Monday, February 28, 2011

Preserve Your Memories

Do you back up your photos? If not, you might be on a slippery slope to heartache should your laptop get stolen or your hard drive die. Some people think that burning photos to a DVD will guard against calamity. That's partly true, and it's a good short-term remedy. But the older a DVD gets, the more likely it will fail. The best strategy results in three copies. Think of the original file on your hard drive as one copy. Make a second copy by backing up the data to an external medium. Back up to a flash drive or an external hard drive, or burn a DVD and store it off-site. You can use a backup service, such as Carbonite (, which uses a program on your computer to automatically back up your hard drive off-site, or you can upload pictures and videos to websites such as Flickr, or SmugMug. Getting into the habit of uploading your memories off-site will not only let you share your "Kodak moments" with friends and family, it will also guard against theft, fire, and even hardware failure.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

$25 billion per Year

The OECD calculated that (in 2008) the US spent about $25 billion in foreign aid per year, although this is a very small percentage of the 2009 estimated federal government income of $2.7 trillion.

The current turmoil in Egypt is a primary example of this. Writes The American Conservative‘s Michael Brendan Dougherty: “The fact, rarely mentioned this past week, is that the United States sends over $800 million in direct economic aid to Egypt along with $1.3 billion a year in military aid. The guns being used to beat protestors this week were bought with American tax dollars.” Writing for Commentary, neoconservative Max Boot makes a similar observation: “For decades, Egypt has been one of the largest recipients of American foreign aid, and (Egyptian President) Mubarak has been one of our closest allies in the Middle East. Egyptian officers have been educated in the United States, its military and police forces are equipped with American weapons, and they regularly conduct exercises with American troops.”

Due to our constant foreign aid and intervention in Egypt’s affairs, Boot adds “We have a large say, whether we want it or not.” What nearly $30 billion in American aid to Egypt has purchased over the past three decades has been a tyranny that — according to classified U.S. diplomatic cables — engages in "routine and pervasive" torture and police brutality and a dictatorship that the Oval Office continues to defend even as the Egyptian regime is dissolving. Clearly, the U.S. has bought influence in the Mubarak regime, but that regime has become highly unpopular with the Egyptian people and stands poised to be no longer a factor politically.

Tea Party favorite and freshman Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) may have crossed a "third rail" of politics by suggesting that the federal government zero out all foreign aid. Rand Paul apparently has the American people on his side, as he noted in his interview with Blitzer that "Reuters did a poll — 71 percent of American people agree with me that when we're short of money, where we can't do the things we need to do in our country, we certainly shouldn't be shipping the money overseas." Actually, Paul slightly underestimated the opposition to foreign aid giveaways. The Reuters poll revealed that 73 percent of the American people want to eliminate foreign aid from the federal budget.

The point of foreign aid is not economics; it is geopolitics: It is intended to shape a recipient country’s behavior and, quite literally, buy American influence. And it does just that.

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