Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Sputnik of the coming age...

I am a child of the Cold War, as are many of my readers. Many people point to the erection of the Berlin Wall, or the detonation of the USSR's first nuclear test as key factors in the start of the Cold War, but there is one moment in history that well and truly launched the Cold War. That moment was the launch of Sputnik 1. Sputnik was not important because it was the first launch of a man-made satellite, it was important because the Soviets proved that they now had the capability to lob a nuclear warhead to any point on the globe, in under an hour, and do so without any warning or way of stopping it. It pointed out our vulnerability to attack from "The High Ground", space. Fortunately, despite Khrushchev's empassioned outburst, the Soviet leadership were fundamentally a rational people who did not want to run the risk of losing everything they had, including the lives of their loved ones, so they never stepped up to the brink of mass murder-suicide. The same cannot be said for all of the world's nuclear powers. North Korea and Iran are led by leaders that are quite simply, insane. North Korea has an estimated 8 nuclear warheads, and has successfully tested a low yeild device. (We think. It is possible that this was in fact a larger yeild weapon set off in a large underground cavern to "muffle" the shockwave generated.).North Korea's Taepodong-2 missile, the missile expected to be used in it's upcoming "satellite launch" has a range of about 6,700 kilometers with a payload of around 750 lbs. This is plenty of payload and range to put a EMP weapon into LEO. This missile is an advanced two stage version of the missile that Iran launched in February. It is widely thought that Iran and Pakistan have been collaborating with North Korea on both missile and nuclear weapons technology for some time.

Why is this an issue? Because a belligerent nuclear power does not need to blanket the US with city busters to hurt us badly. They can do the job with as few as one nuclear weapon.

Can you imagine what would happen to this country if every single solitary electronic device suddenly stopped working? Tens of Millions would die, not from radiation, but from easily treated medical problems that require a functioning modern medical system, or from chemical poisoning from malfunctioning petrochemical plants. or from a lack of basic sanitation. Transportation would stop because fuel supplies would vanish when cross-country pipeline systems shut down and engine control systems would fail. Airplanes would fall from the sky when their avionics systems failed. Power plants and power grids would fail causing massive blackouts. People would die from either heat exhaustion or freeze to death in thier unheated or un-air-conditioned homes. Then the second wave of deaths would occur due to the sanitary systems being overwhelmed with rotting corpses, rotting food, and contaminated water.

Think about that when our leaders want to "talk" to our enemies instead of acting in this country's best interest.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Violating the Constitution, it's just what Democrats do...

There is a constitutional war brewing, and Texas is in the middle of it. Historically, the Senators of the many states vetted applications for US Attorney, US Marshal, and Federal Judge before passing the names on to the administration for nomination. This is no longer the case as of today. And apparently only for Texas. Lloyd Doggett has managed to talk Obama's Ambulance Chaser in Chief (White House Counsel) into refusing to accept nominations from either of our two Senators, and only accept nominations from the Democratic House Delegation. The Senators will still have the right to shut down nominations from their state in committee however. Constitutionally, the House has no authority over nor input into appointments, so this move by the Obama Administration is usurping our Senator's constitutional authority. Additionally, they are treating Texas differently than the other 49 states.

This outrage will not stand! All 41 GOP Senators have pledged to fillibuster every appointment Obama makes. Let's see how for our Moron in Chief gets....

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Customs Hypocracy to Cost Union Pacific Millions.

Back in 1998, a US Customs Agent by the name of Darlene Fitzgerald, was hot on the trail of a major narcotics smuggling operation being run out of the Guadalajara Rail Yards. Pressurized tanker cars full of hazardous materials that were inexplicably overweight (presumably with contraband of some sort) were transiting the US-Mexico border with regularity. She was working with Union Pacific and Burlington Northern-Santa Fe to identify and secretly inspect the cargoes and then track them to their destinations in order to try to catch the smugglers picking up the cargoes. Someone in the US Customs service shut the operation down and then drummed her and her partner out of the US Customs Service. The assumption being that they were getting too close to breaking someone's corrupt rice bowl.

Now the US Customs service is suing Union Pacific for not stopping those shipments themselves...

Pot, meet kettle.....

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Return of Slavery to The United States

It is ironic, that the return of slavery in the United States, would be brought about by this nation's first black president. The house has approved HB 1388. Embedded in this bill are provisions for spending 6 billion dollars to implement a MANDATORY "voluntary" service period for all citizens of the US. From the language it would appear that only children are exempt. This violates the Thirteenth Amendment. Now, I'm still having problems understanding how a "voluntary" service can be made "mandatory". But I guess I just haven't spent enough time in the reeducation camps...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Every one is equal, but some are more equal than others...

That is essentially the message Billy Allen Fletcher is trying to send. He has authored a bill in the State Legislature that would exempt public employees from getting red light camera tickets, even if they run the light while not responding to an emergency with lights flashing.

I am certainly not a huge fan of RLC's. I think they are nothing more than a money grab and have nothing at all to do with safety. If it was about safety, lengthening yellow light times and adding an all-way red interval has been shown repeatedly to significantly lower accident rates. RLC studies here in Houston have not shown any such reduction. But having said that, who in hell thinks that cops or ambulance drivers or bus drivers are above the law? I thought that the whole point of the Rule of Law was that it applied equally to every one. Look, If a cop or an ambulance or a fire truck is on an emergency run, they need to have their lights on at least. There is no situation where a cop or an ambulance driver or a fireman without lights flashing should be violating traffic laws, especially when someone's life might be endangered by doing so. I can think of NO INSTANCE where a bus driver or a city worker should be allowed to break traffic laws.

Billy Allen Fletcher needs his head examined if you ask me.

Subprime Post-Mortem

Clayton Cramer posts an excellent analysis and timeline of how the whole subprime meltdown happened. He rightly points out that it wasn't any one thing, but a whole series of changes that drove the implosion. But the one theme that runs through the whole mess was Democrats and ACORN driving banks to lend more and more money to people who had fewer and fewer means to pay it back. It all started in 1977 with the passage of the Community Reinvestment Act. In of itself CRA was not a big driver of subprime mortgages to begin with because it had no teeth and therefore was not terribly effective. But changes in the 1990's to the way the law was interpreted, combined with ACORN's use of shakedown techniques to hold up bank mergers, led to more and more banks being forced to offer sub-prime mortgages in order to keep ACORN from shutting down their businesses through regulatory complaints. But even then, things would not have gotten out of control because bankers knew that it was their arse on the hook if these loans failed en masse.

Then came 1994 and the rewrite of the CRA under Clinton. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. Because up to this point Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would not buy up Subprime mortgages. Why? They were too damned risky. But the 1994 rewrite of the CRA changed all of that. Suddenly Fannie and Freddie were encouraged to buy subprime mortgages. Banks, being no longer on the hook for the losses, and being pounded on by the Government and ACORN to offer more and more subprime mortgages took the path of least resistance. They started selling them right and left.

This triggered a whole new class of real estate speculators, people who could not afford the loans were lying on thier applications and were taking out FHA loans on speculation properties instead of homesteads and then flipping the houses. But that works only as long as the market continues to rise. That can't happen forever.

This of course built a house of cards that was inevitably going to fall, the only question was when. I and others had a feeling something like this was going to happen as far back as 2005. Back in 2005, I sold off all of my holdings in REIT's. I was beginning to think I had made a mistake because the expected fall had not come. But it did finally happen, it just took longer than I thought.

Do you get the feeling....

... that someone who is rich and powerful, or has rich and powerful friends, is on this list?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Your tax dollars at work...Updated

On or about March 12th of 2009, the DRMS (the DOD's surplus liquidation arm) has ruled that the DOD will no longer sell once-fired military brass cartridges without requiring that they are "demilled" or mutilated to the point that they can no longer be reloaded.
This will have an immediate and expensive result. Reloading military surplus brass is a major source of civilian ammunition. By requiring the destruction of this brass, the DOD is effectively removing at least a third or more of the available inventory from the market. Secondly this is reducing the value of the brass by about 80%. So not only is the cost of ammo about to go up and the availability to go down, but the value to the taxpayer is being decimated as well.

This ammunition is not suitable for use by most of our enemies since they use Russian derived weapons which cannot chamber and fire most of these calibers (9mm Parabellum being the lone exception). Therefore the only logical reason for this decision is to squeeze civilian ammunition supplies.

Just wait until Obama makes the civilan purchase and ownership of primers illegal. That is after all the critical path item. You can cast your own bullets from fishing or tire weights or even old car batteries, you can reload your own brass, or even machine new brass from barstock if needed. You can make your own black powder if smokeless powder becomes unavailable, but you probably will have a hard time making a substitute for commercial berdan primers.

Be prepared. That day is coming. Mark my words.

UPDATE 3-18-09
The revolution has been postponed! The DLA has recinded the decision. The explanation apparently is that some noob at the DoD saw the broad "National Security" designation on demil class B (which once fired brass falls under but it had an exception) and recinded all exceptions to Demil class B items to CYA. Brass is now classified Demil class Q which means it only has to be mutilated if sold to a foreign country.

H/T Clayton Cramer

Friday, March 06, 2009

Gifts Between Heads of State... Updated

Apparently, Britain's PM Gordon Brown gifted Obama with a number of historic articles upon his first visit to an Obama White House. Among these items was a pen set carved from the wood of the HMS Gannet, sister ship to the HMS Resolute which was abandoned in the arctic, found and salvaged by the Americans, and returned to the Brits. The Brits, being appreciative of the return of the vessel, used the timbers from the vessel to build two desks. One is used by the American President, the other, by the British Prime Minister. Additionally, Obama received the commissioning papers of the HMS Resolute, as well as a first edition copy of Martin Gilbert's seven volume biography of Winston Churchill. In return, Obama gave PM Brown, a boxed set of DVD's. There is no word yet whether the DVD's were Region 1 or Region 2 DVDs, so it is unknown whether they will play in PM Brown's Region 2 DVD player. The titles have not been publicly released, but rumor has it that the titles included ET, Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz and others. I'm going to try and guess what some of the other titles were. Won't you help?

Some titles that should be in the list:
Weekend at Barney Frank's
The Grapes of Wrath
Harrison Bergeron
Atlas Shrugged
Wall Street
The Sum of All Fears
Mr. Ayres goes to Washington

Your thoughts?

UPDATE 3-19-09
Seems I was correct in my guess that the (regifted?) gift of DVD's were Region one only....
(H/T Ubu Roi for the update.)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Contemplations on Responsibility

All of us have responsibilities, but there are a few fundamental ones that we all share. I would like to discuss the responsibility of self-defense.

The courts have ruled that the police are not specifically and individually responsible for your defense. They have a duty to defend the public at large, but they do not have a duty to follow you specifically around 24/7/365 with their guns drawn. That is patently impractical obviously.

So if the police cannot protect you at all times, who can? You can. After all, only you are with you 24/7.

So now that we have established that the only person capable of protecting you at all times is yourself, let us consider another scenario. You are walking down a street and see a mugger beating a 70 year old woman about the head and shoulders while she is desperately trying to hold onto her purse and begging for anyone to help her. Do you have a responsibility to help her? I would argue that every person within earshot of the woman has a moral responsibility to come to her aid.

That is a fundamental part of being a member of society. We all have a responsibility to each other. We can argue until we are blue in the face as to how far that responsibility extends, but I think we can all agree there is a responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Therefore, instead of being afraid of those who would take the time and trouble to arm themselves against those who would do us all harm, we should instead praise them and thank them. They have shouldered the burden of not only protecting themselves and their family but they have chosen to help protect the stranger on the street as well.