Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Federally Assured Destruction

Monty Pelerin sums it up nicely.

Read the whole thing.  Here's is the wrap-up:

The unavoidable Depression will occur regardless of their actions. The only issue is whether it is triggered by a massive inflation or a debt collapse. An immediate debt collapse would be less painful for the citizens than hyperinflation. In a debt collapse, balance sheets are cleansed and the economy is purged of much of the mal-investment and mis-allocation that has built up over the last couple of decades. The liability side of balance sheets shrinks to the underlying value of the assets.

In a hyperinflation, savings and fixed incomes are destroyed. That is, much of the assets of prudent individuals is destroyed. We would enter the Depression later, but most of us would do so without any nest egg which would have been demolished by inflation. Further, the mal-investments and mis-allocations go on longer, making the pain and recovery from the Depression that occurs that much harder.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Simple Workouts

About a year ago my wife's niece was here visiting for a couple of days.  She was always a cute girl but somewhat on the plump side.  She's about forty now, so she was looking a little "matronly".  At the time she was visiting, she mentioned that she and her husband had started working with a personal trainer -- something I always find amusing. 

She has a couple of fairly young children, and she travels a lot with their activities as well as her business.  There is not a lot of time in her schedule for working out. 

We saw her again in January of this year -- about nine or ten months since we had last seen her.  The transformation was astonishing.  Though a forty-year-old mother of two who always had a bit of a weight problem, she now looks strong, healthy and slender.

I am a very diplomatic person and managed to compliment her on her new look without suggesting that she was a tub-butt before.  I asked her how she did it.  First, she said, they tried to avoid processed foods -- which I took to mean more of a paleo-diet, staying away from starches and simple sugars.  The other key is exercise.  She doesn't have time to do a lot of running or go to the gym.  The focus of what she does is calisthenics, and her main exercise is that infamous gym class killer known as the burpee.

It is all well and good to have guns and ammo, food and water, seeds and tools, but your most important prep is good physical and mental health.  Most people can do a burpee.  You don't need equipment or a gym membership, special clothes or anything except a willingness to move and improve.

Drop your excuses, push away from the keyboard, and start now.

The Self-Defense Slingshot

You have probably seen this nice German gentleman, Joerg Sprave, on his slingshot channel on Youtube.  In this particular video from a couple of years ago, he demonstrates a sort of multi-tool "self-defense" slingshot.  It's kind of silly, really, but very creative and entertaining.  I like the fact that he has put so much thought into it and developed such a compact design. 

A thinking person can always come up with a way  to "get an edge", and this is a good example of that. 

By the way, I seriously doubt that a mugger looking for an easy target is going to pick this dude.  There are two kinds of fat people in the world -- the Wal-Mart kind and the other kind.  Joerg is the other kind.  The kind who shoots machetes at you.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

An Unreasonable Response is Propaganda

 From a NY Post story (emphasis added): 

The circumstances surrounding the Koran incident, which happened overnight Monday to Tuesday, are still subject to investigation.
But US officials said the military removed the books from a prison at Bagram because inmates were suspected of using them to pass messages.
But by all means, let's make sure we get out in front and take the blame for this. 

What I suspect is that the inmates wrote in the books, including their precious Koran, in Arabic script.  Guards realized messages were being passed and seized the books.   Since they were already defaced, they disposed of them by burning. 

I have met Muslims who are quite reasonable people.  Apparently, they are not the majority. 

This is purely a propaganda event by the Taliban.  It is easy to work people up against a very restrained authority where there is very little danger of retaliation.  This suits cultural Muslim Obama just fine, petty little dilettante that he is.  Here is our excuse to get out of Afghanistan and let them have their Taliban Spring.  Obama, like Carter, figures he will be out of the White House -- or el presidente for life -- before anything too bad happens stateside. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Careful Now, Nobody Mention the "I" Word

How does this work?  Europe has forecast a "mild" recession.  The euro, though, is up against the dollar.  I guess that could be due to the Greek deal.  It just seems odd with Greece's forced debt re-issue being labeled a default by the rating agencies and their bonds declared all but worthless.  Crude is bouncing around $106 -- last I checked.  But that's because of Iran cutting off European supplies.  Right?  The equity markets are running pretty strong.  Metals are up, too -- although copper, the recession indicator, is not showing much movement.

My guess is that the money the Fed has pumped in for the last couple of years is starting to have an effect.  Crude is up because the dollar is down, and Iran is a good excuse.  The euro maybe dying, but everything is relative, and, compared to the dollar, the euro doesn't look all that bad.  Equities and precious metals are rising on inflation.  All those extra dollars have to go somewhere.  People are afraid to put them under the mattress.

Good news, my 45-mpg motorcycle with all that storage capacity is starting to look like a prudent investment (even if it does prefer premium).  This is $3.50 in FEBRUARY, not exactly the peak of the driving season.  Crude is up despite world-wide demand being down and the threat of new or continued recessionary trends.  I am not impressed with the fact that there were only 351,000 new UI claims this week.  

We have to go to town anyway this afternoon, and I need to buy more coffee.  We might as well pick up a few cans of this or that while we are at it.  I'll be planting potatoes on St. Pat's, weather permitting.  We started going through the seed bins and notes yesterday to see if there is anything we need to order.  I haven't planted field corn in a while.  I am thinking about a three-sisters planting outside the garden, perhaps over by the pond where it will be easy to water.  I might try an something like Inca Blue corn, heirloom red beans, and acorn squash.  My neighborhood deer will love it if nothing else.

Vegetarians are the best eatin'.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Marketing, Modeling, and Privacy

This is what can happen if you use your credit card at Target.  It seems that, like many stores, Target likes to, uh, target its customers with specific mailings.  In the linked story from Forbes, we read that a teenage girl became with child unbeknownst to her father, who upbraided the local store's manager for sending coupons to his daughter, still in high school, that, to him, appeared to encourage her to get pregnant.  

The local manager had no idea about the model that analysts back at headquarters had built to identify possibly pregnant women and offer them timely coupons.  Target's statistical model is so good that they can predict the due date within a reasonably small window.

I have an old friend who would love this -- that is, if he didn't go to work for Target and help create it.  He worked in the marketing department of a credit card company.  I have stood next to him looking out at the parking lot as people arrived and listened to him tell me all about the number of kids the drivers had and their approximate ages, etc., based on the make, model, and year of the car they were parking.  It was his hobby even more than his job.

Most of the time companies want to put people on a mailing list and assign a customer number.  It is likely that one of the reasons for Sam's and Costco requiring a membership is to help them track customers.  Almost all the bigger retailers from Bass Pro to Best Buy to Krogers have some kind of system they want to get customers keyed into to allow targeted marketing.  I have no particular problem with the process when it is voluntary and overt. 

We just need to be aware that modern "mad men" have methods of tracking us and marketing to us with specific strategies.  It is a sign of the times.  Mass marketing and mass media are passing away as the only way to profitability.  In the age the 3-D printer and the smart phone app, you can personalize and individualize your world.  Remember, though, somebody may be watching you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Word from the Professional

Tony Sanchez-Arino Via Field and Stream:

He’s contemptuous of a number of things: “Ballistics tables, all these formulas and numbers, anything you read on the Internet, and ‘experts.’ All you need is a bullet with enough penetration to reach the vitals of whatever you’re hunting. The rest is nonsense. And never believe anything you read on the Internet, or anything you hear from an ‘expert.’ From them, you get horse***t in industrial quantities.”

I tend to agree with that sentiment.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Walking on Air

Wile E. Coyote kept coming up with more and more elaborate schemes and gimmicks to capture the Roadrunner.  Inevitably, these efforts failed and backfired on the coyote in spectacular and most amusing ways.  Frequently the misadventures involved the coyote falling great distances into a canyon.  In cartoons a character can often "walk on air", apparently carried by momentum, for a time until it looks down and realizes that there is no support.  This is followed by a panic take facing the fourth wall before the character plummets to some comic fate from which it has to recover.

We haven't gotten the "panic take" from the markets as they have not realized that they have nothing under them yet.  Everybody was excited about the "good" number of layoffs (companies have run out of workers to cut in the short-term) and the pending Greek loan deal.  Here is a glance at reality.  One-year Greek bonds have fallen so far in price that the yield is 590%.

Thus the brilliant economic minds in the EMU are going to loan Greece enough money to cover them through the March 20 payments in exchange for Greece reducing government expenditures.  Suppose you know a person who has a negative net worth.  His credit card debt alone is more than he will make in his lifetime.  His house it underwater.  He used it as an ATM through home equity loans back when he had theoretical equity.  He owes ten grand on a $2500 car that he has trashed and failed to maintain.  In other words, he owes more money than he can come up with if he sold off everything down to his drawers.  Moreover, he has no real skills and works at a minimum wage job, when he bothers to work, at a convenience store. 

But a lot of influential people in town have loaned this guy money and are set up to lose that money if he declares bankruptcy, admitting he can't pay.  These influential people, including the local banker, meet with our acquaintance and say, "If you will start living within your means, we will give you a loan that will allow you to make the next payment on your loans." 

Now you know Greece. 

Some say the stock market is being manipulated.  Relative to 2008, volume apart from electronic trades is low.  Computer algorithms are driving the rise in the equities.  A lot of people have left the markets, including bond markets.  The investment banks and the governments, working in collusion, are trying to draw us back in.  They want us to buy Government Motors, to buy Greek bonds, to buy all the stuff that they are stuck with at the moment.  The abyss has been reached.  We have gone over the edge.  Just don't look down.   

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Greece and Bloggers and Getting What You Wish For

From Ann Barnhardt: 

In case you hadn't heard, Greece is burning tonight, as those people would rather burn their own country to the ground than turn loose of the government teat. Take notes and learn well, because if a bunch of middle class Greeks will do this, just imagine what the welfare class in this country will do when our inevitable collapse happens. It will be far, far worse here. The hip-hop culture absolutely guarantees that it won't just be looting and burning. There will be RAPING. Got guns? Got ammo? If you don't, I hope you dream tonight of watching a gang of 17 year-olds take turns at your wife and your children while you watch. But hey, at least you never "stooped" to keeping guns in the house. I'm sure your four year old daughter will appreciate that principled stance while having her intestines torn apart - FROM THE INSIDE - while screaming in vain for her unarmed, but oh-so-morally-superior Daddy to save her.  

I really should put the link to Barnhardt's site in the sidebar because she is smart and right and articulate most of the time.  Nevertheless, there is something that prevents me from wholeheartedly endorsing her.  I have trouble putting my finger on it, but I have met a number of people like her.  They don't scare me or worry me, not even in person. I am sure that Ms. Barnhardt is a Christian and thus my sister in Christ, and I tend to think if we met we would get along fine.  Still, I have to wonder if she is entirely what she seems to be.  I sometimes say that, unlike the typical troll, I'm much nicer on the internet than I am in person.  Other than that, I try to honest about what I say.  I am, for the most part -- except for perhaps my hat size, a remarkably average and unimpressive man.

Ms. Barnhardt is clearly above average, and she is thoroughly correct about what she says above.  But her choice of words is interesting, to say the least.  There are some wicked people in the world.  I know -- for one thing, I used to work in a prison.  I also used to spend a lot of time with church folks.  You can find out about evil either way.  Ann Barnhardt's words are offensive as the truth often is.  A lot of us need to grow up and get past being offended because we hear certain words.  Being offended by words is often a form of manipulation for the purpose of control or domination -- that is to say, witchcraft.

On the other hand, there is a kind of dark glee behind what she says.  Perhaps I am misreading, because, unless you really trip my temper, you will never hear me talk like that, let alone be calm enough to write it down.  Twenty or so years ago, I made a phone call to a man who traded firearms.  He lived in a different part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and I was looking for a particular handgun that I thought he might have.  We discussed it, and he did not, as it turns out, have the one I wanted, but he did have a Colt King Cobra that interested me.  I asked about seeing it.  He said that he did not keep his guns at his place and would have to make arrangements to get it if I wanted to make an appointment.  He said, "If anybody breaks in here looking for guns, all they'll get is a face full of shot."  Again, that's not an unreasonable statement if not said with too much enjoyment.  But I told him I would think about it and call him back.  I never did. 

What is it that Alfred says in The Dark Knight?  Some men just want to watch the world burn.  Be careful when dreaming of unveilings.  The modern world is flawed and restricting and often annoying.  There is much that needs correction.  Catastrophic correction, should it take place, will be no fun.  For a very mild example, as I write, we are dealing with two to four inches of wet, heavy snow.  It is already a few degrees above freezing and most of the accumulation will be gone by the end of today or tomorrow at the latest.   Snowplows were running yesterday and last night.  What if there were no road crews?  I have a four-wheel drive truck with good clearance, but I have seen drifted snow high-center a tractor.  Ready to shovel your way to town?  There are always accidents during these little storms.  What if there are no cops to work the accidents?  No EMTs for injuries?  No firemen with the "Jaws of Life"?

But beyond all that, a breakdown of society will not result in some Disney-fied happy heaven -- nor will it be a Frank Miller graphic novel.  The reality of ending the life of another creature, let alone another human, is not a source of glee.  I have killed game animals, varmints and pests.  I have slaughtered livestock, put down dogs and killed feral animals.  You do what you have to do, but, if you have a soul, there is always, at the very least, a solemnness, a sort of reverence that needs to be observed. 

As I said, I worked in a prison.  I have been in a guard tower with a rifle.  I have been on escape patrols with a riot gun.  The people I might have had to shoot were convicted felons, known and adjudicated as bad men, guilty, in some cases, of murder and other serious crimes.  Before I ever picked up a weapon,  I had to decide that I would not hesitate to shoot and shoot to kill if it came to it.  There were some who appeared to take this lightly.  I think there might have been a couple of escape patrols necessitated by guards who could not pull the trigger when they saw a man going over the fence.

Bad people can take lives and defile lives without compunction.  In the parable they are called predators.  I think that is an insult to predators.  Good people should reverence life.  If we lose the respect we should have for goodness and righteousness and our reverence for all life, there really is not much point in surviving.  Boasting and bravado should not enter in.  This is not to say there is not a thrill from coming out on top.  It is natural and should not be a point of guilt or shame that being victorious in a conflict is better than being defeated.  We fight when we have to, and we should fight to win.  Good people should realize that the time to make up theirs minds is now, to decide now that they will not hesitate, that they will do what they have to do.  But at the same time, it is vital to recognize that it will not be pretty or pleasant or easy, and it is never something to be sought or even wished for. 

It is our duty to defend against evil.  We hope, however, and we pray that it never comes to blood.  The first place to defeat evil is in our own hearts.  I am about to conclude that my "life verse" is:  Do not be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).  If we understand what this means, we can do the right thing the right way.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Considering the Ruger 10/22

I ran across Willow Haven a while back via the Art of Manliness and a bit about skinning squirrels.  Creek Stewart seems like a genuine and well-informed person.  One of his articles is about the Ruger 10/22 and its versatility.

The Ruger 10/22 is one of the most popular and successful firearms ever built.  It comes in several variations, and there are almost limitless numbers of modifications that can be made to it both in terms of appearance and function.  A simple internet search will turn up thousands and thousands of hits that detail changes and fixes.  Customized parts are readily available.  One book I can recommend is The Ultimate Ruger 10/22 Manual and User’s Guide by Mark White (Paladin Press, 2000).  It is an excellent guide for those who would like to do some different things with the 10/22.

While one of the selling points of the 10/22 is the range of customization, what impresses me is the utter functionality of the factory product.  I have a 10/22 that I picked up in a trade some years back.  It was used in excellent condition aside from a mark or two on the plain wooden stock.  The serial number indicates it was produced in 1980, so at this point it is over 30 years old.  I have used it extensively, running thousands of rounds through it.  I clean it every year or two.  It functions flawlessly.  Except for a Weaver base that I attached, it is exactly as it came from the factory in 1980.  I have had scopes on it, and they work fine.  I tried a red dot sight and may try it again, but the factory stock works well with the simple open sights.  The sights align near perfectly when it is shouldered allowing me to quickly and consistently put rounds on a target to 100 yards. 

One of the games I play with the 10/22 involves shooting a tennis ball I throw into the air.  Hits are not excessively difficult once a person relaxes and gets the feel for it.   The 10/22 points naturally for me in stock configuration with its 18-inch barrel. 

I have often considered getting an after-market barrel and a folding or collapsible stock for compactness, but I have decided that if I modify a 10/22, it won’t be this one.  It is just too good a partner as is.  I do have some spare parts for it, and I thought at one point that it might be time to replace the extractor, but a thorough cleaning solved my extraction problems.  The parts remain in the safe. 

The 10/22 is not the most accurate .22LR I have.  My Savage bolt-action will out shoot it, but not by enough to make much difference on the average squirrel, varmint or pest.  Mine also has some problems chambering truncated cone bullets like Remington Vipers and Yellow Jackets.  While I am a lifelong fan of Remington Nitro Express shotgun shells, I am not as impressed with their .22LR line.  I prefer CCI most of the time or Federal bulk pack.  Speaking of CCI, some people say that Stingers should not be used in the 10/22. 

Stingers have an advertised muzzle velocity of 1640 feet per second.  CCI achieves this remarkable speed by putting a 32-grain hollow point bullet is a slightly longer than standard case.  The Stinger case could cause problems in firearms with tight match chambers.  I have not run into any issues in any of my .22LR rifles, but it is worth considering.  The factory 10/22 chamber on my rifle is not that closely spec-ed.  I don’t use Stingers a lot in it – preferring, as I say often, Velocitors as a premium load – but I’m sure I’ve run a box or two through it with no ill effects.  The Velocitor case is standard length and should not cause problems in any chamber, but, of course, always follow manufacturer recommendations. 

A good case could be made for a rifle like the 10/22 as the ultimate single survival weapon.  It has a relatively low noise signature.  It is economical, easy to control, accurate, and brutally reliable.  It can be fired and reloaded rapidly and conveniently.  It could be used in an extremity to take almost any North American game animal, though it is hardly ideal for larger animals.  The same can be said about it as a defensive weapon.  It will certainly work, but it is not ideal (except, of course, for head shots in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse, in which case, it is probably the perfect weapon).   It will work just fine for humanely slaughtering domestic livestock and for varmint and pest eradication, as well as being the top of line as a small game getter and general field companion.  While I would prefer a shotgun for home defense, and I must add my usual refrain that if you can have only one gun, it should be a centerfire handgun, a person could certainly do worse than to have “just” a Ruger 10/22.    

Cross Post from the Jungle

Here is my "Fret Less Base" post from FJ in its entirety.  I sometimes think that with all the bad news I point to here, I may be encouraging readers to worry or be afraid.  That is not my intent.  I have complete faith in the goodness of God, and I believe He is in control.  If you are about to be hit by a tornado, being forewarned allows you to get to the basement.  If it only makes you sit on the front porch and worry because you can't take the china cabinet down with you, you have missed the point.
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. Psalms 37:8

Psalm 37 is one of my favorites, and this verse is one that is essential to commit to memory.  Christians should not be worriers.  While I am for prudence, forethought, and positive action, fretting is a hindrance to all of those good things.  God's rule is for us to find out the best thing to do, do it, and leave the cares to Him.  As Peter tells us, [Cast] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  And Jesus Himself says, Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Worry is a sin in a very real sense.  It is a rejection of God's command to entrust the future to Him.  We do not know what tomorrow holds, as the song says, but we are able to rely upon the One who holds tomorrow.  Not worrying does not mean we don't can green beans in the summer.  It means we don't give needless thought to whether what we have canned will be enough.  Trusting God does not mean that we waste what we have; it does mean that we do not concern ourselves with what we have or do not have and that we are always generous with our resources.   

Let's consider another of Peter's admonitions:  The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

I sincerely believe that a great upheaval is at hand in the world.  I don't know that it is "the end of the world as we know it", which is likely what Peter meant — and what was indeed the case in his day — but the times are definitely a'changin'.  Now is the perfect time to stop living in conformity to the world and abiding by its dictates.  Now is the perfect time to seek the kingdom and righteousness, to simplify one's life and establish it on the firm foundation of obedience to the word of God.  There will never be a better time to reassess our priorities, to decide what is important, to separate wheat from chaff. 

For the first few years of our marriage, my wife and I moved a lot.  Moving, especially given that our money was very limited, forced us to carefully consider everything we carried along with us.  Every move was a chance to get rid of accumulations of junk that everybody tends to build up.  As our moves grew less frequent, we accrued more to move.  At this point, we have lived in the same spot for nearly nine years — our new record.  Moving all this stuff is no longer an option.  We would have to have an auction or something to trim it down to size if we had to go somewhere else.  We should look on our current times as a move out of the material and into the spiritual.  The more junk we set out at the curb, the less we will find ourselves worrying about. 

Despite the trials and tribulations of life in 20th and 21st Century America, most of us have not had it too rough.  We have been able to indulge in fretting because the neighbor has a nicer car or bigger television than we have, or because we have the better one and have to pay for it.  We are now able to worry that our smart phone isn't smart enough, that our 4G connection is too slow, or that our iPad is too heavy.

Isn't there something to this?  Is our society's very consumerism a function of its fretting?  Does not our obsessive and compulsive consumption both arise from and deepen our worry, our discontentment, and our fear?   

Materialism is the bitter root that bears the bitter fruit of worry.  A spiritual person may become distraught over failures and cry for deliverance in holy fear, but it is our old fleshy nature that feels the unholy dread of loss related to our goods, our pride, or both. 

Simple arithmetic says that the world cannot go on the way that it is.  Western civilization is consuming and contracepting itself into oblivion.  Debt will be its downfall.  Our fretting over material wealth and things has led to our destruction.  I do not think there is much we can do to correct the trajectory of nations.  Voting may help.  Praying will help.   Fretting makes it worse.  

What we can reset is our own course as individuals, families, and faith communities. 

Repent.  Don't worry.     

Greece Fires

Never on Sunday but over the weekend, the Greek parliament pushed through EU-mandated (read German bank-mandated) austerity measures. 

I have zero sympathy for the welfare-state mentality of the Greeks.  However, this has been coming for a long time, and the  process has always been obvious to anyone caring to look.  Spending more than you take in will always result in some form of bankruptcy, even if you are a government in control of the printing presses.  Inflation is just counterfeiting when done by the government.  America is in the same condition.  Obama had promised to halve the budget deficit.  His budget for the next fiscal year -- and we hope his last -- projects a 1.33 trillion dollar deficit.  Projections -- except when they are about saving or reductions -- are laughably understated.  My guess is that the shortfall would end close to 2 trillion, but since his inauguration 3 very long years ago, Obama has already increased the national debt by an amazing 50 percent.  He had to do something for an encore.

But back to the Greeks.  Crude is up as the euro has strengthened over the dollar.  The insanity of this is evident when you think about it.  Severe austerity is being imposed on the people of Greece in order for the ECB, Germany, France, and probably the Fed, to pump more money into continuing to make the payments on worthless Greek paper.

Now, admittedly, an outright bond default in Greece would have shaken the euro badly, possibly driving it down to $1.25 but probably not much lower immediately as a lot of the mess is already priced in.  I am having trouble understanding, though, exactly how printing more euros to throw down a rathole is much of an improvement.  The bondholders, except for special groups of banksters, have already taken significant haircuts on the face value of their bond holdings.

The cutting of government spending in Greece means that the national GDP will collapse further.  Cutting taxable wages will result in less revenue into the treasury.  In all likelihood, then, the debt picture will not show any short-term improvement.  In the long-term, Greece will default anyway, probably immediately after an election of a nationalist party that is willing to flip off the EMU and return to the drachma.

Keep in mind that both Greece and Italy are being run by EU-imposed governments headed by EU technocrats.  From the article:

Greece and Italy are both run by caretaker governments after their democratically-elected leaders George Papandreou and Silvio Berlusconi were forced to resign last fall. Both countries will have to hold elections by 2013, and many would-be candidates are concerned about the fallout from supporting these hard-hitting measures.

These are dictatorships forced on the nations through their treaty agreements.  If you think about this for just a moment, you realize that Italy and Greece are not considered sovereign nations.  Germany is the central controlling force in Europe.  They are running the show through the super-national structure.  The Greeks, Italians, Irish, etc. have no real say in who governs their country.  We have kind of come to accept, in the United States, that, for example, a sitting governor in a state could be removed via federal indictment for some sort of crime.  We know the federal government imposed its will by force upon the several states and declared that we are one nation in fact as a result of our own Civil War.  Berlusconi and Papandreou were "forced to resign" but not charged, as far as I know, with crimes.  No war has been fought in Greece.  Yet.  Democratically elected leaders have been removed and replaced with those who will do the bidding of the German banks.

Here is the response of the EU-appointed head of the Greek government, Mr. Papademos, to the riots:

“This vandalism, violence.. they have no place in a democracy and will not be tolerated," he said in a television address before the Greek parliament voted. “I call on the public to show calm. At these crucial times, we do not have the luxury of this type of protest. I think everyone is aware of how serious the situation is.”
 I don't know.  Perhaps the irony is lost in translation.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Constitution and Unix

Or maybe VMS, depending on your experience.

Ben Shapiro over at Townhall has a take on the recent NY Times whine about the outdated nature of our clunky, old Constitution.  A couple of quotes sum it up nicely:

The answer is simple: More countries today want governments that provide for them rather than governments that keep them free.  


More countries today want governments that are "efficient" rather than governments that leave them alone.
Half the people in any given country are below average.  The majority of people throughout history have been more than willing to surrender their freedom and dignity in exchange for enough food to keep them alive along with a measure of comfort and security.   This is one reason a democracy never works.  This is the reason the Constitution with its "negative" rights -- that is to say, its limitations on government, is so important. 

The government that can give you everything you want is a government that must control you.  If your rights are granted by government, they can be superseded or rescinded by government. 

Reagan was derided (by George H.W. Bush, by the way) for "voodoo economics".  Perhaps we need to point out that Fairy Godmother Governments practice the art of illusion and everything will always fall back to ruin at the stroke of midnight.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Dollar Will Decline 33% -- If We Are Lucky

According to Forbes, the current Fed goal is a 2% per year decline in purchasing power.  That would actually mean a 50% devaluation in 20 years, but they are shooting for 33%.   The question is, if you can prevent inflation, and the Fed, at least to some extent, can, why don't you?  Here is the Fed's answer:  

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) judges that inflation at the rate of 2 percent (as measured by the annual change in the price index for personal consumption expenditures, or PCE) is most consistent over the longer run with the Federal Reserve’s mandate for price stability and maximum employment. Over time, a higher inflation rate would reduce the public’s ability to make accurate longer-term economic and financial decisions. On the other hand, a lower inflation rate would be associated with an elevated probability of falling into deflation, which means prices and perhaps wages, on average, are falling–a phenomenon associated with very weak economic conditions. Having at least a small level of inflation makes it less likely that the economy will experience harmful deflation if economic conditions weaken. The FOMC implements monetary policy to help maintain an inflation rate of 2 percent over the medium term.

So to the brilliant banksters up there at the Federal Reserve, losing 2% per year is the same as not losing anything, i.e., stability.  A zero interest rate as is currently in place discourages savings -- at least, that's the theory.  The problem is, as Japan has seen over the last twenty years, older people seeking to retire will try to save MORE to cover the cost of projected inflation.  Lost decades are the best-case scenario.

It is true that improvements in productivity over the last fifty years or so have masked the worst effects of inflation, but productivity appears to be stagnating.  Barring new technological developments with the kind of impact on our ability to create and produce that we have seen from computers, the internet, and mobile communications -- which is possible -- we could easily be facing a decline in productivity as more skilled workers age and leave the work force. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

How Not to Survive in the Wild

A family of mushroom pickers got lost in the Oregon woods.  They got so hungry, they considered eating their pit bull.  They had no lighters or means of easily starting a fire.  They left their coats behind.  They took along no means of constructing any shelter, including knowledge.  They had some of the mushrooms they had collected, but they couldn't eat them because they tasted "nasty".  Maroons. 

People like this really deserve much worse than they received.  They cost the people of Oregon time and money because they are basically too stupid to live.  They spent a week in a hollow log, though one report indicates they were only about 300 yards from a road.  What?  You can't hear cars and trucks going by on the road?  They saw helicopters flying overhead but were not seen because of the thick foliage.  Even though they had a knife, they lacked the common sense to cut down some brush or, possibly, find a more open spot.  Plus they were too dumb to figure out that the search aircraft were probably using their car as a focal point.  They had climbed uphill from the parking area but were too brain-dead to go downhill.  They were only about a mile from their vehicle. 

If the area was really remote and thickly wooded, wouldn't it have made sense to mark the trail with something?  Bread crumbs?  Dog poop?   

I have been turned around in the woods a few times.  It is an unpleasant experience.  Directions are confusing.  I assume a lot of the time the sky in Oregon is overcast, especially this time of the year, but over the course of a week, you can figure out your freaking directions.  I don't know much about pit bulls, but a hound can run all over the country and return to the exact spot where it was let out of the truck, even if that was the only time it was ever at that spot.  I am willing to bet that if they had turned the dog loose and followed it, they would have been back at their vehicle in an hour's time. 

CRKT Gallager Badger

The Badger is a folding tactical knife from CRKT with a single spear point blade.  The top of the blade is swedged along the last inch or so of the 2-7/8 inch blade.  It has an aggressive shape with a drop just behind the swedge down to the relatively thick spine.  This gives it a sort of arrowhead look and orients toward use as a thrusting weapon.  It will certainly do for a utility knife, but it is clearly has the blade design of a tactical weapon.

Probably the most interesting thing about the Badger is its assisted opening feature.  The spine of the hilt is a flat spring that wants to push the blade out.  There is a detente button that, with the linerlock, provides sufficient drag to resist this pressure and keep the knife closed.  To open, the user presses down and pushes out slightly on the thumb-stub causing the blade to snap quickly into the fully-open position where it is held by the linerlock.  It is cute and clever and seems to work flawlessly once the operator gets the very minimal press-push-release movement perfected.  It is not hard at all.  Essentially you are using the thumb-stud to push the linerlock away from the blade.  Before the liner can snap back the blade is clear of the grip. 

The opening mechanism is biased toward the right-handed.  I can work it with my left hand using my middle finger to trigger the release while holding the top of grip between my thumb and forefinger. I can also open it with my left thumb, but it means the knife opens upside-down.  

Other than impressing the chicks and maybe other knife guys I am not sure what the point of the mechanism is.  It's nice to say I have an assisted-opening knife, and it provides me with some mindless entertainment when I'm waiting for my wife at the mall or the salon or wherever.  I see in my current Midway catalog that the Badger is going for $49.99 — which is ridiculous.  I did not pay half that for mine.  At $20, the Badger is a nice little novelty knife.  At $50, you can get an American-made Case folder or some other knife that is a lot more value for the money. 

Aside from the opening mechanism, the Badger comes with good-looking dark green and black G10 scales with decent checkering.  The scales are reasonably ergonomic.  The knife is 3-7/8 inch long when folded with a slender profile that makes it pleasant to carry even in a suit or church pants.  The blade wears an elegant black coat, which, along with its slightly hump-backed geometry renders it pleasing to the eye.  Hollow-ground, it seems to take and hold an edge well.     

The single negative, aside from the price, is that the blade has a little side play when locked open.  I haven't tried tightening the allen screw as I suspect that will slow down the blade's movement slightly and hinder the assisted opening — which is, of course, why I have the little fellow in the first place. 

All in all, I am not really taken with this knife.  As a collector it is worth looking at because of the mechanics of the assisted-opening.  It is an attractive knife, and it will certainly cut.  I don't see it failing or causing problems, but I am very hesitant to recommend it at forty or fifty bucks. 

Why I Love My Wave

I painted my office in the last couple of weeks and suddenly the off-white faceplates, switches and outlets looked funny.  My wife bought some that matched the trim color.  It messed up my three-way switch, but I'll live.  I was taking out the old and putting in the new, and I kept getting interrupted.  When I got back to the job the last time, my tools were not with me, but my Leatherman Wave was.  I ended up replacing the last three or four outlets using just that multitool. 

It kind of goes without saying that it probably wasn't a good idea.  The Wave is all stainless steel and a very good conductor of electical current.  If there had been any juice in the circuits I would probably have found out about it the hard way.  Fortunately, I know that those outlets are all on a single breaker, which is part of my emergency generator set-up.  They were dead, and I experienced no shocking surprises.

It is still always a good idea to remove watches, rings, and cellphones when working on circuitry.  Back in the good old pager days, I had a friend who often worked on boilers.  He said every time his pager vibrated while he was working on electrical panels he thought he was shocked. 

A multitool is rarely the best tool for a given job, but it will often serve quite well and save a lot of steps and frustration when doing minor repairs.  Whether it is a SAK, a Leatherman, a Gerber, or a SOG, the multitool is the pocketknife of the 21st Century. 

Happy Days Are Here Again

Unless you are SYSCO, where: 

Despite rising inflation, the restaurant supplier’s sales increased 9.2% to $10.2 billion from a year ago. Inflation grew some 6.3%: It was widespread, but particularly bad for meat, canned, and frozen goods. In its first fiscal quarter, inflation increased 7.3% year over year.  (Emphasis added by me)
 It is obvious that in the long run we are going to face some extreme difficulties.  Politicians are not interested in the long run, only the next election.  There is only so much austerity companies can handle before they have to buy new equipment/materials/services and hire, however temporarily, more people.  The same thing happened in the 1930's as the economy would recover enough to keep FDR in power.  The stock market is up and Obama's ratings along with it.  People might start feeling "rich" again.  I saw a lot of people out in the stores on Saturday, with almost Christmas-like traffic.  Some of that was due to it being Superbowl weekend, no doubt.  The weather around here has been nice, and people are starting to think about Spring, buying new outfits for themselves and the kids, thinking about yard work and vacations.  It is impossible and probably unhealthy to be negative all the time.