Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Next Big Election -- Updated via Barnhardt

It actually happens during April and May before our November contest, and it is in France.  Carla Bruni's husband is not looking so good.  At this point, it appears likely that Sarkozy loses to the socialist Francois Hollande.  The reason that is a big deal for Americans is that Hollande has vowed to renegotiate the arrangements with Germany and the EU.  Hollande believes that too much austerity is being imposed and wants more borrowing and spending -- just like our very own intellectually inbred leftist maroons. 

Despite my many hours of college French, I am no expert in these matters.  However, the dominant view seems to be that if French bond rates bounce up, you move from the PIIGS to the F'n'PIIGS.  With Sarkozy's very minimal restraint gone, the euro will be all but dead and the EU all but destroyed.  The talk in Germany will turn from bailing out the PIIGS to simply bailing out.


In her "Red Alert:  Credit Default Swaps Explained", Ms. Barnhardt explains why the coming Greek haircut could be a big deal.  And that is very interesting, but so is the entire AP article she links via Breitbart.  At the risk of disagreeing with a woman who is much smarter than I am (nothing new, I've been married for forty years), I think she could be right about the coming collapse for the wrong reason.  It may not be the CDSs that kill us, but the demand for more haircuts.

France, Germany, and the EU have not fixed anything, even if they manage to keep Greece afloat in some way.  If Greece can write off 70% of its debt, what about Portugal?  What about Italy?  Ireland?  And Spain?  What happens when one of the other PIIGS says, We want the same deal as Greece?

Greece is the little piggy.  The ECB and the IMF with a little help from the Fed and China can rock the Grecian Formula cover-up.  But it won't stop there.  The yield on Portugal's bonds was in the teens yesterday.  They can't pay that indefinitely.  They will fall further in the hole just trying to cover the interest.  How long before they start screaming for a haircut?  And where does it end?

We cannot -- we will not -- comply

I am not up on my Catholic hierarchy except that I am pretty sure Cardinals beat Padres.  If San Antonio ever gets a baseball team, I hope they aren't named the Popes -- maybe the Bishops.  Bishops are good pieces in chess, which is less entertaining than baseball.

The reason I bring this up is because I do not know if Bishop Olmsted is the Bishop of Phoenix or if there's an Archbishop of Phoenix.  I do know that Bishop Olmsted flipped l'oiseau to the little tyrant Obama and his vulturous sidekick Sebelius at HHS.  You can view the Bishop's letter in PDF via this page.  There he explains about this little thing called the First Amendment in a dusty old document written by DWGs.  As old and "fundamentally flawed" as Obama thinks the Constitution is, Bishop Olmsted appears somewhat offended that the Half-Kenyan Bastard wants to wipe his scrawny ass with it.

And so am I.  You see, when it comes right down to it, if somebody wants to disobey the law, they can.  For most of us, lawbreaking results in negative consequences.  If, however, the lawbreaker happens to be the President of the United States or the Attorney General or the Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Health and Human Services ("human services" has always sounded pretty sinister to me anyway), Secretary of Homeland Security (I thought it sounded like something out of the Third Reich when Bush came up with it, let alone now) or the head of the EPA, he or she appears to be exempt from said consequences.

Faced with this apparent inequity, most of us growl under our breath, call a talk radio show, write a blog post, or kick the dog, and, in the end, comply because it is usually less trouble than fighting the "authorities".  However, most of us do not have the might, power, and prestige of the Roman Catholic Church behind us.  When the Vicar of Christ tells you, "Go for it, man, I got your back", you can tell Uncle Sam to bite it.

By standing up to the government, the good Bishop has done a service for all of us.  He has pointed out that an unlawful demand is, by definition, not to be obeyed.  "We cannot -- we will not -- comply with this unjust law."  The Bishop does not encourage violence, rather he calls upon all of us to pray, adding, "Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible."

I agree.  It is a crucial time, and prayer can yet change the course of this nation.  We should have been praying all along, but it is not too late.  I will pray, and I will disobey.

As I hope I have made clear, I am not encouraging anyone to act in a manner that causes a person to get into trouble or to do anything illegal.  Speaking for myself alone, I know many things that are legal are not right, and some things that are right are illegal. In my world, I have drawn a line.  I will not state publicly where that line is, nor will I warn anyone when it is crossed, but it is a line of finality, a line that could be justified to any reasonable person who is not a government-sponsored thug.

I refer again to one of the great moral teachers of the last century Alexander Solzhenitsyn and his warning against being too meek.

Find Yourself a Musket

The Brown Bess via Oleg Volk. 

Note that the gentleman explains the inherent inaccuracy of the mighty Brown Bess in terms of speed and reliability.  It reminds me of Mattie's remark in True Grit, "If I cared a thing about guns, I would have one that works."

Almost all modern firearms, unless the barrel has been damaged or something, are reasonably accurate.  Not all are reasonably reliable.  If you are around shooters much, at some point you are likely to hear an exchange like this:

"How does it shoot?"

"Better than I do."

It is true, especially in self-defense situations, that accuracy is relative, whereas reliability is absolute.  Having a gun that fails to function could be worse than having no gun at all. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Food Inflation

Here is the BLS (possible just BS) Consumer Price Index Summary.  Now everyone is supposed to look at the "seasonal adjustments", but I suggest looking at the unadjusted 12 months because, obviously, December falls in roughly the same season every year -- you know, so far.

Thus, it makes sense to me that if your at-home food costs are 4.7 percent higher this past December than they were in December 2010, you have experienced nearly a five percent rise in the cost of eating a hamburger off your grill. 

Also noteworthy is the fact that gasoline was just about 10 percent (9.9) higher in December 2011 than in December 2010.

This is not a sign of hyperinflation.  This is a sign of decreasing margins and increasing wholesale and material costs to producers.  Wages are not going up, but used car prices rose more than new car prices.  I wonder why that is?  And fuel oil, if you happen to need to heat your house with that, better invest in cheap Chinese Carteresque sweaters -- 18%.  Ouch. 

But when the FOMC met this week their statement was that prices are "stable".  And I'll admit, you can find a lot of horse $h!t in a stable.  So there's that.  Yes, if you don't count anything you actually need to buy, and you are willing to let the maroons at Labor Statistics run your numbers through their magic calculating engine then everything is beautiful.

The euro is back up against the dollar because both Bernanke and the ECB are committed to funding government debt right up until the very bitter end.  Something could happen.  We could get hit by a comet.  We could be invaded by space aliens (Newt's moon base wouldn't sound so crazy then, would it?).  Somebody could get cold fusion to work.  We could figure out a way to put one-atom thick graphene vacuum tanks in airplanes so they would have more lift and use less fuel.  An huge solar flare could wipe out all the electronic records and reset all the government debts to zero. 

Barring one of those events or the election of Ron Paul as president and a Libertarian sweep of the House, the probability of which is slightly lower than the alien invasion, we are in for a long, strange and possibly harrowing trip.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Christian Libertarians

Once again I refer to Denninger, not because I necessarily like the guy or come anywhere close to agreeing with him on everything, but because he is fairly articulate and lays things out for everyone to read for themselves.

I describe myself as a Christian libertarian.  I have no desire to tell other people what to do.  It's just something lacking in my make-up.  I have been a supervisor.  I have been a director.  I don't like it.  I just like to have a job, do it, do it well, and do my best to help other people do theirs.  There's nothing wrong with people who like to give orders.  For some folks, that's about all they are good at.  Somebody has to say, We need to get this done rather than that.  Fine.  My wife is like that.  All the Krauts German Catholics in her family are like that.  You have to know when to listen and when to go ahead and do what needs to be done -- because they have no idea. 

A Christian libertarian believes that the first person you need to fix -- actually the only person you need to fix is yourself, which, happily, coincides with the immutable fact that you are the only person you can fix.  I want to be a good example to others.  I want to be a conduit of the love of God to others.  I want to do that voluntarily out of a heart intent on serving God.

To be forced to do the right thing takes all of the virtue out of it.

When we incarcerate criminals we are not necessarily forcing them to do the right thing, but we are preventing them from do wrong things, from taking away the property, life, or rights of others.  These are the only things that should be crimes.  If you want to offer rehabilitation for drug users, they might take advantage of it.  If drug users commit property crimes, assaults, or other crimes because of their drug use, they should be locked up because of theft, driving under the influence, rape, or whatever -- not because they used drugs.  The system should not care why they broke the law, only that they did.

Families, churches, and communities are responsible for teaching young people the difference between right and wrong -- not the government.  Some communities and some families are going to be more tolerant of some things; others will be less tolerant.  The Constitution does not call for equal community standards but for equal treatment under the law.  If the inculcated standards result in a person thinking that illegal activities are acceptable, they still get the same penalty as the person held to higher standards.

But this also points to a problem I have mentioned before.  What is legal should align with what is right in a general sense.  Murder is wrong; therefore, murder is illegal.  Theft is wrong; therefore, theft should be illegal.  But not everything that is wrong should be illegal.  Everybody has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and I would add to enjoy one's property as the person sees fit so long as it does no harm to another.  No one has a right to happiness.  No one has a right to a job.  No one has a right to not be offended.  No one has a right to feel good about themselves.  No one has a right to not have their feeling hurt, to be called names, to be ridiculed.  These things might be wrong, but they should not be illegal.

Also, no one except me has a right to my property or to dictate to me what I can have or how much I can have.

I am a libertarian because it seems obvious to me that the best safeguard against ridiculously restrictive laws is to rein in the federal government, to limit its power over the states, to restrict its reach to actual interstate commerce rather than potential commerce, and to permit the states, counties and municipalities to make their own decisions on what they are going to allow in their communities.  Thus drug use and drug trafficking could be controlled by states.  Abortion should be a decision left to states and communities.  Voting requirements, public school standards, firearms laws, etc. should all be left to the state, county or city so long as such requirements do not infringe on the limits given in the Constitution.

Again, to me, "the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" severely limits a municipality's ability to restrict firearms ownership, but it might not prevent a city from outlawing concealed carry.  Similarly the First Amendment covers primarily political and religious speech, but not obscenity, though that has obviously been turned on its head.

I am a Christian because I desire to live a holy life that is pleasing to God.  My job as a Christian is to make disciples.  If we Christians did a better job of that, vices and vulgarity would be a lot less prevalent in society.  We are offering individuals the opportunity to reject conformity to the world's standards and be transformed into new creatures in Christ.  I don't see laws against various bad habits and self-destructive behaviors as being particularly helpful to that transformation.

All I ask is the chance to live my life with the least possible interference from governments at all levels.  I want to be dependent on God, my family, and my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I want to be a good example to my children and grandchildren, to uphold biblical values, to support my church, my country and my community where I can.  I want to work to provide for myself and to have something to help out those in need -- on my own without a government mandate, without having a police state force me to be "charitable" at gunpoint.

Finally, I don't agree with Heinlein's materialistic philosophy, but I wholeheartedly agree that There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.  It may seem contradictory, but if I were to raise my banners, at the top of the pole would be the Christian flag with the emblem of the Cross declaring life, love, and hope for all.  Below that, though, would be the "Don't Tread on Me" banner with its rattler, and last would fly "TANSTAAFL", because I am a Christian libertarian.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

U.S. Money Supply and Inflation

Simit Patel at Seeking Alpha talks about the apparent increase in the U.S. money supply.

His take is that an inflationary money supply coupled with geopolitical pressures against the dollar will keep gold above $1520 and oil above $90, with strong upsides for commodities in general.  Another sensible point he makes is that the pain of deflation will not be allowed in an election year.  I think that is the way the Fed and the federal government probably look at it that way.

For those of us out here in flyover territory, inflation is painful.  But we are not the financiers pumping money into campaigns and smoking cigars with Bernanke so we really don't count.  With unemployment remaining high, we can probably avoid the worst of inflation for perhaps another year.  That's what the Fed is counting on.  If oil goes to $145 or higher as Patel speculates, though, there appears to be no room left in the margins and retail prices are going to catch fire. 

It's all speculation, but it's a good reminder to keep the stockpile of necessities at the max.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Missouri Politics: Jim Talent Versus Newt Gingrich

Today I had to go to the doctor to have a finger looked at.  No.  Not that finger.  Driving in I had Hannity on in the truck, and he was talking about the anger in the Republican campaign.  Seeing as how, at this point, I'm pretty excited about Nobody, it was mainly background noise while I was thinking about driving and other real world problems.  Then he played a clip of Jim Talent from an anti-Gingrich commercial.  For those of you not from Misery, Talent was a Congressman from somewhere around St. Louis County, as best I recall, back in the 1990s and subsequently lost a run for MO governor in 2000 to the most wildly incompetent, inept, ineffectual little dweeb to poop in the Mansion during my lifetime.  PeeWee Holden may not have been as utterly corrupt as Warren Hearnes, but he was even more worthless.  And he still beat Jim Talent.

The first time I saw Talent was at an airport campaign rally where I had gone to see the guy I had voted for when he first ran for governor of Texas a few years before.  I think his name was Bush.  John Ashcroft was there as well.  Ashcroft is a fine Christian man, but he is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and Jim Talent made Ashcroft and W. look like the intellectual heavy-weights.  I assumed Talent was just having a bad day.  I blamed his loss to Holden on the death of Mel Carnahan whose son didn't believe his instruments and flew his plane into the ground shortly before election day. 

The despicable Carnahan family, Holden, Roger Wilson, and the state's broadcast media turned the deceased governor's funeral into a massive campaign rally that preempted regular programming.  They were shouting stuff like "Mel's in hell and the fire still burns."  OK, I admit I added the "Mel's in hell" part.  But it was totally disgusting. 

In violation of anything like decency or even law, the lieutenant-governor at the time, Roger Wilson, vowed to appoint Mel's wife to serve in the Senate if the dead man got more votes than incumbent Senator John Ashcroft.  John, meanwhile, had made the somewhat understandable error of suspending his campaign after Mel's crash out of respect for the family.  Silly him.   Anyway, the huge, free, emotionally-charged campaign rally/funeral pushed the dead man ahead of Ashcroft and also swung sentiment to Holden, who had appeared on the platform with the surviving despicable Carnahans, and both Talent and Ashcroft lost their elections. 

In 2002, Mel's wife, now Senator Carnahan — I've called her the Widder so much that I can't remember her given name, and I could care less — had to defend her seat in a special election.  By this time, people had gotten over the emotional shock and realized they had elected a corpse to the Senate.  Talent ran a reasonable campaign against the Widder and won in a post-9/11 Republican year.  However, in 2006, Talent had to defend his seat against Ma Hogg, aka Claire McCaskill, Nursing Home Mogul.  McCaskill was a very poor candidate, but it was a Democrat year.  I still have to think that almost anybody but Talent would have beaten her.  He ran the stupidest campaign imaginable, sounding like he was running for Student Body President at a West County high school in their debates and making an unresearched allegation that came back to kick his rear.  He also failed to counter the heavy money from some Democrat "shooting sports" PAC that made McCaskill more acceptable to a lot of us "bitter clingers" down here in the Ozarks where Republicans MUST win overwhelmingly to carry the state.  St. Louis County is not going to pull a Republican across the finish line.  You need a strong vote from the hillbillies.  Talent failed to fire us up. 

Yes, I voted for the dufuss, but then I voted for Richard Nixon as an 18-year-old because, when you come right down to it, I basically just find Democrats sort of reptilian. 

That's kind of a long way around to cross the creek, but here we are at last. 

Talent is doing a SuperPac spot for somebody, probably Romney, nastily criticizing Gingrich for his time as Speaker, when, according to Talent, Gingrich would say outrageous things on a regular basis and make it impossible for the House members to get anything done.  Really, Senator?  Like Welfare Reform?  Like balancing the budget?  That's the stuff you couldn't get done under Speaker Gingrich?  Talent also says something to the effect that the Republicans "forced" Newt to give up his position as Speaker.  That's funny because I always thought it was Newt's adulterous affair with Callista during the Clinton impeachment that bit him in the butt and forced him out.  But I'll give Talent the benefit of the doubt on that one.  I suppose the Senator thinks that Dennis Hastert was an improvement over Newt?  Does anybody think that Speaker Hastert is going to be considered a great Speaker of the House by historians?  He won't even merit a footnote except as the loser that spent the surplus and blew things up between Newt and Nancy and started the snowball of debt rolling again.   But Talent apparently considers that a plus since he did little or nothing to hold the line against excess spending during his shortened tenure in the Senate.

Jim Talent, I used to say, is a really nice guy who just should never have run for a statewide office.  Well, Mr. Talent proved me wrong.  He is not a nice guy.  He appears, at best, to be a traitor with no principles who is for sale to the highest bidder for any necessary hatchet work.  He has no qualms about back-stabbing the man who broke the Democrats' forty year stranglehold on the House. 

Newt Gingrich is a deeply flawed person.  He proved faithless to two wives.  I have no respect for that kind of attitude.  You take your cards, and you play them.  You make a vow, and you keep it.  I think he is sleazy, and I probably won't vote for him in the primary.  At least, I hadn't planned to, but now I might.  What Jim Talent calls Gingrich's "outrageous" comments are what make Gingrich a viable candidate.  Newt knows how to reframe the argument, to wrest definitions away from the leftist, statist media and communicate the truth to the country at large.  He is warped but very intelligent.  Jim Talent is not very bright.  Talent lacks any ability whatsoever to think outside the box or to question the left's definitions and force them out of their verbal camouflage.  Not only does he lack such ability, he even lacks the ability to recognize when someone else is able to do it.  I'm not sure what that makes Jim Talent except for  being pretty much the opposite of Newt Gingrich. 

I am sure, despite his traitorous ad, Jim Talent is still a less sleazy man than Newt.  He is probably a much better husband, possibly a better Christian than Gingrich.  Nevertheless, Jim Talent has no business criticizing Gingrich for a utilizing an ability that Talent is incapable, so it seems, of even comprehending. 

Senator Talent, if you should happen to read this, for your own good, please shut up.  An intellectual cage match with Speaker Gingrich is not going to turn out well for you.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Little About Noise -- Updated Link Fixed

Recoil does not bother me too much.  Muzzle blast does bother me.   Growing up, I thought hearing protection was for sissies.  OK, so now I'm a sissy.  Actually, I have survived with a considerable amount of my hearing intact more by accident than design.  One reason I can still hear is that most of my youthful shooting was done with a .22 rimfire rifle with a fairly long barrel.  The second reason is that during some of my less prudent post-college years my circumstances precluded much shooting at all.  A third reason is that somewhere along the line I bought a pair of very comfortable earplugs with metal baffles in them.  I used those plugs extensively and exclusively for years until the silicone finally came apart.  I liked them because I could hear pretty well with them in but they kept me from flinching.

Many years ago I was briefly involved in what might be called law enforcement, and I had to qualify with a shotgun, a handgun, and a rifle.  The standards were pretty lax, and most of us in the group of twenty or so passed the tests easily enough.  A few had trouble with the rifle course and had to have two tries.  The shotgun qualification was brief and amusing for almost everybody.  The handgun qualification was just plain fun.  Except for one man.  He was a small, slight fellow who seemed a little nervous all the time.  Apparently he was terrified of the  ancient — even then — Smith and Wesson M&P (Model 10) .38 revolver he was handed.  He failed his first attempt at qualifying.  He failed a second attempt.  Since the handgun portion was not a big deal — in fact firearms usage at all was not a big part of what we were employed to do, the instructors set the rest of us down and took the man alone to the handgun course in an effort to coach him through to qualification. 

As we watched from a safe distance, his problem was obvious.  Allowed to fire that smooth old Smith in single-action, and despite having excellent hearing protection, he was contorting his entire hand as he appeared to be trying his best to back away from the revolver.  Occasionally a round might strike the full-size human silhouette target, but most threw up eruptions of red dirt on the backstop far wide of the mark or on the ground between the shooter and the target.  It was painful to witness.   It was even more painful when the instructors gave up and sent the poor fellow on his way.

I would guess that the leading cause of misses for most people is The Flinch.

The noise issue is one that our friend John brought up a few days ago, and it applies to both the shooter and the environment.  If you live in a rural area with a relatively sparse population, most of your neighbors are not going to know if you fire off a .22 rimfire rifle or shotgun, but they are likely to notice if you start target-practicing with a .308 or .30-06.  There are two components to the report of a firearm, the most obvious being muzzle blast from the exploding powder.  For a shotgun that is typically contained mostly within the chamber and barrel.  The relatively heavy load of an ounce or more of shot in a long barrel tends to use up a considerable amount of the blast from a shotshell.  The same is true of standard velocity .22 rounds from a rifle.  In fact, for .22LRs, in a barrel longer than the optimal sixteen inches, muzzle velocity decreases in some cases.  If only everything we made were so efficient. 

The second element of noise from a firearm is the sonic boom as the projectile accelerates past the sound barrier.  The speed of sound in air is usually quoted as 1126 feet per second.  My Remington #8 low-brass game loads claim a muzzle velocity of 1290 fps which is transonic but not by a lot.  Some of my .223 rounds exceed three times the speed of sound.  A .30-06 round, especially from a shorter barrel, like 18 or 19 inches has a huge muzzle blast plus it is accelerated to more than twice the speed of sound.  I know from experience these are very loud — crack of doom loud.  I have a .30-30 with a 16.5 inch barrel.  It does not burn as much powder as the '06 and barely crosses twice the speed of sound, but it is loud enough to freak out a disagreeable and contentious neighbor even out here in the boonies.  Again, I know that from experience.

You can create a subsonic load for almost any rifle that can be both quiet and effective at shorter ranges.  These are Frank "Paco" Kelly's famous "silent loads".  I can't find his "Silent But Deadly" article, but this one is about light loads — kind of interestingGreg Mushial has an extensive list of low velocity loads here  — specific calibers are listed on the right left side (d'oh) of his page. 

Paco's formula was to use a soft cast bullet that is heavy for the caliber, e.g., a 60-grain bullet for a .22, 100-grain for a 6mm, or a 200-grain bullet for a .30 caliber and load the cartridge with a small amount of a pistol powder like Bullseye, Unique, or 2400.  Usually you work up to a load.  But Paco worked backward down to a load that would just clear the end of the barrel.  He would occasionally stick a few, so it was always important to check the barrel during load development.  A crude explanation is that all the propellent gases and explosive noise are "eaten up" getting the bullet out of the barrel so there is little to no blast.  Being subsonic, there is no crack, yet you have a fairly substantial piece of lead flying along at pistol velocities from your rifle.  These are not high energy loads, obviously, but they will do quite well for eliminating pests and vermin without upsetting the neighbors. 

I sometimes get on a kick of using reduced loads in my .223 NEF single-shot to mimic a .22 Hornet or .22 magnum load, but I am not trying for silent, just "kinder and gentler" so I often use a 40-grain bullet and Blue Dot or 2400, whichever I happen to have the most of at the time.  Last time, it looks like I used 40-grain Sierra Match King bullets and somewhere around 13 grains of 2400 — NOTE:  I am not recommending this load or suggesting it would be safe in a particular rifle.  

I have used Remington subsonic .22LR rounds in my Savage Mark II on small game, pests and varmints.  In some cases, particularly on squirrels, the subsonics performed quite well.  The bolt-action Savage, of course, has no problem cycling such rounds and is both quiet and accurate.  In other cases, on armadilloes digging up the yard, for example, I found subsonics to be somewhat less effective than higher velocity rounds.    You just have to find what works.

Noise, especially loud noise, is a good way to attract unwanted attention.  Filling out the paperwork and getting registered for a silencer, which is legal in many states, is a way to attract the government's attention.  That should not be the case, but it will put the purchaser on a list.  I would like to be as stealthy and low-profile as possible, not because I am doing anything wrong but because I am shy and introverted.  Or whatever.   Thus, there is a certain ineffable attraction to weapons that don't disturb the neighbors or the local fauna. 

I am in the process of making my own longbow, but I have been "in the process" for the last two years, and it isn't done yet.  I have a quite serviceable compound bow that I shoot on occasion though not nearly as much as I should to be proficient.  Recurves, longbows, compounds, and crossbows are all quiet and very effective at taking game or removing undesirable pests and varmints.  The crossbow is obviously the easiest for most people to master.  Good crossbows are fairly expensive but so are good compound bows these days.  A bow will take down anything that walks.  Arrows and bolts are reuseable and can be made by hand if necessary.     

Another quiet option is the air rifle.  Air rifles have changed a lot since the old Red Ryder BB gun.  It is easy to acquire a good one which is accurate and powerful enough for humanely taking small game and eliminating pests.  With no requirement for powder and the ammunition being easily storable in large quantities, a quality air rifle or pistol might not be a bad addition to the arsenal of the stealthily prudent. 

There is no way to silence a revolver, despite what is frequently depicted on television and in the movies.  Also, a "silenced" firearm is hardly silenced, it is suppressed.   That is, it is not AS loud, but it is still pretty loud, especially in larger calibers.  And with rifles, you still have to deal with the sonic boom, though, I will say that it is much harder to figure out the point of origin for a suppressed rifle even with transonic rounds.   The sonic boom echoes off objects as the projectile passes and thus tends to confuse the ear. 

Once again we consider the benefit of a good old .22LR.  From a rifle or an autoloading handgun with a barrel of six inches or more, the report of a single .22LR shot is unlikely to attract much attention even in a fairly populated area.  If someone shoots several rounds, hearers might start to realize a firearm is being discharged, but one round could be mistaken for a door slamming, someone using a hammer or the classic "car backfiring".  If there is other environmental noise, say, on a warm Saturday morning, when people in the 'burbs are mowing their lawns, a shot or two is even less remarkable. 

Power is good.  As Ruark said, "Use enough gun."  But there is a down side to using more gun than you need that includes recoil and noise and potentially unintended destruction.  Prudence says there is no need to waste energy or powder or whatever when the same job can be accomplished while expending less.  One of the arguments for reloading is the ability to produce reduced loads for centerfire weapons that will provide more versatility and are less likely to draw attention to the shooter.  Sometimes it is fun to shoot a heavy-recoiling weapon, and sometimes it is not.  Sometimes we like a big boom; sometimes we like quiet.  In every case, it is wise to take some of these points into consideration when planning for the years ahead.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Denninger Succinctly Explains Health Care Costs

Read Denninger's Ticker here

This is one of my personal gripes.  Had the government not gotten involved in health care, I would be able to retire.  I could pick up a catastrophic plan with a high deductible to protect my assets in case I get hit by a truck and can't tell the EMTs not to take me to the hospital.  As it is, because of the need to extract sufficient funds from Medicare and Medicaid, health care providers must drastically elevate costs, run unnecessary tests, track medical procedures, etc.  Additionally, providers must protect themselves from lawsuits by practicing defensive (expensive) medicine.

People have trouble understanding the problem.  In a word, the problem is Medicare.  It is going to bankrupt us, and it helps inflated the cost of medical services.  It is the concrete echo of, "We are from the government, and we are here to help you."  Whatever else Lyndon Johnson may have done, he should rot in hell for Medicare.

Denninger is correct that the only solution, ultimately, is to completely dismantle the existing system and rebuild it from the ground up.  There needs to be a movement in this country to remove governments from any involvement in paying for medical services.  Governments can establish their own hospitals, e.g., the VA, "county" hospitals, to provide service to special classes or to the indigent, but they should not be involved in the insurance business. 

Within the last couple of weeks, my wife was sent to the local ER by her primary physician as a result of extreme dehydration related to an existing chronic condition and some kind of acute viral infection.  She was in the "clinical decision unit" for several hours on an IV.  Known charges so far are over $4500.  I will end up paying a few hundred and the insurance company will probably pay no more than $1500.  But if I were uninsured, I would be stuck with the entire bill, excluding what I might be able to negotiate away, knowing what I do about the system.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Long Arab Winter Redux

Islamist parties score a crushing victory in the Egyptian elections.  We have gone from Egypt being an ally of the U.S. and a non-threat to Israel to unfriendliness and a lot of uncertainty.  Here's the thrust of the article:

The powerful Muslim Brotherhood, the country s best organised political movement, has claimed the lead through its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).

It has been closely followed by Al-Nur, which represents the ultra-conservative Salafi brand of Islam, raising fears among increasingly marginalised liberals about civil liberties and religious freedom.
What could go wrong?

The Food Price Punch

Gregory MacDonald talks about food price volatility.

I ran across this a few days ago and meant to link it but, Squirrel!

So, anyway, the bottom line is pretty obvious.  Food prices are rising much faster than wages or returns on investments, or even the amount of food stamp benefits being provided to the poor.  I have had people claim that food prices really aren't going up "that much", ignoring the "downsizing" of containers as retailers try to sell you less food for the same or slightly more money.

There are numerous causes, one being the necessity of fossil fuels for intensive, industrial-level agribusiness.  As crude oil prices have spiked, the cost of food has risen.  Corn diverted to ethanol production helped drive up the price of meat for a while -- we hope that fever-dream has passed.  Population growth, the change of diets in China, the loss of arable land, along with decreasing access to water for irrigation are also factors.

Click the link.  It's worth the time to read.

Monday, January 9, 2012

University of Missouri Investment Research

Or what passes for research these days.

As a Mizzou alum, I offer my sincere apology for the absolute waste of taxpayer money spent on this assistant professor’s salary.  I apologize to anyone who has sent their child to MU for an “education” in the last thirty years – but I’m not in a position to refund your expenses or pay off your ill-advised loans.  I also suggest that the professor shut her Yao-p and find a job she’s qualified for – maybe a barker at a carnival sideshow or a salesman at a used Yugo lot. 

Such brilliant investment advice:   Just stop worrying about the fact that you only have a few years to recover from a significant market correction and keep pumping your money into an inflated market.  That makes perfect sense.  

I am no prophet of profit, that’s for sure.  The markets are going to rise and fall.  Equities, right now, have recovered somewhat from their 2009 lows.  There is no clear indication of the direction it will take from here.  There is possibly at least a 25% chance the Dow could go to 6000 or lower.  There’s also probably a 10% chance it ends 2012 over 15,000 then crashes.  It is quite likely that it continues to flop around between 10,500 and 12,500 for several more months. 

Professor Yao’s advice could be:  
  a)  (whispered conspiratorially) bought and paid for by the Wall Street/Pennsylvania Avenue elite; 
  b)  the result of bad anchovies on her Shakespeare’s pizza;
  c)  too many trips to Harpo’s;
  d)  all of the above.

Note, I am not questioning the professor's actual research findings that, "Age has a pragmatic relationship with financial risk".  That does not really require a PhD or surveys to determine.  The professor is also correct when she says, "In addition, individuals approaching or in retirement may shift focus from asset accumulation to asset preservation. These individuals may become relatively more concerned about potential loss of money when they are closer to retirement or no longer have a steady source of income."  True but trivial is how I would classify that.  It is well-known and very common common-sense.  What is it MU is paying this person for?

But look at this statement:  "Investors should not let the economic climate affect their risk tolerance."  In other words, folks, do not allow reality to harsh your mellow.  Fire up the bong, baby.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What Do You Have in Your Hand?

River Tam:  Also, I can kill you with my brain.

Your most potent weapon is the one between your ears.  Though I have to admit, if the mind is a weapon, some people are walking around armed with squirt guns. 

I grew up knowing some dangerous people -- not mean people or vicious, ruthless people, but dangerous people.  Without exception they were people who knew how to gain “an edge”, as they say in Josey Wales, to take advantage of the terrain or the obstacles in the room or the clothes they were wearing.  I have fought other guys fairly, but only in a sport or game – boxing, wrestling, football.  For games, you play by the rules.  In real life, you do whatever you have to do.  Learn to analyze and to think and to take any advantage you can get.

My wife has a favorite detective show that is no longer on the air.  I bought her the DVD set of one season from back around 2004 or 2005.  We were watching an episode the other night that involved an intruder in the home of a female protagonist.  The intruder was looking for something on the first floor of a house while the woman and her young daughter slept on the second floor.  The noise of an object knocked over by the intruder awoke the woman who proceeded to creep down the stairs armed with a baseball bat.  I do not know if it was an aluminum assault bat – you know, one of those with no sporting purpose.  Naturally, the intruder grabbed her from behind, and she lost control of the bat during the ensuing struggle.

The scene did not involve the 100-pound woman throwing the 170-pound man around like a ragdoll, so, in that regard, it was much more realistic than most television fights these days.  In fact, though the woman put up a determined fight, she was losing.  But she did not give up.  Penned onto the sofa and being choked by her attacker, the victim groped on the coffee table behind her for a pair of scissors her daughter had been using on a school project.  I’ll bet that’s one time she was glad her little girl didn’t pick up after herself. 

These were obviously tactical scissors.  The woman got a grip on them and very forcefully stabbed her attacker in the upper left side, possibly under the man’s extended arm.  The man immediately fell backward on the floor, stone-cold dead.  I’m getting me a pair of them scissors. 

The average human body has about 10 pints of blood by volume.  If a person has severed both carotid arteries and the jugular vein, e.g., decapitation or having one’s “throat cut”, brain death could occur in a little less than 20 seconds.  In other words, the person subjected to a complete loss of blood supply to the brain would lose consciousness in probably 10 to 20 seconds.  Any injury to a vein or artery not supplying oxygen directly to the brain requires a significant loss of blood -- probably at least one quart, maybe two, to induce unconsciousness.  There is a major vein called the Axillary that runs into the chest and is formed by the convergence of the Basilic and Brachial veins in the vicinity of the arm pit.  Presumably, our heroine’s tactical scissors penetrated such a major blood vessel.  I am pretty sure they did not reach the heart of the attacker from the angle of the strike, or any part of the central nervous system.  That’s not to mention how much force would be required for the scissors to effectively penetrate the bad guy’s clothing, skin, and muscle tissue.  The heroine would have been full of adrenaline. 

We are not too surprised that television is unrealistic in its depiction of how difficult a bad person is to incapacitate.  If anything, film and television go the opposite extreme in depicting the injuries a good person can sustain and yet keep fighting.

Sometime, when no one is watching you, slam a knife into a ham, or perhaps use you kitchen shears.  Be careful.  It is possible to have the hand slip on impact and go up on the blade.  Stabbing into ‘meat’ can require quite a bit of effort, depending on blade geometry.  Conversely, slashing with a sharp blade does not require a lot of force, especially for shallow cuts.  I was told, back in the ‘80s, that prisoners using shanks typically attack with quick, superficial cuts around or above the eyes so that an opponent or victim is blinded by a direct cut or by blood flowing from the vessel-rich skin of the face.   The attacker then moves in with multiple stabs or slashes to the throat.  The aftermath of such an attack is very ugly. 

One of the reasons we train is to learn the strengths and weaknesses of our tools, whether it is empty-hand martial arts or high-tech firearms.  Everything has limitations.  Most tools have some things they can do well.  Most of us as fighters have or can develop tactics that will work well for us as individuals.  I have a cheap and dirty leg-sweep move that has helped me in a couple of scuffles with drunks or other folks who wanted to give me a hard time.  It is surprising how fast a guy will change his mind when he trying to figure out how he wound up flat on his back.  I am certainly no martial artist or grappler, but I usually did not have to be.  A small set of moves that you can execute at full speed without having to think about them will serve you quite well.  If you know a strike, a take-down, an escape, and a submission hold, you are already ahead of the masses. 

My point in all this is that we often spend time and money acquiring some new thing or skill that somebody tells us we need.  There is not necessarily anything wrong with that, but it is might be better to learn to use what you already have.   What are your own strengths and weaknesses?  What things do you already do well?  Acquire new skills, sure.  But build on the skills and abilities you already have with the equipment you already have.  Make the fullest possible use of the resources you have right now, or find out now -- when it is not a matter of life and death, that something just isn’t going to work for you.  And there is no shame in that.  We all cannot be really, really good at everything.  Though every one of us can be expert at something.