Thursday, November 24, 2011

My annual Thanksgiving post

Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American holiday.  So, what am I thankful for?  I am thankful for my family, for my wonderful wife and 2 beautiful girls.  I am also thankful for the generally pretty good life I have.  But who should I thank for all this?  The religious people thank G-d for all their blessings.  But I am not religious enough in order to do that.  And then it dawned on me.  I should thank this wonderful country called United States of America and its wonderful people.

So, thank you, America, for existing, for being a beacon of freedom in the world where freedom is far from being commonplace.  Thank you for making freedom your “national idea”, if you will.

Thank you, American Armed Forces, past and present, for ensuring our safety and, as my kids would put it, "fighting the bad guys".  It is you, who defends our freedom and wonderful opportunities this country provides.

Thank you, America, for accepting me as your own.  You welcomed me, my family and friends and made us all Americans, part of your great people.  You accept anybody who is willing to be accepted.  You made acceptance and tolerance part of your ideology too.

Finally, thank you, America, for defending “liberty and justice for all” all over the world.  Your young people volunteer to go and fight for what’s right and moral.  If I were 25 years younger I would have joined them (lame excuse really, but that’s the only one I have).  Winston Churchill once said: “The Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing, after they had exhausted all other possibilities”.  He knew what he was talking about.  It is only natural to try “all other possibilities”: people always look for easy solutions.  But in the end Americans do the right thing, no matter what the cost, for doing the right thing is a part of American ideology too.

Thank you, America.

This is a modified WW2 poster.  The modern American soldiers in Iraq were added to the original by the San Diego Chapter of Protest Warrior.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Can this happen in America?

After my Hillbuz fiasco I made a new blog friend and added 2 new links to my blogroll.  So, I’d like to discuss a post on each of these blogs.  One post is this, on Fuzzy Logic:

If this doesn't scare you, nothing will.  From Politico's Bill Daley interview:

“And all President Obama has to do to achieve this [times "better" than the past three years] is make a startling end run around not just the Republicans but also the Democrats, in Congress.

All he has to do, Daley says, is operate in domestic affairs with the same speed, power and independence that he possesses in foreign and military affairs.”

Go read it all.  And follow the links there.  One in particular takes you to the Glenn Beck TV segment, where Beck demonstrates how some Democrats encourage Obama to circumvent the Constitution, and Obama is quite willing to do so.  Then go to this post on Legal Insurrection:

Sometimes the Editorial Board of The NY Times gets it right, even if for the wrong reasons, as in this editorial, The Court and the Next President:

When Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. began the new Supreme Court term by congratulating Antonin Scalia on his 25th anniversary as a justice, it was a reminder that Justice Scalia is now 75 as is Anthony Kennedy and that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 78.

Since 80 is the average retirement age of justices over the past generation, whoever is elected president could shape the court for the next generation….

That’s about as much as The Times’ editors get right, and the rest of the editorial is devoted to bashing Republican candidates and the conservatives on the Court.

Again, read this one in full.  And then think of these two in combination.  Can you imagine what will happen if Obama gets a chance to pack the Supreme Court, like FDR did?  So, for those who want a Conservative nominee, go ahead and support whoever you like in the Primaries, but once the nominee is chosen, support that nominee.  It does not even matter if whoever is nominated and hopefully wins, nominates to the Court Justices as liberal as Obama would.  Because hopefully whoever that will be, it will not be Obama.  If you wait for some “real Conservative” to come along in 2016, and let Obama win in the meantime, you may not get a chance in 2016!  The scariest part of that Glenn Beck segment is the moment when Obama says that it is tempting to change laws without Congressional approval, his audience cheers him on, chanting: “Yes, you can!”  There is enough people in this country apparently that seem to think that giving the President that much power is a good thing.  History is my hobby, and so I can think of one historical analogy in particular: the Enabling Act.  Think this can’t happen in America?  Would you like to take that chance?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Being attacked unfairly sucks, …

… especially by someone on your side.  Now I know how the Soviet soldiers escaping from Nazi POW camps felt when they were accused of treason and sent to GULAG or shot upon reaching their own lines.  Well, obviously what happened to me is not quite that bad, but unfair and unwarranted accusation still hurts, especially since it would only take about 5 minutes for the person doing the accusing to clear the matter, if he would only bother to do so.  All he had to do was to follow the link to this blog provided with that original comment.

Here is what happened.  A couple of days ago I posted a comment on one of the blogs I like, Hillbuz, expressing concern about Conservatives (and Hillbuz owner Kevin in particular) attacking Romney incessantly and refusing to support him under any circumstances.  Here is the blog post on which I commented.  Below is the text of my comment:

Romney is definitely not my first choice. I like Cane. But what are you going to do if he does get nominated? Any of the Republican candidates is much better than Obama, including even Ron Paul with his isolationist/McGovern-like foreign policy. I'd like to remind you of Reagan's "11th commandment": never speak ill of a fellow Republican. Right now all these attacks on Romney make it much easier for Obama to win, should Romney get the nomination. Ultimately we all want Obama to lose in 2012. So, he is the one we need to attack. People were saying that McCain or Hillary were Obama-light. But any "Obama-light" would be infinitely better than "Obama-full version".

I got much more than just a comment in response.  I got a full front page dressing down.  Go ahead and read it in full.  In short, Kevin accused me of being paid Romney campaign operative trolling his blog.  He then came up with very strange theories about who I am and what I do, including some devious explanation of why I misspelled Herman Cain’s last name (it was simply a stupid mistake not caught by the spell checker).  Only one commenter on that post seemed to be willing to give me the benefit of the doubt.  I thank her for that.  Kevin then proceeded to block me from commenting on his blog, leaving me no way to respond to his accusations.  So, I am going to post my response here, exactly as I would on his blog.  Maybe someone might read it here and then let Kevin know about it.  So, here goes:

Wow, front page dressing down for my little comment!  And here I just subscribed to replies in the comments section.  Sorry, it took me 2 days to reply.  But, here it is.

Who I am is easily established: the link to my blog was provided in the original comment.  But maybe that link somehow did not come through.  So, here it is again:  And, Kevin, you surely got my personal e-mail, since I did enter it when I wrote that original comment.  How many trolls do you know that give you their personal e-mails?  That one wasn't even web mail, it was the one that goes straight to the hard drive of my home computer.  The IP might have been a little funky, since, if I remember correctly, I wrote that original comment at work, during my lunch hour.  But this one is straight from home.  Go ahead, check the IP.  I don't know who is your blog space provider, but I use Wordpress.  They send all that information in the e-mail.  Incidentally, about work and that "steady paycheck".  I do get it, as an Electronics Engineer, designing electronics for a medical equipment company.  That is also easily established from my blog (the part about me being an Electronics Engineer that is).  Incidentally, if you go there, you might read what I wrote about your blog when I added it to my blogroll.  Hint: I like your blog.  You might also learn why Obama's second term, unrestrained by the necessity to run for re-election, scares the hell out of me.  But for those who for whatever reason don't want to take time to go to my blog I'll spell it out here.  You see, I was born and grew up in the former Soviet Union.  I came to this country in 1989 at the age of 25.  So, I know exactly where the Left is trying to take this country because I've been there before.  You think what Obama is doing now is bad?  You haven't seen nothing yet.  Unrestrained by the need to appeal to the mainstream Americans, even those left of center, he will really show his true colors.  And his supporters on the Left will really push for his cult of personality.  You've seen some hints of this: children singing songs about him, children's book about how great he was as a child.  That is scary.  The books like that one I've read back when I was a kid.  They were about Lenin.  If G-d forbid, Democrats regain the majority in the House, I believe they will attempt to repeal the 22nd Amendment, the one limiting the Presidency to 2 terms.

Obama needs to be defeated at all cost.  He just has to be out of the White House, thrown back to Chicago (sorry, Kevin, that you have to share the same city with him).  Part of what scares me about possible Romney's nomination (and it is a possibility) is that enough Conservatives will not vote for him and give Obama the 2nd term.  That's how McCain was defeated.  That, and also enough people believed media lies about Sarah Palin.  For the record, she would make a great President.  But she was right not to run because all the lies about her simply could not be undone.  And I never called McCain or Hillary "Obama-lite".  I have just said that other Conservatives did.  But you see, people like you and I, McCain and Hillary, Herman Cain and Romney, all agree on goals: to keep our country free, prosperous and secure.  We might just disagree on the best way of achieving these goals.  Although, in the case of you and I, even those disagreements virtually non-existent.  You would know that if you ever take time to look at my blog.  But Obama is different.  His goal is to turn this country into that other one that I left 22 years ago.  That is why I will support anybody who runs against him.  And that brings us to that disagreement between us that started this whole conversation.  You are willing to vote for 3rd party, thereby giving Obama the 2nd term.  You prefer to wait until 2016, when hopefully a real Conservative comes along.  Let me spell it out for you and all the other Conservatives that share your view on this: YOU MAY NOT GET A CHANCE IN 2016!  Go ahead, call me a paranoid right-winger.  Tell me that it can't happen in this country.  Right now there are just baby steps in that direction: Obama's appointment of various "czars", some Democrats suggesting to suspend elections or rule by decree.  And that is while he still has to run for re-election.  What do you think will happen when he does not have to run?  Do you think that in 1933 Germany there were no people waiting for the next elections?  In fact, that was probably the majority: Hitler's party won only plurality of the votes.  Yes, I am comparing Obama to Hitler.  Not because his policies are genocidal, but because Obama's economic policies closely resemble German version of socialism at that time.  As for the other areas of resemblance, that may still come.  His "Occupy whatever" buddies are already ranting about Jewish bankers.  In case you are wondering, yes, I am Jewish.  But then, you would know it from my blog, wouldn't you?

So, you don't like Romney? Fine! Mount a primary challenge in 2016. Or get a decent Democrat to run against him. Perhaps Hillary might decide to try again. Just get Obama out! He is very dangerous to this country.

Well, I hope you will admit that you were wrong in accusing me of being a troll.  Jumping to conclusions like that, accusing someone of some insidious conspiracy?  That is something I would expect from the Left, not from you.  Perhaps, after a little research you will discover that the comment on Romney was not the first one I made on your blog.  Perhaps also you might decide to reciprocate the link I have to your blog.  But if not, that's OK.  I'll still keep the link to your blog on mine.  You probably wouldn't care: I don't get nearly as many hits as you do.  But, like I said, I like your blog, and that link is a convenient bookmark.

Best regards,


So, what do you think?  Will Kevin admit that he was wrong?

Monday, September 5, 2011

20th Anniversary

20 years ago the old Soviet Union effectively disintegrated.  Yes, it did last as a country till the end of 1991, but by the early September this disintegration was a done deal.  Jewish Russian Telegraph is linking to an article on the subject and asking whether it was worth it:

As Muammar Gaddafi's rule crumbles in Libya, the anniversary of another revolution is passing by almost unnoticed. In August 1991, a cabal of Kremlin hardliners moved against Mikhail Gorbachev, whose reforms they saw as weakening state power and giving too much autonomy to the Soviet Union's constituent republics. Gorbachev was detained on a Crimean vacation and officially declared to be taking a health-related leave of absence, with an eight-man State of Emergency Committee taking the reins of power. After three tense days that saw tanks in Moscow's streets and a deadly clash between Soviet troops and pro-democracy protesters, the coup failed, and the fallout helped hasten the end of the communist regime and the Soviet empire.

In my opinion, it was definitely worth it, especially for the Russians and other residents of the former Soviet Union.  Although, I believe that it would have been easier for our government here in America to deal with a single entity, if a democratic Soviet Union was ever possible, the disintegrated Soviet Union is better than a totalitarian regime that existed before fall of 1991.  And despite the authoritarian tendencies existing in Russia today, modern Russia is much more free than the old Soviet Union ever was.  Russian nationalism is dangerous, but perhaps the good life made possible by the market economy will keep the dangerous tendencies in check.

Mob boss or Union boss?

Is there any difference?  Especially, in light of Jimmy Hoffa Jr’s rhetoric:

Cranking up the anti-Tea Party rhetoric, Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa called on workers to "take these son-of-a-bitches out" as he warmed up a crowd Monday in Detroit ahead of President Obama's Labor Day speech.

But then, historically the mafia connection was always there.  And, with rhetoric like this, Jimmy Hoffa Jr. was practically asking for this connection to be brought up.

Engineers and technically illiterate politicians

As an engineer, I often get frustrated when politicians make pronouncements on some technical issues.  I often know for a fact that what they might be saying is idiotic, and they have no idea what they are talking about.  Technical progress does not happen because politicians just wish for it.  And physics cannot conform to political sound bytes.  Turns out, I am not the only engineer frustrated with technical illiteracy of the politicians.  Here is an article in EE Times:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated that the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard reach 54.5 miles/gallon by 2025 (so many significant figures in that goal—the precision is truly admirable!). Before you say "huh?", note that this goal has many loopholes, subclauses, and qualifiers, befitting a number set by bureaucrats, see here.

Read it all.  While you are at it, check out this comic relief.  Whatever this comedian says about marketing and management, applies to politicians ten-fold.

Links updated

After long period of neglect it was finally time to update my links.  Some links that no longer worked got deleted.  Some new links got added.  All the new links are worth checking out.  The ones I’d like to mention separately are:

Citizen’s Magazine, maintained by a guy from Odessa, like myself;

HillBuzz, by former Democrats who after 2008 elections realized that the Democratic Party they used to support was very different from the leftist monstrosity it has become lately.

One interesting thing about HillBuzz authors is that the core authors is a Gay couple who used to support Hillary Clinton.  They seem to have no problems with religious Christians who might not approve of their lifestyle, but agree with them on all the other issues.  Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that this Gay couple realizes that the religious Christians, while might voice their disapproval, will never do anything beyond that.  On the other hand, we are facing the enemies that will kill them for their lifestyle.  Add to this the fact that Socialism creates misery equally for everybody, Gay or straight, and you have a couple of Gays who are just as Right-Wing as I am: real liberals.

In light of the HillBuzz story, it is worth mentioning one of the deleted links, Charles Johnson’s Little Green Footballs.  Immediately after 9/11 Charles was instrumental in starting anti-jihadi blogosphere.  However, toward the end of Bush’s term he started vicious arguments on his blog with whoever he perceived not polite enough to our enemies.  He also found himself arguing with religious Christians over issues that were ultimately irrelevant to our struggle against those who want to kill us.  And he was willing to twist the facts and words of those who he disagreed with in order to advance his arguments.  For example, in one of his attacks on Glenn Beck he twisted Beck’s argument to make him into an idiot, even though Beck was arguing the same point Charles was.  All right, I’ll mention what it was about.  Back then some video appeared on Youtube about some FEMA camps.  The argument was made that Obama was preparing concentration camps.  Glenn Beck showed the video on his program and then proceeded to talk about ridiculousness of this conspiracy theory, even bringing in experts to explain how ridiculous this theory about Obama preparing concentration camps was.  For the record, I have no love for Obama administration and I do believe that comparisons between this administration economic policies and National-Socialist economic policies have merit.  And there is no conspiracy in it.  But that particular conspiracy theory was indeed ridiculous.  Charles Johnson and Glenn Beck both pointed that out.  But Beck also showed that Youtube video on his program in order to illustrate what he was talking about.  Charles posted about it on his blog, portraying Beck as a supporter of the conspiracy theory he was arguing against.  Well, anybody can make a mistake.  But I saw that particular Beck’s program.  So, I made a comment on Charles’s blog, pointing out his mistake.  It did not matter: Charles continued piling on Beck.  Lately Charles’s blog degenerated into vicious attacks against anybody who disagrees with him personally.  So, I am not going to link to his blog any longer.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

My comments on women in combat

Bookworm linked to an interesting article analyzing the possible performance of female members of  American military in combat.  While it is obvious to any sane individual that lowering standards in order to allow women to participate in combat will be deadly, it is useful to look at historical examples of women in combat and analyze possible advantages that women might have over men.  These historical examples do not need to be from some ancient history.  World War 2 examples are very relevant for this purpose.

1st, let’s mention something that, while extremely dangerous, does not necessarily involve direct combat: intelligence and sabotage work.  Here is one example, but really, to list them all a book is required.  The advantages are obvious: women often attract less suspicion than men.  And, while such operations often do not involve direct combat, they come very close to what often Special Forces do.

2nd example is snipers.  Female snipers were quite numerous in the Soviet Army during World War 2.  The most famous one was Lyudmila Pavlichenko.  During defense of Odessa and Sevastopol she was credited with 309 kills.  There were others: Marie Ljalkova, Ziba Ganiyeva, Nina Lobkovskaya and Tanya Baramzina.  These are just the ones I found in Wikipedia.  There were much more, it’s just too hard to find info on them.  However, according to the Wikipedia articles I found, the Soviets had Central Women’s Sniper Training School, so obviously there were more than I listed.  Do women make better snipers than men?  Well, it is quite possible: they tend to be more patient in stalking their prey.  Indeed, in the animal kingdom it is often female species who are hunters (lions, for example).  The modern example is the story about female snipers hired by the Chechen fighters in North Caucasus.  While it is hard to say whether the story is true, this certainly seems plausible.

3rd example is perhaps the most famous one.  The Soviets had 3 female Air Force regiments: 586th Fighter, 587 Bomber and 588 Night Bomber.  The 586th Fighter Regiment was assigned to air defense duties for covering rear areas from German attacks.  As such, it saw less combat than a front line unit would, although it participated with distinction in the Battle of Stalingrad.  However, a couple of girls were transferred to the regular (male) front line units, and there they showed what they were capable of.  Lilya Litvyak scored 11 personal kills, plus 3 shared, while Katya Budanova seems to be credited with 11 kills total.  These results were achieved in less than a year: unfortunately both girls were killed in combat.  In addition, Lilya Litvyak had another unusual kill to her credit, which showed some out-of-the-box thinking.  As described in Anne Noggle’s “A Dance with Death”, at one point the Germans were using an observation balloon for artillery fire correction.  Nobody could take it out, as it was heavily protected by anti-aircraft fire.  Previous attempts to bring it down by the fighter aircraft were unsuccessful and resulted in losses for the Soviets.  Lilya volunteered to shoot it down.  Rather than attempting to fly toward the balloon directly, she crossed the front line some distance away from the balloon, where there were no anti-aircraft defenses.  Then she approached the balloon from the German side.  By the time the Germans realized what was happening and opened fire on her, the balloon was down, and Lilya was flying back to base.  I want to indulge a bit: here is the picture of the Yak-1 fighter Lilya was flying.


As a side note, Lilya Litvyak had a very good reason to fight the Nazis: ethnically she was at least half-Jewish.

But getting back to the subject at hand: do women make better fighter pilots?  Again, it’s quite possible.  First of all, they can be just as aggressive and competitive as men.  Second, there are evidence that women can sustain higher G-forces than men.  The reasons seem to be the facts that center of gravity of female body is proportionally lower than that of male (butt is wider than the upper body) and that women are usually shorter than men.  The fact that women are shorter means that the blood has less distance to travel toward the brain, making women less prone to blackouts.  That’s important because ability to make tighter turns at higher speeds gives tremendous advantage in air combat.

The most famous of the 3 female regiments was the 588 Night Bomber, better known as Night Witches.  It was later re-designated as 46th Guards Night Bomber Regiment.  The Guards designation meant that the regiment distinguished itself in combat.  Stalin was not known for political correctness in the modern sense, so the Guards designation was well deserved.  It was also the only one of the three that was 100% female.  That included armorers who had to attach rather heavy bombs to the aircraft, so the women came up with mechanisms to help them lift the bombs.  The other 2 regiments had some male personnel.  The Fighter Regiment had a male commander and some male ground personnel.  But it is the history of the 587th Bomber Regiment that demonstrates the capabilities and limitations of women in combat the best.

The 587th Bomber Regiment was commanded originally by Marina Raskova, who originally suggested to Stalin the formation of all-female Air Force regiments.  Unfortunately, Raskova did not live to lead her regiment into combat: she died in a flying accident before her regiment was deployed operationally.  Her replacement was a man, major Valentin Markov.  Just like the Night Bomber Regiment, the 587th was re-designated 125th Guards Bomber Regiment in 1943, which means that it was quite successful.  So, what was so special about this unit that might enable us to see the capabilities and limitations of women in combat?  We need to examine the aircraft flown by those brave ladies in order to understand that.

587th (later 125th Guards) Bomber Regiment was armed with Petlyakov Pe-2 aircraft, the main Soviet tactical bomber during the war.


Pe-2 was originally developed as a high altitude heavy fighter and designated VI-100 (VI stands for “Vysotny Istrebitel’” – High-altitude Fighter).  However, it was later decided to re-design it into a dive bomber.  As a dive bomber it was re-designated as Pe-2.  This aircraft was used for both dive bombing and level bombing.  It retained many of the fighter-like characteristics.  Indeed, its speed of 540km/h (335mph) exceeded that of many fighters in 1941.  Pe-2 had a crew of 3: pilot, navigator and radio operator-gunner.  The 2 forward-firing machine guns were fixed and fired by the pilot.  They were aimed just like in any fighter aircraft: by aiming the plane itself.  The dorsal gun, protecting the upper rear, was installed in a turret behind the pilot’s cockpit and fired by the navigator.  The radio operator-gunner fired the 3rd gun.  Its default position was ventral, protecting the lower rear.  It was also often used for strafing enemy on the ground.  However, this 3rd gun could be moved, as shown below.



This gun was quite heavy: either ShKAS or UB.  To be able to move it quickly, aim and fire required upper body strength.  That is why the position of radio operator-gunner was for the most part filled by men.  Women simply could not operate that gun effectively.

Finally, let’s analyze the problem that is not physical, but often brought up as a one of the reasons why women should not serve in combat units.  That problem is sexual tension.  As a side note, that is also often an argument against gays in the military.  Does this problem exist?  Sure, it does.  In fact, it could be argued that it led to Lilya Litvuak’s demise.  During Lilya’s time in 73rd GvIAP (Russian for Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment) she became romantically involved with another pilot, Alexey Solomatin.  Relationship was quite serious, and they got engaged.  Unfortunately, Solomatin was killed in an accident, while he was training a new pilot.  Lilya became understandably distraught and started constantly seeking combat missions without taking any time to rest.  That took its toll, and on August 1, 1943 her luck ran out.  But a situation like this one could happen to any man in combat just as well.  This has nothing to do with sex.  A death of a family member or a close friend could be just as devastating, and with the same result.

So, what can we conclude from this amateur historical analysis?  Well, it seems to me that women can in fact participate in combat and be successful at it, if they meet the requirements necessary for combat.  The key is to keep the requirements the same for men and women, rather than to try to accommodate women who cannot meet those requirements.  Thus there will be women who can be combat pilots, snipers or even covert operators.  There might even be some who can participate in infantry combat, if they meet physical requirements necessary for accomplishing the mission and survival.  But the stupid political correctness regarding this subject should be stopped.  The requirements should be based on what’s necessary for successful mission and survival, not diversity.  Thus, in those areas, where women are not at a natural disadvantage, they will succeed in higher numbers than in other areas.  And that’s OK.  Stupid social experiments for the sake of diversity should not be conducted in the military: the lives of our soldiers, both male and female, are at stake.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Trump card

Well, here is a couple of links to articles on Donald Trump’s possible Presidential run:

The Donald: Doing the Job the Media Won't Do

Trump Is for Real

No Trump

My own opinion?  It can be summarized in the title of Larry Elder’s article, the 1st one I linked to: Doing the job the Media won’t do.  Trump is blunt and unapologetic.  And that is what I like about him.  It will be hard for the leftist media to demonize him because he does not care what is said about him.  The media will still be able to ridicule him enough for people not to take him seriously, and that might bring about Obama’s re-election.  I am not sure whether he is the best candidate to beat Obama.  Perhaps Romney might be better.  He certainly might want to learn some bluntness from Trump.  For now the danger is in Republican establishment ridiculing him.  They should re-learn Reagan’s 11th Commandment:

"Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican."

Ethics of self-defence

Elder of Ziyon posted an interview with IDF ethicist from Jerusalem Post:

Tel Aviv University philosophy professor Asa Kasher co-authored the first IDF Code of Ethics and continues to work on the moral doctrines that shape the parameters of our army’s actions.
He has taught at the IDF colleges since the late 1970s and for a long time was the only professor talking to officers about military ethics. When the IDF decided to try writing a Code of Ethics, he was approached and appointed head of a team of generals that wrote a draft and then the final version of the 1994 code, which was approved by chief of staff Ehud Barak and prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
In the wake of Richard Goldstone’s belated withdrawal of the accusation that Israel deliberately targeted civilians in Operation Cast Lead, and the fresh round of moral argument the judge’s climbdown has provoked, I contacted Kasher to discuss the IDF’s ethics. I wanted to understand the thinking that underpins IDF dos and don’ts, the problematics of grappling with enemies that do not follow any such rules, and the gaping discrepancy, Goldstone’s reversal notwithstanding, between most Israelis’ certainty of the IDF’s morality and the international diplomatic, media and legal community’s relentless opprobrium.

Read the whole thing.

“Never again!”, …

… says the German woman in this video (from Atlas Shrugs):

The Underground Conservative provided full English transcript:

Never again! Never again! I am ashamed that he is allowed to speak here. I feel ashamed! I am German, and I am so sorry that someone like him can stand here and speak like Hitler! I am so ashamed! Where is everybody? Why are people not standing up in this country of ours? Why are you all keeping your mouths shut? Do you want Germany to be like those countries from which they all came? Do you really want that? You have to speak out! . . . Germany, you have to rise! Rise up, Germany!

What’s interesting is that toward the end of this video people she confronted tell her: “Stop the provocation”.  So, confronting this new kind of Nazis is now called “provocation”.  Good thing she was not arrested on top of that.  That is certainly what modern dhimmy politicians might do.

Engineers and politics

Here is another interesting article on engineers and politics from EETimes:

…The 112th Congress has 541 members. The average age in the Senate is 62.2 years, in the House 56.7 years.
The top four occupations are business, public service, law and education. There are five engineers (chart below). None in the Senate. This meager representation is ridiculous for a profession that is crucial to the economy. But then we know that.

I often asked myself if I would ever consider running for office.  The answer was always “Hell, NO”.  I would imagine many other engineers would feel the same way.  Why?  Well, because politics often requires saying a lot without much substance, something engineers are not very good at.  Those who would like to stick to engineering, like me, would not want to change careers.  I don’t even want to be a manager.  High level managers, on the other hand, are not much different from regular politicians.  So, a high level manager in office would represent only marginal improvement over a career politician.  Still, an engineer in a high political office is a nice dream to have.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Interesting analysis

Atlas Shrugs some time ago linked to this site dedicated to the opposition to Ground Zero Mosque.  It in turn provides very interesting analysis:

One of the great questions of the 21st century is: What is the true nature of Islam? There are two distinct answers to this question from the media and leaders. The popular message is that Islam is one of the great world religions, a peaceful religion, a foundation of world civilization, its Golden Age was the highpoint of history, and it preserved Western thought while we were in the Dark Ages. The alternative message is that Islam is a brutal, backward, woman abusing, violent, intellectually narrow ideology that is out to annihilate civilization.

Which side is right? How do we resolve this issue? Can it even be resolved? If we turn to the “experts” of any of the opinions, they will tell you that their view is correct. What then is the ultimate authority that will give us a firm foundation for reasoning and judgment about Islam? Is it possible to use critical thought or must we just accept the authority of experts?

There is way to achieve consensus about ideas that goes beyond expert opinion. The use of facts along with logic is the basis of critical thought. The ultimate form of critical thought uses measurements and numbers to resolve questions. This paper will use the foundational texts of Islam and measure the importance of ideas by how many words are given to concepts. The assumption is that the more content that is devoted to a subject, the greater the importance of the subject is. As an example: the Koran devotes 64% of its text to the subject of the unbeliever. This is assumed to imply that the unbeliever is important in Islamic doctrine.

Obviously, you have to read the whole thing.  People are busy and often don't have time to read books like Koran for themselves.  So, they often rely on other people to tell them what is there, so called "experts".  But experts often insert their own opinions into their analysis.  The analysis here seems to be devoid of opinion and simply presents facts.  That's what makes this analysis very valuable.  Now, the site presenting this analysis obviously has an opinion and does not hide it.  But facts themselves seem to be pretty cut and dry.

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Nerds helping troops

Here is an interesting technological news:

Improving IED Countermeasure Technology - Using RF Capture and Playback Systems

By combining the Tektronix spectrum analyzer and X-COM Systems long duration RF signal storage system, a unique tool results for the recording, analyzing, and creating of new waveforms and complex RF environments to help tackle IED countermeasure technologies.

For those who might be interested, follow the link.  There is a PDF that explains how it works.  Tektronics is a company that makes various elecronic test equipment that I often use at work.  Now I use their mixed-signal oscilloscope which I am quite happy with.

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A trial that should have happened, but never did

In the article I linked to in my previous post, Vladimir Bukovsky touches upon an interesting phenomenon: fascination of many Western intellectuals with socialism and Soviet Communism.  Just before anybody tries to point out any distinctions between Communism and Socialism, I have to explain something about the old Soviet Union.  The Soviet Union never called itself "Communist".  When I was growing up there, we were "building Communism".  But we were "country of advanced Socialism".  After all, the official name of the country was "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics".  We were always taught that Communism was the last and most advanced stage of Socialism.  So, all the distinctions between Socialism and Communism are really a matter of degree.  Soviet Communism is really a logical conclusion of the socialist policies.  So, for simplicity I will use the term "Communism", as it is accepted in this country.  The Western intellectuals refuse to acknowledge the staggering number of victims of Communism or, if they do, they find excuses for it: it was not done right, there were excesses, it was done for the greater good etc.  But the number of victims of Communism far exceeds the number of victims of Nazism.  There are several reasons for it.  First of all, unlike the Nazism, Communism is international in nature and thus has larger pool of victims.  Communism also was spread over larger territory and affected much greater population.  Finally, it simply lasted longer.  In fact, it is still around in places like North Korea and Cuba.  Yet, while Nazism, or National Socialism, is universally condemned as an anti-human ideology, its international cousin, better known as Communism, is not.  Why is that?  Well, a big reason National Socialism was condemned were Nuremberg Trials, where not just individual Nazis, but the whole system of National Socialism was put on trial.  The whole organizations, like SS, were declared criminal.  Does it mean that every member of this organization committed crimes against humanity?  No.  Many members of the Waffen-SS were simply soldiers of elite units who fought quite heroically, although for a very bad cause.  But the organization as a whole was in fact guilty of crimes against humanity.  However, Communism and organizations like KGB escaped this condemnation.  Why?  Well, one of the reasons is that Hitler and Stalin ended up on the opposite sides of World War 2.  Thus, the Soviets managed convince the world that they were ideologically on the opposite side of political spectrum.  Furthermore, from my narrow Jewish perspective, Soviets were preferable to Nazis simply because Soviet Communists were "equal opportunity murderers".  In their bigger pool of victims the statistical chance of survival was better.  And so, the Soviets became "good guys".  Their crimes were largely hidden.  And just like the Nazis before 1939, they did not overtly attack any country.  So, for many people it was very hard to understand what was so bad about the Soviet Union.  In 1979 the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, but even now, in light of 9/11, an argument can be made that a Soviet-controller Afghanistan would be better than Taliban- or Al-Qaeda-controlled.  And in any case, the Soviets of 1980s seem definitely more Western-like and more civilized than Taliban.  But after the fall of the Soviet Union the crimes of the Soviet Communists for the most part still remained hidden.  What Vladimir Bukovsky suggests should have happened is a Nuremberg-like trial, where the whole Soviet system would be tried.  That is where the archives should have been open, and all the Soviet crimes against humanity would have been revealed for the world to see.  Unfortunately this never happened, although for time there was a chance that it might.  This crazy fascination with the Soviet system still remains in the Western intellectual circles.  That even includes our current President.  But I'd like to make any small contribution to breaking this fascination.  Vladimir Bukovsky compiled his own archives.  Read them at your leisure.  Pass the link around.  Maybe enough people will open their eyes to the crimes of National Socialism's international cousin.  Maybe eventually the whole Socialist ideology will be exposed for what it is: an anti-human system of oppression, death and destruction.

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Soviet dissident on political correctness

I periodically get e-mails from Jewish Russian Telegraph, a blog maintained by Americans of the same background as mine out of Boston.  One of their recent posts linked to this article/lecture by Vladimir Bukovsky, a famous Soviet dissident:

...Countless new theories, first of all linguistic ones, came into being. Remember Orwell saying that the leftists always seek to win the terminological war first. And so it went: you cannot call them Miss or Missis, because this is how we define their marital status – this is unacceptable. An unlikely form for the English language showed up – Mis. It is hard to pronounce, but it was only the beginning. They went on saying that it is indecent to say history (his story), you should rather say her story. Countless linguistic novelties fell on our heads: we were told that we cannot use the word seminary, because it is originated form the word “semen” – one should say ovulary instead. And, on the whole, how should we call women? It was a great puzzle for the new academics.
The word woman contains the word man and this is terrible. Call it female – even worse. There is the word male in it. So they coined a new term to define women: wofe (wo from woman and fe from female). And now we are to call them this way, otherwise we are male chauvinist pigs!

It sounds nonsensical. Aren’t there enough madmen in the world? I was once incarcerated with many madmen and got fully used to them. But the thing is that the present day society, especially American, is primitive. It takes in any folly and soon turns it obligatory to anyone. Especially the American society. Although the European societies are surely no less conformist. So we are to accept everything thrown at us for the sake of success. For life to go smoothly, it is by no means unacceptable to be non-conformist.

This kind of American pattern has quickly spread as mandatory. It is a mandatory paradigm, because it is incredibly incorporated into legislation. Among other things, this new feminist movement blamed men of sexism. In their view, all men are sexists because they see a sex object in a woman, therefore everything in relation with the woman or sex needs to be eliminated. Any flirt between a man and a woman was called an “oppressive action” (with exploitation in mind). Therefore, if you make a joke at your co-worker, or, even worse, your subordinate, you are in trouble – she will sue you and you will lose your job.


But it does not end here. You cannot say that women are less inclined towards certain professions. For example, the president of Harvard University said in a private meeting that women, due to certain reasons, perhaps lack of interest, seldom chose precise sciences, especially mathematics. He lost his position, because a wild wave of hysteria followed his remark. He had to write an application to quit the job. And this is a mass phenomenon, reminiscent of the terror of 1937.


You see, the Americans had a surge of insanity, which had exceeded the previously accepted threshold of insanity. They had a wave of unhealthy campaign for racial equality. The campaign started on a fully sound basis at the end of the fifties, sixties and seventies. At that time the remains of racism were really obvious, especially in the South, but in the North it was never there. This was a really unacceptable and meaningless phenomenon, and the case for racial equality was fully grounded. But, just like all other campaigns of the kind, after this campaign reached its goals, its activists carried on until they got to the point of absurdity and started demanding for “positive discrimination”. The activists behind this campaign were blinded by utopia. They did not believe that inequality was a natural state, that we are all born unequal. It is like the followers of Rousseau, who believed that a human being is like a piece of clay and you can knead it into any shape you like.

Therefore, the followers of the campaign took the fact that the racial equality movement did not produce a sufficient number of successful black people, such as professors, millionaires, etc., as their failure, and resolved to strive for equal results rather than equal opportunities. And so they started introducing the so called “positive discrimination”, which brought about the existing quotas. Those are not official, but they are working. Every university has to enroll a certain percentage of the black people. It has never been put down in writing anywhere, but everyone knows that if they don’t do this, they will have their eyes scratched, they will face endless court trials, and alike troubles. Quotas at work. Here is a private company, and, out of the blue, a public fury erupts – why is there only one woman on the board? Women make up about half of all inhabitants on the earth, so they should make about 50 per cent of all the board members. And so on. Isn’t it madness to push people to certain positions judging merely by the colour of their skin or gender, even if they could not claim such positions based on their personal characteristics and skills?

Let’s go back to the army. When women gained their right to serve in the army, they found a great niche: they go to the army, serve there for three months or so, file a case of sexual harassment, the court awards them several million dollars and they leave. It is a reasonable way to get rich in two or three years. In the US army, a new type of uniform appeared – that is of a “pregnant soldier”. I never have fancied I would live to see such a thing! The very concept of “pregnant soldier” is a terminological contradiction. Men are supposedly there to protect pregnant women. This riddle is not for my mind. Nevertheless, there is such a uniform.

The excerpts don't really do this article justice.  Yes, it is rather long, but you have to read it all.  If you don't have time to sit in front of a computer and read it, print it out and read it before sleep, or while you are riding on a bus or a subway, or even while you are sitting in a bathroom, but read it all.  In fact, here is what I've done.  I copied the article into a Word document and converted it into a PDF here.  That way you can just download and print the article without anything else.  I will leave you, though, with this chilling conclusion of the article:

I don’t see why we should repeat the same mistakes the West was making all those 70 years throughout the Cold War. You will also have political correctness, let me assure you. You are in the European Union, and political correctness is but an EU ideology. It will reach you from Brussels and become obligatory. And you will have nowhere to hide, because the Brussels decisions have precedence over the decisions of national parliaments. The problem is not the idea that you may discuss. The problem is that discussions on the idea are not allowed. Discussing it will soon be punishable by prison (emphasis mine – Eric-Odessit.  If you have any doubt that Mr. Bukovsky is right in his prediction, you can just look at Geert Wilders prosecution). Trust me. I am an old jailbird, and I know when it whiffs with prison. And in the West this whiff starts to appear. This is the thing. It is not a matter of free choice. It will reach you like a ban on smoking. Today you think that it does not concern you. It will. In the West they always thought that they had nothing to do with communism. They had. This is why it is better to be prepared in advance. And what is positive? Well, a positive side can be found about anywhere. Communism had its positive sides, too. If we were friends back then, we were friends for real, for ages, risking lives for each other.  And this means something. Under communism, atheism and the struggle for domination made science develop in huge strides. We had great physicists, mathematicians – well, that is positive, who would argue? But this doesn’t mean that the very phenomenon was positive. You could have achieved the same things by other more vegetarian means, couldn’t you?

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Back in a saddle?

The short answer to this question is that I don't know.  I've been so depressed about the direction this country is taking and, even worse, by people's refusal to even listen to any alarms, that I simply did not feel like blogging.  So, I just concentrated on my own everyday life.  And whenever I had time for blogging I avoided it by finding something else to do.  But today my wife took the kids skating (something I usually do, but I am sick), and I decided to get into it again.  Let's see if I will keep it up.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Again, Cult of Personality gets promoted

Here is another video of indoctrination:

As it turns out, there is an Obama Scholars program offered by Arizona State University.  Still, why is there a scholarship named after a live sitting President?  As I said many times, this all is very reminiscent of the Soviet style cult of personality.

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Scary possibility

Apparently, there is a new bill being pushed through Senate by none other than Joe Lieberman, along with Sen. Collins, called ‘‘Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010’’Here is the article on the subject:

The federal government would have “absolute power” to shut down the Internet under the terms of a new US Senate bill being pushed by Joe Lieberman, legislation which would hand President Obama a figurative “kill switch” to seize control of the world wide web in response to a Homeland Security directive.

Lieberman has been pushing for government regulation of the Internet for years under the guise of cybersecurity, but this new bill goes even further in handing emergency powers over to the feds which could be used to silence free speech under the pretext of a national emergency.

Read the whole thing.  Here is the original link to the bill itself in the PDF format.  In case it goes away for some reason, I saved it to my site here.  Now, admittedly, the sponsors of the bill are not Obama supporters and seem to be more concerned with possible cyber attacks than anything else.  Still, giving the Federal Government that much power to control the Internet seems to be taking national security a bit too far.  I first heard about it on the local radio show, and then found a link to it on Bookworm's site.  I'd be very much interested to see some legal analysis of this bill.  Are my concerns justified?

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Soviet satire and Obama Administration

When I was growing up in the Soviet Union, among the most popular satire authors were the duo of Ilf and Petrov.  They were long gone by the time I was growing up: Ilf died of tuberculosis in 1937, and Petrov was killed in a plane crash during World War 2.  Still, their humor and ability to laugh at the Soviet reality of 1920s - 1930s ensured their continuing popularity.  They were especially popular in my native city of Odessa, because that's where they were from.  Their 2 main novels are The Twelve Chairs and its sequel, The Golden Calf.  The 1st of the 2, The Twelve Chairs, even was made into a Mel Brooks movie.  The main character of the novels, Ostap Bender, is basically a small-time con artist trying to get rich in the early Soviet Union during the time of New Economic Policy, when some elements of free enterprise were allowed.  Upon getting reach, Bender dreams of escaping the Soviet Union to Rio-de-Janeiro, where, he is sure, "everybody wears white pants".  In the 2nd novel, The Golden Calf, Bender and his cohorts set their sights on Aleksandr Koreiko, an "underground millionaire".  Koreiko was "underground" because there were no legal millionaires in the Soviet Union.  He made his millions by cleverly defrauding the Soviet Government.  For example, in one instance Koreiko set up a chemical factory.  This chemical factory never produced anything.  The whole production process amounted to transferring water from one barrel to another.  The source of income for this factory and personally for Mr. Koreiko were government grants and loans.  Right before discovery Koreiko managed to disappear with the money.  Of course, Koreiko could not spend his money, because that would reveal to everybody his ill-gotten riches.  He had to stay "underground", posing as a lowly bureaucrat.  And that made him vulnerable to blackmail.  Ostap Bender conducted an extensive investigation, gathered enough evidence and succeeded in extorting a million rubles from Koreiko.

Both books are hilarious and were always a part of the culture in the Soviet Union, often quoted by people in regular conversations.  But someone might ask: "What does it have to do with Obama Administration?"  Well, a couple of days ago I caught a glimpse of Glenn Beck's program in which he mentioned a company by the name of Molten Metal Technology Inc. and one of its officers named Maurice Strong.  Beck said that the company's source of income were US Government grants, and that Strong and some other company leaders sold their stock, making millions, right before our Government stopped paying, and the company went belly up.  I immediately thought: "Wait a minute, I remember that story".  Indeed, that is exactly the episode out of one of my favorite books, the one I described above.  I looked it up.  Here is one article on the subject:

...The tawdry tale of the top two global warming gurus in the business world goes all the way back to Earth Day, April 17, 1995 when the future author of “An Inconvenient Truth” travelled to Fall River, Massachusetts, to deliver a green sermon at the headquarters of Molten Metal Technology Inc. (MMTI). MMTI was a firm that proclaimed to have invented a process for recycling metals from waste. Gore praised the Molten Metal firm as a pioneer in the kind of innovative technology that can save the environment, and make money for investors at the same time.

“Gore left a few facts out of his speech that day,” wrote EIR. “First, the firm was run by Strong and a group of Gore intimates, including Peter Knight, the firm’s registered lobbyist, and Gore’s former top Senate aide.”

(Fast-forward to the present day and ask yourself why it is that every time someone picks up another Senate rock, another serpent comes slithering out).

“Second, the company had received more than $25 million in U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) research and development grants, but had failed to prove that the technology worked on a commercial scale. The company would go on to receive another $8 million in federal taxpayers’ cash, at that point, its only source of revenue (emphasis mine - Eric-Odessit).

“With Al Gore’s Earth Day as a Wall Street calling card, Molten Metal’s stock value soared to $35 a share, a range it maintained through October 1996. But along the way, DOE scientists had balked at further funding. When in March 1996, corporate officers concluded that the federal cash cow was about to run dry, they took action: Between that date and October 1996, seven corporate officers—including Maurice strong—sold off $15.3 million in personal shares in the company, at top market value. On Oct. 20, 1996—a Sunday—the company issued a press release, announcing for the first time, that DOE funding would be vastly scaled back, and reported the bad news on a conference call with stockbrokers (emphasis mine - Eric-Odessit).

“On Monday, the stock plunged by 49%, soon landing at $5 a share. By early 1997, furious stockholders had filed a class action suit against the company and its directors. Ironically, one of the class action lawyers had tangled with Maurice strong in another insider trading case, involving a Swiss company called AZL Resources, chaired by Strong, who was also a lead shareholder. The AZL case closely mirrored Molten Metal, and in the end, Strong and the other AZL partners agreed to pay $5 million to dodge a jury verdict, when eyewitness evidence surfaced of Strong’s role in scamming the value of the company stock up into the stratosphere, before selling it off.

The article ties Mr. Strong to Obama.  Read it all.  But isn't it ironic, how life imitates one of my favorite childhood books.  Here is another article, this one about how Al Gore and the above-mentioned Maurice Strong making money off the carbon credits.  Indeed, Gore made millions off this scheme.  Al Gore, Maurice Strong and other Global Warming gurus are nothing more that scam artists, just like Aleksandr Koreiko, the fictitious character from the old Russian novel.  Do you think there might be an Ostap Bender who might take time to investigate and expose the bastards?

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Trying to get back into the game

Yes, I know: when good guys give up, the bad guys win.  I hope to be on the side of good guys, and so it is time for me to shake off my apathy.  So, as a starting point, here is a couple of videos of Geert Wilders speech e-mailed to me by a friend.

Part 1:

Part 2:

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Sunday, May 2, 2010


I haven't updated my blog for a while.  There is a number of reasons for it.  But yesterday I started thinking about it.  I came to conclusion that all the usual suspect reasons for being silent: busy at work, family obligations etc. are just excuses.  The real reason is that I just was not in the mood to write anything.  I am simply running out of arguments.  Or, more precisely, my arguments are being dismissed by people who just refuse to listen.  I am of course talking about politics and about what the current administration is doing to this country.  Whenever I point out that what Obama is doing reminds me of the old country (Soviet Union), people say: "No, you are exaggerating".  A friend sent me an article dismissing the claims that he is a Socialist based on the fact that people calling themselves Socialist say that Obama is not.  Maybe, he is just not socialist enough for them.  It is not just Conservatives in this country who call him "Socialist".  Putin said that his economic measures lead to it.  "Pravda" called him "Socialist" as well.  Yet, first 25 years of my life's experience are dismissed by people who are often my friends and agree with me.  That particular friend that thinks that I am overreacting did not vote for Obama and does not like him much.  Yet, she does not see much danger in tendency of schoolchildren singing songs about Obama.  If I can't persuade someone who often agrees with me, how can I hope to change the minds of people who voted for the guy?  In recent poll they found that 50% of American Jews see Obama as strong supporter of Israel.  Republican Jewish Coalition thinks that this is a good thing: now "only" 50% of American Jews are Democrat Party zombies.  50%?!  After a member of this administration suggests shooting down Israeli warplanes should they fly to attack Iranian nuclear facilities!?  People like those 50% will never be persuaded.  They will be like those shot by Stalin's secret police: shouting "Long live comrade Stalin!", as they were being shot.

And so, the name of this post is "Despair".  Because that is my general feeling.  Perhaps I am wrong to feel this way.  I will try to force myself to post regularly: we should not be giving up.  Please give me some time.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Engineering perspective

Engineers are unique group of people.  They tend to try to dig into things in order to understand how they work.  They also tend to avoid jumping to conclusions and are hard to influence emotionally.  In a word, they are nerds.  So, here is a couple of articles brought to me by professional newsletters that I receive: Planet Analog and Power Management Design Line.  But first, an excerpt from the Editor's note from Planet Analog:

...And now, the "long-story long" version--in alignment with the analog world, I've always preferred to be on the trailing edge of leading developments; in other words, not being an early adopter. And I am also very hesitant and skeptical whenever a hot new development is heralded as the answer to all your problems, whatever ails you. (We see this repeatedly in our overhyped industry and society.) Finally, I'm not a fan of using frequent (out)bursts of under 140 characters; I prefer a longer 500-word column (sorry, it's now called a "blog") or even a well-reasoned, articulated, full-length essay such as Raymond Chandler's skillful The Simple Art of Murder or George Orwell's timeless Politics and the English Language. (These are available online, but I am not sure if these are "legal" versions due to copyright ownership, so I'd rather not give any URLs.)

Equally important, as an engineer, I subscribe to Shannon's Information Theory, which says that less (news) conveys more (importance). I certainly don't want to add unnecessarily to the already too-high level of clutter and commentary noise around us, which reduces the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), thus obscuring and sometimes even burying worthwhile messages.

But given all that, there is a place for Twitter, when used appropriately and judiciously. It's another tool which we can use--where it makes sense. So that's what I will try do, by tweeting when there is something I think will be of interest or noteworthy, and not tweeting simply for the sake of being "out there" and trendy. I promise!

Beyond Newton's Laws and Maxwell's Equations: one thing that engineers know (or learn) is that in addition the laws of physics we have, there are also other "laws" that should limit our hubris; among these is the "Law of Unintended (or Unforeseen) Consequences". This was nicely shown in an article I came across from The Wall Street Journal about how and why the use of low-flow showerheads may actually increase water usage, "Under Pressure: Bathers Duck Weak Shower Heads". Unlike some technically obscure or hard-to-understand examples, this is a wonderfully clear one. It's a lesson worth keeping in mind whenever you or a co-worker explain, with absolute confidence and certainty, the implications of design decisions, especially in the area of user interface and interaction (but not limited to those areas only).

I just excerpted the part that did not contain any professional stuff.  But it does have a link to an interesting article about unintended consequences of stupid regulations.  Do read it.  Bill Schweber, the above-mentioned Editor, also supplied his own article on Global Warming:

I once heard that you should be skeptical of any discipline with the word "science" included. The reasoning is that the addition of "science" is merely a device for enhancing the credibility of a particular discipline. While that comment was made in connection with "social science," it also applies to climate science.

I'm not discussing here whether man-made global warming is real, or is part of other, larger forces, or not happening at all. What I am saying is that the discpline called climate science does not meet my standards for what can be legitimately be considered science.

Here's why: I'm a strict constructionist when it comes to using the "s" word. Scientific theories are established by developing a hypothesis and a model, then verifying them by repeated experiments and control groups. In the case of climate science, researchers don't have that opportunity, for obvious reasons.

Again, read the whole thing.  While majority of people are not engineers, engineering perspective can be useful for understanding things.  Finally, a bit of an explanation of the current Toyota problems, again by Bill Schweber:

We're all aware of the two mega-recalls of Toyota vehicles. The quick and easy explanation is that "cars are too complicated" and "cars have too many processors and too much software."

Certainly, there is some truth to that (software-controlled cars creep me out), but the sticking-accelerator problem has nothing to do with electronics; it's a mechanical problem with a mechanical solution. But the real problem which designers of mass-market, high-volume products really face is the law of large numbers. When you have tens or hundreds of thousands of a product out in the market, some of their incredibly obscure and subtle problems will eventually surface.


To those pundits in media who so quickly criticize the Toyota problem as a result of poor engineering and inadequate testing, I say "you have no idea what you are talking about." It's only because the basic design is so good and reliable, and the number of units on the road is so large, that these problems can even have a chance to appear. The law of large numbers is tough to work around, and does not yield easily to amendments.

I still think that Toyota is a very good car, with solid and reliable design.  But the article explains to those, who are not engineers, a little bit of what is involved in designing and testing a mass-produced product.  So, again an obligatory recommendation to read the whole thing.

I really wish more people in this country got more interested in designing and making things.  Just shuffling money will not sustain this country.  Some time ago I posted an article by Jack Ganssle of about why he became an engineer.  Now he wrote another article on this subject.  He also referred to another article from EE Times.  Both articles are interesting.  But comments are just as interesting, if not more so.  So, enjoy.  See if you can relate to any of it.  I certainly can.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Health Care - Soviet style

I wanted to write this article for a while now, but there was never enough time.  So, finally I decided to start and slowly over some time write it.

There have been a lot of talk lately about the horrors of socialized medicine on one side and the benefits of universal coverage on the other.  So, let's examine the ultimate socialized health care system - the one in the former Soviet Union.  Let's compare it to what we have here in the US.
Back in the old Soviet Union the health care was free, i. e. paid for by the Government.  You can't necessarily say that it was paid by the taxpayers, since the Government was one huge monopolistic business.  The Soviet Government did business with the outside world and conducted commerce internally.  It also employed doctors and paid them the money it printed.  Back in Odessa we used to say about the free health care: "Лечиться даром - это даром лечиться".  I am just giving you the phrase in the original Russian.  Here is the transliterated version: "Lechit'sya darom - eto darom lechit'sya".  The literal translation is: "If you get treated for nothing, it means that nothing gets treated".  The more proper phrase in English, perhaps the one some people might have heard is "The health care is free, and you get what you paid for it".  This indeed does reflect the overall situation.  But, amazingly enough, for people who were relatively healthy and had just minor problems here and there, the system actually did work.  The primary care doctors saw patients in their offices for 3 hours a day.  The rest of the day they made house calls.  Yes, if you were sick, you called your primary physician's office and request for the doctor to come visit you at home.  People were actually almost forced to do that if they were sick, even with a common cold.  Here is why.  There were no finite number of sick days per year.  Instead, every time you got sick, you were entitled to stay home, with pay, provided that it could be verified by your doctor.  So, if you can go to a clinic, you were considered well enough to go to work.  Of course, there was some abuse, but for the most part people remained honest.  The doctor was always more likely to err on the side of sending you to work.  For those who actually visited a doctor in the office, 2 or 3 days a week the office hours were conveniently from 6pm to 9pm, making it easy to have an appointment without having to take time off work.  It was relatively easy to schedule simple procedures you  might need.  So, the bottom line, for people without major problems the Soviet health care did work.  The problem would arise if you got really sick.  That is when the lack of proper equipment, lack of proper medicine, shortage of hospital space and general mess would come into play.  If you got into a hospital room with 7 or 8 other people, you were lucky.  The unlucky ones had to be stationed in the hallways.  Sometimes some patient's family would bribe somebody on the hospital staff, and the space in one of the 8-bed rooms would be made available, often by moving some unlucky soul to the hallway and moving the "paying" patient into the freed-up space in the room.  The doctors and nurses were not the highly paid professionals they are in this country.  There were good doctors and nurses, but their pay was, like that of engineers, way below any blue color worker.  So, to some extend you can hardly blame doctors and nurses for supplementing their income by re-arranging hospital beds for a fee.
On the other hand, there were special hospitals for high government and Communist Party officials.  There was always space, equipment and medicine available there, and the staff was well paid.  The general public had no access to those hospitals ...unless they either managed to bribe someone really well or knew someone in the government or party hierarchy.
What is interesting about the Soviet health care is that there were no especially designed measures to save the resources, like rationing.  Although, the different quality of care available to Communist Party officials could be construed as such.  However, the poor quality of care in general was not due to rationing, but simply a result of lack of incentive to provide good care.  Basically, the whole thing was a mess.  It will not be so, if our Government ever gets to control the health care system.  As inefficient as our Government can be, its inefficiency pales in comparison to the Soviet Government.  So, our Government will inevitable design some cost-saving measures, which will essentially amount to rationing, although they will be called something else.  And it will be much worse than the Soviet system.  Because in the Soviet Union you could try to ask your friends and acquaintances if they knew somebody who knew somebody.  You could try to bribe somebody.  Basically, there were ways around the generally messy system to get better quality care.  And nobody counted the money spent for people's care, so if some particular resource was available somewhere, there were ways, sometimes illegal, to obtain it.  However, if the Government in this country gets a hold of the health care system, it will be efficient and it will control cost.  So, if you get denied some level of care here, it will be the end of the line.  There will be no ways around the system, at least not for the first 50 years, until it becomes as messy as the Soviet system.  And it may never become as messy.  So, there will be some Government bureaucrats who will ultimately will decide who lives and who dies.  Yes, I know that a lot of people don't believe that.  But that is inevitable, because the only alternative is to design the Soviet messy system right from the start, without any cost control.  And that will never happen.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Defining Fort Hood Massacre properly

Ann Coulter recently published an article listing all the evidence that the Fort Hood Massacre committed by Nidal Hasan was a jihadi attack and taking the mainstream media to task for refusing to call it an act of terrorism:

It's been weeks since eyewitnesses reported that Maj. Nidal Hasan shouted "Allahu akbar" before spraying Fort Hood with gunfire, killing 13 people.

Since then we also learned that Hasan gave a medical lecture on beheading infidels and pouring burning oil down their throats (unfortunately not covered under the Senate health care bill). Some wondered if perhaps a pattern was beginning to emerge but were promptly dismissed as racist cranks.

We also found out Hasan had business cards printed up with the jihadist abbreviation "SOA" for "Soldier of Allah." Was that enough to conclude that the shooting was an act of terrorism -- or does somebody around here need to take another cultural sensitivity class?

And we know that Hasan had contacted several jihadist Web sites and that he had been exchanging e-mails with a radical Islamic cleric in Yemen. The FBI learned that last December, but the rest of us only found out about it a week ago.

Is it still too soon to come to the conclusion that the Fort Hood shooting was an act of terrorism?

Ms. Coulter is of course correct in pointing that one has to be willfully blind in order not to see the action of Nidal Hasan for what it is: an attack by an adherent to violent Islamist ideology on American soldiers.  Any attempt to portray Hasan as some sort of a deranged individual is now ridiculous.  He is no more deranged than the 9/11 hijackers flying planes into buildings or the ideology they all adhere to.  I do, however, disagree with Ann Coulter and many others on the right in one thing: I would not call Hasan's action as terrorism.  Why?  Well, because if the terrorism is defined as a deliberate attack against civilians in order to score political points, then this attack was not an act of terrorism.  The targets of Hasan's attack were our soldiers.  Thus, this attack was an act of war, rather than terrorism.  Nidal Hasan executed a surprise attack on our military, similar to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.  This makes him an enemy combatant.  The fact that he was wearing American uniform prior to the attack makes him an illegal combatant, the kinds of which were shot on the spot during World War 2.  Finally, there is a "T" word that properly defines the actions of Major Nidal Malik Hasan: TREASONHere is how Section 3 of Article 3 of the United States Constitution defines treason:

Section 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort (emphasis mine - Eric-Odessit). No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

If the action of US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan is not "levying War against" the United States, then I don't know what is.  And there are more than 2 witnesses to his action.  The fact that he is charged merely with murder is a very sad thing.  In my opinion, treason should definitely be among the charges against Hasan.  Upon conviction he should face the firing squad, or perhaps even be hanged.  There should be no lethal injection for him.  Yes, I know that he will be dead either way, but symbolism is important for showing how serious we are in prosecuting the war to defend ourselves.

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