Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Adventures in Amateur Radio

I have been a Technician for some 17 years, always intending to get my General license and get on the air on the High Frequency (HF) bands, but other things always seemed to get in the way.  In February I finally took the General exam, and passed.  I acquired a rig, a Yaesu FT 450D, and a power supply.

The Mrs and I had several discussions about antennas.  She didn't want a permanent antenna showing outside.  Apparently that is a common reaction by people who don't mess with radios.  So, I ultimately acquired an Alpha Antenna Pro Master Complete 80 - 10. The 80 and 10 refer to the band, with 80 meters being 3.500 MHz to 4.000 MHz. The amateur radio bands can be found here. Besides being portable, so that it doesn't need to be up all the time, it has a Near Vertical Incident Skywave (NVIS) element. The NVIS element is critical to being able to listen to and respond to the local section nets for the Nation Traffic System. If you wonder why the federal government allocates valuable space in the radio wave spectrum to amateur radio, the National Traffic System (NTS) is one major reason. When disaster strikes, often normal communications go down. The National Traffic System often is the only thing providing health and welfare communications out of the area.

The vertical antenna worked great for long distance, as I quickly picked up conversations with people in Texas, Iowa, Georgia and Virginia.  But I could barely understand local net traffic, and they could barely understand me.  I talked to Steve at Alpha Antenna, and got some good tips, which help some.  Still, this was supposed to be a "tactical" antenna.  Hmmm.

Some research led me to the idea of a low dipole tuned to the local NTS frequencies.  Normally dipoles should be hung 1/2 of a wave length high, which in the case of 80 meters is somewhere around 150 feet in t air.  But, if the are hung only several feet, they become excellent "cloud burners" sending the signal straight up, to be reflected straight back down and enabling local communication.

I managed to splice some wire onto a 40 meter dipole I already had using wire nuts, and used a couple of ceramic end insulators, also just laying around, to build an 80 meter dipole.  Now the general formula for a dipole length in feet is 468/frequency in MHz.  But for low dipoles, the actual numbers approach 450/frequency.  Frustrating though it was, I did get it tuned to the actual frequency on the 80 meter band.  Suddenly I could hear everyone checking into the nets.  Not only that, but there is actually a lot of activity that takes place locally, within a couple hundred miles, on 80 meters that I was not getting from the vertical.

This week we have had a frog strangler of a rain event.  I took down the vertical because of high winds and possible lightning.  Interestingly, when I got on this morning to check into the morning traffic net, my antenna was again detuned!  It actually appears to have moved downward by around 100 Hz.  It was enough on that band to keep me from checking in.  It seems this is normal too.

After years of the reliability of communications on the Very High Frequency (VHF) bands it is a challenge to reliably communicate on the HF bands.  On the other hand, the VHF frequencies are short range in nature, whereas the HF bands allow world wide communication.  Of course, in this day and age in which anyone can make a telephone call to the other side of the world, at any time, it may seem...well...stupid to be trying to communicate by such a hit and miss technology.  But just remember when disaster strikes...sometimes the only thing left is your friendly local ham.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Once again, the ugly, murderous heart of the Left is exposed

Andrew McCarthy has written an article over at National Review today that perfectly states what is going on with Judge Watson in Hawaii, and Judge Chuang in Maryland.  What is going on is that these judges don't like Trump's policy, and so no will not approve a temporary ban no matter what.  Never mind the laws and the Constitution, which places the responsibility for who is allowed to immigrate in the hands of the political branches, not the judiciary.  Andrew McCarthy explains it all very well in Travel Ban Is About Vetting - Which Means Its About Islam.
The president’s first order was not invalidated because it was invalid. It was invalidated by an outrageous political maneuver disguised as a judicial decision by the Ninth Circuit federal appeals court. Yet government lawyers — especially the law-and-order, have-faith-in-the-system types — can’t help themselves. They see litigation as a high-minded chess game, winnable by reasoned strategy: Look at what the court said the infirmities were, address them, and then take another crack at persuading the tribunal.
The Ninth Circuit struck down the first executive order not because it transgressed the theoretical constitutional rights of lawful permanent-resident aliens, immigrant visa holders, or state universities. The judges struck it down because they are the political Left. This had nothing to do with law. The Left has a policy objection to the notion of subjecting Muslims to heightened immigration scrutiny, because it has a policy objection to government recognition of the nexus between Islamic scripture and terrorism committed by Muslims.
The emphasis is mine. Think about that, though. The Left has a policy objection to the Government's recognition of the nexus between Islamic scripture and Islamist Terrorism. Why would that be?  Don't people on the Left have children who might be killed by terrorists? Or is it that they don't care about anyone's life? And if they don't care about anyone's life, including their own, then what has all this so called "caring" been about? You remember, the climate, people starving in the streets, people dead in the streets?  The hand wringing about the homeless? And if they really don't care about people committing bloodiy murder, what was all the gun grabbing for?  If Newtown had been committed by an Islamic terrorist, would that have made it alright?  The Aurora theater?  Gabby Giffords?  Is Major Hasan Nidal the only one where the Left was happy because he hollered "Alahu Akbar!" before he started murdering unarmed people?

It seems so.
Of course it is unfortunate that innocent, pro-American Muslims have to be put through more paces than other aliens. But it is not quite as unfortunate as the incontestable fact that inadequately vetted Muslims commit mass-murder attacks. While some of the innocent, pro-American Muslims will resent the heightened scrutiny (though many will see the need for it), those who are eventually admitted to our country will be safer because of it — a matter of no small consequence since peaceful Muslims, more than any other group, are killed and persecuted by jihadists and other sharia supremacists. In any event, though, the security burden has to be imposed on someone, and as between Americans and aspiring Muslim immigrants, it is less the responsibility of Americans than of alien Muslims that Islam endorses war and conquest. We didn’t create this problem.
This is the vetting that the Left and the courts are determined to prevent. They would have you believe that the Constitution is a suicide pact: that alien Muslims somehow have a First Amendment establishment-clause right against enhanced inspection; that an immigration system that has always vetted against totalitarian political ideologies cannot vet against this one, sharia supremacism, because it shrouds itself in religion.
So forget the executive orders. This is the ground on which the Left has to be defeated. We will never get there by denying that Islam is the heart of the matter.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

If you think carping about white privilege of cultural appropriation, you are barking up the wrong tree

I can't tell you how many times I have heard a black person tell me about an incident of racism that perfectly matches an incident that happened to me.  Usually this is about the job that went to someone else.  Really?  So if he doesn't get a job he applied for and is qualified to do, it because of racism, but if I don't get a job that I am qualified for its because of...?  Having been on the other side, actually hiring people for jobs, I can tell you that there are many factors that go into deciding who to hire, and race isn't one of them, but personality is.  People skills often count for a lot, and someone with a chip on his or her shoulders is at a disadvantage in the job market.

All of these things were going through my mind as I read John Hawkins' piece entitled Sorry Liberals, There Are No Oppressed Americans at Townhall.com today. If there is something called white privilege, I never got the benefit of it, but I suspect that everyone has to struggle in one way or another. Everyone has roadblocks to overcome, and it is in overcoming them that we learn the most.

I have also been hearing lately about so called "cultural appropriation."  This has to be the most moronic, the most idiotic thing the Left has come up with yet.  A black woman attacks a white woman for wearing corn rows because that is "cultural appropriation," and the white woman is of course properly chastised.  I wouldn't put up with that.  If wearing corn rows is a "cultural appropriation," then what to make of a blacks talking on cell phones, driving cars, or indeed using anything that runs on electricity?  Sound harsh?  Please note that the automobile was first invented by a European, the radio, which is what cell phones are, was invented by an Italian, and the electrical generation system used in the United States was invented by a European immigrant.  These and many other innovations are part of our culture, so hands off. if you want to play that game.  Personally, I think it is stupid, counting coup.

Nobody of any race makes you choose to have unprotected sex and get pregnant at 16. Nobody makes you choose to have three kids by three different baby daddies. Nobody makes you flunk out of school. Nobody makes you spend money on partying instead of your rent. Nobody makes you assault a police officer. Nobody makes you rob a house and get a criminal record. It’s not oppression. It’s a sub-culture that says you can make every mistake in the world, but your screwed-up life is still someone else’s fault.
There are women, gays, and minorities around the world dying to get into the United States. The ones that get the opportunity to do so legally spend thousands of dollars and put up with years of paperwork to come here. You think that’s because it’s such a racist, sexist, oppressive country? It’s ridiculous. It’s silly.
In the end, we get what we get because of individual initiative, and using our talents and abilities the best ways to achieve our goals. One more thing. Trying to find, and act on God's goals for us helps a whole lot. With God, all things are possible. Without God, you are just floundering. If you think nailing others for cultural appropriation will give meaning to your life, you are barking up the wrong tree.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

We are called to wise stewardship, not foolishly declaring animal rights

I heard several weeks ago that Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus will be closing this May.  The Circus is the oldest continuous running circus in the world, billed as the Greatest Show on Earth.  While many factors no doubt affected the decline of the Circus, the final blow was the decision to retire the elephants as a result of a lawsuit by so called "animal rights" people.  Even though the company won the lawsuit, the cost of doing so spelled doom for the Circus.

But the fate of a company, even as storied a one as Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey is not what this is about.  What this is about is yet another Leftist notion that is largely unexamined, and which is accepted as true because it appeals to their emotions.  But a little rational examination will prove that animal rights do not exist.

Let us first look at human rights.  The traditional human rights are Life, Liberty, and Property.  But each human right as corresponding human responsibilities.  The right to Life, for instance also requires us not to take a life unjustifiably.  What are justifications?  Well, self defense would be one.  If someone is trying to take your life, you have the right, indeed the obligation to defend your life.   Similarly, if someone takes something of yours without proper compensation, that person is accused of stealing, and is punished.  The right to property carries with the the obligation not to steal.

Presumably, if animals have rights, then they also must have responsibilities, is this not so?  Presumably also, an animal's rights mirror our own:  Life, Liberty, and Property.  Now, I have observed my well fed cats go out and catch a small animal, a field mouse or a chipmunk, disable it, then play with it for a time before killing the poor thing.  Clearly the cat was not hungry, or it would have eaten its prey.  But it did not eat its prey, and besides, there was plenty of food still in its bowl.  No, the cat did this for the entertainment value alone.  Is the cat a murderer, deserving to be executed for its crime?  Or, is this behavior simply in the cat's nature?

And here we come to tje truth of it.  For no one would suggest that the cat be executed, or even punished.  Anyone would say that the cat was just doing what a cat does.  It was, in other words, in the cat's nature.  The cat therefore has no responsibility, and can not be held to account.  But if a cat has no responsibilities, it also has no rights.  What are bandied about as "animal rights" are in fact human responsibilities.  Man has a responsibility to treat all of nature with respect.  We are not supposed to be cruel or greedy.  But at the same time, we also may use the earth, the animals, and all the earth has to offer.  It is called being a good steward.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

The enemy of my enemy is not my friend, but maybe a temporary ally

Author A. Simon has written an interesting and very useful survey of the various literary dystopiae that have been written since Thomas More's Utopia in 1515. The purpose of most of these has been to try to warn society about the dangers of man arrogating to himself the powers of God. The survey can be found at the American Thinker today in an article entitled The New Dystopias. Simon writes:
In 1515, Sir Thomas More wrote a fictional description of a foreign land that he called "Utopia" (meaning "nowhere"). It may be remembered that Marco Polo had previously created a new literary genre, the travelogue. In Utopia, private property and money had supposedly been abolished (Hatred of private property is a common theme running across revolutionary writers advocating utopias. We see it in Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, on Marx’s and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s What is Property? And Peter Kropotkin’s Anarchism), there was complete equality, travel was restricted and could only be done with permission from the authorities, euthanasia was encouraged, goods are held in common, individuality and diversity were suppressed, everyone wore drab clothing of the poorest quality, yet everyone was supposed to be happy...
See a problem here? Have you spotted it yet? Yes, it says everyone was supposed to be happy. Why? Would you be? Neither would I. What these writers are engaging in is a flight from reality in which they posit that if only others would act as they say they should, then they would be happy. These people place the burden of making themselves happy on others, and thus are never happy themselves. And you can see it in the Leftists who seem to occupy a significant portion of the news. Are feminists happy? Are the race hustlers happy? Indeed, are any Leftists you know happy, or were they during the Obama years? No? I have actually spoken to hard core Marxists who insist, despite all evidence to the contrary that the Soviet Union wasn't communists. True communism (whatever that is) has never been tried!  By moving the goal posts around the field, they hope to keep the beautiful dream alive in the face of hard evidence it does not work.
However, the real reason they disappeared is that they went against human nature. This human nature was not the result of a lifetime of bad habits and education and values, as the utopians insisted, but rather what constitutes a human being. These utopian communities were the inventions of intellectuals, who, as is their wont, were out of touch with reality and besotted with particular ideologies. (As John Dewey pointed out in Human Nature and Conduct, artificial systems of morality have been based on a disregard for human nature instead of being based on it. Moral constructs, whether religious or philosophical, are fantasies, they are ideals created outside of man and if people do not live up to those ideals, well, it just means that human beings are too corrupt.) They invented castles in the sky, convinced others through their verbal virtuosity (to use Thomas Sowell’s apt phrase) and then were bitterly disappointed when reality repeatedly slapped them in the face. The fact of the matter is that people, by nature, want to own things. They want to excel. They have pride. They have individuality. They have their own opinions. They are not "equal" in the extreme sense of the word. They want a spouse who is faithfully exclusive. They enjoy good food, homes, clothes, property, possessions and objects of exquisite quality. That is normal. It is normal to enjoy life.
Perhaps what my friend really meant was that the people subjected to these "Utopias" didn't react as predicted. But since the theory can never be wrong, oh no, the people must be forced to see it the way Fearless Leader sees it, which of course simply makes the stubborn mules more unhappy.  Fearless Leader then has to administer more punishments to get his people to like their medicine.  It reminds me of an old saying in bureaucratic organizations:  the beatings will continue until morale improves.

While a regime like the Soviet Union has slipped from our consciousness at the moment, it is well to remember that we still live in a vast surveillance state, in which every electronic communication is recorded and stored in huge government facilities.  Wikileaks, who are not our friends, nevertheless inadvertently provided us with a useful reminder.  The shear volume of it all really, the phone conversations, the emails, and the surreptitious spying upon essentially 7 billion people, preclude ever making it useful for any legitimate purpose.  The spies tell us  that they have stopped untold numbers of terrorist plots with all this information, but we can not know about any of it, so just trust them.  Really?  This focus on the minutiae of the lives of ordinary people by powerful men seems somehow creepy.  But, it reminds us that the totalitarian temptation, as Jonah Goldberg put in in his book Liberal Fascism, is always with us, and sometimes infects us all. The only way to get rid of it is to rigorously mind our own business, and let other mind theirs.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dismantling the Administrative State

Long time readers will know that I have been against the making of rules and laws by the executive agencies for a long time.  My reason?  It is Unconstitutional.  The Constitution rests the making of laws in the Congress, the execution of those laws with the Executive, and the courts rule on the laws in specific cases.  But in the Administrative state, one agency makes the rules, enforces the rules, and exacts punishment.  They have taken over the role of both Congress and the Courts, and yet they exercise the role of the Executive as well.  No wonder the Administrative state has grown to the proportions it has.  Madison would have called the Administrative state a tyranny.  And so it is.

David S. D'Amato has an article explaining how we find ourselves in this at the American Thinker entitled Dismantling America's Destructive Fourth Branch of Government. Remember that this is another "Progressive" idea designed to control you and me because the Progressives believe themselves more capable of managing our lives than we are. D'Amato:
How did such an abysmal change to the constitutional edifice come to pass so quietly? The story begins more than a century ago, when new assumptions about the role and configuration of government gradually superseded the classical liberal ideas of the founding generation. A look at the political thought of Woodrow Wilson provides a useful illustration of this new way of thinking about the state, now known as progressivism. Wilson believed the “science of administration,” which he saw as still in its nonage, must be adapted to accommodate widening “new conceptions of state duty.” To Wilson, “the weightier debates of constitutional principle” were passé, increasingly irrelevant to the more-pressing questions of running a large and complex government apparatus. The idea of limited government itself belonged to a simpler time.
Wilson’s answer to the admittedly “poisonous atmosphere” of corruption and confusion in government at all levels was an appeal to the “impartial scientific method.” Here, he was a product of his time. Successive breakthroughs in the natural sciences had convinced Wilson’s generation virtually everything, government included, could be understood and restructured in terms of fixed scientific laws; government and human nature were believed to be perfectible through science.
Once again, the egg heads proved to be stupider than the average man on the street. Wilson's notions of a scientific elite running things does not take into account the fallen nature of man. Ordinary people simply will not act as Wilson believed them to act. Even if they could, they would still be operating from a position of knowing but a small part of the whole.  If Wilson had but read the Federalist Papers and not dismissed them as the writings of some old fuddy duddies, he would know that the Founders had already considered the problem and come up with a solution. That solution put monkey wrenches in the wheels of government to keep it from becoming too large and powerful.  Many times I have heard people decry the slow pace at which government moves, but that slow pace is a feature, not a bug.
The D.C. Circuit, in an opinion authored by Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, held the EPA’s new rule was impermissible. As an energy company, Chevron had standing to appeal, and the Supreme Court heard arguments in February of 1984. Reversing the D.C. Circuit, the Supreme Court concocted a new test for determining whether a federal agency’s rulemaking ought to stand. Confronted with a statute that is “silent or ambiguous with respect to the specific question,” the proper inquiry is whether the resolution provided by the agency regulation represents a “permissible construction” of the law’s language. Courts must defer to any interpretation that is reasonable -- which is to say, that is not “arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary” to the law -- an incredibly low bar for the government. Calling up the Wilsonian ideal of a bureaucratic state run by qualified, disinterested professionals, the Court noted, “Judges are not experts in the field.”
As a matter of practice, the Chevron doctrine completely precludes judicial review of an administrative agency rule. The rule thus perverts the constitutional order by allowing the federal government to interpret the meaning of the law for itself, without any material check on its interpretations and, therefore, its power. Such total deference fundamentally undermines the vision of the federal government reflected in the Constitution.
(Emphasis mine)
Even if one agrees with an agency’s interpretation in a given case, this repositioning of authority is a dangerous subversion of the rule of law (the irony, of course, is that in Chevron, deference to the fourth branch happened to result in less bureaucratic meddling). Left free to police itself, the federal bureaucracy has naturally arrogated to itself more power and discretion, its regulatory reach stretching into almost every area of life. It has acted in accordance with its nature. The administrative state is at base the embodiment of ruling-class condescension, contemptuous of its benighted wards and their efforts at self-organization.
And so we find ourselves being squashed by a leviathan that is never satisfied as long as one person out there defies their authority.  Part of the effort to return our country to the founding principles will be getting rid of the regulations and the agencies that make them) that grow like weeds everywhere and constantly. Trump's executive order to to reduce regulations is a modest start. Congress needs to take back the power to make laws, and deny it to the agencies. The agencies need to be scaled back to their proper role of enforcing laws made by Congress. Congress is not an innocent bystander here. They willingly ceded power to these unaccountable agencies because doing so took the heat off of them: they need to stand up to the plate and do their jobs.And the courts?  They need to be scaled back to their true role as well.  But that is a subject for a different post.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sometimes you catch the bus, sometimes it rolls over you

While perusing the Smallest Minority blog spot, I came across Upside Down by Sarah Hoyt. The point of the post is that technology is moving faster than we can readjust. The so called elites who have been leading us have no more idea what to do than anyone else. Marxism/Socialism/Fascism/Communism is all they have, and it was never a very good match for reality in the first place. It is a theme I have also heard several times on Glenn Beck.  Here's a sample of her post, but I urge you to read the whole thing and think about it:
Because of movies and books, and the inevitable Marxist gloss on anything created/taught in the last century, a lot of us think a revolution comes about when the pressure on the people being oppressed is so strong that they rise come against the oppressor, and assert the will of the people.
This is not jut crazy, it is fricking delusional. Like most ideas Marx had and disseminated to gullible minds, it would have benefited a little bit from JUST a little exposure to the real world.
The problem is this: humans crave leadership but proper leadership requires that the leader know what the heck is going on. Leaders work, if they’re carefully trained to lead (one of the reasons Heinlein advocated breeding and raising rulers, or at least jokingly advocated it) and in our complex technocratic society, more so, but what if what they’re learning actually renders them more unfit to lead, because they can’t see conditions as they are right now?
Imagine this. In the near future, say within the next decade, truck drivers who are now involved in the distribution of goods will be replaced by self driving tractors. The first place they will disappear from will probably on the interstate highways. But as more and more of this infrastructure expands to more and more local roads, driverless trucks will become more prevalent. Now there are a lot of truck drivers.  The number of over the road truck drivers is 3.5 million, while the total number for all truck is estimated at 15.5 million.  Do you think a truck driver can retrain as a software engineer?  No?  But that is what we are telling them.

The typical Marxist/Socialist/Fascist/Communist idee fixe for people earning small amounts is to RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE.  Who, after all, can raise a family on the minimum wage?  But of course the minimum wage was never intended to be adequate for people raising a family.  It was rather intended as a first job, or entry level job, to be replaced by subsequent higher earning jobs as one gained experience.  No one was supposed to work at McDonald's as a career.  But now with the minimum wage being pushed in some states to $15 per hour, many fast food restaurants are going to automated kiosks, which will replace cashiers.  No doubt they are working on smart phone apps to eliminate the kiosks one day too.

I can remember when most businesses had a receptionist cum secretary who answered the phone and forwarded the call to the appropriate party.  She (for usually it was a she) has been replaced by automated answering devises and computers that allow a person to type his own letters, specifications, and so on.  In structural engineering, more and more is done with computers, and less and less is done by smart guys with a slide rule and a pencil and paper.  Engineers are usually smart enough to do something else, and survive.  But not everyone can.  And besides, how many hard hitting documentary producers does society need?

No, mass production for some things is not going away, any more than agriculture went away. But it is going to shrink, products are going to become more customizable. And one size fits all government will be almost impossible, the further we get into that change.
But it wasn’t until this weekend and the conversations about last week that I GOT it. It’s not just government. If it were just government, it would be easy. But the same stick hitting politics is hitting EVERYTHING from Hollywood to your local grocery store. A lot of it is still being done the way it was ten years ago, sure, but that is probably incompetent, delusional, and quite likely hurting the business.
We have not yet seen the fall out of the 2008 financial crisis. So far, things have been kept under control by a combination of low productivity, a shrinking workforce, expanding welfare, and the government lying about inflation. While we know inflation is at 10-15%, the government has been under reporting and the average MSM watcher remains unaware. If the economy heats up, we could have hyperinflation as seen in the Wiemar Republic between WWI and WWII in Germany. What happens then is anybody's guess.

Some wag has been quoted as saying that history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme (often attributed to Mark Twain, but he did not say it.) We can not know what the future holds, but at times like now of fast moving technological changes, with no one to lead us into the bright future because no one can see what happens next, bad things have happened.  Be prepared, and keep your powder dry.  As Kevin of the Smallest Minority says, hard history coming.