Thursday, April 30, 2009
  Soooooeeeeeey bono?

Okay, now we see clearly that the Mexican flu thing was an artificial panic created by the media. Microbiologists who are actually studying the virus say that it should be less deadly than the usual flu. So far the death toll in Mexico is strictly in proportion to normal mortality stats, given the likely number of cases. No Americans have died; the only death within the US was a Mexican visitor.

The real victim in the US is our pork industry, which exports heavily to countries like China and Japan. They have already closed their borders to American pork.



So the only real question is: Who started the panic and why? Who paid the media and the government to create a panic? Was it the beef industry? Pharmaceuticals? It probably wasn't the gov't itself, since CDC tried without success to stop the name "swine flu". We'll never get the answer from the media, since they are the center of the game.

= = = = =

Update 5/1: CNN notes that the vast majority of the deaths in Mexico were from other infections. The flu virus may not have been present, or was at most a contributing factor. In other words, this virus is nothing special.
 
  Now that's more like it 2

Obama throws his weight into the Chrysler bankruptcy deal, and for the first time he throws solidly against the Wall Street criminals.

Finally showing some independence from the Mafia.

Good!

As I've pointed out before, bankruptcy doesn't necessarily destroy an auto maker. It all depends on how the reorganization works and who takes control. If smart "car men" take over, the odds are good. If bean counters are in charge, the odds are bad.
 
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
  100 frustrating days



Listening to Obama's "100-day anniversary" speech, Polistra is frustrated. Obama's rhetoric is exactly what she has always wanted to hear from a leader. In fact, much of the material in his speeches could have been quoted from Polistra's own scribblings. You can't ask for better than that.

And some of Obama's actual policies are moving in the right direction.

Talking with Cuba, Persia and North Korea makes far more sense than isolating them. When a person or a country is already isolated, you won't get anywhere by increasing the isolation; the cure is to provide dignity and respect.

The push for high-speed railroads, computerized medical records, universal health care, and various infrastructure projects, is absolutely good. Jobs now and a better country later. This is pure FDR, but unfortunately it's a small part of overall spending. The original FDR put nearly all of his effort into permanent improvements (dams, buildings, electrification) and a very small amount into direct "stimulus". Production, not consumption.

The frustrating part: on the most critical points of economics, Obama's actions are opposed to his rhetoric. He says exactly the right things about moving away from bets and debts, moving toward making and saving. Yet he has done nothing to punish or even discourage the speculators and bettors, and he's still pouring money into criminal banks without requiring them to do anything in exchange. In short, he's still obeying the Wall Street Mafia.

= = = = =

One grand exception to this frustrating almost-there-ness: On global warming, every single word Obama says is absolutely, totally, completely, 100% false and destructive. He is a rabid adherent of the genocidal Carbon Cult.

Unfortunately we didn't have a choice here, because Manchurian Candidate McCain was even more wildly rabid, even more insanely determined to destroy the country, eliminate the human species, and purge our Planetary Sins with a grand orgy of suffocation.
 
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
  Doesn't wash

The strange 'buzzing' of New York by the substitute Air Force One may have been a really, really dumb mistake, but I don't buy it.

In the first place, as everyone has noted, you don't need real planes to "update your photos". Anyone familiar with graphics could create this picture digitally in a few minutes, if you wanted this picture.

And that's the first question:

Why in the hell would the gov't want this picture? How in the hell would a 9/11-style picture be part of your media publicity packet? What would the caption be? "Lookie here! We're still vulnerable! You can get away with another 9/11 easily!"

The second question:

If it was just a photo-op, why was the fighter jet apparently trying to intercept the airliner? From what I've seen, the fighter looked fairly serious. I can't imagine the Air Force risking its aircraft and pilots on a just-for-fun gag shot.

This was either a real practice run (war game) or a real incident. Perhaps a pilot gone insane, rather than a real terrorist?
 
  Mexican flu puzzle

The CDC is trying hard to rename the swine flu, saying that the hog and corn industries are suffering from the bad advertising. Silly, but they may be right in a deeper sense. It seems that the cases in the US are not coming from people who have actually been around pigs and chickens, but rather from Mexican resort areas.

Another salient fact: Washington state has about 100,000 Mexican migrants working the apple crops, covering a large part of the state. These migrants are constantly traveling back and forth to Mexico, and they would presumably come from agricultural areas where they would work with livestock. Despite this, the state public health agencies have been watching carefully and have found no cases of flu at all.

So the basic assumption (spread from pigs) may be incorrect.

= = = = =

Later: the CDC's attempt to rename the virus isn't working. They want the media to call it the 2009 H1N1, which sounds like an expensive sports car. But the media, normally enslaved to the priestly verbiage of official "scientists", have decided to stick with plain old Swine Flu. It's nice to see this small rebellion against official "science", especially when the "science" is owned by Democrats.

Update 4/29: Gov Gregoire says there are now about 40 possible or suspicious cases in Wash, but still no confirmed infections.

 
Monday, April 27, 2009
  Banks?

Just a definitional thought...

I've written often about the basic difference between a bank and a casino. Last night I was pointlessly raising my blood pressure, imagining how I would question one of those Wall Street Mafia dons if I were somehow in a position to ask questions. "Sir, you claim to be running a bank. No, you're not. Let me explain something to you. A bank is a business that attracts depositors by paying them interest to hold their money, and then uses the deposits to make loans at a higher interest rate. We have quite a few actual banks in this country........"

... At that point I realized something.

No, we don't have any banks in this country.

Even the "real banks" get deposits without paying any interest, and make loans without charging any interest.

When inflation is 8%, the traditional interest rate should be about 12%, to make it worth your while to tie up your money for a few years.

Our "real banks" pay at most 2% interest, which is really NEGATIVE 6% after accounting for inflation. So they're not really paying depositors to rent their money; they are only taking advantage of price controls and securitization. They know that customers have no other safe choices. The Federal Reserve has basically eliminated genuine banks, channeling nearly all money into the Wall Street Casino, by placing price controls on interest for the last few decades.
 
  The last outsource

Speaking of VOA, here's a new feature on the shutdown of Cannondale, the LAST mass producer of bicycles in the US. (Schwinn, Huffy, etc, have been Chinese for a long time.) A Canadian company (Dorel) bought Cannondale last year and now they are taking production to Taiwan. Obviously Dorel only wanted the brand name.

One question is unasked and unanswered. The Cannondale factory was profitable, which is why Dorel wanted to own the brand. So why hasn't an American capitalist bought the factory and its employees to restart under a new brand name? In other similar cases, a consortium of employees and local businesses restarted factories that were closed by criminal capitalists.

The new company obviously couldn't use Cannondale designs and patents, but I'll bet it could find equally good designs. Then the building, equipment and employees could resume making money.
 
Sunday, April 26, 2009
  Taking back vacant territory



From 1960 to 1990 I enjoyed listening to shortwave broadcasts, especially the Voice of America. VOA was openly described as American propaganda, but in fact it was more even-handed, truthful and complete than our internal TV and radio. Our internal media are pro-war when the war belongs to a Democrat, anti-war when the war belongs to a Republican. VOA tried to tell the good and bad parts of the war and the country, no matter which party owned which parts.

[Sidenote: We're about to witness another mass-media turnaround when Obama finds it "necessary" to invade Pakistan, To Prevent Weapons Of Mass Destruction From Falling Into The Wrong Hands And To Encourage A Young Democracy In The BroaderMiddleEast. This mirrored deja vu will be fun to watch.]

When I moved to Spokane in 1991 I found that shortwave listening was impractical, partly because of interference from a nearby power line, partly because the best stations simply didn't reach this part of the country. I especially missed VOA, but luckily the web came to life about then, filling the gap with access to unbiased news and non-trivial information.

Now many of the major SW stations have abandoned transmitting; some have switched to web podcasting or Youtube, some have simply closed down. The Voice of America has an especially good Youtube presence, with the same flavor as its original SW material. Still even-handed, still covering stories that the celebrity-dazzled mass media can't even see.

In our mad dash toward the allegedly modern, we've jumped out of perfectly good technology into a pile of fast-moving crap. In the process we've left the good tech relatively unused. Landline telephones and shortwave radio have definite limits, but within the limits they work faster and have better fidelity than cell phones and satellite transmission.

Shortwave also has one non-obvious advantage: it's off the grid and costless. You can communicate worldwide without depending on an ISP or a cell carrier. When those systems are down, overloaded or censored, SW still gets through.

Maybe it's time for smart pioneers to reclaim the abandoned territory, in the same way that 'urban homesteaders' are reclaiming old suburbs and small towns abandoned in the mad rush toward infinitely distant suburbs and infinitely large McMansions.

= = = = =

Update 1/20/11: Article at WUWT describes new research by Navy scientists looking into the behavior of the ionosphere in more detail. WUWT was probably thinking about the climate connection (sunspots affecting magnetic properties of ionosphere, modulating clouds) but the actual research is mainly about the radio-reflecting properties. I wonder if this indicates a new interest in reclaiming shortwave for naval communications?

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  Mexican flu

Listening to news conf by Napolitano re the latest Swine Flu fake panic.

She said: "Every person coming from a zone of infection will be monitored...."

Needless to say, none of the "journalists" asked the relevant question:

Does that mean you can check everyone coming across the border from Mexico if you want to? If so, why haven't we been doing that for the last 20 years? If it doesn't mean that, then you aren't really monitoring anyone or anything, are you?

More broadly: in a sane country with a sane government, this epidemic would have been the last straw. It would have convinced us once and for all that "open borders" and "free trade" are deadly policies.

Update ... one of the "journalists" did ask "Why aren't we checking [air passengers] from Mexico?" ... which gets a little closer to the point. But there's still no reason to check airline passengers if you aren't closing the legal checkpoints in places like San Diego and El Paso, and if you aren't closing the illegal crossing points everywhere else.


 
Friday, April 24, 2009
  Now that's more like it.

Polistra has been dreaming about electric cars lately. Now Chrysler is getting ready to announce a truly appealing electric, which is made in America.



It's a bit uncanny how Polistra's thoughts were anticipating the reality. The Peapod has the same snazzy cuteness as the Bantam, translated to a modern idiom. And it has the same specifications as the electric cars of a century ago, for about 1/4 the inflation-adjusted price. It's intended and designed for pure in-town usage, just as the originals were.

By contrast, GM's approach to electrics takes two different wrong paths. The 'Volt' tries to be an all-purpose car and fails, and the new Segway monstrosity tries to be ... tries to be .... tries to be a totally goofy and useless toy and succeeds magnificently.



Comparing the Peapod's internals with the original Detroit Electric. Are the new engineers learning from the original? Certainly the same overall proportions, though Polistra still prefers the original's "rolling parlor" atmosphere.
 
  Dammit, man, you had your chance. Now shut up.

Cheney is objecting to the release of various documents on interrogation methods. He is also saying that the "rest of the story" will show that the interrogation worked. He is asking the Obama admin to give out the "rest of the story". Sorry, Dickie boy, you were in a position to tell the whole story for the last eight years. You chose not to tell the story, so you are not entitled to ask the new admin for any favors.

This has been THE BASIC PROBLEM with the Bush/Rove/Cheney approach from the very start. In fact it goes back to Bush Senior. They are always trying to play billiards with complicated five-corner bankshots, and it never works.

If the harsh interrogation gave us good information, the Bush admin had plenty of chances to tell the people exactly what happened. I was inclined to believe that it worked, but I can't go beyond "inclined" without more details.

When you refuse to give information, when you treat the American people like children or foreigners, you really shouldn't be surprised when the people stop believing anything you say.

When you start a war that may well be justified, and then you toss around all sorts of half-baked nonsensical "reasons" for the war, and then you fight the war in a halfhearted way that looks like you don't really want to win, you shouldn't be surprised that the people don't care if you win. You don't care, so why should we care?
 
Thursday, April 23, 2009
  Will this be a trend?

A nice story here about a Spokane-area tailor shop. Normally the shop specializes in adjusting bridal outfits, but fancy weddings have disappeared. Instead, she's getting more orders to repair ordinary clothes, and staying even busier than before.

If this turns into a trend, Americans may take up the weird radical idea of buying good solid clothing and making it last. And if that happens, the manufacture of clothes may come back from China.

We can hope, anyway.....



Polistra remembers her grandmother saying "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." Good advice then, good advice now.
 
  Screech, screech, screech

There's something truly bizarre, weird and insane about the elites who insist loudly and screechily that "We do not torture", while happily going along with vastly worse violence.

Some of these approved forms of violence are good for the country, some are not; the point is that the elites don't complain about any of them while reserving a unique abhorrence for "torture", which seems to have a remarkably flexible definition.

I can't begin to understand, no, I can't begin to begin to begin to begin to begin to attempt to understand this attitude.

It's Martian to me.

The elites have no problem at all with allowing daily rapes and beatings in American jails, which house serious criminals, pot-smokers, the falsely accused, and poor folks who can't afford bail while waiting for trial.

They have no problem with abortion, including the recently acquitted Dr. Tiller's partial birth abortions.

They have no problem with gangs operating freely in every city, but they do have a problem with police attempting to control the gangs.

= = = = =

In attempting to understand this strange perversion, I can only hypothesize. It runs in the same track as the current Catholic disapproval of capital punishment, namely a total misunderstanding of the PURPOSE of morality combined with a suicidal ignorance of basic human nature and genetics.

The purpose of having moral rules, and laws and armies to assist the rules, is to maintain civilization, to carve out a place on earth where people can accomplish something higher than raw survival. Higher accomplishments require protection from brutality. Protection from brutality requires an accurate understanding of brutal people, and a firm hand in stopping brutal people. If you want calmness and peace, you must be willing to destroy those who destroy peace.

This was common sense, universally understood 100 years ago. And it's still understood in non-elite parts of America.

How did common sense disappear? Maybe I'm starting to understand as I think about it...... Look at the conjunction of two modern ideas: egalitarianism and individualism. If you believe all humans are identical, you can't bring yourself to say firmly "This one is bad. This one has spent his life destroying and harming others. We must destroy him for the sake of the rest." And if you can only think of the individual in isolation, you can't bring yourself to say "We must harm some individuals so that the vast majority of our citizens can live in peace." Only the individual counts, and every individual has the same value. (Which ends up being zero after the bad ones proceed to kill all the good ones without hindrance.)


Sidenote: Whenever you hear that peculiar screechy sound, the grinding of unlubricated mental gears, the Tourettish involuntary explosion of cuss words, you're hearing cognitive dissonance. Part of the screecher's mind still contains common sense, and it's crashing against the internally and externally contradictory elite ideology.
 
Monday, April 20, 2009
  Buzz buzz buzz again

Commercial beehives in this part of the country have recovered from the "Colony Collapse Disorder" that killed about half of them last year.

The "Disorder" spawned lots of speculation. Now the agronomists and entomologists have commonsensically decided that there wasn't a "Disorder" at all. There are various problems affecting domesticated bees in various places. Some have parasitic mites, some have pathogens, others were mishandled. None of the problems are new or unique, they just happened to peak together in the last few years.

The problem in this corner of the country was a sporidian microbe that infected the bee's intestinal tract. This year the bees appear to have gained an immunity, or perhaps the more susceptible types died off leaving the stronger ones. Darwin.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009
  One newspaper worth saving

Nearly all newspapers abundantly deserve their present dying condition.

One exception: My old hometown paper, the Enid News & Eagle. (There are undoubtedly several other exceptions among smaller papers, but none among the major and well-known rags.)

Last week a News&Eagle reporter ACTUALLY REPORTED a story instead of accepting the standard Communist or Wall Street nonsense. That is to say, she called some actual people who knew something about the subject, listened to what they said, comprehended what they said, and put the result together into a readable article.

Actual reporting is remarkable enough nowadays, but to write and print a newspaper article that tells the plain truth about the Global Warming hoax is nearly unique.

Here's the article.

I was especially heartened to find Gary England among the quoted authorities, showing a firm understanding of science and logic. Polistra has saluted England before ... he's a genuine hero among weathermen, spending his life educating citizens and governments about tornado safety. Hundreds of lives have been saved because Gary England showed cities and broadcasters how to give quick warnings and correct information. So I probably shouldn't have been surprised to find him on the side of truth; he's an Okie, after all, and Okies don't fool quite as easily as Yankees.
 
Thursday, April 16, 2009
  Inka

Martha Mears has some serious competition.

Listen.
Listen.
Watch.
Watch.

= = = = =

Sidenote: Before the web and especially Youtube came along, there was almost no chance to hear and 'discover' music and movies outside the very narrow temporospatial slot of this week's Top Hits. If you lived in a big city and had lots of spare money, you could occasionally find rare items in a used record store. If you listened to shortwave radio, you could hear obscure foreign music. But those were sporadic opportunities. If you happened to catch the end of one song by Inka Zemánková on Radio Prague, that was all. No more. No way to hear the song again, no way to find others, unless you could afford to travel the world in person.

Printed matter has never suffered the same limitation. Before the web era, if you got interested in late '30s Czech culture, any small-town library would let you check out and read books by Kafka and Čapek. Same for almost any time and place where literature flourished.

Odd, isn't it? Text has been printed for 300 years, globally distributed and catalogued from the very start. (In fact libraries existed long before printing.) Moving images and music have been reproduced for 100 years, but not globally available in library style until just three years ago.
 
  All aboard!



Polistra loves trains. And if Obama is fully serious about his new high-speed rail plan, Polistra loves Obama.

This is the first sign of 'real change', and it looks like a big one!
 
  Triumph of the Would

One of the most destructive aspects of today's world is 'virtual news', the replacement of plain facts by speculation. Watch CNN or Fox or CNBC, and you may pick up a genuine fact once every few hours. The lonely little fact is completely overwhelmed by a toxic soup of absolute lies about global warming and economics; computer models predicting disaster based on total falsehood and bad math; free-floating bull sessions posing as "debates"; and medical studies that tell you nothing.

Rush has often -- and accurately -- slashed the cable channels for replacing is with could, and even Saturday Night Live has run a pointed parody.

So you'd think Rush and his colleagues might use some actual facts when stirring the public to action?

Nope. Yesterday's tea parties were complaining about something that could happen. Income tax rates are presently at their lowest point in living memory. Yet the participants were shouting about high taxes.

"Petitioning for redress" supposedly means you're complaining about a genuine grievance, and you're asking the gov't to take steps that it has been refusing to take.

In this case the tea parties are complaining about the nonexistent problem of high taxes, and asking Congress to cut taxes. Well, Congress has been cutting taxes for the last decade, and Congress is always deliriously happy to cut taxes. Nothing is easier.

= = = = =

`Take some more tax,' the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

`I've had nothing yet,' Alice replied in an offended tone, `so I can't take more.'

`You mean you can't take LESS,' said the Hatter: `it's very easy to take MORE than nothing.'

`Nobody asked YOUR opinion,' said Alice.

`Then you shouldn't talk,' said the Hatter.

This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off.

`At any rate I'll never go THERE again!' said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. `It's the stupidest tax-party I ever was at in all my life!'

= = = = =

Seriously: If you really want to protest against tyranny and propose a solution to tyranny, you should be protesting the tyranny of litigation and proposing "loser pays" plus "no punitive damages". That would be a one-stop no-cost solution to a hundred problems at once. Medical costs, obstacles to innovation and small business, restrictions on free speech. These problems have NO connection to taxes. All of them would be tremendously eased if lawsuits became the last-resort option instead of the easiest way to make big money.
 
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
  3.0 cheers for Microsoft!

We techy types love to bitch about Microsoft, and most of the bitching is justified .... but today M$ did something to cheer loudly about:

Microsoft has partnered with the state’s Employment Security Department and the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County to distribute a total of 30,625 training vouchers statewide during the next 90 days. Courses range from basic technology literacy to intermediate-level technology skills. “Elevate America” also provides students with career resources to find internships and permanent jobs.


Not bad! 30,000 free vouchers so laid-off workers can improve their computer skills. A good example of the "closed-circle" thinking that Polistra has been trying to push. Helping the residents of your own town and state.

Henry Ford and Lew Wentz would be proud.

More info here and here.
 
Monday, April 13, 2009
  "Root cause"

Listening to State Dept briefing on Somalia ... the spokesman repeats over and over that the proper cure for the piracy problem is to give Somalia a better government. Several military officials and other commentators have been saying the same thing.

Absolute nonsense.

First, the silly Wilson/Bush idea that "democracies don't make war" has been disproved over and over. (Most decisively by Alexander Hamilton!) Any government will make war if it feels the need for money, territory, or power, and it senses a weak spot in its adversary.

Second, the true correlation is exactly backwards. Somalia will not have a chance of gaining a responsible government until the current warlords lose their source of money. As long as they are bringing in the goods and the guns, they will be the dominant power. (See Manweller's Rule.)

Third, we shouldn't care about another country's form of government. We should only care about guarding our own people and property. If stopping piracy happens to leave Somalia with no choice but to adopt a more ordinary government, that's a nice bonus, but it can't be the goal.
 
Sunday, April 12, 2009
  The Detroit Electric returns!



Well, sort of.

The real Detroit Electric was made in Detroit from 1907 to 1929. America's taste for electrics faded through the '20s as gas cars became easier to start and easier to drive. After the Crash, Detroit Electric dissolved, but the factory came back to life as a boutique operation, modifying a small number of Dodge sedans each year until 1940. It's not known for sure who was buying these cars, but older ladies who had begun driving with the silence and simplicity of electricity probably found it hard to give up the habit. (A 1940 episode of Fibber McGee has the local dowager, Abigail Uppington, gliding along the street in her "portable showcase". Here's the one-minute segment, including the sound of the car. If a phenomenon was featured on Fibber's show, you can be sure it was nationally familiar.)

Now a new Detroit Electric Company has taken the old name and logo to attempt a second resurrection. Appropriately, the new version picks up where the original left off in 1940, with a retrofitted gas car. But inappropriately, the new company has no connection with Detroit or even America. The corporation is British, the body is Malaysian, and the drivetrain is a Dutch design to be made in China. Despite that, it sounds like an appealing car at a good price.

= = = = =

Tech note 1: Strictly speaking, Polistra's car is a cross between a Rauch & Lang and a Detroit. The difference isn't huge; most electrics had the same snub-nosed look.

Polistra's car is now available for free here for you CG types.

Tech note 2: The advantages and disadvantages of electric vs gas haven't changed much in a hundred years.

Advantages: silence; no smell or pollution; instant torque from a dead stop (thus no need to idle and no need for a clutch); constant torque at any speed (thus no need for a transmission).

Disadvantage: just one. And it's not the limited range as such; with enough batteries an electric could go the same distance between "fillups" as a typical gas car. No, the real problem is that the "fillup" takes many hours for an electric and a few minutes for a liquid-fueled car. That's the deal-killer for most Americans. If you drive around town in a fairly predictable routine, an electric would serve you well. But if you want to take a 500-mile trip on a weekend, or you need the car at any time of day or night, then liquid fuel is your only choice.
 
Saturday, April 11, 2009
  Bad guys drove Nashes?

My bedtime OTR listening lately has been detective shows, such as Philip Marlowe or Jack Webb's pre-Dragnet characters. Plain realism was the goal of the classic detective story, yet one unreal oddity stands out in all of these: the bad guys always drive a Nash. This may have started with Chandler, because it's definitely a constant in his stories in book form.

But it just doesn't make sense.

First problem: sometimes the bad guy is driving a Nash convertible, sometimes a sedan, sometimes a coupe. Obviously a writer wants a little variety, but Nash was exactly the wrong choice for variety. Nash made only a handful of convertibles and coupes in the '40s and none at all in the '50s. From '49 through the end of the marque in '57, the big Nash came only in sedan form.

Second problem: Nash had all the wrong qualities for a criminal. Nashes of that era were reliable, roomy, economical, and technically interesting, but they were not flashy or fast. A safety-minded family man would buy a Nash; an engineer, architect or professor would enjoy a Nash.

Your garden-variety thief, then as now, would drive whatever he could buy or steal. His preference was the Ford V8. Light and fast. Your Mafia type, then as now, wanted his wealth and power to be instantly recognizable, which meant a Caddy or Packard.

Surely the detective writers understood these facts. Was it "product placement"? Not likely. Who would pay to have their product associated with criminals?

It's a puzzle.

Early '50s TV cop shows often had both the cops and the criminals driving Nashes, which makes more sense as a product placement. But it's still wrong. Cops mostly drove Fords in that era, for the same reasons that crooks stole Fords. Common, easy to repair, and fast. In the late '50s and especially the '60s, some cops switched to Dodges, which had become the best combination of speed, handling and cost.
 
Friday, April 10, 2009
  Impressive wisdom

CBS News covered the devastating tornado in Mena, Ark. They interviewed several people who had either lost their houses or narrowly escaped. One young man, Luis Muniz, standing next to his mother, was calm and collected.

Muniz said: "The house slid 15 feet off its foundation. Wasn't for the fact that the house is 100 years old, we'd be dead."

Now I'd be surprised to hear that level of wisdom from anyone, but it's especially impressive from a youngster. He sure as hell didn't learn it in school; most likely he's done some construction work and noticed the difference between old quality and modern crap.
 
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
  Stupidest technical idea in history.

GM and Segway

Wait, stop right there.

After those first three words, we already know something fantastically stupid is coming.

But I couldn't have predicted just how breathtakingly awful it is.



Start again: GM and Segway proudly announce: The PUMA.

It goes 35 MPH max, and runs 35 miles on a battery charge.

Who in the world is going to want one of these?

Lively young folks, like the dude in the picture, wouldn't be seen dead in something so dorky. They can already ride bikes or scooters for economy. Fat old** folks simply won't fit, even if you could pry them out of their nice safe comfy Crown Vics.

And where in the world could you drive it?

Not on rough streets, not on snow and ice, not on the highway, not in rain or sleet or wind. In other words, not outside.

Which leaves us with the interior areas of malls and theme parks. And those places already have electric vehicles ranging from wheelchair-like Rascals to cute Cushman mini-pickups.

35 MPH and 35 miles on a charge... yessir, this is hi-tech progress. The electric cars of a HUNDRED DAMNED YEARS AGO could run THREE TIMES AS FAR on a charge, for Christ's sake, and they did it with elegance and grace. Nothing dorky about a Rauch & Lang or a Detroit Electric.

= = = = = =

Sidenote: Polistra, who has been behind the scenes lately, pops in to emphasize that she's not ridiculing the idea of electric cars. She loves the idea of electric cars, provided the cars are appealing and practical.


For instance, why couldn't we build an electric Bantam?

Trouble is, GM has made the idea look ridiculous by announcing this Segway silliness. Polistra wonders: Was that the real purpose of the announcement? Hmm.

= = = = =

** I'm reminded of a famous quote from Bunkie Knudsen, GM's sales manager in its glory days. "You can sell a young man's car to an old man, but you can't sell an old man's car to a young man." Well, is this strange PUMA thing a young man's car or an old man's car? Worst of both worlds. It looks like a wheelchair, but only an athlete can drive it.
 
  Cui bono?

The various talking point heads this morning are discussing Obama's "meekness", his criticism of American arrogance. Predictably the point heads are starting from their usual scrimmage positions: (R) America is God, and nobody may criticize God. (D) America is Satan, and we're happy to hear Obama criticizing Satan.

Neither side is asking the plain practical question:

Does superpower status help or hurt the American people?

It sure as hell didn't help us in 2001. Sheikh Osama didn't want to attack some average ordinary country; he wanted to take down Godzilla. And our saurian complacence and walnut-sized bureaucratic brain kept us from doing anything to forestall the attack, even though front-line FBI agents saw it coming.

It sure as hell doesn't help us in the current economic mess. Because we insist on keeping the dollar as the central currency for foreign exchange, we are vulnerable to all sorts of manipulation by assholes like Soros and nations like China; we are not free to let our own interest rates and currency adjust to changing events; we refuse to decouple ourselves from enemy agencies like WTO and UN because we falsely imagine that we are in charge of those agencies.

Rhetorically, Obama has it right. Unfortunately he isn't taking any practical steps to undo our monopolistic complacency.
 
Monday, April 06, 2009
  Klaus on Obama

I looked around for a report on Obama's meeting with Vaclav Klaus, the only world leader who knows and speaks the truth.

Nothing meaningful in American media, only this short piece in slightly skewed English from the Czech news agency:

Czech President Vaclav Klaus said the public speech U.S. President Barack Obama delivered in Prague on Saturday was "unexpectedly Prague and unexpectedly Czech."

"It was not a cosmopolitan speech in which President Obama would have used the silhouette of Prague in order to make a general message. He surprisingly spoke long about Prague, about history. He spoke about them also during our meetings, he asked about the year 1968, about the year 1989," Klaus said.

"It is not true that it was a speech made on the occasion of the EU summit. It is a good thing for us," Klaus said. Obama attended in Prague an EU-U.S. summit on Sunday.

Klaus said climate change was mentioned during Obama's meeting with Czech politicians at Prague Castle only very briefly.

Klaus is a staunch opponent of the global warming theory.

He said Obama conceded that even the United States is split on the climate change issue.


Note that the Czech news report accurately describes global warming as a "theory".
 
  Longest winter

This was the snowiest winter on record for Spokane. Probably not finished either, considering that the previous year had a little snow in June.

The old record was 1948 with 93 inches, and this winter was 97 inches so far. (Average is 44.)

December and January were pure hell, a slow-rolling disaster with two dozen business buildings totally destroyed. As I walk through the neighborhood now, I'd say 1 out of 5 houses show some degree of external damage, ranging from stained siding to busted-off gutters and eaves to dangerously dippy roofs, presumably indicating bent or cracked rafters.



I'm sure the dippiness is new, because I've walked the same route at least a hundred times and I'm a careful observer of houses. Surprisingly the dippiest roofs are on the nicer 1960's ranchers with some architectural charm, like the model I've "drawn" here. The drab early-50s cookiecutter units are not damaged. I would have guessed the other way around: seems like the older and cheaper houses, many of which are poorly maintained rentals, would suffer the most. Perhaps the older ones were built with a better grade of wood?

My own miniature hovel kept a straight roof (I'll pretend my diligent raking helped) but it was internally damaged in January by an extreme ice dam on the back side. The ceiling, floor, and paneling in the laundry room got wet and stayed wet, resulting in stains, warpage and rot. I called the insurance company and they remodeled the room during February. Must admit I got the better end of the deal, because the ceiling and floor were already damaged to a lesser extent by previous ice dam events. The remodelers couldn't manage to replace only the sections that were ruined by this particular dam, so they gave me a nice new ceiling, wall and floor.
 
Sunday, April 05, 2009
  Tax annoyance

Until now I've never complained about taxes, though I complain often about people who complain about taxes.

When April 15 looms each year, I treat it the same way as other unpleasant chores like cleaning the bathroom ... figuratively close my eyes, avert the conscious mind, let the hands do the work, get it done fast.

Today, for the first time, I felt a "political-level" irritation about federal taxes.

Not about the amount as such, because my tiny income leads to a bearable income tax payment. The irritation came when I made out the check to "Treasury of US", knowing that the head of the Treasury is a Wall Street Mafia gangster who deliberately evaded his own income tax payments and got away with it.

That's annoying.
 
  No, I take it back.

Few days ago I observed that the new Afghan marriage law may be awful but it was adopted democratically, so we should respect it. After reading details of the law instead of the distorted version given in our Communist media, I hereby take back the "awful" part.

The Afghan law is not only democratically adopted, it's more egalitarian than our marriage law.

Down to basics, what is marriage? Man provides money, woman provides sex. Or a bit less crudely, man provides house (money, security, protection) and woman provides home (caring for kids, affection for husband).

The Afghan law codifies both sides of this basic understanding.

In a copy of the law obtained by Reuters, Article 132 states “a wife is obliged to fulfill the sexual desires of her husband.”

It also states that a husband should spend one night in every four with his wife, have sexual contact with her at least once every four months and that a woman has to wear makeup if her husband demands it.

Another section says a woman cannot inherit any of her husband’s wealth when he dies. Amendments made to the law show that the age of marriage for women was raised to 16 from nine and that a woman would be allowed to leave her home unaccompanied for medical treatment, to go to work or for her education.


Note that some of these provisions are actually Westernizing, forcing the husband to give the woman more freedom and respect than he would traditionally allow, and forcing him to stay home more often than he might want to.

But on the basic transaction, money/sex or house/home, the Afghan law is egalitarian because it requires both husband and wife to contribute their appropriate talents to the marriage. Modern American laws are anti-egalitarian because we require the man to continue paying even after the woman totally abandons him and remarries, while we require nothing at all from the woman.

In true Orwellian form, our media have gone along with the Stalinist line of Friedan and MacKinnon in describing normal marriage obligations as "rape". This is a recent change of language, and it has taken hold completely. In fact our own marriage laws were egalitarian, though not nearly so specific as the Afghan law, until the 1970s. You'd never learn that from the media.

We have always been at war with Eurasia and we have always been at peace with Eastasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia and we have always been at peace with Eurasia. We have always been at war with Eurasia and we have always been at peace with Eastasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia and we have always been at peace with Eurasia.

Rectification reigns supreme.
 
Friday, April 03, 2009
  Another good question



Walking home from Safeway this afternoon, saw this bumper sticker.

"What if doing the hokey-pokey really is what it's all about?"
 
  Other way around.

Commenters on Dreher's blog bumped into an interesting question in the middle of a typically pointless discussion of "gay" "marriage".

The interesting question is this:

Divorce started to increase around 1970.

Income for working-class males started to drop (comparatively) around 1970.

The conventional conclusion, especially popular among conservatives, is that divorce leads to poverty.

But the opposite causation between these two trends actually makes more sense.

What men want more than anything else is to feel useful, to be the provider. As their providing ability started to decline, men found less reason to get into marriage and more reason to get out.

I suspect this causation can never be pried away from many other crucial trends that started around the same time. Feminism was turning young women into unattractive and useless appendages, unfit for the role of wife and mother; no-fault divorce began to remove the legal fence around the contract of marriage; Leninist saboteurs were pulling churches away from their historical role as helper and backstop for marriage; and television brought false visions of romance while it broke down neighborhood loyalty.

Nevertheless, this is a productive way to examine the specific connection between income and divorce.
 
  Just stop this crap 2.

There's a lot of idiotic agitation about North Korea and Persia and atom bombs. The purveyors of standard nonsense are mooing that they Hope these Countries will Behave Maturely and Join the Community of Nations. If these two Countries persist in testing nukes, we will be Sorely Displeased, and we will Show our Displeasure by Frowning. All Options Are On The Table, but we will not pick up any of the options and use them; we will just Frown. Like good squishy modern parents, we will shake our head and say "Now Persia, you know this is Not Good."

This is beyond silly.

First, NoKo and Persia know goddamn well that we are pitiful paper tigers.

Second, ACQUIRING NUKES IS A RITE OF PASSAGE. Countries behave more maturely AFTER they have a couple of nukes. It's like getting a driver's license. When you're behind the wheel, you realize that your recklessness will lead to a crash that kills you as well as the other guy.

= = = = =

Separate but equally annoying, all the purveyors of standard nonsense are chirping in unison "Oh look! See Michelle! See how she made it to the top by hard work! Hard work! Hard work! Hard work! Work, Michelle, work! Look, look, look!"

Ratshit. She made it to the top by being pretty and by marrying the right man. Her college degree and career are totally irrelevant; her talents as a wife and mother are tremendously important. That's very hard work, but it's NOT the kind of hard work the purveyors are chirping about, and it's not the kind of hard work that Michelle herself is recommending when she speaks to young women.

Think about this: Michelle Obama is a shining example of the traditional and normal division of labor between man and woman. She has clearly done everything possible for the success and happiness of her husband and kids. Her husband is the most successful man in the world, and her kids appear to be sane, civilized and happy. Yet she's telling young women to follow the modern and abnormal model, which leads to failure for most families.

But she wouldn't be in this position at all if she'd been an ugly girl. Like it or not, that's a fact.
 
Thursday, April 02, 2009
  Look ma, no invisible hands!

Gordon Brown says: "The old Washington consensus is dead. The combination of western-style capitalism and democracy, that we've been pushing on the world for the last 50 or 60 years, has shown it won't work."

False distinction.

American capitalism before the 1980s was a very different animal from the Reagan/Clinton/Bush version of capitalism. From Roosevelt through JFK, we had a stable setup with these six components:

1. Considerable gov't regulation.

2. Many big companies operated as semi-governmental utilities.

3. Henry Ford's closed circle. Hire local workers, pay them enough to buy your own products, buy local materials.

4. Relatively high tariffs and carefully watched bilateral trade agreements.

5. Stocks more like bonds, purchased mainly for dividends.

6. Banks operate in a closed circle, paying interest to attract depositors and charging interest on loans. Variations in interest rate slow down foolish borrowing and encourage saving when it's needed.

= = = = =

Through the 80s and 90s, concluding with the Enron laws of 1999, all of these changed.

Now we have:

1. Low regulation

2. Even companies that should be utilities by any normal definition are free to seek maximal share price instead of customer service.

3. Broken circle. Eliminate employees, send factories abroad, buy from abroad. This removes the "invisible hand" of capitalism, because there is no feedback.

4. Low tariffs for imports, and dependence on global trade organizations, while our trade partners continue to apply high tariffs to our exports. Accountability is supposedly transferred to the trade organization, which is accountable to nobody.

5. Stocks, bonds, derivatives, all bought and sold for microsecond-scale price change, which drives business away from production and toward fraud.

6. Big banks use securitization, hedges and credit default swaps. All of these devices are loop-breakers, designed to keep interest rates constant and negative, and to remove consequences of bad decisions. The "invisible hand" of banking is gone.

These two systems are grossly different, yet most economists crunch them together under the term "western-style capitalism."

In fact what we have now is more akin to a slave-based market system, because the costs and benefits of labor, the advantages of maintaining human capital, have been factored out.

The new slave-market system certainly achieves Economic Efficiency, and it has certainly collapsed. This shouldn't have been a surprise: a system with no error-correction loops is guaranteed to roar out of control and crash.

The Roosevelt/Eisenhower/JFK setup has not failed because we haven't been using it. In fact we know from history and personal experience that the lives of ordinary Americans were better under the theories of Henry Ford than they are under the theories of Phil Gramm.

= = = = =

Update 4/4: CNN's Richard Quest, the annoyingly growly Brit, has also recognized this chronological distinction, though he didn't describe it in my annoyingly engineerish way.

Labels:

 
  G20 puzzlement

I understand the motivation of the protesters. Marching and singing help to maintain the morale and the "emotional investment" of the participants; and the publicity (especially the bloody face pix!) increases fundraising and relative prestige of the leaders. Standard stuff, well known to military leaders from Sun Tzu to Schwartzkopf, and well known to ideological leaders from Jesus to Jessajackson.

But I don't understand why the presidents and prime ministers are there. Surely all of these men have access to telephones and computers. They can talk any time they want, without the inconvenience of a closed compound surrounded by protesters. Perhaps the smaller nations gain some prestige, but the big boys don't gain anything.
 
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
  Bryan the thinker

Archive.org has just posted three short Edison cylinder recordings by William Jennings Bryan. We remember Bryan as a fiery and spine-tingling orator, but these three short pieces show a different side, a sharp thinker who knew how to distinguish ideas from "issues".

The speech on tariffs is especially instructive, as he separates revenue tariffs from punitive tariffs, and chides the contemporary Republicans for continuing punitive tariffs even when they made our manufacturers less competitive. Bryan is completely practical, focusing on the needs of our people.

The speech on bank deposits deals with a system adopted a few years earlier by Oklahoma. Bryan recommended national adoption of the system; unfortunately nobody listened. When FDR finally imposed the national FDIC in 1933, Oklahoma banks resisted. I didn't realize until now that they weren't simply confident or obstinate, they were already insured!

= = = = =

Tech note: The audio versions of the Cross of Gold speech available online are based on Bryan's 1923 rerun of the speech for recording, which is 'flatter' than the original. I remember hearing a 78 RPM version in 1964 which was far more 'musical' than this one. The one I heard wouldn't have been the original, but I suspect it was closer in time to the original. In that version the last line was tossed off accelerando, ending on an unresolved note, as in "You Shall Not CrucifyMankind Upona Crossofgold;-----", which would have led into Bryan's quick and dramatic exit from the podium. Presumably that earlier and stronger version has not been preserved, though it might still be lurking in some dusty archive of records distributed to schools.
 
  Easy question

Wolfa Blitzera on CNN just now: "Afghanistana hasa justa passed a newa law that allowsa husbandsa to rape theira wives. What'sa goinga on?"

Wella, Wolfa boy, I'lla tella you what'sa goinga on.

Democracy. You asked for it, you got it.

And in fact the Afghan democracy is more democratic than ours.

Consider:

Afghanistan is almost entirely Mohammedan by culture. This law is fully in accord with Mohammedan culture and practice, if not necessarily the scriptures.

America is almost entirely Christian by culture. Yet our "democracy" bombs, strafes and snipes Christians, requires states to allow abortion on demand, subsidizes the ACLU every time it tries to pull down a cross, subsidizes "scientists" who insult Christians every time they open their mouths, subsidizes Mohammedan ceremonies in public places while prohibiting Christian speech in public places.

In other words, the Afghan democracy is following the wishes of its own demos while the American "democracy" works fiendishly hard to kill its own demos.
 

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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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