Sunday, August 28, 2011

SHTF Planning

I have lots of blog posts backing up in my brain. Global Warming & the GOP candidates. The debt Super Committee. Excepting the United Way.

What's on my mind tonight is my SHTF bag, or the lack of one.

Don't ask me how, but somehow I found myself linking from a Twitter post to a survivalist website called Survival Cache - where I spent an hour browsing around and thinking Oh My God. Weapons. Foodstuffs. Camping gear. Etc.

What caught my eye was an item called an "SHTF Bag". What I used to call a "Go Bag" or a "Bugout Bag". This is a prepared bag for when something Hits the Fan. What that something is could be a lot of things: tornado, flooding, anarchy. Whatever. Grab this bag and go - assuming of course that you can get gone in whatever vehicle you have. I miss my 4WD truck.

I am grateful that I seem to live in a US geographical region that seems to have been left unscathed by the natural disaster of the week on CNN. As the East Coast is battened down from a earthquake followed by a hurricane - yikes! - I am happily indulging my hobbies in the off-hours. Go bag resting sleepily in a closet.

Lately though, I am less envisioning the need for a SHTF bag from natural disasters than I am from the unraveling of civil society. Political unrest. Flash mob thug gangs. All becoming staples of our nightly news. It's only going to get worse as our debt crisis worsens.

Which brings me to the book I just ordered from Amazon for my Kindle: Mark Steyn's "After America: Get ready for Armageddon". Yeah. I've read the prologue already. Grim. Essentially he has the United States of America not existing as that within twenty years. We're well into the decline, heading for the Fall.

Steyn: "America has squandered its supposedly unipolar moment on the world's most expensive suicide"

I need to step up my SHTF planning.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A 33 1/3 Vinyl Time Capsule

It's Roger Ebert's fault that I'm sneezing tonight.

Last week I read his brilliant blog post called "Clinging to the Rear View Mirror" about living in the techology of the past. A better piece of writing you will not find this month. Go read it.

I found myself transfixed by a photo of an old turntable playing an LP album that illustrated the article. Wow. I was instantly transported back in time to junior high when I would sit in my room upstairs and listen to albums. Later in my teen years. Even later in my college dorm room - circa late '70's.

I wish I still had a turntable. Because I still have LP albums. Vinyl. Unplayed and boxed for at least the last 10 years since I moved into this house, and probably a long time before that.

So, tonight I went into the garage and got the albums out of the crumbling box and catalogued them.

Here are the roughly 80 LP albums resting leisurely on a shelf in my garage:

Amy Grant                                   Age to Age
America                                       History: Greatest Hits
Applegate & Co                            Live (Peoria,IL bluegrass band)
Barbara Streisand                         A Star is Born (Soundtrack)
The Beatles                                  Love Songs (Double Album)
Bee Gees                                     Here at Last: Live
Bee Gees                                     Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack
Billy Joel                                      Piano Man
Billy Joel                                      Songs in the Attic
Billy Joel                                      52nd Street
Cat Stevens                                 Teaser and the Firecat
Crystal Gayle                               Classic Crystal
Dan Fogelberg                             Netherlands
Dan Fogelberg                             Phoenix
Dan Fogelberg                             The Innocent Age
Dan Fogelberg                             Windows and Walls
Dave Loggins                               Apprentice
Dave Loggins                              Personal Belongings
Dave Loggins                              One Way Ticket to Paradise
David Grisman                             Acoustic Christmas
David Grisman                             Quintet '80
Electric Light Orchestra                A New World Record
Elton John                                    Blue Moves
Elton John                                    Caribou
Elton John                                    Greatest Hits (1974)
Elton John                                    Honky Chateau
Emmy Lou                                   Harris Angel Band
England Dan & JFC                     Nights are Forever
Firefall                                         Firefall
Harry Chapin                               Dance Band on the Titanic
Harry Chapin                               Greatest Stories Live
Harry Chapin                               On the Road to Kingdom Come
Harry Chapin                               Living Room Suite
Hoyt Axton                                  Snowblind Friend
Jethro Tull                                    Heavy Horses
Jethro Tull                                    Repeat: Best of, Vol 2
Jethro Tull                                    Songs from the Wood
Jim Croce                                     I Got a Name
Jim Croce                                     Photographs and Memories
Jimmy Buffett                               A1A
Jimmy Buffett                               A White Sport Coat & a Pink Crustacean
Jimmy Buffett                               Living and Dying in 3/4 Time
Jimmy Buffett                               Son of a Son of a Sailor
John Denver                                 An Evening With John Denver
John Denver                                 John Denver's Greatest Hits
John Denver/Muppets                   Christmas Forever
John Denver                                 Windsong
John Michael Talbott                     Songs for Worship, Vol 1
John Michael Talbott                     Troubador of the Great King
Journey                                         Evolution
The Judds                                     Greatest Hits
Kansas                                         Point of Know Return
Leo Kottke                                   The Best (Double Album)
Leon Russell                                 Stop all that Jazz
Loggins & Messina                       Full Sail
Loggins & Messina                       Native Sons
Mac Davis                                    Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me
Mac Davis                                    Stop and Smell the Roses
Michael Jackson                            Thriller
Neil Diamond                                Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Paul Williams                                Phantom of the Paradise
Pat Benatar                                  Crimes of Passion
Poco                                            Head Over Heels
Quarterflash                                 Quarterflash
Simon & Garfunkel                       Greatest Hits
Three Dog Night                           Coming Down Your Way
Waylon Jennings                           Greatest Hits
the Who                                        Tommy

Some pics:

I lived it up in the 70's, when music was so much better than it is now.

Note to self: buy a turntable.

Why all the Crying on the Left?

Lefties: why all of the hysterics in the wake of the debt ceiling deal?

Ron Paul is right: you are going to get your desperate wish to confiscate more of your fellow citizens' wealth to fund your spending binges. You will get to raise taxes.

Do the math on the likely makeup of the new and improved SuperCongress:

1. Establishment picks: 3 each from Reid, Pelosi, and Mitch McConnell = 9 of the 12.

2. Tea Party tolerating picks: 3 from Boehner

You are going to get 9 of 12 picks on the SuperCongress that will look favorably on increased confiscation of income. 6 that are salivating to raise taxes, and some portion of McConnell's 3 picks that will favorably consider it. You only need 7 of the 12 to vote for raising taxes, and it's a done deal. As Ron Paul says, this SuperCongress is rigged to fast track anything that the majority of the 12 decides on without much say so from the rest of our elected officials.

You are going to get to raise taxes.

What I find humorous is that you think any of the tax increase will be used to cover the deficit. You have a Congress that has a strong track record of overspending any revenue that it is handed - currently in the range of 1/3 of the budget overspent (deficit). When you hand them more revenue (in the form of tax increases) they will overspend that too. You can count on that.

Okay, lefties. You can get back to the regularly scheduled program of tax / spend / borrow more and more and more. Enough hysterics.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

More Congressional Drama, Please

This week I have found myself increasingly out-of-sync with the hysterical reaction to the Debt Ceiling negotiations going on in the U.S. Congress and playing out as end-of-the-world in the 24-hour news cycle and in the blogosphere.

You bunch of wusses.

I say give us more of these clash-of-titans public negotiations, not less! Our elected representatives in our constitutional republic are hashing out the big existential questions of the size and role of government, through the prism of two hugely different worldviews, right in front of our eyes instead of making back room deals.

It's clarifying! It's enlightening. It's educational. How many average voters know the ins and outs of the debt ceiling and the national debt this week compared to six months ago. That's a good thing!

And yet, judging from the coverage, many of you want to shield your eyes and cry horror! at the sausage making of the key legislation that governs how much debt we incur for ourselves and our progeny. No! Watch and listen. Learn and evaluate. We are big boys and girls who can stand to watch some highly charged debate on the big issues of our time and not cringe in terror, can't we?

What did we learn? That there are big scary issues that our government needs to address head on? Yes! That our two political parties disagree with each other? Yes! That legislating budgets is hard work? Yes!

Bottom line: our politically divided government took on a controversial major issue involving trillions of dollars and the future of our nation and hashed out a negotiated compromise that will be voted on and passed into law. That is a win for democracy, not a disaster.

As to the coverage of this necessary governing process, that's another story. Pathetic.

Let me just address a few of the many many many distortions in the coverage / analysis of this debate.

1. We've raised the debt ceiling many times, for both Democrat and Republican presidents, and never had this type of debate before.

True. And how has that worked out for us? The national debt continues to grow under both parties to its present unsustainable $14.3 Trillion dollar level. It's time to have debate about just continuing to raise our own credit limit.

2. The Congress should have just given President Obama a "clean" debt ceiling increase like he asked for.

No. The newly elected GOP majority told Obama back in January that he was not getting a clean bill. They told him that any increase in the debt ceiling had to be tied to spending reforms. And geesh it took the President and the Democrats a long time to get the point that the GOP was now serious about debt reform.

He could perhaps have gotten a clean bill if these big debt reform issues were hashed instead in the process of approving annual budgets. But, unfortunately, the Democrats who controlled the Congress since 2007 have abandoned their important obligation to produce an annual budget. In 2010, controlling both the House and the Senate, the Democrats chose not to submit a budget at all so as to not have it as an election issue. In the absence of annual budget negotiations, the debt ceiling bill became the battle ground.

3. The Republicans are - take your pick - radicals, extremists, terrorists, Hobbits.

Baloney. The Republicans - including the 87 freshman coming off of the recent 2010 election that gave control of the House to the GOP - are duly elected representatives of their districts. They are not rubber stamps for the President. They are there with a vote to do the right thing for their district and for our country. They are excercising their best judgement and are doing what they were elected to do in that historic change of the House control - control spending!

To call duly elected Congressmen "terrorists" - as Vice President Joe Biden alledgedly did today - crosses the line of civility and is reprehensible. Stop it, Democrats.

On the other hand, if you want to call the Tea Party freshman "hobbits" - as Sen. John McCain delusionally did on the floor of the Senate - go ahead. Hobbits were the heroes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy - underdogs taking the fight right to the heart of Mordor and saving Middle Earth. A fine symbol for the Tea Party.

Rather than call the Tea Party freshman "despicable" and "economic terrorists" I would extend them kudos. Do you think we would be having the larger conversation about our debt that the nation has been engaged in for the last few weeks without them? Hell no. Without them, the establishment would have done what they always do - make the easy deals that extend our debt into further insolvency.

4. The Tea Party were "hostage takers" who threatened to blow up our economy by defaulting on the debt.

Hostage takers is loaded and extreme language. In the absence of a traditional budget process - which again the Democrats have abandoned, they found leverage in the debt ceiling increase to have the discussion on debt.

Legitimate leverage. The debt ceiling is itelf a law, passed by Congress. Would you take the position that the Congress has to pass an increase in the ceiling with no debate and no conditions - as asked for by the President? No. They are, in my opinion, obligated each time to debate whether that increase is justified and to address any needed reforms. If not, then what is the point of the debt ceiling in the first place? Without debate and reform the debt ceiling is just a continuous lie.

Also, the GOP never threatened a default on the debt. That is a lie. A misrepresentation. The only one in this debate who threatened a default on the debt was President Obama.

Suppose the worst case, that an increase in the debt ceiling did not pass and the US was not able to borrow more money. What then? Well, we would go on a cash-only basis. Three numbers would then come in to play: 1) The treasury takes in $200B in cash in tax receipts each month, 2) we pay out $307B each month and 3) the service on the debt is $29B a month.

In that case, the Treasury would pay out the debt service of $29B first and there would be no default! None. No US debt holders would not be paid. Social Security and Medicare would get paid. Other things would not get paid, like Executive Branch departments. There would be an argument over what. But we would not default on our debt. For President Obama to say publicly that we might was irresponsible.

None of that is going to happen, though, because our process worked and they reached a deal.

By the way, every American should have learned through this process that we borrow $100 billion of the $300 billion we spend each month! That is staggering, and unsustainable! That is why we need to have this debate.

5. The deal was held up by "Republican intransigence" and Tea Party radicals who always just say no.

That's partisan B.S. There must have been a sale at the Democratic wordsmith store on the phrase "republican intransigence", but it's not the truth. The truth is that both sides were dug in to positions that reflect their party's worldview. If you don't believe me, you must have missed President Obama storming out of the debt negotiations and saying this about tax increases:


I will not yield sounds pretty intransigent to me. But the mainstream press could only see intransigence on one side, and their partisans picked that up and echoed it endlessly. Pathetic.

The GOP led House passed a budget this year. They passed a Cut/Cap/Balance bill that called for a debt ceiling increase. They passed the Boehner bill calling for an increase. And tonight they passed the compromise bill calling for a debt ceiling increase. They have done the legislator's job of legislating. As of this writing tonight, the Democrat led Senate has passed none of those. Nothing at all. And yet, the national press hammers out the meme day after day that it's the Republicans who are "intransigent". Nonsense. It's an upside down bizarro world where the body that passes bills is intransigent and the party that passes nothing is the grownups. You couldn't get a better insight into our corrupt and partisan press.

I could go on and on and on. But, you get the point.

This vigorous and even rancorous public debate by our elected representatives on the big issue of our day - our national debt - was good for our country. More public debate, not less, please!