Friday, November 28, 2008

DoD Linux?

Just been thinking about the recent hacker breakin to the Pentagon's computers. The defense IT people are talking about banning the use of flash drives, CD's, DVD's and removable media of all types. Windows has the unpleasant habit of uploading code from removable media and executing it. This means you can infect a Windows computer by merely inserting a flash drive or a CD. The infecting code can do anything it likes, starting with sending the entire contents of the hard drive out over the Internet. Remember the infmaous Sony rootkit that infected the user's machine for meaning playing an audio CD on it.
The only way for DoD to keep anything secret on a computer, is use something other than Windows. Linux anyone? DoD could create it's own version. In fact, should this happen, they ought to offer it free to us civilians. "DoD Linux" would be a sure fire seller to anyone wanting to use computers and not give away everything on them to his competitors.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How many bean counters can dance on the head of pin?

According to Aviation Week, the Pentagon is planning to boost the number of contract overseers in the Defense Contract Management Agency to by 8%, from 9000 to 9720. Wow.
The entire defense budget is around $500 billion. At least half of that ought to be things that are not contract, like pay for the troops. So we have 9720 bean counters slowing work on maybe $250 billion worth of contracts. Each bean counter only has $25 million worth of contracts to "oversee" (hinder is a better word). With fighter planes going for $100 million each, that yields four bean counters per aircraft produced.
Used to work in the aerospace/defense business. The huge building had two floors. On the ground floor was the productive stuff, engineering, manufacturing shops, drafting, the stockroom and so on. Upstairs, using just as much floor space, and more people, were the bean counters who complied with the oceans of gov'ment paperwork. For every productive person on the program, Raytheon had one non productive bean counter.
We would get a lot more defense for the buck if we dropped the paperwork and got on with the job.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stress Reliever

Fox TV News was showing a new product, a stress relief room, where in stressed out people can work off their stresses by breaking things, hurling glassware and crockery against the wall. Participants were required to wear safety face masks and eye protection. Price was not mentioned on air. Sounds cool.
Only, up here, we get to relief our stress every time we haul our recycling down to the town dump, excuse me "transfer station". You just stand at the bin for glass and hurl your beer bottles against the concrete backstop. They shatter beautifully. It will be beer bottles, beer is about the only thing still packaged in glass these days. If we all gave up our beer drinking, it would reduce the glass recycling to nearly zero.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Las Vegas vs Wall St. Is there a difference?

At Vegas large sums of money change hands. Marks become poorer and casinos become richer. On Wall St money is supposed to move from investors into economic development. With the brokers retaining a small commission for their "services". Unlike Vegas, economic good is supposed to come from Wall St activities. At least most of the time.
Some ordinary activities such as trading in stocks and bonds, do serve the economy. Some activities such as "securitizing" sub prime mortgages, and "credit default swaps" have ruined the economy.
The incoming administration should plan to discourage the distructive Wall St operations while encouraging the constructive ones. Was it me, I would clamp down on securitization of all types. If a company wants to borrow money, let it issue bonds in its own name. Stock market futures trading does not channel money into economic investment, it is a roulette game. "Credit default swaps" merely encourage buying risky securities, and when the market crashes the swap issuers lack the money to actually pay off. Gullable investors think the swaps insulate them from risk, in actual fact the deal merely costs the investor money and offers no additional security.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What do Republicans beleive in?

Oldest son asked me to recommend a book upholding the principles of the Republican party. I thought about that and I couldn't think of anything more recent than "Conscience of a Conservative" which is kind of dated. All the newer books I know are either boring, or rants of little importance.
The recent campaign did sound bites, vague generalities and character assassination spreading heat but not light.
It comes to me that Republicans believe in free enterprise. This means freedom for anyone to enter any business that pleases them. Licenses should not be required for such ordinary occupations as cutting hair or teaching school. Licensing merely makes it difficult to enter those fields, and serves merely as a means to limit competition. Licenses restrict our freedom.
Free enterprise means the business should be free to offer any products it pleases, of any quality and for any price. Government should not set freight rates, airline ticket prices or the sale price of kitchen appliances. One perfectly legitimate business is buying and selling products from abroad. Over the long run exports have to equal imports. Each import is paid for with an export. Attempts to "protect" domestic industries and workers by taxing foreign trade may help the protected industries, but they hurt the majority of us who don't work in the protected industry. America has been in favor of free trade since WWII.
Free enterprise means no subsidies for farmers, oil companies, solar panels, battery powered cars, and other "worthy" things. The farmers, oil companies, solar power firms, and battery car makers must compete in the marketplace. If their products fill a real need and are priced right they will sell. If not, good riddance to them.
Free enterprise means the best thing society can do for it's poorer members is to provide them with jobs. A job is better than any amount of unemployment insurance, welfare, health care, day care, and other social welfare goodies. With a job, the worker has money and can buy all these services, without a job life is miserable. Business provides jobs, therefore the Government should encourage business, rather than treat business as robber barons.
Free enterprise is more efficient at providing goods and services. Compare US Postal Service with Fedex and UPS. If you want your Christmas presents to get there before Christmas, sent them Fedex, not Parcel Post. Things that can be provided by private enterprise, rather than civil servants, should be.
Free enterprise means business is owned by stockholders, not the government. The government has enough control over us poor citizens thru the law and the courts, the IRS, and the welfare agencies. We don't want to give the government control of the companies at which we work. Face it, your boss has a good deal of control over your life. You don't want your boss to be the government, 'cause then Uncle Sam has got you coming and going.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Skiers over come Bicknell's Thrush

According to the Manchester Union Leader, the long dormant Mittersill ski trails will be open to Cannon skiers. The forest service has agreed to give the Mittersill land to the state of NH in return for a patch of land in Pierson. This deal will increase Cannon's ski trails by 50 percent. The Mittersill trails can be reached with a short climb up over "the Saddle", which gives access to the old Taft Race Course running down into the Mittersill area. Those in the know can find a pair of cutbacks of Baron's Run back to the lifts at Peabody.
The need for a climb will limit the Mittersill skiers to the more energetic, but it will ease the crowds on the Cannon slopes. A trip "over the Saddle" and back takes an hour, compared to maybe 10 minutes to run down Upper Cannon to Avalanche and catch the tram again.
One of these days, when money becomes available, a double chairlift at Mittersill is planned, running up the old Baron's Chairlift line.
It's only taken 3 years that I know of to get the paper work thru the Forest Service.
The conservation community has attempted to block the skiers thru the device of Bicknell's Thrush. This bird nests about 1200 feet in wood lot with cleared land such as ski trails, nearby. Bicknell's thrush was declared to be a species only in 1995. Prior to 1995 it was just another thrush. Shortly after being invented, Bicknell's Thrush was declared endangered, and entitled to protection under the Endangered Species Act. Fearing that passing skiers would disturb the nesting Bicknell's Thrush, the Forest Service held up the paperwork.
Upon learning that Bicknell's Thrush goes south for the winter and that sking doesn't happen in the nesting season, the Forest Service relented and did the deal.

Lawyers for Capt Jack Sparrow

In a Wall St Journal Op Ed, a couple of Washington lawyers explain the jurisdictional and legal problems that are impeding the fight against the Somali pirates. According to these guys, current law does not have any provisions for dealing with pirates, jurisdiction is unclear, they would have to be indicted and brought before civilian courts, military force cannot be used against common criminals, yadda yadda yadda.
Wow. The entire world has been emasculated by those with law school degrees.
Far as I am concerned, pirates taken red handed can be brought before a court martial and then hung from the yard arm. If the ship lacks a yard arm, firing squad will do. Any warship's captain can convene a court martial, right on the foredeck, and pass sentence then and there. Case closed.
Or do what the Indians did, sink the pirate vessel. They didn't have to worry about legal proceeding after that.
And, in this day and age of radar equipped patrol aircraft, it should not be that hard to spot the pirates at sea and deal with them. And, then we can clean out the harbors from which the pirates operate.
Evidently, dispite lots of TV coverage, the pirate problem isn't yet severe enough to cause real steps to be taken against them.