4/27/2010

Tech Tuesday - I Thought It Was Supposed To Protect Computers

Like any bit of software, there are times when updates or upgrades can cause far more problems than they were meant to prevent. Sometimes the new problems are minor in scope and very few users will notice them. Other rimes the new problems will bring a computer system to its knees.

Such was the case with a recent update pushed out by the the folks at McAfee, the anti-virus software company.

Many companies and people on Thursday [April 21] were fixing thousands of Windows PCs that went haywire as a result of a seriously flawed software update sent by antivirus vendor McAfee.

The update distributed at 3 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday misclassified a critical Windows XP system file, called svchost.exe, as a malicious program. As a result, McAfee's AV software was instructed to detect and remove the threat, sending affected PCs into fits of rebooting that made the machines useless.

Um...Oops?

Fortunately my recently resurrected main computer was still off-line when the accidentally malicious software update was released, so it did not suffer the fate of so many other XP machines. (A note: my main computer also runs Linux, thank goodness). None of the other machines here at The Manse use McAfee (Deb's computer uses AVG and the other computers, which run Linux, use ClamAV).

4/25/2010

Thoughts On A Sunday

BeezleBub's school vacation started this weekend and he headed off to the WP-In Laws for a couple of days before spending the rest of the week working at the farm.

He spent Saturday and Sunday working on his Jeep, getting it ready to head to the body shop for a paint job. Being a John Deere fan, he's having it painted JD green with yellow striping and yellow wheels. I expect he'll get vanity license plates for it with some reference to John Deere on them.

One thing you have to say about him – he doesn't do anything half way.

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I admit to having a love/hate relationship with computers. I love using them, but I hate having to troubleshoot them. My main computer has been problematic over the past few months and it took until today to figure out the intermittent problem I've been having was due to a faulty power connector. There were times when it wouldn't boot and the BIOS would send out an ear-splitting high-low beep, telling me a voltage supply was out of spec. The faulty connector was the one that connects the power supply to the motherboard. One of the sockets was spread too much, making the connection intermittent, so whenever I moved the wiring harness out of the way the connection would either make or break.

I'm hoping all is fixed now. Only time will tell.

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Add Chris Muir to the list of those poking a finger into the eye of Islamic fanaticism.

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As if Chris Muir's finger poke weren't enough, then this bit of website hacking ought to get their attention.

Ridicule is indeed the best response.

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Tom Bowler questions the timing of the SEC's move against Goldman Sachs, seeing it as a purely political move by the Obama Administration purely to gain favor with an increasingly angry American public even though the actions won't fix anything. Never mind that a lot of the problems can be laid at the feet of Congress, and particularly Democrat members of Congress.

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Are TEA party supporters racist? Apparent so...but no more so than non-TEA party Americans. But you wouldn't know it from the way the media is reporting on the results of both the CBS/NYT and University of Washington polls.

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Color me unsurprised.

The so-called “Coffee Party” has quickly gone from civility to outright hatred towards the TEA parties.

As one commenter put it, “The Left's motto: If you can't beat 'em, BEAT 'em.” (spelling corrected – ed.)

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Bill Whittle answers the question: “What did the Founding Fathers think of a strong central government?”

Apparently they had a major dislike for the idea, unlike far too many of Obama and his fellow travelers.

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Jea Tea delves into an uncomfortable subject for the multi-culti Left, but makes some valid points about Western Civilization and how it is too often seen by the Left as somehow inferior to all other cultures despite a plethora of evidence to the contrary.

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Nigerian lottery/bank transfer scams are so yesterday. Today, scammers are using ObamaCare as a means to steal by offering fraudulent health insurance policies to 'protect' themselves from the bad effects of health care reform.

As if we didn't see this coming.

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Back in May of last year I predicted the Cash for Clunkers program would screw up the used car market. It turns out I was right.

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“Public Unions! Huh! Good god! What are they good for?”

“Absolutely nothing!” (With apologies to Edwin Starr.)

Check out the photo included with the linked post if you doubt it.

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Stephen Hawking thinks we should avoid contact with extraterrestrials at all costs because they may be just like us. Think of what happened to the Indians after Columbus arrived, except that this time we'd be the Indians and the ET's the Europeans.

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where warm weather has returned for now, boats are repopulating slips, and where thoughts of boating intrude constantly at work.

4/24/2010

When Equality Isn't Fair And Self-Esteem Trumps Ability

When is reward detrimental to the wellbeing of of those receiving it?

When it is undeserved.

Unfortunately the mindset of too many of our educators is that rewards are needed to build self-esteem, and self-esteem was far more important than actual achievement. The side effect of this esteem building? Increasing academic failure because there are no negative consequences for failure. With no consequences no one bothers to try. Such a system is set up to ensure failure and minimize success. That's no way to build a future for our kids.

Leland Teschler writes:

“When I was a kid, we’d just have first, second, and third-place winners for stuff like this,” he remarked. “Most of the time you didn’t win anything. When that happened, you’d just shrug and go out for a milkshake. I’m not sure giving everybody a prize is healthy.”

There is a body of research that shows that accolades handed out too generously may cause kids to underperform. In one case, researchers did a series of experiments on 400 fifth-graders, some of whom were praised for their intelligence, others for their effort. It turned out that kids praised for their intelligence tended to give up when confronted with tough tasks at which they didn’t excel. They assumed their poor performance was evidence they weren’t really smart after all. Kids praised for effort, however, reacted to failure differently. They generally just assumed they hadn’t focused enough and bore down on the problem.

The “everyone wins” philosophy is nothing more than means of imposing leftist egalitarianism, where equal outcome is far more important than equal opportunity. Far too often (every time, actually) the “equal outcome” is worse than if actual competition were allowed. Even the 'losers' in a competitive atmosphere will, more often than not, perform better than the 'equal' outcome of the “everyone wins” scenario. The equal outcome scenario always pulls everyone down to the lowest common denominator, which is usually pretty bad. The true competition scenario tends to pull everyone up, though not to exactly same level. Call it an effect of the Law of Unintended Consequences, sort of. It's like a scene out of Harrison Bergeron, where everyone is forced to be equal.

I suspect the everybody-gets-a-gold-star movement arose from misguided attempts to bolster kid self-esteem. After all, the self-esteem bandwagon started rolling downhill with such momentum that in 1984 California created an official self-esteem task force. But there’s evidence that performance doesn’t rise with self-esteem. One study in particular conducted by social psychologist Roy Baumeister concluded that having high self-esteem didn’t improve grades or career achievement. Nor did it reduce alcohol usage or use of violence. (In fact, other studies show that criminals have plenty of self-esteem.)

It seems all kinds of bad ideas, particularly when it comes to education and social engineering, start in California. The self-esteem movement started there and spread like a cancer. Self-esteem became more important than actually learning anything useful. Self-esteem became more important than performance. When I'm flying in a commercial airliner, give me a pilot that knows what he's doing over a pilot that is a marginal performer but has great self-esteem.

Self-esteem only gets you so far. Beyond that you actually have to know something and know how to perform, no matter what type of job you have.

4/21/2010

Air Pollution - Bad Is Bad, But Good Is Worse?

The willful ignorance of some people when it comes to pollution of the air and water never ceases to amaze me. I don't know how often I've heard people say something along the lines of “Pollution is getting so much worse, poisoning the land, air, and water.” It's mostly some of the younger people under the age of 45 saying that because they didn't experience what it was like back in the 60's and early 70's, when the air was dirty and the water in rivers and lakes was unfit to drink or swim in. One river, the Cuyahoga in Ohio, was so polluted it actually caught fire. The old joke went that New Yorkers didn't trust air they couldn't see.

Seeing pictures of a number of cities around the US back in the 60's and early 70's it was easy to see the heavy brown haze that hung over them day after day. Looking at pictures at those same cities today the first thing most people will notice is the lack of the brown haze that was so prevalent 40 and 50 years ago.

Rivers and lakes that were dangerous to be exposed to for any length of time are now clean and are being used for recreation and as water supplies again.

Have all the polluting sources been eliminated yet? No, but progress is still being made in reducing or mitigating what sources still exist. That sounds good, right? But to some the reduced pollution, and specifically air pollution, is a bad thing, particularly when it comes to global warming.

You’re likely to hear a chorus of dire warnings as we approach Earth Day, but there’s a serious shortage few pundits are talking about: air pollution. That’s right, the world is running short on air pollution, and if we continue to cut back on smoke pouring forth from industrial smokestacks, the increase in global warming could be profound.

Cleaner air, one of the signature achievements of the U.S. environmental movement, is certainly worth celebrating. Scientists estimate that the U.S. Clean Air Act has cut a major air pollutant called sulfate aerosols, for example, by 30% to 50% since the 1980s, helping greatly reduce cases of asthma and other respiratory problems.

But even as industrialized and developing nations alike steadily reduce aerosol pollution — caused primarily by burning coal — climate scientists are beginning to understand just how much these tiny particles have helped keep the planet cool. A silent benefit of sulfates, in fact, is that they’ve been helpfully blocking sunlight from striking the Earth for many decades, by brightening clouds and expanding their coverage.

Here it is, we've spent around 40 years and a lot of money to greatly reduce air pollution and now the AGW folks are saying that because of the cleaner air we're making global warming worse?

We just can't friggin' win, can we? No matter what we do, even if it leads to cleaner air and water, it's the wrong thing as far as the AGW faithful are concerned. So the only way to slow global warming is for us to undo the last 40 years of air pollution control? They have got to be kidding, right?

Unfortunately, they are entirely serious.

4/18/2010

Thoughts On A Sunday

Winter returned to New Hampshire, dropping sleet and snow starting on Friday. So much for late-spring weather coming early and giving us an early start on summer.

I was planning on pulling the winter storage cover off of the Official Weekend Pundit Lake Winnipesaukee Runabout, but the winter weather changed that plan. If the weather had remained warm and sunny I would have considered launching the boat at the beginning of May rather than over the Memorial Day Weekend. But this latest bit of winter weather has convinced me stay with the usual schedule.

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Lori Inghham has a final link round up of the TEA party protest in Manchester, NH that took place this past Thursday.

There's lots of bloggy goodness to be found!

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Is there another GOP upset in the offing in the Bay State? Considering Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's tumbling numbers, recent tax hikes, and even more profligate deficit spending by the state, is it possible he might be defeated by a GOP challenger in November?

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And speaking of upsets, is it possible the Democrats could lose over 70 seats in the House this coming November?

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ClimateGate: The gift that keeps on giving and giving....

Despite massive efforts by the UN IPCC to explain away the deficiencies and outright falsehoods in their 2007 report, the people and the scientific community aren't buying it. It doesn't help that the IPCC is trying to use more knowingly tainted data from the CRU to prove their report is correct.

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I'll bet you didn't know that AGW causes volcanic eruptions, slavery, and was caused in ancient times by bad Native Americans.

I'll bet they'll also find a link between AGW and the Boston Red Sox not making it to the World Series the past couple of years, too.

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First it's a new period of low solar activity, expected to last the next 30 years or so.

Now it's increased volcanic activity in Iceland, expected to continue for the next 60 years.

Between the two of them we can expect cooler temperatures, particularly in the northern hemisphere. We can also expect some colorful sunsets for the next year or two as the ash from the latest volcanic eruption in Iceland circles in the upper atmosphere.

Another effect of the higher volcanic activity: disruptions of air travel across the Atlantic on a more frequent basis. Both Steven Den Beste and Glenn Reynolds believe such disruptions will increase the use of teleconferencing.

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Does any of this look like economic recovery to you? I guess it does if your intention is to tank the economy with useless 'stimulus' spending and future confiscatory tax rates to pay for it all.

(H/T Pirate's Cove)

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It appears crime is causing problems in one small New Hampshire town. The local police department has been receiving investigative help from the state police.

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It appears New Hampshire Governor John Lynch has a thin skin.

A TV ad slamming Lynch's failure to keep his promises about controlling state spending, not raising taxes, and vetoing a gay marriage bill has been airing for a couple of weeks on local stations . Lynch doesn't like the ad (big surprise there), claiming the organization paying for the ads are “attack on New Hampshire and an attack on the people.”

Frankly, I don't see how this ad is slamming either the state or the citizens. It is accurately targeting Lynch's failures to wield his veto pen as he promised he would to control state spending (which has increased by over 30% over the past two budgets) and control taxes (which have increased dramatically because of overly optimistic revenue estimates used to justify increased spending). He also supported the state's efforts to confiscate $110 million surplus funds of a private agency set up to provide medical malpractice insurance, claiming that because the state passed the legislation to create the agency they owned the funds. (The state Supreme Court decided otherwise, stating that since no state funds, personnel, or facilities were provided to the agency and because the legislation that set up the agency stated any surplus premiums had to be returned to the policyholders, the state had no claims to the surplus funds.)

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From Gateway Pundit: Obama & Dems make great strides...in achieving Communist goals in America.

Reading an original address made to the House of Representatives back in 1963, it is easy to see far too many of their goals have been achieved.

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The focus on self-esteem and feel-good advocacy has replaced actually studying subjects like science in our schools. As this Forbes op-ed piece states, such a focus is doing our kids a great disservice.

Every schoolchild these days seems to be a devoted environmentalist, able to spell "sustainable" before "dog." However, much of the indoctrination about environmentalism--especially in schools--is of the passion-is-more-important-than-fact variety. These kids are being misled and shortchanged, to their own and society's detriment.

For last year's Earth Day, for example, sixth-grade students at a tony private school near San Francisco were given this bizarre assignment: Make a list of ways Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates' fortune could be spent on environmentally friendly projects. There was no hint that systematic market-based incentives for people and businesses could protect the environment--merely that it is OK to appropriate wealth from someone as long as it's for a good cause. (emphasis added)

Ah, yes, the “ends justifies the means” doctrine so prevalent amongst the PC/Socialist crowd. Never mind that it's theft. Never mind that the unintended consequences may be far worse than whatever such theft is intended to 'cure'. Never mind the kids won't learn the critical thinking skills they'll need to succeed once they get out of school...unless they decide to go into education or politics.

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where winter has returned, the woodstove is running, and where we're waiting for spring to return.

4/17/2010

Tax Day Tea Party - Manchester, NH

Thursday I attended one of the hundreds of TEA party protests held around the nation. Turnout was around 1000, which was similar to last year's Tax Day TEA Party protest.

Of the myriad of speakers at the protest, only one was a sitting member of the House of Representatives and he was visiting from Michigan. A number of Congressional hopefuls were there, but none spoke, preferring to press the flesh and speak one-on-one with TEA party supporters. Not surprisingly, only GOP candidates showed up even though invitations were extended to candidates from all parties.

Three of the more inspiring speakers included former US Senator Gordon Humphrey (R-NH), Thom Thomson – son of the late New Hampshire governor Meldrim Thomson, and former New Hampshire Senator Greg Lovejoy.

Senator Humphrey related his experiences of serving in the Senate for two terms. (He promised when he was elected that he'd only serve two terms, then come home. He kept his promise.) The one thing he said that stuck in my mind was his comparison of Congress to “a pit of vipers.” He also warned that even those with the best of intentions when they arrive in Washington are eventually seduced by the power their office confers. It doesn't happen quickly, but it does happen, which is why he has supported term limits. He also led the call to “Throw the bums OUT!”, something the crowd quickly picked up and chanted with increasing volume. Humphrey said we shouldn't discriminate as there were plenty of Republican bums deserving to be thrown out as much as their Democrat colleagues.

Both Thom Thomson and Senator Lovejoy spoke about the fiscal problems visited upon the people of New Hampshire by both the legislature and the governor, with legislative Democrats willing to spend money the state doesn't have, implementing tax hikes that hit the people most affected by the recession, and attempting to 'appropriate' private funds from a medical malpractice fund in an effort to fund the runaway budget. The governor also failed to protect the taxpayers in the state by refusing to use his veto pen to stop the 30% increase in state spending over the past 2 budgets.

While other TEA party protests drew some number of infiltrators/agitators, the Manchester protest drew only one 'visitor' from the New Hampshire Democrat Party, and he pretty much just watched the activities.

All in all it was a great gathering with appreciative crowd all sharing the same message: “We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more!”

4/14/2010

Incentives To Not Work Are Working

The axiom goes, “If you tax it, you get less of it. If you subsidize it, you get more of it.” A number of times throughout our history we have seen that axiom proven true. Starting prior to the Great Depression, and running the gamut from FDR's numerous 'recovery' programs in the 1930's, LBJ's Great Society programs in the mid 60's, and extensions of those programs that placed ever greater burdens on the taxpayers supposedly for the benefit of the poor, we've seen the government providing all kinds of incentives for people to remain poor and unemployed.

The welfare programs as envisioned by Woodrow Wilson and FDR and attempted by LBJ did more to subject otherwise productive Americans to abject poverty than any economic or natural disaster. Of course I would expect proponents and recipients to claim otherwise. But history shows many of the programs designed to 'help' the poor did nothing more than trap them into government subsidized poverty with little hope of getting out from under the government thumb.

One of the more insidious programs that has been turned into a political football recently has been unemployment compensation.

While in and of itself unemployment isn't necessarily a bad thing, the extension of benefits that have been piled on one after another have been used for political gain and not for the benefit of those receiving them.

All these serially extended benefits have done is work as an incentive not to work. That isn't supposed to be the way unemployment works. They were supposed to be a short term temporary bridge between jobs. But they are in danger of becoming more long term and, if some in Congress had their way, to become permanent. That would be a disaster for the American economy, just as a similar program devastated the the British economy as increasing numbers of unemployed ended up staying 'on the dole' rather than actively seeking work.

Democrats seem to think that extending jobless benefits for another 20 weeks is a big political winner. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin recently roared, "Is there any compassion at all left with Republicans for people whose checks are going to run out?" New York's Chuck Schumer calls Republicans "inhumane."

But do these Senators really think it's compassionate to give people an additional incentive to stay out of the job market, losing crucial skills and contacts? And how politically smart is it for Democrats to embrace policies that keep the jobless rate higher than it would otherwise be? How many Democrats share Mr. Harkin's apparent desire to defend a jobless rate near 9% (today it is 9.7%) in the fall election campaign.

Yeah, that ought to be a real winning campaign strategy. “If you vote for me I'll make sure the likelihood of you actually getting a job remains small because we'll do what we can to discourage you from looking for one.”

Whenever jobless benefits have been extended in the past, any recovery in the jobs market has slowed because the unemployed won't start looking for jobs in earnest until just before their benefits run out. All extending the benefits does is move that time out by weeks or months and add to the cost of providing those benefits.

If Republicans were really cynical, they'd let the new benefits pass and run against the higher jobless rate in the fall. In any case, no one should be surprised that when you subsidize people for not working, more people will choose not to work.

'Nuff said.

4/11/2010

Thoughts On A Sunday

Last weekend we were in the midst of summer-like temps. This weekend we saw snow falling on Saturday morning (though only for a few minutes, but still...). The Official Weekend Pundit Woodstove has been running on and off all week and all day Saturday, but because the temps haven't been all that cold we haven't had to run it at anything but minimum burn.

At least today it was warm enough to do without the woodstove. It was also warm enough to use the clothesline to dry laundry.

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I find it interesting that even a year and a half later that Obama and Palin are still being compared to each other and that more often than not Obama is not coming out on top of those comparisons. The latest shows Obama in bad light, slamming Sarah Palin for her lack of knowledge of nuclear policy, when he him self has even less.

He's forgotten she was Commander-in-Chief of the Alaska National Guard, whose mission was nuclear missile defense.

He slams her for her lack of foreign policy experience even though she had to deal with neighboring Canada on energy policy, fishing rights, and a host of other international trade issues. Obama had absolutely none, his trips to foreign countries during his campaign notwithstanding. A brief series of whistlestop visits to a few foreign countries does not mean The One gained foreign policy experience. By that criteria I am an effin' foreign policy expert when it comes to the UK.

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These folks have the best burgers in the state of New Hampshire bar none. My two favorites: Bill's Belly Buster Burger and the Iron Horse Burger.

Check out the cool videos, too.

(Disclaimer: I have known the owners, Sally and Bill, for some time. However, if the food wasn't some of the best I've ever had I wouldn't plug their eatery in any way, shape, or form. Nor was there any recompense for my posting my opinion of their menu.)

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It's not just Middle America that thinks the Obama is out of touch, perhaps deranged. So does Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France.

According to this report, Sarkozy was “appalled” at Obama’s “vision” of what the World should be under his “guidance” and “amazed” at the American Presidents unwillingness to listen to either “reason” or “logic”.

So much for “smart diplomacy” and a more respected America.

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BeezleBub started drivers ed a couple of weeks ago.

While most parents dread seeing their kids start driving, others look forward to it, seeing it as a means to reduce their own duties as their kid's taxi driver. I am of two minds, seeing BeezleBub growing up and taking more responsibility for himself, but wanting him to remain the same sweet kid I've come to know. After all I've been driving him to school and to the farm for the past 5 years and it's been a big part of our lives. How will I feel when he no longer needs either me or his mom to do that for him? I expect it will be bittersweet when the time comes.

I have no doubt that he'll be a good driver. I've been driving with him now for a couple of months and he's been doing pretty well. While he still has to learn more of the rules of the road, he does very well actually driving. It doesn't hurt that he was born 42-years old, either.

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“I tell ya, I don't get no respect! No respect at all!

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I agree with the idea that everyone should pay income taxes, even if it's only $1. Everyone should have skin in the game otherwise it's too easy to keep taking from those actually paying the taxes until it reaches the point where they have nothing left to pay or have fled with their wealth.

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Frank J has published “My Contract With America”.

I can agree with almost all of his points, but I draw the line at “It will be our promise to find out exactly how large and how violent a robot can be.” Frank, think Cyberdyne Systems Model 101.

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President Obama announced there would be an investigation of the coal mine disaster in Montcoal, West Virginia. In and of itself that is not unexpected. But the way the president announced this made it sound as if mine accidents aren't usually investigated by the government, specifically the Department of Energy (for coal mines), OSHA, and various other federal and state agencies with regulatory control over coal mines.

Will there really be any difference in the intensity of investigation just because the president announced an investigation? I doubt it. But Obama made sure it sounded like it was going to be one of his top priorities, right behind alienating our allies, sucking up to our enemies, and dismantling the US economy.

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Yet another liberal talking head is making use of tragedy to push the leftists agenda to force unionization of workers against their will.

MSNBC's Ed Schultz has had the audacity and the poor taste to claim the tragedy at the mine in Montcoal, West Virginia would have been avoided if the only the workers were unionized.

He's pushing for immediate passage of the misleadingly named and unconstitutional Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow for wholesale fraudulent unionization through intimidation by union 'organizers'.

One thing Schultz has neglected to mention is that mine accidents and tragedies occur at union mines, too, and it's unlikely unionization would have made a difference in any way. But that won't stop him from making the claim.

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where boating season is one day closer, the weather is slowly getting warmer, and yet again Monday has returned all too soon.

4/10/2010

Tea Party Derangement Syndrome Is Spreading

Tea Party Derangement Syndrome is making itself more widely known in a number of ways, but it seems to be manifesting itself as claims of incipient violence against all “right-thinking people”, meaning liberal Democrats.

But more often the violence is threatened or committed by members of the very groups claiming tea party supporters are the ones going to commit violence. Union members seem to be the ones most often committing acts of violence against tea party activists.

But it isn't limited to just union thugs. It seems to affect Congressmen, too.

On Thursday, April 8th, 2010, Congressman Alan Grayson, Democrat in Florida’s 8th district, interrupted a district meeting of the local Orange County Republican Executive Committee. The meeting was being held at Perkins, a family restaurant.

Matthew Falconer, candidate for Orange County Mayor, quickly challenged Alan’s rudeness. Grayson demanded not to be interrupted, but Falconer quickly reminded the congressman that he is in fact interrupting their meeting.

Grayson threatened Falconer by saying that he’ll spend thousands of dollars making sure he doesn’t get elected. Question: Is it legal or at least unethical for a sitting congressman to threaten to influence a local election? Why is Matt Falconer, running for local Mayor, even on the radar of Alan Grayson?

The answer: TPDS (not to be confused with PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Or maybe Grayson has come to believe he is entitled to his office and that anyone daring to displace him deserves nothing but contempt, derision, and ridicule.

It isn't only Grayson showing symptoms of TPDS, but a number of other CongressCritters too, including my own representative, Carol Shea-Porter.

Recently she's tried to make it seem as if she's been misunderstood, but we understand her all too well. She's shown nothing but contempt for those of us disagreeing with her and her socialist beliefs. Are we supposed to believe that she's suddenly seen the light and that we should re-elect her come November? Not likely.

I expect more incidents linked to TPDS to manifest themselves as we get closer to elections in November. I expect to see more union thugs committing acts of violence against tea party activists. I expect to see less civil discourse from Democrat incumbents towards tea party supporters. I expect the hysteria from the Left to reach deafening levels. And I expect the hateful and demeaning rhetoric aimed at tea party supporters to reach epidemic proportions.

ObamaCare Preview - Part 2,364

The ongoing health care debacle in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been an object lesson for those opposed to ObamaCare as it exists now, showing the nation how not to do health care reform. Unfortunately ObamaCare is based heavily MassCare, using many of the same 'economics' and mandates. As we've been seeing over the past year or so, MassCare is coming apart. Between much higher than projected costs, lower than projected revenues, and health insurance companies taking a hit – higher payouts and rate hikes denied by the state – forcing them to stop accepting new policyholders. Of course Governor Deval Patrick has retaliated, taking the insurance companies to court.

Insurance companies are now claiming that the rejected rate increases mean they won't be able to operate at a profit, and arguing that no actuary would approve the sort of rates that state insurance regulators say they expect. Actuary sign-off is not only important for fiscal stability—it's a legal requirement in the state. (emphasis added)

Is this just insurance company posturing? It's entirely possible. Industries, entirely understandably, are bound to put up a fight when told they can't set their own prices. That means making the toughest claims they think they can get away with. But it's not unbelievable that the combination of rate caps and increased regulatory burdens is imposing what amounts to an impossible strain on private insurers.

One commenter to the linked piece has proven again that far too many people don't understand economics, and particularly the economics of health care and health insurance.

The answer is easy. Make all health insurance companies non-profit by law. They they'll be tripping over each other to provide us all with free health care, once that pesky profit motive is out of the way.

This comment shows complete ignorance of how insurance works and the razor thin margins health insurance companies have. Health insurance companies have a less than a 2% profit margin (even non-profits have to make money). As another commenter noted, just because an insurance company is non-profit doesn't mean they won't lose money if payouts are higher than the premiums they take in. Between state mandates and state control of rate hikes, insurance companies are being squeezed between a rock and a hard place. And like ObamaCare, Massachusetts health care does not allow insurance companies to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, meaning the amount they'll pay out for medical claims will go up disproportionately to the number of new policyholders they'll gain. Unless premiums go up to compensate for the higher claim payouts, the insurance company will lose money and, under the worst circumstances, fail.

In order to help those of you out there who are economics knowledge-challenged to understand what I just said, here's a simple equation that explains it all:

Claims Paid + Overhead* ≤ Premiums Received

* personnel salary/benefits, utilities, rent/mortgage, office equipment, taxes, loan payments, etc.

Translation: the claims paid plus the costs of running the business must be equal to or less than the amount of money received for premiums paid by the policyholders. If the amount of money received from premiums is consistently less than claims paid and overhead, the insurance company goes broke, closes, and its policyholders will be left with no insurance. This is the direction MassCare is forcing the health insurance companies there to take. ObamaCare won't be any different, except that it will cause this problem nationwide.

Neither MassCare or ObamaCare have addressed the real issues with rising health care costs, nor are they likely to do so. Neither was designed to do so.

4/09/2010

A Finagler Speaks The Truth

If only this had actually happened.

The testimony of Charles Prince, former CEO of Citigroup, a too-big-to-fail bank that received $45 billion in bailouts and $300 billion in taxpayer guarantees, was riveting. You've seen it on the news, but if you were watching it live on C-Span, the stark power of his brutal candor was breathtaking. This, as you know, is what he said:

“Let's be real. This is what happened the past 10 years. You, for political reasons, both Republicans and Democrats, finagled the mortgage system so that people who make, like, zero dollars a year were given mortgages for $600,000 houses. You got to run around and crow about how under your watch everyone became a homeowner. You shook down the taxpayer and hoped for the best.”

“Democrats did it because they thought it would make everyone Democrats: 'Look what I give you!' Republicans did it because they thought it would make everyone Republicans: 'I'm a homeowner, I've got a stake, don't raise my property taxes, get off my lawn!' And Wall Street? We went to town, baby. We bundled the mortgages and sold them to fools, or we held them, called them assets, and made believe everyone would pay their mortgage. As if we cared. We invented financial instruments so complicated no one, even the people who sold them, understood what they were.”

“You're finaglers and we're finaglers. I play for dollars, you play for votes. In our own ways we're all thieves. We would be called desperadoes if we weren't so boring, so utterly banal in our soft-jawed, full-jowled selfishness. If there were any justice, we'd be forced to duel, with the peasants of America holding our cloaks. Only we'd both make sure we missed, wouldn't we?”

Sadly, this was nothing more than wishful thinking on Peggy Noonan's part.

Still, it would be refreshing, wouldn't it?

4/07/2010

Some People Just Don't Get It

People's ignorance of economics never ceases to amaze me.

Wait. That's not entirely true.

Liberals' ignorance of economics is something I take for granted. Mind you, not all liberals are economic morons. But far too many of them are, particularly many of those in government. That ignorance has also spread among far too many of the rank and file liberals. You know the ones I mean.

Rather than wasting time going trying to describe this in detail, let me show you how at least one of them thinks.

The comment below was in response to this Jonah Goldberg op-ed piece in USA Today that asked the question “How much taxation is too much?”

The problem is that that we liberals are SMARTER than conservatives and realize that in a society we HAVE to pay some sort of remuneration to the government for them to do things that private citizens cannot do or afford to do themselves.

Such as building roads, building bridges, fixing those two things, building numerous other things that I could go on for HOURS and not get them all, as well as fund an Army for our defense (though we don't need a STANDING army with nuclear weapons now).

Taxes do not 'choke growth'. If they did, the periods where taxes were the highest wouldn't be the periods of the most growth in our economy... guess what, THEY ARE!

Clinton: higher taxes, MUCH higher growth, people making sometimes 2 times what they used to make.
Bush the 1st: No growth.
Bush the 2nd: No growth.
Ronald Reagan: No growth really (yes, look at the FACTS, he didn't have any real growth except with what the GOVERNMENT was spending).

Need I keep going on?

Yes, taxes at too high of a level can 'choke growth'.... however, we are nowhere damned well NEAR that on businesses! Hell, most of them only pay about 5% in taxes a year after all their deductions.

No, the problem is not high taxes.... the problem is LACK of high minimum wage laws, LACK of job protection laws (no firing without a very good reason), LACK of numerous other things, including an extremely HIGH tax rate on people make over 10 million a year, even on 'investments'.

Right now, more and more money is being concentrated in the hands of the super-rich and businesses, to the detriment of the poor and middle class. It's time for that to stop, and for the Republicans and conservatives to realize that their 'capitalistic dream' has turned into a predatory capitalistic nightmare, and that we need to SWING THE BAR back towards some socialism and citizen protection.

At first I thought this commenter was being sarcastic. But then I realized he was serious. It also shows how much of a moron he is, at least when it comes to economics and who pays taxes and how much they pay. This guy has bought the “rich-are-bad/greedy/thieving-people-who-steal-from-the-poor-and-pay-no-taxes” canard hook, line, and sinker.

But the biggest clue this guy just doesn't get it it his pronouncements about minimum wage, job protection, and taxing the rich.

...the problem is LACK of high minimum wage laws, LACK of job protection laws (no firing without a very good reason), LACK of numerous other things, including an extremely HIGH tax rate on people make over 10 million a year, even on 'investments'.

First, I have to ask what he means by a lack of high minimum wage laws? Does he really think that if minimum wage is raised even higher than it is that it will somehow solve one of the problems of the working poor or those working entry level jobs? Obviously he does. But if he looks at what happened after the last three minimum wage boosts he'd see the number of minimum wage jobs went down as business owners found they couldn't justify hiring the same number of people as they might have otherwise. The very people the higher minimum wage was supposed to help had just the opposite effect. Strike one.

Second, what kind of 'job protection laws' is he thinking about? Does this moron think that laws like those in France will somehow solve unemployment? Perhaps he should ask the French how well it's worked out for them. With laws making it very difficult to lay off workers, particularly when there's no work, businesses are reluctant to hire. Instead, they try to make do with the employees they already have or outsource the work elsewhere. Unemployment remains high in general and is even higher for the younger members of French society. The very people the job protection laws were supposed to help had just the opposite effect. Strike two.

Third, what does he mean by 'extremely high tax rate' on the rich? Does he mean 90%? 95%? 98%? In the end it doesn't matter because if the taxes are high enough the rich will leave, taking their money, and the jobs that money provides with them. All one needs to do is look at the UK during the 1970's, when the so-called 'wealth tax' was 98%. Those making enough to be taxed at that rate didn't stand for it. They pulled up stakes, took their money and their companies out of the UK, and the British economy collapsed. High tax rates are an effective incentive to stop the economic activity being taxed. As Chief Supreme Court Justice John Marshall warned us, “The power to tax is the power to destroy.” The revenue extremely high taxes were supposed collect had just the opposite effect. Strike three.

This guy also has also got to start use Google considering he rewrote the economic history of the past 30 years, giving President Clinton credit for the work of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush while downplaying the economic growth during most of George W. Bush's time in office. (He conveniently forgot the little disturbance on 9/11/2001 and the economic bubble created during the last couple of years of Clinton's time in office that burst in February 2001 - the so-called “dot-com” debacle – less than a month after Bush took office. Millions lost their jobs when the dot-com companies employing them collapsed. Millions saw their investments in Internet companies disappear overnight.)

What saved Clinton was the 1994 mid-term elections. The GOP took control of Congress and forced him to move to the right economically, allowing the economy to continue the growth started during the Reagan Administration.

Unfortunately the viewpoint expressed by the commenter reflect the beliefs of far too many rank-and-file liberals. And contrary to his beliefs, liberals are not smarter than conservatives. Both have their share of idiots. But fiscal conservatives don't suffer from the economic delusions afflicting liberals.

I could spend another few thousand words explaining why this guy is wrong and why he's an idiot, but I've got better things to do than trying to correct this economic mental defective.

4/04/2010

Thoughts On A Sunday

Deb, BeezleBub, and I headed down to the WP In-Laws today for a family Easter gathering. Some of the New York members of Deb's family were there as well, which was great as we hadn't seen them since some time last summer.

The trip down and back wasn't quite as pleasant as it might have been as we took the trust Ford F-150 rather than the Intrepid. The three of us crammed in the cab made for tight quarters.

In case you're wondering why we took the truck you'll have to ask BeezleBub. He said the WP Dad-in-Law said he'd be sending something back with us and that we'd need the truck. He did indeed send something back, but it sure as heck didn't need the truck seeing as what he gave us was a 12-pack of peach Fresca (only available in the Keene, NH area as far as we've been able to find out), and a quart of maple syrup he made last month.

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You know it's getting bad for Obama when the Washington Post is beating up on him for his lengthy non-teleprompter responses to questions asked during his Let's Sell ObamaCare To The Rubes tour.

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Skip Murphy is all over Carol Shea-Porter (D – NH1) and her most recent town hall meeting in Laconia, New Hampshire. Video he shot at the meeting shows how little she thinks of many of her constituents, dissembling during a response to a Blue Star Mother, 'filibustering' time away from those of her constituents having had the audacity to ask questions she didn't want to answer, blaming Bush for the present administration's hard left turn towards socialism, and disparaging the idea that a member of the House of Representatives should represent the will of the people.

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Will the 2010 mid-term elections be even worse for the Democrats than some have been predicting?

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Bogie is getting ready for additional census training in preparation for going out and counting those who haven't returned their census forms.

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Even folks in Europe understand the damage President Obama is doing to America, which will leave it weaker economically and militarily. They also understand it may take decades to repair the damage Obama's imperial hubris is inflicting upon America.

(H/T Tom Bowler)

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Pun Salad does a Q&A fisking of a New Hampshire newspaper's biased and inaccurate portrayal of the TEA parties and its supporters.

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Please stop us before we hire again!

It appears Vermont has a real problem with their education system, with increased staffing levels and falling enrollment. Last year's student/teacher ratio was 10.6:1 and student/teacher's aide ratio of 20.7:1. If staffing remains at 2009 levels, the ratios will fall to 10.3:1 and 20.1:1 respectively by 2011, with an over all student/staff ration of 4.6:1. The staffing costs are unsustainable as will been placing an ever greater burden on the taxpayers by 2012. What makes it worse is that student performance hasn't improved, meaning the money isn't being well spent and the taxpayers (and parents) aren't getting their money's worth.

This problem isn't unique to Vermont as many states are seeing the same thing. People have got to get it into their heads that more money and more staff does not automatically equate to better education for our kids.

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I find it ironic that Henry Waxman (D – CA) doesn't understand the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, particularly the ones that require companies to account for changes in laws and regulations that affect their costs and tax status as soon as they become aware of them.

His demand for explanations from companies that reported major negative effects due to provisions within ObamaCare betray his ignorance, both of the aforementioned requirements and the changes wrought by ObamaCare.

Hayek's insight into economics and regulation is often called "The Knowledge Problem," and it is a very powerful notion. But recent events suggest that it's not just the economy that regulators don't understand well enough -- it's also their own regulations.

This became apparent when various large businesses responded to the enactment of ObamaCare by taking accounting steps to reflect tax changes brought about by the new health care legislation. The additional costs created by ObamaCare, conveniently enough, weren't going to strike until later, after the November elections.

They were also bad publicity for ObamaCare, and they seem to have come as an unpleasant shock to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who immediately scheduled congressional hearings for April 21, demanding that the chief executive officers of AT&T, John Deere, and Caterpillar, among others, come and explain themselves.

Call it yet another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences coming back to bite clueless legislators in the ass.

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the weather has been summer-like, the water is still too cold, and thoughts snow have faded from our thoughts.

4/03/2010

The Wrong Kind Of White People

All this time I thought all white people were the wrong kind of white people. Now I find out that there are two different kinds of white people, the right kind and the wrong kind.

The wrong kind of white person is the one that "right kind" white people want to avoid when camping (the one in the RV); the one that watches Leno; the one who doesn't like hummus or find Sarah Silverman funny. It's the one who, when he goes to San Francisco, makes the Rocket Boat the highlight of the trip. It's the white person who drives a truck, not to reject the political statement of driving a Prius, but because he needs it for work. Sarah Palin, even though she's a strong woman, in a Native American, union household with a disabled child, and an unwed mother single mother daughter is the wrong kind of white person.

Nothing has changed for me as I'm still the wrong kind of white people and proud of it. I've got the “Ford F-150 and a .30-06” to prove it.

4/01/2010