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Belmont Club

Monthly Archives: August 2011

That Magic Touch

August 31st, 2011 - 9:32 pm

A manufacturer of solar panels which President Obama touted as “a testament to American ingenuity and dynamism and the fact that we continue to have the best universities in the world, the best technology in the world, and most importantly the best workers in the world” has declared bankruptcy 15 months after the President touted it as the proud symbol of potential new Green Jobs.

It may be taking half a billion dollars worth of taxpayer money down the drain with it. “The federal government offered $535 million in low cost loan guarantees from the Department of Energy. NBC Bay Area has contacted the White House asking for a statement.”  The failure of the company, according to sources of the Washington Post, was “unexpected”.  Apparently nobody, least of all the President in the full rhetorical cry, anticipated that Solyndra, along with similar companies in California, would be driven down by cheaper competition from China.

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From Out Whose Bourn

August 31st, 2011 - 12:44 am

A friend who had died three months ago came online in Skype.  The notification flashed and faded and the icon which had been orange these last ninety days turned green. It must have been, I surmised, a family member who was clearing out the computer and perhaps going through the accounts to close and settle unfinished business. But how did I know?

Technology Review notes that the Internet is filling up with dead people and there’s not much anyone can do about it.  David Winer recently complained that Facebook kept pressing him to reach out to his friend Guy Kewney,  simply because their algorithms suggested that he was getting lonely. It “noticed that he’s not getting a lot of messages, and that alarmingly he isn’t even posting very much! Let’s wake Guy up, the ‘bot at Facebook seems to be saying. Only one problem. Guy is dead.”

Problems need solutions, so Chris Matyszczy suggests this shows that what Facebook really needs is code to figure out if someone has permanently gone offline. The company explained it’s working on it, but that its programmers weren’t really old enough to realize the frequency with which people shuffled off their mortal coil. (more…)

Stupid is as Stupid Does

August 30th, 2011 - 1:14 pm

Jonathan Martin’s Politico’s article, Is Rick Perry dumb? concludes that while some people may think he is (like Paul Begala), the Texas governor is actually quite a talented and capable figure. It ends by quoting a source who says:

“The political graveyard in Texas is buried full of people who have underestimated Rick Perry,” he said. “We had a U.S. senator who did that and she didn’t even make the run-off. Sooner or later, they’re going to figure out that he’s not just lucky, he’s good.”

So Rick Perry isn’t stupid. Not by a long shot; but you know the question had to be asked. As John Hinderaker in Powerline observed, every conservative candidate has to dispel the presumption of retardation before he can be taken seriously.

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The Teahouse of the August Mood

August 29th, 2011 - 11:56 am

The extremes of governments influence over commerce are illustrated by two stories. In Massachusetts a 12-year old’s green tea stand was shut down by the State Police while in Washington state, the Feds Sign Off on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.

The FAA presented Boeing with a type certificate and production certificate for the innovative composite airliner during a ceremony at Boeing’s factory north of Seattle. The pieces of paper mean the Dreamliner can begin commercial service, and they represent the culmination of several billion dollars of investment for the aerospace giant and almost as many headaches. …

But unlike other Boeing models, in which much of the manufacturing occurs in Everett, the 787 is assembled from subassemblies manufactured in several countries and flown to Washington in modified 747s called Dreamlifters.

A short list of the parts built outside Everett include fuselage sections made in Italy, Japan, South Korea and the United States. Floor beams are built in India. Wing sections come from Japan. The doors and landing gear are made in France and Sweden. Portions of the tail are made in Italy and South Korea.

In addition to distributing some of the cost and risk, the global supply chain was also a way to make friends in countries where Boeing wanted to sell the 787.

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Monstrous Vermin

August 26th, 2011 - 6:42 pm

What if one day you woke up to find that everything you’d been doing for years was illegal? Sorry, wrong novel. The one we want isn’t Metamorphosis, but Franz Kafka’s other work, The Castle, where the narrator fails to discover to the last what he had to do to receive approval from the Castle’s bureaucrats. The protagonist K, deals with men whose powers are indefinite and who prohibit things for reasons that are never explained. Possibly they don’t know the reasons themselves. The same sort of mystery surrounds the raid of the Gibson guitar factory. The Department of Justice wants to shut them down for a reason. Is it really sane to ask ‘why’?

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In Ancient Time

August 25th, 2011 - 8:53 pm

When I was a child, in the age before mass air travel and workaday contract work in the Middle East, people talked about a very special experience called a “Pilgrimage to the Holy Land”. It meant being able to go the actual Jerusalem. Back then, it hardly seemed possible that I should ever do this, and might I reach ever these hallowed precincts it seemed equally unlikely I would know what to do. Yet one of the great things about the Belmont Club is that it afforded the opportunity to go places that would otherwise never have been accessible. One of those opportunities turned out to be a trip to Jerusalem, where I played the pilgrim. Later, I went to Sderot, where I played a pilgrim of a different sort.

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The Rap on God

August 25th, 2011 - 4:05 pm

As U.S. initial jobless claims rise unexpectedly, Hurricane Irene is headed for New York City. Meanwhile business is so bad at Martha’s Vineyard that people are having “textured” feelings about President Obama.

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The problem with the great unwashed is that they don’t know how to live. Real men about town should know how to order the $350 bottle of wine and get the $400 haircut. And as to holidays, there is little to beat the $10m publicly funded vacation. But that is for hard working public servants. For the down at heel in the private sector or those still seeking employment, a little budgeting may be in order. But leisure is still within reach and here are some ways to find bargains.

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Secret Underground Fortresses

August 23rd, 2011 - 3:14 pm

News that the Libyan rebels are now searching for former strongman Mohammar Khadaffy’s subterranean lair has prompted comparisons between his bunker and that of Saddam Hussein’s. From the looks of it, Khadaffy has better taste in hideouts.

The bunker discovered by rebels underneath Qaddafi’s villa in the mountain town of Bayda gives a clue what the tunnels in Tripoli might be like.

According to a report and photos in the Daily Mail newspaper in February, the bunker had three nine-inch-thick blast doors and led to a massage room, seven bedrooms, a kitchen, and caverns full of equipment. Passageways with power generators and an air filtration system led to an escape shaft in the countryside.

That’s a lot more luxurious than the accommodation Iraq’s Hussein had to resort to. His chamber was six to eight feet deep, with only enough room for one person to lie down, an air vent and an extractor fan.

The good hideout is something a Man Who Has Everything is prone to consider. When you’ve bought that diamond encrusted watch, purchased that destroyer-sized yacht and acquired that outsized bank account the next thing you need is a quality bunker.

Just what kind of bunker a man of discriminating taste should have is the business of HardenedStructures.Com, which specializes in the planning, design and covert construction of fortified homes, underground “Genesis” shelter systems, executive underground bunkers, survival communities, 2012 Shelters, anarchy and Missile Silo Conversions. “These facilities are designed with independent sources of power and water. They can serve as a primary dwelling, vacation home, corporate retreat, long term shelter or expanded multi-function compound.”

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The Fog of War

August 22nd, 2011 - 6:27 pm

The Daily Mail reports: Day after his ‘arrest’, son of Gaddafi walks into a Tripoli hotel… and claims his father is safe and still in the capital The DM raised the possibility that aspects of the war were being negotiated, suggesting the Khadaffy’s knew where too many political bodies were buried.

The Libyan leader’s son Saif al-Islam, who had earlier been reported captured by rebel forces, was seen arriving in an armoured vehicle at the back of a hotel used by reporters and TV crews.

During a brief exchange, one journalist asked Saif if his father was safe and in Tripoli. ‘Of course,’ he replied.

He added: ‘We have broken the backbone of the rebels. It was a trap. We gave them a hard time, so we are winning’.

On Sunday the International Criminal Court itself had insisted the 39-year-old had been arrested and detained.

But wearing casual clothes last night and looking relaxed and confident, Saif beamed as he reached out to touch hands in the crowd and declared: ‘To hell with ICC’.

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