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, November 27, 2010

FMS/GRMS radios, AA batteries and the FCC

I've been thinking about getting a GMRS radio, to monitor our local citizens patrol group out here in the boonies. I like this set:


Motorola TalkAbout MJ270R 27-Mile 22-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio
* Up to 27 mile range.
* 22 channels each with 121 privacy codes.
* 27 hr. alkaline (3AA) or 9 hr. NiMH battery life. Includes rechargable battery pack.
* iVOX hands-free communication without the need for an audio accessory.
* Emergency Alert button and 11 weather channels (7NOAA) with alert feature. Also Built in Flashlight.

I like that it can use rechargeable NiMH battery packs, OR 3 AA alkaline batteries. AA batteries are the most common kind available, and in an emergency they will be the most attainable, so I like that. The other specs look good too, but the claim about 27 miles? From what I've read, it's unlikely.

Practically EVERYONE says that GMRS radios generally only do one or two miles at best, unless you are standing on top of a mountain with an unobstructed view of the other radio. Factors such as weather, terrain, interference, etc. can make a huge difference. So, "Your mileage may vary" is the rule.

I can deal with that. But what I'm not sure I want to deal with is, the license requirement. These radios use two radio services, FRS (Family Radio Service), which is unlicensed, and the more powerful service called GMRS, which requires a license from the FCC:

General Mobile Radio Service
The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is a land-mobile radio service available for short-distance two-way communications to facilitate the activities of an adult individual and his or her immediate family members, including a spouse, children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, and in-laws (47 CFR 95.179). Normally, as a GMRS system licensee, you and your family members would communicate among yourselves over the general area of your residence or during recreational group outings, such as camping or hiking.

The FCC grants five-year renewable licenses for GMRS Systems. The individual licensee is responsible for the proper operations of the licensed GMRS system at all times.

FRS/GMRS Dual Service Radios
Some manufacturers have received approval to market radios that are certified for use in both the Family Radio Service (FRS) and the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). Other manufacturers have received approval of their radios under the GMRS rules, but market them as FRS/GMRS radios on the basis that:

* Some channels are authorized to both services, or
* A user of the radio may communicate with stations in the other service.

Radios marketed as "FRS/GMRS" or "dual-service radios" are available from many manufacturers and many retail or discount stores. The manual that comes with the radio, or the label placed on it by the manufacturer, should indicate the service the unit is certified for. If you cannot determine what service the unit may be used in, contact the manufacturer.

If you operate a radio that has been approved exclusively under the rules that apply to FRS, you are not required to have a license. FRS radios have a maximum power of ½ watt (500 milliwatt) effective radiated power and integral (non-detachable) antennas. If you operate a radio under the rules that apply to GMRS, you must have a GMRS license. GMRS radios generally transmit at higher power levels (1 to 5 watts is typical) and may have detachable antennas. [...]

I don't mind getting a license, because licensed airwaves tend to have better-behaved people using them. But the cost for the GMRS license is $85.00 for 5 years. That's pretty steep, considering that I probably wouldn't be using it all that often. My Ham Radio license cost me less than $15.00, and is good for 10 years. I can only wonder at the big price difference. And if it's worth it. If you are going to use them fairly often, I suspect it would be.

UPDATE:

Here is another good model:



Motorola MR350 35-Mile Range 22-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio (Pair)
* Pair of two-way radios with up to 35 mile range
* 22 channels each with 121 privacy codes for superior interference protection
* iVOX hands-free communication without the need for an audio accessory
* 11 weather channels (7 NOAA) with alert features
* VibraCall vibration alert or 20 different call tones

It has a very comprehensive user review here:

Excellent features and amazing range
First of all, all the distances advertised on any walkie talkie like this is based on mountain top to mountain top communication, where the valley increases the range, and no obstruction. That is where they based the 35 miles. For city use, in malls, house to house and areas with trees will be between .5 to 1 mile at most. Since I have been using Motorola Walkie talkies all my life so I knew what I was buying.

I experimented with 3 different models of Walkie talkies in the mall with my wife. First we tried the 5 mile Motorola. I was on one end of the mall inside Macy's and she was on the other side in Nordstrom. She could not even hear me.

We tried the 10 mile Motorola. This time she could hear me press the talk button and a few garbled words, but that was it. We could not communicate.

We tried these 35 mile ones last. We were able to hear each other just fine. Not bad considering the distance and the number of obstructions.

I have also tried this on the open road for car to car communication and it can reach the horizon. If you want more power, you will need to get a license and buy a 5 watt radio.

This Radio has many nice features you would normally find in Professional Radios 5 times the price of this. [...]

The reviewer goes on to give several updates to his review, going into much detail about the performance of these radios. If you are considering buying a GMRS radio, I would recommend reading the whole thing, it's very informative.
     

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"It's in Oregon, and in Oregon, like, you know, nobody ever thinks about it,"

Somali's bomb plot foiled at Oregon holiday event
A Somali-born teenager attempting to detonate what he believed was a car bomb at a packed Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in downtown Portland, Ore., was arrested by the authorities Friday night. They had spent nearly six months tracking him and setting up a sting operation, officials in Oregon said.

The bomb, which was in a van parked off Pioneer Courthouse Square, was a fake — planted by FBI agents as part of the elaborate sting — but "the threat was very real," said Arthur Balizan, the FBI's special agent in charge in Oregon. An estimated 10,000 people were at the ceremony Friday night, the Portland police said.

The suspect was identified as Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a naturalized U.S. citizen living in Corvallis, Ore. He was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

"Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale," Balizan said in a statement released by the Department of Justice.

The New York Times said it was told by a federal law enforcement official that the FBI, tipped off by a Portland Muslim concerned about Mohamud's increasing radicalism, started monitoring his e-mail activity.

[...]

The FBI said that during the operation, Mohamud repeatedly expressed his desire to kill Americans. Reminded by FBI agents posing as accomplices that many children and families would be at the Christmas ceremony, Mohamed said that he was looking for "a huge mass" that could "be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays."

Federal agents also said that Mohamud thought Portland would be a good target because Americans "don't see it as a place where anything will happen."

"It's in Oregon, and in Oregon, like, you know, nobody ever thinks about it," the affidavit quotes him as saying.

Well thank goodness for the concerned Muslim citizen in Portland who reported this guy.

Now I only wonder how long it will be before some of the Leftists in Portland start protesting that this would-be bomber is, like, you know, a victim of the FBI?


Also see:

Oregon bomb plot teen sought ‘spectacular’ site

This second link gives a lot more details. The bomber's Imam sounds like he's got an attitude. And if you look at the comments at the bottom of the article, you'll see my prediction come true: Leftists claiming that the FBI creates terrorists. I'd say that distinction belongs to certain Imams, and their teachings.

And anyone wondering why this would happen in Portland Oregon, should consider this:

Just another bomb-plotting jihadist yelling “Allahu akbar!”
[...] You may recall that loony Portland officials several years ago threatened to pull out of the Joint Terrorism Task Force under the Bush administration and refused to cooperate with federal efforts to conduct voluntary interviews of of local Muslims in order to uncover terrorist plots.

You may also recall the Portland 7, black Muslim converts convicted in a conspiracy to wage war against the United States, provide material support and resources to Al Qaeda and contribute services to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. [...]

But the Leftists in Portland blame the FBI. The suicidal Lunatic Left is always ready to cut off the branch we are all sitting on.
     

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Do Solar Ovens Really Work?

Apparently they do, if you work within their limitations:

Global Sun Oven - Solar Cooker
Product Description

The Global Sun Oven® is the world's most widely used solar oven. Solar cooking has been around for centuries, but up to now, not many people have had the opportunity to try cooking with the sun. Using the most advanced materials, the Sun Oven takes all the hassles out of solar cooking to create the ultimate solar appliance.

The sun oven can be used in the winter as well as summer. It has been used very successfully at below zero conditions at a base camp on Mt. Everest. Measures 19" x 19" with an average depth of 11". The total weight is only 21 pounds. You can bake bread, make cookies, pizza, muffins, or anything you could prepare using a conventional oven.

The Global Sun Oven® lets you harness the power of the sun to cook without fuel and is currently being used in over 126 countries around the world. Sundance Solar is proud to carry this high quality solar appliance that is designed to last a lifetime.

It's worth reading the customer reviews, most of which are very favorable. Even the more critical reviews admit that it does work, albeit with some limitations. Apparently high humidity can affect the ovens ability to reach it's maximum temperature.

Also, the most critical review complains of a plastic taste that contaminates the food. Their is a discussion about it in the comments of that review. Some agree, some don't, so it's hard to say. Some say the oven needs to be "cured properly" first. Others say nothing helps. Others still, claim there is no problem. One person recommends always cooking the food in a covered dish. Buyer beware.

Hat tip to the "As A Mom..." website, where I first read about it. You might want to look around their website, it has lots of information about food storage and emergency preparedness in regards to meals.
     

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Bond Market won't wait much longer

A Race Against Time To Balance the Budget
[...] Even as Greece, Spain and Ireland raise the specter of sovereign debt crises, even as France and Britain take bold action to bring their excessive spending under control (at the price of major street violence in their capital cities) American politicians focus on the general unacceptability of a proposal that includes anything that doesn't quite fit their ideological predilections. If they can't have it exactly their way, then they don't want it at all. They are prepared to just coast forward at multi-trillion dollar yearly deficits, leaving only a string of condemnatory press releases in their wake.

But there are Cassandras out there warning against such delays. This spring, Fed Chairman Bernanke warned Congress that the United States could soon face a debt crisis like the one in Greece.

"It's not something that is 10 years away. It affects the markets currently," he told the House Financial Services Committee. "It is possible that bond markets will become worried about the sustainability (of yearly deficits over $1 trillion), and we may find ourselves facing higher interest rates even today."

Just last weekend, the former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan spoke on NBC's "Meet the Press," saying he believed "something equivalent to what Bowles and Simpson put out is going to be approved by Congress. But the only question is whether it is before or after a crisis in the bond market."

He said the risk is that the deficit, which hit $1.3 trillion this year, could spook the bond market. That would result in long-term interest rates moving up rapidly and could lead to a double-dip recession.


The Fed chairs are not alone. According to Bloomberg News, earlier this year, New York University professor Nouriel Roubini, who predicted that last crash, said that "the U.S. may fall victim to bond "vigilantes" targeting indebted nations from the U.K. to Japan in a potential second stage of the financial crisis."

"The chances are, they are going to wake up in the United States in the next three years and say, 'this is unsustainable.'"

Roubini suggested that "the public debt burden incurred after the 2008 bank panic may now cause the financial crisis to metamorphose.

"There is now a massive re-leveraging of the public sector, with budget deficits on the order of 10 percent" of gross domestic product "in a number of countries," Roubini said. "History would suggest that maybe this crisis is not really over. We just finished the first stage and there's a risk of ending up in the second stage of this financial crisis."

Of course, we may get lucky. But the sad thing is that we don't even have to fully implement a ten-year deficit reduction plan to vastly reduce the risk of a bond crisis. If we were to enact a serious, credible plan -- even if it didn't begin to bite for a few years, that would probably assure the bond market that we are taking care of the problem.

By immediate action, I mean that Congress and the president go into intense negotiations this coming January and keep at it until we have a plan that brings us back to fiscal probity and is reflected in a budget resolution and the early appropriation and authorization bills. It will take about six months of intense, good faith work. [...]

Clearly it can be done, but how much longer are we going to procrastinate? Timing matters. We must keep pressure on the GOP to hold the course on fiscal responsibility, and to do what is necessary. Too little, too late, could have extremely dire consequences. It's fixable, but we have to act NOW.


Also see:

Has US Currency already "collapsed"?

The book "When Money Dies" is back in print

What happens when Tax Cuts Expire in 2011?

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

Argentina's Example: Are we heading there?

     

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California Sinks, as Texas Rises

Financially speaking, that is:

California Suggests Suicide; Texas Asks: Can I Lend You a Knife?
In the future, historians may likely mark the 2010 midterm elections as the end of the California era and the beginning of the Texas one. In one stunning stroke, amid a national conservative tide, California voters essentially ratified a political and regulatory regime that has left much of the state unemployed and many others looking for the exits.

California has drifted far away from the place that John Gunther described in 1946 as “the most spectacular and most diversified American state … so ripe, golden.” Instead of a role model, California has become a cautionary tale of mismanagement of what by all rights should be the country’s most prosperous big state. Its poverty rate is at least two points above the national average; its unemployment rate nearly three points above the national average. On Friday Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was forced yet again to call an emergency session in order to deal with the state’s enormous budget problems.

This state of crisis is likely to become the norm for the Golden State. In contrast to other hard-hit states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nevada, which all opted for pro-business, fiscally responsible candidates, California voters decisively handed virtually total power to a motley coalition of Democratic-machine politicians, public employee unions, green activists and rent-seeking special interests.

In the new year, the once and again Gov. Jerry Brown, who has some conservative fiscal instincts, will be hard-pressed to convince Democratic legislators who get much of their funding from public-sector unions to trim spending. Perhaps more troubling, Brown’s own extremism on climate change policy–backed by rent-seeking Silicon Valley investors with big bets on renewable fuels–virtually assures a further tightening of a regulatory regime that will slow an economic recovery in every industry from manufacturing and agriculture to home-building.


Texas’ trajectory, however, looks quite the opposite.[...]

Read the whole thing and see how. Count the many, many ways. See how bad things have gotten in California. Even I was shocked.

Texas is the living contrast, showing that there IS a way out for California, if they will take it. If not... NO BAILOUTS. Let them go bankrupt, and
dissolve their government employee unions. Some people need to learn the hard way, that you can't spend money you don't have.
     

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Why This Republican Majority will be Different

Some worry that the new Republican Majority will be trounced in confrontations with Obama next year, similar to what happened when the new majority in 1995 confronted Bill Clinton. But there are many considerable differences this time:

Congresses Compared
Next year in Washington is not going to be a replay of 1995. The analogy is on everyone’s mind in the capital. Many Republicans worry that President Obama will win the public-relations war against Speaker-to-be John Boehner as handily as Bill Clinton bested Newt Gingrich. They should relax.

The parallels are obvious. Both times, a young Democrat had succeeded George Bush in the presidency and then worked with a Democratic Congress to push a liberal agenda. In the next election Republicans ran against big government and won elections up and down the ballot, picking up governorships and seats in the Senate, the House, and state legislatures. Pollster Kristen Soltis points out that much of the data from the 2010 election looks nearly identical to the numbers from 1994. In both elections, for example, roughly 55 percent of independents chose Republican congressional candidates.

Republicans don’t want what happened after the last Republican takeover to recur. During the winter of 1995–96, the new Republican Congress battled with Clinton over the budget — a battle that reached its climax in partial shutdowns of the government. The public sided with Clinton. His approval ratings rose while Gingrich’s plummeted.

The conservative campaign to limit the size and scope of the federal government never really recovered from this defeat. Within a few years congressional Republicans were beginning to run for reelection on pork and incumbency rather than reform, and George W. Bush was advancing a “compassionate conservatism” as a way of distinguishing himself from the Gingrichites.

But there are several differences between 2011 and 1995 that should work in favor of Republicans.

First, Republicans won a larger House majority. In 1995, Republicans had the smallest majority of any Congress since the 1950s. Conservatives were a majority of the majority, but not a majority of the House. Holding the conference together on votes was a constant challenge: Budgets would be too tight for party moderates and too loose for conservative firebrands.

Boehner’s task will be easier. Republicans have the largest majority they have had since the 1940s. For the first time in the modern history of conservatism, the House has an outright conservative majority. Michael Barone says that House Republicans are in the sweet spot: They have enough members that Boehner can let some Republicans out of tough votes, but not so many that they have no cohesion.

Second, Republicans did not take the Senate, as they did in 1995. As a result, the public will be less likely to hold them responsible for governing the country. When House Republicans passed legislation that could not pass a Republican Senate, conservatives were demoralized and the party looked incompetent. Neither effect will be as pronounced if a Democratic Senate kills House-passed conservative legislation.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, will have an easier time keeping his conference together in the minority. Getting Rand Paul to sign off on a McConnell agenda would be a lot harder than getting him to agree to oppose Harry Reid’s. Finally, if there are veto fights with President Obama, they will necessarily involve legislation that had significant Democratic support.

Third, the fact that Republicans came up short in the Senate elections will probably temper their triumphalism. At the start of 1995, a lot of conservatives believed that history was on their side and would roll over anyone standing in their way. They thought Clinton was a sure loser. The Republican takeover was widely described as a “revolution.” This time Republicans are well aware that Obama could win reelection and that Republicans could lose House seats in 2012. [...]

Ramesh Ponnuru goes on to give a total of eleven reasons why things are going to be substantially different this time. Read the whole thing; there are so many reasons! The way he explains it is very well thought out.

At last, some hope for optimism. If the Republicans screw up this time, it will have to be for very different reasons than last time. Lets keep their feet to the fire, and say our prayers that they do good this time.

Also see:

Obama Can't Play Center
Should Obama pull a Clinton? This has been a burning question inside the Beltway ever since the polls showed the Great Shellacking bearing down on the White House.

As most know by now, pulling a Clinton isn't anything kinky; it simply means moving to the center, or "triangulating" between the unpopular left and the unpopular right. That's what President Clinton did after the Democrats' historic drubbing at the polls in 1994, and it's what a lot of would-be sages argue President Obama must do now after the rout of 2010.

But the argument is deeply flawed for a few simple reasons: 2011 will be very different than 1995; the Republicans and the Democrats are different than they were then; and Obama is very, very different than Clinton.

Other than that, the analogy is perfect.

Even outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi concedes the political importance of the economy. In 1995, the economy was poised to take off like a rocket. Today, no one thinks the economy is about to perform in a way that would provide a glide path to re-election for Obama. If at the end of Obama's first term, near 10 percent unemployment is the "new normal," as Obama fretted recently on "60 Minutes," then his chances for re-election are bleak -- so long as the GOP doesn't throw him a lifeline, the way it did Clinton in 1995-96.

And the GOP is not only determined not to repeat those mistakes, it is well positioned to avoid them. With Democrats controlling the Senate, it will be much harder for Obama to run against a do-nothing Congress. [...]

Yep. It will indeed be different this time. It goes on to point out that Clinton's road map wouldn't help Obama, even if he were inclined to use it. The terrain is too different. It will be up to Obama to find his own way through it, and make it work. If he can.
     

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Who is George Soros?


Glenn Beck: Making of the Puppet Master
[...] Who is George Soros? And is he involved in the changes in our country? And if he is and if he is using his money to greatly influence our country, why don't I know about it? And do I agree with him? Maybe you do.

George Soros had a rough childhood. He was born in Hungary in 1930. Not the place you wanted to be in 1930, especially if you were a Jew. His mother was wildly anti-Semitic.

Again, for anybody who is crying, you know, is this some sort of anti- Semitic attack on George Soros? No, it's not. I'm not calling his mother an anti-Semite. George Soros did. Those are his words, not mine.

Quote, "My mother quite anti-Semitic and ashamed of being Jewish. Given the culture in which we lived, being Jewish was a clear-cut stigma, a disadvantage, a handicap. And therefore, she always had the desire to transcend it, to escape it."

That is pretty powerful in a child's life.

Both of his parents were non-practicing Jews. His real family name was not Soros. It was Schwartz. But what would you do if you lived in Hungary in the 1930s and '40s? Would you keep the name Schwartz?

When George was six years old, the family changed the name from Schwartz to Soros. Now, at first, it just makes sense on the surface because you're like, OK, well, of course, they're trying to stay alive. There were mad men rounding you Jews up.

But when you look at the name Soros, it's an obscure name. What does it mean? Where did it come from? Well, it means to soar.

More importantly, it derives from Esperanto, which is a made-up trans- European language that started I think in the 1880s. And it was promoted by those who dreamt of a world free of nationalities. Get it? A world free of nationalities, an open society.

His father was very much into this. That's how they picked the name Soros.

So when George Soros was 14, his father basically bribed a government official to take his son in and let him pretend to be a Christian. His father was just trying to keep him alive. He even had to go around confiscating property of Jewish people.

Now, imagine you are Jewish and you have to go and confiscate the property of your fellow Jews. And you are pretending to not be a Jew and if anybody finds out, you're dead. He actually had to endure watching people sendoff to their eventual murders, watching people gathering their stuff, sending them off knowing that they were going to go to their death.

What does that do to somebody? How do you deal with that? How many years of therapy would somebody need after something like that?

This is where George — I think this is important — this is where George Soros first learned to pretend to be something other than who he was. He had to.

I am not blaming or questioning a 14-year-old or his parents for trying to keep him alive, trying to keep the family alive. I don't think anyone can understand what it must have been like to be Jewish in that scenario. Can you? Especially 14.

I don't want to question the 14-year-old. I would have, however, like to question the 80-year-old man who has never once said he regretted it. But more than that, he views it as the happiest year of his life — again, not my words, his words. Listen:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOROS: It was actually probably the happiest year of my life, that year of German occupation. For me, it was a very positive experience. It's a strange thing because you see incredible suffering around you and the fact you are in considerable danger yourself. But you're 14 years old and you don't believe that it can actually touch you. You have a belief in yourself. You have a belief in your father. It's a very happy-making exhilarating experience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BECK: I don't think I've ever heard anybody describe the Holocaust years like that. Maybe he's the most healthy man you've ever met. Maybe somehow or another he just got through it.

But he also has spoken how his experience in Hungary has effected his psyche. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did anybody tell you in Hungary why they didn't like Jews at the time?

SOROS: Oh, yes. And that, of course, is something again very, very much part of my psyche, anti-Semitism, and, you know, hatred of Jews. It was quite widespread within Hungary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BECK: Even to his own home. I mean, I would love to spend an hour — he's not going to come on this program and spend an hour with me. And we'd have bigger fish to fry than this, but I would love to understand how it affected his psyche having his mother basically agree apparently — I don't mean to judge — with the Germans on the hatred of Jews being anti-Semitic in his own home. How has he navigated that?

I'm not going to spend the time. I had invited George Soros to come on this program. He has declined.

We have bigger fish to fry, like how does he view the world? It sure would be interesting to explore how this affected his feelings on Israel, which he does not support. He donates so much money to organizations that speak out against Israel. Some stick out more than others on the donations. But is there any connection there?

I'm going to concentrate on the fact I think the lesson he learned in the horrific year of 1944 was that if you hide your true identify, you can gain power, you can survive. And those who are seen as disadvantaged or handicapped and don't hide their identity — well, they don't survive.

The next formulative step in Soros' life was college. Now, this is where he attended the London School of Economics. Now, this is the same school that Hayek was from. He wrote "Road to Serfdom." This is freedom fighter.

But it's also the school where the Fabian socialists hung out, a Fabian socialist university. You remember — the Fabian window we told you about. This is the famous English Fabian society. We took this picture — actually, Blair was standing here with it.

Fabian socialist — what are they doing? They're heating the world up in the fire that they, themselves are stoking. Why are they heating it up? Because they are about to hammer it and remold it nearer to the heart's desire.

Fabian socialists are the American progressives. It's the same thing. Heat the world up, cause the problems so the world heats up so you can remold it.

So which part of the London School of Economics does Soros favor? The Hayek side or the Fabian side? Which one? [...]

It goes on to say a lot more. Soros' education, where he gets his money from, and what he's doing with it. Much of this I knew, but some of it I didn't. Beck pulls it all together nicely. The information about Soros' Hedge funds was interesting, in light of what I've posted previously about Bill Clinton and Hedge Funds:

Hedge Funds, Democrats & the Financial Crisis

Democrats. Soros. Hedge Funds. Is it any wonder Soros owns the Democrat party? Birds of a feather, invest together. And these are some dirty hedge fund birds.


Also see:

Glenn Beck is Airing the Dirt on George Soros

What's Wrong with Hedge Funds?

F. A. Hayek: The Road to Serfdom

     

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Federal deficit-cutting commission gets real

I hadn't much hope for this commission, but I may have to change my mind:

Deficit-Cutting Chairmen Call Washington's Bluff
Perhaps you don't want to play poker with Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles.

Mr. Simpson, the Republican and former Senator from Wyoming, and Mr. Bowles, the Democrat and former White House chief of staff, are chairmen of the federal deficit-cutting commission charged with devising a way to reduce the red ink Washington is producing. They oversee an 18-member, bipartisan panel that is supposed to come up with a plan by Dec. 1, provided they can get 14 of the 18 commission members to agree on something.

That's a big if. But the two have at least increased the odds of success with the clever way they rolled out their own personal recommendations Wednesday on how to suck up that red ink.

Specifically, they jolted the capital by laying out ideas to achieve some $4 trillion in deficit reduction by 2020. Look carefully at what they did and how they did it, and you'll see that their effort was designed to box in those on all sides who would rather talk in high-sounding generalities about the deficit than deal with the unpleasant specifics.

That doesn't mean they will succeed, but their tactics have at least given them a better shot.

Consider: [...]

Read the whole thing. It seems well thought-out, and they announced it publicaly rather than privately, so it can't just be ignored. It surpasses the requested reduction amount, and has wiggle room for adjustments. Sounds like a great starting point.

     

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Day of Gratitude for our Many Veterans



Happy Veterans Day: Thank you!

     

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Glenn Beck is Airing the Dirt on George Soros

No wonder Soros is funding NPR's expansion in order to compete against FOX News. It's just one of many things Soros is doing, that's mentioned in the two transcripts from Becks most recent shows:


The Puppet Master: How much does George Soros control?

     


Five Step Plan: How George Soros is trying to bring down America


I've known about a lot of that stuff for years, I post about it occasionally. But Soros is buying influence everywhere: there is so much he's up too, I can hardly keep up with it all. I'm glad Glenn Beck is compiling it.

It's nice to see Soros' plans getting some main-stream exposure for a change. It's too bad Beck didn't do this years ago. I have to wonder if it isn't too little, too late now? But I'm not giving up hope. And forewarned is forearmed. The snake in the grass, waiting to bite you, loses the element of surprise when you know it's there. Now where's that pitch fork...
     

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Favorite TV shows of the Left and Right

What does it mean? You decide:

Leftists like TV "shows about damaged people"
Follow the link for a list of the favorite shows of both Republicans and Democrats.
     

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Government Employee Unions are Ruining Us

SOMEBODY'S GOTTA SAY IT ... GOVT. EMPLOYEE UNIONS ARE THE ENEMY
Here come the howls of outrage. "You are anti-union." Well, you're only partially right. I'm anti-government employee union. I don't have a particular problem with the legality of private-sector unions, so long as: (1) Employees vote by secret ballot as to whether or not the union will be formed; and (2) No employee should ever be forced to join a union nor should they be forced to pay dues to any union.

Government employee unions? Those are a completely different matter. These are people who spend millions of dollars to elect their bosses and then demand raises, pension plans and other benefits of those very bosses with threats that they will fire them if they refuse to go along. The taxpayers then have to pay for these bloated salaries, pensions and benefits. If more money is needed to pay the union tab, the unions then start spending millions on campaigns to raise taxes. It was government labor unions that were the primary financiers of the recent campaign to initiate a state income tax in the State of Washington. Why? The state needed the money to fund their classy ride.

It was John F. Kennedy who gave federal government employee unions the right to engage in collective bargaining. This was done not through legislation, but through an executive order. Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned federal employee unions ... Kennedy presented this wonderful gift to the American taxpayer.

Here's something the Republicans can address. They need to begin making the case immediately for decertifying all federal government employee unions. For decades the primary advantage of being a federal employee was relative job security. Now these people make more than their counterparts in the private sector, they have better pension plans and better benefits ... and, as I said, they elect their own bosses. It needs to end.


Government employee unions are destroying California, and are about to do the same to the rest of the country:

AND THEN THERE'S CALIFORNIA
Perhaps more so than any other state, California's financial troubles can be placed at the doorsteps of California's government employee unions. In California unionized prison guards can earn over $100,000 a years. The unions are clearly bankrupting the state, and they show no sign of slowing down. And just who was it that gave California government employees the right to engage in collective bargaining? Why .. that would be none other than Jerry Brown when he was governor the last time. And who did the dumb mass voters of California just put back into the governor's office? Again ... Jerry Brown. Businesses and high-achieving individuals are bailing out of California right and left. Can't blame them.

It's just this simple ... government employee unions are at war with the taxpayers. The unions realize this ... the taxpayers don't seem to. Helluva way to fight a war.

Oh ... by the way. You do know which side The Community Organizer is on, don't you?

California and other profligate states are failing due to government employee unions strangling them. We must NOT bail them out:

Smash the Union Thugocracy
Republicans must not bailout profligate states nor the unions behind them.
One of the first orders of business in the next Republican-controlled House of Representatives will be the demand for bailouts of states that have been especially profligate: California, New York, Michigan, Illinois, and Connecticut. Throughout 2009 and 2010, these states stayed above water with repeated infusions of federal cash. These one-shot stimulus payments must be repeated each year. They are all non-recurring expenditures requiring separate annual appropriations.

The Republican House must say no and hold the line, stopping this raid on the federal Treasury. The cry in the caucus must ring loud: “No More Bailouts.”

But, as the Republicans demand fiscal discipline and refuse to make the citizens of other, more responsible states subsidize California and New York’s wayward finances, we need to focus on the union power that has forced states, localities, and school boards to raise taxes, borrow money, and — ultimately — depend on federal bailouts.

These unions have forced contracts on their states, localities, and school boards which provide for ever higher wages, benefits, and pensions. Even now, teachers are on strike in a suburb of Pittsburgh because they feel a 4.5 percent annual wage increase is inadequate.

The House must create a federal bankruptcy procedure for states that cannot make ends meet requiring — as in corporate bankruptcies — that state governments abrogate all their union contracts. The new state bankruptcy procedure should offer all states — and through them, their localities, counties, and school boards — the ability to reorganize their finances free of the demands of their union agreements.

This measure will return our state and local governments to the sovereignty of the people and take them away from the “thugocracy” of public-employee unions.

When states such as California and New York come to Washington begging for relief, they will threaten us with the closure of their schools and the release of their prison inmates if we deny them subsidies. Liberals and President Obama will try to portray the battle as schoolchildren versus niggardly Republican legislators.

But the real fight will be between schoolchildren and citizens on the one hand and unions on the other. The House must shape the issue so that it exposes the real cause of the state shortfalls: The excessive agreements public employee unions have won over the years.

The unions are about to fall prey to what Margaret Thatcher identified as the terminal drawback of socialism: Eventually, you run out of other people’s money.

Such an approach will also have a larger political impact. [...]

The article goes on to describe how public-employee unions used their tremendous power to in the recent election. The Democrats they elect are answerable to the government employee unions, not the taxpayers who have to pay the bills. We are becoming slaves to government employees.

The people of the Obama administration like to talk at length about "greedy" businesses. What about the "greedy" government unions, who are destroying us? This abuse MUST come to and end.

States that want bailouts, should be forced to declare bankruptcy, and dissolve their government employee unions. Those unions would first be given a chance to work with their state governments, to balance their budgets and avoid bankruptcy. If the unions refuse, let them be dissolved. Before they destroy us and themselves by collapsing our currency with debts.
     

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Brits, Americans, and cutting budgets

Can the Brits teach us something about it? Yes, and no:

Lessons from London
The British Tories have demonstrated how a newly elected party can deliver a program of radical spending cuts.
Deficit hawks are flying high in Washington.

With rediscovered virtue, Republicans are vowing to rein in government spending and cut the deficit. Incoming House speaker John Boehner argues that voters want “a smaller, less costly” government, while Republican senator-elect Pat Toomey says that “the government has overreached dramatically. . . . Spending has been wildly excessive.” Even Democrats are singing a new tune, with Senate majority whip Dick Durbin saying that his party will be looking for compromises: “We’re going to be giving on spending, I’m sure.”

But restoring fiscal sanity won’t come easily. The Republicans’ $100 billion in promised spending reductions will hardly make a dent in last year’s $1.29 trillion deficit. To make a difference, would-be cutters will have to convince a skeptical electorate — polls consistently show that most substantial, specific spending cuts are unpopular — and navigate a treacherous two-year electoral cycle.

Across the Atlantic, however, the British Tories have demonstrated how a newly elected party can deliver a program of radical spending cuts. The coalition government, led by Conservatives and supported by Liberal Democrats, aims to cut spending by £81 billion and departmental budgets by 19 percent over five years, eliminating the U.K.’s structural deficit. It is a strikingly bold plan: An estimated 500,000 public-sector jobs will be lost; higher-education spending will be reduced by 40 percent; and departments will be cut by up to 51 percent.

These dramatic cuts illustrate the kind of action the U.S. will eventually have to take. The U.K.’s fiscal context is roughly analogous to America’s: The current budget deficit totals 11 percent of GDP in the U.S and 10 percent in the U.K., while the national debt is 66 percent of GDP in the U.S. and 69 percent in the U.K. (2010 figures). In many ways, however, the Conservatives’ success at tackling the deficit illustrates the roadblocks that Republicans face en route to implementing such policies. [...]

It goes on to describe the reasons why the Brits have a good chance of success... and why some of those reasons will NOT apply to American conservatives, due to differences in political structure and dynamics, and election cycles. It makes for an interesting comparison. America will have to find it's own way.

     

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

What the 1930's can teach us about NOW

Guess Who?
Guess who said the following: "We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work." Was it Sarah Palin? Rush Limbaugh? Karl Rove?

Not even close. It was Henry Morgenthau, Secretary of the Treasury under Franklin D. Roosevelt and one of FDR's closest advisers. He added, "after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . And an enormous debt to boot!"

This is just one of the remarkable and eye-opening facts in a must-read book titled "New Deal or Raw Deal?" by Professor Burton W. Folsom, Jr., of Hillsdale College.

Ordinarily, what happened in the 1930s might be something to be left for historians to be concerned about. But the very same kinds of policies that were tried-- and failed-- during the 1930s are being carried out in Washington today, with the advocates of such policies often invoking FDR's New Deal as a model.

Franklin D. Roosevelt blamed the country's woes on the problems he inherited from his predecessor, much as Barack Obama does today. But unemployment was 20 percent in the spring of 1939, six long years after Herbert Hoover had left the White House. [...]

Read the rest to see why, and how we must avoid having history repeat itself. Roosevelt wasn't even following pure Keynesian economics, he was following an obscure economist at the University of Wisconsin, whom most other economists disagreed with. Roosevelt knew little about economics, but a great deal about politics. The combination was devastating.

Another contemporary economist, Amity Shlaes, takes a look at the 1930's:

The Rules of the Game and Economic Recovery
THE MONOPOLY BOARD GAME originated during the Great Depression. At first its inventor, Charles Darrow, could not interest manufacturers. Parker Brothers turned the game down, citing “52 design errors.” But Darrow produced his own copies of the game, and Parker Brothers finally bought Monopoly. By 1935, the New York Times was reporting that “leading all other board games … is the season’s craze, ‘Monopoly,’ the game of real estate.”

Most of us are familiar with the object of Monopoly: the accumulation of property on which one places houses and hotels, and from which one receives revenue. Many of us have a favorite token. Perennially popular is the top hat, which symbolizes the sort of wealth to which Americans who work hard can aspire. The top hat is a token that has remained in the game, even while others have changed over the decades.

One’s willingness to play Monopoly depends on a few conditions—for instance, a predictable number of “Pay Income Tax” cards. These cards are manageable when you know in advance the amount of money printed on them and how many of them are in the deck. It helps, too, that there are a limited and predictable number of “Go to Jail” cards. This is what Frank Knight of the University of Chicago would call a knowable risk, as opposed to an uncertainty. Likewise, there must be a limited and predictable number of “Chance” cards. In other words, there has to be some certainty that property rights are secure and that the risks to property are few in number and can be managed.

The bank must be dependable, too. There is a fixed supply of Monopoly money and the bank is supposed to follow the rules of the game, exercising little or no independent discretion. If players sit down at the Monopoly board only to discover a bank that overreaches or is too unpredictable or discretionary, we all know what happens. They will walk away from the board. There is no game. [...]

She then explains the relevance of the Monopoly analogy to the 1930's. She goes into detail, using specific events to illustrate her premises.

I've often heard that government interference and intervention at the time actually prolonged the depression by eroding confidence and creating instability. Here, Shlaes offers the damning evidence for all to see. After explaining in detail, looking at causes and effects, she then demonstrates their relevance to the events of our times:

[...] It is not hard to see some of today’s troubles as a repeat of the errors of the 1930s. There is arrogance up top. The federal government is dilettantish with money and exhibits disregard and even hostility to all other players. It is only as a result of this that economic recovery seems out of reach.

The key to recovery, now as in the 1930s, is to be found in property rights. These rights suffer under our current politics in several ways. The mortgage crisis, for example, arose out of a long-standing erosion of the property rights concept—first on the part of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but also on that of the Federal Reserve. Broadening FDR’s entitlement theories, Congress taught the country that home ownership was a “right.” This fostered a misunderstanding of what property is. The owners didn’t realize what ownership entailed—that is, they didn’t grasp that they were obligated to deliver on the terms of the contract of their mortgage. In the bipartisan enthusiasm for making everyone an owner, our government debased the concept of home ownership.

Property rights are endangered as well by the ongoing assault on contracts generally. A perfect example of this was the treatment of Chrysler bonds during the company’s bankruptcy, where senior secured creditors were ignored, notwithstanding the status of their bonds under bankruptcy law. The current administration made a political decision to subordinate those contracts to union demands. That sent a dangerous signal for the future that U.S. bonds are not trustworthy.

Three other threats to property loom. One is tax increases, such as the coming expiration of the Bush tax cuts. More taxes mean less private property. A second threat is in the area of infrastructure. Stimulus plans tend to emphasize infrastructure—especially roads and railroads. And after the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision of 2005, the federal government will have enormous license to use eminent domain to claim private property for these purposes. Third and finally, there is the worst kind of confiscation of private property: inflation, which excessive government spending necessarily encourages. Many of us sense that inflation is closer than the country thinks.

If the experience of the Great Depression teaches anything, it is that property rights must be firmly established or else we will not have the kind of economic activity that leads to strong recovery. The Monopoly board game reminds us that economic growth isn’t mysterious and inscrutable. Economic growth depends on the impulse of the small businessman and entrepreneur to get back in the game. In order for this to happen, we don’t need a perfect government. All we need is one that is “not too bad,” whose rules are not constantly changing and snuffing out the willingness of these players to take risks. We need a government under which the money supply doesn’t change unpredictably, there are not too many “Go to Jail” cards, and the top hats are confident in the possibility of seeing significant returns on investment. [...]

It's definitely worth reading the whole thing. If you don't have the time to buy and read here book, this lecture she gave is the next best thing.
     

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Why Repealing ObamaCare is Unlikely

At least, not directly. So what CAN be done? Take a look:

What Republicans can — and can’t — do about ObamaCare
[...] The new Republican House majority will undoubtedly schedule a quick vote on repealing the health care law, perhaps as early as January. It will pass the House quite easily; not only will every Republican vote for repeal, but there are still a dozen Democrats in the House who voted no last March.

But that is as far as repeal is likely to go. The Democrats remain in control of the Senate, and Harry Reid, returning in triumph, is unlikely to even schedule a vote.

Repealing ObamaCare is just not going to happen while Obama is in office.

Some Republicans may be willing to take their symbolic victory in the House and call it a day. They shouldn’t. There are many things they can do short of repeal that can begin the step-by-step dismantling of ObamaCare.

At the low end of the scale, Republicans should use their new investigatory powers to hold hearings and force officials like HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to testify about the law. For example, since the law passed we have learned that health care spending will go up, not down as promised, and that millions of Americans will not be able to keep the insurance they have today. What does Sebelius think of that? [...]

The second half of the article goes into what could happen, and what is likely to happen, and why.

Thankfully, much of the worst aspects of Obamacare can be dismantled. Other aspects can be modified. The Republicans may now get a chance to give many of the GOP's good ideas a fair hearing.

Eventually, some sort of bipartisan solution will be hammered together. That is what should have happened in the first place. This long slog ahead of us to sort it all out, has been unnecessary and an incredible waste of time and resources. The uncertainty it has created for potential employers has been devastating to job creation and the economy. I think most of the voters resent it. I know I do.
     

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Whose money is it anyway? Who EARNED it?

Is the money you earn yours, or the governments?



All or nothing: Stop the Obama tax increases
I’m going to keep repeating it until they stop saying it.

Republicans, you are not fighting for the extension of the “Bush tax cuts.”

You are fighting to STOP THE OBAMA TAX INCREASES.

All of them.

As I noted on Friday, when voters got the chance to soak the rich in Washington state, they overwhelmingly rejected onerous, punitive taxes to redistribute wealth from private job creators and future private job creators to government schools and government health care programs.

[...]

Our fiscal conservative leaders in Washington must forcefully challenge the redistributor-in-chief’s idea that allowing taxpayers to keep money that is theirs to begin with is a government “spend.”

We sent fresh blood to D.C. to stand up for those who have been targeted ruthlessly by Obama’s war on wealth, jobs, and prosperity.

Stop the Obama tax increases. All or nothing. We’ve been punished enough.

Yes, punished enough by Democrats, and Republicans too. This time around, the Republicans better remember to "dance with the one that brung them" to the dance.
     

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Monday, November 08, 2010

Advice from Thomas Jefferson...

... in a letter to his nephew, Peter:

QUESTION WITH BOLDNESS. . .
Dear Peter, — I have received your two letters of December 30 and April 18, and am very happy to find by them, as well as by letters from Mr. Wythe, that you have been so fortunate as to attract his notice & good will; I am sure you will find this to have been one of the most fortunate events of your life, as I have ever been sensible it was of mine. I enclose you a sketch of the sciences to which I would wish you to apply, in such order as Mr. Wythe shall advise; I mention, also, the books in them worth your reading, which submit to his correction. Many of these are among your father’s books, which you should have brought to you. As I do not recollect those of them not in his library, you must write to me for them, making out a catalogue of such as you think you shall have occasion for, in 18 months from the date of your letter, & consulting Mr. Wythe on the subject. To this sketch, I will add a few particular observations. [...]

Jefferson goes on to make several observations. Fascinating reading, especially his observations about religion.

     

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Who Elected Kitzhaber as Oregon's Governor?

After the election, Oregon Republicans are at a loss, their dreams dashed in Multnomah County
For the third time in the past decade, Oregon Republicans went to bed on election night thinking they might have finally ended Democratic dominance of statewide races.

But like a recurring bad dream, they awoke Wednesday to see the ballots from heavily Democratic Multnomah County seal a close victory for Democrat John Kitzhaber over Republican Chris Dudley in the governor's race.

"No matter who the Republican is, there is going to be a huge spread there," Bob Repp, a West Linn attorney and Republican volunteer, said with a sigh. "There just seems to be a real rigid dogmatism that has set in in Multnomah County." [...]

It goes into a bunch of reasons to explain "why". I read elsewhere, that the largest employer in Multnomah county is government jobs. Unionized government employees could explain the vote, too.

Portland, not Oregon, elected Kitzhaber
Kitzhaber was elected by a plurality, not a majority, of Oregon's voters.

He received approximately 49% of the ballots cast. Approximately 51% of Oregon's voters supported the Republican candidate (49%), the Constitution Party candidate (1%) or the Libertarian Candidate (1%).

Only seven of Oregon's thirty-six counties were carried by Kitzhaber. The other 29 counties voted for Mr. Chris Dudley.

Kitzhaber was elected by a minority of Oregon's voters. His support was concentrated in Portland and his campaign's funding came primarily from government employee unions.

Will Kitzhaber prove that he is something other than Portland's governor and the agent of the government employee unions? [...]

I have to wonder too, about the potential for voter fraud, especially in pivotal Multnomah county. I've posted about vote-by-mail's vulnerability to fraud.

The whole of Oregon votes by mail. It seems that the main safeguard against fraud is checking the signature on the ballot envelope with a signature on file with the voter registrar. How reliable is that?

When I was a bank teller, I once had customer, a sweet little old lady, who wanted to cash her social security check. Most folks want to deposit those, but she wanted hers all in cash.

Because of the large amount, I had to get my supervisors approval. The sweet LOL gave me her valid photo ID, and I had her sign the check in front of me. I then pulled the customer's signature card from the banks files, and it looked good.

I brought all three items to my supervisor, Helen. She saw the woman at my window, looked at her I.D., verified that the customer had signed the check in my presence, then looked at the signature card. Everything seemed in order, so she approved it.

A few days later, Helen comes to me with some paperwork from the main office. It turned out that the check had been stolen, and we cashed it for the thieves.

Helen told me: "Neither you nor I are in trouble for this, because we did follow all the bank procedures. I just wanted you to see it, as a reminder of why we do all this checking. But it's all too easy for some people to forge signatures".

A signature can look good, and still be fraudulent. Vote-by-mail makes it even easier; the fraudster doesn't even need to be a good forgerer. Signatures can be collected on petitions, and then "traced" onto ballot envelopes. Of course they would then match the signature card. And the fraudster never has to risk being caught by appearing in front of another human being to cast a vote, making it easier for the fraudster to cast multiple fraudulent ballots.

A computer scan is supposed to check for repeated names. But in a close election in a heavily Democrat county dominated by unionized government employees, what guarantee do we have that the scanning was done? The fox is in charge of the hen house.

And lets not forget the votes from the graveyard, which Democrats are famous for. Apparently many years go by without updating the lists of deceased voters. And even if they lists get updated, how do we know they were even checked against the ballots, especially in a close election?

If a Republican won, I'm sure they would be checking everything. But when a Democrat wins, nobody even asks these questions. Why not? Who checks the checkers?

     

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Where to make the spending cuts?

There has already been lots of research on the topic:

What Spending Should the GOP Cut?
[...] Out of the starting gate next year, fiscal reformers in Congress should push for an across-the-board cut to discretionary spending for the rest of the current fiscal year. One approach would be for House leaders to propose a continuing resolution that extends spending at last year’s levels, less some substantial percentage cut applied to every program.

For the upcoming fiscal year of 2012, reformers need to carefully target some major program cuts and eliminations. The president and the Democrats in the Senate will likely resist proposed cuts, but the point is to further the national debate that has begun about the proper size and scope of the federal government.

Some initial targets for GOP reformers, with rough annual savings, could include: community development subsidies ($15 billion), public housing subsidies ($9 billion), urban transit subsidies ($9 billion), and foreign development aid ($18 billion). On the entitlement side, initial cuts could include raising the retirement age for Social Security and introducing progressive price indexing to reduce the growth rate of future benefits. [...]

The article has many links to think-tanks and groups who have been studying the topic, and have many suggestions.

Europe has recognized the global economic threat and is reacting accordingly. They've been urging us to do the same. How long will it take us to change course before the collapse of our currency is imminent?

Spending cuts may be tough, but it will be nothing, compared to world-wide ecomomic collapse. See the links below for details.


Additional information:


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

What happens when Tax Cuts Expire in 2011?

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

Argentina's Example: Are we heading there?

Glenn Beck – 15 Days of Economic Collapse

Has US Currency already "collapsed"?

     

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I've discovered "aTunes", and it's good!

It's a cross-platform music player and manager:


aTunes: GPL Audio Player and Manager
aTunes is a full-featured audio player and manager, developed in Java programming language, so it can be executed on different platforms: Windows, Linux and Unix-like systems, ...

Currently plays mp3, ogg, wma, wav, flac, mp4 and radio streaming, allowing users to easily edit tags, organize music and rip Audio CDs. [...]

I discovered it when I downloaded it from a Linux repository. One of my favorite features is, that it finds the lyrics to the song you are playing, and displays them in the sidebar.

I've since downloaded the Windows version too. Here is a review of aTunes from CNET:

CNET editors' review of aTunes 2.0.1
When we tested aTunes, the fast installation was followed by shockingly sluggish tree navigation, required to add our song library. Fortunately, the subsequent scan was flawless, handling 7,500 tracks in about 10 minutes. So in music terms, the show started off with some bad feedback, but then aTunes really got rockin'.

The tabbed interface keeps the various panes from getting too cluttered, managing both primary and secondary information elegantly. Icons just below the Menubar let users hide the AudioScrobbler, the Navigator, and the Song properties windows, which makes the UI far more customizable than it might seem. The impressively useful AudioScrobbler pane surfaces nearly all secondary song information, making it easier to discover an artist's biographical details, using tabs to prevent clutter and keep track lists and song lyrics organized. Built-in links encourage discovery of similar songs and related videos on YouTube. [...]

It does go on to say there is room for improvement, but the review is also from two years ago; it's worth noting that there have been updates since then, the most recent was in June 2010. It suits my needs well.
     

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Wonder Woman gets Wardrobe/Story Change


DC Comics gives Wonder Woman a makeover
[...] "She's been locked into pretty much the exact same outfit since her debut in 1941," Straczynski said. "If you're going to make a statement about bringing Wonder Woman into the 21st century, you need to be bold and you need to make it visual. I wanted to toughen her up, and give her a modern sensibility."

And besides, he added, "What woman only wears only one outfit for 60-plus years?"

Does she look a bit like a grungy Vampire, or is it just me? Or is she a heroine on heroin? Whatever. I guess an update was called for. 21st century, and all that. No offense meant to the artist, it's not a bad design. Maybe she just needs to wash her hair. I'm probably too nostalgic.

They are also updating the Wonder Woman story/myth. Follow the link for all the details.
     

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Democrat Kitzhaber is Oregon Governor

The counting isn't done, but they've made it official anyway:
Kitzhaber wins Oregon governor’s race.

Republican Dudley was ahead, but then they slowed down the counting and found 90,000 "last minute" ballots from strongly Democrat districts, and Kitzhaber pulled ahead by one percentage point. How convenient.

Did you know that voting by mail, which is what Oregon does, is the most susceptible system to voter fraud? I'm sure there won't be an investigation though; they only do that when a Republican wins. Still, I have to wonder what the final tally would be, if you subtract all the votes from dead people, and all the votes from illegal aliens with drivers licenses?

And lets not forget to thank the Libertarian and Constitution parties. They each took one percent of the vote. If they had voted Republican... well, they didn't. A perfect example of why I don't support 3rd parties. They are merely vote spoilers. Thanks guys... for NOTHING.

Still, perhaps in an odd way, this outcome might be for the best. If Dudley had got in, he would have been treated like Arnold was in California; blamed for things Democrats have done. As Oregon continues to self-destruct, let the blame fall on Kitzhaber, since much of the trouble we are in came from his previous two terms anyway. Let the Democrats be in charge, and take the blame when the sh*t hits the fan. They've earned it.

If there is a sliver lining to this cloud, perhaps it's this:

Oregon may end up with a tied Legislature next year
Ties all around? The Oregon House could see 30-30 next year, and the Oregon Senate 15-15.

In the Senate, Democrats have already lost two seats, and could lose one more in Clackamas County. In Senate District 3, Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, has lost to Republican challenger Dave Dotterrer. And in Senate District 26, Chuck Thomsen beat Democrat Brent Barton for the seat being vacated by Rick Metsger, D-Welches.

In Senate District 20, Sen. Martha Schrader was trailing Alan Olsen by 300 votes.

In the House, Democrats look to have lost six seats. The race to watch here is House District 37 in Clackamas County, where Republican Julie Parrish leads Democrat Will Rasmussen by 500 votes. Outgoing Rep. Scott Bruun holds the seat, and Republicans need to keep it in order to tie the chamber.

NEW: House Republicans are claiming the race for Parrish, and will put out a statement soon reflecting on a 30-30 House.

In 2003, Democrats gained enough seats to tie the Senate 15-15. But we can't recall a time when both chambers were split at the same time. [...]

After the last term Kitzhaber served as Governor, he declared that Oregon was ungovernable. Lets see how much fun he will have this time, with the new legislature.

As for voter fraud by mail... what's wrong with it? Why is it so easy to do? Let's count the ways:

'VOTE BY MAIL' A FORMULA FOR FRAUD
Quick and easy works for a lot of things. Voting is not one of them.

Making it convenient for citizens to cast their ballots is a good thing, generally, but not if the convenience undermines the integrity of the entire election process.

I live in Oregon, the state that pioneered vote-by-mail. Here, we don’t go to the polls on election day. Instead, the elections division mails our ballots directly to our homes two to three weeks before the election. We mark or punch our ballots at our leisure sitting at the kitchen table and then simply drop them in the mail.

No braving the elements on election day. No fear of an ice storm suppressing voter turn-out. No more waiting in line at the polls or being forced to hurry our decisions because of the long lines behind us. That’s why most Oregonians love vote by mail. It’s quick and easy, the ultimate in voting convenience. But, at what price?

Truth is, vote by mail is a formula for election fraud. The flaw is obvious: From beginning to end, no real human ever has to see the voter’s face. No real person determines that you are who you say you are, or that the person you say you are even exists.

Unscrupulous people can easily mark someone else’s ballot and not get caught. Have any fictitious names you want to vote under? It’s easy. Who’s going to know?Some voter's ballots are mailed to a P.O. Box. The person picking up his mail throws the ballot in the trash if he or she doesn't want to vote on a particular issue. Anyone can retrieve those ballots out of the trash.

In Oregon, anyone who wants to, can have three or four additional ballots mailed to their home. Why vote just once when you can vote early and often? And what about your dog? Shouldn’t he have a say regarding who will represent him in the next legislature? You registered him with the county, why not with the elections division?

Under the old system it was hard to sneak an extra ballot past those ever-attentive little old ladies down at the voting precinct. Unless you were a master of disguises, more likely than not, those gals would recognize you from your earlier trip that same day.

Not so with vote-by-mail. No one has to see your mug in person. Not ever. If you’re a cheat, here’s all you have to do to vote three or four times in the next election: Next time you stop by the local post office or the Department of Motor Vehicles, pick up a handful of voter registration cards. They’re free and there’s no limit on how many you can take. Using your own address, fill in the names of relatives in other states, or easier yet, just make up any names you like. Names that have a minority ring to them are best. With the government’s commitment to political correctness, minority names are less likely to be challenged.

You don’t need to show identification of any kind. You don’t have to demonstrate residency. After all, that would discriminate against the homeless. You don’t have to demonstrate citizenship, either. That would be an attack on minorities and immigrants. All you need is a name, address or a P.O. Box to which the elections division can mail all those official ballots.

When I said you could vote three or four extra times, that was because the folks at the elections division might get suspicious, if you have ten or twenty ballots sent to your little, two bedroom house. If, however, you are the manager of a large apartment complex, the sky’s the limit. You might be able to decide a local election single-handedly. Heck, 500 votes or so in Florida decided the presidency of the United States. Think big!

Of course, I’m not recommending that you actually do this. That would be dishonest, and certainly, there are penalties if you get caught. The chances of getting caught, however, are minimal.

In fact, the only real safeguard in the system is that each ballot has to be signed. All that means, though, is if you’re going to sign lots of different ballots personally, you need to sign each one differently and keep a sample of each signature so you can sign the same in future elections. You can even trace the signatures, so they look identical. (Note: To open a bank account you need two sets of I.D.'s to prove your identity. To cash a check, some banks require thumb prints. Not so with voting.)

There was a case in Oregon recently where a woman traced a dozen or so signatures on a petition. Each signature was examined by a clerk at the elections division and compared to the original signature on the person’s voter’s voter registration card. Every signature was certified as genuine. They weren’t. They were all fraudulent. The woman had traced them from another document, and they only looked genuine. The elections division missed every one of them.

Not too long ago, some renters moved out of a house I own and left the state. Sure enough, a few weeks before the next election, a half dozen official ballots showed up in the mailbox. I could have traced my ex-renters signatures off the rental agreement and onto their ballots and mailed them to the elections division marked any way I chose. Except for God and me, who would have known?

It would have been easy, and the chances that I would have been caught, close to zero. Why? Because there’s simply no way the local elections office can carefully check the signatures on hundreds of thousands of ballots in a short period of time. If the signatures were traced, they probably wouldn’t catch the forgeries anyway, even if they looked carefully at each one.

That’s the problem. Vote by mail is a system designed for honest people. It is predicated on the notion that people are basically good and won’t cheat. Here in Oregon, we hold our elections as if we don’t have dishonest people. Voter fraud happens in Chicago, we say, not here.

Pretty foolish, huh? A pretty naïve way to decide who will be the next president, governor, or mayor and decide the laws the rest of us must live under. I’m sure the founding fathers, with their more realistic view of fallen human nature, would have scoffed at such a system. They designed our entire government to provide checks and balances on man's basic tendency towards corruption.

So, how much voter fraud goes on with Oregon’s vote by mail system? Truth is, God only knows. Literally. [...]

There's more. Read the whole thing... and weep. The question is, what to do about it?

And YES, I am aware that the article is written by Bill Sizemore, who is a controversial figure, to say the least. I'm not endorsing him here. But if anything, his checkered past may actually add credibility to his arguments about voter fraud by mail.

My question is, what reliable safe-guards do we have against the kind of voter fraud he outlines in his article? And who enforces them? This isn't the first time I've seen, where the counting is speeding along, a Republican is winning by a small percentage, then the counting slows down, more ballots are found, then the Republican loses. No investigation, no questions. Am I the only one who thinks it sounds a bit "Chicago style"?

     

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

2010 Oregon Election Results

All incumbants have won their seats back. But the Governor's race is still ongoing, and the Republican, Chris Dudely, has a 1% lead that appears to be holding.

Fox 12: 2010 Oregon Election Results

I'm saying my prayers. The Business community in this state needs an advocate.

You can see a breakdown (by county) of the Oregon Governor's vote here:

MSNBC: Governor's race, Oregon

The site also has a pull down menu for other races in the state.
     

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Is it a Good Thing that the Republicans didn't also take control of the Senate?

Strangely enough, the answer to that question is probably "yes". See why:

DIVIDED GOVERNMENT
So ... We now have a House solidly under the control of the Republicans. As things stand now the Democrats will have a three seat advantage in the Senate. I'm not upset with this scenario. I've been wondering aloud for weeks what the effect might be on 2012 if the Republicans had both the House and the Senate ... with Obama standing alone as the champion of the Left at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It would be a classic "me vs. them" and would be so easy to spin in to an "Obama as besieged underdog" scenario. If the Republicans had taken the Senate it doesn't mean they would have been able to accomplish anything more than they can right now. Remember, it takes 60 votes in the Senate to pass important legislation, and there was no way the GOP was going to have those seats. I think the Republicans are better off following their agenda and sending bills to the Senate ... if the Democrats and Obama want to block that legislation - a repeal of ObamaCare, for instance, or an extension of the Bush tax cuts - then the voters will clearly see where the roadblocks are being erected.

[...]

But for the time being, we will now have (as of January) a divided government. This is a government where at least one chamber of Congress is controlled by the other party of the president. For all of the kicking and screaming we are prepared to endure from the Democrats, for the rest of us concerned about our future, divided government can actually be a good thing. The Cato Institute has some insight for us ...

Our federal government may work better (less badly) when at least one chamber of Congress is controlled by a party other than the party of the president. The general reason for this is that each party has the opportunity to block the most divisive measures proposed by the other party. Other conditions, of course, also affect political outcomes, but the following types of evidence for this hypothesis are too important to ignore:

  • The rate of growth of real (inflation-adjusted) federal spending is usually lower with divided government.

  • The only two long periods of fiscal restraint were the Eisenhower administration and the Clinton administration, during both of which the opposition party controlled Congress.

  • The probability that a major reform will last is usually higher with a divided government because the necessity of bipartisan support is more likely to protect the reform against a subsequent change in the majority party.

The fact is, folks, is that we are headed into a crucial time in this country. We are at a crossroads. Yesterday, all we were doing was picking the people who would lead us down these roads. Now the journey begins. OK .. enough of the sappy metaphors. But do you understand what these next two years represent? We need fundamental change in this country - to our tax code, to Social Security, to Medicare and Medicaid, to deficit reduction - but I am not talking about the "fundamental" change that Barack Obama desires. Barack Obama, with the Democrats he has left, would prefer for our country to head down a path which punishes wealth, redistributes wealth, expands entitlements and expands government. The fundamental change that we now seek is not just stopping the Obama agenda from "moving forward" but reforming our nation in such a way that Americans can once again prosper.

So it's all for the good. The Democrats have been left with control of the Senate. If they block changes from Congress, they will have to accept full responsibility for it. They have been given enough rope to hang themselves. Of course, they don't HAVE to hang themselves. They could try working with Republicans. But I don't have a lot of faith that would happen. Not if they follow the president's lead:

After November, Obama will NOT be like Clinton

I could be wrong about that; time will tell. It's just that, Obama so far has shown a deplorable unwillingness to work in a bipartisan manner. He seems too ideologically rigid, too inflexible. Can he change? I doubt it, but the ball is in his court now. It's up to him, and his party, to make the most of it. Or not.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Not a pro-Republican day, but anti-Democrat

TURNING TO THE REPUBLICANS ?????
You may be asking yourself, considering the current conservative momentum, who do the Democrats still have left? This won't surprise you at all, but Pew research polling shows that Democrats hold substantial leads only among blacks, younger voters, those with low family incomes, union households and the religiously unaffiliated. Although other polls show that low-income Americans have actually turning toward the Republicans along with undecided women who are now turning to the GOP for the first time since 1982. Could it possibly be that women are thinking about surrendering security for opportunity?

Some are asking [what] made it OK for Americans to seriously consider the GOP again? Not so fast. As I've said just a few times before ... these people going to the polls today aren't engaging in this exercise to vote for Republicans. They're voting against Democrats. This election is one of the biggest political repudiations of all time. It truly is a revolution .. a revolution against big government. And this revolution was not led by the Republican Party. It was led by loosely organized groups of Americans who finally tired of arrogant government and politicians, high taxes and the diminishment of the country they love. These are people who were repulsed by a president who said that America is no more special than "Greece, England or any other country." These people shouted back "The hell it isn't!" and went to work.

Do you know what the biggest fear will be for Republican politicians as they convene the 112th Congress? The very same Tea Partiers who are in the process of feeding the Democrat congress into the political shredder today. Bob Beckel said it well on Fox & Friends this morning. This is not a Republican Day. This is an anti-Democrat day. Republicans need to remember that.

It was the Tea Partiers that forced the GOP to focus on spending, the economy and jobs and has therefore put its vote-killing social agenda on hold. But remember that the elections today are not a mandate for the Republican agenda, they are a house cleaning for the current bums in Washington. If the GOP believes today's elections to be some sort of mandate of their social agenda, they will completely lose all gains that they have made and you will absolutely see the emergence of a new majority party in the United States. Unless the GOP wants to personally experience impotence, it would be wise to leave all bedroom talk behind.

I couldn't agree more. Follow the link to the original if you want to see the embedded links.


Also see:

Why you should vote for Republicans
     

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