Monday, November 30, 2009

M-4 to Get Pistons

This is great news and an amusing headline.

My own title looks like nonsense to anyone who isn’t into guns, I suspect.  For those who don’t know what it means, there have been complaints about the reliability of the M-4, the current derivative of the venerable M-16 assault rifle.  Most of the complaints have to do with the way the action works, being a direct gas system. 

For the layman, direct gas systems take the expanding propellant gases from each round fired to push the bolt back and load another round. Direct is what it sounds like; the gases go straight back into the receiver.  That means a lot of gunpowder fouling of the receiver which is the most important part of the weapon.  The more fouling the easier it is to jam in the middle of a firefight.

A piston system siphons off the expanding gases into a separate chamber where they push a piston that in turn moves a rod that transfers the energy to the bolt.  That keeps the bulk of gunpowder residue up in the piston area where there are fewer moving parts.  With a cleaner receiver there are far fewer jams, as the article shows.

There are complaints that short piston equipped M-16/AR-15 rifles are front heavy and the M-4 was designed to be light and compact.  But a weapon that is more reliable while keeping all the other good traits is worth the trade off, I think. If I had the money, I’d get a piston AR-15 rather than the classic design.  But I like front heavy rifles and heavy rifles period.

This modification is something I’d hoped the Army would do years ago.

LHC Ramps Up the Power

More good news from CERN, the Large Hadron Collider hit 1.18 trillion electron volts in the wee hours of the morning. It looks like it is finally overcoming the technical problems that stalled the program.  Still waiting for the first proton smashing but they are hopeful of doing that before Christmas.

Climate Change Scandal Taints Science

I’ve avoided writing on the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit having their files “hacked” because it is hard to get worked up over the turning battle over man made global warming. The majority of people have now realized that this is bogus movement with the tipping point happening some time this year. Still, a significant percentage still believe in this junk science so the revelations of data tampering exposed by the documents has done quite a bit of damage.  Christopher Booker’s commentary at the Telegraph lays out why this is such an important scandal and I highly advise reading it.

This needed to be brought to the light like any politically driven pseudo science, but I fear there will be fallout across the board tainting the public perception of scientific research.  The old problem of a few rotten eggs ruining things is something I’ve worried about. An example of how science is now getting a negative reputation can be found in the hysteria that starting the CERN supercollider would create a black hole. The earth will be sucked into and we’ll all die!

Yes, people have little understanding of scientific method and I blame our pathetic public education system for that. The bad eggs in politicized junk science have aggravated the problem as they use sensationalism to obtain large grants.  Maybe it is time to seriously audit all research grants to see how the money is actually spent and see if there is graft going on. Of course, that would be negative publicity for scientific research again. *sigh*

We still have to get the truth and I hope this scandal will have a chilling effect on corrupt scientists.

Dubai Financial Problems Get Worse

I’m still watching with keen interest what is going on with the collapse of Dubai’s commercial real estate ventures.  Dubai World is not going to be bailed out or their debt backed up by the government of the small nation. $60 billion in liabilities will not be paid back and this is going to cause quite a few problems for the UK banks.  The Bank of Scotland may be on the hook for billions of dollars but things are murky yet.

An intervention by the central bank of the United Arab Emirates has helped markets recover, but I don’t see how a liquidity infusion will help a solvency problem in the long term.  It may not even help in the short term other than to temporarily reassure the stock markets.  Whatever the case, this may be another canary in the coal mine. I fully expect bank failures to come out of this.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday and a Hint of Black Tuesday

Another day and more bad economic news.

It is the day after Thanksgiving, when minds turn toward shopping for Christmas presents that often go to oneself. It will be interesting to see how all the sales go, some stores and online firms have had them going all week already. My gut feeling is that they will be down because high unemployment combined with overextended credit means no money to spend.  Personally, I can’t afford gifts or even to mail Christmas cards this year, unless I find a way to get extra cash – which is very hard for a chronically ill disabled guy.

But I doubt I’m alone in this boat.  One of the shoes I’ve been predicting to drop has been the hidden problems with commercial real estate loans. Nobody has been more ambitious in growing their commercial land than Dubai and things have come to a head there.  The city state of Dubai has asked for a suspension of their loan payments for six month and that has spooked the world markets today.  UK banks are particularly at risk due to this, but the ripple effect looks to be large and spanning the globe.  The Dow Jones opened with a 200 point slide before stabilizing around 150 points down.

Meanwhile, the dollar continues to slide.  I wouldn’t consider Japan to be that strong an economy due to its going into deflation. So if the US dollar is so weak against it what does it say about the US economy?  We will be seeing considerable inflation as this continues and that in turn will depress domestic spending even further.

Oil is down as well, going below $75 a barrel due to the Dubai crisis. I remember when a crisis was a much bigger thing, but that is the media for you.  Gold and precious metals are down for the same reason but that will be temporary as foreign central banks move out of the US dollar.

All the ballyhooing going on by various governments that the recession is over seems to be more propaganda (and wishful thinking) than reality.  The instability still remains and the world market reactions reflect it. With commercial real estate investments set to blow up and only a lull in the home loan failures, much will go wrong with in the next 10 months.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Time to Give Thanks

It is that time of year again, the time of turkeys, cranberry sauce, and relatives gathering together.  In our case, two out of three apply – we have turkey and cranberry sauce.  But what is this holiday called Thanksgiving is really about?

It helps to flash back to those struggling Puritan settlers; you know them, the guys with with the funny black hats and muskets that look like some guy should be playing a jazz tune through. Colonizing untamed lands was not easy and starvation was a constant threat.  Early attempts at communal farming were a failure and the colonists were fortunate to be given charity by a local tribe of American Indians.  Not starving to death was something to be very grateful for and so was the ability to practice their religion without government interference or persecution.

Flash forward to today and compare our lives to their hard scrabble existence.  Even though times are tough by modern standards there is much to be grateful for.  We are yet free and live in a land of abundance. While times are tough at the Boonedocks right now and won’t be getting any better in the foreseeable future, I am thankful that I have a roof over my head, food to eat, heat to keep me warm, and electricity to power the PC I’m typing this on.  There are people who don’t have those things or are facing horrendous trials in their lives.

My prayer for this Thanksgiving:

I thank Thee, oh Father, for the blessings I enjoy. May those shattered families and individuals suffering today know comfort and healing, find their strengths that they have lost or not discovered, and know that redemption can be found by all of God’s children.  May they know hope and peace during these hard times and find inspiration from those who have gone before them. Please help them to feel Thy love for them and remind them that they have the divine within them.  Please help those of us who are blessed be better servants to those in need. In the name of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why I Don’t Listen to Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck has gotten very popular over the past few years on both radio and TV.  He is at times very amusing and comes off  as a mix between a sideshow barker and that crazy uncle every family has. The red phone to the White House is an all time classic of political satire and a good example of how pointedly funny he can be.  He’s also gotten some important things out into the public eye that needed exposure.

But I’ve had issues with Beck’s behavior. Much mockery has been made of his loss of emotional control on air and for good reason. There is a dark side to his shtick and that is the pervasive severe paranoia he exhibits accompanied by grandiose beliefs in his own power to sway people. In that way he is a classic populist and the danger of populists is that they are often one step from becoming demagogues. 

Beck has increasingly been acting messianic, first with the 9/12 Project and now with an undefined march on Washington scheduled for next year.  While these things look good on paper, please note that every time he does something along these lines there is a new book being released or about to be released.  Lately I’ve found myself asking if it is money or delusion that fuels him -- or both? One thing I never had questioned is his patriotism.

Until now.

Calling for our young men and women to stop enlisting in the military goes so far over the line as to negate anything positive Beck has done in the past.  At this point, any conservative credentials can only be considered partial as it is clear he does not understand the troops or why they serve. I consider strong defense to be second most important leg of the Reagan stool of conservatism.  Yes what is being done to the Navy SEALS is reprehensible at face value and if the story is true, we have reason to make heads roll in the military and White House over it.  Note to Beck: the country isn’t the government and THE COUNTRY WILL STAND BEHIND THE SOLDIERS.  This isn’t Vietnam where the public abandoned our veterans. I know lefties who show more support of the troops and their mission than Beck just did.

If he believes the military will be one day used against the people of the country (and I think he does) discouraging patriotic conservatives from serving will make that easier to pull off.  Right there is a logic fail of epic proportions.  When things finally do start falling apart, I personally believe a big chunk of the armed forces, active and retired, will be the ones fighting for restoring liberty to this land.  You don’t want the people who listen to talk radio and watch Fox News to leave the military.

Glenn was always a weak sister during the war in Iraq and has shown isolationist tendencies much like Ron Paul, another destructive pseudo conservative. The world will come to us like it did on 9/11 even if we ignore it.  Isolationism is the last refuge of the coward and often a mask for someone who wants total control of their country.  That’s why it is galling to see libertarian types fall for the philosophy when it is antithetical to freedom and individuality in the long run.

One might point out the emotion of Beck’s dealing with his family members who have enlisted.  I have a young friend who enlisted in the Army last year.  While he is not active duty, the opportunity to go to Iraq happened and I spoke with him about the decision.  Without going into the details, we spoke about the pros and cons of going now instead of waiting to get out of college and being commissioned an officer. Never once did it occur to me to dissuade him due to Obama being president or his safety being guaranteed.

The young man decided to go only to have the offer yanked out from under him – college it is, at least for a year.  He had my full support in his decision, as hasty as it might be.  I agreed with his mother’s assessment that “Dying in service is still dying in service to God.” 

In the end, service in the military is about service to our country and its people.  The oath sworn by every man and woman in our armed services is to the Constitution, not Congress, not the President. Glenn Beck would do well to remember that.

I don’t like how media figures influence things so disproportionately and I’m on record as not being a fan of them whether or not they are on my side politically. This episode illustrates why.  At some point, the perceived power they have goes to their heads.  Being entertainers first, they often shoot their mouths off and do damage to their own side. But a bigger problem is how much faith their listeners and viewers put into them.

That is why I don’t listen to people like Glenn Beck and prefer to cull my news from a wide variety of sources.  Broadcast and cable news/commentary are distorted by the lens of entertainment – or spectacle, if you will. I’m a Joe Friday kind of guy wanting “Just the facts, ma’am.”  We’ve got fiction for entertainment and it is dangerous when it passes for news.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Unwanted Kitten


Having rescued many a kitten and cat over the years, I was in no mood to do so again.  The last two rescues had to be put down after trying to kill another cat and cleaning up blood stains from the murder attempts is not something I wanted to repeat. With the object of the attacks now full grown, I found myself praying not to have to deal with another kitten anytime soon.

Enter one abandoned kitten on the property with no sign of siblings or mother.  This happened two weeks after the afore mentioned prayer, so let no one tell you that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. After howling for two days in the barn (loud enough to be heard from the kitchen) my dad decided to let me know about it.  He said he heard a cat in the barn and that it had been going on for some time.  The moment I heard it I said, “That’s not a cat, that’s a kitten.”

Yes it was so loud only an adult could make that kind of noise, but the voice was far too young.  I figured it was a month or more old by the volume.  When we got out there, I managed to open the top half of the broken barn door and looked around.  The loud cry started again, earsplitting and right on top of me. A glance down revealed a tiny little yellow kitten – a very young kitten.

Not only did the young age surprise me, but the fact that the critter looked me in the eyes and came back to my voice after being startled. Not normal for an obviously feral kitten. Little did I know that was only the beginning of not normal behavior from him.

I easily picked him up and he began purring immediately and I knew he’d have to be cared for as the abandoned barn is not a safe place for kittens thanks to raccoons and roving tomcats.  He was strong and very feisty, but his eyes were dark blue, the ears only just upright, and his side teeth hadn’t come in.  Looking up info online, I decided he was between 3 and 3 1/2 weeks old, which meant formula as he wasn’t weaned and eating hard food.

So we gave him formula with a dropper and he wasn’t cooperative. Taking a gamble born of desperation, I soaked cat food in warm water hoping he could take that in.  Oh he liked the broth from it and had a hard time learning to drink it, but I was still concerned. 

I shouldn’t have worried. In a couple of days he had watched the hostile older cats and decided that he was a big cat now.


I’ve heard of two fisted drinkers and now witnessed the phenomena of the four pawed eater.

Precocious barely scratches the surface with this kitten.  We couldn’t find a box that could contain him and he went berserk when put in the cat carrier.   He was young enough to not be running or jumping, but his upper body strength was abnormal so he was able to climb almost anything. That meant having to sleep with the tiny character and not crush him by accident.

After a week, it was clear he wasn’t the runt of the litter and was probably the alpha. Wrestling, spitting, challenging, and tackling are his favorite pastimes being a typical boy cat.  One problem is that he bites everything and everyone.  I’ll be glad when he starts mellowing out even though he is good about not biting through the skin.

He’s come a long way despite an epic war of wills over the litter box.  Brighter than the average kitten, he understood its use right away but would only use it if I went to the bathroom too. Then he decided it would be a funny game to resist being put in the box when caught peeing or crapping in the living room.  Out he’d jump and arch his back, prancing at me before running to a corner of the bathroom.

I wasn’t amused.

At the time of writing this, it has been several days without an apparent “accident” and the litter box is needing constant cleaning.  I may have won the battle but this is a smart kitten and only time will tell.

Naming him has been a difficult endeavor and it came down to one of the following:  Zim, Johnny Rotten, or Howl.  For the moment, he is dubbed Howl, which is short for Howlin’ Cat, Howland Owl, or Howling Pain in the… well, you know.

This is what the boy looks like now.  Howl’s eyes are just starting to change around the pupil, I’ll be curious to see what color they end up.

Howl 003

It looks like we’ll be taking care of him for the long haul, I never did find any trace of his mother and siblings. There is a good chance the raccoons got them.  I think he’ll turn out to be quite the fighter and hope to teach him to be a protector rather than a bully.  The fact he is crushing on my #1 cat, Snooky, is promising.

Snooky 005

I also like the fact she doesn’t run from Howl like he has the plague, but simply slaps him silly if he gets too fresh. Right now they are sleeping about three inches apart – he’s getting good at sneaking closer to her.

Welcome to the Boonedocks, Howl.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Aerial Recon Photos from WWII

I saw this at the Telegraph and had to share, the photos are amazing.  In the US, the motto “Unarmed, Alone, and Unafraid'” was used by photoreconnaissance squadrons as they flew incredibly dangerous missions.  Usually they flew solo with no weaponry, relying on speed and surprise to stay alive.  The pictures of Operation Market Garden and the D-Day landings are particularly compelling.

The Justice Society of America Lives


Growing up on comic books made me a reader as a child.  One of the fictional hero groups I liked the most was the Justice Society of America or JSA, the super heroes of the 1940’s.  All Star Squadron was the title of the comic I infrequently found at grocery stores and I fondly remember the extra large special where they saved President Roosevelt from super Nazi assassins. 

From there they were brought into the modern times of the 1970’s, inhabiting a parallel universe to the one that the Justice League of America took place. Age had actually caught up to the older heroes and they were training their children and other young heroes.  This was different and appealed to my love of history.  In these comics you would see a graying Superman, Flash, Dr. Fate, and Green Lantern fighting alongside Batman & Catwoman’s daughter, the Huntress for instance.

I never thought I’d get to see a live action version of the JSA, so I’m looking forward to Smallville’s special 2 hour movie involving them.  So far we have been informed that Hawkman, Dr. Fate, and Stargirl would appear as part of the disbanded and mysteriously forgotten heroes.  The preview above reveals one more character, the Sandman, in his gas masked glory. Between the glimpse of him and Dr. Fate with the photo released of Michael Shanks in full Hawkman costume, it will be the first time comic book costumes have been translated faithfully in Smallville.

As big a surprise as seeing the Sandman was, the bigger was seeing Alan Scott’s Green Lantern ring.  I doubt we’ll see much of him with a modern Hal Jordan Green Lantern movie in production. 

The best part of this is that the writer of the two hour special is Geoff Johns, the writer who made the latest incarnation of the JSA into a top selling comic book.  He knows and treats the characters reverently so old fans such as me probably won’t be disappointed.  The trade reprints of JSA are highly recommended as examples of comic books done well.

It will be a long wait until February 5th for this, but in the meantime I can continue to geek out over how well Dr. Fate’s costume translated into reality. That golden helm is just as intimidating as it was on the four color pages I read as a child.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Supercollider Blues Over?

The Large Hadron Collider suffered a magnet meltdown after its first run last year, shutting down operations until this past week. I’m happy to see the first test went well Friday and hope to see it get to smashing atoms soon.  In a small (microscopic) way, I’ve been involved through crunching research numbers for it on my computer.


While it is doubtful what the PC did was actually used, it felt good to contribute to something that will further research into physics.  I still remember the keen disappointment I felt when the much larger supercollider project in the US was cancelled back in the 1990’s. Now if we could get those idiots who believe that the LHC will create a black hole the special care they need…

Media Hack Picks on Teenage Girl

I’m late to the party on this one, but it allowed me to read what happened from the view of the teenager Norah O’Donnell decided she could trap in an interview.  The young woman dared to be in line for a Sarah Palin book signing while wearing an anti-bailout shirt. This provided a “gotcha moment” for O’Donnell to attack Palin for backing McCain in supporting the initial bailout and embarrass the obviously unprepared teen.  Terrific moment of showing what fools these Palin backers are, right?

Not exactly.  Turns out O’Donnell used a Blackberry to get info in order to set up the question while the teen acquitted herself well given the ambush style of the question. O’Donnell compounded things by lying on Twitter about the girl having voted last year. Read the girl’s blog Red, White & Conservative for a full account of what happened.

Be nice if MSNBC went to as much effort to find out where all the stimulus money actually ended up.

And people wonder why the media is viewed as biased?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Shocking Unemployment Map

Watch this animated map of unemployment shown county by county for the entire US and weep.  It starts out before the recession officially began and slowly becomes a tidal wave of purple and dark gray.  Locally, Houston County went from light orange to purple in two years, which is 4.0-4.9 % to 7.0-9.9 %.  Won’t be long until it is mostly dark for the country.

The Bears Are Coming Out

123 banks have failed so far this year and despite the run up in stocks things are looking worse as the effects of the stimulus end.  Check out this post at The New Editor and watch the video of Meredith Whitney talking about the stock market.  Warning:  her analysis is not a happy thing to watch and she points out that there is no reason for the stock market to be going up.

I’ve long thought the stock market was divorced from reality and is based on the emotional attitudes held by gamblers. The fact that consumer credit has contracted more than during the Great Depression is a huge warning sign that we may be in an unprecedented economic collapse.  That this is being ignored by the investors is amazing.

Over in France, the bank Société Générale is warning their clients to prepare for a possible global economic collapse in the next two years. Basically the idea is that all the problems of the banks have been transferred onto the governments making them insolvent in turn. Quote of the article:

The bank said the current crisis displays "compelling similarities" with Japan during its Lost Decade (or two), with a big difference: Japan was able to stay afloat by exporting into a robust global economy and by letting the yen fall. It is not possible for half the world to pursue this strategy at the same time.

No, it isn’t possible and a lost decade is very possible for the entire planet, if not lost decades.

In previous posts, I’ve written about gold going up and that it isn’t a good sign. Martin Hutchinson at points out that the last time gold ran up so quickly in value was before the economic woes in the early 1980’s.  Only it is a lot faster this time and Hutchinson predicts $2000 an ounce will be hit in six months time. His belief is that once gold went over $1000 the point of no return was reached and that a second recession is guaranteed.  I’d argue that we never got out of the first one, that any recovery has been an illusion generated by shuffling nonexistent money around.

Once again, I wish I had good economic news to report.  I think what we are about to face is going to make the Great Depression look good by comparison.

A Very Cool Little Fighter

This a flight demo by a Hungarian pilot flying a JAS39C Gripen at RIAT earlier this year.  Great video of a terrific little plane that Sweden builds for multirole combat. 


I think it is the prettiest of the “Eurocanards” flying and fills a critical  need in size and capability.  Many countries can’t afford even medium sized fighters, instead flying smaller ones such as the F-5 Tiger and MiG-21 Fishbed.  A modern replacement for them has been needed for some time. This is what the F-20 aspired to be in the 1980’s and I believe the Saab Gripen is the realization of the dream of a  modern light weight fighter.

The only other competitor is the Chinese/Pakistani JF-17 which I highly doubt is as good a plane, being a radical derivative of the MiG-21. It says much that the Pakistani’s are now buying the larger and more modern J-10 from China instead of more JF-17’s.  Meanwhile, India’s LCA project is still far from service and already out of date.

Interestingly, the Gripen often ends up competing for contracts against bigger fighters such as the F-16C Fighting Falcon, F/A-18E Super Hornet, and France’s Rafale. Currently it is in service with Sweden, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and South Africa.

A new version with a more powerful GE-414 engine, AESA radar, more fuel, and redesigned landing gear is flying in prototype. The Gripen NG promises greater range and weapons load along with better avionics.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The 66% Rule: How to Select Republican Candidates for 2010


There is unrest amongst the grass roots and discontent with all politicians – not just Democrats.  At the moment, it looks good for the Republican Party but it is a long way until November 2010.  Things change and the unpredictable can alter any trajectory in politics.  Therefore, the Republicans need to be coming up with candidates who will stand for something, not just counting on the voters being angry with the other side.

Whether candidates are chosen via caucuses or primaries, the Republican Party needs to have a clear identity to present to the public.  While RINO hunting can be a valid sport there can be a tendency to go overboard in purity tests. Likewise, the “Big Tent” approach can lead to leftwing liberals like Dede Scozzafava running as a Republican. It would help if the GOP actually stood for something basic while still allowing a variety of candidates to be fielded in the very different districts that make up the political landscape.

I submit that we must use a variation of Reagan’s three legs of a stool test.  Reagan’s idea was that a Republican movement needed to be fiscally conservative, socially conservative, and defense hawks.  This is the ideal for a candidate and can be achieved in solidly red districts – in fact it must be the criteria there.

But what of weaker areas? Realistically, we have to face that there will be districts that a pure conservative cannot win. Still, we need a Republican who will vote most of the time with the caucus. By that, I don’t mean 51% of the time.  In those weaker districts a Republican who votes conservatively 66% of the time is the bare minimum.

In choosing a candidate, I have come to the conclusion the person must meet at least two of the following criteria:

1. The candidate must be fiscally conservative, no exceptions!  A true fiscal conservative will also favor small government and won’t do anything to grow government. This criteria is absolute and inflexible.

Next at least one of the following stances must be held:

2. The candidate is socially conservative.  This generally means pro-life, pro defense of marriage, and/or pro Second Amendment.  The beliefs must be solid and not based on pandering.

3. The candidate is a defense hawk who supports the military.  Our men and women in the armed forces need all the backing they can get as we confront terrorism and other threats.

Two out of three should give us conservative legislators who will work together well at the state level and in Congress. This is The 66% Rule.

Holding only one of these conservative credentials is not enough even in the bluest of districts.  In order for the Republican Party to have a cohesive identity and work together, there has to be common ground other than merely having the label “Republican.”  It isn’t enough to just win elections – the goal has to be advancing our political philosophies. Otherwise, the Democratic Party will continue to use divide and conquer tactics to get their legislation passed.

If we keep the Rule of the Three Legged Stool in solidly conservative districts and follow The 66% Rule for weaker districts, I believe Republicans can win in 2010 and 2012. More importantly, it will give us candidates who will advance the conservative cause and undo some of the damage done by the current Congress and administration.

While this is a broad and simplified set of criteria, anything more complicated becomes cumbersome and subject to constant amendments.  There will be “moderates” who will be upset at the rule and there will be “true conservatives” equally unhappy with it. It doesn’t matter. Things are at a dangerous point in our governance and we don’t have time to play internecine games that only strengthen the political Left. 

We need to keep things simple and focused while remembering that most of the country considers themselves conservative one way or another.  The public craves politicians who will stand for something and actually live by their words.  There was a whiff of desperation in the voting choices made in 2008, a hope that if everything was turned over to the Democrats things would be better.  Many Democrats shaded their stated positions toward the middle to get elected, much like President Obama did and more recently Owens in NY-23.  Once in place, they didn’t live up to their statements and went left.

The Republican Party lost its identity some time back and the voters haven’t forgiven us for it. We need to win the people over and to do that we have to have cohesion in our ranks. Until then, any victories we have will be short lived.  With a true identity, the Republican Party could retake power and stay there for some time.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Goodbye to the Equalizer

Edward Woodward passed away at 79.  I was a fan of his 1980’s show, The Equalizer, which was an entertaining series about a retired intelligence agent who uses his skills to help people in trouble.  Brains over brawn was the modus operandi and I enjoyed it a great deal.  Woodward made McCall a classy and formidable hero. Upon reading of his death, it made me wish I could see the series again.  Sadly, I can’t afford Netflix anymore so I can’t rent the first season.  Catch it if you can.

So How’s That Economic Recovery Going?

A lot of media spin has been about how we are recovering economically despite the lack of jobs. After all, the stock market keeps going up and it is the barometer of the economy.  At least that is what people assume, but there are many other indicators of economic health.

It isn’t often you see the words “world gold supply runs out.” In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing them until this article at The Telegraph. With less retrievable gold ore in the ground, it is going to be harder for nations to convert their financial reserves to hard metal.  Output is plunging at the mines, so the rush to invest in gold has a problem – there isn’t enough of the precious metal to go around.

That’s always been an argument I’ve had with goldbugs, that there isn’t enough of the metal to cover the currencies of the world. There is a possibility that silver will go back up to make up the slack, but money is an illusion whether it be made of metal or paper or electrons floating in computers. Faith is what sustains it and gives currency value. So what happens when you can’t convert the currently held currencies and they dwindle into nothing?  We may find out.

Speaking of running out of things, the FHA is running out of cash and may require – you guessed it, a bailout from the government. Oh yes, the housing market is still in trouble and there is fear they can’t cover loans due to growing unemployment. The critical quote of the piece:

The FHA’s cash reserves have plummeted to $3.6 billion, compared with $685 billion in outstanding insured loans - a ratio of 0.53 percent that is far below the 2 percent required by Congress and a fraction of the 6.4 percent reserve ratio in fiscal 2007.

Banks are usually closed down if they have that kind of ratio, so this is not good. With no signs of unemployment going down, we’ll be seeing more of these loans defaulting. So there will be a bailout using tax payers’ money.  Except we don’t have enough because revenues are down. But China will loan us the money, right?

Well, China is not very happy with the US right now.  They rightly have figured out that the weak dollar and low interest rates have dangerously ballooned stocks and property investments.  What we don’t need is more bubbles that will burst and that is precisely what we are getting. 

Not that China is really helping things themselves.  Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has an interesting and somewhat alarming commentary on the problems surrounding China’s exporting overcapacity.  We have too much supply and not enough demand from them so they are not taking up the slack from the West. Read it.

Fears of a double dip recession abound, but I still think we never came out of it in the first place.  It was just a plateau in the fall and we are going to see darker days before anything truly gets better.

One kind of darkness has already fallen on Australia. They went with a cap and tax scheme to lower carbon emissions and electricity prices skyrocketed. People can’t afford their bills and are being cut off with retirees being hit hardest. That will strangle their economy in no time flat. Right now they are experiencing what we will if similar legislation is enacted.

I wish I had good news to report.

Getting an Edge in Copyrights

I’m not happy with the way Intellectual Property (IP) rights are handled because I feel that the current laws are stunting creativity in a stagnant society.

An article at got my attention last week and highlights how trademark law can be abused. Edge Games hasn’t put out a real product in many years, but has terrorized anyone that dares to use the word “edge” in any videogame, movie, or comic book. They’ve been successful at this, gaining settlements with other companies for over a decade.

This is a truly bizarre story, especially if you read the full details over at ChaosEdge.  Mind you, it can be eye glazing but if you dig, you can find documented IP theft by Edge Games themselves! The strange sales (or lack of sales) by this company from their web store is an epic story by itself.

At least with EA’s involvement there is a chance these people will be shut down, but it shows how the current system can be gamed – no pun intended.  I’m wondering how this guy Langdell has made money from this.  He has to have to keep filing lawsuits, right?

Government Gone Wild

With various things going on including a very demanding abandoned kitten to care for, I let things slide as far as blogging goes.  The links to interesting bits of news will stretch back into last week as a result.

Serves New London Right

At Hot Air, Ed has a post filled with immense irony.  After the idiocy that was the Kelo ruling , the original case has turned into a classic bad joke. Pfizer got New London, CT to use eminent domain to take homes away from residents and now won’t be developing the property.  To make it even more painful, the jobs lured there by the deal are being moved to another town!

The Supreme Court badly damaged private property rights in America with this ruling and the end results show why government having absolute control over who gets to own what is foolish. Makes me wish the founding fathers had put something in the Constitution or Bill of Rights about private property.

Big Guy Picks on Little Guy, Government Doesn’t Care

Back when SEIU member continued the proud union tradition of beating people during a tea party protest, most of the media yawned about it.  Kenneth Gladney was the recipient of the attack because he dared pass out “Don’t Tread On Me” items outside a Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-CT) forum.  The left spun the story by claiming Gladney started the fight, but the police report says otherwise. Interesting to read the behavior of the SEIU members present, including another assault, resisting arrest, and one who tripped and tried to claim the police beat him!  The district attorney in St. Lois has yet to do anything about it and no charges have been filed despite the video and police report on the incident. This smacks of corruption and favoritism. Thank you Big Government for posting the report.

This Message Will Be Controlled

One thing that sets dictatorships and totalitarian states apart is they insist on absolute control of the news media. Censorship abound and everything has to be in line with what they want.  It may surprise people that totalitarians will suppress even those of the same ideological or political persuasion, not just their obvious opponents. No criticism is to small to be allowed. More and more the Obama Administration is showing these tendencies. Besides attacking Fox News there is the curious case of Indymedia, a left wing website. The demand by the Justice Department for information on people who browsed the site is a privacy rights nightmare list with the following info demanded: Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and home addresses.  Read Ed’s post at Hot Air for the details of a truly bizarre story.

Secret Copyright Treaty Leaks

ACTA will affect Intellectual Property rights in the US and other countries beyond just dealing with counterfeit goods.  While this lecture at BoingBoing is a bit dry, it covers the concerns raised over this far reaching treaty. The idea of iPods being searched at the border is insane, but shows the reach of media companies into the government. Also, the ability to confiscate or destroy goods without compensating the owners is incredibly draconian. At around the 15 minute mark, the Internet provisions are discussed and I’ve touched on that before.

Orwell Predicted the Present

In Great Britain, phone companies and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will be forced to keep every telephone call, web visit, email, and any other thing done on Internet on record for one year. Originally the ministers had wanted this stored on one central government database, but backed off from that. Even so, this quote is chilling to anyone who believes in privacy:
653 public bodies will be given access to the confidential information, including police, local councils, the Financial Services Authority, the Ambulance Service, fire authorities and even prison governors.
It is rapidly getting to the point where the only private communications in the UK will be face to face, for Big Brother is watching. The British are lost and only people fighting for their freedom will keep it here in the United States.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Updated Movie Reviews

I’ve been experimenting with adding pictures to my movie reviews and took the opportunity to revise or expand them in the process. Here are the links to the revised reviews:

The Watcher in the Woods

Forbidden Planet

The Black Hole

Stargate: Continuum

Over time I’ll be adding more reviews, in fact I have several written in the pipeline.  Expect reviews of Gojira, Godzilla, and Howl’s Moving Castle soon.

Why reviews?  I get very tired of all the gloomy news out there and need to write about more positive things.  Most of the reviews will be out of my personal DVD collection, so don’t expect a lot of negativity!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

In the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings, Veterans Day seems a little more immediate than usual.  That shouldn’t be the case for we always have men and women in the armed forces serving around the world protecting our country and way of life.  Less visible are those who have served honorably and returned to civilian life, but my gratitude is just as great for their service.

After Vietnam, a lot of people turned against our soldiers and I remember the slow turnaround of that attitude in the 1980’s under President Reagan. Lately it has been a mixed bag as the country has polarized over Iraq and Afghanistan.  But I hope I’m correct in feeling that the majority of the country at least respects our fine service personnel.  Reading about the strange mugging of an Army reservist gives me hope.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Misc. - the Useful Abbreviation

One has to love the ability to type “misc.” instead of miscellaneous(which is only correctly spelled here due to Windows Live Writer’s spellchecker).  It is such a useful term too – it covers everything!

Yes, I’m making an excuse to post random unconnected links to stories interesting me today:

Read about stocks jumping to new highs on Yahoo and once reading the reasons for it felt vindicated in thinking the “recovery” is all about banks and the political class – not the peons.  They love the dollar collapsing; such wonderful patriots they are.  They also love blowing bubbles and we are going to see more pop with this irresponsible behavior.  People invested in stocks don’t care about anything but reaping a quick profit and that cannot bring about any long term improvement.

Twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall fell and the end of Communism in Europe had begun. Lech Walesa played a critical role in this and the former leader of Solidarity says some interesting things in an interview with Spiegal Online. His warning to the politicians is one that should be heeded.

At PajamasTV, Bob Owens has a nice rant only a gun nut will appreciate – so of course I enjoyed it a great deal.  It has to do with the “cop killer” label put on the FN Five-seveN (oy, the marketing gimmick) 5.7mm pistol in the reports on the Fort Hood shootings.  This is a pistol I would love to own as I’m a fan of velocity over mass, but Owens’ arguments are sound and I have a heavier caliber pistol for the same reasons.  I’m grateful Hasan fell for the hype, things could have been far worse.

People scoff at computer virus threats while disregarding the legitimate threat.  Frankly, the chance that your PC could be given a virus that downloads child pornography is frightening.  So if anyone reading this doesn’t have a firewall and antivirus program on their PC, please install one pronto!  Being framed for something as depraved as this should be motive enough to add some security.

Terrorism and Fort Hood


The media reaction to Nidal Malik Hasan’s attack on his fellow troops in Fort Hood has been disturbing to me.  Political correctness is acting like a lens distorting reality the way a funhouse mirror warps a reflection. As more facts emerge about Hasan, it is clear he was a jihadi. Someone just snapping from stress by proxy (what a ludicrous excuse) doesn’t try to contact al Qaeda months before shooting a bunch of American soldiers.  He doesn’t give away his belongings first and he doesn’t frequent strip joints like the 9/11 hijackers did.  Hasan did exactly that.

Many Islamic fundamentalists believe all your sins are forgiven on martyrdom, so they tend to party in forbidden ways.  That looks hypocritical to Western eyes, but it simply points out one of our cultural differences with the Islamic world.  Over at Forbes, Tunku Varadarajan has a must read piece on our problems facing what he dubs “going Muslim.”

CNN proves the distorted lens by rearranging a wounded soldier's quote to make it look like he was unsure if Hasan yelled "Allhu akbar." Mudville Gazette has the details.

It isn’t like Hasan was the first to go on a killing spree in the name of Islam after 9/11. Next week on Tuesday the “D.C. Sniper” will be executed.  Seven years ago, John Allen Muhammad and his accomplice Lee Malvo  killed 10 people. Do people even remember this?  I wonder.

A big part of the problem is how the political left and their lapdogs in the media have depicted the war on terror.  J.R. Dunn at The American Thinker puts it better than I can.  I agree with him that relativism has done a great deal of damage:  allowing corruption to flourish and weakening our will to defend ourselves. Everything depends on the American people waking up.

I question whether another 9/11 would be enough.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Weekend Links: Around the World

The Nuclear Threat

The UN is wondering why they’ve found evidence that the Iranians have experimented with a radically more advanced nuclear warhead design than previously thought.  It is pretty clear they are playing for time to get weapons in production and the weak Obama administration is making it easier than ever. Not that President Bush was much better in dealing with them.  It will be up to Israel to defend themselves. There will be fallout one day, probably of the radioactive kind.

Over in Poland, nuclear fears are rising as well.  Russia practiced an invasion and nuclear missile strike on Poland back in September.  They even gamed out a pretext based on ethnic Poles rising up in Belarus.  Nothing is subtle with the Russians and this is clearly a threat being made to Poland. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a repeat of the false flag operation used by the Nazis to justify invading Poland.  A weak US president make previously unthinkable objectives possible, unfortunately.

Rising Up Against Oppression

Over at Gateway Pundit, a collection of reports on continuing protests in Iran against their rulers.  This should have been bigger news, but the media isn’t interested in the story. Iran is not a stable country and that should be of concern to everyone. We need to be on the right side of this if things are to be kept from blowing up in the Middle East.  Sucking up to dictators in hopes they will become accommodating doesn’t work.

Call of Duty Set to Overwhelm the Gaming World

I have to say Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a brilliant and disturbing video game.  Brilliant in execution and disturbing in plausibility, it put the player in the midst of an international crisis involving a nightmarish scenario of nukes, Russian civil war, and Middle East fundamentalism.  So it is no surprise the sequel is eagerly awaited, but the sales expectations of half a billion dollars worldwide in the first week is a shock.

I don’t play multiplayer so I can’t comment on the latter half of the article.  Still, if the single player experience is as good as the first one, I’ll get Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 -- when it gets very cheap.  It means a wait of several years, but I can afford to be patient. I literally can’t afford impatience in these cash strapped times.

Political Shenanigans

With Cap & Trade and ObamaCare unpopular with the voters, a lot of games are being played to ram them through before the recess.  Pelosi & Reid can’t afford to have Democrats go home and face their constituents before voting on the bills as they might get swayed to vote “No.”

One thing they don’t want out is the penalty for not buying mandatory health care under the House version of the health care bill.  It is freaking totalitarian, that’s all.

The campaign to neuter Fox News is still underway at the White House.  This has been denied, but with the previous actions by the Obama administration I think it is legit. They are determined to control the news at all costs, but I think they are making a huge mistake.  This kind of thing wouldn’t be leaked if it weren’t seriously resented.  The Chicago way is as blunt and heavy handed as the Russians actions in Eastern Europe. Totalitarians never tolerate criticism or the truth well.

Governing the Internet

Intellectual property rights are all the rage in governance right now.  Having been pushed by media conglomerates for some time now as their faltering products fail to earn enough moola, governments are moving to halt piracy of music on the Net.  The latest attempt is a stealth move under the guise of an anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA).  Basically, the idea is to force the internet service providers (ISP’s) to be held responsible when someone downloads an illegal copy of a tune or movie.  Before this the individual was held responsible and the ISP’s were immune to prosecution. 

Why is this a bad thing?  Well, the US government hid the details of what is in the treaty and the countries that actually counterfeit music and movies aren’t involved in the treaty.  So it does nothing about counterfeiting and is all about snooping into the contents of people’s computers.  The ISP’s will have to do that to keep from being sued. That’s a big civil rights issue and once the ability to do that is granted, it won’t go away and will be abused.

IP rights are okay for a limited time, I personally believe 15 years is good enough with an exception made on religious materials.  If people aren’t allowed to rest on their laurels, it will encourage them to come up with new material.  I’m a big fan of intellectual ferment and the marketplace of ideas, so limiting IP to a shorter span would be a true stimulus of creativity.  Right now it feels like the whole world is going through the motions and repeating itself.  Be nice to break free of that stagnation, wouldn’t it?

The secrecy involved is the real deal breaker.  They wouldn’t be secretive unless they were up to something illegal.  Though what is legal is becoming more of a “we say so” kind of thing rather than true application of jurisprudence.  I think we are seeing the money out of Hollywood and the music industry behind all this as they are losing money due to inferior products.  They won’t admit this and have to blame something for their failure. However, the consequences of this push may much bigger than they understand.

Weekend Links: The Economy

It was quite a week for developments on the economic front.  I wish I could report it was good news.
First off, official unemployment hit 10.2% after October’s figures came in.  This indicates things are getting worse for the American worker – not better. Ed Morrisey at Hot Air has an excellent post on it including an updated Romer graph of what the stimulus promised to do versus what actually happened.  We are off the chart now.  Also from Ed is a post with links of what jobs were really saved by the stimulus, starting with California.  Hint: the state & federal governments aren’t honest.
Doesn’t get much more pointed than what India’s finance minister said when their central bank bought 200 tons of gold in order to reduce dollar holdings.  What did he say about the economies of Europe and the US?  That they had “collapsed.”  Asian countries are running from the US dollar now.
Makes the wrangling over how much to increase health care look silly if there won’t be any money at all.  Still, the Republican health care plan was rolled out Wednesday after having the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) go over the figures.  It would actually reduce the deficit by $68 million over a ten year span.  Sounds good compared to the trillion dollar increase in debt from ObamaCare.  Still, how will any of it be paid for? There is no answer on that, because there is no way to!

UPDATE:  I was wrong, the Democrats plan isn't a trillion dollar outlay, but $3,000,000,000,000 plus over 10 years according to the CBO! The Heritage foundation estimate comes in at $2.4 to 2.6 trillion.  This is insane.

The Fort Hood Shootings


Hasan may be linked to the 9/11 hijackers.  The Telegraph has more on his connections including worshiping at the same mosque in Virginia at the time they attended. Simply incredible that he was kept in the military. Once again, why do I find these things in foreign papers first?

Now that it is days later, we have a more complete picture of what happened.  The shooter is a devout Muslim psychiatrist that was under suspicion of posting pro-jihadi statements online six months ago.  Major Nidal Malik Hasan was about to be deployed to Iraq Afghanistan and had gotten bad reviews in his evaluations.  Hasan is American born of Palestinian parents and believed the war on terror was a war against Muslims.  He refused to have his picture taken with women. He was devout, attended a mosque – yet claimed no religion or preference in his military records. He shouted “Allahu Akbar!” before firing two handguns into a crowded room. We also know he gave away many of his belongings, something that a jihadist does before preparing for martyrdom.

So the media is spinning it as some kind of combat stress by proxy, since he has never served overseas. The media concern is over how Muslims will be treated over this, more so than the plight of the real victims.  Funny how we are always being accused of persecuting Muslims when something like this happens.  This suggest we behave otherwise, hat tip to Instapundit. *sigh* Reality has become optional in today’s age.
I’m wondering if this is a watershed moment, where it becomes very clear there are two America’s: one bent on political correctness unto insanity and the other that see’s what is really going on but feels completely muzzled by the former.

It isn’t like this is an isolated incident, we had a Muslim shooter in Utah last year, there was the black Muslim convert who fragged his squad mates in Iraq years ago, a conspiracy to attack Fort Dix, and we are beginning to see honor killings in the United States.  What we are seeing is a clash of cultures that aren’t very compatible, if at all. Ignoring that or spinning it as something else isn’t going to make the problem go away.  Individual jihadists are still jihadists.

Meanwhile, we take casualties here at home.  The soldiers were unarmed and felt far from combat when Hasan attacked them.  Because he was supposedly one of them and it happened here, they feel betrayed and violated.  We all should as this man should not have been in the military.  With his record he should have been booted out as a security risk, but PC rules all in governing now.

The soldiers who died and were wounded came from all over the country, so this truly is a national tragedy.  What makes tragedies tragic is that they are preventable and are based on the flaws of people. In this case, the many flaws of Hasan were apparent for some time. If he ever gets wakes up and comes off the ventilator keeping him alive, I predict a media circus as more facts come out – fact that won’t fit their narrative. Though I wonder if they even have a clue about what is real anymore.

President Obama’s performance still rankles me, made worse by that idiotic “shout out” attributed a Medal of Honor to a man who doesn’t have one.  There is no excuse in not knowing the difference between it and the Medal of Freedom, just as there is none for the levity shown beginning the speech. The superficiality is simply amazing with this man.  There is no question in my mind that we are less secure with him at the helm.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Mass Shooting at Fort Hood

Horrible day in Texas,  12 dead and 31 wounded by at least one other soldier.  The shooter was killed, but there are eye witness reports of a second shooter who is in custody with a third as possible accomplices. The FBI has been brought in to assist in finding out the motivations.  Fort Hood is under lock down. Please pray for all involved.

As jarring as that was, President Obama coming out to address an Interior Department conference waited minutes before speaking about it, doing pump up motivational material for the attendees -- even going as far as giving a “shout out” to one the people in the audience!  Reprehensible and disrespectful, the shootings should have been brought up immediately.  From there he rambled as he does without a teleprompter.  The man is an embarrassment to the country and to his office.

Sex Ed for 5 Year Olds

For some time there has been a United Nations resolution pushing very early sex education to children, all under the guise of protecting “child rights.”  I never thought it would gain any real traction as it was too out there, now I’m not so sure.

Over in England, compulsory sex and drug education will now start with five year olds. This is crazy, especially given the paranoia about pedophilia that is currently gripping the English. Exposing kids to too much information early is not going to reduce teen (and earlier) pregnancies.  Instead, it will encourage them to be more sexual and we have enough problems with the pop culture doing that!

Sometimes I wonder if any sanity is left in our Western governments.  The fact that parents won’t be able to pull their kids from these classes is way too Big Brother for my tastes. Scratch that, way too Brave New World.

An Amazing F-14 Tomcat Model

Check out this 1/144 scale F-14A Tomcat of VF-1 landing diorama.  Mind blowing, especially since it is a tiny scale and has extensive scratch building.  The afterburners are the highlight, no pun intended.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

For Your Entertainment…

Were They Watching Animal Planet?

This is why I prefer reality to fiction.  It is nearly impossible to make something up as strange as this story about a deer running amok during Halloween. I would have loved to have seen the deputies’ faces.

Making Fun of the Air Force

For a good cause.  Though other branches of the armed forces would say it is always a good cause making fun of the men & women in blue.  My favorite demotivator is “Fundamentals.”

You can find out more about Project Valour-IT at Soldiers’ Angels along with other projects to help the troops.

But It Looks Like an Old PC!

Ever take one of those silly online tests to see what color you are?  Did you wonder what color the universe is?  Wonder no more! Here I thought it would be more of a taupe.

Mormon Swashbucklers

I haven’t been a fan of PSA’s (Public Service Announcements) since the classic Tennessee Trash anti-littering one of the 1970’s. But this one is rather sweet and I’m pleased to see it garnering an award.

Fathers are treated like dolts on television these days, so it is refreshing to see old fashioned parenting extolled in a PSA.  The father and son using homemade props and their imaginations to play with instead of a video game warms my heart.  That is what a childhood memory should be like.

Kudos to the Missionary Department at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for putting this out.

Virginia and New Jersey Go Red

No, not communist, but Republican as McDonnell and Christie win their special elections.  Virginia was a hat trick as governor, lt. governor and attorney general were all won by the GOP candidates.  Not all was rosy for it looks like the Democrat Owens will defeat the Conservative Party Hoffman in NY-23.

The irony of NY-23 is that the more conservative of the big party candidates will have won if the percentages hold up tomorrow morning.  How the local GOP could select a candidate further to the left than the Democrat running is beyond me.  They were the ones who blew it, in my opinion.

This was a big win for the Republican Party tonight, especially since New Jersey is a very blue state. Voter discontent appears to be high and that has to worry the party in power.