Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Our climate, the weather, our grid and the Sun

Sun entering weakest cycle since 1928
NOAA releases new predictions for solar cycle
The sun has entered its weakest cycle of magnetic activity since 1928, meaning fewer solar flares and coronal mass ejections, scientists predicted in a May 8 teleconference. A panel of solar scientists assembled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center reports that the cycle, which scientists believe began in December 2008, will peak in May 2013.

Storms of solar magnetic activity cause flares and ejections that can spit X-rays, UV light and billions of tons of charged particles into space, and toward Earth. These outbursts can make Earth’s upper atmosphere expand, potentially knocking out electrical grids and disrupting satellite communications — and can harm spacewalking astronauts.

“It’s fair to say we probably won’t see a whole lot of solar storms from this cycle,” Douglas Biesecker of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., said at the teleconference. “But a weaker cycle won’t lessen the intensity of the storms, just the number of them.” [...]


I had done an earlier post about the current solar minimum being extended, almost two years longer than it's expected cycle. The decrease in sunspot activity seems to coincide with colder than normal temperatures globally.

I can only wonder, if solar activity can slow down to the point where it extends beyond it's predicted cycle, might it not also move in the other direction too? Sort of like a pendulum, that swings in one direction, then back again an equal distance in the opposite direction? If we see below normal sunspot activity now, will we see higher than normal activity later?

The first article mentioned above made reference to solar storms. The earth has experienced many solar storms in it's past, but not any really big ones since humankind began using electricity on a large scale. The last great solar storm happened in 1859:

Relatively mild sunspot cycle predicted, but even 1 solar storm can damage Earth
WASHINGTON — When the sun sneezes it’s Earth that gets sick.

It’s time for the sun to move into a busier period for sunspots, and while forecasters expect a relatively mild outbreak by historical standards, one major solar storm can cause havoc with satellites and electrical systems here.

Like hurricanes, a weak cycle refers to the number of storms, but it only takes one powerful storm to create chaos, said scientist Doug Biesecker of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s space weather prediction center.

A report by the National Academy of Sciences found that if a storm as severe as one in 1859 occurred today, it could cause $1 trillion to $2 trillion in damage the first year and take four to 10 years to recover.

The 1859 storm shorted out telegraph wires, causing fires in North America and Europe, sent readings of Earth’s magnetic field soaring, and produced northern lights so bright that people read newspapers by their light.

Today there’s a lot more than telegraph lines at stake. Vulnerable electrical grids circle the globe, satellites now vital for all forms of communications can be severely disrupted along with the global positioning system. Indeed, the panel warned that a strong blast of solar wind can threaten national security, transportation, financial services and other essential functions.

The solar prediction center works closely with industry and government agencies to make sure they are prepared with changes in activity and prepared to respond when damage occurs, Biesecker said in a briefing.

While the most extreme events seem unlikely this time, there will probably be smaller scale disruptions to electrical service, airline flights, GPS signals and television, radio and cell phones. [...]

Read the whole thing. It says that sunspot measuring has been going on since the 1750's. When it comes to climate and weather, most of us only think in terms of what we've experienced directly, in our lifetime. But there is so much more historically. It's too easy to get hysterical about climate change, without that historical understanding of past changes and a scientific understanding of all the factors affecting our climate and weather, the sun being the most powerful.

People fear what they don't understand. If we understand the dynamics of climate change on earth, we can adapt to it when necessary and work with the ebb and flow of nature, instead of uselessly struggling to control it. We simply cannot control the sun.


Another article from NASA that mentions the 1859 solar storm:

New Solar Cycle Prediction
[...] It is tempting to describe such a cycle as "weak" or "mild," but that could give the wrong impression.

"Even a below-average cycle is capable of producing severe space weather," points out Biesecker. "The great geomagnetic storm of 1859, for instance, occurred during a solar cycle of about the same size we’re predicting for 2013."

The 1859 storm--known as the "Carrington Event" after astronomer Richard Carrington who witnessed the instigating solar flare--electrified transmission cables, set fires in telegraph offices, and produced Northern Lights so bright that people could read newspapers by their red and green glow. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences found that if a similar storm occurred today, it could cause $1 to 2 trillion in damages to society's high-tech infrastructure and require four to ten years for complete recovery. For comparison, Hurricane Katrina caused "only" $80 to 125 billion in damage. [...]

I'm not saying it's going to happen again soon. But it is likely to happen again sometime. And those who know the history of the sun and it's potential behaviors won't be taken completely by surprise by it. And hopefully, will be prepared for it. Katrina was also predicted, and would have been less damaging if more people had paid attention and acted accordingly.
     

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Obamacare is in trouble, and rightly so

I think Peggy Noonan understands why, and explains it perfectly:

Common Sense May Sink ObamaCare
It turns out the president misjudged the nation’s mood.
[...] I think the plan is being slowed and may well be stopped not by ideology, or even by philosophy in a strict sense, but by simple American common sense. I suspect voters, the past few weeks, have been giving themselves an internal Q-and-A that goes something like this:

Will whatever health care bill is produced by Congress increase the deficit?
“Of course.” Will it mean tax increases? “Of course.” Will it mean new fees or fines? “Probably.” Can I afford it right now? “No, I’m already getting clobbered.” Will it make the marketplace freer and better? “Probably not.” Is our health care system in crisis? “Yeah, it has been for years.” Is it the most pressing crisis right now? “No, the economy is.” Will a health-care bill improve the economy? “I doubt it.”

The White House misread the national mood. The problem isn’t that they didn’t “bend the curve,” or didn’t sell it right. The problem is that the national mood has changed since the president was elected. Back then the mood was “change is for the good.” But that altered as the full implications of the financial crash seeped in. The crash gave everyone a diminished sense of their own margin for error. It gave them a diminished sense of their country’s margin for error. Americans are not in a chance-taking mood. They’re not in a spending mood, not after the unprecedented spending of the past year, from the end of the Bush era through the first six months of Obama. Here the Congressional Budget Office report that a health care bill would not save money but would instead cost more than a trillion dollars in the next decade was decisive. People say bureaucrats never do anything. The bureaucrats of CBO might have killed health care.

The final bill, with all its complexities, will probably be huge, a thousand pages or so. Americans don’t fear the devil’s in the details, they fear hell is. Do they want the same people running health care who gave us the Department of Motor Vehicles, the post office and the invasion of Iraq?

Let me throw forward three other things that I suspect lessen , or will lessen, support for full health-care reform, two of them not quantifiable. [...]

It's worth reading the whole thing, it makes a great deal of sense to me. And if that's not enough, look at some of the details of Obamacare, and how it's likely to affect you:


5 freedoms you'd lose in health care reform
If you read the fine print in the Congressional plans, you'll find that a lot of cherished aspects of the current system would disappear.
[...] A close reading of the two main bills, one backed by Democrats in the House and the other issued by Sen. Edward Kennedy's Health committee, contradict the President's assurances. To be sure, it isn't easy to comb through their 2,000 pages of tortured legal language. But page by page, the bills reveal a web of restrictions, fines, and mandates that would radically change your health-care coverage.

If you prize choosing your own cardiologist or urologist under your company's Preferred Provider Organization plan (PPO), if your employer rewards your non-smoking, healthy lifestyle with reduced premiums, if you love the bargain Health Savings Account (HSA) that insures you just for the essentials, or if you simply take comfort in the freedom to spend your own money for a policy that covers the newest drugs and diagnostic tests -- you may be shocked to learn that you could lose all of those good things under the rules proposed in the two bills that herald a health-care revolution.

In short, the Obama platform would mandate extremely full, expensive, and highly subsidized coverage -- including a lot of benefits people would never pay for with their own money -- but deliver it through a highly restrictive, HMO-style plan that will determine what care and tests you can and can't have. It's a revolution, all right, but in the wrong direction.

Let's explore the five freedoms that Americans would lose under Obamacare:

Read the whole thing. Yikes! Please, lets kill this thing, before it goes any further. Let's improve the current system, not destroy it and replace it with an unsustainable, inefficient government program that limits our choices and tells us what to do, at great cost to us.
     

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

History of Old Houses; If walls could talk...

Well actually, they sometimes do. Andy and I have spent the past couple of months working on one of our rental properties, an old cottage built in the 1920's. Here is a view from the kitchen floor, while I was repairing cabinets:



The former tenants trashed the house, then moved out, owing us three months rent. Trying to fix the damage they did uncovered numerous other long term problems that were not the tenants fault, but had to be repaired none the less. So we had contractors in to do some of the work, while we did much of the painting and smaller repairs and refinements ourselves.

Three rooms in the house had been done out in a beautiful dark wood paneling, installed decades ago. Some of the panels were now ruined, and we could not find compatible contemporary replacements to match them. Rather than rip out the remaining paneling, we decided to paint the damaged walls in a lighter, contrasting color, which has brightened the damaged rooms and given them an interesting chocolate/vanilla, yin/yang effect. Not everyone would like it I suppose, but we like it, and fortunately, so does our new tenant.

Here are some photos. The camera had automatic exposure, and it adjusted for the brightness of the windows. The room interiors are actually brighter than they seem in some of the photos:




Old houses have a past, and when you work on them they reveal glimpses of that past to you. Old wall paper behind wood paneling; windows that were turned into walls, doors and windows that were added or changed, bad repair work, good repair work. Everything that was done by former tenants and owners, that left it's mark behind, adds to the house's story.




We added a front door with a window in it, which has let in more light. We had a glass shop repair person come in to replace some cracked glass in some windows that were painted shut. The new glass is so perfect, it looks like there is nothing there. The old glass panes around it are that old, imperfect sort of glass that shows slight distortions, which only old houses have anymore. I grew up in an old house, so I'm fond of that old glass. As I painted the window frames in the kitchen, I had to admire the craftsmanship that went into the old wood window frames. Try as we might though, we can't get them un-stuck.




When we had the ruined carpets ripped up, it revealed an old wood plank floor, solid and level, but raw, unfinished wood. It would have been nice to finish and restore the wood, but it would have been too costly. We opted to have it covered with modern linoleum, which is easy to clean and looks great.

There is a small bedroom with high windows, that looks like it was meant as a nursery for a new baby, or a bedroom for small children.




In other areas we put in new ceilings and new moldings, and new wall panels and paint where needed. The moldings were tricky, as the walls and ceilings in old houses often aren't perfectly as straight and even as they look at first glance. You have to be creative sometimes and work it to get it just right, which we did. I have to say, I think the overall effect looks great.




If future generations uncover the layers of work we've done on the house, I'm satisfied that those parts of the house's story will be good ones. We've left some of the best features of the past, like the real wood cabinets in the kitchen, and replaced sensible things like the bathtub/shower with modern, leak-proof upgrades to prevent the dry-rot we had to repair this time.




Working on this old cottage brought back memories of the 100 year old house in Connecticut that I grew up in, and the many older homes I've lived in during the years since. Presently we live in a very new house, my first new home. While it doesn't have a colorful past or the "character" that age can bring to a house, a new house does have it's own charms. It's like a blank canvas, waiting for you paint it with your paint, your wishes, your life as you live it. Then perhaps many years after you have passed on, it will then be an "old" house to someone else, who may find the changes you made and think "what a nice old house, it has character".
     

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Is Obama doing with Healthcare What Bush tried to do with Social Security?

This article makes an interesting case for it:

Obama's Ambition: Was His Strategy a Mistake?
[...] He knows he must succeed in passing health care, in some form or another. But should he try to do it with token Republican support?

In the ideologically polarized House, Obama can expect virtually no Republican support. The same could happen now in the Senate and many Democrats are prepared to move ahead on that basis. But not all believe that. Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist and a tough partisan in campaigns, said Obama should resist that course.

Devine argued that, given the state of public opinion and the complexity of overhauling the health care system, Obama should press for a package that can attract genuine Republican support, at least in the Senate, by which he means more than two or three votes. As he put it, while voters have become more comfortable supporting Democrats in the last two elections, "There hasn't been a deep ideological conversion to our side."

A new Gallup poll released this week showed the consequences of doing what Obama has done this year. The survey found that two in three independents now believe Obama's proposals call for too much government spending and three in five think that agenda calls for too much government.

Obama has a tough call ahead. Should he press for passage of a health care bill over near-universal Republican opposition, assuming that he and the Democrats will reap a political benefit for accomplishing something that has eluded others? Or should he make bipartisan agreement a top priority in the Senate, even with a scaled-down compromise, to ease concerns about the size of government and the deficit? [...]

Much of the rest of the article makes some interesting comparisons with George Bush's presidency. Bush also started out with a majority of his party in power, and he tried to use that to push through some of this campaign promises like reforming Social Security and our Immigration Policy. He failed because he did not build popular support for his changes first.

In so many ways, Obama seems to be doing the same thing. I can only hope his worst domestic policies get sandbagged before they can be implemented.


Related Link:

How to Make Health-Care Reform Bipartisan
     

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Imprisoned Iranian Protesters not Forgotten

Global protests over Iranian crackdown
(CNN) -- Protesters in dozens of cities worldwide on Saturday demanded the release of hundreds of detainees in Iran who were arrested in the bloody aftermath of the Islamic republic's disputed presidential election.

Saturday's global day of action across about 100 cities in six continents was organized by United For Iran and supported by several human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders.

In London, England, protesters waved green flags and wore green wristbands -- the color is symbolic of the opposition movement in Iran.

The British protesters outside the Iranian Embassy in London wanted to show solidarity for those Iranians "who feel too intimidated, too fearful" to go back out on the streets to protest, reported CNN Correspondent Paula Newton.

Several of the demonstrations, especially in the United States and Europe, called for Western governments to be more vocal about the reported human rights violations in Iran. [...]

There is a growing, popular global movement in support of the protesters, and increasing talk about stronger economic actions against the Iranian government. Good. It's about time.


Related Links:

Global Solidarity with the People of Iran

Iran: what to expect next?
     

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Obamacare: more government making more problems AND needless, unsustainable expense

Here is a government monster that needs to be killed before it's turned loose:

Inside the monstrous Obamacare bureaucracy



Many people seem to think we just need to get insurance for everyone, but not only is More Health Insurance is Not the Answer, it's actually part of the problem. Too many third parties and bureaucracy actually create administrative costs that are driving up the price of health care. Obamacare would simply expand and feed that problem. We need to simplify insurance and health care billing and bring prices back in touch with reality, using the free market and consumers choice.


Related Links:

Health Care Costs; why the high prices?

Lowering Health Care Costs for Everyone

A National Health Care Preview, and a lesson from Natasha Richardson's experience
     

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Farm Report: Hybrids, Freezer Burn, Egg Count

In a previous post about our new Hybrid Cochin/Bantam chicks, who I called the Three Heathers, I speculated that some of the Heathers might be Heathcliffs. Well as it turns out, two of them are. Here is all of the Hybrid birds together:


In the center foreground is Heather the hen. Behind her are her two brothers, Heathcliff and Heathcliff Too. Peaking in on the right, is our white-faced hen, "Freezerburn". You may recall that she was hatched later than the other three, from an egg I had accidentally put in the refrigerator for two or three weeks.

Andy bet me that it wouldn't hatch after being refrigerated, so I tried it as an experiment, and well, it hatched! She was raised by a Bantam hen who hatched the egg. She turned out smaller than the others, with a white face. I called her "Sputnick", but Andy and Pat call her "Freezerburn" because of her white face and her, uh, history of pre-hatching refrigeration. I've relented and gone with their name for her, because, well, if the shoe fits...




Freezerburn was not accepted by her siblings at first, because she was born later and hatched by a different hen. I had to keep her and her surrogate mom in a separate cage at night, let them loose in the daytime, and put them back each evening. Because of that she was handled a lot and became very tame. When her mother weaned her, Freezerburn imprinted on me for a while, because she had no siblings to hang out with. But slowly, gradually, her other hybrid siblings accepted her as one of the gang.




They hang out together pretty regular now. They all have feathery feet like their mom, so I call them the Feathery Foot Club. They can all fly, almost as well as the Bantam's can, and better than their Cochin mother (who can't really fly at all). The Orange-brown rooster seems to be growing a bit bigger than any of the Bantam roosters, but it remains to be seen if he will grow big enough to cross breed with the Pullets.

The Egg Count for June was as follows:

Pullets had 74 eggs, Bantams had 129, for a monthly total of 203. That's 15 more eggs than the prior month.

Hopefully we will have two more Pullet hens coming on-line soon, as our three new Buff Orpington's are maturing. Here they are with Pat:




One of them is a rooster, so if the Hybrid Rooster doesn't get big enough to cross breed, this rooster may be able to fulfill that role for the bigger birds. The three Orpingtons are living in the nursery section of the coop right now, to get used to being with the flock. They will probably get their first venture outside, free-range, this weekend.

End of Farm Report!
     

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Is Linda the Penguin a Gay Homewrecker?

Same-sex penguin couple split
[...] Male penguins Harry and Pepper had been so content together they were allowed to incubate and hatch an egg laid by another Magellanic penguin last year, zookeeper Anthony Brown said.

"Of all of the parents that year, they were the best. They took very good care of their chick," Brown told the San Francisco Examiner in a story published Saturday.

Enter the widow Linda, who began courting Harry in her partner's old burrow shortly after his death this past winter, Brown said.

"To be completely anthropomorphizing, Linda seems conniving," Brown said. "She's got her plan. I don't think she was wanting to be a single girl for too long." [...]

The zoo keeper goes on to explain that Linda's plan could yet be thwarted, as molting season is coming, which often results in couple's re-shuffling.

Will Pepper win Harry back, thwarting Linda's plan? Stay tuned for the next installment of the continuing drama...
     

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Does Sarah Palin lack broad appeal?

I don't mean with the Republican base, but among the electorate, generally:

Republican pundits open fire on Sarah Palin
[...] Consider a USA Today/Gallup poll released last week. About 7 in 10 Republicans said they would be likely to vote for Palin if she ran for president. Other surveys place Palin in a statistical dead heat with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, the former governors of Massachusetts and Arkansas, respectively, who sought the White House in 2008 and give every indication that they will try again in 2012.

Although any presidential poll taken this far out has to be taken with a sea's worth of salt, that is not the reason so many Republican strategists and party insiders dismiss Palin.

"People at the grass roots see a charismatic personality who is popular with other people at the grass roots. But their horizon only goes so far as people who think like them," said Mike Murphy. The veteran GOP ad man eviscerated Palin -- a "political train wreck," "an awful choice" for vice president, her resignation an "astonishing self-immolation" -- in a column published Thursday in the New York Daily News.

"Professional operatives keep their eye on a broader horizon and understand, without independents and swing voters, she can't win," Murphy said. "She's a stone-cold loser in a general election."

That, of course, is debatable and subject to any number of developments over the next few years. A Palin spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment. [...]

I'm not going to rehash a lot of opinions here. But at THIS point, I doubt she could win a national election, but 2012 is still years away, and a lot can happen between now and then. And who knows what she'll do next? An Independent Conservative Movement? That could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how it's handled. We'll see what happens.
     

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

President Obama and the European Press

European Anti-Americanism in The Age Of Obama
On the campaign trail, Barack Obama promised that he would “reboot America’s image” around the world. Indeed, many Americans who voted for Obama believed that his global popularity would somehow reverse the tide of anti-Americanism that so vexed his predecessor. Echoing this sentiment of Obama as saviour of America’s image abroad, presidential advisor David Axelrod recently asserted that “anti-Americanism isn’t cool anymore.”

In Europe, where anti-Americanism was elevated to the status of a religion during the presidency of George W Bush, the “chattering classes” have, by and large, toned down their criticism of the United States since Obama was elected. In general, European media coverage of Obama has been quite favourable and the vehemence of the anti-American rhetoric has been notably more muted than in recent years. But now, five months into the age of Obama, the highly vaunted transatlantic honeymoon may be coming to an end. During the past several weeks, European media have started publishing stories that criticize Obama and once again cast the United States in a negative light. Could this be a harbinger of things to come?

What follows is a brief selection of European news stories that typify what seems to be a general trend toward a return to more negative reporting about America, its people and its president. [...]

It's worth reading the news excerpts, there are links to their sources, too. The European press started to change their tune not long after Obama won the election, but that process appears to be accelerating now. It seems that German media in particular like to quote American leftists, as "proof" that America really is as bad at the German media continually claims it is, and that Obama is really just "Bush Lite".

The European Union has set itself up as the "alternative" to American power. Anti-Americanism is needed as one of the primary justifications for creating and advancing the power of the EU. They aren't likely to stop whipping that horse.

One day though, they may find they really need us, and we won't be there for them, because we will have followed their example and become too weak to lend them the support they want. They may find they can't have their cake and eat it too.
     

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Obama, the Russians, and Iran. No Democracy.

From the British Telegraph Newspaper:

Barack Obama holds a fire sale of America's nuclear defences in Moscow
[...] It was always in Russia that Obama threatened to do most damage and, as Nile Gardiner has rightly pointed out, these forebodings have been fulfilled. His supposed missile deal with Vladimir Putin (let’s cut straight to the organ-grinder and by-pass Medvedev, the monkey) is very satisfactory to Russian ambitions and realpolitik.

The nuclear power balance, as at 2007, was a Russian superiority of 2,146 land-launched nuclear warheads to 1,600 US; this was counterbalanced by a US superiority of 3,168 sea-launched US warheads to 1,392 Russian and 1,098 air-launched US warheads to 624 Russian. What should also be factored in is the leaking, deteriorating, rust-bucket condition of some of Russia’s deterrent ordnance, although it has already decommissioned the most basket-case Soviet weaponry. The bottom line, however, is that it is Russia which is now in the lead in ICBM development, not America.

For America voluntarily to reduce its nuclear superiority is madness.
Bien-pensant talk of a nuclear-free world displays total stupidity in a global situation where nuclear weaponry is proliferating, not receding. There is even a nuclear bomb in Pakistan, which is teetering on the brink of failed statehood at the hands of Islamist insurgents. Is this a time for America to disarm, to “sell the store” as one trenchant right-wing commentator has already described Obama’s posturing in Moscow?

[...]

It seems certain Obama will sacrifice the anti-missile shield in Europe that would have been our defence against a nuclear Iran after the ayatollahs, with Russian help, emerge as potential vapourising agents of the infidel. The interceptor missiles do not even carry warheads: they rely on an impact at 14,900mph to destroy any incoming missile, so Russian hysteria about this “threat” is synthetic. [...]

Well, the Europeans insisted that we must elect Obama. They wanted him, and now they've got him. Now they want to cry about it? Too bad.

I could almost laugh about it, except when one considers what an Iran with nukes could do to the USA. Thanks to EMP pulses and the earth's magnetic field, they wouldn't even have to land a single bomb on American soil, to deliver a devastating strike against us.

Russia and Iran have much in common. Neither has real elections, or an actually functioning democracy. But then that's not a problem for the American Democrat party these days. Ironically, our "Democrats" aren't all that interested in supporting real democracy, at home or abroad.
     

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Iran: what to expect next?

It's hard to say with any certainty, but George Handlery offers some possibilities:

Duly Noted: From the Rule by Consent to the Rule by Fear
[...] 1. Any reaction to the days past must include Iran. The need is clear. Having witnessed the collapse of several systems, an attraction to follow comparable events develops. Admittedly, in some of its details, the wobbling of Iran’s theocratic dictatorship differs from the writer’s experience. Iran’s system is not supported by the probable intervention of a great power. The security organs of the régime are still obeying orders. Furthermore, a significant segment of the public not only tolerates, but also supports the system. Regardless of the caveats, one can foretell much about the years to come.

A. Iran might be one country but it harbors two societies. Their gears match badly. One of these is rural and pre-industrial. It is mired in an obscurantist traditionalism supported by lacking knowledge. It is also badly educated in areas that determine the modern world. The other society is urban, possesses modern knowledge and skills. Therefore, it can fearlessly connect to the modern world.

B. On the long run, the ruling system is threatened, as it must base its ideology-driven power grab on the weapons-hardware contributions of relative progressives. This means that, the internal enemy’s support is needed to implement the foreign policy the regime’s extremist supporters demand.

C. The political ambitions of the reactionary rulers demand that the contribution to the armaments demanded by their foreign policy and contributed by the modernist group be emphasized. Its will to cooperate will prove to be fickle.

D. The rulers’ ideology makes them not to want to participate in and comprehend the processes that shape our time. Ignoring a suspected process and blocking it at home will still not stop global transformation.

F. The retrograde system, even if, for the sake of utility it decides to enter the modern world, is unfit to survive the consequences of its needed modernization. Ultimate success demands reforms. However, these reforms are not system-compatible. Thus, forces are unleashed that the system cannot accommodate. As in the case of the Soviet Union, to reform the system you need to abolish it.

G. Challenged at home, the clerics will need its hard core constituency’s support. Accordingly, the US attempt to cozy up to them will be resisted.


2. Iran’s rulers, self-deputized to rule in the name of the Almighty, might be able to club down their more moderate opposition. Today the struggle is not yet between freedom and theocratic tyranny. So far, only senseless servitude and the cause of a better dictatorship confront each other. The ruling prophets may disapprove, but the dispute is still about the improvement of the existing system. Characteristically for a pre-revolutionary situation, the leadership is developing fissures. Supporters are mobilized and the masses are appealed to for support. However, as long as the instruments of the power-monopoly (army, police and “party army” thugs) are not yet infiltrated by the doubts that divide the clerical elite, the troglodytes will prevail. This victory will fundamentally change the real agenda of the opposition that will evolve within a decade. The reform’s failure and indications that the system can not be reformed, will create an opposition with a program that is adjusted accordingly. Regardless of the formal terms used in public, the next time the goal will not be reform but revolution. Ultimately, unfolding events will convince a minority as it grows into a majority that clerical rule, whether exercised by bad, good or indifferent mullahs, is unsuited to solve their nation’s problems.[...]

There's more if you want to read it. Good stuff.


There was also this interesting report from a blog, about Amadinejad's speech being interrupted by a power failure, created by a protest launched by twitter users during the speech:

Blackout! The Repression will not be Televised
Ahmadinejad TV speech met by rooftop cries, power blackouts

I couldn't verify the power outage though, in any other media reports.

     

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Cap and Trade: following California's example?

Green nonsense
The 'cap and trade' bill would cost much and deliver little
[...] Waxman-Markey is, ostensibly, a "cap and trade" bill, which would impose substantial costs. One is the direct cost to business to purchase from the government "credits" to emit carbon dioxide, a cost which, presumably, would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Consumers would have to pay much more for electric power, in particular, since it's much cheaper to generate electricity from carbon-emitting fossil fuels than from wind and solar, the sources favored by the Obama administration.

The whole point of cap and trade -- which President Obama is careful not to make explicit -- is to make fossil fuels so expensive we will use less of them.

The president won't call this a tax. But his most prominent supporter in the business community, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, thinks it's one which will devastate an economy already in "shambles."

"It's a huge tax and there is no sense calling it anything else," Mr. Buffett said in a CNBC interview June 24.

We rely on fossil fuels for 85 percent of the energy we use to run our automobiles; to heat, light and cool our homes and offices; and to power our factories. The problem with wind and solar is not just that they are much more expensive than coal, oil or natural gas, but that they can't begin to replace the amount of energy we get from fossil fuels. [...]

California tried to "Go Green" when Gray Davis was Governor. I remember it well, because we lived in California then and owned a restaurant.

The state invested it's money in solar and wind projects, instead of building new power plants. The solar and wind projects were expensive, and failed to produce the needed energy. We ended up with high energy costs and "rolling blackouts". California had to scramble to build additional power plants, the ones they should have built in the first place, but now at great additional cost to the taxpayers. The rolling blackouts were so bad, that many businesses left the state, which also decreased the tax base.

Try running a business with "rolling blackouts". With skyrocketing energy costs, and soaring taxes too. We, like many business owners, couldn't do it. We had to start borrowing money just to stay open. That was the beginning of the end. We closed our restaurant, sold our assets and moved to Oregon.

Meanwhile in California, Gray Davis was removed from office in a recall election. But the state's economy was badly damaged, and has never fully recovered. Trying to "go green" using technology that can't as yet replace fossil fuels, was one of the big contributing factors that has put California into the severe financial distress it finds itself in today.

California has showed us where this path leads. And yet, now we, as a nation, are now going to follow same path, and expect different results?


Related Links:

Harsh Truth About California. And Our Nation?

Green Energy, Blackouts, California and France

Nuclear power now!
     

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Will the US push Honduras over the Edge?

It sure looks like our government is trying to do just that:

Honduras at the Tipping Point
Why is the U.S. not supporting the rule of law?

Good question. We are siding with the dictators of Venezuela and Cuba. Why?
     

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sunday Funnies, 07-05-09





Here is a "ghost" story from my email:

This story happened a while ago in Dublin, and even though it sounds like an Alfred Hitchcock tale, it's true.

John Bradford, a Dublin University student, was on the side of the road hitchhiking on a very dark night and in the midst of a storm.

The night was rolling on and no car went by. The storm was so strong he could hardly see a few feet ahead of him.

Suddenly, he saw a car slowly coming towards him ... and it stopped.

John, desperate for shelter and without thinking about it, got into the car and closed the door, only to realize there wasn't anybody behind the wheel.

And the engine wasn't on!!

The car started moving slowly. John looked at the road ahead and saw a curve approaching. Scared, he started crying, ... begging for his life.

Then, just before the car hit the curve, a hand appeared through the window and turned the wheel. John, paralyzed with terror, watched as the hand repeatedly came through the window, but never touched or harmed him.

Shortly thereafter, John saw the lights of a pub appear down the road, so, gathering strength, he jumped out of the car and ran to it.

Wet and out of breath, he rushed inside and started telling everybody about the horrible experience he had just had.

A silence enveloped the pub when everybody realized he was crying hysterically, and ... wasn't drunk.

Suddenly, the door opened, and two other people walked in from the stormy night.

They, like John, were also soaked and out of breath.

Looking around, and seeing John Bradford sobbing at the bar, one said to the other...

"Look, Paddy ... there's the asshole who got in the car while we were pushin' it !


Also from my email, check out this modern version of the "Noah's Ark" story:

Noah Today
     

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

We can only hope...



Happy July 4th!

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Friday, July 03, 2009

Iranian Regime crushes all dissent. Relentlessly.

Attacks, arrests slowing online news from Iran
(CNN) -- Bloody attacks and midnight arrests, combined with a regime growing more technologically savvy, have begun stemming the flow of online information from dissidents in Iran, activists and human rights officials say.

Access to some social networking sites has been blocked in Iran since the June 12 election

Once emboldened by their ability to dodge the government and spread news about their protests to the world, many in the youth-driven protest movement, they say, are now scared of the consequences of getting caught.

"It's absolutely chilling," said Drewery Dyke, a member of human rights group Amnesty International's Iran team. "The level of fear that has permeated society now, in terms of this issue, is palpable. It's striking.

"There's an absolute hunkering down by the people."


[...]

At first, members of the movement bragged about being able to skirt the Iranian firewall and share their message -- including pictures and videos that showed the scope of their protests and documented government and pro-government violence that helped galvanize international support for their cause.

Now, some say, the government is catching up.

"It's begun to tail off, but not because people aren't taking the video," Nelson said. "There's just no way to get it out.

"Even the really savvy ones, they're having a hard time getting around things just because everything that they've been using is getting blocked quickly."

At least as effective as the online fight has been the violent, real-world targeting of dissidents using the Internet.

Iranian bloggers have been arrested and others beaten by loyalist Basij militia members, Dyke said.

Some formerly reliable sources in Iran now refuse to speak freely on the telephone or ask Amnesty International staffers to stop calling them, Dyke said.

"It hits you in the face; it's extremely frustrating," he said. "They appear to have drawn up the bridges -- hopefully those bridges will come back down soon."

Roya Hakakian, an Iranian-American author and journalist who has stayed in contact with friends and others in Iran, said she heard about one woman being stormed by pro-government militia members for merely stepping out of her car and using her cell phone during a traffic jam near a protest.

Hakakian said she fears not just the clampdown on information now but what may come next.

"Why are they so insistent on making sure there is no communication?" she said, comparing the move to when a fundamentalist government fresh off its overthrow of the Shah of Iran went on a brutal campaign to silence its critics.

"They want to go back to what they have done in the early '80s -- do away with a large number of the opposition that refuses to be converted and refuses to give in." [...]

It is like the '80's. After the overthrow of the Shah, by a coalition of groups working together, the Clerics turned against their fellow coalition members and with brute force crushed them into submission. They are now attempting to do this again, to the reformists among them. They wish to eliminate any semblance of democracy and have a completely theocratic state, a dictatorship run by unelected clerics.

The article goes on to speculate that the quiet from Iran now is not just due only to the crackdown by the government. The political opposition was set up as a political campaign, not a revolutionary movement. But as the government continues to crush that campaign, they may well be turning it into a revolutionary movement. Which is why the Iranian government is moving quickly to terrorize and kill as many of them as possible, just as they did 30 years ago.

Meanwhile, the Theocratic regime also is doing everything it can to put the blame on outside influences:

Report: UK embassy staff in Iran 'face trial'

It's what every fascist regime does. Create a circus, and hope nobody notices what they are really doing? Who are they fooling?


Related Link:

Iranian cleric's "sermon" urges "strong cruelty"
     

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Morse Code VS Text Messaging

I've seen this clip from Jay Leno's show on some Ham Radio sites:


Morse Code-Leno - More amazing video clips are a click away


It's a demonstration that Morse Code is faster than Text Messaging.

At least that's what it seems to be, but some have argued that if you had to send Morse Code over a cell phone, it would take longer to type all the dots and dashes on a cell phone keypad. Maybe, it sounds plausible. I don't do text messaging, so I can't say from experience.

But even if that is true, there may be a way around it. There is a portable accessory, that purports to make Morse Code and texting devices compatible:

Wireless SMS/IM/chat by Morse code
[...] The project's goal is to endow existing mobile devices and create new custom-designed devices with a Morse code text entry/output interface and allow them to tie into existing message-based communication networks such as SMS and IM as well as a new character-based chat medium in which each letter is transmitted as it is encoded. [...]

The author explains that Morse code would indeed be faster than conventional texting. Read the whole thing for the details, it sounds like it has interesting possibilities.

But that's not all, there is another device called "Clique" from Toshiba that also sounds interesting:

The wheel turns. What was old becomes new. Morse Code is back in favor.
Twittering text-aholics will soon have a new plaything: Toshiba has teamed up with American microprocessor giant Intel to produce Clique, a handheld, thumb-operated device that uses only three keys. Text addicts will need to learn Morse code.

Perhaps the most startling features of ‘Clique’ are its uni-directional text stream and its reliance on an old-fashioned technology: 160 year old Morse code. ‘Clique’ users can only text out. Responses are collected by the user’s designated electronic mail account. [...]

Much of the terminology used in computer networking and communications comes from radio terminology. It's interesting to see the many ways in which the two technologies are now converging.
     

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Cell Phone use and Good Manners

I saw this link to WikiHow on my iGoogle page this morning:

How to Practice Cell Phone Etiquette
To most of us, cell phones are a life saver, but rude cell phone users are the thorns in our sides. They're pretty much anywhere that there's a cell phone signal. The thing is, we could all probably use a little primer on cell phone etiquette. After all, most people who are being annoying don't realize they're being annoying. Could that be you? [...]

The guidelines offered would seem to be common sense; most people probably follow them, or at least used to? But as cell phones have become more pervasive, I think people may have become more lax about following these suggestions.

Text messaging has also added a new dimension to the guidelines. As with any rules, there can be exceptions. I guess I find this interesting, because we had owned a restaurant for several years. I had observed that most people instinctively followed these guidelines, but once in a while you would come across someone who was clueless, and had to be asked to step out of the dining room because they were bothering other patrons.

The guidelines are really just about preserving privacy, not being intrusive into other people's personal space, and not ignoring or neglecting people you are actually with. Thankfully most people get it. I hope.
     

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Morse Code Study - Methods, Then and Now

I'm studying International Morse Code to use with Ham Radio, even though it isn't a requirement for a Ham license anymore. I would like to use it with QRP, which also interests me. I have a technician's license, which allows me to use some of the HF bands if I use CW (Continuous Wave, a.k.a. Morse Code). While researching studying methods, I came across this old film of a Morse Code Training Center, from 1941:



Gosh, it looks awful, and I though what I'm doing was hard. Looks like it was much harder in 1941! But I guess their methods worked too, since they graduated all those students.

Nowadays there are two primary methods, "Koch" and "Farnsworth". I've been studying with the Farnsworth technique, using the ARRL's double CD set, "Your Introduction to Morse Code".


I've been studying 15 minutes in the mornings and evenings for over a month now. It was difficult in the beginning (isn't it always), but I'm starting to catch on, and now it's getting easier, and as I learn more it becomes more fun. I'm up to lesson 16.

The ARRL (American Radio Relay League) website has a good Morse Code reference Page:

ARRLWeb: Learn Morse Code (CW)!

A Google search reveals a lot of info too, there are several free computer programs available for learning Morse Code. I had thought there would be a program that would give you the signal, allow you to type the corresponding letter, and give you instant verification if it is right or wrong, but I've yet to see a program that works that way. Does anyone know of such a program?

I'd love to hear from people who have learned Morse Code, and their preferences for what they feel are the best learning methods. Please feel free to share them in the comments section.
     

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