Friday, January 20, 2017

Michigan gets a couple right

Back when I was a young pup, a friend of mine scored a great opportunity--as a guy who was able to run close to 15 minutes for 5k, he got a full ride, including the possibility of five years and summers, at Purdue.   As a decent student, it struck me that in that amount of time, I could get not only a bachelor's degree, but also a master's, without spending one red cent. 

Sadly, it didn't work out that way for my friend--he partied his way out of college, much to my dismay--but it's good to see that a number of players from the University of Michigan are taking good advantage of their chance by graduating in four years.  Time will tell, of course, whether this is simply a few smart football players, or whether Michigan's second-best Big Ten university (and 14th best Big Ten university overall) is going to end its shameful practice of giving many football players, especially minorities, Cadillac tastes on a Chevy budget by allowing them to maintain eligibility on their "general studies" program, but this is a good start for Harbaugh.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Cruel to the country, cruel to Bradley Manning

Apparently, one of President Obama's final acts in office is to commute the sentence of Bradley "Chelsea" Manning, duly convicted of disclosing close to a million classified and sensitive documents to WikiLeaks.  Now as much as this is cruel to the country--telling people that it does not indeed matter whether one keeps private information private--it is simultaneously cruel to Mr. Manning, who is said to have attempted suicide twice in 2016 and is on suicide watch at Leavenworth.

How is it cruel to Mr. Manning?  Simple; outside of Leavenworth, he will no longer be on suicide watch, and will not be eligible for medical benefits through the VA--this is part of a dishonorable discharge that was part of his sentence.  He will also have a tough time finding work as a result.  In other words, in commuting Manning's 35 year prison term, President Obama may well have given him a death sentence.   I hope I'm wrong for his sake, but this is where the evidence points.

Friday, January 13, 2017

More participation trophies

...."Ammo Grrl", at Powerline, summarizes my view of President Obama awarding himself the "Distinguished Service" award (OK, his staffer technically did it, but what exactly does such an award from a subordinate mean?), and then proceeding to give Joe Biden the "Presidential Medal of Freedom." 

Now apart from the fact that a list of "Presidential Medal of Freedom" winners reveals that it's pretty much a popularity contest, and apart from the fact that Biden and Obama really don't have that much to crow about except for the Health Insurance Deform Act and the 1994 crime bill that gave Congress to the GOP, Proverbs 27:2 quite frankly comes to mind--let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth. 

The craziest thing, of course, is that praise from "people that matter" in the media, Hollywood, international leaders and bodies, and the Democratic Party has belonged to Obama and Biden in spades.  Would we argue that the "Distinguished Service Award" ranks up there with his Nobel?

So what we have here, really, is a couple of men with a pathological need for affirmation--more or less what the Mayo Clinic calls "narcissistic personality disorder." 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

About that Prius at 80mph

....I saw in the paper that going from 77F to 20F reduces, on average, the fuel efficiency of standard vehicles by about 12%, but hybrid car fuel efficiency drops by about 34%.  The reason for this is simple; you cannot get as much current out of a cold battery as you can from a warm one, which is also why it's always cold when your battery fails  This means, of course, that the Prius that passed me going about 80mph on a 10F day was getting not about 40mpg, but rather about 25mpg.

Which is about what the Buick Regal I was loaned a couple of months back got in similar conditions, just without the fun of 265hp or any sense of "style". In other words, hybrids and electric cars really make no sense north of the Mason-Dixon line at all, and they really ought to have a "winter" rating for mileage and range to go along with the summer ratings.
 

Inadvertent aid and comfort....

....to John Birch Society founder Robert Welch and Senator Joe McCarthy comes from an unlikely source, Noel Riley Fitch's biography of Julia Child, Appetite for Life  Now I read the book first of all because it was my mother's, and second of all because it's interesting to learn how a former intelligence agent became the queen of high end cooking in this country, and what made her tick.

And in reality, that's the most interesting part of the book.  We learn that she, like her family, was not particularly big on church (she walked away altogether after college), that she was active in the repeal of Prohibition (and knew the local speakeasies well), and that she was politically liberal to the point of offering the same defenses for abortion that you'll hear today, including the argument that a syphilitic prostitute is a typical mother seeking an abortion.

But that aside, we also learn a lot about today's intelligence services and the State Department from her experience in India and China.  Fitch (Child) presents a picture of an OSS with quite a bit of wild parties and promiscuity, and also one where those involved generally had a far more positive view of Mao than of Kai-shek, even to the point of not knowing or caring that Mao was getting supplies and guidance from the Soviet Union.

A key passage for me--and I am not a Bircher--was in Fitch's (Child's, presumably) view of the death of John Birch.  Fitch (Child) describes him incorrectly as "the son of" fundamentalist Baptist missionaries in China--his parents were in fact Presbyterian missionaries in India, and he was the Baptist missionary in China.  Moreover, his death is described as due to arguing with Communists--but they were theoretically allies at the time.  Hence, the fact that Birch died was indeed (per Welch and McCarthy) that the Communists were not really our allies, but an opponent that happened to have the same enemy for a while.

In other words, Fitch (and Child) show why Welch founded the JBS, and why Joe McCarthy launched his investigations of the State Department and other institutions; the pattern of missing obvious information was too obvious to consider random.  Come to think of it, as one of our 17 intelligence services seems to have fallen hook, line, and sinker for nonsense allegations against Donald Trump, we might guess that the exact same dynamic is at work today as was working in the OSS in 1943.  It is, once again, time to take a serious look at the culture of our intelligence and diplomatic agencies, and see what's blinding them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why Hollywood loves Roman Polanski

In the news recently has been the behavior of Meryl Streep, who rightly castigated Donald Trump for mocking a disabled reporter, but then proceeded to applaud a lifetime achievement award for Roman Polanski, who has admitted what was more or less a forcible rape of a 13 year old, and has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, in compensation to her.

Now we could attribute this to the same moral blindness that leads most of Hollywood to love another rapist, Bill Clinton, or we could take a good look at the Hollywood tradition of the "casting couch."  It is, apparently, well known in the industry that a certain proportion of movie producers and directors use the desire for good parts to obtain sexual favors, and I remember reading that no less than Marilyn Monroe reported this use of the casting couch, and of course Tippi Hedgren recently reported the same of no less than Alfred Hitchcock. 

Whether or not Ms. Streep has been a victim of this practice (I personally doubt it), it is nearly certain that she knows of a number of directors, producers, and studio executives who have taken advantage of it, and just as certainly Polanski has the goods on any number of his colleagues if a suitable number of them turn on him. 

In other words, code of omerta  or mutual assured destruction may well be getting Polanski awards.  I have previously resisted the thoughts of conspiracy, but in this case, I've got to wonder if more is going on than "my tribe/your tribe" hypocrisy.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Sigh

In a recent homeschooling newsletter, a supposed "expert" on music was arguing that the "back beat" or "offbeat" in music was wrong because of the sound of the heart. Well, let's take a listen.  As someone familiar with the cardiac cycle would infer--the ventricles beat after the smaller, weaker atria--the actual heart beat is, ahem, offbeat.

As Huey Lewis could tell us, of course.




Thursday, December 15, 2016

Much ado about nothing

Powerline and others are making a big deal out of how President-elect Trump will prevent his Presidency from being a massive subsidy to his businesses, but quite frankly, I'm not terribly persuaded that this is a big deal.  His businesses include hotels, golf courses, casinos, apartments, and the like, and reality is that these businesses are regulated at the state and local levels here in the U.S., and by foreign governments outside our country.  Exactly what can he do to benefit his businesses without alerting the bureaucracy that "Trump" hotels and casinos are not the best deal, but are the chosen ones?

Yes, he should leave the day to day operation of his companies to his children and other executives, but there is nowhere near the conflict of interest shown by, say, the Clinton Foundation, which was receiving large payments right after favorable State Department action.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A failure in management

Powerline reports that where President Kennedy's 2.5 million executive branch employees had 17 different levels, President Trump will inherit a bureaucracy with about 2.7 million employees and 63 levels.  Despite the fact that the number of employees has (mercifully) not grown much, the number of men at executive levels has grown from 450 to over 3000.

To put it gently, from a corporate "span of control" viewpoint, this simply boggles the mind if true.  In 1961, what's being said is that the average manager oversaw only 2.4 employees, which is pretty bad--good companies have 5-10 subordinates per manager.  Today, the number, assuming a uniform distribution of subordinates, is 1.24.  It reminds me of the time I saw that two VPs of a company--one reporting to the other--had no subordinates besides the next level VP down and their secretaries. 

It suggests that if a department head takes a careful look at his org charts, he ought to be able to trim payroll by a lot very, very quickly.  Judging by the number of layers, there are only about half a million to a million "individual contributors" in government, which would mean with the 1961 "span of control" of about 2.43, you would only need a total of somewhere between 600,000 and 1.3 million federal workers to get the work done, reducing federal payroll by 60-90%.  If you get the span of control to a reasonable value of 5-10, it's even more drastic.

Now this isn't a perfect analysis, as some departments are likely more top-heavy than others, and some are bigger than others.  On the flip side, the situation may be worse than I suggested, as the guy at the top of the bureaucracy--the President of course--has 15 direct reports in the Cabinet plus his personal staff and issue "Czars".  It may indeed be possible to trim hundreds of billions from the national budget without impairing government services one iota.  Time to look at those org charts, as it's arguable that the civil service has far more layers than does the Army, but without the need for redundancy that military organizations have.

Missing the point....

Passed this morning by a Prius going about 80mph, I wondered how much mileage would go down at that point.....more or less, it goes down to about 40mpg, probably a bit lower when you include the fact that it was five degrees out this morning.  One would have to argue that those who live 70 miles from work and commute in a Prius--burning about three times the gasoline I burn in my daily 13.4 mile commute in my 1997 GMC pickup--are kinda missing the point of the car, to put it mildly.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Russians worked for Trump?

The recent revelation...more or less...that the CIA had (according to President Obama) found evidence that hackers perhaps connected to the Russian government had revealed emails favorable to Donald Trump's candidacy really...raises more questions than answers, starting with the Obama administration's "famous" reputation for honesty--"if you like your doctor, you can keep him" and all that.  They say they "didn't want to interfere with the election" (which explains all that business with James Comey of course), but....perhaps this is really more about knowing that if they'd revealed the information in September, that would leave two months for conservatives to figure out they were lying.

Also of note is that if the hackers had really wanted to favor Trump, wouldn't they have done a little bit more than....reveal factual information about Mrs. Clinton?  Is this a mean trick, or is this a public service? 

The biggest reason, though, that we would doubt Mr. Obama's story is that it simply does not make sense.  The Russians presumably have a LOT of Mrs. Clinton's emails that they could have used to have their way with her had she become President--making her the political equivalent of a marionette, really--and it was not Mrs. Clinton, but rather Mr. Trump, who is in favor of expanding permissions to increase U.S. oil production, which would hurt the Russians badly.  It is worth noting as well that it is Mr. Trump, not Mrs. Clinton, who desires to rebuild the U.S. military and reverse course in Iran and Syria, both of which the Russians are strongly against.

Really, the only explanation that would make sense would be if indeed the Russians had an agreement similar to that which the English had with Benedict Arnold.....but given that half of Congress still hates Mr. Trump's guts, and that Trump has put a lot of "dominant" people in his list of Cabinet and other nominees, it's not certain that that would go far, either.

So what really happened?  I think the Obama administration knows that a large portion of his legacy has a short half-life with Trump, and he's trying to hamstring him before he gets into office.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Pure brilliance in environmentalism

A town's windmill project in Port Angeles, Washington (near Seattle) is said to have cost $100,000, but yields a grand total of $42/month (about $500/year) in electricity, an ROI of about 0.5%.  Typical corporate ROI requirements are 15-25%.   Suffice it to say that this "environmentally sound" installation will result in far more carbon emissions than it will save, something they might have figured out if they'd looked at a weather report to find that average wind in the area is only about 5mph.

That degree of due diligence, however, appears to be too much for them, and each of the city's residents will be out a Starbucks latte as a result. 

Toughie here....

This article indicates that over the past five years, the long term trend in life expectancy--increasing since 1993--has slowed and now reversed.  Gosh, what happened five years ago that could have led to this?

Well, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare", but more accurately as the "Health Insurance Deform Act"(HIDA), was passed on March 23, 2010.  Once again, we see that having health insurance is not the same thing as having competent health care, and apparently the cost of HIDA is not measured merely in dollars and lost jobs, but in thousands of human lives.  Mrs. Pelosi said we'd have to pass the law to find out what's in it, and apparently it's a Pandora's Box of grief for all of us.

(to be certain, this isn't the only thing going on, but any law that costs hundreds of billions of dollars per year, and was said to cost half a million jobs annually as well, is going to leave a mark in terms of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, opiate overdose, suicide, and more...and now we have evidence for exactly this)

Monday, December 05, 2016

Not clear on the concept

Powerline writes about the desire of the left to have "great books" seminars like those of conservatives, and one interesting quote from their source is indicates that the books one liberal "great books" advocate was using for his program were all written by "progressive" authors, and moreover he himself admitted that his goal was "ideological training".  Apparently, he didn't read much by Mortimer Adler, but was quite enamored of Lenin and the Young Pioneers.  Good luck to the left in participating in the marketplace of ideas with this kind of work!

A few years ago John Halpin, a fellow at the Center for American Progress, started the Progressive Studies Program. His reading list ran from early Progressive reformers to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Port Huron Statement on to President Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech. But he could afford to bring students together for only a day or two. Soon his resources dried up altogether. “It’s hard to get long-term funding for ideological training of this sort” from liberal donors, he told me. “We get a lot more support for demographic work.”


Saturday, December 03, 2016

About that efficient transit system

Here's an interesting article which indicates that, for all the hype about how compact cities like Chicago and New York City are "built for transit", the economics simply aren't working out even there.  The price of a 30 day transit pass in Gotham may become as high as $121, which is saying something in a city of 470 square miles where you can hardly find a place where you can go more than 25 miles in a direction without leaving the city.  Here's an interesting picture of the transit system: in 2012, the total cost was about $9.5 billion, of which about $4 billion was covered by fares and the like, $5.2 billion was from subsidies, and the system had an operating loss of $300 million.

So that $121 monthly pass really costs a total of close to $300, which means that a daily trip of ten miles each way--say to work and back, shopping, etc...has a cost of about 50 cents per mile, or just about identical to the cost of driving.  This in the best possible city on the continent for transit, no less.  It is also worth noting that if indeed revenues from fares and such are only $4 billion, that in turn means that most New Yorkers (there are 8.5 million of them) are not riding the bus or taking the subway.  Keep in mind as well that the MTA is not paying road taxes to keep the roads in good condition, so this is an underestimate of the total cost, and keep in mind as well that most of the infrastructure for the subway system was built and paid for decades ago. 

Transit may be necessary in many cities, but suffice it to say that it's in general not a good deal for the taxpayer.