Saturday, August 15, 2009


Interesting times, indeed. It appears the Deposit Insurance Fund may be overdrawn, with a spate of recent bank failures. In fact, this recent set includes a bank we used to use for our business, Community Bank, as reported by Rolfe Winkler at his blog at Reuters. What's this mean? It's looking like another bail-out, based on estimates of the costs required to support these bank failings.
At 3/31/09, the DIF had $41.5 billion worth of reserves to handle bank failures, a total that included $28.5 billion of reserves for future failures along with the $13.0 billion balance remaining in the fund after subtracting liabilities from assets.

At the end of Q2, FDIC charged banks a special assessment that they estimated would raise an additional $5.6 billion.

Since the end of Q1, there have been 51 bank failures, which in total the FDIC estimates will cost the DIF $16.1 billion. This includes the bank failures above.
Isn't that about negative $3 billion? Wow, I'd hate to see the overdraft fees for that one!

In unrelated news, we've recently had flights of the F-22 Raptor overhead, apparently coming out of the Colorado Springs area. Must be training for something.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


My dad used to take me fishing all the time. Large-mouth bass, mostly--sometimes fortunate enough to also fight with small-mouth bass. We even fished tournaments from time to time (amateur stuff, not pro) and even finished well once in a while.

For the first time in almost 15 years, I went fishing again last Saturday. A friend asked the day before, and I was able to swing the time, despite having no tackle or other gear. He's got a great little boat, which is perfect for this little lake we've got here. Very simple, not a lot of time wasted getting things ready or having to be too careful with a perfect fiberglass finish.

Anyway, going fishing again was incredibly therapeutic. We found another friend on the lake (also fishing), and the pace of catching fish was great fun. Between the two of us, we had nearly 20 fish in something like three hours. Most of these were tiny, fearless small-mouth bass, but we had some "keepers", too. (We didn't keep anything--just returned them after getting our jig heads back from their mouths.) I even caught a tiger muskie that was ~30" long. Good thing our friend was out on the water, since we needed his huge net to get that one in the boat. We were fishing light-weight rigs with plastic worms and light line, so there's no way we could pick up a fish that big with no steel leader without breaking the line. We sort-of measured this fish through the net and returned him. If he had the per-pound fight of a small-mouth bass, we'd have instantly snapped the line or tipped the boat for sure.

Sorry--I have no evidence for all this. No cameras were on board. So this might all be a fish tale, but for the smile on my face.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Forced Compliance

This is getting more and more press. Increasingly, tools of forced compliance (such as the TASER) are being used to force immediate compliance of any order given by any police officer. This story from Car and Driver illustrates some ridiculous uses of this forced compliance tool. What I'd like to know is what right does a police officer have to force compliance of orders when not in immediate, demonstrable danger if compliance is not attained?

For example, I could picture using something like a TASER on someone running around threatening to stab people with a knife--particularly if such a person has a history of violent behavior or is showing signs of being intoxicated (or having other signs of impaired judgment). But refusing to sign a traffic ticket before being told what the ticket is for? No evidence of imminent danger to officer or public--just a stall in immediate compliance of an officer's demand (never mind whether the demand is made legally). From the Car and Driver article:

When he returns to the SUV, we hear Massey say, “You’re giving me a ticket, but you won’t tell me why.” The driver wants to go back with the trooper to see where the 40-mph sign is.

“You’re gonna sign this first.” Massey refuses.

“Okay, hop outta the car.” Nineteen seconds have elapsed since Trooper Gardner reappeared with the ticket. The driver complies quickly and walks back in the direction from which he had driven, pointing toward something. He’s not aggressive toward the trooper, is not even facing him but, rather, looks down the road pointing. The officer draws his TASER, points it at Massey, and says, “Turn around and put your hands behind your back.”

The driver recoils. “What’s wrong with you?” he asks. He starts to walk the other way. Gardner fires at the driver’s back.

Zero to TASER: 32 seconds after the Trooper’s return.

What is wrong with him? I think that's a valid question. How is this acceptable behavior? How are police departments avoiding huge civil lawsuits for behavior of this kind? Maybe they're not. Certainly, Taser International has its share of lawsuits for wrongful death after many people treated this way by police inexplicably die. That doesn't jive with the "non-lethal" use of force so prevalent in standard Taser marketing materials.

This whole situation sits strangely with me. Back when I was interning for college requirements, I worked for a lean design firm that developed some of the first working prototypes for Taser. It seemed like such a great idea at the time. Since then I've done "ghost design" for other design firms whose client list includes Taser International. Knowing now what I didn't know then, would I design for them? No, I don't think so.

Remember Dr. Robert Stadler from Atlas Shrugged? He allowed the State (whether good or bad) to use the produce of his mind for for their desires (ultimately for evil). The problem with working with the State, as I see it, is that the creator of a given invention is immediately divorced from any control over such an invention. So I ask myself--with all I see happening with misuse of force--why I would want to contribute to the arsenal of tyrants? I do not. I'll save the produce of my mind in this regard for my own discretion.

Perhaps I should set upon developing Taser-thwarting apparel, such as a grounded shirt of conductive mesh. Obviously I'm now at risk for being a target for the illegitimate use of force, courtesy of the State.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Conform or be cast out..."

That's the theme of a song by Rush called Subdivisions, perhaps truer now than when written in the early '80s. For such an "independent" culture, it's amazing how much conformity is increasingly not only expected, but enforced. Illegally.

Take this example, as reported by the New York Post a couple of days ago. Last year during the singing of "God Bless America", a fan was ejected from the game because his bladder apparently interrupted the song with some urgency. In heading toward the restroom, mid-song, he was out of accord with the spirit of conformity, of course--blasphemy! Eject those who demonstrate their hostility with non-conformity. "Conform or be cast out," in other words. Of course the cops hold that he was disorderly in a drunken manner. Perhaps. Non-conformity is often deemed "disorderly" by those in power.

Cops made this same claim in this case, too, but it was clearly a lie, as the victim of this attempted force of conformity has evidence by means of recorded audio of the entire ordeal. This guy is leaving a Costco parking lot, but has no choice but to be routed through a DUI checkpoint. He's picked out of the crowd, and--being tired of such DUI stops--decides to see what happens if he doesn't answer the officer's question regarding drinking this time. Well, that's clearly not in the spirit of conformity, either. Despite the fact that the fifth amendment guarantees the right not to self-incriminate (and to stay silent) and the fourth amendment guarantees the right not to be subject to unreasonable searches or seizures, the officer instead demands an instant breathalyzer test as a must-conform "lawful order". Hmmm. Much worse, the officer this man first encountered stated to his superior that this driver had watery red eyes as cause of suspicion of drunkenness. When in the light (after the car was seized by officers), it was apparent this wasn't true. So the officer then alleged the smell of alcohol on the driver as cause of suspicion, changing his story. Even though this was obviously not true either, the superior involved insisted the driver could either submit to the breathalyzer or go directly to jail for failing to obey a "lawful order". Conform or lose your freedom.

Does anyone see anything wrong with all this?

My understanding is that the duty of law enforcement is to "protect and to serve" through enforcing laws. Which laws, exactly, are these officers enforcing? Are they enforcing any laws? Or are they enforcing laws that are in stark non-conformity with the Bill of Rights? Obviously, such laws--if they exist at all--would be illegitimate. I would think falsification of evidence (lying) would be taken quite seriously among law enforcement circles, but we don't know how this trumped up DUI case played out in the end.

We seem to be in a bit of transition in this country--from the our inalienable rights as given by our Creator (not our government), to a sort of constant-flux Calvinball set of rules, which change at the whim of tyrants to best fit the security of their rule. Lets not have any absolute standards of ethics and behavior, lest we lose the power of our whims--and with that, the power to remove the freedoms of any who do not conform. Conform or be cast out!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rachel Maddow loses credibility

A bit of sensational reporting on the evil ways of president Obama and his quest to throw away the bill of rights as quickly as carbon-based energy generation over at CNBC with a segment of the Rachel Maddow show a couple of weeks ago. I watched this little video clip of that segment and couldn't help but get angry with our president. (This has to do with Obama's speech a few weeks ago regarding how to handle the political prisoners at GTMO.)

But wait just a minute. In an effort to sound off on that little clip, I searched for the transcript of the speech and found it here, provided by I figured I could skim through, find the incriminating words (already in text) and post them here. Not quite.

It turns out, the adored Rachel Maddow has lost real credibility with me. Slick editing? I don't know. The content and tone of the speech by our president are nothing like what Maddow would have us believe. In fact, through the entire speech, I only found a couple of paragraphs of scattered lingo within Obama's speech that could be built into such controversy. (Don't get me wrong--I see no way of reconciling detention of any sorts of suspects, indefinitely, without charges, trial, conviction, and sentencing--with the constitution and bill of rights.)

What's the big fuss, then? Evidently, Maddow's agenda is apparently more driven to malign the president than to report--or opine upon--the facts. That's not something I need.

I wonder how many people are getting their "news" from sources such as Maddow? Maybe this is the source behind so many of those emails going around from the right (without any fact-checking)?

As for me--no thanks, Ms. Maddow. I guess you can't believe everything you see on the internet TV.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

You'd better watch what you say (if you know what's good for you).

I guess I've been expecting this for a while, but now it's happened.

An article, a couple of weeks ago, by Joan Whitely at the Las Vegas Journal-Review told of a business that made use of a bit of a loop-hole (at best) in tax law regarding payment of their contractors (employees?). Essentially, they violated the spirit of the law by paying their people (employees, contractors, whatever) in gold or silver coins, of the US mint. So what? It's real money, right? But the catch is that the noted dollar value has since multiplied several times in today's inflated, fiat-based dollar value. So the employers reported the face value of the coins regarding taxation, whereas those paid received current-day dollar values much higher than the face value would lead one to believe.

Oh, horror! (Never mind the practices of the Fed have opened up the staggering difference between minted face value and comparative "paper" dollar values found today.)

So, that's enough of a story right there. The feds are prosecuting for "tax evasion, tax fraud, and criminal conspiracy" (a bit harsh).

It turns out, the Las Vegas Journal-Review has an area where readers can comment on the article. This is where it gets spooky, as author Thomas Mitchell writes:

This past week the newspaper was served with a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. attorney's office demanding that we turn over all records pertaining to those postings, including "full name, date of birth, physical address, gender, ZIP code, password prompts, security questions, telephone numbers and other identifiers ... the IP address," et (kitchen sink) cetera.

Tantamount to killing a gnat with an A-bomb.

There was no indication what they were looking for or what crime, if any, was being investigated, just a blanket subpoena for voluminous and detailed records on every private citizen who dared to speak about a federal tax case.

Can you believe that? Off-hand comments and rantings in the comments section of a news article are being subpoenaed by a federal grand jury? Really? Welcome to our brave, new world, folks. Apparently what we're endowed by our Creator, is revocable by mere mortal.

Yep, I anticipated something like this happening here--someday.

In contrast, I never really expected a lecture on the nature of freedom from ex-leadership personnel from ex-USSR. And yet, we have a fine article to that effect today by none other than Mikhail Gorbachev--calling, essentially, for a second American revolution in the spirit of perestroika. Wow.

I guess I've got my surprise quota for the day.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Krugman says no inflation worries

Inflation? Pssshh. Ain't no inflation coming. So says economist Paul Krugman, writing as columnist at the New York Times in this article. Really? Yeah, all this nonsense about inflation is totally overblown. As Krugman says:
First things first. It’s important to realize that there’s no hint of inflationary pressures in the economy right now. Consumer prices are lower now than they were a year ago, and wage increases have stalled in the face of high unemployment. Deflation, not inflation, is the clear and present danger.
Well, sort of. But from the news I'm reading lately, prices are indeed moving up--some at record paces. Consider the price of crude oil, which is experiencing the largest one-month gain in the last ten years (you may have noticed when filling up last). Metals are also doing well, taking a look at industrial metals such as copper and even silver. In fact, if a person bought silver just a few months ago, they'd see an increase in dollar value of ~30%! Not bad--and certainly better than Wall Street of late.

Oh, but that's the value of things relative to the dollar. That means relative to things of intrinsic value (such as oil or copper), the dollar is falling--a sign of inflation. But Krugman just said "there’s no hint of inflationary pressures in the economy right now". Hmmm. That's odd--I wonder why an established, influential economist like Paul Krugman would say something like that in light of the evidence I just cited. Maybe he's simply overlooked some trivial details concerning the economy? Probably happens all the time. After all, economists like Paul Krugman didn't seem to notice any signs of danger with the economy just a couple of years ago, either, did they? Of course, it's easy to have perfect vision of things past.

Notice how Paul Krugman is strongly stating that there's no need to worry about inflation--everything's under control and looking quite rosy considering the circumstances. Why would he do that? Going out on a bit of a limb, isn't he? Couldn't this have some serious consequences to his credibility as an economist if he's wrong? (Didn't something like this recently happen to Jim Cramer?) I wonder if he's got a safety net of some sort--perhaps someone willing to pay for some good news from such an influential economist--maybe someone who can pluck some policy strings somewhere?

Look, I'm just in industrial designer, and certainly no economist. But some of these signs--at least in the short term--are quite telling. These are things I'd expect a real economist to at least notice, and perhaps even write about. After all, we use economists to gain a preview of the future--and often base our decisions on such prognostications.

If inflation is of no real concern in the near future, you'd do just as well to hang on to your dollars. But if inflation does become a real issue, you can do something about that by getting rid of your faith-based Federal Reserve Notes in exchange for something of true, intrinsic value--and in doing so, you remove opportunity for wealth extraction at the hands of those who control the value of the dollar (and your work).

In times of inflation, the last person you'd want to be is a Baby Boomer at or near retirement with a cash nest-egg in the market or in the bank. Your dreams of the golden years will dissolve as quickly as the numbers of dollars to buy gold rockets upward--and the true value of your golden egg declines.

So to all of you who could actually do something now to maintain the value of the career you just worked--nah, don't worry about inflation. Consider it a healthy donation to your country at the expense of your dreams.