Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Worth Pondering

A while back, I asked Will You Recognize the World in the Fall of 2010?  I have written on this before that and quoted it in that posting. 

The most important pieces of that article were based on blog entries from Israel on Sense of Events.  They have a guest blogger today with more thoughts on the likelihood of war between Israel and the countries aligned against them. 

Like them, I pray I am wrong, but I fear I am not. 

The vast majority of America is not expecting this.  It will be a shock.  Consider that regular gas is around $3 per gallon now when oil is $75 a barrel.  Consider what happens if oil hits $250: the same percentage make it  $10/gal.  It's not just your cost to go to work; what about the fleet of trucks that supply your groceries?  The cost of your groceries won't necessarily go up by 3.33 times, but it will go up.  The cost of everything will go up.  Everything. 

Now consider you might still have months to prepare for this event.  If there really is a chance of it happening, shouldn't you do something to prepare?  Even if you bought a little extra food every week, what's the down side of that, other than a little expense now to possibly save a ton of expense later?  Lots of details on how to prepare here and here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It Has Been a Busy Week

And it's only Tuesday!

We had the Supremes vote that the 2nd Amendment is covered by the 14th, by a 5-4 vote, throwing aside complete gun bans.  On the one hand, it's good we won.  On the other, it's a 5-4 vote and wasn't a sweeping set aside of state laws.  The definition of "reasonable laws" will have to be won in their court, too, I bet.  It means we have four morons on the Supreme Court who can't tell cause from effect.  Chicago residents, your "leadership" is bound and determined to keep you helpless in the face of armed criminals, and willing to spend all of your money going back and forth to courts.  I wouldn't live there or even visit that place if you paid me. 

We had Elena Kagan's hearings begin.  (Phlegm Fatale had the absolute best line on Kagan's appearance, "If Mike Meyers and Matthew Broderick had a love child...I mean that in the nicest way possible. Truly, I do") but we're too mature around here to make fun of  someone's looks.  Heh heh.  I thought she looked like Bob Costas after too much of a carbohydrate binge. 

With political views like this, though, it's easy to find fault with qualifications:

Yeah.  She'll get confirmed.  And in a year we'll still have four morons on the Supreme Court; they just won't be the same four morons.

We had the death of Senator Robert C. Byrd at age 92.  The "Foghorn Leghorn" of the Senate, someone who was well known for their racial bigotry over the years.  While I might side with Billy Beck, Borepatch has the right tone. But he brought the bacon home to West Virginia and that gets you elected.  You'd be amazed at the things named after him

A mere day after my posting on Sunday about the world's deepening economic troubles, the Royal Bank of Scotland warned their customers about monster inflation coming in the US, thereby adding to the number of major financial outlets trying to get their customers to prepare for the poop hitting the air moving device.  And Bloomberg News reports 46 states are on the verge of collapse.  Any doubt you'll pay for bailouts?

Still, I think the most important thing I've seen this week is from a new blog I read, New Zeal.  Watch this.  Consider how it goes with the blogging from Israel I reported on.  Consider what a small miscalculation from any of the (don't call me stupid) wise men involved could do.  If you're like me, you'll go stock up on beans, bullets and band aids.

Monday, June 28, 2010

It Isn't Really Going to Help...

..that whole "Obama is really a Muslim" meme to go away to call him "America's Educator-in-Chief on Islam".  Not when it can be construed to be supporting "anti-defamation" laws against Islam when you can get jailed (or worse) for merely having a Christian Bible in Muslim nations.  Or it can be construed that the US President is advocating for Sharia law in Europe (at the least).
...Hussain has now divulged that the U.S. will support the OIC (= Organization for the Islamic Conference) in the latter’s United Nations effort to criminalize “defamation of religion” – widely perceived as a measure to suppress criticism of Muslim practices that violate human rights.  “The OIC and the Obama administration will work together in the UN on the issue of defamation of religion, especially in Europe,” said Hussain.
No sir.  It really looks like he must be Muslim.  And it really reinforces Andrew Thomas' article on American Thinker

Hat tip to John at Improved Clinch.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

About That Whole Global Economic Collapse Thingy - Part II

Remember last fall when the European bank Societe Generale said to prepare for the possibility of complete economic collapse?  And remember just a few weeks ago when another big bank, BMO, said "Get out of stocks and into cash right f**ing now"? 

Today, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard quotes an expert at another large bank who says Bernanke has screwed the pooch (to use early-days NASA jargon).
Gabriel Stein, from Lombard Street Research, said the US is still stuck in a quagmire because Mr Bernanke has mismanaged the quantitative easing policy, purchasing the bonds from banks rather than from the non-bank private sector.
 Add to this the administrations' talk of a tax on banks immediately after a reform package passed (why wasn't that tax included?) and it sounds like the basis for what Soc Gen and BMO are saying.
Rob Carnell, global strategist at ING, said the Obama fiscal boost peaked in the first few months of this year. It will swing from a net stimulus of 2pc of GDP in 2010 to a net withdrawal of 2pc in 2011. "This is very substantial fiscal drag. On top of this the US Treasury is talking of a 'Just War' against the banks, which will further crimp lending. It is absolutely the wrong moment to do this."
Austrian economics writer Gary North asks "Is The Fed Too Big to Fail?" goes through a gentle history lesson from the rights of kings, down to the judgments against the Federal Reserve and reaches an interesting conclusion: either the Fed fails or the US government does:

At that point, we will see who is sovereign: Congress or the FED. If Congress nationalizes the FED and inflates, then the FED will have failed. It will be proven for all to see that it was not too big to fail.
On the other hand, if the FED refuses to buy the Treasury's debt, the Federal government will default. It will be proven as not too big to fail.
Unfortunately, in either case I'd say there's a pretty good chance of blood in the streets.

I am not sure what's in the financial reform bill that just passed, and frankly don't have the knowledge of the banking laws to know if it's good or bad.  My guess, based on how awful government regulation has historically been, is that it's political theater.  It will address the wrong problems, do the wrong things, while creating new problems and either make everything worse, or at the best, just change nothing of consequence - while diverting money to friends of politicians.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Normalcy Returns To Castle Graybeard

The kitchen sink is back in.  Water is running.  The disposal works.  The dishwasher is back.


I haven't commented on this because I usually post on bigger topics, but for the last month we have been without a kitchen.  The start of this goes back to early April. One evening, Mrs. Graybeard and I were standing on the back porch watering the planters full of tomatoes and peppers.  When I turned off the hose and started toward the back porch door, I noticed some pavers were wet in a place I had not been watering.  "That's odd", I said, in what turned out to be the opening of a story still playing out.

To make the long story short, we had a dishwasher that leaked badly.  Because we had a tile floor installed, the water never leaked out in front of the dishwasher where we'd see it, but instead pooled and ran slightly downhill to drain out the back doors under the door frame.  After it soaked up the backs of cabinets that you can't see into because of all the stuff in them.  Cabinets were rotten and moldy, drywall had to come out down to bare concrete block.  It was a real, serious mess. We had to hire a contractor and file a homeowners' claim.  We have never had to do either of those things before.

This week the cabinets went in, then the countertop and sink.  Today it all got hooked up to running water, and life is closer to back to normal. Still work to do, but at least we have a sink.

Friday, June 25, 2010

But She Was A Particularly Aggressive Octagenarian Invalid

Yes, she was an 86 invalid, bed-ridden, on oxygen.  Surrounded and outnumbered 10:1 by young strapping police officers (no - I don't exactly know how big and tall these guys were, but compared to her, I'm sure they were big, healthy guys). 

But she looked threatening, and after stepping on her oxygen line and cutting it off, they shot her - not once, but twice - with a taser. Actual filed lawsuit here.

All my life, I've tended to side with the police.  Tended to give them the benefit of the doubt.  I still do, it's just getting harder.  There's no reason for there to be 10 police on what should be a paramedic call, but maybe that's the dispatcher's fault.  But if you have 10 grown men around one 86 year old invalid, it's hard to imagine what she could do that would be so much of an "aggressive posture" to warrant being tasered twice.  Well, maybe if she had a one of these in the bed, but I think that would have made the news. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Yeah, Guess I'm Right There On That, Too.

H/T to the Gormogons on this topic.  EE Times is a newspaper for Electrical Engineers.  They did some polling of their readers' attitudes about Twitter. 
In a recent EE Times survey of 285 engineers, 85% reported that they don’t use Twitter. More than half indicated that the statement “I don’t really care what you had for breakfast,” best sums up their feelings about it; others characterized it as “a ridiculous waste of time and electrons” or expressed the strong desire for it to simply “go away.”
Yeah, that's kinda where I am, too.  I don't care if it goes away, and I don't care that it's there, but ridiculous waste of time and electrons seems pretty spot on.
“The amount of information in a tweet is not worth the time spent looking at it,” asserts Jeffrey Tuttle, a hardware design engineer with 20 years of experience. “To be productive when doing design you need long periods of uninterrupted thought. Twitter by its nature is intrusive and interruptive. Consequently it seems to be for those people who don’t have enough to do.”
Engineers and other highly educated workers tend to need to concentrate on tasks, studying them in great detail.  I've come to call it Attention Surplus Syndrome; the opposite of ADD.  You see it in craftsmen as well as doctors, engineers, authors and other professions.  It's a good attribute for a sniper, too. 

I guess I view Facebook the same way.   I joined to see what it was, and maybe chat with dear son and daughter in law, the found friends I hadn't heard from in 30 years.  I also have about 30 friend requests to wade through ("wait... who are you again?")  and one friend who plays those non-stop Facebook games which fill my home page with stuff that means even less than what he had for breakfast.  Dude, I'm studying history, economics, monetary theory, shooting, military strategy and tactics with just about every minute I'm not herding electrons.  I don't have the time to play Mafia Wars or feed imaginary pets. 

I'm not anti-social.  I enjoy sitting for hours with friends, talking, or enjoying hobbies together.  The social media is what sucks.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

About Ham Radio

I hear it every time I bring up the subject.  I can use my cell phone anytime I want. I have minutes to spare on my plan.  Why should I bother getting a ham license? 

When all else fails, ham radio gets through.  After the Haitian earthquake last winter, the first communications with the country were through ham radio.  After hurricanes, earthquakes, any sort of natural disaster, or even a terrorist attack, it's usually the same way: ham radio works first.  Cell phones are really more vulnerable than wired phones.  Anything that takes out the wired phones takes out cell phones, and anything that could take out a tower kills cell phones, too.  Cell phones are everywhere, but after your voice leaves that fancy little radio in your hand it goes almost entirely on the wired POTS (plain old telephone system) infrastructure.  It will be POTS all the way to the other end of the call, unless they're on a cell, too, and then it's just radio at the very end of the link.  In the event of a disaster, AT&T's phone line's emergency life is limited by remote boxes that have batteries designed for 6 hours backup time in case of a power fail, and you can expect the same from other providers.  Even if the system is physically working, have you ever noticed that whenever an emergency happens the phone system becomes useless?  Heck, the phone is almost unusable on Mother's Day!  That's because the system is designed so that only about 10-20% of the phones installed have physical wires to support them.  That's efficient network design and keeps the phone company rates reasonable, but it can't support the demand that comes in an emergency.  

If there is another terrorist attack, it will be like 9/11; a surprise attack when you're going through your day to day life.  How do you communicate with your family, or others that you need to communicate with?  What if a nuclear weapon smuggled into New York, or Chicago goes off while you're at work or separated from your spouse and kids?  You don't have to be in those cities to be affected by it - remember a couple of years ago when a couple of powerlines sagging in the heat caused a blackout that took out most of the NE of the US?  I think it's a safe bet that a major attack could take down the power grid.   

How do you communicate with your family or friends if something happens while you're at work?  The only answers involve radio, either FRS/CB or ham (amateur) radio.  For various reasons that I'll explain, I believe it's worth it to get the ham radio license and follow that path. 

The main reason to get your ham license is the ham service gives you many more choices of frequencies and ways to communicate.  FRS (Family Radio Service) is a UHF band (close to a ham band at 420-450 MHz), and CB is an HF band, again close to a ham band at 28 to 29.5 MHz.  Most amateur radio licenses grant privileges in bands spread across the entire shortwave spectrum, from 1.8 MHz (just above the AM broadcast band) to 30 MHz (just above the CB band), plus bands of frequencies through the VHF, UHF and microwave range.  The reason you want this is that the range of communications varies across all of these bands, allowing you to choose the frequencies most useful to you.  In other words, you may be trying to communicate with someone that is not in range to a CB or FRS radio, but you can choose a ham band that works.  In addition to the choice of frequencies, ham radio gives you more choices in how you communicate, from voice (AM, FM or SSB) to many digital and imaging modes. 

The optimum frequency to use will depend on the distance you need to communicate over, and will vary with the time of day, time of year, and the activity of the sun (the sun has activity cycles that last an average of 11 years; the next peak is predicted for 2013)  In general, during the day, the optimum frequency goes up, and during the night, the optimum frequency goes back down.  HF has the unique ability to propagate over long distances, and long time CB'ers will know that these signals can skip over large paths, being heard only in specific areas.  In the area closest to the transmitter, signals are carried by what is called "ground wave", and higher frequencies are better than lower.  For example, to communicate with a friend at the opposite end of town, it's easier for me to use 144 MHz than 3.5 MHz, with good outside antennas. 

For example, let's assume you want to communicate 500-ish miles, say from southern Florida into North Carolina, or from South Texas into Nebraska.  For this communications link, night time communications would be usually best in the amateur bands at 1.8, 3.5 and 7.0 MHz, while daytime communications would be in the amateur bands at 7.0, or 14.0 MHz, but it might be possible to communicate in any amateur band up to 50 MHz.  How about cross country, say from Florida to Washington?  During the evenings, the 7.0 or 14.0 MHz bands are probably good, and during the days, the bands at 18, 21 or 28 MHz would work well, depending mostly on solar activity.  "Evening" or "daytime" means at both ends of the path, by the way. 

In general, VHF and UHF are better for local communications and HF is better for long distance.  VHF/UHF tends to be "line of sight", although both get over the horizon to some degree.  It's why VHF FM broadcasters put their antennas on tall towers (in contrast to the AM broadcaster, where the tower is the antenna).  Hams usually try to put their HF antennas up high, and try for long distance communication, but HF can be used for local communications just out to a couple of hundred miles, too.   

Most hams own a handheld radio, or HT, that transmits somewhere in the VHF or UHF spectrum - typically the 144 to 148 MHz ("2 meter") band, and often the 440-450 MHz ("70 centimeter") band.  Hams around the country have invested tens of thousands of hours of their time, and millions of their own dollars to build an infrastructure of repeaters that extends the usefulness of these radios.  A repeater does what the name implies, it "repeats" your transmission from a higher, more powerful transmitter; you transmit on one frequency, it re-broadcasts on another, so your radio has to receive on a different frequency than what it transmits on.  Repeaters both extend the range and add capabilities such as dialing a connected landline phone.  If your only use for a radio is to contact your family or friends around town, a VHF or VHF/UHF dual-band radio could be all you need.  You may need to join a radio club to make use of the repeaters, but many of them are "open" - available to anyone who needs to use it.  The drawback to repeaters is the same as any infrastructure: when the SHTF and everyone is trying to use it to contact their family, the system won't support it.  These are radio channels that can only handle one user at a time.

So what's the alternative to a repeater?  A good antenna, outdoors, as high as you can get it.  With my HT and a good outside antenna, I easily communicate reliably over 20 mile ranges, direct, radio to radio.  This is going to be tough if there is a crisis and you're in a car, or if you're running to your car, or if you're trying to round up family.  Pre-planned meeting places is standard advice; you can call on the radio while on the way to make sure everyone's okay, and put everyone's mind at ease. 

A VHF or UHF HT is a good tool if you're living on a farm or in a rural setting, maybe with a group that's helping each other out.  You can keep touch with each other all over several acres directly with these radios.  FRS might do as well, but ham radios tend to be higher power and can reach farther. 

To use any ham radio, all of the users need to be licensed, or in the presence of a licensed operator, so if your spouse and children are going to use ham bands to stay in touch, all of them need to be licensed.  So how do you get a ham license?  The Feds gave responsibility for licensing over to the ham service itself back in the 1980s, under a Volunteer Examiners Program.  The two largest VE organizations allow you to find a local session here: ARRL or W5YI VEC

You can expect to find a local club or group that offers tests once a month or so. 

What are the requirements?  There are 3 classes of amateur license, technician, general and extra (the remnants of a system that once had 6 classes - I only say this because you may see reference to Novice licenses, or Advanced licenses or meet people that tell you to get a novice license).  All three classes have written exams, with no requirements to send or receive Morse code any more.  Morse code is still extremely valuable as a communications mode, especially in a SHTF scenario with low powered radios used with makeshift antennas, but you are not required to learn it any longer.  Both of the organizations that perform the tests will sell you study materials for the test, or you can find materials in a library, radio club or online.  If you go to a library, make sure the books are not more than a couple of years old, or they prepare you for the wrong test.  The technician class is a VHF/UHF only license that conveys privileges above 30 MHz.  The general provides the technician privileges along with some privileges on all the HF bands.  The extra class provides all amateur privileges on all amateur frequencies.  You may take one test or all of them on one day; there is no requirement for being licensed some amount of time before upgrading. 

It's important to remember that the purpose of the exams is not to make you a radio engineer.  It's simply to make sure you understand the laws that tell you the conditions of your license; the frequencies you can use, something about antennas, safety, and a bunch of topics.  The vast majority of hams are not technicians or engineers.  We are about 85% men, 15% women, and work as truck drivers, security guards, doctors, telephone workers, radio hosts, and a broad cross section of jobs. 

How much does it cost?  Like all hobbies you can spend as much or as little as you'd like.  I have seen installations that would make the military drool, and others put together by restoring old radios and spending almost nothing.  A good VHF or UHF HT, new, is somewhere between $100 and $400 depending on features.  An HF radio, again new, bare bones is around $600 and up as you add features.  Used radios are widely available, and very good, useful HF radios are $300-ish.  Figure some cost for an antenna system. 

Antennas are very important to your station.  For transmitters, antennas are a much bigger and trickier subject than for receivers; they must be certain specific lengths, designed to work on multiple bands, or you need to use something called an antenna tuner.  An automatic antenna tuner and a simple antenna are a very effective way to use many amateur bands.  Like most electronics, prices continue to come down and capabilities go up.  A very capable automatic antenna tuner for the usual power ranges at HF will set you back $150 to $200 brand new.  Figure $100 or so used.  A simple wire antenna that can be deployed in a hurry costs around $20. 

Being sure you can communicate with your family is priceless.  Ham radio is an excellent tool to add to your survival BOB.

The American Radio Relay League is the largest ham radio organization in the US, and they specialize in helping folks get started.  There are equivalent national organizations everywhere.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Don't Take Me There

The lovely Mrs. Graybeard and I grew up in different parts of south Florida.  I grew up in Miami, my parents moving there when I was three, and I didn't move out unitl the year after I graduated high school.  I hung out on South Beach before it was trendy - and not much to look at, either.  She grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, a more upscale town than the parts of Miami I knew. 

Growing up then and there, we had friends who escaped Cuba. Some escaped before Castro's bloody reign began.  Some made it out after.  We saw the slow trickle of refugees who would do anything to escape the communist "paradise" of the Caribbean. Anything that could float, or that could be made to float, was put into service to escape Fidel.  The sharks in the Florida Straits and along the Keys were well fed. 

For these reasons, I cringe when I hear the likes of Micheal Moore singing the praise of Cuba.  They have excellent health care?  Really?  Do you remember when an epidemic of blindness made news out of Cuba?  Blindness caused by malnutrition, missing a handful of vitamins a day? 

Cuba is a hell hole, and Venezuela is on the fast track to joining them.  Pundits refer to Hugo Chavez as "Fidel's Stupider Brother".  Another fairly prosperous country being destroyed by the socialists/communists.  If you don't really know what it's like down there, you ought to read a little about it.  Babalu's Blog is a good place to start, and there are others: Real Cuba .  As your stomach can handle it. 

The constant parade of celebrities hugging Chavez makes me sick.  Idiots. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why You and I Won't Get Social Security

I know I've said here that once I learned how social security was being run, I figured I'd never see a penny of my life's contributions.  Social Security is going bankrupt and will be drastically re-structured.  I can imagine some people will see this as my accepting defeat and not fighting for my due.  I see it more like recognizing reality and dealing with it. 

A few weeks ago, Gunslinger's Journal ran a good quote about social security.  The Cliff Notes version is:
The "problem" is not old people; the problem is embezzlement by a Congress and federal government that cannot keep its hands off our money. It took our savings, spent it, left behind lots of IOUs, and extended benefits to millions that did not pay into the system.
The problem with social security is that it was embezzled by the leviathan.  There is no lock box and there is no money there for us.  The system pays out what it takes in from current workers.  But just like the chances of retrieving anything from Bernie Madoff to pay off all the investors he stole from is zero, you could imprison every member of the federal government and take their pay and you still won't pay the social security recipients.  The. Money. Isn't. There.

One of my favorite financial guys, Karl Denninger, has an excellent summary with just enough math to show ugly the situation really is.  Illustration from the article. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Gov Has Shut Down the Internet. Now What?

Tomorrow or next week or in a few months we wake up and it has happened.  In a move that was widely expected, the FCC has regulated the internet and established a penalty on media that is not part of the state run complex.  In essence, the US government has seized the internet.  We have A/N/BC/C/P/BS and with a stroke to their internet lackeys at Google, Blogspot is shut down taking this blog and thousands like it down.  A justice department visit to Wordpress and the few others, and all independent opinion is gone. 

Google actually thought they were playing the administration so that "net neutrality" would get them on top of the burgeoning online video market; instead, it got the jackboot of the on their neck, and a threat to take them apart if they get out of line.  Sorry about loosing your billions, Larry, and Sergey.  But it's for the common good, you know?   Didn't Mark Lloyd say, "We're in a position where you have to say who is going to step down so someone else can have power."  What?  You didn't think you had power at Google?
So the web as we know it is gone.  What do we do?  There are several options.  First, I assume the internet infrastructure will almost certainly be left intact and email will be running.  I think even mild-mannered soccer moms would take up arms if they couldn't keep in contact by email. 

Get anonymous.  This blog account and email address belong to someone who has been online for 20 years.  My name will show up in many Google searches.  I choose to remain anonymous here so that I can say things like this.  I imagine the Fed.Gov can track me down - and might.  But probably nobody except them. 

There are other ways, too.  Search "anonymous email" and you'll find a host of companies that will provide that service of making you untraceable.  I would prefer one offshore the US, because they are least likely to respond to threats from the US government. 

Mailing lists can keep us in touch.  We establish majordomo servers, preferably on many sites, with lists of liberty-oriented people to keep contact with.  Leave 3x5 cards on public bulletin boards  with messages like "Sons of Liberty, send email to majordomo@something.or.other".  These need to be handled carefully!  If the .gov starts feeling threatened, they will use their awesome powers of surveillance to capture those who put up cards like that.  Mailing lists were the predecessors of the WWW, and can be useful again. 

Use encryption.  In the early days of the net, the program PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) was widely used.  Without getting into too much information, PGP is a dual key system where you create a public key which can be put onto a public server, and a private key that stays with you.  The math allows you to exchange public keys with someone else and be sure no one else can read encrypted emails.  PGP is now owned by Symantec, but there is an open source version, GnuPG (the Gnu Privacy Guard) that is said to be secure, too.  The older DOS and Windows 3.x versions of PGP are still around, too.  Use a long key, the longer the better and there's no reason not to use one as long as the program supports.  In 1997, the deputy director of the NSA said, "If all the personal computers in the world - 260 million - were put to work on a single PGP-encrypted message, it would still take an estimated 12 million times the age of the universe, on average, to break a single message".  The numbers are little dated, but it is secure, and the NSA does not have a back door into it. 

Ham radio.  Do you have a license?  It's cheap, not technically hard, and no morse code test anymore.  If we're not living in a post-apocalyptic world like that depicted in "Patriots" the risk of using radio is small, especially if transmissions are brief.  It can be ideal for coordinating local groups.  If the transmissions are noise-like (spread spectrum), they are even more secure.  I hope to have more to say about this in the near future.  The basic problem is that it's relatively easy to make a system secure between two or a few people, but harder to make secure for a group to share, especially for a group that is ever expanding.  You can communicate with neighbors, across town, or across the US with stations that are almost invisible to prying eyes.  Depending on what you want, getting started could cost anywhere from the price of a few hundred rounds of  FMJ 9mm to the price of a pretty decent handgun: $125 to $800. 

  Shortwave broadcasting is still going strong every day, even in this age of satellite communications and the internet.  The programming is usually scheduled to be in your area in the evening, local time, but can often be heard when intended for other areas.  No, I can't promise Rush, Beck or any program you want will be picked up by and available by SW, but you will be able to access news, weather and other services that may be shut down by the authorities. We can broadcast, too. 

Shortwave is broadcasting, and therefore also regulated by the FCC.  It's not legal for US stations to broadcast to the US, but that is currently addressed by putting transmitters in corners of the country to aim their broadcasts across it.  For example, a station in Maine might transmit to the Caribbean and South America, making it audible across the southern tier of states, if not more.  From outside the US, beaming the US is completely legal, and that means it's legal to use a transmitter from a boat offshore the US.  By UN Convention, 12 miles marks the US territorial waters; arguably, a small boat that can go that far offshore would be able to broadcast to the US, much like the pirate radio stations that have sprung up from time to time.  A shortwave transmitter is another name for a ham radio transmitter.  There are open source modifications for just about every commercially made radio that would allow it to transmit outside the ham bands.  Because a 100 W station can easily fit in backpack, they are easy to set up for one time operation. 

There are already pirate stations on the air, usually found just below 7.00 MHz.  The most common frequency is 6.995 MHz, usually upper side band.  I strongly suspect more stations will follow. 

A bare bones shirtpocket shortwave broadcast receiver won't cost you more than $100, often less than $50 depending on features, and will allow you to get news from around the world.  Virtually all of the portables run on batteries that will discharge.  A new trend is for radios that you power by cranking a generator to charge an internal battery, or with a solar cell to charge the batteries.  If you have a set of rechargeable batteries, you can always charge them from your car (assuming you have fuel for your car).  I personally prefer analog radios instead of digital as they tend to have better battery life.  An example of a simple radio for SWBC is here:   I have no connection with Amazon or the manufacturer, but I have one of these and I'm happy with it.  The disadvantage of these really cheap portables is that they won't receive SSB, which the current crop of pirates use.  At this time, it's hard to know if that will be necessary.

This is and can only be a start.  We have a lot of options, down to the old practice of nailing leaflets to trees like the founders did.  The loss of the web and blogs would hurt, but it doesn't need to shut off communications.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Lyin' FCC

There's a lot of buzz about this online this weekend.  In particular, the freedom destroying aspects of it:
Despite opposition by a House of Representatives majority and a bipartisan group of Senators, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday is expected to proceed with plans to impose federal government regulation of the Internet, which would essentially treat broadband networks -- and the companies that invested more than $200 billion in private capital to deploy them -- as utilities.
But this quote needs fisking.
The commission's chairman, Julius Genachowski, and his staff have insisted that imposing federal regulations originally written in the 1930s for the telephone is the only way the Obama Administration can gain the "kind of oversight and control that we need," says an FCC staffer with ties to another Democrat commissioner. "Look at the Gulf oil spill, that's what happens when we let corporations just do their own thing without any accountability. We can't allow that to happen with the Internet. We won't allow it."
Bullshit.   BP and the other companies drilling in the gulf don't do a thing without federal approval.  They don't do so much as wipe their... noses without approval.  The whole operation was approved by the Minerals Management Service.

It has been widely reported over and over that BP was granted permission by Louisiana to drill in near shore waters, 500' deep.  It was the that said no and sent them out to 5000 feet.  It was the that told them how to drill the well and approved them every step of the way.

In short, to do this much damage requires the leviathan.  We can be sure they will do as much damage to the internet.

Julius Genachowski is a pawn of Marxist Robert McChesney. (did you ever notice how the really Marxist groups always name themselves misleadingly?  Like McChesney's group Free Press, which is dedicated to the destruction of a free press).   They appointed the total tool Mark Lloyd (who vociferously praised Hugo Chavez) as Chief Diversity Officer.  Doesn't this guy realize Chavez arrests people like him?  Guess not.  He figures he'll do the arresting.  Tyrannies are cool if you get to run the gulag, right Mark? 

What can we do if they take over the internet?  Plenty.  More to follow.

Update:  One of my reciprocal links, Bayou Renaissance Man does a more thorough job taking "Free Press" Apart   Bayou Renaissance Man: Is press freedom on the chopping block?

Trivia of The Day

Mother's Day vs. Father's Day.  

Mother's Day is the busiest phone day of the year:
"We found that Mother's Day is far and away the most popular day to place phone calls across the world, registering more calling traffic than any other holiday, including New Year's and Valentine's Day."
Father's Day has the highest number of collect calls of the year:
It gets better. Children often call dad to send their love but do so on his dime: Father's Day traditionally marks the year's busiest collect-call day for AT&T. And those who remember to send greeting cards do so in significantly smaller numbers.

For all you other fathers out there: enjoy your day.  Have a barbecue.  Do some shooting or fishing or something you like.

And pay for the call.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Luncheon Counters of the Third Kind

My friend Bob from sent me this menu today with one of those "remember when?" emails that go around. I do remember eating at a Woolworth luncheon counter as a kid. Note the prices.

Then I got thinking about the prices.  I've been watching the price of silver and gold, and it occurred to me to compare some of them.  This menu is from around 1960, when our coins were still 90% silver.  You can easily figure out what these prices turn into at today's prices, with silver closing at $19.17/oz.  The face value of a dollar in silver coins today is $13.61.  So that "Super Deluxe Ham Sandwich" at 40cents is $5.45 in today's money, and the king sized coke $1.36.  Not bad.  The triple decker chicken salad sandwich would be $8.85.  To me, that's a bit much for a chicken salad sandwich.  The first Burger King whopper I ever saw cost 29 cents - $3.95 in today's money. When you look at it in terms of silver as a standard, the cost of food hasn't changed that much.  It's the dollar that has gotten worth less, due to the relentless inflation caused by the Federal Reserve.  It is worth 1/13.61 - just over 7% - of what it was worth 50 years ago.   

Here's how you convert: a dollar in face value is 0.71 Troy ounce for 1964 and earlier 90% silver coins.  Just multiply that times the closing price in dollars/ounce (always priced in Troy ounces).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Heartwarming Story

About a couple married for 72 years, renewing their vows.  From South Carolina, here

Doctors believe Vernon McAlister has just days left to live. He broke his hip recently, and doctors have told his children that it is a fatal injury for someone his age.

He has been in the hospice house for about three weeks. His wife is staying at the Magnolias of Anderson, an assisted-living complex nearby.

But on Sunday, they held hands, side by side.

Sue McAlister’s had trembled as she kissed her husband, cupping his chin and then smoothing his hair. Her husband looked at her with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face.

Family friend Bill French, who performed the ceremony, said a marriage like the McAlisters’ should be held up as an example for the world.

“When you took those vows all those years ago, when you said, ‘We will share our joys and sorrows as we walk through life together’ … no one could have known how long that walk would be,” French said. “You have fulfilled your promise, and God is smiling.”

Not everyone is lucky enough to get 72 years together.  God has blessed them both and us with seeing them. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Unelected Bureaucrats At Your Service

They're from the government and they're here to help.  Michigan EPA classifies milk as oil.  Forces large, unwarranted expenses on farmers. 

H/T to Improved Clinch

As my first ecology professor said, think of a pollutant as a resource in the wrong place.  

Meanwhile in the People's Republic of New York voters in Port Chester, NY get 6 votes each to spread among their choice of candidates.  
Although the village of about 30,000 residents is nearly half Hispanic, no Latino had ever been elected to any of the six trustee seats, which until now were chosen in a conventional at-large election. Most voters were white, and white candidates always won.

Federal Judge Stephen Robinson said that violated the Voting Rights Act, and he approved a remedy suggested by village officials: a system called cumulative voting, in which residents get six votes each to apportion as they wish among the candidates. He rejected a government proposal to break the village into six districts, including one that took in heavily Hispanic areas.
 WTF?  Srsly.  WTF??  I have a tough enough time finding one guy worth voting for one time.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

1W Laser Pointer That Sets People on Fire?

Daily Tech has this article about a laser from Wicked Lasers that is supposed to be powerful enough to burn things and people.  For a mere $200 bill.  I know people that would spend that much on dinner.  Their disclaimer/warning says
It will blind permanently and instantly and set fire quickly to skin and other body parts, use with extreme caution and only when using the included eye protection.
I have to admit my first reaction is serious Want!, but I think I'll let someone else be the beta testers.  I mean, what would I use it for?  A toy?  A really, really cool kitchen knife?  

As weapon, it might have a good intimidation factor, but you will have to keep something in mind that you don't have to think of with your handgun.  With your gun, the firings are discrete; that is, when you send a bullet down range, it's a only one bullet at a time, moving through the air quickly.  Once it gets to something that stops it, the bullet stops and if you stop shooting, no one is endangered any more.  A moving target going through its path has to meet the bullet in both time and space.  The laser will be continuous.  You could have a clear path behind your intended target but while you're fighting, someone could walk into it.  I have no doubt you'd be liable for injuries to bystanders, as you are with a gun. 

So while it's interesting, I don't see giving up my XDsc. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Why Raising Taxes Won't Fix Our Problems

In fact, raising taxes is likely to destroy any hope of recovery and hurt us badly.  It's not Laffer's law, as is being widely reported (read this; there's great stuff here).  It's a consequence of Hauser's Law. 

Hauser's Law is probably the least intuitive thing you will ever encounter in economics.  As a physical scientist, calling it a law makes me uncomfortable, so let's just say it's an observation that has not been disproved.

No matter what the tax rates have been, in postwar America tax revenues have remained at about 19.5% of GDP.
That is, when the maximum tax rate was 90%  as it was from 1950 until about 1963, the revenue as percent of GDP was close to 19.5%, and when tax rates were at their lowest, under 30% in the late 1980s, the revenue was essentially the same.  This illustration from the Peter G Peterson Foundation shows the effect:

There's an in-depth article at a blog called Political Calculations here.  Let me give you a heuristic explanation (that's fancy talk for "seat of the pants") of how I see it working.  Let's say you're in the top tax bracket: 

When tax rates are at that 90% level, you give most of your income to the government to waste.  As a result you have only 10% of your income for your self, to live on, save, invest, play with.  The economy slows to a crawl.  Revenues go down.  When taxes are 35%, you give less of your income to the government to waste, and have much more of your income to live on, save, invest, play with.  As a result, you buy things, invest in companies so they can grow, the economy heats up and expands.  Although you're paying a smaller percent of your income the GDP goes up so taxes go up.  Either way, the government wastes about 19% of GDP; only one way, we get to be happier and have more fun. 

The difference between the two worlds is vivid.  The 35% tax world is a much more vibrant, growing, moving world to live in. 

Empirically, we know this works; why is there even any question that keeping taxes low is the right thing to do?  

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Are We a Nation of Laws or a Nation of Men?

Lots on this topic this weekend on teh Intrawebz.  This post will be "more linky than thinky" as Kevin says.  

How about the Obama justice department intervening to throw out a "slam dunk" voter intimidation case against those Black Panthers who were hanging out in Philadelphia with clubs and such? (H/T to WSRA)

How about an Impeach Holder movement?  Where do I sign?

Life without the rule of law (WROL) is a thread over at Restore the Constitution and on YouTube with NutnFancy who I typically think of as "gun review guy".

More?  How about the peaceful tea party guy who gets mugged by a left wing thug, and then the guy who got assaulted got charged with assault?   H/T Jennifer III

How about a guy being charged with a crime for rescuing a girl who fell out of a boat in a dangerous river?   H/T to John at Improved Clinch, although this was on Fox News all weekend. 
Clear Creek sheriff's deputies on Thursday arrested a rafting guide for swimming to a stranded young rafter who had tumbled from his boat on Clear Creek.
Ryan Daniel Snodgrass, a 28-year-old guide with Arkansas Valley Adventures rafting company, was charged with "obstructing government operations," said Clear Creek Sheriff Don Krueger.  (emphasis added)
Can't have mere subjects interfering with a government operation.  They could plan their rescue for hours, and he just went and rescued the girl.  What good is that?

My view: we are a nation of laws, most of the times.  Until it suits the men who run things, then we are under their rule. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

It's Not About You

Remember the Smart Grid commercial from GE during the Super Bowl this year?  The modern scare crow singing "If I Only Had A Brain" while dancing across the powerlines?  How a Smart Grid (whatever the heck that is) is going to make your life so much better?

"Smart Grid", to quote electronics trade journal Urgent Communications from last year, is moving toward the peak of the hype cycle.  There are commercials and news articles everywhere talking about the crying need for a Smart Grid.  There are reasons to upgrade portions of our power grid, but much of what's being said about Smart Grid is marketing hype.  Companies like GE and Cisco Systems are funding large PR efforts to get hooked up to the government teat on this one.  There's hundreds of billions to suck down. 

Let's start with a few things about power generation and grids.  Some of these are things most people know, others are kinda technical.  Electrical power generation in our country is largely in centralized big power stations.  The main reason for that approach instead of lots of smaller power sources is the economies of scale that make it cheaper to produce large amounts of power; a generator of twice the size may not cost twice as much as the smaller one.  Since AC can be almost losslessly stepped up to very high voltages, transported long distances, and stepped down again, there is little penalty for central power production.  There was a very rancorous public debate between Nicola Tesla and Thomas Edison about 100 years ago, over the merits of distributing DC (Edison) versus AC (Tesla).  Tesla, of course, won.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, and when we chose AC distribution, we gave up the advantages a DC system can have.

The biggest advantage DC has is that it's easy to store DC, and in fact, no practical AC power storage system exists.  For DC systems, batteries are obvious storage systems.  I'm going to ignore a few technicalities here and move on. 

Because we can't store AC, the power grid has to deliver exactly the power needed at the instant it's needed.  In the early design of the power grid, the system really was all about you - the user.  They designed the systems to deliver the power needed on peaks and during the low use times of day (typically the evening and overnight hours) the system ran at low utilization.  Low efficiency.  When the rapid increase in power demand starts with the workday, the plants have to be running all equipment, ready for the load to reach them.  The need to have some load on their equipment overnight (called "load leveling") is an old problem in power plant design and one of the reasons for early, widespread street lights. 

While utilities try to generate enough power to address peak loads, that's complicated by the fact that building new generation plants is extremely expensive, and virtually impossible in some areas of the country due to political reasons (NIMBY homeowners, Global Warmists, etc.).  If the power plant gets a power demand it can't supply, one of two things can happen: either they buy power, or they shut down users.  If they buy power, they are buying it during the peak demand times, and since few suppliers can offer it then, power is at its most expensive.  Of course, no one wants to have their power cut, but it's better to cut some users than to have circuit breakers start opening and the power grid go down.  This is called a "rolling brownout".  You may remember this in California a few years ago.  You may also remember that this was the market space Enron was in; trading power.  

While the power grid has increased in size and coverage, this is still pretty much the way it is. 

So where does a Smart Grid fit in to this?  In the simplest applications, the grid isn't smart in the sense we usually use; lots of processing power and making decisions on its own.  In the simplest applications, monitoring circuitry communicates back to the power plant when, for example, a transformer fails.  In some local grids today, the only way the power company knows a transformer has failed is when someone calls to say their lights are out.  These are low data rate applications, and have been in use for decades.  These are called SCADA systems; Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition. 

Where the new Smart Grid is going is for the power companies to produce power how they want to; it's all about them, not you.  Like a broken hearted teenager out of puppy love gone bad, they're saying, "Why did I do everything for you?  Why don't you do something for me?" to their customers.  The new grid is not about giving you the power you want when you want it, it's about making you do things their way.  To quote from the Urgent Communications article, "For instance, instead of shutting off power completely in a blackout/brownout scenario, utilities with smart-grid capabilities could manage the usage load during such circumstances - perhaps raising all of the thermostats in the affected area by a degree to ensure that essential power can be provided." 

I have to tell you that's laughable.  Here in the Florida summer, the A/C has to run full tilt during the daytime peak hours (as I type this, it's 10PM local; my outdoor thermometer says it's 88 outside - and it won't be summer for almost another 2 weeks).  If they raise thermostats one degree, nothing will happen.  They will have to turn your air conditioner off, and they want to do that, too.  The argument is that they could time sweep the air conditioners across the cities they "serve", turning whole blocks or sub-sections off for some time, and sweeping that as a rolling brownout just for air conditioners. 

Another thing to control is an outlet you might plug your electric car or hybrid into for recharging.  The power that you would get out of gasoline has to come from somewhere; in this case, you've moved your expense from the gas station to the electric company.  These chargers can consume large amounts of current in their fast-charge mode.  In turn, what the electric company wants to do is to not allow your charger to run during the early evening when TVs, dishwashers and other appliances are on.  They want to turn on your charger in the early morning hours; if everyone in your neighborhood had an electric car, say, they might time stagger the charging time for users to minimize the load on a transformer.   

Just look around your house.  Anything that consumes a relatively large amount of power; water heater, air conditioner, your oven, is something that can be controlled. 

Smart grid is a way of feeding back detailed usage data to the power companies, and allowing them to turn off whatever they deem necessary.  It really marks the shift from supplying whatever power the consumer wants, when they want it, to the best of their abilities - a complete customer focus - to trying to manage their customers.  You will sometimes hear about a more "user friendly" version where they will charge you different power rates based on how busy they are, but not turn your appliances off.  If you get home from work in the early evening and your house is way too hot, or too cold, you may find the power rate is much higher than later in the evening.  It will probably encourage a market for timers and programmable devices that only use the electricity when the rates are lowest.  There are other uses for smart grid technologies too, such as improved monitoring and control.  To me, these fall more under the heading of maintenance or modernization, and any sane company will do that. 

Something that really needs to be addressed is the security aspects of anything controlling the grid.  Experts have considered hacker attacks on the grid as likely for quite some time.  Strangely, the primitive SCADA systems and other low-tech dumb systems in use protect us.  They're too stupid to hack.  If your power company ever talks about using Windows products for this, get a big backup generator immediately!

The Urgent Communications magazine article that inspired this is here

Some Things Just Stick in Your Head

I read this on "Survival Blog" back in March and it has haunted me ever since.  I had planned a longer post, but have to make an unexpected trip out of town.  In the mean time, chew on this and what it might mean if we go through extended period of social unrest (as has been predicted many times).

Last fall during a lecture I asked a group of medical residents what they would do if society collapsed. I used the example of an EMP with complete failure of the electrical grid and ensuing chaos. Keep in mind, these are very well educated and intelligent people; they are physicians in training. These people are expected by the population to have the highest ethical standards and morals. Their answers astounded me. In the early aftermath as a group these people said they would go to the store and get what they needed. When I reminded them there was no way to pay with a credit card they seemed to think that it would be okay anyway. Many of the women said they would resort to begging if things became difficult, but most of the males in the group said they would leave for the rural areas due to the availability of cattle and other farm animals. When I asked what they would then do, most responded that they would take “one or two.” It wasn’t until I mentioned that stealing cattle is also called “rustling” and men used to be hung for such acts that it even began to register they were in fact stealing. The notion had not even occurred to them. One of my residents took the discussion further saying, “It wouldn’t necessarily be considered stealing because of the national emergency.” When I assured him the farmer or rancher would definitely consider it stealing and would likely defend his property with a rifle, he answered, “He wouldn’t shoot me. I’m a doctor. Besides murder would be a worse crime than my stealing.”

Whole article is here.   There's really a lot in there to chew on.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Another Warning

BMO Capital Markets says, "Go to cash in plain English". 

Mish has a translation into "Non Financial Guy" although the original link is pretty good, too.  From the BMO piece:


We see credit crisis II as just beginning. Few markets are untouched. Few signs of optimism can be seen. We are now at the tipping point when the crisis becomes more obvious. Markets will get more dangerous during this phase.

We advocate a zero weight toward equity, and that investors convert their equity positions to cash.

We will continue to provide updates in our daily Market Elements, Relative Strength Filter, and our topical Focal Points publications.
Gee didn't Helicopter Ben say everything is just peachyCan't understand why people might want to buy gold? 
Asked whether a double-dip recession is likely, Mr. Bernanke repeated a reassurance he offered Monday that he doesn’t think so. The Fed is forecasting moderate growth in the 3.5% range, with modest declines in unemployment, and it’s sticking with that forecast. An important transition could be underway for the economy — away from government support and toward private demand, he noted. That’s a formula for continuing expansion.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

When Gasoline Saved the World From Pollution

I used to get a trade journal called "The Industrial Physicist", a free publication for qualified subscribers by the AIP, who publish Physics Today.  I will always remember a handful of concepts I first encountered in those journals. 

The first one is that when gasoline powered automobiles first came out everyone thought they were saving the world from pollution. 

Before the invention of the car, transportation was largely by horse. There are a few problems associated with horse transportation that we don't think of today.  Horses produce large amounts of horse manure and urine, and by the end of the 1800s, American cities were drowning in them.  Horses would die and be left in the road, obstructing traffic.  Flies and other vermin were omnipresent, spreading disease, and the stench was overwhelming.  When it rained, streets turned into almost knee-deep swamps of wet manure.  When it was dry, the manure dust would cloud the lungs of city residents.  One New Yorker in the 1890s calculated that by 1930 the horse droppings would rise to Manhattan's third-story windows.  In 1894, the Times of London estimated that by 1950 every street in the city would be buried nine feet deep in horse manure. No one knew what to do.  The horse had been the basis of human transportation forever. 

Horses need to eat. According to one estimate each urban horse probably consumed on the order of 1.4 tons of oats and 2.4 tons of hay per year. One British farmer calculated that each horse consumed the product of five acres of land, a footprint which could have produced enough to feed six to eight people. Probably fifteen million acres were needed to feed the urban horse population at its zenith, an area about the size of West Virginia. Directly or indirectly, feeding the horse meant placing new land under cultivation, clearing it of its natural animal life and vegetation, and sometimes diverting water to irrigate it, with considerable negative effects on the natural ecosystem.  Horse food had to be transported to the cities, requiring extensive infrastructure to support the effort.  Trains ran on rails under steam power, but getting things to the trains and from them to their final destination required - you guessed it - horses. 

And what goes in must come out.  Estimates were that each horse produced between fifteen and thirty pounds of manure per day. For New York and Brooklyn, which had a combined horse population of between 150,000 and 175,000 in 1880 (long before the horse population reached its peak), this meant that between three and four million pounds of manure were deposited on city streets and in city stables every day. Each horse also produced about a quart of urine daily, which added up to around 40,000 gallons per day for New York and Brooklyn.  Vacant lots became piled high with manure; in New York these piles sometimes rose to forty and even sixty feet deep.

It was into this world that the miracle of the internal combustion-powered, gasoline-fueled automobile arrived.  In the span of two decades, the car eradicated a major urban nightmare that had strained governments to the breaking point, tormented the people, and brought society to the brink of despair.  Cities became much cleaner places. 

Now I'm not saying that cars don't bring problems.  I'm not saying oil exploration and gasoline production don't bring problems.  What I am saying is that we have lost the perspective of just how much cleaners cars and gasoline have made everything, and that the idyllic past was not as beautiful and unscented as we might want to believe. 

Much of the content in this posting is credited to

Morris, Eric, "From Horse Power to Horsepower",  Access number 30, Spring 2007

Monday, June 7, 2010

Odds and Ends And Stuff

Feeling a little better as an unplanned day off closes.  I have an almost Brigid-like post (as if that's possible) about houses, homes and the lives they see rolling around in my mind, but some other time.   

Yesterday, John at Improved Clinch had a link to a post by Vin Suprynowicz "Do You Really Believe They're Going to Pay Off This Debt?".  If you've been around here, you might know that I believe "things that can't go on, won't go on" and we can't possibly pay the debt off.  Vin believes they will default on the dollar, declaring all the bonds worthless.  I tend to think they plan to inflate our way out of the debt.  I commented,
I don’t think they intend to pay off the debt in any real sense. Ben Bernanke once said, “people know that inflation erodes the real value of the government’s debt and, therefore, that it is in the interest of the government to create some inflation.”  I think they may intend a period of hyperinflation to devalue the currency.
Maybe this creates the atmosphere that enables a default, and maybe they just print the money owed to China/whomever on a roll of Charmin (same difference).
I came across a quote from Helicopter Ben the other day that reveals more insight into his “thought” processes. In 1999, he wrote: “A central bank can… extend loans to depositories, other financial intermediaries, or firms and households…. ” Households?? If the Fed directly depositing money into everyone’s accounts isn’t inflating and devaluing the currency, what is?
The guy has not had an original thought since his graduate school work on the depression, which means even more years since he had a correct original thought.
That first Bernanke quote is originally here and the second is here. In the article "50 Statistics About the US Economy That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe", the authors say the US next year is going to issue almost as much debt as the rest of the world combined.  A couple of months ago, in one of this blog's very first posts, I commented about that, saying

First off, think of how much money that is. With a deficit of 1.4 trillion year to date (again, ATTOTW), we have to sell around 280 billion in bonds per month. Who has the money to soak up that much in bonds? According to the 2009 CIA World Factbook, that’s more than the annual GDP of economies smaller than the 32nd largest economy of the world (South Africa). See: this list on Wikipedia which is pretty much the only kind of facts I trust to the Wikipedia. So who can continue to buy up that kind of debt? Things that can’t go on, won’t go on.

In just the time since the end of February, when I wrote that, the projected deficit has increased to 1.6 Trillion.  If we have to issue more bonds than a country's entire GDP, we can't count on selling them many bonds.  It leaves us with the world's largest economies as our only realistic customers.   That's the EU, China, Japan, Canada, India and a few others.  In case you missed it, they all have plenty of problems of their own.  

Events may keep all those nice plans of mice and men from going forward, though.  The middle east appears to be lurching toward open warfare, possibly between Turkey, Iran and Israel.  Israel is frequently quoted as being a nuclear power, although I believe they have never confirmed that.  Wikipedia says the Turkish air force has 40 (presumably) US B61 nuclear bombs.  Iran, of course, has been working on attaining nuclear weapons for some time, and I suspect they may well have some number of them; either bought or made in country.  The world's first nuclear war?  If a country did not intend to use nuclear weapons, but had nukes used against them, would they then use their nuclear weapons?  What if their entire country was on the verge of destruction or their entire people on the verge of annihilation, would they use them then? 

Turkey has been moving away from US interests for some time - remember how in 2003 they refused to cooperate with the start of the Iraq war? - joining Iran should cause us to drop relations with them, and could conceivably cause the disintegration of NATO.  Not that burying NATO is necessarily a Bad Thing. 

According to this article in the Guardian, the next big attempt to run the blockade could be soon, but probably not later than September. 
Israel's no-compromise attitude to aid convoys could be tested again after two Lebanese organisations pledged to send boats to Gaza in the next few days. Reporters Without Borders is attempting to assemble 25 European activists and 50 journalists for a boat leaving Beirut. The Free Palestine Movement is planning a similar attempt.
George Galloway, the founder of Viva Palestina, announced in London that two simultaneous convoys "one by land via Egypt and the other by sea" would set out in September to break the Gaza blockade. The sea convoy of up to 60 ships will travel around the Mediterranean gathering ships, cargo and volunteers.
Israel is close enough to Turkey that it won't take long for things to happen once the ships are sailing.

The Strategy Page posts this article that offers other viewpoints that moderate the what I've quoted here.  Important points are that Turkey and Iran have never been allies historically, and are probably just joining together for bluster.
Turkey and Iran have offered to provide warships to escort another aid convoy for Gaza. This is pure posturing, as neither Turkey nor Iran could carry that out in the face of Israeli naval and air power. Moreover, the Turkish military is much more pro-Israel than the current Islamic government (which is using all this to divert attention from economic and corruption problems.)
Iran, which leads the effort to destroy Israel (and makes frequent public announcements to that fact) sees the May 30th incident off Gaza as an excellent diversion from efforts to move more missiles into Lebanon (for Hezbollah to use against Israel), and gather more European and Arab support to break the blockade of Gaza. Most Arab states fear Iran (historically, a real threat) more than Israel (mainly a threat to Arab pride). But pride and reality don't get along in this part of the world, and currently pride is winning. That will quickly change as Iran makes another move against an Arab state, something that is happening with increasing frequency these days.

Iran is also making nice with Turkey. This, historically, is an unnatural act. The Turks and Iranians have been arch-foes for over a thousand years. They have never made peace before, just ceasefires. The current phony peace ignores Iranian calls for Iran to replace Saudi Arabia as the guardian of Mecca and Medina, and for Iran to establish a new Caliphate (Turkey had held that largely empty title for centuries, but gave it up in 1924). The only thing the Turks and Iranians have in common is the rough way they treat their Kurdish minorities. Iran has a large (25 percent) Turkic minority, but these Azeris tend to be anti-Turkey and very Shia.

What's going to happen?  It's hard to say.  I think it comes down to the individuals in all of the command seats at the critical times, as it has so many times in the past. 

It is frequently said that the President of the United States is the leader of the free world.  Right now there is no leadership; there is no leader of the free world.  Indeed, the "free" world itself may be on the brink of vanishing.

Makes Me Want to Dance in the Streets

The Mighty Brady Bunch is almost bankrupt. (formally known as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, but known to many of us as the Brady Campaign to Eliminate Gun Ownership). 

The same group that raised 1.7 million dollars for the Bush v. Gore election has raised $2500 for the 2010 elections so far.  From one donor looking for tax deduction on 12/31/09.

Gosh, I needed some good news for a change.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Saying Goodbye

Today is different.  Today, I don't want to talk about the things this blog is supposed to be about.  This weekend I lost one of my closest friends.  Closer than that.  I had to put my cat to sleep. 

Pets are in a different world than any of our human interactions and we don't really have a good word for it.  I'm not talking about working dogs, or working animals, which don't share that sort of relationship with us.  I'm talking about house pets.  They're not kids, although many people refer to their dogs or cats as their kids.  They're not just friends, they are closer and more intimate in many ways than any friend.  They see us as we are all the time we're home.  We are completely ourselves with them - and they with us.  They love, or they don't, in a more pure way than many of us can.  Gun people seem to be a bit more dog people than cat people.  While I have nothing against dogs, I've always preferred cats around the house. 

Spot was a storm orphan who we adopted in April of '05.  Our last cats had died two years and one year before and it had taken us a while to get over the emotional rides of that time.  One had gone fairly quickly.  A gregarious, maybe even outrageous personality, Fourier was a chocolate point Siamese who could best be described as a living, breathing, exclamation point.  Everything he did, every emotion, every game - everything - was at full-tilt, all out level.  An exclamation point.  One Friday evening, he got up off the sofa to go into the kitchen and fell over, his legs not working.  It had never happened before, and I scooped him up to hold him.  He buried his face tight against me as if asking for my comforting.  In a few minutes, he got up and jumped down on his own, resumed his activities. Still, by the end of the weekend, he "just didn't seem right".  He was sleeping too much, not active, not moving around.  We took him to the vet on Monday morning and nothing appeared wrong (how do you tell your vet, "my cat sleeps too much?").  Tuesday, we made an appointment for a more complete workup.  The next morning, I woke to find he had died in his sleep.  He was 18 when he passed away. 

A more gentle soul, his "brother", adopted separately as a 3 year old, a few months before Fourier adopted at 8 weeks, Spook (a black mostly-Siamese) was a gentle, loving giant, probably 18 pounds at his peak weight, compared to 10 pounds for Fourier.  His last year was a slow descent into complete kidney failure.  The patient Mrs. Graybeard would give him liters of saline solution injected under the skin of his back and he would willingly live with that, just to sit on her lap and interact with her.  He lived with us a year that way.  We believe he was 20 or 21. 

When we decided to adopt another cat, we looked online for a local shelter that was "no kill".  We found an adorable Lynx Point Siamese girl whom they called Olivia, and who was said to be a storm orphan from a housing area destroyed in the '04 hurricanes.  We met her, decided she seemed nice, and took her home. 

It became evident immediately that she didn't know the name Olivia, so we decided to rename her.  After some searching, we noticed that on one finger of each hand and one toe of each foot, she had a black spot.  The idea of calling an obviously striped cat Spot stuck, and her name was given.  Plus, Commander Data's cat (on Star Trek: TNG) was named Spot, and was also a striped cat. 

Spot was the most remarkable cat I have known.  Amazingly intelligent, she learned words in one or two repetitions.  Have you ever drummed or scratched your fingers on the bottom of paper sack to play with a cat?  Every other cat I have ever known dives into the bag to see what's going on.  Spot looked into it, and walked around behind the bag to see what was making the sound.  I was stunned.  While this may seem to be stretching the bounds of anthropomorphism, she was demure, a girly-girl personality.  She would purse her lips and act shocked if we did something that she thought just wasn't proper.  Example: after about 6 months, Mrs. Graybeard asked me if I had ever seen Spot use the litter box.  I realized I hadn't.  She said that she hadn't either.  Spot would only use the litter box if no one was looking.  Likewise Spot would accompany her into the bathroom, but not me.  It just isn't done. 

Unlike other cats I've had, she would watch TV for long periods.  Her favorite show was a episode of Sunrise Earth from Discovery HD; Sunrise on Cape Cod.  We have it on DVR and would show it for her every now and then.  She would watch those birds as if they were in the house, with a longer attention span than many adults I know.  One night I left some science channel on when a show on Jupiter came on and left the room.  A half hour later I got up and saw her sitting up, leaning on one arm watching it intently.  This got me; I couldn't figure out why a cat would be watching a show about Jupiter, so I started watching her.  She turned to look at me and gave me the most perfect "What??" look I have ever seen from a cat.  She was not your everyday cat. 

In April of '09, the Mrs. took her in for her annual checkup.  The vet said, "I can't hear her heart".  Within an hour or so, she was at an animal internist for x-rays and ultra-sounds.  A biopsy was taken.  She was diagnosed with a thymoma, a tumor in the thymus gland.  The veterinary surgeon was optimistic that she could remove the tumor, but the risk was that these tumors can grow intimately around major blood vessels and the heart itself.  I asked her what the chance of surviving the surgery was and she told me 30%.

Now I'm a pretty rational guy; at the least, it's certainly easier to talk with me than a cat, but if you told me I had to have surgery and I had a 30% chance of surviving it, I'm not sure I'd sign up for that.  Add to that, her rib cage would be split completely open, and she would be hospitalized for at least a week.  Then there's the chance of infection.  We asked how long they thought she had, and they told us "weeks to a few months".  After a lot of prayerful reflection, we both decided to just try to keep her as comfortable as possible. 

Before that day and for a long time she never showed signs of being a sick cat.  This April, we took her in for another annual checkup.  This time, the vet noticed she was slightly yellow; jaundice.  We began treating for that, but the last two months has been a fairly rapid downhill.  Still the remarkable girl that she was, she started out hating the medication (someone insists on making antibiotics for cats in children's formulas, like bubblegum and other tastes they hate) but got to where we would say "Pill" and she would walk down to the bedroom where we would give her the medication and hop up on the bed. 

When they told us she had a thymoma that would eventually crowd out her lungs and heart, I expected that one day her breathing would start getting rapid and shallow.  I took to counting her respiration rate (I was an emergency room nurses' aide in another life). 

Saturday, I woke and she wasn't in the bedroom.  She had not come up to snuggle with me in the night.  I immediately thought something was wrong.  She was sitting still, breathing in shallow breaths.  No interest in eating - her appetite was great until then.  By early afternoon she was visibly gasping for breath. I realized she was within minutes of dying right then and brought her to the emergency room.  After some examination, and a talk of history, the vet said there was nothing we could do.  The only compassionate thing to do was to say goodbye. 

I'm not afraid to say I cried like a little girl.  And I continue to. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Will You Recognize the World By the Fall of 2010?

What if a major war breaks out between Israel and the enemies swearing to destroy them? 

Read this post from Sense of Events.  This is an excellent explanation of the poor summer theater which is the "peace martyrdom flotilla" off Israel's coast last week. 

And don't miss this one (same place). 

I'm left with the sense that the chance of war is very high.  This will affect you and every aspect of you life. 

I have said before, Iran is not content with the destruction of Israel.  They mean to re-establish a Persian empire with total control over the Mideast.  Terrorists tied to Iran have tried to destroy the Saudi oil fields a few times before.  A massive attack from Iranian missiles, even if they are not nuclear warheads, could do it.   

Think oil at $500/barrel, with all Mideast sources offline. 

Because of that, the Saudis are as concerned about Iran as Israel is, and have agreed to allow Israel jets to overfly the Kingdom in conflict with Iran.  The Saudis agreeing with Israel?  

If Tehran really had their dream, the US and Israel would both have smoking holes where major cities used to be, and the major difference would be that not every soul in the US has been killed.  The question really is how much of their dream does Tehran get?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Quite A Recovery, Idnit?

The jobs numbers came out today.  You probably heard that 431,000 jobs were added, but at least 411,000 of them were temporary census jobs.  And since there are many reports of census job numbers being faked (people being hired, let go and hired again, to count more), it's possible that's not true either.  

So there's a possibility that the real economy generated 20,000 jobs last month.  The fine folks at CalculatedRiskBlog give this analysis

The dotted line removes the temporary jobs.  

Have we turned the corner, yet?  What about the W shaped recovery people were talking about?  It seems we can say we've hit the bottom.  After that, it should go up.  I don't know how to predict the rate. 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

That Pesky "Free Speech" Thing

In my previous post, I said that I thought McCain Feingold was unconstitutional.  Among other things, it restricted ads in the 60 days prior to the general election so that they could only be funded by a few types of groups.  In doing so, it limited the right of people to speak their mind and political speech is the most protected type of speech there is.  You can't just tell people or groups who could afford to buy a campaign ad that their opinions are not allowed in the public sphere.

Again, "unconstitutional" is what I say (and it's a pretty commonly held opinion among conservatives and libertarians).  The Supremes narrowly ruled that a small part of the law was invalid, in the Citizen's United vs. the FEC case last fall.  To the socialist left, allowing people wealthy enough to buy national air time to speak is terrifying, and they want to overturn the Supreme's decision.  Enter the DISCLOSE act.  Readers of Rawles Survivalblog  will recognize when I say it was sponsored by "He who hits the fan". 

There are always unintended consequences from new laws.  This one might be an easy to use database so that when you interview for a job they can make sure you don't contribute to any organizations they don't approve of.  Such as the NRA, - thanks to Snowflakes in Hell, a Pennsylvania Firearms blog.  Naturally, unions such as SEIU are exempt.

Reason Magazine's Jacob Sullum does a great fisking of the DISCLOSE act:
The "stand by your ad" statements required by the DISCLOSE Act also impose a substantial burden on the exercise of First Amendment rights. Under current law, a political ad has to include a statement indicating the sponsoring organization—say, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the American Civil Liberties Union. Under the DISCLOSE Act, both the organization's head and its "significant funder" would have to appear in the ad and take responsibility for it. According to the Center for Competitive Politics, these statements would consume one-third to one-half of the time in a 30-second TV spot.
The anxiety and uncertainty created by the new rules would be compounded by the fact that they would take effect 30 days after the law is enacted, before the FEC would have time to issue regulations clarifying them. Opposing an amendment that would have postponed the effective date until January 1, Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) said he wants people to worry about a fine or prison sentence when they dare to speak ill of him.
"I hope it chills out all—not one side, all sides!" said Capuano. "I have no problem whatsoever keeping everybody out. If I could keep all outside entities out, I would."
Similarly, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), upon unveiling the bill, said "the deterrent effect should not be underestimated." For those who view nonpoliticians as meddlesome "outside entities" and criticism of incumbents as a crime to be deterred, the chilling effect of campaign finance laws is a feature, not a bug.
Those people outside the beltway are just so out of touch....