Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why Do We Have an Immigration Problem?

The obvious answer is that someone wants one.  Is it a simple project to get more fraudulent voters?  Undocumented Democrats, as they say?  Or does it go farther?  Is it simply that strawberries or tomatoes are so fragile that they must be picked by delicate hand pickers? 

Let me show you something.
This four panel photograph shows individual iron atoms being formed into a corral on a copper surface, by experimenters at IBM's Almeda Research Facility.  From the photo set IBM Celebrates 20 Years of Moving Atoms, hosted on Picasaweb. Notice the ripples inside the ring, and how it changes shape?  That's the cloud of easily movable electrons in the copper atoms of the surface.

If you can move individual atoms, do you really think it's impossible to make a machine that can move individual tomatoes?  "No, but that's different", you say?  I disagree.  I have had the privilege of working with great engineering minds for many years and I guarantee that if you place a challenge in front of them and an economic prize for beating that challenge, the problem will be solved.     

The fact is, the US is way behind in the mechanization of farm harvesting.  I have read comments like this one many times:
"…the US is woefully behind on even regular mechanical harvesting technology. That's because the United Farm Workers union sued the federal government to stop all research into harvest mechanization at any university receiving federal funds in 1978, and won. The most sophisticated harvesting machines now come from Europe where harvest mechanization has long been a necessity. Slowly but surely, US farmers are starting to buy these machines -- but it's an industrial sector that the US could have established itself in 30 years ago if it hadn't been for the sainted UFW and its need to continue importing Mexican union members."
From commenter "MaryJ" at  Another excellent comment is from commenter "rob":
Come to think of it, it is time to (accurately) smear the unskilled immigrant lobbies as luddites and technophobes. They want a future with a permanent underclass picking fruit. Little brown people will always clean the floors and wash the dishes. What a progressive vision: replace your washing machine with a Mexican!
Yet another gift from Jimmy Carter's administration.  Let's see - they gave us the Community Reinvestment Act that led inexorably to the mortgage crisis and economic collapse of 2008, and the UFW union keeping us from freeing people from menial labor and lowering the cost of food for everyone.  Carter's administration was a great time, wasn't it? 

Those of us on the Right, who are opposed to illegal immigration see it as modern day slavery: morally and ethically completely abhorrent.  Strangely, we're opposed by people who are supposed to be advocates for individual rights.  The right to be a slave?  If you're going to pipe up with "but we're a nation of immigrants" - shut the pie hole.  Isn't every nation a "nation of immigrants"?  I'm second generation American, grandson of immigrants from two countries. 

Just like other cases of slavery throughout history, the slave owners are the real problem, and I'll include companies that hire them as well as the incredibly corrupt, failed narco-state that is Mexico.  If they were a functioning country, they would not drive their citizens across the border to eek out a living. 

So why do we have an immigration problem?  Someone wants it.  The Mexican government wants it for the money the illegals send home, the corporations want it, the US government wants it for tax revenue and the bleeding hearts want it, so they can pretend to stand up for the slaves while maintaining the systems that sustain the slavery.  The immigrants are being played like the ball in a game of dodge ball. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"The Time Has Come", The Walrus Said...

"To talk of many things.

Of shoes and ships and sealing wax. 

Of cabbages and ... the mathematics of pork rectums? "  and read the comments, too.

Quote of the day:
Now, those Koreans are importing 2 to 3 of those containers every month. Pick the middle figure. That makes 30 containers a year, just going to this one company. That gives a grand total of between 560,000 to 610,000 rectums per year sailing across the high seas on their way to Korea.
I'll leave you to envision for yourself what circa 600,000 rectums sailing across the pacific might look like.

Bonus quote of the day, from my wife's cousin, who said, "If politicians ate those, would it be cannibalism?"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mmmm....Irresistible Meme - With Floor Pie!

So last week, some "hoplophobic broad" - as Joel over at "The Ultimate Answer to Kings" said - listed 20 questions that she thought were reasonable gun control questions.  Joel answered them, as did Sebastian from Snowflakes in Hell.

Said "broad" (whom I won't link to) immediately struck me as someone with a condescending attitude that said, "I'm so reasonable, you must agree with me...  How could you not agree with me?  What kind of knuckle-dragging Neanderthal are you???"  She seemed not really interested in anything someone might post, unless it was complete agreement that she is 100% right.  The way I read some of her questions, like:
Will you continue a reasonable discussion towards an end that might lead somewhere or is this an exercise in futility?
Is pretty much semantically equivalent to "are you still beating your wife?".  How about this gem of a question:

Do you believe that 30,000 gun deaths a year is too many?
What kind of intellectual garbage is that?  It depends on how many "needed killing".  Are you including people that the police killed?  Are you counting "children" the way that the gun-control nuts usually do, by including 18 year old gang bangers who die in drug wars?  That is too meaningless a question to have any rational response to.

Like every gun control freak I've come across, she's too concerned with the thing to consider the psycho holding it. 

Still, I find it an irresistible meme that I can't get out of my head.  I'm all for "reasonable" gun laws, but I'll bet anything that I find reasonable will scare her to death.  First of all, I believe the logical, ethical and even scientific argument for gun control is done.  Their side has completely lost.  John Lott has been proven right over and over again: "More Guns = Less Crime".  When Formerly Great Britain destroyed guns and rounded up family heirlooms, they were rewarded by going from middle of the pack rates to the highest violent crime rate in the EU, and one of the worst in the world.  In the first year after Heller, violent crime was down 25% in DC, as opposed to down about 10% in similarly sized cities that allowed firearms.

I think gun sales laws are too restrictive now. I think the whole setup of all sales having to go through an FFL who can only send it across state lines to another FFL just perpetuates a protected market and doesn't do any good for anybody other than FFLs.  What good does it do - if you're not a gun dealer?  Why can't I buy a gun online from Bud's or Impact or someone else and have it sent to me?  With an encryption system, I can prove who I am online just as easily as I can at a store, and we can even do an NCIS check without invoking the whole FFL system. 

Let's start here: any adult can walk into a sporting goods store in most places and walk out with a shotgun or a rifle with no waiting period. But if I wanted to buy an AR-15 or a Mossberg 500 from the factory or a store in another city, why does it have to go through an FFL's hands? Why can't I order a rifle or shotgun from an online gun store, or even an kind of "online superstore" and have it shipped to my house? What advantage is there to society from shipping it to an FFL?  In consumer goods, your local camera shop, say, really does have to compete with the big guys in New York. Gun shops don't have that. I can see how gun shops might really like this setup. They get an easy 20 bucks for filling out the form and "receiving" your shipment, but I don't think there's any value added to us or society.

We should never again allow a stupid "mean looking weapons ban" to pass.  I read that the number of assault rifles involved in crimes was 0.1% or some tiny number like that. I'll take a bet that the number of crimes involving rifles like a Remington 700 or other hunting rifle is essentially zero. The number of crimes you'd prevent is meaningless, so all it does is hassle people who like shooting those little rifles. 
There - not in the least bit scary looking.
If there's a 3-day waiting period for a handgun (without your CWFL), why can't you order a pistol from Bud's and wait 3 or 4 days for UPS to deliver it? What advantage is there to sending it to an FFL instead of to you? Again, with today's computer security, you could verify age, do an NICS check - anything the local shop can do - online. The whole idea of that 3 day wait was a "cooling off" period, so a hothead doesn't go buy a gun in a moment of anger and then go kill someone (personally, I have a hard time believing there were large numbers of that sort of crime anyway).  It's an extension of the ban on Saturday Night Specials, which (as far as I can tell) only had the effect of removing cheap, reasonably functional guns from people who couldn't afford better ones, and caused some smaller arms companies to either fold or change their product line.  But, fine, we'll play your infantile waiting game -- now how does waiting 3 days to pick up a gun in your city differ from waiting 3 days to get it delivered by UPS or FedEx?

I realize this is pipe dream stuff that has a snowball's chance in Florida of ever passing, but our current system really doesn't make sense to me.  I realize guns are deadly. But so are kitchen knives (how many crimes involve those?), gas barbecues, and on and on, up to cars and trucks.  I think the laws we have now are beyond unreasonable.  Are there problems in what I propose?  Probably, but I don't think there's anything unsolvable in there. 
There, now, hoplophobes.  It's so cute, how could it possibly hurt you?

Monday, September 27, 2010

What’s All This Gold and Weiner Stuff, Anyway? - Part II

Way back in May, I asked the question: What's All This Gold and Weiner Stuff, Anyway?  when Congressman Weiner's office first started clucking their tongues and wagging their fingers about Goldline and other precious metal sellers.  In the intervening three months, the plot has continued to thicken - or sicken, depending on how you look at it.

Now is a good time to look at some of this again.  Why?  Unless you live under a rock, you know that gold has crossed the $1300 per ounce psychological barrier - and backed down - several times in the last few days, and the consensus of those who follow the yellow metal is that it is going to go up for the foreseeable future.  While the percolation of the daily market is always going to happen, it's hard to argue with a chart that looks like this:
Available daily at

UK Finance writer Ambrose Evans-Pritchard comments on gold in his article "Gold is the final refuge against universal currency debasement".

States accounting for two-thirds of the global economy are either holding down their exchange rates by direct intervention or steering currencies lower in an attempt to shift problems on to somebody else, each with their own plausible justification. Nothing like this has been seen since the 1930s.

We have a new world order where China and India are buying gold on every dip, where the West faces an ageing crisis, and where the sovereign states of the US, Japan, and most of Western Europe have public debt trajectories near or beyond the point of no return. 
John Galt at Shenandoah has more direct way of saying what Pritchard says:
The Keynesian lie is about to die on its own sword as predicted by the charlatan himself. The only ceiling on gold now is the existence of Western civilization itself.
Back to the original question: what's up with Weiner and his congressional hearings?  Do you want his version or mine?  My version (this is my blog, after all) is that the Ruling Class is doing everything it can to keep you from buying gold and silver.  There's a saying among the gun culture that an armed person is a citizen, while the unarmed are merely subjects.  I maintain the same holds for independence from their monopoly on currency.  If you are able to use silver or gold for financial transactions, you're not dependent on them.  You don't depend on your welfare cheese and - far worse from their standpoint - you could be engaging in transactions that don't get raided by the IRS.  You're under their radar. 
"Gold investors (or speculators) are already punished by the federal government by having their investment, even in a gold exchange-traded-fund, taxed at the higher rates that apply to collectibles rather than long term capital gains.

Not to mention the fact that Mr. Weiner's regulatory push seems as much aimed at conservative journalists as at the gold-dealers. The press release says, "Goldline employs several conservative pundits to act as shills for its' [sic] precious metal business, including Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee, Laura Ingraham, and Fred Thompson. By drumming up public fears during financially uncertain times, conservative pundits are able to drive a false narrative. Glenn Beck for example has dedicated entire segments of his program to explaining why the U.S. money supply is destined for hyperinflation with Barack Obama as president."
Don't forget the elephant brontosaurus in the room:  bond sales.  The leviathan desperately needs to sell bonds to keep up with their profligate spending.   If you're buying precious metals and keeping it in your house (or some other place that isn't a bank),  they're not selling enough bonds!  Ira Stoll at Seeking Alpha has some interesting points, too:
From the press release: "Under Rep. Weiner's bill, companies like Goldline would be required to disclose the reasonable resale value of items being sold." That's great. Are Mr. Weiner and Chairman Bernanke also going to agree to print on every dollar the reasonable expectation that its value will be eroded by inflation?
For sure.  So the way I see it, Rep. Weiner is holding these show hearings to make gold sellers look bad, to scare the dimwitted into more government dependency.  The self-reliant will be themselves and scoff at the Weiner show.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

USA - Third World Nation ?

It's arguable that our elected leaders are doing their best to make us a third world nation.  Science Czar John Holdren, for example, famously wants to "de-develop" the US.  There are plenty of more examples. 

One of the intellectual leaders of the conservative/small government movement is Victor Davis Hanson.  I read him regularly.  In this piece, Dr. Hanson shows how the peasant mentality is alive and well in the US. 

What optimistic Americans used to call a rising tide that lifts all boats is now once again derided as trickle-down economics. In other words, a newly peasant-minded America is willing to become collectively poorer so that some will not become wealthier.
The present economy suggests that it is surely getting its wish. 
This column has been getting some buzz this week, but I didn't read it until earlier today.  It's short.  Go read. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's The Spending, Stupid

This morning, I was watching Judge Napolitano's "Freedom Watch" on the Fox Business Network while I was putting on my MAMIL outfit to go for a bike ride.

A discussion that will be carried out many times this weekend and in the coming days, is that of ending the Bush tax cuts, and the Judge was doing his part.  The DNC talking point is that they need to end the cuts for the top income bracket because "we need to cut the deficit".  You will hear them say it turns out to be "700 Billion Dollars". 


As always, they assume you're not capable of doing math and aren't really paying attention.  They think you'll hear that number and think they mean $700 billion every year.  The Judge had a professor, Dr. Caroline Heldman, who spouted the line that we need to increase taxes on the rich to pay for the deficit.  

You see, the 700 billion dollars is a roll-up for 10 years.  If you think that's an accurate number, go look up what the estimates were for today's economy from 10 years ago: a 10 year prediction is nothing but a wild guess.  Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner said,
Geithner said extending the tax cuts for the top 2 percent of taxpayers would cost $700 billion over a decade and $30 billion for a single year.
Since 700 divided by 10 is not 30, you know they're counting on healthy economic growth to get that 700 billion number.  Now remember this year's deficit is 1.4 Trillion dollars, and anyone can see that 30 billion is 2.1 % of it.  If you take it down to the daily level, just the deficit is 3.8 billion dollars a day.  The daily tax revenue they'll get is 82 Million.  When I ask myself who will benefit more from that, the taxpayers or the feds, it's pretty clear it's not the leviathan. 

The fact is, this is a spending problem.  If you confiscated every single penny from every billionaire in America, you couldn't fix the deficit.  According to this link, if you confiscated every single penny of income from the top 1% of taxpayers, you couldn't pay off this year's deficit.  In fact, the top brackets pay a higher percentage of the tax burden than ever before:
Never forget that while it's not a fundamental characteristic of the universe and is not a physical law, Hauser's Law always seems to be true.  If that bothers you, the laws of thermodynamics aren't fundamental physical laws, either.  Hauser's Law and the First Law of Thermodynamics enjoy essentially the same status.

Hauser's Law states that no matter what your tax rates, you never get more than about 20% of GDP collected in taxes.

No, this isn't a tax problem.  It's a "stop the insane spending" problem.

Edit 10/16/10 - Turns out I blew it big time.  I originally had the source of needing the 700 billion to pay the deficit as "Dr. Elizabeth something-or-other-I-think."  I watched the Judge again this morning, and the professor was Dr. Caroline Heldman.   All references to her are corrected here.  And to be charitable, here's a link to her web page at the college where she is professor of politics. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Coming Collapse and Hyperinflation

Aren't those mutually exclusive?  Not exactly.  Three weeks ago, I ran a piece based on an article by Gonzalo Lira on How Hyperinflation Will Happen.  The big insight "money quote" in there was:
If we think that hyperinflation is simply inflation on steroids—inflation-plus—inflation with balls—then it would seem to be the case that, in our current deflationary economic environment, hyperinflation is not simply a long way off, but flat-out ridiculous.
But hyperinflation is not an extension or amplification of inflation. Inflation and hyperinflation are two very distinct animals. They look the same—because in both cases, the currency loses its purchasing power—but they are not the same. 
This week, Mr. Lira wrote a second piece further explaining how it's likely to happen.   He says,

I usually don’t do follow-up pieces to any of my posts. But my recent longish piece, describing how hyperinflation might happen in the United States, clearly struck a nerve. 

It was a long, boring, snowy piece of macro-economic policy speculation, discussing Treasury yields, Federal Reserve Board monetary reaction, and the difference between inflation and hyperinflation—but considering the traffic it generated, I might as well been discussing relative breast size in the porn industry. With pictures.
How can you not read a piece with an opening paragraph like that?  Go read.  Read them both.  Do I need a warning that there's some "adult language" in there?  Things like, "Buy when there’s blood on the streets." and many descriptions of economic collapse.  Oh, and a couple of F-bombs.  

I can lead you to many, many quotes from people who really know their stuff, including my frequent link, Karl Denninger,  who will tell you that seriously bad times are coming.

Remember, Even in the midst of Apocalypse, things will get better. to quote Lira. 

Let me leave the last quote to Lira:
This new normal might well have unsavory characteristics. I tend to be a pessimist, and just glancing through history, I can see that just about every period of hyperinflation has been stabilized by some subsequent form of autocratic or totalitarian government. The United States currently has all the legal decisions and practical devices to quickly transition into an authoritarian or totalitarian regime, should a crisis befall the nation: The so-called PATRIOT Acts, the Department of Homeland Security Agency, the practical suspension of habeas corpus, etc., etc.
Go read.   And for God's sake, try to sock away some food and other supplies. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An Update to Previous Predictions

A while back, August 25th, I posted this plot.  Emphasis on the right end of the top graph.
I said:
That pattern forming on the right is a "head and shoulders" pattern, and we are just now going over the peak of the right shoulder.  That means a fall to the downside typically equal to the difference between the top of the head at 11051 and the lows shown by the bottom green line.  This predicts that the DJIA will drop to 8000 or 8200, probably (this is the guess-y part) in 2-3 months.
Now that another month has passed, and the DJIA is around the same range as it was a month ago, it's instructive to look at what has been going on.  This plot will be a different plot, the S&P500 instead of the DJIA, but if we're looking at the overall market, the same overall shape should appear in both places.
This plot from Free web site
What this is showing is that the expected fall on the right hasn't happened yet.  The S&P has been in a trading range and actually testing its resistance line (the level it hasn't gone above since April).  There is some talk among bulls that what we're seeing is an inverse head and shoulders pattern developing (conveniently labeled in this plot).  That would imply the market is going to go up, probably to the peak values seen in this range, and possibly higher.   

So which is it?  Up or down?  If you're trading your own, real money, this is almost "life or death" serious.   

It's really important to see what's really there and not your biases.  The only way for an individual to make money in the market is go against the herd and be a little contrarian.  You may have seen my book, "How I Turned a Million Dollars into 25 Cents in the Stock Market"*, so maybe you shouldn't listen to me. 

For the record, I am sticking by my prediction of DOW 8000 by around Thanksgiving.  My take is that if you've been waiting for a good time to get out of equities and into money markets or cash, this is better than a few weeks ago when that pattern said "head". 

*Note: there is no such book.  At least not that I've written.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The FOMC Reports - and Don't You Go Criticizing Them!

The Federal Open Market Committee (the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Bank) has had their meeting and reported today.  You can read it here.  Or don't bother.  Allow me to translate it into Redneck (by which I mean, "plain spoken southerner").
Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in August indicates that the pace of recovery in output and employment has slowed in recent months. Household spending is increasing gradually, but remains constrained by high unemployment, modest income growth, lower housing wealth, and tight credit. Business spending on equipment and software is rising, though less rapidly than earlier in the year, while investment in nonresidential structures continues to be weak. Employers remain reluctant to add to payrolls. Housing starts are at a depressed level. Bank lending has continued to contract, but at a reduced rate in recent months. The Committee anticipates a gradual return to higher levels of resource utilization in a context of price stability, although the pace of economic recovery is likely to be modest in the near term.

We been readin' everything we can get our hands on and things suck pretty bad  Things don't look near as good as we thought they would, in fact, they look a mite worse.  Folks just ain't spendin' a lot of money because they're either unemployed, not makin' as much as they need (have you seen the dang prices at Walmart?!?), or they done max'ed out the ol' Visa card.  Businesses are spendin' a bit, but they're too scared to hire anyone.  We expect things are gonna get better (just like we been expectin' Earline the receptionist to agree to go out some day), but it's gonna take a long damn time.  Like when Earline said she'd go out with me "when hell freezes solid" - 'bout that long.  We're gonna have to keep givin' away free money for a while. Heck, if we lowered rates any more, we'd be payin' you to take loans!  We're getting caught by the long bond yield curve.  The dang Chinese are demanding we pay them higher interest on our bonds, but if we start raisin' rates, it'll be like pissin' on your moss when you're tryin' to start a fire.  Guess we'll have to just make some money out of thin air and buy our own dang bonds again. 

I suppose I'm in big trouble now.  About two months ago, Kartik Athreya of the Federal Reserve wrote an article entitled  "Economics is Hard. Don’t Let Bloggers Tell You Otherwise " in which he criticized us unwashed bloggers for saying anything about our insect overlords at the Fed.  He doesn't mean to sound mean-spirited, you know, he's just better than us. 
Writers who have not taken a year of PhD coursework in a decent economics department (and passed their PhD qualifying exams), cannot meaningfully advance the discussion on economic policy.
It gets better, in a totally ironic sort of way:
The response of the untrained to the crisis has been even more startling. I listen to Elizabeth Warren on the radio fearlessly speculating about the nature of credit market dysfunction, and so on.
This Elizabeth Warren?   Dude...  That's almost funny.  Good luck with that.

Hat tips to Zerohedge, Bruce Krasting, and FSK's Guide to Reality

Monday, September 20, 2010

On Starfish, Spiders and Cells

Borepatch provides a link to this article, the smartest analysis of the Tea  Party movement that either he or I have seen.  Absolutely worth the time to read.  Let me also credit the source he found it at, Too Old To Work, Too Young To Retire (a feeling I get at, oh, just around 6:00 AM at least five days a week).  I've been to his blog, too, but not very often. 

Peggy Noonan, whom I had almost given up on, seems to be the first of her peers with an incredibly valuable insight.  "So far, the tea party is not a wing of the GOP but a critique of it".

The starfish organization fits well with modern 4G, open source warfare ideas, as John Robb writes about on Global Guerrillas.  With a widely de-centralized structure, it is impossible to stop a rebellion by killing the leader.  The entrenched powers have to wage destruction on such a scale that they will radically increase the number of citizens opposed to them.  The Marines' document "FMFM 1-A Fourth Generation War" teaches at length on this. 

R.A. Heinlein's classic, "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress", (and here) was the first place I read of revolutionary cells.  Each cell has a small number of members, three to five, so that everyone is thoroughly known before they're admitted.  His organization, though, had a vertical component as well: each cell had someone who contacted someone in another cell.  Eventually, this organization had a head. 

In the "Dune" series of books, the Fremen are organized similarly.  Each small tribe, or "sietch", has a leader chosen by hand to hand with the previous leader.  Leaders cooperate but little overall structure is present, until the events of the (original) first book take place.   

The Dune books are measured by the pound.  I read the original three, then another three.  A look around Amazon shows many newer books I haven't heard of.  Heinlein's book is a single volume.  It's also a fun read, and the originator of the now-commonly used phrase TANSTAAFL (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch).  Is that enough for you?  (std. disclaimer: I don't make any money from Amazon links - or anything else on my blog for that matter). 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Administration End Run Around The Law

Elizabeth Warren - photo from WSJ Online
Meet the latest criminal accomplice of the administration, Elizabeth Warren, chosen in an end run around the just-passed Financial Reform law to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Is "criminal accomplice" too strong for you?  Here's the way I figure it.

Despite some reporting in the news services, she isn't really in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she's in charge of "staffing up" the agency.  The bill contained specific language that required the head of that agency be approved by the senate, but no less a liberal than Chris Dodd said he wouldn't vote to confirm her.  So rather than go through the senate, President Obama appointed her "to advise him on how to staff up the agency".  If that position goes unfilled for along time, and she's the defacto head of the agency, well that's different.  She's not really the head of the agency, she's just running it until they find someone to run it. 

Since the law specifically says the "Director shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate." the intent is pretty obvious.  As the old saying goes, if it looks like a turd, and smells like a turd, it's a turd. She's the head of the bureau.  As the WSJ article says, .
We have here another end-run around Constitutional niceties so Team Obama can invest huge authority in an unelected official who is unable to withstand a public vetting. So a bureau inside an agency (the Fed) that it doesn't report to, with a budget not subject to Congressional control, now gets a leader not subject to Senate confirmation. If Dick Cheney had tried this, he'd have been accused of staging a coup.
The WSJ Online article has several chilling details about this organization.  You should read it.

Denninger puts it this way:
So here we are with a President who seems to think that The Constitution says whatever he wants it to say on any given day.  Unlike a position such as Rahm's, which is entirely advisory and has no statutory authority, this is very different - not only is the position statutory, so is the requirement for the Senate's consent on the appointment.

Where does that leave us?  The congress, under the urging of the executive branch, created a law with specific requirements that the executive branch has now violated.  At the very least, isn't that malfeasance?  In fact, isn't that a pretty obvious violation of the law?  Getting back to my original question (is the term "criminal accomplice" too strong for you?), I think what the President did is a violation of the law he just asked congress to pass.  Since violation of the law makes it a criminal enterprise, and she is a beneficiary of breaking the law that makes her an accomplice. 
I think Denninger has the best summation on this, so I'll hand it off to him:
Are there any Representatives in The House who will file an Article of Impeachment for this blatant disregard for our Constitutional principles?  Are the any Senators who will come out publicly for this to occur, and will they vote to convict?
Or are we to the point where any act taken by a President is considered "perfectly ok" so long as he has a majority in the House and Senate?

If, in point of fact, we have reached the latter point, we no longer live in a Constitutional Republic.
The implications of that should wake you in a cold sweat tonight.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Law of Unintended Consequences

The other day, one of my padawan learners and I were looking at the company classified ads and noting that the prices being asked for used cars seemed really high.

Not being in the market for a used car, I haven't kept up with prices.  I know the dealer I bought my '05 Toyota from sends me a letter every couple of weeks trying to get me to trade it in on a new one, and they say they want good clean used cars, but I figured they were just hot to sell me a new car.  Nothing new there.

That evening, Bayou Renaissance Man led me to an article in the Boston Globe telling the background story.  It's the effect of the "Cash for Clunkers" program. 

It turns out the price of used cars is up quite a bit, with the average price being up 10-15%, depending on who tells you.  Some models go for over 35% more than a year ago.  How could I have missed that?  I've commented on how the incentive merely brought forward the demand for new cars creating a bubble in car sales, but I missed the other problem.  Some quotes from the Globe article are in order.
The traded-in cars — which had to be in drivable condition to qualify for the rebate — were then demolished: Dealers were required to chemically wreck each car’s engine, and send the car to be crushed or shredded.
No great insight was needed to realize that Cash for Clunkers would work a hardship on people unable to afford a new car. “All this program did for them,’’ I wrote last August, “was guarantee that used cars will become more expensive. Poorer drivers will be penalized to subsidize new cars for wealthier drivers.’’
Of the 700,000 cars purchased during the clunkers frenzy, the estimated net increase in sales was only 125,000. Each incremental sale thus ended up costing the taxpayers a profligate $24,000.
But they increased the national average gas mileage, didn't they?  There's an interesting side of this that doesn't get talked about much.  Have you ever noticed how people will avoid regular desserts, but eat a box of the "low fat/healthy" products?  Or someone will eat what they think was a healthful meal, but then get a dessert?  The rationalization is "I've been good, I deserve it".  It's a pretty well-known aspect of psychology.  A similar effect shows up when people get higher mileage cars: they tend to drive more.  It turns out that if the purpose for the Clunkers program was to save pollution, it probably didn't because of this paradoxical action, and even if people didn't change their driving, the program wasn't cost effective.  Assuming that the owners of the newer, more fuel-efficient cars didn't follow this pattern, and kept to their original driving patterns, it was calculated that the cost per ton of CO2 saved was $237.  If you go buy carbon offsets, that's around 12 times the going price.

The irony here is that this is an administration that keeps saying they're trying to help "Main street, not Wall Street", and they're for "The Little Guy".  In this case, they've really hurt any low income people who need to buy a car.  The need for transportation is non-negotiable; fleets of buses and trains that run on Magical Unicorn Farts haven't suddenly appeared and people have to get to work.  Now the cost of their cars has gone up 10%, and I know pay rates aren't up 10%.  

Friday, September 17, 2010

More FCC Notes

Last night, as I was posting that link to the "Elmo is totally buffered out" video, I originally was thinking of writing something about how bad a internet would be.  I had a hard time organizing thoughts, but after sleeping on it, it occurred to me that I don't really need to do that with the readership I get.  You get it.  But I thought I'd provide a few links for newcomers or those that aren't really familiar with the players.

The guy with Elmo in first part of that video is FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.  Genachowski appears to be heavily influenced by self-described Marxist Robert McChesney and his organization Free Press.  Like most Marxist organizations, Free  Press is dedicated to the exact opposite of what its name implies; they want government owned press.  Think Pravda and Izvestia of the old Soviet Union and you're right there.  They have been working the regulatory agencies, both the FTC and the FCC, toward those ends.  Here are some choice McChesney quotes, from that "Daily Caller" Story. 
“Only government can implement policies and subsidies to provide an institutional framework for quality journalism.”
“The news is not a commercial product. It is a public good, necessary for a self-governing society. Once we accept this, we can talk about the kind of media policies and subsidies we want.”
“In the end, there is no real answer but to remove brick-by-brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles.”
It's definitely worth reading completely.  The FTC proposals released in June caught attention for special taxes on news aggregation sites like the Drudge Report, but not so much attention was given to plans to keep struggling news companies afloat with direct tax subsidies. By the way, Free Press is funded by George Soros and the Joyce Foundation, proving yet again that if you find anything evil in the US today, it's within a couple of degrees of separation from George Soros. 

So how do I know Chairman Genachowski is "down with all that"?  That's a bit harder to answer.  We know that he hired his press secretary, Jen Howard, from Free Press and that except for some minor disagreements the FCC and Free Press seem tight with each other.  For all I can tell, the disagreements may be just for show:  Genachowski had some meetings to give the appearance of listening to ISPs and Free Press put out a press release to give the appearance of being mad about that.  Finally, if he wasn't completely in line with the President's wishes, I'm sure he'd be long gone. 

Genachowski is a tough bird for me to place.  He's a long time friend of the President, worked on his campaign in '08, and appears to be affiliated with McChesney and other communists, but I can't tell if he actually was a member of Free Press.  He appointed a staffer named Stuart Benjamin, apparently a Duke University lawyer, who is interested in destroying broadcasting.  Seriously.  His idea is to increase the regulatory costs so much that broadcasters shut down.  Once that happens, they'll auction off the spectrum to (I assume) companies who will pay a ton of cash into the US Treasury.  The destruction of a free broadcast media would destroy free speech, but many of the current FCC - and, indeed, the entire administration - are not fond of free speech or anything else about the constitution. 

Like the Department of Education and the EPA, the FCC is ripe to shut down.  They are a useless agency, a shadow of the pioneers they were in the early days of radio.  While there are still some sharp people there, they are masked by layers of idiotic bureaucrats.  When the technical folks couldn't stop the almost criminally insane Broadband over Power Lines law from a few years ago, it was obvious that the technical aspects of radio meant nothing in the FCC.  They have outlived their usefulness.

It's probably best just to remember the simple version: just like gun control isn't about guns, it's about control, the regulation of broadband isn't about providing broadband, it's about controlling the internet.  It's not about you. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Elmo Wants Broadband For Everyone - And You're Paying!

I gotta tell ya - I thought this was a joke.

But it's not.  Let's make broadband a civil right.  Do we subsidize it for all low-income people or only the people who don't have it.  Sure, it's not in that pesky old constitution, but what's an old, moldy document written by a bunch of dead white guys, anyway? 

This needs some thorough commentary, and it just ain't happening tonight.  More will follow.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mostly Good News - Some.... Not So Much

I rarely post on regular, day to day politics.  Basically, it disgusts me.  I've quoted the lovely and deadly Mrs. Graybeard saying,
Preparing for an election is like cleaning out the litter box.  It's a disgusting, revolting task that exposes you to all sorts of dirty, filthy things you'd rather never see, but if you don't do it, the job gets even more disgusting and revolting.
and I stand by that idea.  ("I'm the Silicon Graybeard and I approve this message.")
Christine O'Donnell

The latest round of primaries deserves a little comment though.  The victories of Christine O'Donnell, over entrenched RINO Mike Castle, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Joe Miller in Alaska, and Carl Paladino over Rick Lazio in New York are the biggest victories of the people over the Ruling Class that I can recall.  Christine O'Donnell is a case in point: Charles Krauthammer, whom I generally admire greatly and agree with often, endorsed her opponent because he's "more electable".  That's just plain wrong.  If your idea of winning is electing a guy like Castle, who will vote for policies you hate most of the time, what have you won?  That you've slowed down your rapist for a while?  You can't complain about the government and keep voting party lines.  Principles matter and we have to hold true to them.  You have to remember one important thing about voting like Krauthammer recommended: 
If you keep doing what you've been doing, you're going to keep getting what you've been getting.  
The Ruling Class has some learning to do and it looks like they might be getting the message.  While they initially said they would not back the tea party-backed candidates, the national Republican hierarchy seems to be backing down.  Last night they said they would not support O'Donnell; this morning they said they were sending her the full amount they were allowed to send by law. 
Harry Reid and Blobfish - Separated at Birth? Hatch?
During the campaign, Michelle Obama said, “Barack will never let you go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.”  They're getting what she said, and they're getting it in spades.  I don't think they had any idea what they were going to get.  The country is awake, involved and trying to get completely informed.  Nobody thinks this election solves everything and nobody thinks we go back to life as normal after it or the next one.  We are in it for the long haul to restore the Republic. 

Oh, the Not So Good news deserves to be mentioned, too, because it adds some important context to that last paragraph.  Charlie Rangel won his primary bid, too.  The anger against incumbents and the Ruling Class is not as widespread as you might like to think. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

So Many Big Problems Start Out So Small

It has been said that the worst kind of tyrant is the one who is dominating you for your own good.  There is no limit to what they will do - for your own good.  Keep that in mind when you read that Michelle Obama is trying to get restaurants to change their menus - for the children. Quoting from the LA Times,
First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been unable to convince the Smoker-in-Chief to give up that dreadful habit, now has some health suggestions for other American families and for restaurant menus across the country. The goal is to eat healthier, although that might hurt restaurant sales and cause disappointed children.
The LA Times piece goes on to say:
One idea Mrs. Obama had is to serve apple slices as the default side dish with, say, hamburgers, instead of French fries, which she confessed to liking.
Also she'd like less butter and cream in restaurant dinners, not enough to....
...ruin the flavor but enough to make them healthy. A difficult balance, millions have learned.
So what's the big deal?  Why not offer apple slices instead of French fries?  Aren't we in a terrible epidemic of childhood obesity?  Won't eating healthier help?

My argument is that it isn't her call and it shouldn't be any of the government's damned business.  It's the parents' call to ask the restaurants what they want their children's meals to be.  It's the market's call.  This is the first nudge in what will become a war.  Oh, and mark my words: this is a coming war. 
Cass Sunstein
(image from)

As you will see from that Amazon link, Nudge is co-authored by "Regulatory Czar" Cass Sunstein.  The idea behind the book is simple: we all have an inner Homer Simpson and an inner Mr. Spock who run our decision making.  While the Ruling Class Elites are under the control of their inner Spock, you're ruled by Homer.  You're too stupid to make good choices, so the wise and wonderful government will make them for you.  We'll put the fries elsewhere on the menu so that kids don't see them.  You don't get them unless you ask.  If that doesn't work, they'll make the fries cost a little more than the apples.  If that doesn't work, well, they'll just have to take them off the market completely.  You enjoy that weekly cigar?  It's too linked to mouth cancer, don't you know.  We'll have to quadruple the taxes on them.  Or more.  Or take them off the market.  It's for the children, you know.  By the way - that anger and revulsion you're feeling?  That "who the #?*! do they think they are??" feeling?  That's just another symptom of the "optimism and overconfidence" that your inner Homer gives you (last paragraph of that Slate piece).

The worst aspect of any health care insurance system is that my choices become your business.  I may not want to wear a hard helmet when I ride my motorcycle, but if the long term care for my chronic vegetative state adds a hundred bucks a year to your insurance premium you start to care about it.  When the plan is well-managed, the effect is barely noticeable.  When the government becomes the sole provider of health care there is not a single aspect of your life that isn't some bureaucrat's to rule over (and don't tell me we're not headed there or I'll 'pop a cap in yo ass').  Your weight, the amount of hours you sleep, whether you use your seat belt, how much bacon you eat, how often you hug your kids or have sex with your spouse - it all can be argued to have an effect on your or their health, which leads to the cost of the health care and irrevocably to the national budget. 

Eventually these "nudges" become pushes, full-body checks and then hits by NFL defensive tackles.  It may be that fries are outlawed, or it may be bacon, or health care is denied because you don't follow their nudges.  Prohibition, the last great experiment at changing people's behaviors, worked out so well, didn't it? 

Monday, September 13, 2010

About That Whole Global Economic Collapse Thingy - Part VI

Hat tip to Western Rifle Shooters for a link to this article on Denninger's Market Ticker.  A tremendously sane and rational article:
2008 was a tiny crack in the dam.  A spurt of water.  The economic dislocation you saw was one small part of the $53 trillion on balance sheet debt bubble quivering.

A mere 2% of that debt bubble actually going bad caused all the awful things you saw happen from the beginning of 2007 to the spring of 2009.

The other 98% is still there, and of it half, if not more, stinks like dead fish.

You think this is over?  That things are "stable"? 
and a little farther down
... as a father with a school-age daughter that I do not want to grow up in a decaying society, or worse, one that has gone Mad Max, I had to try.

Today, I'm a bit more-focused and limited in my goals.

We're not going to fix this folks - it's going to blow up.
A bit long, but worth the read.

Remember, our real debt is way beyond that $53T that Karl talks about in that clip.  The Debt Clock says that total liabilities are $110 T.  That's more than the total economic activity (GDP) of the world.  You've heard the saying "all the money in the world"?  Not enough to get us out of trouble. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On Germs, Weeds, Companies, Governments and Skunks

Has it ever seemed like we, as a country, can't do anything anymore?  The country that built the Empire State building in a blink has a gaping hole where the World Trade Center used to be for 9 years?  The country that went to the moon from nothing in 10 years now takes 20 years just to decide if we want to?  There's a reason for that national arthritis that keeps us from moving: regulation and its bastard sibling litigation.  

Credit Borepatch with this long post.  This post last week got me thinking along these lines.

When I was but a newly hatched larval engineer at a major defense electronics contractor, a mentor systems engineer gave me a reprint of an article from Defense Electronics magazine for August 1979, by Norman Augustine, the CEO of Martin Marietta (now part of Lockheed - most of us call them Lock-Mart these days, your one-stop defense supermarket - watch for the flashing blue light special on cruise missiles…).  The article covered what's now called Augustine's Laws.  I see they are out in book form:  and some of them have been excerpted by Political Calculations blog, but the version I have has a mere 15 laws.

There's a lot of wisdom in here and it's worthwhile to see if the ensuing years have changed things much.  I don't have the space to go into everything, but a few of these are worth looking at.  The first law is "By the time of the tri-centennial, there will be more government workers in the United States than there are workers" based on the growth rate at that time.  I think he's a bit long on this; it'll be before 2076.  He goes on to say that the government will control all of the money in the US economy.  "This raises the interesting question of whether the last person employed in the private sector will have to support the entire nation's work force, or whether he or she will individually enjoy the full benefit of those residual funds not yet controlled by the government".  This raises the guardedly optimistic second law, "People working in the private sector should try to save money if at all feasible.  There remains a possibility it may someday be valuable again".  What a silly optimist: the Fed has had crosshairs and laser sights on the backs of savers for almost a hundred years!  He presents a wonderful comparison of a contract for muskets for the continental army in 1798 that was delivered in 1/3 more time than contracted, and a survey of military contracts from 1978 that were delivered, on average, in 1/3 more time than contracted.  Some things never change!

His most memorable law, and where I'm going with this, was "Systems of Regulations created as a management surrogate take on a life of their own and exhibit a growth history which closely parallels other living entities observed in nature".  He went on to show the number of pages in armed forces procurement regulation vs. time along with a curve of weed growth (from the journal "Weed Science"), and produced a graph any biology student will instantly recognize as the sigmoid growth curve of populations, also called the logistic function. 

A usual example is the common bacteria E. coli.  This species can divide and produce a new generation every 20 minutes; if conditions could remain optimum it would undergo geometric growth and produce a colony the size of the planet in 24 hours.  Because conditions can't remain optimum, it has a logistic growth curve, producing much smaller colonies. 
The normalized logistic function.  Credit

In regulations, there is a price for this.  Although the legislators and regulators never consider this, every regulation consumes some amount of time and money to comply with.  The new Finance Reform bill has been estimated to required the development of 250-300 new regulations.  Every regulation slows down, hinders and costs every honest business real money.  Despite the widespread talk of corrupt CEOs and general lack of corporate ethics, I've been working in the manufacturing industry since the mid 1970s, and every company has had an active, if not aggressive, ethics compliance program with requirements for training and seminars every year.  There are exceptions but most companies do their best to be honest and law-abiding.  Government seems to think it's mere coincidence that countries with lower tax rates and lower regulation attract business, and they demonize companies for moving to countries where the environment is better. 

A simple way of determining if someone you talk to has any economic sense is to ask them about corporate taxes.  The economically ignorant (I'll be polite) will scream to tax the corporations.  Those with sense will tell you corporations are fictitious and can't pay tax.  Tax is part of the cost of doing business and therefore passed on to the buyer (the people calling for them to be taxed).  Corporations can collect taxes for the government (for which they are punished with more costs, not paid) but cannot generate them.  Every penny a company has comes from its customers.  In a global market where they compete with companies in cheaper environments, they are at a disadvantage. 

At least in our society, regulation often leads to litigation, and companies are sued regularly for offenses (real or imagined) against the environment or against people; possibly employees, possibly customers, possibly people in the communities they work in.  When special interest groups, like environmentalist or animal rights for example, don't get the laws they want passed, they litigate to prevent companies from doing their business.  For example, some of the most verdant farm land in the country, the central valley of California, is currently not being farmed because a group got the courts to stop the irrigation on the basis that it harms a minnow, despite considerable scientific disagreement that irrigation has anything at all to do with the minnow's population.  (Summary here)  The human impact in terms of unemployment and lack of food production, however, is undeniable. 

Regulation and litigation are sand in the gears of society.  Big, sharp, 40 grain silicon carbide abrasive particles that grind the gears and shafts away.   

They have the awful side effect of discouraging companies to grow and innovate.  Industries can die off because of the threat of litigation, or because the regulations make it simply too expensive for the industry to survive.  Sometimes this is deliberate: we just survived the EPA banning lead ammunition, something that could well kill off hunting and recreational shooting in the country.  The requested regulation was a back-door attempt to do something that can't be passed as a law.   

Sometimes killing an industry is an unforeseen side effect.  The woodworking tool industry is in crisis right now.  A few months ago, a lawsuit was won against Ryobi tools' parent company, for producing a "defective" table saw.  The plaintiff was awarded $1.5 million when he sued for $250,000.  The defect?  It did not include an expensive safety option that was invented around year 2000; (the modern tilt-arbor table saw was invented in 1939; the basic idea goes back to 1813).  In 2000, an inventor produced a technology called a Saw Stop that senses when flesh touches the blade and stops the blade in milliseconds.  In the process of stopping the saw as fast as it does, it destroys the saw blade, and possibly other parts of the saw.  The user still gets cut, but typically will require stitches instead of having a body part cut off.  He shopped this invention to the major tool makers and none of them agreed to license his invention.  Their major concern was that the idea was untested; they had no idea how durable it would be (contractors' tools live a rough life); they had no idea if it could be added to existing products (were they rugged enough to survive the abrupt energy dump that destroys the blade?), or how to roll it out across their product lines.  The inventor started his own company, and sells table saws with this feature.  

This suit will end the production of low-priced and bench top table saws, seriously impacting hobbyist woodworkers as well as the tool industry.  Professionals will buy the more expensive saws and raise their prices to you and me.  
I'm most familiar with the electronics industry, so let me give you a story from my world.  Most people have heard about Silicon Valley, which certainly was, and may even still be, the innovation capital of the world.  A typical scenario might be like this.  In satellite communications, there is a couple, of large companies who dominate the industry.  Like all large companies, they have a large set of policy and procedure manuals that show everything that must be done for any situation that comes up.  Perhaps a new market is perceived; the company must conduct a study to see if there's enough money to be made to pursue the market.  They must do a developmental budget, have decision agreement ("buy-in") from many levels of management, and so on.  Perhaps a previous customer had sued them over delivery of a product that they thought didn't meet the contract promises, for example, so they may require marketing surveys to understand just what the market wants. 

Somewhere in that company is an experienced engineer; typically someone with 5-15 years of experience.  They see the opportunity and realize their company is so slow that someone else is going to beat them to it, and decide to be that "someone".  Perhaps doing the design on their kitchen table, or over lunch breaks, they come up with a concept that they believe will create a sellable product, if not the "killer app" product.  At this point, he quits the company, often with a few friends, and they form a start-up company that gets to market first, wins a lot of market share, and completely skunks the former employer.  All of this by being free to make decisions, do what they think needs to be done, and usually by working 60 hours a week for a while. 

The big companies have those manuals of policies and procedures for a reason.  To borrow a saying, good decisions come from experience and experience comes from bad decisions.  The big company is so afraid of someone doing something wrong, they try to write procedures that will eliminate all chances of errors, which means they eliminate all independent thought from the day to day running of the company. 

Smart companies, however, are aware of this conflict between carrying out procedures and try to remain nimble enough to be competitive.  Fads such as the 1980's Japanese Management techniques (e.g., Quality Circles), and this decade's Lean Manufacturing (also out of Japan) sweep the industrial world regularly as managers strive to understand how to walk this balance. 

As another example, a large company might want to try and compete with a lower cost company that is trying to edge into their marketplace; for example, a Defense contractor making a GPS receiver might fear a commercial competitor's cost advantages.  They might want to change their entire approach to design of a product, taking more risk, instead of exceeding their requirements by large margins, they may try to just meet them.  Instead of a receiver that will work from deep winter in Antarctica to the worst of the Sahara, they decide to make one that would work for a day-hiker.  When they try to do it, the company's process manuals haunt them, and internal organizations, desperate to prove they are adding value, force the "low cost" program to adopt the same high-cost approaches they use in all of their products.  This destroys the attempt to lower the cost and ensures the failure of the program. 

Smart companies have addressed these problems by spinning off what are called "skunkworks".  The original skunk works (note it's two words, not one) was an offshoot of Lockheed, and their most proud achievement (at least, that they could speak about) was the SR-71 Blackbird.  A group of talented engineers went off in isolation from the rest of the company and created the fastest aircraft in the world, in record time, in the 1950s.  Skunkworks as a single word is the term used for such a group set aside by any company for a similar purpose.  This has been shown to be a successful technique, but note that the original company is still there, still working as an arthritic bureaucracy. 

SR-71 Production line at the Skunk Works

This is where we find ourselves as a nation.  

We are strangling in a bureaucracy with a Code of Federal Regulations that has grown like a bacterial culture.  A nation that was founded by a constitution that fills about 14 printed pages in today's technologies, passes financial reform bills that go over 2000 pages, health care bills that go almost 3000 pages, and more.   Each bill creates hundreds of new regulations, which are so poorly written they have to be refined by hundreds of court cases.  The court cases effectively create new law and new regulations.  Since congress is in session every year and passes at least one new law every year, the total number of laws and regulations increases without limit and everything eventually becomes illegal. 

What can we do?  We can't form a "skunkworks country" that can get around our laws and create a more mobile, productive society.  We only have one option: we have to create a national process, like industries do, to become more "lean, mean and low to the ground".  Get rid of superfluous laws.  We simply must reduce the size of the CFR and reduce the destruction caused by the regulation and litigation in our society.  To me, Tort Reform is absolutely essential.  A big part of the industrial lean activities is to study what policies need to be gotten rid of because "we've always done it that way".  The same should be done with the CFR. 

To be honest, there's more than one option.  The second option will result in blood in the streets, the deaths of thousands or even millions, and suffering on a colossal scale.  When companies don't handle their tendencies to be become too arthritic they go out of business.  The equivalent for the country is collapse, civil war and chaos.  Something to be avoided if at all possible.  Without reform, and without throwing out large chunks of regulations,  we are headed there.

Edit 14:30  Link to Borepatch's Article had an extra space.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Nine years ago today, the biggest attack in the ongoing war against the west was carried out by a relatively small group of well-financed terrorists.  They can't all be called suicide terrorists because many did not know they were on a suicide mission.  9-11 was not the declaration of war, nor was Usama Bin Laden's 1998 fatwa.  The war goes back to at least as far as the 1983 bombing of the US Marines in Lebanon. It has been argued it is the continuation of the crusades, by the attacking groups themselves.

One could write books on this (and they have been written).  Many good posts have come up among my regular blog list.  Borepatch has two excellent posts.  Tam has an excellent QoTD
Y'know, at least the Muslims seem to want to build something in NYC. Would there even be a controversy about their little building if it was being built in the shadow of a giant, gleaming, quarter-mile-high middle finger, instead of two blocks away from the National Embarrassing Vacant Lot and Monument to Red Tape & Inefficiency?
And, as frequently happens, the comedian, Frank at IMAO, has what I think of as a real "insight of the day". 
I don’t think in this post 9/11 world most people have learned the appropriate lesson from this. The whole Koran burning insanity illustrates this. That a handful of people in Florida can hold the world hostage by threatening to burn a few books is beyond silly, yet the main reaction has been not to tackle how ridiculous that is but to figure out how to appease the irrational violent people. You can’t appease irrational people. They’ll get violent over one guy burning Korans. They’ll get violent over cartoons. They’ll get violent because of false rumors of Korans being flushed down toilets. And yet [our] focus is on how to keep these crazy people happy and calm.
Indeed.  The "church" in Gainesville is said to have 53 members.  In my church, more people than that watch the teaching from the cafeteria/courtyard, and this Reverend Jones is worthy of comment from the President, the Secretary of State and the Pakistani Ambassador?  The whole idea of burning books is an anachronism.  You can download and delete Qur'ans all day long and "destroy" far more copies.  Who cares?  Only a group of people who are living in the 10th Century - the radical Islamofascists.

There is a handful of days that you will always remember where you were and what you were doing.  In my age group, off hand, those include the day John F. Kennedy was killed, the first moon landing, the day the space shuttle Challenger exploded, and 9-11.  On that Tuesday morning, I was out of the office at a company whom we contract to do some testing on our radios.  As the technician and I were setting up the test, the company's secretary/receptionist came in and said the radio had a bulletin that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center.  My first reaction, perhaps strangely, was that radio navigation systems can't be that wrong, it must have been a terrible accident.  Act of war did not enter my mind.  As the morning went on, a TV set was put in place and large antenna hooked up outside (there are no local TV channels).  We watched and quickly realized this was no accident. That's when the thoughts of Pearl Harbor and other acts of war started.

On a day of indescribable evil, perhaps the most remarkable event was that every aircraft in the NAS (National Air Space) was safely landed.  Have you ever considered that there might not be enough parking places on the ground for every plane that's in the air during the day?  Ever waited in a plane after landing for another plane to clear a gate before you can pull up to it and get off? 

In the days that followed, I learned that friends were affected by the events of 9-11, but not killed.  A co-worker was on business near Seattle, and had to rent a car to drive home.  A very close friend was waiting at JFK airport to fly home, and saw the attacks in real time, including the people jumping from the tops of the buildings to their deaths.  He also had to rent a car and drive home.  A cousin lives within viewing distance and watched it. And now I have friends who have sons in the armed forces in Afghanistan, and others who have been in Iraq.  We need to remember we are at war, even if our enemy is nebulous and hard to identify, not a convenient nation-state.  You can pretend we're not at war if you'd like, but if someone swears to destroy you, it's prudent to believe them. 

Finally, I have a tendency to grab graphics for postings, or try to get web links for relevant references.  In doing this here, I was overwhelmed and frankly disgusted by the 9-11 conspiracy sites.  They seem to outnumber the real references many times over.  I find this very unsettling.  If you read here, you are aware that I'm no fan of big government in general and the leadership of the past hundred years, with limited exceptions.  I'm still not willing to go down the road of the government deliberately killing of tens of thousands of its own citizens to keep an infinite war going. But that's another topic for another day...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Do You LIve Near DC?

Another meeting is being held on the 14th.  We previously passed on the information that the Department of Labor is having a meeting with possibly serious consequences for our 401k plans.  A friend passed on information about another important meeting, the Department of Justice “Firearms in Commerce: Assessing the Need for Reform in the Federal Regulatory Process” is also going on next week. 

I know I'm not alone in thinking the most important thing they could do in terms of regulation reform is to de-fund the BATFE, send all the jackboots home, and level the building.  I also think the chances of that are "between Slim and None, and Slim left town", as Michael Bane says. 

Are you near DC?  It's too far for me to make it there.  They need a few hundred R2KBA representatives there.  Polite, pleasant, but letting the Feds know where they stand. I hope the GOA, NRA and JPFO are all there (I'm a member of all of them).  A nice starting place would be getting rid of the stupid laws that say an 18.1" shotgun barrel is fine, but a 17.9" barrel is evil incarnate.  Laws that say a sound suppressor, which costs $5 to make is a "deadly weapon" and needs a $200 tax. Commonsense things.  Common sense out of Washington?  Expect the opposite. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Remember the arcade game?  Moles pop up in a field of holes and you club them down with a mallet? 

Unfortunately, our planet is engaged in cosmic game of whack-a-mole.  How bad is it?  I've undertaken realistic scientific simulations using a common sledge hammer and a hamster and I have to say it's not pretty.  In fact, it's so "not pretty" that decorum prevents me from posting pictures of it.

But seriously folks:
Small asteroids - five to 10 metres in diameter - enter the Earth's atmosphere about once a year, but normally explode before impact. Larger minor planets - of about 1km in size - strike every 500,000 years.
I was initially impressed by the "meteor impact killed off the dinosaur" thing until I learned that the Jurassic dinosaur populations showed a lot of signs of trouble well before the KT boundary, and that many dinosaurs have been found after the KT impact.  So, while I doubt the mass extinction link in that case, it's pretty darned obvious that a large impact would make any of your other troubles look like a really sweet day.  On a long enough time scale a big impact is inevitable.  The Telegraph (UK) has an interesting article on how our increased efforts to map of the number of asteroids has drastically increased the number we're aware of.  It has been said that the total number of scientists doing this work wouldn't even staff the average sized MacDonald's, so it's impressive results. 

Watch the video.  Do it in full screen, HD mode.  After you read the UK link explaining what it all means. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Middle East "Peace Process" Is Not About Peace

I have occasionally visited Sultan Knish, a blog by Daniel Greenfield.  Tonight I ended up there and find a post that made me reflect deeply on the whole "Peace Process".  "We Won't Let Terrorism Stop Us From Appeasing the Terrorists"
The media however doesn't think much of it, with multiple stories arguing that Netanyahu really doesn't want peace. Time Magazine took it further with a cover story arguing that Israel Doesn't Want Peace. Which is an inevitable assumption given that over the last two decades, Israel has turned over territory, weapons, houses, factories and cold hard cash to the terrorists. In exchange the terrorists have occasionally agreed to show up at the negotiating table, denounce Israel and demand more-- in between calling for a Jihad. Clearly Israel doesn't want peace.
Worth your time.
Photo from Sultan Knish
Yes, the photo is from Sultan Knish, but not from the posting I link to above.  You'll just have to go read this, too!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day 2010

Like most workers who get paid holidays, I'm enjoying a day off.  I realize this doesn't apply to those who are working in hospitals, police cruisers, or other jobs that simply must be manned 24/7/365, and I thank you.  Long ago and far away, I worked as an ER nurse's aide; I understand.  It rained all afternoon, but the pork butts were smoked yesterday, so it was a lazy day here at the castle. 

Back on topic, Denninger (whom I probably link to more than anyone) has posted a must read essay, called "Why Do You Labor?"

Denninger does a good job of addressing the corruption in the highest levels of the government/banking cabal, and it got me thinking.  Is the US a police state?  What's your definition of a police state?  Wikipedia might be only occasionally useful, but they are probably worthwhile for simple definitions. 
The term police state describes a state in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic and political life of the population. A police state typically exhibits elements of totalitarianism and social control, and there is usually little or no distinction between the law and the exercise of political power by the executive.

The inhabitants of a police state experience restrictions on their mobility, and on their freedom to express or communicate political or other views, which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement. Political control may be exerted by means of a secret police force which operates outside the boundaries normally imposed by a constitutional state.[1]
Is there totalitarianism?  How about when large percentages of voters oppose government healthcare or car company bailouts, and they do it anyway - then insist you be "reeducated" about how wonderful it is?  How about when the government breaks all the rules of transactions for corporate bonds and  gets away with it? 

Is there social control?  How about when the Department of Justice, ordered by the Attorney General of the United States, decides to not prosecute blatantly criminal actions based solely on whether the offenders are a preferred minority?  (are we not all a minority, depending on how far down in our classifications we want to go?)

Is your mobility restricted?  Ever been stopped at random by police, or because you met some profile?  Around here, a local sheriff used to fund his department by stopping cars and checking for cash.  If you have cash, you must be a drug dealer, therefore it's their money to seize.  The only arguments appeared to be whether they were profiling minorities.  The argument that we should have a right to carry cash if we so want seems to have never been considered.    

Is your freedom to express political or other views restricted?  How about if the Speaker of the House, the third person in the line of succession should the President and Vice President be killed or incapacitated, thinks you should be investigated if you suggest a mosque should not be built at ground zero - in other words, use your first amendment rights?   
"I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded. How is this being ginned up..."
How about when the FCC's "Diversity Czar" says
" focus here is not freedom of speech or the press. This freedom is all too often an exaggeration. At the very least, blind references to freedom of speech or the press serve as a distraction from the critical examination of other communications policies.
"[T]he purpose of free speech is warped to protect global corporations and block rules that would promote democratic governance."

Are you subject to police monitoring?  Police UAVs are hot-selling surveillance item. When questioned about FAA laws that forbid overflying residential areas at less than 500 feet, a local officer responded they were exempt because they were LEOs.  Have you been a victim of a botched SWAT raid?  Perhaps a wrong address, or the result of an informant saying anything to get some credits, and had your dog shot?  Perhaps the BATF raided you and, unable to find anything wrong, stomped on your kitten and killed it? (or here )   
In a case which is widely known among the gun community, but which has been ignored by the national press, except for the Washington Times, the home of gun show promoters Harry and Theresa Lamplugh was raided by BATF in 1994. At least fifteen BATF agents, armed with machine guns, burst into the Lamplugh's home one morning. Mr. Lamplugh asked the men, most of whom were not wearing uniforms, if they had a warrant. "Shut the f___ up mother f___er; do you want more trouble than you already have?" they responded, sticking a machine gun in his face.

Over the next six and half hours, BATF agents demolished the home, refused to let the Lamplughs get dressed, held a pizza party, killed three house cats (including a Manx kitten which was stomped to death), scattered Mr. Lamplugh's cancer pills all over the floor, and carted off over eighteen thousand dollars worth of the Lamplughs' property, plus their medical records. Nearly a year later, the government has neither filed any criminal charges, nor returned any property, even the medical records. (119)

Denninger's point is that the only way to shut down the corrupt, emerging police state is to starve the beast.  He is, in effect, calling for a national strike.  He says,
Why do you willingly get up and make effort to feed your family and better yourself when literally trillions of your money are lavished on these enterprises by a band of 545 crooks in Washington DC who have all, each and every one of them, personally enabled, permitted and endorsed these scams?

I speak specifically of:
435 Representatives in Congress
100 Senators
1 President
9 Supreme Court Justices
My definition of a police state has always been a bit nebulous.  Essentially everything is illegal, and whether you live or die is up to the police officer you are in contact with. After thinking about these examples, I have to conclude, if we aren't a police state, "I can see it from my porch".