Friday, December 30, 2011

Things to Think About in the Year Ahead

ChinaProduction in China is down due to slowing demand in the rest of the world and domestically.  I guess you can only build so many ghost cities.  The paragraph that jumped out at me was this one:

The People's Bank of China is widely expected to lower its requirement for the amount of cash banks must hold as reserves to let lenders inject more credit into the economy to fight headwinds from Europe's debt crisis and sluggish U.S. demand.
In other words, "Double, double, toil and trouble/ Fire burn and cauldron BUBBLE"  They will increase spending on public housing and other unnecessary "infrastructure" projects -- a typical command economy response, see "bridges to nowhere".  Now, of course, China does not have our debt problem -- well, they do, just the other end of it.  They may be able to take in wash for one another for a good long while, but it is still a bubble in the end.  Acknowledged inflation in China has slowed from the reported 6.5% earlier in the year. 

Reduction of the Eurozone/Collapse of the euro.  The euro has come off its low against the dollar and is trading, at the moment, in a range from 1.29 to 1.295 -- down considerably from its 52-week high around 1.49.  Our illustrious Fed Chair is attempting to stabilize the European banks and the euro with currency swaps, otherwise, I suspect we would see the euro really go off the edge.  Greece is going to leave the Eurozone sometime in the next twelve months, I would almost bet (not a prediction, just a likely outcome).  If Greece goes, it will probably make sense for the Italians to go.  A bite-the-bullet realignment is the only way to save any kind of United Northern Europe.  It could get really ugly really fast if they try to keep it as it is. 

North Korea.  Who cares?  OK, my prediction is that we'll see an opening in relations with South Korea.  I have no particular reason to think that except that the Nork military brass might like to get out of their old Lincolns and into some sporty new Hyundais.

Iran.  This monument to Jimmy Carter's dumbassery will have to be dealt with at some point in some way.  I suspect the U.S. and/or the Israelis have been and possibly are operating under the radar around Iranian nuclear facilities.  I suspect we have a great deal of intelligence about their military capability.  It was stupid of Obama not to support the post-election uprisings in 2009 and 2010.  There are good people in Iran, just as there are in North Korea.  I do not doubt that there are Iranians who are collaborating with western powers, hoping to overthrow the mullahs and establish a secular Persian republic.  Unfortunately, they are probably going to be busy trying to stay alive when Iran begins to strong-arm its way into Iraq.  If a major war breaks out anywhere in the next twelve months, it's about 2 to 1 that Iran is involved.

Speaking of war.  If you are an individual who can't pay your bills, are in debt to your eyeballs, and behind on the rent, one traditional solution is to load up your belongings in the middle of the night and head for another state.  The national equivalent is to inflate the currency to worthlessness then start a war with somebody.  I mean this in all seriousness, I am praying that Barack Obama survives until November.  I would rather have him re-elected, as horrific as that will be, than to see him assassinated.  I say the same for all the world leaders.  Beware of an Archduke Ferdinand incident.  The world is filled with gullible and easily manipulated idiots like Timothy McVeigh who can be convinced to do something "heroic" for a "cause".  It might be an assassination.  It might be a dirty bomb.  It might be some scenario that we can't imagine at the moment.  It may happen in the U.S., in Jerusalem, in the Straits of Hormuz, Berlin, Seoul, or somewhere else.  One thing is for certain, it will be, as they say, bravo sierra - a mere excuse for another military intervention to draw attention away from the economic conditions in the countries involved.    

Elections.  Conservatives, aka, Classical Liberals need to embrace the Doctrine of Incrementalism in politics.  We are not going to be able to return to a sound Constitutional footing in one swell RonPaul.  It just ain't going to happen.  Actually, the best suggestion I have heard is the one from Rick Perry, that Congress spend less time in Washington.  Congress is always passing one stupid law or another to prove that they are "doing something."  Never mind that 95% of the time what they are doing is useless if not outright detrimental.  Elections should be used to put pressure on elected representatives and force them to be accountable to their constituents.  Never be afraid to vote against an incumbent in the primary.  Incumbents should fear for their jobs.  In general elections we are obligated to vote for the less of two or three evils, but we can use the primaries to make the lesser really lesser. 

Preps.  I think you will see a window of opportunity for buying precious metals over the next few months.  The prudent thing is not to go all-in on a dip and not to freak out over fluctuations but to cost-average purchases of gold and silver -- that is, buy a little along, maybe a little more on a drop.  I would think a few ounces of junk silver coins it probably affordable for most of us and should be held at a minimum.  However, if a person has debt, it would be a good idea to get rid of that before buying a lot of metal.

Make a New Year's resolution to try growing at least a little of your own food if you have not done that before.  Also, if you don't have a pressure cooker, consider investing in canning equipment for your own produce or for what you can pick up at local farmers' markets.

Make friends.  Create relationships.  Find people who are skilled, trustworthy, and honest.  Churches are sometimes good places to start looking.  

Think about what it would take to rebuild a financially, politically, and morally bankrupt society from the ground up.  Examine both yourself and your current community.  If you are not up to the task, start working on yourself -- most of us need to do that anyway, especially me.  If you honestly believe the problem is your community, it might be good to start looking for a new one.   

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Playing with Matches

Iran says that closing down the Straits of Hormuz is "really easy".  Well, yeah.  However, keeping it closed could be really hard. 

This is what happens when your enemies perceive you as weak, vacillating, and indecisive.  Bin Laden's much publicized, though undocumented, demise did nothing to change the perception of Obama as an incompetent dilettante in the eyes of the world.  His "asking" Iran to return our downed drone hasn't helped much either.

Unfortunately for the world and the Iranians, an attempted shutdown of the Gulf could well result in a catastrophic chain reaction.  It is stupid little sparks like this that ignite powder kegs, ending in rivers of blood and destruction. 

Are the Iranians stupid enough to try to close down oil shipments?  Some people suspect they are, and it is edging oil prices higher at a time of the year when they typically recede.  This may not be the spark, but it is exactly the kind of spark that should remind us of how close to the abyss we are playing.  Instability in North Korea or Pakistan, economic uncertainty in China, posturing by Iran, the collapse of the euro, or some other local calamity could trigger a global chain of events that, once it starts, is unstoppable. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Long, Cold Arab Winter

Secretary of State Clinton expresses outrage over the way women are being attacked.  Wow, Hillary, who saw that coming when a Western-friendly, secular strongman was overthrown and replaced by the military in conjunction with the Muslim Brotherhood?

As I pointed out sometime ago, the Arab riots glorified by Beltway brainiacs, and immortalized by Time ragazine as Person of the Year, were bread riots.  They were used by the Al Qaeda-like extremist Muslim groups in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya to gain new, stronger footing.  We won't hear much about it on the news, but there are reports that Christians in Egypt are being subjected to intensified persecution.  Who do you suppose is doing that?  The Amish?  Those guys really get around.  Oh, wait, maybe it's the Juuuuus. 

It is sure starting to look more and more like 1979.  Abandoning the Shah and allowing his regime to be overthrown by a "popular" Islamist uprising turned out so well. 

I have trouble deciding who to blame for all this.  Carter started it by giving us a full terrorist state in Iran.  Bush is guilty.  The invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan should have been pitched as what I am convinced military planners envisioned -- a two-pronged pincher movement to isolate and destroy Iran -- the real head of the snake.  Democracy in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, or Egypt for that matter, is a joke.  That should never have been our goal.  Nation-building should be left to the survivors.  After American contractors were brutally murdered and hung from a bridge in Fallujah early in the Iraq War, the city should have been surrounded and sealed and residents given 24 hours to evacuate through authorized checkpoints.  Then it should have been turned into a smoking crater. 

The people in this region understand nothing except strength.  They cannot be trusted.  There is no reason to negotiate with them.  You either adapt to their culture as British agents often did (see The Seven Pillars of Wisdom or Buchan's Greenmantle), or you destroy it.  There is no in-between.  Bush tried to be noble and magnanimous.  The cost in American lives, money, and momentum has been fatal to our efforts there.  The incursion should have massed forces on the borders of Iran and, from there, bombed Iranian cities and nuclear facilities.  Then we should have left the practitioners of the Religion of Peace in the region to murder one another in peace, with a note to the Saudis that it will be Mecca next time America is attacked.

While we were at it, it would have been an excellent time to tell the UN to go build themselves a headquarters in Somalia or some other Third World hellhole.

But we didn't.  Thus we are left with the ineptitude of Obama and the weakness of Clinton while being subjected to the staged assassination of Zombie bin Laden who most likely died in a Tora Bora cave before the end of 2002.  

At this point, our best way forward is to disengage from the Middle East and seal the Mexican and Canadian borders. 


Friday, December 16, 2011

The Power of One

I don't know about you, but I am monumentally tired of talking about gloom and doom and terror on every side.  Let's talk about something more entertaining:  the Tactical Single-Shot.  It sounds as silly as Rambo's tactical compound bow, which might be a subject for another time. 

Why would anyone choose a single-shot firearm?  Are there inherent advantages to a single-shot?  Obviously the speed and convenience of a follow-up shot is a disadvantage.  Does anything compensate for that deficiency?

A single-shot is often used by beginning shooters primarily as a safety consideration.  A loaded single-shot is no more safe than a loaded semi-auto — that is, with a round chambered.  The difference is that the beginner is in less danger of inadvertently chambering a round.  The shooter cannot simply cycle the action but must consciously and manually place the cartridge into the chamber. 

One alleged advantage that I used to hear — back in the olden days of the 1950s and 1960s, was that the single-shot is more accurate.  This is mostly mythology based somewhat on the relative hunting accuracy of a tubular magazine lever-action repeaters versus the heavy, stiff falling block and rolling block actions of the late blackpowder cartridge era.  Barrel harmonics are kind of mysterious to most of us.  I could get the point of impact to change on one rifle I had based on how tightly I pulled the sling.  Could heavy bullets in a full, under-barrel tube attached by a metal band near the muzzle possibly have an effect on the vibration of the barrel?  It seems reasonable to think that the movement of the barrel might be slightly altered as rounds are removed from the magazine, shot by shot.  I don't think there is much difference in accuracy for most of us between a modern bolt-action with a box magazine and a modern bolt-action single-shot, though benchrest rifles do tend to be the latter.

Inherent mechanical accuracy aside, then, some will say that a single-shot forces the shooter to be better, or at least more careful.  I suppose that might be true for some.  Personally, I have never noticed a difference in hunting.  I was always taught to make the first shot count anyway, while blazing away and wasting expensive ammunition was frowned upon if not outright ridiculed.  I rarely take a second shot unless I have wounded an animal.  On deer I can recall one time where I made a clean miss on my first shot and fired again.  Another time, I made a poor decision in shooting the first time and had to quickly fire two more rounds to bring the deer to a humane end.  Other than that, I am pretty much a "one shot, deer" person, not because I am any better than a mediocre shot but because I generally keep the range short and don't take chances.  The deer I wounded was going away from me at an acute angle, and I never should have pulled the trigger.  That was forty years ago, and I haven't made the same mistake since. 

By what I have said so far it might be assumed that I am not a big single-shot fan, but that would be a wrong assumption.  I love single-shots whether shotguns, rifles, or handguns.  I like the simplicity and versatility of break-opens like the Thompson-Center and the H&R that allow a convenient change of calibers and barrel configurations.  I like the ease of cleaning and maintenance.  I appreciate the beauty and romance of rifles like the Ruger No. 1 and Winchester High Walls and Low Walls.  I enjoy the challenge of the single-shot while relishing its utter reliability.  Almost nothing can go wrong with a one-holer.  It's like an outhouse.  What could be simpler?  Even an inexpensive break-open like the H&R is virtually indestructible. 

Now just as apparent as the attraction of the single barrel is the fact that there is no magazine.  Does that mean that the prudent person, looking to defend hearth and home — as opposed to hunting, should avoid single-shots and stick with rapid-firing repeaters?  That depends.

As I have said before, the most critical weapon for home defense is a centerfire handgun.  This should not be a Contender but a revolver or autoloader.  This is your weapon of choice when caught by surprise or when you are least expecting trouble.  It is the one you should always have close at hand — preferably attached to your person whenever legally and physically possible.  Higher capacity, rapidity of firing, and speed of reloading are important considerations in close-range, hostile social situations. 

The same it true with regard to shotguns and rifles to be used for home defense.  You might be able to get by with a break-open single-barrel shotgun, as long as it has an ejector, but a double would be much better and a higher-capacity pump or semi-auto better still.  For rifles, short, maneuverable autoloading, pump, or lever-action carbines are probably the best choices, although a bolt-action like the classic British Enfield would certainly do in a pinch. 

But that does not mean the single-shot has nothing to contribute.  I have an H&R Handi-Rifle in .223 that is indeed handy.  Not only is it convenient to throw in the truck, it is safe and accurate and makes a fine little ranch rifle when dealing with varmints and pests.  Note, too, that it is chambered for quite a ubiquitous round.  It would make a great back up for someone with an AR-type weapon, for example, in the same chambering.  Similarly, an inexpensive single-shot chambered for the .44 or .357 magnum would be a good companion weapon for anyone with a revolver of the same caliber.

Being able to quickly change barrels and chamberings allows the prudent shooter to adjust to changing circumstances, such as ammunition availability.  Mechanical things break.  Accidents happen.  Having a cheap way to keep shooting, even if it is only one bullet at a time, is a wise thing to consider. 

Versatility, redundancy, simplicity, reliability, convenience, safety, size, and, yes, even romance are all reasons to consider adding a single-shot — or two, to the rack.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Experts -- updated 12/14/2011

I was thinking today, and I said as much over at the Monty Pelerin site, that people who are supposed to be the experts have no idea what they are doing.  Almost any fool can keep a plane in the air on auto-pilot if there are no storms or mechanical problems.  It's when you run into trouble that you need a pilot -- a man like Sullenberger.  It does not take much skill to take a float trip down a Class I river.  It's when you get to Class IV and V that you need to know what you are doing.  And you need to have enough sense to stay out of Class VI.

Anybody can make money in the stock market on a long bull run such as occurred from 1987 to 2000.  I haven't researched it, but I would guess that Warren Buffet made a significant portion of his billions during that period.  You can look like a sage by not doing anything stupid during good times -- and we have had some good times.  If the federal government would stick to the Constitution, you could put a half-wit like Obama in charge and even he could not really screw it up.  The Founders handed us a republic as an almost turnkey operation.  If we had stuck to the limitations instead of trying to "do good" or "fix" something, we would have many fewer problems.

It was the experts who created the explosive atmosphere for World War I.  It was the experts who decided the best way to punish Germany was to handicap that economy with a war debt that could not be paid.  In doing so, they laid a stumbling block for the German financial system which caused it to collapse.  It eventually became a foundation stone for the spectral fortress of the Third Reich and the great slaughter of the Second World War.  The authorities all believed that socialism was the wave of the future and tried to turn our own nation into the United Soviet of America with the New Deal, creating, deepening and prolonging a stock market correction into the Great Depression, ended only by war production.

A victory in Vietnam won by men who still understood fighting was forfeited by the Ivy League golden boys and professional diplomats. The elites declared a War on Poverty, and the American people lost.  The elites declared a War on Drugs, and the American people lost.  The brilliant MBAs of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, whether heading investment banks or Executive Branch agencies, apparently declared War on Recession because we are losing that one, too.

So here we are.  We have our experts telling us how to get out of the hole we are in -- or, in the case of our brilliant, though credential-less President, telling how to dig our way out -- possibly through China.  Let's put aside for the moment, the experts and authorities who are telling us there is no inflation, that the Great Recession is over, that all we need to do to get out of debt is borrow and spend more money, because, obviously, common people like ourselves lack the capacity to breathe in the rarified Olympian heights where such god-like creature tread.

We will, instead, stick to our fellow travelers who claim to know what is going to happen economically in the near- to mid-future.  Go out in your yard, shake any tree, and you are liable to unseat a roughly equal number of inflationists and deflationists, along with the occasion hyper-inflationist and a stoner who will lift his head from the ground to declare, "Ron Paul, 2012!"  

Almost without exception, they will agree on the basic idea that the world economies are in a mess and we are about to deflate/inflate/hyperinflate/go to Disney World.  With the exception of the stoner, they will also hedge those statements.  Here is an excellent example from Seeking Alpha.  And I am not criticizing the writer.  In fact, I agree with everything he says.  I just see him making the same point that I often make.  Deflation is what would happen "naturally" and that would rectify much of what ails the economy after some degree of suffering and austerity.  Nevertheless, it looks like we are probably going to go into inflation because the more responsible and more honest deflation track requires an "expert" like Bernanke to eat crow and to throw his banker buddies and his politician buddies over the side.  I will say it again:  the best argument for the inflation scenario is that governments with massive debt obligations cannot afford deflation.  And they, at least to some extent, control the central banks.

Does anyone think that Greece would not have been printing money by the bushel basket if they were still on the drachma?  Or that Italy would not be ordering ink by the tanker load if they were still issuing their own lira?  They would indeed, and it would make sense.

There was a point to all this when I started.  Oh, yes, experts.  They are not much help at this point.  For the moment, cash is probably still king.  Stay away from European bonds.  Be very cautious about American municipal bonds.  Commodities look scary after MF Global.  Some metals are a good idea.  Be alert and be ready to move decisively.  

Update:  notice that gold and silver have fallen sharply over the last few days.  Why is that?  There has been a sharp decline in the euro against the dollar, which is part of it.  But also, leverage is coming out all over Europe.  Gold has been a highly speculative commodity over the last couple of years in light of US Fed quantitative easing.  A lot of metal has been bought on margins.  Right now the futures on large lots of gold and silver are higher than on gold and silver per ounce.  It does not seem to me to be a good time to be actively trading significant amounts of precious metals, or any other commodity.  But that's just me.  

The Fed will most likely -- not certainly but likely -- make a move to again devalue the dollar after Christmas.  If I survive the next couple of weeks (far from a foregone conclusion), I might mosey down to the local coin dealer to see what his prices are for the new year.

And remember, like a blind pig, even an expert can find an acorn once in a while.

Ron Paul, 2012!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Does the MF Stand for Again? -- Updated

Corzine:  I Simply Do Not Know Where The Money Went

It would have been more truthful to say, "There's no tellin' where the money went."

That's spicier than I remembered.

This is a little more my style.

The original studio version with Ronnie is still the best

One more 'cause I'm kind of on the roll.

Update:  I make light of the testimony given by Corzine because if I didn't laugh, I'd probably cry.  As the lovely Miss Barnhardt has said on occasion, the rule of law is dead.  How do I know this?  Because Corzine did not plead the Fifth.  He just lied.  He can do that with impunity because he knows he is not going to have his fat ass hauled into court.  Corzine and Obama are more than just political teammates.  They are conspirators and participants in the same despicable fraud being perpetrated on the working people of this country and every developed nation in the West.  They are as crooked as a truckload of copperheads and more poisonous.  If Corzine goes down, Obama and probably several others in the administration, and, quite possibly several members of Congress go down with him.  He knows that.  Some of the tainted may be Republicans.  They all need to go to jail.

Holder could do the same thing today, saying lying depends on one's state of mind.  There is a difference between telling something I know to be false as the truth and saying something false because I believe it is true.  If Holder were guilty of ignorance, he would not be a felon.  But the Justice Department for which Holder is responsible did attempt to mislead Congress, as Sensenbrenner points out.  If this were known by the Attorneys-General as far back as Gonzales and Mukasey -- and it was -- then Holder and Obama were not ignorant but complicit.  In fact, they restarted the process after it was abandoned as a bad idea under Bush. 

Scooter Libby went to jail for supposedly making a misstatement to a grand jury.  The management of Enron went to jail -- except for the one who croaked.  Corzine and the rest of the upper management of MF Global should be in prison, as should Holder who not only lied to Congress but broke the law and enabled the murder of at least one Border Patrol agent and hundreds of Mexican citizens. 

As one of the comments on Holder's video says, it is only the little people who have to tell the truth.  Holder, Obama, Corzine, and politicians in general are above the law.  So, I say again:  the rule of law is dead. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

In the News

This is not too surprising. 

Even though I think it is true, it did come from the Dan Rather network, so somebody needs to verify the email font.  As I have said before, "Gunwalker" was not a "botched sting".  Back in 2007, the Bush Administration killed the idea of using gun purchases to sting Mexican drug cartels because it was dangerous and ineffective.  Obama and Holder revived and pushed the concept because they wanted grounds for new restrictions.  The ATF is always looking for ways to hose us.  I hate revenuers. 

Meanwhile, beware China-geddon.   From the article:
China, says Edwards in his inimitable prose, is a “freak economy.” No other economy in history, he points out, has experienced such high investment to GDP ratios and seen so many sequential years of strong investment growth.
Or one might say, it's like a great Dot Com bubble.

We have been exporting inflation to China over the last couple of years — one of the reasons it hasn't been worse here, especially prior to QE2 back in 2010.  I always have my doubts about official proclamations of how an economy is doing.  Certainly China has seen tremendous growth, but it was based mostly on exports to the U.S. and Europe.  As the West has gone into recession, it should be expected to impact China. 

China has built large cities that remain largely uninhabited.  It is a command economy, and, as is more and more evident, the Chinese are no better than the French, the Germans, or a Harvard brain trust at managing the economic decisions of large numbers of people.

** Update -- Spengler addressed China's potential weaknesses a couple of weeks ago.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Chicago Fed's Discouraging Words

The Chicago Fed President assures us inflation won't get to 3%.  Really?  Is that 3% per month?  The last time I checked we had already seen inflation of little items like food and fuel higher than 3% annually.  "Core" inflation minus the "volatile" food and fuel that everybody has to have everyday has been controlled because housing prices have deflated.  Core inflation is defined the same way an apple core is defined -- it is what's left after all the stuff you want has been removed. 

Evans says there is "slack" in the economy caused by the high unemployment rate which pushes down demand, which would be true in a free market economy.  Unfortunately we don't have a free market economy.  If we did, you would see people make intelligent, informed choices leading to voluntary austerity with subsequent increases in productivity and savings and decreases in spending.

Excess debt accrued during the prior housing bubble would be wiped out in defaults, foreclosures, and bankruptcies.  And the bankers would take the hit.  The Fed and their partners in the crime, the federal government, will not let that happen.  So we will have another round of "pump priming" -- you know, the action that deepened and prolonged the Great Depression of the 20th Century.  The federal government will try to maintain its size and power by deficit spending, including maintaining and expanding a social safety net that demotivates people to productive economic activity. 

Meanwhile the banks and the Fed will do all they can to induce people to further indebtedness and to encouraging the indebted to continue to pour increasingly worthless fiat money into the coffers of the financial institutions in order to maintain an illusion of growth and wealth.

Evans states that another round of bond-buying to continue funding the federal government's growing deficit will happen if necessary.  

They are going to continue on the road to destruction.  They cannot help themselves.  The further down the road they go, the uglier ultimate crash is going to be.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Speak of the Devil: Rise of the Food Police

It is rapidly approaching the point where governments will start using "South Park" as a think-tank to come up with new policies, regulations, and legislation -- if we are not there already.

From back in September of 2011:  In New Zealand, a new law would make, possibly, even the selling of seeds illegal.  No, not marijuana seeds, regular ol' beans and tomato seeds and radish seeds and watermelon seeds.  Read the article from the Timaru Herald here.  Even the name of the bill is ominous -- the Food Bill.  Be sure and read the comments.

The officials say that the bill is aimed at commercial operations, strictly, that it will have no impact on community gardens or farmers' markets. This is what officials always say.  It is a requirement for being an official.  It might even be true in this case.  I do not know.

Because, you know, officials NEVER expand the interpretation of regulations.

That's right.  The TSA would not allow a girl's purse as carry-on because it had a "replica gun" on the flap.  It is a raised design, so in effect, the TSA interpreted "replica gun" to mean a picture of a gun.  Obviously the rule was aimed at non-firing weapons that could be used to run a bluff and take over an aircraft, which, if you are going to disarm the flying sheep, is not too bad an idea.  (My idea is to hand passengers a loaded shotgun as they board so that nobody has to worry about the plane being taken over by a 90-year-old white female terrorist with toenail clippers stashed in her Depends.)  But, as bureaucracies are apt to do, the officials pushed something -- however stupid, that could arguably make vague and marginal sense completely into the bizarre and surreal.

Quoting from the article, the TSA stands its ground:

TSA isn't budging on the handbag, arguing the phony gun could be considered a "replica weapon." The TSA says "replica weapons have [been] prohibited since 2002."
Well, sure it could be mistaken for a replica weapon, if you are less than two years old and/or have an IQ less than your shoe size.  But it could not, by anybody I have ever met, be mistaken for a real weapon -- which is the point of the stupid regulation.

OK, I will admit that I have not met a TSA agent as far as I know.

The victim responds: 
"Common sense," she said. "It's a purse, not a weapon."
 Sorry, little sister, common sense ain't so common.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Painless Dentistry on a Gift Horse

One of the consequences of being Knife Guy and having blades in every drawer, on the shelf, and on the wall is that friends and family will often decide to give Knife Guy knives for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Hannukah, and National Emo Day. 

Normally this is not much of an issue.  The average gift knife probably cost the purchaser five to ten dollars, maybe a little more if they are immediate family or you bailed them out of the pokey one time.  A lot of the better ones are engraved or commemorative with decorative scales or elaborately etched blades.  I have one my sister bought me, a Schrade that is a large,  kind of old-timey looking folder with a running horse scene on the blade.  The scales are brown celluloid.   It says "Handmade" and "Limited Issue 2009".  It is the perfect gift knife because you are happy to display it, you don't have to ever use it, and you can enjoy being reminded of the person who gave it.

This same sister, bless her heart, gave me a great gift knife of a completely different kind — one of those super utility knives that uses boxcutter blades but has a pocket clip and a thumbstub like a typical tactical folder.  Again, it is a great gift knife because no one expects you to carry it all the time as a "dress" knife, and it is clearly meant to be exactly what it is — a very useful tool.  So you have two ends of the  spectrum in gifts from non-knife people. 

But my sister was not done.  For my birthday several months ago, she bought me yet another blade, the nightmare of gift knives.  It is a Winchester-branded fixed blade hunting knife.  It has burl wood scales, what I take to be a "surgical" stainless steel blade, and a guthook.  The blade is about four and a half inches.  The sheath isn't bad — ballistic nylon with a solid plastic sleeve, a snap strap , and nice big, solid belt loop.  But still, this is not a knife I would ever buy for myself.  It is somewhat of a specialty blade, though not unique or attractive enough to be a shelf-sitter.  While I am not sure exactly the kind of steel this is, I am sure that I tend to think of it as "cheap" whenever I run across it.  Thus it might not be too surprising to learn that at first I considered the Winchester a drawer knife.

I should mention that "guthook" is one of those technical  terms that means the opposite of what it would appear to mean.  A guthook helps you avoid "hooking the guts".  Guthooks are very handy for peeling the hide without cutting into the body cavity.  You carefully cut an opening with the main blade edge then turn the knife over, insert the blunt part of the hook under the skin next to the flesh and pull to cut.  It makes things go faster.  Guthooks can also be used in cleaning fish or safely severing lines or cords without cutting whatever the cord is tied to.  In an emergency, you could probably use one to cut through a seatbelt or any other kind of harness or binding.  The utility aspect is limited to material that will fit into the U of the hook — probably about quarter-inch to five-sixteenths diameter rope is all that would go in the one I have. 

Of course, I thanked my sister profusely because I love her anyway, and she might do better next year.  I got the knife home and decided to get that awful bevel off the main, hollow-ground edge.  While I was honing it, I noticed that the grip was actually rather well-designed for skinning as well as utility work.  We could call the blade a drop-point, I think, though I would probably call it a spear-point if the stupid guthook wasn't there. 

The blade, being stainless, made me think it would stand up to wet work like trimming and cutting up vegetables.  Along with the flaring but rounded guard, the depth of the blade worked with the grip geometry to make food preparation possible, though obviously it is not ideal compared to a chef's knife.  I also like the fact that the blade is a full one-eighth of an inch thick along the spine.  This is a very stiff knife with a full tang.  The tip, as is necessary on a skinning knife, is thinner and could probably be broken if the user were to indiscriminately deploy it as a prybar.  Past the first inch or so, however, a person might be able to lever up quite a bit without damage.  Not that I would ever abuse a knife that way or anything.  

To get to the, er, point, I ended up putting the now very sharp knife on my belt and using it on several occasions over the last few months.  The guthook came in surprisingly handy when I was trimming shoots off some of our trees.  It did work well as a utility knife in and around the garden and the kitchen.  It is not so big as to be awkward but not so small as to be hard for big hands to keep under control.  I am still not crazy about the guthook as it spoils the lines of what would be an otherwise sleek blade, but I admit it usefulness.  It does no harm except to the my sensibilities.  I will survive. 
Since it is a skinning knife, one has to wonder how it skins.  Unfortunately I did not have time to get a deer myself or even help the kids cut theirs up this fall.  The knife looks like it has too much belly for squirrels — like I wouldn't use my pocket knife anyway — but you could choke up and make it work.  I did use it cleaning a couple of bass and liked it better than a regular fillet knife for all of the work except the last step of slicing the fillet off the skin, so I plan to use it in conjunction with a fillet knife in the future. 

Summing up, this Winchester belt knife with guthook and burl wood scales is a tough, useful, and efficient addition to my blade stack.  It is not a knife I would buy, but I am happy to have it in my possession.  I am not sure what the price is.  I have seen comparable knives in the $15 to $30 range.  If I ran across one for $15, I might pick it up for one of the grandkids to carry in the field.  At $30 I would likely pass. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Speaking of Inflation ** Updated with Daily Reckoning link **

 Update:  The Great Pretenders stopped pretending, as Monty Pelerin says.  Monty also says that Bill Bonner says it best.

Here's the quote from Bonner that confirms for me some of what I said earlier today:
...[T]he central bank of Zimbabwe was printing up trillion-dollar notes and handing them out all over town. Trouble was, you couldn’t even buy a cup of coffee with them. In fact, you couldn’t buy a cup of coffee anyway…the whole economy was in such disarray nobody could get any coffee. Or anything else. (Emphasis added)
Or, coffee will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no coffee.

Yesterday, the US Fed reduced its rate for euros and dollars.  This makes 90-day rates cheaper to the European banks -- some of which are teetering on the brink of collapse.  The European Central Bank apparently feared bank runs and subsequent crisis.  Other central banks joined with the Fed and ECB to support the move.  Only dollars are currently being created out of thin air to prop up the euro and the Eurozone, but the Banks of Japan, England, Canada, and the Swiss National Bank form the Fed's posse.

More dollars going to Europe will add to inflation.  It was reflected in the price of equities and commodities yesterday.  Today looks like there is some profit-taking, but the dollar is still down against every other currency from its position earlier in the week.

All this psycho-financial manipulation even resulted in a successful bond auction for Spain.  In fact, that may have been a motivating factor for the move, at least in terms of timing.  The last thing the Eurozone needs at this point is another country that looks like it needs bailing out -- especially one with an economy the size of Spain's.  It could not be done, and it would lead to a very abrupt and ugly end for the euro.

A few days ago, reader Jim was asking if it would be wiser to hold cash or invest in metals.  I do not want to offer investment advice.  My purpose is simply to point out some of the realities of our current situation and encourage people to think about them so we are not caught by surprise or pushed into a panic when bizarre events take place.  I trust in God alone -- who mercifully grants unto His children the wisdom to keep blades sharp and powder dry.

With that caveat, I would say that I have expected gold to correct downward because it looks to me as if most of the rise about $1200 was speculative rather than purely reflective of actual inflation.  Given the action of the central banks, a significant gold correction is unlikely for quite a while -- if ever.

Silver looks to me to have tracked much closer to the actual rate of inflation except for a spike back in the summer.  Buyers should be aware that the silver is more of a commodity than gold and has been much more volatile in the past.  A fifty percent drop from the current price would not be unheard of, even given the likelihood of significant inflation for the dollar.

I am kind of partial to a saying I used to hear among the freaks back in the '70s:  "Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope."

Or to put it another way, it is better to have the stuff you need than to have the money to buy the stuff you need and not be able to find the stuff you need.  Gold and silver are certainly forms of money historically.  Gold especially is a reliable store of value.  Nevertheless, I would rather have a cup of coffee and a plate of beans when I am hungry than a gold coin and no food in sight.

Consider what is of utmost importance:  your spiritual well-being, friends and family, your physical health and well-being.

Water, food, shelter, and ammunition will get you through times of no gold better than gold will get you through times of no water, food, shelter, or ammunition.  YMMV.