Thursday, July 26, 2012

Proverb from Papa

The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists. -- Hemingway

Perhaps Hemingway met Draghi's kinfolks.  In any case, the irrational exuberance, as Greenspan once intoned, of the markets looks to me like a "so far, so good" response.  What do people think Draghi is going to do to "save" the euro?  What options are left?  Basically, it comes down to the European Central Bank somehow buying into the Spanish and Italian bond markets and driving down the rates.  Direct intervention by the ECB in the way the Fed buys U.S. Treasuries is supposedly contrary to the law.  Not that laws ever stopped criminals -- by definition. 

Is Draghi threatening to drastically devalue the euro?  Will the Germans and the Finns stand by and allow themselves to be impoverished for the sake of the Eurozone?  I guess we will see. 

Hemingway's second option sounds laughable these days, but desperate people will do desperate things.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Romney and the NRA

Denninger does not think much of Romney's Second Amendment creds.  As he says in the linked screed, buy your guns and ammo now. 

Nobody shorts brass and lead.  Or primers.

None of the usual suspects can be trusted on the firearms.  I'm completely libertarian with regard to weaponry.  I think the Second Amendment is your concealed carry permit.  I think if a criminal has served all his time, he should be able to vote and carry a gun.  A person who cannot be trusted with a firearm should simply not be allowed back on the street.  Leave 'em locked up or put 'em down. 

I have heard liberal after liberal throw crap about how a handgun would have been ineffective given that the perpetrator was allegedly wearing armor.  I question the nature of his armor, as I suspect it was probably "tactical" or "ballistic" gear rather than a vest capable of thwarting most handgun rounds.  Look-like-a-ninja stuff.  Even if I am wrong, a handgun bullet will certainly throw a person off stride even if it does not penetrate.  Getting hit while wearing a bullet-proof vest hurts.  That energy is going somewhere.  As far as shooting in the dark goes, that's what lights and lasers are for.  If the theater had not forbidden the carrying of firearms on their premises -- which is certainly their prerogative as a private business -- Holmes would have thought twice attempting his murder spree in there. 

China Fills a Power Void

Via Yahoo -- read the story here:  China claims sovereignty over the entire South China Sea.

I'm sure it goes something like this in the diplomatic meetings:

Philippine and Vietnamese diplomats:  "Hey, you guys can't claim the whole ocean!"

Chinese diplomat:  "It's not an ocean, it's a sea.  In fact it is the South CHINA Sea, right there in the name.  It's ours."

I'm sure it sounds different in Chinese and probably takes a lot longer to say.

The South China Sea is a resource-rich area China is looking to control and exploit.  Vital international shipping lanes pass through the area.  China would like to be able to control those lanes, closing them if necessary to put pressure on Japan, the Philippines and other nations.  The Chinese have increased tensions by garrisoning military units on the otherwise uninhabited Paracel Islands, a small archipelago about a third of the way  between the coast of Vietnam and the north Philippines.

With the United States distracted by economic woes and the continued and dubious "War on Terror", China is becoming ever bolder with the advanced military machine it has built.  The military build-up was fueled by the dollars of American consumers purchasing cheap Chinese goods from Wal-Mart and other retailers.

This is yet another reason to change our tax structure, reduce size and scope of the federal government, encourage domestic manufacturing, bring our troops home, and build a reliable missile defense system instead of wasting money on Afghan goat-pokers.  We could reduce the size of the standing army, upgrade our military technology and save money in the process.  We need to be able to take of ourselves, feed and clothe ourselves, and protect our borders and vital interests.  That means we need to get out of the UN and stop being World Police.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Recession Looms and Glooms

Via Denninger -- Signs of recessions.

Is it really for sure this time, Obi Wan?  No.  The markets are shrugging off this as well as the jump in new unemployment claims -- 386,000 this week, probably to be revised upward to 392,000 next week so next week's number can be a "decline".  I agree with the consensus on the Market Ticker that the equity markets expect more money printing from the Fed in response to the numbers.  I don't necessarily think that will happen before the election or much before the election.

Bernanke, the EU, China, the Obama Administration, Wall Street, pick whomever you want.  Nobody is really in control of this situation.  Any one of a dozen stakeholders can do something stupid to make the situation much worse.  I can't think of a single entity, outside of a handful of Tea Party-affiliated Congressmen, that might possibly even know the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, if you have not gotten all your preps done, now is the time.  I just do not believe the Fed will let the markets crash and stay down.  France is already offering negative interest on its bonds.  The Fed would be the primary buyer for U.S. Treasuries at a similar negative rate.  Crude is back over $90 a barrel last time I checked.  Keep your tanks filled and your shelves stocked.    

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Urban Wildlife

I have addressed the issue of stray dogs and dog packs in rural areas, but more and more dog packs are turning up in urban areas.  The Economic Collapse Blog lists St. Louis as one of its top twelve “hellhole cities”, citing, as one example, the number of wild dog packs roaming the north side of the city, from a KMOX piece done back in October of 2011.

St. Louis has been in decline most if not all my life.  A century ago, this was the “Fourth City” of America behind New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.  In the last fifty years, it has deteriorated and dissolved into a crime-ridden chaos of poverty and pestilence.  I drove into the downtown area in the mid-1970s for an interview and left hoping that I would not be offered the job.  It did not look to be worth the trouble.  Despite the Union Station area, the new Cardinals’ stadium, and other attempts to improve the city, it remains an abyss in terms of economic development.  Other parts of the St. Louis area, such as Chesterfield, appear to have prospered, but the city itself, along with some of the older suburbs are simply places to be avoided if at all possible. 

Feral animals are on the increase everywhere.  As counties and municipalities face ever-tighter budgets, money for animal control will be diverted to more critical concerns such as police and fire protection.  Animals will go where there is food and shelter. 

My preferred method of keeping copperheads and even black snakes away from the house is to make sure I do not provide food and shelter for rodents such as mice and rats.  My cats hunt along the edges of our lawn and further reduce the rodent population in the weedier and brushier transition areas, thereby further discouraging the snake population.  If I see snakes, I kill them.  If I don’t see them near the house, I am happier and so are the reptiles. 

The same approach would apply to feral animals.  Feral cats will be found were there is a food source, preferably smaller rodents with the occasional bird, along with places where they can hole up for sleep, protection, and raising litters.  The abandoned buildings of a blighted urban district offer an excellent ecological niche for wild felines.    

Feral dogs will often be drawn to piles of garbage and carrion.  No doubt the dogs will opportunistically feed on rats, cats, and other dogs.  They can get out of the weather and raise pups in the failing man-made structures of cities lost to decay and desolation.     

Growing urban populations of feral animals would likely become disease vectors for domestic pets as well as humans, potentially.  This is aside from the threat of direct attacks by dog packs on pets and humans – the smaller and weaker humans in particular, that might come in contact with them.    

I do not expect much to be done in the way of controlling these animal populations in places like St. Louis.  If you live or work in an urban area, this is yet another reason to stay alert and pay attention to your surroundings. 

Of course, where there is the threat of attack from packs of wild or feral animals with four legs or two, it is always wise to go armed if possible.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Retail Sales, Recession, and a Real Surprise

Via Denninger, we see that retail sales are down again, and the market is reacting, selling off quite a bit of Friday's gain.  The dollar eases its grip on the euro's throat but not much.  People are unsure of the Fed response, which we would normally think would be more QE. 

The ship has struck an iceberg and water is rushing into the hold.  Bernanke says, "I have a great idea.  Let's cut another hole in the other side to let the water out!" 

Conventional wisdom believes that Obama cannot be re-elected if the economy does not improve, and I think that is true.  A real recovery, had it started a few months ago, would probably have guaranteed another four years of golf and tyranny.  Since that is not happening, one would tend to think Romney is headed for the White House.   

However, keep in mind that if your constituency is basically the Free Stuff Army, and you have no scruples about lying, have no concern about anything except maintaining power and transforming the United States into a post-First World nation while building a Chicago-style, Democrat dictatorship, the right kind of economic collapse might serve just as well as a recovery to get your voters out to the polls.  A mere holding pattern in the current stagnation is not going to do the trick.  I do not see any way for a recovery to occur in time to save the regime.  But a catastrophic collapse could possibly be a catalyst for Obama to look heroic, sort of like Chavez in Venezuela.  If we were to fall off the cliff into a deflationary depression in a very sudden way with, say, the Dow 3000 and the S&P at 650 or something, with unemployment skyrocketing, Obama could pull out his soaring rhetoric denouncing capitalism and greed and all that stuff.  Romney could be painted, not as the answer, but the heart of the problem.

The Obama campaign is already doing this to some extent with their attacks on Bain.  And we have a good portion, if not a majority of the population that has been conditioned to think of government as having a solution to any problem. 

My wife picked up a disaster movie called Category Seven, about super-storms or something.  She had several to choose from -- this one and 2012, maybe another one.  I voted for Category Seven because I saw Randy Quaid was in it.  I figured they would all be lame but Quaid has the potential to interject a little humor.  I can't tell you for sure as I gave up on the whole thing somewhere a little less than halfway in.  The idea is that a new head of FEMA has the resources to fund research by a brilliant but outside-the-system scientist to explain why these new super-storms are developing.  One takes down the Eiffel Tower.  Another destroys the pyramids of Egypt.  That's right.  A tornado is so strong that it pulled down the pyramids but basically left the sand. 

We have to cut the filmmakers some slack because, as ridiculous as the conceit is, it is no more ridiculous than faster-than-light travel or shiny vampires or King Kong.  No, the part that got me was that government funding was needed to solve the problem and that if we just channeled our resources to the "right" researcher, we could suddenly find a solution to the weather.  This reflects, I think, an unfortunate attitude in the real world.  There are way too many people who believe that we would not have hot weather in the summer or tornadoes in Tornado Alley were it not for the internal combustion engine and that capitalism and greed in the energy industry are thwarting the efforts of selfless reformers within the government who wish to correct the system before it is too late.

In the same way, there are too many people who think that if we would just turn our economy over to some wise professors, some kindhearted politicians, and a few underpaid government employees who really care, we could have a centrally-planned economy with full employment and free healthcare, and all of us could live in Kincade-esque bungalows powered by dolphin farts.   You know, like in China.  

Beware the October Surprise in September.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Review: Gerber Evo Jr.

I suppose I could get accused of being a CRKT fanboy or fanboi or whatever the current appellation.  Thus I will review a Gerber product that I bought to replace a CRKT product. 

Back about 2008, I picked up a CRKT M16-Z EDC (or whatever it was named back then) at Bass Pro.  I really liked it.  This is not an assisted opening knife, exactly.  The blade has a finger guard that protrudes through the spine when the knife is closed.  Once you get the hang of it, you can pop the blade out with just your forefinger on the protruding guard.  Of course it has a thumbstud for the more pedestrian among us.  It has Teflon-coated bearing surfaces and is slick-working. 

I bought a small car for my wife at the time as gas prices were approaching $4.00, and we had it for about four or five months until she wheedled me into trading for a much more spacious cross-over — costing me several thousand dollar on the smaller vehicle.  I only have one wife — thank God.  I have never seen how you could afford to be a polygamist — even a serial polygamist.  Divorces are expensive, too. 

Anyway, while I was gassing up the little car one day, I apparently let the M16 slip out of my pocket.  The clip did not fail.  I had, for reasons now forgotten, dropped it into my pocket rather than clipping it.  Folded into the CCC (compact car crouch) as I was, the knife must have worked to the top of my pocket and fallen to the ground as I executed my wide-body extrication move.  You get in and out of a truck.  You climb out of a car.  Trucks and motorcycles are the only decent vehicles.  Anyway, somebody at the gas station scored a nice knife, and I fell into the Slough of Despond — probably weighed down by the forty pounds of knives on my shelves.  Grasping at straws lest I drown miserably, I happened to be in some store somewhere when my eye lit upon a Gerber Evo Jr. with much the same configuration as the lost CRKT.  It looks like this:

I have carried this Evo a lot for close to four years.  As is typical of "tactical" knives, it is made from relative thick stock with a flat grind for the secondary bevel above the short, annoying primary bevel.  As you can see in the picture above, I have a  shiny line where the secondary bevel begins.  This is from grinding off the primary bevel as pretty much must be done to get these knives to cut.  It took me hours of work with a diamond hone to get the blade to a sharp and maintainable state.  That's the bad part, and it is pretty well par for most modern folders.  The fact that most of these blades are hard stainless helps with edge retention once you get a good edge on, but it takes more effort to accomplish it.  I can live with it.

The Evo might not be quite as smooth as the CRKT was, but it is very slick.  The linerlock is solid.  Once the blade is deployed, there is almost no play in the knife.  The actual blade on my tanto-point  Jr. looks to me to be 2 7/8 inches.  Most of the new ones I am seeing have a modified drop point with a bit of a back swedge and officially measure 2 3/4 inches.  I think I might like the new shape better for general use, but I do trust the tanto point not to break off.  I also have found the partial serration handy for cutting rope, twine, cords, or straps, but the Evo also comes in a fine edge with no serrations, if preferred.

As much as I love my CRKT Crawford Kasper (original review here), it is large for an EDC knife.  It works fine out in the country in a pair of jeans, but, if I had to go into the office everyday like I used to, I'd probably not carry it.  The Evo, on the other hand, is quite discrete packing in khakis or dress pants for work or in church.  It's what I usually carry going to the amusement park with the grandkids where I'm liable to freak out families with small children.  As I think I mentioned, I pulled the Kasper out at the mall to cut a pair of flip-flops apart for my granddaughter, and she was sure I was going to be arrested.  That would not have happened with a knife like the Evo.  Yet the Evo Jr. gives me plenty of "cutting power", and I have no doubt it would serve nobly in a self-defense situation. 

OK, maybe, "noble" isn't exactly right, but it would let air in and blood out if it came to it.     

Part of my confidence in the Evo Jr. comes from the construction and the aforementioned solid lock-up, part from the configuration.  The pop-open tab/finger guard does keep the hand in the right place.  The anodized aluminum scales, though very smooth, have oval cut-outs which reduce weight as well as assist the grip.  You can hang on to it, but your aren't going to find any "hot spots" on your hand in extended use. 

This is not a knife you have to baby or leave on the shelf.  I think I gave around $30 for my copy, which seems reasonable to me, but I have seen them on the 'net for less recently.  If you lose it, you won't have to cry long.  I cannot imagine, short of using it for a pry bar, how I could break this Gerber, and I would not hesitant to use it for pry bar if necessary.  It is a carry knife, meant to be used and abused. 

I like it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Portrait of Obama

The Dictator

If you don't quite get it, consult your inner twelve-year-old.

Reasons to Believe?

Via Townhall:  Victor David Hanson offers us some cause for economic optimism.

One of the caveats I have tried to emphasize in my posts here is that enhancements in productivity could change the game we are playing.  This happened in the 1990s with the personal computer, the internet, and storage capacity.  I can remember one of our finance people laughing as we in the IT department described our storage needs back around 1994.  He mockingly said we needed a terabyte — when we were still scrambling for megabytes.  Now we could fix that space requirement with a couple of thumbdrives. 

I suggested a year or so ago that a breakthrough might come via thorium reactors or nuclear fusion or nanotechnology.  Those possibilities are still out there, but good old natural gas, if the greenies will let us harvest it, may be the immediate solution.  I do not buy into the whole greenhouse gas hypothesis, but even if it were true, natural gas is a very clean fuel, and we have a lot of it here in the U.S.  We could easily be energy-independent.  What would happen to the economy if we were to once again see $1.00 per gallon fuel at the pumps? 

We will still struggle with the burden of government debt, as well as the corrupt connections between financial institutions and government.  An energy-driven economic boom might give us a fighting chance to get government out of our lives, to reduce our foreign interventions, to scale back our military, and to reduce the number of government dependents and entitlements.  I may have found a reason to vote for Romney.