Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Missouri August 5th Ballot Initiatives -- Amendment No. 9

Part Five in a series.  Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4.

Electronic security.

Constitutional Amendment No. 9
Proposed by the 97th General Assembly (Second Regular Session)
SCS SJR No. 27
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that the people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects?

State and local governmental entities expect no significant costs or savings.
[  ]  Yes
[  ]  No

I am voting YES on Amendment 9.

Like Amendment 5, this should not be necessary.  It is common sense that digital or electronic storage is of the same nature as any other information.  Doesn't "effects" cover it?  It is my possession, therefore it is private. I don't care if I carve my SSN on a rock I carry in my pocket or if I keep it on my smart phone (Hint:  The rock is more secure.), it is no one else's business. 

Missouri August 5th Ballot Initiatives -- Amendment No. 8

Part Four of a series.  Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 5.

Veterans Lottery Ticket

Constitutional Amendment No. 8
Proposed by the 97th General Assembly (Second Regular Season)
HJR No. 48
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to create a “Veterans Lottery Ticket” and to use the revenue from the sale of these tickets for projects and services related to veterans?

The annual cost or savings to state and local governmental entities is unknown, but likely minimal.  If sales of a veterans lottery ticket game decrease existing lottery ticket sales, the profits of which fund education, there could be a small annual shift in funding from education to veterans' programs.
[  ]  Yes
[  ]  No

I am voting NO on Amendment 8.
It's not that this is a Bad Thing, or that it will cost me anything, like Amendment 7, but it's one of those pointless, do-gooder kind of things that make us feel like we have "done something" for veterans.  I'm not a veteran, but the veterans I know generally just want to be left alone.  The whole idea of the lottery proceeds being used to fund education is a sham.  The money goes into the general fund.  I've said before that a good 75% of my property taxes go to the schools.  Education itself is a unionized scam.  It's nice that they want to help veterans, but this is a token gesture, and something else to clutter up the statutes.

Missouri August 5th Ballot Initiatives -- Amendment No. 7

Part Three in a series.  Part 1Part 2. Part 4. Part 5.

The "We really mean it will all go for roads this time.  Really.  No, seriously.  This time for sure." tax increase. 

Constitutional Amendment No. 7
Proposed by the 97th General Assembly (Second Regular Session)
SS HJR No. 68
Should the Missouri Constitution be changed to enact a temporary sales tax of three-quarters of one percent to be used solely to fund state and local highways, roads, bridges and transportation projects for ten years, with priority given to repairing unsafe roads and bridges?

This change is expected to produce $480 million annually to the state's Transportation Safety and Job Creation Fund and $54 million for local governments.  Increases in the gas tax will be prohibited.  This revenue shall only be used for transportation purposes and cannot be diverted for another use.
[  ]  Yes
[  ]  No

I will be voting NO on Amendment 7.

First, there is no such thing as a temporary tax increase.  At the end of ten years it will not be dropped or stopped but it will be rolled into funding schools or whatever the cause célèbre.  Again, it will not be stopped, ever.  

Second, like everything else the government does, two-thirds of the money will not go to asphalt, concrete, machines with very large wheels, and projects, but to administrators and project plans and projected project plans and projections of projected project plans.  The sponge-like nature of the bureaucratic organism will soak in money but drip very little out while complaining about how underfunded they are.

I have a suggestion if we are short of money for critical repairs needed for bridges and overpasses, maybe we could do a few less super-sexy diverging diamonds and damn roundabouts.  I drove my whole life and hit one roundabout over on the west side of Fort Worth.  Now they are everywhere.  They are putting them on either end of an overpass near where my daughter lives.  All they need for a town of a couple thousand was a traffic light, not millions for traffic circles.

The other thing I hate are those rumble strips.  They put them in the middle of the highway out here in yellow-line no-passing zone.  Who, when pulling out to pass a tractor or an Amish buggy, doesn't cheat over on the end of the yellow line?  Do it there, and you think the Amish are throwing kids off the back to slow down the wolves. Another senseless waste of money.

Fire some administrators and the engineers who are overly enamored of strange, foreign interchange designs, and make do with what you have.  Like the rest of us.

Missouri August 5th Ballot Initiatives -- Amendment No. 5

Part Two in a series.  Part 1.  Part 3. Part 4. Part 5.
Affirming the unalienable nature of the right to own and carry arms.

Constitutional Amendment No. 5
Proposed by the 97th General Assembly (Second Regular Session)
SCS HJR No. 36
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to include a declaration that the right to keep and bear arms is a unalienable right and that the state government is obligated to uphold that right?

State and local governmental entities should have no direct costs or savings from this proposal.  However, the proposal's passage will likely lead to increased litigation and criminal justice related costs.  The total potential costs are unknown, but could be significant.
[  ]  Yes
[  ]  No

I think this is mostly symbolic.  It's another way to approach the Firearms Protection Act that our Democrat governor vetoed.  

I know a lot of times our talk about firearms can sound like a near-religious fundamentalist fervor.  That can be off-putting and hard for those who don't share our enthusiasm to comprehend.  God made men; Sam Colt made them equal.  

Owning firearms is not about fear -- at least not for me.  It's about forcing the state to respect the individual citizen, reminding the bureaucrats and the politicians that we are citizens and not subjects.  Subjects can be armed by their sovereign to defend the sovereign.  Citizens are sovereign and defend themselves.  

I have no problem with those who happily and willingly submit themselves to an all-knowing and all-caring state.  Just don't ask or expect me to do that.

The difference in this call for protection of a right and the usual kind of laws that we pass -- and the reason I say it's most symbolic -- is that we are asking the state to protect us from the primary threat to keeping and bearing arms, which is the state.  In this case, we are demanding that our state of Missouri stand with its citizens against any encroachment on the part of the federal leviathan.

I'm not sure how that will work out, but I'm voting "Yes" anyway.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Dollar and the Gold Standard

Daily Mises interviewed Mark Thornton, senior resident fellow at the Mises Institute on the future of the dollar, inflation, deflation, gold and silver

A lot of it is rehash and reinforcement of points we've discussed before.  We can't believe the central banks have managed to carry this farce out so long.  The debt will be paid via inflation:

 ... the most likely alternative and one that looks increasingly obvious to me is that they will continue to use the printing press. They can pull back at anytime but the pain, the political pain and the economic pain in the short run is so difficult for them to accept, that it’s likely that they’re going to go down the path of printing up ever-increasing quantities of money, engaging in quantitative easing and so forth.

The people that they brought in to engineer this process are PhD economists, and PhD economists are some of the most dangerous people in the world in terms of economic policy. Right now we have a world in which many of the financial and even some of the political institutions are controlled by PhD economists, mainstream economics, Keynesian economists, many of them MIT economists.

The central banks have redefined inflation:

Well, of course the inflation-deflation debate is very important and it has been muddled by mainstream economists. The traditional notion of inflation was that inflation was the government increasing the money supply and deflation was a decrease in the money supply.

Mainstream economists have flipped that on its head so that inflation is a rise in general prices and deflation is a decrease in general prices. So, the traditional version was cause and effect where it focused in on the cause which was government increasing the money supply rather than the effect, which is an overall increase in prices.

So with that muddled definition, we entered this era of central bank manipulation to an extreme and therefore you’ve gotten this somewhat confused debate about inflation and deflation.

The way I view it is that in a policy sense, the government is going to continue to engage in a monetary inflation, but one of the deflation scenarios that I see is a deflation in asset prices because the economy is always trying to work to correct the errors that occur because of the central bank’s manipulation of interest rates and central banks have been manipulating interest rates downward. This has caused entrepreneurs to make investments in capital goods, in companies. That’s what has pushed the prices up and that’s what has pushed prices up in particular industries.

Thornton thinks that gold and silver are good investments.  If you want to buy a house or a car, gold is the way to go.  If you want to buy bread, you need some silver.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

An Argument for the Lever-Action Rifle

D.W. Smith at Bearingarms.com offers a 3-page argument mostly in favor of the lever-action rifle.

He includes the cool picture of John Wayne with the oft-seen big-loop Winchester 92 first carried by Ringo in Stagecoach.  As you probably know, Wayne and Yakima Canutt welded up the loop for a more dramatic and unique appearance.

While there are good reasons, I suppose, to own a lever-action, the reason I own one is because I like it.  It is a traditional design that carries me back to simpler, more sensible times.  The lever gun still works just as well as it ever did.  The Space Age didn't give us rayguns or deathrays or phasers. A well-placed bullet is still the best way to humanely bring down game, and the lever-action is perfectly capable of doing that job in the hands of a practiced shooter.

For self-defense, I would say whether or not to choose a lever-action "depends".  It would work fine for me, and if I thought I needed more range than my shotgun gives me, my Model 94 is probably what I would use.  Mine is the Trapper model with a 16.5 inch barrel chambered in .30-30.  It is quite handy and easily manipulated in close quarters.  It is also extremely loud.  I have tested it with factory ammunition and a mounted scope.  Contrary to much conventional wisdom, it routinely shoots 3-shot groups of about an inch to an inch and a quarter under a cheap 4x scope.  I don't know if the shorter barrel (which gives up some velocity) is stiffer, or if I just lucked onto a good one, but I'm not complaining.

Most of the time, except for handload development and testing, I do not have the scope mounted and use a Williams receiver sight instead, which makes it more compact and isn't so disruptive to the classic lines.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Inflation Delusion

From The Week, James Pethokoukis roundly mocks "the GOP" for their inflation obsession.  He argues that the official, "average" inflation rate is 1.6%. 

Perhaps Mr. Pethokoukis does not go to the grocery store.  The inflation calculation does not include food or fuel, both of which are up significantly in price the last few years and are, oddly, something most of us have to buy every day.  I don't commute much anymore, but buying fuel for my lawn equipment and topping off my truck's tank can easily run up a hundred dollar bill at the GAS station.  Pressure from food and fuel costs is a drag on the rest of the economy.

The reality of the global economy does not square with Pethokoukis' thesis.  We have exported inflation to China via the dollar's position as the world's reserve currency, as we were talking about a few days ago.  This is one of the reasons for the BRICS developing a new reserve.  Pethokoukis is delusional if he thinks that will be painless. 

Another thing, the official inflation rate is at least double what the average investor can get on a safer investment such as a certificate of deposit.  That means that money setting in a bank account is shrinking in purchasing power every year by 1% or more.  In five years, savers have lost 5%, 10% in ten years.  Not exactly the way to build a retirement nest egg, is it?  So what do we do? The same as the Japanese.  Those of who are still working and can do so save more and spend less.  We stretch our grocery dollars as far as possible, buying less meat and dairy, picking up things on sale, buying fewer packaged convenience foods, and depending more on gardening.  We fix our vehicles instead of buying new ones, put fewer miles on them by not going out, avoid restaurants and movie theaters, pick up clothes at Goodwill, because we are paying a stealth tax through inflation for the government's continued deficit spending. 

The arithmetic ignorance of alleged financial experts leaves me stunned at times.  It is hard to believe anyone can be this stupid.  Humans have a built-in bias against thinking that others will deliberately and blatantly lie to us.  As cynical and skeptical as I am, both by nature and nurture, even I have a hard time believing that the news reporters intentionally broadcast false information or that Obama knows he is lying about Obamacare, Benghazi, the IRS, and whatever else is going on.  OK, not so much in Obama's case.  He's one of those guys, like Clinton, who will lie when the truth would serve better, just to keep in practice.  His whole life is a lie. 

Enough of that.  I offer this brilliant quote from Pethokoukis: 

.And consider this: If inflation were really 10 percent, that would mean the real economy, adjusted for inflation, has been sharply shrinking — yet somehow still adding 2 million net new jobs a year.

If GOP inflationistas had their way, the weak U.S. recovery would almost surely be even weaker. Just look at Europe. Unlike the Fed, the inflation-phobic European Central Bank sat on its hands despite weak growth. The result has been an unemployment rate nearly twice America's and a nasty double-dip recession. Of course, inflation is lower than in America — so low, in fact, that the region risks a dangerous deflationary spiral of falling prices and falling wages.

He almost stumbles upon reality.  You want to grab him and shake him while screaming, "The real economy has been shrinking, you dolt!" 

The recession is not over.  The U.S. economy, apart from government deficit spending, has been contracting for years.  There is no real economic growth, we just had more rope with which to hang ourselves.  Government is growing.  The number of people on food stamps has grown.  The number of people going on disability has grown.  The number of people who have given up looking for full-time employment has increased.  The labor participation rate is at historic lows, but, Glory Be!, we are not as bad as Europe!

Yes, we may get a massive deflationary or dis-inflationary correction when the markets collapse.  If we had let this happen in 2007 -- Bush deserves some blame -- our economy would be growing instead of stagnating like Japan's has been since the '90s. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pole Beans

If you are looking for high nutritional value, low calories, and taste, consider green beans.  A cup of green beans -- I suppose this is unseasoned -- has less than 45 calories.  Green beans are a rich source of Vitamins A, C, and, especially K, also potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, iron, and folate.  They serve as a good source of niacin, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, calcium, phosphorus, copper, thiamin, riboflavin, and magnesium.

I'm not sure I even need all that stuff.

For those concerned about cholesterol and arteriosclerosis, the beta-carotene form of Vitamin A along with the Vitamin C in green beans are antioxidants, fat and water-soluble respectively, that help block the oxidation of cholesterol, preventing it from adhering to the walls of blood vessels.

I think the best way to have green beans is to grow them yourself.  Almost nothing is easier to grow.  Beans don't need a lot of space or particularly good soil.  If you want to learn how to can in a pressure cooker, canning your very own green beans is a good place to start.  Ten pounds of pressure for 25 minutes is the recommendation for quart jars.  If the seal is good, canned beans will easily keep for a couple of seasons.

There are many varieties of green beans.  My wife has always been a fan of golden wax bush beans because they are different.  I think they do have a milder flavor and make a more "decorative" plate for some meals.  We always grew bush beans when I was a kid on the farm because we had plenty of space, and bush beans tend to come on all together and don't require structure.  Bush beans are the way to go for large-scale commercial operations, but as I have grown older, I have become an advocate for pole beans.  My back appreciates them.

When I possible, I like to plant in three-sisters fashion -- first corn, then pole beans, followed by some kind of winter squash.  I didn't do that this year because of timing issues due to family health problems.  I've lost some of my small patch of corn to deer and dogs running through and breaking off corn stalks.  That does not happen as much when pole beans are present to provide extra support and strength.  Kentucky Wonder pole beans are what I usually use for the three-sisters, because they are an heirloom variety and are not bad as dried beans.  They are rust-resistant and develop strings as they mature.

If you are short on garden space, pole beans will help out.  They require much less horizontal room to grow and, as I mentioned, are less demanding on an old man's back to harvest.  I use a couple of 16-foot welded-wire cattle panels -- it's bigger than 9-gauge, maybe 6-gauge -- with three or four steel posts to hold the panels for my beans to climb.  This year I set the panels up in the middle of a bed 4 feet wide and 32 feet long.  I planted Kentucky Wonders -- since that is what I had on hand -- on both sides of the panels. This arrangement allows for very convenient harvesting without nearly so much bending.  With a midget grandkid or two to help, no bending is involved.

Despite the late start, we have already filled a couple of canners in addition to eating fresh beans for dinner or supper every day lately.  I fully expect to have an adequate supply of green beans canned for winter before the planting is exhausted.  After all, I still have beans in the pantry from late year's harvest.

Blue Lake pole beans probably have a better flavor than Kentucky Wonders as green beans, but I don't really have any complaints.  I try to pick them before the strings develop so they are easy to snap, and they are tasty enough for me.  Those of Scottish descent, like myself, tend to not care so much about what we eat as long as there is plenty. 

If a person is going to figure on feeding himself, growing beans of one kind or another is a good place to start. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Remind Me Again Who the Sanctions Are Intended to Punish

AWR Hawkins at Breitbart reports on Obama's EO to ban importation of Russian-made AK-47s, Izhmash arms, and Saiga rifles and shotguns -- as well as repair parts for these weapons.

Nothing like killing two birds with one stone.

Hawkins calls the AK-47 "one of the greatest rifles ever made".  They are cheap, reliable, and very popular, and they do have rifled barrels.  Great? I don't know.  I doubt that Putin is going to be convinced to end his support of the pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine because Americans can't buy Saiga shotguns.  I can't really fault Obama on this because it is a symbolic sanction, but I'm sure the gun-grabbing twit was gleeful to have an excuse to sign something to keep "assault weapons" out of the hands of law-abiding Americans.

Talk seems to have been quite tough on the Sunday shows.  I caught a glimpse of Kerry's bizarrely deformed head appearing to speak via the local news last night.  The Obama regime is all but accusing Putin of launching the SAM that took down MH17 himself.  Denninger has a reasonable summary of the known knowns and the known unknowns, and it continues to look like a tragic accident plus some negligence on the part of whomever is responsible for allowing the plane to take that flight path. 

How much of the so-sad news coverage is simply trying to capture eyeballs and how much is agitprop is hard to say.  Is the regime trying to build a case for more extensive support of the Ukrainian government against the rebels?  It seems likely.  Is there a chance this will turn the Ukrainian civil war into a proxy war between something approximating NATO and Russia?  At this point, I would say the probability is low, less than one in twenty.  There's too much inertia.  But another such incident or perceived atrocity would raise the odds significantly. 

Something else to consider is that gold-bugs have been warning about BRICS action to replace the petro-dollar for years.  The dependence of Chinese economic growth on American consumer spending has made such a decoupling effort unrealistic.  The sanctions against Russia could give the BRICS coalition more impetus in that direction.  If Russia and China start dumping dollars, we would be looking at higher prices for anything imported.  It might take a while for domestic production to take up the slack -- which could mean shortages for many goods as well as potentially increased prices for food and fuel.  I think the BRICS would be shooting themselves in the foot long-term, but hubris is a human flaw not an exclusively American one.