30 July 2009

Beerly civil

Brewers want in on White House beer bash

“Yuengling is proud to be recognized as America’s Oldest Brewery,” a company spokesman told POLITICO. “Family owned and operated since 1829, we’ve been a part of conflict resolution for over 180 years!”

SWIPIAW is a big fan of Yuenglings. We pick up a case or two any time we’re in the Pittsburg area. IIRC Yuenglings used to brew Sam Adams as well.

24 July 2009

That's what they mean by "classy" and "eloquent"?

Gosh, how is that “post-racial” thing with President Obama working out?

Old Media Credibility Watch

I am glad that the Inspector General scandal is starting to get a little bit of play. I remember not so long ago the flurry of stories on former President Bush’s firing of Attorney Generals. The IG firings look to me as a far worse issue with regard to the credibility and probity of the federal government, but seem to be causing much less concern in what passes for journalism these days.

Smashed the state

I had a huge number of links saved up in my browser to write about, but it crashed on me this morning and all that state was lost. Sigh. Oh well, time to start afresh!

It's not magic

Harry Eagar left a couple of comments (here and here) that contain much wrongness that I would like to comment on together, as well as being very off topic in at least one case.

Let’s start with this part —

The claim is that no intervention is superior to the market’s magic judgment. Whether that means the market is ‘perfect,’ ‘optimal’ or ‘something else’ is then irrelevant. You get what the market says you get, and you’d better like it.

That’s not the claim, as it confuses the general case with the universal, e.g. taking “men are taller than women” as “any man is taller than every woman”. It also ignores the difference between a theoretical possibility and what can be done with actual humans, i.e. that just as markets are subject to noise and irrationality, so is the process of deciding on and implementing government intervention in markets.

This also misses that it’s not a single event, but an enormous number of repeated decisions which are not independent events. It therefore misses the essence of Hayek’s argument in The Road To Serfdom which is that intervention is hard to stop, that a society should look at intervention the way a recovered alcoholic looks at a bottle of beer even though the planners are saying “come on, one beer won’t hurt you!”.

This really goes off the rails with “the market’s magic judgment”. There is nothing “magic” about the judgement of the “market”. Such judgement is the sum of the judgements of individual people involved in the market, which provides access to far more intelligence and information than any centralized decision. Even President Obama has finally figured this out.

As to where “you’d better like it” comes from, that mystifies me. As when a doctor says “you can do chemo-therapy or die from cancer” it’s quite possible that no one likes what the market provides but it’s not feasible to provide better. Sometimes you just have to embrace the suck. Much of the planner’s efforts are to avoid the unfortunate harshness of reality. We can see this in Eagar’s other comment —

There’s nothing wrong with a defined benefit pension, so long as it is adequately funded — pay as you go — and prudently managed. The looting of defined benefit plans (mine included) during the late ‘80s-early ‘90s was a scandal. A properly managed defined benefit plan pays off even if the company goes bankrupt.

This is in relation to 401(K) plans being a disaster as retirement funds. It just left me wondering where this prudently managed money in the corporate pension fund is, if it’s not in the same things the 401(K) accounts were. There is also that the prudent managers are the same group who are the Wall Street scamsters that destroyed the 401(K)’s or would be working with that group. This strikes me as defining away the actual problem by use of positive adjectives. And if one wants to rely on government regulation to solve the problem, one need only look at how state pensions have been managed over the last few decades, or to ask where those regulations were during the time period in the USA when defined benefit pensions were successful. I expect this will be taken as “401(K)’s are the perfect result of magic market judgement” even though that’s not what I wrote.

I would agree that there are a lot of scamsters on Wall Street. Although my personal 401(K) has done well over the last 14 years I would not be surprised to find that Eagar’s referenced claim is roughly accurate. Where we differ is that I don’t think wistful nostalgia for a different time is a succcessful basis for improvement.

21 July 2009

The power of naming

One of the perenial issues in modern computer science is the naming of what are called “accessor” methods. You have a class and it has some POD1 members. Because we are all so functional and encapsulated these days, you are never so gauche as to let other bits of code (“clients”) touch the data directly. Instead clients must call methods on the class in order to access (hence, “accessor”) the data2.

The big issue is, then, what names do you use for those accessor methods? There are two primary schools.

One is the “long name” school, where you have different names for reading and writing. E.g. get_option to retrieve the current value and set_value to write a new value.

The other school is the “overload” school where you use the same name (e.g. option) but distinguish the methods by the number of arguments. That is, you pass nothing to the read method and the new value to the write method.

I personally have, in the past, favored the “overload” style because I find it more succinct and elegant, but have been gradually drifting toward the “long name” style for C++ because of the rise of a more functional (that is, Lispy) style3. The problem with the overload style is passing off references to the method. In the overload style you have to do a clunky static_cast to get the right one, but if you use long names it just works.

No real point here, I just thought you all had been exposed to enough geek speak here lately.

1 Yes, this is an Official Term that is used in technical papers. It was invented to distinguish between data objects that are just pure, passive data and data objects that have functionality attached. Modern compilers are clever enough that they can do a lot of optimizations with POD that is not valid with non-POD.

2 Yes, it’s a bother, but it does pay off in the long run for large software projects and these days, just about everything ends up as a large software project. I would explain how it pays off but I don’t want to get sued by your survivors when it glazes your eyes over permanently. Honestly, most people in the industry don’t really understand why, they just do it because it’s the fashion.

3 C++ is getting real closurescheck it out. Woot! That’s the kind of thing that gets my blood moving.

Technological step functions

I can’t remember from whence I stumbled on this post but I thought it interesting based on some of my previous exchanges with Hey Skipper.

The basic premise is something HS has noted multiple times, that the speed curve for commercial aircraft rose rapidly during the early years then basically stopped. It is not that the technology didn’t continue to improve but that supersonic travel is much more costly (economically and politically) than subsonic and it wasn’t possible to go super sonic enough to make it worth while.

However, technology marches on. The article suggests that once the technology can support sub-orbital speeds the situation will change. Sub-orbital trajectories avoid the problems of current super sonic travel by avoiding the atmosphere.

the curve should get into low-earth-orbital speeds in the coming decade, and orbit is an extremely efficient way to travel. It takes no more energy, total, to get to orbit than a 747 does dragging its weight through the atmosphere halfway around the world — and you get to, say, Sydney, in under an hour instead of over 20. The beginnings of the commercially viable space travel can be seen in the companies trying to do X-prize like suborbital joyrides — but the major impetus will come when the capability hits orbit and can land you somewhere other than where you took off.

The 747 drag comparison I thought was particularly interesting. I know from my work with rockets and space travel that moving through at atmosphere is really a big deal. For instance, air breathing engines for the initial boost are generally frowned upon because while that saves the weight of oxidizer, the extra drag from grabbing the incoming air is usually even more costly. But if you boost to sub-orbit you’re only going through a few tens of miles of atmosphere instead of thousands. That’s not a small difference.

Life imitating art?

Via Sister Toldjah we have an article which discusses a man made environmental problem, that hydroflourocarbons are extremely effective green house gasses. These compounds are used in refrigeration systems to replace Freon, which was alledgedly destroying the ozone layer. One might take this as a lesson in hubris and the potential consequences of rushing the implementation of “solutions” to various problems. I was just reminded of the book Century Rain which features an Earth destroyed by a series of “fixes” to global warming, each trying to fix problems in the previous “fix” until the combined system goes out of control and renders the Earth frozenly uninhabitable.

18 July 2009

Back to disposable war freaks for your type

Via Instapundit

Notice how there was no “antiwar” movement during the ‘90’s, even though we were at war the entire time in Iraq, Haiti, Kosovo, a dab here and there in Afghanistan and Sudan. Then, after 9/11, it was the “Next Vietnam” with a passionate “antiwar” movement with the NYT’s full treasonous participation, just like the good old days. And now, even though the daily death count has matched the highest daily rate we ever saw in Iraq, there is no “antiwar” movement or daily casualty count in all the newspapers. It’s like the “antiwar” movement can be turned off and on like a switch, depending on which party is in the White House.

I would think that counts as negative information, in that any one relying on Old Media for knowledge about the world and the nation knows less than someone who doesn’t read Old Media at all.

Competence flows from the top

Of all the statistics pouring into the White House every day, [President Obama’s] top economic adviser Larry Summers highlighted one Friday to make his case that the economic free-fall has ended.

The number of people searching for the term “economic depression” on Google is down to normal levels, Summers said.

Way to shake that data tree!

Makes you long for the days of old fashioned data massaging, doesn’t it?

Oh, let’s toss this in as well in which various members of Obama’s Cabinet threaten the Arizona Governor with reduced federal spending because Arizona Senator Jon Kyl said he thought the “stimulus” bill spending should be stopped. It’s Chicago in DC!

And we can’t overlook this, from Obama’s speech in Ghana

No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top

As Instapundit notes American business owners are asking themselves “twenty percent? Where can I get that kind of deal?”. Clearly Obama is a man of detailed knowledge and experience. Why, just listen to his positions on the ‘stimulus’ bill. What’s most interesting is not that Obama thinks his supporters are such forgettful idiots that he’ll get away with this, but that’s he probably correct in that assessment.

This one is a bit more interesting, demonstrating as it does Obama’s fundamental disdain for any Constitutional limits on Presidential power. What we have is a story where Obama basically states that if he likes a treaty, he should feel free to implement it, regardless of what the Senate thinks. It’s of a piece with his signing statements, which so many told me demonstrated such disdain when former President Bush made them.

16 July 2009

It's all in the incentives

Ian Murray writes

I’m hearing that the popular reaction to the passage of the Waxman-Markey electricity tax bill in the House has blown House members away. The public outrage is really hurting those who voted for it […]

Should I have filed this under “We’re in the best of hands”? How can Congressmen not have anticipated this reaction to passing a massive tax and regulation in the middle of massive economic crisis? Probably because the latter is less real to them than the “crisis” of global warming climage change making Gaia cry. After all, one thing an economic crisis does is make Congressional fiefdoms grow and prosper. Astute observers can see how this all comes out in the end, the only puzzlement being why it’s tolerated by voters and supported by people who won’t be getting a slice of the action.

14 July 2009

So long, suckers!

So Senator Roland Burris plans to not run for re-election — that’s hardly surprising. He got his two years, his pension, his title, and got to stick his thumb in the eye of the state and national establishment. Why not just collect his winnings and continue to laugh at them all from his porch?

We're in the best of hands

Let us also explore the ways in which our federal and state governments show how lousy things would be if left to the private sector.

Let’s starting with cooking the books for public pensions which is not only worse than anything private companies have done, but as Instapundit notes there’s virtually no chance anyone will do jail time for it.

Then there’s politicized science, such as the suppressed EPA report on global warming. Money quote —

[EPA administrator] Mr. McGartland decreed: “The administrator and the administration have decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision.

Naturally, the response was to assassinate the character of the whistle blower (gosh, isn’t it fascinating how whistle blowers became lying degenerate scum once a certain major American political party was considered in charge?). But it’s a lose lose because if the guy is in fact unqualified (not true, but just suppose) then why did the EPA put him in charge of the report? Either scenario is clearly doing “science” with a pre-determined political goal in mind.

Voter intimidation is now OK with the new administration as well.

The wonders of government sponsored research and grant grubbing.

Oh, how things change! Remember the Keating Five and what they did? Now we have Senator Daniel Inouye and Representative Maxine Waters self dealing with TARP funds. But will there names go down like the Keating Five? I think we know the answer to that. I guess we should just count our selves lucky that the political party that keeps them around isn’t in charge of the government.

If they were, may be they would make progress in preventing politicians from being terrorized by free speech. Apparently dissent in general, and not just whistle blowing, is no longer patriotic.

In keeping with that theme

The House ethics committee is investigating a Caribbean trip taken last year by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, but they put a fellow CBC member in charge of the probe.

Gosh, I wonder how that will end up. Perhaps they should take lessons from Carol Browner, current Obama Administration “climate czar” who instructed auto industry executives to “put nothing in writing, ever” about their negotiations with the Obama Administration. One notes that Browner was in charge of the EPA during the Clinton Administration — is that where McGartland learned how to do things?

Some things do make you laugh

Freshman Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) lost $3 million in a stock swindle between 2000 and 2005, a Florida television station reported this week.

Grayson is on the House Financial Services Committee.

But it’s not necessarily better over in the appointed positions. It is things like this that make you wonder if Orrin Judd is right.

Just a bashing kind of day

I have a number of things saved up to bash Old Media with, so let’s just lay them out as a recent record of the utter failure of Old Media to be other than a not particular adept propaganda organ for Modern American Liberalism.

Even President Obama feels the need to request that Old Media crank down on the Bush bashing.

Maybe this should go under “Obama Hagiography Watch” — the Associated Press considers Obama campaign statements to be incontrovertible truth.

There’s the firings of the Inspector Generals. I remember how former President Bush firing US attorney generals was major news for weeks, a cause celebré. Yet Obama is canning IGs in political active and sensitive places and nobody much cares. There’s some hope that this may eventually break through the protective media wall around Obama but only with great reluctance.

THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE “looks at California’s problems”;http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/05/magazine/05California-t.html. But Chris Reed at the Union-Tribune notes that “they forgot to mention public employee unions”http://weblog.signonsandiego.com/weblogs/afb/archives/034678.html. “It was even worse than I expected. . . . The article focuses on the volatility of income taxes, which is a key point. But it never offers the context that California’s other taxes are almost all among the nation’s highest. It leaves the impression, as do all East Coast media, that California is relatively undertaxed. . . . Pathetically enough, in 8,000 words, the author never mentions the fact that the public thinks the state’s biggest problem is an inability to live within its means, not the difficulty of raising taxes. . . . There is a reference to same-sex unions. There is a reference to Gavin Newsom dealing with the SEIU in San Francisco. But the CTA? The prison guards union? AFSCME? The SEIU’s lobbying in Sacramento? All unmentioned. Incredible. Pathetic. Typical. Even by the rotten standards of the East Coast media, the New York Times has hit a new low.”

Here’s another example in which Al Gore spews vicious rhetoric once again and the Time of London cleans up after him, once it is clear that it’s too soon to go that over the top. One is left wondering how it wasn’t obvious before publication, if the Times is willing to edit quotes for Gore’s public relations benefit. One isn’t left wondering if there are other circumstances where things are “fixed” before they go out on the wire.

Starward ho!

First private satellite launch while rumours circulate about de-orbiting the International Space Station (although I want to see some additional confirmation on the latter). The best part of the video is around 4:50 when the second stage engine ignites. You can see the nozzle become red hot from the exhaust gasses.

13 July 2009

Over junked

Why didn’t anyone tell me the junk filters were being too aggressive? I unjunked several comments and tuned the junker down a bit. Hopefully it will work better now.

11 July 2009

Starward ho!

The Daily Duck mentioned this article on galactic colonization and the Fermi Paradox and I commented on how I had saved it for later abuse because it was so obviously bogus. Let’s get started!

Growth of these civilizations would be exponential, Fermi implied

No, he didn’t. This is the primary error of the article and puts it on the wrong track from the start. To start with, our universal is three dimensional so to occupy space you would only need cubic expansion, which is enormously less than exponential. Our galaxy is a disk, so quadratic would probably suffice. If the expansion proceeded along arms it might only require linear expansion.

What Fermi really observed was that even at very low speeds compared to lightspeed a civilization could cover the galaxy in what, in galactic terms, is a short period. There was no requirement for exponential growth.

For any expansion to be sustainable, the growth in resource consumption cannot exceed the growth in resource production. And since Earth’s resources are finite, and it has a finite mass and receives solar radiation at a constant rate, human civilization cannot sustain an indefinite, exponential growth.

I have never seen any discussion of the Fermi Paradox that contained the assumption, as this does, that a single planet would handle colonizing the entire galaxy. Quite to the contrary, the presumption was always that it would be driven by n[th] generation colonies. That is, further expansion is generated by colonies on the fringe so no single planet ever colonizes anything but nearby stars. In this model, the overall resource base grows faster than what is needed for expansion. This argument is akin to arguing against bonfires because a match does not have enough wood for a large blaze.

A more minor error is that even this shows that indefinite exponential growth is not possible, but it doesn’t show that the limits to growth are smaller than the requires for colonizing the galaxy. The galaxy is, after all, also finite. The argument doesn’t even work on its own terms.

What’s funny is that Skipper didn’t notice that much of this was layed out in the very first comment on the article.

You know a liberal is in trouble when …

Instapundit reports that Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court is not going so well. I had already realized that from the sudden blitz on NPR of laudatory to hagiographic stories on Sotomayor, none of which focused on her legal experiences and acumem. It’s not unreasonable for a politician trying to get elected to go with the endearing back story, but a Supreme Court justice? I want someone who will apply the law and above that the Constitution.

10 July 2009

Maximizing time in zone

Given the growing distance between the Secretary of State and the President, I was struck when I was reminded that the current limits on Presidential terms are 2 terms and 10 years. So, if HRC is planning on a coup then perhaps she’s deliberately waiting until 2010 so she can have those two years and two more terms past that. If she struck earlier, she’d only get one elected term.

It also occurred to me, thinking about this, that HRC is a smart parasite and Obama is not. Smart parasites don’t kill their hosts. HRC is unlikely to be any less corrupt or power hungry than Obama, but I suspect she, unlike Obama, understands that there are limits if you want to skim in the long term.

07 July 2009

This one's for you, joe!

Hey, what about the Washington Post selling access to policy makers? I agree that the big take away from this is that no one is surprised. Who will be fired for this lapse, since newsrooms are the only place I know in this country where people are routinely discharged for unethical behavior. But beyond that, what does this say about the Washington Post that such “policy dinners” happen at all even without charging admission? Or that I have yet to see any complaints from the Obama Adminstration about any aspect of the story?

06 July 2009

Witch burning

I am severely disappointed that Sarah Palin is resigning as Governor of Alaska. I will skip background as any reader should already be familiar with it or can easily find such.

I think what we have seen with Palin is a modern witch burning. She was attacked, not her policies. The goal was not to discredit her political views but her person. In this effort nothing was spared — truth, accuracy, decency, rule of law — nothing restrained those wanting to politically burn Palin. I agree with those who say much of it was class based, that Palin’s very success invalidated much of their world view, such as the prestige of going to the proper schools. That attacks on her accent are a clear demonstration of both the pettiness and class resentment.

Many pundits are saying “that’s just hard ball politics” but look at the reaction from the same places when something as mild as claiming Obama made an obscene gesture based on a video of him making the gesture. Beyond that the attacks on Palin weren’t just the normal fringes from which one expects lunacy, but at the very mainstream of our political, journalistic, and entertainment establishments. Just consider Andrew Sullivan’s obsession with Trig Palin’s maternity. Or Charlie Gibson inventing quotes for Palin on national TV. Most of all, consider how well not firing back worked for President Bush. The rule that one faction (the MAL) should not be called on for such abuse is so nakedly partisan that I don’t see how any honest commentator can say it with a straight face. Representative Barney Frank gets called “Barney Fag” and it’s a national crisis. Palin gets called every obscene word for “woman” and attacked as a sex pervert despite being married and monogamous, and it’s “lay back and endure it”.

The entire episode also serves as a devastating indictment of Old Media. Not only did it stand aside while personal and financial attacks were made on Palin and her family, Old Media actively participated in those attacks, covering for those abusing the law to ruin Palin financially while promoting whatever lies about Palin seemed damaging. When the dominant political establishment wanted to crush an outsider, Old Media was right there in the front lines aiding and abetting. I can’t see any conclusion except that our political and civil life will be better when Old Media is finally destroyed. I resolve to increase my efforts toward that end.

A naive person might expect this kind of thing to die down now that Palin is smoking embers but I expect it to get worse. It worked, after all, and what price did any of the torch bearers pay? The vilification of former President Bush didn’t stop the effort against Palin — one might reasonably view that as practice. In the same way I expect the burning of Palin to serve more as a model than a peak or cautionary tale.

For Palin personally I suspect that what really ground her down were the lack of support and open attacks from her nominal allies like the McCain crew and the GOP establishment. Why suffer like that, sacrificing not only yourself but your family, for people who don’t like you and hope you fail?

05 July 2009

Constitutionally Honduran

With regard to the situation in Honduras, I stand with the constitutionalists, that is the legislature, the supreme court, and the army. I haven’t commented before because I was caught up in some work stuff and because it’s usually best to wait a day or two because initially reports are generally wrong.

What seems clear to me now is that former Honduran President Zelaya is the party in the wrong. I would agree that his removal was not handled in an optimal fashion, but given a decision by the supreme court and a unanimous vote by the legislature, any who has respect for the rule of law should be lining up with the latter against Zelaya. It is also clear that, despite what NPR continues to report, that it was not a miltary or even military backed coup. The military executed the orders of legitimate civil authority as is their proper duty. The question for those who carp about the poor implementation should be asked to apply the same standard to the former President, who was implementing his duties more than a bit poorly. But they won’t because standards only apply to honest folk, not thugs.

Of course, our President Obama immediately sided with anti-democratic side in stark contrast to his dithering on Iran. I suspect in the latter case Obama wanted to immediately side with the mullahocracy but was persuaded it would be bad PR. That’s why it took so long to take even the pathetic action of disinviting Iranian diplomats to Independence Day barbecues.

I am disappointed that the OAS is working against democracy, although it’s hardly surprising in an organization that doesn’t see anything wrong with the Castro regime.

I am no longer disappointed that Old Media is playing the “unfairly deposed President” line — siding with thugs and despots is what Old Media does these days. Instead of informing citizens they act as propaganda organs for any one who opposed the liberal order that makes them possible. Maybe I should use the term “exforming” or “deforming” to describe what they do.

Taxed Enough Already By Abusive Government protests

I certainly support the tea bag protests around the nation but I just wonder how many of these people will actually vote differently. Our government is dysfunctional in large part because Congressmen get re-elected regardless of what they do, especially in the Democratic Party. Until the voters start purging there is not going to be much change.

Oh no, they're contaminating the oceans with salt!

There was piece on official state media (NPR) this morning from a putatively scientific organization that was basically a discussion of the aggrieved mental state of a professional panicer about desalination. There was no actual science content, just expressions of concern, such as it takes energy to run a desalination plant and what will that do to CO2 emissions? But my favorite was noting that desalination produces fresh water and saltier water and what could be done with that salty walter? No possible solution was mentioned, just an expression of concern about the environmental impact of that saltier water. In real life, it’s dumped in the ocean which has the environmental impact of putting the salt back that was taken out of the ocean in the first place. We have to be living in quite pristine conditions if putting salt back in the ocean is a serious concern.

Really big fireworks

Our local parade and fireworks were rained out yesterday so we ended up watching fireworks on TV which is not only not quite as visceral, but featured Barry Manilow. As I was watching, I wondered how long it would be before someone arranged for orbital fireworks that could be seen over most of the nation. It doesn’t seem like it would be too hard to at least get some nice long trails, say 13 across, streaking in the sky over the continental USA. Or rains of sand lighting things up. Maybe I should start a fund to pay for that …