The Opression of the Tolerant

Yeah, I’m kind of late to the Chik-Fil-A party but it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Being a good Southern boy, they’ve always been first and foremost in my mind whenever the term “chicken sammich” is uttered. My heart leaped with joy when they (and Waffle House) started opening franchises up here in the blighted cultural wasteland that is Ohio.*

Having established that foundational truth, I’m ashamed of myself for not participating in Wednesday’s grand nationwide customer love-in. Couldn’t get away from work for the time it would’ve taken just to sit in the drive-through. Thursday was a different story, but it turns out they were just as crowded! Apparently everyone who couldn’t make it the day before (like moi) was there to make up for it.

Well, good for them. Because you all know what this is really about, right (besides yummy sammiches)? Continue reading “The Opression of the Tolerant”

What’s Old Is New Again

In the closing notes of Perigee, I mentioned that one of the biggest reasons spaceflight has been so stupendously expensive is the problem of reusability. A big rocket is every bit as expensive and complex as a new airliner, but it all gets thrown away after one flight.

Think you could afford a weekend jaunt to Vegas if Southwest ditched their 737s at the end of every trip? For that matter, could they even afford to do business like that?

The answer, obviously, is a big fat NO.

There are other things at work, namely a bureaucratic legacy that has made it overly complicated to build any launchers for NASA (especially “human rated” ones). Their own internal studies admitted that if SpaceX had developed the Falcon launcher family along the traditional guvmint model, it would’ve increased costs by a factor of 10 or so.

The Air Force’s “evolved expendable launch vehicle” (EELV) program didn’t bring those costs down very much. But they did result in some way-cool rockets than can be used for lots of stuff besides milsats. Here’s a Delta IV-Heavy, which will take NASA’s Orion capsule on its first unmanned test flight next year:

Delta IV Heavy NROL-15

Impressive. But now, check out this much smaller rocket – size doesn’t matter here, look at what it does:

Masten Xaero

Now for something that combines really big rockets with vertical landing, like something from a 50’s sci-fi movie. Given SpaceX’s success record, I have no doubt they’ll be able to make it happen:

SpaceX Reusable Falcon 9

Buckle up!

Nothing political going on here. Move along. All is well!

Not.

Okay, I can’t not post something about the Obamacare ruling. This is stunning, not to put too fine a point on it. I had tried very hard not to get my hopes up too much, because it just doesn’t do any good to try and make predictions about such an opaque institution. The Justices frequently take positions that are 180 degrees from what we might expect. And a lot of people figured Roberts would vote to uphold only if he saw the verdict going that way regardless, in order to be able to write the majority opinion. This would’ve allowed him to set the boundaries of this law and hopefully limit the damage.

No joy – he ended up being the swing vote. I mean, really? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

My old man was a judge, so that plus watching Law & Order is the extent of my legal education. I suppose they have the authority to say the individual mandate can be considered a tax, though I think that’s a load of crap: if the government’s attorneys weren’t willing to make that argument, how can the Justices infer it on their behalf?

If there is any solace to be found in this, it’s that the mandate was rejected under the Commerce Clause. That is, the Congress can’t force us to buy something just because they think it’s good for us (unless they call it a tax, I guess).

Justice Roberts did qualify his opinion: “Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.” And Rand Simberg posted this money quote from Roberts on his blog: “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”

Dadgum straight, that. Frakkin’ A, bubba. So we lick our wounds, pick ourselves up, and get on with the serious business of returning this country to some form of a Constitutional, representative Republic.

What’s never mentioned enough in all the jackassery that surrounds the health care issue is that the Left insists on imposing a 100% solution to a 10% problem.

I’m all for helping out people who are in real trouble, but that’s never been what this is really all about. Just because something sounds like a nice thing to do doesn’t make it constitutional.

I pray we are not yet completely at the mercy of the low-information voters, because there’s no shortage of political animals who view health care as something else entirely – that is, an opportunity to exert control.

We are increasingly ruled by tyrants. Plan and vote accordingly.

It’s On Like Donkey Kong

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department has followed the EU’s lead and let the other shoe drop in the Apple / Big Publishing “agency pricing” scheme. There had been talk that some of them were trying to settle before things went this far, but it looks like DOJ is in the mood to set some examples.

Even if they win, ask Microsoft how fighting Capitol Hill worked out for them back in the 90’s. Forbes has a bit of a different take on this, but in my opinion they’re blinded by anti-administration bias. Understandable, since if the Big Six were selling semi-automatic weapons to Mexican drug cartels or organizing vigilante posses in Florida, this DOJ would probably give them a pass.

But I digress…

Continue reading “It’s On Like Donkey Kong”

The Zombie Apocalypse: Coming To Your Neighborhood!

A Reuters story on preparing for societal collapse has been getting a lot of blog attention this weekend. The piece is mostly even-handed, considering the source. I guess the survivalist image has come a long way from that of gun-totin’ hilljacks squirreled away in their mountain cabins. The new term is “prepper”, thank you very much. And I must admit to being of the same mind, if not in practice.

I think what’s driving this is a looming realization of the fragility of our civilization, and the sense that it wouldn’t take much to bring it all crashing down. It’s been said to be a thin veneer easily stripped away, and that rings true.

So what’s driving otherwise normal people to think like this? Believe me, there are a lot more of them (us?) than you might think. Anyone who has paid attention to current events for the past decade probably doesn’t keep it buried too far in the backs of their minds. It doesn’t require a belief in any kind of end-times eschatology or the Mayan calendar, though I suppose that helps. All it takes is awareness and the ability to draw likely conclusions. And the past ten years have illustrated just how tenuous our hold on civilization can be. Consider:

9/11. I know it’s been done to death, but calling it our generation’s Pearl Harbor is no exaggeration. Thousands of our fellow citizens died through the simple act of getting up and going to work in mostly average jobs. Does anyone recall the general freak-out that ensued afterwards? I remember driving home from work and seeing cars lined up at gas pumps like it was 1978 again, some stations closed while others were forced to jack up their prices to $5.00 a gallon or more. Yes, I said forced. A friend of mine ran a gas station at the time and that was the only way he could keep from getting bled dry by panicked buyers. The only alternative would’ve been actual rationing. And for exercising sound supply/demand judgment, these business owners were hauled into court by our state’s AG.

Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans in particular. Remember the chaos of that little episode? We all know the Bushies took a lot of blame for not making everything hunky-dory within the first 72 hours, but what exactly were they supposed to do in the face of such a total calamity? Pre-position all those logistics close enough to make a difference, and guess what would’ve happened…yep, it would’ve all been swamped and of absolutely no use to anyone. Sometimes natural disasters just happen, and it may be beyond the reach of our government to come save us before things get really nasty. In the end, we’re all responsible for our own lives. Deal with it. Because when seconds count, the cops are only minutes away.

Which reminds me of how poorly NOLA handled things in the first place. Confiscated firearms, cops shooting people and covering it up, plus the gratuitous looting and general mayhem. All that on top of a city flooded by brackish water choked with debris, gators, venomous snakes, and corpses. What a friggin’ Walking Dead style nightmare that must have been.

2008. The clincher for most of us. I have no idea how close we really came to a complete financial meltdown, but it hasn’t left my memory. There was a lot of BS being spread around back then, between the election and Hank Paulson’s burning need to bail out his buddies. But all that crap about “we must do this in the next 3 days or the world economy will collapse” was, well, crap, precisely because it took Congress 2 more weeks to pass TARP. Which was promptly re-purposed in ways that we’re still figuring out. But obviously some really bad $#!+ was going on because we really haven’t bounced back from it. The housing market certainly hasn’t, and probably won’t for years to come. Even if it’s already hit bottom, most of us will need 5 to 7 years to recoup lost equity. But that’s not really the worst of it.

What’s worse is that we’ve done nothing to fix the underlying problems that nearly froze our financial system, and in fact have done much that will probably ensure something even worse. I really don’t care what your politics are, the truth will eventually win out. Facts is facts. I’ve said before, you can’t ignore the laws of economics any more than physics. The consequences just take longer to reveal themselves.

The one aspect of the ’08 meltdown that has stuck with me was the danger of a total credit freeze-up. And I suspect it’s the same reason a lot of people identify with the “preppers”.  Namely, if you have any understanding of retail business and supply chains, you know what a mortal danger sudden loss of credit can be. I’ve been in air transportation my entire adult life and therefore understand supply chains pretty well. “Just in time” logistics are how a lot of retail businesses (read groceries and pharmacies) keep the shelves stocked. There’s not a lot of elasticity built into that system, because we just count on everything working.

But what I didn’t understand until ’08 was the financial side of the equation. Not until I spent a couple of hours sitting next to a local industrialist as we were both flying home from business trips. In the middle of the financial crisis, he gave me a crash course in how companies use revolving credit. Namely, most of the stores we’re all used to relying on for life’s necessities stock their shelves using short-term rollover loans. And there was a real danger of that completely freezing up. Your average grocery store has maybe two day’s worth of inventory in stock. What happens if they have no money to buy this weekend’s inventory? Look no further than your local supermarket the night before a major weather event. Even here in Ohio, where it’s kind of expected, the prospect of a mild winter storm will have people mobbing the stores.

So what happens if there’s a run on Kroger because of economic disruption, and they no longer have access to their revolving credit to rebuild inventory? Now multiply that thousands of times over, in communities across the country. Not a pretty thought.

Another character-building aspect of being in aviation is that I know what job disruption feels like. Layoffs happen. A lot. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt three times over. But 2008 was the first time in my life that I had ever actually thought about what a luxury we have in just putting food on the table. Because I finally understood how little room for error there is in the system we all rely on for essential nutrition and medicine.

The icing on the cake is that during the intervening years, the entire world’s debt load has exploded. One office of our government is essentially buying up the IOUs issued by another office of government. When has that ever turned out well? And given the general decline in our society’s civility and self-control, I don’t expect most people to handle any major disruptions well at all.

So what? What can an average person do?

More than he thinks, I imagine. Even if the economy weren’t an ongoing concern, it’s always a good idea to keep plenty of non-perishable food around. You never know when there could be a disruption, especially if you live in an area prone to major natural events (Midwestern winters, Southern hurricanes, Western earthquakes). My family doesn’t have a basement full of supplies but we do generally keep a week’s worth of groceries around, just because life gets busy. If we got hit by a blizzard or other disruption, we’d be all right.

What else? Batteries, candles, radios, a full can of gas always makes sense. What if things really go down the drain? A generator, if you can afford it. “Go-bags”, backpacks filled with the bare essentials that you’d want to have on hand if it were necessary to get out of town for a few days on short notice.

Firearms, with a realistic stash of ammo. A standard-issue GI ammo can full of 9mm, 20ga., and .22lr makes me happy. Like it or not, we live in a country where we recognize your God-given right to defend yourself and your family. In modern times, that means something preferably of the large-caliber variety. Providing for your family can be accomplished with the small-caliber variety, but let’s face it: if things really get that bad, everybody else is going to have the same idea in which case those gun-totin’ hilljacks up in the mountains will have the definite advantage.

Chances are you’ll never have to worry about any of that stuff. Better to have and never need, than to need and not have. Everyone has to get to their own comfort level, but I suppose the bottom line in all this is what they taught me way back in the Boy Scouts: Be Prepared.

The Mask Finally Slips

…and the Left reveals their true intentions. Separately, any one of these stories would be just more dismaying evidence of the sorry state of our politics. But taken together, they paint a truly frightening picture:

Climate Changers Game Plan Revealed. Surprise: world domination! Worth considering when you read the ClimateGate 2.0 emails.

Obama’s True Convictions Revealed. Surprise: Marxism! Okay, so it’s not a surprise for anyone who’s actually been paying attention.

Occupy Wall Street’s Goal Revealed. Surprise: crush Capitalism!

Fast & Furious Objective Revealed. Surprise: gun control!

Democrats Abandon the Middle Class in favor of either extreme of the income-distribution curve: those who rely on government handouts and the very wealthy who supposedly pay for it all. In reality, all of us who actually work for a living are paying for it all. And our kids. And their kids…

And lest I forget, former SEIU thug-in-chief Andy Stern advocates for a Chinese Communist economic model in the Wall Street Journal, of all places. Before you dismiss that as having any relevance, don’t forget that the former head Purple People Beater has been the single most frequent visitor to the Obama White House.

At this point, it’d make perfect sense for Dr. Evil to surface off of Washington in his hidden submarine lair to demand one trillion dollars. And we would laugh collectively as Geithner and Bernanke happily roll up with a dump truck’s load of freshly-minted bills, as Dr. Evil certainly wouldn’t appreciate what a screw job they’d just given him.

After decades of hiding their true intentions, the radicals who’ve taken over the Democratic Party have finally dropped any pretense of hiding what they’re really all about. It’s a sign that they see this as the end game, all or nothing.

Well, thank God for that, however infuriating they may be. So bring it, you Commie pukes. And I mean that in the true sense of the word, as that’s the ideology you’ve aligned yourselves with. It’s nice that you’ve finally admitted to it. 2012 will be one of the most consequential elections in our history, equal to 1860 or 1932. It’s only fitting that we know what our choices are really going to be.

Of course, that assumes the Republicans get their collective act together and present us with an actual choice, and not just a less-scary version of what the Dims have been pushing since the Sixties. Hint: that probably won’t be coming from the Mittster.

History Repeats Itself

First as tragedy, next as farce.

And that, my friends, is the only thought Karl Marx ever expressed that I would even halfway agree with (assuming I’m correct in attributing that to him).

So what’s got me wound up on such a topic? Current events, as usual.

At the top of the list would be supposedly intelligent people believing we can solve the world’s financial problems by just printing more money. And where, exactly, has that worked whenever it’s been tried? Think Wiemar Germany or Zimbabwe can’t happen here? You can’t ignore the laws of economics any more than you can physics. The effects just take longer to materialize.

Next, an administration which foolishly encourages Israel’s enemies (and by extension, our own).

Just for fun, how about the rise of the “Fifth Reich“? (No one expected the Spanish Inquisition!)

Finally, our pathetic inability to understand or appreciate our own history, which just cements the deal. I’ve never been one to think like a tin-foil-hat survivalist, but the likelihood of a global catastrophe just keeps growing . 1914 or 1938, pick your year, because I fear we’re about to find out what that was like.

College Isn’t Always The Right Choice

Jay Leno explains why:

I would bet a lot of the OccuDrones are wishing they’d learned this (or electrical work, or even plumbing) instead of wasting four years and tens of thousands on Medieval French Literature.

Hint: if the title of your major ends in “…Studies”, it’s probably not worth your time. And certainly not your money.

UPDATE: If Jay Leno’s opinion isn’t good enough, there’s always Mike Rowe’s WORKS foundation.

Are You Smarter Than a Wall Street Occupier?

Judging by the results of this survey, I’d say your average single-celled organism might have more brain power.

This whole sorry movement is really just the end result of decades of undermining our education standards. Add to that far too many young people who go on to major in absolutely useless subjects only to end up saddled with massive debt and no job prospects. This quote from a NY Times story is priceless:

In Boston, a hub of colleges and universities, a higher education theme emerged among protesters. “What did I spend the last four years doing…Fluent in Mandarin and French and no one wants to go for that? And it’s like, now what?”

Yes, the economy’s in the tank. But jobs are not non-existent, and you might be more competitive if you’d majored in something useful instead of Medieval French Literature with a minor in Transgender Victim Studies. What stands out in the above piece is how many of them seem to be from the artsy-crafty crowd. Strangely, I don’t see many stories about newly-minted engineers being out of work. Check the websites of Boeing, Lockheed, SpaceX, etc. and you’ll find they’re still hiring in droves.

Look, my degree’s in English. I get it. I likewise didn’t give serious thought to what good it’d actually do for me in the marketplace since I was headed for the military. And that was 25 years ago, when the Reagan Boom was in full swing. When the economy is barely avoiding depression, employers can afford to be a lot more choosy. They have to be.

What’s sad is that this crowd just doesn’t get it. They don’t understand where their anger really needs to be focused because they’ve come up through a system that left them completely unprepared for reality.

I feel sorry for a lot of these people, seriously. This guy, not so much: