Nothing To See Here, Citizen!

Consider what sort of a country you live in:

A man invented a fabulous fun toy which when ingested could prove dangerous to children.  It was specifically marked as NOT for children.  Parents gave it to children, and the children were predictably harmed.  The product was banned, and the man tried to push back.  Now the government is trying to hold him personally liable for a $57 MILLION dollar fine.  Because shut up, that’s why.

A man figured out how to teach people to control their bodies.  This exposes polygraphy for the pseudoscience it truly is, and the government hates him for that.  So, for teaching people how to use their very bodies, the feds are trying to get him into PRISON.  Free speech?  Not for you, bucko!

Personal responsibility and scientific integrity seem to be somewhat less necessary to the powers that be, than they used to be.

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Operational Security in Your Pocket

I helped a guy make a cool logo and put it on his EDC pocket knife with a laser engraver. He offered to help me get my logo on my knife, and I declined.

Here’s why:

If you have identifying information on your cool stuff, it can be returned to you, or identified as yours if you lose it.  That is good as far as it goes.  But then you have to consider: do you want it to be “yours” when it is found?  There are times and places where being identified with an object may be objectionable and/or lead to a felony charge.

Once upon a time, I had the misfortune to lose a knife.  It was a very good knife for me.  It fit my hand, and it was well-balanced.  It was also a type of knife that was illegal to carry, AND I was not supposed to have it on me where I was.  It disappeared.  One body check* it was there; the next body check it was gone.  Ghosted.  If that blade had my name on it, I would have been at LEAST in some deep doo-doo when somebody found it.  As it was, I didn’t mention it to anyone and I never heard anything about it.  Somebody came up with a nice knife that day, and I skated out of trouble anonymously, for the double-win.

On a related note, anonymous weapons are also good for when the shit has well-and-truly hit the fan, and you need to be weapon-less all of a sudden.  This works really well only where policemen won’t be doing fingerprint checks and thorough scene searches, and your mileage may vary.  I recall specifically thinking one time on the way into Babies-R-Us that the caps on a certain type of display stand in the stores are loose, and have room to drop a small pistol down inside the display, to be retrieved later.  This would be on camera, but should be easy enough to hide under the guise of putting a onesie on top of the display and “forgetting” you had put it up there while shopping.  Yes, people really do think about things like this, and you should too if you are living in Condition Yellow as you should be.

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*body check: when a person has lots of things they need to have on them all the time, it is a very good idea to take inventory frequently.  When you grab your keys before leaving the house; when you get out of your car; when you get up from your desk; when you leave a work area.  Think to yourself: Wallet, keys, phone, knife and check each pocket.  It takes a second-and-a-half and keeps you from locking your keys in the car or reaching for your knife to cut something and finding it gone (or worse, getting a citation for driving without a license and proof of insurance, or heaven-forbid missing a facebook status update).  This can be modified to suit your circumstances.  For instance: Gun, tazer, mags, cuffs, ties, light, spray, keys, wallet, knife, phone might be a 3-second ritual for a Policeman which keeps him from a 3-day suspension (or much worse) when he gets off the can and leaves his gun on top of the toilet.  Amusing twist: the gun in one case was found by felon in the court for *ahem* official business.  He set up a guard over the bathroom and told another felon, also there on official business, who went and got someone not legally prohibited from touching the gun!

I Was Just Thinking, “We Could Use Another Vietnam These Days”

Somebody PLEASE explain to me in English, what the [deleted] the USA has to do with Syria that is so important we are about to start sending our sons to die in the Syrian desert.  We are about to jump into a civil war between two parties in Syria, NEITHER of which likes us and NEITHER of which we understand in the least!

Boo.

So Long, Stupid Bitch!

Those of you who know me personally (and you know who you are) will recall that I have never been a great big fan of my Darling Wife’s 2005 Buick Terraza CXL.  My admiration for it, and the attitude programmed into the computer, are reflected in my nickname for the car: Stupid Bitch (later changed to a more family-friendly Bad Robot).  Well I have to say, I like that car a whole lot better now than I did a few weeks ago.

You see, she drove it into a concrete wall.

Hold on there.

She had an unfortunate series of events involving a sandal, a floormat, an accelerator pedal, and a nearby building.  Initial damage estimates were around $2800 to replace and repaint-to-match all the damaged parts.  Do-able, and it gets the car back in a week.  Except that when they took the car apart for repairs, the frame rails were discovered to be bent.  To fix that, you’re taking the engine and transmission out and using hydraulic frame straightening equipment.  That put the preliminary estimate of repair costs almost $2000 above the value of the vehicle.  Allstate told us a number I could live with, and they are to cut us a check this week.  We’ll trade a five-figure repair bill for a check in the amount of the value of the Terraza.  To replace Bad Robot, this weekend we went out and got a 2005 Chevrolet Suburban LT.  It’s in better condition than the Terraza was when we bought it, and it’s had 3 more years of use.  The Suburban is Very Clean, and a small Toyota dealership in town was sick of looking at it for nearly two months.  We got it for a fair price, and now we have the same number of chairs, but these are higher-quality leather, plus a half-decent Bose system to replace the not-good sound system in the Buick.  We upgraded the family hauler in size, power, fit-and-finish and overall quality, cargo capacity, serviceability . . . and maybe took a little hit on fuel economy.  The Buick I didn’t trust, and I didn’t expect it to get the rest of the way to 100,000 miles without a major repair.  The Suburban is running like a top, and should reasonably be expected to last to double its current 160k miles on the spinsforever GM 5.3 liter engine.

When we left to go test drive the new truck, a friend was babysitting the Zoo for us.  I told #4 we would be getting a big truck.  When we arrived with the Suburban, he saw the size of it and declaimed about the big (stock size) tires, and declared it was a monster truck.

So, yes, we now are happy former owners of a good* Buick Terraza CXL, and I am happy to welcome Monster Truck to the family stable.

* read: dead

Well, That’s Progress

My computer is begging to be replaced.  It knows its replacement is 98% ready to rock, across the house in the garage.  Lately, it has been throwing out random bluescreens of death, with a code that translates to English as “something told the CPU to shut off the computer” with no hints at all.

Then today I installed some Windows Updates and I noticed it called out a driver was ready to update.  The voices started saying something but I ignored them and told it to install anyhow.  It said it needed to reboot, and then at boot time it gave a bluescreen immediately, before getting into Windows.

Every.Single.Time.  The stop code calls out a funky driver.  I think I remember why I had left off installing that particular driver.

The computer did, happily, still boot into Safe Mode.  Well, thanks to Jesus and Microsoft for the System Restore function, and we’re back to last weekend on the system files, and it boots into normal Windows again.  Wheeeeeee!

What Would They Do Differently?

If someone were trying to cause a tidal wave of identity theft when the Affordable Care Act Exchanges open without proper data security, what would they do?  Perhaps one good step down that road would be to skip background checks on the people who will be helping you get signed up on your new Obamacare insurance plan.

Well, that’s what they’re doing.  No, really. Well I’m sure it will be alright.  It’s not like anybody is expecting huge data security breaches or anything.

Sure, sure, it’s a cost-cutting measure to save you taxpayer dollars, or a speedemup measure to make sure you can sign up on time to get your new plan.  Right, right.  It’s paved with good intentions, is what it is.

Hat tip: Instapundit

Not “Could Be.” Is.

The press in America is speculating that Egypt may soon be in a civil war.  News flash: Egypt IS in a state of Civil War.  When your military overthrows the ruling party and kills hundreds (thousands) of them in subsequent violent clashes, what else do you call it?  No matter on which side your sympathies lie, Egypt is at war with Egypt.  What we should do is sit back and watch.  What we probably will do is send clandestine “advisors” to help the military make sure the radical islamists don’t get back into power.

It’s ugly, and it’s our fault.  The Old Boss may have been a dictator, but he was our dictator and kept the rabble in chec – until we roused the rabble enough to get the dictator thrown out.  You know, like in that other country we “smart diplomacied” into civil war.  No, the other one.  No, the other other one.

That’s some mighty fine detective work there, Nobel Peace Prize award people!  Way to pick a peacenik well in advance!

Oh, The Iron E!

 photo image_zpse0167835.jpg

The press is having a junior-grade field day about this one:  Gun safety instructor accidentally shoots student during class!  See?  Guns can’t even be trusted in the hands of a safety instructor!  Ban em all!  No guns for anyone, except the Only Ones Professhunul Enuff To . . . oh, wait. 

Hat tip: Sipsey Street Irregulars.  Please say another Prayer for Mike at Sipsey Street – his health needs some fixing up, and we need as many like him as we can get these days.

President Obama Wants to Destroy the Economy (?)

This has been bugging me for over a week now, and nobody I respect has said anything much about it at all . . . so here are MY comments on the topic, based on probably-incomplete knowledge of the dirty details.  I wrote this last week, and I have been sitting on the posting, but nobody seems to care much about this story, so…

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The President is saying he wants to unwind Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac.  Unwind in the business sense of the word means, get rid of assets and stop doing business as we know it.  FNMA and FMC are the federal agencies that buy mortgages from banks, and something like 94% of ALL mortgages are underwritten by them.  Mortgage rates are so low, it is impossible for a private bank to make a profit on the types of borrowers to whom they have to lend under Federal law

Hold on there.

This can’t be covered in a 30-second sound byte which may be why it is not being covered at all.  Grab a drink, this post is a little longer than most.

Banks have to lend to people who can be plainly seen as BAD risks for loans.  The Democrats in Congress have put pressure on banks to lend to un-creditworthy borrowers because “every American deserves a home.”  Well, a Capitalist knows every American who can *afford* a home deserves one.  The rest deserve to RENT because they are unable to maintain a mortgage due to the financial circumstances they create for themselves.  If they don’t lend to these people who are GUARANTEED to not be able to pay the banks back, the banks are branded as raaaaaacist because people with horrible credit and bad financial habits tend to be disproportionately black or hispanic – but let’s not mention that minority cultures in the USA are broken because of Federal policy ostensibly designed to help them.

To be clear, these banks would be happy to lend to the worst credit risk in history, but they’d want huge interest payments to make up for the fact that they will take a hit when the borrower eventually defaults.  But they can’t charge 17% on a mortgage because that’s *racist*, you see.  You have to write non-racist, low-interest mortgage notes these days.  So they write a mortgage they know the feds will buy from them, and sell the mortgage to the feds.  Then FNMA and FMC are the ones left holding the bag when the buyer defaults.  This means nothing to the banker who has made his profit, and morally there is no reason they *should* care in a free Capitalist system.  The problem is, those of us who pay taxes are the ones paying for these bad loans when they go bad.  You and I, John Q. Taxpayer, are the ones who lose.  If a house was valued at $800,000, and the price fell to $400,000, the loan will be abandoned by the borrower.  When an $800,000 loan goes into default and the only asset involved is a $400,000 house that we can sell, we get back $400,000, and lose $400,000.  But it’s free money from the government’s stash so who cares, right?

Hold on there.

How does this get to where Obama is destroying the economy?

He wants to unwind FNMA and FMC.  That means, in English, that he wants to get the federal government out of the mortgage lending business.   This is, in itself, a Positive Good.  Uncle Sam should never be the one lending you money to buy a house.  Also, the more bad loans he writes, the more money you and I the taxpayer will lose.  Ceasing to write these notes means we will lose less as Taxpayers.  Sounds good, right?

Hold on there.

Who writes mortgage notes?  Banks do.  Then they sell them.  After FNMA and FMC are out of the business, unlike now, the banks will have to HOLD the notes and do the servicing and foreclosing and reselling of foreclosed properties.  They, not we, will be the ones with their cash on the line if they have to hold their own notes.  If they bundle the mortgages and sell them as Mortgage Backed Securities, then investors in MBS are the ones holding the risk.  These PRIVATE organizations have profit motives: they want to make money, no matter what.  A retirement account mutual fund manager investing in your mortgage doesn’t give a damn whether you rent or own a house, they just want to make money so their clients can retire.  The banker also doesn’t love you, individually – they are interested in your money.  They don’t want your house, they want your MONEY.  So to make profits, they will have to do what they used to do: require huge down payments and only make loans at low rates to creditworthy borrowers – and jack the interest rates up through the roof for people who are guaranteed to default on the loan, so they will make their profit before the borrower defaults.  The profit is what they want.  Sure, they get their capital back when they resell a foreclosed house (if the house holds its value, a huge IF), but they don’t want your house they want PROFIT.  A person with a low credit score gets 17% loan rates on an automobile loan right now.  They will pay it on a HOUSE loan if the federal government doesn’t underwrite the loan.  The feds currently hold the interest rates artificially low because the .fed doesn’t give a damn for profit.

And then?

And then, you have people with more money tied up in new more-expensive mortgage notes NOT out there buying more stuff to go with their new house.    Then again, maybe the borrowers don’t want to pay a mortgage bill from an expensive loan that will be profitable to a bank.  They stay in their apartment.  That means they don’t go out and buy appliances, window dressing, lawn equipment, efficiency upgrades, new computers for the new rooms, new televisions and stereos for the new rooms.  They’re also not paying hook-up fees and monthly cable bills.  Them NOT doing all that, means they are not adding their money to the GDP.

In case you missed it: Buying more stuff drives the continued health of the Economy.  The ONLY thing driving the economy is people buying more stuff.  If nobody bought more stuff, then nobody would  be selling more stuff, so the sellers of more stuff would have no money to pay employees and the electric bill, and they go out of business, creating more people with no money for more stuff.

  • When mortgage rates go up, fewer people get mortgages
  • Fewer people getting mortgages all of a sudden means the economy takes a HUGE hit, all of a sudden
  • If FNMA and FMC stop underwriting mortgages, the rates will shoot up
  • This means the economy will suffer – badly
  • And Obama wants them to stop underwriting mortgages

IF  A=B
AND  IF B=C
THEN  A=C

So either:

  1. Obama wants to destroy the US national economy, or
  2. he is a total ignoramus who should never have been in the White House because he has NO IDEA how the nation works, including (in this case) how a Capitalist mortgage lending system works.  I think this is the truth.  He does not hold American values because he was not reared in places where they would ever be taught to him.  He does not understand Capitalism, so the default is collectivism.

*President Obama is not stupid.* 

He got through some tough schools and graduated, though he won’t show us his transcripts.  He’s a smart cookie.  But he’s book-smart only, and his books were stored in Ivory Towers where his leftist political philosophy was taught as The Way Things Should Be.  His parents were leftists, and he is a leftist.  You should take it for granted that he does not understand that he is proposing to destroy the economy.  He literally doesn’t know that there is something to know, and can much less wrap his mind around the problem he is going to create.

But, whether he realizes it or not, the effect is the same.

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Yes, this means the economy, and the President as the leader of the nation, are screwed either way.  Funny how that happens when government bureaucrats make the rules to run a private industry without understanding why or how that industry works!

The Internet of (bricked) Things

Brick: (v); to render an electronic device useless, or as useless as a brick, which is not very useful for things like checking your facebook status.

The Internet of Things is a concept which is coming on like the tides, and it has been a long time coming. It is coming whether you want it or not. The EPA is proposing new Energy Star rating standards which mandate your refrigerator will have to talk to the power company to see if it is the right time of day to run the cooling system, to reduce peak demand energy use. Nevermind your spoiled meat.

Already you can buy a thermostat and security systems for your house that you can control from your phone. Or someone else can. A malicious individual could run up your a/c bill or set your heat on Incinerate to drive you out of the house in the summer. If you can unlock your door with WiFi from your phone, a hacker can do it as well. Some “things” should just NEVER be on the Internet.

Well, here are two more examples to run chills up your spine:

A new type of lightbulb can be controlled from your phone. Love light, but hate all that pesky getting up to switch it on? Well that’s all fine and dandy, but then you realize that a hacker can tell your light bulb to go dark. Forever. Excuse me for thinking this risk is not worth taking.

Then again we have the government proposing standard ways for your car to talk to the car next door, as well as to the roadway.  Excuse me for not being a great big fan of a capability which allows a hacker to make my car get into a crash all by itself.  Speaking of crashes, who does the updates?  Raise your hand if you remember a Windows Update that broke everybody’s computers; I sure do.  But never fear, citizen!  The Government will ensure it is all mandated to work properly!