printer prints a gun

And even Fox TV news thinks this is horrible.  They had a cop explaining the horror of guns without serial numbers.  Untraceable.  And being all plastic they will go thru airport metal detectors.  End of civilization.  Let's ban 'em.
   This from Fox News.  I hate to think what MSNBC is saying.
   Let's be real.  I can buy a brand new handgun from the likes of Colt, Smith & Wesson, or Ruger for $500-$600.  That's new, top of the line.  Used, bottom of the line they are cheaper.  The 3-D printers  cost three or four times that, even for a home hobby shop model that only does plastic.  Best future development of 3-D printers, brings the cost down to that of an office laser printer.  In 30 years that is.  Laser printers have been on the market for thirty years and they are still too expensive for home use.  Us home hobbyshoppers use inkjet printers. 
   Whereas the utility of 3-D printers for inventors, new product development, making unavailable parts for old and out-of-production machines and appliances, doing artwork, making Christmas tree ornaments, jewelry, fancy furniture hardware, and knickknacks is undeniable, and ought to be encouraged.  If we let BATFE "regulate" 3-D printers, they will load 'em down with so much paperwork that nobody can afford 'em.
   The cop's argument about serial numbers is ridiculous.  A Dremel tool will zip the serial numbers off a gun (or anything else) in seconds.  Plastic guns going thru metal detectors is bogus too.  Air travel would be safer if the passengers carried heat.  For that matter, I don't believe all that plastic gun talk.  They been talking about them for years, but I have never seen one.  Even Glock, which has a plastic frame, still has a steel barrel. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Strange Bedfellows

The NRA is going halfsies with the ACLU on a lawsuit against the NSA.  How's that for a lotta acronyms in one sentence?  The NSA phone spy program keeps a record of every phone call placed all over the world.  It only records which number called which other number, it doesn't record the contents of the call, just the information that appears on your phone bill.  But that's enough to cause a lot of trouble.  NSA could track down every NRA member.  This would make a good start on a national gun registry since most gun owners are members.  From a registry they could move on to confiscation of guns.  Anyhow, the ACLU has it's own problems with NSA telephone surveillance.  For that matter I have some problems with NSA telephone surveillance.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Pivot to Asia

One of the dumber statements to come out of the Obama Administration.  Our European and Mideast allies read "pivot to Asia" as "pivot away from us". As in "let the Russians or Al Quada roll right over us and don't lift a finger".
  The Chinese have to read "pivot" as "America is going to gang up on us".  Not a good thing to have them thinking. 
   And, as a general rule, nobody in the world want's to hear that the Americans are changing policy.  They all know we are the 800 pound gorilla, they mostly see us as benevolent, and changes in US policy scare them. As practical people they fear that "changes" will be the worse for them. 
   That "pivot to Asia" remark was tossed out at a news conference, probably 'cause they couldn't think of anything better to say.  It would have been better to say nothing and avoid putting everyone's teeth on edge all around the world.

Used car prices

Scanning the used car mail box stuffer today, just to see what's what.  We have one year old Cadillac CTS (the four passenger Beemer wannabe) for $30K.  Whereas we have bunch of pickup trucks going for more.   Used to be a Caddy was worth twice as much as a pickup truck.  Not anymore.  For real value, try a Chevy Suburban for $47K.  Plain four door drive-to-work and go-to-the-store  sedans, Toyota, Chevy, Kia, and Ford run in the $16-$20 K range.  Used. 
   I wonder what will be available when my Mercury Grand Marquis wears out and needs replacement?

Friday, November 15, 2013

What should Republicans do about O'care?

Well, the House has tried to repeal Obamacare, repeatedly.  That is kinda worthless.  The Senate won't go along, and even if they did, Obama would veto the measure.  Repeal just ain't gonna fly, at least not until after the 2014 elections, and probably not then either. 
   What about half measures?  Repeal the most obnoxious features, or roll it back a year?  What's in it for us?  Obamacare has pissed off the voters, but good.  It's eating into Obama's credibility, and clout.  Why do we want to stop that?  Let the ObamaDamage continue.  Sit back and watch the fun.  Pass the popcorn. Let the Democrats figure how to wiggle out from under.   We ought to refrain from saying "I told you so", because everyone understands that now, and repeating it just irritates voters, especially those who voted for Obama the second time.
   We should point fingers at all Democrats who voted for Obamacare and are running for re election.  As in "You did this to us". 

What REALLY happeded at Benghasi

The night the consolate was attacked, they sent a call for help.  The US military started to respond.  They didn't have troops close enough to send a rescue party quickly enough, but they did have aircraft.  The aircraft were sent.
   Before the aircraft could arrive, Barack Obama ordered them to return to base.  Two general officers,Gen Carter Ham and Rear Admiral Charles M. Gaouette, refused to abandon Americans to Al Quada.  Obama fired both of them that night.  For good measure, he fired two more the next day. 
  And that's why Obama has been stonewalling the Benghasi affair ever since.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Time Warner broad band fails again

Dunno about those Time Warner guys.  But my broadband has been dropping out about once a week lately.
Maybe Time Warner isn't paying it's Internet backbone fees?  NSA snooping is crashing their computers?  It's not the cable system, my cable TV (comes on the same wire) stays on line, but computer just cannot reach any websites. 

Going to Mars on a budget

The unmanned Indian Mars mission, Mangalyaan, was launched for a mere $80 million according to Aviation Week.  Whereas the next US Mars mission, Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN for short), due to launch in a week or two, will cost $671 million. eight times as much.  Granted, the Indian mission only carries 15 kilograms of scientific experiments, but still the difference in cost is striking.  "If India can make the world's cheapest car and the world's cheapest tablet, launching the cheapest Mars mission is no big deal," quipped one Indian space scientist. 
   Mangalyaan has a long way to go.  It will be 10 months coasting out to Mars, at which point it has to make a burn to establish itself in an orbit around Mars.  We all hope that after 10 months in interplanetary space, all the equipment will still be in working order.  Mars is a tough target.  Over half the missions to Mars have failed for one reason on another, including missions by Japan and China quite recently.
  Good luck and God Speed.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

No nukes is good nukes

Aviation Week has a series of articles about selected nuclear powers, the US, the Russians, French, Indians, and Chinese. Other nuclear countries, the UK, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, are omitted.  Interesting selection that.  Dunno what it means other than perhaps Aviation Week just doesn't know anything about the non selected countries.
   They give numbers for the US.  We are down to about 2000 deliverable warheads as of now, and sequestration and budget cutting forecasts a further drop to 1550 by 2018.    Which is WAY down from the bad old days when we had 10,000 warheads aimed at the Russians.  Minuteman missiles are down to 450, from 1080 when Minuteman was first deployed back in the 1960's.  To my amateur eye, the numbers are probably enough to do the job, namely convince everyone in the world that we could reduce their country to a glow-in-the-dark parking lot if they were stupid enough to really piss us off. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Computers get the new jobs.

The computers have moved into vast areas of the workplace.  Back when I  started as an engineer, we made pencil sketches of our designs on squared paper.  We took these down to drafting and drafting would produce gorgeous D size vellum drawings.  The master vellums were kept in drafting, and Ozalid copies were made for production.  Engineering change orders did not take effect until drafting had updated the master vellum and gotten the engineer to sign off on it. 
  Then we got desktop CAD.  It took a while to catch on, maybe ten years, but then we engineers did the drawings with a CAD program running on our desktop computers, and the drafting departments just withered away.  By the time I retired, there were no drafting departments.  That's a lot of good jobs, gone.
   When I started in the business, to make a trip, we called a travel agency to get the air tickets, the rental car reservation and the motel reservations.  By the time I retired, the travel agencies were gone, and I made my own reservations at Orbitz using my trusty desktop.  More good jobs, gone.
   Years ago, when we needed a memo, a letter to a customer, a proposal, an ECO, an instruction manual, a test procedure or anything formal, we wrote it out long hand on a yellow lined pad, and took it down to the typing pool.  They would type up a rough draft, we would correct same, then a final draft got typed.  Each department would have a typing pool.  In addition to typing stuff, they kept the supply cabinets stocked with paper and pencils, distributed the interoffice mail, and served as information centers.  The head of the typing pool always knew everything and everyone.  If you needed to know who to ask, or what procedure to follow,  anything, the typing pool would know.   Then we got Word-for-Windows with spell check and we began to type our own stuff.  Again, the typing pools went away.  Interoffice mail just didn't get delivered, there was no one to deliver it.  More good jobs gone.
   Again, way back when, companies had salesmen, who traveled to customer's sites and sold parts to the engineers.  The idea was, get an engineer to design their part into the circuit, and your company owned that socket for the life of the product.  We engineers were always happy to see the salesmen, 'cause the salesmen always brought fresh new data books, with the specs on all the latest parts.  A salesman was an opportunity to replace your 10 year old TTL databook, with an up to date version.  Then we got the internet.  Companies posted the datasheets on every part they made on the web.  We didn't need data books anymore, we could run off the datasheet on the parts we cared about on the office laserprinter.  I don't think I saw a parts salesman after 1995.  More good jobs gone.
   I wonder what all those draftsmen, travel agents, typists, and salesmen are doing now.    

Monday, November 11, 2013

Humanities wailing about the rise of STEM

Seen on the Web, repeatedly, college humanities profs wailing about the emphasis and money going into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) departments, starving their humanities departments.  Statistics show the rising numbers of students with STEM majors, and the declining number of humanities majors.  This has been around since C.P. Snow wrote about "Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution".  The trend is understandable, college students want to major in something that leads to a job upon graduation.  At least intelligent students do.
   The humanities departments need to connect their disciplines to jobs.  Right now, humanities departments view their mission as training more humanities professors.  That's a loser, their aren't that many college prof jobs out there, and most of them are underpaid "adjunct" professors, part time, no health benefit jobs.   Humanities need to show prospective majors where the jobs are.
  Take English for example.  Show how an English major can lead to jobs.  Creative writing, best selling author is always attractive.  As well as playwright, screenwriting, writing instruction books, advertising copy, journalism.  Surely a knowledge of Shakespeare is useful to writing plays, movie scripts, or TV shows.  Understanding the English novel, from Pride and Prejudice to Hemingway is helpful to writers of mainsteam fiction, genre fiction, romance novels, fantasy and science fiction, westerns and mysteries.  This will require the typical English prof to conceal his aristocratic distaste for things like advertising and genre fiction, but that's better than unemployment.
   Foreign language departments need to expalin the need to speak the language, and know the culture, for overseas work in diplomacy, intelligence, sales, import/export work, journalism, and business.   Employers already know that they need American employees with language skills to represent them overseas.
   History is an ever expanding and super broad field.  Covering everything that ever happened since the invention of writing, makes history the broadest field of all.  History books have gone on to the best seller list from the days of Bruce Catton, and Barbara Tuchman, up thru David McCullough.  Plenty of good fiction have been written with a historical slant, from C.S. Forester to Tom Clancy.   As a background for a career in politics, diplomacy, or intelligence, history is far superior to political science, sociology or economics.  History is real, with real examples.  The others are theoretical, and mostly opinion.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Economist likes inflation

Amusing cover story.  Cover has a cartoon of a limp hot air balloon  sagging toward the sea, where sharks are gathering.  Anyhow the gist of the story is we don't have enough inflation, and central banks, (The Fed!) ought to pump up inflation again.  They spend some words trashing deflation (falling prices and wages) but they never get around to expaling why inflation is good for anybody.  Any how, they are in favor of more of it. 
   They never explain just which measure of inflation they mean.  US labor dept  keeps track of "core" inflation, usually everything except food and fuel. Food and fuel are "volatile" and that makes them evil.  Core inflation is services and manufactured goods, and is "purer" in the view of economists. 
   Unfortunately, they use "core" inflation for all those cost-of-living escalators in union contracts and social security.  Doesn't help me much.  I have to buy oil for the furnace, gas for the car and food for the bod.  My house is clogged with generations of manufactured goods, both hand me downs from the older generation and left-behinds from the children.  I don't buy new stuff much anymore.  But the Social Security cost-of-living escalator works on "core" inflation. 

First Plow of the season

We had a bit of snow last night.  Less than an inch.  But the town plow rumbled by at 6 AM.  That's the first this season.  First plow counts for more than just first snow

Warren Commission

Been a lot of talk on TV about the Kennedy assassination, new evidence, second gunmen, all good Oliver Stone material.
  I clearly remember the day Kennedy was killed.  Word reached us on the Franklin & Marshall campus.  It was just before my afternoon class in Civil War, taught by good old Frederick Klein.  We gathered in the classroom, Fred was clearly shaken.  He said a few words about now he understood how the country felt after Lincoln's assassination.  Then he dismissed the class.  Nobody said much, we settled in front of the dorm TV set to watch the news.  We got to see Ruby waste Oswald live.  And the state funeral.  Those were sad days. 
   Back then, the entire thing seemed fishy.    There was fear in the air.  1963 was the coldest part of the cold war.  Oswald's Soviet Russian connections were in the press, his Russian wife, his stay in the Soviet Union.  Every one still remembered Joe McCarthy.  If the citizens ever got the idea that the Soviets were behind Oswald, all hell would break loose, including a demand for revenge, leading to WWIII.
    They appointed the bluest of blue ribbon committee of investigation available to investigate and report what really happened.  Earl Warren, chairman, was chief justice of the Supreme Court.  You don't get more respectable than that.  The rest of the members were all household names.  They had full and enthusiastic cooperation of  FBI, CIA, the armed services, the Congress, the Dallas authorities, everybody.  All the witnesses (except Oswald) were still alive for questioning.  Events were still fresh in everyone's memory.
   We were disappointed in the contents of the Warren report.  Nobody liked the idea that JFK had perished at the hands of a lone nutcase.  But we accepted it, largely 'cause we figured the commission members were too honest and too patriotic to lie to us. 
    I still feel that way.  The fifty years of conspiracy theories of history from that time to this don't impress me.  I think the Warren Commission, had all the time, all the expertise, all the pressure to produce, that were possible.  I doubt that latter day revisionists will get it more right than the Warren Commission did right after the fact.   
   But they keep trying.  It sells movies.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sorry doesn't cut it

Obama actually managed to say he was sorry about canceling people's health care policies.  Too bad he didn't promise to fix anything while he was at it.  All talk, no action, that's our boy.