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.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

"shipping jobs overseas" argument is flawed

See the logic. Do the math:

Shipping out jobs
A myth pols find convenient
With campaign season comes predictable charges that Candidate X favors "tax breaks for corporations that ship US jobs overseas." It's a bogus claim.

With unemployment still stubbornly high, Americans are rightly worried about the economy. And politicians of both parties -- from President Obama on down -- have seized on US multinational companies as a convenient scapegoat.

The charge sounds logical: Under the US corporate tax code, US-based companies aren't taxed on profits that their affiliates abroad earn until those profits are returned here. Supposedly, this "tax break" gives firms an incentive to create jobs overseas rather than at home, so any candidate who doesn't want to impose higher taxes on those foreign operations is guilty of "shipping jobs overseas."

In fact, American companies have quite valid reasons beyond any tax advantage to establish overseas affiliates: That's how they reach foreign customers with US-branded goods and services.

Those affiliates allow US companies to sell services that can only be delivered where the customer lives (such as fast food and retail) or to customize their products, such as automobiles, to better reflect the taste of customers in foreign markets.

In 2008, US companies sold more than $6 trillion worth of goods and services through overseas affiliates -- three times what US companies exported from America. And, no, those affiliates aren't mainly "export platforms," set up to ship goods back to the United States: Almost 90 percent of what they produce abroad is sold abroad.

It's not about access to "cheap labor," either: More than three-quarters of outward US manufacturing investment goes to other rich, developed economies like Canada and the European Union. That's where they find the wealthy customers, skilled workers, open markets, efficient infrastructure and political stability to operate profitably.

Indeed, US manufacturing companies invest a modest $2 billion a year in China, compared to $30 billion a year in Europe.

Nor do jobs created by those investments come at the expense of American workers. In fact, the more workers US multinationals hire abroad, the more they tend to hire at their parent operations in America. Ramped up production at affiliates stimulates demand at home for managers, accountants, engineers and sales reps. It also stokes demand for the export of higher-end components and services from the US-based parent.

But the charge is worse yet -- because if Congress were to repeal the tax exemption for income earned abroad, it would kill American jobs. [...]

Read the rest and see how. The truth matters.
     

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External Hard Drives and eSATA

I've been wanting to use an external HD for backing up my computer(s) but I didn't want one that locks me into using one particular kind of software. In the past, I've used regular IDE drives in an external case, and backed up to them via USB cable.

Nowadays, modern drives are larger, and are usually SATA drives. And now, they often use something called eSATA when they are used as external drives. A good explaination of eSATA is here:

What Is eSATA?
External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment or eSATA is an external interface for SATA technologies. It competes with FireWire 400 and universal serial bus (USB) 2.0 to provide fast data transfer speeds for external storage devices.

SATA replaced ATA legacy technology as the next generation internal bus interface for hard drives. The SATA interface is more streamlined than ATA and provides serial architecture for greater speed than the older parallel technology. eSATA cables are narrow and can be up to 6.56 feet (2 meters) in length, whereas parallel cables are much wider and limited to a length of 18 inches (45.7 cm). With eSATA, the speed of SATA expands to encompass exterior storage solutions. [...]

Read the whole thing for the advantages, drawbacks, and other details. It sounds great to me.

I am thinking about getting a Western Digital 1 TB drive, and putting it into one of these:
Antec MX-1 USB/e-SATA 3.5-Inch Hard Drive Enclosure
Product Features

* 3.5-inch USB 2.0/e-SATA external hard drive enclosure for PC
* Up to 480 Mbps USB transfer rate; 3 Gbps e-SATA transfer rate
* Dual-layer design reduces noise; patented blower keeps drive up to 15 degrees cooler
* Includes stand, USB cable, eSATA cable, and eSATA bracket
* 3-year limited warranty

Technical Details

* Model Number: MX-1
* Interface: Hi-Speed USB 2.0, eSATA-300, serial ATA-300
* Interface transfer rate: USB: 480 Mbps; eSATA: 3 Gbps
* Hard drive compatibility: Up to 750 GB 3.5-inch SATA hard disk drive
* System requirements: Windows 2000/Me/XP/Vista
* Dimensions: 5.7 x 8.6 x 2.2 inches / 14.6 x 21.9 x 5.7 centimeters (W x H x D)
* Weight: 1.4 pounds / 0.65 kilograms
* What's in the Box: MX-1 hard drive enclosure, USB cable, eSATA cable, eSATA bracket, stand


But then I saw this:

Western Digital WD Elements 2 TB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive WDBAAU0020HBK-NESN
Here is a 5 star review from a customer:
Very good hard drive!, November 23, 2009
[...] I am a photographer too, so I have tons of Photos (about 160GB), Videos, Software, Movies and Documentaries. I was looking for a simple external hard drive without any backup software included, I am smart enough to do manual incremental backups with file tree structure intact (I use GOODSYNC to backup, its very simple and easy to use and free).

I have looked at many many external HDDs and narrowed down to two models "Samsung Story 1TB - very good one too" and this one (I wanted it to be cheap too - got this for $85 on [...]). I did not go with other WD models because of their annoying Backup Software.

Coming to the WD Elements 1TB: Its much smaller than I expected. It is dead silent, I had to touch it to convince myself that it was running, when I first turned it on. Its not too heavy either. The indicator light is placed at the rear, which is a very good thing (I find these LED's annoying, especially at night).

After I did the first setup, I copied 383GB of data (931GB was total space). It took about 4hr 47min, speed varied between 20MBps to 37MBps. This is pretty good speed for USB 2.0. It was just a bit warm (my old segate hard drive would be very very hot for this amount of data transfer).

I would recommend it to beginners or pros alike. I am very happy with this purchase!


UPDATE:

After about three months of heavy usage, it never gave up on me. Its still dead silent and works flawlessly. It never got even warm!!

Follow these steps to get GOODSYNC for FREE:

In the beginning GOODSYNC was free, later they made a paid version as it gained popularity..

but there is a way to get PRO version for free...

1. go to good sync website
2. signup for a trial offer and you get PRO serial for free (I signed up for eMusic trial)
3. Once you get the serial, end the subscription before the trial expires...

NOTE: The above mentioned procedure may not work anymore :(

UPDATE: 07-28-2010

I sold my WD Elements 1TB and got a 2TB one a couple of months ago(as my data is on rise all the time), couldn't be happier :)
I bought it from TigerDirect for [ ... ] and got [ ... ] cashback via [ ... ] ...awesome!!

It doesn't do eSATA, so I would be stuck with USB transfer speeds. But it's TWO TBs instead of one. Decisions, decisions.
     

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Your choice in November: the lesser of two evils

Moving Obama's Agenda Forward

[...] Obama said, "My name may not be on the ballot, but our agenda for moving forward is on the ballot, and I need everybody to turn out." Don't ya just love that phrase .. "our agenda of moving forward." Moving forward to what? If you're rushing toward the end of the pier, maybe changing your direction would be worth some consideration. Voters seem to think so.

Again ... moving forward to what?

Moving forward to unprecedented federal debt. From the time the gavel fell opening the first session of the first congress of the United States .. way back yonder in the late 1780s, until 1990 --- that's about 210 years - our country amassed $3 trillion in debt. Barack Obama amassed $3 trillion in additional debt in the first 17 months of his presidency. Moving forward.

When Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House on January 4, 2007 she announced that there would be no more deficit spending. None. Nada. Nunca. Since that time she has presided over a House of Representatives that has increased our deficit spending by another $5 trillion dollars. Moving forward.

When ObamaCare was passed The Community Organizer told us that we would be able to keep our insurance if we liked it. We can't. He told us it would cut the deficit. The Congressional Budget Office now says it won't. He told us it would cost less than one trillion dollars. It will cost more.

It takes 150,000 new jobs every single month in our country just to keep up with the rate of population growth. Obama hasn't seen that figure one single time since he was sworn in. Moving forward.

Out of every dollar our country spends today over 40 cents is borrowed. Moving forward.

America has been in recessions before. Never, though, has American seen a recession end with so few new private sector and so many government jobs being created. Moving forward.

At the rate that Obama is moving our country, we are moving right into bankruptcy. We are moving right into a period of unprecedented joblessness and growth of the moocher class. Moving forward implies becoming a better version of oneself. Obama is not taking our country in a direction of self idealization but off the cliff of self destruction.

Remember all the promises of bipartisanship? How has that worked out over the past two years? What actually happened? A look at the facts:

SO MUCH FOR THE BIPARTISAN PRESIDENT
[...] Which Obama are we going to get?

The answer: Probably the same one we've already seen. The same president that treated bipartisanship as nothing but smoke and mirrors. While holding a few meetings here and there, even a summit on healthcare, Republicans have been blocked from virtually everything the Democrats have done over the last two years. The great and wonderful stimulus package was crafted without a single Republican in the room. In fact, House Democrats shut Republicans out of offering floor amendments to all spending legislation. The recent small business package? Republicans were shut out of offering any amendments. Healthcare? Same exact thing. The Democrats, including Barack Obama, cannot claim bipartisanship and then completely shut out the other side. How many times did Obama react to an effort from Republicans to present ideas by saying "Hey ... I won!" Now with the Republicans coming into their own and gaining power in Congress, it will be interesting to see what Obama does when he doesn't have Nancy Pelosi and maybe even Harry Reid there as his first line of defense.

The Republicans have certainly played their own part in reckless spending. I think it's a big reason they lost in 2008, but the current Democrat administration have continued that policy with a vengeance. So the Republicans stand to make gains again, but it had better be different this time:

NO TIME TO PARTY
At least the Republicans seem to be embracing the fact that people are not going to the polls because they are in love with Republicans. That's a good thing. Republicans are realizing that they have a lot of work to do in order to get our country back on track and prove to those voters why they made the right decision on November 2nd.

On the night of the elections, John Boehner has made it clear that he does not consider November 2nd a time to party. He wants America to see that the Republicans are serious about tackling the problems we face. NRCC Communications Director Ken Spain says, "... even if voters remove Democrats from power, you don't celebrate at a time when one in 10 Americans are out of work and our children's future is threatened by mountains of debt."

They are right. Let's hope that they maintain this attitude for the next two years. And beyond. Things have this nasty little tendency to change when they get to Washington, pick out their drapes, their fresh flowers for their Congressional offices, and sink into the chair of power.

This time, the people will hold their feet to the fire.

Government will never be perfect. The founder's called it "A necessary evil" for a reason. The best way to limit government's potential for evil, is to limit the power of government itself. At the very least, those who are drunk with government power are overdue for a restraining order.

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What NPR's Vivian Schiller is pushing for

Check out her agenda. She's got BIG plans:

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller Key Architect of FCC Govt Takeover of the News
Last week, National Public Radio CEO Vivian Schiller took a break from her crusade for a government takeover of the media to swat a fly. With now-former NPR analyst Juan Williams suitably splattered across the evening news after politically incorrect comments he made on Fox News, Schiller can return to her real passion – the creation of a national network to ensure that in the future, you get your news from the government in general and NPR in particular.

[...]

Schiller, a former New York Times executive, is one of a few dozen power players working with the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and a leftist group called Free Press to “reinvent journalism.” That’s how the FTC describes it. The FCC calls what they are doing the “Future of Journalism.” Free Press, a think tank funded by leftist billionaire George Soros, among others, calls it “the new public media.”

It’s all the same thing, a plan to take over local news coverage from for-profit television, radio and print media, which Schiller and her friends claim is in danger of extinction. These “friends” get together regularly with the heads of the FCC and FTC to brainstorm the details in government and congressional meetings. These meetings include the leaders of all the country’s public broadcasting outlets, including PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and American Public Media.

They are beefing up their staffs in local news markets with herds of public news reporters to “take over” coverage as commercial media fails. Nationwide, this will cost $40 billion to $60 billion over a decade, they believe. Their plans, according to the FCC’s Future of Media report, are to raise this money by taxing for-profit news organizations – the ones whose reporting Schiller is supposedly trying to “save.” They want to charge “spectrum fees” of five percent of broadcast station revenues for use of the public spectrum and airwaves, which the government controls. They figure that could bring in $1.8 billion a year. A one percent tax on all electronic devices like cell phones, televisions and laptops could bring in billions more. So would a monthly fee on internet subscriptions.

While conservatives were busy arguing that NPR should be defunded in the wake of the Williams debacle, Schiller was putting the finishing touches on the national infrastructure NPR has launched to deliver this new government news product to cities across the nation. A decade ago, defunding NPR would have sufficed. To stop Schiller now, Republicans would have to defund PBS and CPB as well to have any hope of torpedoing her plans to build a nationwide news delivery system in the style of the BBC, but on steroids. Schiller imagines a national public print, television and radio news leviathan that would compete with the top five news companies in the news industry.

“We can create a national network around all of public radio that provides the kind of public service that is being not provided by other media companies that are suffering,” Schiller told Cyberjournalist.net. Never mind that her planned confiscation of their revenues will cause them more suffering and possibly send them to an early death. [...]

Read the whole thing. Chilling, absolutely chilling. She's actually creating the problem she claims she is trying to solve, then pushing her own power grab as the solution. And why not? She has gotten away with it thus far. Another example of government power gone wild. Once released, it knows no limits.

Creating a government controlled news monopoly with taxpayers money is not what taxes are for. De-fund the lot of them... NOW.


Also see:

Marxist Censorship Dreams, and the FCC
     

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Which party is better at job growth?

How job growth looked before and after the Democrats took control of Congress

This is why we have 10% unemployment. The Democrats keep blaming George Bush and the Republicans for it, but it's congress that controls economic policy. And since it's the Democrats who've controlled congress since 2007, the unemployment we are seeing today is largely due to their policies and decision-making. The more power they got, the more employment dropped.
     

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Watch out for this Windows 7 update

It's large, and you may not even need it:

Is Windows Live Essentials 2011 falsely flagged by Windows Update?
Users of Windows Vista and Windows 7 are starting to see an update notice from Microsoft. However, this notice, while listed as Important by Windows Update, isn’t security related. It’s a 160 MB download of Windows Live Essentials (WLE) 2011. Is this false flagging, or a legitimate notification?

As it turns out, the offered update is both legit and a bit mismarked. Due to how the Windows Update features work with Microsoft Update, it is entirely possible to see a Microsoft Recommended Update listed as Important.

In a blog post on the release of WLE 2011, Microsoft said that it would be offered as a Recommended Update for users who have any one of the Windows Live software products installed, “…otherwise it will be offered as an Optional Update. If you have configured your computer to automatically download Recommended Updates then it will download automatically.”

What the blog post did not say was that if you have also enabled Microsoft Update along side Windows Update, then you will see these recommended updates as important ones. The reason is a checkmark next to a box within the Windows Update configuration that allows you to get, “recommended updates the say way [you] receive important updates.”

Most users on Vista or Windows 7 have Microsoft Update enabled. So many of them have seen this update recently listed as Important in the tray notification. [...]

Important to know, especially if you have limits on your bandwidth usage.
     

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Are you ready for "Wi-Fi Direct certified"?

Ya better be, because it's here. What IS it? Have a look:

Wi-Fi Direct: What You Need To Know
[...] Wi-Fi Direct is an emerging technology meant to meet the growing demand for easy, portable wireless network connectivity. It's peer-to-peer wireless networking, which means that devices such as notebooks, tablets, cameras, and printers can "find" one another and establish wireless connectivity without need of the presence of a wireless router, an access point, or a hotspot.

How is it used? Imagine synching your mobile device or laptop to a printer, digital photo frame, or TV without connecting to a Wi-Fi network. No worry about SSIDs or passwords to access them.

There are a few key features to know about Wi-Fi Direct: [...]

Read the rest for a more detailed explanation of what it is... and isn't. For instance, Wi-Fi Direct is not the same as ad-hoc networking, and it explains why.

All this stuff changes so quickly. No sooner do I get my head wrapped around a concept, when it then changes. Though on the plus side, I will say that, overall, wireless networking is getting better, and becoming easier for the average non-geek user to deal with.


Also see:

Wikipedia: Wi-Fi Direct
     

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

P. J. O'Rourke: "This is not an election on November 2. This is a restraining order."


They Hate Our Guts And they’re drunk on power.
Perhaps you’re having a tiny last minute qualm about voting Republican. Take heart. And take the House and the Senate. Yes, there are a few flakes of dander in the fair tresses of the GOP’s crowning glory—an isolated isolationist or two, a hint of gold buggery, and Christine O’Donnell announcing that she’s not a witch. (I ask you, has Hillary Clinton ever cleared this up?) Fret not over Republican peccadilloes such as the Tea Party finding the single, solitary person in Nevada who couldn’t poll ten to one against Harry Reid. Better to have a few cockeyed mutts running the dog pound than Michael Vick. [...]

Read the whole thing. It's true to my experience of the Democrat party, which is why I stopped being one long ago.

Remember in November.
     

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

"LXDE" is a really svelte and fast Linux GUI

I'm not claiming it's the smallest (it's not) or even the fastest or the best, but it is pretty good for my needs, on my 12 year old celeron computer in my back porch farm office/dog room/Ham radio shack. It only has 576 megs of ram. The computer is too old to spend money on buying more memory, so I wanted an operating system that would use a minimum of system resources. I chose PCLOS Linux, using the LXDE gui (graphical user interface), and it's made a big difference:


All about the PCLinuxOS LXDE 2010.07 desktop
Info: The “Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment” is an extremely fast-performing and energy-saving desktop environment. Maintained by an international community of developers, it comes with a beautiful interface, multi-language support, standard keyboard short cuts and additional features like tabbed file browsing. LXDE uses less CPU and less RAM than other environments. It is especially designed for cloud computers with low hardware specifications, such as, netbooks, mobile devices (e.g. MIDs) or older computers.

Features:
Kernel 2.6.33.5-bfs kernel for maximum desktop performance.
Full LXDE Desktop.
Nvidia and ATI fglrx driver support.
Multimedia playback support for many popular formats.
Wireless support for many network devices.
Printer support for many local and networked printer devices.
Addlocale allows you to convert PCLinuxOS into over 60 languages.
GetOpenOffice can install Open Office supporting over 100 languages.
MyLiveCD allows you to take a snapshot of your installation and burn it to a LiveCD/DVD.

Highlighted Applications: [...]

Follow the link for full system specs and download information.

The minimum RAM requirements for LXDE is 384 megs. I was using Linux Mint GNOME on the computer before this, and it's minimum RAM requirement was 512 MB. It worked ok, but was a bit slow and clunky; I had to wait a lot, and could not multi-task much. Thus, using the computer had a slight "painful" quality.

With this new install with LXDE, things are considerably faster, and I can multitask a bit more. It's a lot like having a "newer" machine.

Now I know there are other GUI's that are smaller and faster. I've tried many of them. But in general, I've found that they have a lot of ... "rough edges". That you end up sacrificing ease of use and a smooth interface with good utilities, for speed.

I wanted a GUI that was less demanding on system resources, without sacrificing much ease-of-use and serviceability. With LXDE on PCLOS, I feel I've found the right balance.

One problem I had with LXDE that was almost a show-stopper was, that it didn't automatically mount CD ROM's and USB memory sticks. But to fix that I did a Google search, and found that all I needed to do was add some software packages via the Synaptic package manager. The packages were:

hal
dbus
autofs
Pmount
ivman

"hal" and "dbus" were already installed, but Synaptic said updated versions were available, so I marked them for upgrade, and selected the rest for download. Synaptic took care of all the dependencies, the download and install went automatically and smoothly. I rebooted, and now I have the same functionality as the bigger GUI players like GNOME and KDE.

I'm very happy with it, and recommend LXDE for older machines. The version I had (2010) was a bit older than the one that's available for download now (2010.07). Perhaps the newer one already has these packages, I can't say. But if it doesn't, all the software is available for free in the repositories on-line. I also downloaded from there windows codecs, and my favorite card game, the Linux version of Pysol Fan Club Edition.

LXDE and PCLOS also recognized my Linksys wireless usb dongle, so the computer now does all that I need it to do. Hooray! Perhaps it can do the same for you. And if you need help with it, there is an on-line forum, and Google.

LXDE on PCLOS is a live CD, but you can also put the ISO image on a USB memory stick and boot if from there using a program like UNetbootin.


Also see:

Spotlight on Linux: PCLinuxOS 2010

   

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German Chancellor Merkel Makes Waves

Angela Merkel declares death of German multiculturalism
Chancellor's remarks, which claimed multiculturalism had 'failed utterly', interpreted as a shift rightwards from previous views
[...] Merkel's verdict marks a shift in her previously liberal line on immigration which had always put her at odds with the more conservative wing of the party.

While she stressed in the same speech that immigrants were welcome in Germany and that Islam was a part of the nation's modern-day culture, her remarks positioned her closer to Horst Seehofer, the Bavarian state premier of the Christian Social Union, who last week called for an end to immigration from Turkey and Arab countries.

They also align her with Thilo Sarrazin, the former Bundesbank member whose book on how the failure of many of Germany's 16 million immigrants to integrate was contributing to Germany's decline led to his dismissal.

Sharing the same podium as Merkel in Potsdam, Seehofer also said "multi-culturalism is dead" and that both the rightwing parties were committed to a "dominant German culture". If Germany did not revise its immigration policies, he said, it was in danger of becoming "the world's welfare office".

Seehofer insisted his statement was "an attempt to stop rightwing lunatics" but Jürgen Trittin, for the Greens, called the comments "shabby" and in danger of "lending social acceptability to views similar to those of rightwing extremists". There is a labour shortage in Germany. The chamber of industry and commerce has said that Germany is short of 400,000 skilled workers and that the gap is costing €25bn a year, equivalent to 1% of growth annually.

While industrialists have called on the government to remove obstacles stopping more skilled workers entering Germany, citing lengthy bureaucratic procedures as well as unrealistic thresholds, others say that long-term unemployed German workers should be given more of a chance first. Merkel insisted in her speech that immigrant workers should not be considered "until we have done all we can to help our own people to become qualified and give them a chance".

The issue has caused tension within Merkel's year-old coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats.

Labour minister Ursula von der Leyen, a member of Merkel's party, has said it was an illusion to believe people were queueing up to enter Germany.

"For several years more people have been leaving our country than entering it," she said in an interview. "Wherever it is possible, we must lower the entry hurdles for those who bring the country forward."

Merkel faces pressure to take a tougher line on immigration, particularly on so-called "integrationsverweigerer" or those immigrants who show a lack of willingness to adapt to the majority culture, by, for example, refusing to attend German language classes. [...]

There were hints that this was coming, when Merkel visited Turkey in March, when she stressed that immigrants needed to at least learn the language an integrate, if not assimilate. And there have been ongoing problems with honor killings of women who have tried to integrate or assimilate to German culture.

The article goes on to say that a study showed that 30% of Germans who were questioned believe that Germany is being over-run by foreigners. There are lots of reasons why Merkel is changing her tune somewhat. But whatever the reasons, I'm sure the Leftist multi-culturalists are going to bring out their long knives for Merkel now.
     

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Liberty or Karma? What IS "liberty"?

They aren't mutually exclusive. This made for an interesting read:

What the Tea Partiers Really Want
The passion behind the populist insurgency is less about liberty than a particularly American idea of karma.
What do the tea partiers really want? The title of a recent book by two of the movement's leaders offers an answer: "Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto." The authors, Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe, write that "We just want to be free. Free to lead our lives as we please, so long as we do not infringe on the same freedom of others."

This claim should cause liberals to do a double-take. Isn't it straight out of John Stuart Mill, the patron saint of liberalism?

[...]

Because a generalized love of liberty doesn't distinguish tea partiers from other Americans, liberals have been free to speculate on the "real" motives behind the movement. Explanations so far have spanned a rather narrow range, from racism (they're all white!) to greed (they just don't want to pay taxes!) to gullibility (Glenn Beck has hypnotized them!). Such explanations allow liberals to disregard the moral claims of tea partiers. But the passion of the tea-party movement is, in fact, a moral passion. It can be summarized in one word: not liberty, but karma.

The notion of karma comes with lots of new-age baggage, but it is an old and very conservative idea. It is the Sanskrit word for "deed" or "action," and the law of karma says that for every action, there is an equal and morally commensurate reaction. Kindness, honesty and hard work will (eventually) bring good fortune; cruelty, deceit and laziness will (eventually) bring suffering. No divine intervention is required; it's just a law of the universe, like gravity.

[...]

In the tea partiers' scheme of things, the federal government got into the business of protecting the American people—from market fluctuations as well as from their own bad decisions—under Franklin D. Roosevelt. During the Great Depression, most Americans recognized that capitalism required safety nets here and there. But Lyndon Johnson's effort to build the Great Society, and particularly welfare programs that reduced the incentives for work and marriage among the poor, went much further.

Liberals in the 1960s and 1970s seemed intent on protecting people from the punitive side of karma. Premarital sex was separated from its consequences (by birth control, abortion and more permissive norms); bearing children out of wedlock was made affordable (by passing costs on to taxpayers); even violent crime was partially shielded from punishment (by liberal reforms that aimed to protect defendants and limit the powers of the police).

Now jump ahead to today's ongoing financial and economic crisis. Again, those guilty of corruption and irresponsibility have escaped the consequences of their wrongdoing, rescued first by President Bush and then by President Obama. Bailouts and bonuses sent unimaginable sums of the taxpayers' money to the very people who brought calamity upon the rest of us. Where is punishment for the wicked?

As the tea partiers see it, the positive side of karma has been weakened, too. The Protestant work ethic (karma's Christian cousin) holds that hard work is a duty and will bring commensurate rewards. Yet here, too, liberals have long been uncomfortable with karma, because even when you create equal opportunity, differences in talent and effort result in unequal outcomes. These inequalities must then be reduced by progressive taxation, affirmative action and other heavy-handed government intervention. Such social engineering violates our liberty, but most of us accept limitations on our liberty when we agree with the goals and motives behind the rules, such as during air travel. For the tea partiers, federal activism has become a moral insult. They believe that, over time, the government has made a concerted effort to subvert the law of karma.

[...]

One of the biggest disagreements between the political left and right is their conflicting notions of fairness. Across many surveys and experiments, we find that liberals think about fairness in terms of equality, whereas conservatives think of it in terms of karma. In our survey for YourMorals.org, we asked Americans how much they agreed with a variety of statements about fairness and liberty, including this one: "Ideally, everyone in society would end up with roughly the same amount of money." Liberals were evenly divided on it, but conservatives and libertarians firmly rejected it.

On more karmic notions of fairness, however, conservatives and libertarians begin to split apart. [...]

It goes on to give examples. Read the whole thing.

For some people, the notion of "liberty" means being protected from the consequences of their own bad decisions... at someone else's expense, of course.

I think conservatives see liberty as the freedom "to", freedom to do and be, to excel, to take chances and reap the rewards, and take the consequences if you fail. And learn from that and try again, until you get it right.

Leftists tend to see liberty more as freedom "from", freedom from having to compete, from conventional social mores, and freedom from the consequences of their own actions. And without consequences, there is no incentive to learn from ones mistakes, so the mistakes just keep getting repeated. Which to me explains a lot about how we got to where we are now.

Real adults understand that you can't have Christmas every day. There are a lot of people pretending to be adults, who need to grow up.

I see the tea party movement as being a rebellion of true adults, who are saying "ENOUGH" to the excesses of the infantilized. If the Tea Party movement can keep it's focus on fiscal responsibility and accountability, it's my hope that they will attract the support of enough true adults from all political persuasions, to meet on the common middle ground and get us through the times ahead of us. And that the moochers won't outnumber the producers and drag them down, destroying us all. There has got to be a better way, and it will be up to the adults to find it and take us there.
     

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Greece and national character. Are we there yet?

We may not be there yet, but we are well on our way if we keep on going the way we are:

Revolt of the Accountants
[...] The coming rebellion in the voting booth is not only about the economic impact of spending, debt and deficits on America's future. It's also to some degree about the feared impact of all those things on the character of the American people. There is a real fear that government, with all its layers, its growth, its size, its imperviousness, is changing, or has changed, who we are. And that if we lose who we are, as Americans, we lose everything.

This is part of what's driving the sense of political urgency this year, especially within precincts of the tea party.

The most vivid illustration of the fear comes, actually, from another country, Greece, and is brilliantly limned by Michael Lewis in October's Vanity Fair. In "Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds," he outlines Greece's economic catastrophe. It is a bankrupt nation, its debt, or rather the amount of debt that has so far been unearthed and revealed, coming to "more than a quarter-million dollars for every working Greek." Over decades the Greeks turned their government "into a piñata stuffed with fantastic sums" and gave "as many citizens as possible a whack at it." The average government job pays almost three times as much as the average private-sector job. The retirement age for "arduous" jobs, including hairdressers, radio announcers and musicians, is 55 for men and 50 for women. After that, a generous pension. The tax system has disintegrated. It is a welfare state with a cash economy.

Much of this is well known, though it is beautifully stated. But all of it, Mr. Lewis asserts, has badly damaged the Greek character. "It is simply assumed . . . that anyone who is working for the government is meant to be bribed. . . . Government officials are assumed to steal." Tax fraud is rampant. Everyone cheats. "It's become a cultural trait," a tax collector tells him.

Mr. Lewis: "The Greek state was not just corrupt but also corrupting. Once you saw how it worked you could understand a phenomenon which otherwise made no sense at all: the difficulty Greek people have saying a kind word about one another. . . . Everyone is pretty sure everyone is cheating on his taxes, or bribing politicians, or taking bribes, or lying about the value of his real estate. And this total absence of faith in one another is self-reinforcing. The epidemic of lying and cheating and stealing makes any sort of civic life impossible."

Thus can great nations, great cultures, disintegrate, break into little pieces that no longer cohere into a whole. [...]

Not only is this corruption changing the character of our nation; the people who are doing the corruption are insulating themselves from the damage they are causing:

[...] Those in power institute the regulations and rules, and then hire people to protect them from the burdens and demands of their legislation. There is no congressman passing tax law who doesn't have staffers in his office taking care of his own financial life and who will not, when he moves down the street into the lobbying firm, have an army of accountants to protect him there.

Washington is now to some degree the focus of the same sort of profound resentment that Hollywood liberals inspired when they really mattered, or seemed really powerful. For decades they made films that were not helpful to our culture or society, that were full of violence and sick imagery. But they often brought their own children up more or less protected from the effects of the culture they created. Private schools, nannies, therapists, tutors. They bought their way out of the cultural mayhem to which they'd contributed. Their children were fine. Yours were on their own.

This is part of why people dislike "the elites" and why "the elites," especially in Washington, must in turn be responsive, come awake, start to notice. People don't like it when they fear you are subtly, day by day, year by year, changing the personality and character of their nation. They think, "You are ruining our country and insulating yourselves from the ruin. We hate you." And this is understandable, yes? [...]

YES indeed!
     

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Friday, October 15, 2010

What should the Federal Reserve be doing?

From Judy Shelton's interesting lunch with economist Robert Mundell:

Currency Chaos: Where Do We Go From Here?
'The most important initiative you could take to improve the world economy would be to stabilize the dollar-euro rate.'
[...] Mr. Mundell has a knack for boiling things down to simple terms. He grew up on a four-acre farm in Ontario, went on to earn a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and would ultimately challenge the renowned Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago during the late 1960s. Both economists were strong proponents of free markets, but Mr. Mundell disagreed with Mr. Friedman's advocacy of floating exchange rates.

The sound of a buzzer indicates lunch has arrived. Mr. Mundell suggests that we continue our discussion at the table and politely invites his assistant Ivy Ng, who has been taking careful notes, to join us.

"We've been talking about the possibility of global monetary reform," I continue, deciding to switch gears. "Let's talk a bit about domestic monetary policy. What do you think the Federal Reserve should be doing right now?"

It's a seamless transition for Mr. Mundell. "The Fed is making a big mistake by ignoring movements in the price of the dollar, movements in the price of gold, in favor of inflation-targeting, which is a bad idea. The Fed has always had the wrong view about the dollar exchange rate; they think the exchange rate doesn't matter. They don't say that publicly, but that is their view."

"Well," I counter, not particularly savoring the role of devil's advocate, "I suppose Fed officials would argue that their mandate is to try to achieve stable prices and maximum levels of employment."

Mr. Mundell looks annoyed. "Well, it's stupid. It's just stupid." He tries to walk it back somewhat. "I don't mean Fed officials are stupid; it's just this idea they have that exchange-rate effects will eventually be taken into account through the inflation-targeting approach. In the long run, it's not incorrect—it takes about a year. But why ignore the instant barometer that something is happening? The exchange rate is the immediate reaction to pending inflation. Look what happened a couple weeks ago: The Fed started to say, we've got to print more money, inflate the economy a little bit. The dollar plummeted! You won't get a change in the inflation index for months, but a falling exchange rate—that's the first signal."

Clearly on a roll, I press a bit. "You mentioned gold?"

'The price of gold is an index of inflation expectations," Mr. Mundell says without hesitation. "The rising price of gold shows that people see huge amounts of debt being accumulated and they expect more money to be pumped out." He purses his lips. "They might not necessarily be right; gold could be overvalued right now."

Sensing that the soup is getting cold, I decide to cut to the chase: "What would be your winning formula today? What advice would you give to Washington that would help turn around our moribund economy?"

He pauses to think, but only for a moment. "Pro-growth tax policies, stable exchange rates." [...]

Pro growth tax polices sound good. I don't know about stable (fixed) exchange rates. I would like to hear Milton Friedman's argument against it.
     

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

After November, Obama will NOT be like Clinton

Some people think Obama will become more "centrist", like Clinton did when Republicans won big in the middle of his first term. But will he? In this interview, Dinesh D'Souza believes the answer is "no":

Dinesh D’Souza on the Anti-Colonial Business
Explaining President Obama, rereading Dreams from My Father.
Dinesh D’Douza’s new book, The Roots of Obama’s Rage, has a reputation that precedes it — in large part due to some advance buzz from Newt Gingrich and a piece in Forbes. Now that the book is on shelves, in a conversation with NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez, Dinesh D’Souza seeks to set the record straight about The Roots, and Obama.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: What makes you so sure you know how Obama thinks?

DINESH D’SOUZA: It’s really simple: I figure out how Obama thinks by reading what Obama writes and says. My theory about Obama is really derived from Obama himself. It’s quite silly how people are saying things like, well, Obama didn’t really know his absentee father, so he couldn’t have been influenced by him. Go read his book, starting with the title Dreams from My Father. The whole book is about how Obama shaped his values, personality, and identity in the image of his father. So I took Obama at his word on this and then asked the question, “If Obama took his father’s anti-colonial ideology, how does that help to explain his policies?” Not only does it explain Obama’s foreign and domestic policy, it also explains lots of little details about Obama’s actions that no other theory can explain.

[...]

LOPEZ: Much of your argument could have been made during the presidential campaign — based on Barack Obama’s own writings. Why is it new and important now?

D’SOUZA: My argument is relevant now because if we know what motivates Obama, we have his compass. Not only can we explain what he is doing, but we can also predict what he is going to do in the future. For instance, there is a lot of speculation now about whether Obama will be a centrist after the midterm election, like Bill Clinton became after 1994. My theory says that he won’t because he cannot. Clinton was largely a non-ideological guy. If Obama came by his liberalism in the faculty lounge, then sure, he can see it hasn’t worked and he can modify it. But if Obama got his formative ideas when he was very young, and if they are the result of his traumatic relationship with his father, then they are built into his psyche. He’s not going to change because, to his anti-colonial mindset, meeting the Republicans halfway is a form of sellout. He would be untrue to his principles if he were to cut deals with a group that he considers to be the neocolonial party. [...]

Interesting. In any case, we shall see.

More about Obama's anti-colonial mindset:

LOPEZ: What are some clear examples of how this anti-colonialist mindset can be seen in the presidency of Barack Obama?

D’SOUZA: Ramesh Ponnuru and others say Obama is a conventional liberal. But conventional liberals don’t come out for the release of the Lockerbie bomber. Conventional liberals don’t return the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. Conventional liberals don’t block oil drilling in America while subsidizing oil drilling in Brazil. Conventional liberals don’t try to turn the space agency NASA into a Muslim-outreach program.

My anti-colonial theory beautifully explains all these facts.
If Obama views America as the neocolonial occupier of Iraq and Afghanistan, then Muslims fighting against America are anti-colonial resisters and deserve a measure of sympathy; no wonder Obama has no problem with releasing the Lockerbie bomber. Obama hates Churchill because Churchill was the prime minister who cracked down on an anti-colonial uprising in Kenya, one in which Obama’s father and grandfather were both arrested. Obama’s oil-drilling double standard is fully understandable when you see that he wants the neocolonial oppressors to have less and the former colonized countries to have more. If Obama sees NASA as a symbol of American power — not only are we the world’s superpower, but now we are trying to colonize space — then we can see why he might want to convert NASA into a symbol of international achievement, not American greatness. So plug in the anti-colonial theory and you can explain the facts; remove it and Obama’s behavior becomes almost impossibly difficult to account for. [...]

Read the whole interview. It goes on to demonstrate how Obama's views toward socialism follow closely in the footsteps of his father. It explains a lot. It also explains why the media has been attacking D'Souza's book so vorciferously, and why some of his critics are trying to discredit him by claiming he's a "birther"; an accusation he dispells in the interview, by pointing out that in his book he clearly states that he believes that Obama was born in Hawaii.

When leftists can't counter the message, they always start lying about the messenger. It's despicable.


Related Link:

The Roots of Obama's Rage
     

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Two Monitors are Better than One

I recently saw this product on Amazon.com:

USB 2.0 UGA Multi-Display Adapter External Video Card
Product Description

Add monitors to your computer setup without having to open the computer case to install a new video card. The UGA adapter connects to your USB 2.0 port and allows you connect a CRT or LCD monitor or a projector. The adapter comes with two additional units to modify output for either digital or analog displays.

Here's how it works: The main adapter connects to your computer via USB cable, and features a DVI-I port (female). You can then connect to the DVI-I port with a DVI-I cable (not included), or use the two additional adapters. You can connect the DVI-I to HDMI adapter for digital displays using an HDMI cable, or use the DVI-I to VGA adapter to connect to analog display ports with a VGA cable. Please note that DVI-I, HDMI, and VGA cables are not included.

System Requirements:
CPU: 1.2GHz or faster, Intel Pentium/Celeron or better, AMD K6/Athlon/Duron or better
RAM: 256MB or better
USB 2.0 port
30 Mb hard disk space
OS: Windows XP, Vista 32/64, or 7; Mac OS X; Linux
Monitor: Super VGA (800 x 600) or higher resolution
CD Drive

I'd heard about this technology for years, but never followed it up. But recently I've had a spare flat screen, and I saw this product for only $42.86. Customer reviews sang it's praises, saying it allowed people to work much faster. It seemed like it would be worth trying, so I got it.

So far, I am REALLY liking it! It was easy to set up, and it's easy to use. I'm using it right now. It makes blogging go faster, because I don't have to keep collapsing and opening windows, I just move the cursor across the screens to work on multiple open windows. How did I ever manage without it?

I might eventually need a THIRD monitor! ;-)
     

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Saturday, October 02, 2010

Is our dual-band Wireless-N gigabit router junk?


Seems like it. When we got the Linksys/Cisco WRT320N router several months ago, it worked fine. Then the weather got warmer, and the wireless connections began to slow down a lot, and even drop off.

I found out from reviews on Amazon.com that the unit had problems with overheating, and that wall mounting it could allow more heat to escape. So I mounted it, but no improvement. Some people said upgrading the firmware fixed it, so I did that; still no improvement.

It's still under warranty, so I'm thinking about returning it for another unit. Some people in the reviews did that, but said they got an even more useless unit sent to them. They also didn't have much good to say about Linksys customer support, so I've not wanted to go that route.

There is a fix I haven't tried yet, where the firmware for the device is replaced with open source software, called DD-WRT. I would have to "flash-burn" the software to the device, and if I don't do it right, it could turn the router into a brick. Need I say, it would also void the warranty?

There are two reviewers on Amazon.com who tried the DD-WRT software with this model. One said it worked, the other said it made no difference. So who knows if it would work for me?

Another reviewer said he gave up on the WRT320N, and bought a "Buffalo Router" instead, and has had no problems since. I never heard of the "Buffalo" brand, so I looked it up on Amazon, and the basic model looks pretty good. The more advanced model, with similar tech specs to the WRT320N, also looks good.

I'm very tempted to go with the new one. I just HATE trouble-shooting junk, and the WRT320N has already taken up hours and hours of my time, and may take up many more if I keep trying to work with it, and then STILL might not work. Sometimes it's smarter to just give up and go with something else. My time is worth a lot to me. And I'd like to end the aggravation.

Update 10-03-10:
The one reviewer who said that the DD-WRT software made no difference, made further comments below the review, where he said it DID improve things, he just needed to make some changes in the settings:

Wired router = great. Wireless = unstable
I gradually increased the MTU and now it's stable. Perhaps specifying 1500 instead of selecting "Auto" fixed something.

Anyway, I threw on DD-WRT firmware since I really didn't have much to loose. The router is working great now. Another thing I did was with DD-WRT firmware, I lowered the wireless transmit power from 70 mW to 32 mW. The less power, the less heat put out. I don't think these things do good with heat.

I would need to load on the DD-WRT software to get the control for the transmit power. So I think the DD-WRT software is worth trying.


UPDATE: 10-05-10
Ok, I did the flashburn with DD-WRT software, as described on a wiki page here. Those instructions also involve putting a static IP address (temporarily) on the computer you are doing it with. Instructions on how to do that are here.

After I did the initial flash, I then upgraded it to the latest stable DD-WRT version (dd-wrt.v24-14896_NEWD-2_K2.6_big.bin) instruction on that is here.

So did it work? In short... YES! The DD-WRT firmware is much more comprehensive in it's abilities, more tools and options to work with. The wireless signal is stronger now. But I am having trouble: All the indicators show the signal is strong and stable, but the loading speed of web pages by wireless is still slower than it should be. Too slow. However, if I don't use ANY security settings, it's fast and fine. So what gives?

I've read that, with a wireless N router, I should be using WPA2 authentication with AES encryption (see Wireless-N Configuration). So it looks like I have to upgrade my network security settings.

In the meantime, I'm running it as a wireless G network, which is adequate. The router itself now has an amber light permanently on above the front WPS button. I've not read about that happening for anyone else, but it doesn't seem to be a problem. I've got my wireless network WORKING again. Hooray!!!

Now I'll see about tweaking it to improve the speed and the security. Some further information links about using the WRT320n router with the DD-WRT software/firmware are here:

Peacock Thread-FAQ: EVERYTHING you NEED to know! Really!!

Advanced Wireless Settings Reference Guide

     

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They used to call it "Fascism"

But now, it's somehow OK? Because Democrats are doing it?

The New American Corporate State
A troika of big government, big business and big labor is attempting to run the country to its own advantage.
Opponents of President Barack Obama and the Nancy Pelosi Congress will often accuse them of being "socialist." I find that this term is unhelpful, as many folks use direct government takeover of industrial enterprises as the litmus test for socialism, and thus will reject this hypothesis about the president. It is more useful to think of this administration as pursuing a European-style corporate state, a form of political economy that allows the state to exert strong control in the economy while maintaining a nominal façade of private ownership.

While the intellectual origins of the corporate state go back much further, the first serious attempt to implement such a system was in 1920s Italy by Benito Mussolini. Under that system, state-sponsored industry cartels programmed every aspect of economic life, from wages and working conditions to prices, production levels and product specifications. Nearly every commercial action required a government license, which would be denied to those who showed insufficient loyalty to the state and its goals.

[...]

In their current form, European corporate states tend to be more informal than their predecessors, drawing on mutually supporting networks of labor, industry and government leaders without the explicit structure of Mussolini's cartels or Roosevelt's code authorities. These networks are driven by an implicit deal by each of the three groups to protect their mutual interests and to recognize specific obligations.

In this three-way arrangement, unionized workers in key industries get high wages, guaranteed employment, rich pension systems and government protection from competition from younger and foreign workers. In return, they promise labor peace (barring the occasional strike to demonstrate their power) and tremendous election-day muscle.

Favored businesses (and by these we are talking about the top 20 to 30 largest banks and corporations in a particular country) get protection from competition, both upstart domestic entrepreneurs as well as any foreign rivals. In return, they provide monetary and political support for politicians' pet projects--from recycling to windmills--with the understanding that politicians will give them legislative back doors to recover the costs of these programs from customers or taxpayers.

In return for granting this largess to selected corporations and unions, government officials get to remain in power. Typically this arrangement appeals to parties on both the left and the right, such that the nominal ruling party may change but the core group in power remain the same.

The losers in all of this are ... everyone else. In effect this corporate system is just another age-old, historically time-worn effort to cement the power of a small group of elites. Entrepreneurship and innovation are often impossible, as incumbent businesses can call on tremendous state powers to stifle competitive threats. The unemployment rates of the young and unskilled can be astronomical, even in rich nations like Germany and France, as older unionized workers have worked to calcify labor markets to their own advantage. In the end, consumers and taxpayers pay for the whole system in the form of reduced growth and economic output, higher prices, higher taxes and less mobility for those not already in power. [...]
I see the same thing happening here. The article goes on to show the how and why of it.

It's not as direct or oppressive as Hitler's or Mussolini's type of fascism, though it does embody many of the same elements. Some would argue that the European Model is more flexible, and therefore more benevolent. Ironic then, that even the Europeans are now are cutting taxes, and urging the US to do the same. But their pleas are falling on deaf ears, as the Democrats seem hell-bent on moving us to the European Model. Or perhaps even something much worse.



   

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