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, April 29, 2010

Busting the Bank Deregulation Myth

The Democrats claim the Republican's caused the financial crisis by deregulating banking rules. But DID they? Not according to the facts:

We Didn’t Deregulate
[...] The great villain in the deregulation myth is the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1999, which repealed some restrictions of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, namely those preventing bank holding companies from owning other kinds of financial firms. Critics charge that Gramm-Leach-Bliley broke down the walls between banks and other kinds of financial institutions, thereby allowing enormous systemic risk to percolate through the financial world. This critique is the keystone of the “blame deregulation” case, but it doesn’t hold up: While Gramm-Leach-Bliley did facilitate a number of mergers and the general consolidation of the financial-services industry, it did not eliminate restrictions on traditional depository banks’ securities activities. In any case, it was investment banks, such as Lehman Brothers, that were at the center of the crisis, and they would have been able to make the same bad investments if Gramm-Leach-Bliley had never been passed.

Another common claim, that credit-default swaps and other derivatives left unregulated by the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 were a cause of the financial crisis, doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, either. Research by Houman Shadab of the Mercatus Center has shown that this argument is undermined by its failure to distinguish between credit-default swaps, which are simply insurance against loan defaults, and the actual bad loans and mortgage-backed securities at the root of the crisis. Stricter regulation of credit-default swaps wasn’t going to make those subprime mortgages any less likely to go bad.

And it’s not as though our regulators have been hamstrung by a lack of resources. Government budget figures show that inflation-adjusted spending on finance-and-banking regulation has gone up significantly over the last 50 years, from $190 million in 1960 to $2.3 billion in fiscal 2010. Total real expenditures for finance-and-banking regulation rose 45.5 percent from 1990 to 2010, with a 20 percent increase in the last ten years. That spending rose by 26 percent during the Bush years, and by 7.1 percent in 2009. While these data do not say anything about the regulators’ effectiveness, it is reasonable to assume that a dramatic increase in their budgets is not a sign of radical deregulation.

To be sure, there has been a great deal of deregulation in some sectors of our economy over the last 30 years or so — the airlines, telecom, and trucking, just to name a few — but practically none of it has been in the financial sector or has had anything to do with the current crisis. Which is to say, the Obama administration’s regulatory proposals rest on imaginary foundations. And while the president’s populist criticism of greedy executives and unbridled capitalism may make for good headlines, it has nothing to do with the actual problem. This was that the FDIC, the Treasury Department, and the Federal Reserve created a housing bubble by encouraging a decade of careless lending. When the federal government guarantees bank loans or assets, banks have a weaker incentive to evaluate loan applicants thoroughly, and a stronger one to engage in risky behavior. When things are good, they make high profits; in the case of a catastrophic downturn, it is the taxpayers, not the banks, who foot the bill.

The financial-reform legislation currently under consideration in Congress does nothing to address the Fed’s cheap-money policy or the unsustainable subsidies that government still provides to homeowners and mortgage lenders — the main causes of the housing bubble. Instead, our would-be reformers assume that increased federal control of the economy, the appointment of a new federal czar with the power to curtail the pay of executives in businesses the government now controls, or the creation of a Bureau of Consumer Protection (the zombie version of Senator Dodd’s Consumer Financial Protection Agency) will set things right. The proposed regulations don’t attack the problem of excessive leverage. They don’t reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They don’t guarantee that taxpayers won’t have to pay for the future errors of bank executives who, cheered on by their government enablers, take on excessive risk. The “reformers” simply wish away the root causes of this crisis: the “too big to fail” mentality and crony capitalism.

Crony capitalism means that not everybody plays by the same rules. Allowing financial institutions such as Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and investment banks to maintain significantly smaller capital reserves than commercial banks, while implicitly guaranteeing their obligations, was a critical part of the financial problem. [...]

Read the whole thing. The REAL problems are not being addressed.

As I've noted before, the Republicans did try to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but were blocked by the Democrats:

Our Democrat-Created Crisis: They blocked a Reform bill co-sponsored by John McCain

See the video at the link. The Democrats accuse the Republicans of racism for trying to reform Fannie and Freddie. The Democrats prevented reform, and continued to push loans to people who were not qualified to have them.

Bad loans and lending practices were at the heart of the financial crisis. If the Republican's are guilty of anything, it's allowing and enabling the Democrats to create this crisis, and then orchestrate it to advance their Big Government agenda.
     

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Now I know

I am a: Glock Model 22 in 40 cal
Firearms Training
What kind of handgun are YOU?

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Greece bailout drama: It's only just begun

Apparently, the problem has not been solved, only delayed. Ultimately, it looks like many of the EU countries are looking to one country to bail them all out: Germany.

The Euro Project’s Knockout Flaw
The European Union (EU) has temporarily solved the crisis involving the euro, the EU’s common currency, by bailing out Greece. Temporarily, because no one believes the problems are over.

Greece, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, is one of the 16 countries which use the common currency. To stop its financial problems from dragging the euro down, the 15 other eurozone countries worked out a €45bn emergency funding plan. They declared that they were prepared, together with the IMF (which is to guarantee a third of the sum), to give Greece a €30bn credit line if interest rates become too high for Athens to borrow the necessary funds on the financial markets. In return, Greece has promised to cut its budget by 10% of its GDP in the next three years. The deal has temporarily restored the markets’ confidence in the euro.

There are at least three reasons for skepticism.

First, it is simply impossible for Greece to cut its budget by 10% of its GDP in three years without having the option of devaluating its currency to make its products cheaper on the international markets. The Economist argues that the €45bn rescue plan has “merely bought time – three years, in effect, to contain the adverse consequences of a possible Greek default.” The magazine states, moreover, that Greece is in need of a rescue plan closer to €75bn.

Second, Greece is not the only eurozone country facing default. The budgetary situation in the other PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) and Ireland is equally precarious; that in France and Belgium is not much better. How are countries which might soon need help themselves, expected to help Greece? The blind cannot lead the blind. The main reason why France and Belgium agreed to help Greece is because they count on receiving help themselves when in need. Everyone, however, is expecting help from the same country: Germany.

[...]

Third and most important, however, is the basic flaw of the euro project. It is economically flawed because it is politically flawed, and it politically flawed because, as the Dutch professor Jaap Koelewijn pointed out, it is culturally flawed. The euro is doomed to fall because of insuperable cultural differences.

[...]

In the southern countries, governments are characterized by a higher degree of corruption, which is generally accepted and, up to a point, even considered benevolent and beneficial, because it is compensated by the government’s inefficiency and sloppiness in collecting taxes. The southern citizens do not expect much from the state, but the state does not expect much from them either. Southerners do not trust the government, but the political system works and is not even perceived to be oppressive because the state in return adopts a laissez faire attitude: it does not worry about being cheated by the citizens. Outwitting the taxman is generally accepted behavior and may even make a man so popular that he can rise to the political top. This is what happened with Silvio Berlusconi in Italy.

Before the euro was introduced, the states in Southern Europe made up for their losses in taxes by occasionally devaluating the currency as a method of indirect tax collection. The introduction of the euro, however, has made the latter impossible, and has put pressure on the governments in the south to improve their efficiency in collecting taxes. As the latter would make these governments hugely unpopular – by breaking the existing modus vivendi, a workable system which so far had not been perceived to be politically oppressive, they would in fact become oppressive – they preferred to accumulate huge budget deficits. When the euro was introduced, the EU authorities imposed upon the eurozone countries the obligation to keep their budget deficit below 3% of GDP and their government debt below 60% of GDP. To hide their real performance from the EU authorities, the southern governments cheated and fixed the figures in the same way that their own citizens had always been allowed to cheat.

The EU is now forcing the Greek government to clamp down on its citizens in a fashion which is incompatible with the political culture in Greece. If Greece fails to do so, the Germans will be forced to bail them out. The latter, however, is perceived by German taxpayers, who rebel against being forced to pay for the “cheating Greeks,” as unacceptable political oppression by the EU. [...]

So somethings gotta give, somewhere. Where will the breaking point be? North or South?

The article goes on to predict that culture will prevail over monetary policy. Apparently, even George Soros is predicting the collapse of the Euro and the breakup of the European Union.     

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SACHS OF S#!T! Goldman-Sachs get's bailout?

That's what Neal Boortz says:

LOVIN' THE HEADLINE WRITERS

This headline from the N.Y. Daily Post today:

SACHS OF S#!T!

Actually, I enjoyed seeing the Goldman Sachs execs get hammered yesterday. Can't believe I was rooting for Carl Levin. Dogs and cats sleeping together. I don't really know if Goldman did anything fraudulent when they first created and sold the subject security ... but it doesn't take a lot of brain-power to figure out that once they clearly understood that the investment was a pile of s#!t they should have stopped selling it to investors. Then there's this ... Goldman is actually supporting The Community Organizer's so-called financial reform plan. Why? Because it's a bailout deal, that's why. If the financial regulators in Washington are ready to bail out Wall Street firms who screw up, doesn't that encourage these firms to take unrealistic financial risks? We will have a system that protects Wall Street while the investors are pretty much on their own!

No --- I'm not for unfettered free markets. There are laws against fraud, and those laws should be enforced vigorously. Let's see ... back to law school ... what constitutes fraudulent activity? When you make a misrepresentation of fact to some individual with a goal of causing that individual to act against their own self-interest, that would be fraud. If you sell an investment to someone, telling them that this investment is sound; and you know at the time that the investment is actually a pile of crap ... and the investor acts on your information to their detriment ... you've committed a fraud.

The problem here is that the power-hungry politicos in Washington will use this Goldman Sachs incident to further increase their power - to tighten their grip on Wall Street. This will be a major argument in favor of their regulatory make-over, all the while leaving Fannie and Freddie alone.

Warning: bad language in video. [...]

Follow the link to see the video.

And yes, Fannie and Freddie, Government created entities who are at the center of the financial crisis, remain untouched.

In 2005, John McCain sponsored a bill to reform Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae:

Our Democrat-Created Crisis: They blocked a Reform bill co-sponsored by John McCain

If McCain's bill had passed, the financial crisis could have been averted. But the Democrats stopped the bill, and now they are using the resulting crisis to further their agenda: more government control, to solve a problem they created in the first place.

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Is Mexico going to be our Zimbabwe?

Police state: How Mexico treats illegal aliens

I won't quote from the above article, but it deals with the hypocrisy of Mexico criticizing Arizona, as that state tries to protect itself from violence spilling over into it from it's border with Mexico.

The article speaks the facts. What concerns me is, that as the corruption and violence in Mexico worsens, it will continue to affect us adversely.

I'm reminded of South Africa and Zimbabwe. South Africa had plenty of problems of it's own to struggle with, when across their Northern boarder in Zimbabwe, the corrupt government of Robert Mugabe ran that country into the ground, forcing millions of people to flee across the Southern border into South Africa, looking for food, shelter and work.

South Africa already had high unemployment. Zimbabwe refugees have only made that situation much worse, as we have seen in South Africa's own immigration riots. I often wonder why the South African government doesn't work to topple Mugabe's regime, so that the millions of Zimbabwean's in South Africa could then return home and rebuild their country. Zimbabwe as it is today, is a terrible drag on South Africa.

My point in the comparison is, that we don't only have and interest and a need to protect our own borders; we have an interest and a need to see the deterioration in Mexico halted, and ideally, reversed. They are too close to us, and too integrated with us, for us to remain unaffected by whatever happens there.

We don't need a corrupt basket case festering on our Southern border, dragging us down with it. Mexico needs to change. For the better, not the worse, as it's doing now. IMO, Molly-coddling the current Mexican government is not going to make things better.
     

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Big Government is OUR fault?

Apparently, there is a case to be made for it:

What Made the U.S. Government So Big?
If you're going to argue that the size of government is the defining debate in modern politics, you should probably explain why the government is so big. It's not because of new laws. It's because of old laws.

David Brooks latest column argued that "as government grew," moderates and independents recoiled and conservatives revolted. Brooks is right that people are angry. Four out of five Americans don't trust the government according to a new Pew poll, the highest level of public dissatisfaction in history. But that anger has much more to do with the recession -- plus a dash of complex conservative angst -- than with Obama's new spending initiatives.

[...]

In short, our government is growing because of what past presidents have promised and voters have consistently supported at the polls: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Federal Unemployment Tax Act. Clive Crook put it nicely: "Big Government is no longer a prospect to ward off. That choice has been made."

That statement is powerful, and it has at least two implications. First, we need to stop pretending that Democrats suddenly "have become the government party." Every party is the government party when it controls the government.

Second, now that we've made the Big Government choice, we have to pay for it. The David Brookses of the world need to explain to Americans that this isn't about Obama. It's about all of us, collectively, making decades of promises that we haven't promised to pay for. We will need new taxes, or dramatic and potentially painful reforms to our entitlement programs. That is where this debate should be.

I'm afraid that it's all too true that people are only worried about big government now because the economy is in bad shape. But it's still true that we can't keep spending money we do not have. We have to get spending under control. The government needs to stop wasting money. It's the wrong time to be expanding government even further, unless your goal is to collapse our economy and destroy our political system.
     

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

How quickly they grow. And fly too!

I had published this photo previously, taken on Easter Day:



Here is how the little babies look today:



They have gotten so big, that they jump out of their container every time I open it now. And they don't just run around, they fly too. So today is the day they got moved outside, to the nursery in the chicken coop:



They have a heat lamp there, for any really cold nights we might still have, and a separate run outside. They can see all the other chickens, and vice-verse, so they get used to seeing each other before we introduce them into the general population, in about two weeks. Perhaps sooner, we'll see how it goes.


     

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Earth Day: absurd & alarmist predictions of 1970

The following post was from Neal Boortz on "Earth Day" last Thursday. It shows how ridiculous and alarmist some environmental "experts" can be:

OH ... AND IT'S EARTH DAY

Well Bravo Foxtrot Delta. Earth Day. Quick ... let me eat some granola and recycle a newspaper.

Well ... I really must do something to celebrate Earth Day ... so how about this. I'm going to share a little list with you that was lifted from the libertarian website Reason.com. These predictions were made on Earth Day 1970. That was my first full year of talk radio, and I'm sure we were talking up these points back then.

So ... read and enjoy.

Earth Day Predictions, 1970

"We have about five more years at the outside to do something."
• Kenneth Watt, ecologist

"Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind."
• George Wald, Harvard Biologist

"We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation."
• Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist

"Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction."
• New York Times editorial, the day after the first Earth Day

"Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years."
• Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

"By...[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s."
• Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

"It is already too late to avoid mass starvation."
• Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day

"Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions....By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine."
• Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University

"Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support...the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution...by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half...."
• Life Magazine, January 1970

"At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it's only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable."
• Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

"Air pollution...is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone."
• Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

"We are prospecting for the very last of our resources and using up the nonrenewable things many times faster than we are finding new ones."
• Martin Litton, Sierra Club director

"By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate...that there won't be any more crude oil. You'll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill 'er up, buddy,' and he'll say, `I am very sorry, there isn't any.'"
• Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

"Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct."
• Sen. Gaylord Nelson

"The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age."
• Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Air Force X-37B Spacecraft to Launch Tonight



Air Force's Mystery X-37B Robot Spaceship to Launch Today
The United States Air Force's novel robotic X-37B space plane is tucked inside the bulbous nose cone of an unmanned rocket and poised for an evening blastoff from Florida tonight on a mission shrouded in secrecy.

The spacecraft, called the Orbital Test Vehicle, is poised to launch atop an Atlas 5 rocket from a seaside pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Liftoff is slated for sometime during a nine-minute window that opens at 7:52 p.m. EDT.

[...]

"On this flight the main thing we want to emphasize is the vehicle itself, not really, what's going on in the on-orbit phase because the vehicle itself is the piece of news here," Payton said.

Secrets of the X-37B

The on-orbit tests, Payton said, are classified
like many Air Force projects in space to protect the nature of the X-37B's "actual experimental payloads."

But the X-37B is designed to stay in space on missions that last up to 270 days long.

For this first test flight, the Air Force wants to see if the X-37B, which resembles a miniature space shuttle, can actually launch into space, open its payload bay and deploy a set of solar panels to keep it powered for months at a time. This demonstration flight is also aimed at testing the X-37B spacecraft's ability to fly itself back to Earth and land on a runway at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The key question for the Air Force: How expensive and how much work will it be to turn the X-37B spaceship around for a second flight? If the answer is "too long and too much" it may affect when the X-37B and its sister ship -- a second Orbital Test Vehicle already contracted by the Air Force -- fly again, if ever.

"If that's the case, it makes this vehicle much less attractive to the future," Payton said.

Currently, the Air Force envisions launching the second X-37B, presumably the Orbital Test Vehicle 2, sometime in 2011. [...]



If these tests work out, could this "mini" shuttle eventually be a less-powerful replacement for our current space shuttle fleet, which will be retired soon?
Unlikely, because of it's size. And it won't ready anytime soon. It could lay the groundwork for developing a new kind of space shuttle for people, but that would be a long way off. That's unfortunate, because if Obama succeeds in canceling NASA's Constellation program, we will be facing an unknown period of time with America having no viable manned spacecraft. We will have to depend on the Russians for transport, indefinitely.

And this spacecraft really is small. Look at the human figure in this diagram. Look at the size comparison with the Space Shuttle:



The X-37B is meant to be a small, reusable "robot" ship. It's not clear if it could even be adapted to transport any amount of people. I think it's only meant for cargo missions, satellite retrieval, and for experimenting with technologies for reusable spacecraft.

IMO, we need to keep the Constellation program and it's Orion Spacecraft in production and on-track. It could be ready in three years, and it can hold up to 6 astronauts. It will be cheaper than our shuttle fleet to build and maintain, release us from relying on the Russians, and keep lots of American jobs. Jobs that actually produce something.

Click here for lots more photos and diagrams of the X-37B spacecraft.
     

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Here comes the sun, in very High Definition


NASA Releases Stunning Images of the Sun
Astonishing new pictures that could help unlock the secrets of the sun have been released by NASA.

The dramatic videos and images -- 10 times clearer than high definition TV -- show giant flares and clouds of ionized gas erupting from the surface of the star.

One video captured a blast known as a coronal mass ejection, in which the same amount of material contained in the whole Mississippi River is ejected at one million miles per hour -- in 30 seconds.

The images were taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.

The satellite, which carries four telescopes along with a plethora of other high-tech equipment, will examine the sun's magnetic field and its impact on the Earth's atmosphere and climate.




There are a bunch of new photos, checkout the slideshow.
     

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Monday, April 19, 2010

British Conservatives: Left of US Democrats


Britain’s Ominous Smiley-Face Election
With a general election set for May 6, the two main parties have, as Peter Goodspeed notes in Canada’s National Post, busied themselves “adopting U.S. policies, personnel and practices.” The British press, too, is full of talk about “presidential-style” TV debates and “first lady politics”. The Americanizing of the British election becomes even more evident if one listens to Conservative party leader David Cameron, who routinely references president Barack Obama – as an apparent inspiration – and who has even, on a few occasions, cited John F. Kennedy as “a great American president.”

But despite the US-UK “special relationship,” the British, as well as other Europeans, misread American culture. They admire the US’s vitality, yet believe it to be entirely separated from its traditional, Constitutional values. [...]

Read the whole thing. Yikes. British conservatives offering plans for a "national army of community organizers", based on the teachings of American Marxist Saul Alinsky?

Not much of a choice, IMO. Thatcherite conservatism seems vanquished.


Also see: British Conservatives: where are the real ones?
     

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

A pussycat encounters an iPad

The interactive touch screen is not harmed by cat claws. The kitty (inadvertantly) demonstrates a few of the iPad's features:


     

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Obama's "Devastating" Plans for NASA

President to Outline His Vision for NASA
President Obama will seek to promote his vision for the nation’s human space flight program on Thursday, just two days after three storied Apollo astronauts — including Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the Moon — called the new plans “devastating.”

In an announcement to be made at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the president will personally talk for the first time about the sweeping upheaval of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s human spaceflight program outlined in his 2011 budget request: canceling the current program that is to send astronauts back to the Moon, investing in commercial companies to provide transportation to orbit and developing new space technologies.

[...]

Mr. Obama’s budget request called for the cancellation of Orion crew capsule, which was to be used to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and then to the Moon, as well as other components of the current program known as Constellation.

The president will propose that a simpler version of the Orion be used as a lifeboat for the space station. Russian Soyuz capsules currently provide that function. Because the Orion lifeboat would not carry astronauts to the space station, it could be launched on existing rockets.

[...]

“There has not been a well-articulated plan and vision,” said Edward F. Crawley, an engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who served on the blue-ribbon panel that reviewed NASA’s human spaceflight program last year.

Others find the essentials of the plan flawed, not just the presentation. In a letter to Mr. Obama, reported Tuesday by NBC News, Mr. Armstrong, the commander of Apollo 11, along with James A. Lovell Jr., the commander of Apollo 13, and Eugene A. Cernan, the commander of Apollo 17, wrote, “For the United States, the leading space-faring nation for nearly half a century, to be without carriage to low Earth orbit and with no human exploration capability to go beyond Earth orbit for an indeterminate time into the future, destines our nation to become one of second- or even third-rate stature.”

In a letter released Monday, 27 NASA veterans — including Eugene F. Kranz, the flight director who presided over the safe return of the crew aboard the crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft in 1970 — asked Mr. Obama to reconsider the “misguided proposal.”

The reception from Congress has so far been mostly chilly but mostly from representatives in states that are home to the NASA centers that would be most hurt by the changes — the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Johnson Space Center in Texas and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. [...]


A great deal of money has already been spent on developing the Orion spacecraft and the Constellation program. Cancel that now, and all that money is wasted.

The Orion spacecraft is supposed to be our replacement for the space shuttle. Canceling it leaves us with no spacecraft. We will be 100 % dependent on the Russians for transporting astronauts, and we will have to pay them a fortune to do that for us.

What kind of behind-closed-doors deal has Obama struck with the Russians? This seems to benefit them the most.

I'm all for more private enterprise in our space program, but this is so wrong in so many ways. Wasteful, and the shenanigans with the budget, well, read the whole thing.

Killing our space program. More Change You Can Believe In.


Also See:

NASA's Planned Return to the Moon - Canceled?

NASA's Constellation Program
     

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Farm Report: New Chicks and a Rooster Coup


Here is a photo I took of our new Leghorn chicks that we got from the local Feed Store. They were about two and a half weeks old when the photo was taken, which was Easter Sunday. They are growing fast.

In the last report, I mentioned that the Bantams where hatching chicks, five and one in process. Well the 6th one died not long after hatching (it's true: never count your chicks before they're hatched). Then, the 5th one died when it fell into the dogs water dish and drowned.




So there are four left, it looks like two little roosters and two hens. One of the hens is a runt, she lags behind, but manages to survive thus far.

There was a bloody coup in the coop last week. Literally. My poor little white Bantam rooster was covered in blood. The two larger feathery-foot hybrid roosters ganged up on him and bloodied him pretty badly. He survived, but is no longer the Alpha rooster; he's now a reluctant "Delta", though he still keeps the other two on their toes, giving them a hard time.

The Egg Report for March

Full size hens: 79 eggs. Bantam hens: 96 eggs.

Total for March: 175 Year to date total: 355


End of Farm Report!
     

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Congressman Paul Ryan has Answers

Tax Collecting for Obama’s Welfare State
[...] In theory, it’s possible that Democrats could have passed a health bill that actually made durable reforms in the health entitlement programs that would have improved the medium and long-term budget outlook. But that’s not what they passed. No, new law makes the health entitlement much worse by adding tens of millions of people to Medicaid and a new insurance-subsidy program offered to persons getting insurance in the so-called “exchanges.” CBO expects the cost of these entitlement expansions to reach $216 billion in 2019. Further, the cost would escalate every year thereafter at a very rapid rate, just as Medicare and Medicaid have for more than four decades.

The Democrats respond by saying they also slowed the cost growth in Medicare. But, for starters, their cuts in Medicare do not cover the full cost of their entitlement expansions. That’s why they also raised taxes — by more than a half trillion dollars over ten years. Under the legislation President Obama just signed, federal health entitlement spending goes up, not down. Moreover, the cuts they do impose in Medicare do not in any way constitute “reform” of the program. For the most part, the big savings comes from paying less to hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and others for the services they provide. In other words, it’s a price-control system.

These kinds of cuts have been passed by Congress many times before. They have never worked to permanently slow the pace of rising costs because they don’t do anything to make the delivery of health services any more efficient than it is today. Over time, arbitrary price controls imposed by the government always drive out willing suppliers of services and lead to access problems. That’s not entitlement reform. It’s government-enforced rationing of care.

To slow the pace of rising costs without harming the quality of American medicine will require restructuring the tax code and entitlement programs to promote a vibrant marketplace in the health sector, with strong price competition and consumer choice. That’s the vision Congressman Paul Ryan has laid out. And it’s both genuine health reform and entitlement reform too. [...]

Indeed! Here is a link to Ryan's website, where you can learn all the details:

A Roadmap for America's Future

Congressman Ryan is one of the best things the GOP has to offer right now:

Paul Ryan - a man to watch #12

He has answers and ideas that can actually work.
     

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Today's Neosocialists, and their methods

Marx Would Be Impressed
[...] Today's neosocialists are smarter than their ancestors. Instead of outright takeovers, they are achieving much the same goal through rigid regulations. ObamaCare is a prime example. Health insurers will eventually be private in name only, as the details of their policies will be dictated by governmental decrees. About the only thing companies will have any autonomy over--perhaps--will be their corporate logo.

Entitlements go hand in hand with sweeping, overbearing regulations. President Obama wants higher education in this country to be free of charge, which is why his Administration is pushing for a government takeover of student lending. With such powers it will be but a wee stretch to intrude even further into the governance of the nation's colleges and universities--including, ultimately, admissions.

Senator Chris Dodd's (D--Conn.) recently unveiled package of financial regulatory reforms is a neosocialist's dream. It is also destructively stupid. The bill doesn't address the key causes of the recent economic crisis: the Fed's too loose monetary policy, the behavior of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in buying or guaranteeing almost $1.5 trillion in junk mortgages and the failure to properly regulate credit default swaps and other derivatives.

Dodd's punting on swaps is astonishing. Years ago Washington should have mandated that such instruments go through clearinghouses so there'd be full transparency and proper margin requirements. After all, classic derivatives such as soybeans and currency futures have had margin requirements and clearing mechanisms.

In the name of fighting Washington's too-big-to-fail doctrine for major financial institutions, Dodd's bill is a de facto institutionalization of them. Financial outfits that are deemed a threat to financial stability will actually be protected by the government. The bill establishes a $50 billion fund to deal with big failures, but the fact that such a fund exists tells the market that when trouble comes big banks will be saved. Thus these biggies, like Fannie and Freddie, will have lower costs of borrowing--debt is by far the biggest component of their capital--which will put their smaller competition at a crippling disadvantage. [...]

In a recent post I addressed how Fannie and Freddie are being protected while their competitors, who have already paid back money, are being unfairly penalized.

And where is this all leading us? The Big get Bigger, the small disappear:
Moreover, the bill doesn't address the problem small businesses have with the current credit system. Bank examiners are applying a mark-to-market mentality in evaluating bank loans. This is an unfair bias toward bigger-sized borrowers and, of course, the debt-hungry U.S. government. Thus the paradox of today: bargain-basement rates of interest for larger firms and higher costs--or no credit at all--for smaller borrowers.

With favored access to low-cost debt the big will get bigger--and they will be beholden to Washington.

Dodd's scheme would create a new regulatory bureaucracy, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), with sweeping powers for itself (and the Fed). Chief among its tasks would be assessing risk of banks and their products and activities, yet Washington has demonstrated that it is incapable of judging risk. Washington would have vast sway over the operations of the U.S. financial system. In this new world banks would have to get permission from Washington for any innovation. If an institution incurred Washington's displeasure, bureaucrats could order divestitures of businesses or could even put a firm out of business. [...]

Read the whole thing for more details. Government is creating the problems, not solving them.
     

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What can the Swiss teach us?

Plenty, apparently:

Learning from what works
Low taxes and financial privacy laws should be emulated
[...] In many ways, Switzerland seems unlikely to be such a long-term global success story. It is a small country with religious and language differences; nevertheless, the Swiss have managed to live peaceably together for a long time. It has few natural resources, yet it has managed to have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. It has a world-class health care system, which is privately run. Health care insurance is subsidized, and everyone has access regardless of income, but there is no "public option."

Switzerland is not perfect, but it is clean, prosperous, well-managed, pleasant, humane and very free. In the more than three decades I have been coming to Switzerland, I have been convinced that the United States and the rest of the world can learn from many things the Swiss have done. The Swiss are practical rather than ideological, but they do revere liberty. They protect private property and free markets and restrain themselves from rampant deficit spending. The Swiss maintain a sound currency, which has been rising against the euro, dollar and pound. Capital, goods and services, with few exceptions, move freely into and out of the country.

Long ago, the Swiss understood that most things government needs to do and constructively does are at the local level. So, unlike in most modern nation-states, local government has the bulk of the resources and activities, while the central government remains relatively small and less important in the daily lives of the people. In the U.S., roughly two-thirds of government is at the federal level, and one third is at the state and local level. Switzerland is just the opposite, with roughly two-thirds of government being at the state (canton) and local level. Both the United States and Switzerland are federal republics. If one reads the Federalist Papers and the other works of the American Founding Fathers, it is clear they envisioned a nation that operates much more like Switzerland than one with the large central government the U.S. now has.

The maximum marginal tax rate at the federal level in Switzerland is about 11.5 percent, while in the U.S., it will be more than 40 percent as a result of Obamacare and the planned expiration of the George W. Bush tax-rate cuts at the end of this year. In Switzerland, maximum income tax rates in the cantons range from 10.9 percent in Zug to about 30 percent in places like Geneva. In the U.S., state and local income tax rates range from zero in places like Texas and Florida to roughly 12 percent in New York City and California. Thus, the overall maximum income tax rate in Switzerland ranges from roughly 20 percent to 40 percent, depending on location, while in the U.S., the maximum rate ranges from 40 percent to 51 percent.

Switzerland also does not impose a capital gains tax, and most cantons allow large deductions for interest and dividends. On the negative side, Switzerland imposes a value-added tax (VAT) and a very small wealth tax. On the positive side, the average combined federal-canton corporate tax rate is 21.3 percent (and may be as low as 11.8 percent in some places) while in the U.S., the average combined federal-state rate is more than 40 percent. [...]

There is a right way and a wrong way to tax people. The right way does not sink the ship. No country is perfect, but we can always learn from what works.


Also see: The Swiss, and their Guns

     

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Is everything becoming a game? Literally?

Why games will take over our lives
(CNN) -- If you think an electric toothbrush is high-tech, wait until you hear about the Internet-enabled version.

Jesse Schell, a game designer and Carnegie Mellon University professor, says toothbrushes will be hooked-up with Wi-Fi Internet connections within five years.

The point? If the entire Internet knows how often you brush your teeth and for how long, there's an incentive to brush more often.

Toothbrush makers could offer rewards for frequent brushers, too. Say you brush your teeth twice each day for three months. A company like Crest or Procter & Gamble could reward you with coupons for more toothbrushes, since your well-used bristles would probably be frayed by then.

Schell says dental hygiene -- and, really, just about everything else -- will become a game. He thinks the "gamepocalypse," the moment when everything in our lives becomes a game, is coming soon -- if it's not already here.

The Web-connected toothbrush is just one example Schell touched on during a recent interview. Here's an edited transcript:

CNN: You've said games are showing up all over the place. What do you mean by that, exactly?

In short, we already see games creeping into our everyday lives in all kinds of funny ways. You go to Starbucks, and you get points if you have a Starbucks card. And, in fact, they have a whole leveling system. The more times you visit, the more you move from level green up to gold level, with special privileges and free soy milk.

Already, we have this whole system of economies floating around out there. And at the same time, we have all these technologies showing up that are allowing us to track new things, things that we couldn't do before.

CNN: What are we tracking now that we couldn't before?

A new example that's kind of a popular one is this new game Foursquare, which is a game that works off of the GPS in your phone.

We normally think, 'Oh, the GPS in my phone is useful in case I need to get directions to somewhere.' But there's no reason that your GPS can't track your location all the time. And, in fact, why not make a game of it?

So in the world of Foursquare, you get territory points based on all the places you visit. If you are the person who visits a place more than anyone else, you can become the mayor of that place, unless someone else visits it more than you, and then they take over the mayorship of the place.

New video gaming systems are coming out that track every joint of your body. It's basically going to become a normal thing for us to allow Microsoft to put a three-dimensional camera on top of your television set looking at you, which sounds like a Big Brother scenario if ever I heard one, but, still, it's what we're going to allow.

CNN: Do you think this will go so far that we'll be living a game?

I think people will find a great deal of their lives co-opted by games, sort of like how we saw advertising co-opt huge amounts of our lives in the 20th century.

CNN: Has it already happened?

I jokingly call this convergence of games into reality the "Gamepocalypse": the moment when every moment of life is actually a game. So many people have been interested in the topic that I made a blog called Gamepocalypse Now.

Do you know about this Green Goose product that you snap onto your bicycle and it tracks how much you ride ... and it has a system of rewards based on how much gas you save?

There's a lot of these things that are starting to happen now, and I think we're going to see more and more of them coming together.

CNN: What's going to happen next?

I think camera-based technology and tracking is going to be [...]

Read the whole thing, for a glimpse of the Brave New World we are heading for. Ready or not, here it comes!

I can't help but think that our political situation has gotten so precarious, because too many people are so distracted by too many games/distractions, that they aren't giving enough attention to understanding things that really matter.

Will Western Civilization one day have a tomb stone that reads, "Death by Gaming"?
     

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter!


     

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Religious Observances, and The Thing Itself



Taking Up the Dr. Seuss School of Catholicism
Any Sunday school kid knows that the best piece of Christian theology was written not by St. Augustine or Reinhold Niebuhr but by Dr. Seuss. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! - the story of how the Whos joyfully celebrate Jesus' birth even after a spiteful wretch robs all their holiday stuff - portrays faith more meaningfully than any church father or Yale philosopher ever did. Published for Christmas 1957, the book's obvious target was Yuletide commercialization. But its deeper message - don't confuse the accessories of religion with religion itself - seems especially relevant for Roman Catholics like me on Easter 2010.

This is the most uncomfortable Easter that Catholics have faced since the throes of the U.S. clerical sex abuse scandal in 2002. A new deluge of priest-pedophile stories, mostly in Europe, has cast another Good Friday pall over the resurrection celebration. This time some of the hierarchical cover-up may have even involved, if only indirectly, the man who would become the current Pope, Benedict XVI. And the Catholic Church's defensive response (as persecuted as the Jews?) has once again made it look like a dark fraternity in a Dan Brown novel instead of a luminous shepherd of souls, a self-interested corporation instead of the selfless ministry that Christ entrusted to St. Peter.

Little can alleviate the pain and suffering of the abuse victims. But at least in one sense, the Dr. Seuss sense, Catholics can use the Easter spirit of renewal to turn this heartbreak into something positive by putting their religion - their singular communion with Jesus' life and teachings - above their church. We're in this mess largely because we've continued to let the Catholic Church believe that it's somehow more important than the Catholic religion. And that's got to stop. [...]

Where that gets messy is, each Catholic's interpretation of what IS the Catholic Religion, what it means. I'm not Catholic, but as an outside observer, there seems to be a growing dissonance between what the Clergy in the Vatican believe, and what Catholics around the world believe.

I've always been more attracted to spirituality than religion, because while religious observances and rituals can be helpful reminders of what's important, too often the observance of them becomes more important than the thing they were meant to focus you on; then, the vessel matters more than the contents.

The Dr. Suess story was about the commercialism of Christmas not being The Thing Itself, and how the Whos of Whoville understood that when all the trappings of the holiday were taken away. The writer of this essay seems to be speculating that trappings of the Catholic church may be getting in the way of The Thing Itself, that's most important. He says it's the Catholic Religion. Yet even religion can obscure The Thing Itself; one must always be mindful of that.

I've got my opinions about what's happening with the Catholic Church, but I'm not going to get into it here; this is for Catholics to sort out. I'm sure they can, and hope they will. I just thought this essay was thought provoking, and might help move the discussion along. If the topic interests you, read the whole thing.
     

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Guardians? Rightwing and Leftwing? Huh?

Guardians of the free Republics looked to Gandhi, King, and Mandela
In a recent plea, Sam Kennedy, a "guardian elder" of the Guardians of the free Republics, warned the modern-day "original government" revolutionaries to approach their March 31 "Restore America Plan" with Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mohandas Gandhi in mind.

"We would simply like to urge patriots everywhere to champion their faith instead of force, and allow The Restore America Plan an uneventful 30 to 60 days for visible implementation which will ultimately end the bogus prosecutions and terrorist activities once and for all," wrote Kennedy recently.

The FBI failed to understand the Guardians' peaceful intentions.

A letter by Mr. Kennedy to all 50 governors demanding they step down within three days or be removed contained an implicit threat – and could be a cause, the FBI worried, for incitement for others to take action against the government.

Actively recruiting across the country in the last few months and promoted on a Texas radio station, the Guardians of the free Republics believe the US government is a corporate imposter put in place by corrupt bankers as part of the New Deal in 1933.

[...]

A mix of left and right

"Traditionally, critique of the IRS has come from the right, such as the Christian patriot movement, but [sovereign citizen] movements also invoke a lot of left-wing ideas like anti-capitalism that are consistent with the times and the downturn in the economy, where people may have property liens against them," says George Michael, an expert on political extremism at the University of Virginia's College at Wise. [...]

Is it newsworthy? I suppose. But I suspect it's also a storm in a tea cup, no matter how much the media would like to make it a hurricane.

Arnold in California didn't get his:
Guardians of the Free Republics' letters to governors spur inquiry
[...] California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not received the letter, said a spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol, which is charged with the governor's safety. The CHP would not discuss whether changes were made to the governor's security detail.

Federal law enforcement officials would not comment on the investigation. A source in a governor's office that received the letter confirmed its wording.

The Guardians of the Free Republics appears to work in the anti-government and anti-tax movement. The group's philosophy -- rife with its interpretation of arcane federal law -- mingles with the anti-Federal Reserve mantra espoused by followers of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas as well as with anti-tax advocates.

"Everything is going to be orderly and no one is going to be harmed in this movement," said Billy Ray Hall, who identified himself in a telephone interview Friday as a follower of the Guardians of the Free Republics. "It's going to be really good. There's going to be funds enough for everybody." [...]

"Funds for everyone"? Yeah. Whatever. How is getting rid of Governors supposed to help? I expect there is more to this story, I'm just not sure it's worth hearing about.
     

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A "Bank Tax" for banks that paid back bail-out money?

While others who received bail-out money and have NOT paid it back...



There Is Nothing Fair About Obama’s Wall Street Bailout Tax
[...] President Obama aims to tax banks who received bailout money, despite the fact that they’ve already paid back the bailout money. That policy might “feel” good or sound good to those who are angry at Wall Street, but in practice it isn’t good. Consumers – those same unemployed Americans whose pain Geithner so deeply feels – will be the ones who pay that penalty.

Despite Geithner’s concern over being “fair,” the president is awfully willing to accept unfairness in order to achieve his political ends. The bank tax, itself, is patently unfair. Firms who already paid-back bailout dollars will be taxed in order to “pay for” the bailout, but firms who haven’t repaid bailout dollars (General Motors, Chrysler, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac) get off scot free.

Then there’s the inherent unfairness of the backroom deals secured to pass the president’s health care plan. The president picked winners and losers to win the votes he needed. There’s nothing fair about giving away the farm to a select few, while others are left out in the cold.

Fairness is defined as “being free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.” That’s not the kind of treatment the president is doling out. It’s a paradox of logic, it’s a philosophical compass gone haywire, and it’s what’s guiding the president’s economic policies.

Not only is it unfair, the cost of the tax will be passed onto the taxpayers, who supplied the bail-out money in the first place. Doubly unfair!
     

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The way we were: Then and Now


Weird. See more photos here.

     

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How many "Tea Party Democrats" are there?

Disgruntled Democrats join the Tea Party
Grand Junction, Colorado (CNN) -- They are not typical Tea Party activists: A woman who voted for President Obama and believes he's a "phenomenal speaker." Another who said she was a "knee-jerk, bleeding heart liberal."

These two women are not alone.

Some Americans who say they have been sympathetic to Democratic causes in the past -- some even voted for Democratic candidates -- are angry with President Obama and his party. They say they are now supporting the Tea Party -- a movement that champions less government, lower taxes and the defeat of Democrats even though it's not formally aligned with the Republican Party.

To be sure, the number of Democrats in the Tea Party movement is small. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows that while 96 percent of Tea Party activists identify themselves as either Republican or Independent, only 4 percent say they are Democrats. [...]

Yes, but how many the "Independents" are really Democrats who left their party?

[...] "We hear from folks, probably at every rally, who say, 'I was a Democrat,' " Levi Russell, communications director for the Tea Party express tour, said.

"Having more Democrats join the movement shows that it is more representative of the American people than the antics of the Obama, [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi, Reid leadership," Russell said.

The Democratic National Committee declined to comment. [...]

Many "independents" are former Democrats or Republicans. How many were which one is hard to say, but independents often swing elections nowadays.

     

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Burkha hides poet's face; facing death threats

Kudos to a Brave Saudi Housewife
[...] In a live broadcast across the entire Arab world, wearing her burkha, alone on stage, Hissa Hilal attacked hardline clerics as

‘vicious in voice, barbaric, angry and blind, wearing death as a robe cinched with a belt,’

The studio audience loved it. Viewers cast their votes for her. Militants issued death threats.




[...] Her poem was seen as a response to Sheik Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak, a prominent cleric in Saudi Arabia who recently issued a fatwa saying those who call for the mingling of men and women should be considered infidels, punishable by death. But, more broadly, it was seen as addressing any of many hard-line clerics in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the region who hold a wide influence through TV programmes, university positions or websites.

‘Killing a human being is so easy for them, it is always an option,’ she told AP.

She described hard-line clerics as ‘vicious in voice, barbaric, angry and blind, wearing death as a robe cinched with a belt,’ in an apparent reference to suicide bombers’ explosives belts.

The three judges gave her the highest marks for her performance, praising her for addressing a controversial topic. That, plus voting from the 2,000 people in the audience and text messages from viewers, put her through to the final round. [...]

With death threats pouring in, it's perhaps just as well no one could see her face.

Also in Saudi Arabia:

Lawyer: Saudi could behead Lebanese for witchcraft
[...] BEIRUT – The lawyer of a Lebanese TV psychic who was convicted in Saudi Arabia for witchcraft said Thursday her client could be beheaded this week and urged Lebanese and Saudi leaders to help spare his life.

Attorney May al-Khansa said she learned from a judicial source that Ali Sibat is to be beheaded on Friday. She added that she does not have any official confirmation of this. Saudi judicial officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

A Lebanese official said Beirut has received no word from its embassy in Riyadh about Sibat's possible execution. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The Saudi justice system, which is based on Islamic law, does not clearly define the charge of witchcraft.

Sibat is one of scores of people reported arrested every year in the kingdom for practicing sorcery, witchcraft, black magic and fortunetelling. These practices are considered polytheism by the government in Saudi Arabia, a deeply religious Muslim country.

[...]

Sibat made predictions on an Arab satellite TV channel from his home in Beirut. He was arrested by the Saudi religious police during his pilgrimage to the holy city of Medina in May 2008 and sentenced to death last November.

"Ali is not a criminal. He did not commit a crime or do anything disgraceful, " al-Khansa said. "The world should help in rescuing a man who has five children, a wife and a seriously ill mother."

She added that Sibat's mother's health has been deteriorating since her son was sentenced to death.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said last year that Sibat's death sentence should be overturned. It also called on the Saudi government to halt "its increasing use of charges of 'witchcraft,' crimes that are vaguely defined and arbitrarily used."

Last year, the rights group presented a series of cases in the kingdom, including that of Saudi woman Fawza Falih, who was sentenced to death by beheading in 2006 for the alleged crimes of "witchcraft, recourse to jinn (supernatural beings)" and animal sacrifice.

On November 2, 2007, Mustafa Ibrahim, an Egyptian pharmacist, was executed for sorcery in the Saudi capital of Riyadh after he was found guilty of having tried "through sorcery" to separate a married couple, Human Rights Watch said.

They execute tourists for witchcraft? No wonder Saudi Arabia is such a popular tourist destination. But what can you expect from a place that bans Valentine's Day, under harsh penalties? You can't exactly "feel the love".
     

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The new iPad. So what is it? Is it any good?


Looking at the iPad From Two Angles
In 10 years of reviewing tech products for The New York Times, I’ve never seen a product as polarizing as Apple’s iPad, which arrives in stores on Saturday.

“This device is laughably absurd,” goes a typical remark on a tech blog’s comments board. “How can they expect anyone to get serious computer work done without a mouse?”

“This truly is a magical revolution,” goes another. “I can’t imagine why anyone will want to go back to using a mouse and keyboard once they’ve experienced Apple’s visionary user interface!”

Those are some pretty confident critiques of the iPad — considering that their authors have never even tried it.

In any case, there’s a pattern to these assessments.

The haters tend to be techies; the fans tend to be regular people. Therefore, no single write-up can serve both readerships adequately. There’s but one solution: Write separate reviews for these two audiences.

Read the first one if you’re a techie. (How do you know? Take this simple test. Do you use BitTorrent? Do you run Linux? Do you have more e-mail addresses than pants? You’re a techie.)

Read the second review if you’re anyone else. [...]

Read the rest for the two reviews, it will give you the essentials you probably want to know.

I won't be buying one. I think the concept is fine; we are going to be seeing a lot more of such hand held internet "devices" in the future. And since this is new, there are bound to be some glitches or drawbacks. But I find Apple products generally to be over-rated, and over-priced. I prefer hardware that's more generally available using generic off-the-shelf parts, and software that's less restrictive and proprietary.

That may put me in the "Techie" category the reviewer is talking about. So be it; that works for me. If other people want to go gaga over this, it's their business. I'm not saying that Apple products are awful; just that they are too limiting and too expensive for my tastes and needs. To each his own.
     

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Offshore Drilling? When? 7 years? Never?

Don’t Hold Your Breath for More Offshore Drilling
[...] …There may be deal making and an element of diversion as well. First of all the deal making. As you heard, the President wants a climate control bill, cap and trade of some form, this year, so he throws out more nuclear power, yes, you can have more nuclear power and now some more offshore drilling. That will be the nature of a deal. A climate bill in return for more drilling and more nukes. That’s the deal element here. The diversion is this: as early as tomorrow, our people in D.C. are telling us that maybe we will see new co2 emissions rules from the EPA. That would be tough on business. So what you do is you announce an extra off shore drilling today, divert from the negative headlines tomorrow, capture the public’s headlines with extra drilling today. So you’ve got a bit of a diversion here, and you’ve also got some deal making going on. What you do have, you do have a switch here, you’ve got the possibility of a lot more offshore drilling, but it’s way down the road.

The interior department is going to hold several years, that’s a direct quote, several years of environmental studies on those eastern seaboard, outer continental shelf drilling, then they come in with a report after several years, then the environmentalists will challenge it in court and hold it up for more years to come. I’m not going to put a year estimate on it, but I mean, it is way down the road, towards the end of this decade, before, if you ever see a single drop of offshore oil come ashore. [...]

I'm not surprised. Diversion indeed.
     

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