Quick Hits

The Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is over, and among the sparkling new TVs, Home Automation, and Gee-Gaws that will never go into production, the most important innovation occurred before the show– an Audi A7 with a Journalist at the wheel(sic), and it was a driver less car.

Now, to be certain, the Journalist had to take control after the Audi hit an off-ramp because it was really only designed for freeway work, but Google has the city driving down pat, and Mercedes has prototype driver less cars and trucks.

It’s close. Very close.

I have told the story before of being dragged out of 5-Way heart by-pass recovery at home by my friendly neighborhood MD/Ph. D (Engineering) who carted me off to Victorville, California, to witness a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (one of the few government agencies that actually work) challenge for “Autonomous Automobiles. This was four years ago. No apparatus filled autonomous cars finished the 50 mile city model, but Stanford University did well enough to win the million dollar prize. (Stanford had won the previous “Freeway” Challenge in the desert years before — and another million dollar prize.)

The driver less cars in California will require a special license and a carbon life-form behind the wheel, as did the Audi driven to the Las Vegas convention.

Still 565 freeway miles without a scare is not to be sneezed at.

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We have an entirely analogous situation developing between the good Muslims of the world, Blacks in Detroit and the overwhelming number of good teachers in California.

And there is a lesson to be learned here.

The president and his administration appear to be counting on the Muslim nations and communities to grab hold of their, by any count, small number of atrocity-bound Muslims.

Ain’t gonna’ happen.

By any measure the vast majority of teachers are good or even great teachers, and California has waited for decades for the good teachers to rein in their union and get control of the awful teachers who give them all a bad name…it has not, will not happen.

Similarly, the vast majority of Blacks, even in crime-ridden communities like Detroit and Chicago, are law abiding citizens. They know who the drug dealers, pimps and gang-bangers are — but they draw their blinds and double-lock their doors without calling the police.

Waiting for a modern population to rise up just isn’t going to happen. In the early days of America, certainly — can you imagine the western Settlers sitting in their traffic-jammed cars without heating tar and plucking feathers while marching on the halls of the San Diego Association of Governments who fund freeways too little and mass transit too much?

Neither can I.

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The Islamic Empire had a Caliph called “The Bloodthirsty” who invited opponents to dinner, clubbed them to death, threw a rug over them and dined on the rug as their opponents bled to death.

But being the reason he was called the Bloodthirsty.

But Islam was not the only group where the norm in being bloodthirsty. In the early Middle Ages, Basil II of the Byzantine Empire was rumored to have defeated an army of Bulgarians and put out the eyes of 14,000 soldiers, leaving one out of 100 with one eye to lead the defeated troops back home. That is possibly apocryphal, but that it was even believed at the time served its purpose.

The ISIS group can be accurately termed “Fundamentalists” in that they adhere to Middle Ages norms.

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In my Little Known And Completely Useless Information File: Perhaps you remember the “Ice Man” an ancient Stone Age man discovered a few years ago, who had been frozen as he fell some 5,200 years ago in the Alps. As you may know, newly discovered methods of obtaining DNA even from ancient bone, (Ice Man was not even much of a challenge) but the interesting thing to me is that 16 descendants of Ice Man have been discovered in Austria…..

In a related ice age data, Archeologists now have a new specialty — studying items being released by melting glaciers. It seems that there was a warming spell about 7,000 years ago and a treasure trove of lost items is being released by the current warming spell in Norway. They have recovered mittens, snowshoes and many farming items. (Bet you didn’t know that autos caused CO2 warming 7,000 years ago! We learn every day.)

The study of DNA is very useful in determining the flow of humans, and when they arrived in certain places…

One more note: Not all ancient Egyptians who were mummified were kings — commoners were also mummified. Millions of them!

In fact, in the early 1900s, there were so many Mummies, that Indian trains burned them for fuel.

Well, the Death Masks for Kings and Queens may have been made of gold, but commoners often had death masks made from used Papyrus and glue. Recently, technology has been able to melt the glue and recover the used  Papyrus, and we can read it…and a portion of an unknown Book of the Bible has been recovered. The actual announcement was leaked in 2012, and has just been officially acknowledged, but the contents have not been released.

 

 

 

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Quick Hits

The best thing about falling oil prices per barrel (today it is $54 a barrel), is not the price of gasoline — it is the devastation caused to the economies of Russia and Venezuela! Both are dependent upon $70 a barrel to prop up their economies, and both blame the United States for everything, including the price of oil. It is certainly correct that the world is now awash in oil since the US started fracking, and a Republican administration of the future is likely to open public lands to exploration, adding to the oil glut.

The Russian ruble fell again today. The Russian economy is in shambles as a result of tightening EU and US sanctions, combined with oil prices. The question is “How do we punish the Russians, without them reacting militarily” much like Japan did in striking Pearl Harbor…which they did partially because of US sanctions against Japan for their push into Southeast Asia?

The problems caused to Venezuela are just a bonus!

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Jeb Bush has virtually declared, and eventually the Republicans will have more than eight candidates — all fine candidates — while the Democrats have few. Dr. Ben Carson will be an attractive candidate for the Republicans, but he has too little executive experience  for my taste. (We have elected one bright attractive person with no experience, and look how THAT worked out!)

The massive federal election results of the past month were not the most important results, that would be the results in the states. There are now only seven states under complete Democratic control, while there are now 30 states under complete Republican control of the political apparatus, according to Rush this morning.

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Jaguar has announced a new style of navigation system for its future cars. The new system projects a “ghost” car onto your windshield so that you simply follow the “ghost car” visually. This will negate the necessity to look at your nav system and its arrows.

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The Army/Navy game is REALLY important to me, because that was my first REAL date with my wife of 57 years. Our relationship in marriage has been legendary — an unkind word has never passed between us.

And it is every important to the Army Corps of Cadets and the Navy Brigade of Midshipmen, all of whom are steeped in the 105 year old contest, and the Cadets and Midshipmen (who actually exchange places a few of a time for a week) bet their very distinctive bathrobes on the outcome. Bill Shankly is quoted as saying, “Football is not life or death, it is much more important than that. It certainly is at the Academies!

Navy won this year, narrowly, for the 13th consecutive time, something that must grate terribly on West Point.

A “W” is a W, but that was uninspiring to say the least!

The Point was in the game until the whistle blew.

From the time at the beginning of the season when I read that Navy could win 10 games, it was obviously downhill.

Now they face a decent, but certainly larger and stronger San Diego State — and I think that Navy has gained some respect for West Coast teams, but SD Sate has now faced six Academy teams, and never lost.

Reynolds, the outstanding Navy Quarterback is going to have to bring his “A” game, and open up the passing game. Reynolds obviously can pass, six for seven today, but he is going to have to use the short pass to keep the pass rush off his nose — Army gave him little time today, and State is stronger.

Reynolds is good…great in fact…but either the game plan was not, Reynolds still has nagging injuries, or Army is just getting a hell of a lot better.

Maybe all of the above.

Still, I’ll take 13 straight!

 

Does Anyone Ever Learn — Communism Does Not Work!

The Venezuelan situation is so bad it is actually funny!

Venezuela has more oil under it than anyone — including Saudi Arabia — so it should be a filthy rich country, but instead it is rationing food and even diapers — while it imports oil from Algeria! Venezuela was teetering when oil was selling for $100+ a barrel, and now that oil is at $80 and falling…

How is this possible? The answer is Communism, first under Hugo Chavez and now under Chavez’s hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan economy has been so mismanaged that there have been shortages of toilet paper. The Communists are so enamored with helping the poor that they sell gasoline for 5 cents a gallon, but one woman quoted had to stand in line for three hours to buy two packages of diapers. She had tried cloth diapers but could find no detergent to was them.

Some airlines have stopped flying to the country over disputes over fuel costs, and some newspapers have stopped printing because of the lack of newsprint.

The nation staggers on with the “help of its friends.” Communist China has restructured their loan, and Communist Cuba has provided Doctors, but with fewer oil reserves, Saudi Arabia pumps 11 million barrels of oil a day while Venezuela staggers along with three million barrels.

Incompetence, buttressed by a failed ideology is not simply the provenance of The District of Columbia.

How Many Are TOO Many

My question to those who support the current Children’s Army, must be asked “How many are you willing to take in for “sanctuary?”

Is it a hundred thousand, as are expected this year. Another 150,000 expected next year? How about a million? How about 50 million?

Is there ANY number at which you say, “Enough?”

The Spring 2009 Pew Global Attitudes Survey, showed that 33% of ALL Mexicans would like to live in the United States, and that 18% would move here without authorization. Mind you, we are ONLY talking about Mexico (because Pew didn’t survey other nations), not Central and South America. Mexico has a population of about 100 million, and that means that 33 million MEXICANS Would like to live here and 18 million would do so illegally!

That 33 million, and 18 million would be in addition to the “estimated” 11 million already here! And that doesn’t count Central and South America.

The mind boggles

Tempus Fugit

Technology and law are inevitably running up against each other, with legacy technology and unions (naturally) clinging to what they have, and standing in the way of progress — of course technology will eventually win.

Let’s start with a dead-bang loss. Aereo, the over the air aggregating TV model has been declared a violation of copyright laws, ending a valiant effort to supplant costly cable companies. I understand the Justices’ reasoning. It was indeed a copyright violation and another method will have to be devised. It will be, because cable companies are not your friend.

Uber is similarly under attack. Philadelphia has banned Uber because a Judge has ruled that the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has ruled on the car and driver for hire situation. This may be a temporary setback, because even the Mayor of Philadelphia has sent a letter to the PUC asking acceptance of Uber and its competitors. There are lawsuits a batch against Uber from taxi companies and taxi driver unions — but the only serious impact may be in London and Paris where unions have serious political power and are not immune to the use of force.

After all, London was the home of Henry Ludd. Nevertheless, the London Transit group has approved Uber, but the taxi companies are still suing.

Now, the new “threat” comes in the form of autonomous long-haul trucking. Both Mercedes and a subdivision of VW are working on autonomous long-haul trucks. Driver costs are a third of the cost of trucking, so this is a target rich area for automation. Mercedes already has prototypes, and the first step is likely to be a “train” of trucks with but a single driver…until the public becomes accustomed to the process.

Can planes without pilots be far behind? The answer is “no.”

Air Bus has filed for a patent on putting the “pilot” in an unused part of the plane (like the tail section) but surrounded by cameras and displays — opening up the cockpit for extra passengers. Of course, completely pilot-less cars, trucks, and airplanes are currently possible with “drone” technology, but the public must be brought along slowly.

Ambivalent

I am ambivalent — what concern of ours that thousands of people are being gunned down in Iraq?

On the other hand, is it our concern that some thug is beating his wife on a neighboring lawn?

If we saw a child drowning, it would be wise to first ask ourselves if we were strong enough swimmers, before losing two lives.

I suppose that everything is sort of a “play it by ear” — and that makes foreign policy really difficult because it is always pick and choose. We can’t be everywhere, can’t do everything, but we can do something…and my concept would be to keep really mean people think seriously about misbehaving.

That would be by electing to STOMP heavily on bad guys, once in a while, with vigor. With great vigor! Enough vigor that it gives EVERY bad actor pause before he acts, that he just might be one who draws the short straw.

This does not require that we jump in everywhere — we get to pick our spots.

There is a question being asked in the media, if Joe Biden was right years ago when he commented that Iraq should be three countries to avoid sectarian conflict?

The answer is “Yes” — more out of luck than brilliance in my opinion, although Obama said Biden was his “go to ” man on foreign affairs.

Iraq is falling into the Northern Ireland Catholic-Protestant model, with neighbor killing neighbor, just on a grander scale — more people, more territory, greater divisions, and much more firepower available.

The Kurds in the Northern third are secure and calm because their tribal armies are powerful, their populations are relatively homogenous, and they enjoy separate oil fields. Right now they are hosting a lot of people from the South who are fleeing the fighting.

Of course the political divisions are all based on religion, and that is the worst kind of civil war. Now Iran has their nose under the tent flap.

We have only two things to worry about — the oil fields and the Green Zone If we protect these two things, I don’ t care what happens to the rest of Iraq, but Biden had the right idea. Sunnis and Shia need their own territories with an agreement as to the division of oil money — but the world has been working forever to get the Palestinians and Israel to settle their two state problem.

Bah! We have sufficient problems of our own!

We didn’t get involved in the religious war in Ireland (fortunately), and I’ll bet we should stay the hell out of this one too!

Quotable and Notable

The monopoly that Russia has in taking Astronauts to the Space Station — one they have both used to extort money, and get bragging rights — is about to end.

Elon Musk, he of PayPal and Tesla, has unveiled Dragon V2, a reusable space taxi to carry as many as seven Astronauts at a time, and land on land or water. It can then be refueled and reused as many as 10 times before servicing.

No one should doubt that Space X is the real deal, and it faces strong competition from other private companies not to mention that it has not been tested either with or without actual people on-board.

Nevertheless, it is the beginning of a plug in the dike that was breached by the US when our government prematurely either stopped the use of our Space Shuttle or else the government did not ramp up private initiatives quickly enough. Whichever, the hoe existed too long to the detriment of America in space.
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I am not saying that Fox dominates cable, but the top 14 shows are all FOX!

Yes, O’Reilly is still Number one, but his demographics are troublesome. His audience is primarily over 55, and that demographic is is the distribution phase of life not the consumption phase that buys things that advertisers like.

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In Baltimore, a new program called Bikemore placed about half a hundred bikes in stands to encourage people to exercise around a reservoir.

Something approaching 50 youth broke in and stole them. The guy who ran the program called the theft, “Shocking.”

I call the man who ran the program, “Naive.”

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The Shenseki removal or resignation reminds me that management is not a simple process.

I had the opportunity to command men in the Navy, and although managers I saw were good, and bad, the work got done by relatively happy or relatively unhappy individuals.

I then had the “opportunity” to manage a bifurcated group, about evenly divided between Sailors and Civil Servants who were protected by Civilian Service union rules — and that was a nightmare…a fully constrained management atmosphere.

Still a third management style was my management of two volunteer organizations. This is management by pleading.

Consequently, I have started two 501c(3) organizations, and promptly resigned on the spot! My management style simply does not mesh well with volunteer organizations — nor did it mesh well with Civil Service organizations.

I know nothing about Shinseki’s management style, but what I do know is that rank does not define management styles, and neither does war wounds.

Hemphill’s First Law of Management is, “Anyone can manage any project that has an unlimited budget.” That apparently is not true if a manager is constrained by a union like Civil Service or a teachers union. The VA budget has increased faster than its patient load, so funding alone is not the problem.

It may have just been a mis-match between a military management style and the organization below him.

Military men simply cannot comprehend that pure, criminal activity could occur in their organization.

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Wow! I never would have expected big liberal and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to go into the Belly of the Beast and let liberal academia have it right between the eyes!

Just read and try to digest this: “ Think about the irony: In the 1950s, the right wing was attempting to repress left wing ideas. Today, on many college campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas even as conservative faculty members are at risk of becoming an endangered species. And that is probably nowhere more true than it is here in the Ivy League. In the 2012 presidential race, according to Federal Election Commission data, 96% of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama. 96%. There was more disagreement among the old Soviet politburo than there is among Ivy League donors. And that statistic should give us some pause. I say it as someone who endorsed President Obama for reelection. Let me tell you something, neither party has a monopoly of truth or God on its side. When 96% of Ivy League donors prefer one candidate to another, you really have to wonder whether students are being exposed to the diversity of views that a great university should offer. Diversity of gender, ethnicity, and orientation is important, but a university cannot be great if its faculty is politically homogenous.
[…]
Great universities should not become predictably partisan. And a Liberal Arts education must not be an education in the art of liberalism. The role of universities is not to promote an ideology. It is to provide scholars and students with a neutral forum for researching and debating our issues without tipping the scale in one direction or repressing unpopular views.”

http://online.wsj.com/articles/notable-1401477611