Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Iran and Nukes and Obama

With out getting into how many centrifuges,  what kind of inpections,  years to breakout, etc, we need to recognized a few basic facts. 
The Iranian want their own nukes.  They want them so badly that they will do anything to get them.  Flim flamming inspectors, lying, breaking their sworn treaty, is small change to them. 
   Their first and greatest desire for nukes is to deter  the Americans from doing a regime change on them, just the way they did to Saddam Hussein.  Even the hardest of hard core American hawks will be deterred by a threat to nuke Tel Aviv, or Riyadh or Cairo or New York.  Without nukes, the Americans could do Iran down as easily as they did Saddam.  One division, 3rd Infantry Division, (although it had enough tanks to be called an armored division) crushed the Iraqi army in a matter of weeks.  The Ayatollahs know that right now, the Americans could do the same thing to them.  Only Iranian nukes give them a chance of survival. 
  Secondary desires for nukes are the prestige they would bring Iran, very helpful in asserting control of the middle east.  And the really hard core Ayatollahs dream of nuking Israel. 
  We don't want the Iranians to get nukes.  Soon as Iran gets a nuke, everyone else in the middle east (Saudi, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, even Jordan, will get them too.  The Pakis have nukes now, and would probably sell bombs or technology to fellow Muslim powers.  So would the Norks.  Soon as everyone has nukes, someone will use them.  Leadership in that part of the world is full of crazies.   
   So we ought to be telling the Iranians, you don't get nukes.  If you try, we will bomb your nuclear sites. And tighten the economic sanctions even more.  Cooperate and we will lift sanctions.  Cooperation means turning over all enriched fissionables and destroying all the centrifuges, and no you don't get a nuclear reactor. 
   Obama doesn't understand this.  But the voters do.  Even the Congressman do.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

After all the chatter on TV about Indiana's new RFRA act I took the trouble of googling for the text of this controversial act.  For all the sound and fury about it, the written text is unimpressive.  It's only a couple of pages long.  Divided into 11 sections.  The first seven sections are definitions of terms.  They bother to define well known phrases such as "establishment clause".  They give some really far out definitions such as "person" to mean churches and corporations.  In proper English, person means a human being, either male or female.  In lawyer's gobbledegook  person can mean any sort of organization that wants to sue.  The last three sections are quibbles and unbelievable stuff such as "  not intended to, and shall not be construed or interpreted to, create a claim or private cause of action against any private employer by any applicant, employee, or former employee."  Yeah right. 
   Section 8 seems to be the working part of the law.  "a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability."   Sounds nice, but it's terribly vague and courts could stretch this to forbid or require damn near anything of anybody.   This sort of obfuscation just provides welfare for lawyers.  The legislature, unable or unwilling to write a real law, has tossed the entire matter into the lap of the courts. Me, I don't like to live in a judge ruled country. 
   Nor does this "law"  say anything about the division between burdening a person's exercise of religion and plain oldfashioned discrimination.  We have laws that forbid discrimination in public accommodations, hiring, housing, lending, and probably more stuff that I don't know about.  Discrimination against blacks is forbidden everywhere.  Discrimination against LGBT persons is forbidden in many states but not all.   
  Although I don't like the courts beating up on mom and pop bakeries and photographers for refusing to serve gay weddings, neither do I like discriminating against blacks in hiring, housing, and public accommodations. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

One World, Divisible by David Reynolds

"A global history since 1945".  An irritating read.  The author, a British college professor, is totally left, likes everything socialist and dislikes everything capitalist.  His text is full of flattery for the left and dissing of the right.  And he throws out amazing statements, like "French communists were forced out of government in 1947" with no backup, no elaboration, no quotes, no names.  From what I heard, the communists were on a roll right after WWII (Poland, Czechoslovakia,Romania, Hungary, Albania, Yugoslavia, Greece, East Germany, China) and I never did hear how that roll got stopped.  Here is Reynolds devoting just one sentence to a fascinating topic that deserves elaboration. 
   Much of his treatment of the second half of the twentieth century is superficial, a mere reciting of headlines from the era, many of which I remember, just from a casual reading of newsmagazines and newspapers.  Little background to the headlines, like who was on which side, and why, and what gave victory to the winning side. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

STEMing it

Lots of praise these days for Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM),  a few despairing wails for preservation of the classical liberal education.  What's a student to do?  Especially a student of ordinary means who has to get a job to support him/her/self upon graduation? 
   You want to think about what you want to be when you grow up.  Most of us would settle for well paid.  Boys often think of jobs like railroad engineer, fireman, policeman, soldier, pilot, sailor, musician, athlete, doctor, and so on.  Girls can have all those dreams (except maybe railroad engineer) and others besides.  Getting a job that you like doing leads to a happier life. 
   In the STEM world, an engineering degree (electrical, chemical,civil, mechanical) is the top of the hierarchy  for a career that is fun to do, well paid, and in demand.  Engineers design new stuff, buildings, bridges, products, ipads, cell phones, space craft.  Design is fun, it deals with new ideas, processes.  Engineers are the key people in real world industries, the industries that make stuff, rather than just push paper.  When the grave yard shift cannot made the new product go together, they call the design engineer at home.  They don't call the lawyer or the accountant or the manager, they call the engineer. 
  To do engineering, and the other STEM subjects, you need mathematics thru calculus.  Mathematics ain't hard, but you have to start early, high school.  High school has to give you algebra, Euclidean (plane) geometry, trigonometry.  With that you can take calculus freshman year in college.  Which is a pre requisite for most of the sophomore and up STEM courses.  If you get to college without the math, you can take it in college, but by the time you get the algebra, trig, geometry and calc courses in, you will be a junior, and that pretty much locks you out of a STEM major. 
  So about the time you finish up middle school, you want to do some serious thinking about what you want to be when you grow up.  Most likely, you won't have a clue at that age.  I didn't.  But think about it.  You don't want to lock yourself out of an engineering degree at the age of 15.  The smart student makes sure they get the necessary math courses in high school just in case they want to go on to engineering in college. If you skip the math in high school, you are forced into a liberal arts degree in college. 

Budget Cuts, Real vs Fake

A real budget cut is when an agency gets less money than it did the previous year.  Republicans like real budget cuts.  A fake budget cut is when the agency gets less money than it asked for.  Democrats like fake budget cuts, either to tell the taxpayers that they are not getting ripped off, or to lambast Republicans who appropriate less money than the agency asked for, even when the agency gets more money than it did the previous year.
   This was on display on WMUR's Sunday pundit show with Josh Mcelvane this morning.  The house finance committee has been whacking Maggie's budget down to size.  Josh had two finance committee reps, one Democrat, one Republican, both new faces to me, on the show.  Both talked about cuts, whether there was one or was not one.  Apparently the cuts are fake cuts,  the final trimmed down budget is still bigger than last year's budget.  Maggie didn't get as much money as she asked for and that is terrible.  It might even mean layoffs in Concord.  Oh the horror! 
   Neither off them spoke of dollar amounts, of how much is going where, of substantial things like finishing up widening I93,  providing somewhere to put violent insanity cases other than hospital emergency rooms, or attracting new industry to NH.  They just talked about cuts, this is a cut, this is not a cut. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

I think I have a right

to shoot down drones harassing me on my own property.   Suppose I'm having a cookout on my deck and a drone buzzes over taking pictures of me and my friends.  I think a 12 gauge shotgun is an appropriate response.  Likewise for peeping tom drones taking pictures in my windows. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

How big is the defense budget? Really?

And how much defense is it buying?  How much money goes to real combat units, Army battalions, Navy warships, Air Force fighters, and how much money goes to non combat things, defense contractors, administrators, lawyers, paper pushers, logistics, gold plate, and strange R&D projects.  Like that giant laser in a 747 project that finally got cancelled after sucking down billions. 
I suppose one could go thru the federal budget, which is probably on line these days, but  I just lack the energy to wade thru 10,000 pages of gobble-de-gook.  And the msm is too ignorant and too lazy to do it. 
As it is, we know the US spends a lot on defense, and we have a huge military establishment, bigger than any other nation in the world.  Yet to put troops into Iraq we had to call up reserves and put the active duty soldiers on repeated combat tours.  And as soon as Obama pulled our troops out of Iraq, ISIS took over. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cannon Mountain Ski Weather

We have had some warm, and some melting, but no rain yet.  There is plenty of snow left on the trails.  Should be good this weekend. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Train Wrecks

Fox did a short piece on the recent rash of oil tanker train wrecks, the ones that burst into flames and burn for days.  Fox was selling the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) story that all we need is tougher tank cars.  Not a word about condition of the track.  The FRA story is all we need to do is replace every tank car in the country with new ones featuring thicker, tougher tanks that will resist bursting in a wreck and spilling oil.    Trouble is, a train of all new cars derailed last month, and the new tougher cars burst open just like the old standard cars.  Lotta money spent at the behest of Federal bureaucrats, to no avail. 
   With the exception of the Quebec wreck last year, all the other wrecks have started off with a derailment.  And, derailments mean the track is old, the ties are rotten, the spikes loose, and the rail falls over on its side under the weight of the train.  We need to fix the track, not replace the tank cars.   Fox  doesn't understand this yet.

Nothing like doing my taxes

To make me wish for a straight flat tax.  No special treatment for anything.  Income is income, be it salary, interest, dividends, capital gains.   Nothing is deductible.  Rate is lower. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Upgrading Adobe Flash Player

And it installed McAfee something or other.  I never got a chance to nix the McAfee installation.  It just happened.  I have not zapped McAfee yet, but I probably will shortly.  In my experience McAfee slows the computer by an annoying amount.  McAfee must be having trouble selling its product to download it free on users who don't want it. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Neutering the Power of the Purse

   To keep the executive in check, the founders decreed that money to pay the executive's army (and every thing else) had to be appropriated by Congress.  If Congress didn't like what the executive was doing, it could simple refuse to fund it.  Worked in England, back in Cromwell's time. 
Doesn't work so well in the modern USA.  When Congress cuts off funding, the Democrats wail that they are shutting down the government, the msm takes up the story, and all the takers whoop it up.  Today, the Congress doesn't dare cut off funding for anything, lest they be accused of "shutting down the government":. 
And the purse looses its power.   One more check and balance bites the dust.

Boeing keeps the 777 competitive

The 777 is Boeing's big twin jet wide body airliner.  It's been flying for 20 years.  Boeing plans to keep it flying for quite a bit longer.  They have announced a series of upgrades, each one minor in itself, that will cut fuel burn by 2%.  And they plan to pack in another 14 seats, so the fuel burn per seat might go down by 5%.  Which doesn't seem earth shaking, but  every little bit adds up.  The 777 can hold 40,000 gallons of fuel, about four 18 wheeler tank truck loads.  Saving 2% on a long flight might be 800 gallons.  At $2.50 a gallon, that's $2000.  Per flight.   
   One improvement is to remove the tail skid, and take out some beef in the aft fuselage designed to carry the loads from the tail skid, should the tail drag on the runway during landing or takeoff.  They souped up the autopilot to absolutely prevent tail dragging.  Boeing of course claims the improved autopilot will be infallible. 
   There are a bunch of other things, to numerous to list, and not all that interesting, unless you are out shopping for wide bodied airliners. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Jerry Brown goes on Meet the Press

And manages to say nothing of substance in 10 minutes of airtime.  They started him off on the California drought.  He talked about "progress" and " programs" and "Urgency".  Nothing about dams, canals, wells, and allocation.  The biggest water users in CA are farms, and you could turn off their water, let 'em go broke, and have enough water to supply everyone's homes.  Not a word about any of this.  We did learn that Jerry believes global warming is causing the CA drought.  And he doesn't like Ted Cruz, they played a clip of Cruz saying that the globe hasn't warmed at all in the last 17 years (which is true, according to GISS data).  Jerry doesn't believe that, and called Cruz "totally unfit to run for president". 
   Well, we know where Jerry's heart is.  And where is head is too. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Hitchhiking. Anyone seen any lately?

Back before I had my own wheels, hitchhiking is how I got around.  I can remember some amazing trips, like up to Cape Ann, to NYC from Lancaster PA, back to boarding school after missing the bus back from a sporting event.  My parents did not approve, lectured me on the dangers, but never flat out forbid my hitchhiking.   Later on, when I got my wheels, I can remember picking up a bunch of different hitchhikers, pretty much all guys, all young, all scruffy looking. Some of 'em had signs., some didn't.  There would be clusters of hitchhikers at key thruway exits. 
   Not any more.  I haven't seen a hitchhiker on a thru entrance in twenty years or more.   My kids never hitchhiked.  Nobody else's kids did it either.  I think it has died out. 
   I assume the missing children on milk cartons campaign scared parents and kids enough that kids quit hitching. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Market place winners and losers

Loser: Windows.  Only 56% of the hits on my blog were from Windows machines.  Used to be Windows had 90+% market share.  Runner up Linux!  29%.  Hard to believe.  Linux works good but the multiple suppliers haven't convinced the market that all Linux programs will run on all flavors of Linux.  The rest of the hits were  from various cell phone OS like Android.

Winner:  Firefox.  Top browser, 57% of hits here. Beat out Chrome. Internet Exploder way down at 11%.  This after some net buzz about how Firefox was all washed up. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

He thinks they would vote Democratic

Obama just came out in favor of mandatory voting, everyone would be required to get out and vote.  He doubtless thinks the non voters would vote Democratic if you got them to the polls. 

The Two State Solution

We think this means a state of Israel for the Jews and a state of Palestine for the Palestinians.  US State Department is all in favor. Has been for years.  Israel has given the idea a test run, in Gaza, and it hasn't worked out well.  Israel removed the Jewish residents of Gaza, and turned the area over to the Palestinians.  Since then, Gaza has been firing rockets over the border, which is an act of war in the real world.  It got so bad the Israeli Army had to intervene last year, causing and taking casualties.  I think they did stop the rockets. 
   With that background,  Bebi said he would not favor the "two state solution" just before the Israeli election, which he won on Tuesday.  Our State Dept went ballistic, and after the election, Bebi softened his words about the two state solution.  I haven't bothered to look up just exactly what Bebi said each time.  But I can understand where he is coming from.  Gaza shows how bad the two state solution can be and surely plenty of Israelis don't want to have anything to do with it.  Backing off a bit to mollify the American State Dept is also understandable. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How many boots on the ground does it take?

Depends.  Just a couple of guys, with laser designators and radios, and a BUFF full of smart bombs overhead, and great things can be accomplished.  Ask the Northern Alliance.  The Taliban had nearly wiped them out when 9/11 happened.  A few days later, they got their couple a guys, and their BUFF, and that turned everything around.  The Northern Alliance drove the Taliban clean out of Afghanistan and into hiding over the border in Pakistan within a matter of weeks. 
  Of course it can be pretty dangerous for the couple of guys.  They have to be right up on the front line, where bullets fly, and bad things happen.  But it can be fun, especially for guys who like making things go boom.
  But you would think just a thin stiffening of American soldiers, and a mob of locals, Peshmerga perhaps, and plenty of air support, and ISIS could become toast. Say a few tank companies to show the way, a plentiful supply of guns and ammunition for the locals, supplies flown in by air, some decent intel from the locals, and  a bit of luck and problem solved. 
   The way the newsies tell it, doing ISIS is as bad as doing WWI trench warfare over again.  I don't think it's that hard. 
   With luck, in 2016, we could elect a president who understands these things. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Saving money on health care

Bring back "hospitalization only" insurance policies.  Back before I became eligible for Medicare, there were two kinds of insurance policies.  The pricey, $12K a year, covers everything, no deductibles policy.  It would pay for doctor's office visits, yearly physicals, pills, everything.  Or, the $3K "hospitalization only" policy which only paid for things serious enough to put you in the hospital.  Everything else, doctor's office visits, pills, physicals, MRI's, you name it, you paid for it out of pocket.  On the other hand, the $9K saving on the policy would pay for a lot of incidentals.  If you were in decent health, and had some ready cash, the "hospitalization only" policy could save you a LOT of money. 
   Plus, since you were paying out of pocket, you tended to shop around, for good prices on pills, MRI's and the like.  I even talked my doctor into changing some of my prescriptions to the $4 a month Walmart pills.  You can cut costs noticeably when you have to pay them yourself.
    Then came Obamacare, which wiped out the "hospitalization only" policies.  Obamacare policies have to cover everything, chiropractic, maternity even for guys, eyeglasses, drug rehab, MRI's, CAT scans, head shrinking, you name it.  The medics loved that part.  So do the drug companies and the hospitals. 

Cannon Mountain Ski Weather. It's snowing again

A couple of inches of snow to day.  Better that than rain.  It is warm, pushing up to 32F, but it's still coming down as snow. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Words of the Newsies: Coronate.

Coronate.  After talking about the upcoming "coronation" of Hillary Clinton, the newsies are using "coronate" as a verb, presumably meaning the act of placing a crown on a king, or a presidential candidate.  Actually, the word they are looking for is "crown".  To place the crown upon the head of the king. 
My older 1969 American Heritage Dictionary does not list "coronate" as a word.  Unfortunately, my newer, trendier, 1997 Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary does list "coronate" as a verb.  I hold with the older useage "crown" as opposed to the wordier, newer, Latin  "coronate".

Lincoln Reagan dinner, Grafton County

This is a fund raiser that we hold every year.  For a lotta years we have been holding it at the Indian Head resort (fairly tony for northern NH) at Franconia Notch.  I've been going to this event for quite a few years now, to the point where I know by name a lot of the guests. 
  Weather was miserable, it snowed all day, putting down 5-6 inches by 3 PM when it let up.  Trusty Mercury charged out of the garage, up my steep driveway, and crashed thru the foot high snowdrift at the street.  Getting thru the notch was tedious, lot of out of state cars creeping along at walking pace. The road was OK, but a tad slippery.  Being New Hampshire, just about everyone showed up, dispite the weather,  except the guest of honor, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who was coming up from Manchester by car.  Fortunately he had a native driver who got him upcountry all in one piece. 
   Cruz is sufficiently famous to attract TV troops with a satellite truck, which they parked out behind the Indian Head with the dish pointed up at a satellite and filling up with snow.  Cruz is a good speaker.  His English is plain American, no hint of a Texas accent, or a Spanish accent.  Speaking to a Republican audience, he connected.  He spoke of supporting freedom of religion, freedom from federal snoopers, local control of education as opposed to Common Core, the Constitution, love of country, his background.  He did not propose any new federal benefit programs.  He connected with the audience, and gained standing ovations.  This guy is a good speaker.  He would make mince meat of Hillary in a debate.  He took questions from the audience.  The questions were friendly, mostly asking him to expand upon themes he had previously touched upon.  The questioners were all bone fide New Hampshire folk, known to me.  He did not say anything about immigration, but given his background as the son of a Cuban refugee, I would expect him to be fairly sympathetic to immigrants.  Anyhow, this guy is worth watching.  He speaks well, he talks about concrete issues that matter to Republicans,  he would be a very competitive Republican presidential candidate.  He talked about conservative issues, but they are important issues, which many voters cherish.  He avoided wedge issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cannon Mountain Ski Weather. Snowing again.

Four to eight inches forecast for today.   We have four inches down now and it's still falling.  No rain.  It's warm, 30F, but we are still getting snow, no rain. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Keeping Production Up. Sherman Tanks

Tanks, key weapon in WWII.  The Americans rushed the M4 Sherman tank into production.  Drawings were complete  by March 1941 (well before Pearl Harbor).  Pilot model was tested at Aberdeen proving ground in September 1941 , quick work.  First production models were coming off the line by February 1942.  again quick work.  Two hundred Shermans were sent into action with the British 8th Army for the Battle of El Alamein in October 1942.  That's a total of 18 months to go from drawings to action. 
   Upon introduction, October 1942, the Sherman, with a short barrel 75 mm gun was competitive with German tanks. However, the Germans shortly introduced new bigger tanks (Tiger and Panther) which were better than the Sherman.  The Germans had thicker armor and bigger guns. 
   Back in Washington, the Army Ordinance board wanted to introduce a heavier American tank, but Army Ground Forces (the generals in action in the field) feared a loss of production and held the Ordinance folks at bay.  It wasn't until the Battle of the Bulge in 1945, where German tanks clearly outclassed the Sherman, that Ordinance got the go ahead to ship the heavy M26 Pershing tank.  A few Pershings saw action before the end of the war and it was generally agreed that they were a match for the German Tiger tanks. 
   During the war US industry churned out 50,000 Sherman tanks, four times the number of tanks built in Germany.  During this massive production run, a number of really heavy duty design changes were made.  Engines for the first Shermans were 9 cylinder air cooled radial engines.  When this went into short supply  later production Shermans received twin GMC 6-71 diesels, or the Chrysler multibank 30 cylinder engine, or a Ford V8 of 500 horsepower, or the Caterpillar radial diesel engine of 450 horsepower.  Those of us who have done an engine swap in hot rods, are impressed with a production line that can do an engine swap and still churn out 50,000 units on time.
  The first Shermans had a bolted together cast nose on a welded hull.  Later models had a one piece steel cast hull, and even later models had an all welded hull. Again, impressive redesigns pushed into production with hardly a hiccup in output.  The early model short barrel 75 mm gun was replaced by a much longer barrel higher velocity 76 mm gun in American service, and the British had their even fiercer 17 pounder anti gun (75 mm but much higher velocity) installed in their Shermans.  
   In short, production was able to swallow five different engines, three different hulls and three different guns with hardly a hiccup.  They probably could have switched over to the M26 Pershing with little more effort and no drop in output. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Selling off Power Plants to cut rates???

Heard about this on NHPR fm this morning.  The public utility commission is going to force Eversource (nee Public Service of New Hampshire, my electric co.) to sell off it's power plants.  Some coal and some hydro.  The buyer is only going of offer about $20 million for the plants.  The state allows that they are worth about $400 million and promises to make up the difference to Eversource.  This is supposed to raise my electric rate ONLY 0.4 cents a kilowatt hour.  I'm already paying 25 cents a kilowatt hour, which is the highest in the US.  Then there was some more fast talk about how all this would come out OK for ratepayers in the distant future.  No mention about costs to tax payers either this year or in the "out years".. 
   Which would force Eversource to become a poles and wire and electric bills company who buys the power on the spot market and passes the cost on to us ratepayers.  When the price spikes Eversource just waves its hands and says the spot market is rigged.  Last state to fall for this scam was California.  And when the CA electric bills spiked they impeached the governor, Gray Davis.  The special election CA held to fill the governor's office was won by Arnold.
  Sounds like some Concord sharpies are out to skin us ratepayers.    

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Hillary takes More Flak, a Lot More

Fox News runs Hillary stories pretty much all day now.  They are not complimentary.  Even I am beginning to think this is over kill. 

And it Snowed, Again, Last night

Only an inch, but winter ain't over yet.  Damn. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

New England Town Meeting

Ayup, we still hold 'em.  Beloved of de Tocqueville, older than the Constitution.   Franconia Town Meeting started at 7PM.  Turnout was light, maybe a hundred out of a town of a thousand.  But the old Franconia people, Peabody, Foss, Lovett, Dinsmore, Walker, me, and others were there.  The town warrent (agenda) was mostly about money, the operating budget, the library budget, new snow plows and police cruisers, the dump funding, routine stuff of no ideological importance.
  Surprise, a floor motion to reduce the $1.6 million town operating budget by $54,000 passed.  That's a new one for Franconia, a well to do small town, full of democrats, and with a stiff tax rate.  Normally everyone grumbles about spending, but then they vote it thru.  This time, they actually cut the selectman's budget and it stuck.  Took a voice vote, two shows of hands, and a paper balloting, and it only passed by one vote, a lotta spendies voted against it, but it passed.  More of a symbolic gesture than real tax relief, but better than nothing.   
   It was 10 PM before the last town vehicle purchase was approved and meeting adjourned. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Heat Wave.

It made up above 40F, first time this year.  Perhaps there is a spring hiding out there under all the snow?

Islamic ideology or Teen Age Angst ?

TV news has been upset over stories of young westeners, both boys and girls, going off the join ISIS.  The TV newsies take the position that the ISIS ideology must be so attractive as to pull young people into it, even just thru internet contact. 
  Perhaps.  but could it be these young people are fleeing terrible home situations?  Unloving parents, unsympathetic and boring schools, no jobs, no friends.  Could the idea of carrying an AK on the front lines, or finding a tall dark and handsome sheik with Rudolf Valentino looks to marry beat out being  on the bottom of a high school pecking order? 

Congress cuts the feet from under Iran deal

Dunno what counts for conventional wisdom in Iran, but in the rest of the world, a letter from the national legislature dissing a nuclear deal would kill that deal.  I mean why give them anything at the bargaining table when they have announced they won't keep the deal even if you get them to sign it. 
  Off hand, I'd say that Obama's relations with Congress are about as bad as they can get.  I wonder how that happened :-)
  I don't think anything like this has happened since the War of 1812.  And that was a long time ago. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Words of the Weasel Part 39

"Unusual Dreams"  quoted as a side effect to some TV advertised pill.  That may be what the pill maker calls them, but ordinary people call them "nightmares". 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Why cut a deal when you don't trust 'em?

Dunno.  We don't trust the Iranians.  We know they want the bomb, badly.  They have spent a lot of money and time getting as far as they have.  The bomb would make the Iranian regime safe against regime change.  Even the boldest American future leadership would shrink from invading Iran if the Iranians threatened to nuke Jerusalem.  Real people (the kind with brains) have to figure that the Iranians will keep driving for a bomb no matter what kind of deal they sign with Obama.
   So why is Obama so set on a deal?  Especially a bad deal.  Even if the deal holds together for the next two years, it will ruin Obama's historical reputation for ever, if the Iranians produce a nuke right after Obama leaves the presidency.  Obama ought to know this, although sometimes you have to wonder about him. 
   The only way to keep the Iranians from the bomb is to remove all those centrifuges, along with all the uranium in the country.  Anything less is foolishness.  We ought to keep the sanctions on, ratchet them up tighter, until the Iranians turn over the centrifuges.  And we ought to destabilize their regime thru propaganda, aiding internal dissidents, assassination, and other dirty tricks. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Beware the malware spreading flashdrive

Flashdrives, very convenient, very big, and deadly.  It was flashdrives that spread the Stuxnet virus into Iranian secure nuclear enrichment network.  Flashdrives with the virus were scattered in the parking lot.  Sharp eyed employees spotted them, picked them up, and took them into work.   Once the flashdrive was inserted into a computer, Stuxnet was sucked off the drive and started up. 
   Why does this work?  Blame Micro$oft.  Way back, about Win 95 time, the microsofties put "Autorun" into Windows.  It's still there.  Back in Win 95 days, before flashdrives, Autorun would scan every CD inserted in the CD drive and attempt to run program disks (say a new copy of Office) or to play music disks.  Automatically, hands off.  It was possible to turn off Autorun, but the turn off wasn't reliable, Autorun would come back to life at unexpected times. 
   Now that we have flashdrives, Autorun attempts to run any program it finds on the flash drive.  For that matter it still tries to run CD's, and floppy disks. 
   So, inserting a flashdrive in your computer can open it up to hackers, to use in bot nets, to launch Distributed Denial of Service attacks, to read all your email and suck up all your passwords.  And post any embarrassing photos they may find on your hard drive.  If I was running a secure network, I would use a pair of diagonal cutters to snip off all the USB ports on all the secured machines. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Does anyone vote in Ferguson?

Eric Holder's justice dept just released an ugly report on Ferguson.  It says that the mostly white police force and criminal justice system spent their time shaking down black residents via parking tickets, speeding tickets, and pot busts.  It sounded really bad.
Question:  where are the black voters in Ferguson?  Surely, with a bit of leadership, they could get out the vote, and  elect a black mayor, city council, or selectmen, depending upon what kind of city government Ferguson has. 
   I haven't heard a word on the msm, not even Fox, about who runs Ferguson, and why the substantial black population (for all I know a majority) has not been able to shape up Ferguson city government via the ballot box. 

Bashing Barbie

The TV was hard at it this morning, claiming that Barbie's really thin waistline, generous bust, and super long legs was setting a bad example to girls, leading to eating disorders and worse.  Perhaps.  Was I gonna bitch about Barbie, I'd bitch about the feet.  Barbie's won't stand up.  Which reduces their play value a lot.  Girls cannot stand Barbie up and pose her, and act out  adventures with them.  At our house, some 30 odd Barbies, all without a stitch of clothing on, spent their lives packed in a basket.  Occasionally they got pulled out and played with, but not much. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Rock Cornish Game Hens

It's a mini chicken.  Very tasty, gives that roasted stuffed chicken taste in a smaller package.  A hungry teenager will be able to scarf down a whole game hen.  Older adults will be satisfied with a half a game hen.  I stuff them with supermarket stuffing mix jazzed up with a bit of sliced apple, some grapes (in season) or raisins (out of season), the game hen liver, and some chopped onion.  Rinse them with water, and rub them down, inside and out, with lemon, or orange, and oil.  Olive is good, plain old veggie oil is fine.  Then stuff them.  Roast at 350 for an hour, maybe an hour and ten.  Baste with pan juice or oil every so often.  Game hens are too small to get a cooking thermometer into so I rely on the old fashioned fork  test.  The breast should feel cooked to the fork and juices should run out.  Skin should have browned.  When in doubt, give 'em a little more time in the oven. 
   I make gravy from scratch.  When the bird goes in, I put the neck and gizzard and heart in water and bring it to a boil.  Add a bit of Bell's Poultry Seasoning, and simmer until the game hens are done.  Then pick the meat from the neckbones with a couple of forks, and chop the gizzard and heart up fine.  When the game hen[s] are done,  take them out of the roasting pan, put them on plate and let them rest a few minutes before carving them.  To the roasting pan, add some flour to the pan juices, as much as the juices will soak up.  Then add the broth from cooking the neck and gizzard.  And the neck meat and gizzard.  Put the roasting pan on the stove, medium heat and stir until the gravy thickens.  Taste and season as necessary.  Go easy on the salt.  Thyme is good, Bell's Poultry Seasoning is good, some pepper.  
   To do it right, you ought to have a veggie, peas, broccoli, squash, green beans.  With the stuffing you don't really need a starch. 
    Next day you can do a chicken soup.  Put all the chicken (game hen) bones and left overs in a pot with a lot of water.  Add a bay leaf, and some chopped onion.  Boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Give it four hours or so.  Then turn off the heat, let it cool enough to touch, and separate the bones from the broth.  Fingers work for this, it's a little messy, but you can do it.  Pitch the bones, put the meat back in the pot.  Add some veggies, peas, carrots, corn, anything you like.  Add some rice.  Reheat and cook long enough to get the rice soft and the veggies cooked. 
   I got three nice meals out of a single game hen this way. 

Hillary takes flak

Hillary, while secretary of state, did all her email on her own email server, located in her house. She didn't use a work email (@StateDept.gov?) at all.  She probably figured doing it that way was more secure, State has been repeatedly hacked, and State  IT people can snoop all emails and leak any that they pleased.  She wanted a secure email, and it looks like she got it.
  Thinking about it, I had, and used, my work email for work stuff, and my home email for personal stuff, chatting with friends and the like.  I always figured the work email was insecure, and took pains to never put anything in email that I wouldn't post on a downtown bulletin board. Like if we ever got sued, the lawyers would subpoena every email in the company, and use anything in them in court. So, never bad mouth anyone, you might need to do business with them sometime.  Never discuss future plans, technological secrets, sales, pay, political infighting at the company, stick to selling the company product. 
   The TV is admitting that Hillary had left State before the more draconian laws about doing government business on government email were passed. 
   I'm not a Hillary fan, but on this email business, I understand her. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

With weapons grade fissionables anyone can build a bomb.

There are two fissionable isotopes practical for nuclear weapons, Uranium 235 and Plutonium 239.  U235 is found in nature, but it's scarce and very difficult to concentrate.  Only seven tenths of one percent of natural uranium is the readily fissionable isotope U235, the rest is relatively inert U238.  Plutonium, with a half life of  only 24 thousand years, is not found in nature.  Any plutonium present when earth was created, 4.5 billion years ago has decayed to lead by now.  Plutonium can be made from Uranium in a nuclear reactor. 
  To make a uranium fission bomb, you have to concentrate the fissionable U235 up from the 0.7% found in nature to 90% or so.  That is hard to do.  Chemistry won't help, because U238 and U235 are both Uranium and any chemical process will effect both isotopes alike.  Chemistry won't separate them. 
   Concentration of U235 relies upon physical processes that work on the slight difference in mass.  The Iranians are using centrifuges.  They react the Uranium with fluorine creating uranium hexafluoride gas.  The gaseous Uranium is fed into the centrifuge and the very high G forces of the centrifuge cause the heavier U238 to sink to outside and the lighter U235 to rise to the center, where it is skimmed off.  A single pass thru a centrifuge will raise the concentration of U235 a small amount.  To achieve weapons grade, 90%, you make many passes thru the same apparatus.   It takes a lot of centrifuges to get enough 90% U235 for a bomb.  The Iranians have 6800 on line and 19000 a building. 
   A bomb is merely a "critical mass" of U235.  The exact value of critical mass used to be a top secret, but nowadays it is probably 25 kilograms or so, call it 55 pounds or more.  Create a chunk of U235 of critical mass and you have a nuclear explosion, right then and there. 
   To produce a nuclear explosion at the target, rather than in the factory,  make two sub critical masses, keep them separate until the bomb is on target, then slam them together, hard, creating a critical mass and a nuclear explosion.  Standard design puts one sub critical mass in a gun, and fires it at the other sub critical mass.  This was the design of "Little Boy", the bomb used on Hiroshima.  They worked out the design of "Little Boy" in the 1940's with nothing but slide rules and Munroematic adding machines.  They were sufficiently confident of the design that they didn't waste any U235 on a test shot in Nevada.  "Little Boy" was shipped to the Marianas and dropped on Hiroshima. 
   In short, once you have enough weapons grade fissionables, say 55 pounds of 90% U235,  you have a bomb.  Just takes a little ordinary work with machine tools and it's ready to go. 
   Which means, as long as the Iranians have 6800 or maybe 19000 centrifuges, they can produce a working fission bomb in a matter of weeks. 
   The Obama team, negotiating with the Iranians, is willing to let the Iranian keep all their centrifuges.

Loving the USA

Story on NHPR this morning.  Apparently pregnant foreign women (well to do Chinese are mentioned but there has gotta be others) are traveling to the US to give birth here, so that the child will be a US citizen.  There is enough traffic to support  organizations of runners, who make the arrangements (for a stiff fee).  Border patrol is trying to bust them.
   I kept thinking, there has to be something really attractive about the US of A, to prompt pregnant women to travel half way around the world, away from friends and family, to give birth in an alien land, just to obtain US citizenship for the child. We should take advantage of that really attractive something in our dealings with adversaries like Putin and Iran. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bebi brings down the house

He spoke for 40 minutes.  The place was packed.  Bebi got 30-40 standing ovations.  Clearly a lot of Congressmen liked what they heard.  He spoke well, mentioned concrete examples, supported his points with facts, dates, places. None of the vague motherhood-and-applepie stuff that Obama hands out.  If nothing else, Bebi convinced all the enemies of Israel that he has a lot of good friends in America. 
   Bebi's objections to the deal Obama is working on with Iran are two fold.  First Iran gets to keep all its centrifuges, which means they can crank out a lot of weapons grade uranium in short order.  His other objection is to the 10-15 year time limit on the deal.  Iran only has to wait 10-15 years and it can then build all nukes as it likes, legally. 
   We will see what Bebi's speech does to US policy.  It certainly is going to make life uncomfortable for Obama.
   BTW, we need a Republican candidate for 2016 who can speak as well as Bebi. 

Bebi vs Bama

It oughta be good.  Bebi represents Israel, which gives him a good start.  Something like 10 million Americans are Jewish.  I know a fair number of them, and everyone of them is behind Israel 100%.  Many more Americans are Christian, and know their Old Testament.  The Children of Israel are the good guys thru out, and this rubs off on modern Israel.  And modern Israel is an inspiring story of bravery, hard work, entrepreneurship, and democracy.  So Bebi has some stuff going for him. 
   And Bebi is a pretty good speaker.  I watched him on TV a while ago.  It was a travelog kinda show on public TV, about historical sites in Israel.  Bebi was the tour guide.  He knew all the stories, in Israel there is a story connected with every rock and stone, he told them well.  I usually skip right over travelogs, but this one held my interest and I watched it to the end.
   Presumably Bebi is going talk about Iranian nukes, and the need to stop them.  Obama is trying to cut a deal with the Iranians.  The terms of the deal are still secret, but enough has leaked out to show that the deal isn't much of a deal.  The Iranians get to keep all their centrifuges,  international supervision is weak to non existent, and the whole deal sunsets in 10-15 years, which means the Iranians can legally build a nuke in 10 or 15 years.
   There is substantial support in the US Congress for laying more sanctions on Iran.  Bebi may be able to energize that support into something real.  Obama fears that this would queer the deal with Iran, which he seems all in favor of.  Obama's relations with Congress are bad, and his speaking style now bores people. Babi might well get what he wants over Obama's objections.
  Show starts in about an hour.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS)

Back in the 1930's and even thru WWII, engineers designing tanks were burdened with complicated theories as to what the tank was supposed to do.  They spoke of "breaking thru enemy positions" and "infantry support" and "exploitation" and "offensive combat" and so on.  Which resulted in some strange, very strange, tanks.  Like a model with five machine gun turrets,  or numerous models with dinky main guns.
   By the end of WWII it had become clear that the purpose of a tank was to destroy ALL battlefield targets within visual range.  Of which, the most difficult are hostile tanks.  This simple concept led to the conclusion that a tank needs a gun big enough to blow a hole thru enemy tanks.  Compared to the popguns that armed all too many tanks in WWII, the postwar tanks were equipped with truly massive guns. 
   In short, the simpler statement of the mission of a tank, led to much more effective designs.