Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Or Maybe I Could Use This

My wife is always coming up with crazy projects for me to “beautify” our little place here.  A recent one involved some changes to the flower bed she has at the driveway entrance.  I had some extra rebar around, and I decided that a short section of rebar driven in then bent so the top portion was parallel to the ground would make an easy and solid anchor for some timbers.  I also decided that a couple of large staples would be a nice and unobtrusive means for attaching the rebar to the timber.  Except I didn’t have any large staples on hand, and I certainly did not want to drive into town to get a whole box when I only needed two or three. 

What I did have was an abundant supply of 3¼ inch 12-penny nails. 


I’m not saying that they would win any beauty contests, but they were a quick fix for a minor problem and kind of fun to create. 

By the way, the nails driven into the piece of timber form my field-expedient rebar cutting jig. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Colt Tactical Pen Review

This is close to the pinnacle of geekdom, reviewing a tactical ballpoint pen.  Colt is making a lot of items, including a wide variety of knives, under its branding.  It bothers me a little when companies long associated with firearms -- Colt, Winchester, Smith & Wesson, Browning, Remington -- stick their names on just about anything to make a buck, but it appears to be the nature of the marketplace these days.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am going to be traveling by air in the near future, and I started going through my gear to see what I could find that would not get me stripped searched or detained as a person of interest.  The Opinel, as I noted, will go in my checked bag.

Below is approximately what I intend to carry through the gates, though I may switch wallets and drop the money clip, and I will have keys on the carabiner with the SwissTech tool and LED.  I think the folding scissors will pass security, at least on this end.

I still use the little Sansa MP3 player I bought several years ago.  I added some memory so that I have about 1.8 gig, which is plenty for my purposes.  I have a couple of music playlists as well as several audio books loaded on it.  It should get me through flights and layovers with no problems.  Butane lighter with ranger bands goes everywhere.   Though I am a non-smoker, I am almost as naked without a lighter as without a knife.  My phone is the mil-spec Samsung Rugby II.  I haven't tried falling in the pond with it, but it stands up well to my other abuses.  Also, I may have mentioned that I have a rather large head, and a big flip phone makes it easier for me to hear and be heard.  Shades are like shoes, and the comb was a habit my mother instilled in me as a child.  I'll have a bandana in my pocket for the same reason.

So what about the tactical pen?

As you can see, this is a good-sized ballpoint pen -- about a quarter-inch longer than a typical capped ballpoint like the Pentel RSVP.  It is considerably heavier since it is made from solid aluminum.  The clip is substantial and works well for front or back pocket carry in jeans or in a shirt pocket. I broke a perfectly good Pentel 0.9 Twist-Erase mechanical pencil carrying it in my jeans pocket.  That will not happen with this pen.  

The cap has sharp crenelations surrounding and protecting an LED.  The light is turned on by twisting the top of the cap to the left (looking down at the light).  They did this the standard way -- left-loose/right-tight.  If you loosen it all the way, you can access the battery compartment which houses a stacked pair of 3-volt CR927 lithium button batteries.  The light is adequate for a lot of geek applications like connecting wires on the dark backsides of servers.

When the cap is covering the ballpoint, the opposite end of the pen has a distinct, well-defined, and very solid point.  This is what might get it confiscated in airport security, in which case, I will be out thirteen bucks.  It will be in my laptop carry-on messenger bag.  Since the one end is a flashlight and the other end is a "glass breaker", I think it will pass. 

To be honest, carrying this isn't too different from my grandson insisting that the "taggy" on his pillow be on the open end of his pillow case.  Stroking "taggy" lets him go to sleep.  Carrying something like this lets me feel like I am weaponized.  I have some arthritis in my shoulders, but I still know how to throw a punch even if I not nearly as quick or effective as I used to be.  The pen is not as good a fist-load as a pocket knife.  A Swiss Army Knife with a Philipps screwdriver on the backside that will open out and slip between the middle and ring fingers is better -- in my opinion -- for doing serious damage in an extreme situation.  A good, solid flashlight -- many of which now have aircraft aluminum bodies with crenelated ends, are also better.

The pen is certainly better than nothing -- rather like a sharp stick.  It does write well and takes good old common Parker refills.  If you carry a pen anyway, this one is sturdy, useful for writing, lighting, and fighting, in that order -- if it should come to that.  I did test out its durability and striking power on a chunk of landscaping timber.  You can strike with significant force using the glass-breaker end.  It will punch a neat depression without damage to the pen.  Be careful about trapping the crenelated end under the thumb when striking.  The texture on the pen provides an excellent non-slip gripping surface, but if you let the flashlight end protrude too much then cap it with the thumb, it feels like the crenelations could cut into the flesh.  Better, it seems, to nest it deeper in the hand with more of the glass-breaker end exposed.   

I had some trepidation about striking with the flashlight end and struck at more of an angle, but the glancing blow took out little pieces of wood and the light was unaffected.

The bottom line is that I can't say I recommend a "tactical" pen of any kind for anybody.  If you are interested in packing a pen that will take a lot of abuse and give you good service, this is a good choice.  Colt also makes a version without the light that might be slightly more compact, if that is a concern.  For EDC, when you can carry a firearm and/or a knife, I prefer a less bulky pen like the Fisher, a pencil stub, or one of my Pentel classic P209s or P205s.

In the end, as they always say, your brain is your real weapon.  Everything else is just a tool.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Carbon Steel Opinel Folder

So, it turns out, for the first time in several years, I have to make a trip on a plane.  This makes me unhappy, but I really have no choice.  It is beyond reasonable driving distance.  I just don’t feel like two very hard days on the road each way. 

I started looking at what I might take along.  Some recent prudent additions seem like good choices.  I’ll discuss the first one which is, of course, a blade.  I’m not going to try and sneak anything by in the carryon, but because I’ll be gone for a week, I’ll check one bag and just carry my laptop with a few essentials in it.  I was thinking about what knife might be appropriate for a bag that could end up getting lost or ripped open and certainly abused.  I have several typical tactical folders I could include that it wouldn’t kill me to lose, but I settled on something a little different.

That’s the classic carbon steel Opinel folder with birchwood grip and the locking ring.  The overall folded length is just a tenth under four inches.  The blade is three and one-quarter inches, and it is incredibly light. 

You can see the locking ring in place above.  The Opinel is a working knife, a farmer’s knife.  The blade is flat-ground and, because it is carbon rather than stainless, it takes an edge easily and holds it well.  This is not a terribly strong knife, but it is innocuous, which is a plus in the area I will be visiting. 

The blade was sharp when it arrived in my hand, but it lacked polish.  After a short turn on the fine ceramic stone and the strop, I neatly sliced my thumb checking the edge.  It’s easy to get this little “Carbone” Opinel literally razor sharp.  The locking ring is hardly “tactical” in nature, but it will keep the blade from closing on one’s fingers in use. 

I paid $6.99 for a nice, light, compact carry knife that isn’t going to scare anyone, cuts clusters of grapes and eggplant stems better than a box-cutter, and has “France” on the grip instead of “China”.  These are classic, useful tools, excellent for general applications and food preparation.  If you get in a jam and need to use it as a weapon, it will work.  As I said, it is not terribly strong, but it will probably hold together to do some damage to an attacker.  It is less than ideal, but you use what you have. 

I review another item that might serve for self-defense in the next post. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

China Sputters

Dollar climbs after weak Chinese trade data  -- Marketwatch.

China has a lot of cash reserves so they are not hurting in one sense.  However, not only is there trade increase 1% instead of 7% (or as the financial people like to say, 700 basis points), their overall GDP growth has dropped.  Since the China GDP is based mostly on exporting, it isn't too surprising that the figures would correlate.

Normally this would lead us to think that the Chinese central bank would loosen monetary policy.  A couple of issue prevent this.  First, the inflation that should have hit the U.S. in early 2011 like a financial tsunami was sent across the Pacific via the dollar's status as a reserve currency.  We got inflation, but China got more.  The second issue is what is happening right now across the American Midwest -- the Corn Belt.  My wife's nephew up in Wisconsin has a really good corn crop.  He is going to get a lot of money for it with corn over $7.50 a bushel and rising rapidly. 

Every week, we get another reduction in the estimated yield of corn and soybeans.  Food prices are going up and will go up more through fall and winter.  If China prints money to stimulate their economy, that only exacerbates the impending food inflation.  You could get food shortages in China.  The Chinese may be a generally peaceful, patient, and long-suffering nation, but hungry people do crazy things.  We have already seen the results of food price inflation in Egypt and Libya.

The political players in a country will take advantage of hunger to bring down regimes.  It has happened throughout history and will happen again.

So China has to be very careful about trying to stimulate an economy that seems to be stagnating from falling global demand.  By the way, as Denninger points out, this would be the time of the year we would expect Chinese exports to climb (emphasis is in the original): 

Let's also remember that this is the time period where export shipments usually ramp up in expectation of the Christmas Season.  Goods in transit have to cross an ocean in a container ship, after which they go to warehouses and are stocked back for the holidays.

Flat exports during the month of July is extremely bad as this is the beginning of the ramp-up period that occurs every year.  This data strongly implies that orders have collapsed for the upcoming holiday season, which in turn means that the economy is going to flush as we come into the end of the year, pretty-much spot-on with what I have been expecting.

With the drought threatening to drive up the price of basic food stuffs, not just for the Chinese, but around the world, all central banks have to be looking carefully at their monetary policy.  In a time of escalating food prices, can anyone take a chance on running the presses?  It would be a risky business. 

More and more this reminds me of the late 1970s.  We cannot use the same fix as we did in the 1980s -- that is, cutting taxes while increasing spending.  Reagan's much-maligned tax cuts did generate much more revenue to the Treasury as the economy grew, but the Democrats in control of Congress at the time spent every dime that came in and more.  Reagan was, in fairness, advancing Defense programs designed as much to run the Soviet economy aground as to actual defend the U.S..  Like it or not, that worked.  But domestic spending should have been held in check, and it was not.  We had a margin -- a manufacturing base back then that we do not have today.  This time we have to reduce spending and close the deficit gap quickly.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Possible Plan for Saving Social Security

Ann Barnhardt again -- Read 401k Confiscation Parts 1 &2 -- I can't figure out how to create links to the individual posts which is a drag.  But get over there and read them. 

But the real point of this can be found on the top]right of page 12 under the header "Why not simply expand Social Security?"

"If subsidies for 401(k)]style plans and IRAs can be reallocated to Guaranteed Retirement Accounts, why not use this money to shore up and expand Social Security? This is certainly an option."
This is an admission that there is no "lock]box" in effect on the GRA money, and it would be a FLIPPING FREE FOR ALL. The 401(k) and IRA assets in the United States are currently pegged at over SIX TRILLION DOLLARS. The Obama regime would instantly "borrow" against that money and burn through it in the blink of an eye in the Ponzi Scheme method of SocSec. It is widely thought that the first group to be bailed out by GRA siezure money would be . . . wait for it, wait for it . . . unions. SEIU is massively underfunded on its retirement obligations.

Sadly, I am not shocked by this.  It is something I whispered to my wife several years ago, hoping that the demons who give ideas to the federal government would not hear me.  Apparently they did. 

This would make me very unhappy.  It would be theft and a gross violation of the social contract, and it would not surprise me at all to see it attempted.  

Friday, August 3, 2012

Credit and Debt in the EU

Via Breitbart -- Professor Obama lectures the EU.  If I were Monsieur Hollande, I would say, "Le africaine appelle noir le francais." 

Or something like that.  My French is very rusty.  (The African calls the Frenchman black.)

Reuters also reported that U.S. Treasury Sec. Timothy Geithner took a bolder line with members of the EU, saying their actions must include "bringing down interest rates in the countries that are reforming and making sure those banking systems can provide the credit those economies need."
What those economies need is not credit.  They need to clear their debt load.  Again and again and again we see the same solution offered.  Credit card maxed out?  How about a new card?  Do balance transfers. 

This is clearly NOT a solution to the problem.  There is a difference between credit and capital.  Capital is either money that has been saved through generation of excess revenue in the past or the means of production purchased with that money -- i.e., equipment, stock, land, etc.

Capital is never a lien placed on future earnings or revenue via credit.  Money should be loaned only on capital of equal value.  To loan money on the fractional value of collateral is essentially counterfeiting.  Yet this is done all the time so that people have houses worth two-thirds or half of the principal owed.

Countries like Spain and Greece have lived high on government credit for years.  Because they were part of the EU, they could float bonds at low rates and run deficits, increase spending for social programs and government salaries and pensions.  They could hire more government workers.  Government jobs became the "good" jobs.  The private sector shrank under the burden of regulation -- those government workers have to have something to do -- and the cost of operating in an over-regulated, more expensive environment.  The cost of government is not simply the direct taxation, ever.  Compliance costs can and do put people out of business or reduce them to mom-and-pop operations, thereby raising unemployment.

The answer to the problem in the EU and here is to clear debt from the system by letting businesses -- especially banks, fail, and by drastically reducing the size of government.  It will be painful, and it will clearly be a global depression.  But it is going to happen voluntarily or involuntarily.  Obama and Geithner might even know this.  They just don't want it to happen before November.  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Obama Problem Graphically Displayed

Pollsters live and die by the soundness of their sampling techniques.  Over the last decade or so, Scott Rasmussen has done fairly well.  You can see his Daily Presidential Tracking Poll here

Obviously, Obama is not as popular as when he was first elected.  This is not surprising.  His popularity fluctuates -- also not surprising.  What did surprise me were where the spikes in disapproval fall. 

There is a very sharp spike around January and February of 2010, when the Obamacare bill was forced through Congress in such a flagrantly ugly way.  The strongly disapprove as well as the strongly approve numbers hit high points. 

But there is also a spike of strong disapproval around November of 2009, during elections in Virginia and New Jersey that put Republicans in both those statehouses. 

There is another spike around November of 2010 which coincides with the Republicans regaining control of the House as well as widespread losses by Democrats in state and local elections. 

Oddly enough, the graph shows a rise in disapproval around mid-October of 2011. 

The graphs would seem to indicate that Obama's approval rolls with the seasons.  As an election day approaches, those who strongly disapprove of him grow in numbers.  There may be other factors such as the state of the stock market, gasoline prices, political or social unrest domestically or in the world at large that are contaminating the results.  I'm not going to go back and try to match up the headlines to the spikes. 

The sense that I get is that Obama would be better off is the election were held in July or around Christmas.  People seem to be more magnanimous or possibly to be paying less attention at those times.  I also think the more Obama shows up on our television sets, the more he insists on interjecting himself into our lives, the higher his disapproval grows.  Out of sight, out of mind.  As long as he leaves us alone, we don't feel as much animosity toward him. 

At least some don't.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ann Barnhardt is No Coward

And she's right that cowardice is the root problem.  Read it all here -- Cowardice Parts 1 & 2

The word "Prudence" has been twisted by cowards into the lie that one should never act, but rather think and think and think ad infinitum until either they have talked themselves out of any action (which is always very easy to do) OR until someone else comes along and takes up the slack, thus making the question of their own action moot. In other words, STALLING.

Prudence is being able to discern the right, see the big picture and then DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE. Many people think that they can "legally" dodge this by simply doing nothing. Ah, but they forget that to NOT act is to act, to NOT speak is to speak, to quote Bonhoeffer. It is impossible to avoid action, because inaction is itself an action. When prudence truly dictates that something MUST be said or done, inaction then becomes a sin, no matter how one might try to justify that inaction as prudence. That sin is called COWARDICE.
Emphasis added by me.  I may have more comments when I've read through again, but I'm not sure what else might need saying at this point.

UPDATE:  Nothing I haven't said before --Ms. Barnhardt quotes the same passage in the larger context.  You cannot see it too many times.

And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn