Sunday, April 24, 2011

Time to move the Back Room

If you have been following me for a while, you know I have quite a collection of rants and opinions here. But as much as I like Google, there comes a time when you must stretch out and find your own way in the multiverse. And this, I have done.

Please follow me now, to the new backroom, at its new home:

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Trouble With Normal...

In Britain yesterday, "police have arrested a dozen men accused of plotting a large-scale terror attack on targets inside the United Kingdom. The suspects, who ranged in age from 17 to 28, had been under surveillance for weeks and were believed to have links to Pakistan and Bangladesh, security officials said."

In Washington, "Metro Police are randomly inspecting bags at the Braddock Road and College Park Metro stations Tuesday."

Over the last few days, in an effort to get tough on terrorism (am I the only one who thinks that is an irony?), police have been rounding up the usual suspects to steal a phrase.

This is not the first time I have raised the issue of the erosion of the basic rights of the average American, but I am beginning to wonder if we are not seeing the erosion of basic human rights in the all encompassing desire to defeat terrorism.

I do not have enough history from the 1930s, but this society of fear is beginning to make me wonder who will come into power as the savior and free us from all this tyranny. The last guy to take on that mantle was very charismatic and had the solution to the problem. And the world plunged into war for more than five years trying to defeat him.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Enough Already

If I get one more ad touting Cyber Monday I am going to stop shopping all together.

It was not enough that we had to suffer through all the Black Friday run up, with the faux sales and the pretend reasons to shop, but this whole Cyber Monday crap is getting a bit much. Everybody, from the ARRL to GCN is trying to create fake hype around a fake day. Today is Monday. In less than 20 days, it will be Christmas. The only think I can say is, if you have not made your yearly sales by now, that is not my problem, but if you keep bombarding me with more fake hype, you will find that I will find somewhere else to shop.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When Groping the Public Is For Your Protection

Fascists believe that a nation is an organic community that requires strong leadership, singular collective identity, and the will and ability to commit violence and wage war in order to keep the nation strong (Wikipedia)

“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” (attributed to Sinclair Lewis - 1935).

What I find ironic, if not a tad depressing, is that the very same people that will not leave their guns at home are the very same people that are supporting the draconian security procedures now in use by the TSA. And in both cases the rally cry is the same. "It protects us from the bad guys."

Since September 11, 2001, more American rights have been eroded, especially the perception of being innocent until proven guilty than at almost any other time in history. Forget for the moment that more people die every year in car crashes than have died in all terror related airplane incidents since the Write Brothers invented the thing. Forget that there is still no requirement to scan every piece of baggage and package that goes onto an aircraft. If you are are going to fly as a passenger on an aircraft, you are assumed to be up to no good. A potential criminal. Someone who is going to kill everyone around you.

Since September 11, 2001, the bogeyman of the Muslim terrorist has been manufactured, packaged, and sold to the American people like the hottest Christmas toy and with few exceptions, it has been purchased and believed without question, rational discussion or thought.

The American psyche seems to need a bogeyman. Initially it was the Government of King George III. Over time it has ranged from as simple as the Russians to as complex as illegal aliens. But the idea of a terrorist, especially on an airplane, seems to have taken all level of sanity and civility from people. And that is a very disheartening thing in a nation that used to praise civil liberties above all else.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget

November 11, 2010. There are troop serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, South Korea and other spots in the world that cannot, or should not be talked about for security reasons. In many cases, these soldiers are serving because they feel a certain desire to serve their country, yet their country, whether the UK, Canada, the United States or Germany, have let them down. Instead of supporting them, they are left high and dry, either when they come off active duty by not covering their medical costs, not providing adequate compensation for duty served and certainly doing little more than saying thanks, and do not let the door hit you on the way out.

The troops in the field today are not, generally, conducting the same mission that their fathers or grandfathers were. But this is not their choice. This is the choice of politicians, putting them in harms way with little end game in mind, no exit strategy and no real goal. You cannot defeat an ism, not with soldiers, not with bullets, and not with shock and awe. The war against terrorism will not be won by sacrificing a generation of soldiers.

On November 11, we are supposed to remember the sacrifice of those that really did die, defending our way of life against a tyranny of oppression and of evil. And we should also remember those who have been thrown into the meat grinder over little more than rhetoric. We should also be fighting for the cessation of hostilities when those hostilities really do not make sense.

At 11 AM, pause a moment to remember those who have given all, because they felt they were fighting for something more than themselves. And then do all you can to support them and bring them home.

In Flanders Fields

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

It is Not a Mandate...

Over the next few days, and weeks, you are going to hear phrases like the voters have given us a mandate or the will of the people and I would suggest that each time you hear those sorts of phrases you check your wallet, because it means you have just been charged.

Let us start at the top.


For those of you that think Obamacare is the scourge of Satan, you are probably just drooling at the Republican win because the scourge of your existence is about to be repealed. The reality is probably going to be somewhat different, and it will not be in your favor. In fact, I am willing to bet that you will see an increase in costs far above what the Healthcare bill intended. These increase will come subtly, such as increased co-pays or higher drug costs or other fees that you will not really notice at once. And then the premiums will increase, despite the smaller pool of insured people.

If you were hoping to finally get healthcare, well, that door has likely been slammed in your face and you are out in the cold. I suggest you drink plenty of orange juice this cold and flu season, because that is about your only option. You might also want to make sure you can prove you are in the country legally if you intend to get services from a hospital (more on that in a moment). The last statistic I read was that there was 1 in 47 Americans living without healthcare. I expect that number to go up, and the burden on local jurisdictions, especially hospitals, will increase. Which will lead to higher taxes and other costs.

The Economy

If you think your taxes will go down, think again. Sure there might not be an increase in the Federal income tax, but someone is going to have to pay for the hospital visits, as I eluded to above, and the increase in service costs that are being borne by the local jurisdictions. These new taxes will be called user fees or disposal charges or infrastructure costs, but they will be new taxes, because big business will not be paying their share, so someone has to.

And while we are looking at costs and services, expect a lot fewer services. Everything from the public library to fire and rescue services will be cut as much as possible. In my local jurisdiction, one city was talking about eliminating their paid fire department in favor of going all-volunteer, despite the overwhelming evidence from surrounding jurisdictions that there are not enough volunteers to staff fire and rescue services on the weekends, much less at noon on a Tuesday, and more and more are turning towards a paid staff. The Republicans have made no secret their hatred of things like a well funded education system, so expect class sizes to bloom and teacher salaries to decline. Which means fewer and qualified teachers, but hey, that is the problem for the next generation to deal with.

I expect they are popping the champagne on Wall Street today, which cannot be good for us. The banking industry has managed to ratchet down credit to the point where the little guy cannot buy anything, while still managing to make huge profits, but with the results of these elections, expect, again, subtle fees to start creeping into your daily banking. Fees for carrying a zero balance, fees for not using your card, fees for using your card, fees for having an account with out a high minimum balance, fees for actually spending your money. Gone are the days when it was your money.

Finally, if you are a federal worker, I hope you have a current resume and real world applicable skills, because a reduction in force is coming. All those benefits and perks that you have enjoyed are about to be yanked away from you. Forget that most of them barely help bring your salary up to par with your free-market counterparts. Forget that most of you are doing the job out of a sense of patriotism. And forget that once the reduction begins, there will not be enough federal workers to do the job, so contractors will have to be brought in and a job once paying a full time fed to do at $60,000 will cost $150,000. But the Fed will not be doing the job, so there is a real cost savings. At least on paper.


The momentum will not be towards fixing the broken immigration system, but more towards throwing up the walls and denying services. You will have to carry proof of citizenship with you if you expect access to services. And I do mean citizenship. Even if you are in the country legally, such as a resident alien, you can expect to be treated as a third class This will make some of the changes in the late 80s seem tame by comparison. But don't expect a fix. Just a continued devaluation and stripping away of your right.


Speaking of rights, expect more and more of them to be eroded. Don't ask, don't tell? Ha, that is liberal. If you are a homosexual serving in the military, forget any sort of openness or relaxed atmosphere that you have had up to now. Your best move is to bury those feelings deep and learn how to lie really well. Get yourself a friend of the opposite sex who can be your alibi, because you will likely need it.

Civil Unions between homosexuals? Expect them to be ignored more than they have been and concerted effort expended to ensure that they do not encroach further.

Roe v Wade? I would not be surprised to see that attacked and dismantled, in ways that circumvent the courts in short order.

The Outcome?

Last night's elections were not a good thing for the United States in general. The people have not spoken. Sadly, it will be ten or twenty years from now before we can look back and realize this is when the end began. But there is some hope. It is possible that the government will get so gridlocked that nothing will be accomplished and perhaps the American people, the REAL American people will begin to understand what a mess they have created and demand real fixes to it. But I am not holding my breath.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Myth of Sisyphys, or the Great Amercian Election Game

"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Pretty appropriate for Election Day 2010 here in the Excited States of America where the same old bums are arguing that they know better than the current bums.

Yeah, yeah, I have heard the rhetoric. We are done with socialism (oh really?), the current crop of deadbeats are responsible for high debt (forget for the moment that Reagan did more damage to the US budget than any president before and until Bush II), and on and on and on.

The real issue is the amazing shortness of memory. The amazing ability for the average, and not so average American to ignore the real issues and succumb to the rhetoric without applying any thought.

Changing the make up of the House of Representatives is a nice feel good measure that your voice is heard. Forgetting that those same representatives are not beholden to you the voter, but to the machines (and funds) that got them elected in the first place. It will not get you a new job. It will not turn the economy around. It will not automatically make it rain money. But it could have some very chilling effects that most people are overlooking.

A Republican house will likely overturn many of the valuable social programs that are preventing large numbers of Americans from dropping into abject poverty. The counter argument from my libertarian friends is that it isn't the government's job to keep them out of poverty. Fair enough. So what does the well educated, hardworking individual who has been out of work for more than six months do? Really? What do they do? The societal safety net that existed in the 1920s is gone. Many would argue it was pretty much gone by the 1920s. But what are they supposed to do? Congress cannot force companies to hire, and there has been very little hiring going on in the last 18 months. Most people are down to bare bones with high debt and many are trying to work, with little success. So just what are they supposed to do?

A Republican house has been trying, for generations, to tell the average, and not so average American who they can and cannot sleep with. With the backing of the even more right-wing tea party, it is likely that this time, should they win, that they might actually get the ability to enforce this view. At risk is a woman's right to chose, the rights of union between those of the same sex and raft of other rights and privileges that have been gained over the last generation.

And then there is the continuing myth that soldiers are dying in Afghanistan to protect our way of life. Right. Spin that one a little faster, because so far I am not seeing a lot of improvement in my way of life since soldiers were sent to Afghanistan and Iraq almost ten years ago. I have seen an increase in the federal deficit, although not on the official books. I have seen a degradation of my civil rights, in the form of increased security at borders and airports, and I have seen a lot of good men and women come back in steel boxes. All to protect my way of life? Death, cost, and degradation is not my way of life, nor is it the American Way of Life.

So today is the beginning of the next election cycle. Vote carefully. The devil you know could very well be better than the devil you do not.

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Bombs on a plane

Oh, look! A bomb, on an airplane, in cargo. Quel suprise...

If you live under a rock, you are unaware of attempts over the weekend to bomb a plane, via a package, sent through the mail, headed for a synagogue in Chicago. Even if you do not live under a rock, you are probably not aware that the scanning of packages that travel by airplane are not subject to the same scanning and checks that you and I are when we travel. Let me say this again, the packages, loaded into the belly of the aircraft, underneath your feet are NOT subject to the same screening as you are.

You are required to strip to almost nothing, be felt up by strangers, or x-rayed to ensure that you are not bringing an explosive on board, while UPS, the postal service, and other cargo shippers are loading who knows what on board your aircraft. Do you remember the Lockerbie bombing? It was a boombox, loaded with explosives, loaded in the belly of the aircraft. Most of the acts of sabotage, with the exception of September 11, have come from cargo in the aircraft.

So what does this tell us? Do you feel safer?

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