Saturday, June 30, 2012

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

Some of the things I was trying to do today are taking longer than I thought.  As always. 

That's me in the upper right panel. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

More Tales From the Over Regulated State - A Series

In which tonight's episode can be entitled "You Don't Need to Outlaw Guns - You Just Need to Outlaw Shooting".  Either the "Nudge" tactic, or the full linebacker hit tactic.  

The Volokh Conspiracy links to a story of OSHA attacks on indoor shooting ranges.  In an investigation of the Illinois Gun Works indoor range, to borrow the words of Jim Stafford,
One day this feller from Washington come by
And he spied us and he turned white as a sheet!
To quote from the original link:
Many of alleged OSHA violations at the safety training range involved noise exposure for the instructors. Among OSHA’s suggestions were to eliminate training in “larger caliber” handguns such as “9 mm Luger and/or .45 Colt”  and substitute “handguns of smaller caliber,” such as .22LR. And “Prohibition of any shotguns and/or rifles firing in the firing range.” (p. 6). In other words, eliminate training for all firearms except those which are least likely to have the stopping power to be effective for self-defense. And ensure that the range can never provide students with personal instruction in the use of the firearms which constitute the vast majority of firearms which people actually own.
In addition to thinking the noise was too loud (all together now, THEN TAKE SILENCERS OFF THE NFA LIST), they were shocked, shocked! that someone might have to touch a round of ammunition without gloves.  Dudes, if you're worried about the miniscule amount of lead dust in that environment, you're done with your job.  Workplaces are safe now.  Everyone go home and start looking for honest work.  And - seriously - man to man - if you think 9mm Luger is a big, loud  major caliber, you might want to check into an addadicktome or those little blue pills.  Just sayin'...

The one that I got the biggest laugh out of was this:
...employees used Hoppes #9 solvent for cleaning guns, but Illinois Gun Works had not relabeled each Hoppes bottle to list all the hazardous chemicals therein. (pp. 54-55). 
Only an OSHA weenie would complain about this, because most of us love the smell of Hoppes #9!  They even make an air freshener that releases the scent 24/7 so we can get more of it.   Besides, what good does labeling the containers do?  Sure, you should clean your gun with adequate ventilation - anyone with an IQ above room temperature knows this - but simply labeling the chemicals doesn't make them any less dangerous.
OSHA is a serious impediment to business in this country and while I joke about this, they're deadly serious.  In this case, they've assessed fines of $111,000 against this little shop.  Like most government single-issue focuses, they've cycled through the Pareto chart enough time to be just working on unimportant things, but they keep tying businesses up with expensive regulations that lead to tiny marginal improvements if any improvement at all.  They may have improved worker safety 40 years ago, but now they're pretty much useless.   Their terror over the lead dust is a great example.  When the EPA started, there was widespread lead in the environment, and that has been reduced to tiny fraction of what it was, largely by requiring unleaded gas and getting the lead out of paint.  The shooting instructors aren't making lead products, they're encountering micrograms of the metal. 

Personally, I think there might be another dynamic at work here, too.  This shop is just outside of  Chicago.  So what major city is involved in a tax-wasting war against its citizens to prevent the McDonald decision from being implemented?  What city was trying to regulate gun permits out of existence by requiring applicants to travel long distances to practice at ranges that don't exist in the city?  What city is run by Rahm Emmanuel, who served in the same administration as Cass Sunstein, the Czar of Nudge? 

Coincidence?  Oh, I'm sure.  Nothing to see here.  Move along.

The question is whether this is going to spread out and hit many more ranges.  If it does, you can expect fewer ranges, at the very time we need more and more ranges due to the incoming new shooters.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It's Sunset in America

I refer, of course, to Reagan's famous "it's morning in America again" campaign ad as the polar opposite of what I feel after today's ruling from the supremes. 

To be honest, I'm conflicted on this.  While I can't imagine that the law is constitutional, what Justice Roberts said, in effect, was, "We're not your bitches.  We're not going to get into a political shit pile just to bail your sorry asses out.  Congress:  you broke it, you fix it". I can see it as the supremes punting.  This is a similar approach to what blog brother Borepatch says.  The supremes reduced it to a tax, "Own it, Nancy".

On  the other hand, to have the famous "swing vote" justice, Kennedy, go hard line constitutionalist and say, "this whole thing is a fetid, stinking piece of unconstitutional crap" and later in his writing, "it's a steaming pile of Justice Roberts" tells you that not everyone thinks that refusing to deal with it was  a wise choice.  (I admit I made up much of Kennedy's writing, but not his tone.  DOJ - this is called "satire".  Look it up.)

Being serious for a while, what I think really happened is that the Supremes pushed our existing cold civil war, or open source/underground civil war, which ever you call it, a little closer to going hot.  
I worked with a guy several years ago who said, "America's next civil war will be between the 'haves' and the 'have nots', when they are led to believe they have a right to everything the 'haves' worked all their lives for".
Maybe a better way to say that is "between the makers and the takers".

Remember the old saw about the four boxes of freedom: soap box, ballot box, jury box, cartridge box?  It is - remotely - possible we can fix this with the ballot box, if enough people get out to (1) give mittens a mandate beyond the few hundred votes that fraud can give in a given state and (2) the same wave sweeps the Senate and the House.  Because all the stupid party knows or cares about is their power, we really need another one: (3) we whip them all like rented mules until they restore some sense.  It's also possible today's ruling guaranteed getting numbers 1 and 2.  If the people really are 60-40 against Obamacare, those 60% would probably walk through fire to vote him out. 

From what I read on other blogs and in comments, a lot of people are ready to go for the last option.  

For those new around here, I've not sworn loyal to any party, but as fiscal deficit hawk, a small "L" libertarian and conservative I don't have much in common with today's left.  The two parties are two faces of the same ruling class.  They both are continually aggregating power, they both are prone to cronyism with their favored donors,  they both are the problem. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Knew About 100W Bulbs, But Not Fluorescents

In the email today from a Friend of a Friend.
In my home, there are 27 pre-existing 2 and 4 bulb fluorescent light fixtures, all of which use T12 bulbs, the most popular size by far in American homes and businesses.  All of the fixtures in my home use high-efficiency electronic ballasts which significantly boost the lumens/watt and also prolong the life of the bulbs.  Since my home is standardized on this bulb, years ago I bought a large box of replacement bulbs and a case of replacement ballasts. Needless to say, all new fixtures that I’ve put in over the years have been T12-based.
I went to Home Depot today to purchase a new 4-bulb fixture for my workshop in the basement.  To my surprise, there were no T12 light fixtures available.  I went to Lowe’s – same thing.  I inquired at both places why there were no T12 light fixtures available for sale, and nobody knew the answer.  I came home and Googled “T12 Light Fixture” and found out…that the US Dept. of Energy is “phasing out” (that means “banning” for all of you freedom-lovers) the T12 bulb next month.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pissed.  I did some research on the proposed replacement bulbs (T8 and T5) and discovered that they use less energy – and also produce less light. The lumens/watt for both bulbs is about the same for similar ballast technology.  At the Home Depot, it was obvious to me immediately that the T8 shop lights were not as luminous as my T12’s scattered about my basement and garage.
Along with the story, FoaF provided an interesting link to a company who is "making lemonade" out of the new rules and selling new fixtures as "Cash for Clunkers" upgrade.  In it, they say the ban comes from the Department of Energy.  What they really banned, apparently back in 2005, were the magnetic ballasts that are used to start the fluorescent bulb which leads to the demise of the bulbs.  First they were banned in new light fixtures, then all production of ballasts for T12 lamps was banned in 2010.  Why?  Alleged "energy efficiency", although FoaF (a very good engineer) says the new bulbs offer the same lumens/watt as the old ones, and I believe him over the greenies who say it pays for itself in a year.  Of course, they're including "tax incentives" and other use of OPM to pay businesses to make the changes. 

They say there is just about one billion of these bulbs installed in the US.  Talk about a make work/giveaway program!  A billion bulbs that will be replaced - you have to figure a couple of bucks each at wholesale.  With those billion bulbs will be perhaps as many as a half billion ballasts.  That's where the big money is, because ballasts are way more expensive than bulbs.  While you can go to your local big box home improvement store and buy a fixture with two bulbs for $10 to $15, if you go to buy a ballast, the ones sold separately are better quality and considerably more expensive.  (DAMHIK)  A low-end ballast may go for more than that fixture; the better ones a few times its price.  The ballast makers could be looking at quite a windfall here thanks to an overactive Department of Energy.

(T12, T8 and T5 from top to bottom.  The code represents the diameter, not the wattage.  They are typically sold by length, with length corresponding to wattage.  Source

I looked around my house and find a mix of T12 and the thinner T8 bulbs, depending on when the fixture was bought.  I have two T12 bulbs left that are not in a fixture.  I knew to stockpile a few 100 W incandescent bulbs although the later vintage ones sure seem to be crap and fail at an unnaturally high rate, but this is the first I've heard of this one. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Narcissist in Chief

I was going to comment on the president's dual attack on the state of Arizona yesterday, but Francis Porretto at Liberty's Torch did a better job than I had.  Go read...

As PJ Tattler said, Obama went all "Soviet" on them. 
 Obama has written it off, and is now going Soviet on it to make it an example to others.
I've pondered before (for example) the possibility that there might not be a next election, or as I usually say, that the last election was The Last Election.  Many have chimed in on this, and to my surprise, this week, I've heard Rush Limbaugh talking about the possibility elections could be suspended (I've had a bit more time at my desk than usual).  So while I vote "3" in Fran's post, it could also be "none of the above" - it doesn't matter how many people he pisses off because he takes over everything by then.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

What Happens When the Euro Collapses

Tyler Durden over at Zerohedge writes on The Consequences of the Unthinkable: Here's What Happens When the Euro Collapses
As the following image from Spiegel summarizes, three things will happen simultaneously when the unthinkable finally occurs: i) economic output plummets, ii) unemployment rate soars, and iii) consumer prices explode. Of course, this is nothing but merely deferred consequences for Europe partying for over a decade under an unsustainable regime that borrowed from the future (sound familiar?). And now the inevitable hangover. In other words: payback is a bitch.
Feeling a bit more poetic than Spiegel magazine, I think it goes something like this:
from The Gods of the Copy Book Headings - Rudyard Kipling
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A New Historic Low in Class

A couple of days ago, Miquel at Gun Free Zone pointed out the laughably crass Obama 2012 donation website, which says
Let your friends know how important this election is to you—register with Obama 2012, and ask for a donation in lieu of a gift. It’s a great way to support the President on your big day. Plus, it’s a gift that we can all appreciate—and goes a lot further than a gravy bowl.
As Dave Barry says, "I'm not making this up":
Still in the category of "I'm not making this up", the website hasn't scrubbed comments!  At least on a Sunday morning at 11:30, comments are strongly against the idea.  I grabbed these to show you:
I find this fund-raising idea to be horribly crass, and I'd swear this was the Onion or Newsbusters or another parody website if I hadn't gone there myself.  Derek Hunter, columnist and snarkmeister at does a column on it appearing today that sums up a lot of it.
This tactlessness got me thinking – what other sorts of “asks” could the Obama 2012 team come up with?

“Do you have a terminal disease? That’s a tragedy, just as President Obama not winning a second term would be a tragedy. So as you get your affairs in order don’t forget to add the campaign to your last will and testament. Your family can have your furniture; we just want your cash. If you can survive long enough to sell the furniture, that’d be peachy. Cash is king, you know.
We've read this week that Mittens is out-raising Obama, and Obama is outspending his donations.  Despite the high-profile dinners like Sarah Jessica Parker and  Anna (the devil in "The Devil Wears Prada") Wintour, Bamster isn't raising the money.  Bankers gave him far more money in 2007 than McCain; this year they're giving their money to Mittens.  That can only mean the bankers are putting their money on the safest bet.  Obama has been a disappointment to them; one can only disguise the incompetence and dishonesty so long.

Mrs. Graybeard and I were talking about the essential difference between Jimmy Carter and Obama.  Carter apparently believed the crap he spread and walked the walk.  He wore the dopey sweater and kept the thermostat low; he put a solar panel on the White House, and didn't just give our money to a solar electric company. After he was booted out of office, he built the Habitat for Humanity houses.  Obama, on the other hand, is transparently lying: while he tells us about austerity and shared sacrifice, he and his wife live at extraordinary spend rates.  Who would have guessed? 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

And Now for Something Fairly Different

Last night, I was practicing a handful of acoustic guitar songs I'm learning, and then was looking up the videos on YouTube to see how they they played it.  As YouTube surfing goes, I soon came across this song that I've always liked, by Al Stewart.

Every time I look into a historical incident, like the basis of the song, I'm reminded how ignorant I am of history. It's both humbling and saddening.  Stewart himself has a web page that contains his inspiration for the song, a story of the war along the Russian front in WWII.  Of course, I know rough overviews of the history, but the story makes it personal, and YouTube user "circumpunk" put together an effective set of images to supplement the story.

It's haunting.  

And if you like the style, the song and story of Lord Grenville amazed me, too. 

Edit: 1925 EDT- Linked to the wrong song!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Most Obvious Headline Evah

"Obama Campaign Spent More Than it Made in May"  Really?  Obama, the guy who has never seen a federal budget with less than 35% more spending than revenue?  He spends more than he makes?  Would would have guessed?
The campaign and the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee with the Democratic National Committee, raised more than $54 million last month, but they spent $69 million.
 (Lessee, 69/54... 27.8 % more spent than they took in?  Sounds good for him.)  And as Kate Hicks, a Town Hall Editor, concludes that linked piece:
And what has all that money bought them? Statistical dead heats in formerly blue stalwarts like Michigan and Wisconsin.
While I'm on the topic of The One, go read Sultan Knish's latest on Obama, King Con: the Legend of Obama.  
Before Obama lied to America, he lied to the left. Before he cheated us, he cheated them. Now he comes to them with some pink underwear and a tricolor sombrero and the people he conned eagerly cheer for him, the way that Madoff's investors cheered when despite all the investigations around him, he sent them a check.

"If it was all a scam, why would he be sending us money? If it's all a scam, why did he endorse gay marriage and illegal aliens?" That's the mark's question that hangs in the air and there is no answer. The question is already the answer. If you're looking for proof that you haven't been conned, it's the best proof that the con has already happened.
and dig on Sultan Knish's artwork:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Another Head Fake on QE3

This morning, the talking heads were confident that after the Fed's Open Market Committee meeting, a new round of QE would be announced.  Instead, what they did was extend their "Operation Twist" program.  Operation Twist swaps short term bonds for long term bonds, which they say is intended to keep long term bond rates low.  Wanting to keep long term bond rates low is simply to try and keep the market from "getting away from them".  You probably know that a major item in our budget is the interest on the bonds that must be paid.  Many people have pointed out that current interest rates are at historic lows (they are really negative when inflation from QE is figured in) but that if rates were near where they should be based on inflation and not the Fed controlling the rates, say around 8 or 10%, the US would collapse in no time.  This move is to kick that can farther down the road.
This is today's intra-day chart of yield on the 30 year bond (the "long bond"), you can see the rate dive low right after the announcement and then pop back up nearly where it was.  Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider thinks their approach is not going to work.  
Now the incorrect thing you'll hear today is this: That because the Fed says it would buy more long-term Treasuries, and because in theory greater demand for Treasuries causes rates to fall, that the fall in rates is what the Fed was going for.

But actually it's the opposite. Fed easing causes rates to rise, because people expect more growth and inflation and growth and inflation causes people to dump Treasuries.

So the initial drop in rates reflects the market's view that the easing the Fed announced wasn't satisfactory and that the Fed wasn't going to do as much as expected.
More ominously, from my viewpoint, this says the Fed wants inflation.  They are doing all they can to create inflation and gets us out of this mess by creating money from thin air.  If you're retired and living on savings, or saving for retirement, they just put another one in your back.  Oh, yeah - I've been saying this for a couple of years.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More Stories of Executive Branch Overreach

It's getting to be way too old a story and way too repetitive to say the administration is using regulations from government agencies in place of actual laws passed by congress to control behavior it doesn't like.  In this case, according to columnist Katie Kieffer of Town Hall, the administration is using the SEC and specious charges of "insider trading" to try to make Wall Street look bad. 

If you're like me, you're probably thinking those brokerages don't need a lot of help to make them look bad.  In truth the markets and speculators are essential features of a good market economy and no economy does well without them.  Obviously, if you're determined to make the free market look like a failed system, though, markets must be made to look worse than they are.

According to Kieffer, the strategy appears to be to blame the financial problems on "insider trading".  There's one major problem with this:
First, there is no definition of insider trading. Dean emeritus of the George Mason University School of Law, Henry G. Manne, tells TIME Magazine: “Neither the SEC nor Congress has ever defined inside information, nor has either succeeded in specifying the level of significance the information must have to be the subject of a criminal violation.”
This surprised me somewhat, as I am required to take a regular refresher course on the perils of insider trading every year (along with Sorbanes-Oxley, diversity, ethics, diversity, workplace ergonomics, diversity, third party Intellectual Property, diversity, and so on) - I naturally assumed there was a good definition of insider trading. The administration seems to be using the "pornography" definition: they don't know what how to define it, but they know it when they see it - and they see it everywhere.

Like all of these vendettas, it requires a Federal prosecutor with bulldog tenacity, political loyalty, and the morals of a "los Zetas" drug cartel chieftain:
In 2009, at the prodding of New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, Obama appointed Preet Bharara to be the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. Bharara is using unprecedented and unconstitutional tactics to prosecute high-profile “insider trading” cases on Wall Street.

Bharara’s unscrupulous tactics include utilizing wiretaps without probable cause; pressuring lower-level defendants into becoming tattletale “informants” against sexy Wall Street execs; and using circumstantial and emotive evidence to sway juries and judges into handing Wall Street traders record-long prison terms.
To give an idea of the kind of poor ethics I'm talking about, star prosecutor Bharara is alleging "insider trading" for passing on information which was published in the press weeks before the illegally wire-tapped call was recorded!
Using almost entirely circumstantial evidence, Bharara and the Obama Administration accused Gupta of passing “inside” information to Rajaratnam, including “tips” from an Oct. 23, 2008 Goldman Sachs board meeting. However, Gupta’s lawyer pointed to news articles indicating that the information Gupta shared with Rajaratnam was public knowledge as early as Oct. 13, 2008 and FBI wiretaps indicate that Gupta may have called Rajaratnam to simply “catch up.” 
Target of the prosecutorial wrath Gupta is "Rajat Gupta, former head of McKinsey & Co. and a past board of director for both Procter and Gamble and Goldman Sachs."; Gupta is so well respected by his peers that his "...colleagues traveled long distances to offer testimonies of his character and honesty on the witness stand, such as Ashok Alexander, a manager for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who trekked from New Delhi to Manhattan."  

While I don't know much about this story, it's so similar to other stories we've gotten in to over the last few years, that my money is on Gupta being a designated target, and not guilty of anything beyond the technicalities that we're all guilty of every day.  As Katie says,
My assessment is that Gupta is another high-profile victim of Obama’s attempt to deflect blame and sway the public that capitalism is corrupt and more socialist policies (i.e. more government intervention) will solve a government-induced financial crisis.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Greece Votes in the Adults. All is Saved.

Greece voted in the grown ups who realize they need to follow austerity measures, control their insane spending and their welfare state.  Greece is saved!  The European Union is saved!  The world is fine!  What's on TV tonight?

Yeah.  Riiiiight.

The Economic Collapse Blog tells the story.  Go RTWT, it's not very long.
But the truth is that nothing has really changed.  Greece is still in a depression.  The Greek economy has contracted by close to 25 percent over the past four years, and now they are going to stay on the exact same path that they were before.  Austerity is going to continue to grind away at what remains of the Greek economy and money is going to continue to fly out of the country at a very rapid pace. Greece is still drowning in debt and completely dependent on outside aid to avoid bankruptcy.  Meanwhile, things in Spain and Italy are rapidly getting worse.  So where in that equation is room for optimism?

Right now the ingredients for a "perfect storm" are developing in Europe.  Government spending is being slashed all across the continent, ECB monetary policy is very tight, new regulations and deteriorating economic conditions are causing major banks to cut back on lending and there is panic in the air.
We've been granted a little more time to prep.  It may be just a very little, and it may be just a little more than that - but it's not today and it wasn't this past weekend.  Use your time wisely.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Americans Are Waking Up to the Deficit Time Bomb

This morning, Business Insider carried a summary of a Pew Research Center study which shows Americans are waking up to the financial disaster looming ahead.  In the last few years the percentage of people calling the budget deficit the biggest problem facing us has grown from 53% to 69%, a healthy increase.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Republicans were much more concerned than Democrats, with 84% of Republicans saying this compared to 66% of Democrats - which is still a pretty healthy percentage.  Source data is here at the Pew Center.

Let me point out something a little subtle here.  Their table said 84% of R, 66% of D and 62% of Independents said the budget deficit is the largest problem facing us.  If there were equal numbers of the three views in their sample, the percentage "of Americans" quoted in the opening (69%) would be the mean of those or 70.6%.  The fact they say 69% indicates that their sample was weighted away from Republicans. The Pew center has a reputation for being a left-leaning organization and the selection of the sample group they chose, and the text of that article lead to that conclusion, too.

That aside, the problem is that there is no consensus on what to do about reducing the deficit, and neither side in Congress offers leadership.  The general public seems to say that they're concerned about it, but have no idea how big the deficit is and how dire the situation is. The Simpson-Bowles commission, which reported on the problem and potential fixes in 2010 is a good example.  The Pew center pollsters asked their sample group to react to proposals in the Simpson-Bowles report. 
If we look at the acceptable to moderately unacceptable options, you can see a definite "let the other guy pay for it" outlook.  It was "totally unacceptable" to raise gas taxes and reduce federal funding to the states - things that everyone would pay for.  No, raise taxes on "high income earners"; raise Social Security contribution cap for "affluent earners", and create a national sales tax (rich people buy more, so they pay more). 

Sorry, this isn't going to work.  You could take every penny from "the richest 1%" and not be able to run the US at current spending levels for a whole year - let alone continually increase spending as we've been doing.  We're all going to hurt.  We can't put this off on someone else - there will be pain for everyone. 

Bill Whittle says it well in this video.  There will not be an American Economy in 15 years if the CBO is right.  It's not just that the Republicans won't be able to provide the awesome benefits you're expecting; nobody will.  There is literally not enough money in the world. 

The discussion that must happen is how to stop us from following the Eurozone into the abyss.  Most importantly, it needs to be an honest discussion, as free of distractions ("eat the rich!") as it can be. The people may need to lead their leaders.  At least people are beginning to wake up to the problem.  Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Center put it this way:
In my years of polling, there has never been an issue such as the deficit on which there has been such a consensus among the public about its importance – and such a lack of agreement about acceptable solutions.

V'ger Has Left the Solar System

According to my homies at the JPL, Voyager 1 has left the solar system.  Voyager 1, immortalized as V'ger in the first Star Trek movie, is the first object humanity has made that has left the solar system.  She will eventually be followed in that distinction by sister Voyager 2 and the Pioneer 10/11 spacecraft.  Although launched before the Voyagers, the Voyagers have a higher velocity than the Pioneer 10/11 craft, and overtook their distance (all four are going in very different directions).
Voyager 1 is in the 35th year of a 5 year mission.  Her radioisotope thermal generators are expected to keep the few functions running alive until 2025.  Then she will go silent and eventually cool to almost absolute zero. 

If we are lucky, some day a ship from Earth may find her and bring her back to whatever serves as the equivalent of the Smithsonian in those days. 

In all probability, she will simply follow the Newtonian laws of motion, cool to a couple of degrees Kelvin and glide away forever, all alone in the night.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Little Whine With That

Do y'all mind if I tell you something that really annoys me?  It's not just that I want to vent, it's that there's a chance (a snowball's chance in Florida) that some good might come of it.  In the topsy turvy world of the Internet, there's a chance that the exact right person might read this...

Let me tell you something about your old Graybeard that I've never talked about.  I don't like to talk about this, because it might sound like I'm bragging.  I give to a bunch of charities.  I mean a bunch

To begin with, I'm one of those crazy, "bitter clingers" that gives more than a tithe to my church.  I belong to a church with no membership and no formal tracking of who gives what (I was surprised to find there are churches that want to see your 1040 or other proof of income), so it's not forced on me.  On top of that, I give to a couple of faith-based charities that I think do excellent work.

After that, I give to the Moffitt Cancer Center, the clinic that helped save my wife's life.  I give to a few medical-issue charities.  I give to "Toys for Tots", and the "Make A Wish Foundation".  I'm a member of the NRA, the GOA, the NAGR the JPFO; the Heritage Foundation, and more. 

So here's my whine.  It seems the approach everyone uses for fund raising these days is that once they get your initial contribution, they immediately start hitting you up for more.  It's as if the program says, "Hey!  We got a new sucker!" and the frequency of requests skyrockets.  Now, I know that businesses always say it's easier to get repeat business than a new customer, but the charities seem to come close to spending your contribution asking you for more.  I had the same problem with the Stupid party - I know I've mentioned this before.  I gave a modest contribution to the National Stupid Party offices once, and I swear they've spent twice what I gave mailing me to get more money!  

I really don't think I'll ever give to the national political parties again.  I may give to a candidate (and have) because I haven't seen the profligate waste the national party did.  I will probably never give to the Arthritis Foundation again, because - again - I swear they spent more soliciting me for more money than my contribution.  

The tactic that annoys me the most is the "survey".  Typically, the mailing tells you they are trying to get their members' opinions on various issues, but the survey is loaded questions, and always leads to the unspoken "if you think this way, you need to give us more money!". 

It's hard to say who's the worst.  The NRA-ILA sends money requests by the pound, but I've only donated a little extra when they send their "win 21 guns!" contests (I'm trying to modify their behavior).  The best, in terms of not bothering you, is Samaritan's Purse, Franklin Graham's (Billy's son's) charity.  They actually ask you if you're getting too many mailings and to let them know so that they can pare down mailing lists. 

Finally, a tip.  I always check new solicitations against Charity Navigator to see if the charity is rated well.  This isn't always available, for reasons they explain, but they're a good starting point.  And, yes, I've given to them, too.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I Saw the Headline But Didn't Know the Story

So thanks to Popehat for the introduction to Martha Payne, 9 years old, of Scotland.  Martha isn't your typical 9 year old.  Martha has a blog, NeverSeconds where she writes about her life, and most often about her school lunches.  It appears that she would photograph her lunch and comment on it every day.  She wasn't nasty or vulgar; on the contrary, she's polite, well-spoken, and writes with a nice voice.  Over time, her blog started to get popular, and talked about.  Folks liked it.  When she started developing an audience, she started collecting for a charity, so that kids in other places could eat a better school lunch every day, too.  Why does it seem inevitable that, for a while, she was the center of an international news story?

Martha, known as Veg on her blog, posted this yesterday: 
This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today.
Late today, it seems the "Argyll and Bute Council" - the local government - has retreated and is allowing Veg to be herself again. 

Go read Popehat's story - and then go visit Veg at NeverSeconds.  It might just warm your heart.
9-year old Veg.  Clearly a threat to the local order. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Where the Cutting Tool Hits The Metal

The Feral Irishman posts this video, which is among the coolest things I have ever watched.  Yeah, I don't get out much.

Sorry - this video no longer plays.  The owner has marked it Private.

In a class I took once, they taught that the metal essentially liquifies at the point where the tool cuts the metal. The heat of the chips coming off a machine tool can convince you of that, but it's hard to resolve with flood cooling.  The systems that stream cooling fluids onto the work are to keep the tool from wearing out too soon, and keep the work from expanding so much that when you're done machining, it cools off and gets the wrong dimensions.

Whatever is happening, the steel is clearly coming off that tool like toothpaste or another liquid.

EDIT 6/18/12 1725 EDT - the owner of the video has marked it private and removed linking.  My apologies.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Administration Sells Out US Interests - Again

I was going to take it easy tonight.  As I've said before, those "least you should know" pieces are tough to write.  They are literally just scratching the surface of acres of material and trying to narrow it down to what I think is essential - many books have been written on each of the topics I brush over. But I have to pass on these links.  And this almost writes itself. More copy and linky than thinky.

It should come as no surprise that the Obama administration is selling out the US again.

From "It Don't Make Sense", a link to MediaIte, "White House Facing Another Leak As Key Trade Document Hits Media"  The Obama administration has been involved with closed door negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty, supposedly a trade agreement, but one that offers every incentive to foreign corporations and none to the US counterparts.  It also allows an international tribunal to rule on foreign companies' complaints about the US.  From Public Citizen:
“The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of TPP negotiations,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Via closed-door negotiations, U.S. officials are rewriting swaths of U.S. law that have nothing to do with trade and in a move that will infuriate left and right alike have agreed to submit the U.S. government to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals that can order unlimited payments of our tax dollars to foreign corporations that don’t want to comply with the same laws our domestic firms do.”

Although the TPP has been branded a “trade” agreement, the leaked text of the pact’s Investment Chapter shows that the TPP would:
  • Limit how U.S. federal and state officials could regulate foreign firms operating within U.S. boundaries, with requirements to provide them greater rights than domestic firms;
  • Extend the incentives for U.S. firms to offshore investment and [send] jobs to lower-wage countries;
  • Establish a two-track legal system that gives foreign firms new rights to skirt U.S. courts and laws, directly sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use and other laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges; and
  • Allow foreign firms to demand compensation for the costs of complying with U.S. financial or environmental regulations that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms.  - All BOLD added: SiGB
The administration that is constantly attacking American companies for outsourcing is negotiating a treaty to encourage more of it!  The hypocrisy is astounding.  But that's not all.  The Astute Bloggers point out: 
The terms run contrary to campaign promises issued by Obama and the Democratic Party during the 2008 campaign.

"We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications," reads the campaign document. 
Yet nearly all of those vows are violated by the leaked Trans-Pacific document.
I'm not sure I've ever seen such rampant corruption, such blatant lying and just plain evil in my life as with this bunch.  They genuinely hate this country and its people.  They genuinely want to "cut America down to size".  It fits perfectly with Dinesh D'Sousa's model of viewing the US as an evil colonialist state that must be destroyed. 

The Least You Should Know - Small Radio Design

Just kidding...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Least You Should Know – Electronics 2

Basic Analog - Power Supplies

In the simpler days when I first started playing with electronics, 45 years ago, a battery charger for cars or any lead acid battery could be made by using a couple of diodes to rectify low voltage out of a step-down transformer, perhaps with a capacitor to smooth the resulting pulsing DC, like this (ammeter optional):
In addition to charging your car battery, this would run anything that ran on 12V at 1A or less – especially if it was intended to run on a car battery.  The diodes called out, 1N4007, are rated for 1000V reverse.  A 1N4001, rated at 50V, would work fine here.  There’s a series of parts between those two diodes; any one of them would work. 

By the way: it’ll work as well today on starting batteries, or sealed lead acid batteries (SLAs or gel cells).  If you have a battery powered drill with an SLA battery, its charger is probably a lot like this inside.  Not all lead acid batteries, though: with AGM batteries, a little more circuit sophistication helps. Other types of batteries require different types of chargers.  Lead acid batteries work well with constant voltage chargers like this.  Nickel cadmium (NiCd or nicad) batteries work better with constant current chargers.  If you try to fast charge NiCd batteries, they can overheat and explode, so fast chargers should have thermal cutoff systems.  Only specially designed batteries should be charged on a fast cycle charge.  Chargers are usually specified as the percentage of capacity they charge, such as 0.1C (overnight chargers – really 14 to 16 hours at 1/10 capacity).  With chargers that supply 0.1C, Nicads can be left on the charger; higher capacity, fast chargers need to shut down. 

Lithium ion batteries present special problems.  While they charge under constant voltage, a lead acid battery can be left on a charger and it will essentially self-regulate; the term is that it can tolerate overcharge.  A Li ion battery charger must be shut down, it can’t tolerate overcharge.  If left on, it can plate lithium and that can lead to unpleasant things like fire and explosions.  With the exception of managing charge termination, they are considered pretty easy to charge.  This leads to some electronic sophistication in the charger. 

With a conceptually small change added to that battery charger, it becomes a power supply for anything that runs on 12V.  What is added is some way to regulate the output voltage so that changes in the input voltage or the load current drain does not affect the voltage delivered.  Voltage regulators are a topic of their own, and cover a wide range of complexity.  For many, many uses, there are simple, three terminal regulators that will provide great performance for low cost, although they tend to be for only a few amps of current at most.  The only disadvantage of these parts is that they are not extremely efficient. 
Charging batteries is important, and will be close to your number one priority after the SHTF, because without energy nothing is possible.  The series on a small solar power project talks about chargers between your panel and batteries, so I don’t want to go there in this series.  More information here.

This is a good time to talk about a reality in electronics today.  While the vast majority of functions can be implemented with a handful of transistors and passive parts, the level of abstraction in the parts we use keeps going up.  Instead of making a voltage regulator with discrete parts, say three or four transistors, a diode or two and a handful of resistors, most of the time we’ll use a single integrated circuit or IC (and sometimes called a chip).  Because additional transistors on an IC are dirt cheap (literally: the raw material is sand), they can throw a lot of circuit sophistication at a problem and get excellent performance, while simultaneously lowering our parts count.  Going to higher levels of integration – more functions on a chip – makes the products, smaller, lighter, usually cheaper, more reliable and perform better.  Put another way, you couldn’t possibly make even the audio portion of an iPod nano from discrete transistors and other mid-1960s technology.  It would be way too big.  And the amount of memory in one of those things would easily fill a desk if made out of discrete FETs.

The power supply in your PC, and most other modern electronics, is a switching mode power supply, also called an SMPS, or simply a “switcher”.  The way a switching regulator works is entirely different than a linear regulator.  In a linear regulator, the output voltage is essentially compared to a desired reference, and the output raised or lowered to return it to the right value.  It’s on all the time, and adjusted in an analog manner (smooth, continuously changing voltages).  In a switcher, a higher voltage than you want at the output is switched on and off, and the resulting pulse train smoothed out (filtered) to give a DC voltage.  This voltage is compared to the reference, and instead of adjusting the value of the switched voltage, we adjust the amount of time the output is fully on until the filtered voltage is what’s desired.  This process is called pulse width modulation or PWM.
(200 W PC (ATX) Power Supply)
The basic supply shown above as the battery charger is not a very efficient device, 30s to 40s % for example.  By contrast, a switcher can achieve efficiencies of over 90%.  The most efficient switchers have a fixed input and a very stable load, so switchers designed for PCs can be quite good.  If you’re going to put a switcher on a variable AC line (poor regulation of voltage or frequency, like a cheap generator) and put a load that varies tremendously, like a radio that goes from requiring an amp in receive to 20 amps in transmit, the switcher won’t achieve 90%; more like 75-ish percent.  Still, that’s better than 35. 

Switchers have largely replaced “linear” power supplies (transformer, rectifier, and regulator) in most products, but they have a drawback.  Fast switching generates harmonics, multiples of the switching frequency, and these can interfere with radios.  Hams and other radio hobbyists routinely avoid switchers because of this.  It might interest you to know that every military and civilian radio system I’ve worked on since about 1985 has a switcher in it, and we can live with them.   

More analog to follow.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Least You Should Know – Electronics 1

Electronics looks like a giant field to me, perhaps because it's where I make a living and I see more subtleties and nuances than an outsider.  Still, it's a really important field and keeping electronics going (or getting it going again) may well affect our quality of life.

Modern electronics can be broadly divided into two domains: analog and digital.  Analog systems deal with continuously varying voltages or currents.  They don't have to be continuous in time; pulses are often used in the analog domain.  Digital systems deal with voltages or currents that usually occur in only two levels, (on and off or high and low) and use laws of logic to process these signals (you may know the term "ones and zeroes").  There are exceptions to the “two levels” rule of thumb for digital systems that I'll get to down the road. 

Digital is the darling of the modern world; it's hyped in art and song, and systems can be sold simply by adding the word “Digital” to the package.  You've seen “Digital Ready” headphones?  The headphones apply varying voltages to moving coils: continuously varying voltages are the definition of analog.  The world is still changing daily due to the relentless advancement of microprocessors, and the increase in capabilities that they bring.  The “Moore” of Moore's Law is Gordon Moore, founder and retired president of Intel, who observed long ago that the number of transistors in a processor was doubling every two years and predicted that would continue.  Although this can't go on forever, it has remained a remarkably reliable guideline.  We can't keep making transistors smaller and smaller, though.  Eventually, transistors would have to be made of single atoms (they're working on it...), then subatomic particles, and then... well, I have no idea.  Individual quarks?

But...what's a transistor?  Patience, please.  We'll get there.

One of the fundamental building blocks is the diode, a component with two terminals which only allows current to flow in one direction.  The name has two halves: di-, meaning two and -ode from the old term “electrode”.  The diode first appeared as a circuit element long ago, as the simplest vacuum tube, but semiconductor diodes have replaced them for virtually all uses.  Semiconductor diodes – almost always silicon – are faster, lower loss, smaller and cheaper.  An overview of diodes can be found here.  Owners of vacuum tube gear will often modify it to use silicon diodes instead of tubes; when they do so, they get a higher voltage out of the diodes and they need to get rid of the extra voltage to keep from damaging the old equipment.  Because they conduct in one direction, you can easily test them for function using an ohm meter: one orientation of the leads will give a low resistance, and the other direction will be a high resistance. 

Diodes are rated in the amount of reverse voltage they can stand, reverse or PIV (peak inverse voltage), in their switching speed, and in the amount of forward current.  Some have ratings for their forward voltage drop at the specified current.  High current diodes tend to be packaged with large screws or bolts as their terminals, instead of wires.  Diodes are used as switches, blocks to signals going in the "wrong" direction, "rectifying" or turning AC into DC, and special types of diodes are used for a variety of other tasks.  The best known is probably the Light Emitting Diode, or LED. 
Semiconductor might seem like a bizarre term itself, but simply means a material that isn't very good as a conductor or an insulator by itself.  The first one widely used was Germanium, (atomic symbol Ge) but silicon (Si), found in sand around the world, has largely supplanted Ge.  By mixing in atoms of other elements (“doping”), silicon can be made to have an excess of electrons (N-type) or a scarcity of electrons (P-type) compared to intrinsic silicon.  This allows semiconductor designers to customize the conductivity and other properties of the material.  When a piece of N-type silicon is being grown, and the dopant changed to produce P-type material, a PN junction is formed.  A PN junction is a diode, but it's also the basis of the vast majority of semiconductors.  A lot of semiconductor literature talks about the flow of electrons and holes – a place where an electron should be, but isn't in P-type material.  I find the concept of hole flow bothers some people intensely, but not others.  Don't let it bother you.

The next most common vacuum tube, and the next one invented, was called the triode.  It has (surprise!) three electrodes, and the semiconductor equivalent of a triode is a transistor.  A transistor is a three layer device, which creates a pair of junctions on either side of the middle element, either PNP or (most commonly used) NPN.  These layers are called the Emitter, Base and Collector.  They are not usually symmetrical in size, with the collector being the largest of the three.  All three regions have a terminal connected to them. The base is usually the thinnest layer so that electrons speeding from one N region to the other can sometimes reach it without being absorbed in the P layer.  This is called a bipolar junction transistor, or BJT, and while they are economically very important, they aren't the only kind and not the most important kind.
(basic NPN (left) and PNP (right) BJT symbols)
There is another type of transistor that works differently.  In the Field Effect Transistor, or FET, instead of layers, there is a channel connected at both ends – called the source and drain (you can think of something liquid flowing in the source and sloshing out the drain).  FET is pronounced with a short E.  Somewhere between the source and drain is a “dab” of opposite type material called the gate.  The electric field created by voltage on the gate can allow full current flow, or it can reduce or stop (“pinch off”) the flow in the channel.  There are N-channel and P-channel FETs; junction FETs and MOSFETs, ("Moss  FETs") where the gate is a Metal Oxide layer, and MESFETs ("Mess FETS") where the gate is just a metalized region.  For years, the highest performance receivers were based on a FET made from a non-silicon semiconductor, Gallium Arsenide, or GaAs (pronounced gas), called GaAsFETs.  And my personal favorite these days, the PHEMT – the pseudomorphic high electron mobility transistor, a new type of FET with excellent performance in the UHF and microwave bands (Pee-hemt). 

What makes a transistor so important?  All of them are capable of controlling the flow of current in a circuit, and can be used as either a switch or an amplifier, depending how they're configured in that circuit.  A microprocessor, for all its glitz and glamor, is just a huge collection of switches.  With millions of transistors in every microprocessor, and more in every generation since before the first PC, humanity has probably produced more FETs than anything our species has made – even screws or rivets.  I have no idea how to prove or disprove that. 

Analog systems are all around you.  Whether guitar amplifier or iPod, the audio we listen to is analog.  The image on your TV - yes, even digital TV - is analog changes in brightness of a light source.  Remember the smoothly varying sine wave in the AC post?  As the frequency goes up, the AC goes from sub-audible to audio, to ultrasound, through radio, and on and on; there is no upper frequency limit.  All analog.  So let me briefly get into analog electronics and go over some common uses. 

The two most common analog systems, and if you're reading this online you have at least one of these in your house, are power supplies and audio systems.  Power supplies most commonly turn AC from the power grid into DC to run electronic systems, like your computer, but also will turn DC from a battery bank into AC to use anywhere AC is needed (called an inverter – for some reason).  Power supplies run the gamut from exceptionally straightforward and simple to very complex systems that require experts to analyze.  All of the components we've introduced along the way, resistors, capacitors and inductors, play their part in analog systems, along with the diodes and transistors we’ve just introduced.

We'll get into power supplies next.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

An Advise Bleg

Got an AR-15 information request.

Right now, my homemade AR has a very nice scope - a Nikon Monarch - on it for long range shooting.  It's fine for that, but I'm thinking of putting something on it for closer range, more like CQB than benchrest 200 or 600 yard shooting.  Problem is, I'm at that point of not really wanting to spend more than the rifle on the optics, like I would if I put a Trijicon ACOG on it.  Or even a good EOTech holographic sight.  Being an older dude with a constant need for glasses, a couple/few power magnification would be good. 

So what's out there that works OK and doesn't cost an extremity?  Any recommendations for a CQB optic for, let's say $200 and under?  If you have a favorite at under $500, go ahead and mention it.
(me and the AR)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Story of the Day

CSI Athens-Clarke, Georgia.

Police report almost 400,000 toothpicks were stolen from Armond's Manufacturing Company.
Six cases of toothpicks went missing from Armond’s Manufacturing Company Inc., 95 Trade St., about two weeks ago, and another seven cases disappeared last weekend, according to police.

Each case contained 288 packages of 100 toothpicks, which brings the total number of purloined picks to 374,400.

The plastic toothpicks have a total value of $2,808, police said.
This case is especially puzzling since no one in Athens has enough teeth to need one.

No, no, no.  I'm terribly sorry.  As a southerner myself, I apologize for the gratuitous redneck stereotype. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

I Promise to Remain Amateur

In other news, let me say I promise to remain amateur.  Sebastian posts the observation that a lot of commercial gun blogs seem to be starting up.
In what probably ought to be a good sign that guns have gone mainstream, there’s been a pretty epic change in the gun blogosphere in the past year or so, namely the number of commercial blogs, or blogs that have been created solely for the purpose of making money, has exploded. As an indicator for the gun community, this is a positive sign, but I think it’s largely going to make it impossible for the amateur blogging community to grow, and could likely kill it over time. In other words, if you have an established amateur blog, you’ll probably hold on to your audience, but I’m betting starting a gun blog from scratch these days as a hobbyist is likely to be an exercise is failure, if your goal is to get a reasonable number (say 1000 visits a day) of eyeballs. I think this would be the case even if you’re exceptionally good at blogging...
I consider guns to be a main emphasis at this blog (no secret - look in header under the blog name it's right up front!) I see a whole bunch of posts clicking on the tag- four long pages full of them.  But it's not like I do a gun piece every day or every week.  I guess I'm not a typical gun blogger.  To start with, I'm not really opinionated strongly enough.  I've said what I like and works for me, (I've pointed out I really like the Springfield XD series) but I'm not going to try to convince you that your Glock or M&P sucks.  And I'm not going to set myself up as anything other than a student of guns, shooting and the other areas of the hobby.  I consider myself a lifelong learner.  I bow in deference to the encyclopedic knowledge of Tam, Keads, and many others. 

Sebastian points out that the essential difference between professional and amateur blogs is how they manage links:
Commercial blogs have a strong incentive to be self-referencing and not to link heavily, or at all, if they can help it, to outside sources. Every link you provide to another blog hurts your Google Page Rank and helps that blog’s Google Page Rank. There’s also the common wisdom that it’s good practice to keep people on your side, and not give them paths to stop reading your site and start reading someone else’s. So if you’re a commercial blog, you’re really mostly interested in generating original content, and not getting people into the habit of leaving your site to go read what someone else wrote.

In contrast, amateur blogging, which is what gun blogging has been for most of its history, thrives on the conversation that happens across the whole community, which generally means fairly gratuitous linking when it comes to hot topics. In this type of model, it’s easier for upstarts to get noticed, because if they join in the conversation, even if that means antagonizing the right people, they can carve out a place for themselves within the community...
So I promise to remain an amateur blog - if not downright amateurish.  I will link to the rest of the community when I get ideas or content from them for the same reason I put footnotes in journal articles - it's polite to credit where credit is due.  I will comment to add knowledge, if I have any worth adding.  If I know something, I see no reason to keep it to myself. 
And BTW - your gun sucks! 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

China's Electric Car Dominance? Not So Much

A couple of years ago, New York Times op-ed columnist Thomas Friedman wrote in "Their Moon Shot and Ours" that China was treating the development of the electric car as an equivalent of the Apollo program.  He famously included this phrase, a candidate for one of the Most Wrong Things written:
Sure, the Moore’s Law of electric cars — “the cost per mile of the electric car battery will be cut in half every 18 months” — will steadily drive the cost down, says Agassi, but only once we get scale production going. U.S. companies can do that on their own or in collaboration with Chinese ones. But God save us if we don’t do it at all.
The problem is that there is no Moore's Law of electric cars.  I talked about in this very space, not more than a few weeks ago (without specifically saying "there is no Moore's Law of electric cars").
Battery research is slow compared to the semiconductor "internet speed" we're used to.  Think of how a battery works: two different materials give and take electrons at a voltage potential determined by the way the universe was put together.  All of the simple combinations have been tried and new ones are being researched daily.  The limits, though, are imposed by the universe.  In semiconductor work, the same materials are always worked on, the techniques for putting down dopants and photoresistive masks is all that changes.
Unlike Times columnists, engineers have to work with what's called "Reality", and in this case China is realizing widely useful Electric Vehicles just ain't happening, yet.  Business Week reports the central planners are cutting their plans for their EV production.  While they planned to be producing half a million cars per year in just 3 years,
"Developers have yet to achieve breakthroughs and will be lucky to sell 2,000 cars this year, mostly taxis. The government has hedged its bets by broadening the industry's official goals to include cleaner gasoline engines," according to a recent Associated Press article on the subject. "Officials including Premier Wen Jiabao started acknowledging last year that progress was slow and developers need to improve quality instead of rushing models to market." 
In fact, while the fanbois may be expecting EV development to be growing wildly, it's slowing and going into a decline phase - because the battery technology just isn't there and that just makes the cars not cost effective.  Design News reports:
That may be why EVs and EV batteries aren't doing very well in the US, either. Sales of the Chevy Volt have been slow. Nissan sold 370 Leafs in April, 579 in March, and 478 in February. A123 Systems, an EV battery maker that was granted up to $249 million in funding from the Department of Energy, posted a first-quarter net loss of $125 million and is said to be struggling.
Moreover, as we've reported before, industry analysts expect huge lithium-ion battery gluts over the next few years. Bloomberg News reported recently that venture capitalists are hesitant to lend support for EV-based efforts. "The only thing that would cause America to be all electric cars is to lose the economic trade war with China and have it imposed on us," a venture capitalist told Bloomberg.
To borrow a phrase from Barbie, "Battery design is hard".  China doesn't have any special, magic unicorn poop battery formulas that we don't have.

Electric cars kind of suck right now.  To be more polite, you can say they're not ready for prime time.  The idea is tantalizing, but the implementation has a long way to go for, as I said before, anyone who drives more than 40 miles a day or who needs actual power to carry something.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What The Apocalypse Looked Like in 1986

I was over at Business Insider, wasting time, and stumbled across this great video.  The story - which was about commercials Ridley Scott made - said:
This ad's political content was considered so controversial at the time that the big three TV networks refused to air it.

Remember the good old days when a national debt of $2 Trillion seemed apocalyptic? Now we almost borrow that in a year.  As Bugs Bunny says, "My stars..."

(In case you don't recognize the name, Ridley Scott was the director of the first Alien, and has a movie coming out this weekend called Prometheus.  He has a talent for dark, scary, sci-fi.) 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I Think I Found My Retirement Place

In the emails from friends today, a "secret" NATO submarine base in Norway is for sale:
According to Yahoo, NATO spent almost half a billion dollars building this thing, and is willing to sell it for $17.3 million. 
The full above-ground space measures 13,500 square meters, including the opening at the side of the mountain. It's the 25,000-square meter space within the mountain that makes it oh-so-interesting, though. While you'll find mundane rooms like ordinary offices inside the property, it also has a dry dock for submarines and boats as well as a tunnel system, because no hideout or lair is ever complete without them.
Gosh, 38,500 square meters of living space.   I don't even have 38,500 square feet of space.  Not even 3850 square feet in the house.  I could use a lair.  Why is it that only super villains get to have lairs?

The way I figure it I should just be able to say that I basically have the financing.  You know how the President said the border fence was "basically done", when the DHS said almost 5% was built?  Well  I basically have $17.3 million by that standard.  OK, not really.  I basically basically have $17.3 million by that standard.  If basically basically = 5% of 5%...

You Know It Has to Happen

(Cagle Cartoons)
You know it will happen, because any interaction with government wherein a civilian says, "No" eventually ends with guns in the civilian's face.  What I want to know is what piece of law gives that ass clown Bloomberg the right to do what he's doing?  Most tyrants pretend to be following the law, right?

Given the petty tyranny of NYC, why would any company want to move there?  Why would any tourist want to go there?  Plays, museums, sports...?  That's nice, but you willingly go into a place where you're not allowed to defend yourself, not allowed to get the salt you may want in your meals, certainly not allowed to smoke anywhere bystanders might be, and now you're not allowed to get the size drink you might want - what else?  Plus, it's a magnet for lunatics from all over the world.

Confidentially, Mayor Bloomy, I don't need to do any business with anyone in your city and see no reason to ever visit.  If I want to smell urine, I can do that any time.  If I need New York levels of intensity, there's a bus station not that far away.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Even Allies Abandoning Obama

Forbes carries a story by Kenneth Rapoza, a dedicated supporter of Obama, reporting on how the left is abandoning the President. Rapoza gives his bona fides:
My former Chicago-based editor from Dow Jones even mailed me a T-shirt with Obama’s slogan on it.

I wore it to bed.

Until I got sick of it.

The shirt. Not the slogan. Or Obama, necessarily.
The left falling out with Obama is good for a couple of reasons: first, it shows that the liberal base realizes that Obama is not one of them and is disenchanted, and second, it shows that at least some of the left is intellectually honest.   Borepatch, for one, frequently comments that we need a higher quality left, and perhaps there is some.

The crux of the article is that the left is saying, via Huff Po, and Move On.  He reports:
The left was mostly raptured into political heaven four years ago when they elected Obama on bended knee.  He spoke about things dear to their hearts: closing Guantanamo Bay. Ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Getting tough on bankers.

Guantanamo is still open. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down, but the military presence remains. (Smacks of imperialism. That’s something the left hates as much as libertarians do.) Then there’s the president’s bit about getting tough on bankers. Where has the White House come down hard on Wall Street? Fuhgeddaboudit. This is New York!
The comments he quotes from the leftists are quite interesting.  They include:
  • Re: Obama is a psychopath; reminds me of Stalin
  • Re: Write-in Kermit the Frog!
  • Re: Bush mighta been better.  Hello!  
One of the things that the commenters are upset about is the use of drones against US citizens and the president's "kill list" - it's also encouraging the left hates this as much as we do.  Which brings us to another supporter who has turned on the president, a White House informant who has leaked information to The Ulsterman Report in Obama In Serious Trouble – And That Makes Him Very Dangerous (h/t to CA at Western Rifle Shooters Association).  This guy is allegedly an insider - who has been part of the crew since the campaign.  They obviously believed in Obama, "drank the kool-aid", and now is trying desperately to get the crew out of power.  The informant tells Ulsterman of disturbing things going on at the White House in Barack Obama's High Tech Snuff Films: (WHI is short for White House Informant)
UM:  The president you mean?  He watches videos of the drone attacks?

WHI:  Yeah – like it was…like it was porn.  I can’t emphasize…I don’t think I’m painting a clear enough picture here for you of how this thing has people really freaking out inside the administration.  It’s good on one hand because it’s got more of them willing to talk…but…the fact it’s gotten this bad…these drones…an American president who has the video sent up to his personal study so he can watch them over and over again…like I said – sh-t ain’t right.  And more and more people are figuring that out – and that is what has Jarrett concerned.  But even she…Obama won’t listen to her on this one.  Those drones are the one thing he really feels he has control over…all the rest…he’s been told what to say and where to go…when to wake…when to sleep…but the drones.  The drones are all his – and he ain’t given those up.  For nobody.

UM:  So Jarrett is against the use of drones?

WHI:  No-no-no…I ain’t said that.  Far from it.  The drones are all part of this…the big big picture here…what she’s concerned over is that her boy…the president…he’s gotta get it under control…his obsession with using them like he has.  The weekly meetings, the kill list…I mean c’mon now…he’s got his own personal kill list.  The guy who campaigned against Bush era interrogations…Obama don’t interrogate.  He picks a name off a list…some of these people have beenU.S. citizens…he picks that name off a list and orders the kill.  Then he gets the video confirmation of the kill…and he watches it.  Over and over and over again.
UM:  This is sickening.  What you’re telling me…this is disturbing on a whole other level.
I can only read from the emphasized text that they truly are planning to use the drones against US citizens on US soil.  There's much in there about conflict with the military in the use of drones here, but the stroke of a pen puts them under Eric Holder, or Janet Incompetano and takes them away from military control.  You should read those two articles in the Ulsterman report.  They are eye-opening.
(the problems start when the prez starts to believe these images)

EDIT: 6/5/12 1932EDT - Forgot the label again.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sunday Miscellany

Mrs. Graybeard and I are heading out and about today, and I'm not sure I'll have time to post much, so just some odds and ends.  Tomorrow is our 30th wedding anniversary, and we're taking the opportunity to just celebrate and enjoy.  Went to dinner last night, and probably will tonight, too.  There were too many times when I thought we'd never get to have 30 years to let it go by uncelebrated.  There's a fun show in a nearby town which we've never gone to, so that will be part of the day. 

For Lawyer With A Gun, who posts the news that he's now a proud daddy, and for my own son who now has his first, the best baby instructions evah:
I have to say I can't look at this without at least a chuckle - if not laughing out loud, and I hope it gets the same reaction from everyone. Don't remember where I got it - it's been on my machine since 2009.

Ya'll have pleasant Sunday...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Friday Was a Very Scary Day

I've got to tell you that there were times on Friday that I thought the Big Collapse was upon us. 
  • DJIA was down, but only 2.2%
  • Dollar was down a few tenths of a percent.
  • Oil was down 3.8%
  • Gold was up 4.2%
  • Silver was up 3.5%
Oil being down (it's $83/bbl now, down from over $100 a few months ago) says that the speculators believe that the future needs are low - which means global slowdown/recession.  Probably the spookiest thing was that the yield on Swiss bonds went negative.  That means you had to pay the Swiss government for the privilege of loaning them money.  Since the dollar was down (with so much bad news in the Eurozone, I would think money would flow into the dollar) the world's view of the dollar as a safe haven doesn't seem to be there any more...for good reason.  Apparently, they seem to think of Switzerland as that safe haven.  But things stabilized as the day ended, and the financial EOTWAWKI didn't materialize.  

Make no mistake, it's ugly out there, though, and only going to get uglier.  The world's central banks are in a vise, and even Fed spenders say they can't do a round of QE because of the inflation they're causing (see below - about 10% year to year). Phoenix Capital Research, the guest contributors of that piece on Zerohedge, also penned this one:  Why This Time IS Different and the Central Banks Won't Be Able to Stop The Crisis
  1. The Crisis coming from Europe will be far, far larger in scope than anything the Fed has dealt with before.
  2. The Fed is now politically toxic and cannot engage in aggressive monetary policy without experiencing severe political backlash (this is an election year).
  3. The Fed’s resources are spent to the point that the only thing the Fed could do would be to announce an ENORMOUS monetary program which would cause a Crisis in of itself.
With regard to number 2, you might say "since when did the Fed give a damn about the little people?"; I would just say it's not so much that they are concerned about political backlash (although they might like the power Obama has granted them) as much as being lashed to the back of truck and dragged through the streets - or lashed to the nearest streetlight or phone pole.  You should RTWT.  If you've got the nerve.  
courtesy of Shadowstats