Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Uptick in Attacks on 'Polar Bears'

Black on White unprovoked attacks in Chicago -- read the article here.

Welcome to post-racial America. Mainly white men are being targeted. Other reports I've seen recently indicate that white, middle-aged, often overweight (hence the 'polar bear' designation) individuals are attacked for fun. These are not thieves or muggers. These are punks, often in groups, that punch unsuspecting people in the face or from behind. They look for people who are alone and unlikely to fight back. They are not looking for a fight. Four on one is not a fight; it's an invitation to a beat down.

They probably don't do this as much in Texas or Florida where concealed carry is a possibility.

Thomas Sowell Interviewed by IBD

Read the interview here.

Well worth the read as Dr. Sowell touches on several issues with great wisdom.

If Obama is so smart, why isn't Sowell the economic adviser? Shoot, why isn't Thomas Sowell the President?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So Maybe There is Something to Conspiracy Theories After All

This is a very long article at Zerohedge and is worth reading, though potentially a little scary and probably a little scaremongering.

In essence, it is about the dire situation we are in economically, and the fact that the political class is controlled by the financiers.

I'm not sure if I take any of it too seriously. I will admit, however, that Obama unleashing the dogs of war has occurred to me. This actually becomes easier with a Republican (not Tea Party) majority in Congress. It becomes bipartisan: "We stand united against this external threat to America".

Is Obama ideologically opposed to war? Yes, war against Muslims, but not against the Chinese.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Deflating Demand

Read Karl Denninger commenting on a Robert Reich confession that printing more money isn't really going to turn things around.

Probably the majority of consumers are unable to spend more money to revitalize small business where most job growth is attained. People who have a little spare cash are hoarding it for fear that they might lose their jobs. Businesses, instead of hiring people they don't need to provides goods or services no one will purchase, are using their capital to finance mergers and acquisitions and to buy back stock to speculatively run up their share prices.

We are not seeing rapid increases in consumer prices because DEMAND has fallen off the cliff. As Denninger points out, gasoline should be perhaps $1.25 based on decreased demand, but it is holding at around double that. Some of that is decreased supply after the BP Deepwater Horizon spill -- possibly. I haven't been following the oil market. But some of it may be the leading edge of inflation.

Food prices certainly aren't dropping, and coffee seems to be getting more expensive. I wish I had a crystal ball that worked.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gaining an Edge

The knife is not man’s oldest tool – that would likely be the club. A knife is kind of wedge, though it probably did not develop from the stone axe. Perhaps it was a broken rock or a sharp-edged shell that gave some ancient brain the idea of a cutting tool. However it came to be, the knife, in all its many variations, has served us long and well.

I miss the good old days when I could carry one of my stockman folders or a Swiss Army knife on a plane in my pocket. With the TSA and the inconvenience, I can drive most places I need to go any more so I still carry knives. I’ve been carrying pocketknives about as long as I’ve had pants with pockets. I just don’t go anywhere without some kind of cutting tool. For years my standard was the three-blade stockman folder. I have a Craftsman stockman with some very tough plastic scales about the color of ivory. That knife has gone all over the country with me since sometime in the early seventies I would guess. The blades are still sound, and the main clip point is probably the sharpest blade in the house. It is standard carbon steel – not stainless – it’s not as pretty as it once was, but it is just as useful and effective.

Back around 1990 I worked in Dallas on the top floor of an office building near Prestonwood Mall at Beltline and the Tollway. The building security/information guy had a desk outside the elevators, and, as I passed him one day, I noticed he had a lockback out on his desk. I paused to ask him about it, and he was happy to show it to me, explaining about the blade and the scales – which I think were some kind of fiberglass – but my memory is getting a little foggy. In any case, it was a one-hand opener. I found that fascinating. A few days later I was passing by a display case of knives and saw one that looked similar while costing considerably less than the price the guard had mentioned. The scales were regular plastic, and it lacked any studs or cutouts. Still, I thought a lockback would be nice to have; I bought it. It took me about fifteen minutes to figure out how to open and close it with one hand. I was able to get the cheap stainless steel of the blade nearly as sharp that of my old stockman. The nice thing about the lockback was the slender profile and the weight, and the fact I could open it with only one hand. I started carrying that knife around a lot.

I had bought and carried other knives between the old stockman and the cheap lockback, but they did not capture my imagination for one reason or another. One or two migrated to the tool box. A few more may have gotten lost or been given away. The lockback, though, started me on a quest of sorts. I began to buy knives. Again, some didn’t do much for me, and they went away, often as Christmas or birthday gifts. Others I still have but don’t use or carry very often, if ever. Still others rotate in and out of my pocket or on and off my belt pretty frequently. I even have a few that are displayed on the shelf but not carried at all. This last category consists of fancy knives with etched blades or simple knives that have some special sentimental value. The old Craftsman was up there for a while, but it did not stay. No matter what happens, it is a knife that deserves to be carried and used from time to time. The “shelf” knives will enter no further into my discussion.

I used to look down on Swiss Army knives, “Boy Scout” knives, and similar gimmicky blades. One day, on a whim, I popped about $20 for a Wenger – one of the two “official” Swiss Army brands. This Wenger had no corkscrew – a definite plus. The even bigger plus was that it had a little saw blade. For a while I think I used that saw blade more than any other tool I had. I would use it to prune tree, cutting green limbs and dead limbs all out of proportion to the size of that little booger. I honed the main spear-point blade until it would shave hair, and I had a fine little pocket tool kit. It was often my carry-on knife for trips by airliner from 1997 to as late as November, 2000.

The “other” Swiss Army knife is Victorinox. I just pulled one out of my pocket. The model I have does not have a saw. It has a small blade and a large blade – both spear-points, scissors, large slot screwdriver/bottle opener, small slot/can opener, Phillips head, awl, package hook, tweezers, and toothpick. It also has that cool “Officier Suisse” stamp on the base of the big blade. The Victorinox is slightly longer and slightly slimmer than the comparable Wenger. I still love the Wenger, but the Victorinox gets carried a little more these days, unless I know I’m going to need the saw blade.

The SAK is, of course, the official MacGyver tool, but Tim Leatherman found them a bit too limited. He wanted to add pliers. Now we have all kinds and brands of multitools from Leatherman, Gerber, SOG, et al. If I could keep only one of my knives –

Sorry about the interruption, I blacked out for a few minutes. Where was I? Oh. Uh, hang on … I’m feeling a little woozy again.

Let me put it like this: if the average person could have only one knife, I might suggest the Leatherman Wave. My preference for the Wave comes primarily from the fact that it has two locking blades that can be accessed one-handed without opening the tool. This makes it a fairly handy, if slightly bulky pocketknife. In addition to the straight and serrated knife blades, the operator also has access to a saw and a file. When the Wave is opened there are a number of screwdriver blades available in addition to scissors.

I’m not sure when I bought my Wave, but I know when I broke it. It was late summer of 2005 – about five years ago now. I was trying to take a cotter pin out of a piece of equipment. I used the Wave pliers to un-brad the pin then slipped the tip of one side of the pliers into the eye of the pin, pulled, and the tip of this high-priced Leatherman snapped off. To say I was upset is an understatement. Oddly I was even more upset when a pair of ancient $2 Japanese needlenose removed the pin with almost no effort. I emailed the Leatherman Company in a frothing-at-the-mouth rage. I had bought a Leatherman tool because I thought it was the height of quality American workmanship. Ha! I figured I’d go out and buy a Gerber and pitch the Leatherman into the back of the tool box.

However, before I could decide on which new Gerber to get, I received a very nice email response from Leatherman Customer Service. The person explained that, despite the fact that I was obviously a retarded idiot who was unaware of Leatherman’s guarantee (25 years if I remember correctly), the company would be happy to replace my Wave if I would ship the broken one to them. I did so and Leatherman did replace the clearly defective multitool, sending me a nice new holster along with it. I use the new holster when I go to town and the old sheath takes the abuse out here in the country. The fact is that I have used this Wave fairly hard for five years, and it is as good as new. I have no complaints about the Leatherman tool or the company’s customer service, despite the fact that Tim Leatherman himself is rumored to be a big-time leftist. He still makes a good multitool.

One thing about the straight blade on the Wave, and this applies to many stainless blades that I have had including Buck and Gerber, sometimes they are hard to sharpen. It’s a chore to get that stupid bevel flattened out and get a decent edge on some varieties of stainless. That can be hard stuff. Of course, once you get it, it tends to hold the edge pretty well. Nevertheless, good old-fashioned high-carbon takes a better edge with a lot less effort. And not all stainless blades are equal, as I mentioned, both the Victorinox and the Wenger SAK’s I have sharpen up pretty nicely. I also have an older Schrade lockback – I can’t remember the model. It was bought in the ‘90’s before the original Schrade Company went bankrupt and closed the New York factory. The stainless blade on that knife sharpens up nicely, and one reason for the ease of sharpening is that it had a good flat grind to start with. Flat ground blades are easier for me to get really sharp. I can get almost any blade to shave hair, but I want the blades to be so sharp that they scare me.

If a person is not big on sharpening knives -- and some days even I'm not, there is an elegant solution to be had. The lowly boxcutter has become the folding, locking, one-hand-opening super utility knife. I have one of these babies -- a Craftsman, by the way, with a pocketclip. It is unbelievably handy. One of the nicest things about it is that I can open it and hand it to my wife to use without saying, "Be careful with that blade." Abuse that sucker all you want, darlin'. I got a hundred more in the drawer.

When it comes to knives and multitools, I’m a big-tent guy. I have an “Edge Brand” from Solingen, Germany – I have Gerbers, the Leatherman, both brands of SAK’s, Columbia River Knife and Tool, Schrade, Buck, Ontario, Cold Steel, some custom made, some homemade, some offbrands, some freebies from the NRA, just all kinds of cutting tools. There are a ton of good edged implements from which to choose. Or be like me, choose some of each!

As far as recommendations for the best kinds of knives, I recommend a good, high-quality multitool – like the Leatherman, but not necessarily the Leatherman. I have a Gerber multitool that appears to be built like a tank and that has some nice features. I have an offbrand multitool that I picked up at a Big Box store that works about as well as either my Gerber or my Leatherman. If a person likes something a little less "tool-ish" or a little more "pocket-able" than a multitool, get a SAK.

I also recommend that you get and carry a “tactical” folder. Of the better known companies, I really like Buck, but there are many good ones out there. There will be people who think I'm crazy, but I would even suggest one of those new generation super utility knives mentioned above could serve in the tactical folder niche. But, of course, that's because I'm a crude and ignorant hillbilly as opposed to a highly trained marital arts expert, so what do I know?

It’s also a good idea to have a big knife or two. You can find high-priced kukris (or khukris or khukuris) on the web. They are a fine chopping tool. I took out a fair-sized patch of sumac with my khukri over the weekend, and it didn’t take long to do it.

The best all-around blade on a big knife is a bowie. Try to find one about the size and with lines similar to the Cold Steel Trailmaster. I cite the Trailmaster only because I know anyone can find a picture of it on the web. For a "fighting" knife, I would not recommend a bowie with an overly wide blade, as the wider blades tend to have the point below the centerline. You can see this "fault" in a knife like the Ontario Marine Raider Bowie. The Marine Raider looks like an excellent chopper and is no doubt a quite useful and effective camp/survival/woodsman's knife, just not so much as a fighting knife.

But then I'm not much on using a knife in combat anyway. Next post we might discuss knives in self-defense, and why I, an utter non-expert, think that most knife-fighting is comic book fantasy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

More Hyperinflation Fearmongering

John Williams of Shadow Stats is predicting hyperinflation 6 to 9 months from today. There is a link to the Shadow Stats blog in the Zero Hedge post.

From what I understand, Williams has been calling for hyperinflation for the last couple of years, consistently setting it in the late-2010, early-2011 date range. As mentioned in a previous post also from Zero Hedge, hyperinflation is created by a loss of faith the nation's currency, as opposed to the more common type of inflation caused by more dollars chasing fewer goods and escalating wages.

Monday, September 13, 2010

IMF Expresses Fears of Social Turmoil

From the Telegraph comes an IMF warning.

The article indicates that the IMF is fairly optimistic that the global economy has avoided the abyss for the moment. Perhaps that is the case. I think an apt analogy would be that the economy had veered off the road and was heading for the precipice at about 90 mph. We have now slowed to about 45 mph, but we haven't changed directions.

What the experts do admit is that unemployment is very high, 20% or so in Spain, nearly 10% in the U.S. and that many have been out of work for six months or more. Worldwide the IMF admits to 210 million unemployed. Knowing a little about how the U.S. rate is calculated, I'd say 210,000,000 is very conservative. In America, the actual rate is nearly double the official rate. We likely have 300 to 400 million unemployed around the globe. This is creating a huge drag on demand.

But, don't worry, Mr. Olivier Blanchard, chief economist for the IMF has a fix for us:

Mr Blanchard called for extra monetary stimulus as the first line of defence if "downside risks to growth materialise", but said authorities should not rule out another fiscal boost, despite debt worries. "If fiscal stimulus helps avoid structural unemployment, it may actually pay for itself," he said.

And Mr. Blanchard is a Keynesian blockhead, but I repeat myself. Our problems are being caused by government debt sucking up all the funds that could be financing private sector expansion, so the solution is to create more government debt. Brilliant.

Chronic unemployment creates unrest. We are seeing that manifest in the United States in the healthy way of a grassroots political movement to "throw the bums out". In other nations, we may see it manifest as violence with the potential to give rise to more autocratic regimes. These regimes will promise relief if they are given enough control. Kind of like what happened here in '08.

While the current trend in America is positive, we can only replace elected officials, not bureaucrats, regulators, or the heads of government-corporate hybrids. If there is too much inertia in the statist system to allow the private sector and especially small business to get back on track and grow, we may eventually see a more destructive uprising in this country.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Good Enough for Marshal Dillion

I saw this article in my September 2010 American Rifleman.

Rick Hacker talks about the Gunsite course for single-action revolvers. The conclusion:
“I don’t think that anybody who has a single-action should feel deprived in any way,” noted Il Ling New, one of Gunsite’s premiere defensive handgun, rifle and shotgun instructors—and a licensed guide who has hunted throughout the world. “You really should fight with what you have. Why not use your single-action as your defensive handgun? Those five or six rounds in the chambers can win the fight for you.”

I agree.

The handgun I carry most around the place is my Springfield Armory XDM .40 S&W. The reason I carry it has more to do with size and weight, and the fact that it is stainless steel whereas my revolvers are mostly blue. Still, I don't shoot any handgun as well as I shoot my single-action revolvers. In fact, I'm not sure I shoot any firearm I have as well as my Ruger Super Blackhawk and my Single-Six.

As for speed, the SA revolver lends itself to a fast first shot, either in the hand or from the holster. I don't believe any handgun -- except, perhaps, a locked-and-cocked 1911, is as fast – for the average shooter.

The drawbacks are limited capacity and, especially, a comparatively slow reload. But the speed of reloading can be enhanced by a "shoot two/load two" tactical reload -- and practice. If you think you are going to have to shoot your way through 20 or 30 gunmen, ala Josey Wales (who, by the way, was using multiple cap-and-ball Colts, the fastest reload then and now being another handgun), a high-capacity autoloader like the XDM is probably a better choice -- not that anybody is going to survive that gunfight anyway.

Very few of us are going to ever need to fire a handgun in self-defense, though the percentage may go up over the next several years of economic turmoil and possible political instability/insanity. Most of those who will be forced to defend their lives or their families will be able to do so with three shots or less.

A good single-action can be acquired for a reasonable price. Modern single-action revolvers are nearly as fool-proof as a crowbar. Ruger revolvers are strong for their caliber and solidly constructed. Buying a used one is not usually a problem. They can be worn out, but it is uncommon. If buying a used SA, I verify the weapon is unloaded, cock the hammer and see how much movement is in the cylinder. There should be essentially none, either forward and backward or side-to-side.

My SA revolvers are hunting weapons and have barrels of six to seven and a half inches in length. If I were buying one to carry around with me all the time, I would probably try to get a barrel under five inches. A non-reflective finish on a defensive firearm is better than a glossy finish, but dark is better than light, so it often comes down to personal preference. I like matte stainless steel for a weapon I need to carry when I know I might get wet or where I am going to be sweating a lot. Otherwise I prefer a traditional blue finish.

Caliber is a matter of personal preference as well. I like the .44 magnum, but the .357 is hard to beat for self-defense; it makes an adequate hunting round for our local whitetails; and it’s good for varmints. You can go bigger than the .44 these days, and, with the .327 magnum or the older .32 H&R magnum in a used gun, you can go smaller than the .38/357.

I have two handloads I shoot in my Super Blackhawk – one is a jacketed bullet load that gets a 240 grain bullet going about 1350 fps; the other is a cast bullet load, also 240 grains, that runs about 200 fps slower. I could probably fit the cast load in a .44 Special case, but why bother? I use magnum cases for both loads – the cast is over Blue Dot, and the jacketed bullet is over H2400 powder. Either one will shoot through most anything I’ve encountered. The jacketed load is not hot or high pressure, and, though loud, doesn’t have excessive recoil. The cast load is very controllable and is what I normally keep in the revolver unless I expect to take longer shots.

Would I use my single-actions for self-defense? Absolutely. Many times at night, when I check out what the dog is barking at, it is with one of those ‘old-fashioned’ revolvers in my hand. Would I recommend the single-action revolver as someone’s only self-defense weapon? Not necessarily. It depends on what a person is comfortable with. A good double-action revolver is a probably a better “nightstand” gun for most folks. A more modern autoloader such as a Glock or any of a dozen others carries better, has more capacity, and reloads faster, and the reloads can be carried more compactly and conveniently. But the single-action revolver is versatile and fun to shoot, and it will get the job done, whatever it may be.

Check Out a Couple of Posts From the Futurist

In Taxation and Recession, the Futurist makes the logical argument against a capital gains tax: There should be no capital gains tax at all. This is for the simple reason that if a person sells an appreciated asset, and then pays a capital gains tax, they no longer can buy back the same asset that they had just sold.

There is also this little tidbit that I have long believed: Socialism is much more rigged in favor of the ultrawealthy than capitalism is. ... In socialism ... only the ultrawealthy can afford to bypass the oppressive rules placed on everyone else ... .

Guys like Soros and Buffet can afford to be socialists because they have their pile and they know how to keep it.

Also the Futurist's previous post, The Techno-Sponge, argues that the deflationary pressure on high tech goods as a result of Moore's Law is "soaking up", so to speak, the inflation that would otherwise be running wild. I think his analysis may be flawed. Falling housing prices and the relative stability of fuel prices have been, if not deflationary, at least anti-inflationary, more so than technology. The level of unemployment is probably the largest deflationary weight at the moment. In my opinion, none of these will be sufficient over the course of the next couple of years to prevent inflation, but read the Futurist's view and draw your own conclusions.