Wall Street Is Not Private Enterprise

This story begs some questions: If Wall Street needs to be recurringly propped up by the Federal government, is it even honest to portray Wall Street as private enterprise? Wouldn’t seeing it as a quasi-state enterprise be more accurate? If that’s the case, isn’t there also a strong case for a much greater degree of public input into and control of these institutions than is presently the case?

What we presently have isn’t really private enterprise: it’s socialism for the rich.

Snowden is Wasting His Time

Exiled US political dissident Edward Snowden is probably wasting his time when he begs for a presidential pardon. The Obama Administration’s record on tolerating political dissent in the form of whistleblowing is not a good one.

It’s understandable why he’d want to get out of Russia, of course. Snowden has publicly criticized his host nation more than once and is doubtless feeling the heat for having the courage to speak out in what is an unfree society (albeit one offering him more personal freedom than that of the prison cell he’d be in if he hadn’t fled persecution in the USA).

Still, he’s mainly just jeopardizing what freedom he currently has in the name of a largely futile quest for clemency from a superpower which has gotten less, not more, tolerant of internal dissent in recent decades.

She’s Still Lying; They Knew the Danger

No, I don’t have any hard evidence to back up that suspicion, but I feel pretty safe concluding that Christe Todd Whitman is lying when she claims nobody knew how dangerous the air was in Lower Manhattan 15 years ago. The reason is asbestos.

I remember being astounded at the time that people weren’t super-concerned about asbestos contimanation. The towers were built at a time when asbestos was still a very popular material. Aside from its carciogenicity, asbestos is a wonderful material with many advantages (fireproof, excellent elecrrical and heat insulator, not subject to decay), one which one can obtain for literally just the effort of digging it out of the ground. So quite naturally it found wide use.

I was once system and network manager in a building that was built before the nasty truth about asbestos became widely known. It made running new network wiring a constant headache; one couldn’t so much as drill through most walls in that building without spending thousands of dollars to protect against liberating asbestos fibers.

Those towers were obviously full of asbestos-containing building materials, so naturally so was the dust left by their collapse. Any claims the dust was not hazardous were obviously baloney. If any initial measurements indicated a lack of hazard, that was reason not to abandon extreme caution but to suspect the quality of the measurements.

Alinco DJ-X11 First Impressions

Why buy yet another radio? Two reasons:

  1. I’m currently trying to do noise mitigation in the HF bands, and that means walking around the neighborhood with a radio. While I can use one of my existing sets for this purpose, they tend to be very awkward, as they are all desktop models.
  2. I’m also interested in helping friends whose homes might be bugged (seriously; they’re known as activists, and the government has a nasty record of surveillance on such individuals) do some searching for bugs. It’s yet another something for which a small, battery-powered radio is a useful tool.

So I wanted a small, battery-powered wideband receiver that could tune as many frequencies as possible in as many modulation modes as possible. The latter is an important point; most of the wideband receivers out there (such as the Icom R6) can’t receive SSB or CW at all, which is a major limitation on the shortwave bands.

First impressions:

  1. It doesn’t feel super solid and professional, like I’d imagine the Icom R20 (discontinued) or the AOR 8200 (no raw I/Q output) to feel. It doesn’t feel super-fragile either; its plastic case does feel quite rugged and right. But there’s very little metal in the thing; it’s surprisingly lightweight.
  2. It’s very complex, and the manual isn’t the best in explaining the complexity. It can take some searching and experimentation to figure out how to do something.
  3. It won’t put my desktop HF receivers out of work; it’s significantly less sensitive than them, not so easy to use, and tuning SSB signals is somewhat painful.
  4. Notwithstanding the above, it does actually work acceptably on MF (aka AM broadcast) HF, VHF, and UHF signals. Given its small size and wide coverage range, its performance is quite remarkable.
  5. Forget about using the rubber duck antenna it was shipped with for HF; get an SMA-mount whip (thankfully I already have one).
  6. It comes with a rechargable lithium-ion battery and a drop-in charger. The latter was a pleasant surprise; I much prefer drop-in chargers to plug-in ones, and I was expecting the latter, given the price.

This is the USA, so mine is the crippled DX-X11T model with the stupid government-mandated gaps in the 800 MHz band (fuck you very much, Congress). I seriously entertained the idea of taking a trip to Canada and smuggling a non-crippled one across the border, but:

  1. That involves blowing most of a weekend.
  2. There’s always the (slight) risk of my purchase getting confiscated on the way back.
  3. I already have a desktop receiver capable of tuning such frequencies (completely legally; I bought it before the law became effective so it’s grandfathered).
  4. I also have an RTL2832 dongle on order which, together with a free software program, will be a software-defined radio that goes from about 24 to 1700 MHz with no such gaps.
  5. If I do find a bug, I’d rather do so with a 100% legal receiving device, to minimize the very real risk of governmental retribution should I be open to it by possessing contraband.

 

That Old Seattle “Can’t Do” Attitide

Despite how Tacoma has had a successful, municipally-owned cable TV and Internet utility for years, Seattle’s idea on doing anything vaguely similar is a big no-can-do. It’s basically the same attitude that made Seattle about forty years late to the game when it comes to building a rail mass transit system.

Of course, any time a billionaire wants pet projects for that entire neighborhood which he owns, or a taxpayer-funded sports stadium for his team, the City of Seattle sits ready and eager to bark on command. Same if it’s a freeway project, even if it uses a risky, unproven technology and it’s a road which would normally be the state government’s responsibility, anyhow.

Because, well, priorities. Duh.

This is another one of those days where I get to feel smug and satisfied about living outside the Seattle City Limits.

Indian Point May Be Worse than They Say

Much worse, in fact.

The reason is not nuclear contamination, but chemical contamination. Specifically, PCB’s. Yes, they are banned. But the ban started only in 1979. Indian Point dates back to the early 1960s. So it’s entirely possible that the transformer that caught fire contained PCB’s. One that caught fire there in 2011 did, in fact.

If so, there is now a major environmental contamination event in progress. Worryingly, there is no mention in the Establishment media that the transformer in question did not contain PCB’s. That makes me suspect that news that it did is being hushed up.

It’s the only reason I can think of for not bringing up the subject of PCB’s in the news about this event. If it was known that the transformer was in fact PCB free, it would be in the interest of plant’s operator (and its regulators) to make this fact well-known. Omitting such information only becomes in the Establishment’s interest if PCB’s are in fact present.

It’s much like the subject of asbestos (known to be widely-used at the time the World Trade Center twin towers were constructed) was conspicuously absent from news accounts at the time the 9/11 attacks happened.

No, this doesn’t prove anything, but it certainly raises valid suspicions.

Mandatory voting? Really, now? Wow. Just… wow.

Every so often an Establishment politician says something so staggeringly moronic that it’s crystal clear to me that, as much as I might differ from the stereotype of what a radical is, I am a radical and not a liberal.

And this is one of those times.

I mean, really now. In a class society where the tiny elite dominates political discourse via campaign contributions and mass media control, where the real political struggle is for candidates to pander to the elite and compete with each other to raise money to spend, the problem is supposed to be, get this, that there’s not a law forcing people to vote?

Yeah, right.

So the political system isn’t as thoroughly a rotten joke in Australia, which has mandatory voting. So what? Australia also has a history of far better level of class consciousness than the USA. It’s part of the legacy of being a penal colony, where the throwaways of Britain’s emerging capitalist economy were discarded to.

That, and not any petty exercise in authoritarianism for those who abstain from voting, is the salient difference.

One might as well point to the fact that the deck chairs on the Titanic were all jumbled together at the lower end of a listing deck as evidence that the problem with that ship lay in its arrangement of deck chairs, and not any iceberg damage below the water line. After all, ships whose deck chairs remain more neatly arranged don’t list and sink. QED, baby.

Ruling Class Hypocrisy on Display (Again)

In this story.

Before I go on, let’s make one thing perfectly clear: Yes, the human rights situation in Venezuela sucks (and I’ve not been shy about admitting it here). The government is getting increasingly authoritarian there, and anytime opposition leaders are routinely jailed it’s outright creepy.

But, Venezuela is hardly the only place where the human rights situation sucks. Let’s compare two other petro-states.

First, Malaysia. It’s probably the closest situation to Venezuela of the two I’m comparing, because like Venezuela it’s (in theory) a democracy. It’s also a place where opposition leaders get jailed (and sometimes tortured). Venezuela has been dominated by the Chávistas since 1999. Malaysia has been dominated by its ruling coalition (without interruption) since 1957.

Second, Saudi Arabia. Here there’s not even the pretense of democracy. It’s a flat-out absolute monarchy. Remember all the hand-wringing about the evils of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and how they were thoughtlessly demolishing their country’s historic legacy and had a tyrannical “Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue” enforcing the strictest possible interpretation of Islamic law with an iron fist? Well, Saudi Arabia has both those attributes: Exhibit A and Exhibit B.

And please, cut the crap about Venezuela being a security risk to the USA. What’s happening there isn’t nice, but it’s also internal nastiness and not an external security threat. It bears pointing out that this is in distinct contrast to Saudi Arabia, which has proven itself to be a breeding ground for terrorists.

It’s not a surprise Venezuela is coming up again in US Establishment politics. First, the regime there is looking increasingly shaky. Second, there’s presently an oil glut (which is in fact a big part of why the regime is losing its popularity). That means that if worse comes to worst, the ruling class won’t be provoking a big oil shortage if the US loses access to Venezuela’s oil as the spat escalates. In fact, I’m sort of surprised that it’s taken this long for the ruling class to bring the issue up again.

But please, get real. The issue isn’t human rights (as much as the US ruling elite might assert it is). It’s merely that someone other than who the ruling elite desires is in power there. Just look at what’s happened in Honduras since the US ruling class installed a regime there if you have any doubts about that.

Lavishing Subsidies on the Affluent, Neglecting the Needy

That basically describes US housing policy in a nutshell.

What prompted me to write this was receiving a letter from Freddie Mac (a government-sponsored enterprise) last month. They’re buying my mortgage so that US Bank (the original lender) can be freed up to make more home loans to other people. That’s in addition to the subsidy from the government I get by paying my interest on that loan with pre-tax dollars.

Both forms of government intervention in my favor came about simply because I decided to purchase a home. I didn’t have to spend years on a waiting list or enter a lottery to receive the largesse. It just flowed to me. Such it has long been for homeowners.

Meanwhile, the working poor (who cannot afford home ownership) do have to enter lotteries (where like all lotteries, the odds of “winning” are slim) and sit on waiting lists, often for years, to become eligible for Section 8 vouchers or public housing apartments. And rents, unlike mortgage interest, receive no income tax deductions. Again, such it has long been.

Why is the government giving subsidies to upper middle class software engineers to purchase homes in upscale suburbs while mostly ignoring those who truly need help with their housing situations? Because we’re a class society, that’s why. The higher you are on the class hierarchy, the more your life matters.

Keep that in mind some affluent right-winger (no doubt a recipient of the same sort of largesse I am receiving) starts getting all sanctimonious about the baleful effects of the “culture of dependency” on the less-well-off.

For more of the ugly details, go here.