April 27, 2008

A Dangerous Game of Chicken

Not content with arming militias killing American soldiers in Iraq and it's boats harassing U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf, the Iranian government has decided a few verbal taunts are in order as well.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini says it is "unlikely" that U.S. forces embroiled in Iraq and Afghanistan would be able to invade a new country, adding it would have unpleasant consequences for the region and the world.

It feels like the diplomatic equivalent of "I double dog dare you." What they fail to realize is that if we struck back against them, it would be with cause and it would be unpleasant for them. That we have shown restraint is not out of fear or weakness.

I do not understand the Iranian need to see just how far then can push before the U.S., decides it is time to push back. The question is - do they know when to stop?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:54 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


April 26, 2008

Environmentalists Warm Up New Taxes

A lot of people have begun to second guess the wisdom of turning a staple food crop into fuel for cars and trucks. It raises the price of fuel while decreasing its efficiency and it has begun to cause widespread increases in food costs. I would not be at all surprised to see  Europe and the U.S. start to ease up on their ethanol mandates as they begin to weigh the economic and humanitarian costs against the environmental impact.

I don't expect the environmentalists to like it or sit quietly while it happens, but even they may have to face the reality of the ethanol beast they created. Nor do I expect this to be their attempt to distort and destroy markets. Wherever they see productive human activity they will be there ready to tax and regulate.

If you think I might be exaggerating for effect, consider this effort to tax the entire food industry.

Shipping food across the globe generates carbon. And for that people who eat must pay.

Of course the people who grow, harvest, process and ship the food will suffer too, but no matter. Carbon is produced. A price must be paid.

The economic, social and humanitarian costs may far outweigh any environmental damage the shipping of food may cause, but that doesn't matter. Someone has to pay.

In this case, as in the case of ethanol that someone is everyone.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:20 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment


April 23, 2008

Question for the Obama Campaign

You have spent a lot of time recently complaining about "Tit for Tat" politics. But here's the thing, and there's no escaping it, "Tit for Tat" is a two player game.

If you don't like the game, why are you playing?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:58 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


April 22, 2008

I'd Rather Be ...

On the foredeck of the J24  Blue Star with the wind blowing  20 knots and gusting up to 30. I could do without the rain. Full foul-weather gear makes the job harder.

Six foot swells rolling through the normally placid Long Island Sound. The skipper has decided that it is time to take down the Genoa and put up the storm jib.

15 minutes to the starting gun.

The Genoa is attached to the forestay with spring-loaded clips called hanks that must be removed individually. The halyard must be unclipped and the sheets removed - those will be needed for the jib.

The bow of a J24 moves a lot in these conditions. Not gentle easy movements but rapid and violent. The deck is wet.

The rule is one hand for you one hand for the boat. But this job requires both hands for the boat.

The Genoa is stuffed down the forward hatch.

Eleven minutes to the start.

 A hard tack to maintain our position against the other boats and the start line.

The jib is clipped to the forestay one hank at a time.

Tack and bear away to avoid an oncoming boat.

Attach the halyard and tie on the sheets.

Seven minutes.

The sheets are fed through the blocks and back to the cockpit.

At the mast jumping the halyard.

Forward to the bow pulpit to get a sight on the line and the other boats.

Tack and make a timed reach down the line from the committee boat to the pin.

Bang.

The five minute gun.

All six boats head for the line fighting for position.

Four minutes.

Tack away to avoid a collision. Force another boat off the line.

Three minutes.

In the pulpit and the boat turns and lurches sharply. Signaling to the cockpit the number of boat lengths between us and the line.

Two minutes.

At the pin reaching down the line on port dodging the oncoming boats with the right of way.

One minute.

Clear the pack of boats and tack onto starboard reaching back toward the favored pin end of the line.

Thirty seconds.

One boat length off the line. Boat at full speed. Head up to the line too soon and you're over early and have to restart.

Twenty seconds.

The bow slams into a wave and for a brief moment the boat stops. Water waist high crashes over you.

Fall off to rebuild speed.

Fifteen seconds.

Two fingers in the air tell the skipper you're two boat lengths from the line.

The boat is turned up hard on the wind. The sails trimmed.

Ten seconds.

The boat is close hauled for the line with a clear lane. The start now depends on the accuracy of your line site.

Out of the pulpit now. Sitting on the rail amidships. You're racing.

Three.

Two.

One.

Gun.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:07 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


April 19, 2008

Character Matters

When you have two wet behind the ears Senators vying for the Democrat's nomination for president, character matters.

When the differences between their policy positions are a matter of degree not substance, and very slight matters of degree at that, character matters.

When the supporters of Barack Obama become outraged that debate moderators asked questions that went to issues of character, you know that not only does character matter but that it is a losing issue for their candidate.

I guess if I discovered that my beloved candidate would lose on charcter to Hillary Clinton, I'd be pretty upset too.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:18 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


April 18, 2008

Perfect Timing

Apparently this was National Environmentalist Indoctrination week. The government decided that this week students would be given an extra-concentrated dose of Global Warming Dogma.

There focus is on the mythological "Zero Carbon Footprint." The Zero Carbon Footprint, muck like its predecessor the Big Foot, is upon closer examination a complete fabrication. And all of the carbon offsets you buy from al Gore can do nothing to change that.

What indoctrination week meant is that I woul have to spend extra time as my children work through there various propagandizing assignments pointing out  the other side of the debate that they just aren't going to hear in school. Then will come the inevitable questions of "Do I tell the teacher she is wrong."

This is a dilemma. Do I send my 12 and 7 year old off to fight the skeptic's fight? Do I set them on the path to intellectual confrontation with those who hold so much authority over so much of their day? Or do I counsel them to just tell them what they want to hear?

The seven year old is not that great at debating and I worry that he might be too argumentative. The last thing I need is a call from the school that my son was fighting with his teacher over global warming.

The 12 year old could probably handle the confrontation as long as the teacher didn't escalate it too far. I didn’t know if she could bring all the facts to mind in the heat of the moment. I don't want her to feel like I set her up for an ambush.

That is the dilemma I faced during National Environmental Indoctrination Week. Or at least it would have been if it wasn't also school vacation week.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:15 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


The Survey Says

A while ago I signed up to take web based surveys from a research company. They don't pay anything but they award points for every survey you take. Typically 500 points each survey - unless it's a long one. Once I get 10,000 points I can redeem them for this great canvas tote with their logo on it!

Leaving aside the crappy premiums - I do the surveys for fun not prizes - there is one section of the survey that always bothers me.

There is always a section of questions about various brands and companies and how you feel about them. One screen asks you to mark the companies or brands  of which you are a dissatisfied customer. I have a hard time marking anything. Not because I am never dissatisfied, but because once I am, I am no longer a customer.

But the question is always there and I can't help but wonder if there are people who continue to do business with companies that dissatisfy them and why.

I know that in some cases  the consumer may not have a choice. Their employer may mandate that they buy certain goods or services from specific sources, like their health insurance or airline travel. And those sources might not meet the individual's satisfaction.  But most often  the companies listed in the survey are retailers or chain restaurants.

What would prompt someone to remain a customer of a restaurant that dissatisfied them? I went to a Taco Bell once and was very dissatisfied. I haven't gone back.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:57 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


April 15, 2008

iPod In The Morning

I am a talk radio listener. I have been for the last ten years. My station of choice is WABC in New York.

If I happen to be in the car around lunch time I catch a little of Rush Limbaugh. I don't buy everything he says, and too much of his show seems to be about him. About how he's been attacked by the left or the "Drive-By Media" this week. But he does manage to do it all in an entertaining way.

On the drive home I get a dose of Sean Hannity. Not always as entertaining as Rush but he has good guests. He has a list of leftist regulars that he can get to call in and debate. Most of the time he's too nice to them.

Mornings were tough. The morning show team for years was Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kube. Sliwa, who founded the Guardian Angels, was the "conservative" voice. Though hardly what I would call and intellectual conservative. Or often even an intelligent conservative. Kube is a criminal defense lawyer and a socialist. Their banter was occasionally amusing. Just often enough to make the show tolerable. I mostly listened for the news breaks.

WABC got rid of the Curtis and Kube show and, I'm sure at great expense, replaced it with Imus in the Morning.

I never listened to Imus before the whole Unfortunate Incident. Like any radio show there were people who loved it and people who hated it. Being a fair minded person I decided to listen and find out for myself. After all he couldn't be worse than the two clowns he was replacing.

The first couple of weeks were interesting if only for the novelty. It did seem that the better I got at understand what Imus was mumbling, the less interesting the show became. Then on the anniversary of the asassination of Martin Luther King, Imus interviewed Jessie Jackson. This, I thought, had potential.

Jackson is a notorious race baiter and bullshit artist. Imus had just returned to the air after the Unfortunate Incident. Would Imus have the stones to challenge Jackson or would he give him free reign for whatever nonsense he wanted to spout.

It turns out that the only stones Imus has are the ones he apparently puts in his mouth before he starts talking.

He asked Jackson if he thought Obama's association with Reverend Wright would hurt his campaign. Jackson immediately leapt to Wright's defense.

He defended Wright by attempting to explain and justify Wright's sermonizing that 9/11 was "America's chickens coming home to roost." According to Jackson al Queda's justifiable anger with America arises from the fact that we "invaded and occupied" Saudi Arabia.

While it is true that Bin Laden got his panties in a bunch over the presence of U.S. Troops in Saudi Arabia, our being there hardly represented an invasion. I think the "i" word Jackson was looking for was "invitation."

Did Imus challenge Jackson on this lie?

No. He let it go without comment. This leaves me with three possible explanations. He doesn't know any better, he agrees with Jackson, he's too affraid for his new job to take even the slightest chance of being labeled a racist again.

Either way I'm switching from Imus in the Morning to iPod in the Morning.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:28 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


April 05, 2008

The Impact of RomneyCare

Every now and then things get so bad that even the New York Times has to run a story that has to make both Democrats running for president cringe.

The headline is fairly damning:

In Massachusetts, Universal Coverage Strains Care.

And the reset of the story doesn't paint a prettier picture:

AMHERST, Mass. — Once they discover that she is Dr. Kate, the supplicants line up to approach at dinner parties and ballet recitals. Surely, they suggest to Dr. Katherine J. Atkinson, a family physician here, she might find a way to move them up her lengthy waiting list for new patients.

Those fortunate enough to make it soon learn they face another long wait: Dr. Atkinson’s next opening for a physical is not until early May — of 2009.

Sort of reads like the horror stories we often read about the state of healthcare in countries where healthcare is provided by the state. But this isn't some European socialist enclave - this is an American socialist enclave.

One Massachusetts doctor offers a less than promising prognosis for universal healthcare:

Dr. Patricia A. Sereno, state president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said an influx of the newly insured to her practice in Malden, just north of Boston, had stretched her daily caseload to as many as 22 to 25 patients, from 18 to 20 a year ago. To fit them in, Dr. Sereno limits the number of 45-minute physicals she schedules each day, thereby doubling the wait for an exam to three months.

“It’s a recipe for disaster,” Dr. Sereno said. . “It’s great that people have access to health care, but now we’ve got to find a way to give them access to preventive services. The point of this legislation was not to get people episodic care.”

Patricia Sereno made it through medical school so I have to assume a basic level of intellect,  but clearly med school does not include even a basic course in economics. They have forced people to buy insurance they didn't have before and now they have a problem understanding that people are going to use the coverage they're paying for?

But most remarkable is this bit that I was stunned to read in the Times (emphasis added):

Now in Massachusetts, in an unintended consequence of universal coverage, the imbalance is being exacerbated by the state’s new law requiring residents to have health insurance.

Unintended, but not unanticipated by anyone capable of intelligent thought.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:43 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


Election '08

People send me stuff all the time. Sometimes it ends up here. Wayne sent me what is probably the best photographic interpretation of the 2008 Presidential Election.


Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:09 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


April 02, 2008

Generating Ideas

I want to preface this post with a bold disclaimer that I am not a scientist. I have been compared to an absent mined professor, but I am not a professor either.

But I was thinking about the idea of electric cars and the problems they face. The big one us of course electricity. How to store enough of it to make the car useful without having batteries so big that the car is useless.

Volvo has a concept that includes a  small gas engine that runs a generator that powers up the batteries as you go thus extending the range of the car.

Thinking in my simplistic non-scientist's way, I thought why can't the car do more to generate its own power?

A generator is simply a magnet spinning inside a coil of wires. Cars already have a number of parts that spin. What if you made the drive shaft magnetic and housed it in a coil? The shaft is there and it's already spinning why not use it and return some additional power to the batteries?

Or let's say you have an electric motor in the front driving the front wheels. The back wheels are still spinning. They have to or you're not going anywhere. Why not attach a magnetic shaft to the hub and have it spin inside a coil generating power as you go?

I'm sure there are reasons this can't be done. Probably something to do with not being able to break the laws of physics that escapes me. Because it just seems like common sense to me that if you've got spinny bits already, you should use that motion to generate more power.

If none of those ideas are practical what about wind power? What if you put a turbine in a hood scoop and connected it to a generator. The faster you drove, the more power you could return to the batteries. If you got lucky and found a parking space facing the wind, you could be charging the batteries while you work or shop.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:30 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


Hillary Clinton Lies

It seems as though I will never run short of opportunities to use that headline.

This column by Dan Calabrese is getting a lot of blog attention today.

Calabrese reports on and interview with Jerry Zeifman who was "general counsel and chief of staff of the House Judiciary Committee, who supervised Hillary when she worked on the Watergate investigation." The main focus seems to be on this rather incendiary statement:

When the investigation was over, Zeifman fired Hillary from the committee staff and refused to give her a letter of recommendation – one of only three people who earned that dubious distinction in Zeifman’s 17-year career.
 
Why?
 
“Because she was a liar,” Zeifman said in an interview last week. “She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer. She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.”

And I'll admit that's fairly damning stuff but what really struck me was this passage. (emphasis added)

The actions of Hillary and her cohorts went directly against the judgment of top Democrats, up to and including then-House Majority Leader Tip O’Neill, that Nixon clearly had the right to counsel. Zeifman says that Hillary, along with Marshall, Nussbaum and Doar, was determined to gain enough votes on the Judiciary Committee to change House rules and deny counsel to Nixon. And in order to pull this off, Zeifman says Hillary wrote a fraudulent legal brief, and confiscated public documents to hide her deception.
 
The brief involved precedent for representation by counsel during an impeachment proceeding. When Hillary endeavored to write a legal brief arguing there is no right to representation by counsel during an impeachment proceeding, Zeifman says, he told Hillary about the case of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who faced an impeachment attempt in 1970.
 
“As soon as the impeachment resolutions were introduced by (then-House Minority Leader Gerald) Ford, and they were referred to the House Judiciary Committee, the first thing Douglas did was hire himself a lawyer,” Zeifman said.
 
The Judiciary Committee allowed Douglas to keep counsel, thus establishing the precedent. Zeifman says he told Hillary that all the documents establishing this fact were in the Judiciary Committee’s public files. So what did Hillary do?
 
Hillary then removed all the Douglas files to the offices where she was located, which at that time was secured and inaccessible to the public,” Zeifman said. Hillary then proceeded to write a legal brief arguing there was no precedent for the right to representation by counsel during an impeachment proceeding – as if the Douglas case had never occurred.

I went back and re-read it twice but there is no mention of Sandy Berger bering involved. And I have to note that in attempting to bury one precedent, Hillary was establishing another that she would later follow with the Rose Law Firm billing records.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:53 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


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