Saturday, February 28, 2009

Happy Dance Time

Just got tickets to see Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood in Philadelphia on June 12th.  {Insert happy dance here.}

I'm looking forward to hearing some Blind Faith tunes live.  This will be the fourth time I've seen Clapton live.  He's one of the rare musicians who is better on stage than in the studio, IMO.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Reid Joins Pelosi in Opposition to Revived AWB


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will join Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in opposing any effort to revive the 1994 assault weapons ban, putting them on the opposite side of the Obama administration.
Reid spokesman Jim Manley said the Nevada Democrat will preserve his traditional pro-gun rights voting record.
"Senator Reid would oppose an effort (to) reinstate the ban if the Senate were to vote on it in the future," Manley told The Hill in an e-mail late Thursday night.

Good news, assuming it's true.  However, now is not the time to rest on our laurels.  It is still important to contact your Representative and Senators to express your opposition to any Federal gun control, so that they know we won't go away.

{H/T Alphecca}

Thursday, February 26, 2009

So, Attorney General Holder has tipped the Obama administration's hand in support of a revived Assault Weapons Ban.  In response, I sent the following letter to my elected Congresscritters:

I write to you with great concern in light of Attorney General Holder's comments, in which he voiced the Obama administrations support for reenacting the Clinton-era Assault Weapons Ban.  I urge you to oppose any attempt by the administration to revive this reprehensible, ineffective, and unconstitutional law, whether through executive order or legislation.

Last year the Supreme Court of the United States held in District of Columbia vs. Heller (PDF) that the Second Amendment protects the individual right to keep and bear arms.  In discussing what "arms" were protected, the Court held that the Second Amendment protects individual ownership of arms that are in common use by the American public.  In the past decade or so, the very sort of arms that the Obama administration would like to see banned are the most commonly purchased firearms.  Thus, such a ban is clearly unconstitutional under Heller.

Moreoever, the proposed justifications for a revived Assault Weapons Ban are clearly bogus.  So-called assault weapons are not the weapon of choice for criminals, and gun control never works to reduce crime.  Incredulously, A.G. Holder claims that the US is a major source of weapons used by Mexican drug cartels.  This is preposterous.  Further, if we have heretofore been unable to stem the flow of illegal drugs and migrants into our country, what hope would we have of blocking access to weapons by the same well organized criminal enterprises who breach our border on a daily basis?

Please rest assured that I will be following this matter closely and it will have a major impact on my decision for whom to vote in the next election.

Feel free to copy for your own use.

Strangely enough, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi seemed to downplay on the prospects for a new AWB.  We know this isn't because she's seen the error of her ways and doesn't support gun control.  Rather, it's due to one of two things, maybe both:

  1. She wasn't consulted first before Holder ran off at the mouth.
  2. She remembers what happened in the 1994 mid-term elections to the Democrats who supported the Clinton AWB.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Anniversary of Colt's Patent

On February 25, 1836, Samuel Colt received his patent for an "Improvement in Fire-Arms."

View it here.

More Public Mood Investigation with Google Trends

In my last post I looked at gauging the public mood in America using Google Trends.  This morning I punched in a few more terms.  The results reinforce my findings yesterday which indicate that there's a lot of unease out there about a potential economic crash.

First, looking for "gold standard" and "precious metals" gives us these two graphs, which lead me to believe folks are losing confidence in our money system:



And "food storage" shows are sharp increase, revealing concern about either future scarcity, future inability to pay for food, or both:


Finally, searching for trends on "ammo" possibly revealing uncertainty about things in general, including future availability:


Click on the thumbnails for full size graphs.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Gauging Public Mood With Google Trends

Google has a bunch of neat tools in their Labs, one of which is Trends, which provides statistics on search terms going back to 2004.  Using Trends, one can get an idea of what is piquing the public interest and when.  I went and entered a few search strings to see what I'd find, with the results below.  My Trends searches were limited to results originating within the United States.

Take, for example, the search term "assault rifle." (Click the thumbnail for a full size graph.)


We can see that there was a spike around September 2004, which is when the Federal Assault Weapons Ban sunset, with another uptick -- sustained this time -- since Barack Obama won the election back in November.  Last Saturday I was at my local gun monger (Surplus City in Feasterville, PA) and the owner told me that business continues to be brisk while his ability to restock remains a problem.  Long time gun owners like myself have been buying, but so have been a lot of new people concerned with the economy and their future access to firearms.  Gun sales have been about the only bright spot in a dismal economy.

"Economic collapse" and "stock market crash" are a couple of other interesting terms to enter to see what Americans are thinking about.



Naturally, people are worried about the economy and have been, especially since September when the first talk of Federal bailouts started being heard.  We've also seen an increase in concern about the stock market since Obama got elected.  I wonder what happens when we look for "Atlas Shrugged?"


So, Americans are increasingly worried about the economy, more interested in assault rifles, concerned about socialist leeches stealing the fruits of their labor, and maybe dropping out altogether.

Hope and change!

Operation Mag Drop

Tom Gresham of Gun Talk has a new project that strikes me as a good idea.  Instead of letting your old gun magazines (the ones you read, not the ones which hold ammo) clutter up your house, drop them off at places where people have to sit and wait for something.  E.g., doctor's offices and barber shops.

It's a way to increase positive exposure for shooters, shooting sports, and the right to keep and bear arms.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Vote of No Confidence

Investor's Business Daily sums up why the market continues to tank.  The following graph shows just how much it's shrunk.  The Standard & Poor 500 has lost a bit more than one third of its value since Obama pulled ahead of McCain for good.  (Click the thumbnail for full size image.)

IBD S&P 500

Meanwhile, the Democrats in charge are doing nothing to allay the market's fears.  Indeed, they seem to be doing everything in their power to ensure that that it continues to dive.

If one was paranoid, one might suppose that the Dems are consciously acting this way in order to enable further encroachments by the Federal government into the free market.  But that's just tinfoil hattery, right?

Emergency Preparations on a Budget

I wrote this post over on TRP almost three years ago, but it's especially relevant now.

Obama Wants to Trim the Deficit

Uh huh.

President Obama is putting the finishing touches on an ambitious first budget that seeks to cut the federal deficit in half over the next four years, primarily by raising taxes on businesses and the wealthy and by slashing spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, administration officials said.

In addition to tackling a deficit swollen by the $787 billion stimulus package and other efforts to ease the nation's economic crisis, the budget blueprint will press aggressively for progress on the domestic agenda Obama outlined during the presidential campaign. This would include key changes to environmental policies and a major expansion of health coverage that he hopes to enact later this year.

Why does this seem like announcing you're going on a diet immediately after eating an entire pizza with all the toppings?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fiddling with the Economy

As Obama campaigns for his various economic recovery plans, he doesn't seem to realize that people have smelled leadership failure already and voted with their money; they're selling off everything related to the financial systems he's trying to preserve in the hard-to-dispute belief that he's going to bankrupt them in spite of anything else he might say or believe. It's as if all the man knows how to do is campaign and he and his team are unable to shift into real "here's the plan let's make it work" leadership. For all the leadership failures of the Bush team, the new order formed from the "anyone but Bush" camp seems unable to actually look forward and lead. By focusing on keeping people with unsustainable credit problems in their mortgages, he's effectively offering more painkillers to a patient that's in cardiac arrest from overdosing on them in the first place. Encouraging zombie home-ownership won't give us non-zombie banks.

From The Jaded Apprentice.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Springfield XD9

Today I went up to Surplus City to swap off a couple of safe queens for something more useful.  I traded in a Century R1A1 FAL and a Yugoslavian SKS, both of which I've only taken to the range once.  I looked at three pistols: a used Smith & Wesson M&P9L, a new M&P9, and a Springfield Armory XD9 Service Model Bi-Tone.  I shot a friend's XD9 several years ago and liked it a lot.  A couple of weeks ago I shot my father's M&P9.  After handling the M&P and the XD side by side, I decided that the XD fits my hand better, so I took it in trade for the rifles.

The XD is made in Croatia and features an action similar to a Glock.  It is striker fired, with a Browning/Petter type short-recoil action.  The frame is made of plastic with a steel insert.  The slide on the Bi-Tone model is made from stainless steel, given a matte finish.  Barrel length is four inches.

Like the Glock, the XD has a single action trigger with a safety tab requiring that it be fully depressed before the gun can fire.  It also has a grip safety, unlike the Glock.  Because the gun has no other manual safety, I do like having the grip safety.

An additional safety feature is a loaded chamber indicator which can be felt in the dark.  Also, the rear of the striker protrudes from the slide indicating the gun is cocked.

Naturally, by far the most important safety is the one between your ears.

The XD9's stainless steel magazines hold 16 rounds.  The XD came with three magazines.  I'll be getting some more.  Interestingly, I've read that Beretta M-92 magazines can be easily modified to work in the XD by drilling a hole in the correct place.  I will look into this and maybe give it a try as a proof-of-concept, as it could come in useful in a pinch.

The XD came in a lockable plastic box with the magazines, a right handed holster, a double magazine carrier, and a magazine loader, plus a chamber flag, a cable lock, and a manual.  Being a lefty I won't get any use out of the holster but the mag loader is definitely handy, and the mag holder may come in useful.

Field stripping the XD is simple.  FIRST clear the gun, then lock the slide to the rear.  Next, rotate the takedown lever to the up position.  Then slowly let the slide forward.  Keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction, pull the trigger, and then pull the slide and barrel off the front of the frame.

With the top half of the gun off, the recoil spring guide and the captive spring can be pulled off the barrel, and the barrel removed from the slide.

After I got the pistol home I field stripped it, ran a couple of patches through the bore, and then lightly lubed it with Weapon Shield CLP from a sample bottle I got a couple years ago.  Weapon Shield CLP is similar to FP-10 and was designed by the same guy.  Without doing a chemical analysis it's hard to tell them apart, they have the same color, feel, and cinnamon scent.  It's good stuff.

Tonight I went with Dad and my brother to the Lower Providence Rod & Gun Club and put the XD through its paces on the indoor range.  We ran about 210 rounds of 9mm Parabellum through it.  About 170 of these were Winchester 115 grain FMJ while the remaining 40 were Speer 124 grain Gold Dot JHPs.  All were standard pressure loads.  We experienced no malfunctions.

The XD Service Model is comparable in size with a Glock 19.  When comparing the two pistols, certain features show the differences between the guns.  For example, aside from the previously mentioned grip safety of the XD, the grip angle of the guns differs.  The Glock has a more acute angle, reminiscent of the Luger.  In contrast the XD has a grip angle more akin to that of a 1911 or Browning High Power.  The profile of the XD's grip is also reminiscent of the High Power.  The grip angle and cross section are why I favor the XD over the Glock.

Glock's have a lower bore line and a shorter trigger reset.  These should enable faster shot-to-shot recovery with a Glock vs. the XD, everything else being equal.  Since the Glock just doesn't fit my hand well, the XD is still a better choice for me.

We put rounds through the XD pretty rapidly, shooting at paper plates from seven yards.  Accuracy was on par with other service pistols I've shot, i.e., a few inches.  I've no doubt that groups could be improved with slower, more deliberate fire, or match grade ammunition.  But for its intended purpose as a short range defensive arm, the XD is accurate enough.

I found the XD very pleanat to shoot.  The grip shape and angle are similar to those of my favorite autoloader, the Browning High Power.  Reliability appears to be fine, and accuracy is good.

My brother also happened to go up to the same shop today and got himself a Colt Combat Commander XSE in .45 ACP.  It's made from stainless steel and came with some nice features, including an ambidextrous safety, a comfortable beavertail grip safety, and very pretty rosewood grips.  Unfortunately, it has a one-piece full length guide rod.  Overall fit and finish of the gun is excellent though it could use a little dehorning.  The trigger is very good, breaking cleanly with little creep, probably at around four pounds.  He put 100 rounds of .45 230 grain FMJ through it with one failure to feed.  The gun is a bit stiff and needs breaking in but once he's put some more ammo through it I'm sure it'll be good to go.  I want one.

Arkansas Ice Storm After Action Report

The following AAR is courtesy of Vernon Humphrey, and is posted here with his permission.

Some of y'all may remember my survival story from last February, when a tornado tore a 123-mile long swath through Arkansas (Not posted here. --DM).  Mountain View was hit, and the hospital, ambulance service, and one critical fire station destroyed.  We were cut off from the outside world (although there was sometelephone service within the county.)  We were without power for a week.

Not long after, we lost power for another three days when a snowstorm disrupted our jury-rigged system.  Then we had two floods, one on top of the other -- producing a 100-year flood.

A few months later, the remnants of Hurricane Ike went through the Ozarks and we lost power for another six days.

Finally, on Monday, the 26th of January, we had an ice storm -- the mother of all ice storms.  It began as heavy fog in freezing weather.  The fog froze on the trees, sheathing them with ice.  Finally, the weight of the icewas too much for the trees.   They began to split and break.  Power poles were broken off.  People in rural areas were truly isolated -- so many trees
were down that we literally had to chain-saw our way to the highway.

In my case, being 3.5 miles down a county road, 0.6 miles down a common road(shared with one other family) and a quarter mile of private drive, it tooktwo days to cut a path out.

There was one bright spot -- although the power pole at the end of the common road was broken off, some neighbors working to clear that part of thecounty road realized that pole carried my phone line.  They cut the pole insections, and dragged the sections aside as best they could -- the sectionswere still held together by my phone line.

So I still had telephone service.  Until Saturday.  On Saturday, the postman came.  Those sections of power pole made it a bit inconvenient for him to reach the mail box.  So he thoughtfully cut my phone line, so he could drag the sections out of the way.  And, of course, we can't get a cell phone signal here in the mountains.  I had thought about getting a two-way radio since the last disaster, but hadn't yet got around to it.

Other than that, my survival plan worked well.  First, as soon as the power went out, I cleaned out the freezer compartment of the refrigerator.  I took all the frozen food downstairs and put it in the chest freezer in the basement "machine room" (which is where the heating system is, the junction box, water cut-off and so on.)   The machine room also contains the chest freezer, my gun safe, and all our survival stores.  I keep a 1.35 kWgenerator down there, along with a Coleman dualfuel camp stove and lantern.

With the freezer as full as I could get it with frozen food and freezer packs, I closed it up, took the generator outside and fired it up.  For 13 days, I ran this little generator two to three times a day -- and it kept the food in the freezer solid.  The value of the food saved exceeded the
cost of the generator.  It more than paid for itself  Thirteen days of operation, two to three sessions a day, each time allowing the generator to go out of fuel, burned about nine gallons of gas.

In passing, I might note some of my neighbors have large generators, and used them for lights, TV and other purposes.  This is really expensive, because these more powerful generators use a lot of fuel.  And fuel can be hard to come by in a survival situation.  Since the tornado last February, I keep 15 gallons of gas on hand, and use my generator for the freezer only.

I got a fire going in the Buck™ stove that heats the basement, and as soon as I managed to clear a driveable way out, I started cutting the downed trees into firewood lengths, hauling and splitting then.  My Buck stove will take an 18" log, but I tend to cut them to shorter lengths -- makes them easier to split with my Wal-Mart splitting maul.

Over the long haul, you will find the fire will burn down at night, and you need to get a good fire started each morning.  I keep at least a full box of Starter Loggs ™ in the basement.  These are made of wax and sawdust, and can be broken into cakes that start fires easily.   If you stack split wood in the stove with a cake of Starter Logg under the stack, you don't even needkindling to start a roaring fire.

My wife is a nurse -- she's the Assistant Director of Nurses at the local nursing home.  When we got warning of a coming ice storm, she packed up and went into town -- the nursing home put her and several other nurses up in a motel room, so they could keep staff on hand when other nurses couldn't get into work.

She finally came home on Friday, the 30th.   And rearranged everything.  Me, I was comfortable with a folding table set up in the basement with the camp stove, a pot, spoon, glass and GI canteen cup.   That was all I needed.  But women need more.  Soon we had half the kitchen down in the basement -- pots, pans, seasonings, and so on.  Plus her makeup, knitting and other essentials.

Crews from several states were working to restore power.  The number of power poles broken exceeded the number of new poles on hand, and our power company had to borrow from other states.   Finally, on the evening of Sunday, February 8th, the power came back on.  But we didn't get telephone service until the about  6:45 PM on Friday the 13th, and only one number at that (I have a dedicated computer line, which wasn't restored.)  When I went
down to check on the work, the lines were merely twisted together -- the splice wasn't even wrapped with electrical tape.  There was so much  noise on the line, conversation was difficult, and of course, Internet connections were impossible.  My dedicated computer line was  restored (and the other line properly fixed) at 4:00 PM on Friday, the 20th.

As I look across Lick Fork Creek toward Johnson Ridge, the whole mountain seems to be speckled yellow -- that's raw wood showing where  trees split under the weight of the ice.  The timber is ruined -- anyone who was counting on selling timber will have to put that off for a generation.  And, of course, the woods are full of "widow-makers" -- the split tops of trees
still hanging  by a  thread.

I have already cut next year's supply of firewood from fallen and splintered limbs -- and after cutting it, I took down all the  dangerous trees around the house, and now have a double supply of firewood.

The lessons here are:

· Survival disasters can occur at any time, and leave you completely cut off.

· Work with your neighbors.  Help them and they will help you.

· Disasters can last so long and come so often they aren't fun anymore.

· The key to survival is to anticipate a real disaster situation and plan accordingly.

· Plan to stay where you are, if at all possible, and to stick out the disaster at home.  Remember, you have far more stuff in your home than you can possibly carry if you opt to go somewhere else, and you may need all of it.

· Practice your plan.  Each time you practice, make a note of what you didn't have but wish you had, and steadily improve your plan and your equipment list.

· Economize.  Scarce resources (like fuel) may be difficult to replace in a survival situation.  Use them sparingly.

· Choose your survival tools for utility, not for cleverness.  I use a real ax, splitting maul and chainsaw, not a "multi-purpose survival tool."  If I need game I use my ordinary hunting rifle, not a folding compromise "survival" weapon.

· Shoot that damn' postman!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Holy S**t

Click the link for a full size graph.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Yeats Comes to Mind

In watching the economy and our idiots "leaders'" responses thereto, I can't help but thinking of William Butler Yeats' The Second Coming , in particular, the first stanza:

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Review of 5 Powerline Networking Devices

There's a good article over at Computerworld reviewing five Ethernet-over-powerline devices.

I have limited experience with this type of networking.  All of my small business clients use Fast or Gigabit Ethernet over CAT5e wiring.  Most home users I've worked with have been content with WiFi.  But, for some home networks, installing CAT5e is too expensive, while WiFi is subject to too much interference.

Case in point, one of my clients has three computers in his home (two Macs and one PC), all sharing a cable modem.  There's also a Brother printer which plugs into his router, providing print services to the three computers.  One of the Macs is located in the Florida room out back, while his Linksys WRT-54G WiFi router is located downstairs in his den, near the front of the house.

We first tried get the Mac in the Florida room onto the network via WiFi but the signal kept dropping.  It was pretty marginal and as time passed he was seeing more interference as well.  So, I had him get a Linksys PLK200 Powerline AV Ethernet Adapter Kit.   One of the Linksys adapters was connected to his router while the other one was connected to his Mac.  It's been working well and allows whoever is on the Mac to reliably access the Internet at speeds over 10 Mbps.

If you go with Ethernet-over-powerline networking, and you own an older home, I recommend testing to make sure that your outlets are properly grounded, to prevent damage to your equipment. This GFI OUTLET TESTER will tell you if it's correctly grounded or if it needs to be fixed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Understanding the Stimulus Bill

Received via email:

Shortly after class an economics  student  student approaches his economics  professor and says, "I don't understand this stimulus  bill. Can you explain it to me?"

The professor replied, "I don't  have any time to explain it at my office, but if you  come over to my house on Saturday and help me with my weekend project,  I'll be glad to explain it to you." The student agreed.

At the agreed-upon time,  the student showed up at the professor's house. The  professor stated that the weekend project involved his  backyard pool.

They both went out back to the  pool, and the professor handed the student a bucket.  Demonstrating with his own bucket, the professor said,  "First, go over to the deep end, and fill your bucket with as much water as you can." The student did as he  was instructed.

The professor then continued,  "Follow me over to the shallow end, and then dump all  the water from your bucket into it." The student was  naturally confused, but did as he was  told.

The professor then explained  they were going to do this many more times, and began  walking back to the deep  end of the   pool.

The confused student asked,  "Excuse me, but why are we doing  this?"

The professor matter-of-factly  stated that he was trying to make the shallow end much  deeper.

The student didn't think the  economics professor was serious, but figured that he  would find out the real story soon  enough.

However, after the 6th trip  between the shallow end and the deep end, the student  began to become worried that his economics professor had  gone mad. The student finally replied, "All we're doing is wasting valuable time and effort on unproductive   pursuits. Even worse, when this process is all over,  everything will be at the same level it was before, so  all you'll really have accomplished is the destruction  of what could have been truly productive  action!"

The professor put down his  bucket and replied with a smile, "Congratulations. You  now understand the stimulus bill."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Waxman: Extend Fairness Doctrine to the Internet

Apparently not content with imposing the so-called Fairness Doctrine on traditional media*, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) wants to extend it to the Internet.

Senior FCC staff working for acting Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps held meetings last week with policy and legislative advisers to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman to discuss ways the committee can create openings for the FCC to put in place a form of the "Fairness Doctrine" without actually calling it such. 
Waxman is also interested, say sources, in looking at how the Internet is being used for content and free speech purposes. 

Yeah, let's party like it's 1984.

* Yes, I know the Dems haven't resurrected the FD.  Yet.  They're diligently working on it, though.

Monday, February 16, 2009

FDR's Secy. of the Treasury on Spending Money as a Stimulus

Henry Morganthau to Congress, May 1939:

"We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong ... somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises ... I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much
unemployment as when we started ... And an enormous debt to boot!"*

* Burton Folsom, Jr., New Deal or Raw Deal? (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 2008), p. 2.

Morganthau was FDR's Secretary of the Treasury.

The Silver Screw

Received this morning via email:

Once upon a time, a young lad was born without a belly button. In itsplace was a silver screw. All the doctors told his mother that therewas nothing they could do.Like it or not, he was stuck with it . . . He was screwed.

All the years of growing up were real tough on him, as all who saw thescrew made fun of him. He avoided leaving his house . . . And thus,never made any friends.

One day, a mysterious stranger saw his belly and told him of a swami in Tibet who could get rid of the screw for him. He was thrilled. Thenext day, he took all of his life's savings and bought a ticket to Nepal. After several days of climbing up steep cliffs, he came upon a giant monastery. The swami knew exactly why he had come. The screwy guy was told to sleep in the highest tower of the monastery and the following day when he awoke, the screw would have been removed. The manimmediately went to the room and fell asleep.

During the night while he slept, a purple fog floated in an open window. In the mist floated a solid silver screwdriver. In just moments, thescrewdriver removed the screw and disappeared out the window.

The next morning when the man awoke, he saw the silver screw laying on the pillow next to him. Reaching down, he felt his navel, and there was no screw there! Jubilant, he leaped out of bed . . . . And his butt fell off.

The moral to this is:

'Don't screw around with things you don't understand -- You could lose your ass.'

---- Congress is noted for screwing around with things they don't understand - like the economy. That's why we are all losing our asses!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

True Cost of the Stimulus: $3.27T

From the Heritage Foundation:

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) asked the Congressional Budget Office to estimate the impact of permanently extending the 20 most popular provisions of the stimulus bill. What did the CBO find? As you can see from the table below, the true 10 year cost of the stimulus bill $2.527 trillion in in spending with another $744 billion cost in debt servicing. Total bill for the Generational Theft Act: $3.27 Trillion. (Emph. added.)

Go here for the article, including the table.

"Generational Theft Act" strikes me as the best description I've heard yet for this train wreck.

Off the Deep End

Professor Greg Mankiw has a chart detailing total annual surplus or deficit as a percentage of GDP.  It shows the difference between what it would be with and without the Obama stimulus package, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

With the stimulus the deficit is a lot worse.

PA Castle Doctrine Bill Introduced

A "castle doctrine" bill has been introduced in Pennsylvania.  This bill reaffirms that a person's home is his castle, limits the duty to retreat, and in general clarifies when a person may use force, including deadly force, in defense of himself and others.  It also limits lawsuits by criminals against people who used force to defend themselves or others against a criminal act, e.g., a homeowner who shoots a burglar breaking into his home.

This is a good bill.  I urge any of my readers who live in PA to contact their legislators in support of this bill.

The text of the bill is here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Topical Quote from Mark Twain

I ran across this while going through some old email.  It seemed relevant in light of the porkulus bill that seems about to be rammed down our throats.

"The mania for giving the Government power to meddle with the private affairs of cities or   citizens is likely to cause endless trouble, through the rivaly of schools and creeds that are anxious to obtainofficial recognition, and there is great danger that our people will lose our independence of thought and action which is the cause of muchof our greatness, and sink into the helplessness of the Frenchman or German who expects his government to feed him when hungry, clothe himwhen naked, to prescribe when his child may be born and when he may die, and, in time, to regulate every act of humanity from the cradle to the tomb, including the manner in which he may seek future admission to paradise." 

--Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens)

800 Billion Reasons to Be Worried

From Reason:

How bad is the stimulus bill just passed by the Senate? Well, at least as bad as the one passed last week by the House of Representatives, but probably not as bad as the final bill that will land on President Barack Obama's desk, possibly as soon as the end of this week.

Don't take my word for it. In a report to Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) laid out in plain English—well, economic language—that the Senate bill would eventually cause not a stimulus but a recession in "the longer run." 

Full story.

This bill isn't so much a stimulus as a crapload of pork projects designed to reward Democrat constituencies.  Worse, it encourages people to invest in government backed securites (i.e. bonds) rather than investing in private companies, which are where jobs are actually created.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The United States of Argentina

From The American Conservative:

Anyone not alarmed by the state of the U.S. economy is not paying attention. As our Dear Leader begins his term, the theory of very big government has the support of an alarmingly broad political consensus. Despite the obvious dangers—devastating inflation and the ruin of the dollar—the United States seems pledged to a debt-funded spending spree of gargantuan proportions.
The country in question is Argentina, and even mentioning the name might initially make any comparison seem tenuous. The United States is a superpower with a huge economy. Argentina is a political and economic joke, a global weakling legendary for endemic economic crises. Between them and us, surely, a great gulf is fixed. Yet Argentina did not always have its present meager status, nor did its poverty result from some inherent Latin American affinity for crisis and corruption. A century ago, Argentina was one of the world’s emerging powers, seemingly destined to outpace all but the greatest imperial states. Today it is … Argentina. A national decline on that scale did not just happen: it was the result of decades of struggle and systematic endeavor, led by the nation’s elite. As the nation’s greatest writer, Jorge Luis Borges, once remarked, only generations of statesmanship could have prevented Argentina from becoming a world power.
For Americans, the Argentine experience offers multiple warnings, not just about how dreadfully things can go wrong but how a nation can reach a point of no return. Not only did Argentina squander its many blessings, it created a situation from which the society could never recover. Argentines still suffer from the blunders and hubris of their grandparents without any serious likelihood that even their most strenuous efforts will make a difference. A nation can get into such a situation easily enough, but getting out is a different matter. A corrupted economy can’t be cured without being wiped out and started over.

Taking Apart the Stimulus

The Washington Post has an excellent graphic showing where the money is going in the Obama porkulus bill.  Click the image for a full size graphic.

We're fucked.

CA Judges Order Massive Prisoner Release

In California?  Might want to pick up some extra ammo.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —  A special panel of federal judges tentatively ruled Monday that California must release tens of thousands of inmates to relieve overcrowding.


"There are simply too many prisoners for the existing capacity," they wrote. "Evidence offered at trial was overwhelmingly to the effect that overcrowding is the primary cause of the unconstitutional conditions that have been found to exist in the California prisons."

The three judges suggested a target prison population of between 100,800 and 121,000 inmates — down from the current level of about 158,000. More inmates live in conservation camps, community correctional facilities and private prisons in other states.

The proposed targets would require the state to reduce the prison population by between 36,200 and 57,000 inmates. Attorneys representing inmates had sought a reduction of about 52,000 inmates.


Here's hoping that they pick non-violent offenders to release.  Of course, if we got rid of The War on (Some) Drugs, it's unlikely the prisons would be so overcrowded to begin with.

Fiscal Child Abuse


Repeating his plea for the fiscal stimulus plan on February 5, President Obama said that "The time for talk is over. The time for action is now, because we know that if we do not act, a bad situation will become dramatically worse. Crisis could turn into catastrophe for families and businesses across the country."
This is the fifth time in my adult life that the president has asked for or asserted unprecedented authority on an expedited basis with little or no congressional review. Each of the prior occasions turned out to be a disaster.

Read the whole thing.

10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know

If you use Facebook, go read this post on AllFacebook.

Monday, February 09, 2009

$9.7 TRILLION Bailout?


Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- The stimulus package the U.S. Congress is completing would raise the government’s commitment to solving the financial crisis to $9.7 trillion, enough to pay off more than 90 percent of the nation’s home mortgages.

The Federal Reserve, Treasury Department and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have lent or spent almost $3 trillion over the past two years and pledged to provide up to $5.7 trillion more if needed. The total already tapped has decreased about 1 percent since November, mostly because foreign central banks are using fewer dollars in currency-exchange agreements called swaps. The Senate is to vote early this week on a stimulus package totaling at least $780 billion that President Barack Obama says is needed to avert a deeper recession. That measure would need to be reconciled with an $819 billion plan the House approved last month.

Only the stimulus package to be approved this week, the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program passed four months ago and $168 billion in tax cuts and rebates approved in 2008 have been voted on by lawmakers. The remaining $8 trillion in commitments are lending programs and guarantees, almost all under the authority of the Fed and the FDIC. The recipients’ names have not been disclosed. 

Where exactly do the Feds think this money is going to come from?

BO's Stimulus Package is Harmful in the Long Run

According to the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office, Obama's proposed stimulus package will be harmful in the long term.

President Obama's economic recovery package will actually hurt the economy more in the long run than if he were to do nothing, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

CBO, the official scorekeepers for legislation, said the House and Senate bills will help in the short term but result in so much government debt that within a few years they would crowd out private investment, actually leading to a lower Gross Domestic Product over the next 10 years than if the government had done nothing. 


Fear and Loathing in D.C.


And thus speaketh a president who, for all his rhetorical gifts, can’t seem to muster the words that would give the American people the one thing desperately needed at this point in American history — hope.

That’s right. The candidate of “Hope and Change” has decided to be a president who espouses “Fear and Loathing.” Fear of financial Armageddon unless we do as we are told and blindly give in to his $900 billion panic panacea for the economy and loathing of the opposition — an opposition Obama unfairly portrays as opposing him out of spite and because a popular talk radio host is telling them what to do.



Barach Obama is a Novice

... and it shows.

During last year's epic election campaign, Hillary Clinton said that in the White House "there is no time for on-the-job training". Joe Biden, too, remarked that the presidency was "not something that lends itself to on-the-job training". Both were aiming barbs at their then primary opponent. Mrs Clinton has since brought what she would refer to as her "lifetime of experience" to the role of Secretary of State, while Mr Biden has traded 36 years in the Senate for the vice-presidency. And the rookie they derided is President.

Now, the words of his former rivals are returning to haunt President Obama. After a distinctly rocky start to his presidency, he has admitted he "screwed up" and is returning to one thing in his political career that he has perfected – campaigning.


In the early days of his presidency, Mr Obama has seemed passive and uncertain. Instead of drawing up his own economic stimulus bill, he sub-contracted the job to Democrats on Capitol Hill. They opted to spend money on projects for contraception and beautifying the National Mall – their doorstep – and gave Republicans an plenty of ammunition against the package.


Governing, as Mr Obama is finding out, is not like an election campaign. Mr Bush's failures will give him some leeway and his transformative appeal remains potent. But making decisions and operating the levers of power is something completely new to him. And it shows.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Obama Admin Cancels UT Oil and Gas Leases

I'm sure this is just part of Obama's plan to help make the US more energy self-sufficient.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Interior Department on Wednesday canceled leases held by energy companies for oil and natural gas drilling on 130,000 acres of federal lands in Utah.

"I have directed (the department's) Bureau of Land Management not to accept the bids," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters on a conference call.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Vote Scheduled to Change PA Game Code to Allow Crossbows

From the NRA:

Vote Scheduled to Change the Pennsylvania Game Code to Include Crossbows!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Please Contact the Pennsylvania Game Commission Today!
Over the last several years, there has been a growing debate concerning the use of crossbows in Pennsylvania. At its upcoming meeting, the Pennsylvania Game Commission will be voting on a proposal that would make Pennsylvania the twelfth state to allow the use of crossbows during the state archery season. This meeting will be held from Sunday, January 25 to Tuesday, January 27. To view a copy of the agenda, please click here.

NRA strongly advocates for any expansion of hunter opportunity and choice when there is no biological reason to oppose the expansion. In fact, states that have allowed the use of crossbows have been able to maintain healthy wildlife populations. Additionally, the recruitment and retention of hunters has improved by removing crossbow restrictions. At a time when the number of hunters is declining, nothing is more important than the ongoing effort to preserve and strengthen our hunting heritage.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has received input on both sides of the issue from stakeholders concerning this proposed change. It’s time the Pennsylvania Game Commission hear from the very sportsmen and hunters they represent. There is little doubt that non-hunters and “animal rights” forces will be active in making their voices heard, so it is vital that sportsmen speak loudly.

Please contact the members of the Pennsylvania Game Commission TODAY and respectfully ask that they act to preserve our cherished hunting heritage by voting for the inclusion of crossbows during the state archery season. Contact information for your Game Commissioner can be found below.

Roxane Palone, President
Greg Isabella, Vice-President

Jay Delaney, Jr., Secretary

Russell Schleiden

Tom Boop

Dave Schreffler

Ron Weaner

Copyright 2009, National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action.
This may be reproduced. It may not be reproduced for commercial purposes.

Here's the email I sent in support of this effort:

I am writing to express my support for the PA Game Commission to legalize the use of crossbows during archery deer season. I also ask that you legalize crossbow use during gun season, because this would appeal to hunters who have to hunt in areas which have heretofore been shotgun, muzzleloader, or archery-only.

There is no real game management reason to oppose the change, and states that have allowed the use of crossbows have been able to maintain healthy wildlife populations. Additionally, the recruitment and retention of hunters has improved by removing crossbow restrictions.

Legalizing crossbow use during archery deer season would also help Pennsylvania's sporting goods stores because it would increase demand for crossbows and accessories by people who might not otherwise purchase archery gear.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.
Feel free to plagiarize. ;-)

Edit at 20:07:

I received a reply from Mr. Isabella that this measure passed.

How Government Prolonged the Depression

From the WSJ:


The goal of the New Deal was to get Americans back to work. But the New Deal didn't restore employment. In fact, there was even less work on average during the New Deal than before FDR took office. Total hours worked per adult, including government employees, were 18% below their 1929 level between 1930-32, but were 23% lower on average during the New Deal (1933-39). Private hours worked were even lower after FDR took office, averaging 27% below their 1929 level, compared to 18% lower between in 1930-32.


Meanwhile back in 2009, Obama and the Democrats want to lead us down a similar path.  Moreover, much of the proposed bailout is to get Americans spending again.  Folks, a major contributor to the current mess is that people and instiutions were spending money they didn't have.

This is like rubbing snow on yourself to cure frostbite.

Dilbert on the Economy

I figure when Dilbert posts a strip like this, we are in for a rough ride.  (Click the comic if the full strip doesn't display.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

MSI Wind WiFi Upgrade

As mentioned in a prior post, I ordered an Intel 4965AGN card to replace the OEM RealTek RTL8187SE WiFi adapter in my MSI Wind netbook.  It arrived today and was quick work to install.  The card had a sticker with an HP part number on it so apparently it was built as a spare for HP laptops.

After removing the bottom of the Wind's case, I found the OEM card next to the VGA-out port.  Removing it required disconnecting two antenna leads and one screw.  The new card is a bit longer than the original card, so installation required rerouting the antenna leads but was otherwise the same as if I'd replaced it with another RTL8187.

To get the Intel card recognized in Windows I had to manually install a driver from Intel's website.  (I downloaded it on my Mac and sneakernetted it to the Wind on a USB stick.)  With the driver installed, Windows Wireless Zero Configuration was able to see a pile of WiFi networks and after I reentered my WPA2 key, I got onto my WLAN.

Getting the card running under Ubuntu 8.10 was actually simpler.  From the Intel Wireless WiFi Link driver site:

Note: The iwlwifi driver has been merged into mainline kernel since 2.6.24. If you are using kernels after this release, please use the intree (drivers/net/wireless/iwlwifi) driver directly. After 2.6.26 the intree driver iwlagn also supports the new 5100BG, 5100ABG, 5100AGN, 5300AGN and 5350AGN series hardwares.

The RTL8187 lacks similar support, so every time I upgraded the kernel I'd have to upgrade the wifi card driver.  That's no longer a problem.

Incidentally, the Technician's Pocket Screwdriver from Countycomm is perfect for dealing with the screws on the Wind.

Monday, February 02, 2009

MSI Wind Dual Boot XP Home / Ubuntu Linux 8.10

My MSI Wind netbook ("Hobbit") has a hard disk with a lot of free space, and is already partitioned into two logical drives.  I bought it largely so I could run Windows programs without having to deal with the annoyances of trying to access USB ports while in a virtual machine.  As anyone who's read this blog knows, I'm more of an OS X or Linux guy than a Windows guy.  So I decided to turn it into a dual boot XP Home/Ubuntu 8.10 system.  This gives me the ability to run Windows apps when needed but do most of my work in Linux.

Because the Wind lacks an optical drive I needed an alternative way to load Ubuntu.  So, I created a bootable USB stick running Ubuntu 8.10 Live, and ran the installer from it.  The bootable USB drive works just like a live CD, and like a live disc, can be very handy if you need to recover data from a system which won't boot.

To create the bootable USB drive, I first took my old 1 GB Microcenter flash drive, stuck it in a Windows box at work, and used Unetbootin (, and told it to download and install Ubuntu 8.10 on the stick.  To get this done in a reasonable amount of time I connected the Windows PC to an SMCWGBR14-N router*, which has its WAN port connected to a Motorola SB6120 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem, provisioned at 160 GB down x 120 up.  (It's good to work for the ISP.)

Unfortunately, the Microcenter USB stick wouldn't boot, so I tried again with a Kingston Data Traveler 8 GB stick that I keep at the office.  I normally use it for sneaker-netting files between machines, and keep it loaded with various apps and utilities.  Before blowing it away to make an Ubuntu stick I copied them off to my MacBook Pro.  The Kingston drive booted my test PC just fine.  Compared with a live CD, the USB stick is definitely faster.  There's still plenty of room leftover on the Kingston, so I'll be copying the installer files I had on there back into a new folder so I can continue to use it in its old role, in addition to being a bootable recovery system on a stick.

As an aside, the reason for choosing Ubuntu is that there seemed to be a good amount of online documentation covering how to get it up and running on the Wind.

Since I'd been storing my data on the D: partition of the Hobbit's hard disk, I had to first move it over to C:, as I'd be installing Ubuntu onto D:.  With that out of the way, I proceeded to boot the Wind from the USB drive by rebooting the box and holding down F11 to get a boot menu.

Ubuntu installed easily on Hobbit.  The RealTek 8187SE WiFi card is not supported in the Ubuntu 8.10 kernel, so I downloaded a driver for it from ( using my Mac, sneakernetted it to Hobbit using a flash drive, and installed it using the GDebi GUI package installer (you can use dpkg from the CLI).  After a reboot was able to get onto my WiFi network using WPA2 encryption.

The RTL8187SE card is OK at best.  Compared with better cards is slower, not as sensitive, and has poorer support in Linux.  In particular, the driver for the Realtek device is kernel-specific, so if I install a new kernel as a security update, WiFi will break.  To improve stability, speed, and range I've ordered an Intel 4965 AGN card and plan to replace the Realtek card.

During the initial setup, going back and forth between a wired and a wireless network did not always go smoothly.  For example, if Hobbit is connected to a WiFi network and I then connect it to Ethernet, the box has problems acquiring an IP address.  I tried dropping to single user mode (# sudo init 1) from a terminal, but Ubuntu is configured to put you back at runlevel 5 when you do this.  I even tried setting the IP address statically, but wound up having to reboot the box before I could get the box back online.  Hopefully this issue will be improved with the Intel WiFi card.

I've been using Hobbit as a Linux box for a few days now and it's been quite a good experience once I tweaked the UI to my specifications.  I used the Synaptic package manager to install the XFCE desktop environment.  With a lighter footprint than Ubuntu's default Gnome desktop, it's ideally suited to netbooks IMO.  I still have access to the various Gnome programs but XCFE is less obtrusive than Gnome.  (In fact, were I starting over I'd be tempted to install Xubuntu, which uses XFCE as its default desktop.)

One thing to be aware of if you create a similar dual boot setup on an MSI Wind, is that when Ubuntu sets up the GRUB bootloader, it creates an entry in the GRUB menu called MS Windows XP/2000 (or thereabouts), in addition to the Windows XP Home entry.  The XP/2000 entry launches MSI's system recovery utility which restores the box to factory defaults.  I therefore went into GRUB's menu.lst file and changed the entry to "MSI WIND SYSTEM RECOVERY" to prevent confusion.

One of my bete noirs with Linux has been configuring printers.  Naturally, non-GDI printers are much easier to get working.  My Brother HL-2070N was automatically detected by Ubuntu's printer setup utility although a driver for that particular model was not included.  I configured the box with a Brother HL-2060 driver and it worked fine when I printed a couple of test pages.

Skype is one of the IM programs I use and it worked fine using the Ubuntu packages they provide.  The webcam worked with no special tweaking although I haven't tried any voice chats yet.  I have read but not yet confirmed that the input level using the Wind's internal microphone is too low, so to use it for voice chats or phone calls I may need to use an external mic or headset.  We'll see.

If you have an MSI Wind don't hesitate to give Ubuntu Linux a try.  With the exception of the WiFi card, everything worked with minimal tweaking.  The major change I made was to switch desktop environments from Gnome to XFCE, but that was purely a matter of personal preference.

* If you need an 802.11n router, this is the one to get.  It's fast and stable.

Michael Steele on the Second Amendment

The new RNC chairman is soft (to put it mildly) on the RKBA:

“…Society should draw lines. What do you need an assault weapon for, if you're going hunting? That's overkill. But I don't think that means you go to a total ban for those who want to use gun for skeet shooting or hunting or things like that. But what's the point of passing gun laws if we're not going to enforce them? If you want to talk about gun control, that's where you need to start. We've got 300 gun laws on the books right now. At the end of the day, it's about how we enforce the law.”

Once again we see a focus on objects instead of behavior.   Gun control has never and will never work to curb crime because it purports to regulate inanimate things instead of human activity.  Furthermore, one should never have to prove a need for something, so long as possessing it doesn't infringe on the rights of others.

It appears that the GOP is seeking to paint itself as a moderate party.  Once again it's failed to learn the lesson that when it cultivates conservative values, it wins elections, but when it tries to appeal to moderates and liberals, it loses.

"The Stupid Party" moniker is apt.