Some streaming webcams

 Take a trip and never leave the farm.

Queen's University , Kingston, Ontario.  Corner of Division St. & Union St.  I have a family member there.  Quick loading, very rapid refresh rate, almost streaming video quality.

Rooftop panning cam, Cambridge Suites, Halifax, NS.  A good one for viewing the Halifax weather.  Will be staying at this hotel while attending a family wedding this spring. Refreshes every 10 sec.

University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon.

Times Square street level cam, New York.  People often wave at this cam, do little street dances, etc.  Has audio, is very slow loading.  Many other Times Square cams can be selected. 

Sturgis, SD street cam.  Good for watching motorcycle rally activity in the summer, especially the August long weekend when the big rally is held.  There are other cams around Sturgis.

English Bay, Vancouver.  Refreshes every 5 minutes.  Can sometimes catch a nice sunset on this one.

 Emma Lake, SK.

Live International Space Station streaming video.  Way out there!

Horseshoe Falls, Niagara, ON.  Streaming video, can go full screen.

San Francisco Bay.

Chicken Coop.    Take a trip and never leave the city.

The Decade of Energy Scams

 This decade will be the decade of energy scams.

The 1980s were the decade of the conservative supply side economics scams.  As an over-simplification that was the decade where gullible citizens were taught that total de-regulation of business was good, and government oversight of anything was bad.  Unfettered free market capitalism would be the solution to everything.  Everyone would prosper, as "trickle down" economics would ensure that if you let the wealthiest in society get richer, well they would then create more jobs and wealth would trickle down to those less wealthy.  This movement was headed by leaders like Ronald Reagan in the US, Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain, Brian Mulroney in Canada, and Grant Devine in Saskatchewan.  In reality it was the first big step in restructuring society so the wealthiest would prosper more rapidly at the expense of the middle class.  It was the decade of greed, as portrayed by the character Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street.

The 1990s were the decade of the .com scams.  Windows 95 simplified computers for the public, and 1995 was also when people really started connecting to the internet.  By the end of the 1990s people had been convinced that the digital age was the solution to everything.  All you had to do was form a company with .com on the end and you could become an instant multi-millionaire.  Or you could just sit at home in your underwear and become a stock day trader and just become an ordinary millionaire.  We all know how that ended.  Sometimes violently.

After the .com crash in 2000, I heard people everywhere stating they were buying real estate because "housing never goes down".  My blog site is dedicated to the theme of gullibility, but the concept that housing never goes down is just plain stupid.  Every house will go to a price of zero if you don't maintain it, or for various other reasons.  The absolute most gullible people on the face of the earth in this decade had to be those in southern California.  They just had a housing bust in the early 1990s.  But most of them repeated the laughably false mantra about housing being a good investment.  Sheesh!  Desert dwellers without sufficient local water supply = no long term future.  And we don't know how the housing bust ended because we're not near the end yet.  But Americans came to the sad realization that national prosperity can't come from its citizens buying and selling over-priced houses.   Canadians haven't learned that lesson yet, but they are about to very soon, likely not in as severe a form as the Americans.

Throughout those three decades the Wall Street banksters got stronger and wealthier, as did corporations and corporate executives.  But wages of the bottom 80-90% did not grow as fast as the economy, and not nearly as fast as those in the top 10-20%.  But people had been convinced that they were getting wealthier.  The reasons were simple.  For three decades interest rates dropped from extremely high levels, credit was expanded, and energy (with the exception of  short term price spikes)  remained cheap and plentiful.  People were purchasing everything on credit at low rates.

Now interest rates have bottomed, credit is contracting, and energy is less cheap (but still cheap).  Gee, what could that lead to?

Our entire prosperity in North America is due to the availability cheap energy.  Oil is the main energy price driver, and right now it is priced at a level that precludes any significant growth in the US.  I calculate that at roughly $85 oil, it is impossible for the American economy to grow, and obviously with oil priced above $85 the economy will contract.  Almost every recession in the last 40 years has been preceded by an oil price spike.  As oil prices rise, almost everything we purchase goes up in price, and we have less money for other things.  We're at the verge of permanent recession.

This will be the decade of the energy scams where trillions will be swindled from North American citizens.  You won't have to seek out the scams; they will come to you, and you won't always recognize them for what they are.  Americans are stressed financially (Canadians a little less so) and believe energy costs are too high. They want a solution to these perceived high energy costs, and feel there are easy solutions out there, and that those solutions are being suppressed by various interests.  They believe there is a new technology somewhere just around the corner, so all will be well again soon.

So we have one of the two essential ingredients for my definition of gullibility -- people with a strong emotional state, in this case strong antipathy towards high energy prices.  The second essential ingredient is a poor understanding (ignorance) of the thing the scam is based on.  Is it possible North Americans are ignorant about energy?  Absolutely!  They know almost nothing about energy.  You could write volumes of thick books about what the average North American doesn't know about energy.  Conversely you could reduce what they do know to the back of an envelope.

Think I'm being harsh?  Think about what Americans knew about housing.  They lived in them from an early age, saw them every day.  Everyone has seen houses built, and most people have helped build or renovate one or more.  And yet, somehow they believed that median house prices at 10 times median annual household income (like Vancouver today) was a reasonable price, even if they could rent the same house for less than half the mortgage payment.  Gullibility in action!  And the same applies to the citizens of most other nations of the world who experienced a housing bubble as a result of the worldwide credit expansion.  Hundreds of millions of people worldwide mistook a house for a retirement plan, a mutually shared delusion.

Let's get down to the basics.  The average North American knows just enough about energy to be a danger to themselves.  Their fundamental ignorance leaves them unable to make objective comparisons between various forms of energy supply, and rampant innumeracy leaves them hopelessly unable to do any cost analyses.  In addition many energy sources are complicated and difficult to understand without an engineering background, or at least a few hours (or days) research.  Many people have never heard of the Laws of Thermodynamics, and the constraints those laws place on energy production, conversion, or transfer.  So they will be reliant on various "experts" for advice in their decision making. 

As Shakespeare's Hamlet would say, "Ah, there's the rub."  A poorly informed public will fall prey to repetitive scams because many of the "experts" that they will rely on for advice will be shills working for the scammers.  A simple example of a shill assisting a scammer would be in the well known scam of three-card monte. It never goes out of style.

What energy scams are we talking about here?  They will range from simple devices to supposedly increase your car mileage, to the biggest one of all, the global carbon Cap and Trade system.    Every good scam has an element of truth in it, perhaps substantial amounts of truth, but there is always a twist of some sort that the "mark" (that would be you or me, or our municipal, provincial or federal government) is not likely to discover until after an unwise transfer of money has taken place. 

When a person with experience meets a person with money, the person with experience leaves with more money, and the person with the money leaves with more experience.

There is little that can be done with the largest scams like Cap and Trade, so there is no point dwelling on them.  They are government mandated (like the corn ethanol scam) and the Wall Street banksters are already geared up to clean house on carbon trading.

Not every energy solution put forward will be a scam intended to deceive.  Many of them will be legitimate attempts to deliver a viable product, but the promoter will have unrealistic expectations.  I would possibly put the recently hyped Bloombox in that category.  I haven't researched it fully but I have a negative opinion on it based on a quick review of this piece of junk infomercial that appeared on "60 minutes" and the company's website.  Both are riddled with deceptive statements.  I don't think I spotted any blatent falsities, just  misdirections, omissions of material facts and deceptive wording, all designed to make the product appear to be something it isn't.  Anyone who markets in this manner should not be trusted.

If anyone is interested in this product, review the video and company website, and see how many things you find questionable.  I'll do a separate blog post with my analysis of the Bloombox after more review, perhaps over the weekend.

Here's another piece of poor reporting on a supposedly revolutionary technology that was all over the news last year.  It's the Genepax "water powered car".  I almost wet my pants laughing at the video due to the absurdity of the claims made.  It was obviously an outright hoax and the Reuters reporter should have qualified for the Dumbest Reporter Worldwide for 2009.  Some weeks later I hunted down the Genepax web site, and ferreted out the elements of the hoax.

I  informed the guy who posted this video link on a popular trading blog that he was highly gullible.  He didn't take it well, considering he is a physician with a previous PhD in the sciences.  But he is a good example of something every scam artist knows well -- highly educated people are the easiest to scam.  That's why doctors and dentists are at the top of every bucket shop operator's list of "marks".  This is so well known it was even used in a scene of the movie Boiler Room.  Education does not guarantee good judgement when you get into areas outside the realm of the person's education.  I speak from personal experience here.

One of the most common fuel scams on the internet is the Water4Gas hoax, alternatively marketed as an HHO generator, "Brown's gas", hydrogen generator, water fuel, etc.  The element in common to all these is that they electrolyze water, then run the hydrogen and oxygen into your vehicle's air intake.  It sounds so wonderful and high tech unless you have actually taken high school chemistry and understand the laws of thermodynamics.  Then the claims of improved gas mileage sound ludicrous, because they cannot possibly be true.  Judging by the numerous videos on YouTube, there are great numbers of gullible people buying these kits/kit plans, and/or marketing them to other gullible people.  Some marketers get  the assistance of a local TV news crew who are totally clueless as in this video.  Check out his method of measuring the effectiveness of his contraption -- hilarious!  I'm guessing that millions of dollars have been wasted on this junk, and quite possibly some engines damaged as well.

One very popular shared delusion in America is the concept of weaning itself off foreign oil, or at least becoming much less reliant on foreign oil.  It's not a feasible concept.  T. Boone Pickens has been promoting a pie-in-the-sky concept of replacing natural gas power plants with wind farms, then using the natural gas in vehicles, thereby cutting back on oil imports.  There are only two problems with the Pickens Plan:
  1. Pickens (who I greatly distrust due to his past endeavours); and
  2. The Plan (which is riddled with optimistic assumptions and omissions of critical information).
Pickens is very slick and I would rate him as the pied piper of energy scammers; he's one of the best.  That's the difference between a billionaire with his Picken Your Pocket Plan and some mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging redneck trying to get you to pony up for $100 for a Water4Gas book over the internet.

Those are many energy concepts out there, all designed to sell us some energy "solution", but which are unfeasible for one reason or another, or which are outright scams like Water4Gas.

Beware the panderers of energy solutions that sound too good to be true.


Joe Stack: terrorist or patriot?

Joe Stack flew a small plane into a seven-story IRS office building in Austin, Texas at 9:56 a.m., Thursday, February 18, 2009. He destroyed the building, killed one person in addition to himself, and injured roughly a dozen others. Joe was a software engineer who flew his own Piper aircraft and who played in a band for recreation. He had a multi-year grudge against the IRS, but was also critical of many other institutions (see link to suicide manifesto at bottom).

Image from billyeli.com

As soon as I became aware of the situation, and the basic details of Joe's life, I watched to see how the American media and conservative movement would handle this one. You see, Joe is a Christian. A white Christian. A middle class white Christian. A middle class white Christian Texan.  A middle class white Christian Texan suicide bomber.  For watchers of American politics it doesn't get better than that.  Break out the popcorn and tune in to DNN (Disinformation News Network), a generic descriptor of any and all American TV networks.

If you read Joe's manifesto, you will find that his grievances are much the same as those voiced by the disparate elements found under the umbrella of the Tea Party movement. This movement is not a cohesive group. It is a relatively new American protest organization with no coherent theme, other than a dislike for anything governmental; it is essentially a collection of American libertarians, as well as ordinary people upset that their vision of "The American Dream" is not working out, and the usual assortment of fringe group wingnuts that any protest movement attracts.  It is uncertain whether this movement will be crushed,  or co-opted and manipulated by external power brokers to further the goals of the elite. 

Therein lies the dilemma for the American conservative movement, which has been highly critical of  "big government" over the last year, and supportive of all sorts of bizarre behaviour like protestors showing up at rallies wearing handguns, simply because it is their constitutional right to "bear arms".  Sarah Palin, the goddess of conservative ignoramuses and idealogues, has been instrumental in supporting those who advocate violence towards those who do not share their ideology.

And now Joe Stack, someone who shared their dislike of "big government", has taken action.  Real action.  Not just waving signs with misspelled words, while wearing hats adorned with tea bags.   The Tea Party crowd know that their movement is modeled on the American rebellion against British "big government" and that it required violence to achieve their aims.  So the Tea Party movement has an unstated undercurrent of the threat of violent protest.  Otherwise they would be modeled on the Mahatma Gandi movement or something else less violent. 

Just as I suspected, the corporate-owned American media immediately began denouncing Joe Stack as a narcissist and quite possibly insane.  Commentators stated that sane people don't fly airplanes into buildings.  Their thesis is that only the insane kill government employees when they have a disagreement with that branch of the government.  Some voiced the opinion that violence is never a rational response to a perceived inequity.  Which leaves unresolved the issue of how wars get started by otherwise rational people.

Joe Stack disagreed.  He thought violence was the only answer.  He knew he wasn't going to solve his personal problems with his actions, but thought he might become a role model for others.  And despite claims to the contrary, American actions worldwide show they believe the application of force is the preferred solution to all disagreements.  The American people will agree to wage war or the threat of war against anyone at any time under the most preposterous of pretexts, all under the smokescreen of patriotism and defence of the nation.  Violence is always chosen over more rational approaches, unless the military is already busy. Roughly 80% of Americans supported the invasion of Iraq in its first week. Act in haste, repent in leisure.

Of course the citizens of any other nation would act the way Americans have if they had the ability to dominate as America can.  If you are reading this you are probably Canadian, and I assure you we would act the same as Americans if we had the same background and circumstances.  The following quote is classic, and reveals an ugly truth that people like to avoid.  We are all the same, and under the same circumstances would act similarly to the people we despise or belittle.

“Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship…Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.”

The speaker was Hermann Goering at the Nuremburg trials before he was sentenced to death.  I keep trying to envisage what Hermann looked like, and sounded like when delivering that statement, but the image of Dick Cheney making his weekly rounds on the Sunday "news" shows is what I see and hear.  There is little difference between Hermann and Dick.  Both are war criminals.  But victors don't go to trial, except as accusers.

 The embedded mentality of application of violence is about to eat America out from the inside.  Joe Stack is only one of millions whose American Dream has turned into a nightmare.  I remember quite well the Watts riots of 1965, and the more recent ones in 1992.  And the Chicago riots of 1968.  And Kent State in 1970.  And of course there have been many instances of civil disobedience accompanied by violence before that.  I anticipate there will be many more in the near future, eclipsing all that have occurred in the past.

The Powers That Be (TPTB) in America are concerned.  There has been little media coverage of the suicide attack after the first day, and almost no discussion of the issues raised in his suicide note.  Only on the blogs.  That tells me TPTB don't want the public to focus on the event.  Over the weekend American media spent most of their time hyperventilating about the Tiger Woods apology and how Toyota vehicles were a threat to Americans.

The American security agencies had previously compiled detailed lists of people who might commit acts of violence, and the law enforcement agencies have  response plans for any form of civil insurrection.  But I gather Joe Stack was not on their list.  He was a mild-mannered computer geek who disliked the IRS and played in a band for recreation.  So now the security agencies are busily reviewing their records, re-doing profiles on people who are likely to become Joe Stack copy cats.  They will also implement a strategy to monitor anyone who is in any way supportive of the action taken by Mr. Stack, and add those people to THE LIST.

 So that brings us full circle on this posting.  How does law enforcement distinguish Joe Stack from the millions of  other Americans who are similarly disgruntled with their government?  Who will snap next, and take some form of violent action?  And how does the American conservative movement dissociate some of their positions from the similar complaints Joe outlined in his suicide note? 

The destruction caused by small acts of violence like Joe Stack's are irrelevant in the big picture.  Of course it's highly relevant for anyone killed or injured, and their friends and families.   I don't intend to diminish their suffering in any way.  I like to think we all want a situation where all members in society are secure from violence from others.  But that's just not possible.  It never was and never will be.  I may  be the only person I know who thinks the 9/11 attacks were of trifling importance, other than giving the American neo-cons an excuse to engage in two wars they had already planned.  Fewer than 3,000 people died and only a handful of buildings were destroyed; that is insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

What is significant is the symbolism of the attacks, the fact that almost anyone can be killed anywhere at any time by a determined person or group.  For the average citizen this is compounded by the uncertainty surrounding random attacks like Joe's.  TPTB do not fear random acts of violence, but that those random acts will coalesce into more organized, targeted forms against them.  That's why there is media silence on Joe Stack.  I'm guessing the corporate executives and government officials currently involved in the ongoing looting of the American middle class beefed up their personal security details since last Thursday.  But they won't stop looting until they are met with a deterrent force that makes more plundering too risky.

President John F. Kennedy stated the following:
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

 The rich and powerful in America have become much more rich and powerful over the last 30 years when the plundering of the middle class really picked up momentum.  A highly skewed distribution of wealth and power always ends badly.  Read your history.  And TPTB are currently opposing any meaningful reform of the financial sector, the health care sector, the education sector, and other sectors like energy and transportation where America is becoming increasingly uncompetitive with the rest of the world.  

So far peaceful change for the benefit of the citizens has been suppressed easily.  TPTB simply increased the supply of credit whenever the natives got restless.  The gullible public mistook the increase of credit for actual wealth, and believed they were living the American Dream.  Everyone would get rich selling over-priced houses to each other.  But there are limits to credit expansion and the natives are starting to wake up to the reality that all is not well. At some point, which could be as much as 2-3 years away, the majority will come to the realization that the deterioration in their circumstances is not temporary; it is permanent and the deterioration will continue.    And they'll be angry.  Very angry.  Pitchforks, tar, feathers and burning torches in the night kind of angry. That's when the potential for WWIII becomes most likely.

That brings us back to Joe Stack again.  Will he be a catalyst for Americans to come together and develop an action plan to deal with the numerous challenges they face, as an empire in decline?  Or will TPTB use him to further their highly successful "divide and conquer" tactics employed against the populace?  I'm betting on the latter.  The powerful elite will bleed off the wealth for a few more years yet, until societal systems collapse and general chaos ensues.  Then they will jet off to their properties outside America where much of their wealth is already stored. 
One of the first thoughts I had when Joe Stack's identity was released, was "Joe Stack, Joe Six Pack".  Revenge of the American sheeple.

As more details of his background were released I thought of the parallels between him and the main character played by Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down.  If you haven't seen it, at least do an internet search for the plot, and see if you find the same parallels.

One of the major news networks had a rather lively commentary section going on below their story on Joe Stack on Feb. 18.  There was considerable debate on whether he was a terrorist or misguided patriot.  One reader requested clarification on how others would classify a person like Joe as being one or the other, because there seemed to be no clear definition or consistent treatment of such issues.  Another reader clarified it as follows (paraphrased):  "white skin = patriot; skin not white = terrorist".  There's considerable truth in that statement.

Want to know how long Joe Stack captured the attention of Americans?  On Feb. 18, the day of the crash, he occupied  6 of the top 20 Google searches, and more if you consider other searches like "Austin news".  The next day, Feb. 19, Joe Stack never made the top 20 nor did he make the top 20 in any day since.  On Feb. 19 Tiger Woods took 6 spots, 7 if you include the search for "buddhist".   Today's (Feb 23) top searches so far have "Dallas tea party" in #3 spot, "Jack in the Box" in #7, "Jack in the Box free sandwich" in #10, and "Toyota hearings" in #15.  Tomorrow could easily have Google top searches being "bomb Iran", "(insert name of celebrity or sports star here) in rehab", "repossessed Mercedes for sale", or whatever trivial fluff the media decide to air that day.  Just like butterflies flitting from flower to flower.  Do butterflies remember what flowers they have visited, or do they just flit about at random?

Do you suppose Joe Stack understood that he would be famous for less than a day?  Did his selection of the Echelon Building as his target have any connection to the movie, The Echelon Conspiracy?  Will Americans even remember who Joe Stack was by this weekend?

Link to downloadable copy of Joe Stack's manifesto:

His ending words caught my attention, since my blog is devoted to the theme of human gullibility:
""The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

Joe Stack (1956-2010)"