Sunday, August 30, 2009

The French pay less taxes than we do?

What! Socialist France, less taxes? Take a look:

Is France Doing Better Than The U.S.?
Why does it appear France is bouncing back more quickly from the recession than the United States?

France has long been known for having an economy that suffered from too much government interference, too-high taxes and destructive union activity. Yet it grew 1.4 percent in the second quarter of 2009, while the U.S. economy continued to decline.

The United States and Britain have had the largest "stimulus" programs of the major economies (as measured by increases in government spending and deficits relative to gross domestic product) and yet they are not moving toward recovery as rapidly as most other countries that had far smaller stimulus programs or none.


... France has sharply reduced its corporate income-tax rate so it is lower than the U.S. rate. France also has been reducing its individual tax rates so that many Frenchmen now pay a lower maximum tax rate than do the taxpayers of New York, California and many other states.

If the tax-rate increases proposed by the Obama administration and the Democrat Congress are passed into law, all upper-income Americans will be paying higher personal tax rates than the wealthy in France.

[See the table in article for a tax and finances comparison]

However - the economic reforms in France have not been sufficient to keep large numbers of wealthy French from moving much of their savings and investment to other countries.

Rather than make their tax laws sufficiently competitive to keep their capital at home, the French have been on a crusade to force other countries to raise their tax rates and engage in widespread tax information sharing.

These bad habits have been picked up by many in the U.S. Congress as it pushes for legislation to discourage the free movement of capital along with the destruction of financial privacy. The result will be slower economic growth throughout the world, less job creation and more economic misery. [...]

As the French make changes in their own economy, perhaps we should emulate their successes, rather than their failures. The article goes on to say that other countries offer more attractive models, but that France is continuing to work on theirs to make it more workable and attractive, thanks to French think-tanks like the Institute for Economic Studies-Europe and other groups too.

There really is a lot be learned here from the French. Is our government paying attention? Or are they too busy maintaining and orchestrating a crisis, as an "opportunity" to further their agenda of expanded government control and interference in our lives?

The energy policies of France, and the protection they afforded France from the effects of the recession, are also worth noting.


The car of the future, revisited: newer and better

In a past post I did in 2007, there was great interest in the car below:

It claimed to get 92 mpg, and was going to go into production in 2008. Where is it now?

Well it seems there was a fire in the garage where it was made, destroying the car and the tools used to build it. They had to start all over again.

The good news is, they did, and their newer car is even more impressive:

The Car
[...] The eVaro is FVT’s newest prototype and the next generation in series hybrid development. It is a high performance sports car with outstanding spec’s:

* Between 122 mpge and 325 mpge
(miles per gallon equivalent)
* 100-125 mile range on electricity alone
* unlimited extended range with onboard FVT gas generator
* 3 hour re-charge time plug in at home, 1 hour with FVT on board generator [...]

FVT Future Vehicles Technology
Future Vehicle Technologies (formerly FuelVapor Technologies ) has just completed one of the world’s first fully functioning plug-in electric series hybrid vehicles. The "eVaro" is designed to out-perform gas powered vehicles, produce no emissions for 90% of its time on the road, and radically change the automotive industry as we know it.

As verified by the University of the Fraser Valley, British Columbia, The eVaro achieved an average of 275 mpge for city driving (20-60kph)
and an average of 165 mpge for highway driving (70-120kph).

* 100-125-mile range on electric power
* 135mph top speed
* 0-60 in 5 seconds
* Unlimited range with FVT Custom on-board high voltage generator

FVT is a small Canadian company in BC. What they are doing is to me really impressive, visit their website and have fun exploring. Be sure and check out their FAQ page. They have lots of pics and videos too.

Japan: "Throw the Aso out of office"

Japan election: Opposition set for victory, PM quits as party head
TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso announced his resignation as head of the party that has governed Japan for decades following its apparent landslide defeat in elections Sunday.

Japan's voters, fed up with the party that has governed the country for decades, gave the opposition an enormous landslide victory in parliamentary elections Sunday, exit polls suggest.

The polls indicate the Democratic Party of Japan (DJP) may have won a 3-to-1 victory over the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Aso congratulated the DPJ in a televised appearance as the country waited for official results.

Yukio Hatoyama, the DJP leader, was restrained in his first public comments since the vote.

"I hope this victory will be for the people of Japan," said the man who is poised to be Japan's next prime minister.

Hatoyama, who has been touting an Obama-style message of change, was mobbed at street rallies by supporters during the campaign -- the kind of support the opposition has never seen before.

He pledged to raise the minimum wage and discourage hiring through agencies or on temporary contracts.

That message is gaining traction in a country that is witnessing historic highs in unemployment and experiencing ramifications like homelessness for the first time.

Voters at polling stations told CNN they wanted change and wanted to give new leaders a chance, even if they were not sure what policies would replace the ones that have run the world's second-largest economy for more than a generation. [...]

I suspect that the outgoing "liberal democratic" party is the more conservative party, while the democratic party is the more socialist party. I can only wonder if their new "Obama style" leader will amass huge mega deficits too? We'll see.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Does the Truth about Ted Kennedy matter?

We aren't supposed to speak ill of the dead, or so some people say. Yet many people are speaking ill of the living, about those who don't think Ted Kennedy was such a good man. Here is some typical nonsense from USA Today:

Kennedy funeral rings with hope, Twitter with vitriol
Are you and I the judges of atonement? How much is good enough?

Today at Ted Kennedy's funeral Mass, one priest said, wove together "memory and hope." But what of the judge on high -- if you, like most Americans, believe in a God who makes final judgment?

Like most Americans, you may believe all good people go to heaven. So who is good enough? Was he a good enough Catholic? (Although Pope Benedict XVI has so far made no public message of sympathy for his passing) A good enough Christian? A good enough man in the end? Not to judge by the vitriol on Twitter ... [...]

There are a whole bunch of people who want to ignore many things Kennedy did in his life, just white-wash it away like it never happened. Those who don't go along with that, are being targeted as unkind and mean spirited at best; as bitter, judgmental, unfeeling Monsters at worst.

But what about the plain facts?

In the comments section of the above article, someone posts the inconvenient facts that the Left wants to whitewash:

As soon as his cancer was detected, I noticed the immediate attempt at the "canonization" of old Teddy Kennedy by the mainstream media. They are saying what a "great American" he is. I say, let's get a couple things clear & not twist the facts to change the real history.

1. He was caught cheating at Harvard when he attended it. He was expelled twice, once for cheating on a test, and once for paying a classmate to cheat for him.

2. While expelled, Kennedy enlisted in the Army, but mistakenly signed up for four years instead of two. Oops! The man can't count to four! His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to England (a step up from bootlegging liquor into the US from Canada during prohibition), pulled the necessary strings to have his enlistment shortened to two years, and to ensure that he served in Europe, not Korea, where a war was raging. No preferential treatment for him! (like he charged that President Bush received).

3. Kennedy was assigned to Paris, never advanced beyond the rank of private, and returned to Harvard upon being discharged. Imagine a person of his "education" NEVER advancing past the rank of Private!

4. While attending law school at the University of Virginia, he was cited for reckless driving four times, including once when he was clocked driving 90 miles per hour in a residential neighborhood with his headlights off after dark.. Yet his Virginia driver's license was never revoked. Coincidentally, he passed the bar exam in 1959. Amazing!

5. In 1964, he was seriously injured in a plane crash and hospitalized for several months. Test results done by the hospital at the time he was admitted had shown he was legally intoxicated. The results of those tests remained a "state secret" until in the 1980's when the report was unsealed. Didn't hear about that from the unbiased media, did we?

6. On July 19, 1969, Kennedy attended a party on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts . At about 11:00 PM, he borrowed his chauffeur's keys to his Oldsmobile limousine and offered to give a ride home to Mary Jo Kopechne, a campaign worker. Leaving the island via an unlit bridge with no guard rail, Kennedy steered the car off the bridge, flipped, and into Poucha Pond.

7. He swam to shore and walked back to the party passing several houses and a fire station. Two friends then returned with him to the scene of the accident. According to their later testimony, they told him what he already knew - that he was required by law to immediately report the accident to the authorities. Instead Kennedy made his way to his hotel, called his lawyer, and went to sleep. Kennedy called the police the next morning and by then the wreck had already been discovered. Before dying Kopechne had scratched at the upholstered floor above her head in the upside-down car.

The Kennedy family began "calling in favors", ensuring that any inquiry would be contained. Her corpse was whisked out-of-state to her family before an autopsy could be conducted.

Further details are uncertain, but after the accident Kennedy says he repeatedly dove under the water trying to rescue Kopechne and he didn't call police because he was in a state of shock. It is widely assumed Kennedy was drunk, and he held off calling police in hopes that his family could fix the problem overnight. Since the accident Kennedy's "political enemies" have referred to him as the distinguished Senator from Chappaquiddick. He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, and was given a SUSPENDED SENTENCE OF TWO MONTHS.

Kopechne's family received a small payout from the Kennedy's insurance policy and never sued. There was later an effort to have her body exhumed and autopsied, but her family successfully fought against this in court, and Kennedy's family paid their attorney's bills.... A "token of friendship"?

8. Kennedy has held his Senate seat for more than forty years, but considering his longevity, his accomplishments seem scant. He authored or argued for legislation that ensured a variety of civil rights, increased the minimum wage in 1981, made access to health care easier for the indigent, funded Meals on Wheels for fixed-income seniors, and is widely held as the "standard-bearer for liberalism".. In his very first Senate roll he was the floor manager for the bill that turned U.S. Immigration policy upside down and opened the floodgate for immigrants from third world countries.

9. Since that time, he has been the prime instigator and author of every expansion of an increase in immigration up to and including the latest attempt to grant amnesty to illegal aliens. Not to mention the pious grilling he gave the last two Supreme Court nominees, as if he was the standard bearer for the nation in matters of "what's right". What a pompous a**!

10. He is known around Washington as a public drunk, loud, boisterous, and very disrespectful to ladies. JERK is a better description than "great American".. "A blonde in every pond" is his motto.

Let's not allow the spin doctors to make this jerk a hero -- how quickly the American public forgets what his real legacy is.

If Ted Kennedy did some good things in his life, fine. But the truth is the whole story, not just the cherry-picked good parts. No one is perfect, we are all flawed, yet some people's lives lean more in one direction than the other. The Kennedy fans want us to forget or not speak about his flaws, so they can stack the good side of the scale in his favor.

I don't particularly enjoy speaking ill of the dead. I just happen to care about what the facts are, what the truth is. The Left is now pissing in the soup, and trying to vilify those of us who won't drink it.

I say, no way, no white-wash. The truth is what it is. Deal with it.

If that makes me mean-spirited in some people's eyes, so be it. I can only say that, leaving Mary Jo to suffocate to death, clawing at the floor in his upside down submerged car, while he phoned his lawyer and then went to bed, could be interpreted as far more "mean" than anything anyone could say about him now.

It's a travesty that Kennedy was ever allowed to serve as a senator after what he had done was known. If the majority of people in this country now think he was a great man, they are either ignorant of the facts, or we, as a nation, are in big trouble.

As for comments like this, from the USA Today article:
Are you and I the judges of atonement? How much is good enough?

I'm not the judge of his soul. I liked what The Anchoress said about the life and death of Ted Kennedy on her blog:
[...] Some will focus on his personal sins -the assumed repentance or lack of same (of which they will likely have no real knowledge, just hunches) and some will presume to know the state of his soul, but those will be the inveterates, working from long-habit. Most Christians will, I think, understand that “the favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies not over and done” and will simply pray in hopes that Kennedy had made a contrite and humble confession of his failings and sins.

Others, of course, will suggest that Kennedy’s pro-abortion positions, in and of themselves, should damn him forever in the eyes of God.

Thankfully, God knows more, and sees more, than the rest of us, because eventually we’ll all need to count on his mercy, as we face his justice. For all that we know of Kennedy, there is much we do not know. A family member who works with the very poor once told me that when he was in a real fix and unable to find help for, for instance, a sick child in need of surgery, a phone call to Kennedy’s office would set the “Irish Mafia” of professional people -doctors, lawyers, pilots and such- into brisk motion. I think an examination of the life of every “great” person (and I mean “great” in terms of power and influence) will expose deep flaws and surprising episodes of generosity. [...]

She says a lot of thoughtful things on the topic, follow the link if it interests you.

Here on my blog, I'm just wanting to provide the complete picture that the Media won't give you. At best, Ted Kennedy was a mixed bag, a man with serious character flaws. At worst... well, you decide.

Related Links:

Kennedy's Kopechne jokes

What About Questioning A Kennedy?

Ted Kennedy is dead. Now, "Chappaquidicare"?

Youtube: Kennedy liked to joke about Chappaquiddick?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The New By-Pass Bridge at the Hoover Dam

I received this in my email recently:
You people that were curious, here's your answer. Yes, they are building a bridge over the Colorado River at Hoover Dam.

THE WIDER VIEW: Taking shape, the new bridge at the Hoover Dam

Creeping closer inch by inch 900ft above the mighty Colorado River the two sides of a £160million bridge at the Hoover Dam in America slowly take shape. The bridge will carry a new section of US Route 93 past the bottleneck of the old road which can be seen twisting and winding around and across the dam itself. When complete, it will provide a new link between the states of Nevada and Arizona.

In an incredible feat of engineering, the road will be supported on the two massive concrete arches which jut out of the rock face.

The arches are made up of 53 individual sections each 24ft long which have been cast on-site and are being lifted into place using an improvised high-wire crane strung between temporary steel pylons.

Spectacular: The new Hoover Dam bypass

The arches will eventually measure more than 1,000ft across.
At the moment, the structure looks like a traditional suspension bridge. But once the arches are complete, the suspending cables on each side will be removed. Extra vertical columns will then be installed on the arches to carry the road.

The bridge has become known as the Hoover Dam bypass, although it is officially called the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, after a former governor of Nevada and an American Football player from Arizona who joined the US Army and was killed in Afghanistan.

Work on the bridge started in 2005 and should finish next year. An estimated 17,000 cars and trucks will cross it every day.

The dam was started in 1931 and used enough concrete to build a road from New York to San Francisco. The stretch of water it created, Lake Mead, is 110 miles long and took six years to fill. The original road was opened at the same time as the famous dam in 1936.

A quick search of snopes didn't reveal any information about this email (but did have an item debunking the myth about bodies of killed workmen being entombed in the hoover dam).

A quick google search revealed the official website for the bridge, which says the work is expected to be completed by late 2010.

There is also a page of construction photos. Here are a few of the more recent ones:

Follow the link to see more photos, and higher resolution photos, too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy is dead. Now, "Chappaquidicare"?

Robert "KKK" Byrd wants to name the Democrat's government health care program after Kennedy: Byrd wants health bill renamed for Kennedy
"In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment to his ideals, let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on health care reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American," Byrd said.
Well I can think of one American's health he was not committed to:

He left Mary Jo Kopechne trapped under water in his car, to suffocate to death in a small amount of air. He didn't tell authorities she was there till the next morning, too late to save her life.

If he had told them sooner, and at least tried to have her rescued, I could have more sympathy. But he didn't. He was more worried about protecting his career.

Maybe Byrd is right. Maybe government run healthcare should be named after Ted Kennedy. We could call it "Chappaquidicare". That way, when you die from neglect while waiting for rationed medical treatment, you might understand why: because the politicians who passed it were protecting their own power and interests, not looking out for yours.

If that sounds harsh, consider that Congress exempts itself from the healthcare plan they wish to force on the rest of us. There is a reason for that.

We do need health care reform. But is what our politicians doing in YOUR best interests, or theirs? Let's make sure it's the former, not the later. Let's make sure the Democrats, drunk with power, don't run our current healthcare system off a bridge, and give us "Chappaquidicare". There are plenty of excellent, better ways to reform our healthcare system, that won't suffocate us, trapped and neglected under a sea of debt.

As for Ted Kennedy himself, The Anchoress has a very thoughtful and considered post about his life and death:

Ted Kennedy, Healthcare & Purgatory

Gosh, she hit all the bases, while still being kind. It's better than anything I could say.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Enlightened, affordable healthcare, that works

Whole Foods-Style Health Care
[...] Whole Foods has always had a philosophy of treating its employees as intelligent human beings, empowering them to made decisions not normally delegated to people who might otherwise be seen as unskilled labor, and giving them significant incentives to improve their performance and productivity. Part of his formula for treating employees well has been the company's approach to health-care benefits.

He talked about it in a commentary in the Wall Street Journal last week. Here's the essence of it:
Whole Foods Market pays 100% of the premiums for all our team members …for our high-deductible health-insurance plan. We also provide up to $1,800 per year in additional health-care dollars through deposits into employees' Personal Wellness Accounts to spend as they choose on their own health and wellness.

And then later on:
Our team members therefore spend their own health-care dollars until the annual deductible is covered (about $2,500) and the insurance plan kicks in. This creates incentives to spend the first $2,500 more carefully.

Do you see the essence of what he has done? First, by offering high-deductible insurance, he has returned the whole concept of health insurance back to what it should have been all along -- a safety net against the really bad health catastrophes. Second, by giving employees the funding to pay for their own care when they just get the sniffles, he returns health care to the discipline that all other markets for any other kind of service have to face -- consumers making careful decisions about how to spend their own money. [...]

The article goes on to explain how the Obamacare approach is the exact opposite of what whole foods has done, and what it will mean in practical terms if it's forced on us:
[...] If Whole Foods had to switch over to an Obamacare-style approach, its costs of doing business would rise. And his employees would not be pleased, either, because under his enlightened approach to management he's already crafted his company's health benefits to reflect his employees' stated wishes. As he puts it, "Our plan's costs are much lower than typical health insurance, while providing a very high degree of worker satisfaction."

Labor is the largest cost for most companies. Benefits are the fastest-growing component of labor costs. And health-care insurance is the fastest-growing component of benefits. If Obamacare is enacted, labor costs are only going to go higher -- which means that corporate profits will have to go lower, unless companies pass the costs on to consumers.

Any company CEO -- and all the more so, people who run small businesses where labor costs are high and profit margins are already slim -- needs to be concerned about this. But Mackey is coming from another place, as well.

He's pointing out the very good news that corporate profits and providing generous health benefits don't need to be at odds. He's already found the way -- he just needs to keep government from messing it up for him and his workers.

And yet Mackey has been demonized for expressing these views in print. Left-leaning bloggers have tried to organize a boycott of Whole Foods to punish Mackey. [...]

It's scary how they are gong after Mackey to silence him. The article goes on to say how the people who think health care is a right, seem to think that free speech isn't. It also says we have a chance for REAL healthcare reforms that WORK, if people like John Mackey persist in speaking out, and don't cave in to the pressure of threats to silence them.

Be sure to read Mackey's brilliant piece in the WSJ:

The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare
Eight things we can do to improve health care without adding to the deficit.

Yes, eight things that will work, without raising the deficit, that the Obama Administration doesn't want you to hear about.

Also see:
Healthcare debate: "Bring your ideas to the table?" or “Agree with us, or we’ll crush you?”

UPDATE: The union fatcats behind the Whole Foods boycott

Why Ordinary Americans are becoming so angry

It doesn't help when our politicians refer to them as Nazi's:

Marine Corps Vet Blasts Dem Congressman for Calling ObamaCare Protesters 'Brown Shirts'
On August 5, Congressman Brian Baird (D-Wash.) likened recent town hall meeting protesters to Nazis:
"What we're seeing right now is close to Brown Shirt tactics. I mean that very seriously."
On Tuesday, at such a political gathering in Vancouver, a Marine Corps veteran named David William Hedrick blasted the Congressman for this disgraceful depiction. [...]

David Hendrick points out what should be obvious. Nazi's were National Socialists. Look at what they did, and where it lead. Look at what our government is doing now. Where is it leading us?

I left the Democrat party many years ago, because of what I considered to be "brownshirt" tactics. Now the Democrat leadership is using that word to tar ordinary Americans. Too ironic. And unbelievably ugly.

Sun Lover George Hamilton Exposed

This guy always looks like he's been over-exposed to the sun -apparently he IS a sun lover- but recently his life story has been exposed in a new movie. Here is part of an interview with CNN:

George Hamilton puts his life out in the open
[...] "My One and Only" has the style of a film produced during Hollywood's golden age, but the tale is easily relatable to today. In the film, Hamilton's mother, Anne, played by Academy Award winner Renee Zellweger, walks in on her bandleader husband and another woman. She hits the road in a brand new Cadillac Coupe de Ville with her two sons, George and Robbie, en route to find a new husband and a new life.

Hamilton, 70, spoke with CNN about the film, old Hollywood and his mother. The following is an edited version of the interview.

CNN: There is a lot of heartache in this story. Why did you want to share it?

George Hamilton: I don't know that I really did want to share it. It's a fictional story based on a real story loosely about me. And I went to the movie to hate it.

And I looked at the movie and I thought, my God, [Zellweger] looks nothing like my mother, but she was able to portray the emotions just the way it was then. I couldn't speak. I was completely overwhelmed by what Renee did. That's a great actress. [...]

Read the whole thing to find out more about the story of his life. I'm going to excerpt one more part, about what he said about "Old Hollywood":

[...] CNN: What was old Hollywood like?

Hamilton: Well, it was mythological. It was a place [that] the first day, I saw Robert Mitchum sitting at a table and he looked at me and said, "I know they say I don't know my lines. It's not true. I'm just too drunk to say them." And I thought, oh, that's an interesting man. Next Fred Astaire walks by, "Hello," and I stopped: "Hello, Mr. Astaire" -- God I love that guy -- and I see Cary Grant sitting down. And he said, "You've got a nice suntan. Do you like the sun?" I said "Well, yeah, I love the sun." ... He was so incredible.

And I saw Gary Cooper, Ty Power, Clark Gable, and then they disappeared. You talk about "Gone With the Wind," Hollywood disappeared! And I had envisioned this because I was the last of the contract players, and I wanted to be like them, but they were gone!

And all the sudden I'm seeing Marlon Brandos, and Monty Clifts, and then a whole generation of soft young men, the Beat Generation or whatever. I couldn't relate to them then. Because I had related to what my mother and brother had seen years before. And that's all I ever wanted to be.

CNN: There can never be another old Hollywood.

Hamilton: No, but there can be older people in Hollywood, and that's where I am now. Just before death they turn you into an icon. And the other day I got a star on Hollywood Boulevard and I thought, God this is pretty good, and then it scared me because I thought, they give these things to you before it's all over. [...]

Becoming a Hollywood Icon... as a death sentence! He's got a pretty amusing way of looking at things. And some interesting memories. Sounds like the movie could be a good story.

Also see: IMDB Biography for George Hamilton

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My new 2 meter band Jpole antenna works great

Last month, I went to a local Hamfest in town. One of the vendors there was, a business that manufactures and sells Jpole antennas for use with Ham Radios that operate on 2 meters (and also for 70cm). They are "pre-tuned", and sell for $49.95. I needed an antenna for my ICOM hand held radio, the IC-V85. On the advice of a friendly Ham Operator that I met at the event, I bought one. They guarantee their JPOLE to be free from defects in material and workmanship for 10 full years; if it fails they will repair or replace it.

I was advised to mount it as high up as possible, so I put it outside on the top of the tallest cedar tree pole I could fit it on. I've been using the antenna now for the past month, and I've been very satisfied with it's performance. Prior to this I was using a rubber duck antenna, or my external antenna for my scanner. Neither gave me reliable performance with the IC-V85. Sometimes it would work ok, other times people had trouble hearing me, sometimes no one could hear me at all.

Since using the JPOLE antenna, I always have a strong and clear signal that get's heard every time. At the hamfest, I also bought a 30 watt amplifier and power supply, but I've not needed to use it to access our local repeaters; I seem to be fine without the extra power. I will hitch them up eventually though, so I can perhaps access repeaters that are farther away. But before I can do that, I still need to set up a proper Ham Station, with grounding, etc.

I'll get there eventually. It's turning out to be a fun hobby!

From Wikipedia: J-pole antenna
The J-pole antenna, also called the Zepp' antenna (short for Zeppelin), was first invented by the Germans for use in their lighter-than-air balloons. Trailed behind the airship, it consisted of a single element, one half wavelength long. This was later modified into the J-pole configuration, which became popular with amateur radio operators, as it is effective and relatively simple to build.

The J-pole antenna is an end-fed omnidirectional dipole antenna that is matched to the feedline by a quarter wave transmission line stub. Matching to the feed-line is achieved by sliding the connection of the feedline back and forth along the stub until a VSWR as close as possible to 1:1 is obtained. Since this is a half-wave antenna, it will exhibit gain over a quarter-wave ground-plane antenna. The J-pole is somewhat sensitive to surrounding metal objects, and should have at least a quarter wavelength of free space around it. [...]

Read the whole thing for more details and links. Many people build their own. I was tempted, but I needed something good, in a hurry. Eventually, I hope that I'll have more time to experiment with home-brew antennas.

No Saturday Mail Delivery? But I want my Netflix!

Last week I linked to an article about the US Postal Service wanting to cancel Saturday Deliveries, in order to save money. CNN has done a follow up piece on that article today, which includes poll results about canceling Saturday mail deliveries:

Commentary: About that Saturday mail ...
[...] More than 397,000 of you took the time to vote. The question was: "Would you miss Saturday mail if the Postal Service stopped delivering it?"

Here's the surprising thing (at least it's surprising to me):

Sixty-eight percent of you said you would not miss the Saturday mail if it stopped coming. Only 32 percent of you said you would miss it.

The votes were undoubtedly tallied correctly.

But if theory becomes fact, and if one Saturday America goes to its mailboxes and finds them empty, I don't believe the permanent loss will be met with an understanding shrug.

It goes against human nature. When people are asked to pay more for services -- in this case, by shelling out more and more, decade after decade, for postage stamps -- they generally don't accept it with a smile when what they get for their money is cut back.

So to think that the Postal Service will blithely make an announcement to the American people -- "We've been delivering your mail to you six days a week since the post office began, but from now on you won't be seeing us on Saturdays" -- and that the American people will respond with a friendly wave -- "We understand; you just enjoy your weekends, and we'll see you on Mondays" -- defies logic.

In a digital age, the U.S. mail is a throwback to a time when the only way to receive information was to have human beings -- paperboys, mail carriers -- bring it to you by hand. You're reading these words on a screen; chances are, whatever written communication you have with friends and family members in the next 24 hours will be via e-mail and text message, not by dropping an envelope into a mailbox.

The problems the Postal Service faces are real, and they're enormous. Postmaster General Potter says that getting rid of Saturday delivery would save more than $3 billion a year. My guess is that not only are they going to have to do away with Saturday mail -- the time is probably coming when delivery on other days of the week will disappear, too.

So the question is not whether the days of mail delivery will be curtailed. It's whether we will be happy about it.

Many people on various message boards said that the days of expecting anything delightful in the mail are long gone. Bills, catalogs, promotional fliers -- that's what the mail carrier usually brings, so who needs to deal with that on Saturdays?

An intriguing sidelight:

The one piece of mail that people referred to excitedly was the red envelope from Netflix -- the distinctive-looking envelope bearing DVDs of rented movies. The Netflix envelopes seem to have taken the emotional place of handwritten letters from grandma. If there does turn out to be an angry public backlash against the coming elimination of Saturday mail, Netflix may emerge as a key factor.

If enough people don't receive their Netflix envelopes on that first Saturday the mail doesn't arrive, and there is thus a hole in their Saturday nights -- well, President Obama might have to step in to cool the outrage, the same way President Dwight D. Eisenhower did in April of 1957, the only other time a permanent cessation of Saturday mail delivery was attempted. It lasted just one weekend. Americans wouldn't put up with it. [...]

Yes, the Netflix factor. I thought of that too when I read the article last week, because we get Netflix, and we would really miss Saturday deliveries because of that. But how many other Netflix users are there, and how irate would they become? Irate enough to make the government keep spending 3 billion a year to make sure we get our Saturday Netflix?

Of course, if the Post Office could be run like a REAL business, that operates to make a profit, instead of having billions of dollars in losses every year, perhaps they wouldn't have to cut services even as they keep raising prices.

The need for mail is changing, but it's still needed. People will pay to have a need fulfilled. Surely there must be a way for the Postal Service to change with the times to fulfill those needs? Or be replaced by something more efficient, more open to change, that can do the job?

The Lockerbie bomber - Guilty or Innocent?

At home with the Lockerbie bomber
Is he the evil perpetrator of the deadliest terrorist attack in British history, or a sick old man, a loving father and grandfather, who has suffered a terrible miscarriage of justice? Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi put on a virtuoso performance when The Times came calling yesterday.


Asked who, then, was responsible for the deaths of 270 people who died in the Lockerbie bombing, al-Megriah smiled. “It’s a very good question but I’m not the right person to ask.” He insisted that it was not Libya and would not be drawn on suggestions that it was Syria, Iran or the Palestinians.

He said that he understood why many of the victims’ relatives were angry at his release. “They have hatred for me. It’s natural to behave like this,” he said, although he pointedly added that others had written to him in prison to say that they forgave him whether he was guilty or innocent. He appealed for the families’ understanding. “They believe I’m guilty which in reality I’m not. One day the truth won’t be hiding as it is now. We have an Arab saying: ‘The truth never dies’.” [...]

I can't say a lot about it, as I did not follow his trial closely when it happened. He claims to have evidence to prove his innocence. Let's hear it then.

UPDATE 09-02-09:
Did al-Megriah even have life-threatening cancer? Seems highly questionable now. Plenty of lies are being exposed.

With Friends Like Gaddafi Who Needs Enemies?

Read it, and weep.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

NASA's Mission to the Moon may be Scrapped

NASA's Trajectory Unrealistic, Panel Says
NASA doesn't have nearly enough money to meet its goal of putting astronauts back on the moon by 2020 -- and it may be the wrong place to go anyway. That's one of the harsh messages emerging from a sweeping review of NASA's human spaceflight program.

Although it is just an advisory panel, the Human Space Flight Plans Committee could turn the entire space program upside down. Appointed by President Obama and headed by retired aerospace executive Norman Augustine, the 10-person panel has held a series of marathon meetings in recent weeks to try to Velcro together some kind of plausible strategy for NASA. The agency's trajectory over the next two decades, as well as the fate of thousands of civil servants and private contractors, could be affected by the group's report, due at the end of this month.


The administration's overall attitude toward human spaceflight remains unclear. The president, both as a candidate and in the White House, has explicitly endorsed sending humans back to the moon, but his decision to create the Augustine committee is a sign that the status quo strategy, which carries the imprimatur of his predecessor, is not long for this Earth. [...]

Much blame is put on George Bush, for not supplying promised funding and allowing the Constellation program to fall seriously behind schedule.

Many Democrats would like to see the manned space program canceled, and use those funds for social programs. Yet look at how small NASA's part of the budget is:

NASA actually creates jobs, and technology innovations that find commercial application to improve life here on Earth as well. Compare NASA's portion of the budget to the huge areas of wasteful government spending on other areas of the budget that are completely out of control.

Read the whole thing for more information about the status of our space program, the various scenarios it's facing, and what may ultimately happen to it.

Also see:

Orion Spacecraft Changes; Budget Problems

Will Obama cancel NASA's Moon Mission?

Healthcare debate: "Bring your ideas to the table?" or “Agree with us, or we’ll crush you?”

The latter seems to be the message for John Mackey, CEO for Whole Foods, who dared add his voice to the healthcare debate by offering his ideas:

The Left boycotts Whole Foods...
[...] In short, Whole Foods is everything leftists talk about when they talk about “corporate responsibility.”

And yet lefties want to boycott the company because CEO John Mackey wrote an op-ed that suggests alternatives to single payer health care? It wasn’t even a nasty or mean-spirited op-ed. Mackey didn’t spread misinformation about death panels, call anyone names, or use ad hominem attacks. He put forth actual ideas and policy proposals, many of them tested and proven during his own experience running a large company. Is this really the state of debate on the left, now? “Agree with us, or we’ll crush you?”

These people don’t want a dicussion. They don’t want to hear ideas. They want you to shut up and do what they say, or they’re going to punish you.

Letter from a Whole Foods worker
Follow the link for the letter, and a copy of the flyer that picketers from the UFCW are passing around in an effort to damage and silence Mackey. But this following bit is taken from a post on the Whole Foods Forum:
[...] Do You Know Who You Are Boycotting?
posted at 8/21/2009 7:05 AM CDT

* Mackey lectures at Universities about the horrors of factory farming

* He says “Right now, Americans have to pretend factory farms don’t exist. They turn their eyes away, because there’s no alternative, there’s no choice. Once there is a choice, we will allow ourselves to be outraged.”

* He makes $1 a year and donates his stock portfolio to charity.

* He set up a $100,00 fund to help his employees with personal problems.

* He’s a vegetarian and his company will not buy from producers that treat their animals unethically.

* He flies commercial, rents the smallest cars, and stays in the cheapest hotel rooms - not because he’s cheap, but because he has no need for largesse

* He and his wife participate in yoga

* He gives over $1 million a year to animal welfare groups, education, relief work, and spiritual movements.

* Employees have full say in who they work with - a new employee must receive a 2/3 vote in order to make it past probation.

* Employees also vote on all company-wide initiatives

* There’s a salary book in every store - “no secrets” management believes everyone should know how much everyone else is making

* Executive salaries are capped at 14 times the lowest workers salary - If they want more money, everyone else has to get more money first

* Non-executive employees hold 94% of company stock options

* Pay is linked to team performance - profit sharing

* At least 5% of annual profits go to local charities

* Full-timers get 100% of their health care costs paid for - under plans the employees have selected

* “They just have a lot more respect for you as a person here” says an employee

And because he had a different idea about how the United States can fix it health care situation, none of this matters? He’s a caring person and many of you want to treat him like a monster. Why? Not because he opposes reform, but because he’s bringing more ideas to the table.

You people are despicable. If the country had more CEO’s like Mackey, this country would be a greater place.

I remember when health care savings accounts were first created, Whole Foods offered to contribute matching funds to their employees who would open one. They were thrilled, because they could use those funds to buy alternative medical treatments like acupuncture and chiropractic etc., that conventional insurance often would not cover. They were thrilled, because they now had more choices available to them.

It was exactly the opposite of “Agree with us, or we’ll crush you”, which seems to be increasingly the mode of operation that the Democrat Party is preferring to use. It's unbelievably ugly.

Far Left Dems: Lie, Sabotage, and Replace...

I've been saying it for years. They want to destroy capitalism and our Constitutional legal system, and replace them with something else. Here's proof. I've copied this from Nealz Nuze:


Both were at liberal Columbia University professors in the '60's. (I know, "liberal Columbia University Professor" is redundant). These two professors put forth their Cloward-Piven strategy in an article in The Nation magazine. The issue date was May 2, 1966. David Horowitz summarizes the strategy thusly:

The strategy of forcing political change through orchestrated crisis. The "Cloward-Piven Strategy" seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse.

Hmmmmm. Does that sound at all like our current "crisis" in health care? I mean, how many people do you personally know who are in the throes of despair right now because of some needed health care service that is beyond their reach? Oh sure, I know that there are lifeboat cases; there always are, in any society. But do the relatively small percentage of people out there who are facing some sort of unmet medical disaster constitute an entire system in "crisis?" Certainly not. So why the huge push? Why the asinine idea that our economic recovery is dependent on developing some form of national healthcare? Why is this all being painted as a crisis that to be solved right-by-God-now or our entire society is endangered? Well ... Obama and the Democrats, of course, are anxious to get this segment of the economy under their absolute control before next year's mid-term elections. Time is really of the essence for them. Consider also that if you're going to use the Cloward-Pivin Strategy of manufactured crisis, you have to treat it like an actual crisis, and that means dealing with it NOW!

Here's a bit from The Nation article: The essential features of a campaign using the Cloward-Pivin Strategy.

  1. The offensive organizes previously unorganized groups eligible for government benefits but not currently receiving all they can.
  2. The offensive seeks to identify new beneficiaries and/or create new benefits.
  3. The overarching aim is always to impose new stresses on target systems, with the ultimate goal of forcing their collapse.

Needless to say we're going to be discussing my "find" here (thanks to a listener email) in coming days and weeks. But first, perhaps you would like to learn more on your own. Go ahead .. use Google. But here's two links to get you started:

  1. Barack Obama and the Strategy of Manufactured Crisis, from American
  2. The Cloward-Piven Strategy, from

What do you think? Could the Democrat-Socialist party be intentionally trying to collapse our system?


Hell yes. Not all Democrats think like that of course, but the hardcore leftists, and even much of the party leadership, yes. They want our economy and our system of government to fail, so they can replace it with their totalitarian... "vision". They would call it a dream, but many of us would call it a nightmare. Most of them would not admit it publicly, but they don't have to. They know where the road will take us, they just have to prod us all down the path, till it's too late to turn back.

Pat also posted about this:

The Cloward-Piven Strategy

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Windows 7 will be great for new computers

It's likely to be very successful on new machines. But for everyone else, upgrading their existing systems to Windows 7 will most likely not be worth the hassle:

Upgrading to Windows 7 -- Why Bother?
Analysis: Here are seven reasons to skip upgrading to Windows 7.
My colleague Preston Gralla came up with seven reasons to move to Windows 7. And, they are pretty good, but good enough to switch away from XP, or to skip Mac OS X Snow Leopard or desktop Linux? I don't think so.

Let me open up by saying though that if you're using Vista-you poor, poor person-yes, you should migrate to Windows 7. After all, Windows 7 is really just Vista without the warts. Otherwise, no, I don't see any compelling reason to switch.

I say this as someone who's also been running Windows 7 since the late betas and I'm currently running the RTM (release to manufacturing) version. I like Windows 7, but if you were to ask me what the big feature, the 'wow' that would make you want to go to the trouble of moving to Windows 7, I'd be left without anything to say. Heck, look at Gralla list, number one on the list is the new taskbar. Microsoft wants me to spend big bucks for a new taskbar!?

OK, on with the list.

1) Windows 7 still has all the security of a drunken teenager in a sports car. From Windows for Workgroups and NT 3 until today, Windows is a security joke. It used to be that running Windows just put your head into the noose. Now, millions of lazy Windows users are the reason why the Internet is a mess. If you already do all the right things to keep XP running safely, you're not going to get any safer by buying Windows 7.

2) Windows 7, no matter how you buy it, is expensive. Does your budget have the extra cash to buy a new and improved taskbar!? [...]

Follow the link to read the whole thing, the other 5 reasons, and all the embedded links that I didn't copy into the text here.

It sounds like a good upgrade for Vista users, but it's not recommended for computers more than a year old. People who buy new computers with Windows 7 already installed will probably just go with it. Even with just those people, Microsoft will be able to claim success. And they will most likely get more people when XP user's decide to buy new computers.

The older hardware that's incompatible with Windows 7 may well find new life in alternatives like Linux. And the price of Linux sure is right.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is "Urban Farming" a new and growing trend?

Apparently Urban Farming isn't all that new; it's been around for a long time. What is new is the renewed interest that people have been showing in it, as our nation's economy struggles, and many people desire to become more food-independent, using whatever land is available to them for farming. I've been reading more and more, articles about people fighting city ordinances so they can be allowed to keep chickens in their back yards, etc.

This renewed interest in urban and suburban farming helps explain the popularity of a book I heard about recently. The other night on the radio, I heard part of an interview with Novella Carpenter, who is flogging her new book:

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer"
Here are some descriptions from's website:
From Publishers Weekly
In this utterly enchanting book, food writer Carpenter chronicles with grace and generosity her experiences as an urban farmer. With her boyfriend Bill's help, her squatter's vegetable garden in one of the worst parts of the Bay Area evolved into further adventures in bee and poultry keeping in the desire for such staples as home-harvested honey, eggs and home-raised meat.

The built-in difficulties also required dealing with the expected noise and mess as well as interference both human and animal. When one turkey survived to see, so to speak, its way to the Thanksgiving table, the success spurred Carpenter to rabbitry and a monthlong plan to eat from her own garden.

Consistently drawing on her Idaho ranch roots and determined even in the face of bodily danger, her ambitions led to ownership and care of a brace of pigs straight out of E.B. White. She chronicles the animals' slaughter with grace and sensitivity, their cooking and consumption with a gastronome's passion, and elegantly folds in riches like urban farming history.

Her way with narrative and details, like the oddly poetic names of chicken and watermelon breeds, gives her memoir an Annie Dillard lyricism, but it's the juxtaposition of the farming life with inner-city grit that elevates it to the realm of the magical. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

"Farm City" author Novella Carpenter

Product Description
Urban and rural collide in this wry, inspiring memoir of a woman who turned a vacant lot in downtown Oakland into a thriving farm.

Novella Carpenter loves cities — the culture, the crowds, the energy. At the same time, she can’t shake the fact that she is the daughter of two back-to-the-land hippies who taught her to love nature and eat vegetables. Ambivalent about repeating her parents’ disastrous mistakes, yet drawn to the idea of backyard self-sufficiency, Carpenter decided that it might be possible to have it both ways: a homegrown vegetable plot as well as museums, bars, concerts, and a twenty-four-hour convenience mart mere minutes away. Especially when she moved to a ramshackle house in inner city Oakland and discovered a weed-choked, garbage-strewn abandoned lot next door. She closed her eyes and pictured heirloom tomatoes, a beehive, and a chicken coop.

What started out as a few egg-laying chickens led to turkeys, geese, and ducks. Soon, some rabbits joined the fun, then two three-hundred-pound pigs. And no, these charming and eccentric animals weren’t pets; she was a farmer, not a zookeeper. Novella was raising these animals for dinner. Novella Carpenter’s corner of downtown Oakland is populated by unforgettable characters. Lana (anal spelled backward, she reminds us) runs a speakeasy across the street and refuses to hurt even a fly, let alone condone raising turkeys for Thanksgiving. Bobby, the homeless man who collects cars and car parts just outside the farm, is an invaluable neighborhood concierge. The turkeys, Harold and Maude, tend to escape on a daily basis to cavort with the prostitutes hanging around just off the highway nearby. Every day on this strange and beautiful farm, urban meets rural in the most surprising ways.

For anyone who has ever grown herbs on their windowsill, tomatoes on their fire escape, or obsessed over the offerings at the local farmers’ market, Carpenter’s story will capture your heart. And if you’ve ever considered leaving it all behind to become a farmer outside the city limits, or looked at the abandoned lot next door with a gleam in your eye, consider this both a cautionary tale and a full-throated call to action. Farm City is an unforgettably charming memoir, full of hilarious moments, fascinating farmers’ tips, and a great deal of heart. It is also a moving meditation on urban life versus the natural world and what we have given up to live the way we do.

Gosh. I find the book interesting, because I'm amazed that she has been able to do so much productive farming with a small city lot.

I live in the countryside, and we've been trying to turn our country home into a farm. I've lamented at times that we don't have more cleared land to work with. Yet, seeing what Novella has accomplished, I am greatly encouraged. If she can do so much with so little, certainly we can achieve something with the resources we've been blessed with here.

There was this comment left in the comment's section on the book's page:

As a reader, it was just a great read--fast and smooth, funny and informative, opinionated but not preachy--that even a non-farmer would appreciate. I am so impressed with the high road that Novella took by not engaging in political commentary. Although I am certain that she and I would agree very little about many things, she let the book speak to all the things we can have in common. Conservatives and Liberals will neither be baited or offended by this book. I admire that so much. I am not sure that I could have pulled it off.

As a dabbling suburban farmer in the Northwest, this book was both a source of encouragement and a justificaiton of our whacky, foul-filled backyard. I feel like I have a neighbor somewhere who gets it. I feel vindicated and motivated. I started out wanting some fresh eggs, now I am part of a movement! ;)

Boy, I would appreciate that too! I have strong interests in Tilth Farming and Alternative Medicine; two areas that attract a lot of people on the political Left. When researching information on these topics, one sometimes has to read through tiresome politically-correct diatribes, in the search for facts on relevant topics. I'm grateful to any author who stays on topic and spares me that. I'm quite happy to agree to disagree with folks about many things, and happier still if they don't try to shove their opinions down my throat.

Judging from a comment I read on her flicker photo, I suspect Novella's had her fair share of grief from militant vegetarians and vegans. I know I have. As a result, I'm grateful when people, in general, aren't too pushy with their opinions. Perhaps she is too.

At any rate, listening to her on the radio, it sounds like she strikes an even-tone, and has a fun sense of humor. And judging from the many other favorable comments on the Amazon page, the book is a most enjoyable read. It made it onto Oprah's Book List, so it must have something going for it. I'm looking forward to reading it.

You can also visit Novella's blog: Ghost Town Farm

Dissidents are being raped in Iran's Prisons

As punishment, for both men and women, to shame and silence them. From Azarmehr's blog:

Fath-ol-mobin, Codename for Rape Operations in Iran's Prisons
Following the courageous letter by Mehdi Karroubi, exposing the horrors of systematic rape of post-election detainees in Iran, there have been several calls by the 'representatives of God on earth' to put Karrubi on trial.

Babak Daad, is an Iranian journalist and blogger who is now on the run and in hiding. Here is what he says in his shocking interview about what is going on in Iran's prisons and how the lackeys of the coup d'etat are ordered to break down the youth of Iran.

'Its one thing hearing about a news and another thing when you see it first hand for yourself and realise the full horror of what has taken place. You can hear about an accident on the news but unless you witness the accident close by you do not appreciate the reality of blood. The case of rapes in Iran's prisons for those who read or hear about is a news item, but I saw an 18 year old boy, whose father described him as a piece of flesh with no soul, his name is Mehdi and I hope soon the perpetrators who inflicted this crime on this young boy will be tried in an international court and of course those who ordered these crimes to be carried out should be tried too, those who gave the orders to uproot the spirit and the hopes of Iran's justice seeking young generation.


These reports are not few now and yet there are still more that are not coming out because of fear and the cultural stigma that these people face, yet the young people who have suffered these abuses, these victims should hold their heads up high and proudly consider themselves as the victims of the path of freedom for this country and those who have suffered this tragedy bear the same honour as the martyrs of this epic green movement.

What they were doing at Kahrizak, was they would choose the spirited detainees who were resisting them and by raping them they wanted to break them from pursuing justice and freedom, they wanted to break them so bad that these youngsters would become depressed and even hate themselves.

The code name for these rapes was Fath-ol-Mobin [Illuminating Conquest - also code name for an offensive against Iraq in 1982], look how far they are prepared go with staining the faith and the sanctities of our people and how they use religion as a tool for the repression of people in order to maintain their illegitimate hold on power... A young 18 year old boy purely because he took part in the peaceful silent march on 15th June and wore a green wrist band is attacked, arrested and suffers two weeks of ongoing sexual rape in Kahrizak and is then taken to another prison where he is allowed to slightly recover before he is handed back to his father, I am sorry I have to mention these things but its no longer appropriate to remain silent, he suffers severe rectal and colon laceration, his infection was so bad that they couldn't keep him any longer, this 18 year old was also forced to witness other detainees being raped, he could hear a law enforcement officer, [whom we can identify and hopefully one day bring him to trial] shout 'take these lot and make them pregnant, so they know whats what'

Tens of detainees have reported many Arab prison guards with Lebanese accents were amongst the rapists. And I am sorry to have to say this but I want the families to hear this so their resolve and not their fear increases, Mehdi in the first instance could not believe a stocky foul mouthed guard is getting ready to rape him, when they beat him and forced him naked, he pleaded with them 'for the sake of Imam Mehdi, I am the same name sake as our hidden Imam, please don't do this with me', the interrogator even insults Imam Mehdi as he holds down the trembling 18 year old Mehdi and tells the stocky guard, 'He had come to take back his vote, now give him his vote back so that he never forgets'

In two weeks, this teenager is raped 20 times [...]

Of course the Iranian government is denying it. But these reports are so numerous they can't be ignored. The Iranian government is baring independent investigation and journalists, even banning their own media from investigating, so you can only wonder what they are hiding.

[...] So there you have it, Ahmadinejad's lackeys rape Iran's detainees, boys and girls, to break their spirit. The evidence is now piling up from all directions. How will the European democracies ever justify recognising a regime that systematically rapes boys and girls arrested during peaceful demonstrations? Why are the European useful idiots not marching in the streets in the same way they did for Gunatanamo and Abu Ghoreib? [...]

Azarmehr has some harsh words to describe the Leftist British aristocrats who are defending the Iranian Regime.

These horrific stories sound remarkably similar to accounts I read years ago, about gays who had escaped from Iran to Turkey, who also told about being raped and tortured while being held in custody.

These accounts also fit in with a post I had done previously, about Islamic sexual rage.

There is increasing video testimony about the rape and torture in Iran:

I expect the evidence will continue to mount. But it isn't just rapes and torture that are occurring; there are many claims that people are being killed. Follow this link for Kahrizak prison for just one example.

The demographics of Iran indicate that more than two-thirds of the population is under the age of 30, one quarter being 15 years of age or younger. They live in a struggling economy, with few job prospects, now or in the foreseeable future. There is a large illegal drug problem, and growing dissatisfaction with the ruling Theocracy, especially among the younger generation.

Iran's Theocratic Government is attempting to solve this problem by killing many of the nations youth, and terrorizing the rest.

This of course, will have consequences. Many totalitarian regimes start mass killings of their own people. It's a desperate measure, sometimes preceding a collapse of the regime from within. I'm hoping and praying this is one of those times.

Related Links:

Probable Gang Rape and Murder of "Taraneh"

Women Changing Iran’s political Terrain

24 executed en masse in Iran

Monday, August 17, 2009

Is the Iraqi government aligning itself with Iran?

There are signs that it may be so. Consider the recent massacre of Iranian dissidents that took place in Iraq:

Iran’s hand is seen behind camp massacre
KIRKUK, IRAQ // Residents at an Iraqi camp for Iranian dissidents have started a hunger strike to protest against alleged human rights abuses inflicted by Iraqi security forces this week, amid fears that the Iranian regime’s influence is growing in the Iraqi government.

On Tuesday, Iraqi police entered Camp Ashraf in Diyala province, where, according to residents, they attacked an unarmed group of people with machine guns and batons, killing 12 and seriously wounding 500.

Iraqi security forces initially denied the casualty figures, but on Thursday, Ali al Dabbagh, the Iraqi government spokesman, acknowledged that six Iranians had been killed and promised an investigation.

“We were empty-handed, with only slogans,” Shahriar Kia, a camp press officer, said. “We were shouting that Ashraf is a city of peace, and they started shooting and beating us.”

Iraqi police are now in position at junctions within the camp, which is around six square kilometres, and in control of the squares and public places, he said. They were restricting movement, said Mr Kia. “They don’t let people move around. They have shot car windows and tyres as people were driving.”

Mr al Dabbagh said a police station had been set up and that there were 1,000 Iraqi troops inside the camp. It was the setting up of a police post inside the camp that sparked the first clashes on Tuesday.


Residents claim that since Iraqi forces took charge, food and medical supplies have been restricted, and visiting family members and lawyers have not been allowed in.

The clashes this week have stoked fears that the residents will be evicted from the camp and returned to Iran, where they would probably face arrest amid an extensive clampdown on the opposition movement since the disputed June 12 election.

“This is the Iranian regime who is trying to survive by destroying opposition,” said Mr Kia. “The same thing is happening here as on the streets of Tehran – killing and beating.”

Residents had begun a hunger strike, he said, which they would maintain until the UN and other international groups came to Ashraf, and residents were allowed to see their lawyers.

“I think that the Iranian government, which is facing a summer of discontent back home, is using its influence over the Iraqi government to send a message that it is still in control,” said Maysun al Damluji, an MP of the secular National List coalition.

The Iranian authorities, she said, were trying to ensure that parties sympathetic to them win in Iraqi elections scheduled for January 2010. They will, she said, “do everything in their power to bring Iraqi political entities that are loyal or close to Iran’s conservatives to power in Iraq … they will also rid Iraq of all of Iran’s opponents, not only in Ashraf, but even outside it.” She described Ashraf as a “simple exercise of muscle flexing”.

Iran’s parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, has welcomed the seizure of the camp, describing the action as “praiseworthy” albeit “rather late”. [...]

If religious extremists in the Iraqi government join forces with the religious extremists currently ruling Iran, we would have the worst of both worlds.

Other news in Iraq:

Gay men attacked, executed in Iraq, rights group says
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Hundreds of gay men have been tortured and killed in Iraq in recent months, some by the nation's security forces, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

Interviews with doctors indicate hundreds of men had been killed, but the exact number was unclear because of the stigma associated with homosexuality in Iraq, the New York-based watchdog group said in its report.

"Iraq's leaders are supposed to defend all Iraqis, not abandon them to armed agents of hate," said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "Turning a blind eye to torture and murder threatens the rights and life of every Iraqi."

Four victims who spoke to CNN gave accounts of the attacks, which they say have intensified in the past few months.

"In 2004, militias and unknown groups started to go after the gays ... but the peak was six months ago," said Qaisar, who uses a pseudonym for fear of reprisal. "It has become wide scale war against gays in Iraq." [...]

The more we withdraw from Iraq, the more it acts like Iran. If Iraq becomes just like Iran, and joins forces with them, we will have achieved nothing, at great cost to ourselves.

Also see: Iran's pressing needs and Iraq's vulnerability.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Farm Report: Queen of The Night, Grape Arbor

We have a large "Queen of the Night" orchid on our back porch. It has large blooms that open during the night, but each bloom opens for only one night. Recently, it bloomed:

One bloom opened Friday night, then withered in the morning. There were four buds left, and they all opened Saturday night.

It had a strong perfume that filled the room, not unpleasant, but kind of strange, like Industrial Strength Celery. Sorta. It's hard to describe.

Pat did some blog posts about the blooms, the first bloom that opened Friday night, and the other four blooms that opened Saturday night. Follow his links for more photos, and a lot more information about the flowering plant, which is also known as "Dutchman's Pipe" and "Cactus Orchid".

Another garden happening on the farm this year is our grape arbor, which we planted last year. This year, the vines are finally taking off in a big way.

Below is a photo of the duck run, in the summer of 2007. We decided to build the grape trellis over the run, because that area is very warm in the summer:

Here is what the duck run with the trellis over it looks like now, summer 2009:

We built planter boxes with good soil on the ends of the trellis, and trained the vines to go over the duck run. It seems to be working spelendidly.

We took the pool out of the duck run, because it was making the ground constantly wet, and a bad smell developed because it wasn't draining. We moved the pool out to the edge of a small hill, were the drainage was better. Also, that way, when the ducks get out of the water when it's time to lock them up, the excess water drips off them by the time they get to their house, so the inside of the house stays dryer and cleaner, too.

End of Farm Report!

Coming Soon: No More Saturday Mail Delivery

That is, if the Post Office has it's way. It's the first I've heard of it, but it seems it's been in the works for a while. Some say it's not only likely, but inevitable:

Commentary: Say goodbye to Saturday mail?
[...] The postmaster general of the United States, John E. Potter, has gone to Congress and officially asked for permission to do away with Saturday mail.

His reasoning is hard to argue with. In the e-mail age, usage of the U.S. Postal Service is plummeting. Just about everyone claims to love the look and feel of a handwritten letter, the giddy anticipation of seeing the mail carrier strolling up the sidewalk and wondering what he has inside his bag for you, the orderly, set-your-watch-by-it routine of mail delivery to your home every day of the week except Sunday.

We all say we love it, but we don't use it, at least not enough to offset the prodigious costs. The Postal Service says it will lose approximately $7 billion this fiscal year. Americans have mailed 20 billion fewer items this year than they did last year. Over the past 20 years, some 200,000 mail-collection boxes have been removed from U.S. streets because not enough people were dropping their letters into them. The Government Accountability Office has officially declared the Postal Service to be a high-risk agency.

What to do about this?

One thing, according to Postmaster General Potter, is to stop delivering mail on Saturdays. He has told Congress that this will save more than $3 billion every year.

If and when it happens -- and it's beginning to seem inevitable -- the texture of the nation's life will be altered, probably forever.


Once -- in 1957 -- there was an attempt to do away with it. The postmaster general at the time, a fellow by the name of Arthur E. Summerfield, decided, in the name of budgetary prudence, to end Saturday mail deliveries nationwide.

It lasted for exactly one Saturday. On April 13, 1957, the mail did not come to America's homes. There was such public anger and outrage over this that President Dwight D. Eisenhower promptly signed a bill to provide more funding to the post office, and by the next Saturday, the country's mailboxes were being filled again.

Would the elimination of Saturday delivery be met with the same public outcry now? Would President Obama, like President Eisenhower half a century ago, be forced to bring back the Saturday mail? [...]

The USPS is losing 7 Billion per year? And they want to save money now by cutting back on service? I've got a better idea, that would save even more money and not cut back service. Privatize the Post Office.

The article mentions that prior to 1950, the USPS used to do multiple deliveries per day, as many a 9 times a day in places like NYC. Back then, when it was an essential service that was heavily utilized and relied on, there may have been some justification for running it as a government agency. But times have changed, and we should at least examine the option of privatizing the Post Office.

UPS and Fedex manage to operate efficiently, and at a profit. USPS doesn't, because it's subsidized and full of unionized gold-brickers, clocking in until they can retire on their fat pensions; they don't have to be efficient or even make a profit, because they get paid regardless, with our tax dollars.

It's time to cut them loose, but I wouldn't hold my breath with this administration. Government expansion and control are the order of the day. Just imagine what they would do if they ran our health care too?

Related Links:

Privatize This

Is It Time to Privatize the Postal Service?