Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In Case You're Wondering Why You Have To Take Out A Second Mortgage To Fill Up...

...here's why:
  • Everybody is asking that question these days. The average nationwide price for all grades this week is $3.96/gallon; Californians are paying on average $4.26, the highest in the nation.

  • Why does it cost so much, especially considering that the price was below $2.00/gallon just within the last couple of years?

  • Nearly seventy percent of the price of a gallon of retail gasoline is the price of the crude oil it is refined from. Two graphs from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) make that point. The first shows the price of a gallon of gasoline (left axis) plotted against the price of a gallon of crude oil (right axis). The two move in virtual lock-step; if you know the crude oil price per gallon, add $1.00 and you’ll know the price of gasoline within a few cents. (At $105 per 42-gallon barrel, the per-gallon price of crude is $2.50; add a buck, and you get a gasoline price around $3.50.)

  • OK, so where does the $1.00 go that’s not paying for the raw product?

  • Nationwide, the average of state and federal taxes embedded into the price of a gallon of gasoline is 43 cents. We usually think of taxes the other way around, as with sales taxes. If you look at it that way, the effective “sales tax” on gasoline is 13.6%.

Here's a video explaining some of Barack Obama's failed policies, and how his actions simply don't line up with his words:

As even some in Congress are now admitting out loud, Barack Obama is deliberately trying to drive up the cost of gas for American citizens. They're doing a good job of it, too, because the average American is now paying 12% of their monthly income to put gas in their cars, which is double the rate during the Bush years:

And, according to them, it's your fault! Classy.

Anyway, it does appear that they're doing everything possible to slow down and stop U.S. oil production...and then they turn around and give billions of taxpayer dollars to environmental activists who don't think that Obama and the liberals in Congress are doing enough! Obama
is also sending billions of dollars to Brazil to help them develop the oil reserves they recently found in their waters. Is anyone else seeing a serious disconnect here?

Most Americans understand that to enact super-strict environmental regulations means economic hardship will come as a result. The American voting public is in favor of drilling in ANWR and in developing nuclear power, but Obama is considering nothing of the sort. Just the opposite, in fact, as they really don't care at all about global warming in terms of voting in the next election. Smart people...politicians should take note.

Ironically, the White House is demanding that federal agencies no longer use full-sized SUVs or sedans...unless the extra size is 'essential' to their mission. Any guesses on whether or not Obama himself will forgo the armored beast that gets him from point A to point B? Never mind that it was specifically SUV sales that saved Chrysler, which also happens to be owned by the federal government now.

Perhaps the biggest problem with this policy is that it is demonstrably costing American jobs...and the Obama administration doesn't seem to give a damn. Inexplicably, they seem happy about it. They want it to go higher. Yes, higher. Never forget that!
But hey, who wouldn't want to use the low-flush toilets that San Francisco is going to be using, all in the name of Mother Earth?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Welcome To The Internet Help Desk

As you probably know, I work in IT, and often find myself troubleshooting something for someone else. As such, I found this little comedy sketch from a few years ago to be hysterical due to its startling mirroring of real life. On this day when most people have some free time, I thought it might be something we could all enjoy:

Memorial Day

Friday, May 27, 2011

And The Winner Is...

A while back I had blogged about online storage services, and spoke about two in particular, Dropbox and SugarSync. I have been playing with the free versions of both for a while now, comparing them to see what I liked and didn't like about them. I knew that I needed to commit one way or the other and get some kind of online storage up and running sometime, but I hadn't had much time to give to the matter for a while.

Given the recent bout of home-destructing tornadoes, I figured it was time to pull the trigger before sometime became too late. So I pulled out the old spreadsheet, dusted it off, and finished it up, this time having a better idea of both tools. Before we get to the results, however, I wanted to pass along a couple other things.

First, there are a couple of online services that are very big that I mentioned briefly before. Carbonite and Mozy are two of the heavy hitters for online storage/syncing, and for good reason. They have proven track records, they're big enough that there's essentially no risk of a sudden overnight disappearance, and they offer a great set of services for a very low cost. Carbonite offers unlimited space for just $59 per year, the lowest cost of the bunch. Just a bit more expensive is the oldest player (I think) in the field, Mozy, which runs $72-120 per year (but for only 50GB and 125GB, respectively). Both have free Android and iOS apps that give you access to your sync'ed files on the go, and always-on PC syncing that shouldn't get in the way of your normal computer usage. However, these services are really designed more
for backup purposes than for sharing and flexibility. I wanted some additional features, so I looked past these for the slightly more expensive but much more feature-rich Dropbox and SugarSync.


To help describe some of the major differences between these two great services, here is a professional reviewer's take on five key areas:

Drawing comparisons between SugarSync and Dropbox is a requirement when picking out a cloud provider. It's important to understand the differences between the two platforms, and which features are more important to you.

SugarSync has taken an "everything and the kitchen sink" approach to cloud storage. It supports all major mobile OSes, including Symbian and Windows Mobile. It can sync as many folders as you'd like, between as many computers as you'd like. It does scheduled backups. It integrates with Facebook. Starting to sound like an infomercial, yeah? But wait, there's more!

Dropbox takes a decidedly different approach to the cloud, aiming to lower the bar required to jump into cloud storage. Whereas SugarSync markets itself toward the technophile who lives on the cloud, Dropbox markets itself to people who need basic cloud and sharing services. Dropbox customers just want their data to be available wherever they are.

Dropbox or SugarSync? Rye or Whole Wheat? Pepperoni or Sausage? We can only help with the first of those, so let's get to it.

Features - Winner: SugarSync

If you want features, SugarSync is your product. There really is no comparison. SugarSync aims to be your complete solution to cloud storage, providing cloud backup, "choose whatever folders you want to" sync, and integration with third party services like Facebook. Folders can be synced to mobile devices, although depending on the platform, e.g. iOS, it might not make any sense since you can't edit anything on the device.

In addition, SugarSync has editing support for certain file types, and shared foldesr with password protection, while Dropbox has none of these features. So if any of them are useful to you, you might just want to stop reading here and pick up SugarSync.

As a commenter on one of my previous articles suggested, you can get around Dropbox's single-folder limit by creating symbolic links (NTFS Junction Points for Windows users). But the process is command-line only on both Windows and Linux, and Mac OS X users need to create aliases for each folder, which I've had broken by Dropbox updates.

Ease of Setup - Winner: Dropbox

Not having so many features makes Dropbox's setup a no-brainer. Download a setup file, install it, sign in, and you're ready to sync files. If all you need is one folder, or you just want the simplicity, Dropbox is your cloud storage provider.

Dropbox has even taken into account if you move the folder accidentally. It will pop up a message and tell you to move it and or it will download the folder from the cloud. It's that kind of simplicity that is winning Dropbox more users every day.

Performance - Winner: Tie

I hate ties. But one of the most important features of cloud storage is how fast you can push and pull data from the 'Net. Both Dropbox and SugarSync were able to fully use my 25/25 Mbps Internet connection without issue, although SugarSync's throttling system left something to be desired.

Synchronization speed was equally speedy, usually within seconds for both products. Dropbox was slightly lower on RAM usage than SugarSync. But it was only a couple MB, which is close enough to be considered negligible.

Sharing - Winner: SugarSync

This was a tough one to call. But overall, SugarSync has a better sharing model. Being able to password protect folders will at least keep the general masses from stumbling upon your public file share. If you're worried about someone trying to hack your files from either provider, that means you probably shouldn't have the files accessible on the Internet in the first place.

Additionally, SugarSync's ability to integrate with Facebook Photos makes it all that much easier to have a central location for all your photos.

Accessibility - Winner: SugarSync

This was another tough one. Both platforms provide excellent accessibility options, with a plethora of mobile clients, and friendly websites. SugarSync, though, has gone the extra mile in its recent release of multilingual support. SugarSync also provides a Symbian OS app, which until Microsoft & Nokia pair up, is still the most prolific mobile OS overseas.

SugarSync has better media streaming functionality as well, with support for building playlists and viewing photo slideshows in the mobile applications. Dropbox can download those files and open them too, but the experience isn't as fluid as with SugarSync.

Security - Winner: Dropbox

Dropbox? But didn't I just say SugarSync's password-protected shares were a main reason for winning sharing? Yes, but there is more to security than password protection.

SugarSync transmits files from your machine to the cloud via an SSL-secured connection, but encrypts the files themselves with AES-128 after they reach SugarSync's servers. Dropbox encrypts files with stronger AES-256 before sending them up with a secure SSL connection.

So in the event that someone were to intercept the SSL connection with Dropbox, they'd still have to unencrypt the files. While with SugarSync their job would be done.

Pricing - Winner: SugarSync

SugarSync continues to be aggressive with its pricing. It has changed its business model at least twice since I reviewed it back in December. Right now, SugarSync offers 10 GB more storage (60 instead of 50) for the same price as Dropbox. And if you have the 100 GB plan, they are $5 a month cheaper than Dropbox.

SugarSync also offers more storage options, although supposedly you can contact Dropbox for a custom storage quote if you want more than 100 GB.

Bottom Line - Winner: SugarSync

Dropbox SugarSync
Ease of Setup X
Performance X X
Security X
Total 3 5

Being a long-time Dropbox user, this exercise opened my eyes as to what Dropbox is / is not doing for me. Dropbox's dead simple approach works for a lot of people, and honestly if you're not too technical, I would be leery of picking up SugarSync. It has a more involved setup process, and has a lot of features that you'd probably never use.

However, for people looking to synchronize and store files in the cloud and can use some of that extra whiz-bang, SugarSync is the better solution.

As with anything, making this kind of decision really comes down to deciding what your most important factors are, and then finding which service does the best job of fulfilling those factors. For me, the most important things were:

1. price per GB
2. flexibility in designating public/private folders and links
3. syncing to multiple devices

SugarSync won the price-per-GB hands down - when I logged on last night, I was greeted by a message for a one-time promo where I could get any of the plans half off. This dropped the cost of SugarSync from near the bottom to below the basement floor, and was a deal too good to pass up. I ended up purchasing one size bigger (to allow room for growth) while paying less than I had expected for the smaller size. Sweet! Carbonite was obviously the best in terms of pure available storage space, but given that I'm not likely to need the kind of gaudy space that would warrant an unlimited account, that detail was more or less mitigated, and I could settle for 'good enough' in this case.

As the reviewer notes above, SugarSync offers a much more granular level of control in determining which folders get sync'd across all machines, which are only backed up to SugarSync (no syncing to other machines), and which files are shared publicly. This introduces a level of complexity that some people may not be comfortable with, but it doesn't bother me at all, and if I'm going to be using this service as my primary backup method going forward, I'm going to want as much control as possible. SugarSync also offers the ability to upload files by e-mailing them as attachments to a special e-mail address you get when you sign up, it has a native audio player built in that lets you stream music from your account no matter what computer you're connecting from, and it allows some file editing capability. I don't recall seeing those features on any of the others, and though they're not critical, they'll probably come in handy from time to time.

Speaking of multiple devices, SugarSync supports more platforms than the others, which is of particular interest to me when looking to the future. Who knows what devices we'll own over the next five years, let alone the next 10-20? Laptops, tablets, smartphones...I'm sure we'll have a variety over time, so I thought this was a biggie. Also, SugarSync doesn't charge extra to sync multiple computers, so I could conceivably set up a computer for myself, Lindsey, and the kids, as well as multiple smartphones, all in the same account. The other services required additional licenses or some kind of incremental cost for the same level of sharing. By controlling the access into each machine, I can open up everything to Lindsey's computer and mine, but block the kiddos off from everything but one specific folder that we can use to quickly and easily transfer files back and forth. The primary limit is my own willingness and ability to learn how to use the service effectively. The only major area where I felt Dropbox had a clear hand up on SugarSync was in terms of app integration - I know of several big apps (i.e. Titanium Backup) that are tightly integrated with Dropbox. SugarSync is trying to catch up, but they're just not there yet. However, this just means a bit more manual intervention for me, and I can handle that.

I'm still planning to keep my Dropbox account and use it regularly. It's a great service, and for someone looking to establish an online storage depot that's drop-dead simple and very effective, Dropbox is a great choice. All in all, however, SugarSync offers a better set of features for my preferences, and the fact that I happened to stumble over a 50% discount made it an unbeatable deal. Even if you're just looking for a free service, I'd still recommend it for all the same reasons. You never know when you might need it, so it would be wise to spend a bit of time making some arrangements to save your pictures, videos, and documents in the event of a catastrophe.

If you are interested in starting a SugarSync account, please e-mail me and I'll send you a referral. If you start out that way, I believe that both you and I will get a couple hundred MB of additional space free, so it's another win-win.

Happy Syncing!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Whew! That Was A Close One!

About 11:15am this morning, the tornado sirens went off downtown. Those of us facing the South had been watching the dark clouds gathering for some time, so it wasn't really a surprise. Our building was evacuated down into the lowest level of the parking garage -- something no one could recall doing before, even people who had worked there for 20+ years -- where we waited for almost two hours before being given the all-clear to head back up. Fortunately, we had access to cellphones and car radios, so we were largely able to keep in touch. I wasn't really that concerned, given that we were in the equivalent of a giant underground bunker.

The tornadoes passed right over downtown, jumped the river, and headed straight toward our home. Fortunately, they were hopping up and down, and didn't touch down near us. I didn't get any pics from today, but here's one from yesterday with a similar feel to it.

My sister-in-law took these pictures today, I assume coming up from the South side of KC.

I'm thinking that Mr. Camping would have sounded a lot more reasonable if he'd predicted the end of the world today rather than last Saturday (at least to those of us in KC), but I guess we'll see if more tornadoes blow through in October, huh? I would certainly call the visuals apocalyptic, anyway!

Lindsey and Hadley were in the basement at home for quite a while, too, but fortunately there wasn't any major trouble or damage on the home front. We got an e-mail from one of the big kids' teachers mid-afternoon, so we were all accounted for and healthy.

Our part of town
apparently escaped with just minor damage, though other cities in the area were hit pretty hard. Not as hard as Joplin, but still a tragic amount of death and destruction. From what I'm seeing, we're now past the worst of the storm systems here, though the danger is still great for other places, and more rain is expected here for a couple days.

I think the strangest part of all this is that by the time I sat back down at my desk, I was staring at a clear blue sky filled with bright sunshine. It's shocking how quickly such destruction can be rained down, and then disappear again. It's freakish, if you ask me. Regardless, we're safe and whole, and very blessed.


Irony Can Be Pretty Ironic Sometimes

I was working on my computer the other night while my wife was watching the Oprah surprise show, and I couldn't help overhearing parts of it. There were lots of big stars from Hollywood, TV, and so on, all there to wish Oprah well and send her off with a bang. Many offered a few kind words about how meaningful Oprah's example had been to them.

Madonna spoke of how influential Oprah had been for young girls all over the world, and one little girl on the stage said that Oprah had inspired her that she could be President someday. Beyonce came out and echoed the sentiment by leading the crowd in a chant about how powerful women were. It was a great girl-power moment that all females could be proud of, celebrating just how far women had come in society over the past quarter century, due in part to Oprah's fabulous success. The inspiration conjured up images of women and girls rising up, throwing off the mental and emotional shackles of centuries of serving men barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, utterly rejecting age-old perceptions that women were little more than sex trinkets to be oogled and objectified.

And then...

...Beyonce launched into an energetic song and dance routine full of scantily clad females thrusting their hips, shaking their groove-thangs, rolling around on the floor groping themselves, and generally objectifying themselves by acting like oogle-worthy sex trinkets.

Anyone else see the irony here?


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pulling Back The Curtain On The Financial Cover-Up

Steve McCann at American Thinker has an excellent and sobering cautionary piece that is worth passing along to everyone you know. It's lengthy, but extremely important:

Lately one of the primary topics discussed among my business associates in Europe is the question: How long before we [the U.S. and the world] confront a new financial crisis? In fact, an overview of the financial landscape indicates there are many potential triggers that could initiate a new catastrophe.

Normally a severe crisis, such as the one in 2008, takes a number of years to evolve into a prolonged recovery cycle. Economies have to recover and bank capital has to be rebuilt concurrent with debt workouts. These factors as a rule constrain risk appetite thus allowing for an orderly transition into growth and prosperity as well a gradual rebirth of optimism. However, in just a few short years the markets are already experiencing uncontrolled optimism, excessive leverage and overpriced assets -- the central factors inherent in any financial crisis.

As John Plender writing in the Financial Times points out:

Consider the state of the asset markets. Commodities remain overblown despite the setback that recently overtook silver and subsequently spread to other markets. Developed world debt look seriously overpriced in light of the slow response to spiraling fiscal deficits in the US and elsewhere. In equities, we have a new internet bubble with shares in the likes of Facebook, Linkedln and Renren trading on absurd multiples of revenue. As for credit markets, lending standards are falling and covenant-lite [granting borrowers credit with nearly no conditions] lending has staged a comeback.

This scenario has largely been created by the world central banks, most notably the Federal Reserve who have flooded the globe with cash while the world and particularly the United States is crippled with debt. Instead of tackling head-on the unsustainable debt and spending policies of governments both in America and Europe the powers to be simply chose to muddle through by increasing liquidity instead of forcing politically painful but necessary solutions to what is a solvency problem.

Further the government and the central banks, instead of allowing banking or financial institutions to fail on an orderly basis, chose which would survive and which would fail. Those chosen to survive were propped up by massive infusions of taxpayer subsidies or cash from the central banks.

In Europe this strategy as played out in the ongoing and never-ending saga of the insolvency of countries such as Greece, Portugal, Ireland, et al has only delayed the inevitable.

In the United States, the Obama administration, since its inauguration up to the present, still refuses to acknowledge that there is a fiscal crisis -- except to pay lip-service as part of its re-election strategy. The Federal Reserve thus was forced to take up the slack by its various quantitative easing programs (buying US Treasury debt thus effectively printing money). As a result, while Wall Street and the major banking institutions are doing quite well, the rest of the economy suffers and job creation stagnates.

In another very worrisome scenario and a consequence of these polices, there is an ever increasing concentration of retail, wholesale, and investment banking among a few, chosen but systemically important, financial institutions. This includes the highly volatile derivatives business. These institutions have been designated as "too big to fail" by the government and can thus operate as if they were fully insured and guaranteed by the taxpayers (which in reality they are).

There is talk of placing more of the derivative activity though central clearinghouses to absorb some of the systemic risk; however, there is always the issue of what happens if these global institutions fail. Who is to guarantee their solvency without unleashing a financial Armageddon?

It is impossible to say when another financial crisis would descend upon the world; however the most troubling aspect is that there is nearly nothing left in the way of ammunition in either monetary or fiscal policy with which to address another financial collapse. The central banks and national governments have exhausted their ability to use the remedies of the past to resolve the next nearly inevitable crisis.

For the people of the United States the situation may prove to be more dire, as the policies of this administration have destroyed any real chance of a genuine economic recovery before another financial crisis may hit. Thus the nation is further behind than it should be had pro-growth anti-government spending actions been put in place. In fact the country may be facing another recession. Yet the ideology based Obama administration is again
pushing banks to offer sub-prime loans, one of the catalysts of the 2008 financial maelstrom.

The national debt will have been increased by nearly $4.3 Trillion from January 2008 to the end of this year. (Thirty-one percent of the total national debt in just three years for a country 222 years old.) Despite this spending, total employment has dropped by 6.4 million since May of 2008 (7.5 million including those no longer in the civilian labor force).

The most recent economic statistics do not hold out hope for any sustainable recovery despite the best efforts of the media and the Obama administration to paint a rosier picture. In April new housing starts were down 10.6% as the value of existing homes continues to decline. The consumer price index increased by 3.2% (annualized) in April thanks to food and gas prices, which show no signs of abating in the near future. On an annualized basis the US GDP grew only 1.75% in the first quarter of 2011 well below consensus estimates of 2.8 to 3.1%.

Unemployment shows no signs of improvement. Since January 2010 the average unemployment rate (per Gallup) has been 9.7%. In mid May it is 9.2%. The average underemployment rate over this period has been 19.5%. In mid May it is 19.1%. No one expects any significant improvement over the next 18 to 24 months.

The United States may well be faced with a recessionary trend coupled with a potential financial crisis with no remedy at hand because of its policies over the past two and a half years. As for the American people, who instinctively know all is not well, they must continue to reduce their personal debt burden, not assume new debt, and be prepared to ride out the storm if and when it breaks. The Republicans in Congress must ignore the hysteria and doom and gloom scenarios proffered by the media and the Democrats and dramatically reduce spending permanently before any increase in the debt ceiling.

The financial world will not collapse if the US does not raise its debt ceiling based on an artificial timetable; but there will be a major crisis of disastrous proportions down the road if spending, debt, and runaway government are not brought under control and the country cannot reimburse its bond holders with or without paying a usurious interest rate.

And keep in mind this isn't even taking into account the difficulties that most states are having, which is leading toward a potential round of state crashes. Oddly enough, while economic reality is economic reality, it is still true that economic well-being can be influenced by nothing more than perception. Unfortunately, the Obama administration's top economic guys aren't giving any sign of confidence or hope in the future of the American economy:

Seven publicly traded U.S. corporations represented on President Barack Obama’s advisory council for jobs and competitiveness — including General Electric Co. (GE) andIntel Corp. (INTC) — have devoted a growing pool of their non-U.S. earnings to investments in other countries.

As a group, multinational companies with current or former chief executive officers on Obama’s jobs council have, over the past four years, almost doubled the cumulative amounts they’ve reinvested overseas, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

By doing so, companies may be able to take advantage of faster-growing markets or lower production costs, and they can defer U.S. income taxes on profits from overseas sales. Underscoring the difference between corporate interests and the national interest, they’re also investing money elsewhere that could be helping the U.S. economy, said former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

“That’s a signal that they are betting less on America,” Reich said. “We’ve got to understand there’s a fundamental difference between the competitiveness of these companies and the competitiveness of America and American workers.”

They're creating precisely the wrong perception. While it's not worthwhile to paint an overly rosy picture, shouldn't they be more invested in ways to improve the American economy rather than simply profiting from America's lengthening economic woes? That's the problem with these liberals - they see American dominance as inherently unfair, and if America has to be taken down a notch or two, well, that's okay with them (as long as they're still making big bucks). Of course, Hot Air makes the point that if these guys aren't feeling all warm and fuzzy about Obama's policies improving the long-term prospects of our economy, maybe it's time for the public to reject it, as well.

Oh wait, it looks like that's happening too:

Registered voters nationally are not satisfied with how President Barack Obama is handling the nation’s economy. According to this McClatchy-Marist Poll, four in ten voters — 40% — approve of how the president is dealing with the country’s economy while nearly six in ten — 57% — disapprove. Only 3% are unsure. Mr. Obama’s approval rating on the economy is the lowest of his presidency. His previous low was last September when just 41% gave him a thumbs-up on the issue…

There has been a change among Democrats and independents on this question. While 71% of Democrats approve of how the president is handling the economy, 27% disapprove. This is a 12 percentage point increase in the proportion of Democrats who disapprove since January. Among independent voters, 34% approve while more than six in ten — 63% — disapprove. Here, too, there has been a jump in the proportion of voters who are dissatisfied with how Mr. Obama is dealing with the economy. In January, half — 50% — shared this view.

Not a good sign for someone looking at re-election in just a year and a half!

You see,
people who live in the real world seem to understand that there's absolutely nothing wrong with profits, despite Obama's continued assurances that profits are eeeeeeevil and should be forcefully redistributed by an all-powerful government. When you look at how that works, it's easy to see the results:

No wonder the Obama Administration doesn’t talk about the created or saved stimulus jobs anymore. There weren’t any. According to a new study the Obama-Pelosi Stimulus bill created 450,000 government jobs and delayed or destroyed 1,000,000 private sector jobs. And, it only cost you $1 trillion.

Here's the visual:

And how about this one, too:

You see, Obama and liberals like him have no problem with long-term economic damage to America. As long as they're in charge and can exempt themselves from the harsh rules and scenarios they force on us...they're okay with high unemployment, a weak dollar, and economic failure.

That's why they failed to even come up with a budget last year, and that's why they're fighting every attempt on the part of Republicans to pass one for the remainder of this year. If they were to nail down their economic policies in a formal budget, their reckless ways would be revealed for all to see. Thus, they hide. Now they've reluctantly tossed out a few kinda-sorta-maybe ideas that could be passed off a some kind of economic plan that could possibly be construed as a budget of sorts. But even that is so lame that even their fellow Democrats find it to be a joke, and something that will never pass into law.

The bottom line is that liberals are simply not capable -- whether by choice or by incompetence -- of leading this nation in a responsible and sustainable way. The sooner they are thrust from power, the more likely it is that America can recover from the all-liberal rule of the past couple years.

Monday, May 23, 2011

When Common Sense Becomes Uncommon


The Supreme Court ordered California on Monday to release tens of thousands of its prisoners to relieve overcrowding, saying that "needless suffering and death" had resulted from putting too many inmates into facilities that cannot hold them in decent conditions.

It is one of the largest prison release orders in the nation's history, and it sharply split the high court.

Justices upheld an order from a three-judge panel in California that called for releasing 38,000 to 46,000 prisoners. Since then, the state has transferred about 9,000 state inmates to county jails. As a result, the total prison population is now about 32,000 more than the capacity limit set by the panel.

What was the argument in favor of releasing these felons?

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, speaking for the majority, said California's prisons had "fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements" because of overcrowding. As many as 200 prisoners may live in gymnasium, he said, and as many as 54 prisoners share a single toilet.

To what constitutional requirements is he referring?  I don't recall a section in the Constitution describing any requirements for prisons.  Can someone throw me a bone here, or is this just another example of a judge with an agenda citing a non-existent 'constitutional' clause?

Here's what the opposition said:

In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia called the ruling "staggering" and "absurd."

He said the high court had repeatedly overruled the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for ordering the release of individual prisoners. Now, he said, the majority were ordering the release of "46,000 happy-go-lucky felons." He added that "terrible things are sure to happen as a consequence of this outrageous order." Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with him.

In a separate dissent, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the ruling conflicted with a federal law intended to limit the power of federal judges to order a release of prisoners.

Here's my favorite part:

The American Civil Liberties Union said the court had "done the right thing" by addressing the "egregious and extreme overcrowding in California's prisons."

David Fathi, director of the ACLU national prison project, said "reducing the number of people in prison not only would save the state taxpayers half a billion annually, it would lead to the implementation of truly rehabilitative programs that lower recidivism rates and create safer communities."

So, it would appear that the ACLU is more concerned with the comfort of convicted felons than with the law abiding citizens who will now have to potentially deal with the consequences of releasing tens of thousands of criminals.  I wonder how much cost will be incurred as the result of these felons committing new crimes, and the law enforcement and court systems having to re-capture, re-try, re-convict, and re-incarcerate these released felons?  I'll bet it's more than 'half a billion annually', and that's without even considering the lives of future victims and families that may be shattered and lost.

You can call me cold-hearted if you like, but I think that adding a degree of misery to living in prison is actually a good thing.  Don't get me wrong - I don't think prisons should be torture camps or anything of the sort, and I'll freely grant that someone has to make sure prisons aren't crossing the line into something illegal or inhumane.  But, if you have to share a toilet with 54 other people, and if you have to sleep on a gym floor, and if your living conditions are a little less than exemplary...well, I guess you should have thought of that before you went and committed a felony!  You've got a toilet and a roof, so you're doing better than much of the rest of the world.  Besides, you made your choice when you committed the crime, so now you have to deal with the consequences.  Prisons don't appear to be as much of a deterrent to crime anymore, and things like this certainly don't help.  Where is the common sense here?  Once again, we see liberals championing a cause where the law-abiding are penalized for the benefit of the law-breaking.  It's a consistent theme with them, and yet another reason they should never be allowed to run anything significant.

The real tragedy, however, is yet to come, when we start seeing lives and families torn apart by thieves, rapists, and murderers who were released by this terrible decision.  If you support this decision, just ask yourself: would you still support it if your spouse or child ends up being one of these future victims?

That's what I thought.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Word On American Education

From Mark Alexander at the Patriot Post:

The Directorate of Indoctrination

· Thursday, May 19, 2011

Leftist Academic Apparatchiks

"Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." --George Washington from his Farewell Address, 1796

It's the end of the school year, so Barack Hussein Obama is including commencement speech whistle stops on his 2012 campaign itinerary.

In Memphis, where Obama delivered one such speech to budding sycophants at Booker T. Washington high school, he asserted, "My administration has been working hard to make sure that we ... encourage the kind of change that's led not by Washington, DC, but by teachers and principals and parents..." (Notice the order in which he lists the agents of change: "teachers and principals and parents.")

Of course, "the kind of change" led by socialist unions in government schools across the nation is already in lock step with what "Washington, DC" dictates. They're both bent upon churning out legions of useful idiots necessary to ensure incremental implementation of Democratic Socialism. Of incremental implementation, Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev once said, "We can't expect the American people to jump from capitalism to communism, but we can assist their elected leaders in giving them small doses of socialism, until they awaken one day to find that they have communism."

I must note here that there are thousands of outstanding teachers who do not subscribe to Leftist efforts to "fundamentally transform the United States of America" via student indoctrination, partisan and sectarian curricula, and a liberal worldview. However, I must also note that, unfortunately, these brave souls are the rare exception to what was once the rule.

Prior to latter-20th century, outstanding teachers dominated public schools.

Historically, establishment of most private and public academic institutions for the young was, first and foremost, for the purpose of reading the Bible. Indeed, most Christian denominations established schools, colleges and universities to train clergy.

The nation's oldest academic institution, Harvard University, was established in 1636 and named for Puritan minister John Harvard. A 1643 college brochure identified Harvard's purpose: "To advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches." Harvard alumnus John Adams (class of 1755) wrote in 1776, "It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe." In his Dissertation on Canon and Feudal Law, Adams wrote, "Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge; I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers."

Yale, the nation's third oldest academic institution, was established in 1701 by royal charter "wherein Youth may be instructed in the Arts and Sciences [and] through the blessing of Almighty God may be fitted for Publick employment both in Church and Civil State." Yale alumnus Noah Webster (class of 1778), wrote in the forward of his 1828 Webster's American Dictionary, "In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed. ... No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people."

Princeton was founded by "New Light" Presbyterians of the Great Awakening for the purpose of training their ministers. Jonathan Dickinson, a Presbyterian minister and leader of the Great Awakening of the 1730s, was the school's co-founder and first president. Princeton alumnus James Madison (class of 1771) observed, "The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters and capacities impressed with it."

Virginia's College of William and Mary, founded in 1693, was Anglican. Baptists founded Rhode Island College, now Brown University, in 1764. Congregationalists established Dartmouth College in 1769 to extend Christianity to native populations.

Founder Benjamin Rush wrote, "[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments."

But teaching reliance upon Essential Liberty as "endowed by our Creator," in support of Rule of Law as affirmed by "the Law of Nature and nature's God" and as outlined in our Declaration of Independence, is in direct opposition to those who would advocate for tyrannical rule of men.

Benjamin Franklin asserted, "A nation of well informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins."

The importance of government education as a tool for denying Rule of Law has been advocated by generations of tyrants. In order to achieve totalitarianism, they must undertake to expel God from the academy.

Karl Marx wrote, "The education of all children, from the moment that they can get along without a mother's care, shall be in state institutions at state expense." His student Vladimir Ilyich Lenin concurred, "Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted." As Josef Stalin understood, "Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed."

Leftists also understand that the earlier socialist indoctrination is applied, the greater its force, and the greater the likelihood it will stick.

Obama promised in his inaugural speech that he would "transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age." It was a promise that he'd previously fleshed out in "The Audacity of Hope," the second of his self-congratulatory autobiographies: "It's time to redesign our schools -- not just for the sake of working parents, but also to help prepare our children for a more competitive world. Countless studies confirm the educational benefits of strong preschool programs, which is why even families which have a parent at home often seek them out."

Likewise, its sunrise-to-sunset year-round application could provide further assurance of successful indoctrination. "The same goes for longer school days, summer school, and after school programs," writes Obama.

To that end, according to the Communist Party Education Workers Congress, "We must create out of the younger generation a generation of Communists. We must turn children, who can be shaped like wax, into real, good Communists. ... We must remove the children from the crude influence of their families. We must take them over and, to speak frankly, nationalize them. From the first days of their lives they will be under the healthy influence of Communist children's nurseries and schools. There they will grow up to be real Communists."

Of course, the Left's indoctrination agenda has been subject to exposure since its inception.

Benjamin Disraeli, the conservative 19th-century British prime minister, noted, "Wherever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been discovered that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery." His contemporary, John Stuart Mill, warned, "A general State education is a mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly like one another; and as the mold in which it casts them is that which pleases the dominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, an aristocracy, or a majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body."

The great 18th-century philosopher Edmund Burke observed, "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." Indeed, that delusion is dependent on erasing the knowledge of the past, as 20th-century philosopher George Santayana concluded, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "If a nation expects to be ignorant -- and free -- in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

Caveat emptor, my fellow Patriots! The ultimate objective of Leftist Apparatchiks in the Democrats' dumbed-down Directorate of Indoctrination is to disenfranchise Liberty.

They're playing to win, and playing for keeps. Are we?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

He Did What? I Mean...He Didn't Do What?

There really can be no better example of the double standard of the media than this:

When Air Force One flew over New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and a picture of George W. Bush looking out the window got released to the press, Bush was pilloried for not showing more concern for the flooded and battered victims in the city below. Last week, when Air Force One flew over the flooded Mississippi River, where thousands of people struggle to survive in the disaster area, no one got a picture of Barack Obama looking out the window as he flew to two Texas fundraisers. And there's a reason for that:

President Obama doesn't seem to have even peered out his Air Force One window to view the swelling Mississippi, a minimal show of interest for which George W. Bush was pilloried when he took a peek at the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. At least Bush bothered to look.

Obama is traveling today OVER the devastation being wrought by the Mississippi in order to get to events in Texas, where he will rally his Hispanic supporters with a speech on immigration in El Paso and then head to the Lone Star state's liberal bastion of Austin for two fundraisers.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who spoke with reporters aboard Air Force One, was asked whether Obama had bothered to get a view from above.

"I haven't seen him do that but I haven't been with him for the full flight so far," Carney said.

Well, it certainly doesn't sound like they were on the lookout for it, and it's clear the plane is not intentionally headed over a particularly devastated area for a look-see.

Hey, don't feel too bad in the flood plain, people.  Air Force One flew over the massive fires in Texas, and Obama didn't bother to look at that either, although Keith Koffler reports that journalists could see the smoke from the airplane.

Look, it's no secret to anyone who pays attention to politics (and is honest enough to admit it) that the media is full-throated liberal, and will always protect their side while antagonizing the Right, even when it's unjustified.  The point of posting this is to try to illustrate to the apolitical observer -- which is actually a big chunk of the country -- of that fact.  Once you understand just how slanted the media coverage is of essentially every politically-related event, it suddenly becomes much more apparent what's really going on in current events.

And that, my friends, is what we need.  Open eyes, intelligent minds, and honest judgment.  If we get that, the votes will take care of themselves in such numbers that not even unions and liberal judges can cheat enough to win, and that is what it will take to get these dangerous, irresponsible, and reckless liberals out of power while there's still time to fix the damage they've caused.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When Environmental Liberalism Wins The Day...

...you pay. Here's a looming example that, like gas prices, you will not be able to escape:
Get ready to dump your government-banned incandescent light bulbs and replace them with some LED-inspired lighting. The government ban on 100-watt incandescent bulbs goes into effect January 2012 and, like it or not, LED may be the replacement.

Light bulb manufacturers are looking at LED technology because it is energy-efficient and easily mass produced. All it takes to create an LED bulb is a handful of these light-emitting diodes and some bright engineers to figure out how to cram them into a standard pear-shaped bulb. Progress comes with a price tag and these 100-watt LED bulbs may cost as much as $50 each when they first arrive.

If you haven't started already, you may want to stockpile these incandescent bulbs and avoid the riots. It's almost a guarantee that shoppers will erupt when they discover a single light bulb now costs more than a carton of cigarettes and a six-pack of beer.

That's right, this ban has already been passed into law, and it will take effect in just over six months. The only hope of avoiding it is to badger, heckle, and pressure Congress to repeal it before January. Otherwise, incandescent light bulbs -- easily disposable and costing less than $1 each -- will be illegal to sell in stores, leaving you with no other option but $5 mercury-filled biohazards or $50 LED bulbs.

This is what happens when liberals get to dictate policy. Even now, the Obama administration is making plans to reward schools for being green rather than excelling at math, reading, or science, all while American jobs are disappearing because these bulbs will be illegal to manufacture or sell in the U.S. It would be hilarious, if it wasn't so damaging to both our national education system and our economic system. Instead, it's alarming to the highest degree, and yet another concrete example of how liberals simply cannot be trusted to govern this nation.

Few thought much of it when this law was passed in 2007, but I suspect it'll get a lot more press in the next few months. As an interesting experiment, just go through and count the number of light bulbs in your house, and then multiply it by $50 - how many hundreds of dollars will it cost you to fill each fixture just once? Seems almost like a new environmentalism tax to me, and it's a stiff one!

But hey, don't worry...the Department of Energy expects the cost of the LED bulbs to drop to about $10 each by 2015. Yeah, that's a lot better.

A Real Medicare Solution

More good stuff from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity:

I'm sure we'll hear more about this as time goes on. Once again, the key question here is: who should control your health insurance decisions? Liberals like Barack Obama think the government should. Conservatives think that you should.

It is possible to reform Medicare without causing everything to collapse in on itself, but only if we use free market solutions like the one described above. Of course, that means power reverts back to the hands of the people rather than a centralized government...which is precisely why liberals hate it and will fight it every step of the way. If they succeed, it's not a question of if our system will collapse...it's simply a question of when.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Liberalism Portrayed Honestly = Self-Parody

Seriously, you just can't make this stuff up:

For much, much more on this and other transparency issues, check this out.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Illegal Immigration Pops Up Again

Trying to distract Americans from the ailing economy, Barack Obama gave a major speech on illegal immigration last week. It was basically the typical liberal amnesty pap designed to rile up the Hispanic base, full of recycled slogans and political buzzwords. Of course, it was so toothless that even the New York Times suggested that it will take a lot more than the same old words to garner the same kind of support Obama got from Hispanic voters in 2008. Here's why:
Here’s the complete transcript in case you’re moved to read it, although I don’t know why you would be. You’ve heard this speech a hundred times before, and not just from Obama. Enforcement is better than it’s ever been, we have too many people “living in the shadows,” etc etc, so it’s time we got serious about amnesty. Even so, this is good politics for him insofar as there’s a lot of upside and little downside. No one expects it to go anywhere in Congress, and even if it did he’d have bipartisan cover, so the risk of alienating voters who think the solution to high unemployment might not be a sudden glut of legal labor is small. (In fact, so horrible has the economy been that America’s illegal population actually dropped by the largest amount in 30 years in 2009 and is presumably dropping still. Enforcement, Hopenchange-style.) Meanwhile, he gets to reassure Latinos that he’s serious enough about this issue to put his face to it in a major speech, even if he’s not quite serious enough to do anything about it via an executive order.

It's just pandering, but it's so shallow that even liberals recognize it as just pandering. I thought this was interesting, too:
He also assured the audience that the border fence is now “basically complete,” which is news to Jim DeMint and news to anyone else who remembers the “virtual fence” being touted as a deus ex machina in policing the border. The feds finally abandoned that idea just four months ago because — surprise — it wasn’t working. But maybe that’s a good thing. If we slide back into a recession, we might start seeing Americans try to sneak over into Mexico.

The problem with that, of course, is that Mexico has an extremely harsh illegal immigration policy that includes instant imprisonment or worse. Go figure, huh?

Jim Geraghty, in a recent issue of his NRO newsletter, offered the following synopsis and analysis:

I think it's safe to say that Obama's post-OBL kill bump turned out to be pretty modest on his overall approval rating. One poll had it as little as a point, the New York Times one had it as large as 11 percentage points, and most had it in the significant-but-not-overwhelming single digits. There was little or no spillover effect on Obama's approval rating on the economy.

At some point, Obama was going to have to move from celebrating the bin Laden kill to some other issue, and I wondered what policy agenda item he would try to push. The surprising answer: Immigration.

Dan Foster summarizes
: "The president just concluded what was billed as a major policy speech on immigration in El Paso. In fact there was little news in it. Obama reaffirmed his support for the DREAM Act and for a path to citizenship for large numbers of illegal aliens, while touting his efforts to increase deportations and improve border enforcement. Perhaps the most colorful bit of rhetoric was his dinging of Republicans for being unsatisfied with border security. 'All the stuff they've asked for, we've done,' he said, and the fence along the Mexican border 'is now basically complete.' (That's not true, by the bye). But Republicans want still more, he said. 'Maybe they'll need a moat, maybe they'll need alligators.'"

Was he serious? Because that sounds a lot better than what we've got now. It's revealing that Obama's idea of a laugh line is probably actually appealing to a majority of the American people.

Jill at Pundit & Pundette thinks we'll be hearing a lot of that "punchline
": "I hope you enjoyed that one; you'll be hearing it at least thirty more times as candidate Obama travels the country, cynically using amnesty as a reelection tool. I fear the 'moat with alligators' is the new sippin'-on-a-Slurpy line. Sigh. I suddenly feel the urge to go have a little lie-down; it's going to be a long, long summer/fall/winter/spring/summer/fall."

Kevin Williamson
just flays Obama's muddy priorities:

In case you've missed it, Texas has seen about 3,400 square miles of land -- an area about the size of Puerto Rico -- destroyed by wildfires. Pres. Barack Obama hit Texas to do some political fund-raising and give some speeches about immigration; Gov. Rick Perry suggested that he take a gubernatorially guided tour of some of the damage. The president couldn't be bothered, but asked the governor to come to El Paso to act as a prop at a political event. Governor Perry declined.

Governor Perry often complains that the federal government simultaneously fails to do its real work and involves itself in things that are not real national priorities. The last time the president visited Texas, Governor Perry greeted him with a letter in hand demanding that the federal government execute its border-security duties. (It still won't.) The governor is asking for a federal emergency declaration that will make additional firefighting resources available. The Obama administration is not budging. Never mind that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has seen fit to declare a snowstorm -- in Connecticut, in the winter -- a federal disaster this year, along with "severe winter storms" in Oklahoma and Missouri. . . .

In Texas, President Obama has more important things to do, such as raising money and pandering to Hispanic voters by dangling the promise of "comprehensive" immigration reform before them, knowing that it's a go-nowhere proposition. He'll visit a city on a border that his government controls about as well as President Zardari controls his, and which is at times about as dangerous.

The BlogProf asks
, "How about just enforcing immigration law? Is that too much to ask since 1) it's the feds responsibility via the US Constitution, 2) it's the law as passed by the Congress pursuant to said responsibility, and 3) you swore an oath to uphold the US Constitution and those those laws you smug illegal alien-enabling community organizer!"

People who live and work on the border -- and are thus intimately familiar with the reality of the dangerous nature of the situation -- are disappointed with Obama's belittling of the opposition into the imagery of moats and alligators, especially in the wake of a devastating fire most likely started by illegal immigrant criminals:
"It is with great wonderment and sadness that we listened to your May 10 speech on immigration issues. All of the joking about moats and alligators cut residents of Portal, AZ, to the core as we sheltered with friends or at a Red Cross evacuation site, to survive a terrible fire that still threatens our lives and property, as well as our ecotourism-based economy," ...

“I’m really disappointed at current border security, I’m really disappointed at the president’s speech saying that people like me wants moats with alligators, but moats with alligators might work..."

Because at least that would be something - right now, most of the border is an unobserved stretch of sandy ground, so even a moat with alligators would be an improvement. They, unlike Obama and liberals like him, recognize that crime, drugs, and violence threaten the border states and cities, but also spill over into other states and cities, as well. Too bad those in charge are either too stupid or too politically correct to recognize genuine danger when it's staring them in the face. Or they don't care...

Anyway, let's look at some other illegal immigration-related subjects, like the Arizona law that mirrored the federal law that Obama and the Democrats blasted loudly, and that the DOJ took to court. The short update is that Arizona is taking it to the Supreme Court. At the same time, since the federal government is failing its responsibility to protect Americans close to the border, Arizona is also taking private donations to build their own fence. I very much look forward to hearing how that works out, and how much money they raise. I'm guessing it'll be a lot!

Speaking of border security, only 30% think that the border is even minimally secure, while a whopping 64% disagree. Most voters think that it's more important to address border security before dealing with the illegals already here. I think it's also interesting to note that 59% of Americans think that federal funding should be cut off from sanctuary cities (cities where they deliberately publicize the fact that they won't ask about immigration status, or do anything about it even if they accidentally find out).

Georgia is the latest state to adopt tough new immigration laws in the vacuum caused by federal failures on the issue. I'm sure it won't be the last.
Kansas recently adopted a more stringent voter ID law, a no-brainer if there ever was one.

You see, every day Americans like you and me understand that illegal immigration is a massive, massive problem. With the federal government consistently failing or refusing to protect American citizens from this problem -- like with the idiot Clinton-appointed judge in Connecticut who ruled that illegal immigrants can sue border agents for abuse -- it is left to the states and individual citizens to protect themselves.

It's a tragedy when states and citizens have to protect themselves not only from the enemy, but from our own federal government, as well.