Chas' Compilation

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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Unified Quest 2011 and the Council of Governors

What do these two things have in common. What's going on, and why should we care?

Let's look at each of them separately. First, "Unified Quest 2011":

U.S. Military Prepares for Economic Collapse
Skeptics who continue to assert that the economic plight of the United States has been overstated need not look further than the Pentagon to find out just how wrong they are. CNBC has learned that the Pentagon is currently playing out “war games” pertinent to an American economic meltdown.

According to CNBC, “The Pentagon is planning for real economic threats to America.”

CNBC’s Business News analyst Eamon Javers explains:

Ever since the crash of 2008, the Defense Intelligence establishment has really been paying a lot of attention to global markets and how they could serve as a threat to U.S. National security interests. At one upcoming seminar that we’re going to see here next month, they’re going to be taking a look at a lot of the issues … [including] the use of sovereign wealth funds to manipulate markets, currencies; nation state economic collapse, sovereign default, nation state instability; U.S. Allies’ budgets, deficits, national security infrastructures.

Similarly, the Army has launched an operation called “Unified Quest 2011” in which it studies the “implications of ‘large scale economic breakdown’ inside the United States that would force the Army to keep ‘domestic order amid civil unrest.’” The Quest also trains the Army in how to “deal with fragmented global power and drastically lower budgets.”

[...]

However, the 2011 Unified Quest lends truth to assertions that the United States is indeed not witnessing an upward economic recovery, as so many in our federal government have asserted. Soldiers are being trained in evacuation and detainment as a response to rioting, revealing the possibility that the United States military may resort to martial law in order to maintain order.

[...]

Blacklisted News explains that the Pentagon’s war games are just one of many examples that show the direction in which the world is headed. Others include the decentralization of FEMA from a single distribution facility in Washington to 15 regional facilities across the nation. Blacklisted News also claims, “Anecdotal evidence indicates that the U.S. government has been the leading buyer of freeze dried foods for the last couple of years, and private emergency shelter contractors have reported a shortage in equipment and supplies for building personal-sized bunkers.”

The actual video from the CNBC broadcast sounds less conspiratorial:



It's the military's job to plan for various scenarios. They would be remiss in their duties if they didn't. Yet, if they knew a collapse was imminent, they would also be preparing for it. So which is it: precaution or preparation?

The politicians are telling us there is an economic recovery happening, but there is no denying that the military is practicing for a collapse. Not only that, they've been working on this for the past two years:

Pentagon Has Been ‘War Gaming’ for Economic Disaster Since Early ‘09

Follow both links for more information and links. It can be interpreted either way.

OK, so the military is preparing. It's good to be cautious, right? I've posted previously about What a U.S. currency collapse might look like. The Pentagon says they are looking at it as something triggered by terrorist actions. But many say that terrorism may not enter into it; a collapse could also result from fiscal mismanagement by our own government. Either way, the end result would likely look the same.

And if there is an economic collapse and ensuing chaos, we will need the military to maintain law and order, right? But consider this also:

The Council of Governors--an endrun around state sovereignty
[...] Well what’s wrong with that? A nice partnership between the state and federal governments so they can coordinate things and keep us all safe! We’ve gotten so used to this government speak. We should scream just hearing that statist jargon “partnership between the Federal Govt and state governments”. Our founding fathers did not see it that way. The states were sovereign. They gave certain enumerated powers (Art1. sec8) to the federal government, they delegated certain responsibilities to the federal government, but they did NOT make them partners. We were the united (with a small u as written in the Declaration of Independence) States of America.

This executive order does an end run around state sovereignty, creating 10 regions of the country (in line with the regions FEMA and the UN have established) and essentially erasing state lines in the event of the council taking any action. The president having the power to appoint the governors who are then partnered with him and have charge of “the synchronization and integrations of state and federal military ACTIVITIES in the U.S.” becomes the supreme commander and in charge of state militias and ALL the armed forces (county police, state militia and national guard and federal troops, AND removing any checks and balances thereof)--he in effect becomes a dictator.

The approval of the legislative branch of government isn’t even needed if he wants to squash a domestic insurrection. This makes us the United State (SINGULAR!) of America under the control of 1 person who is advised by the elite he has chosen--clearly no longer a republic, no longer united sovereign states. It should give us pause that Hitler did something similar in 1934 when he transferred the sovereign rights of the states--Germany had states similar to ours-- to the Reich central govt and put the state administrations under the control of the Reich administration.

It certainly looks like the executive branch of the govt is conspiring to get all of the military power and all of the forces under its control.

Let me quote from "Martial Law in America: No Longer Just a Possibility!" by Gary D. Barnett, “This executive order was issued for one purpose only, and that is to build a “legal” partnership between the federal government’s national military force and the domestic police state so that they become one and the same. But in reality, this “partnership” would be controlled by the executive branch of the federal government; this being the most dangerous kind of fascism. Nothing could be more treacherous or more of a threat to liberty than for one man, the president of this now “United State,” to have the power to control and use in domestic matters the entire federal military, the National Guard, the Reserves, the Coast Guard and all state police organizations. This would effectively give the president the power to establish Martial Law over the entire country at any given time of his choosing.” [...]

The article goes on to describe how this directly conflicts with the sovereign rights of states. This was done in February of 2010. Nobody seems to be talking about it.

States already had agreements of cooperation between state and federal powers in disaster and times of strife. I don't see the need for this, other than as a power grab to erode and destroy states rights. George Bush opened the door for this, and now the Democrats have walked in and are exploiting it to the max. But in the end, insofar as we allow it, we're to blame. And it will be up to us to reverse it.


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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Cut the government waste first

Coburn: Control Government Spending or Face 'Apocalyptic Pain'
"Apocalyptic pain" from an out-of-control debt could cause 18 percent unemployment and a massive contraction in the economy that would destroy the middle class, a leading Republican deficit hawk said in an interview that aired Sunday.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who recently issued a report on government waste, warned that the U.S. only has about three or four years to get its fiscal house in order or it could find itself facing austerity measures seen in Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and earlier in Japan.

[...]

The senator, who was recently elected to a second -- and he pledges -- final term in Congress, said he's not trying to scare anyone, but eliminating waste in the federal government's ledgers is imperative not just to prevent default but a massive implosion that he defined in catastrophic terms.

"I think you'll see a 15 to 18 percent unemployment rate. I think you will see an 8 to 9 percent decline in GDP. I think you'll see the middle class just destroyed if we don't do this. And the people that it will harm the most will be the poorest of the poor, because we'll print money to try to debase our currency and get out of it and what you will see is hyperinflation," Coburn said.

"If we didn't take some pain now, we're going to experience apocalyptic pain, and it's going to be out of our control. The idea should be that we control it," he said.

Coburn said he can come up with $350 billion off the top of his head in inefficiency and waste that could be eliminated without impacting anyone in a practical sense. He noted $50 billion in programs that are duplicative and $100 billion in Medicare and Medicaid fraud that was not addressed in the health care law.

"We have 267 job training programs across 39 different agencies. Why do we have 267 of them? We have 105 programs to encourage people to go into science and technology, engineering and math. That's 105 sets of bureaucrats. None of them have metrics on it," he said.

"The Pentagon can't even audit its own books. It doesn't even know where its money is going. And we refuse to have the tough forces go on the Pentagon so that at least they are efficient with the money they're spending," Coburn added. [...]

Government has no respect for the money it spends, because it doesn't earn it. That's why they waste so much, and why it's important to limit their power to spend. It's pathetic that it's gotten this bad already.
     

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Here's some Christmas music, a blast from the past:



For something a bit more heavenly, go here:

Libera with Aled Jones

Libera again

Final Libera
     

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

FT-817ND: The QRP Machine of my Dreams


In amateur radio, QRP operation means transmitting at reduced power levels while aiming to maximize one's effective range while doing so. To that end, I found this particular Yaesu radio rather unique in it's specifications:

From Universal Radio Website: the Yaesu FT-817ND
The Yaesu FT-817ND is a new deluxe version of the hugely popular FT-817. The FT-817ND includes 60 meter coverage plus the new high capacity FNB-85 battery. The radio is a fully self-contained, battery-powered, low power amateur MF/HF/VHF/UHF transceiver for portable/camping/mountain top use. Providing coverage of of the 160-10 meter amateur bands including 60 meters, plus the 6 meter, 2 meter and 70 cm bands, the FT-817D includes operation on the SSB, CW, AM, FM and digital modes. This radio is designed for use either from an external DC source or internal batteries and provides up to 5 watts of power output when on external DC power. When using the battery pack or 8 AA cells (not supplied), the radio automatically switches to 2.5 watts. The multi-function LCD screen includes selectable blue or amber backlighting which may be disabled for battery conservation. This radio comes with: MH-31A8J Hand mic, FNB-85 Ni-MH 1400 mAh battery, FBA-28 Battery case (for 8 x AA cells not supplied), NC-72B charger, YHA-63 Whip antenna for 50/144/430 MHz, E-DC-6 DC cable and shoulder strap. Installation note: only one optional filter may be installed in the FT-817ND.

Features

* TX Frequency Coverage: 160 - 10 Meters, 50 MHz, 144 MHz, 430-450 MHz, plus Alaska Emergency Channel (5167.5 kHz).
* RX Frequency Coverage: 100 kHz - 56 MHz; 76 - 154 MHz; 420 - 470 MHz. (Exact frequency range may be slightly different)
* Power Output: 5 Watts SSB/CW/FM with 13.8V External DC; 1.5 Watts AM Carrier. 2.5 Watts SSB/CW/FM with 9.6V Ni-Cd Pack or 8 "AA" batteries (AM: 0.7 Watt), Up to 5 Watts SSB/CW/FM power (max.) programmable via Menu on Ni-Cd/AA cells.
* Operating Modes: USB, LSB, CW, AM, FM, W-FM, Digital (AFSK), Packet (1200/9600 FM).
* Digital Modes: RTTY, PSK31-U, PSK31-L, and User defined USB/LSB (SSTV, Pactor, etc.).
* Case Size: 5.31 x 1.5 x 6.5 inches (WHD)
* Weight: 2.6 lb (with Alkalines and Antenna, w/o Mic.).
* Two-Color LCD Multi-function Display (Blue/Amber).
* Bar-Graph Metering of Power Output, ALC, SWR, Modulation.
* Optional Narrow CW and SSB Filters.
* AGC Fast-Slow-Auto-Off Selection.
* RF Gain/Squelch Control.
* Built-in Noise Blanker.
* Transmit coverage of the new 60 meter band
* IPO (Intercept Point Optimization) and ATT (Receiver Front End Attenuator).
* Dual VFOs, Split Capability, IF Shift, and R.I.T. ("Clarifier").
* Wide/Narrow FM Selection.
* AM Aircraft Reception.
* Dedicated SSB-based Digital Mode for PSK31 on USB/LSB, AFSK RTTY, etc.
* Built-in CW Electronic Keyer and Semi-Break-In (down to 10 ms delay) Capability.
* Adjustable CW Pitch; CW Paddle Normal/Reverse Connection Selection.
* Built-in VOX.
* Automatic Repeater Shift.
* Built-in CTCSS and DCS.
* ARTS™ (Auto-Range Transponder System).
* Smart Search™ Automatic Memory Loading System.
* Spectrum Scope.
* Front and Rear Panel Antenna Connectors (BNC on Front; M [SO-239] on Back).
* 200 Regular Memories, plus Home Channels and Band-Limit (PMS) Memories.
* Alpha-Numeric Labeling of Memory Channels.
* Automatic Power-Off (APO) and Tx Time-Out Timer (TOT) Features.
* Rear Panel Data, Accessory and Key jacks.
* CAT System Computer Control Capability (4800/9600/38400 bps); Cloning Capability.



Wow! So many features, and modes. It's a real incentive to upgrade my license. The reviews on eHam have been pretty good too:

Reviews Summary for Yaesu FT-817ND
Reviews: 21       Average rating: 4.6/5       MSRP: $589.00

Description: The world’s first self-contained, battery-powered, Multi-mode Portable Transceiver covering the HF, VHF, and UHF bands! Despite its incredibly small size (5.3" x 1.5" x 6.5"), the FT-817 delivers big performance! Its next-generagion PA puts out five watts on all HF bands, plus the 50 MHz, 144 MHz, and 430 MHz bands, on all popular operating modes: USB/LSB/CW/AM/FM/Packet/PSK-31/RTTY. Now the 817 legacy is even better with the introduction of the FT-817ND, which includes coverage of the U.S. 60-meter (5 MHz) band, and it also includes a 1400 mAh NiMH Battery pack (FNB-85) and NC-72B Charger!

Follow the link to read individual reviews by users.

I'm also impressed with some of Yaesu's other offerings, like the FT-857D and the FT-897D. They aren't QRP though. Not that my first HF radio has to be QRP, but the challenge of QRP has always attracted me, and I would like to learn CW and PSK31 and be able to use them with low power. I like that the 817ND can run on AA batteries if needed, and it's portability. But which would be best for my FIRST HF radio? I'll be giving that some thought.


Also see:

Yaesu.com: FT-817ND

Videos about the Yaesu FT-817ND
     

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How does some one survive a fall like this?


Romanian flings himself from parliament balcony
BUCHAREST, Romania – A man apparently distraught that budget cuts had reduced benefits for his disabled child dived more than 20 feet (about seven meters) from a balcony onto the floor of Romania's parliament Thursday, but survived and shouted "Freedom!" as he was stretchered from the chamber.

[...]

Sobaru sustained face wounds, and other non life-threatening injuries, said Catalin Carstoiu, manager at the University Hospital. He will undergo surgery and psychological counseling, Carstoiu said.

They didn't specify what the "other non life-threatening injuries" were. He's lucky to be alive, from that height. What the heck did he land on? There is a video at the end of the article, but if you try to watch it, it says that it's no longer available.
     

Budget cutting, the REASONable way



Reason.tv: Budget Chef Presents: How to Balance the Budget W/O Raising Taxes!
Using just a big piece of pork, a large knife, and a small knife, the budget chef shows how to balance the federal budget by 2020.

As a special treat, he does it without raising taxes from the current Bush-era rates!

It seems like a complicated preparation at first, but it's so simple that almost any elected official should be able to pull it off like a pro!

Domestic and foreign investors will love this, and it will also help create a stable environment conducive to long-term, sustainable economic growth.

Between 2011 and 2020, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that total federal outlays - for defense, agriculture subsidies, Medicare, Social Security, you name it - will total a whopping $42.1 trillion (in 2010 dollars). To bring outlays down to revenue, we need to cut a total of $1.3 trillion in total expenditures over the next 10 years.

That sounds like a really tall order until you realize that it cutting just 3.6 percent a year for each of the next 10 years. To put it in dollar terms, it means cutting about $130 billion a year from budgets that will average over $4 trillion.

That's not so hard now, is it? By making small, systematic cuts to a federal budget that is larded up with more fat than an Ponderosa buffet, we can balance the budget without even nicking essential services. [...]

The video is just a summary. It's based on a much more detailed article:

How to Balance the Budget Without Raising Taxes
The 19 Percent Solution
A value-added tax, a soda tax, a gas tax, banning earmarks, freezing a portion of federal spending at "pre-stimulus" levels - there’s no shortage of ideas being thrown out to fix the country’s disastrous balance sheet, which threatens not just near-term economic recovery but the possibility of long-term growth. Like last week's report from the president's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, most of the current plans to fix the country's finances rely more on increases in revenues than on cuts in spending. In part due to its heavy reliance on revenue hikes, the commission, charged with balancing the budget by 2020, failed to win enough votes of its own members to present its recommendations to Congress.

Which raises the question: Can America really reduce its debt and deficit without raising taxes to job-killing rates or cutting essential services to developing-world levels? The answer is not simply yes, it's that we have to.

Raising government revenue - taxes - substantially is not only bad policy, it has proven difficult and ultimately unsustainable for any length of time in the past 60 years. Since 1950, annual government revenue, as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), has averaged just below 18 percent despite every attempt to jack it up or tamp it down. Our post-World War II experience shows that if the government is going to live within its means, it can't spend much more than 18 percent of GDP. Period.


Which is one reason to be happy that the debt commission's recommendations won't be presented to Congress anytime soon. The report assumes revenue equal to 21 percent of GDP and struggles to get spending to "below 22% and eventually to 21%" of GDP. That’s a recipe for disaster that would guarantee deficits and red ink.

Similarly, former Sens. Bill Bradley, John Danforth, and Gary Hart, working with the Committee for a Responsible Budget, have offered up a plan to balance the budget by 2020 that relies on revenue hitting 20.8 percent of GDP, a level that hasn't been achieved once in the past 60 years. Republicans have not advanced any realistic near-term plans. Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.) Roadmap to the American Future does not balance the budget until 2063. The pre-election GOP’s Pledge to America is worthless since it fails to provide specifics (and to the extent it does, it is no good).

The current situation is a bipartisan disaster that requires immediate action. Since Bill Clinton left the White House in 2001, total federal spending has increased by a massive 60 percent in inflation-adjusted 2010 dollars. In fiscal year 2010, which ended September 30, the federal government spent $3.6 trillion, or 25 percent of Gross Domestic Product. That’s the most spending, in terms of percentage of GDP, since 1946. Likewise, last year’s $1.5 trillion deficit, as a percentage of GDP, was the largest deficit since 1945.

Most economists talk about a debt-to-GDP ratio of 60 percent as a trigger point that makes investors very nervous about a country's ability to pay its obligations. The debt to GDP ratio was 63 percent this year and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects it will be 87 percent in 2020. Just three years ago, it was 36.5 percent. Not good signs.

So, what would it take to bring federal spending into line with plausible levels of revenue?

The CBO, the non-partisan agency charged with estimating the effects of legislation on government costs, has produced a long-term budget outlook in which Bush-era tax rates remain unchanged. Their conclusion is that over the next decade, "government revenues would remain at about 19 percent of GDP, near their historical averages." That's actually a bit higher than the historical average, but is within the bounds of reason. [...]

There's a lot more. Read the whole thing, the original article also has many embedded links too. It's so refreshing to read about real, actual, REASONABLE solutions!

     

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The FCC's Net Neutrality: How "Neutral" is it?

Is it just more heavy-handed government interference? Many say yes:



Internet access is not a “civil right”
When bureaucrats talk about increasing your “access” to X, Y, or Z, what they’re really talking about is increasing their control over your lives exponentially. As it is with the government health care takeover, so it is with the newly-approved government plan to “increase” Internet “access.” Call it Webcare.

By a vote of 3-2, the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday adopted a controversial scheme to ensure “net neutrality” by turning unaccountable Democrat appointees into meddling online traffic cops. The panel will devise convoluted rules governing Internet service providers, bandwidth use, content, prices, and even disclosure details on Internet speeds. The “neutrality” is brazenly undermined by preferential treatment toward wireless broadband networks. Moreover, the FCC’s scheme is widely opposed by Congress – and has already been rejected once in the courts. Demonized industry critics have warned that the regulations will stifle innovation and result in less access, not more.

Sound familiar?

The parallels with health care are striking. The architects of Obamacare promised to provide Americans more access to health insurance – and cast their agenda as a fundamental universal entitlement. In fact, it was a pretext for creating a gargantuan federal bureaucracy with the power to tax, redistribute, and regulate the private health insurance market to death – and replace it with a centrally-planned government system overseen by politically-driven code enforcers dictating everything from annual coverage limits, to administrative expenditures, to the make-up of the medical workforce. The costly, onerous, and selectively-applied law has resulted in less access, not more. [...]


From the Washington Post:

Net Neutrality: Reactions to FCC ruling and analysis
[...] Everyone's weighing in on the Federal Communications Commission's vote to approve net neutrality rules on Tuesday. While President Obama and others hailed the move as an important step in preserving open access, the criticism started flowing almost as soon as the vote was announced.

In the Wall Street Journal, columnist John Fund says the vote is a coup by left-leaning lobbyists. He says he counted the citations from the FCC's National Broadband plan and noted there were far fewer nods from "respected think tanks" such as the Brookings Institution, as opposed to "liberal groups" such as Free Press, Public Knowledge, Pew and the New America Foundation.

Heavy-handed government "solutions" often end up creating more problems than they solve, or achieving the exact opposite of what they claim they are trying to do. This may be a case in point. It has a lot of opposition already, from the both the Left and Right. Some of the arguments in it's favor sound compelling, but from what I've been reading, it seems that it's over-reaching, trying to do too much. In short, too much government interference.

We'll see what happens.
     

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Best option to avoid a massive federal bailout

Sounds good to me:


Give States a Way to Go Bankrupt
[...] In the decades since the constitutionality of municipal bankruptcy was affirmed by the Supreme Court, the most serious obstacle in practice has been the rule that only insolvent municipalities can file for bankruptcy. Because a struggling city theoretically can raise taxes or slash programs, it often isn’t clear if even the most bedraggled city needs to be in bankruptcy. In 1991, a court concluded that Bridgeport, Connecticut—which wasn’t anyone’s idea of a healthy city—had not demonstrated that it was insolvent, and rejected Bridgeport’s bankruptcy filing. To avoid this risk, without making bankruptcy too easy for states, Congress would do well to consider a somewhat softer entrance requirement if it enacts bankruptcy-for-states legislation. Current corporate bankruptcy does not require a showing of insolvency, and the new financial reforms allow regulators to take over large banks that are “in default or in danger of default.” Although these reforms are in other ways deeply flawed, the “in default or danger of default” standard would work well for states.

Given that a new bankruptcy chapter for states would clearly be constitutional, and the entrance hurdles could easily be adjusted, the ultimate question is whether its benefits would be great enough to justify the innovation. They would, although a bankruptcy chapter for states would not be nearly so smooth as an ordinary corporate reorganization. When a business files for bankruptcy, the threat to liquidate the company’s assets—that is, to simply sell everything in pieces and shut the business down—has the same effect on creditors that Samuel Johnson attributed to the hangman’s noose: It concentrates the mind wonderfully. Because creditors are likely to be worse off if the company is simply liquidated, they tend to be more flexible, and more willing to renegotiate what they are owed.

One can imagine something like a liquidation sale for cities and even states. Indeed, in the early 1990s, professors Michael McConnell and Randal Picker proposed that Congress amend the existing municipal bankruptcy chapter to allow just that. They argued that many of a city’s commercial, nongovernmental properties could be sold in a municipal bankruptcy, and the proceeds simply distributed to creditors. (They also suggested that municipal boundaries could be dissolved, with a bankrupt city being absorbed by the surrounding county.) Although California has taken small steps in this direction on its own—it recently contracted to sell the San Francisco Civic Center and other public buildings to a Texas investment company for $2.33 billion—it seems unlikely that Congress would give bankruptcy judges the power to compel sales in bankruptcy. Nor could it do so with respect to any property that serves a public purpose. Liquidation simply isn’t a realistic option for a city or state. (The same limitation applies to nation-states like Ireland and Greece, whose financial travails have reinvigorated debate about whether there should be a bankruptcy-like international framework for countries.)

With liquidation off the table, the effectiveness of state bankruptcy would depend a great deal on the state’s willingness to play hardball with its creditors. The principal candidates for restructuring in states like California or Illinois are the state’s bonds and its contracts with public employees. Ideally, bondholders would vote to approve a restructuring. But if they dug in their heels and resisted proposals to restructure their debt, a bankruptcy chapter for states should allow (as municipal bankruptcy already does) for a proposal to be “crammed down” over their objections under certain circumstances. This eliminates the hold-out problem—the refusal of a minority of bondholders to agree to the terms of a restructuring—that can foil efforts to restructure outside of bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy law should give debtor states even more power to rewrite union contracts, if the court approves. Interestingly, it is easier to renegotiate a burdensome union contract in municipal bankruptcy than in a corporate bankruptcy. Vallejo has used this power in its bankruptcy case, which was filed in 2008. It is possible that a state could even renegotiate existing pension benefits in bankruptcy, although this is much less clear and less likely than the power to renegotiate an ongoing contract.

Whether states like California or Illinois would fully take advantage of such powers is of course open to question. During his recent campaign, Governor-elect Jerry Brown promised to take a hard look at California’s out-of-control pension costs. But it is difficult to imagine Brown taking a tough stance with the unions. Even in his reincarnation as a sensible politician who has left his Governor Moonbeam days behind, Brown depends heavily on labor support. He doesn’t seem likely to bring the gravy train to an end, or even to slow it down much.

But as Voltaire warned, we mustn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. The risk that politicians won’t make as much use of their bankruptcy options as they should does not mean that bankruptcy is a bad idea. For all its limitations, it would give a resolute state a new, more effective tool for paring down the state’s debts. And many a governor might find alluring the possibility of shifting blame for a new frugality onto a bankruptcy court that “made him do it” rather than take direct responsibility for tough choices.

This brings us back to the issue of federal bailouts. When taxpayer-funded bailouts are inserted into the equation, the case for a new bankruptcy chapter becomes overwhelming. And it’s a case for Congress to move now on the creation of a state bankruptcy law.

With the presidential election just two years away, the pressure to bail out California, Illinois, and perhaps other states is about to become irresistible. As we learned in 2008 and 2009, it is impossible to stop a bailout once the government decides to go this route. [...]

I think we NEED a state bankruptcy law. I don't see another viable alternative. Bailouts just increase debt without solving the problem.

It was hard to chose excerpts, it's worth reading the whole article. There are many examples given that back up what is being said.


Also see:

Government Employee Unions are Ruining Us
     

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Why it's important to have savings, and budget

Reason #1 is, so you don't end up like THIS:

Funding cuts leave many without home heating assistance in Macon


Showing her Georgia Power bills in the one warm room of her home, Raymeica Kelly explains how her mother, sister and herself were turned away from the Energy Assistance Program on Wednesday morning after standing in line for four hours. All three complained that the system the Macon-Bibb County Economic Opportunity Council uses to give out the assistance needs improving.

Notice the expensive large screen TV, and the gaming console underneath. I'd like to have those things too, but I don't. I also pay my own power bills, and buy my own heath insurance, etc. It wouldn't occur to me to expect anyone else to.

The article says this lady was employed, but then lost her job. Now she's employed again, but has fallen behind on her bills, and wants the government to pick up the slack. And of course if they do, she will then EXPECT the government to do so, every time she falls behind. That's human nature.

Her actual problem is, she didn't plan her finances well enough. When she was working, she should have been saving money in case a hardship like this came along. A hardship like this should, in fact, teach her that she needs to do so.

When I was young, I ran out of money between paychecks a few times. I went hungry for a day or two. It was awful, a hardship, but it taught me to be more careful with my spending. It taught me to SAVE money, so I wouldn't go through that experience again.

Saving money means spending less, and foregoing luxuries like Huge flat screen TV's and gaming consoles. You can even attain those luxuries too, eventually, by planning for them; but it means you can't get everything you want immediately.

In my youth I also got into credit card debt. It took me two years of frugal living to pay them off. By then I was good at frugal living, so I kept doing it and put the money in my savings account, until I had enough for a downpayment on a house.

To do that I had to make some sacrifices; no fancy vacations or clothes, hardly ever eating at restaurants, seldom going to movies. No new cars or expensive computers. But the sacrifices paid off in the end, helped me to get what I wanted, with planning.

By planning purchases I've been able to attain some luxuries too, over time. And maintain some savings. For most of my adult life now, I've always had some money in the bank, for unexpected expenses. You have to make sacrifices to keep savings, but you get security and independence in return.

Most people nowadays want instant gratification; they buy things on credit, and live from paycheck to paycheck, without saving anything. They spend their money on luxuries, then when something happens and they can't pay for essential goods or services, they want someone else to pay. They seem to think their security is someone else's responsibility.

I say, they need to learn from the hardship, and change their spending habits. I did, and I don't see why other people can't too. I sympathize with the suffering, but it happens for a reason. Shielding people from the consequences of their own poor planning just encourages them to keep planning poorly, instead of learning from their mistakes. And when our whole society perpetuates that, it drags us all down. We are meant to learn from hardship and use the contrast to make changes accordingly to improve our lives, to learn to make wise choices.
     

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Welfare: When Less is More?

I found this headline hard to believe, until I read the text:

In Entitlement America, The Head Of A Household Of Four Making Minimum Wage Has More Disposable Income Than A Family Making $60,000 A Year

Follow the link. See the charts. Do the math. It's obscene. It's THEFT.
     

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Natural" tips from WebMD

Natural Good Sleep: Tips on Melatonin, Valerian, and More
[...] So, what's been proven to work? What's safe?

Plank is a big advocate of chamomile tea, as well as valerian and melatonin. "Both of those have good scientific evidence backing them up," Plank tells WebMD.

Start with low doses of any supplement, she advises. Always tell your health provider what you're doing, as some people should not take specific supplements. There may be interactions with other medications you're taking or other serious side effects. Also, keep these sleep solutions short-term.

"Any sleep aid should not be taken for long periods," Plank says. "You must address lifestyle, too. Make sure something else is not interfering with sleep."

Plank recommends:

* Chamomile tea
* Melatonin
* Valerian
* Kava

For optimal nerve health (to help you relax), she also advises 100 to 400 milligrams of magnesium. "I don't know of studies of magnesium for sleep, but in my experience it helps," she tells WebMD. [...]

The rest of the article goes into more detail about each of those supplements.

The next two article follow a similar format on their topics:

Natural Allergy Remedies

Natural Pain Relief: Chronic Pain Supplements
     

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Demoralization: The root of our problems?

I tend to think it is. The literal definition of "demoralize" is:

de·mor·al·ize
1. to deprive (a person or persons) of spirit, courage, discipline, etc.; destroy the morale of: The continuous barrage demoralized the infantry.

2. to throw (a person) into disorder or confusion; bewilder: We were so demoralized by that one wrong turn that we were lost for hours.

3. to corrupt or undermine the morals of.

People whose thinking is disordered, who are bewildered and confused, are more apt to act irrationally and emotionally, and are more susceptible to emotional manipulation. Facts be damned.

"Demoralization" is when the truth and facts don't matter anymore. In politics demoralization has become all too pervasive, and it makes reasoned debate impossible. It's impossible to win an argument with, or to even persuade, someone who has no interest in discerning what is true, and what is false. Demoralization is a rotten foundation on which nothing can stand, and is at the root of much that ails America today.

A few months ago I came across and interesting video of a former KGB man, Yuri Bezmenov, describing the process of demoralization as a tool that was promoted by the soviets, for undermining, collapsing and taking over a country.

A summary of the four step process promoted by the Soviets can be found at the American Thinker:

From Russia with no love
[...] They describe the process as:

1. Demoralization.

2. Destabilization.

3. Crisis.

4. Normalization.

The point of this "Ideological Subversion" was to weaken an enemy country, strip its culture and corrupt their values to a point of complete vulnerability. Mr. Schuman describes it as:

[An] overt...slow process...[to] change the perception of reality of every American to such an extent that despite the abundance of information, no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the interest of defending themselves, their families, their community and their country.

The first step, Demoralization, has already been completed in America and continues to perpetuate itself. The Obama Administration policies are accelerating the second step of Destabilization and rapidly approaching the third phase of Crisis. [...]


The video is here:



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeMZGGQ0ERk

The interview is edited, so I looked for a complete transcript of the interview, and I found this:

Interview with Yuri Bezmenov: Part Three

Bezmenov describes was steps of Demoralization, Destabilization, Crisis, and Normalization in detail. Some excerpts:

[...] But in reality, the main emphasis of the KGB is not in the area of intelligence at all. According to my opinion and [the] opinion of many defectors of my caliber, only about 15% of time, money, and manpower [are] spent on espionage as such. The other 85% is a slow process, which we call either ‘ideological subversion,’ or ‘active measures’—‘[?]’ in the language of the KGB—or ‘psychological warfare.’ What it basically means is, to change the perception of reality, of every American, to such an extent that despite of the abundance of information, no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the interests of defending themselves, their families, their community and their country.

It’s a great brainwashing process, which goes very slow[ly] and is divided [into] four basic stages. The first one [is] demoralization; it takes from 15-20 years to demoralize a nation. Why that many years? Because this is the minimum number of years which [is required] to educate one generation of students in the country of your enemy, exposed to the ideology of the enemy. In other words, Marxist-Leninist ideology is being pumped into the soft heads of at least three generations of American students, without being challenged, or counter-balanced by the basic values of Americanism (American patriotism).

The result? The result you can see. Most of the people who graduated in the sixties (drop-outs or half-baked intellectuals) are now occupying the positions of power in the government, civil service, business, mass media, [and the] educational system. You are stuck with them. You cannot get rid of them. They are contaminated; they are programmed to think and react to certain stimuli in a certain pattern. You cannot change their mind[s], even if you expose them to authentic information, even if you prove that white is white and black is black, you still cannot change the basic perception and the logic of behavior. In other words, these people... the process of demoralization is complete and irreversible. To [rid] society of these people, you need another twenty or fifteen years to educate a new generation of patriotically-minded and common sense people, who would be acting in favor and in the interests of United States society.

Griffin: And yet these people who have been ‘programmed,’ and as you say [are] in place and who are favorable to an opening with the Soviet concept... these are the very people who would be marked for extermination in this country?

Bezmenov: Most of them, yes. Simply because the psychological shock when they will see in [the] future what the beautiful society of ‘equality’ and ‘social justice’ means in practice, obviously they will revolt. They will be very unhappy, frustrated people, and the Marxist-Leninist regime does not tolerate these people. Obviously they will join the leagues of dissenters (dissidents).

Unlike in [the] present United States there will be no place for dissent in future Marxist-Leninist America. Here you can get popular like Daniel Ellsberg and filthy-rich like Jane Fonda for being ‘dissident,’ for criticizing your Pentagon. In [the] future these people will be simply [squashing sound] squashed like cockroaches. Nobody is going to pay them nothing for their beautiful, noble ideas of equality. This they don't understand and it will be [the] greatest shock for them, of course.

The demoralization process in [the] United States is basically completed already. For the last 25 years... actually, it's over-fulfilled because demoralization now reaches such areas where previously not even Comrade Andropov and all his experts would even dream of such a tremendous success. Most of it is done by Americans to Americans, thanks to [a] lack of moral standards.

As I mentioned before, exposure to true information does not matter anymore. A person who was demoralized is unable to assess true information. The facts tell nothing to him. Even if I shower him with information, with authentic proof, with documents, with pictures; even if I take him by force to the Soviet Union and show him [a] concentration camp, he will refuse to believe it, until he [receives] a kick in his fan-bottom. When a military boot crashes his... then he will understand. But not before that. That's the [tragedy] of the situation of demoralization.

So basically America is stuck with demoralization and unless... even if you start right now, here, this minute, you start educating [a] new generation of American[s], it will still take you fifteen to twenty years to turn the tide of ideological perception of reality back to normalcy and patriotism.

The next stage is destabilization. This time [the] subverter does not care about your ideas and the patterns of your consumption; whether you eat junk food and get fat and flabby doesn’t matter any more. This time—and it takes only from two to five years to destabilize a nation—what matters [are] essentials: economy, foreign relations, [and] defense systems. And you can see it quite clearly that in some areas, in such sensitive areas as defense and [the] economy, the influence of Marxist-Leninist ideas in [the] United States is absolutely fantastic. I could never believe it fourteen years ago when I landed in this part of the world that the process [would have gone] that fast.

The next stage, of course, is crisis. It may take only up to six weeks to bring a country to the verge of crisis. You can see it in Central America now.

And, after crisis, with a violent change of power, structure, and economy, you have [the so-called] period of normalization. It may last indefinitely. Normalization is a cynical expression borrowed from Soviet propaganda. When the Soviet tanks moved into Czechoslovakia in ‘68, Comrade Brezhnev said, ‘Now the situation in brotherly Czechoslovakia is normalized.’

This is what will happen in [the] United States if you allow all these schmucks to bring the country to crisis, to promise people all kind[s] of goodies and the paradise on earth, to destabilize your economy, to eliminate the principle of free market competition, and to put [a] Big Brother government in Washington, D.C. with benevolent dictators like Walter Mondale, who will promise lots of thing[s], never mind whether the promises are fulfillable or not. He will go to Moscow to kiss the bottoms of [a] new generation of Soviet assassins, never mind... he will create false illusions that the situation is under control. [The] situation is not under control. [The] situation is disgustingly out of control.[...]

Of course Walter Mondale didn't win. Yet the rest of that paragraph sounds very much like what is happening in Washington D.C. now. There isn't a Soviet Union anymore, but there are plenty of Marxists and Marxist sympathizers worldwide, wanting to collapse current governments and economies, and replace them with... something else.

I would say we are now in the destabilization phase, and approaching the crisis phase. The crushing of dissent comes in the Normalization phase. Bezmenov makes recommendations about what we should do to avert these phases. But that was 25 years ago. Is it too late now?

The above link to the transcript is to part three, but it's worth reading parts one and two as well. Bezmenov's story is fascinating, and there are photos too, as well as links to the other parts of the transcript.

Even though this interview is from 25 years ago, and the "Soviets" no longer exist, these techniques and practices have been adopted by the continuing International socialist/communist Left. American Activist Leftists like Cloward-Piven adopted many of these methods into their own plans, and are using them now, even inside our government, to rot it from within.

It matters little who is doing it, because the end result will be the same. What matters it to recognize it and respond appropriately.

In a review of one of Bezmenov's books, Love Letter to America", the reviewer suggests that perhaps Bezmenov makes too great a case for Soviet power and influence; that perhaps demoralization is an already existing process in Western Democracies, and the Soviets were simply trying to exploit it to their advantage; that the rot is often aimless, and there are patriots who counteract it.

I don't disagree with that. I would just say that more important than where it comes from, or even how intentionally it is (or isn't) orchestrated, is to recognize the rot where it occurs, and treat it before it spreads. Just like you would fix rot in your home, before it spreads and weakens the supporting structures of your house. Regardless of what caused the rot, or how it got there, you would fix it to preserve the structure of your home. You would be vigilant and take steps to prevent rot from even taking hold. In such matters, vigilance is always a virtue.

Demoralization is just a kind of rot that occurs through a lack or neglect of real education, the result of which obfuscates clear thinking and reasoning, and by default allows confusion and emotional manipulation to seep in. Like rain water seeping in through the roof, it can be prevented, but work must be done to maintain the roof. Like so many things in this world that are worth preserving, it requires eternal vigilance, and conscious, continual effort. It's the never-ending story. It's work to preserve and promote the good, but it's still better than trying to deal with resulting chaos of neglect and indifference. It's why we persevere.

     

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Linux is the only safe option for Windows users interested in online banking"

Is it true? Computerworld's Michael Horowitz seems to think so:

Being safe with Ubuntu on a USB flash drive
One of the best things a Windows user can do for Defensive Computing is to have a bootable copy of Linux on hand. The classic reason being to rescue a broken copy of the operating system, but the much more important reason is for on-line banking.

Anyone that does online banking on a Windows machine is taking a huge risk. Most likely they don't understand how sophisticated the bad guys are at writing malware. For example, man-in-the-browser attacks even defeat two factor authentication schemes.

No amount of Defensive Computing for Windows can ever be close to perfect. Linux is the only safe option for Windows users interested in online banking.

[...]

My USB flash drive with Linux was getting a bit old, so I set out to create a new one with the latest version (10.10) of Ubuntu.

I was pleasantly surprised that the Ubuntu download page now includes instructions for installing the system onto a USB flash from Windows, OS X and, of course, Ubuntu. In the old days, I used to create a CD, boot to it and then use the included Startup Disk Creator from within Ubuntu to create a bootable copy on a USB flash drive. This was documented poorly and failed as often as it succeeded.

Thankfully, Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, now seems to have endorsed the Universal USB Linux Installer available at Pendrivelinux.com. I've used it in the past, from within Windows, with good success.

The bad news is that Canonical's documentation is far from complete. You are much better off reading about the Universal USB Installer from the source.

In brief, this is what you need to know. [...]

Read the whole thing, for the embedded links and more. In the comments after the article, are some suggestions for hardening your Windows system for security with on-line banking.

I've tried other USB installers for Linux, but not this Universal USB Installer. I will try it next. I'm just about start using on-line banking, so this subject interests me. The installer works with just about any Linux distribution you chose, so I will be experimenting with it.
     

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Understanding the poem "Invictus"

We recently saw the movie Invictus, Clint Eastwood's offering of a story about Nelson Mandela and the South African Springbok Rugby team. In the movie, Mandela mentions that while in prison he drew strength from the poem "Invictus". Curious about the poem, I looked it up on Google, and found this:

What is the meaning of the poem Invictus?
Invictus, meaning "unconquerable" or "undefeated" in Latin, is a poem by William Ernest Henley. The poem was written while Henley was in the hospital being treated for tuberculosis of the bone, also known as Pott's disease. He had had the disease since he was very young, and his foot had been amputated shortly before he wrote the poem. This poem is about courage in the face of death, and holding on to one's own dignity despite the indignities life places before us.


An analysis of the poem: [...]

I found the whole thing interesting. The author was a life-long atheist. Apparently he was also the inspiration for the peg-leg pirate character of Long John Silver in the book Treasure Island.


Also see:

English professor Marion Hoctor: The meaning of 'Invictus'

From Wikipedia: Invictus
     

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ham Radio Contacts with Astronauts on board the International Space Station

I had heard that commander Wheelock was making lots of contacts from the International Space Station. I had looked up the times when the ISS was passing overhead, to see if I could hear anything, but unfortunately I was often busy with other stuff and kept missing my opportunities. But many others were quite successful:


ISS Expedition 24/25 Crew Back on Terra Firma
11/30/2010

After more than 160 days in space, ISS Expedition 25 Commander Doug Wheelock, KF5BOC -- along with Flight Engineers Shannon Walker, KD5DXB, and Fyodor Yurchikhin, RN3FI -- has returned to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS), landing in Kazakhstan on Friday, November 26. While on board the ISS, both Wheelock and Walker participated in the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program, and made 22 ISS-to-school and ISS-to-camp QSOs. In addition, Wheelock averaged about two dozen casual QSOs each week while on board the ISS.

During his last few weeks in space, Wheelock sent down a note to Johnson Space Center, asking to increase the number of ARISS contacts from one per week to two a week during his last month on the ISS. According to ARRL ARISS Program Manager Rosalie White, K1STO, Wheelock said he enjoyed the contacts with children, calling them “priceless.” White said that the ARISS Team quickly reviewed the list of schools on the ARISS waiting list and set up contacts for Wheelock.

In a 20 minute video taken aboard the ISS, Wheelock gave a tour of the ISS, even making a few ham radio contacts while passing over North America (the ham radio portion of the video begins at the 10:38 mark). [...]

It goes on about the many contacts Doug made, and says that the crew coming to the station on December 17th, will include two more Amateur radio operators. Good! Perhaps there will be more opportunities for me to try again.


Also see:

Seeing the International Space Station from Earth

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station
     

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California's war on Ammo Buyers

Californians! Stock Up on Ammo While You Still Can!
Starting February 1, 2011, a new California law treats buyers of ammunition like criminals. Sales are outlawed except at your local gun store — which is required to fingerprint you and record your purchases, to be reported to the State. See my my earlier post for some history on this law. Here is a news report.

[...]

Here’s what will happen as the law kicks in. Gun owners will be hurrying to buy ammunition prior to the deadline. In order to get exactly what they want, in the quantities they want, in the time allowed, they will order from out of state. (That’s what I’ve done.) So we’ll see a short-term spike in purchasing…but much of the sales volume will slip away from in-state vendors. Then, after the deadline passes, California retailers will see sales drop precipitously. In the future, gun owners will find a way to make a large out-of-state purchase once a year or so. Maybe we’ll form little ammunition clubs, or take an annual jaunt to Las Vegas. One way or another, a large number of us will obtain ammo while evading the state-mandated persecution. Gun owners are the sort of people that don’t take this sort of abuse sitting down.

When the numbers come in, and it becomes clear that Sacramento has done nothing more than drive its own vendors out of business during a time of extreme hardship when they needed help rather than mistreatment, some of the saner lawmakers will suggest that this idiotic and counterproductive legislation be reversed. It’s possible the bill will be repealed, although I wouldn’t count on it. [...]

Neither would I. Not with the kooks in charge. One of many, many reasons I left California.
     

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Renewal of Tax Cuts: What's at stake

How Congress' tax-cut decision may affect economy
On this, economists agree: Extending tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush for low- and middle-income people would strengthen the weak economy.

The question is what to do about the highest-paid 3 percent of taxpayers. Should Congress let their tax cuts expire at year's end as scheduled? Extend them for only a while? Or make them permanent?

It isn't just a debate over how much money high-income Americans should get to keep. It's about how much their tax cuts might aid the economy. And how much they'll affect the budget deficit years from now.

But first, consider what would happen next year if Congress let the tax cuts for everyone expire as scheduled. According to Moody's Analytics, the deficit would drop to $732 billion. That's well below the $1.3 trillion deficit for the budget year that ended Sept. 30.

At the same time, the economy would suffer, Moody's says: Growth would tail off to just 0.9 percent next year. That's scarcely more than a recessionary pace. And unemployment would average 10.7 percent next year.

That's because higher taxes would leave people with less money to spend. Businesses would be less inclined to hire. Economic growth would slide. Yet if Democrats and Republicans can't reach a deal during the post-election lame-duck session that began this month, taxes will rise across the board in January.

Republicans triumphant in the midterm elections insist that everyone, regardless of income, should continue to enjoy the tax cuts approved during George W. Bush's presidency. [...]

It goes on to give three options that could play out, and their probable consequences. It's a short but informative article, well worth the read.

Then there's this:

Thus Does the Economy Grow
[...] Here, then, are ten practical tips for elected Republican officials, who are torn between trying to govern as a majority party and trying to oppose President Obama’s agenda as a minority party.

[...]

Six. Don’t delink income-tax rates. The strategy we developed in 2001 and 2003 worked. Forced by reconciliation rules to sunset the tax cuts, we set them all to expire on the same day. President Bush reframed the top income-tax rates as small-business tax rates. This argument won the day in 2003 and 2010 and will win again as long as the expiration dates remain synchronized. Don’t fall for the trap of temporarily extending the top rates and permanently extending the others. This would guarantee future increases in the top rates.

Seven. Offer to help the president expand free trade and open investment. Rebuild the center-right free-trade coalition. The president will need to deliver a few Democrats to offset the protectionist Republicans (darn them). You can fight economic isolationism, raise American standards of living, help American allies in Latin America and Asia, cooperate with the president, and split congressional Democrats. That’s a five-part win.

[...]

Read all ten, they're good.
     

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