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The Beginning Starts Soon…and the End for Some December 30, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Politics, Ron Paul.
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Well, back to politics and stuff for a bit. This coming week is the Iowa caucuses to be followed five days later by the New Hampshire primaries. No one really knows who is going to win in either party at this point. Polls show different things at different times though the only major differences seem to be things see-sawing between the recognized leaders.

When it comes to the polls there are those who claim that there will be a major upset because Ron Paul has an amazing amount of support from new voters that are filtered out of polls because of the “likely voter” qualification and people who aren’t being contacted by phone polls because of the cell phone factor.  While there might be some truth to this there in all likelihood isn’t as much to the argument as Paul’s supporters want to believe. Mostly they want to believe that their candidate has so much support that is flying under the radar that he will win both Iowa and New Hampshire. They want to believe that his message has so much strength and truth behind it that it can carry Ron Paul to the presidency. They are wrong. While it is possible that he will do better than the polls show, I think it will not be as great a factor in Iowa as they think and that while it just might be a greater factor in New Hampshire it still won’t be enough to carry him to victory in either state and he certainly doesn’t have chance in a general election.

I make no secret of the fact that I feel that Ron Paul is wrong on many issues. I disagree with quite a few libertarian positions, whether the “L” is big or small. But Ron Paul isn’t a real libertarian and where he has chosen to differentiate himself from them happens to make even more points where I disagree with him. As I understand his beliefs and those of his supporters their desire is for a basically non-existent federal government that is only involved in defense, foreign relations and interstate law enforcement. No IRS, no federal regulatory agencies and certainly no social programs would exist in their ideal world. They believe that in order for us to be following the Constitution the states must reign supreme and the federal government must be a fraction of its current size and function. Oh, and the Federal Reserve Bank must also be eliminated and our currency must be backed by gold like it used to be. Roe V. Wade was a bad decision, as was Griswold v. Connecticut and Lawrence v. Texas. Here is what Ron Paul wrote on the issue:

Consider the Lawrence case decided by the Supreme Court last June. The Court determined that Texas has no right to establish its own standards for private sexual conduct, because these laws violated the court’s interpretation of the 14th Amendment. Regardless of the advisability of such laws, the Constitution does not give the federal government authority to overturn these laws. Under the Tenth Amendment, the state of Texas has the authority to pass laws concerning social matters, using its own local standards, without federal interference.

Nowhere does he place any limits on what these moral standards might be. Think about it. How libertarian is that? What the supporters of Ron Paul fail to recognize is that should he have early success there will be even more attention paid to him. More digging into his positions won’t necessarily translate into more support whatever some may think. He didn’t acquit himself that well on Meet the Press largely because of the inherent contradictions in what he does as a member of Congress and the principles he holds. And should he do as well in either Iowa or New Hampshire as his supporters hope then this will only be the beginning of a much closer examination of his history, his policy positions and his writings. I don’t think those positions, like the one about eliminating Social Security, are going to win him enough supporters to go very far in the run for President.

The Coolest Stuff Is Just Down the Road December 29, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Geek Stuff, Technology.
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Yesterday I was helping someone shop for a laptop and researching two different models. One of them was the Dell XPS M1330. It had two technologies that made for a lighter laptop with excellent performance. One was available at only a moderate price premium and the other really kicked up the price. The first of these was a display that is backlit by LCDs instead of a fluorescent bulb. It works well and provides for a thinner, lighter screen. The other is a SSD, a Solid State Disk. With current technology these drives are outrageously expensive and don’t provide as much storage as current disk technology. In the Dell a 64 GB drive added $900 onto the price when replacing the default 120 GB drive.

What’s interesting is that I just found a small article in PC World about a new storage technology called PMC, for programmable metallization cell. Looking online I found this slightly larger article on Wired. Basically this method of storage uses a new technology called nano-ionics to build a microscopic copper bridge between electrodes on demand. If a bridge exists it represents a one, no bridge represents a zero. The difference in capacity is mind-boggling, with a terabyte of memory in a thumb-drive like the one in my pocket easily doable. One of the researchers involved in the project said that the storage based on this technique should cost one-tenth the price of current flash drive and be one thousand times as energy efficient as current flash memory. So if this technology is applied to the kind of SSD in the M1330 it would be entirely likely that an amazingly fast SSD with storage in terabytes should be cheaper than current notebook hard drives. Very impressive. Imagine the speed of this storage for a media server. Or picture the giant libraries of film that can be stored much more readily in massive on-demand movie libraries. Me, I look forward to a really economical way to quit messing with tapes for backup since I just don’t trust them. And the first products are expected to show up in about 18 months. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Good Software from CPUID December 27, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Geek Stuff, Technology.
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I found references recently to an extremely useful little tool called CPU-Z from CPUID. It’s small, fast, extremely useful and you don’t even have to install the program. Just tell it to run and it will tell you about your motherboard, memory, cpu and BIOS. The utility itself is free. There’s even an SDK for developers who are interested in incorporating the engine into their own software. There’s also an even more in-depth utility called PC Wizard as well as some other things. If you ever need some of this information or are just curious you ought to check it out.

Broadening Things Back Out December 27, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in This Blog.
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In case you hadn’t noticed the last couple of posts weren’t about politics or economics. I thought it wasn’t just time to go back to posting on a much more regular basis but to also broaden the subjects in the way I’d originally envisioned. So while I’ll post about interesting things in politics, economics and news in general there’s going to be more about books, technology and science as well.

Good Neighbors, Galactically Speaking That Is December 26, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Astronomy, Science.
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This is enough to make you really appreciate good quiet neighbors. Galactic neighbors, that is. Imagine something as energetic as a jet of radiation being shot out from a supermassive black hole, one of those huge monsters with the mass of as much as millions of stars. The energy involved must be enormous and even over those distances is very likely deadly to any life forms in the way.

Wishing Bad Luck on Your Neighbor December 25, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Astronomy, Science.
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OK. I admit it. I really hope that our neighbor has a bit of bad luck. Of course I’m not alone. There are some planetary scientists and astronomers who agree with me. Of course the neighbor is millions of miles away, our planetary neighbor Mars. If you haven’t heard about this one, Mars has a chance for a visitor next month. Normally one would feel bad about wishing something “bad” on a neighbor but if this were to happen it would be the first asteroid impact on a rocky planet that we could watch, complete with orbiter and probes on the planet. If it does happen there should be amazing images and data next month.

Merry Christmas December 25, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Uncategorized.
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It’s Christmas morning. Family arrived last night. Toddlers and children wander around, waiting for Grandma to finish preparation for the Christmas dinner ham and slip it into the oven and for their aunt, uncle and cousins that live in town to get over here so presents can be open. I did cleanup work for her all day yesterday so I get to sit here reading news and blogs and drink some coffee as I wait (Now that I’ve pulled the turkey out of the oven for her, that is.) for the chaos of opening presents with little ones to begin. Not a bad morning.

Yes, They Think We’re Stupid December 12, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Corruption, Does Not Compute, Politics.
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MSNBC reports on the last Republican candidate debate before Iowa’s caucuses. It is noted that they all basically agreed on at least one big lie.

Republican presidential rivals called for deep cuts in federal spending Wednesday in a debate remarkably free of acrimony and agreed the reductions they seek need not require painful sacrifice by millions of Americans who rely on government services.

“The sacrifice we need from the American people is saying, ‘Let the programs go that don’t work. Don’t lobby for them forever,’ ” said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, one of nine GOP presidential hopefuls sharing an Iowa stage little more than three weeks before the state’s caucuses provide the first test of the campaign.

Anyone who looks at where the government spends its money and what other promises the Republicans are making knows that this is a lie so big that it might well collapse into a black hole at any moment. Not one of the leading contenders is about to cut military spending and even the anti-war Ron Paul is unlikely to do that, he just doesn’t want our soldiers in Iraq. After all, while they all speak of cutting programs that don’t work have the words V-22 Osprey passed their lips as an example? Of course not.

At least Ron Paul admits that he believes in eliminating every social program and every regulatory agency. The others won’t admit it, but the numbers would only work out if that’s what they did. The tax cuts they want and the military spending they want pretty much leave no alternative but to make up the difference by taking it out of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and every other department that isn’t run by the Pentagon. Does anyone think that this truth will pass the lips of Romney, Huckabee, Giuliani, Thompson or Paul? I don’t.

The Curveball of Economics December 8, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Economics, Government, Politics.
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Brad DeLong points out a couple of articles that speak of the reality of tax cuts and that the Republican claims that they always produce more revenue, currently being pushed extra hard by Rudy Giuliani, just aren’t true. None of what they say is really hard to understand and it makes a lot of sense. What does it say about the politicians who refuse to acknowledge the blindingly obvious? Nothing positive. Nothing positive at all.

Who Should Get the Dishonorable Discharge? December 2, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Does Not Compute, Politics, The War in Iraq.
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The Washington Post tells us about a truly tragic situation where a soldier in Iraq broke down, threatened fellow soldiers and then attempted suicide. The professional consensus is that she was truly insane at the time of the incident and should receive the treatment she needs. The Army’s response? Court-martial her. Threaten her. Bully her. This drove her to seek an alternative to court martial, offering to resign her commission even though this would result in the loss of her veteran’s benefits. Of three recommendations, the only one from a physician said that this shouldn’t happen because there was no doubt that she had

But…

But then, from her battalion commander in Iraq, Whiteside learned that an investigation there had concluded that there was “insufficient evidence for any criminal action to be taken against” her. Furthermore, it had found a hostile command climate and recommended that the officer who had been her nemesis be removed from his position and “given a letter of reprimand for gender bias in assignments and use of intimidation, manipulation and hostility towards soldiers.”

With this news, Whiteside asked that her letter of resignation be withdrawn. She would fight the charges.

In an e-mail exchange, the prosecutor, Wolfe, told MacLean that even if Whiteside won in court she would probably end up stigmatized and in a mental institution, just like John Hinckley, the man who shot President Ronald Reagan.

Wolfe suggested that the military court might not buy the mental illness defense. “Who doesn’t find psycho-babble unclear . . . how many people out there believe that insanity should never be a defense, that it is just, as he said, an ‘excuse.’ “

 What kind of incompetent physician do the Army personnel who want to prosecute her seek to override? The man who is now the Army’s surgeon general, Major General Eric B. Schoomaker.

To answer the question in the title I propose that the prosecutor and every single officer involved in deciding to bring this prosecution are the ones who deserve dishonorable discharges for failing in their duties to their fellow soldiers in the most callous and incompetent way possible. Failing that, some long and intense courses in the real world of psychiatric medicine before they are ever put near a situation like this one again is certainly called for.