URLs du Jour

2017-03-01

Happy March, everyone! Also wishing you an appropriately Ashy Wednesday. Here's Proverbs 29:25:

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.

I feel this deserves a counterpoint. One is provided by Han Solo:

Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

  • I avoided President Trump's speech to Congress. To the extent of panicky fumbling with the TiVo remote to start Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead playback while Trump was speaking in the "Live TV" corner. Close call!

    But I understand the speech was "good", in the sense that no female Congresscritters were groped, everyone kept their shoes on, etc.

    Only a few nay-sayers were appalled by the lack of fiscal sanity typified in Trump's call for "for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history." Take it, Nick Gillespie. Do we need that?

    Please. Defense spending ratcheted up during the Bush years in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq. It hasn't come close to coming back down. In a nation that has supposedly wound down two of its longest wars and where the principal threat to the homeland is a group of religious extremists who live thousands of miles away (and are, lest we forget, a byproduct of our own failed occupation of the Middle East), we always need more money for defense, right?

    No, we do not.

    Nick also tackles one of my own pet bugaboos, the notion that defense spending is properly measured in "percent of GDP".

    Defense spending isn't something that scales up or down depending on the size of the economy (or even the number of people in the United States), so the idea that any sort of automatic formula makes sense doesn't pass the laugh test. Do our "enemies"—a loose-enough term to cover by ISIS and, say, North Korea, China, Russia, and Mexican immigrants—get smarter or more devious over time? Probably, but why that would require more money instead of more ingenuity on our part is unclear.

    Up in our corner of the US, the New Hampshire and Maine Congressional delegations would probably go along with Trump on this, especially if it saves the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. (Which currently holds the shipyard record for US submarines destroyed.)

  • Another Pun Salad bugaboo is the Export-Import Bank. Tim Carney offers some qualified good news: "Trump compromise could end 'Boeing's Bank' for good".

    [Treasury Secretary] Mnuchin hinted that Trump may transform the Export-Import Bank of the United States — an agency that mostly subsidizes a few large businesses, their foreign (largely state-owned) customers, and some giant Wall Street banks — into an agency that mostly subsidizes U.S. businesses trying to do business overseas.

    Carney notes that this isn't as good as killing Ex-Im. (And that's apparently still on the table.) But Ex-Im's current "crippled" state, where it can't make loans over $10 million, might become the new normal. And that's better than going back to the previous state of affairs, where most of the money went to subsidizing large corporations.

  • And Slashdot provides the headline for one merriment-inducing story: "Congressional Candidate Brianna Wu Claims Moon-Colonizing Companies Could Destroy Cities By Dropping Rocks".

    Apparently the original headline was "Brianna Wu is a Harsh Mistress", a reference to … OK, if you don't get the reference, use the Google, buy the book you find, and read it.

    Ms. Wu's fears were in response to Elon Musk's privately-funded proposal to send two civilians up and around the Moon, using his company's Falcon Heavy booster and Dragon capsule. Her tweets on the issue (some since deleted) are reproduced at the Federalist. Shorn of twitter-flotsam:

    This is being covered as a fun hijink for rich people, but the idea of a private corporation having access to moon should give you pause. The Moon is probably the most tactically valuable military ground for earth. Rocks dropped from there have power of 100s of nuclear bombs

    Now, shorn of the "private corporation" phobia, Ms. Wu's fears are not that silly. After all, sending sizeable objects from the Moon's surface to Earth was pretty much exactly what we managed to do in the Apollo program. And, given that whole conservation of energy thing, projectiles "dropped" from the Moon approach Earth at roughly escape velocity, 7 miles/sec.

    But this is one of those deals where, if your imagined nefarious "private corporation" supervillain has the technology to implement dastardly scheme A, would also be able to carry out more effective, cheaper, and easier (but even more dastardly) schemes B, C, D, …. So Ms Wu is a lunatic. (Get it? Heh.)

    Note that Brianna Wu was also a major "Gamergate" player, on the side of the Social Justice Warriors. Wu is billed as a "transgender activist"; appropriately enough, because Wu was born with the name "John Walker Flynt".

    So maybe I should go back and put quotes around all those "Ms" above? Nah, too lazy.

  • Wu is running for Congress as a Democrat in Massachusetts's 8th congressional district, against incumbent Dem Stephen Lynch. The last Republican to hold that seat was in the 1950s. As appropriate for the home state of Elbridge Gerry, the current map of the 8th district looks like the penguin Opus from Bloom County, wearing a fedora with a flower, wielding a knife with which to attack Boston Harbor.

    Although that could be just me.

  • And finally, a tweet I made in reply to our state's junior Senator:

    A cheap but accurate shot at the ex-Governor on whose watch things got much worse.