Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bear & Sons Carbon Steel Trapper

You know I like tactical folders and especially choppers and big blades, but I have to admit that these are not "pocketknives".  My nephew was complaining about his Buck 3-blade Stockman being made in China and having stainless steel blades.  Since the demise of the Schrade factory in New York back in '04, I think, there aren't that many traditional pocketknives being made in America.  Case is one company.  For Christmas last year, I bought my nephew a Case Trapper with dark red bone scales.  He likes it but won't carry it.

I can't say that I blame him.  I have a confession to make.  I do not own a single knife made by Case.  Never have.  Frankly I just never cared for their steel.  It's too shiny.  I'm sure it is good stuff, and they are good knives.  I just don't like them.  It's weird.

I happened to run across Bear & Sons Cutlery which makes knives down in Alabama.  Outside of Oklahoma, there is hardly a place in the world more American.  You can check out their line of "4th Generation" traditional folders right here.  I did not pay fifty bucks for my knife because I bought it from Smoky Mountain.  At the same time, I ordered a 4th Generation 3-blade Stockman for my nephew.  Both knives have carbon steel blades with good hardness and edge retention.  They are easier to sharpen than most stainless and seem to take and hold a better edge.  That's my experience anyway.  So far, my nephew agrees that they look like pretty good knives, and he will be carrying his Stockman as soon as he is happy with the edge.

The Trapper is 4 and 1/8 inches long when closed, while the Stockman measures 3 and 7/8 -- both knives are relatively slender width-wise and carry quite comfortably.  Both blades on my Trapper run about 3 and 7/8 inches.  The clip blade on the Stockman is 3" and the sheepsfoot and spey are both 2".  The picture was taken on my phone and is a little blurry.  The shield says "Carbon 4th Generation".  The base of the clip blade is stamped with "Bear & Sons  J'ville AL USA". 

So far my nephew's only complaint is my choice of yellow Delrin scales -- rather tongue-in-cheek, I think.  The scales are smooth and nicely fitted, as are the blades and bolsters.  I did notice one slight, smoothed-out grind flaw on the back of the bottom bolster.  It's too minor to feel but I can see the warp in the otherwise mirror finish.   This could be the reason that SMKW is selling the knives at a reduced price, though I did not notice any flaws on the Stockman.  Fine by me either way.  This is a knife that will "wear in" through pocket-carry, develop a patina and a personality like a knife is supposed to.    

The important part is the blade, and these were ground to suit me.  Mine arrived with a useable edge which I dressed and polished a bit to my own satisfaction.  The clip point is noticeably hollow-ground while the spey has a less pronounced, flatter profile.  There is no bevel to fight on either, which accounts for the ease with which I got them up to hair-popping, "scary" sharpness.  I did use my diamond stone initially, but I finished up with a regular old Arkansas fine oilstone.  I think that will probably suffice to maintain the edge going forward.

I am impressed with the quality and workmanship of these Bear & Sons knives.  If the blades hold up as well as they promise right now, I would highly recommend them as traditional knives, to be carried and used hard by the hard working.  It is good to see an American company producing such high-quality tools at a reasonable price.

Seeing the Unseen

I don't think I am completely insane.  Sometimes it seems I am surrounded by neurotics and others who have lost touch with the real world.  Or, you could say that I am the one who has lost touch. 

Bastiat talked about government jobs and services.  This argument has been going on a long time.  From That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen: 

There is one thing very certain, that when James B. counts out a hundred sous for the tax-gatherer, he receives nothing in return. Afterwards, when an official spends these hundred sous, and returns them to James B., it is for an equal value in corn or labour. The final result is a loss to James B. of five francs. [that's because there were 20 sous to the franc -- mush]

It is very true that often, perhaps very often, the official performs for James B. an equivalent service. In this case there is no loss on either side; there is merely an exchange. Therefore, my arguments do not at all apply to useful functionaries. All I say is,--if you wish to create an office, prove its utility. Show that its value to James B., by the services which it performs for him, is equal to what it costs him. But, apart from this intrinsic utility, do not bring forward as an argument the benefit which it confers upon the official, his family, and his providers; do not assert that it encourages labour.

When James B. gives a hundred sous to a Government officer for a really useful service, it is exactly the same as when he gives a hundred sous to a shoemaker for a pair of shoes.

But when James B. gives a hundred sous to a Government officer, and receives nothing for them unless it be annoyances, he might as well give them to a thief. It is nonsense to say that the Government officer will spend these hundred sous to the great profit of national labour; the thief would do the same; and so would James B., if he had not been stopped on the road by the extra-legal parasite, nor by the lawful sponger.

But our condition in the present world goes beyond this.  Government has for decades been operating out of deficits.  I am a great admirer of Ronald Reagan for using American economic power to bring down the old Soviet Union and, along with his allies, Thatcher and John Paul II, free Eastern Europe from that evil empire’s grasp.  Still, I think we would be better off today as Americans if Reagan would have compromised less with the free-spending Democrat Congress of the 1980s.  As it was, the federal government continued to spend extravagantly more than revenues increased.  Reagan wished to channel money into the military and improve our technological advantage.  We saw the results of this during the First Gulf War with smart bombs and the Patriot missile defense systems.  One could argue that it was money well-spent. 

At the same time, though, Congress clung to its vote-buying and pork-barrel spending on projects and programs, not merely useless and wasteful, but actually detrimental – more so because the spending continued to increase the debt and deficit.  During the 1990s, despite the so-called “peace dividend” from reduction in military spending, the “balanced budgets” and “surpluses” were not in general revenues but largely in accounting changes that included payroll taxes on the books. 

Meanwhile deficits have continued and monstrous debt has accumulated.  To balance the budget requires a 40% reduction in spending, increase in revenue or a combination of the two.  Unlike Bastiat’s scenario, though, this will not return the money to the pockets of taxpayers.  All of it is borrowed, not raised from existing money in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.  Not only that, but the GDP includes this deficit spending.  Therefore to cut the deficit means to drastically and dramatically cut GDP. 

The current “fiscal cliff” debate does not address this glaring dilemma.  It is only about whether or not to raise taxes across the board or only on the “rich”.  But deficit spending is the real cliff, and we have gone over it.  I seriously doubt that electing Romney instead of Obama would have changed the situation.  Bush certainly made it worse as did the Democrat-controlled Congress between 2007 and 2011.  Congress and the President have shown no restraint whatsoever and have no intention of doing so.  To rein in spending would absolutely throw the American economy into a clear and massive deflationary depression.  It would also require the shutting down of a wide swath of government bureaucracies, the elimination of thousands of government jobs at all levels, not to mention radically reducing or removing benefits for the Free $h1t Army – the primary Democrat voting bloc. 

In other words, it is not going to happen.  Even a rational Keynesian would understand that our current path will eventually result in a collapse of the entire economy if not the government itself.  Of course, there may not be any rational Keynesians if people like the idiot Krugman are representative.  Perhaps these professorial types do not care so long as they get their tenure and perks.  They have their ideal models of macro-level economic behavior and feel justified in dismissing the “simplistic” views of the Austrians and others. 

The fact is that people are always going to operate for their own self-interest on an individual basis.  Even the “tribal” mind-set of certain groups is a function of self-interest.  I do not dismiss altruism completely as someone like Rand might, but maximizing the benefits to one’s self, family, and immediate circle is of primary importance in making decisions.  This view changes only when an individual’s freedom of choice is removed and one is forced to accept the “greater good” alternative.  It is for this reason that socialist/fascist governments trend inevitably toward totalitarianism.  We have to be coerced into doing “the right thing”, from the elite’s point of view.     

Statism is necessary to support a centrally-controlled economic system – whether communist, socialist or fascist.  It doesn’t matter.  It is impossible for these systems to function and present even the appearance of success apart from the coercive power of the State.  Thus, as a nation moves toward socialism, it will seek to force its citizens to accept certain limitations on their economic activity, the rightful ownership of private property, and the uses of property and means of production.  Frankly, this statist path, along with the research money that it generates, is the reason for the ridiculous embrace and promotion of an obvious falsehood like anthropogenic climate change. 

War, terror, climate change – fear is a great motivator, making people easier to control and manipulate.  The promise of security will sway the emotional types, of which there are apparently a majority in the United States these days and as has long been the case in Europe.  It is sad and stupid, but it is understandable.  The barely educated, heavily indoctrinated masses are, as my father – a one-time sheepherder– used to say, dumber than sheep.   

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Consumer Confidence and Powerball

Fox Business reports the highest level of consumer confidence since February, 2008

That's great news.  We know that nothing bad happened after that in 2008, so consumer confidence must be a good predictor of future economic growth.  Right? 

We are playing a rigged game against the House.  The House intends to win, and the House will win, or at least end the night with the most markers.  In this case, the House not only controls the roulette wheel, it can manufacture chips as long as it wants, so it seems, without anyone being able to actually cash in. 

It is one thing for people to buy Powerball tickets when they have -- or should have a good idea of what the odds are.  When governments in collusion with central banks publish bogus reports and manipulate, excuse me, adjust numbers to make things look better than they can possibly be, that is equivalent to declaring that any given 2-dollar Powerball ticket has a 50-50 change of winning half a billion dollars.  It just ain't so. 

This is not to say that the ECB, the Fed, the Bank of China, et al, cannot force a "deal" on Greece and Germany or Congress and the Whitehouse or whatever party is out of control at the moment and keep the ponzi scheme afloat for a few more days/months/years.  They have and they will as long as they can.  It's the only game they have, and they desperately want everybody to keep playing.  Just like the casino, no one minds if you and I "win" a little now and then.  In fact, the casino wants the gambler to win -- some -- often enough, in fact, that he keeps gambling.  The casino does not wish to see the gambler broken completely, just skinned.  They only make money and stay in business when people lose just a little more often than they win. 

I have stopped playing for the most part, and I have no doubt suffered loss as a result over the last four or five years.  Inflation has been the penalty I have paid, the tax that has been levied against me through the Federal Reserve.  Still, I think I can weather a collapse better than the majority of the professionals down at the casino -- maybe better than the casino itself.  We'll see, I suppose. 

The main caution I would give at this point is to understand that we are being gamed, that nothing in the fundamentals has changed, that arithmetic still rules in the end.  Do not believe the lie that stocks are worth "what someone will pay for them."  That is true enough in a rigged market for the short-term.  A soap bubble is "real", after all.  It just will not last.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Suicide Rates and Methods Among the Middle Aged

According to a Johns Hopkins study, hanging/suffocation is increasing in popularity as a method of suicide.  In particular, among the age 45-59 demographic, hanging/suffocation increased by 104% between 2000 and 2010.

I note this because, if you want an indication of economic conditions, that would be a red flag.  Suicide is being used by the white middle-class, middle-age people who see the world they knew evaporating.  These are not drug-addled losers or the lonely, terminally-ill elderly.

I found this line especially shocking:

"Suicide recently exceeded motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury death in the U.S.; this report is the first to examine changes in the method of suicide, particularly by demographics such as age," said lead study author Susan P. Baker, MPH, a professor with and founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "While suicide by firearm remains the predominant method in the U.S., the increase in hanging and suffocation particularly in middle-aged adults warrants immediate attention." (emphasis added by me)

That is simply astounding.  Not automotive accidents, not murder, not accidental drug overdoses -- people are killing themselves.  The study also indicates that:  "Suicide rates are increasing faster for women than for men, and faster in whites than in non-whites." 

I'm not sure why hanging is becoming a more popular method.  I suppose one is less likely to wake the spouse, the kids, or the neighbors.  Perhaps it has something to do with the sense of failure or guilt, i.e., an appropriate "punishment".  I do know of two fairly recent incidents in a town in the St. Louis area where the people chose hanging.  One was a pastor accused of child molestation; the other was a teenager who skateboarded with a young relative of my family.  

Suicides rates increased in the middle-age group while those 70 and older were less likely to commit suicide.  Those in the 60-69 age group saw an 85% increase in the use of poison as a method, and I would venture to guess that is mostly overdosing on prescription drugs.  

To any who might be considering suicide, I offer the following as free advice worth probably about as much as you pay for it.

I am prone to depression myself, and I know how easy it is to look around and say, "I have no reason to live.  I would be better off dead."  I know very well the feeling of not being able to handle any more, being pushed to physical, mental, and emotional limits.  I have been there.  I also know it is quite possible to rationalize the harm done to those around us by our choice to commit suicide.  At least, we won't be "hurting" family members or loved ones any more, right? 

Life is more than possessions.  It is more than success or failure by worldly standards.  One does not need to be a believer in God and an after-life, as I am, to place a higher value on who we are than on what we have. 

You are here.

Make the most of it.  We are going to need you in the days and months and years ahead.  I believe each of us is born into the time and place and situation that will shape us and form us for our destiny.  Sometimes that is growing into something; a lot of times it means pruning and grinding off the excess, taking away something.  It is not necessarily a good idea to fight that process.  Let it run its course.

It probably varies from one individual to another.  For me, the worst is thinking that I brought it on myself, that I deserve the situation I am in.  For another it may be false accusations, irrational blame, being forced to suffer as an innocent.  I am not going to tell you it will get better.  It may not.  It may get worse.  I can tell you that you will get through it if you keep going.  If you are a believer, pray.  If you are not, meditate.

There are medications that can help, but there are also medications that can cause problems.  Consider that the cause of your mental state could be chemical.  I suspect that is case with many of the middle-aged who are killing themselves.  Way too many of us are relying on "better living through chemistry". 

Go talk to a doctor.  

Get eight hours of sleep for a couple of nights.  It will work an amazing change in your brain. 

During the holiday season, be thankful.  It's like Thanksgiving.  Do it.  It helps.  Find something that you can lock onto for which you can still be grateful.  A relationship.  Jesus, who will never leave us or forsake us no matter how damn stupid we are.  When I am mad at everything else, at least there is coffee.  Whatever works. 

If you want me to pray for you, I will.  Hang on.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Time for a Hog Boilin'?

We noted this back in August, via Barnhardt.

I had an earlier post from May, 2011, via Denninger.

And now there's this from the National Seniors CouncilObama Begins Push for New National Retirement System --

A recent hearing sponsored by the Treasury and Labor Departments marked the beginning of the Obama Administration’s effort to nationalize the nation’s pension system and to eliminate private retirement accounts including IRA’s and 401k plans, NSC is warning.
Deputy Treasury Secretary J. Mark Iwry, who presided over the hearing, is a long-time critic of 401k plans because he believes they benefit the rich.
"This effort ultimately is designed to grab the retirement nest eggs of America’s senior citizens. This new government annuity scheme, even if it is at first optional, will turn into a giant effort to redistribute the wealth of America’s older citizens," explains Crone. "This scheme mirrors what I expect the President will try to do with Social Security. He wants to turn that program into a welfare program, too."
 Maybe they benefit the people who saved their money and didn't buy $150 jeans or $300 sneakers. 

We knew this was coming because Social Security and especially Medicare are not sustainable.  Instead of doing the smart thing and encouraging younger people to invest and save, they will just steal from those who have acted prudently.  This probably goes nowhere, but given the re-election of the HKB*, who knows.

* Half-Kenyan Bastard, and, note, I am not a "birther".   

Thinking of Investing in Popcorn Futures

The Obama regime is probably planning on swapping out Barack for Michelle at the end of this term.  They might be looking for a way to have the 22nd Amendment thrown out by a packed Supreme Court.  Or, they might let Barack run as Michelle’s Vice President by having the Court rule on the interaction between the 22nd Amendment and the 12th Amendment, i.e., service versus election.  By 2016 there will be a solid and entrenched fascist majority of judges that will not be removed any time soon.  The left is practically orgasmic over all this.  That’s the bad news.

There’s worse news.  Initial claims came in at well over 400,000 this week, due, according to the spin, to Hurricane Sandy.  The core CPI is running 2%, but food inflation is, as Denninger notes, double that.  Retailers are expressing caution.  The euro bounced off the floor after the Fed Open Market Committee announced more money printing, but it should have soared against the dollar.  The fact that it did not indicates that the situation in the EU is deteriorating.  The EU has dropped back into a “double-dip” recession.  I would not be surprised to see a similar admission regarding the U.S. economy.  My opinion is that we have never gotten out of the recession from 2007.  The government has papered over it with irresponsible deficit spending and bogus numbers.  Still, sooner or later, the politicians will have to face the reality.  I’m sure the problem will turn out to be rich people not paying their fair share.

So is there any good news?  It’s hard to say.  A serious economic collapse could derail the left’s happy train to Utopia Junction.  Those familiar with the situation in Europe, e.g., the Frogman, doubt the libertarian scenario of impending economic doom, in that places like France have kept the socialist plates spinning for eighty years.  They may be right.  Nevertheless, one wonders how much of that “success” has been due to the vast, voracious, seemingly bottomless consumer economy in the United States.  Our appetite for stuff helped to subsidize the world, especially Western Europe and Japan, after the end of World War II.  Our ability to produce an over-abundance of food and other agricultural products helped millions afford more than adequate meals with money left over to spend or invest.

This is what I can’t help wondering, if you choke back American productivity with taxes and inflation and bureaucratic regulation, won’t there be a ripple effect?  I’m pretty sure it worked the other way – our productivity and somewhat-free market prosperity rippled out to prosper people in other countries to the point that they could “afford” socialism.  Thatcher’s famous line that “you run out of other people’s money” remains true, but the pool of “other people” was expanded with globalization.  The European and American parasite class has been supported, of late, by outright slave labor or the next thing to it in China and India.  The Chinese government, in particular, skimmed the profits for selling cheap goods and bought bonds to fund the increasing Western deficits which, in turn, filtered back to China via exports.  Thus the consumer bubble continued to expand.  For the last thirty-plus years the expansion has been increasingly a function of the growth of government debt.  We rode a demographic wave of population expansion into the eighties and a wave of productivity expansion into the 1990s.  Now it’s over and we are depending on the expansion of credit and a flood of immigrants to save us. 

I really question how that is going to work out.  I still think the credit default swaps that are exposed to a collapse and exit of Greece from the euro-zone are a lynchpin that dumps the load, perhaps domino-fashion, toward Spain, Italy, and Portugal.  I also think that Bernanke and the Fed have a little better grasp of reality than Krugman and the rest of Keynesian Greek Chorus.  Printing is ultimately as much of a damper on real economic growth as taxes and redistribution.  Inflation in a zero-interest-rate environment is destructive to capital while forcing people, especially older people, to spend less and try to save more.  As our population ages, more of us will try to “grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.” 

See how well that’s worked for Japan?  How long has the Nikkei been stagnant?  And that’s without a 15% unemployment problem. 

I still think we are going to crash.  I do not know when.  Certainly the parasite never intends to suck its host dry.  But, if you get a critical mass of deluded bloodsuckers, that’s what is going to happen.  The political and financial class will try to keep us back from the edge of open rebellion, try to keep us just mollified enough that we let ourselves be boiled.  Ah, there is the problem.  Someday we will be boiled, and, when that happens, after the bones have been picked clean, who is going to pay for your Tomahawk missiles, the fuel to run your drones, the wine and beer, the Kools and Twinkies to placate your voter class?  

The coyote caught the roadrunner.  Now what?  Or, maybe, the awesomeness of reality

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Signposts on the Road to the Future?

Things are going well in Greece -- at least with supposedly racially-motivated attacks on non-Greeks.  I can't really trust the media reports on this.  I suspect there is more to it than simple "right-wing" nationalism or racism.  The government debt crisis, high unemployment, and worsening economic conditions are bound to change the outlook people have.  

We look at Greece and say that the nation has been living off Germany and the northern tier of the EU.  But how much of that is due to immigrants moving in and attaching themselves like ticks to the system?  We know there is a large contingent of parasitic immigrants in France -- mostly Muslims.  Perhaps that is also the case in Greece, and some people are waking up to it in the face of compulsory austerity measures.

Europe has encouraged immigration because of the below-replacement-level birthrate.  You have to have someone to pick up the garbage, trim your shrubs, and program your computers.  Along with the workers came the parasites, and many of the workers have figured out how to play the system to get more benefits like low-cost housing and free medical care. 

As long as there are freebies for all, everybody gets along, but when the arithmetically-inevitable crunch comes, it is a different story. 

America is not that far behind. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Case of Mistaken Identity

The polls were right.  Akin lost decisively, though, as predicted, Romney did win Missouri's electoral votes. 

I guess I mistook this country for the one in which I grew up.  

I refused to watch the coverage or listen to the radio.  I checked the internet a couple of times.  My wife came out to announce that Ohio was lost.  I suppose Virginia, Florida, and Colorado also went blue again -- I neither know nor care.  Either the angry white men didn't show up, or they are so severely outnumbered by government dependents and the slut contingent that it didn't matter.

Reality is still reality even when the majority deny it.  As Mal said, "May have been the losing side.  Still not convinced it was the wrong one."

It seems that most of the people in this country think that they can change arithmetic.  It has never happened, and it won't happen any time soon.  When the takers outnumber the producers, you end up with disaster.  You can run a deficit for a while, just like you can run up a bar tab and get all-mighty drunk with a dollar in your pocket.  The trouble is somebody is going to get stuck with the bill at the end of the binge.

I had no confidence that the can would not be kicked no matter who won yesterday.  Politicians will do what is politically sensible -- which has nothing to do with what is real, let alone what is right.   Europe has been doing it for 60 years with significant assistance from us.  Japan has done well selling us stuff, now China, but we are done.  The deficit is going to keep climbing.  The dollar is going down the drain -- though the euro may well go down first.  China's economy is going into recession.  The Middle East is going to starve then explode.  Israel is going to be under siege and, outside of Divine intervention, wiped off the map. 

It may not happen tomorrow, but the die is cast. 

For me, I am no longer a law-abiding citizen.  If you will allow me one more Malcolm Reynolds quote, "I aim to misbehave."  It is the State that is the outlaw.  I neither ask nor require anything of it.  I will continue to do what is moral and right.  If "legal" happens to coincide with that, I'll be happy and so will the parasites.  When it does not, I guess we'll see what happens.