Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fix it with a hammer

The theory of electromagnetic wave propagation almost defeated me, lo these many years ago at State U. I tried and tried, and went in for after class help, and darkened Professor Fields' (yes that was his name, and yes he did teach the Fields And Waves EE 160 class) office door until he was sick of seeing me. I was glad to take his charity - and a "D" grade - since it let me graduate.

This stuff is Black Magic.I can prove that, by telling you about wave guides. Basically this is a metallic tube that the radio waves propagate through. Depending on the design, it can be more efficient than coaxial cable, or it can entirely block the wave. The NSA built some Way Cool buildings in the 1980s, where the entire building was shielded so that electromagnetic waves couldn't escape (and be picked up by the KGB E-M scanner vans). Awesome - only what happens when someone opens the door?

Easy: the doors (well, entry lobbies) are wave guides. They choke off the exiting waves.

But here's the black magic bit. The wave guide has to be tuned to maximize efficiency. It gets tuned with one of these:Someone hits the waveguide, and puts a dent in it. If the dent is at precisely the right place, you tune it the way you want; otherwise, you tune it a way you don't want. Black magic.

There's an old joke about the likelihood of fixing a broken watch with a hammer. Megan McArdle says that we're about to do exactly that with the health care bill:
If we pass this thing, no American politician, left or right, is going to cut any of these programs, or raise the broad-based taxes necessary to pay for them, without any compensating goodies to offer the public . . . until the crisis is almost upon us. I can think of no situation, other than impending crisis, in which such a thing has been done--and usually, as with Social Security, they have done just little enough to kick the problem down the road. The idea that you pass a program of dubious sustainability because you can always make it sustainable later, seems borderline insane. I can't think of a single major entitlement that has become more sustainable over time. Why is this one supposed to be different?
And then the moonbats come crawling into her comments section, saying that the watch is stopped anyway:
This is why it's hard to take you seriously as a thinker sometimes, McArdle. There IS already an impending crisis that IS almost upon us. This reform effort is largely about avoiding that crisis. Obama and the Dems may not get it right, but they're at least making an attempt. The folks on your side either refuse to do anything or offer up solutions so politically impossible that only a massive crisis could make them happen
And besides, this time the hammer will work:
the idea that a reduction in procedures will necessarily reduce health care quality is simply erroneous. You may recall the recent press coverage about PSA screening for the general population of men over 50 -- that was the whole point of the study. This screening didn't show any mortality benefit. In other words, reducing the procedures (screening) didn't affect health care quality in one way or the other. There are similar examples of this "low-hanging" cost-control fruit -- back surgery, yearly physicals for younger adults, perhaps stents for the vast majority of coronary patients, perhaps mammograms for the general population of younger women. Once again, the fact that you seem oblivious to this really renders any other opinion highly suspect.
It goes on for quite a bit like that, so if you click over, bring a lunch. What nobody talks about is Megan's original point. It's not plausible to say that we'll fix it later when there aren't any examples of entitlements being fixed later.

But back to waveguides. How much fixing is going to be needed? Ignore the blatant payoffs like the Louisiana Purchase and the Cornhusker Kickback; ignore the "Deem and Pass" sleight of hand; ignore the 2000 pages of impenetrable gibberish in the law.

This bill taxes people for ten years, and gives them benefits for six. What happens in 2021? FAIL.

But now let's talk about all the shenanigans being used to pass the bill. Nancy Pelosi is whaling on that watch with a sledge hammer, and won't stop until it's the shape that fits through the Capitol Hill keyhole. Will it work once it's through? Of course not - everyone knows that, including McArdle's commenters.

So how much will it take to fix? How come nobody's talking about that? It's the part that terrifies me, more than EE160 did.


Alan said...

I know it's not the real point of the post but in case anyone doubts, you really do tune wave guides with a hammer.

We used to tune wave guides for radar antennas with a hammer. Of course the down side is you put that one more dent in that you think will tweak it just a little more in line and the whole thing goes to crap and you have to start over.

Black magic indeed.

scotaku said...

You're James Burkeing me here... start with a story about one thing to lead me to a realization about another thing. Thank you.

Borepatch said...

Scotaku, I love James Burke, although I prefer "The Day The Universe Changed" to "Connections".

Atom Smasher said...

Honestly I think the conservative wonks and pundits are keeping the "what happens next" discussion damped down because they don't want to relax the fight right now. I sympathize with their intent but it will have to be dealt with soon. How can we survive/repeal/nullify this thing if it passes?

Personally I think it can be challenged, and maybe won, on a straight SCOTUS appeal. McCain-Feingold was a real law passed by a real vote back in the days when Congress did those things and it, or at least so far a big part of it, ran afoul of the Constitution last year in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

I think there's a good chance that SCOTUS would look at "deem & pass" of "health care reform + loan takeover", flip to Article I section 7, and say "sorry dumbasses, try again" no matter what kind of precedent has been set with smaller bills and adjustments according to the House rules.

I don't mind losing a fair fight all that much, but this devious and cowardly crap ticks me off.

SiGraybeard said...

Excellent! Personally, I prefer the really big vise-grips (like these ) for tuning waveguide. Always worked better for me.

But the difference is simple: waveguide can be tuned with hammers or clamps. POS laws can't.