Monday, June 27, 2011

Interesting Anecdote Related to Food Prices

I was talking to some people in the dairy business yesterday. Dairy farmers operate on the margin between the cost of feed grains and the bulk price of raw milk. Grain is running about $14 per hundred in our part of the country. Milk is around $20 per hundred in this area. There is a rumor that the price of milk will go to $25 a hundred, which it has to at some point in order for the producers to stay in business. The other option is that feed could drop back a few bucks to around $10. If milk does go up, don't expect the processors to eat the increase. They will pass all of it, most likely, along to the consumer. In easy numbers, if milk is selling in the store for $4.00 a gallon at the moment, it would not be unreasonable to see it go to $5.00.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Redistributing the Wealth -- Er, I mean, the Wheat -- Bonus Deflation Update

Yes, I know, Goldman repeats his lines. I'm hoping it's true.

Plus comments on the SPR Follies

The G-20 announces measures to stabilize the food prices. Central planning always works so well for everything else why not give a bunch of know-nothing bureaucrats control of the world's food supply? What could possibly go wrong?

As we have been saying, the upheaval in the Middle East is more about the skyrocketing price of staple grains than self-determination. This is a confirmation of the reality that food prices are destabilizing that region and possibly others -- including China. The world economic and political situation is capable of blowing like Mount St. Helens just about any day.

The dollar strengthened noticeably today as 60 million barrels of oil were released from the strategic reserve of the U.S. and other western nations. Gasoline might slip back below $3.00 at the pump in the next week. That, of course, is good news, but, again, it is indicative of the precarious state of the global economy.

I don't expect the actions of the G-20 to adversely impact food supplies in the States. I do expect it to impact food prices, which, as those of us who don't have Jeeves going to the market for us know, have been rising substantially -- up over 3% in May. I am not fooled by a smaller can of coffee selling for only slightly more money. I know how much coffee there is supposed to be in the can. Unfortunately, at this point, a temporary dump into the oil supply is not going to permanently bring down fuel prices, let alone food prices.

The only thing that will stabilize prices is a commitment by the Fed to not initiate further devaluation of the dollar. The federal government needs to rein in its fanciful expenditures and cut the deficit.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Location, Location, Location

Here's a story about a home invasion with a happy ending. I first saw this in the July 2011 edition of the American Rifleman in the "Armed Citizen" column (p.10). A man with a criminal record broke the glass on the door of a house. The homeowner warned the intruder not to come in and fired two warning shots. Mr. Saunders the intruder -- convicted most recently of felony burglary, first-degree theft, and identity theft -- forced his way into the house despite the warnings. The homeowner, armed with a ".22 caliber rifle", fired a single shot into Saunders chest. The intruder was, as they say, dead right there when the police arrived. The wife had called 911 when the break-in began, but the authorities did not arrive in time to recycle Mr. Saunders through the correctional system.

Police and prosecutors appear to be satisfied that the homeowner acted purely in self-defense. We are happy for that.

Given that journalists are generally idiots, a ".22 caliber" rifle could be anything from a .22LR to a .220 Swift -- though I'm thinking I would not want to fire a warning shot, let alone two, from a Swift inside a house. I think we can safely assume the shots were not fired from one of those evil "assault weapons". In all likelihood, the homeowner defended his life and property with his squirrel rifle, pretty good nerves, and one well-placed shot.

Our little story illustrates several principles I believe are important should one ever be forced into a similar situation.

1) Do as much as possible to avoid using deadly force. Calling 911 immediately was a very good idea. I am not so sure about firing warning shots inside a house. Shouting, "I have a gun!" should be sufficient. Save your ammunition. Also, unless the homeowner was using a .22LR and fired the shots into the couch or something, I would worry about what those rounds might hit.

2) Know your weapon and its capabilities, and use the weapon you know. The homeowner had likely done some target shooting or possibly hunting with his .22 rifle and knew the limitations as well as the potential.

3) Do not freak out. No doubt the homeowner's heart was racing and his system was full of adrenaline, but he managed to line up his sights and place a round where it would be the most effective.

4) When the threat ends, cease defensive action. If the fight had not been over, clearly, the defender should have kept shooting. However, he recognized that the intruder was no longer a threat and halted. This makes his action look even more justifiable in the eyes of the law. We want to always be able to honestly say: I only did what I had to do. No more -- but also, no less.

5) Nothing beats shot placement when it comes to the use of a firearm.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fear, Uncertainty, and Debt

Monty Pelerin decided to give us 29 reasons to be angry or scared. Also posted over at American Thinker.

I agree with everything Mr. Pelerin says, but I'm not really angry -- most of the time. Being scared is counterproductive.

I think his comment about China is especially insightful. We are not getting the full story out of China. I have known Chinese dissidents -- one of whom died quite suddenly and mysteriously in Dallas just after the Tiananmen Square protests which he had supported. I also know from talking with Chinese co-workers that Christianity is a strong and growing movement in China. China is much more volatile than their government or ours is willing to admit.

These are interesting times. Keep your powder dry.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Zombie Apocalypse Is Not So Bad

... at least according to Spengler. Or perhaps compared to how bad it could be.

The idea is that the market is just going to grind along like the undead, no excitement, no dramatic wins, but no catastrophic losses. It's worth a read.

There is still the problem of government debt and entitlements, and the ever-increasing push for more of the same from the socialists. The Boomer generation is heading into retirement having counted on Social Security and a vibrant stock market to finance their retirement. Inflation is eating away at our savings and devouring our fixed incomes. Banks and corporations may be sitting on trillions in cash reserves, but how long can they live off their fat?

We are like an obese person who has been locked in a vault with a limited amount of food. No matter how much we have or how much we have stored, at some point, if we don't get out, we will die of starvation. No, it won't be quick or dramatic. Just inevitable.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Stock Slide - 06/10/2011 -- Updated

Yes, we had some bad news yesterday on the continuing high number of new UI claims, but the sell-off is running on not much news -- unless maybe something like THIS. A China ratings house claims that the U.S. is already defaulting on loans by, uh, default -- as a result of a policy to deliberately and systemically weaken the dollar. This makes China sad. Shoot, it makes me sad.

Normally, however, it would not make Wall Street sad. It would be expected to weaken government bonds rather than stocks.

Oh, wait, that QE2 thing is ending. Maybe everyone is realizing the ride is over. A deeply saddened China is pressuring the Fed not to try QE3. Probably things will be back to normal by next Wednesday. We'll pull back from the edge and bounce around for a while in the typical summertime stock market blues -- probably. But what it shows us is how close we are to the edge, and it is still a long way straight down.

My opinion -- and I'm no economist -- is that the best way is just to go on to the bottom and get it over with. That's what Bernanke should do, and he knows it in his heart, though he's unlikely to admit it. Even the idiots in the Obama administration probably know it. If that did happen, by October 2012 things would be starting to rise again. It would be no worse and possibly better for Obama's re-election than the continuing uncertainty and Carteresque malaise.

All the stimulus, TARP, and money printing was not done to save the economy. It was done to save the big banks, the good buddies of the people at the Federal Reserve and in the Treasury Department. The working class, in debt up to their eyeballs and beyond, living paycheck to paycheck, having been sold the lie of consumerism and having signed on the broken line to enslave themselves to the banks for the American Dream, have suffered.

We've already seen, in Madison,WI, how the government union thugs and entitlement zombies will react to the mere mention of "cuts" or reductions. The political elites will refuse to surrender their power by cutting the size of government. They know that if they attempt to wean their dependent constituency from the government teat that cities will burn. Fear and the lust for power will drive them to continue on the current path until the fateful day when the first pebble starts it roll. The avalanche may begin from a bomb blast in the Middle East, or an aircraft carrier suddenly appearing off the coast of Taiwan, or mere words shouted in the trading floor, or it may begin in the 0's and 1's of an algorithm in a bank of supercomputers. However it begins and whenever it begins, the end result will be that we will be swept over the edge of precipice.

It's a good time to remind ourselves about Denninger's Ten Thing circa 2007 and today's new 2011 version.

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. And he called out with a mighty voice,

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
She has become a dwelling place for demons,
a haunt for every unclean spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.
For all nations have drunk
the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality,
and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her,
and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,

“Come out of her, my people,
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities.
Pay her back as she herself has paid back others,
and repay her double for her deeds;
mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.
As she glorified herself and lived in luxury,
so give her a like measure of torment and mourning,
since in her heart she says,
‘I sit as a queen,
I am no widow,
and mourning I shall never see.’
For this reason her plagues will come in a single day,
death and mourning and famine,
and she will be burned up with fire;
for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.”

And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,

“Alas! Alas! You great city,
you mighty city, Babylon!
For in a single hour your judgment has come.”

And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.
-- Revelation 18:1-13 (ESV)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Coyote Medicine

Someone on a forum asked about the best firearm for use on coyotes. His requirements were simple. He lived on one hundred plus acres in a rural area, but he had neighbors within sight of his house. He was only interested in eliminating the coyotes that came near the house, an area of about seven acres. He was experienced with handguns but owned no long arms, either rifle or shotgun. He also stipulated that, since he did not reload ammunition, the initial cost of the long arm would be much less of a consideration than the subsequent cost of ammunition.

Here are the facts. The average male coyote, depending on the region, weighs approximately 35 pounds. The width of the body in the vicinity of the vital organs, not counting winter hair, might be six to eight inches. Coyotes are lean animals with less lung capacity and lighter structure than the hounds with which we chase them.

Seven acres is slightly less than 306,000 square feet. If you form it as a square, it is roughly 553 feet or 184 yards on a side. We are not talking about vast distances here. Our coyote hunter is limiting himself to shots of generally less than 100 yards. Though experienced with handguns, he is going to have to practice quite a bit to familiarize himself with a rifle or shotgun if he hopes to develop reasonable accuracy.

Given these facts, the people who responded to the question offered all kinds of solutions. Some were facetious, but some were serious about rounds such as the 30-06 or 7mm Remington Magnum. This was offered as a reasonable solution because coyotes are "tough" and "need a lot of killing". The 7mm magnum is a great long-range elk gun. An elk weighs 600 pounds. The weapon system that is appropriate for elk at 300 yards is hardly the same one needed for a 40 pound varmint at 40 yards. Certainly a 7mm will kill a coyote, but the muzzle blast and recoil of such a weapon can be detrimental to accuracy, especially for a beginner. And that's not even to consider the downrange threats to the neighbors or their reaction to very, very loud noises.

There are actually three or four excellent choices for defending the chihuahua, the cats and the chickens from coyotes in a populated but rural setting. The first is the shotgun. Let's consider the disadvantages of the shotgun. It has limited range, and the ammunition is bulky and relatively expensive. The advantages are that a beginner can learn to shoot one fairly quickly, the shotgun is very effective within its range, and it is quite versatile based on ammunition choices. A shotgun with a full or extra full choke and heavy shot, such as Remington Nitro Express #2's, will humanely kill a coyote out to 40 yards. The noise of a shotgun is not as penetrating as a center-fire rifle, and there is no danger of a stray bullet carrying over onto a neighbor's property.

Next I would suggest, especially for the non-reloader, the .22WMR. These rounds from a rifle with a barrel at least 22" in length do not generate excessive noise. The .22 magnum will quickly dispatch a coyote within 150 yards. There is some danger of a bullet going too far, but as long as the shooter is alert and mindful of direction and backstop and is not shooting at some ridiculous angle, there need be no threat to safety.

The .22 Hornet is a good choice. It has considerably higher velocity than the .22WMR with modest muzzle blast. It is a very effective coyote-stopper within 150 yards. If one is inclined to try reloading, the Hornet offers a great deal of versatility. Because it is a rimmed cartridge, I consider it easier to load and more forgiving than something like the .223.

Speaking of the .223, this is probably a good choice as well. It will take down a coyote quite effectively within 200 yards, has little recoil, and acceptable muzzle blast. Depending on the rifle in which it is chambered, the .223 can be very accurate, and it can be used for home defense in a semi-auto rifle like the Mini-14 or an AR clone. Again, handloading gives more versatility, but the commercial ammunition for this round is fairly cheap and makes reloading non-essential.

Finally, I offer the .22LR in a rifle like the Ruger 10/22 or possibly a Savage bolt-action. There are, of course, those who will claim that it is unethical to use the .22LR on coyotes. My experience contradicts this. In fact, I would suggest that it is far less humane to shoot a coyote with a big-game type bullet from a 7mm or a .300 magnum than with a .22LR. The reason is that a heavy, strongly constructed bullet will pass through the light frame of a coyote completely, many times without expanding. It is true that a person can get a lighter varmint-type bullet for the larger caliber weapons which will expand on a coyote. This is a reasonable solution for a person who hunts bigger game with the bigger round and wishes to hone his or her skill on a particular rifle by hunting predators and varmints.

For the person who is merely defending the homestead against predation, that is hardly an ideal solution.

The .22LR, however, is very good for a beginner in terms of noise and the absolute absence of recoil. It is the most economical round to use for practice and prefect for developing good accuracy habits. The disadvantage of the .22LR is range. Shots on larger varmints like coyotes are best limited to 50 yards. No one wants a wounded animal suffering and dying slowly - though that, of course, routinely happens in nature. The humane preference is death that is as painless and instantaneous as possible. If using a .22LR, one should choose a high-velocity round that will offer appropriate penetration, expansion and weight retention. I prefer CCI Velocitors, which shoot very well in my rifles. I am sure there are other good rounds, including the more explosive CCI Stinger and the Remington Yellowjacket hollowpoint or Viper solid. The limited range of the .22LR reduces the danger of stray bullets, but a shooter must still pay attention to direction, angle and obstacles for safety's sake.

All things considered, I would have suggested to our novice the .22WMR in a bolt-action CZ, Marlin, or Savage with a good-quality scope attached. This combination would offer a nice balance of range, effectiveness, safety, and economy.

The point is not so much about coyotes, but about thinking through the applicability for the job at hand. A person who can afford or desires only one or two firearms has to make more compromises. A person who knows, more or less specifically what he intends to do, can get the specific tool for the job. This applies to tools other than firearms. I have a post driver for steel posts. That is really all it can do and all it is good for, but it is far and away the best manual driver for steel posts one could have.

We are apt to look at our favorite tools which we use in our personal ways and think that these are the best tools for anyone. Another example would be the debate between people who prefer autoloading pistols like the 1911 and people who prefer revolvers. The fact is that if a gun is resting in your nightstand drawer or is stuck under your mattress ninety percent of the time, the best choice is a decent quality revolver in a substantial caliber. On the other hand, if you are carrying a firearm around in a dirty environment, getting it wet, dropping it, knocking against stuff, constantly loading and unloading it, a tough autoloader is probably a better choice. Do not let the preferences and prejudices of others inhibit or color your thinking and reasoning about your own situation.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Goldman Suggests Optimism -- Updated with Denninger Pessimism

The Good Goldman gives us a Top Ten. I applaud his positive attitude, though, even his best-case scenario isn't really rosy. Read it.

Saudis don't get their way.

Actually, David Goldman/Spengler does not really suggest being optimistic as much as he says we should not panic. And I agree wholeheartedly.

Still, a lot of stuff can happen fast, and mostly it is not good. Oil prices may go up or down after the OPEC failure, but weakness in the dollar suggests they will go up. Iran could have a testable nuclear weapon in as little as two months according to Rand analysts. What's that going to do to oil prices? And Middle East stability? And Israel's defenses?

We live in interesting times.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Time to Start Thinking About Civil Disobedience ...

... before the only course is uncivil disobedience.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Private property is fundamental to the American way of life. It has two parts: property and private. Property means that I own it, possess it, and can do with it as I see fit. Private means not public. It seems obvious and clear. Why would the courts not be able to understand the plain language and intent of this Amendment?

It is a shocking experience for me to be on the same side as Ruth Bader Ginsberg — the only Supreme Court Justice to stand for the Fourth Amendment in a case from Kentucky recently decided. Police were seeking some drug offender and lost the trail in an apartment complex. They smelled marijuana, knocked on a door, heard people "moving around" in response to being told the police were present. Assuming that drugs were being flushed, the apparently telepathic police forced their way in and searched the apartment finding drugs "in plain sight". They had not even entered the "right" apartment, but people were successfully prosecuted on the basis of illegally (darn Constitution) obtained evidence. Ginsberg's minority opinion correctly sees this decision as the death of the Fourth Amendment — the end of Americans ever being "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects". We now officially live in a police state.

You won't be allowed to have your own drugs but Soma will be issued to you as needed to assure compliance and cooperation. I have always been on good terms with the police, and I once worked as a law enforcement officer. This changes things, as does the decision from the Indiana State Supreme Court that denies a person any right whatsoever to ever resist a law enforcement officer entering his or her house without a warrant.

The old "if you have nothing to hide" canard is pretty stale at this point. I have the right to resist anyone attempting to enter my house at any time. Any fool can put on a police uniform and buy a novelty badge through the mail. Police should never attempt to enter the residence of a citizen without permission or proper judicial oversight as evidenced by a warrant. If I have nothing to hide, why do you want to search my house? If I have nothing to hide, why do you want to spy on me, track my movements, my purchases and cash transactions? If I have nothing to hide, why do the police need to bother me at all? If I have nothing to hide, why do you feel it necessary to abridge my rights?

It's not about me having anything to hide, it is about the government's continuing program of intimidation and control.

The War on Drugs started this crap. The War on Terror is an extension and solidification of it.

Personally, I would rather take my chances with the druggies and the terrorists than the government.

Denninger seems to get the point. Will a people who feel that they have no Constitutional protection resort to violence? I certainly hope not.

I am not a slave. I am a citizen. A Supreme Court decision cannot change the written law of the Constitution. The only way to overturn the Fourth Amendment is by another Amendment. Until that happens — and it will not — the Fourth Amendment stands as a protection for private citizens against an intrusive government. We as citizens need to make it clear to our elected representatives that we do not appreciate and will not tolerate the violation of our God-given and inalienable rights.