Friday, March 30, 2012

Deep Thoughts

I have decided to only eat what I shoot.

At fifteen yards, I'd be too ashamed to post this picture if I had shot it with one of my single-actions, but it is pretty good for me with the XDM .40.   

The flyer is actually low to the left since I had the bucket upside down on a stake.  It was moving quite a bit.

Why the Swan is Black

Oil.  Andrew Butter on Seeking Alpha explains the Oil Price Black Swan

Butter's writing is less than clear, but the point is that there is currently no good place for money from oil sales to go.  This is particularly true with the biggest consumer of oil, our own United States.  Today the 10-year Treasury is around 2.15%, just not enough return for someone selling a valuable commodity for dollars that are rapidly declining in value.

The problem is DEBT, not big business, not corporate greed, no, it is puree-old Big Government Debt.  Ryan's budget does not do much, but at least it is a budget and at least it goes in the right direction.  Of course, any budget will die in the Senate anyway, and Obama would veto Ryan's if it did pass.  Hence, I can conclude that no one will step up and fix that actual problem which is millions of Americans continuing to live beyond their means with the enabling of the federal government and the Federal Reserve.

Just once, I wish we would encounter an alien menace that wasn't immune to bullets -- The Brigadier (Dr. Who)

I'm not sure about Black Swans. 

Devils in Disguise

The lead bullet thing is coming up again.

John Richardson re-posts about a couple of bogus organizations that claim to be for hunters and gun owners but undermine our rights.

The attitude toward lead bullets is ridiculous, but the more general point is how many times the collectivists attempt to dilute opinions and confuse voters by setting up organizations like Project Gutpile or the American Hunters and Shooters Association or some other "sportsman's group" to fund ad time for their leftist candidates.  The AHSA, which I think is now gone under, may have been the group that ran a copious number of radio spots supporting Claire McCaskill back in 2006 which enabled her to stay within the margin in the rural areas and win the election. 

Just for the record, without this odious piece of crap in office, we would not have Obamacare at all.

The left must always disguise its intent.  It cannot openly and publicly state that it is for ever greater central government control of our lives.  Only in off-guard moments do we get the "bitter clingers" statements.  Most of the time, they hide their true agenda behind a smokescreen of propaganda and carefully chosen names.

In fairness, some of that happens on both sides. 
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.  (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)

I'm the kind of man wouldn't harm a mouse
But if I catch somebody breakin' in my house
I got a twelve-gauge shotgun a'waitin' on the other side.
Now don't go pushin' me against my will
I don't wanna have to fight ya but I darn shore will
If you don't want trouble then you better just pass me on by

-- "Simple Man", Charlie Daniels.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lessons in Lessening

I don’t know too much about the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin incident.  The straightforward language of the police report written at the time indicates that Zimmerman was physically injured with a bloody gash on the back of his head, a bloody nose, and the back of his jacket wet and grass-stained.  Zimmerman also told the police at the time -- as stated in the report – that he, Zimmerman, was calling for help, and no one came to his assistance. 

I question the media portrayal of Martin as a child.  Possibly he was, at the time of his death, a skinny, little kid who looked more like thirteen than seventeen.  Possibly, though, older pictures are deliberately being used to garner additional sympathy.  A black seventeen-year-old who physically attacks another man, punches him in the face, knocks him to the ground and gets on top of him does not sound too sympathetic, especially if the young man looks more like an adult.

It is also clear that we are probably not going to get much honest reporting on this case, as the political manipulators seek to gain an advantage.  Expect the faces of Trayvon Martin and Barack Obama to morph seamlessly into one another as the election draws ever nearer.  To vote against Obama will be to pull the trigger on Trayvon. 

But, what I am about here is prudence.  It is a good thing to have neighborhood watch programs.  It is a good thing to be on the alert for the suspicious and out-of-place.   Zimmerman was not being “racist” by taking notice of and calling the police with regard to a person whose face was obscured by a hoodie and who did not appear to be a resident of the neighborhood.  In fact, Zimmerman was doing exactly, at that point, what neighborhood watchers are supposed to do.  The idea is to let those casing a neighborhood know they have been observed.  Had the police arrived a little sooner and contacted Martin, he would be alive today.   If Martin had chosen to ignore Zimmerman following him rather than confront him, he would be alive today. 

Nevertheless, in my estimation, Zimmerman did make an imprudent decision to leave his car and follow Martin on foot.  First, Martin was doing nothing obviously illegal.  He was merely walking along the street.  That he had his hood pulled up is suspicious but not against the law.  Martin was not apparently trespassing or seeking to gain entry to any houses.  He was not carrying anything stolen as far as Zimmerman could tell.   The right approach, at that point, would have been to let the police handle the situation.  Most likely, they would have passed through the neighborhood long after Trayvon Martin was gone, but that would have been acceptable.  Someone intent on burglary or other criminal activity would have still possibly been hanging around.  The innocent would not be loitering. 

Another point is to always have a sort of worst-case response in mind.  I doubt that Zimmerman thought there would be any confrontation, or he thought it would take a markedly different flavor.  He did not expect Martin to turn on him and begin questioning his actions.  If you can’t think fast and improvise in an encounter, try your best to stay out of situations where you might have to.  I can almost guarantee that if I had been in Zimmerman’s shoes, there would have been no fight and no shooting.  I would have done my best to turn the whole thing into a joke.  The inability to find humor in a situation once again proves fatal. 

Always try to stay loose and be open to adjusting to the dynamics of the circumstances.  We should not allow ourselves to be pushed into a response or course of action unnecessarily.  They call it a “chain of events” for a reason:  it can be broken.  All one of the parties has to do is step back and take a different tone.  In many ways, the Martin/Zimmerman case is a tragic accident, and it could have been avoided.  Sadly the solution to such tragedies has little or nothing to do with the racial elements which are being emphasized, and everything to do with the tunnel vision that comes with the natural, human flight-or-fight instincts.  This is especially true of young males – Zimmerman is only 28.  The right kind of training will help us overcome that instinctive response. 

Any kind of formal training with the right kind of stresses is good.  Anyone who has been through military or law-enforcement camps and courses learns to deal with stress and the physical responses it elicits in a positive way.  Outside of that, merely thinking through scenarios and mentally envisioning the maintenance of a calm demeanor can be helpful.  As prudent individuals we need to work at overcoming instinctive reactions that lock us into a chain of increasingly negative results while developing new “instincts” that will help us spiral in a positive direction.  

  • Refuse to “tense up” in uncomfortable situations.
  • Keep your vision wide and relaxed rather than narrow and focused.
  • Take a deep breath, a step back, count to ten, whatever mental anchor point allows you to return to a more relaxed, though alert state.
  • Keep all your options, including retreating, apologizing, using humor, etc., open as long as possible.
  • Be aware that you may be seen as a threat to someone you consider a potential threat, and do your best to defuse that perception.
  • Be aware that a person may be angry for no reason related to you personally.  Do not allow an angry retort or answer to create anger or fear in you.
  • Do not interfere unnecessarily with people who are causing no immediate or objectively observable harm.  Most of the time such people are indeed harmless, though possibly seeking attention and entertainment.
    To update this slightly, several reports seem to indicate that Zimmerman says he was on his way back to his vehicle when he was attacked from behind and knocked to the ground by Martin who then got on top of him and began to pummel his face.  Thus, if that does turn out to be the case, I would not have been able to avoid a fight had I been in Zimmerman's shoes.  And, if that was the case, it was a matter of pure self-defense and a completely justifiable homicide.  The only apparent contradiction to Zimmerman's story, which is consistent with the observations of the police, would be the cell phone conversation between Martin and his girlfriend as related by the girlfriend.  

    Also, in fairness, I should note that Trayvon was about 6 feet tall and weighed around 160 pounds -- a skinny kid.  His recent pictures are roughly comparable with his pictures as displayed by the media, except for the prominent gold teeth and tattoos.  Martin was on a suspension from school though the cause appears to be unclear.  

    Finally, the media keeps repeating the adjective "unarmed".  Unarmed does not mean without the power to do harm.  I am not a particularly large person.  Nevertheless, I always figured that, in a confined area, I could kill about 75 percent of the people I meet bare-handed.  The percentage has no doubt gone down as I have gotten old and slow, but the point remains.  Humans are born with lethal weapons.  All guns or other tools do is make us all a little more equal.   

    More Accommodating

    Here we see a Dow and S&P rally.  The world must be roses and unicorns again. 

    Maybe.  Bernanke says that "...continued accommodative monetary policy will be needed to make further progress..." relative to the unemployment numbers.  What that means in plain ol' Murikan is that the Fed will try to encourage more consumer debt. 

    Here is Denninger's take on that

    The Fed position weakens the dollar against the increasingly weak euro.  (Anybody notice that Greek politicians were in hiding during "celebrations" over the weekend?  The celebrations turned into protests.)  This will drive up commodities, most noticeably crude oil.  Metals are rising this morning as well.  Coffee is going up again.  I can stop or cut back driving, but they take away my coffee and somebody's going to pay. 

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    Let the Games Begin

    Imagine a game somewhat like "Risk" or some other game of strategy and luck played on a very large scale with lots of players.  Most players, the vast majority, control only a piece or two.  A very few players control large portions of the playing area and an overwhelming number of the pieces, often by proxy with allied members of the group of small players.  So long as the large players act cooperatively, they can keep the game going.  It is possible to communicate and collude away from the playing area.  By joining forces the larger players can overcome a rogue.  The more pieces a player has, the more that player is seen as "winning", but this is an odd game, for none of the players — especially the larger ones — want the game to stop.  Some will "win" — that is, gain pieces, one day.  Another day, a different player or group will "win". 

    The Game

    Right now, the world financial system seems to be "in play".  By buying gold, central banks or governments or investment banks can drive up the price.  By selling it, they can lower the price.  The same is true of bonds, of equities, of commodities, and of the currencies themselves.  As long as all the players kind of wink at one another, the game goes on with back-and-forth maneuvers and moves in various markets.  None of the markets these days can truly be said to be "free", but there is a degree of freedom, especially in the West.  Individual Americans as a whole still control quite a bit of the board.  The Islamic states like Iran are pure rogues and liable to cause significant and unpredictable disruptions.  China and probably Russia are also suspect.  The bigger players, especially the governments and the central banks, think they are more or less in control, but they have been shaken and are continuing to be unsteady, as they have been since the curtain was drawn back in 2008.  Greece is not such a critical issue in itself but rather in terms of the manipulation and redefinition that it revealed.   Everyone is starting to understand that something is not right within the system. 

    No organization can control a market of any size any more than someone can control the weather.  This is especially true given the proliferation of information available to the average "player".  Understand that I am not talking about a vast conspiracy.  The trouble with conspiracy theorists is that they do not realize just how complex the systems are.  But groups, individuals, and organizations can accommodate one another to some extent and establish an implicit system where everyone may not do as well as they could but they are doing well enough and better than if some of the other parties adopted other strategies.  The key to establishing this kind of cooperative strategy is communication.  Those seeking to maintain the stability of the far-reaching global market have long relied upon authority figures to in various fields to encourage the populace to follow a particular path.  This part of the system appears to be breaking down.

    In the global markets, the bigger players are attempting to continue something like a Nash equilibrium.  However, there are factors that threaten this.  In an equilibrium situation, it is sometimes the case that the first player who breaks from the implicitly agreed upon strategy and makes a different choice "wins" in a big way.  Most often others respond to a rogue element by adopting a strategy to counter it.  It some cases, this results in a new equilibrium or a return to the old state.  Given the systemic inertia and uncontrollable factors in the real world, it can also result in a catastrophic collapse. 

    The reason that most of us have been "wrong" so far about the global economic collapse is that the major players have a lot of resources they can shift.  Like a plate-spinner, they can give attention to the wobbliest plate, going from propping up the euro to the Dow to bonds to precious metals to crude to the dollar.  The whole thing is crashing down, but it is doing so in a spiral.  It is true that each move makes less and less difference off the bottom, but it still keeps things from falling immediately to the ground.  That's the plan, anyway.  It might have worked — and probably did at other times.  Now, however, there is the internet.  If you wonder why governments would like to put controls on internet content, realize that it is less about political discourse than it is about the nakedness of the various economic emperors.  Government debt is now the bubble, and it is completely unsustainable. 

    Sure, there are still plenty of sheep locked into "Dancing with the Stars" or "Downton Abbey" who have no idea of and no interest in what is going on as long as they have their bread and beer and circuses.  But there are also more and more people waking up to what is really going on, seeing the massive debts for the threat they are, and refusing to listen to the "authorities".  In the long run, this is good. 

    Monday, March 19, 2012

    Tools You Can Use

    I have been doing some of the necessary Spring labor around the place, such as straightening up my blackberry supports and turning the 'tater bed.  A few tools come in handy, and it is hard to think of a good substitute for them.

    Fencing pliers are a actually a multitool of sorts, incorporating a hammer face, a staple-puller, wire-cutter, and pliers.  For some reason, we always referred to fencing pliers as "granny pliers".  I think, though, it started out as "Grandma's pliers" because they had belonged to my grandmother.  I have more than one pair of fencing pliers because I like to keep one set with my tool belt that I use when I'm working on a fence.  Another set, I use for everything.  The hammer face makes a pretty decent little light hammer.  I wouldn't want to frame a house with it, but, for most everyday applications, it works well.

    If you have ever seen a wire that has been spliced or connected to a post where the bight end of the wire is wrapped in a neat, tight spiral, it was probably done with fencing pliers.  No. 12 smooth wire will slide right through the top gap in the pliers' head and almost wrap itself in coils. 

    That brings me to another tool that I don't have pictured:  wire.  You can buy rolls of 12-gauge or 9-gauge wire at most farm supply stores.  This stuff has endless uses.  I am guessing that the newer stuff comes from China or some place because it is a little more susceptible to rust and corrosion than what I remember from my sadly misspent youth.  Still, it is relatively cheap and more durable than duct tape.  Most of the tool hooks in my pegboard are made from an S-shaped piece of #12.  That most famous of improvisational devices, baling wire, is probably about 14-gauge — I don't have any to examine at the moment — a little lighter than #12.  You can manipulate 12-gauge with your bare hands up to a point.  You can make it look a lot neater with a pair of pliers, though.  If you are going to do much with #9, you'll likely need a little leverage.  Number 9 is thicker and stronger, but not, in my experience, as generally and universally useful.  I keep a roll around, but it lasts a lot longer than the #12 roll. 

    I use this wire as part of the bracing for corner posts on a fence line.  After putting in the horizontal or diagonal component between the main upright post and the upright brace,  I wrap two or three or four strands angling from the top of the brace to the bottom of the main, using a couple of staples on each post for guides.  After I tie it together, I put a stick, a piece of broken steel post, or a piece of rebar about a foot-and-a-half long inside the loop near the bottom and crank it down tight.  This helps hold the horizontal (or diagonal) brace in place as well as keeping the upright brace from giving to the tension in the fence over time.  It really turns the braces and the main post into a single unit of superior strength. 

    Another thing I use a lot is a small sledge.  Mine is blacksmith hammer, for no particular reason except it is what I have.  A drilling hammer of sufficient weight would work just as well, or a sledge for that matter.  I used to use a little sledge I had picked up — probably at a garage sale.  Whoever had put in the handle had done a really ugly job on it, and I always meant to get a new handle and fix it right, but I never did.  It's still in the barn in original condition, more or less.  It's too heavy to swing accurately and safely with one hand for a long time -- after a while I tend to get wobbly.  The drilling hammer I have is a little too light for some applications.  The blacksmith's hammer is just right.  I don't know what the head weight is, more that two pounds, I think, maybe three.  I use a star-drill for breaking through the rocks around here, and the smith works great for that.  It will also do a passable job of driving a steel post unless the ground is particularly hard and/or rocky.  It will drive a cold chisel, beat something stubborn into place, or beat it out of place, and that pointed end will shore'nuff knock welding slag like it's supposed to.

    Pictured:  Sore's Hammer.

    Next is the come-a-long.  What are these things actually called?  Is it a winch?  Wench?  Whatever.  If you don't have one, find one and buy it.  You may not have any idea what you will use it for at the moment, but take the time to figure out how the little catches work, how to release it and all that.  At some point, you will be doing something that is all but impossible, and it will suddenly occur to you that you have a come-a-long, and your life will improve 100%.  Trust me.

    You thought I was joking about wench?  Don't you see the "come hither" look?

    I have a couple or three picks.  Pictured is a baby pick.  I bought this, and my wife said, "What are you going to do with that thing?"  I use it all the time around her flower beds and borders.  She loves these decorative concrete borders and stepping stones and stuff like that.  Between seasonal freezing and thawing and her reckless zero-turn mowing, things are always getting knocked loose, knocked down, and knocked out of place.  The little pick works great for getting things back in order.  She wants bulbs planted, I use the pick.  She wants cabbage or tomato plants put out in the garden, I use the pick.  I use it to knock rocks out of the tiller tines.  I use it as a light pry bar.  Turned sideways, it will drive on the lid to a paint can or beat the top of a bucket of transmission fluid back into place.  It gives me a little extra reach.  It will roll a rock or log over without getting my fingers in the way of a lurking copperhead.  I hook it through the mesh at the bottom of a couple of cattle panels to make them easier to carry.  It's just handy for all kinds of things.  Not everybody will find the baby pick as helpful as I do; however, everyone should have a good, full-size pick with a heavy, forged head.  You don't use them as much, but nothing else works quite as well when you do need one.

    Take your pick.

    A spading fork is another tool of limited but essential use.  If you need to turn ground by hand, you probably need a spading fork.  They are also handy for digging potatoes, hence the hillbilly designation of "'tater fork".  What the spading fork lacks relative to the fineness and reach of that more traditional implement of the peasantry, the pitchfork, it makes up for in brute strength.  A D-handled spading fork can get through hard ground like nothing short of a spring-tooth new-ground plow.  They are wicked and they will break your back.

    The pain radiates from the picture.  You know you want one.

    Protect your eyes.  Too many years of working in the sun and around CRTs probably caused an early onset of cataracts for me.  I've had them fixed so I'm bionic, but I need these baby blues.  I don't think I would ever get Eli's trick of echolocation down.

    Your future is bright.  Wear shades.

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    This is the way we wash our clothes ...

    ... and buy our meth, so early in the morning. 

    Here's Ferfal talking about it.

    And the guys from The Circle Bastiat conclude: 

    Dealers need to wash clothes, but they don’t do enough laundry to carry that much detergent for their own personal use.  Tide’s marketability allows the dealers to sell bottles to local stores and other businesses.

    It’s clear that dealers and their clients understand what money is, whereas Ben Bernanke and his troops at the Fed do not.   Even addicts know they can’t print their own paper money and expect dealers to trade their goods for worthless script.

    Dealers demand that in exchange for their drug inventory, customers provide a tangible good in trade.   Meanwhile, the Fed injects more debauched money from the ether into an economy now addicted to cheap money.
    Those crazy Austrians!  They are a laugh a minute.  I'm sure Paul Krugman has plenty of Tide.

    Tide:  the new bread.  We'll have to change a few songs. 

    Ain't too many problems that cain't be fixed
    With a trunk full of Tide and a 30'06.

    Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Increasing Bond Rates

    This is very interesting given that increasing rates means decreasing prices for the bonds being offered.  This will be reflected in a greater cost to the federal government in terms of interest paid on the debt.  Right now that means that the deficit will increase that much faster.  Any movement by the Fed to print (i.e., buy bonds) will push commodities, especially crude oil, even higher.  So the federal government and the Federal Reserve have their butts in a crack.  This has been the case for a long time, but the instability around the Straits of Hormuz and the environmentalist choke-hold on new domestic sources of oil makes it more grossly evident.  The rate over 1% in the 5 year is a significant move up from yesterday not to mention last week. 

    This is a snapshot.  Click on the table title to see the current state via Yahoo.
    US Treasury Bonds Rates
    Maturity   Yield Yesterday   Last Week   Last Month
    3 Month    0.05      0.05            0.06    0.06
    6 Month      0.13 0.13   0.12    0.12
    2 Year    0.38 0.34   0.30    0.28
    3 Year    0.57 0.49   0.41    0.39
    5 Year    1.10 0.97   0.83    0.83
    10 Year    2.27 2.12   1.97    1.97
    30 Year    3.41 3.27   3.12    3.12

    Thursday, March 8, 2012

    A Savage Stinger

    I should have known better than to talk nice about my 10/22.  My wife is not an enthusiastic shooter.  There have been a number of 'hot' burglaries over in town.  These are probably mostly drug-related with the principals being known to one another.  However, within the last year or two, someone entered the suburban residence of a retired missionary and his wife and stabbed them to death.  The case has gone cold, and no arrests have been made.  People get crazy. 

    For years my wife has depended upon a .38 revolver.  She isn't comfortable with this firearm, and she does not shoot it well.  If she's close enough to hit someone with it, they are close enough to take it away from her.  We tried a couple of other weapons.  She's small and recoil-shy; the shotgun isn't going to work.  Plus it is fairly heavy and the pump-action is difficult for her to operate.  I considered an autoloading pistol with a laser, but she had trouble chambering the initial round.  Finally we tried the 10/22.  She could easily chamber a round and operate the safety.  Her shooting with it -- while no danger to Annie Oakley -- was certainly adequate at inside-the-house distances.  She liked the light weight and handiness, as well as the fact that there is no recoil and not a lot of noise.  While it is hardly ideal, ten CCI Velocitors more or less on target are far better than five or six rounds of .38 sprayed around the room.   Thus my 10/22 has become a house gun.

    Never fear, though, I have back-ups.  Almost ten years ago, I happened by what was then a new gun shop looking for a particular Savage bolt-action.  The dealer did not have what I was looking for, but he did have a couple of little Savage rimfires.  One was the just introduced .17 HMR with a bull barrel if I remember correctly.  The other was a simple synthetic-stocked Mark II .22LR.  This was before the adjustable triggers.  I seriously considered the .17, but ammunition was hard to get and expensive, and I wasn't sure it was going to catch on.  A .17-caliber 20-grain bullet still seems mighty small to me.  They are good if you can get past that.  I didn't need another .22, but I figured I could use it to teach the grandkids to shoot or something.  It came with a very cheap little Simmons 3-9 scope as a combo deal.  I bought it. 

    I took it out to the range and fired it a few rounds with open sights.  It seemed pretty accurate, so I stuck the scope on and tightened everything down.  I pulled the bolt and bore-sighted to get the scope at least on paper and proceeded to sight-in.  Once I got it lined up, I kept backing off the distance, but the little rifle just kept throwing dime-sized groups.  I was impressed. 

    The one flaw the Savage has is that it will sometimes leave an empty in the chamber.  I have to clean it, especially if I switch between Federal or Remington bulk pack ammo and CCI -- the brands I generally use.  That is not a big deal, as bolt-actions are very easy to clean anyway, and most of the time a swipe with a Bore Snake is all that is needed to make it all right.  The tight chamber is probably a factor that contributes to the rifle's accuracy, so I'm more than happy to meet the demands.  Though the barrel length is 21 inches, the Savage Mark II is quite light and easy to carry. 

    I suppose from years of being a brush-hunter and my predilection for carbines and single-action revolvers, I have an ingrained habit of carrying a firearm muzzle-down by the pistol grip -- as if it were a handgun.  Some of my rifles and shotguns are simply too long for this at my mediocre height, and I carry them muzzle-up.  The Savage will carry muzzle-down, which means, in any case, that I don't worry too much about the 10-round "banana" magazine protruding so ungraciously from the bottom.  Shooting off-hand with a small rifle, I tend to draw my left hand in anyway, bracing my upper arm against my torso.  From a sitting position, my left hand is in front of the magazine.  Usually it's not in the way, but it is always ugly.  I keep threatening to order a couple of 5-rounders from Midway, but every time I think of it, they seem to be on backorder. 

    The Mark II with its blue steel and black synthetic (plastic) stock is pure utilitarian.  It does not have particularly good lines.  All it does is shoot.  As I said the newer Savage rifles, including some of the rimfires, have adjustable triggers.  Fortunately for me, the trigger on my rifle suits me well.  No doubt it is heavier than some might like.  After a very little take-up, the trigger breaks -- sharp and clean.  It is consistent, as you would expect from almost any decent bolt-action.  There's no recess on the muzzle but there is a nice crown. 

    For a sporter .22 of moderate cost, I have no complaints.  Over the weekend, I had the Savage out to check its zero and make sure the scope hadn't gotten knocked off.  I sat down in a gully with my back to a log and fired at my target a measured forty-five yards away.  Without putting too much effort into it, I put three Remington Yellow Jackets into a single ragged hole.  This is not a particularly picky rifle when it comes to choosing ammunition.  I have not heard too many people tout the accuracy of Yellow Jackets -- or any Remington .22LR, but the Savage handles them quite well. 

    I have been sorely tempted to get a new .22WMR rifle -- not that I need another one, but the Chuckster has great sentimental value.  I am reluctant to take it some places I go.  I may still buy one.  If I run across one of those stupid Kel-Tec semi-autos, I'll have to duct tape my wallet to keep from getting it.  Meanwhile I started wondering if the Savage would not be a good substitute part of the time when loaded with premium ammunition.  I was particularly curious about shooting CCI Stingers in the Savage. 

    I should note that some people warn about Stingers because the case is too long.  The overall length of a Stinger is the same as any other .22LR, but CCI generates their 1640 fps by using a shorter, smaller bullet -- 32 grains -- and a longer case to hold more powder.  I have never had issues with Stingers.  I can understand that match chambers might be a problem, but Stingers shoot and function without any obvious difficulties in all the .22s I have tried. Nevertheless, be advised, they might damage a particular firearm.

    Anyway, I decided to try Stingers with the famous water-in-a-closed-container test.  I put maybe a quart of water in a coffee can and put the lid on tightly.  Since I was pretty sure a close-range hit would be impressive,  I moved the can out to 100 yards.  My first shot went over the top of the can.  It was shooting about three and half inches high.  I lowered my crosshairs to the bottom of the can and fired.  The can exploded nicely.  The thing is that a Stinger goes below the sound barrier around, probably, 125 yards.  The water test indicates that the bullet still expands violently at a velocity in the 1150 to 1200 fps range.  

    Savage makes fine rifles.  I know people who do not like them, but if a person is looking for accuracy, a Savage is simply hard to beat.    

    The Fed's Flow of Funds via Denninger

    The report the Federal Reserve release called the Z1 gives us an idea of what overall debt looks like.  Denninger's analysis explains the problem.  The federal government's debt is growing, which we knew, in an attempt to "buy" Gross Domestic Product.  It is not working.  We got a very sharp, needle-like spike from Bernanke's QE2 in September of 2010.  It has now fallen into the negative range.  

    The federal government is sucking up all the oxygen and wondering why small businesses are sputtering.  Cutting taxes is not going to fix this.  The only option is to so drastically reduce the size of government that revenues cover expenditures.  It is true that cutting government spending will cut GDP, but probably not at a dollar-for-dollar rate.  Unemployment will grow as bureaucrats have to find new jobs.

    I look at it like this.  When I am trying to lose weight, I cut back on what I am eating.  My wife's immediate response is to be somewhat insulted that I am not devouring as much of her cooking as normal.  I feel guilty.  I really hate to see food go to waste.  But if I keep the refrigerator cleaned out, I am "waisting" food instead of wasting it.  That can't be good.  Better to feed the dog and the possums than to have to buy bigger pants with more material in them.  Eventually, she adjusts her cooking volume to my eating plan.  It takes a while, and it is painful. In the end, though, I avoid both wasting excess food and waisting it.  Everybody wins.

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    Why Do You Think They Call Them 'Green'?

    Green Firms Get Fed Cash, Give Execs Bonuses, Fail -- from ABC no less, I am impressed. 

    Secretary Steven Chu declined an interview request. The department has long defended the green energy movement as a way for government to help spur development of cutting-edge products that aid the environment and economy. Sometimes, they say, investments in potential game-changing technologies simply don't work. The potential default rate, they say, is within the parameters set by Congress.
    First, we do not need the Department of Energy.  We certainly do not need the government via the DOE picking winners and losers.  Handing out taxpayer money to any company that claims to be developing renewable energy and that has the right connections to politician and bureaucrats would be hard to justify constitutionally.  But they don't have to justify it because it is part of the DOE budget.  So the first thing to do is dismantle the Carter-Era Department of Energy.

    As is the case with ethanol from corn, these so-called energy companies cannot produce a viable, marketable, competitive product without subsidies.   Their "profits" are, like many of the companies booming back in the dot-comm bubble, drawn largely from venture capital or, in the present case, government loans that will never be paid back.  They have not developed anything, and they do not have anything to sell, even if there was a market for it.  Sometimes, as I believe happened with Solyndra, some of the taxpayer money from DOE gets recycled back into the campaign coffers of politicians like Obama.  It is not much different from symbiotic relationship of politicians and defense contractors -- but at least the defense contractors product something we appear to need part of the time. 

    The only thing clean about most of these green energy companies is the money they launder. 

    Of course, nothing is going to change.

    Administration officials, from Obama on down, say they continue to support the green energy mission. "There were going to be some companies that did not work out," Obama told reporters in October, after Solyndra's meltdown. "All I can say is the Department of Energy made these decisions based on their best judgments."
    Can you give me an example of one that did work?  I didn't think so.  As John Kay once said, "Your best is barely good enough/ And if that's all you've got/ Then it won't do."  In a free market, the market decides where the money goes.  If a company can come up with a viable concept and a decent business plan, it will eventually find investors in the private sector.  If somebody can produce a quality solar generator or similar product that I can depend on and that gives me some value for my money, I'll be the first in line to buy it.  Government cannot create a market.  Government mandates and government intervention will, in the long run, produce nothing except a disastrous chain of unintended consequences.  

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    China Scales Back GDP Forecast

    China numbers are always questionable, and the industrial metals may be more honest.  Inflation has been running fairly high -- I think around 6%, though, like ours, it may be worse than reported.  Here's the problem.  If you are running 6% inflation and your GDP grows 7.5%, how much is actual growth and how much is an artifact of inflation?  In China, you have the additional problem of not really being able to break out government spending versus the private sector.  I think the U.S. statistics are often made up after a few Jack-and-Cokes; I have real doubts about the validity of numbers from the Chicoms. 

    Anybody who thinks China is going to be an economic powerhouse in the long-run, as long as it is a command economy, is foolish.  Communism, fascism, socialism -- any attempt at centrally planning and controlling economies is doomed to collapse on itself.  Yes, as long as you have countries where you can dump your excess production like Germany has done with the rest of Europe and China has done with the U.S. and Europe, you can create a temporary prosperity.

    When the trade is based on the importing nation's increasing debt, the danger is as much to the exporting nation as the importing one.  This is especially true in that China has been fueling our buying spree by funding the U.S. government deficit via bond purchases.  As the dollar has slipped, the Chinese economy has been flooded and inflated with devalued dollars. 

    Now Bernanke is signaling that there may not be a QE3 (we certainly hope not) acknowledging at last that there might be a little too much inflation in the U.S.  With the euro threatening to collapse, this could mean a much stronger dollar -- at least in the short-term.  If the U.S. government acts sensibly (stop laughing) and decreases spending in absolute terms, we get a deflationary reset.  There is a good chance the Chinese economy could flatten, if not go negative given a new Austere Europe unable to pick up any slack. 

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    Reality Therarpy

    The markets are off a little today and the euro is slipping.  I find myself perversely pleased with this.  We have kicked this around a little, and it is hard to explain.  Unlike the Joker, I do not want to watch the world burn.  In fact I rather it did not, which is, perhaps paradoxically, what lies at the root of my desire to see things "blow up".

    You see, there are people who have been telling us for years that all is well.  Paul Krugman who has Ph.Ds and a Nobel Prize and thus must know much more than I know, says that government deficits are not like household debt.  Government debts do not need to be paid off.  We can run deficits to no end.  The bankers in Europe are saying much the same thing and vow to hold the euro together. 

    I do not want a financial crisis.  I want reality therapy for governments, politicians, bureaucrats, and people like Bernanke, Buffett, Soros, and Goldman-Sachs.  I want these people to be forced to face their lies and deception.  People are being fleeced and their saving destroyed even as government stooges assure us that we need not be alarmed.  I doubt that most of the financial manipulators are out to destroy our liberty and turn us into state-owned slaves or subject us to tyranny and dictatorships.  They may even be surprised when the strongman (or strongwoman) arises in Greece or Italy, France or Germany or even in America, but surprised or not, there is a good chance  things will head that way just as they did in Germany after the disastrous Treaty of Versailles and the fall of the Weimar Republic. 

    I want to see the villains driven to the wall.  I want to see the dishonest and the deceitful, the stupid and deluded all admit that they were wrong.  I want banks to have to have capital before they can loan it out.  I want governments to do away with deficit spending funded by the central bankers who then exert such influence on  policies.  I would like to see governments reduced to a minimum.   I would like for the productive to have more and better than the non-productive, but  I would also like for there to be more of the productive.  

    I like to see people building and creating and growing things.  Cruising around the internet encourages my optimism.  From the proliferation of people interested in heirloom seeds to the Open Source community to the guys who can turn a junked DT350 into a work of art, there are a lot of good people doing good things.  It is time they were told the truth.   

    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    Prepping Goes Mainstream on Lifehacker

    I doubt that the average prepper is going to gain much from this piece on Lifehacker.  The interesting point to me is that so many people are thinking that things may not continue as they always have.  Even at the height of the Y2K-mania, other than Art Bell listeners, no one was taking the disaster preparedness too seriously.  Lifehacker even mentions EMPs. 

    Again, it isn't necessarily the ultimate apocalyptic wipe-out that worries me.  If the Yellowstone Caldera goes, all my worries go with it.  No, I'm thinking more of what happened in the financial collapse in Argentina in 2001, what is happening now in Greece, what happens in cities across America when sports teams win or the cops are involved in a questionable inner city shooting.  About 36 hours ago, we had tornadoes -- not even really big ones -- tear up miles of structures and property.  Several were injured and at least a couple were killed. 

    In my immediate area, we had minimal disruption, but we had heavy straight-line winds break off a dead tree out near our fence and power line.  Of course, I have my generator, but, last year, one of the neighbors and I convinced our local electric co-op to take out a tree in similar condition in that vicinity that was much closer to the line.  Nobody in our neighborhood lost power.  Eliminating threats ahead of time is a good policy. 

    We just do not know what is going to happen, but being prepared is always better than being caught flatfooted.