Monday, March 16, 2009

Old Versus New Techology


A friend sent me a file version of this video... watch this before you read further:

I juxtaposed this with a recent post at Al Fin:

...EMP stands for electro-magnetic pulse and it is one byproduct of a nuclear blast. EMP destroys power sources, communication capabilities and would cripple or destroy the abilities of most satellites to function. A percentage of military communication and other satellites are hardened against EMP but the gravest effect would be on the ground, the space expert said. “As bad as the space part of this is, that is pretty bad, but the ground part of it is much, much worse. Effectively, whoever was subjected to an EMP burst would be shoved back to an agricultural state.” Few civilian assets such as power grids, generators, telephone systems and commercial communications satellites are hardened against EMP. _DefTech
There is an inverse relationship between complexity and survivability/durability for most consumer technology. An acquaintance of mine has a collection of early 1970s GM "muscle cars" that would still run if an EMP incident occurred over the U.S. I have an old portable typewriter that could still write articles if my computer failed. My present coffee maker would be useless without its electronic controls, but an old drip pot would reliably keep me awake.

This is not to say that I am pining for the "good old days." Technology has significantly improved our lives in many ways. But, as Al Fin has pointed out, we are increasingly vulnerable to disastrous technological collapse because key components of our technologies are not protected... but could be protected with minimal expense... if designed in rather than added on.

Here are the key technologies that need upgrading:
  • power, water, and natural gas distribution systems
  • computers/servers and cellular communications
  • electronically controlled systems in aircraft and vehicles
  • medical systems
On a personal level, even backup power and security systems would be useless because they have electronic controls. Perhaps an old pull-start generator or generators build without engine control modules would be functional. You'll need something that can power a refrigerator or furnace. Propane can power generators, provide heat and cooking fuel, and even be a source of fuel for camping lanterns.

The Amish would not notice much difference, but how many among us are prepared to become Amish?

Should we worry? Go back to the top and click on the link to Al Fin's article. Then consider what your government... especially the new government of reconciliation... is not communicating. Remember that in animal and plant evolution, specialization usually leads to extinction when conditions change. We have specialized into an electronics-based society.
But who is this Al Fin and what kind of credibility should we give to the rantings of an anonymous blogger? Fair enough. Would you take the rantings of The Wall Street Journal?
Oh, this is not new news. Congress got a full report in 2004.... The U.S. has a Missile Defense Agency that is working on ways to intercept ballistic missiles.

So, let's go back to the premise that old technology can be superior to new technology. The most effective point of detonation for an EMP device is just south of Lake Michigan.
A small, unsophisticated rocket concealed in a freighter headed toward Chicago would only have to have sufficient power to travel about 50 miles to accomplish what a much larger ballistic missile would require. What conceivable defense could be employed to react to and destroy such an EMP device? The system would have mere seconds to respond.
Hint: it probably is not this system. Until a hardened, satellite-based anti-missile weapon that is in a stationary orbit above the U.S. Mid-west can be deployed. And it is unlikely that such a weapon could ever be approved by U.S. Congress. After all, if we protected our nation, some other nation might object. The only alternative to a potential EMP attack is preparation.
Even if Congress required that from this moment forward all electronics be hardened against EMP, it would take a decade before significant protection was achieved. Of course, if we wait a decade, it would be two decades. Kind of like the reason for not developing our domestic oil and natural gas supplies.

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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
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Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)