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.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Joe Barton spoke the truth, but in the wrong way, at the wrong place and time

An Apology To Be Truly Sorry About
Politics: Rep. Joe Barton says what everyone knows is true and his own party threatens to kick him out of his committee seat. We expected cynical political opportunism from Democrats, but not from Republican leaders.

Where are we as a society when the truth is treated as a something that can't be uttered in public?

Barton, the Texas Republican, apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward, now relieved of his duties, during Thursday's House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing for what he characterized as a "shakedown" by the White House in forcing the company to create a $20 billion victims' compensation fund.

He also declared that he was "ashamed" of the White House's tactics, and called it "a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown."

"I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is — again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown," he said.

Naturally, the Democrats went hard after Barton. And the media were happy to aid the cause. And just as naturally, other comments by Barton have not received as much attention. Without having watched the hearing or read the transcript, how many people know that Barton said:

"There is no question ... that BP made decisions that objective people think compromise safety. There is no question that BP is liable for the damages."

Or that he told Hayward "we want to hold (BP) responsible, do what we can to make the liable parties pay for the damages."


Just as every lawmaker should, Barton simply wants the government to follow our due process system, in which "we go through hearings, in some cases court cases, litigation, and determine what those damages are and when those damages should be paid." This, by the way, protects everyone's rights.

Despite these measured comments, the criticism has flowed faster than the Gulf spill. Among the critics is Vice President Joe Biden, who acted as if he were reluctant to condemn Barton before eagerly labeling the congressman's statement as "outrageous," "incredibly insensitive" and "incredibly out of touch."

The real outrage, though, should be reserved for Biden if he, as radio talk show host Neal Boortz reports, "is the one who leaned across the table during the White House meeting with BP and told them that if they didn't go along with the $20 billion fund to be administered by Obama's people, then Obama would 'do it to them.' "

Sounds like the man who should be issuing the apology is the vice president. [...]

Yes, Barton's objection to the government not following our due process system was correct. But the Uber Conservatives who are criticizing the Republicans for criticizing Barton need to get a clue. Barton may have been right, but he also needed to be correct in how he spoke the truth. Apologizing to the head of an oil company that is most likely guilty of gross criminal negligence was a foolish thing to do, especially in that venue. The rest of Barton's comments, which provided some context, will not be reported by the MSM, who as usual are biased for the Democrats. We are now instead going to see endless reports like this one, up until election time:

Barton keeps job as House energy committee's ranking Republican
[...] Democrats aren't ready to let go of the issue. For five days, they have used Barton's apology -- for a White House "shakedown" that forced BP to set aside $20 billion for victims of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico -- as a bludgeon, to tar Republicans as Big Oil toadies.

With Barton retaining his high-profile post on energy policy, Democrats argue that his political sin wasn't the apology but in voicing a widely held GOP view that dismays voters.

"Joe Barton can't seem to stop apologizing – but the only apology that Barton actually owes is the one he has yet to offer," the Democratic National Committee said in a statement. "And, that's to the residents of the Gulf Coast who've suffered at the hands of the company that Barton went to great lengths to defend."

[...]

Democrats, viewing the episode as a selling point in the November elections, even called the announcement of Barton's survival an early Christmas gift – to them.

"House Republicans' decision to keep British Petroleum apologist Joe Barton on as the top Republican in charge of energy policy is consistent with their governing philosophy of choosing corporate special interests over middle class families," said Ryan Rudominer, national spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "The stakes this November could not be clearer. House Democrats stand with American taxpayers and the people of the Gulf, versus Republicans who side with British Petroleum and Big Oil special interests." [...]

We will continue to see long reports this, that make no mention of Barton's other comments, but use his apology to BP like a hammer to beat the GOP with. It's not right and it's not fair, but it's also the way it is. The rest of the GOP knows that. I'm sure Mr. Barton now knows that too, which is why the GOP has let him keep his seat on the committee. Now when are the Uber conservatives going to figure it out? With them railing against the GOP as strongly as the Leftist Democrats do, they may as well be working for the Democrats and the MSM.

As for which party is in bed with BP, here is some information you won't hear about in the MSM:

The BP Racket

BO and BP

So who is the Big Oil party? The collusion between the current administration and BP should be newsworthy, but is being ignored. Instead we get one remark by Joe Barton, taken out of context, repeated again, and again, and again...
     

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Republicans need to be the party of reform

Conservatism and the Spirit of Reform
Republicans squandered their hard-won reputation as the party of ideas. It's time to reclaim it.
[...] Conservatives tend to be suspicious of reform and distrustful of the impulse to improve, seeing in both perennial threats to freedom. This is exacerbated by the common tendency, on the right and the left, to equate reform and improvement with the progressive aspiration to remake society. Conservatives warn—with a good deal of dismal political history on their side—that owing to ineradicable human arrogance, ignorance and error, big plans to centrally regulate human affairs are bound to go awry.

But that's no excuse to conflate reform, which is often necessary to advance the cause of political liberty, with the progressive interpretation of it. Indeed, conservative reform will very often involve devising policies to limit government in the face of relentless progressive pressure to expand its reach and responsibilities.

Conservative reform is particularly necessary today. Revolutions in telecommunications and transportation continue to transform business, the family and the environment. The threat of transnational terrorists employing biological, chemical, radiological, nuclear and cyber weapons demands greater resourcefulness and agility at all levels of government, as well as greater cooperation among federal, state and municipal officials. And the vast expansion of the federal government undertaken by President Barack Obama and the Democrats has focused the electorate on government's cost and role in a way not seen since Ronald Reagan ran for president.

[...]

Like Burke, contemporary conservatives should take their bearings from the principle of freedom and the conditions that sustain it. The question to ask in every case is whether current arrangements or proposals for alternative ones are more likely to promote individual responsibility, self-reliance and opportunity. The answers should recognize that a federal system favorable to local self-government, respectful of religion and supportive of the family is a time-tested way of cultivating individuals capable of conserving free institutions and taking advantage of the opportunities freedom affords.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan are among those officeholders in the process of recovering reform as a conservative virtue. In November, Meg Whitman, the new Republican nominee in California, and Brian Sandoval, the new Republican nominee for governor in Nevada, stand a good chance to join their ranks.

Today's conservative reformers appreciate that within its limited sphere government should be excellent. Promoting individual responsibility, self-reliance and opportunity requires targeted action, beginning with health-care reform that really controls costs by eliminating barriers on insurance companies operating across state lines and limiting malpractice damages; public-sector reform that reins in unions by reducing benefits and expanding accountability; and education reform that through school-choice programs gives parents, particularly in low income and minority communities, greater control over their children's education. [...]

Freedom is the answer. Government has it's place, when it's put IN it's place: supporting OUR freedom. Reform begins at home, within our own party. The article points out where Republicans went wrong as well. We have to reform our own house first, to regain the confidence of the electorate, not just Republicans, but the majority of the electorate. Only then will we be in a position to advance greater reform, to bring back our Constitutional government, in support of our freedom and liberty.
     

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Obama: all style, no substance, no leadership

From Neal Boortz:
OBAMA AND LEADERSHIP .. OR LACK THEREOF
With each passing day, the world begins to realize that ObamaLand is nothing more than a Hollywood movie set .. it looks real with the right camera angles, but in reality it is nothing more than flat pieces of cardboard and some paint. In other words .. Obama is all style and no substance. This is actually pretty fitting for our American Idol generation, which ultimately tipped the scales in favor of Obama. They wanted the hot bod and cool campaign slogans, but couldn't tell you the first thing about his policies or his qualifications to be president. Mort Zuckerman says it best in US News and World Report:
"The reviews of Obama's performance have been disappointing. He has seemed uncomfortable in the role of leading other nations, and often seems to suggest there is nothing special about America's role in the world. The global community was puzzled over the pictures of Obama bowing to some of the world's leaders and surprised by his gratuitous criticisms of and apologies for America's foreign policy under the previous administration of George W. Bush. One Middle East authority, Fouad Ajami, pointed out that Obama seems unaware that it is bad form and even a great moral lapse to speak ill of one's own tribe while in the lands of others.
You really do need to read the entire Zuckerman column. The more you understand about the trouble we're in, the better then chance you may actually try to change things this November. Here's the link again.

   

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An email from a soldier in Afghanistan

From Neal Boortz: IS THIS ANY WAY TO FIGHT A WAR?
Are you a loyal George Will fan? You should be ... he's brilliant. Will's latest Washington Post column refers to an email he received from a soldier serving in Afghanistan. A real eye-opener.

First .. you DO remember that Obama has pledged to begin withdrawing American troops next Spring, don't you? Well, if you don't remember this .. the Taliban certainly does, and they're just building their strength so that they can move in and regain control of Afghanistan as soon as Obama runs. In the meantime, they'll continue to kill as many American troops as they possibly can.

So ... how are we fighting this war? Here are a few examples from the soldier's email to George Will. ...

"Returning from a mission, his unit took casualties from an improvised explosive device that the unit knew had been placed no more than an hour earlier. "There were villagers laughing at the U.S. casualties" and "two suspicious individuals were seen fleeing the scene and entering a home." U.S. forces "are no longer allowed to search homes without Afghan National Security Forces personnel present." But when his unit asked Afghan police to search the house, the police refused on the grounds that the people in the house "are good people."

"On another mission, some Afghan adults ran off with their children immediately before the NCO's unit came under heavy small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and the unit asked for artillery fire on the enemy position. The response was a question: Where is the nearest civilian structure? "Judging distances," the NCO writes dryly, "can be difficult when bullets and RPGs are flying over your head." When the artillery support was denied because of fear of collateral damage, the unit asked for a "smoke mission" -- like an illumination round; only the canister falls to earth -- "to conceal our movement as we planned to flank and destroy the enemy." This request was granted -- but because of fear of collateral damage, the round was deliberately fired one kilometer off the requested site, making "the smoke mission useless and leaving us to fend for ourselves."

Obama is the Commander in Chief. Do you think there is any way we would have prevailed in World War II if things had been handled this way?

If our soldiers won't be given the support they need, bring them home.
     

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Spain: caught between a rock and a hard place

Spain: A Political Risk Analysis
Spain is in the throes of the worst economic crisis in its recent history. Reeling from the collapse of a debt-driven construction boom, Spain entered recession in the second quarter of 2008 and posted six consecutive quarters of negative growth. Although the economy grew by 0.1 percent during the first quarter of 2010, Spain’s growth prospects are poor and any pick-up could be short lived.

Spanish GDP fell 3.6 percent in 2009, and a package of harsh austerity measures announced since then will undermine any economic recovery during the foreseeable future. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says there will be no positive GDP growth in Spain until 2011, at which point it will still be below 1 percent. The Spanish Finance Ministry on May 20 said it now predicts a 0.3 percent contraction in 2010. It also cut the forecast for Spanish growth in 2011 to 1.3 percent from 1.8 percent.

Meanwhile, Spain now has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union. More than 20 percent of working-age Spaniards (or 4.6 million people) were without a job during the first quarter of 2010. That compares with an average rate of 10 percent among the 16 countries that use the euro currency. Persistently high unemployment presents an obvious threat to political stability in Spain.

As unemployment soars, Spain is also facing an exploding budget deficit. The collapse of the labor market, which has resulted in a steep drop in tax collections, and the Socialist government’s spendthrift policy response of increasing unproductive public sector stimulus spending skyrocketed the deficit to 11.4 percent of GDP in 2009 (or five times higher than in 2008).

The combination of negative GDP growth, rising unemployment, and a high deficit has raised concerns about the sustainability of Spain’s finances. Indeed, two international ratings agencies, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, have recently lowered Spain’s long-term sovereign credit rating, citing the risk of a prolonged period of below-par economic growth and persistently high fiscal deficits.

The downgrades will make it more expensive for Spain to finance its debt, and increase concerns over Spain’s overall creditworthiness. Indeed, investors anxious that a debt crisis in Greece could create a domino effect in Spain are already demanding higher interest rates to hold Spanish debt.

Although Spain’s problems have been known for years, concerns about the Spanish economy were thrust into the international spotlight in January 2010, when noted New York University Professor Nouriel Roubini said Spain posed a major threat to the stability of the European single currency. Speaking from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Roubini warned: “If Greece goes under, that’s a problem for the eurozone. If Spain goes under, it’s a disaster.”

A debt crisis in Spain would make the problems in Greece look tame by comparison. At €1.3 trillion, the Spanish economy is more than four times the size of Greece’s. (While Greece represents about 2.5 percent of eurozone GDP, Spain accounts for about 11.5 percent.) Spain is also the fourth-largest economy in the 16-nation euro zone, the eighth-largest in the OECD, and the tenth-largest in the world. Many analysts believe Spain is simply too big to be bailed out, and that a Spanish default would almost certainly lead to the breakup of the euro zone.

Fearing for the future of the euro, the European Union and the IMF have put intense pressure on Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to implement a series of austerity measures aimed at bringing the public deficit down to a eurozone limit of three percent of GDP. [...]

Read on to see the many reasons why that can't happen. The current government won't survive if they do what they need to, but if they don't do it...
     

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He's alive. And where is the "wonderful"?


Obama Porkway: Road Built With Stimulus Money Will Bear President’s Name
[...] Most roads that are constructed are paid for with taxpayer dollars, but the fact that the first new road named after Barack Obama is being funded by his beloved “stimulus” is only appropriate.

If you’re in Orlando looking for this road, it’s just a mile west of the intersection of Hope and Change, and a half-mile east of the corner of Shovel and Ready. Why did local officials decide to name the stimulus road after the president? Because “A Blatant Attempt to Bankrupt America Boulevard” wouldn’t fit on the sign. [...]

Remember when people used to get things named after them, only after they were dead? And only if they had achieved something wonderful?

So far as I know, Obama is still alive. And as for the wonderful, I'm still waiting.
     

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Who benefits from the Oil Spill in the Gulf?


Obama Boss George Soros Ready To Profit From Oil Disaster
Follow the link. Count the ways. Connect the dots. Golly.

See more about the collusion between the Obama Administration and BP:

The BP Racket

BO and BP
     

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Our true national debt: $130,000,000,000,000.

What!?! Isn't it supposed to be "only" 14 trillion, instead of 130? Not if you use REAL accounting practices, like real businesses have to do.

The Other National Debt
[...] Accountants get a bad rap — boring, green-eyeshades-wearing, nebbishy little men chained to their desks down in the fluorescent-lit basements of Corporate America — but, in truth, accountants wield an awesome power. In the case of the federal government, they wield the power to make vast amounts of debt disappear — from the public discourse, at least. A couple of months ago, you may recall, Rep. Henry Waxman (D., State of Bankruptcy) got his Fruit of the Looms in a full-on buntline hitch when AT&T, Caterpillar, Verizon, and a host of other blue-chip behemoths started taking plus-size writedowns in response to some of the more punitive provisions of the health-care legislation Mr. Waxman had helped to pass. His little mustache no doubt bristling in indignation, Representative Waxman sent dunning letters to the CEOs of these companies and demanded that they come before Congress to explain their accounting practices. One White House staffer told reporters that the writedowns appeared to be designed “to embarrass the president and Democrats.”

A few discreet whispers from better-informed Democrats, along with a helpful explanation from The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle under the headline “Henry Waxman’s War on Accounting,” helped to clarify the issue: The companies in question are required by law to adjust their financial statements to reflect the new liabilities: “When a company experiences what accountants call ‘a material adverse impact’ on its expected future earnings, and those changes affect an item that is already on the balance sheet, the company is required to record the negative impact — ‘to take the charge against earnings’ — as soon as it knows that the change is reasonably likely to occur,” McArdle wrote. “The Democrats, however, seem to believe that Generally Accepted Accounting Principles are some sort of conspiracy against Obamacare, and all that is good and right in America.” But don’t be too hard on the gentleman from California: Government does not work that way. If governments did follow normal accounting practices, taking account of future liabilities today instead of pretending they don’t exist, then the national-debt numbers we talk about would be worse — far worse, dreadfully worse — than that monster $14 trillion–and–ratcheting–upward figure we throw around. [...]

This article goes on to show, point by point, using real accounting principles, what the actual debts are that will be coming home to roost. And along the way, explaining the political reasons as to how and why it's been allowed to happen.

More proof that government is not only not the answer; it's often the problem. Of course we need government, but we also need BALANCE. Especially on the balance sheet, as every real accountant knows.

     

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What happens when Tax Cuts Expire in 2011?

Tax rates will rise sharply. Businesses are already planning for it now, and it will affect the state of the economy and the recovery. But how much so? Here are two perspectives:

Tax Hikes and the 2011 Economic Collapse
Today's corporate profits reflect an income shift into 2010. These profits will tumble next year, preceded most likely by the stock market.
[...] On or about Jan. 1, 2011, federal, state and local tax rates are scheduled to rise quite sharply. President George W. Bush's tax cuts expire on that date, meaning that the highest federal personal income tax rate will go 39.6% from 35%, the highest federal dividend tax rate pops up to 39.6% from 15%, the capital gains tax rate to 20% from 15%, and the estate tax rate to 55% from zero. Lots and lots of other changes will also occur as a result of the sunset provision in the Bush tax cuts.

Tax rates have been and will be raised on income earned from off-shore investments. Payroll taxes are already scheduled to rise in 2013 and the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) will be digging deeper and deeper into middle-income taxpayers. And there's always the celebrated tax increase on Cadillac health care plans. State and local tax rates are also going up in 2011 as they did in 2010. Tax rate increases next year are everywhere.

Now, if people know tax rates will be higher next year than they are this year, what will those people do this year? They will shift production and income out of next year into this year to the extent possible. As a result, income this year has already been inflated above where it otherwise should be and next year, 2011, income will be lower than it otherwise should be.

Also, the prospect of rising prices, higher interest rates and more regulations next year will further entice demand and supply to be shifted from 2011 into 2010. In my view, this shift of income and demand is a major reason that the economy in 2010 has appeared as strong as it has. When we pass the tax boundary of Jan. 1, 2011, my best guess is that the train goes off the tracks and we get our worst nightmare of a severe "double dip" recession. [...]

The article goes on to compare what is happening now, with what Ronald Reagan did in 1981, to pull us out of a recession. The current Administration is doing exactly the opposite, and the results will be exactly the opposite too. Many in this Administration have been claiming that "capitalism is dead"; and now it seems they are doing their best to make sure it happens.


Tax cuts actually increase tax revenue, because as businesses prosper, there are more businesses and employees paying taxes. The Democrat leadership knows this too, but it doesn't fit with their agenda of attacking the private sector and expanding government power and control. Many of them would even like to overburden and collapse our current system of government and economics, so they can then replace it with something else. And unfortunately, the Democrat's understanding of economics in general, tends to be very poor. We are seeing the proof of that now.

Even so, I don't want to be strictly partisan about this, I want to be realistic. Is the prediction of "economic collapse" in 2011 too grim? Or at least, too soon? Perhaps.

Will Higher Tax Rates in 2011 Cause an Economic Collapse?
[...] I am reluctant to endorse Art’s prediction that the “economy will collapse,” since even good economists are lousy forecasters. But we certainly will see a large degree of tax planning, which will lead to less revenue than expected next year. And the higher tax rates will inhibit growth, though it is impossible to predict whether this means 2.1 percent growth instead of 2.3 percent growth, for instance, or 0.5 percent growth instead of 0.6 percent growth. [...]

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand that if taxes rise sharply, businesses will make decisions based on that, and the cost of higher taxes will be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices.

In our own business, we are buying new equipment and making repairs and improvements this year, because we are anticipating the costs of these things to rise next year. Therefore, we won't be spending much next year. I would have to assume that other business people who are paying attention to what is happening are going to do the same.

Even if we elect a better congress in November, it will take time to reverse the many bad trends that have already been put into motion. I don't see a quick fix for any of this. We are going to have muddle through. If that is the best we can do, then we must do it. The situation is what it is, but it can be improved, even if it has to get worse for a time, before it can get better.


Also see:

Has US Currency already "collapsed"?

What would a U.S. currency collapse look like?

     

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Our growing reliance on satellite technology, and it's vulnerability to solar flares. Why it matters.

Electronic Armageddon? Congress Worries That Solar Flares Could Spell Disaster
High-energy electric pulses from the sun could surge to Earth and cripple our electrical grid for years, causing billions in damages, government officials and scientists worry.

The House is so concerned that the Energy and Commerce committee voted unanimously 47 to 0 to approve a bill allocating $100 million to protect the energy grid from this rare but potentially devastating occurrence.

The Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense Act, or H.R. 5026, aims "to amend the Federal Power Act to protect the bulk-power system and electric infrastructure critical to the defense of the United States against cybersecurity and other threats and vulnerabilities."

It cites electromagnetic pulses from geomagnetic or solar storms as the big threat to our energy distribution grid, and demands "an order directing the Electric Reliability Organization to submit … reliability standards adequate to protect the bulk-power system from any reasonably foreseeable geomagnetic storm event."

Solar storms occur when sunspots on our star erupt and spew out flumes of charged particles that can damage power systems. The sun's activity typically follows an 11-year cycle, and it looks to be coming out of a slump and gearing up for an active period.

"The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity," said Richard Fisher, head of NASA's Heliophysics Division. "At the same time, our technological society has developed an unprecedented sensitivity to solar storms." [...]

I've posted previously about EMP dangers, both man-made (military attack or terrorism) and naturally occurring (solar storms and flares). That congress has decided to protect our infrastructure from these threats is hopefully a good thing (that the money is spent wisely). But I would like to examine another aspect of this threat, that deserves special scrutiny; our growing dependence on satellite technology, and it's vulnerability to the sun.

The following link starts off describing the Quebec power failure of 1989, that was caused by a solar flare. The Quebec power grid had extensions reaching far North, where in inducted electricity from the flare. One of their main transformers was permanently damaged. What is even more alarming is, that the Northeast United states power grid was also almost collapsed, which would have resulted in 50 million Americans without power. The Quebec failure is now a textbook case as an example of the destructiveness of solar flares on modern power grids.

While the Quebec portion of the article is certainly worth reading, I'm going to excerpt a portion from the latter part of the article, that deals with satellite technology. It shows how our dependency on satellites has grown by leaps and bounds, and how it represents a new, growing vulnerability:

Chapter 1 : A Conflagration of Storms
[...] Why should we care that we are now once again living under 'sunspot maximum' conditions? After all, we have already weathered at least five of these solar activity cycles since the end of World War II. What is different about the world today is that we are substantially more reliant upon computers and telecommunications to run our commerce, and even our forms of entertainment and recreation. In 1981, at the peak of solar cycle 21, there were 15 communication satellites in orbit. Cellular phones were rare and there were 800,000 PCs sold in the U.S. with 300 hosts on the Internet. By the time the peak of solar cycle 22 came around in 1989, there were 102 communication satellites, and 3 million cellular phone users in the United States. With the new Intel 80486-based PCs, you could send e-mail to your choice of 300,000 host machines on the Internet.

As we arrive at the peak of the 23rd sunspot cycle in 2000-2001, however, we enter a very different world far more reliant on what used to be the luxuries of the Space Age. By 2000, 349 communication satellites orbit the Earth supporting over $60 billion of commerce. Over 100 million people have cellular phones, and Global Positioning System handsets are a commonplace for people working, or camping, 'off road'. By 2003, 400 million people will routinely use wireless data transmission via satellite channels. There will be over 10 million Internet hosts with 38% of US households Internet-connected.

[...]

As if to emphasize today's exuberance and expectations, 'Individual Investor' magazine announced on its cover 'The Sky's the Limit: In the 21st century satellites will connect the globe'. The International telecommunications Union in Geneva has predicted that by 2005, the demand for voice and data transmission services will increase to $1.2 trillion. The fraction carried by satellite services will reach a staggering $80 billion.

To meet this demand, many commercial companies are launching; not just individual satellites, but entire networks of them with names like 'Iridium', 'Teledesic', 'Skybridge' and 'SpaceWay'. The total cost of these systems alone represents a hardware investment of $35 billion between 1998 and 2004. The actual degree of vulnerability of these systems to solar storms is unknown, and will probably vary in a complex way depending on the kind of technology they use, and their deployment in space. They do, however, share some disturbing characteristics: They are all light-weight, sophisticated, built at the lowest cost, and following only a handful of design types replicated dozens and even hundreds of times, often with off-the-shelf electronics.

It is common to base future expectations on recent past experiences: "Past is prologue" some say. Increasingly, these past experiences with, for example, commercial space technology, do not extend back much beyond the last solar maximum in 1989-1990. So, when we wonder why infrequent events such as solar storms aren't more noticeable, we have to remind ourselves that most of our experience comes from times when the Sun was simply not very active, and when we were a lot less technologically vulnerable. [...]

So we can see a dramatic increase in satellite usage in the eleven year intervals in solar maximums. This article projected figures up until 2005. What is our satellite usage now? Here are some contemporary figures:

How many communications satellites were launched?
1,107 satellites provide civilian communications and 792 military communications. Some seven hundred of them were placed into geosynchronous orbit.

Civilian and military communications satellites represent the most numerous kind of spacecrafts launched.

(See lists of civilian Communications Satellites, of Military Communications Satelites and of Spacecrafts in Geostationary Orbit.)

Follow the link for detailed lists of those satellites.

If we consider non-communication satellites as well, the list gets longer:

How Many Satellites Are Orbiting the Earth?
Satellites are tracked by United States Space Surveillance Network (SSN), which has been tracking every object in orbit over 10 cm (3.937 inches) in diameter since it was founded in 1957. There are approximately 3,000 satellites operating in Earth orbit, according to the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), out of roughly 8,000 man-made objects in total. In its entire history, the SSN has tracked more than 24,500 space objects orbiting Earth. The majority of these have fallen into unstable orbits and incinerated during reentry. The SSN also keeps track which piece of space junk belongs to which country.

[...]

As space technology matured, satellites were launched for military and commercial purposes. The price of satellite launches has dropped to as low as a few million dollars for light satellites, and a few tens of millions for heavy satellites. This put satellite technology within the reach of many nations and international companies.

Satellites have an operating lifespan between five and 20 years. As of 2008, the former Soviet Union and Russia had nearly 1,400 satellites in orbit, the USA about 1,000, Japan more than 100, China about 80, France over 40, India more than 30, Germany almost 30, the UK and Canada 25, and at least ten each from Italy, Australia, Indonesia, Brazil, Sweden, Luxembourg, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea. [...]

So humankind is using and depending on satellite technology to a degree never seen before, and most of the growth of this usage has occurred in the past few decades.

We have gone from 15 communication satellites in 1981, to 1,899 communication satellites in 2010. We have yet to experience a severe solar storm, with all this satellite technology. Are we ready for it? Military satellites may be reinforced with extra shielding to withstand EMPs. But what about the many light-weight "cheap" satellites made with off the shelf parts? Are we ready to suddenly do without all this technology we've come to depend on, if many or most of these satellites get fried in a solar storm?


Related Links:

As the Sun Awakens, NASA Keeps a Wary Eye on Space Weather

National Geographic Explorer: "Electronic Armageddon"

Solar Storms Could Be Earth's Next Katrina

The Sun Also Flares
     

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"Electronic Armageddon" happens tonight...

... on National Geographic Explorer:

National Geographic Explorer: "Electronic Armageddon"
What do future presidents need to know about existential dangers this country could face? Explorer investigates the science behind the dangers of a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse, or HEMP. Picture an instantaneous deathblow to the vital engines that power our society, delivered by a nuclear weapon designed not to kill humans but to attack electronics. What could happen if an electromagnetic pulse surged to earth, crippling every aspect of modern society's infrastructure?

I've posted previously about EMP dangers, both man-made (military attack or terrorism) and naturally occurring (solar storms and flares). I think this Explorer episode intends to address both.

Also see: Is this why our ancestors worshiped the sun?      

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Asteroid Sample Brought Back to Earth

At least, that's what they think:

Space probe returns to Earth from trip to asteroid
ADELAIDE, Australia -- A team of eager scientists flew into the Australian Outback on Monday to recover a Japanese space capsule they hope contains the first-ever asteroid samples that could provide clues into the evolution of the solar system.

The Hayabusa explorer returned to Earth overnight after a seven-year, 4-billion mile (6-billion kilometer) journey, burning apart on re-entry in a spectacular fireball just after jettisoning the capsule. It was the first time a spacecraft successfully landed on an asteroid and returned to Earth.

Seiichi Sakamoto of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which launched the explorer in 2003, said they were "delighted" to recover the capsule, particularly after a number of technical problems delayed Hayabusa's arrival for three years.

"It was an extremely difficult technological challenge, and we did everything to overcome the troubles one by one," he said. "This is an achievement we could make simply because we never gave up hope."

On Monday, two helicopters took scientists to the capsule's landing site in the Woomera Prohibited Area, a remote military zone 300 miles (485 kilometers) northwest of the South Australian state capital of Adelaide.

It could take many hours to retrieve the capsule and collect samples, which will be taken to Japan for study after a series of measures to protect the capsule and its cargo. [...]

It was supposed to come back in 2007, but was delayed by technical problems, and missed it's window of opportunity to maneuver into the Earth's orbit until this year. I found all the details interesting. Quite an accomplishment, if the samples made it back.

     

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ford Motor Company's customizations

From the car company that didn't need a bail-out:


Ford's pimp-my-ride plan
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Mustang buyers will soon be able to get flames on their fenders right from the dealer, no fancy artistic skills needed.

Ford Motor Co. is bringing out a line of custom vinyl graphics car buyers can order to give their car or truck the appearance of a custom paint job without the paint.

The carmaker originally launched the Web site, fordcustomgraphics.com, back in November, but it only offered graphics for the Fiesta subcompact car which goes on sale in a few weeks.

The site will soon begin offering graphics for the Ford Mustang and the F-150 truck, both popular vehicles which are commonly customized by owners, Ford announced Wednesday.

"You click on your vehicle and its exterior color, select the graphics you like, and the Web site will show you exactly how the designs will look on your car or truck," said Jim Abraham, Ford's licensed accessories manager, in a company announcement.

Read the rest for details. Plans are to have graphics available for all other Ford models by the end of the year, with about 50 designs created for each model.


Also see: Fordcustomgraphics.com
     

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Some tips for the World Cup visitors

A handy guide for those visiting South Africa:

40 South Africanisms you should know
To help foreigners fit in and avoid trouble during the World Cup, Oliver Roberts has devised this handy lingo guide:

BABBELAS (BUBBLE-US): Hangover. Usage: "Jeez, I had too many dops last night. I've got a hectic babbelas."

BAKKIE (BUCKY): What Americans would term a "pick-up". A two-seater light vehicle with an open rear cargo area. The rear is often used to transport an impossible number of workers who stare back at you in traffic and make you feel awkward and a bit guilty.

BERGIE: Term used for a type of homeless person in Cape Town. Originates from "berg", which is the Afrikaans word for mountain, referring to the homeless people who used to live on Table Mountain but who now live mainly in the city. Pronounce the harsh "g" as if you've swallowed an insect and are trying to clear it from your throat.

BLIKSEM (BLUK-SEM): If you're in a pub and you accidentally spill a beer belonging to a man with a thick neck, he may say: "Do you want me to bliksem you?" Don't respond. Just run. Run for your life. It's the Afrikaans word for hit or strike or punch.

BOET: Means "brother" in Afrikaans. An affectionate (though not too much) term for a friend. It's like saying "dude" or "buddy".

BROEKIES (BROOKIES): Panties or underwear. Usage: "I phuza'd with this girl last night and she came back to my hotel. When I woke up this morning, she was gone but she left her broekies behind."

CAR GUARD: Found in most urban areas, a car guard's office is the parking lot. He keeps an eye on your car while you're at the match, in the mall or at the pub. You're expected to tip him when you return to your car and it hasn't been stolen or broken into. No. That's a lie. You'll be expected to tip him even if it has.

DAGGA: Again pronounced with a harsh "g". Marijuana. Illegal, but admittedly very easy to get hold if you're so inclined. Just ask your car guard. [...]

Read the whole thing if you find it amusing. I did. I've visited South Africa, and it brought back some memories.


Also see:

Traveling Safely in South Africa
     

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U.N. Global Small Arms Treaty threatens your right to self defense

EDITORIAL: The U.N. gun grabber
American gun owners might not feel besieged, but they should. This week, the Obama administration announced its support for the United Nations Small Arms Treaty. This international agreement poses real risks for freedom both in the United States and around the world by making it more difficult - if not outright illegal - for law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.

The U.N. claims that guns used in armed conflicts cause 300,000 deaths worldwide every year, an inordinate number of which are the result of internal civil strife within individual nations. The solution proposed by transnationalists to keep rebels from getting guns is to make the global pool of weapons smaller through government action. According to recent deliberations regarding the treaty, signatory countries would be required to "prevent, combat and eradicate" various classes of guns to undermine "the illicit trade in small arms." Such a plan would necessarily lead to confiscation of personal firearms.

This may seem like a reasonable solution to governments that don't trust their citizens, but it represents a dangerous disregard for the safety and freedom of everybody. First of all, not all insurgencies are bad. As U.S. history shows, one way to get rid of a despotic regime is to rise up against it. That threat is why authoritarian regimes such as Syria, Cuba, Rwanda, Vietnam, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone endorse gun control.

Political scientist Rudy Rummel estimates that the 15 worst regimes during the 20th century killed 151 million of their own citizens, which works out to 1.5 million victims per year. Even if all 300,000 annual deaths from armed conflicts can be blamed on the small-arms trade (which they cannot), governments are a bigger threat to most people than their neighbors. [...]

Which is why we have the 2nd Amendment. And why we have to fight to keep it.

     

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Federalize the news industry? To what ends?

Will journalists wake up in time to save journalism from Obama's FTC?
[...] Those in the administration who clearly view independent journalism as an obstacle to "change we can believe in" and their numerous allies in the old media, non-profit, and academic communities who either share a similar ideological vision or see the FTC process as their salvation against the Internet, will no doubt dismiss my assertions as extemism or alarmism.

Fine, call me whatever, but what they cannot deny is what is clearly written in the FTC document and what it reveals about the intention behind the initiative, which is to transform the news industry from an information product collected by private individuals and entrepreneurs as a service to private buyers, to a government-regulated public utility providing a "public good," as defined and regulated by government.

The authors hide this dangerous intention behind carefully worded expressions of concern for preserving "quality journalism" and "addressing emerging gaps in reporting," and they rationalize their proposed approach of massive government intervention in the news process as simply an extension of what government has always done via postal subsidies, tax breaks, and so forth.

Jeff Jarvis, a veteran of the old media and a pioneer of the Internet-based new media with his Buzz Machine blog, provides a thorough analysis of what the FTC is considering and explicates the dangerous consequences that will follow.

[...]

Conservative journalists will do well not to roll their eyes impatiently with liberal colleagues who don't understand that government always expands its control over any activity it either funds or regulates, and therefore must be limited at every level to well-defined, narrowly circumscribed powers that only it can fulfill, as was done by the U.S. Constitution.

Better to explain yet again that the original intention of the Founders with respect to the media - "Congress shall make no law respecting ... the freedom of the press" - is the key to saving independent journalism.

Then we must remind them that the adversarial relationship that is supposed to exist between journalists and public officials must apply no matter who those public officials might be or what political party or ideological school of thought they represent.

Elected officials' first thought is always about re-election, while career government workers' is job security. A journalist's first thought is supposed to be getting the facts.

To that end, we're supposed to be adversaries, not co-conspirators, partners, favored "stakeholders," or beneficiaries.
That's why the Constitution made us independent.

Read the details. What this FTC document says. Unbelievable. If we allow this, if we let it happen, then we deserve what we get.


Also see:

Seizing The News Business
     

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Iranian Gun Smuggler? Where is the MSM?

Media ignore Iranian caught smuggling arsenal of sniper rifles across border
An illegal immigrant from Iran named Hamid Malekpour was discovered last month smuggling a huge load of sniper rifles and high-powered weaponry across the Canadian border into Washington State. He has since been arrested and charged with entering the country illegally with firearms and ammunition, as well as filing a false report with a federal agency.

It has been covered locally and by some bloggers, but that's pretty much it.

From the Yamhill Valley News Register: [...]

Read the details. It's chilling. Is it not newsworthy? More so than make-believe stories about potentially violent tea party protesters?
     

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

RVing: a 100 year old tradition


Celebrating 100 years on the open road
Trailers, motor homes change drastically since 1910
Planning on traveling this summer in an RV? Historically-speaking, you’ll be in very good company.

In 1931, Mae West’s Paramount Studios contract included a chauffeur-driven “house car” for the star to relax in while filming movies. In the early 1940s, aviation pioneers Charles Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, needed someplace quiet where they could write, so Henry Ford let them use a 1935 house trailer he owned that was equipped with electricity, a stove, an icebox, a bathroom and other “modern” amenities. And in the ’60s and ’70s, TV reporter Charles Kuralt famously criss-crossed the country in a motor home while filming his popular “On the Road” features for CBS News.

Today, West’s 1931 Chevrolet is just one of the unusual, iconic or prototypical vehicles on display at the Recreational Vehicle/Manufactured Home Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Ind. The 1935 Stage Coach Trailer Henry Ford loaned to the Lindberghs is parked at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Mich., as is Kuralt’s 1975 Motorcoach.

And if you think it might be a good idea to take a drive to see one or both of these collections, now would be an especially appropriate time. Starting today (June 7), the RV industry is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

A century of RV progress
Drivers began making camping adaptations to cars not long after automobiles were invented. But according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), 1910 was when mass-produced vehicles designed specifically for camping first hit the market. [...]

Read the whole thing for some good pics, history and embedded links.
(H.T. Born Again Redneck)


Michelle Malkin recently posted about her RV Road Trip:



The Great American Road Trip: Reflections, RV tips & Rushmore-to-Yellowstone pics
[...] Over the past seven days, we’ve hit Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse memorial, Cody WY, and Yellowstone. The scenery is cinematic; the frontier history is larger-than-life. And the RV community is full of friendly, independent, and amazingly resourceful people.

If you ever need your faith in our country’s resilience and beauty renewed, a Great American Road Trip does a body and soul good.

RV’ing is also a budget-friendly way to travel. Yes, fuel costs are hefty. But you can save a lot on meals by planning ahead and cooking on the road. We rented a 31-foot RV with a stove top, oven, microwave, and ample freezer/fridge with a small crisper for veggies and enough room for a gallon of milk, a dozen eggs, and several days’ worth of drinks and other perishables. Added bonus: No airline headaches, no TSA intrusions, no cramped seating, no crappy plane food!

[...]

RV’ing is not everyone’s cup of tea, of course. If you’re high maintenance and need a hot bath every day, forget about it. If you can’t bear to be unplugged from the world, don’t bother. And if you are unwilling to jump feet first into the great unknown, go ahead and make boring, conventional flight and hotel reservations instead. Yes, the prospect of barreling across the highway in gusty winds and on wet treacherous mountain roads in a 10,000-pound home on wheels left me a little queasy. But if you make sure to pack some RV must-haves — sense of humor, spirit of adventure, industrial-strength rubber gloves, duct tape, extension cords, wrench, multi-tool, Petzl headlamps, tarp, S’mores ingredients, marshmallow roasting sticks, walkie-talkies, and Dramamine — you can live the RV dream. Experienced friends recommended we watch the movie “RV” before we started our trip. Aside from a few p.c. tirades against big corporations, it’s definitely good prep viewing.

RV rule of thumb: Things will go wrong. We tried to use the RV generator while off-site and somehow ended up setting off the propane gas detector, causing significant newbie panic. Also: One of the holding tank hoses got stuck during our first attempt to de-camp (which taught us the hard way to have a wrench at the ready). But as I said, RVers are immensely friendly and willing to lend a hand, tool, or tip. Attention to detail is key. Getting into a checklist routine before departing and upon arrival at your RV site will save a lot of grief. [...]

Follow the link for pics, embedded links and more.
     

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Britain's Con-Dems and the Islamists

The UK and Islamist Terror: Conservatives Putting the Nation at Risk?
[...] The Conservative-led coalition government faces serious challenges, perhaps most especially in regard to Islamist extremism, which it seems intellectually ill-equipped to combat.

Pundits suggest that the coalition ("Con-Dem") government will collapse, possibly within a year or two, and that the Labour party might even be swept back into office. With the Conservatives having abandoned their defining values, and having aligned themselves with the left-wing Liberal Democrats, another threat comes from the right, both from within and from without the party.

Three days before the election, the Conservatives issued their A Contract for Equalities - arguably their real manifesto – articulating how the party would make anti-discrimination "central" to a Conservative government. The problem is not that the Conservatives want people to be judged by their character rather than by the skin color, etc. That is entirely right and proper – as virtually everyone in Britain recognizes.

The problem is that this sort of "anti-discrimination" is ideological: those who openly reject cultural relativism, believe in Britishness, democracy, etc., constitute an oppressor class, that has, and that is, dominating various oppressed classes. This is not an ideology in which Whites are regarded as the exclusive oppressors of non-Whites, but, rather, one in which the West oppresses the non-Western. The Sikh that champions democracy and inveighs against radical Islam is also certain to be deemed a "racist" and lumped in with neo-Nazis.

Cameron believes that people become Islamists – and, perhaps eventually commit acts of terror – not because they are attracted to, and eventually believe in, Islamist ideology per se, but because they have been oppressed. Islamist ideology is not a factor, as attraction to it must be preceded by discrimination. The nation is to blame.

This was perfectly clear from his statements and actions in the lead-up to the election.

By pushing female, gay, ethnic and religious minorities into safe seats, and thus into government, Cameron asserted, other members of these groups would realize that they were equal citizens in Britain, with equal rights and opportunities. By merely seeing more "minority" MPs, the rifts in society would magically repair themselves.

According to the party's pre-election statement on national security, "Government cannot provide security without the trust and support of its citizens." In other words, if Muslims do not trust or support the government, then they might drift into extremism. The Conservatives thus promised to "review and consolidate […] counter-terrorism and security laws introduced by Labour," and especially to review the "Prevent" scheme, "supposed to stop vulnerable people from becoming terrorists but which has been accused of spying on innocent Muslims." (Prevent was set up by the previous government, specifically to combat the growth of Islamist extremism and terrorism, by working with Imams, and so on.)

Cameron shares his "anti-discrimination" worldview with coalition partners, the uncompromisingly left-wing, LibDems. Of greater consequence, though, it has also now become the defining ideology of most of those at the top of the "progressive" Conservative party. [...]

The full article gives examples of what the dangers are, and where this appears to be going.

Regardless of what anyone may think of "identity politics", one can argue that this strategy of the Brits has had some success in politically co-opting and placating some groups that might otherwise be more hostile. It may even work with some Muslims. But with the hard-core Islamists, who actually implement terrorist attacks? Will they not just see it as more appeasement and weakness, and cause them to attack even more furiously and intently? That's what the author of the article seems to think. That Cameron and the Con-Dems are putting themselves and the country in harms way. In any case, regardless of what any of us thinks, we shall see what happens.


Meanwhile, we have a similar dynamic at work in our own government:

The Alien in the White House
The author goes on about the President in particular, but also about people in his administration and their views, which on matters of terrorism, are similar to Great Britain's government:
[...] And who can forget the exhortations on jihad by John Brennan, Mr. Obama's chief adviser on counterterrorism? Mr. Brennan has in the past charged that Americans lack sensitivity to the Muslim world, and that we have particularly failed to credit its peace-loving disposition. In a May 26 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Brennan held forth fervently, if not quite comprehensibly, on who our enemy was not: "Our enemy is not terrorism because terrorism is just a tactic. Our enemy is not terror because terror is a state of mind, and as Americans we refuse to live in fear."

He went on to announce, sternly, that we do not refer to our enemies as Islamists or jihadists because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam. How then might we be permitted to describe our enemies? One hint comes from another of Mr. Brennan's pronouncements in that speech: That "violent extremists are victims of political, economic and social forces."

Yes, that would work. Consider the news bulletins we could have read: "Police have arrested Faisal Shahzad, victim of political, economic and social forces living in Connecticut, for efforts to set off a car bomb explosion in Times Square." Plotters in Afghanistan and Yemen, preparing for their next attempt at mass murder in America, could only have listened in wonderment. They must have marvelled in particular on learning that this was the chief counterterrorism adviser to the president of the United States. [...]

Can you say "Dhimmitude"? You can be sure that Muslim extremists can.
     

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Rand Paul's goofs. Confusion?

This first article looks at Rand's goofs, which are fixable. Live and learn. The second article deals with his remarks, which were really just dealing with an age old question that has been asked many times before, and will continue to be asked: "How much government interference is a good thing?" I found both articles thoughtful reading.

A Learning Moment: Deconstructing Rand's National Debut
If you have followed me for some time then you know that what drives me is arming the freedom movement with the tools, skills, and experience necessary to drive political success. That is one of the reasons that this is such an exciting moment.

The Rand Paul primary campaign has been an exercise in message discipline, image control, and managerial competence that should be broadly admired and studied within the movement. It also makes the last week somewhat puzzling, but does provide some important lessons for aspiring political strategists and campaign staffers. [...]

And the author goes on to explain those lessons, point by point. It's good stuff. And fortunately, there is evidence that Rand Paul's campaign is learning them.

Is Rand Paul a racist? The following author says no, he's just asking the age-old question, but people are spinning it for their own Partisan reasons. But the author also gives a thoughtful examination of the question, and why it continues to be so important.

What's behind Rand Paul's confusion
[...] We do, after all, allow government to say that murder is unacceptable -- in private and public spaces. On lesser issues (Are mustaches acceptable? Can men wear purple tights? What political party do you belong to?) most Americans think it's none of the government's business what happens in a private home or private business.

But on race, as on murder, since the 1964 Civil Rights Act, most Americans have agreed that the issue is important -- more than important, foundational -- enough that the government can and should regulate what happens in the private sphere.

Imagine how things might have looked if we hadn't decided that. If, like the 14th Amendment, the 1964 Civil Rights Act had covered only state action, then bus companies, airlines, restaurants, employers and landlords across America could still be discriminating on the basis of race.

Libertarians -- and this is a serious, sophisticated argument -- say that the market can and would correct for this. They say that customers would shun, say, restaurants and hotels and national brands that discriminated on the basis of race and that eventually those bigoted operations would go out of business.

The libertarians' point is that there's no need, in fact it's inappropriate, for the government to get involved. But the fact is the market didn't correct for widespread and pervasive discrimination of this kind in the Jim Crow era. On the contrary, it flourished widely in America for 100 years after the Civil War.

It was this failure that drove the civil rights revolution. And the rationale for the federal government's long reach into what happened at private accommodations such as lunch counters made perfect sense at the time.

Does that rationale still apply today -- nearly five decades after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and two years into the presidency of the first black president, Barack Obama?

I think most Americans would say it does, that racial equality is important enough to who and what we are as a nation that the long arm of government should reach into the private realm and bar discrimination there -- just as it bars murder

Of course, libertarians have every right to disagree with that. That they do doesn't make them racists. Poor, befuddled Paul couldn't seem to figure out if he did or didn't agree (although he later said that he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act). But what his cartoon controversy underscores is the complexity of the issue.

Yes, many Americans, including me, think the government is overreaching now -- badly overreaching.

But as all government all the time is not the answer, so no government ever is surely just as wrong.

How to find the right balance? That is going to be the challenge of our era. [...]

     

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Traveling Safely in South Africa

It's the subject of today's wikiHow:



How to Travel Safely in South Africa
While South Africa has a bad reputation for crime, this reputation is somewhat inflated, and almost everywhere is safe to visit. Like many places in the world, it is about being a responsible, knowledgeable traveler rather than assuming that everywhere is dangerous. By taking a few sensible precautions, you can avoid sticky situations and possible health problems, allowing you to enjoy what is a fantastic country, seeing all you want to see with confidence. [...]

It's chocker-block full of good travel tips, some specific to South Africa, but most are applicable to just about anywhere. A good review for anyone who is planning a trip.
     

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What Leftists and Islamists are both lacking, is empathy for and adherence to the "Golden Rule"

Can We Coexist With The Left?
The American writer Lawrence Auster had a debate with his readers regarding the possibility of splitting the USA along ideological lines. According to reader Tim W, modern Left liberalism is a universal totalitarian ideology, not a “live and let live” concept. The goal of its adherents is a world government from which no one can escape. Leftists “need conservatives but conservatives don’t need leftists. To be blunt, they can’t let us go. We’d be happy to be rid of them, because to us they’re nothing but parasites and/or oppressors. But they can’t get rid of us because we do most of the work, pay most of the taxes, provide the stability and morality that allow their depravity to thrive with less damaging results. Furthermore, the white conservative population is the buffer protecting white liberals from the minorities.”

A number of commentators questioned the viability of such a political division. Muslims believe not only that Islam is the best religion, but that it is the only true religion and that all people must be brought into its fold. Likewise, Leftists sincerely believe that Leftism is the only valid ideology, and that the whole world must be brought under its heel. Just like the very existence of self-governed communities outside of Islamic rule is considered an intolerable act of aggression by devout Muslims, so the existence of self-governed non-Leftist communities anywhere, at least if they happen to be white, is unacceptable to Leftist True Believers. They don’t just want to rule themselves; they want to rule everybody else as well.

[...]

In her book A God Who Hates, the Syrian-born ex-Muslim Wafa Sultan comments on the Islamic “culture of shouting and raiding.” She states that “My experience has been that two Muslims cannot talk together without their conversation turning into shouts within minutes, especially when they disagree with each other, and no good can come of that. When you talk to a Muslim, rationally, in a low calm voice, he has trouble understanding your point of view. He thinks you have lost the argument. A Muslim conversing with anyone else – Muslim or non-Muslim – cannot remember a single word the other person has said, any more than my mother could remember a single word of what the preacher in our local mosque said.”

Former Muslim Ali Sina notes that “there is very little difference between the Left and Islam. What is lacking in both these creeds is the adherence to the Golden Rule. Just as for Muslims, everything Islamic is a priori right and good and everything un-Islamic is a priori wrong and evil, for the Left, everything leftist is a priori oppressed and good.” Facts don’t matter. Lying about opponents and their intentions is so widespread “that it is considered to be normal.”

After it was revealed that much of the data regarding alleged man-made global warming was deliberately fabricated, which constitutes one of the largest and most expensive anti-scientific frauds in history, most of its Leftist backers continued as if nothing had happened. The fact that they had promoted outright lies and slimed their opponents based on these lies mattered little. They believe they had the right to do so, as long as their intentions were right. Muslims, too, are allowed to lie to further the spread of their ideology. This strategy is called taqiyya.

Just like Muslims, both national Socialists and international Socialists totally lack respect for Socratic Dialogue, the reasoned search for truth which has been a hallmark of Western culture at its best. This is why such a large percentage of Western converts to Islam are either neo-Nazis or Marxists: These groups already think a great deal like Muslims. Their creed is the Absolute Truth, which should rule the world and must be imposed on others by brute force if necessary. They consequently have no need for reasoned debate. Others should submit to their rule or be violently squashed.

[...]

Let me add that I don’t think all Leftists have a well-thought-out plan to destroy the West. I have some in my immediate family, and they don’t think like this at all. They sincerely believe that what they are doing is the right thing. The hardcore ones who deliberately want to kill the West might be a minority, but at the end of the day this distinction matters little.

In many cases you can compromise, but in others you cannot. If somebody tries to poison you then you have to resist. It doesn’t matter in the long run whether those who do this do so because they deliberately want to kill you or because they are fools who accidentally kill you while intending to do something noble. The bottom line is: You die. You cannot be slightly dead, just like you cannot be slightly pregnant. If the Leftists and the Globalists have their way then our civilization will die, plain and simple. [...]

Our civilization, as we have known it, is dying every day. It's called change, and it's inevitable. All that we know is in the process of becoming something else. Fjordman, who wrote this article, is perhaps too pessimistic. Barry warns me that many of the writers at the Brussels Journal have Nazi sympathies. I can see that potential. The problem is, that any white person who sticks up for European culture can easily be called a Nazi, just to shut him up. But that doesn't mean that someone who sticks up for European culture is someone who wants to hate and exterminate other cultures. True multicultural tolerance would include European culture, not seek to destroy it. These are distinction worth making, for anyone who considers themselves to be a classical liberal.

If European culture is destined to be assimilated and become something else, so be it; those who make the most babies inherit the future. If America's complexion, and the complexion of the whole western world is destined to become something other than white, it matters little. What does matter to me, is the survival and advancement of the best elements of Western Civilization. Things like The Golden Rule, and Socratic thinking. Liberty and freedom, self-governance and sovereignty, the rule of law, not of kings or dictators. The Ideals set forth in the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Such things hold no value for Leftists or Jihadists. Only their ideology matters, and they have no qualms about lying to advance their agendas. Even when they tell the truth it's like a lie, because they never ask themselves "is it true?". They only think "What do I need to say to get what I want?". The ends justifies the means. They often don't say what they mean, nor mean what they say. Thus neither Leftists or Jihadists can be trusted, because they have no respect for objective truth, and no respect for anyone who does not support their flawed ideologies. Muslims who practice taqiyya, are no different from Leftists who practice "the ends justify the means". Both believe they are allowed to lie to further the spread of their ideology. Both are liars of the worst kind.

I haven't much use for liars, of any description. This article does a good job of showing the dishonesty and intolerance of these extremist ideologies, that would use any means possible to impose themselves on others. I'm generally a pretty tolerant person, but I see no need to tolerate the completely intolerant. Tolerance is supposed to be a two-way street. I tend to be as tolerant of other people as they are of me. It would be unwise to be more so.


Also see: Islam's Nowhere Men


     

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Flotilla participants got what they wanted

Martyrdom:

Arab Media Reports on Flotilla Participants: Writing Wills, Preparing for Martyrdom, Determined to Reach Gaza or Die
Flotilla Participants

Following is information from the Arab media about some of the flotilla participants. It should be noted that many of these were from the Muslim Brotherhood across the Muslim world.

(For more on this subject, see also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2986, "MEMRI TV Clips on the Gaza Flotilla: Activists On Board Chant Songs of Martyrdom at Departure," http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/4249.htm.)

Egypt

In Friday sermons, Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Muhammad Badi' expressed support for Hamas, frequently reiterating harsh statements in favor of jihad and of the armed struggle in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan (see http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/4254.htm).

The Egyptian flotilla delegation included two members of the Muslim Brotherhood bloc in the Egyptian parliament: Muhammad Al-Baltaji and Hazem Farouq.

Al-Baltaji, who is deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary bloc in Egypt, said at a March 2010 conference, "A nation that excels at dying will be blessed by Allah with a life of dignity and with eternal paradise." He also said that his movement "will never recognize Israel and will never abandon the resistance," and that "resistance is the only road map that can save Jerusalem, restore the Arab honor, and prevent Palestine from becoming a second Andalusia.[1] [...]

It goes on to list news reports from Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, and more, confirming that they were Jihadis preparing to die.

These are Middle Eastern news sources acknowledging this. So why does the Western media keep insisting it was "just humanitarian aid", when everyone in the Middle East knows it wasn't?

President Obama is criticizing Israel for not handling the situation better. Given that many of the flotilla participants were armed to the teeth and ready to die as martyrs, how could it have turned out any differently than it did?

Of course the Muslim Brotherhood was deeply involved, as well as an assortment of Western commies. They have so much in common.
     

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