Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Primary Day in Florida

There's nothing like the smell of politicians in the morning...

The electronic counting is coming to completion, and I'm sure you're all hearing that Mittens has been declared the winner.  You can rest assured I did not vote for him, but I'll leave that detail concealed. 

As always, the lovely and wise Mrs. Graybeard and I have voted.  In this case, I say wise because of this observation from years ago which I have quoted before:
Preparing for an election is like cleaning out the cat's 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.
Long time visitors will note that I hardly ever talk about day to day politics and especially not party politics.  This is why.  The last couple of weeks have been brutal with negative ads.  I know they use them because they say they work, but I wonder if that's an artifact of how they measure.  I want a candidate to tell me why I should vote for them, not why I should vote against their opponent.  Whenever possible, I will vote against the one whose negative ad I hear first.  Newsflash: don't get your information on any candidate by listening to ads on the radio or TV.  Do your own research in advance.  Write it down if you have to, or save a local copy to your computer - in this age of editing the past.  It's better to keep a low level of attention at all times, so you can - hopefully - have some knowledge of the candidates well before the big day.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Is it Immoral to Kill? - Bioethicists

Dang, I got that punctuation all wrong - the question mark is in the wrong place.  I should have written that as "Is it immoral to kill Bioethicists?"

An interesting story broke on Friday that I'm sure relates to the implementation of Obamacare.  BioEdge, an online news source for Bioethics, reports on a paper "Is It Morally Wrong to Take A Life?"  The actual article is on the Journal of Medical Ethics, but I can only show the abstract.  BioEdge excerpts the journal article, though.
Is it morally wrong to kill people? Not really, argue two eminent American bioethicists in an early online article in the Journal of Medical Ethics. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, of Duke University, and Franklin G. Miller, of the National Institutes of Health believe that “killing by itself is not morally wrong, although it is still morally wrong to cause total disability”.
Skipping ahead to the money quotes:
Rendering someone totally and permanently incapacitated is just as bad as taking a life, or so they contend. Killing totally disabled patients does them no harm.

“Then killing her cannot disrespect her autonomy, because she has no autonomy left. It also cannot be unfair to kill her if it does her no harm.”

Nor, they say, is life “sacred”. The only relevant difference between life and death is the existence of abilities – and a brain-damaged person no longer has these.

“[I]f killing were wrong just because it is causing death or the loss of life, then the same principle would apply with the same strength to pulling weeds out of a garden. If it is not immoral to weed a garden, then life as such cannot really be sacred, and killing as such cannot be morally wrong.”
What an interesting world medical ethicists live in if weeds and humans are equivalents! Folks, if you've heard the term "slippery slope" before but were never sure if you'd seen one, read that last couple of paragraphs again.  That's a Teflon slope covered in grease. 

Note that these are not "nobodies" that no one will listen to: this is from the National Institutes of Health and Duke University.  Because they're unwilling to accept any historical standards of right and wrong, they feel free to define their own standards.   This has happened before in history: the eugenics movement that culminated in the Nazi holocaust comes to mind, but Margaret Sanger's American eugenics movement that tried to sterilize and eliminate children from blacks, minorities and the disabled was cut from the same cloth, only a more modest cut.  Her organization is, of course, known today as Planned Parenthood. 

I'll bet the underlying reason for this is Obamacare, which is going to force the government to decide who gets what level of care.  Sarah Palin famously talked about death panels that will decide who gets treatment and who dies.  Under the Whole Lives system (link to pdf), which was developed by another group of bioethicists, the chances of you getting treatment for something are poor for babies and old people, peaking, instead, for young adults in the first half of their careers.  The system was developed by a group including presidential advisor Rahm Emanuel's brother, Ezekiel, and is encoded in Obamacare
As I wrote once before:
In this system, it's acceptable to let a 70 year old, die while giving care to a 25 year old, because their life is worth more to the collective - excuse me - worth more to society.  To paraphrase their quote, "it's not discrimination to deny care to the 70 year old and give it to the 25 year old.  Everyone who is now 70 was once 25 and the majority of those who are 25 now will be 70 some day".   In other words, "we can screw you now because we didn't screw you earlier; and if we're not screwing you now, wait until you're 70 and then you'll really be screwed."
The implications are obvious: if a twenty-something needs a liver or kidney transplant and a suitable donor person below 10 or over 50 (judging by Emanuel's chart) is available, these ethics standards say go ahead and kill the kid or kill the grandma and get the working "unit" back to work so "it" can make money and pay taxes to the mighty Fed.gov hydra.

Notice that according to these ethicists, "The only relevant difference between life and death is the existence of abilities", and since anyone who refuses an outside, existing standard may set their own, I'd like to mimic them and set my own standards for ethicists: 

I have a set of partial differential equations that need to be solved using the Method of Frobenius, could you do that for me?  No?  How about a set of three simultaneous ordinary differential equations in three unknowns: can you solve them for me?  Don't have that ability?  Maybe math isn't your strong suit.  Can you run a lathe and turn a part to better than five tenths (.0005") accuracy?  No?  Can you run a fishing boat or set a trotline?  Do you know how to analyze the stresses on a bridge?  Can you grow a crop of vegetables?  Build walls?  Don't have many abilities, there, do you, skippy? 

You may load one in the chamber, gentlemen. Using their own standards, the answer to tonight's question is apparently "no, it is not immoral to kill bioethicists". 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Five

The latest meme is what five guns would you get if price were no object.  While we've done this before, I think that one was more bounded by reality. 

1.  Barret M82A1 Yeah, I said last time that there isn't a range over 600 yards that in the state that I know of.  But if price is no object, .50BMG semi auto?  Don't even have to think twice.

2.  Wilson Combat Classic 1911 This was in my list last time.  Still love it.

3.  A Palma Rifle.  Here I'm not sure what to go for, but thousand yard shooting with .308 sounds like fun to me.  I'm sure custom is the way to go, but I don't know who to go to.  I'd try this Savage 18532 at least to get me started.

4.  A full-auto Uzi SMG.  Only shot one once, but it was fun. 

5.  A Winchester Model 1894, but not a new one - I'd like one as antique as possible, but I think it needs to be 30-30.   
Let me confess some dumbness - I only became aware of Palma competitions a couple of months ago, when someone posted a link to Anette Wachter, the 30 Cal Gal, and I saw that extremely high-zoot rifle of hers.  So I went and read up on it, and it sounds like a good hard challenge.  Let's face it - if we wanted simple hobbies, we'd collect stamps, right?  No stress, no chance of things blowing up in your face, no chance of someone else's ND punching a hole in you: just buy stamp, put in book.

Google's New Privacy Initiatives

OK, fellow users of Blogger/Blogspot - which includes Gmail and Picassa by default, probably along with all the other Google services, what do you think of the new privacy policy they're mailing around?

Do you think they're trying to force us into their Google+ social network, or do you take the more paranoid view that they're trying to enable even more detailed tracking and monitoring of us? Or are they just being efficient and kind and helping us do things we didn't even know we wanted to do?  The fact we can't opt out of it kinda makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. This is the only Google service I still use.  Never use it for search.  Never use it for maps.  Never have gotten the Google Earth bug. 

Years ago, 1999, Scott MacNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems famously said, "You have zero privacy, anyway. Get over it."  (started a firestorm, that, but it might well have been prescient).  You have all the privacy of the grains in a sandbox.  No particular grain stands out above all the rest, and you don't notice them, but if anyone wants to put a particular grain under a microscope, they can learn everything they want to know about it.  You don't have privacy, you have anonymity.  

I know we're paranoid, but are we paranoid enough?
Users of surveillance drones and satellites will notice smoke coming from my backyard.  Remote sensing units will swing into service to determine if another clandestine meth lab has started operating.  Chemical sensors will sniff the trail and decide it's a mix of hickory, oak, charcoal, and pork butt.  The sensors will not be disappointed; they can't feel emotions like that.  They will simply move on to the next target. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Life on Planet Broke

I wanted to comment on the SoTU address by the Hawaiian Kenyan, but I find it's hard to beat Mark Steyn at turning a phrase.  Mark posts The State of our Union is Broke at National Review Online.
Had I been asked to deliver the State of the Union address, it would not have delayed your dinner plans:

“The State of our Union is broke, heading for bankrupt, and total collapse shortly thereafter. Thank you and goodnight! You’ve been a terrific crowd!”
Hey - I'll be here all week.  Remember to tip your waitress!  Go read.

It's amazing the whole Buffet Rule nonsense has been dredged back up, like the zombie that is, as if increasing taxes on the richest few people in America would matter as much as a fart in a mitten (to borrow a quote in a comment at Sipsey Street).  I have this nasty habit of being grounded in reality, and while I've talked about this before, let's hit the bullet points.
  • The whole issue is pure hypocrisy, and Warren Buffet is stinking hypocrite himself.  The real tax rate Buffet is paying is closer to 50% than the 15% the president quotes.  That's from 35% when it was regular income and 15% as dividend earnings.  Our tax code is written to encourage investing in businesses by taxing your capital gains at less than the ordinary income rate.  Whether or not that's a good thing, and I believe it is, is completely independent of raising tax rates on millionaires and billionaires (where millionaire has been defined as earning more than $250,000).
  • The tax rate is different from the percentage of income you pay as tax due to our "progressive" tax system.  The rates are a step function; for the first step of income, you pay a lower percentage tax than on the last dollars you earn.  Over 97% of the population pays less than 12% of their gross in taxes.  In fact, about 50% don't pay anything, and some make more in government benefits than they pay, leading to a decrease in lifestyle if they work harder and earn more. 
  • If fed.gov took every penny of the combined wealth - not just their income - of the Forbes list of the Richest 400 in America and reduced them to paupers, you'd end up with $1.5 trillion, which is not quite enough to pay for one year of our deficit ($1.56T).  (source)
  • But maybe for 2012 a whole new Forbes 400 of Saudi princes and Russian oligarchs will emigrate to the Hamptons and Malibu and keep the whole class-warfare thing going for a couple more years
  • If fed.gov took every single penny of income from everyone who earns over $10 Million per year, you'd get $240 billion - enough to run the government for 18 days.  If they took every penny of income from everyone with an income of over $250,000, the money would be gone in under 200 days.  It wouldn't pay for the current spending programs for a year, let alone add all the programs they want.  For a refresher, watch Bill Whittle's excellent video.
Or, as I've said many times,  It's The Spending Stupid!  We can not and will not get out of this mess until spending is scaled back to being supportable with tax revenue, which is historically around 18% of GDP.  It really needs to be scaled back closer to 15%, and we need to run surpluses as far as the eye can see. 

As I've done before, I like Steyn's conclusion so much, I'll use it here.  (I did say to RTWT)
There are times for dreaming big dreams, and there are times to wake up. This country will not be going to the moon, any more than the British or French do. Because, in decline, the horizons shrivel. The only thing that’s going to be on the moon is the debt ceiling. Before we can make any more giant leaps for mankind, we have to make one small, dull, prosaic, earthbound step here at home — and stop. Stop the massive expansion of micro-regulatory government, and then reverse it. Obama has vowed to press on. If Romney and Gingrich can’t get serious about it, he’ll get his way.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Across the Universe

Not this version.

I stumbled across an interesting piece of legalese yesterday, that apparently has been making its way into all sorts of places.  I have the Weather Channel app on my iPhone, and have been using it for over 2 years.  There was an update the other day, I installed it on Wednesday night, and promptly forgot it.  Turned it on yesterday and was greeted by a new EULA, a Terms of Use and Privacy Policy that you must agree to before you can see the forecast.  Admittedly unusual for me, I started reading it a little ways, and was soon floored by the amount of legalese there was.  I swear there must be well over a hundred iPhone screens of text to read.  But one thing jumped out at me.  Regarding using their "services", anything you post:
... will be treated as non-confidential and non-proprietary and will become the property of TWC throughout the universe.  (emphasis added)
Throughout the universe?  I pointed this out to the ever curious and master of Google-fu Mrs. Graybeard and after some amazement and puzzling over the wording, she soon showed me it's been going on for a while.  In fact, they often say "throughout the universe in perpetuity". 
Experts in contract drafting say lawyers are trying to ensure that with the proliferation of new outlets -- including mobile-phone screens, Twitter, online video sites and the like -- they cover all possible venues from which their clients can derive income, even those in outer space.
All I can say is: across the entire universe?  Did anyone get Klingon Chancellor Gowron's opinion on that?
Yo, Weather Channel!  You hear me?  What's next?  A 600 page EULA to watch you on TV? 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Little Techie History

A friend passed this on to me, and I think it's a fun read - particularly if you don't know anything about the history of radio.


Radios are so much a part of the driving experience, it seems like cars have always had them. But they didn’t. Here’s the story.

One evening in 1929 two young men named William Lear and Elmer Wavering drove their girlfriends to a lookout point high above the Mississippi River town of Quincy, Illinois, to watch the sunset. It was a romantic night to be sure, but one of the women observed that it would be even nicer if they could listen to music in the car.

Lear and Wavering liked the idea. Both men had tinkered with radios – Lear had served as a radio operator in the U. S. Navy during World War I – and it wasn’t long before they were taking apart a home radio and trying to get it to work in a car. But it wasn’t as easy as it sounds: automobiles have ignition switches, generators, spark plugs, and other electrical equipment that generate noisy static interference, making it nearly impossible to listen to the radio when the engine was running.

One by one, Lear and Wavering identified and eliminated each source of electrical interference. When they finally got their radio to work, they took it to a radio convention in Chicago. There they met Paul Galvin, owner of Galvin Manufacturing Corporation. He made a product called a “battery eliminator” a device that allowed battery-powered radios to run on household AC current. But as more homes were wired for electricity, more radio manufacturers made AC-powered radios. Galvin needed a new product to manufacture. When he met Lear and Wavering at the radio convention, he found it. He believed that mass-produced, affordable car radios had the potential to become a huge business.

Lear and Wavering set up shop in Galvin’s factory, and when they perfected their first radio, they installed it in his Studebaker. Then Galvin went to a local banker to apply for a loan. Thinking it might sweeten the deal, he had his men install a radio in the banker’s Packard. Good idea, but it didn’t work – half an hour after the installation, the banker’s Packard caught on fire. (They didn’t get the loan.)

Galvin didn’t give up. He drove his Studebaker nearly 800 miles to Atlantic City to show off the radio at the 1930 Radio Manufacturers Association convention. Too broke to afford a booth, he parked the car outside the convention hall and cranked up the radio so that passing conventioneers could hear it. That idea worked – he got enough orders to put the radio into production.

That first production model was called the 5T71. Galvin decided he needed to come up with something a little catchier. In those days many companies in the phonograph and radio businesses used the suffix “ola” for their names – Radiola, Columbiola, and Victrola were three of the biggest. Galvin decided to do the same thing, and since his radio was intended for use in a motor vehicle, he decided to call it the Motorola.

But even with the name change, the radio still had problems:
A: When Motorola went on sale in 1930, it cost about $110 uninstalled, at a time when you could buy a brand-new car for $650, and the country was sliding into the Great Depression. (By that measure, a radio for a new car would cost about $3,000 today.)

B: In 1930 it took two men several days to put in a car radio – the dashboard had to be taken apart so that the receiver and a single speaker could be installed, and the ceiling had to be cut open to install the antenna. These early radios ran on their own batteries, not on the car battery, so holes had to be cut into the floorboard to accommodate them. The installation manual had eight complete diagrams and 28 pages of instructions.

Selling complicated car radios that cost 20 percent of the price of a brand-new car wouldn’t have been easy in the best of times, let alone during the Great Depression – Galvin lost money in 1930 and struggled for a couple of years after that. But things picked up in 1933 when Ford began offering Motorolas pre-installed at the factory. In 1934 they got another boost when Galvin struck a deal with B. F. Goodrich tire company to sell and install them in its chain of tire stores. By then the price of the radio, installation included, had dropped to $55. The Motorola car radio was off and running. (The name of the company would be officially changed from Galvin Manufacturing to “Motorola” in 1947.)

In the meantime, Galvin continued to develop new uses for car radios. In 1936, the same year that it introduced push-button tuning, it also introduced the Motorola Police Cruiser, a standard car radio that was factory preset to a single frequency to pick up police broadcasts. In 1940 he developed the first handheld two-way radio – the Handie-Talkie – for the U. S. Army.

A lot of the communications technologies that we take for granted today were born in Motorola labs in the years that followed World War II. In 1947 they came out with the first television to sell under $200. In 1956 the company introduced the world’s first pager; in 1969 it supplied the radio and television equipment that was used to televise Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon. In 1973 it invented the world’s first handheld cellular phone. Today Motorola is the second-largest cell phone manufacturer in the world.

And it all started with the car radio.


The two men who installed the first radio in Paul Galvin’s car, Elmer Wavering and William Lear, ended up taking very different paths in life. Wavering stayed with Motorola. In the 1950’s he helped change the automobile experience again when he developed the first automotive alternator, replacing inefficient and unreliable generators. The invention lead to such luxuries as power windows, power seats, and, eventually, air-conditioning.

Lear also continued inventing. He holds more than 150 patents. Remember eight-track tape players? Lear invented that. But what he’s really famous for are his contributions to the field of aviation. He invented radio direction finders for planes, aided in the invention of the autopilot, designed the first fully automatic aircraft landing system, and in 1963 introduced his most famous invention of all, the Lear Jet; the world’s first mass-produced, affordable business jet. (Not bad for a guy who dropped out of school after the eighth grade.)

Edit 18222 EST:  Dat ole typo generator that puts them in after I hit "Publish"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Manufacturing Sector in the US. - Far From Dead

H/T to Bayou Renaissance Man for a link to an interesting piece in the Atlantic on manufacturing in America today.  It's a long and complex piece on a complex subject, but it's worthwhile to RTWT.  The story focuses on a company in South Carolina which manufactures fuel injectors and other complex, precise parts for the auto industry.  We hobbyist machinists are never under time pressure in our projects; if anything, we shape metal to get away from thinking of those time pressures.  In manufacturing, time is money and getting the job done right with minimal waste, then doing it better the next time, is the mantra.
I came to think of Standard Motor Products as an enormous machine that regularly scans every tiny part of every engine in every car on the streets of the United States to answer two closely related questions: What makes sense to manufacture here in the U.S., and what should be made in a low-wage country, like Mexico or China?
I've worked in electronics manufacturing for virtually my entire adult life; first as an electronics technician, and eventually as an engineer.  If there's one constant, it's the refinement of processes to run more automatically and require fewer but higher-level people.  (I suppose the other constant since 1975 has been people telling me we don't manufacture anything in America anymore). I see the same trend in the Atlantic piece.

If an engineer from 1975 had been put in suspended animation and brought back today, they could look in today's typical electronics box, like an iPod, or other toy, and not recognize a thing.  There are some parts that haven't changed much, because the physics that rules them is so unforgiving that no better ways have been found, but it wouldn't be obvious for most uses. The size of components has shrunk dramatically and inexorably, such that most of them no longer have lead wires attached to them, but rather are tiny pieces that appear to be ceramic flakes (a part smaller than a red pepper seed, .040" long by .020" wide, is not considered small today).  These tiny ceramic chips have metal plated onto their ends which are soldered to a circuit board.  The only practical way to handle and solder parts like this in volume is with machinery, removing many of the semi-skilled workers in the work flow.

The National Association of Manufacturers says the US is the largest manufacturing sector in the world, with China number 2 and Japan at 3.  Even if you swap the US and China, the manufacturing sector still produces a lot in this country.  Kevin at The Smallest Minority ran a piece on Sunday about the manufacturing of iPhones.  It focused on a New York Times piece that basically said the iPhone is made in China because it couldn't be made anywhere else; every part is made in a city less than 25 miles across.  It feeds the illusion that it couldn't be made here because no such places exist in the US.  I call bull crap on that. Too much is made of the wage differences between here and China or India and not enough is made about our advantages in high-tech.  In the Atlantic piece the Standard managers are saying they won't go to China unless they save about 40% in the cost of the part, to cover the indirect costs, I'm sure. 

I would argue the US' biggest problems are not our wage structures, but our regulatory and tax structures (link is to a pdf).  As always, government is the problem.  Our corporate tax rates are punitive - either the worst or second worst in the world (everybody, all together, corporations don't pay tax, they raise their price to collect the tax - or they get out of the country).  Our regulatory processes have been made up as make work programs for lawyers and they look it.  Still, while we may not manufacture ten million of this years' hot computer toy, we produce billions of dollars worth of industrial and other products.  The NAM says that taken by itself, US manufacturing would be the 9th largest economy in the world. 

I vaguely remember a Joe Biden quote that struck me with such force, it almost knocked me over.  If Joe gets it through that titanium skull of his, anyone should get it.  Over a decade ago, I believe, he said, "we have to be careful that if we really want to create jobs, we can't be too anti-business in our message". 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

1000 Days

Today marks 1000 days - almost 3 years - since the United States Senate performed one of their basic constitutionally mandated tasks and submitted a budget.  The last budget they passed was on April 29, 2009.  Instead, they have worked by continuing resolutions and funding embedded in 1000 page bills - funding that is unrelated to anything actually being legislated.  I don't need to, but will remind readers the Senate has been under the control of the Evil party since the 2006 elections.  The stupid party controls only the House of Representatives, and only since 2010. 

Wanna bet that gets mentioned in the SoTU? 

Harry Reid (D. Uranus) is said to think preparing a budget is "a foolish idea" - in my opinion it's because he doesn't want to put all the stupid or corrupt spending in one easy-to-read place.  Not enough camouflage - no place to hide.  Investor's Business Daily puts it this way:
A published budget would be an election-year death warrant for Senate Democrats, because Republican Senate candidates would stuff its highlights into every mailbox they could.
On a related note, you probably noticed a few weeks ago that the president has asked for the debt ceiling to be raised by another $1.2 trillion, again.  If you're keeping score, that will raise the "on books" debt to $16.4 trillion dollars or approximately 108% of GDP.  The House has voted against this, but it's purely symbolic and the death spiral, debt ceiling is expected to be raised this weekend.  They agreed to not stage a real revolt over the debt ceiling the last time we went through this. We don't call them the Stupid and Evil parties for nothing, you know. 

I am no fan of Speaker of the House John Boehner, but I will give credit where due.  I wandered into a room with a TV on Sunday and caught a few seconds of an interview between Boehner and host Chris Wallace.  Chris was trying to press Boehner on the "do nothing congress" platform that Obama is running on.  Wallace said in the current session they had only passed 80 laws and 20 of them were naming post offices or other meaningless things, so didn't this prove Obama right?  Boehner asked incredulously, "The number of laws we pass is a measure of how good a congress we are?".  Wallace sheepishly replied, "it's a measure", to which Boehner said, "Most people think we have way too many laws and think we shouldn't keep passing more".  I was surprised, but credit where credit is due. 

And, as of a few hours ago, it was still impossible to confirm the rumor that India and Iran have agreed to allow the sale of Iranian oil to be paid in gold, however that site observes that India doesn't have enough gold reserves to do that for long. The megatrend of the dollar slowly dying is undeniable, though.  The BRIC countries developing their own basket of currencies or trading in their native currencies will only help bring on the death of the dollar. 

Listen closely.  Hear that sound?  That's the death rattle of the dollar. 
Separated at birth?  Maybe Senator blob fish would publish a budget.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Exclusive Preview: Obama's Fourth SoTU Address

Actually, I was going to write a satire about this, but have had too much to do tonight.  Instead, I'll link to this excellent piece by Joseph Curl in the Washington Times: The Truly Dismal State of the Union.  A taste:
There is one person — one American among the 300 million of us — who is not to blame for the state of the union. Everyone else, each of you, in some small or large way, bears some share of the blame, but not this guy. Not one little bit.

This guy is Barack Obama. He is not the least bit to blame for the dismal state of the U.S. economy. George W. Bush is, for sure, and that evil Dick Cheney, oh, no doubt...
$15 trillion dollars in stacked pallets of $100 bills - from two months ago when our "on the books" national debt reached 100% of GDP.  For perspective, it took from the foundation of the USA until the last year of the George W Bush administration for the debt to reach $10 Trillion.  In roughly 3 1/2 years, debt has increased by $5 trillion - 50%. At the current rates, on this date in 2015, just three years, the debt will be over $24 trillion an increase of $12 trillion - 60% from today's mind-boggling debt (from the DebtClock's Time Machine feature).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Moving Goalposts

Remember the old Bugs Bunny cartoon where he dared Yosemite Sam to "step across this line".  No wait, step across this line.  No, step across this line.  And eventually led Sam off a cliff? 

Don't know if you remember, but on November 27th, the Financial Times wrote that the Eurozone had 10 days left.  Then the big date was December 19th.  Lately I've been hearing the next big day is March 20th.
March 20th is a key date to keep your eye on.  That is the day when Greece will either make its 14.5 billion euro bond payment or it will default.

Greece does not have a prayer of making that payment without help.  If Greece can convince the EU and the IMF to release the next scheduled bailout payment and if Greece can reach a satisfactory deal with private bondholders, then the coming Greek default might be "orderly".  But if something goes wrong, the coming Greek default might be quite "disorderly".

At this point, almost everyone in the financial world is anticipating a Greek default of one form or another...
If financial experts like the editor at FT get things wrong, you can bet amateurs like me aren't likely to be better.  The important point is that last sentence, that almost everyone in the financial world believes Greece is going to default.  A Greek default should chill you to your core because from there, the whole EU is likely to unravel.  If the EU and ECB give a deal to Greece, how can they not give it to Italy, Spain, Portugal and the rest.  But an insane deal is the only way Greece stays out of default. 

The EU is pretty much in recession now, and Gerald Celente points out the signs are worse if you just look.. 
“If you live in Greece, you’re in a depression; if you live in Spain, you’re in a depression; if you live in Portugal or Ireland, you’re in a depression,” Celente said. “If you live in Lithuania, you’re running to the bank to get your money out of the bank as the bank runs go on. It’s a depression. Hungary, there’s a depression, and much of Eastern Europe, Romania, Bulgaria. And there are a lot of depressions going on [already].”
I've seen talk of the ECB monetizing (making up out of thin air) as much as a trillion Euros (about $1.25 trillion) to try and keep these countries afloat.  Then there's talk of another round of QE. All of this will combine to make dollars worth less and less.  It's a story we've told many times before. 

The Economic Collapse Blog lists Warning Signs That We Should be Preparing For the Worst.  You should read it.

Don't stop your preparations.  The extra 90 days over the 9 in that FT article are bonus days.  Use them wisely.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Whole Lot of Fracking Going On

Fracturing shale with hydraulic pressure and solvents - otherwise known as fracking - is the new battleground between the environmentalists and our society.  The now-widely reported massive increase in natural gas and oil reserves in the US largely depend on the new fracking technology.  Fracking itself isn't a new idea - but refinements in the last decade or so (along with the increase in oil prices) have made it a more viable technique for getting at American energy reserves.
In a move reminiscent of how the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" - a movie which the Science and Public Policy Institute scored 35 errors in facts before the opening credits were over - scared throngs of kids about the dangers of Man-made Global Warming, a group of activists have made a documentary called GasLand to try to stop energy exploitation. 

John Ransom reports in Townhall.com that the British science publication "New Scientist" has examined the case they make and concluded the science just doesn't back them up.  To quote from New Scientist:
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into methane-rich shale deposits around 2 kilometres underground to liberate natural gas. It has been accused of contaminating drinking water with methane and chemicals, and causing minor earthquakes.
They conclude that there is not much actual peer-reviewed geological research on the topic, but what little there is says it's highly unlikely to cause methane in drinking water.  It's a matter of how deep the fracking is taking place as opposed to the water well depth and the impermeability of the rock between them.
Underground deposits of drinking water often contain methane anyway, and there is little reason to believe that gas liberated by fracking 2 to 3 kilometres beneath the surface could work its way up into drinking water deposits that are usually less than 50 metres deep. The same is true for fracking chemicals.
 What about the earthquakes?  Well, here, the case is stronger that fracking could be the cause:
Fracking does cause minor earthquakes, but these "fraques" are comparable in size to the frequent minor quakes caused by coal mining. What's more, they originate much deeper in the crust so have all but dissipated by the time they reach the surface.
Earthquakes are not only caused by sliding along fault lines, like the famous big name faults, but also by the earth settling around voids; voids that could be created by pumping out water, as well as oil, or (as they point out) by coal mining or hard rock mining.  Similarly, putting up a dam and allowing the reservoir to fill could cause settling of the land under the water, creating a quake. 

George Will said,
Because progressivism exists to justify a few people bossing around most people and because progressives believe that only government’s energy should flow unimpeded, they crave energy scarcities as an excuse for rationing — by them — that produces ever-more-minute government supervision of Americans’ behavior.
There are environmentalists who really care about preserving the environment, there are those who are opposed to any new technology or energy use at all, and there are the progressive environmentalists who really want to bring the earth's population back down to a few hundred million - which would require killing off around 95% of the people on earth.  For the rest of the US, we enjoy the benefits of the oil and natural gas.  Not only the obvious ability to get around in our cars and have electrical appliances, but the many chemical products and drugs that natural gas is a feed stock for.  Petroleum is modern life. 

I say frack here, frack now. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Night Odds and Ends

Remember this post - a link to Popehat on how "'using stored information to create physical items' in 17-aught-mumble and 20-aught-mumble" inevitably leads to home made guns in the 21st century?

Conversations this week have led me down some of those pathways again this week, and I stumbled across a description of an AR-15 lower receiver made from HDPE.  If that doesn't ring a bell right away, HDPE is high density polyethylene, a plastic commonly used in stuff like kitchen cutting boards! (the link, btw, was posted by our ex-communicated buddy TJIC...)  as published on that link:
This has been test fired and worked, but think of it as Beta level; he needed a bunch of playing to make it work.  The point is, this is a fully functional AR with the lower receiver body made out of - basically - a kitchen cutting board (I don't have enough exclamation points, so I won't use any).   

Do you need more justification to have a home shop?

I see the fed.gov decided to allow the importation of 86,000 M1 Garands from South Korea!.  This is a Really Good Thing.  (Let me tell you about my Garand children)

We've talked about getting started with machine tools before, (in many places, really) and I've commented on the big gap between a model maker's size tools like the Sherline or Taig and the big tools.  I've been looking into replacing my manual Sherline with a bigger lathe, and the next obvious step up is to the "7 by" lathes that all the tool companies sell.  The problem is you quickly get into the "if you spend just a little more you get so much more capability" trap, and you end up with something that costs marginally more, but weighs way more. 

A good example is this lathe, which is a really good machine by everything I can determine.  The problem is that it comes with no tooling and by the time I add a reasonable set of accessories, I end up at about $11-1200 out of pocket, maybe more.  For 50-$100 less, I can get this lathe delivered to my door, along with a good set of tooling.  And a bonus box full of hernias.  The first one weighs 86 pounds, and is a weight I think I can reasonably handle.  The Griz weighs about 250 - a bit much for one man lift.  On the other hand the Griz will handle a much larger work piece, 9" in diameter over the bed, instead of 7".  Both of them have much more motor power than the Sherline, and the smaller motor of the two (2/3 HP vs. 3/4) may be better because it's a DC motor with infinite speed control, instead of just a handful of set speeds.

Then there's the performance gap: as I think I've said, at a meeting of the North American Model Engineers Society (NAMES) I saw a fantastic modeler, Jerry Keiffer, pull a stock Sherline lathe out of the box, chuck up a 1/2" diameter by about 1" long steel rod, and cut it down to .010" diameter in 5 cuts.  And then drill a .005" hole down the center of that .010" nub.   You won't do anything with one of these right out of the box except disassemble them and clean them of the goop they are coated with for the journey from overseas (usually China).  They probably won't do that sort of accuracy without some extreme tweaking - if ever.  On the other hand, it will handle interrupted cuts and other machining tasks that would stall the Sherline - if not shake it apart. 

Decisions, decisions, decisions....

Thursday, January 19, 2012

SOPA/PIPA and The Netwar Begins

Today, a full-fledged Netwar appears to have started between the US fed.gov and hacker groups led by "anonymous" - or someone who wants us to think that's who they are. 

It started when the DOJ hit MegaUpload and apparently shut them down, with no due process of any kind.  At this time, the DOJ (http://www.justice.gov/) seems to be under a DOS (Denial of Service) attack and is unreachable.  According to Gizomodo,  the RIAA, MPAA, and Univeral Music are all currently shutdown under attack, too - as well as the FBI and recording label EMI.  The sites under attack are winking in and out, as the waves of attacks break. 

According to the Guardian (UK)
The US government has closed down one of the world's largest filesharing websites, accusing its founders of racketeering, money laundering and presiding over "massive" online piracy.

According to prosecutors, Megaupload illegally cheated copyright holders out of $500m in revenue as part of a criminal enterprise spanning five years.
Which brings us back to SOPA/PIPA.  Borepatch did a great exposure of a security problem with the proposed laws, I want to talk about the philosophical problem. 

It is simply this: the $500 million dollars in damages the fed.gov alleges is complete BS.  No one can possibly know how much financial damage "stealing" any file caused the copyright owner.  The logical fallacy that every copy is a lost sale goes back over a century, before recording existed, when the equivalent of the RIAA or ASCAP was busting the kneecaps of people who copied sheet music, and it's no more true today.  The examples are trivially easy to construct.  Has anyone ever given you an album that you might listen to, but don't like enough to buy?  If that's an MP3 file of the audio, to the RIAA you've deprived them of sales when, in reality, you never would have spent the money for it. 

To say every downloaded song is a $10 or $15 CD sale that wasn't made completely ignores the pricing power of the market.  Perhaps you would buy it at $5 or $1, but just don't think it's worth what they charge for it. The same goes for movies or any other form of entertainment; it's just not true that everyone who will watch a pirated DVD would have bought the official version. 

In the case of software, can you honestly argue that every person who uses a broken copy of a truly expensive program would have bought it?  In engineering, I've known people who used broken copies of  ~$30,000/seat design programs at home - big name CAD programs are typical.  If it wasn't available as cracked software, they simply wouldn't get the work done (or they'd do it at work, after hours, or in some other way).  They used that software just because it was available, and the purchase price is orders of magnitude beyond what a home user or hobbyist could pay. And I have personally seen situations where the use of "stolen" software resulted in the employee convincing the company to buy the program - a case where stolen software caused a sale; it didn't deny one. 

You see, the folks behind SOPA/PIPA are terrified of the technology.  If I give you a CD and you don't listen to it, it's just one,  but if I make digital copies to post, I can make an unlimited number of them and the last copy is as good as the first.  They are terrified that they will put content up for sale, and no one will buy.  Individual artists are doing well selling songs directly, and avoiding the record label's control.  The companies are terrified that they will lose power and become irrelevant.   

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

SOPA Strike

You've probably heard of the Internet Strike over SOPA/PIPA bills currently in the Senate/Congress respectively.  H/T to Bayou Renaissance Man for pointing this out before I started hearing about it on other channels.

SOPA is short for Stop Online Piracy Act while PIPA is the Protect Intellectual Property Act, and together they have the backing of a lot of very well-funded groups.  The big problem is that, as written, you commit a crime by linking to any site that links to another site doing something illegal.  If you have a web page or blog, you could link to someone's page not knowing that somewhere else on their page, they link to someone who has posted something that a third party claims to own, and suddenly you've committed a crime.  You didn't link to the pirated movie or other material, you linked to someone for an unrelated reason, yet you are now a criminal.  A perfect example of the current trend to not use the age-old concept of "mens rea" - it's not a crime unless you know you were doing something wrong. 

Killing the practice of hot-linking to each other will kill the web as we know it.

I guess that technically, this means I'm striking for two days, since I'm writing about this today, and going dark tomorrow.

And since you won't be able to read Boing Boing's statement of support while they've gone black, let me quote some of it - it's excellent.  And, chances are, this (most of this) is all we're ever likely to agree on.
This is the part of the post where I'm supposed to say something reasonable like, "Everyone agrees that piracy is wrong, but this is the wrong way to fight it."

But you know what? Screw that.

Even though a substantial portion of my living comes from the entertainment industry, I don't think that any amount of "piracy" justifies this kind of depraved indifference to the consequences of one's actions. Big Content haven't just declared war on Boing Boing and Reddit and the rest of the "fun" Internet: they've declared war on every person who uses the net to publicize police brutality, every oppressed person in the Arab Spring who used the net to organize protests and publicize the blood spilled by their oppressors, every abused kid who used the net to reveal her father as a brutalizer of children, every gay kid who used the net to discover that life is worth living despite the torment she's experiencing, every grassroots political campaigner who uses the net to make her community a better place -- as well as the scientists who collaborate online, the rescue workers who coordinate online, the makers who trade tips online, the people with rare diseases who support each other online, and the independent creators who use the Internet to earn their livings.

The contempt for human rights on display with SOPA and PIPA is more than foolish. Foolishness can be excused. It's more than greed. Greed is only to be expected. It is evil, and it must be fought.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Something Completely Different

The topic of health and fitness comes up now and then in the III blogs.  I stumbled across this video while ping-ponging around the net over lunch today.  I found it pretty amazing, and worth the roughly 18 minutes to watch.

What if you tried to feed the world, to keep from millions from starving, and invented (hybridized or bred) a plant that succeeded.  It actually fed millions, allowed them to live, let them grow up and have children, gave them a better quality of life.  Imagine a custom hybrid grain, a grass, really, bred not to grow into "amber waves of grain", but short, stubby stalks with club-like seed heads (why waste all that energy making tall stems when the energy could go into the seeds - the grain).  And what if that plant, something that was never before in history in our diet, caused chronic diseases in much of the population, and wouldn't keep those people healthy?  It would allow them to survive to breeding age before coming down with these illnesses and dying a young death.  There are many who think that describes modern wheat. 

That population would have to change radically to survive as hunter-gatherers.  It would probably end up a much smaller population.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Double Header: CES and SHOT

This past week was the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas.  This is an annual industry event and while I've never had a job in consumer electronics, I always pay attention to what's going on.   This week brings the SHOT show, also in Vegas, the annual new toy celebration of the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade show

Why do I bring up both CES and the SHOT show in the same breath?  Miquel over at Gunfree Zone has a great article on a little controversy over SHOT.  I'm sure you know that SHOT is only open to mainstream sports journalists.
So what is the buzz this year? A New version of the Taurus Judge? Ruger’s Cooper Scout Carbine? Some newfangled piston AR in 300 Blackout? Coonan’s 1911 in .357 magnum? Nope. Actually it's one person: Paul Helinski of GunsAmerica.

Mr. Helinski disapproves that Gun Bloggers should attend the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor trade show. Apparently Gun Blooggers are icky, smell bad and are not “official” media according to him as he posted in the SHOT Show Blog:

Mr. Helinski goes on to say:
Now the question is when you are going to start qualifying internet media?   We have to crawl over nobodies who can install wordpress and have nobody reading anything they write,It isn’t so hard to qualify internet media using Alexa.com and Compete.com.  Why do you waste the manufacturers’ time and make the real internet media have to deal with wish I were internet journalists who are just using your stamp of approve to solicit review guns and accessories?  You’ve created this giant gorilla in the room and we all have to deal with it, and you may think the industry takes your numbers seriously, but everyone sees things for what they are.  If you are serious about bringing value to your exhibitors, you need to vet the press list.
To begin with, aside from punctuation that makes my eyes bleed, this is wrong.  Alexa measures visits by people who use the Alexa toolbar, not all visitors.  (BTW, I'm number 219,130 in the US - I try harder)  I don't think either one of those sites is actually measuring traffic.  More importantly, Helinski is bucking the biggest trend in the world today.

In the early days of radio and TV, the word was broadcasting: putting out a signal to as wide an area and group as you could.  You know this today as basically ABC/CBS/NBC.  In the "cable age" came Narrowcasting (the term is from J. C. R. Licklider, in 1967, and was quite visionary at the time).  Think of the Outdoor Channel, the Sportsman's Channel, the World Fishing Network,  and the dozens of other channels on a cable or satellite system.  These are channels that can get by with a tiny fraction of the audience that the big 3 networks require to maintain a show on the air. 

Today, the term is unicasting and think of things like Pandora, I Heart Radio, or the monster social networking sites, where the user defines their own experience instead of some anointed one defining it for them. If you care to watch this video, you'll see a spokesperson for Pandora drop the term unicasting at about the 1:09 mark (I found several things she said there quite interesting).  Unicasting - the ability for each and every user to customize the experience for themselves is the biggest trend today.  This is why the big newspapers, the big three network newscasts, and the rest of the dinosaur media is dying. 

The gun blogs are in exactly that unicasting space.  If you want an honest review of virtually anything, do you go to a magazine or a friend?  The gun magazines - and all specialized hobby magazines - are faced with the very real conflict that the folks who keep them in business by advertising are providing products for review.  It's not quite like going to a Ford dealer for a review of a Ford, but you are going to someone whose life depends on Ford.  Their bread is buttered by the folks they're reviewing. 

There are gun bloggers among us who do so because they want to become gun magazine writers and maybe be able to go to SHOT.  Fine.  Likewise, the NSSF is perfectly reasonable in trying to present a highly influential group to their exhibitors at SHOT; after all, they're charging them to come to the expo and it would be silly to just throw the doors wide open to anyone who posts about guns now and then.  The problem is that the whole structure might be artificial and on the verge of collapsing.  I don't know how to quantify this, but I bet some people like Tam or Kevin, Say Uncle, Sebastian or  Oleg, have a bigger audience than some of the "influential" people in the crowd at SHOT. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

How Do You Kill 10 Million People?

About a week ago, I mentioned Andy Andrews book, "How Do You Kill 10 Million People?" in passing.  I had seen Andrews on the Glenn Beck program (on Beck's internet-based network, GBTV.com)  I honestly don't know if this will work, but if you see a free video here, watch it. I can't recommend this strongly enough. 

Andrews' book kind of got into my brain, and like a spot on your tooth that you have to feel with your tongue, or a piece of gravel in your shoe that you need to keep poking at, it just made me keep coming back to think about this. I bet that his answer will resonate with my readers who haven't heard it.

How do you kill 10 million people?  The trains to the prison camps would have thousands of prisoners and only a couple of guards.  In the towns where they would hold their victims, walled off from the outside, less than 15 armed men would go into a group and read a speech full of lies to, perhaps, a thousand men, and there was never a revolt.  Surely, if they had revolted as a human wave, some would have been killed, but they would have eventually overpowered the guards.  How did they get those people to be so compliant?

Step back from the ghettos to the larger society.  The Nazi party never contained more than 10% of the population of the country: how does 10% rule the larger portion?   The population could have overpowered them.  I know that the Nazis confiscated all guns, and that certainly made it much more difficult, but in sheer numbers they could have overrun military bases and captured weapons.   Some well-funded gun runners could have made a world of difference. 

Andrews concludes there is a very simple explanation, so simple that we might laugh at it.  The Nazis lied to their victims. 

You see, one of the disadvantages of our western, Judaeo-Christian society (which 1930s Germany certainly was) is that we train our children, and ourselves, not to lie.  (Not all societies teach this: Islam allows lying, especially to infidels).  We are all brought up to tell the truth, and the mirror reflection of that is that we expect others to tell us the truth.  There's a reason politicians and used car salesmen are held in low regard: we expect them to be lying.  When there's a "big lie", a well coordinated story, told directly to your face by people who don't seem to be lying, we tend to believe them.  Hitler himself said, "The great masses will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one".  I believe that our normalcy bias makes us prefer to believe the lie than to believe our Government is trying to kill us. 
(training our children - and ourselves in 20 years - not to lie)

JPFO founder Aaron Zelman said if every one of the Jews in the ghettos had a rifle, a few rounds of ammunition, and the will to use them, Adolph Hitler would have been a minor footnote in world history.  Whether or not that's really true (alternate history is always wild speculation), it's hard to know, but the rag tag group that did acquire a few guns held the Nazis off for a month - longer than it took for them to take the rest of the Poland.

While we are culturally trained to not believe it, we should always keep in the back of our minds that the fed.gov hydra is lying to us.  Today, it's easy to believe - almost guaranteed, and perhaps I don't need to remind this audience, but the worst genocides in history are always, always, always, carried out by governments following fully legal procedures in their countries. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hope 'n Change 2012

Mercilessly ripped off from the Feral Irishman who stole it from Pitsnipes Gripes.
That is all. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

DHS Monitoring "Journalists", Collecting Personal Information

I suppose it's not surprising that the Department of Fatherland Security feels they are authorized to monitor journalists or anyone who uses "social media" and collect whatever personal information they'd like to collect.

According to a report linked to Russia Today (motto: "It's Still 1984!"):
Department of Homeland Security now has permission under the National Operations Center (NOC)’s Media Monitoring Initiative to collect and retain personal information on "journalists, news anchors, reporters or anyone who uses 'traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed.'”
Sounds like all of us bloggers in the "liberty sphere" to me, although the "in real time" thing doesn't really apply.   The story appeared on The Blaze, where reporter Tiffany Gabbay wrote:
According to DHS, the definition of personal identifiable information can consist of any [information - edited] “that permits the identity of an individual to be directly or indirectly inferred, including any information which is linked or linkable to that individual.”
I have always assumed this is the case, but that they just didn't say they were doing it - or they were monitoring us indirectly through a partner of some sort.  It has long been the case, for example, that the NSA was not legally allowed to monitor Americans at home - which was enforced by the FBI, who considered it "their turf".  So the NSA let one of their foreign partners, like British intelligence, monitor us and hand the data over.  I read that somewhere online, it must be true.

According to an absolutely peachy pdf file at the DHS, they feel they have the right to collective personally identifiable information (PII) on (some emphasis added by me):
1) U.S. and foreign individuals in extremis situations involving potential life or death circumstances; 2) senior U.S. and foreign government officials who make public statements or provide public updates; 3) U.S. and foreign government spokespersons who make public statements or provide public updates; 4) U.S. and foreign private sector officials and spokespersons who make public statements or provide public updates; 5) names of anchors, newscasters, or on-scene reporters who are known or identified as reporters in their post or article or who use traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed; 6) current and former public officials who are victims of incidents or activities related to Homeland Security; and 7) terrorists, drug cartel leaders, or other persons known to have been involved in major crimes of Homeland Security interest.
Russia Today added:
Previously established guidelines within the administration say that data could only be collected under authorization set forth by written code, but the new provisions in the NOC’s write-up means that any reporter, whether someone along the lines of Walter Cronkite or a budding blogger, can be victimized by the agency.
This strikes me as blowback from Bradley Manning, and Julian Assange (the heart of Wikileaks), as well as the use of social media in the "Arab Spring" uprisings and even the use of Twitter in the Occupy Whatever protests.  The "real time" angle seems to be directed at the latter sort of example: they want to know who's tweeting where the police are, or coordinating riots. 

The people fed.gov has granted themselves permission to monitor are considered a threat to their power and fed.gov's (assumed) monopoly on the narrative.  This recalls Donald Sensing's post I linked to Monday, "The Left's Only Question: Who is to Rule, That is All" As GardenSERF commented yesterday, 
“If they get power, who loses power? We do. Do you want to lose power? No.”
 (image source and the orignator)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Yo: TSA. You're Not Making it Any Better

Remember back around Christmas when a woman had her cupcake confiscated by the TSA as a security threat?  Ok, it turns out that this wasn't a normal cupcake.  Like me, you probably envisioned the cupcake on the left.  The TSA says it was the one on the right:
I'm terrified, I tell ya.

The TSA runs a blog where someone will comment on stories like this and "Blogger Bob" brings the TSA official story to the party.  The problem is their explanation just doesn't make it better.  Let me try to pull some quotes to show you what I mean:
I wanted to make it clear that this wasn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill cupcake. If you’re not familiar with it, we have a policy directly related to the UK liquid bomb plot of 2006 called 3-1-1 that  limits the amount of liquids, gels and aerosols you can bring in your carry-on luggage. Icing falls under the “gel” category.  As you can see from the picture, unlike a thin layer of icing that resides on the top of most cupcakes, this cupcake had a thick layer of icing inside a jar.
So it wasn't a run-of-the-mill cupcake, it was a particularly scary cupcake; not just a little puff of cake with a smear of frosting on it, this is jar full of frosting with some cake allegedly embedded somewhere in it.  Looking at the Cupcake of Doooooooom  ... um, excuse me, Cupcake in a Jar, I was immediately struck with fear -- of diabetes, not of a bomb.  Blogger Bob goes on to say:
In general, cakes and pies are allowed in carry-on luggage, however, the officer in this case used their discretion on whether or not to allow the newfangled modern take on a cupcake per 3-1-1 guidelines. They chose not to let it go.
So a pie is smaller than this jar o' frosting?  A whole pie doesn't contain more than 3 ounces?  That's some wimpy pie!  Momma's key lime pies would certainly contain over 8 ounces of filling - and you'd best not try to put one in a zip lock bag, if you don't want Momma to chew your head off. .  

Alright, I'll get serious.  The first problem this illustrates with the TSA is that the rulings are "arbitrary and capricious"; they're never the same from agent to agent, from airport to bus station.  The same woman - and others - have flown with more of these cupcakes many times, and are probably flying with them today.  The second problem is that their rulings are illogical: would you think a pie is more or less likely to be stopped than a jar of frosting?  I personally would guess there isn't even more than 3 ounces of frosting in there.  But the real trouble is the big one: this is security theater.  I'm sure these agents think they're doing the right things, but security doesn't come from stopping things it comes from stopping people and that ain't going to happen until we start allowing El Al style passenger profiling and interviews.  Right now, the TSA antics are beyond useless, they're threatening real security by creating a false sense that they're doing something useful.  They need to be sent home, with about 40% of the government work force. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Will There Be an Election 2012?

In this comment to my post on Saturday, and in this comment on Friday commenter RegT posts an honest question about the coming presidential election.  Is there really going to be an election next November? 

This question is ordinarily the domain of real conspiracy theorists.  It's high on the list of things I never thought I could end up thinking possible.   But I can easily see possible scenarios that seem likely to end with no election in next fall.  The Occupy Whatever idiots figure prominently in the scenario (all of what I've written is here, I think).  Occupy got plenty of good will from the Evil party - Debbie Wasserman Shultz, party chair-critter, just praised them again the other day.  Even some III patriots seemed to want to be part of it.  You can expect them back when the weather warms a little.

In my New Years Post, I wrote:
The potential I see is for them to act up so badly that the (bankrupt) cities can't handle the expenses.  Perhaps they assassinate a politician they don't like, or duplicate the Chicago 1968 Democratic Convention's riots.  The (bankrupt) cities beg the (bankrupt) feds for help, and the National Guard is called up.  Martial law is enacted, giving the fascists the chance to surround the white house with tanks and address the (right wing) domestic terrorism problem.  This could make the last presidential election The Last Presidential Election. 
Obviously, at no time in our history have elections been suspended.  Not during the civil war, not during the world wars or any other crisis we have faced as a nation.  That's probably the Rubicon beyond which open civil war begins.  Or one branch of the Rubicon.
(h/t The Feral Irishman)

This would have to be in response to a crisis, as it always is - "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste, and what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you didn’t think you could do before.", as Rahm Emmanuel said.   Rioting by Occupy idiots, leading to massive crackdowns on potential terrorists (all under the recently passed NDAA), and grabbing power "for the duration of the crisis" could be just such an example.  Normal elections will be restored once the crisis is over.  This is the sort of thing that marks a banana republic - and we are rapidly becoming one.

To quote George Orwell from 1984 (h/t to Donald at Sense of Events in his excellent piece, "The Left's Only Question: Who is to Rule, that is all".)
"We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."
The idea that a president would surround the White House with the tanks and declare elections ended is difficult to accept."  It's a repugnant thought, but it's spreading:  gathering minds around the country and elsewhere, folks feeling it in their gut and becoming concerned it's going to happen.  

Sometime later I can tell you how I think a coup, takeover, and cessation of elections could be arranged by the muscle behind the administration: the New Black Panther Party, the Department of (Social) Justice, the Public Unions and so on.   

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My Light a Candle Day Shot

I think the idea here goes back to Weer'd World, although I think I first saw the idea on Tango Juliet

So why the heart shaped candle, and chocolates?  The stereotype is that women like chocolate.  The heart shaped candle, just a nice, cozy added touch.  What's more comforting than relaxing at home on a cold night, under a blanket, with a couple of pounds of steel, brass and lead within reach if you need it?  As much as we may dislike the idea, it is simply fact that smaller women are much more likely to be attacked than big men.  They need the self-defense tools even more than men do.  Everyone is talking about the way-too-young widow in Oklahoma who defended her child and her own life with a shotgun against two evil-incarnate men: a perfect example. 

Borepatch has the quote  that goes here:
One bleeding-heart type asked me in a recent interview if I did not agree that "violence begets violence." I told him that it is my earnest endeavor to see that it does. I would like very much to ensure—and in some cases I have—that any man who offers violence to his fellow citizen begets a whole lot more in return than he can enjoy. - Col. Jeff Cooper

The Bradys and the CSGV want to portray guns as horrible implements; I want to personalize and warm them up a bit. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Eliminating the Legislative Branch

I'm sure you saw that the resident appointed a new chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray.  This was done as a recess appointment - so that the president doesn't have to put up with that pesky senate.  Richard Cordray replaces the stunning Marxist (now Massachusetts senate candidate) Elizabeth Warren, who was appointed in a pretty stunning end run around the law herself.

If you're not familiar with this agency, the CFPB was a turd wrapped in the Dodd-Frank bill to fix the problems in our financial system by (here's the brilliant part) doing absolutely nothing about the problems in our financial system.  The CFPB  doesn't report to congress, but to the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  Congress has no power over this agency; no financial strings, nothing.  They effectively gelded themselves and extended the scalpel to likewise neuter the judicial branch.  The law creating the CFPB removes any ability for judges to have any effect on it. An executive branch takeover of the financial sector. 

But to make things really stink like old dead fish, the senate isn't even technically in recess, so a recess appointment is violation of the law!
(Michael Ramirez)

Recess appointments are nothing new.  Right off the top of my head, I remember John Bolton getting a recess appointment as UN ambassador under W, but recess appointments while the senate is in session are a new low in ethics (or a new high in tyranny, depending on how you like your dictators).  Jonah Goldberg brings the smart to a summary of this sort of politics.  It's worth reading the whole thing. 
In 2007, the Democrats controlling the Senate were fed up with George W. Bush's recess appointments. Majority Leader Reid, feigning great sadness over the sorry state of our republic, resorted to the extraordinary tactic of keeping the Senate in pro-forma session so as to prevent the imperial Bush from doing an end-run around the confirmation process. The move was celebrated by liberal commentators as a brave and necessary assertion of congressional power and was supported by then-Sen. Barack Obama.

Fast-forward to this week. The Senate has once again been in pro-forma session in order to keep President Obama from making recess appointments. Reid agreed to the tactic as part of negotiations with Republicans last year.
How this works, is a couple of opposition party senators show up for a roll call or a little while every day, thereby keeping the senate in session, by law, if not by fact of actually giving each other hand jobs, or whatever they do up there.  But imperial leader Obama said this is just a sham, and declared the recess appointment.  
With the alacrity one normally associates with court jesters and royal spittoon cleaners, Reid immediately endorsed the president's decision, accepting the logic that calls a maneuver he (Reid) invented a sham.
 And I love Goldberg's closing words so much, I'll quote them here:
So here we have Reid, a man who tried to enter the national stage by promising to be an honorable foe of the imperial presidency and the metastasizing growth of federal bureaucracies, thriving on the national stage by enabling exactly those trends when it suits his party. And it all it cost was his honor.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sorry. I Got Jo Dee Messina Syndrome

My give a damn's busted

We got DHS playing Stasi at a social security office in Leesburg (got a friend who lives over there).  "Sorry"

We got the debt continuing to pile up, they're trying to raise the debt ceiling, and we're the brokest country in the history of the world - and  BTW, you've got to go watch the video on Borepatch's place.
"Sorry, still nothing".

We got Iran threatening to attack our navy if we sail in the Straits of Hormuz, and provoke war in the region.  Even a partial restriction of the oil out of the region is predicted to bring back oil at $150/barrel and regular at over $4/gallon.
"Let me dig a little deeper.  No still nothing"

My give a damn's busted.  Maybe tomorrow. 
(Jo Dee Messina, courtesy of D'Addario strings)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ron Paul is Winning

In fact, he may have already won.  No not the presidency, the New Hampshire primary or anything like that.

No I'm not crazy.

Hear me out.  I don't think Ron Paul will ever be president.  If there is a President Paul, it's either going to be Rand or perhaps Rand's child.  But Ron Paul's ideas are winning in the marketplace of ideas.  Paul has been doing this a long time, and his views on the Fed, his views on living by the constitution, and his views on public debt are becoming mainstream.  You may laugh at me.  But large groups are talking about these things in ways that they never have before.  Rick Perry said he'd have Bernanke arrested if the Fed Head ever came into Texas.  Attempting to beat Ron Paul at his own game.  There's more of it out there.  Expect to see Ron Paul's ideas as planks in the party platform. 

I reported months ago that a pretty good computer study has said that when an idea gets 10% of the population behind it, that idea eventually takes over.  I've been noticing that trend more and more, and had it pointed out yet again, tonight,  in an interview with Andy Andrews, the author of "How Do You Kill 11 Million People?"  Did you know that at its very peak, the German National Socialist Party (the Nazis) had a membership of about 10% of the country's population?