Monday, January 31, 2011

Is George Soros Behind the Egyptian Situation?

Writer Teressa Monroe-Hamilton of has quite an interesting article on how the riots in Egypt appear to have originated. 
I’m also sure it is a huge coincidence that George Soros and El Baradei both sit on the Board of Trustees for the International Crisis Group.
Dr. Evil?  Would Dr. Evil (George Soros) be interested in collapsing the Egyptian government?  
Is Soros somewhere behind this lurking with another of his regime collapse scenarios? Every piece of information and evidence I see adds up to it. Here’s a refresher on his 5 step plan for a regime collapse:
  • Step One: Form a shadow government using humanitarian aid as cover.
  • Step Two: Control the airwaves. Fund existing radio and TV outlets and take control over them or start your own outlets.
  • Step Three: Destabilize the state, weaken the government and build an anti-government kind of feeling in the country. You exploit an economic crisis or take advantage of an existing crisis — pressure from the top and the bottom. This will allow you to weaken the government and build anti-government public sentiment.
  • Step Four: Provoke an election crisis. You wait for an election and during the election, you cry voter fraud.
  • Step Five: Take power. You stage massive demonstrations, civil disobedience, sit-ins, general strikes and you encourage activism. You promote voter fraud and tell followers what to do through your radio and television stations. Incitement and violence are conducted at this stage.
Definitely worth your time to read.  We had heard that Code Pink was over there recently, along with Bernadine Dohrn, and other extremists who were behind the "peace flotilla" last spring.   Mrs. Graybeard found this column while looking for more information on the role of Code Pink and other Marxist groups.  

No doubt that Mubarek is a scumbag that needs to go, but this looks orchestrated to me. 

Go read.  Worth your time, for sure. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Government Has Shut Down the Internet – Part Three

Sure, You're Paranoid, But Are You Paranoid Enough?

Before we start, and in keeping with the subtitle, there's something I neglected to mention.  When you get your amateur radio license, you are given a call sign by the FCC, which you are required to identify your transmissions with.  The amateur community is a very open community, and often use their calls on everyday postings and all sorts of places.  Your call, though, is in a national database, and with websites like and several others, if someone has your call, they have your address and even a satellite photo of your house, with no additional research required.  This isn't entirely new: the concept of getting an address for anybody's call dates to the earliest days of ham radio when “callbooks” were published.  These were alphabetical listings of every ham in the US (or the world) with a mailing address.  Usually their home address.  Nowadays, instead of phonebook-like compilations, callbooks are published on CD ROM and sold at every hamfest.  Many hams, especially newbies, use this to send each other confirmation cards when they talk to each other on the radio. 

Likewise, hams are well known for sitting on the air in discussions with people and telling each other they're going away for a while or other personal details.  While the guy on the other end is probably not an issue, anyone with a radio can listen in on what you're saying.  I'm not sure that it has happened, but it would be simple enough for criminals to get a scanner, hear a local say he's going on vacation, look up the call, get the address and come rob the place while the ham is away. 

With that out of the way, let's get to today's big topic, privacy. 

Would you leave your bank account number lying around?  How about your credit card numbers?  Would you send an email to someone with all of these numbers?  How do you protect that information online or on a radio network when you can't very well put a thick envelope around it? 

Welcome to the world of encryption.  People tend to talk about “secret codes”, the stuff of spy movies and books, but encoding something is not the same as encrypting it.  The root word in encryption is crypt, or hidden.  When you encode things, you simply change their language; when you encrypt something, you attempt to hide its meaning.  For example, any language is a coding of symbols, and in typing this, I'm encoding my thoughts into a computer code (ASCII) that can be read on your terminal.  The difference is subtle, but it matters - especially in legal context.  Some systems prohibit encryption, or “non-standard” codes.  I could transmit the phrase, “the wheat is ready for harvest” in plain English to someone who knows that I mean, “I've planted the evidence” and it is encoded, not encrypted.  If, instead, I told them, “516EE75994BA0DC137BE1074E46CB27D069C39A4” and it means the same thing, it has been encrypted. 

The most popular and effective encryption system available to the public is PGP, or “Pretty Good Privacy”, a program developed in the early 1990s by Phil Zimmerman, and that has started an informal open source product line.  The program (as is all modern cryptography) is based on mathematical operations on the text to be encrypted.  Consider that string of numbers and letters in the last sentence in the previous paragraph.  Every two characters can represent a letter in the computer's text.  I don't want to get into a long description here, I want this to be more “how to use it” than what it is, but these systems use two keys: a public key and a private key.  When I send a message to someone I need their public key and my private key.  To decode it, they need my public key and their private key.  With those two numbers, they can get the plain text back. 

PGP is available as a Windows program, a DOS program, MacOS, and others at   The problem with PGP is that it has become a brand name and in order to maintain their proprietary name, there are problems with the older versions (free versions) reading files encrypted by the newer versions.  My recommendation is to use the open source program, the Gnu Privacy Guard, Gnu-PG or GPG,  which generates encrypted files compatible with PGP.  If you insist on using PGP by name, the MS-DOS version on that web page, version 2.6.3i, seems to be the best version to use.  Even that website is recommending the Gnu-PG program for all other Windows or DOS versions.  If you have problems with that site for any reason, Gnu PG is at  or

If you are truly, truly paranoid, you will want to get the source code, inspect it yourself – to make sure no one has left a “back door” into the code – and compile it yourself.  If you're less suspicious, or couldn't tell by reading the source code if had been broken, you'll either use code from a trusted friend or other “open” source or buy it from a trusted source.  You see, there are always limits to how secure you can be, and always limits to whom you trust. 

The idea behind the name “Pretty Good Privacy” is that there are many ways to ensure privacy with all sorts of layers of protection.  This is just one.  It has been estimated that if every computer in the world was employed to decrypt a PGP message encrypted with a long key, it would take longer than the age of the universe.  There is talk that the quantum computing just now coming on line will render this obsolete, and quantum encryption will replace it.  We tend to think in terms of how hard it is to break the encryption.  Remember that it's easier to break the person who encrypts it.

From the inimitable XKCD.

So how do you use it?  The details of exactly how you install and run the program will vary with the system you have and the program you choose. 
Quick Start:
User's Guide:
For Ubuntu Linux users:

To see what it's like, I downloaded the zipped file from called “GnuPG 1.4.11 compiled for Microsoft Windows” (down the page, under "binaries").  This is a windows installer for program that works from the command line.  If you install this with the defaults, it goes into a location in your main drive’s Program Files folder, generally c:\Program Files\GNU\GNUPG  If the term “command line” is something you’ve never seen, it's  MS-DOS in 2011.  There are Windows-only versions, at GPG4Win.  Which ever way you go, your circle of friends needs to run the same program, but I’ll assume you want to use the free, widely compatible Gnu-PG.  In XP, go to the start menu, choose run, then type in “” (no quotes).  You’ll get a window that opens with a command line prompt, something like C:\DOCUME~1\NAME> where “Name” is your user name on your computer.  From there, you'll navigate to the \GNU\GnuPG directory to run the program. 

An alternative that I haven't tried is the GPG4Win package  that seems to be more Windows-based and a donation-based funding.  As I am running Linux almost exclusively these days, I haven't tried to duplicate my efforts with GPG in Windows.

There are excellent online help sources that realize this is a whole new world to a lot of people.  They explain what you’re doing and why, and then show how to do it.  See for a good step by step tutorial for how to actually do the various tasks.  It is a little awkward at first, but not bad once you’re used to it.  Essentially, you will run the program to generate a pair of keys, one that is secret, meant to be on your computer only (with a back up somewhere safe) and one that is shared publicly.  You give your public key to your friends and people you want to communicate with.  If you’d like it to be available to anyone who might want to talk with you, there are open repositories for your public keys, and since they are plain text, your public key can even be provided with the email you’ve encrypted.  To send a message or file to someone, you need each others’ public keys.  It is encrypted with your private key and they decrypt it with your public key. 

The most common use is probably for email.  There are plug-ins for mail programs that automate the task.  Thunderbird, the free email program from Mozilla, the group that gives away Firefox, has a program called EnigMail available for it that will automate the process with simple choices from a pull down menu.  If your mail program doesn’t have a secure plug-in, the most direct way is to write the email in your mail program, then cut and paste it into a text file with Windows notepad or other plain text editor.  Next, encrypt the plain text file, then cut and paste the encrypted text (usually in another file) back into your email program.  When you receive an encrypted email the process is pretty much the same.  Copy the text out of the email into a text file.  Decrypt it, which will write the output to another text file.  Then just read the plain text. 

Here's an example.  I took a paragraph from above and using my (double secret) home email address sent it to the graybeard address on the right sidebar.  The message I sent started out like this:
The idea behind the name "Pretty Good Privacy" is that there are many
ways to ensure privacy with all sorts of layers of protection.  This is
just one.  It has been estimated that if every computer in the world was
put to use to decrypt a PGP message, it would take longer than the age
of the universe.  There is talk that quantum computing, just now coming
on line will render this obsolete, and its encryption will replace it.
After encryption with my home private key and graybeard public key, it looked like characters chosen at random:
Charset: ISO-8859-1
Version: GnuPG v1.4.10 (GNU/Linux)
Comment: Using GnuPG with Mozilla


When I got the email at gmail, I copied the encrypted text into a plain text file, saved it, then ran GPG from the command line in Linux.  It asked for my passphrase, then the name of a file to send the result to.  The result was the starting text. 

If you are sending messages to friends over a packet radio network, there are file transfer protocols that allow you to send files.  Encrypt the plain ascii text file before you send it.  If you need to get text files to someone by dropping USB sticks somewhere, encrypt them.  Anytime you would want to put something in an envelope is the time to encrypt. 

This is, and can only be, an introduction.  Don't be intimidated about starting down this road, it's harder to explain than to do.  In my mind, it's easier to do this than many tactical tasks.  In the end, you'll have a secure means of communicating that is more secure than the https secure protocols used for banking on the web, and something to fall back on if the main methods of communication go down. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Government Has Shut Down the Internet – Part Two

Yesterday's piece mentioned ham radio, and this will go into more depth on options. Let's start with the most common radios for the most common need. In this scenario, I'm thinking not of a TEOTWAKI or really wide scale, awful event; I'm specifically thinking about communications among protesters in an Egypt-like scenario (from what I can tell of what's going on there). Perhaps there are food riots, perhaps you need to talk to others to plan where you're going to meet, any scenario that you might use instant messaging, email or other Internet communications for.

First: the first law of security. You must assume any transmissions you make are monitored. Years ago, when cellphones were plain FM, anybody with a scanner or other radio that tuned to the cellular band - even some UHF TVs - could eavesdrop on cellular phone calls. The industry, instead of installing a dollar or two of encryption hardware in the phones, argued (and won) that the government should make it illegal for you to listen to these calls. The best analogy I can think of is two people come into your house (the radio signals certainly do) and instead of whispering or speaking in code words, get you arrested for listening to them. Don't count on anyone not listening to you because it's not polite or legal.

Practically, that means to keep your communications as brief as possible; it means lower powers are better than higher powers; and it means encryption, which will be the next topic.

For local use, the VHF or UHF (or both) HT is everywhere. I guess that more hams own small HTs than any other style of radio. There are many manufacturers, and as I noted yesterday, a decent rig will cost from the price of a few hundred rounds of FMJ 9mm up. This chart is one dealer's handy way to shop for an HT

You will note a basic single band HT can be had for $89 (about 400 rounds of 9mm FMJ today) and the top end for multi-band is around $500. Note these are new radios, not used gear. Those might start at $25. I have no connection with Gigaparts, other than having bought things from them several times.

What do I own? Currently, Mrs. Graybeard and I each carry a Yaesu VX-6R (our other everyday carry). The combination of features vs. price hits a sweet spot for me, but it may not be right for you. This radio receives everything from the AM Broadcast Band (500 kHz) up to 1 GHz, with the exception of the (hardly used) old US AMPS cellular band at around 925 MHz (the result of that law I mentioned above). This allows the same handheld to be used for shortwave or AM listening, FM broadcast, aviation (should you need that) and two way communications on 144-148 MHz (2 meters), 222-225 MHz (US version) and 420-450 MHz (70 cm) bands. It also allows use of that front LED as a nifty emergency flashlight, too!

The price for this flexibility in so small a package is a complicated user interface with multiple keystrokes to get to some functions. You will need to spend some time with it to learn how to use it proficiently in a crisis.

While radio propagation is a fascinating field and subject to all sorts of variations, VHF/UHF radios are considered “line of sight” and have limited range, typically a mile or two on level ground without obstructions. These radios are usually less than 5 watts output, a concession to running on a small internal battery, and power brings range. In general, to double the range, you need four times the power (an inverse square decrease). That means if I can communicate two miles between 5W HTs, to communicate four miles, I need 20W. If you have a better power source, like a car, or to use at home, don't restrict yourself to an HT. Instead, there are mobile and base station radios that include the features of these HTs and allow higher powers, often 40 or 50W, sometimes more. (For comparison, aircraft comm radios, which are AM mode just below the 2 meter band, typically have an output power of 20 W and are considered to have a range of 100 miles – but there are no obstacles to the signal). A comparable selection chart to the previous is here.

Finally, there are radios that cover HF, VHF and UHF, all bands, all modes. These tend to be the most expensive, and draw the most power, but can be the centerpiece of a communications center. They are on that chart, too. You might come across a used radio called an IC-706MKIIG, now discontinued, as an example of this sort of radio. This has been said to be the most popular ham radio ever produced, with sales in the tens of thousands. I have used friends' radios and they are excellent value. Today's versions might include the IC-7000, FT-897, and FT-857.

While any old piece of wire tends to work for receivers, transmitters face harder requirements that tend to make antennas a more complex subject. To be effective, transmit antennas need to be greater than 1/8 wave long, and a wavelength varies from quite long at the low end of the HF spectrum (1.80 MHz, 160 meters: over 480 feet) getting shorter as the frequency goes up. This is one reason why hams tend to refer to frequency band by wavelength, like saying “2 meter HT” rather than “146 MHz HT”; it gives a clue to antenna size. The antennas that come on HTs tend to be multi-band compromise antennas because the radios are designed for convenience, not the ultimate performance. The standard antenna used in many industries is the 1/4 wavelength monopole. If you wanted to make one, you'd cut a wire to 234/f feet long (f is frequency in MHz), or 19.2” long for 146 MHz. You can see that running around town with a foot and half antenna on your hip could cause some problems and that's why the HT antennas tend to be shorter, less effective antennas. This affects how well you can communicate; your range.

If you thought gravity was a tough taskmaster, electromagnetics doesn't give up a thing. Maxwell is just as unforgiving as Newton.

What this means is that you'll have to accept poorer performance from the HT than is theoretically possible, but you might be able to make that up if you're communicating with a Comm Center that can put up bigger, better antennas. This is why amateurs have spent millions of man hours and millions of dollars out of their own pockets to put up an infrastructure of repeaters that (as the name suggests) receive your HT on one frequency and re-transmit it on another. Having a repeater can make your HT go from having a couple of miles of range to having perhaps a 20 or 30 mile radius. On the other hand, repeaters, like any centralized infrastructure, can be taken down by an aggressive government, or enemy force.

It also means that if you're trying to be sure you can communicate with your spouse across town, you should try to put up an outside antenna, as high as you can, and test it out before the SHTF. 

Training scenarios:
Alright, let's start putting some ideas together. Say you're in a Cairo situation, and there is rioting going on. The streets are blocked. You want to contact your friends to either join in or get out of town. The first step is you must be tuned to the same frequency. That means you have agreed meeting frequencies. If the frequency is in use, you must have agreed plans. Something like, “if TSHTF, and the repeater is down, I will meet you at the 5 minute marks on 146.540MHz. If it's in use, I'll switch to 446.540 MHz. If that fails, I'll try again on the 7 minute mark.  I will call you first.”. Keep your transmissions short. If you are simply meeting your spouse or friends to exchange plans, “I'll meet you at the kids' school”, or “I'll meet you at liberty square”. Once you've made initial contact, you can go to other frequencies, programmed in advance in your radios. Keeping your transmissions short reduces the ability to get a DF fix on you. Keeping your transmissions too short might not be good either. Something like, “initiate plan A” doesn't sound very good to monitors. You have to remember in a Without Rule of Law situation, soldiers listening in might think, “Initiate plan A” means, “Get the bombs” and not “Go pick up the kids, let the dog out, and meet me at Mom's”, so be careful about being on the air.

Other situations
Let's assume it's not rioting, there's no clear SHTF, but the situation from last night's post has happened. The Internet is down to prevent “vitriolic rhetoric” or “hate speech”. We need a way to communicate. 

Of course, amateurs sitting around in on-air round table discussions are as old as radio itself, but if there is concern about monitored, an alternative might be better. Before the days of the Internet being everywhere, hams put up packet radio BBSes, a radio version of the computer bulletin boards that were popular. The most common place to find packet stations was 145.100 MHz, using low speed (1200/2400 bit per second!) Terminal Node Controllers.  A good introduction to packet radio systems is this summary from one of the groups that started it.  This network is still in place. Hams also built a transcontinental, HF packet system, this time at the lowly 300 bps, but being an autonomous store and forward system, messages could be gotten around the country in a straightforward way. You simply sent the message to your local packet station and it was handled autonomously by the packet system. 1200 BPS is not going to get you a web page like this, with high resolution graphics built in, but it can get you mailing lists, and any sort of text communications you'd like. 

Today, hams have increased the packet speed to 9600 bps, but this requires a radio designed to be compatible with the higher audio bandwidth 9600 uses. There has also been some experimentation with higher speeds (56k), but that requires dedicated UHF radios. The most popular modes remain those that can be added to a radio that the ham already owns, usually by plugging into the headset and microphone jacks of that radio.

Now we run back into the security issue. With a voice radio, once you're done saying what you're saying, it's gone. It's possible the monitors never heard you at all.  With a packet system, it's in a computer somewhere, which means it can be read by someone else some other time. Here we need to crack the problem of protecting privacy.

And that, as they say, is the topic for tomorrow.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Government Has Shut Down the Internet - Part One

Egypt appears to be in the grip of a genuine open-source revolution, and the government has responded (as, I'm sure, almost all governments would) by shutting down the Internet, cell phones, and all modern communications.  The mobs were coordinating via social networking software, so it's not an unreasonable thing for them to do in self-preservation.  Shutting down communications beats shooting kids, like the Iranians did, right? 

If you're new around here, you won't know that I wrote about this last summer.  It's a "beginner-level" piece, and not written from the standpoint of an open-source revolt, but from the standpoint of government shut down of "vitriolic rhetoric".  I think it's a good starting point.  I'm going to do something I don't think I've ever done, and re-post an old post in it's entirety:

The Gov Has Shut Down the Internet. Now What? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I want to do more on this topic tomorrow, but for now, it's a pretty good start.  

Edit 20:05: text formatting issues that looked fine on my machine, but not on Mrs. Graybeard's computer.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why We Need To Throw Out Most of the CFR

While mulling over last night's posting on why we need to throw out at least 75% of the Code of Federal Regulations, and trying to think of good examples of what I mean, American Mercenary links in this posting, "Insurgency" to an article from The Heritage Foundation, "You're (Probably) a Federal Criminal" Since this is an older article, I'm going to lift a bit from it:
Federal law in particular now criminalizes entire categories of activities that the average person would never dream would land him in prison. This is an inevitable result of the fact that the criminal law is no longer restricted to punishing inherently wrongful conduct--such as murder, rape, robbery, and the like.
About 25 years ago, I had to take a company-mandated class on hazardous waste handling.  One of the highlights was the instructor stacking all of the laws on the table, about 2 feet high (it was 25 years ago) and saying, "Do you think there's not one paragraph in there you couldn't be accused of violating?" 

Multiply that 2 foot stack by 100 to get today's situation in general.  Heritage resumes,

Consider small-time inventor and entrepreneur Krister Evertson, who will testify at today's hearing. Krister never had so much as a traffic ticket before he was run off the road near his mother's home in Wasilla, Alaska, by SWAT-armored federal agents in large black SUVs training automatic weapons on him.

Evertson, who had been working on clean-energy fuel cells since he was in high school, had no idea what he'd done wrong. It turned out that when he legally sold some sodium (part of his fuel-cell materials) to raise cash, he forgot to put a federally mandated safety sticker on the UPS package he sent to the lawful purchaser.
The good news is that a federal jury in Alaska acquitted Krister of all charges. The jurors saw through the charges and realized that Krister had done nothing wrong
So a nerdy, young inventor-guy gets pulled over by a SWAT team with hair-trigger ARs because he forgot to put a sticker on a package?  Doesn't that warrant a less aggressive response, like, perhaps, a form letter?  Back in my labor day post on whether or not we live in a police state, I said, "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."  That's entirely the situation here.

The prosecutor apparently got a thing for Krister.  Prosecutors, you see, get graded on convictions and he wasn't going to let a small time mistake dangerous thug like this embarass him, nosiree.

The bad news, however, is that the feds apparently had it in for Krister. Federal criminal law is so broad that it gave prosecutors a convenient vehicle to use to get their man.

Two years after arresting him, the feds brought an entirely new criminal prosecution against Krister on entirely new grounds. They used the fact that before Krister moved back to Wasilla to care for his 80-year-old mother, he had safely and securely stored all of his fuel-cell materials in Salmon, Idaho.

According to the government, when Krister was in jail in Alaska due to the first unjust charges, he had "abandoned" his fuel-cell materials in Idaho. Unfortunately for Krister, federal lawmakers had included in the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act a provision making it a crime to abandon "hazardous waste." According to the trial judge, the law didn't require prosecutors to prove that Krister had intended to abandon the materials (he hadn't) or that they were waste at all--in reality, they were quite valuable and properly stored away for future use.

With such a broad law, the second jury didn't have much of a choice, and it convicted him. He spent almost two years locked up with real criminals in a federal prison. ...
This is a horrible, horrible thing.  A guy's life is shattered, he spends time in prison with real criminals because of an over-zealous prosecutor who felt embarrassed when he didn't get a conviction on his first over-zealous charges.  Not to mention that his 80 year old mother, whom he left his work to care for in the first place, was denied his care. 

There's more at the Heritage link.  It's worth reading.  There are more stories out there. 

This needs to be stopped.  Back to writing our congress critters.  Support those trying to tear this monstrosity apart. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Can We Start A Meme?

It's no secret that I think that one of the biggest problems we have is the over-regulation of everything.  I've been thinking that it's possible the first step could be pretty easy.

A Sunset Law.

A sunset provision adds an expiration date to every law that passes, a "use by" limit.  It could prevent the law books from becoming congested with meaningless crap that never should have passed in the first place (in Florida, it's illegal to have sex with a porcupine), and it could get rid of laws that are plainly obsolete (in Arkansas, it's illegal to walk your cow down Main Street after 1PM on Sundays).

OK, we laugh at these things; I deliberately chose goofy examples.  But I have no doubt that with a CFR that goes tens of thousands of pages, there are plenty of regulations that can be gotten rid of. 

They say the first thing to do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.  That's stopping the addition of more insane laws and regulations.  The next stop is to start trimming back the laws and regulations. 

Because just as surely as we need to cut back federal spending by 40%, we need to cut the CFR by 75% or more.  If there are less regulations, there's less need for enforcers.  And less need for unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats as our overlords. 
No...wait....not that kind of sunset...

Monday, January 24, 2011

In A Race to the Bottom, Do You Win by Being First or Last?

I stumbled across this link (End of the Euro?) on Survivalblog, explaining that the Irish are printing their own Euros in whatever quantity they want.  Oh, great!  Does this hasten the collapse of the Euro? 

In this great race to the bottom, the race for all fiat currencies to collapse, do you win by collapsing first or last?  If you collapse first, the remaining countries give you supplies and their (failing) paper money.  If you collapse last, there might not be anyone to help you.  But if you collapse last, you can buy all of those collapsed countries at real "fire sale" prices.  Because they'll be burned to the ground. 

Over at the Economic Collapse Blog, there's an interesting post on this, asking which of the currencies of the world will collapse first?  No conclusions, which only means it's a tight race.
  • Japan has the highest debt to GDP rates in the world at 200%.  Why haven't they defaulted already?  The Japanese are big savers and have bought plenty of sovereign debt from the government.  As it is, the debt per citizen in Japan is an astounding 7.5 million Yen (about $90,000). 
  • The EU is a mashup of different health states.  Lumping Greece and Germany into one economic zone is like putting healthy people in an open hospital ward with the confluent smallpox cases. "Already some prominent politicians in Europe are calling for the European "bailout fund" to be doubled in size to about 2 trillion dollars.  Other analysts believe that it is going to take at least 4 or 5 trillion dollars to properly bail out all of the European nations that need it."  They're saying countries could start collapsing in about a month. 
  • The US has a debt to GDP ratio just under 100%, but has been relying on shorter term debt than some EU countries.  That means the obligations have to be paid more often and regularly.  When you just use the "on budget" spending and deficit, the US taxpayers "only" have a debt per taxpayer of around $127,000 (compare that to Japan).  However, when you include the so-called "off-budget" liabilities of social security, Medicare, and other entitlements, that liability swells to over $1 million per taxpayer. (Numbers from the DebtClock, so they're at the time of this writing).  
Last week, the brilliant heads working in Davos, said if the world could just borrow another $100 Trillion dollars, everything would be peachy!  I'm sure we can ask the Borg, or those funky blue people from Star Trek.  I'm sure we're good for it.

Analysts are predicting oil at $200/barrel by the end of the year, and wicked inflation in food prices.  I should point out that in case you haven't noticed it, silver and gold are currently "on sale"; that is, about 10 to 20% off their end-of-2010 prices. Time is running out.
Today, each of those eagles is worth about $31.  Each of those old dimes is worth about $2. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Dawn of the Chinese Century

Without doubt, the 20th century was the US' century.  The century began with the US as a burgeoning economy and it was a century of remarkable growth; a century of exceptional achievement. The century began with the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and ended with Voyagers 1 and 2 leaving the solar system. The telephone went from an expensive curiosity to omnipresent. 100 years ago, “calculator” was a job description. More people were lifted out of poverty, and more people were liberated from tyranny than had ever lived on the planet before the 19th century, all as result of American leadership.

The parallel course in the US - the century of forces inside the country doing their best to destroy us eventually completing their "long march through the institutions" - succeeded in their "death by a thousand paper cuts" strategy and the US limped into the 21st century a weak pauper.

100 years ago, there was no Federal Reserve system, no IRS and no income tax.  100 years ago, the US was a creditor nation, busily developing its natural resources; learning to manufacture on a vast scale, developing a global presence.  As the US grew, Europe essentially hung itself with two massively destructive wars; and, of course, the inter-war period was a hotbed of socialist revolutions that re-shaped the social landscape.

At the end of WWII, the manufacturing infrastructures in Europe and Japan were in ruins.  The unique situation of a growing manufacturing base with little competition caused a generation of American managers to live as though there was no such thing as global competition and product prices were almost meaningless. Yes, GM had competition from Ford, but they had similar cost structures so they couldn't drastically undercut each other's prices. This situation allowed US companies to cede major concessions to the unions, and when lower cost competitors started to arrive on our shores, their shoddy quality kept American goods in the premium category; they may have cost more, but they were generally recognized as better. I remember vividly comedian Red Skelton quipping, "Marriage is made in heaven; everything else that doesn't last is made in Japan". That was around the time the Japanese were learning quality control from W. Edwards Deming, the Iowa-born statistician, whose statistical approach to quality control made Japanese products the new standards of quality. When Japanese auto companies radically out-competed American companies, by producing better cars and lower price points, the Americans went to congress to get trade protection.

Today, China is somewhere analogous to the US in the early 1900s and Japan in the 1950s. They are rapidly developing their natural resources and manufacturing capability. They are expanding militarily and exerting more influence both regionally and globally. In the industrial base, they manufacture everything, and are learning to produce consistent quality. Companies from around the world are establishing branches there to produce products at lower cost. China, though, does not respect intellectual property rights (it's not a concept they share), so these workers and managers take what they learn from the foreign companies to establish their own production. Considering their population is around four times the size of ours, I have always thought that China's industries were learning to manufacture for their growing home market, and selling us the test pieces rather than dumping them in the Pacific or recycling them. Once their consumption of their own manufactured goods becomes enough to keep their people employed, they'll have little use for us.
(Chinese welding masks are a bit less protective than ours)
In the financial world they are becoming the dominant power. While the US is a debtor nation, China is a creditor nation. While Americans tend to buy whatever they want and pay on credit, Chinese tend to save. We run continuous trade deficits with China that provide an enormous flow of dollars into their coffers. They buy our bonds, allowing us to fund our economy on consumer purchases that eventually ends up helping them.

Is it any wonder we don't see eye to eye on much of anything?

In 2003, when I first got going in the home machine shop hobby, there were stories of Chinese agents walking into scrap metal yards (the usual resource for people buying small quantities) and offering a fat payment for the entire scrap yard.  Since then, China has been taking the money from the trade surplus with us, and realizing that the dollar is screwed, they've gone on an epic buying spree. They're not buying gold: they're buying gold mines. Likewise copper, aluminum, iron, oil, everything they need. They are in African countries buying mines, developing land, building roads from the mines to the shipping ports.  This helps the country they buy from and helps the workers they provide.  They're spending their surpluses wisely. Why hold on to dollars when everyone with any sense knows that as long as Zimabwe Ben is in charge, the dollar is heading toward the value of the paper it's printed on?

Where I stop short is the widely quoted idea that China has a perfect government. China's government still tortures and kills dissidents, and exerts dictatorial powers that our only dreams of. State directed markets are an oxymoron. What they have is more like Mussolini's fascistic Italy, or the National Socialists in Germany.

For now, the US economy is larger than China's. For the rest of this decade, the US economy will be losing ground. Soon, we will be overshadowed (sooner, still, if the US collapses in the next year or two).  As it is, they are economically growing, and so is most of the non-Western world if you exclude Japan. If you're in my business, it's a good idea to try to learn some Mandarin.

To me, it looks like the dawn of the Chinese Century. It looks like the sunset of those quaint, Western (really, Judeo-Christian) views on human rights, racial equality and due process. China is a very race conscious culture and any country that harvests organs from prisoners is hardly a haven for due process of law.

One thing you can depend on is that history rarely unfolds in a linear and completely predictable fashion. One large source of hope for these concepts is that there are now more Christians in China than Communist Party members. China's famous one-child policy could be good and it could be bad. A nation of only-children could well become a nation of spoiled brats, used to getting whatever they want. A nation of young men who have no prospect of getting married could be militarily aggressive (Chinese girls tend to be either aborted, killed as children, or adopted out). Or a nation of mostly male only-children may have little interest in keeping the government that put them into that position, and overthrow their leaders.

There's a saying that's often said to be a Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times”. We certainly do.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Reminder

Joe Huffman of The View From North Central Idaho has a great article on this topic, a suggested letter to our congresscritters:

If six people outside a gay bar had been killed and 14 others wounded by a group of 30 homophobes there wouldn’t be talk of banning groups of people greater than 10. That would be a clear violation of the right to association guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Even if a dozen religious fanatics murdered thousands of people in coordinated attacks on our country no serious consideration would be given to banning their religion.
It was 19, not a dozen, but he's dead-on right.  Go read. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

GE's Jeffrey Immelt Appointed by Obama

While President Hu was visiting President What?, and they were celebrating at a State Dinner, it was announced the GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt was being appointed by President What? to the head of his economic advisory board.  (By the way, Bayou Renaissance Man has a nice story about how President What?, holder of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was feting You Know Hu, who has the holder of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize in one of his political prisons).  No mention if President Hu brought his adopted niece Cindy Lu Hu.  OK. I made that last one up. 

Why should you care?  Obama's administration has the fewest people with real business experience in over a hundred years, right?  Why is it a bad thing?   It depends on who the person with the experience is.
Let's start with GE.  GE stockholders have not been pleased with Immelt's performance.  They accused him of working against the best interest of the company.  Early on, Immelt decided that the best place to grow his businesses was in DC, in the back rooms and shadow dealings. 

The New York Times (all the news that fits our agenda) offers this tepid biography of Immelt today.  Note in particular this paragraph:
He also serves on the boards of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Catalyst (an organization devoted to advancing women in business) and Robin Hood (an antipoverty organization in New York).
The Robin Hood foundation is a great place to make high level contacts.  It's board includes Michael Bloomberg, Diane Sawyer, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman-Sachs, Tom Brokaw, John F. Kennedy, Jr., and Dirk Ziff.  Of course, it gets funding from George Soros - can I help it if that gets me suspicious?  A nice overview of Robin Hood, and an overview of Jeff Immelt's work as of 2008 comes from Jane Rockefeller at CounterPunch.  Muckety offers this Flash map of Immelts associations

Since the Obama administration started, Immelt has been in the guts of it, serving on Paul Volker's economic recovery board.  It seems he engineered the extreme sweetheart deal that GE got from in the heady early days of TARP.  GE got $139 Billion by having GE Credit ruled as a bank, (these folks say $182 Billion) except that they don't have to follow any bank rules.  As Ms. Rockefeller points out in that CounterPunch article, GE's financial group made a lot of money by pursuing collections against Medicare and other medical patients.  Got your leg fixed?  We'll break it again if you don't pay your bill.  Youse wouldn't want us to have to do that, would youse?  

Thursday, January 20, 2011

More on TJIC

When the story broke, my first thought was something I saw during the summer of '09, when the nation erupted with protests over the socialization of medicine.  Congress-critters on all sides were shocked to find that the cattle didn't like what the slaughterhouse had planned for them and massive numbers of moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, and working people showed up to protest.  This video got around back then (and h/t to user "DissentFromDayOne" on YouTube).

Both this video and TJC's problems reek of what David Codrea calls "The Only Ones".  The cops know better than you.  They can arbitrarily shut you down and shut you up.  I've got first amendment rights.  "If you put up that sign, I'll arrest you."  This is America.  "It ain't no more, ok?"

While TJC hasn't personally contacted me, Arctic Patriot listed contact numbers for the Arlington PD, and TC asked him to take them down.  In light of that, I'll respect that and not list any information, but as my commenter Cold Fusion said last night,
"If we ever needed proof that the right wing is the reasonable wing.. just imagine how many lefties would be out in the streets with signs if the sides were flipped. " 
You know ... if only there were an organization devoted to defending Civil Liberties for American citizens.  You know, some sort of Union of lawyers that specialized in defending rights.  Too bad we don't have any organization like that which really cares about working, productive citizens. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The First Amendment is Dead - And It's Taking the Second

It's almost a cliche' that freedom of speech is only important when the speech is offensive.  Don't know about you, but leftist loonies have been telling me that every time they dump a crucifix in urine or drop poop on a portrait of the Virgin Mary - roughly once a week - for 40 years now.  The other day, there was a case here in Florida about the free speech rights of a guy publishing an instruction manual for pedophiles.  All the usual left wing-nuts were defending him.   

Be aware that you don't have freedom of speech if you're not a statist.

One of my regular reads is "Dispatches from TJICistan" - but don't bother clicking, it has been taken down.  It seems the town of Arlington, Mass., has shut down his blog, confiscated his weapons, and confiscated his carry permit after they learned of a blog posting of his entitled "1 down, 534 to go" after the Tucson shooting.  They probably seized his computers, although the article doesn't say so.  It concludes:

Corcoran, who has no criminal history, has not been arrested and does not face any charges. Arlington police saying they are working with the Capitol Police in their investigation, and members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation have been alerted.
TJC is Travis Corcoran, a guy who has written for Fine Woodworking Magazine, and blogs on a variety of topics including woodworking, mastering the lathe, fine cooking, interesting oddities of the English language, his study of classical guitar, and other things that interest him.  Since I also happen to be interested in all of those things, he's a natural to go read.  He also writes from the same "small 'L' libertarian" perspective that most of my regular reading list does, and that I do. 

When I first read the posting that caused all this, I was a bit taken aback, but in the days that followed he stated clearly where he was coming from, that he does not advocate shooting politicians, he does not think that a civil war or revolution is necessary, but that there are times when this is reasonable.  The founding fathers, after all, were in armed rebellion against the legal government they were living under, right?  They were British citizens shooting British citizens.  Unless you are of the belief that no system of government is ever so oppressive or so tyrannical as to need to be overthrown, you must agree that this is not an unreasonable opinion.  He also said that he had intended that more as a joke, and who among us has never said something stupid that "went over like a lead balloon". 

Borepatch, as usual, brings teh smart to the story (and generated the graphic for free distribution).  
Let's ignore for the moment how many people were investigated for making similar comments about George W. Bush.  Let's look at the "logic" being exercised by the Arlington Po-Po, shall we?

They claim that Corcoran is so dangerous that, while he has done nothing more than put up a blog post, he must be restrained from possessing firearms.  However, it appears that it's not worth it for the police to follow him, or stake out his place, or arrest him.


Look, guys, if you think that his speech rises to the level of an actual threat of specific harm to specific persons, he should be in jail.  If you're not sure, then do the leg work to establish whether it is or not.
Borepatch's piece is worth your time to read.  I don't know how worthwhile it would be for people to write the Arlington police or his representatives.  Given today's climate, it would probably just get the same treatment for you.

As Arctic Patriot says, "Resist".

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nassim Taleb on the Fed

I stumbled across this last night, and had to share it with you.  Nassim Taleb is best known for the book "The Black Swan", which has been widely accepted and talked about among people who are attempting to manage their own finances, be that retirement funds or living as traders.  His point is that we don't have a monetary problem that the Fed should be pulling QE2 for; we have a deficit problem which requires Congress not spend more than they take in. 

Pay careful attention at the end, when he plugs his new book, The Bed of Procrustes, and explains the title. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Odds and Ends for a Dog Tired Monday

You have probably already heard this, but Aaron Zelman, the founder and driver behind JPFO, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, passed away in December.  Go read.  From everything I've been able to determine, a truly great man.  Claire Wolfe blogged about this in December, but it was apparently the family's wish for it not to be reported then.  That's why I haven't talked about it. 

The JPFO has always been a true defender of the 2A, and one of the first organizations I thought worthy of support after the NRA.  In fact, I now consider the NRA second place as a defender to the JPFO.  Well, maybe third when you include GOA.  If you're not familiar with the JPFO, try to watch "No Guns For Negroes", which traces the racist roots of gun control.  All of their videos are good, and some are available for download here.  Of course, you don't have to be Jewish to belong to the JPFO. 

It's possible that you've noticed that I haven't talked much about the Tucson shooting.  I am cautious to the point of paranoia about not using the name of these criminals or their images.   Why?  I believe the human scum that do these things want their fame.  The famous booking portrait of this scum, for example, looks like he's reveling in the fame of being the lunatic of the moment.  I will not give him a moment of fame on this blog.   Instead, I echo this thought
Aside from the names of the fallen, the names that should be remembered are those of the citizens who acted as Americans should, to protect and help themselves and their neighbors in the event of danger. Roger Salzgeber and 74-year-old retired Army National Guard Colonel Bill Badger, who was slightly injured, tackled the shooter. Joe Zamudio (ed. the young man who was carrying concealed and ran toward the danger) helped pin him to the ground. A 61-year old woman, Patricia Maisch, grabbed the magazine the shooter had dropped while trying to reload, and then knelt on his ankles. Daniel Hernandez, Jr., rushed to the side of his new boss, Congresswoman Giffords, applying pressure to her wound, and keeping her from choking on her own blood. Let us commend and thank all of them, and resolve to act as they did if we are ever in such a situation. Let us remember their names, and black out the shooter’s.
H/T to the erudite submariner, John at Improved Clinch

Finally, it's Monday, January 17th.  Have you bought a magazine yet?  Every time you buy a full capacity magazine, you make Pia Lopez and congress critter Carolyn McCarthy cry.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Has The Collapse Already Started?

Business Insider reports that Municipal bonds have tanked.  Mind you, they've been on the way down for a while, and the 50 day moving average crossed the 200 day moving average in mid-December.
There's an apparent periodicity to the decline; you can see the prices coming back up after the mid-December bottom, but to a lower peak.  This is an impressive drop, and probably a harbinger of bigger drops.

And the comments to that article are nothing but stupid sniping about whether the stupid party or the evil party is responsible.  I'm sure after the world has collapsed, they'll still be arguing over it. 

I think it's generally accepted that what will happen is that municipal debts will default, and states will start going bankrupt.  The Federal government backstops the bad debt for a while, but with debt already at 100% of GDP, that only lasts a little while, and then the defaults.  With the debt we have rolled up, there are essentially two options, default and inflation, aside from drastically cutting spending.  We're already trying inflation (bought gas or food lately?).  I can not imagine our congress-critters having the guts to cut spending.  Default is probably inevitable.  Business Insider ran a piece predicting this last summer. 

Along the way, expect states to start looking like third world banana republics.  Oh, wait.  That's started already

You may look at the presentation in that Jeff Gundlach piece and say, "Why should we collapse at debt of 100% of GDP when countries like Japan or Greece have so much more debt?"  None of these places are dynamic growing economies, or places you'd like to be, I bet.  Part of why they're afloat is that we're paying for some of their needs, like the defense of much of the EU and Japan.  Donald Sensing speculated on how we can know how much debt we can sustain and concluded we'll only know after the collapse. 

So has it started?  If that trend on the municipal bonds continues, I think it has.  We'll have to watch that and see what develops.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Forecast: Bleak, With A 20% Chance of Generational Warfare

Bayou Renaissance Man has a good article on the current economic morass we're in.  The point isn't the article, most of which I've already posted and commented on here; the comments are what I want to address.  Commenter perlhaqr (which I've always read as Perl Hacker - reference to the Perl programming language) comments:
As one of those Gen Xers who is getting stuck with the bill, I'd like to point out that it was the Baby Boomers who spent all the money, created all the entitlement programs, and now expect me to pay for them to be retired for the next 30 - 40 years.

I give you three guesses how close I am to saying "hey, fuck you", and letting them all go hang, and the first two don't count.
Not to pick on him in particular; I've seen perlhaqr's comments around the blogosphere for quite some time, and don't have a problem with him (disclaimer: I don't even know if perlhaqr is a "him" or "her").  It's the idea. The idea that one generation is responsible for the mess we're in is a poisonous thought, and it's the kind of easy, "let's find a scapegoat" thought that can spread, especially if the SHTF and society collapses.  When people are desperate and hungry, they can whip themselves into a frenzy with ideas like that.  "A riot is an ugly zink":

During the raucous debate over the Government takeover of the health care industry, letter writer Agnieszka Marczak at Time achieved her (?) 15 minutes of fame by penning, "...step aside grandma.  We want health care and we want it now".  (I can find only one link to a reference for this, a video from the Glenn Beck program on Fox News, and would rather not embed a second Youtube video. So go here if you want to see this.  Go to 7:45 in the link, although the whole ten minutes is worth seeing.)

Aside from disproving the notion that boomers have exclusively gotten us into this mess by demanding expensive social programs, it provides another example of the likelihood of inter-generational attacks, should widespread civil breakdown come.  This writer, and I would assume many like her, believes the breakdown of the system is caused by her parents and grandparents, who made the mistake of believing the promises of politicians, much like union members who believed they could retire in their 50s and live on fat pensions paid for out of unicorn droppings. 

The problem is, as I posted in reply, when the angry mob comes to "kill all the old boomers", they're not going to wait for you to show them how frugally you've lived, or that you pride yourself in not having taken handouts, or that you fought government expansion and the crippling debt with all you could.  It's going to be mob rule: kill or be killed. When you're pondering a polygonal war space or Matt Bracken's CW2 cube, this adds another complication, that the people you are helping - or fighting alongside - will be firing on you as soon as it's convenient. 

If, indeed, open civil war II is coming, it may be inevitable that the older people will be shot first.  If there is sanity, I see that not all people in my age group will be able to join the Freedom Force.  As someone who was doing biathlons a couple of years ago, I know I'm lucky to have most moving parts still moving.  It's not news that older people tend to have more health issues than the young; that's one reason the armed forces have low retirement ages.  Those who can't fight due to poor health, probably will be to be able to aid in other ways: shelter, finance, supply. 

As I wrote in December, there are many reasons why we were due for an economic slowdown as the 21st century opened.  It didn't have to be this bad, and I maintain it has been this bad because of the actions of the Federal Reserve and the leviathan.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I'd Like To Kill a Meme Or Two

First meme:  The debt ceiling must be raised. 
Addressing the possibility of the GOP-led Congress not voting to raise the debt ceiling, Austan Goolsbee, President Obama's top economic adviser, histrionically asserted this month: "This is not a game. The debt ceiling is not something to toy with. If we hit the debt ceiling, that's . . . essentially defaulting on our obligations, which is totally unprecedented in American history. The impact on the economy would be catastrophic."
This is not hard.  Not raising the debt ceiling isn't default; it means we can't spend even more money we don't have.  We don't have to raise the debt ceiling if we cut spending.  Cut spending hard.  Drastically.  Now.
(Michael Ramirez at Townhall for Dec. 7, 2010)
I could go on for a while about how hypocritical it is for our administration to talk this way, when the president, Harry Reid, and others in the power structure criticized the previous administrations for doing what they're doing.   Art Laffer has a good summary in the WSJ.  The point is that this argument is the usual hypocritical, political BS.  Don't believe it.  You're paying attention, so you won't, but save scraps of this to show your doubting family members or neighbors. 

Look: we're virtually at debt = 100% of GDP.  It's crisis time.  We're bleeding money like a chopped artery.  Stop the bleeding. 

Meme 2:  the 2010 tax cuts.  There have been no tax cuts; the rates have been kept the same as they have been for the last 10 years - for many workers, these are the only income tax rates they've ever known.  In agreeing to a two year extension of the current rates, the Evil Party has set themselves up to prosper if the country fails (getting to be quite the habit with them).  This all comes to a head in time for the 2012 elections.  They're positioning themselves to destroy any chance of real growth, and then say "see, we told you the tax cuts wouldn't work, now let's tax those rich bastards!".  If, by some miracle, a recovery starts, it's all their wisdom in getting the Obama tax cuts passed in 2010.  There have been no cuts.

The media was buzzing with the term "Bush tax cuts".  I think some of the radio talking heads, like Hannity in particular, like that phrase because they want to make Bush sound... less awful (I can't say go...  guh....guh...).  They're playing right into the commies' hands.  Again, there have been no cuts.

OK, repeat after me: instead of raising the debt ceiling we can cut spending.  Good.  Now: there were no 2010 tax cuts.  Great.  Now let's go kill those memes.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cartoonist Gets What the Editors Don't

Mike Lester at

Considering that Arizona is a Constitutional Carry state, and the Bradies and other anti-gun group are always in a panty-twisted wad over "it'll be another Dodge City!...Streets will run with blood!" isn't it peculiar that there was one guy carrying (concealed) and by the time he got there a couple of other people busted a chair over the looney's head? How much suffering would have been averted if there were a couple of folks carrying concealed who could have taken out that monster?

A friend who subscribes to the Wall St. Journal sent me a link to this article on Glocks.  It has a strange feel to it, like the journalist/kids that wrote this were saying to each other, "Muffy, what's this 'Glock' thing the police are talking about?"..."I don't know, Biff, I thought it was just a 'gangsta' word.  You mean there's really such thing as a 'Glock'?"  They go on to report, hold on to your seats!, that
...their popularity stems from their reputation as being "exceptionally reliable and low-maintenance. They are good for the first-time shooter."
Speaking of people out of touch with reality, I can't resist pointing out that Ariana Huffington, founder of the Ruling Class' favorite website, "The Huffington Post" (like Hell I'm going to link to them) was kicked off an airplane for, well, acting like she's part of the ruling class.  Confidentially, Dahling, the Pilot In Command is called that because he is.  You're not. 

No word on whether or not she was traveling with her dog Ruffington or her cat Fluffington or if they were escorted off the plane as well. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Law Of Unintended Consequences, Part II

I've often thought that lawmakers should be required to take a class in unintended consequences because they seem incapable of grasping the idea that when they change the law, people will change their behaviors to take advantage of it. 

There are so many examples, I could type my fingers off.  A really easy example is something like the Cash for Clunkers program.  I've written about this a few times, but instead of some glorious pollution reducing scheme it ended up subsidizing new cars for a subset of people who were going to buy a car within a few months, at the expense of vastly inflated prices on used cars for poor people who badly need a car.   Each car cost the taxpayers $24,000 while the cost of carbon credits, using the most generous assumptions, was about 12 times the market price.  Great thinking, there, Mr President!

Another easy one is the Clinton-era Assault Weapons Ban (AWB).  There probably isn't an honest LEO in the country who will tell you it made any difference in crime rates; they just aren't what the majority of criminals were or are using.  Criminals were just as likely to use single shot derringers as "assault weapons"; around 0.2% of crimes involved them.  If the intent was to reduce crime (it probably wasn't) it was a dismal failure.  Crime went down after the AWB expired, not after it went into effect.  But the unintended consequence is that "Modern Sporting Rifles" (as the NSSF likes to call them) are the biggest selling rifle market segment in the country.  Go to any gun range on sunny day and note the number of AR-variants compared to wooden stock, bolt action rifles.  (all facts here from

So, just as every other time, the gun grabbers have come out to dance in the blood of the victims of Saturday's shooting.  The Brady Bunch, the dependably anti-gun Carolyn McCarthy (D-Uranus), and  Senator Lautenburg (D-Sith).

The unintended consequence of the attempt to impose restrictions on gun sales and larger magazines is that the sane portion of America, feeling that trouble might be coming, has started mobbing gun stores to buy Glocks and 30 round magazines.
One-day sales of handguns in Arizona jumped 60 percent to 263 on Jan. 10 compared with 164 the corresponding Monday a year ago, the second-biggest increase of any state in the country, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data.
If the proposal to ban the long magazines goes through, there won't be a single 30-rounder left on a shelf in America to sell.  Every single one will be bought so it can be grandfathered in.   Likewise if some sort of federal psychological screening is mandated before you can buy a gun, there won't be a gun left on a shelf anywhere in America when it goes into effect.  It will be the Gun Store Owners Full Employment and Gun Manufacturers' Pension Funding Act.

Me?  I'm an XD guy, myself. I won't be competing for the Glocks, and there are no 30 round magazines for me, that I know of.  

Monday, January 10, 2011

Just One Little Question

Sheriff Douchebag in Tucson said,
“I think the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business and what (we) see on TV and how our youngsters are being raised, that this has not become the nice United States of America that most of us grew up in.”
Isn't blaming the actions of a paranoid schizophrenic on the whole "right" vitriolic rhetoric itself?  Isn't he doing exactly what he's complaining about?

Pot, meet kettle.  Kettle, pot. 
Listen, sheriff Douchebag, er, Douchepin, um Dupnik: you're an embarrassment.  This has nothing to do with rhetoric and nothing to do with left vs. right.  It has to do with mental illness.  And if early reports are true, you should resign.  If this were Japan, seppuku might be a good alternative. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Range Time

Today is the kind of day we Florida natives call "Chamber of Commerce" weather.  Days like these are the reason people from the north come down here this time of year, the reason our company executives always happen to decide to visit in January or February, the reason we get visits from salesmen we see once a year around this time.  In short, fantastic.  Daybreak was about 42, but that only lasted until the sun got above the horizon; by 9 it was almost 60, and the high was around 70.  A bit breezy, but blue skies, low humidity, simply beautiful.  That can only mean one thing:

Time to go to the range. 

We arrived around 11 AM and stayed till 2 PM.  Shot ARs, and dialed in the Nikon on my project rifle.  I had zero set at 25 yards, then decided the scope was too far back, so I pulled it and moved it forward to the end of the picatinny rail.  Which pretty much meant I had to zero it again, and I did so at 100 yards this time. Wasted a bit of ammo doing so, but it's hard to call anything on a day like this a waste. 

I'll be the first to admit I'm not as good as I'd like to be, and I suppose few people are as good as they'd like to be.  On the other hand, I remember last April when I first tried to shoot 200 yards spending a magazine (30 rounder, yet) trying to find if I could even see an impact on a 12" diameter target.  Today, I shot a single (20 round) magazine at an 8" target and every shot was on the paper.  At least the trend is moving in the right direction.  Mrs. Graybeard joined in for her first time shooting at 200 yards, and put (guessing) 20 out of 30 on the target.  We're signed up for an Appleseed weekend next month. 

As I mentioned, it was pretty windy.  Quartering wind coming from behind my right shoulder that varied from about 10 to 20. Obviously not competition grade shooting, but that's a standard letter-sized piece of paper.  At least I'm getting better. 

ASM826 over at Random Acts of Patriotism has been running a series on reloading the last few days, and was nice enough to swap some emails with me.  I'm trying to decide if reloading is really for me.  It seems the single best reason to load is to improve your ammo accuracy which sounds nice.  This ammo was "vanilla" Remington UMC .223 in 55 gr. FMJ (I saved all my brass from today).  I guess I see the advantage of slow, one-round-at-a-time loading in a single stage press, but my geek side says that I'd like a progressive press that chunks out a round with every throw of the handle, and is working on four or five at a time.  More suited to pistol ammo, I suppose.  I don't shoot any "official" competitions like IDPA, IPSC or rifle; just compete with myself trying to get better. 

Reloading, though, is not for days like today.  Days like today are for getting out and staying out.