Thursday, June 30, 2011

How Many Federal Crimes Did You Commit Today?

I've said before that around 1985 I had to take an EPA hazardous waste class for work, and even then the instructor piled about a two foot tall stack of regulations on the table and said, "what do you think the chances are that you haven't violated one sentence in these?"   Today, that stack would probably go ceiling to floor for those regulations alone.

Harvey Silvergate at Reason Magazine says, if you're the average American, you've violated three federal laws today.  
... far too many federal laws leave citizens unsure about the line between legal and illegal conduct, punishing incorrect guesses with imprisonment. The average working American adult, going about his or her normal life, commits several arguable federal felonies a day without even realizing it. Entire lives can change based on the attention of a creative federal prosecutor interpreting vague criminal laws.
A shining example of the sort of accidental violation of laws Silvergate writes about is the story of how Elisha Dawkins, an honored combat veteran is currently sitting in Federal jail because he apparently answered a question improperly on his passport application.   
I've written many times on this subject, and don't plan to stop.  Silvergate adds more.  
In 2004, Steven Kurtz, an art professor at the State University of New York in Buffalo, was indicted on mail fraud charges for what boiled down to a paperwork error. Federal agents, after learning that Kurtz was using bacteria in his artwork to critique genetic engineering, launched a full-scale bioterrorism investigation against him.  Finding nothing pernicious about the harmless stomach flora, they resorted to a creative interpretation of the mail fraud statute.
The most dangerously far-reaching statutes tend to result from knee-jerk congressional reactions to the threat du jour.
The federal ban on providing “material support” to a terrorist group, the statute that the federal government uses most frequently in prosecuting terrorism cases, provides another example of how difficult it can be to stay on the right side of the law.......
The story of what happens when an organization that asked if something is illegal and eventually ends up in the supreme court.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts reasoned that helping terrorist organizations to resolve disputes through international bodies or obtain humanitarian relief from the United Nations inevitably would free up resources for other, more nefarious ends. Hence a “person of ordinary intelligence would understand” that such conduct constitutes “material support.”
I would argue that if the case makes it all the way to the supreme court, enough people of "ordinary intelligence" have pondered the question that Justice Roberts' answer is offensive.  Which leads, of course, to this prescient quote from Ayn Rand. 

"There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. When there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."   Ayn Rand

To borrow my line from earlier in the month, "Code of Federal Regulations, Volume 1 of 9247, Abridged Edition"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Quote of the Day

Actually, a headline from the UN
In case you have friends who don't understand why the UN needs to be dumped somewhere, putting the North Koreans in charge of disarmament ought to say something.
The Conference on Disarmament held a plenary meeting this morning in which the Democratic People's Republic of Korea assumed the presidency of the Conference and members bid farewell to the departing ambassadors from Canada and the United Kingdom. 
H/T to Sondrakistan, bounced there from Improved Clinch. obligatory f-bomb warning for:  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Follow Up

Tam had this comment today, which led me to expound on things a bit.  Whenever I get really long, I turn the comment into a post, so let me go there. 
So "Ha ha ha! Dumb democrats living in a city below sea level in hurricane alley!"

But "Ooh, evil democrats trying to chase brave republicans out of bottomland that everybody before 1960 had the common sense not to farm or build on!"

Anybody who'd buy bottomland that's only protected from flooding by a pile of dirt that was stacked up by the government deserves a good soaking.
Interesting set of quotes, but not where I'm coming from. 

I'm unabashedly in favor of farming, mining, and manufacturing as the ways to create real wealth.  The problem isn't that the put down piles of dirt - I'm sure they're not the first group to try and tame the Missouri; that was probably an indigenous tribe.  The problem is really bad management of the river.  Bad river management means that higher food prices are coming.

There's almost a "perfect storm" of things around the world that are combining to push up food prices. 

A couple of those things are the apparent mismanagement of the spring thaw/flood season on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, and the tendency to put environmental concerns ahead of human concerns.  It's being widely reported that the corps of engineers mismanaged the situation.  The corps was warned early in the season to open flood gates and not let the land flood so badly.  If true, they're responsible for ruining people's houses and property, along with destroying farm lands.

Other things that are coming together to force food prices up are weather problems around the world, and the political groups that are dedicated to putting concerns for humans on the bottom of any priority system. 

The ugly truth is that anything the causes drastic increases in food prices kills people on the margins.  Not just the ACOE, but also insane decisions like giving incentives to take food and turn it into fuel (corn ethanol), which is blamed in part for the riots in the "Arab Spring", and lots of deaths. 

Unlike the watermelon greenies, I view this as tragic.  I don't think sending mining overseas (and I include oil "mining") so that the pollution only affects "little brown people" is a good thing, as the enviro-weenies seem to.  If they don't want to harm them, why are they sending mining and farming from the most environmentally responsible places on the planet to the least responsible places? 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lessons Learned As We Totter Through Hurricane Season

It has been hurricane season for just about a month now (it's June 1 through November 30) and while the Atlantic tropics are quiet, this weekend marked the start of our regular summer monsoon season with some impressive rain on Saturday and more gentle rain today.  I saw over the weekend that there was an area in the Bay of Campeche that some models said would organize, but it hasn't really.  The NHC is giving it a 50% chance of becoming a "cyclone" before it goes ashore in Mexico, probably near Tampico and probably as a depression. 
Last spring, I took the unusual move of preemptively replacing our water heater.  Around here, getting a decade out of a water heater is good, and ours was  hitting nine years old.  Rather than have it go out at an inopportune time, we elected to replace it with a natural gas powered tankless water heater.  There's a handful of reasons for this, but it was the first time we connected to the natural gas utility, and there was a pretty fat rebate for all we did.  After our two hurricanes in 2004, the natural gas system worked for everyone I knew, while many people were without electricity for days to weeks.  A "hot" shower may not be your goal after running a chainsaw in the summer heat cleaning up the damage, but a shower sure is nice to have.

Saturday night, I noticed there was no hot water.  After a brief effort to fix it, about midnight in our back yard with flashlights, we gave up showering and got up Sunday to try and figure out what was wrong.  It ended up being the outdoor ground fault indicating power fixture, and it cost me about $20 to get a better outlet and install it.  The lesson?   Keep some AC outlets, switches and electrical supplies, in case the stores are down, or inventory isn't being kept up.

If you don't have one, you should have a voltmeter.  Nowadays, basic digital multimeters can be found for $20 or $30.  Electronics stores like Fry's have a wide assortment and even Lowe's or Home Depot have them for home electrical work.  They're very easy to use; and the auto-ranging ones can almost be used by the brain dead.  In my case, once I opened the junction box cover, I could see 120 VAC on the input to the fixture (metal pieces on the sides) but not when I stuck the probes into the outlet.  In general, you'll want to turn off the breaker for anything you're working on, but you probably want to test the outlet with the power on.  It's more direct that way.  Just don't touch metal and you'll be fine.  Turn off the breaker to wire in the new outlet or switch.

An interesting aspect about hurricanes is found in the work of Dr. Ryan Maue at FSU Dr. Maue has been tracking the amount of energy transferred by cyclones around the world for some time, and energies are at low levels not seen since the late 1970s.  Don't get too comfortable: the North Atlantic contributed around one third of the entire world's cyclone energy last year, and one storm can really ruin your day.   Dr. Maue's work appears to completely debunk the idea that a global increase in the number or severity of storms is going on, as advanced by Al Gore and the Hysterics (I saw them open for Ultimate Spinach in the '60s).  His work shows patterns in hurricane strength more in line with the known oscillation patterns. 
Will the US get hit this year?  Just like all other preps, it's better to have and not need...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Let's Tie A Couple of Stories Together - part ii

Let me tie Wednesday and Saturday together.

As I said Wednesday's post, it's all about UN Agenda 21, and allowing the flooding of wide tracts of the US supports that idea.  Trevor Loudon at New Zeal has a great post to help you get up to speed on the UN's Agenda 21.   The implications of this plan make Soylent Green or any of the worst, most dystopian-future movies look like Mary Poppins (the most relentlessly optimistic, happy movie I can think of).  To begin with, let's look at a map.  Trevor has a small version, so I went and found one that's readable if you click on it:
If this UN plan goes into effect, every area in red will be "forbidden zone" for humans. Every area in yellow will be "highly regulated".  I assume that means you will only be allowed there with permits and strict time limits - not to live there.  Humans will basically be allowed to live only in densely packed urban areas, shown as black dots.  Think all of the worst places in America: Chicago, Detroit, New York, Boston, DC... you get the idea. 

Central to the plan is the idea of being carbon neutral.  That's right, "global warming" or "climate change" or whatever they call it this week, is the basis for mass murder on a scale that Mao, Pol Pot, or Hitler could never aspire to.  You see, to quote from this piece at End of The American Dream, the population must be reduced:
  • CNN Founder Ted Turner: "A total population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal."
  • Dave Foreman, Earth First Co-Founder: "My three main goals would be to reduce human population to about 100 million worldwide, destroy the industrial infrastructure and see wilderness, with it’s full complement of species, returning throughout the world."
  • Maurice Strong: "Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?"
Gee, the moderate guy only wants to kill off more than 95% of the human race.  See the current world population is around 7 billion people.  For Dave Foreman, 100 million out of 7 billion is 100 out of 7000 or 1.4 %.  At 300 million, Ted Turner would generously let 4.3% live.

Around 20 years ago, I heard that the entire population of the world would fit in Jacksonville, Florida, without resorting to vertical high rise buildings.  It would be austere, but they would fit.  I found a the area of the city (885 square miles), ran the calculation, and it worked.  Even today, you still could fit every man woman and child in the world in the area of Jacksonville, but each person would only get 3.5 square feet, so it would pretty much be shoulder to shoulder.  According to the Wiki, the area of the state of Florida is 65,755 square miles.  Given the 7 billion people in the world, if you spread them evenly across the state, every person in the world would get 261.9 square feet.  Not a big room (unless you're in NYC), and small by US standards, but generous compared to much of the world.  Of course, the infrastructure would take room, so you'd probably need to spread them out, but I suspect everyone in the world would fit comfortably in the southeastern US.  And we need to kill off 95% of them because they're taking up too many resources? 

John P. Holdren, Barack Obama's top science advisor, co-authored a textbook entitled "Ecoscience" back in 1977 in which he actually advocated mass sterilization, compulsory abortion, a one world government and a global police force to enforce population control.
source for that and this:
“Indeed, it has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society.”

So the, acting under the Agenda 21 of the UN, wants to forcibly - at gunpoint, I assume - abort your babies, put sterilants in the drinking water, move you to a city center where you can be stacked up like cordwood, and "live" where every move you make, every thing you eat, every decision you make, is made for you by the state.  If you're one of the few percent who aren't killed off.  All in the name of the skankiest, most corrupt "science" humans have ever put on paper (pretty good summary).   It's pretty damned obvious why they don't want us armed, isn't it?

(Edit: 1712 forgot to label the post)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Is Someone Trying To Create a New Holodomor?

Is a reference to the Holodomor going too far?  Read for a while and then tell me.

Ann Barnhardt posts the contents of a phone call she received. 
1. File this one under "Now It All Makes Sense". A Missouri farming and ranching contact just got off a conference call wherein he was informed that the federal government is sending out letters to all of the flooded out farmers in the Missouri River flood plain and bottoms notifying them that the Army Corps of Engineers will offer to BUY THEIR LAND.
Of course they're going to buy the farm land.  It's your benevolent government just helping you as much as they can.  You're having troubles due to these unfortunate, unpredictable floods, so they're going to help you out by using your neighbor's money to buy your farm.  
Intentionally flood massive acreage of highly productive farmground. Destroy people's communities and homes. Catch them while they are desperate and afraid and then swoop in and buy the ground cheap. Those evil sons of bitches. 
Intentionally flood the lands?  You mean the floods weren't "unfortunate, unpredictable" "acts of God" events?  Joe Herring at the American Thinker backs that up in this article.  You should RTWT.  The essential argument is this:

Sixty years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers had a mandate to tame the Missouri River, " constructing a series of six dams. The idea was simple: massive dams at the top moderating flow to the smaller dams below, generating electricity while providing desperately needed control of the river's devastating floods." Sixty years ago was the 1950s; America was flush with our success in WWII, and taming the environment was a priority everywhere. But thirty years later, the 1980s, the greenies got involved.
An idea to restore the nation's rivers to a natural (pre-dam) state swept through the environmental movement and their allies.  Adherents enlisted the aid of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), asking for an updated "Biological Opinion" from the FWS that would make ecosystem restoration an "authorized purpose" of the dam system.  The Clinton administration threw its support behind the change, officially shifting the priorities of the Missouri River dam system from flood control, facilitation of commercial traffic, and recreation to habitat restoration, wetlands preservation, and culturally sensitive and sustainable biodiversity.
You can guess what happened next: the system turned entirely toward restoring the river to its wild ways; restore the animals at the expense of the humans.
The Missouri River Recovery and Implementation Committee has seventy members.  Only four represent interests other than environmentalism.  The recommendations of the committee, as one might expect, have been somewhat less than evenhanded.
This was an exceptionally snowy and wet winter.  The Missouri is running at levels it has not run in the 60 years the Corps of Engineers has been managing the river:
 The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a victim/tool of the above-described process.  The horrifying consequence is water rushing from the dams on the Missouri twice as fast as the highest previous releases on record.  Floodgates that have not been opened in more than fifty years are in full operation, discharging water at a rate of 150,000 cubic feet per second toward millions of Americans downstream.
Note that this surge of 150,000 has to eventually go from Montana and North Dakota down through the Mississippi River and into the Gulf.  Their flooding isn't over, yet.
This is a mind-boggling rate of release.  Consider that 150,000 cubic feet of water would fill a football field instantly to a depth of four feet.  This amount of water, being released every second, will continue unabated for the next several months.  The levees that protect the cities and towns downstream were constructed to handle the flow rates promised at the time of the dam's construction.  None of these levees have ever been tested at these levels, yet they must hold back millions of acre-feet of floodwater for the entire summer without failing.  In the flooding of 1993, more than a thousand levees failed.  This year's event will be many orders of magnitude greater.
At this point, you certainly have mismanagement of the flood control aspects of the Corps' duties, and priority to environmentalism over humanity.  Does it rise to the level of trying to create mass starvation?  If your preference for wildlife destroys the people's food, how can it not create starvation?  We'll just buy food from somewhere else?  Where, exactly?   

Enter Dr. Evil, George Soros.

Returning to Ann Barnhard's post:
Speaking of evil sons of bitches, George Soros appears to be "investing" in farmground through the same puppet company that he used to get into the grain elevator and fertilizer business. The company is called Ospraie Capital Management and is buying up farmground in a joint venture with Teays River Investments as a partner. Here is that announcement:   Click Here
Now Soros may just be putting his money where he sees the opportunity for good returns, or he may be trying to buy up all the food production in the world so everyone has to play his game.  Hard to say.  Ann concludes with this bombshell (emphasis added by me):
Bottom line: Soros, through Ospraie, is buying up farmground. Please also note that the hotlink citation above is dated June 26, 2009. My contact says this has been going on for two years - and also remember what I told you about farmground prices inflating wildly, especially in Illinois. I have personally confirmed farmground in Illinois selling for $13,000 per acre within the last month, whereas that same kind of ground in Illinois was going for $5500 per acre the day Obama was inaugurated.
I'm sure you have heard the Chinese are buying up US farmland due to weather problems with their own crops.  Chinese and US corn farmers are having problems.  I summarized some of these here, earlier in the month, and GardenSERF has an excellent summary here

The question is one of malice or stupidity; maybe more a question of whether the greenies are evil or useful idiots.  Are the environmentalists intentionally trying to destroy the US by regulating us into paralysis?  Remember when the environmentalists ordered the end of irrigation in the central valley of California, creating a crippling man-made drought in some of the best farmland in America, to protect the Delta Smelt?  A 2" minnow that was said to be harmed by the irrigation dams - by some enviro-weenies; other scientists said the population changes had nothing to do with irrigation.  Since the little fish isn't much of a poster reason to starve the people in the valley, the National Marine Fisheries Service said the irrigation would kill whales, and we sure can't have that!  I'm sure all of us would gladly lie down and die to save a whale.  Confidentially, here's a suggestion.  If you would gladly lie down and die to save the whales: go ahead.

The Holodomor was the deliberate starvation of the Ukraine by Joseph Stalin in the 1930s.  If you just search the term you'll find descriptions and denials, not unlike those of the Nazi holocaust just a few years later (if I had more readership, a Soviet apologist would probably show up here to rebut me).   A consistent and tragic tactic of socialist regimes from Stalin to Mugabe is to take farm land away from those who have been managing it successfully and giving it to the underclass.  Famine and death is the frequent result.

Is some group or small number of groups trying to starve the US?  It's hard to say, but I think the argument can be made.  There are groups who will say other countries around the world have a more tenuous food supply than we do, and many in the US could "stand to lose a few pounds" by shipping more food overseas.  There are those who seem to think "we have plenty of farms in the US" and "it can't hurt to shut down a few million acres to protect the rivers or the wildlife".  And, quite possibly, there are those who would like to see us starve because starving people are easier to dominate.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Night Funnies

We all have our little idiosyncrasies, and one of my many is that when I'm doing the kind of work that keeps me at my desk in my office, I usually listen to the I Heart Radio app on my iPhone.  I used to bring a general coverage handheld radio and tune it to either the local talk radio, local ham repeaters, FM broadcast or perhaps the airport tower.  Although the app itself can be clunky and crash too often, when it works its sound quality is better than what I can get indoors with a limited antenna.

My latest little find is the 24/7 Comedy Channel, which features short (usually less than 2 minutes, always less than 10) of stand up comedy performances.  Some big, classic established names - George Carlin, Robin Williams, Steven Wright, Richard Jeni; some big newer names - Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy, Chris Rock; and a bunch that I frankly had never heard of before.  I really enjoy Maria Bamford, Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffigan and more.  One guy I've never heard of before is John Pinette.  Earlier this evening, Mrs. Graybeard laughed until we hurt watching a full hour of Pinette's "I Say Nay Nay". 

If you're up for a good hour of silly, start here and go watch the other 5 sections. If not, just watch this one.  If you can't handle 10 minutes or want a sampler, just go here and pick something.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Alec Ross, and advisor to Hillary Clinton at the State Department, thinks the Internet is as good as Che Guevara.  Someone who helped enslave millions, who  personally tortured and murdered thousands is a force for freedom?  Whose freedom? 
Ross said that the internet had "acted as an accelerant" in the Arab spring uprisings, pointing to the dislodging of former Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in little over a month. The internet had facilitated leaderless movements, Ross added, describing it as the "Che Guevara of the 21st century".
As Humberto Fontana says at Daily Caller, imagine if this turned up in the Sarah Palin emails:
Imagine the MSM snarkiness and uproar if somewhere in Sarah Palin’s e-mail garbage bins they scrounged up an item where she equates Internet freedom with the co-founder of the regime that Freedom House rates as among the three most repressive on Earth against the Internet, where bloggers were being jailed and tortured for the crime of blogging while she wrote the message. Because, in fact, Cubans were being jailed and tortured for blogging while the U.S. State Department’s senior advisor on “Internet freedom” hailed the Cuban regime’s co-founder as the emblem of Internet freedom.
and concludes:
Imagine the MSM snarkiness and uproar if Sarah Palin, as an official of the U.S. Department of State, lauded a man who insulted the U.S. as “the Great Enemy of Mankind!” and her countrymen as “hyenas fit only for extermination!” and who openly craved to incinerate millions of them with a surprise nuclear attack. “If the missiles had remained,” confided Che Guevara to The London Daily Worker in November 1962, “we would have fired them against the very heart of the U.S., including New York City.”
Some days, it's better to laugh this crap off than pay too much attention to it, but it emphasizes the character of the administration where Chairman Mao is worshiped as a hero. 
Much has been made of Obama's former Communications Director Anita Dunn quoting Chairman Mao as one of her two "favorite philosophers", and Ron Bloom (Manufacturing "Czar") saying "... We kind of agree with Mao that political power comes largely from the barrel of a gun... "

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

While The Media Was Telling Weiner Jokes

President O signed executive order 13575.  The Establishment of the White House Rural Council, in which they move to impose even more federal control over farmlands, rural areas, and 16% of the population. 
Section 1. Policy  Sixteen percent of the American population lives in rural counties. Strong, sustainable rural communities are essential to winning the future and ensuring American competitiveness in the years ahead. These communities supply our food, fiber, and energy, safeguard our natural resources, and are essential in the development of science and innovation. Though rural communities face numerous challenges, they also present enormous economic potential. The Federal Government has an important role to play in order to expand access to the capital necessary for economic growth, promote innovation, improve access to health care and education, and expand outdoor recreational activities on public lands.
The Blaze picked up this story, in an article written by Mike Opelka.  That whole thing sounds benign if not warm and fuzzy, doesn't it?  Question: is there anything this bunch has done that's benign?  I wonder who's running this show?
  • (1) the Department of the Treasury; Timothy Geithner
  • (2) the Department of Defense; Robert Gates
  • (3) the Department of Justice; Eric Holder
  • (4) the Department of the Interior; Ken Salazar
  • (5) the Department of Commerce; Gary Locke
  • (6) the Department of Labor; Hilda Solis
  • (7) the Department of Health and Human Services; Kathleen Sebelius
  • (8) the Department of Housing and Urban Development; Shaun Donovan
  • (9) the Department of Transportation; Ray LaHood
  • (10) the Department of Energy; Dr. Steven Chu
  • (11) the Department of Education; Arne Duncan
  • (12) the Department of Veterans Affairs; Eric Shinseki
  • (13) the Department of Homeland Security; Janet Napolitano
  • (14) the Environmental Protection Agency; Lisa Jackson
  • (15) the Federal Communications Commission; Michael Copps
  • (16) the Office of Management and Budget; Peter Orszag
  • (17) the Office of Science and Technology Policy; John Holdren
  • (18) the Office of National Drug Control Policy; R. Gil Kerlikowske
  • (19) the Council of Economic Advisers; Austan Goolsbee
  • (20) the Domestic Policy Council; Melody Barnes (former VP at Center for American Progress)
  • (21) the National Economic Council; Gene B. Sperling
  • (22) the Small Business Administration; Karen Mills
  • (23) the Council on Environmental Quality; Nancy Sutley
  • (24) the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs; Valerie Jarrett
  • (25) the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs; and such other executive branch departments, agencies, and offices as the President or Secretary of  Agriculture may, from time to time, designate. Chris Lu (or virtually anyone to be designated by the 24 people named above)
Oh, that makes me feel much better.  Valerie Jarrett, TurboTax Timmy, John "let's put contraceptives in the water" Holdren, Michael Copps, either the biggest turd on the FCC or a close second... the whole den of thieves.  As Obi-Wan said, "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy". 

You have to ask why.  After all, the already has power over these areas, already has tons of programs to manage farmlands and crops, even paying farmers not to produce.  They already provide loans.  On the other extreme, there's already a National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management to provide "outdoor recreational opportunities".  In other words, they're already deep into this "under served" 16% of the country.  Why now?  Note the buzzwords "sustainable rural communities" in that first paragraph.  Author Opelka puts this whole thing in the context of UN Agenda 21, which is all about "sustainable growth" - which is code for elimination of private property.  Newsflash: if it's from the UN, it's socialist.  I'm sure you're as shocked as I am to hear this. 

Go read the whole piece.  On a day when another story about how gentle and kind to rural folks the already is, and that story itself should be headline news.   

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Impact of One Man

This is going to be a departure from my usual fare - I don't think I've ever written anything quite like this. 

Have you ever wondered about the impact of one man on the world?  Just how much can the world be changed by one guy? 

Look around where you are.  Are you in front of a computer?  Laptop?  If you're reading this, you're using some form of electronics.  Do you have an MP3 player, like an iPod?  Do you listen to podcasts? 

The common thread I want to point out is analog electronics.  Not digital.  Not the computer itself but the sound system.  Although very few people are aware of this, the number of people who design the modern analog integrated circuits is shockingly small.   Two very bright stars in the history of analog IC design have both died unexpectedly in the last 10 days, and the engineers who know them by their work are in somewhat of a state of shock.

I don't want to get too off track, but I'll bet the vast majority of folks who stumble across this will know the names of the big name digital companies;  Intel, AMD, Texas Instruments (where the IC was invented).  You'll probably know Samsung, Fujitsu, Cypress or some other big players.  Digital is the hot technology, right?  Every generation, digital circuits get faster and more capable.  Everyone who has been around computers for more than a few years has stories of how much they spent for something that's cheap today.   I've had computers long enough to remember paying $350 for my first hard drive (30 Meg!) and $200 for my first megabyte of memory.  At a recent show, I was given a 1 Gig USB thumb drive as a promotion.  But have you heard of Fairchild Semiconductor?  Philbrick?  What about National Semiconductor, Linear Technology or Analog Devices? 

The analog world is a small piece of electronics, but indispensable.  Digital circuits are switches, and they function by rules of logic (Boolean algebra).  They work by switching between off and on at blazing speeds.  Modern circuits may only switch 1.8V or less, down from the 5V logic that was the norm when I was a kid - the lower voltage helps them speed up, and reduces power consumption.   Analog circuits, by contrast, are thought of as continuous operation.  While any signal below the high "turn on" level for a digital circuit (1.2V, for example) is the same, whole analog systems work with signals very far below that measured in millionths to thousandths of a volt.  Analog circuits power the digital world.  Essentially all modern systems use switching power supplies (also called switch-mode) to achieve the efficiencies we want in our electronics.  A simple power supply made of a transformer, rectifiers and filtering, may be 30% efficient; modern switchers can hit 90% efficient.  Think of the power saved!  (and the market did it on our own, without the .gov forcing us!  Imagine that...) 

One of the bright stars in analog IC design was a genius named Jim Williams.  Jim passed away unexpectedly June 12th after suffering a massive stroke.  Jim is best remembered for his years at Linear Technology, and they currently have a nice memorial page on their site.  I never met Jim in "meatspace", but I have read many of his applications notes describing the most intricate concepts clearly and concisely.  I think I first noticed Jim by name in the late 80s when I came across an applications note he authored called "Switching Regulators for Poets - a gentle guide for the trepidatious" (AN25).  An MIT guy, but not an actual graduate engineer, he is recognized widely in industry, including being inducted into the hall of fame.  Like all the great ones, he realized that filling a book page or whiteboard with math might describe the way the circuit worked, but didn't bring understanding; description and understanding are different things.

The second bright star, Bob Pease, died on the way home from Jim's funeral.  Bob first met Jim at Philbrick in the early days of analog ICs.  Bob cultivated his image as a curmudgeon, maintaining a "wizard beard", and at one time throwing computers off the National Semiconductor headquarters because the circuit simulation software "lied to me".  Again, I never met Bob in meatspace but I've read hundreds of his columns in Electronic Design magazine.  They have a tribute page up now, too, as does National Semiconductor.  Bob was involved in a lot of ground breaking design, but I think he was most proud of inventing the bandgap reference - still the state of the art approach for a voltage reference that varies the least with temperature - and started calling himself the Bandgap Czar.

In our modern, technical society, we tend to take things for granted.  We'll always have amplifiers and analog "black magic" electronics.  The community of people who actually do this is small, though.  I think it would surprise you.  National Semiconductor, where Bob and Jim both worked before Jim left for the upstart Linear Technology, has been acquired by Texas Instruments.  I'm not sure what will become of the name, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was gone in a year or two.  Of the 5700 employees at National, I'll bet there's less than 100 analog IC designers and one or two "staff scientists" who grok it all.  How many are there in the world?  Perhaps a thousand people on earth?   

Going back to my start, what's the impact of one man?  The philosophers argue that while a Jim Williams or Bob Pease may have invented much of modern circuitry, if they hadn't been there, someone else would have done it.  But how do we know?  Anyone who has done math has likely had the experience of struggling to solve a problem, only to have it look clear and obvious when the teacher solves it.  Oftentimes, the hardest part in solving a problem is seeing that it can be solved; and knowing a solution exists will drive someone on to find it.  I am always in awe of the great minds who do so much, and advance the standard of living for all of us - just because it's fun for them to do.  You'll see people saying that if we got through a really big SHTF event, that we'll be back to 18th century living.  We'll be surrounded by tech that no one knows how to use.  If the wrong thousand people die, society may "forget" how to design analog ICs. 

RIP, Jim, Bob.  Though we never met, you improved my life. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Dollar Can't Buy a Friend

H/T to Zerohedge; more bad news for the dollar, the Russians have gotten rid of about 1/3 of their US bonds and plan to buy fewer.  
"Just in time for the end of QE2, when the US needs every possible foreign buyer of US debt to step up to the plate, we get confirmation that yet another major foreign central bank has decided to not only not add to its US debt holdings, but to actively sell US Treasurys. The WSJ reports that "Russia will likely continue lowering its U.S. debt holdings as Washington struggles to contain a budget deficit and bolster a tepid economic recovery, a top aide to President Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday. "The share of our portfolio in U.S. instruments has gone down and probably will go down further," said Arkady Dvorkovich, chief economic aide to the president..."
So China is getting out of the dollar, Japan is out of the market, Russia is getting out... who's left?  The EU?  With Greece moments from collapse, massive protests in Spain and their other problems?  While congress fiddles, anyone with any sense is getting out of the US bonds.  In fact, bonds from any nation don't seem really secure now.  The stock market technical indicators are insisting that trouble's coming.  The EU and US are in trouble, while China has built ghost cities (can you say "bubble"?) and is facing social unrest, themselves.  Looks like it's getting to be time to find a bunker to hide in.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Fat and Out of Shape Middle-Aged Guy's Guide... being somewhat less "fat and out of shape".

H/T to WSRA today for poking my muse with a sharp stick so that she could poke me.  The unwritten statement in that article is that if you're old or injured, handicapped or disabled, or otherwise not able to put on a ghillie suit and head for the back country, you should give all of your stuff to someone who can do that and then be a good sport and off yourself. To borrow a quote, I don't think so.

There's a reason the armies of the world rarely use guys my age (I'm 57 - some days feel closer to 100, some days closer to 50): with a few exceptions, we simply aren't able to match the fitness, strength, or endurance of the average guy even 20 years younger than us.  Plus, they never created a MilSpec for Depends.  I celebrated my 50th birthday by running a 5 k (3.1 miles) followed by a 55 mile bike ride.  I didn't do that on my 57th.  I could go on and on about "with age comes wisdom", or "old age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill", but I won't. 

Do you move well?  I have arthritis, but am still pretty mobile. The worst of my arthritis affects my hands; mostly thumbs and a couple of fingers.  My right hand is worse than my left, and my thumb and pinky finger are the worst.  It makes many common tasks painful.  Many folks have had hips or knees replaced by the time they get to be my age, and I'm lucky in that regard, although I feel I'm working on needing a hip.  Mrs. Graybeard has had both hips replaced, and has a pound a of stainless in her mid-back from a time we were run down by a light pickup truck while riding our bikes (the day before New Years Eve of Y2K).  I walked out of the ER 3 hours later - she was hospitalized 3 weeks.  I know I'm lucky to get around as well as I do. 

So here you are, a middle-aged guy or gal with somewhat of a paunch, and would like to be a little tougher for the coming problems. Do I need to state the obvious?  If you're listening to some random dude on "teh Interwebz" without checking to see if you have problems that prevent doing any of this stuff, you're out of your freakin' mind. 

The first thing you should do is either buy or check out from your library, "Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It".  Author Gary Taubes is an award-winning science writer who shook up the world when he first started researching this and wrote an article for Science magazine called "The Soft Science of Dietary Fat".  (If you're not familiar with it, Science magazine is the house journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, - a very prestigious journal).  He followed that up with a easier version for the NY Times called, "What If It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?" and followed that up with a full-length book, "Good Calories, Bad Calories".  (standard disclaimer about Amazon links - just so you can see the book, I don't get money, yada, yada)  "Good Calories/Bad Calories" is written like a scientific paper and has tons of references; "Why We Get Fat" is more of a how to/what to do book. 

If you want the short version, everything the nanny state tells you to eat is what you should avoid; everything Dr. Atkins tells you to eat is good.  To quote comedian Chris Rock, red meat isn't bad for you; green meat is bad for you.  Fat doesn't make you fat; dietary fat doesn't cause heart disease, "over eating" doesn't cause obesity, and all the dietary wisdom the has been pushing since the 1970s is why we're getting fatter and have so much diabetes in our country.  Corporate wellness programs are well-intentioned but wrong; BMI is a meaningless number and overweight is probably a meaningless concept.  Reading all that background will help you understand why the more closely the general population follows the federally recommended diet the less healthy they become.   

This is going to be a big change for most people, and it can be an expensive way to eat.  You're probably going to go through some carb withdrawal.  Depending on how much insulin resistance you have (read those links two paragraphs up!), it might take some time to make a difference.  At one time, I lost about 70 pounds on the Atkins diet.  Stopping it was a stupid thing.  Now I need to lose 40 or 50. 

Now that you've dropped the idea that eating red meat is a problem, let's take on exercise.  The first thing you must do is decouple diet and exercise in your mind.  This has been pushed as the gospel for so long, that even people who don't care about their weight believe fat people wouldn't be fat "if they'd just walk around the block instead of having that second portion".  Yet most of us are familiar with the expression to "work up an appetite".  When did we get the idea that exercise doesn't make us hungry?  I joke that I was drawn to endurance cycling because it's the only sport where you have to eat during the events to compete! 

Exercise is worth doing for a mess of reasons: better ability to handle the tasks of life, muscle helps keep joints from being damaged, better support for all of your skeleton, and weight-bearing exercise helps prevent osteoporosis.  For the target group I'm addressing, I recommend weights and walking for starters.  Chances are everyone in this audience has all the weights we need with ammo boxes and cans; you don't need to go join a gym and work out on Bowflex or Nautilus equipment.  Avoid plyometric exercises - at least for now.  These are the jumping, lunging, high impact movements that you'll see on some TV products.  These are for people who are already in shape, not people trying to get in shape. 

How much weight?  Another point of contention where one group says light weights done many times and others say to increase the weight until you find you can't repeat the exercise more than five times without losing form.  After many years in the first camp, I'm moving toward the second.  There is no such thing as "toning", but you'll see places say to use light weight just to improve "muscle tone" and base that on physical therapy.  If you ever get therapy for an injury, you'll probably be surprised to see they usually work with light weights: a pound or two most of the time.  Yes, you really can protect your joints with that little weight.  But all weight lifting is intended to build muscle.  You either build muscle or you don't. 

Do core strengthening: bent-knee sit-ups or crunches.  If they get too easy, do them against weight.  Carry ammo cans around your house - work up to carrying them around your yard.  If loaded ammo cans are too heavy, bring boxes, or half-full cans.  The nice thing about weight lifting is that everything has weight.  It's just a matter of how convenient it is to work with.  

"Cardio" workouts: running or cycling or walking are pleasant things to do, if you enjoy them, but I suspect that's over-rated, too.  In my case, I know it didn't prevent the usual conditions that set in when you're over-50.  To quote myself:
My favorite story in the wellness and health screening arena is that soon after I turned 40, I decided to get a physical and it included a cholesterol test.  It came back that my total cholesterol was moderately high, but my HDL was considered way too low.  They recommended that I do some exercise, perhaps walk around the block.  It struck me funny because I had ridden 100 miles on my bike over the weekend between getting tested and getting the results.  Clearly, the cause is not related to exercise. 

There you have it: a starting point.  Losing weight might be completely cosmetic, and it may help your health, but it will probably help you if you have to do some moving to keep from being a target.  Fitness and muscle strength will help in manual labor and other things that may be coming.  It will help us be useful - to family, friends and community. 

Don't just be prepared, be prepared to be useful, and a blessing to those in need.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Why A Depression is Inevitable, and Economic Collapse Inescapable

Victor Davis Hanson, certainly one of the brightest stars on the right, has an excellent piece at National Review Online called "How to Turn a Recession Into a Depression".  It illustrates by 10 examples how the policies of the administration are optimized to collapse the US economy.  Why would a president do such a thing?  One would assume so that they can complete the campaign-promised "fundamentally transforming the United States of America".  I've often commented that I don't know that they're trying to destroy our country, I just don't see what they'd be doing differently if they were.   

I won't go into what he covered, suffice it to say go visit and read the whole thing; it's roughly 10 paragraphs long, but information-dense.  It serves to remind, though, that Mrs. Graybeard and I were talking this morning about the fact that no presidential candidate, and no politician on the national scene that we're aware of has addressed one fundamental fact: 

A balanced budget is nowhere near enough to fix our problems. 

The federal debt ceiling, which I contend doesn't even exist (more), since they raise the ceiling whenever it gets inconvenient, is a big topic lately.  Supposedly, in early August we hit a drop dead date when can no longer borrow.  That will either be a disaster of biblical proportions if you're on the left, or a spending cap if you're on the right.  See, if you have debt to pay and things you want to spend money on, but not enough money for both, Geithner and the other Keynesian morons say to default on the debt and spend on your programs.  Anyone who has so much as run a newspaper route, or any business, or anyone even the least bit grounded in reality would say to pay your debts and not spend the money you don't have. 

Faced with this monstrous debt, not one person in the public arena has stated the brutally honest truth that we don't need a balanced budget; we need to run surpluses for as far as the eye can see.  How else can we possibly pay down any of that debt?  A balanced budget just stops debt from piling on, but pays interest and does nothing to reduce the principal.  I'm not even suggesting we need to pay that down to zero; I'm just saying a debt to GDP ratio of essentially 100% isn't sustainable and we can't just cut spending by 45% (what it takes to get any sort of surplus) we have to keep those "draconian" spending cuts in place for generations.  We not only need to cut back or end social security (the world's biggest Ponzi scheme - it makes Bernie Madoff look like Mother Theresa), we not only need to cut Medicare, end Obamacare, throw out books of federal regulations and shutter whole agencies of the;  we need to keep those disciplines in place for a century - or more. 

What do you think the chances of that are?  In a society where around half gets some sort of government benefit?  Without a collapse and everyone realizing we need strict discipline to keep from getting into trouble again?  I figure the odds are someplace between zero and a smidgen.  Inescapable.   And forcing collapse just may be the ultimate purpose of the policies Hanson writes about. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Drill Here, Drill Now?

You would think with our problems assuring we have sufficient energy to run our society, there would be a push to exploit our enormous natural gas reservoirs.  I'm sure you've heard that in the last decade, discoveries of new ways of extracting natural gas from rocks has increased our projected gas reserves spectacularly.   I've read we have enough gas to run the country for a hundred years.
(image source)
I have a good friend who left the electronics industry rat race a couple of years ago; moved north and settled on a farm in some of the new natural gas country (and I've got to say that's a very tempting idea).  She sends me this interesting news item:
On May 20, the Department of Energy gave approval for Cheniere Energy Inc. to export 2.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from its Sabine Pass, La., port terminal - the first approval of overseas export of U.S.-produced gas from the lower 48 states.
I can see why Cheniere might want to do that.  If they can get a better price from countries that don't have gas, I can see why they'd want to export their product.  But Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, said,
"So here we are, we’re exporting our clean-burning fuel (nat gas) and importing dirty oil… We’re gonna go down as the dumbest crowd in history…"
I've got to say I've thought that....  Then I realized T Boone is optimistic.  We're going to go down in history as the nation that committed suicide by being so afraid to use any form of energy that we just laid down and died.  Sort of like the people of Miranda.
"These are just a few of the images we've recorded. And you can see, it wasn't what we thought. There's been no war here and no terraforming event. The environment is stable. It's the Pax. The G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate that we added to the air processors. It was supposed to calm the population, weed out aggression. Well, it works. The people here stopped fighting. And then they stopped everything else. They stopped going to work, they stopped breeding, talking, eating. There's 30 million people here, and they all just let themselves die."
In our case it's the environmental nuts, fruits and flakes, not the Pax. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Closer You Look, The More Corruption You Find

The closer you look at LightSquared, that is.

In the last few days, I've posted a couple of times about how this company wants to build a nationwide broadband network that interferes badly with GPS.  The more I look into the company, the worse it looks.  The company is largely funded by the Harbinger Fund, a hedge fund/private equity firm that's putting up the capital to run the company until they can turn on the service and start making income (in itself, nothing wrong here - it's really very common).  Harbinger is a fund that has been around for quite some time, but is now putting almost all of its eggs in the LightSquared basket.

The national policy center asks, "Did Harbinger Hedge Fund Buy Influence With the White House?" 
None of Mr. Falcone's plans would be successful, however, unless he was successful in persuading the Administration and the FCC to intervene on his behalf.  And over the course of the past year, a series of odd decisions, questionable meetings and procedural anomalies at the Federal Communications Commission and White House highlight Mr. Falcone's growing influence in the hallways of government.
oh, there's more:
During FCC merger proceedings, parties typically file confidential materials that are protected from the public.  Under FCC rules, however, the public must be notified within 24 hours that a filing of confidential material was submitted into the record.  In this case, the FCC withheld Harbinger's letter and the merger conditions from public disclosure for more than a month.
and more:
On April 21, 2010 Senators Hutchinson, DeMint, Vitter and Brownback sent FCC Chairman Genachowski a joint letter with numerous inquiries regarding the Falcone transaction.[8]  On May 10, Genachowski replied with a non-responsive letter.   These correspondences were not posted electronically for weeks after they were filed.  In addition to violating FCC procedure and precedent, the FCC's actions in withholding these documents from public view directly contradicts Chairman Genachowski's promise to maintain an open and transparent process at the FCC.  (emphasis added - GB)

Yeah, just like the president got his award for transparency and openness in a closed door, private ceremony. 

And stuff that looks like it's just barely legal:

On September 30, 2009, one week after his September 2009 White House visit, Mr. Falcone contributed $30,400 to the DSCC -- the maximum legal individual contribution limit to a party committee. His wife, Lisa Falcone, contributed an additional $30,400 to the DSCC on the same day.  (LightSquared's new CEO Sanjiv Ahuja also contributed $30,400 to the DNC in September of 2010).[12]

Oh, and guess who else is involved?  C'mon.  Guess. 
In 2009, while some investors were asking for withdrawals, others were lining up to put money into Harbinger. They included Soros Fund Management, which during the past year became a significant new investor, say people familiar with the matter.  (emphasis added - GB)
Oh, this is going to go well.  GPS receivers are going to be rendered worthless, consumers will suffer, aviation will suffer, everyone will suffer except for the FCC guys who get some cash hidden somewhere for them, Falcone, Soros and some investors.  The gutsiest, ballsiest - yet stupidest - thing I read was from the guy who said the problem wasn't LightSquared - it was that GPS receivers were eavesdropping on LightSquared's frequencies (which haven't technically been allocated to them, yet)!
But Hays said GPS receivers are “eavesdropping on signals outside of where they are supposed to be” — in LightSquared’s space.
In granting the waiver, the FCC chose to issue a license modification for LightSquared because of what they term "unique" circumstances, instead of modifying its rules to apply to all providers-- essentially guaranteeing that Mr. Falcone, and only Mr. Falcone, receives this special treatment. (emphasis added - GB)
Must be nice to be able to afford to buy folks like Genachowski and the FCC.  If I had wanted to live in a Banana Republic, I would have moved.  Looks like one moved in here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Odds and Ends Round Up - An Occasional Series

Time for LightSquared to put up or shut up.  As I said on Saturday, broadband company LightSquared tested their plan to put up broadband services next to the GPS band and was to send a report to the FCC this week. 

UrgentComm reports there's a massive gap between LightSquared and the GPS industry. 
Speaking at an event sponsored by the National Space-Based PNT Advisory Board, Trimble Vice President and General Counsel Jim Kirkland recently called on the FCC to focus its efforts on moving LightSquared to new spectrum. “It's time for the FCC to stop squandering resources trying to find a solution to an unfixable problem.  Instead, it should focus its efforts on finding spectrum that LightSquared can operate in — where LightSquared won't interfere with GPS,” Kirkland said.
LightSquared believes there is a fix.  The GPS industry believes there isn't.  Time for the newcomers to put up or shut up.

One of the things I like about radio design is that my circuits don't care how I feel about them.  They don't care if I think they're the most clever thing in the world.  They'll work the way physics demands they work - or not.  Call it trial by fire.  That applies to LightSquared here.  If you guys know a way around, put it up.  If not, go back home.  Personally, I don't believe there is a fix.  If there was something they could do on their end, why wait?  Why not just show you can fix it from the start?

Of course, if we see the FCC give them authorization we'll know that they don't give a crap about protecting existing services.  If the FCC allows it, an astute investigator should look for signs of unaccountable, unearned income in the FCC staff.  Perhaps an extra car, extra vacation home.  That sort of thing. 

On a very different topic, I'm sure most have noticed the Dow is looking pretty crappy.  I got this graph in my daily mail from
The chart shows (as it says) the core holdings of the big institutional investors.  You'll see the obvious increasing channel since August of 2010.  Around March, the index fell out of the channel, below the support line, but continued to climb only now with the resistance line (doesn't want to go above) being the former support line (doesn't want to go below).  This is referred to as "climbing a wall of worry".  And then in mid-May, it broke that second support and has been falling ever since.  Not exactly free fall, but not good either.  On this indicator, I don't see any natural place for this to stop. 

I think it's going to be a rocky summer.

Oh, and I should let my loyal readers know that I am not a lesbian. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Is It Malice or Stupidity? Part 2

Last night, a friend sent me an email pointing out how the city council of Cedar Falls, Iowa was set to vote on a policy that citizens are required to provide a key that firefighters can use to access their property.   The bill passed on the vote last night, effectively (in my mind) eliminating private property in the city.  I see way too many problems with this idea to ever support it. So what is it? 

To begin with, at this time it does not apply to single family homes, but to apartment buildings with "three or more" units.  A previous law just like this applied to commercial property.  If you own a duplex and rent out half of it, you are exempt; a triplex (obviously) falls under this one.  The articles say they are doing this to comply with the 2009 version of the "International Fire Code".  Wikipedia doesn't have an entry for "International Fire Code", but it wasn't too hard to find it.  (h/t to remixx world). 

The lock boxes that are required in Cedar Falls, from the WCF Courier.  A few seconds of search engine-fu shows it looks very much like a "Knox Box model 1659"

Do you have a problem with this?  I sure do.  To begin with, this is like giving the keys to your house to a total stranger to hang in the open in an unlocked office - with your address on it.  Anyone who wants it is going to get it. 

I guarantee you someone who is not authorized can open that box.  The first thought is to take a sledgehammer, break it off the wall, and open it.  If breaking it off didn't open it, I'd take it home and use a bandsaw.  Criminals might be lazier.  Think you can pick that lock?  I'm sure someone could.  Brute force methods like that aren't very sophisticated.  A social engineering approach should work.  I'm sure you've seen that the operators in 911 call centers and other police dispatchers have been romanced by low lifes, so they can get inside info on where the cops are.  I can imagine someone getting to know a gullible person just to get that key.  It really is "the key to the city".

I find it hard to believe that "the only ones" will be the only ones to get that key.  In fact, a famous case in Seattle rolled up hundreds of thousands of dollars in thefts from use of the Knox Boxes.

So is it malice or stupidity?  In this case, I'm going to go with stupidity on the part of the council.  This is apparently a widespread initiative.  In searching for references I used here, I found links to fire departments doing the same thing all around the nation.  I would hope this would be voluntary - if you want it for those "I've fallen and I can't get up" situations - fine.  If you want to pay for it, fine.  But to make it a legal requirement is going too far. 
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. — C.S. Lewis
It sure will make those "Sneak and Peek" searches easier for the, though, won't it?  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Is It Malice or Stupidity?

I'm sure you all know the old saying, "never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity".  In a way this goes with the saying, "once is an accident, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action". 

While the whole Fed.Gov seems to compete intensely for the title, few would argue FEMA could claim to be the most incompetent agency in the country.  They were the target of the media's attempts to destroy George W. Bush after Katrina, right?  They're not better now, the "thrill up the leg" media just doesn't report on it since The One is in office. 

Courtesy of "The Blaze", we find this story of FEMA malice or stupidity:
Jefferson County resident Jonathan Stewart said he laughed in shock after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) claimed the house his family lost in the deadly April 27 twister was ‘not unsafe to live in’.
Mr. Stewart, family and his "house":
"Not unsafe to live in"?  I suppose the roof isn't going to fall in on them - it's probably in the next county.  No windows to fall on them either.  Nothing except maybe bird droppings. 

Malice or stupidity?  If it's true that "once is an accident, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action", there's more than three of these reported in that Blaze article.  Kinda reminds me of the story about Texas being denied aid for their fires.  Which means both of these are probably purely political decisions. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

More Tales From The Over-Regulated State - A Series

H/T to John at Improved Clinch for this link:  Ninja Bureaucrats on the Loose
”The government,” wrote 50-year-old Denise Simon, “is too big to fight.” With those words, in a note to her 17-year-old son, Adam, she explained why she was committing suicide (via carbon monoxide) three days after 10 visibly armed IRS agents in bulletproof vests had stormed her home on Nov. 6, 2007, in search of evidence of tax evasion. Her 10-year-old daughter, Rachel, was there with Simon when the agents stormed in.
John's money quote was a different paragraph, describing how such unlikely agencies as the Railroad Retirement Board have their own armed agents.  I'd rather emphasize this paragraph:
Agents in some of these entities seem prone to ostentatious shows of force or to sending in armed FBI personnel on unnecessary occasions. There was the November 1997 raid on the Massachusetts pollution-control-technology company owned by James M. Knott Sr., in which 21 EPA agents, many armed, swooped in to collect “discharge” readings - and then falsified the results. Similarly, an April 29, 1998, New York Times story reported that “three businessmen told the Senate Finance Committee today of Internal Revenue Service agents who, with guns drawn, broke down doors, terrified workers and forced teenage girls to change clothes in front of male agents in raids at the men’s homes and businesses.”
and I remember writing about this when it happened:
Consider also the case, now infamous, of inventor Krister Evertson. On May 27, 2004, Mr. Evertson was preparing in Wasilla, Alaska, for a private gold-mining expedition to raise more funds for his research into clean-energy fuel cells. Federal agents in two black sport utility vehicles, waving assault rifles, forced his car off the road. Manhandling him as if he were a terrorist, they arrested, interrogated and jailed him. For what? Putting the wrong shipping label - with the correct instructions, mind you, but still the wrong label - on a box of raw sodium that he sold on eBay.
I see two root cause problems.  First, the over growth of the hydra along with an unending supply of militarized police forces and Second, overcriminalization - or, as I've said many times, we need to throw out around 75% of the CFR.

The Heritage Foundation, (disclaimer: I'm a member, and the extent of that is to having paid "dues" for a couple of years) has produced a book and (had?) a blog called One Nation Under Arrest.  The book is subtitled "How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty".
Heritage fellow Jack Park kicks off the series today. He relates how George Norris, a 67-year-old husband and grandfather, ended up spending almost two years in federal prison. Some of Norris’s paperwork for his home-based orchid business did not meet all of the technical requirements of an international treaty. None of his orchids were illegal to import, possess, or sell, but that did not stop the government from prosecuting and imprisoning him.
A couple of days ago,  Mike over at Sipsey Street said,  "Sooner or later, some Federal DOE thugs are going to get killed doing this, and, I have to tell you, I won't shed a frigging tear for their corpses."  

This was obviously about the DoE SWAT Team invading a California home. Originally reported as being for defaulted student loans, that was later changed to a fraud investigation.  I don't care.

The fracking Department of Education shouldn't have a SWAT Team. They shouldn't be running any sort of warrants, let alone no-knock warrants. I don't care if they were there for some sort of fraud and not because she was behind in her loans. This is a white collar crime with a person that could have been dealt with in a hundred other ways.  The tiniest bit of intelligence effort would have revealed she doesn't even live there.   Instead, they break in like they're trying to take down Pablo Escobar's cocaine cartel.  This.  Must.  Stop. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What's Wrong With The FCC?

I've said several times that I think the Federal Communications Commission has become a useless organization and needs to be shut down - or, at best, made into a tiny administrative office.  Here's a couple of good examples:

The first time I started to think that was when they made broadband over power lines, or BPL, legal (sometimes called  Power Line Communications, PLC).  Assuming you've not read about this, during the Bush administration, under the "leadership" of Micheal Powell (Colin's son), a group of companies petitioned the FCC to allow the distribution of broadband signals over the AC power lines (good summaries here and here).  Eventually, they were granted this privilege.  What's wrong with that?  The broadband signals they want to use are wide bandwidth signals that will cover much of the HF spectrum.  The inescapable physics of BPL says the power lines will radiate that broadband energy, interfering with lawful users.  You see, the spectrum is allocated to users for specific purposes.  Since the HF spectrum is among the first parts of the spectrum ever allocated, the entire HF spectrum is allocated to other users.   What the FCC said in allowing this was "you established users are going to be interfered with, so you can take each other to court".  This was unprecedented in US law!  The US is signatory to treaties that license the HF spectrum to users on a "not to be interfered with" basis.  The FCC was obligated to protect those users, but didn't, saying if you don't like the situation and can't resolve it between you, go to court.  A key fact is that the rule authorizing BPL mandated keep-away zones around the FCC's installations.  This means they knew that interference was unavoidable, and wanted to protect themselves.  An "only ones" behavior - from a different agency. 

I don't want to spend too much time here.  There are many YouTube videos and other sources online that will show you how bad the interference is.  Other nations (Japan, for example) studied the situation and refused to allow BPL.  The point is that the FCC acted in a way they shouldn't and the technical experts were told to sit down and shut up.

The BPL decision was years ago.  Another example is going on today.  A company called LightSquared wants to put up broadband services in a different part of the radio spectrum, adjacent to the GPS services.  This service will interfere with GPS.  While they haven't ruled on the application yet, the FCC is apparently leaning toward allowing it, by asking them to run tests.  Now losing the GPS in your car while you're driving around town is inconvenient but probably not fatal ... most of the time.  Unfortunately, for airlines relying on GPS navigation, it will cause interference and could cause catastrophe.  The aviation advisory group, Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics, puts it this way:
Given the size of the planned deployment, “GPS-based operations below about 2000 feet will be unavailable over a large radius from the metro deployment center (assuming no other metro deployments are nearby),” the executive summary stated. “Given the situation in the high altitude U.S. East Coast scenario, GPS-based operations will likely be unavailable over a whole region at any normal aircraft altitude.”

I should point out that airlines don't generally use GPS for their primary navigation; GPS is a fairly recent system, while aircraft have been flying with radio navigation since the early days of flight. 

And it's not just airplanes or your dashboard GPS that can be wiped out over wide areas.  The WSJ said this:
Public safety officials near the testing area reported LightSquared's tower knocked out their GPS systems in some areas, according to Bill Range, New Mexico's E-911 program director, in a letter to federal officials. On Friday, construction giant Deere & Co. also reported to the FCC the risk of "severe interference" on its tractors GPS systems
from as far as 20 miles away from a LightSquared tower and "a complete loss of service" between four miles and 22 miles.
The GPS signal is set up to be very weak at the receiver to save power, weight and cost on the satellite transmitters, so strong nearby signals can inadvertently jam it.  It's possible that "professional" grade receivers could be modified with the addition of some filtering or other improvements.  If the FCC approves LightSquared's system, are they forcing everyone in the US with a GPS receiver to get it modified or replaced? 

Urgent Communications, a radio trade publication for police and other first responders, puts it this way.    
The question then is: Who is going to pay to fix it? This is what the fight is really going to be about.
I suspect this is a trick question, unless LightSquared has to provide new GPS receivers for everyone.  Otherwise, if local first responders pay for it, the taxpayers buy it, and if the FCC has the pay for it, the taxpayers buy it, too.  

Here's the conundrum.  This is exactly the role that intelligent regulators should have.  The spectrum in question is completely allocated or assigned, and some "bright boys" invent a new system.  The FCC should impartially evaluate the technology and either allocate or reject the application; they should work with the licensed users.  They have legal requirements to not allow licensed users to be interfered with.  Instead of the technical guys evaluating whether or not there's interference, the lawyers set up a confrontational system where they require every license holder to either spend money to change their technology or spend money to fight the interference in court.  That's bullcrap.  The Commission shouldn't be lawyers; it should be engineers. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Let's Tie A Couple of Stories Together

The Economic Collapse Blog ran a story that the Chinese are involved in negotiations to build a 50 square mile city near Boise, Idaho.  This was picked up by WSRA - hat tip for the link.

The Chinese are making more inroads into the US - buying their way in.  They are overflowing with US dollars from the trade imbalance, and we owe them much more.  In effect, they are getting their payback in land and other benefits.  

I've pointed out for as long as I've been aware that the Chinese are getting rid of dollars and going on a buying spree - not just buying gold, say, but buying gold mines and buying up scrap metal lots.  This is more of the same.  Their version of Moody's bond ratings says that we've already defaulted on our debt, so what can we pay them back with?  What do they need the most?  Arable farmland to feed their billions.  Since about 3/4 of the western states are Federally owned lands, what else can we pay them back with.  (Yes, I know their bond rating service is likely biased against us; I think Moody's and the others are biased in our favor.  Would you loan money to this government?)

I think we're seeing nothing less than America being taken apart.  It's the first Nation Going Out of Business Sale.  Not "National".  Not "Nationwide".  It's America's financial collapse hitting the accelerator.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

More Tales From the Over-Regulated State

Tennessee has passed a law that anyone who posts a picture online that causes "emotional distress" to anyone, anywhere at anytime, is subject to fines and or imprisonment. 
The specific law outlaws posting a photo online that causes "emotional distress" to someone and has no "legitimate purpose." While the law does state that there needs to be "malicious intent," it also includes a massive loophole, in that it says that you can still be liable if the person "reasonably should know" that the actions would "frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress."
Seems unconstitutional on its face, but that doesn't seem to mean much anymore.  Just more ways to bend you to their insane wills. 

Read the whole thing.  It's short.

Say, isn't Oleg in Tennessee? 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"The Universal Currency is Energy"

Someone (I think it was R.A. Heinlein) once said that energy is the universal currency.  All transactions between people reduce to transactions about energy.  Think about it: what's the most fundamental of your needs?  Food and shelter.  What is food other than energy to run you?  How do you build your home?  Don't you need energy to make your home livable; to separate the inside from the outside?  If you buy anything, you're trading some of your concentrated energy for someone else's.

For as much of my life as I can remember, people have been preaching that we are running out of oil and we needed alternatives.  I first remember seeing the term "peak oil" invoked in the second 1970s gas crisis, when OPEC was deliberately raising the price of their product to gouge us.  When we started making motions to develop our own resources - rather than just talking about it - the price of oil came down.  A lesson for today?  It seems every 10 or 15 years or so, someone else announces we're at peak oil and the world will soon be ending. 

Environmentalists and other idiots are always screaming how we need green energy or renewable energy; both terms are code.  What they mean is they want to return the world to some idealized pre-industrial state that never existed.  They want fewer people, and some have fantasized about killing up to 98% of humanity.  It's not just about magical unicorn farts to power everything. 

Enter Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute with a great review article "Four Dirty Secrets About Clean Energy".  This is a well thought out piece, and worth the time to read.
  1. Dirty Secret #1: If “clean energy” were actually cheaper than fossil fuels, it wouldn’t need a policy.
  2. Dirty Secret #2: Clean energy advocates want to force us to use solar, wind, and biofuels, even though there is no evidence these can power modern civilization.
  3. Dirty Secret #3: There are promising carbon-free energy sources--hydroelectric and nuclear--but “clean energy” policies oppose them as not “green” enough.
  4. Dirty Secret #4: The environmentalists behind clean energy policy are anti-energy.
Talking about the desire to see humans wiped off the planet may seem like I'm going too far, but it's real.  In 2007, when senator Obama famously said "under my cap and trade plan, energy prices would necessarily skyrocket", he didn't say that it would necessarily kill people on the lower rungs of our society --- but it's hard for me to believe he doesn't know that, if he's as smart as his peg boys say.  Earlier in the week, WSRA linked to Francis Poretto's piece Causes of Death.  If you haven't read that, please do.