Friday, May 31, 2013

What the Air Force dumps, the Navy buys.

Global Hawk.  A humungous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)  with a take off weight of 16 tons.  That's DC3 kind of weight.   Will stay up all day (24 hours) and  carries nothing but surveillance equipment.  Exact nature is classified, but cameras, radars, IR, snooping receivers.  The Air Force paid  $222 million apiece for 43 of 'em.  That money will buy a brand new 787 jetliner, which seems kinda pricey.   At this point the Air Force wants to mothball its entire fleet of 'em.  Probably cause the intel they gather doesn't help the Air Force mission much.  They bought the things to help out the Army in Afghanistan.  Now that Afghanistan is winding down, and budget cuts are looming, so they want to mothball the pricey beasties.  The program has friends in Congress who are trying to keep it alive.
   Now, the Navy wants in.  They claim a world wide sea surveillance mission and they want to buy 70 of 'em.  The Navy gets a slightly better price than USAF did, $189 million apiece.  Of course the Navy couldn't re use the retiring Air Force birds, the Navy wants to buy new.  Northrup Grumman loves that.  Total program cost, $13 billion.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dandelions, Part Deux

The grass and the dandelions had a whole week to grow while I was away.  In fact, due to the rain storm that followed me home, they got an extra day before getting mowed.  Few golden blossoms popped up in the lawn, less than a dozen, and this morning I was able to pluck 'em all.  The previous day's rain softened the soil and most of 'em came up by the roots.  Die, dandelion, die. 

Microsoft, cyber espionage enabler

The TV news has been full of stories about hostile Chinese hackers stealing plans, programming, codes, and whatever for things like the F-35 jet fighter, anti-ballistic missiles, and the rest of the advanced US weapons systems.
   This would not be possible EXCEPT for Microsoft Windows.  Microsoft has deliberately perforated Windows with back door loop holes that make breaking into a Windows machine child's play.  For instance Autorun, a "feature" that loads and runs any program off of flashdrives.  Stick a flashdrive in a USB port and that machine is totally yours.  Stuxnet spread via autorun and so did the Bertlesmann - Sony rootkit of 2005.  No user cares much about autorun, but the Microsofties love it and have kept modifying it and making it more powerful and more difficult to turn off.
  For instance "remote job entry"  which by its very name tells you it is a back door.  Lord help the security minded owner who turns off "remote job entry",  Windows won't reboot without it.  Don't ask me how I know this. 
   For instance, Internet Exploder, which will download and run malicious code off websites, infecting your machine for merely visiting a hostile website.  Web browsers should NEVER download or run anything off the web unless the user specifically clicks on something.
  For instance allowing executable programming to be hidden inside of Office documents.  And furthermore allowing Internet Exploder to pass these infected documents directly to Office to be run by just clicking on them.
   There are lots more.  Windows is so big, so complicated, and so flaky that no one understands the whole thing.
   But as long as we run Windows, we make everything  available to our enemies.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

787 batteries in hand, now to fix APU overheating

APU, Auxiliary power unit, a little turbine powered generator located  in the tail  to furnish electrical power on the ground when the main engines are shut down.  We had 'em on military transports, so we could have aircraft power for lights and electronics and cargo door motors while on the ground in remote dirt strips with no ground power.  Also used for engine starting.  I was surprised to learn that a civilian airliner like the 787 had an APU.  787 is intended to operate from real airports that have ground power equipment.
  And,  Boeing and / or Pratt & Whitney seems to have screwed up the design of the 787 APU.  Shutting down the APU on the ground automatically closes the APU intake door, cutting off airflow and overheating the APU.  Heat build up is so bad it warps the APU drive shaft out of true after about 20 minutes.  It does eventually cool down and straighten out.  But if the APU is restarted before cooldown (2 hours) bad things happen.  United Airlines, a 787 operator,  says "Bowed rotor shaft can cause turbine rub and  significant damage".   Like a new APU for God Only Knows how much money.  
   Adding insult to injury, Boeing says that leaving the APU in "run" will keep the air intake door open, but, this only works on ground power.  The APU battery only has enough juice to hold the door open for 15 minutes, where as it takes a hour of open intake door to keep the APU from over heating.   Which is weird,  The APU battery is good for 30-40 ampere hours, which ought to be enough to keep a door solenoid powered for a whole day.  If this is true, it means the APU battery barely has enough juice to start the APU, and any drain, say from keeping the intake door solenoid power for a couple of hours, means the APU battery won't have enough charge to start the APU.  Which is a nice way of saying that the APU will fail.  Bad scene.
Good luck Boeing, you are gonna need it.

Journalist Shield Law

Heh,  I blog, that makes me a journalist too.  I want to get shielded. 
Obama has been trying to dodge the flak from the snooping of a Fox News man's cell phone and email.  So he comes out in favor of a "shield law" for journalists.  Groovy.  Last time they talked about shield laws, they allowed journalists to refuse to reveal their sources when called to testify in court.  Right now, federal judges can compel anyone to answer questions under oath.  Unless the witness takes the fifth, they have to answer.  Last journalist who refused, some lady from the NYT a while ago, the judge threw her in jail, contempt of court.  She spend quite a few months in the slammer. 
   That kind of shield law wouldn't help the Fox guy much.  He was not being compelled to rat on his sources in court.  Instead, the DOJ  was reading his email and tapping his cell phone.  Eric the Holder signed off on it.
   I'm against laws that give special privileges to some individuals.  America is a democracy, all men are created equal.  Journalists should not have any privileges at law that you and I don't have. 

Vacation is over.

Visited daughter in DC.  Memorial day we went up to visit boyfriend's parents in Pennsylvania farm country.  Not much farm left in that boy.  He didn't remember the way, we had a scenic drive back and forth over the Mason-Dixon Line looking for the place.  Daughter and boyfriend consulting smart phones to learn where we were and where we ought to be going.  Smart phones not so smart out in farm country. 
   We got there.  The place is impressive, old, so old as to be built of solid chestnut logs, about a foot thick.  Goes back to the 1840's, which is old. It had been renovated, logs all chinked with nice white plaster.  Huge lawn, duckpond, ducks, carp swimming in the pond. 
   Drove home Tuesday.  After the chinese firedrill we had finding the place, I took the precaution of consulting old tech, an ancient paper road map, that had been in the glove compartments of the last two cars I owned.  Worked perfectly.  Got me onto I83 north at York PA no sweat.  Maybe that is why I still don't have a smart phone.  It was raining pretty hard and the low fog and heavy wheel spray made visibility bad.  I finally drove out from under it, but that took hours.
  Pulled off for gas in Jersey.  In Jersey they don't have self service gas pumps.   A conspiracy between unions and fire chiefs passed a law forbidding self service.  Dangerous, customer might set fire to the gas station or something.  So a scruffy looking older guy at the pump asks me "Gasoline?"  What did he think I wanted?  Diesel?  In a big Ford Panther?   At least gas is only $3.50 in Jersey.  New York and Connecticut charge $4.  Good reason not to live in NY or CN. 
  New York State is still in the running for worst roadsigns in the nation award.  They hid the sign for Merritt Turnpike off the Cross Bronx Expressway (I287)  That sent me circling around thru  suburban yuppie land.  Some random casting back and forth picked up the trace of the road and got me moving again.
   Got back and found the grass was still under control.  I moved it day before I left, fearing that given enough time it would be too tall to mow.  That rain storm I drove out from under yesterday caught up with me and it's raining too hard to mow this morning. We had a heavy snow fall while I was away, and I came back to some very confused trees.  One was broken off, another was all bent up like a pretzel. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Off shore tax shelters and Apple Computer

Congress was holding an Apple Roast yesterday.  Apparently (at least this is what NPR thinks) Apple has an overseas subsidiary in Bermuda, to which substantial Apple income is directed, and Bermuda has little to no corporate income tax.  Which is kinda slippery, but as I understand US tax law, Apple is liable for full US corporate tax should they bring the money home from Bermuda.  Apple presumably doesn't need the money at home right now,  things are bad and there is nothing Apple want to spend it on.  This is not unusual, many US companies are sitting on their money and not investing it.
   However, we ought to straighten out  US tax law just to prevent more financial jiggery pokery.   We ought to restrict the sort of country that US companies can set up in.  Real countries such as England or France or Germany are fine, they all have reasonable national tax laws.  But Bermuda isn't a real country, it's a subtropical vacation island.
  We ought to forbid US companies from setting up in places too small, and/or too flaky to be reasonable.  Places with a national territory less than  say 25,000 square miles, or with populations less than a couple of million are not real countries, they are diplomatic fictions, like Monaco.  We ought to tell US companies that setting up in such places is plain old tax fraud and IRS will audit, every year, every place.  And credit all income to such a subsidery to the US parent company and tax it at 35%.

Take the fifth, loose your job.

Lois Lerner,  IRS official, exact rank unknown, was the lady in charge of the tax exempt approval department.  That's the department that decided to stall any organization with "Tea Party" or "Patriot" in their name.  Yesterday she refused to answer questions before a Congressional Committee, citing the fifth amendment, which protects citizens from testifying against them selves.  Up until now, only Mafia figures, and one Nixon Administration official used the fifth amendment in court.  Every knows you don't take the fifth unless you are actually guilty. 
  For taking the fifth, Lois ought to be fired from the IRS.  I don't want someone that guilty having anything to do with anyone's taxes.  I understand she is on "administrative leave" with full pay.  She ought to be fired, for good, and her cushy civil service retirement canceled. 
  The way to prevent this from happening again, it to make things unpleasant for everyone we can catch.  While we are at it, Lois's superiors ought to be fired, as well as her principle subordinates. 

Closing Guantanamo

Obama still wants to close the place.  But what to do with the inmates?  Can't turn em loose cause it's clear to all but the dumbest, that these guys are dangerous, if released they will head right back to Afghanistan and go to work doing terrorism.  Congress and the voters don't want 'em in the US for fear that some irresponsible bat brained judge will turn 'em loose.  The reason for putting 'em off shore in Guantanamo in the first place was to get 'em beyond the reach of US judges who nobody trusts. To keep the Guantanamo population down, Obama has ordered terrorists to be killed rather than captured.  Very humane that is.

Steamtown, the railfan's delight

Back in the 1950's  F. Nelson Blount, a New England railfan with money, started a collection of steam engines.  That decade the railroads were scrapping steamers and replacing them with diesels, so there were plenty of used steamers available for scrap metal prices.  Nelson collected a lot of 'em and parked them in Vermont at Bellows Falls.  I saw them in Vermont nearly fifty years ago.  Sometime after Nelson's death the collection of rusty iron got moved to Scranton PA, and the National Park Service stepped up and is now running it.  The park ranger conducting the engine shop tour explained about how 2009 Porkulus money went to fixing leaks in their roundhouse roof. 
   I decided to vary my flight plan down to DC and take in Scranton.  As long as I had the car loaded and going, why not go a little bit round about and take in Steamtown?  The road to Scranton is I84 which starts in Hartford, Conn, and goes west, crossing the Hudson north of NYC at Newburg and getting to Scranton some 73 miles later.  The Connecticut portion of I84 winds thru the Berkshire mountains, and is narrower and curvier than most interstates.  Once across the PA border, the road gets wider and straighter and pretty much like all the rest of the interstates.  The 40 miles from the PA border need to be repaved.  Getting closer to Scranton, it has been repaved and is very decent. 
   They say the US economy is still in recession.  The amount of semi trailer truck traffic on I84 is astounding, recession or no recession.  Awful lot of 57 foot trailers loaded with stuff, barreling along, going somewhere.  Brand new shiny tractors, Mack, Peterbuilt, Kenworth, White, all worth probably $70K apiece or better.  There may not be any jobs in this economy, but it's still producing a lot of stuff.
    Steamtown is the old Lackawanna rail yard.  They have a few steamers all repainted and looking ready to run, and a lot more looking terribly rusty, paint mostly gone.  They have maybe ten in the shop in various phases of rebuild.  They don't have any steamers still running, the excursion train was pulled by an Electro-Motive GP-7, painted for the Nickel Plate Road.  I walked down to Steamtown from the motel around 9:30, and stayed on my feet til I got back to the motel at 3PM.  Feet are still sore.
  All in all, a fun day.   

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

U.N. Arms Trade Treaty. To Be Signed 3 June

This is interesting.  The defense industry, speaking in Aviation Week, wants to pass it.  They say US companies already have to do all kinds of paperwork and put up with interminable delays from US bureaucrats, think the treaty will impose the same burdens on their international competitors.  In short, level the playing field by tying everyone's hands in red tape.  The international peace groups like Oxfam and the Arms Control Association like it 'cause they think it will make it harder for militants and militaries to get more guns. 
  The NRA is against it.  Writing in the pages of American Rifleman, the NRA magazine, Chris Cox, director of the NRA efforts to expand concealed carry rights, says that the treaty calls upon member states to keep track of each imported firearm, which sounds a lot like gun registration to the NRA. The treaty does not support the second amendment rights, in fact it encourages banning civilian ownership of firearms. 
   Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary of state, the cookie pusher in charge of getting the treaty thru the UN and signed, says he expects the US to sign the treaty on 3 June.  He admits that the Senate probably won't ratify it but he is hoping it will take effect anyhow.  He cites the old nuclear teat ban treaty that the Senate refused to ratify but three different US administrations have maintained its restrictions.  There are 34 senators, including a couple of democrats who oppose the treaty. 
   Interesting part is the Aviation Week supporting the idea and the American Rifeman opposing it arrived in my mailbox on the same day.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Black Bear seen in Lincoln and Weston (Massachusetts)

Front page story in the Boston papers.  They did get one photo that is better than my bear photos.  Officials said the bear is probably foraging for food.  No kidding.  What else do bears do in the woods?   Incidentally Lincoln and Weston are about the toniest of the Boston suburbs, located just outside Rt 128.  Kinda place where houses go for $500,000 and up.    

Why the IRS targeted the Tea Party

Perhaps this letter from eight sitting US senators had something to do with it.  Dated February of last year and signed by the likes of Charlie Schumer (D-NY) Al Franken (D-MidwestSomeplace) and our very own Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)  and four others, it complains that organizations applying for tax exempt status under 501(c)4 are actually sinister political organizations trying to dodge taxes.  It goes on to urge an IRS crackdown on them.   Although addressed to the then IRS commissioner, Douglas Shulman, want to bet the content of the letter was shared around the IRS internal grapevine?   And a bunch of the usual leftie greenie democratic bureaucrats decided to do something about it?  I mean when you have seven US senators egging you on, it cannot be illegal can it?
  Be careful what you ask for.
  And we really need to get out republican votes against our senator Jeanne Shaheen.  Any one who would join forces with the likes of Charlie Schumer and Al Franken cannot be good for New Hampshire.  She is up for re election in 2014.   

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Actually, I'm looking for scalps

Talking head on Meet the Press this morning speaking of the IRS investigation said "It depends upon whether you are looking for facts or looking for scandals."  Well guy.  I'm not looking for either, I'm looking for scalps.  I want the people who did it fired and prosecuted.  The two resignations so far, old turkeys within weeks of retirement, don't impress me.  There is a chain of command, an organization chart, that  shows who those clerks in Cinncinnati reported to,  and show who their first level supervisor reported to, and who their second level supervisor reported to, going right on up to to top.  Every one in that chain of command ought to be fired.  Either they knew about it and should be fired for ordering it or ignoring it.  The ones that claim they don't know anything about it should be fired for incompetence, they should have known what was going on in their own organization. 
    About 20 to 30 firings will throw a scare into the rest of the IRS bureaucrats that might keep 'em straight, for just a little while. 

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool

It's right up to date.  It even looks for Stuxnet, that nobody-but-the-Americans-will-own-up
-to virus that  did such a good job slowing down the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

My color is still mud

Got warm enough to wash the car.  Big sponge, a bucket, some washing machine detergent, the garden hose, and there we are.  Trouble is, the car looked OK after a NH winter BEFORE I washed it, and son of a gun, it looks about the same AFTER I washed it. Real cars, painted black, always looked 100 % better after a wash.  A mud colored car looks about the same clean or muddy.
  Give Mercury a couple of points.  Wear points in the interior, like the  door arm rests, are a nice slippery plastic, from which the grime comes right off with just a little Fantastick and a rag.  Then do the floor and floor mats with the shop vac, and it's practically a new car.  At 82K miles no less.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Creativity for students, not faculty

Bethlehem Elementary School  students finished up a fun school wide creativity fair.  Students wrote essays, drew pictures, made models and wrote computer programs describing the plants, animals, and  landscapes of a new world, a new satellite of Earth.  Students were told that the year was 2154  and ecological disaster on Earth forced evacuation of the planet to the satellite.  Student projects described what the settlers from Earth might meet on their new world.  Students had a great time and came up with lots of original and cute ideas.
   Just one let down on the creativity front.  The faculty named the new world "Pandora".  Which as all of us science fiction buffs remember, was the name of the world in "Avatar".    You would think the faculty could have been more creative in naming their imaginary world.  Especially for a creativity fair. 
   There are plenty of legendary Greek gods and heroes who haven't been used to name a planet, even a fictional planet, yet.  Prometheus comes immediately to mind.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Adaption in Dandelions

My least favorite weed.  My tactic is to bend over and pluck them up by the roots. No herbicides.  So much of my lawn is greenery other than grass, I fear that weedkiller will  give me vast barren patches.  Druther have green weeds than bare dirt.
   I start early and pluck each yellow blossom as I see it.  I figure the early plucking prevents the early weeds from reproducing and overwhelming the poor grass.  My lawn has fewer dandelions than many of my neighbors.
  Ever notice that the dandelions sprouting in the woods, back of the house, edge of the driveway grow tall and proud and you can get your hand around them and pluck 'em easy.  Whereas the ones in the path of the mower grown really low down to the ground and are harder to pluck?  How does a newly sprouted dandelion know how low to grow?    I mean these are annuals.  Even if a dandelion was smart enough to remember the mower, these are newly sprouted just this season.  No over winter memory.  The low growers were growing low before the first mow of the season. 

Obama's IRS reaches out for small fry

After taking on the Tea Party and the AP, the IRS has enough manpower to threaten audits of very small fry way out in the boondocks.  Tyler Drummond,  nice young guy, fresh out of law school (graduated last year). Unmarried, no stock ownership, no home mortgage, has been doing odd jobs while looking for work.  (He finally found a legal job down in Concord)  Reported income on his 2012 1040,was well below the poverty level.  He got a letter threatening him with an audit.  We all figure that happened because Tyler has been active in politics up here, working hard to elect Republicans. 
   Same thing happened to Littleton Growth with Common Sense, a small civic group that lobbies the Littleton zoning board to allow new businesses to build in Littleton.  This is a tiny group, probably less than a dozen members active enough to get to meetings, working on the most local of local issues.  They don't have any money worth mentioning, Littleton is a small place and works on personal friendships, not campaign contributions.  But Obama's IRS has the time and manpower to threaten them with an audit.
Big Brother is in charge here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Things are tough all over.

The Economist declares the entire world to be in recession.  GNP growth world wide has been falling since 2010.  World wide purchasing manager's book to bill ratio is only a couple of percentage points above contraction level.  They go on to moan about how things are particularly bad in Europe, but maybe the Americans will pull the world out of the ditch.  But they don't count on the Americans too much.  "It does not seem ready to resume the role of consumer of last resort".   Surprisingly for a magazine so full of good advice for everyone, they have nothing to say about how to drag the world out of the ditch. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

First mowing of the grass

I did it, front and both side lawns.  That gets my exercise done for the day.

Sibelius Shakedown

Obama's secretary of HHS, Kathleen Sibelius, has been calling CEO's of industries her department regulates asking for money, "voluntary donations", to fund Obamacare.  Congress has refused the funding and so to bypass Congress, HHS is atempting to raise the money "privately".
    Imagine your phone rings.  It's Ms.Kathleen Sibelius, or perhaps its Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sibelius.  You take the call.  She asks you for money.  What do you say?  Knowing that bureaucrats under her command can make your life and your company's life, a living hell. Real voluntary that donation is.
   Someone on NHPR said this was OK as long as Ms Sibelius  didn't use here title over the phone.  As if anyone in the health business wouldn't know who she was. 
   It may be legal, but it sure is tacky.  Most people call it blackmail. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Benghazi, where was the air support?

Benghazi has been getting plenty of air time on Fox News anyhow.  All the talk is about 12 rewrites of Susan Ricet's talking points,  and who failed to call it terrorism.
   The real issue.  Where was the air support for the Benghazi consulate.  We could have had fighters overhead within two hours and heliborne infantry within four hours.  Where were they?  Who ordered the Tripoli rescue force to "stand down"?  Was it General Carter Ham, commander of Africom?
   Let's face it, bureaucrats will ignore security warnings.  Pearl Harbors will occur.  But to fail to send support to Americans under attack in Indian country is in excusable.  I want to know who hung our men out to dry, and I want him fired.


"Sorry, I probably won't hire you"

Title of a Wall St Journal opinion piece.  The author, president of a New York ad-tech company, was saying that candidates who couldn't program a computer were in his opinion too poorly educated to consider for a job. 
  I tend to agree with him.  I learned FORTRAN programming in college, and it was the reason I got a number of different jobs over my career.  Over the years I became fluent in C, C++, PDP-8 assembly language, PDP-11 assembly language, Z-80 assembly language, BASIC, 8086 assembly language, Modula-2, 68300 assembly language, Pascal, and SPS-81 DSP assembly language, and probably a few others that escape me just now.
   Ability to program kept me gainfully employed and my family supported for forty years.
   Certainly programming is a  much more worthwhile college subject than gender studies, black studies, sexual studies, sociology, political science, peace and justice, art history, education and underwater basket weaving.
   Getting a computer program to work means you under stood the problem correctly, (easier said than done) and were able to express the solution clearly and correctly in an obscure artificial language.  An unforgiving language that will do evil things for a single misplaced punctuation mark.  A person who can do that, is able to write a proposal, or a specification, or a user's manual that worth someone's time to read.  With some practical programming experience a person can estimate the degree of difficulty of a new product development project, and may have a chance of understanding what the technical people on the project are saying.  When I'm hiring and I have a choice between a programmer and a non programmer I'm gonna hire the programmer 'cause programming demonstrates real thinking ability which a gender studies major does not.
   A pity that few college graduates bother to learn to program while they are in college.  Fortunately programming can be picked up by self study.  You get a book, you download the necessary compiler, and you work the homework problems.  Coding is fun, like woodworking, oil painting, or video games and only ordinary levels of motivation are required to get pretty good at it.  A good reason for picking C, is the existence of  a really marvelous book, "The C Programming Language" by Kernighan and Ritchie.  Paperback, it's only 3/8 inch thick and contains everything anyone will ever need to know about C, and it's all written in real English.


This is an old favorite anti pop up ad and anti virus program.  It appeared on the scene back when spybots amd popup ads were first invented.  It was, and still is free.  Yesterday, suffering from excessive popup ads in Firefox, I though to try it again.  I'd already run Malwarebytes, Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool, and Spybot Search and Destroy with no hits.  So I downloaded a free version of AdAware and turned it loose.  Seems to have worked, it claimed to have found a couple of things, and the pesky popups seem to have gone away.
  Downside.  AdAware is deeply into real time virus scanners.  It installed three add-ons into Firefox, and three more "start at boot time" programs.  The drain on CPU cycles  was bad.  But,  trusty old Startup Manager turned off the "start at boot time" CPU hogs and Firefox's Add-on manager  turned of the Adaware add-ons. 
   I love Windows.  :-)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Security Lending, Legitmate financial activity or a scam?

The Economist reports on the existence of a "securities lending" market  worth $1.5 trillion a year.  In the spring, right around dividend payment time, European companies and pension funds  loan some $100 billion worth of shares to tax exempt institutions.  The borrowing institutions collect the dividend, and pay the share owners a "rental" fee equal to the dividend foregone.  This dodge enables the lender to avoid paying a withholding tax due on dividends.  They don't escape taxes, they just don't have to pay them early, they can wait til they do their taxes at the end of the year.   
   Borrowing stocks is popular with short sellers like hedge funds.  Short sellers figure a stock is gonna fall, so they sell (putting downward pressure on the stock's price) and buy the stock back later when it is cheaper.  Used to be, a short seller didn't actually have to own the stock he shorted, he just sold it, and he had the normal clearing time (days) to actually deliver the stock certificate.  Stock market players and all public joint stock companies (just about all companies) hate short selling.  They got Congress to tighten up on short sellers, the short seller is supposed to actually own the stock he is shorting, before he shorts it.  Well, maybe  they don't REALLY own it, they just borrow it. 
   Then there are banks who want their asset portfolio (stocks and bonds) to look "better".  They borrow very safe bonds, and they lend out their speculative dollar stocks.  Presto, chango, a high grade portfolio to show investors, bank regulators, central banks and other suckers.  Greeks do this a lot.  Far as I am concerned its a pure scam.
   Or places like AIG, who loaned out $90 billion dollars worth of stock and used the cash so raised to play the mortgage backed security market.  When SHTF, the borrowers of AIG's stock all returned the stock and demanded their money back.  AIG had already lost the money playing the market and the US taxpayer had to pay off $90 billion to the borrowers.
   None of this sounds like legitimate financial activity to me.  But the Economist  worries in print that bad things will happen if governments crack down on it.

How to prevent it from ever happening again

To prevent it from happening again.  They say this after every screwup.  There is a simple answer.  Find who caused it and fire him/her.  Publically.  That will teach 'em.  We haven't fired anyone for causing great depression 2.0.  We haven't fired anyone over Benghazi.  We haven't fired anyone at FBI for failing to inform Cambridge police that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was fingered by the Russians as a terrorist.  We haven't fired anyone at IRS for targeting the Tea Party.  We haven't fired anyone at BATFE for giving guns to Mexican drug runners.
   They never learn unless they know something bad will happen to them for being stuck on stupid.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

GM is spending money to expand in China

Fox news is yelling about US taxpayer money being used to create jobs in China.  Which is a good reason never to give tax money to private companies.  Not that I like the idea of my tax money going to China, but I don't want to tell an American company not to expand overseas.  There are a lot of customers overseas and we do better when they buy American than when they buy Toyota.  Even if "American" is assembled overseas.  The Japanese  assemble most of the cars they sell here in Kentucky and Tennessee.  They make money doing so.  GM ought to be encouraged to make money assembling cars in China to sell in China, or anywhere else for that matter.
  The real answer to my tax money going to make Cadillac Escalades  in China is not to give my tax money to private companies.  Let the private companies raise money from private investors, or go thru REAL bankruptcy.  Not Obama haircuts of investors and handouts to unions.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Words of the Weasel Part 35

"Passed"  short for "passed away".  Nobody on TV every says "died" anymore.  Notice that even Mr. Hicks, the Benghazi witness, said the ambassador "passed" rather than coming right out with it and saying "died". 
Death is horrible and terrible.  Millenniums of usage have tied some of the horror and terror of death to the word "died".  To avoid using the proper word is to smooth over the death, to make it seem of little importance.  Something that weasels do. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

FBI failed to notify Boston Police says Fox

That wouldn't have done much good.  The Tsarnaev's lived in CAMBRIDGE, not Boston.  FBI could have done some good if they had notified the Cambridge Police that the Russians thought Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a terrorist.  Notifying the Boston police wouldn't have done any good, Boston police have no jurisdiction in Cambridge.  Perhaps the FBI understands the difference between Boston and Cambridge,  Fox news surely doesn't.

Birds of a Feather, flock together

NPR came on the clock radio this morning with a tear jerking piece.  Since the sequester, civil servants have been taking furloughs, not getting raises, having to conserve office supplies, having more work to do and fewer people to do it.  Awful.
  And morale is down.  No raises, and lots of criticism is just crushing the tender egos of the gov'ment workforce.
  And it's all the fault of that nasty sequester.
  And all of the civil servants interviewed for this piece were government union representatives.
  It's just terrible that the civil servants, who enjoy better salaries, benefits, and retirement than ordinary working stiffs, have to forgo a raise.  It's a good thing they have NPR to plead their case to the public.  On the public's nickel no less.

NPR was hitting on all cylinders this morning.  After that plea for the poor down trodden civil servants they launched into an attack on Facebook.  According to NPR, Facebook spend some $10 million (chickenfeed) lobbying Congress on the immigration bill.  Something to do about H1B visa's.  The reporter didn't bother to explain just what Facebook was lobbying for, but she was sure it was evil.  H1B visa's are a deal to let high  tech workers, most often computer programmers, into the US.  US union people are always against H1B 'cause they think it lowers American worker's wages.  US companies are always in favor of more H1B visa's cause good programming talent is hard to come by and bringing it in from overseas gives them a bigger pool to fish in.

Non political that NPR is, very non political.  And government funded.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Jet Tankers in Merrie Old England

The Royal Air Force has an interesting way of doing things.  The are just getting a brand new 14 aircraft fleet of Airbus A330 jet tankers into the RAF.  Or sort of.  The aircraft are owned by a "private" company called AirTanker .  This company is authorized to rent, loan, or lease these shiny new tankers out to other EU countries when they are not needed by the RAF.  For instance just last month, France found itself way short of tankers to support their Mali operation. 
   This sort of thing has been going on long enough for the various EU air forces to define a "Standard C130 Flying Hour" as a unit of account.  One flying hour from an RAF jet tanker will be worth three Standard C130 Flying Hours.  Borrow my nice new A330 tanker for one hour and you owe me three C130 flying hours.
   And the Brits have yet to accomplish some Brit paperwork needed in order to actually refuel in the air.  Each warplane type (F16, Tornado, Grippen, whatever) needs paperwork before air to air refueling can be done.  This has gotta be some kind of Euro job security system.  In USAF all warplanes refueled off the KC-135's, here now and forever.  There was no paperwork to accomplish on a type by type basis. 

Aviation Week criticizes FAA's 787 Lithium battery decision

Aviation Week feels that the 787 should have gone back to nickel cadmium batteries.  Lithium is not an essential technology.  They never did figure out why the batteries burst into flames.  The fixes to the battery itself may or may not work.  Nobody knows.  The fireproof battery box ought to work, but who can be happy with a battery so fire prone to need such?
   Clearly, if Aviation Week had been calling the shots, they would have told Boeing to get rid of the lithium.

Leaf Day at last.

Spring is indeed sprung.  The trees up here at the top of Franconia Notch have turned green.  Took long enough.  In fact, it got so nice and warm I had to break out an electric fan to keep cool as I watched the 6 o'clock TV news.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Up here, trees are the enemy.

Now that the snow has melted out, I'm doing some yard work.  Been using the lopping shears and the grass whip to cut back the eager saplings and briar bushes around the house.  Took me an hour to cut back the wannabee trees  for a mere six feet from the foundation of the house.  I have woods behinds the house, sort of concealing the house from the road behind, and giving me somewhere to rake the autumn leaves.  We don't get curbside pickup round here.  But I gotta get back there and lop some more brush or it will become an impenetrable briar patch in just another season.

The Cleveland Kidnapped women case

All I can say, is it is horrible what happened to these girls/young women.  I hope family, friends, and the society will do every thing in their power to mitigate the awful captivity they have suffered.

Sequester vs NASA

Aviation Week has Senator Barbara Mikulski as worried about future NASA funding, in the face of the sequester budget cuts.  Mikulski fears that there isn't enough money to continue the Space Launch System (SLS) booster program.  Oh dear, how tragic.
  Space Launch System is an unneeded boondoggle from the word go.  We have two (2) working, well proven, heavy lift boosters,  Space-X's Falcon 9, and United Launch Association's Atlas 5.  Atlas has been lofting big commercial satellites for years.  Falcon is newer and has a shorter service record, but it has made resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS).  SLS has never flown.
  SLS, wags have suggested the acronym stands for "Senate Launch System" is a  $1.385 billion program pushed by the US Senate as a way to keep all those redundant Shuttle people on the NASA payroll.  We ought to kill it off completely and use existing, well proven private industry boosters. 
   Now that the Russians have hiked the price of a ride up to the ISS from $21 million a seat to $71 million a seat, we could pop a capsule atop Falcon or Atlas and save a lot of money. 
   Aviation Week is clearly in favor of SLS.  They close their article thusly.  "Is the US space program any less important than on time arrivals for air travelers?"  
Well, actually, the US space program would be better off without the SLS program.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Where was the air support at Benghazi?

I asked this question back in September.  We could have had fighters over that beleaguered consulate within two hours.   Back when I was in USAF we kept two jet fighters on 10 minute alert.  Loaded, fueled, armed, pilots standing by in operations, they could be wheels up airborne within ten minutes of the sirens going off. Inside of two hours, they could be 1200 miles away, on internal fuel and drop tanks, no tankers.  We have bases and aircraft carriers all over the Mediterranean, we could have had fighter support over Benghazi.  Jet fighters, low overhead, are very intimidating to spontaneous demonstrators, trained Al Quada terrorists, just about anybody. 
  Some how, nobody in our gallant press corp has brought this issue up since last September.
  Until just today.  Someone on Fox News  said the issue of air support would be brought up on Wednesday.
  About time.

New Immigration bill does what?

Hard to tell.  The bill is long, hundreds of pages, all written in a foreign language (legal gobbledegook).  The best summary I found was this Reuters article.  It seems like a balanced discussion to me, Reuters has a good reputation for impartiality going back a century or so, and being British, is less likely to take sides in a purely American issue.   And, many, if not most, of the other articles on the web quote the Reuters article or are clearly based upon it.
  So what will this immigration reform bill do?
1.  Create a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegals already in the country.  It's a fairly demanding path.  Immigrant must have a reasonably clean criminal record, must become reasonably fluent in English, must attend civics classes, pay substantial fees, and probably more.  And spend some ten years on the path.  It will take serious motivation to stay on the path for that length of time.  I'm confident that any illegal who stays the course and gets naturalized will be a willing and loyal citizen of the US.
2.  Give the secretary of Homeland Security broad powers to waive problems with an immigrant's criminal history.  Pretty much, if the secretary is OK with the immigrant's record, he gets in.
3.   Revise immigration policy from the current family ties policy to a merit based policy.  Immigrants (all immigrants) will be given points for college degrees, valuable industrial experience (machinist, technician, computer programmer,etc) fluency in English, and again, probably more.  The idea is to favor immigrants who will contribute to the American economy, rather than the current policy that favors grandparents and siblings of US citizens.
4.  Provide $150 million in funding for immigrant advocacy groups to inform potential immigrants of  their opportunities and to assist them with the paperwork.
5.  Labor unions and the Chamber of Commerce have wrangled over the guest worker and H1B visa provisions and are reported to be happy with them. 
6.  Probably a lot of other stuff buried in the hundreds of pages of the bill.  Who has the energy to plow thru that much gobbledegook?
7.  Congresscritters have a couple of days left to slip their favorite goodies into the bill, so we won't know what's been done to us until they do it.   

From what Reuters has published, it isn't a bad bill.  It would be a better one if they boiled it down to 20 pages, in English and published it so we really knew what we were getting into.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Economist opposes "Austerity" in Europe

Europe has been sliding down the tubes since Great Depression 2.0 hit them in 2007.  They are doing worse than we are, we have at least leveled out the downturn, Europe is still in a power dive toward the ground.  The Economist is all sorts of concerned, they run long articles about it, but they dance around the real issue[s].  This week they are blaming "austerity", but they never get around to defining the word.  "Austerity" hits bankrupt countries like Greece.   The Greek government is spending more money than it takes in. Nobody will lend money to Greece.  They cannot print their own money.  The Germans won't give them more bailout money.  So Greece has to raise taxes and kick people out of government jobs and off welfare.  No Greek likes any part of this. They are rioting in the streets.  It's all Angela Merkel's fault 'cause she won't give us more bailout money.
  In the old days, the Greek government could simply print more money to pay the bills.  When the extra Drachma's became cheaper, Greece merely devalued the currency.  But when Greece gave up it's own currency and joined the Euro, they gave up the right to print their own money.  Joining the Euro was a dumb move for the Greeks. 
   Staunch European Union supporters like the Economist simply cannot bring themselves to admit this in print.  So they ramble on, for several pages, talking about the evils of "austerity" without saying a single word about how to fix things.  No talk about placing new products into production, exploiting shale oil and gas, placing new land into agriculture, in short, expanding the pie.  Europeans don't think that way.  They just rail against "austerity".  

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Old Man of the Mountains fell 10 years ago today

My house is within walking distance of the Old Man.  Today we held an out of doors memorial service at the Profile Lake site.  Weather was perfect, clear blue sky, warm, no precip, gentle breeze.  We attracted a crowd of several hundred.  John DeVivio, the Cannon Mt. manager spoke.  Dick Hamilton who runs the Old Man memorial committee spoke.  All our congressmen sent representatives to say a few appropriate words.  The only person missing was Ray Burton which was something of a surprise to old timers.  Ray is recovering from chemo therapy and I hope he is OK.  Ray usually makes everything.  They say that if three people get together in Grafton county one of 'em will be Ray Burton. 
   We didn't solve any of the problems of the universe, but we all felt better about the loss of everyone's favorite bit of geology.  I think we done more good than those idiots in Concord who declared the potato to be the official New Hampshire vegetable yesterday.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Words of the Weasel, Part 34

"What did they know and when did they know it"?   famous newsie question going back to Watergate.  Knowing ain't a crime.
More to the point, "What did you DO, and when did you DO it?"   DOing  can be a real crime.  Just knowing is a thought crime.  I don't believe in thought crimes. 

Do I believe in "self radicalization"?

On TV, Obama described the Boston bombers as "self radicalized".  I suppose Obama means that the Tsarnaev brothers converted from reasonable people into terrorists merely by visiting websites.  Somehow I don't believe that.  I think some person established a relationship with the brothers and sold them the Islamist terrorist ideology.  We ought to be looking for that person. 
  If there are Islamist web sites so compelling as to "self radicalize" individuals we need to study their technique.  It could be dynamite for selling cars, or nearly anything else.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

$2,788,578 to fix each and every 787

Ouch.  The whole airplane only costs $200 million.  The retrofit kit takes 5 days to install.  This includes two 1/8th inch thick stainless steel fireproof battery boxes, two brand new batteries, two jazzier microprocessor controlled battery chargers that monitor the batteries while charging and light up warning lights in the cockpit when they detect a problem. 
   The new batteries have more insulation between cells to prevent/retard one runaway cell from setting off the other 7 cells in the battery.  These are 32 volt batteries made up from eight 4 volt lithium cells all packed into a single battery enclosure.  They believe (they don't know for sure) that something goes wrong in a single cell, shorting it out.  They don't know what "something" is.  All the stored chemical energy of the shorted cell runs thru the short and heats the cell up. The heat warms up the other cells and they fail too.  The new batteries have a little more airspace inside them and more insulation around each cell.  The idea is to prevent the chain reaction where all the cells melt down, and if it does, the stainless steel battery box will contain the fire and prevent it from setting the entire aircraft ablaze. 
  Let's hope it works. 

Senator Kelly Ayotte gives a Town Meeting

This meeting was at Tilton, NH, a little bit north on Concord on I93.  Word had been circulated by email that was sending demonstrators to protest Senator Ayotte's vote against Obama's gun control bill in the Senate.  In fact, I spread some emails urging people to come to express support for Kelly.  I  arrived an hour early, and we all ready had people gathering with signs.  The Kelly Ayotte supporters stood on one side of the driveway, the    people on the other.  I counted about 12 on each side.
    Once the meeting got started inside it was fairly clear that the ordinary Republicans vastly out numbered the moveon people.  The place had some 300 seats and every one was full.  They had a bullpen for the video cameras.  There was an NBC TV satellite truck parked out side. 
   Kelly drew repeated rounds of applause from the floor.  Tax reform, and spending reduction got big hands.  Someone asked about "Common Core" (curriculum) and Kelly drew more applause when she came out in favor of local control of education.  A few of the moveon people tried to get the floor by shouting from the audience but it didn't work for them.  It was a good event for Kelly, and I don't think she is going to have much trouble getting re elected four years from now.  The crowd was clearly on her side.
  I was gonna post a few pic, but the picture uploader in blogspot is broken, again.