Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sometimes I Just Can't Resist Playing

Like many of you, I suppose, I'm on a bunch of outdoors/gun related mailing lists.  Today's email has a come-on by outdoors clothes maker Buck Wear.  The idea is a play on the always popular "Elf Yourself" site, called "Redneck Yourself".
"For those awkward moments when your lack of "rural credibility" causes discomfort or embarrassment, we present Redneck Yourself."
For reasons probably best commented on by Dr. Sanity, or other qualified professionals, my first thought was to play with a picture of Mojo.  If you just found this place, Mojo is my white cat who displays "an excess of personality" (to butcher a line from Jurassic Park about Malcolm the mathematician).  I give you Redneck Moe.
I didn't realize how much Mo looks like one them Zeta Reticulans from the alien stories.  Maybe I'd better keep an eye out for circles in the back yard. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Two Headlines Over the Weekend

One was that several people were injured in Black Friday sales.  The other was that online shopping was up 16%.  What a surprise.

I mean, which would you rather do - get trampled or possibly stabbed, or sit around in your bunny slippers,  one-click buying? 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Finishing Touches

The engraving step for my home-built AR is complete.  The logo I came up with:

and an overall shot of the finished rifle:
Why a cartoon cat?  All of the major parts in my homebrew AR, except for the lower receiver that I finished, are DPMS parts.  That is, the finished upper, and the parts kit in the lower are DPMS; the stock is a generic multi-position stock.  DPMS has a fierce-looking panther as its logo, so I figured a not-so-fierce looking version of Mojo, our white cat, would be a nice touch.  I originally was going to go with a name like "Moe's Firearms", but that takes up room and there's just not a lot of room there.  

To create the logo, I found a cartoon called "how to draw a cat" and used the cat.  Opened the .gif in my CAD program, traced it, saved it as a 2D .dxf file, imported that into the CAM program DeskCNC, created g-code and after a test on a piece of scrap brass, did the rifle lower.  Took about 15 minutes at the overly cautious rate of 1/2 inch per minute engraving speed.  As the French say, "wah-lah". 
Yesterday, I found a pretty good deal on a Nikon Monarch rifle scope - at Overstock.com, of all places - so I will soon have a nice Nikon on it. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

And How Was Your Black Friday/Weekend?

Junior Deputy Accountant, whom I respect a lot, wrote a piece celebrating Buy Nothing Day.  I think this is a good "money quote", if you'll pardon the pun:
As many of you already know, today is Black Friday which means stampedes, possible death, fistfights over the last $99  50" LCD TV (sorry, there were only 2 in stock anyway) and waiting in line just to get your grubby little paws on a 75% off bedroom set.
To borrow a really different quote, "Homey don't play that".  I have never gotten up at oh-dark-thirty to be in line at any store long before they open, so that I can bolt inside like I'm dragging up the rear at the Running of the Bulls in Pamploma.  There ain't enough money in the world.

But the folks at Buy Nothing Day, and the folks who want to make buying nothing longer, or permanent, bother me.  I don't have any problems with commerce or capitalism, and they seem to have plenty of problems with both. If you don't feel like going shopping, wonderful; if you're the kind of person who feels you have to show that you're superior to people who are shopping, not so wonderful.  If their sense of self-worth comes from cutting other people down, that's pretty pathological.

In my case, I didn't go near a mall or physical store, but I took advantage of some online sales to buy some odds and ends I'd been watching for, anyway.  No sense paying full price if it's on sale for a few days, right?  Plus I like being able to shop sitting around in gym shorts and socks (I know - too much information). 

Due to "adult situations" wildly beyond our control, we have not had anything like our traditional Thanksgiving this year.  Tomorrow we'll roast a Turkey, while we watch the other turkeys play football. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Modest Proposal About Energy

Energy is the universal currency of human transactions.  All transactions between people and their societal structures reduce at their lowest level to transactions about energy.  Think about it: what's the most fundamental of your needs?  Food and shelter.  What is food other than energy to run you?  How do you build your home?  If you pay for anything, the transaction reduces to food, shelter and necessities for the other party.  What does your house run on?  Your car?  You have an electric car?  Nowadays, it's best to think of your Volt or Leaf as a coal-fired car, because if you're in the Luddite States of America, your power comes from a coal-fired power plant.  That electricity to charge it has to come from somewhere, you know?
The Nissan Leaf, the most popular totally coal-fired car in America. Zero emission?  Maybe from the car, but that's because they don't carry their primary power source, which has plenty of emissions.

Today, Western Rifle Shooters Association has a link to a story on the coming energy shortages as we go past peak oil.  As I said some time ago, "If there was a free market in oil, I'd say, "peak oil, schmeak oil - I don't care", because all that means is that as oil gets more expensive, other sources of energy will replace it; and it's not like oil hasn't been getting more expensive for the last 40 years, anyway."  Allow me to make a modest proposal. 

The US Navy has powered large surface vessels with nuclear power for around 50 years.  There has never been a major failure of a Navy reactor.  We power ten aircraft carriers, and many submarines.  The latest and largest model reactor in an aircraft carrier appears to be the A4W, capable of 104 MW each; two of these powerplants go into a Nimitz-class "supercarrier".  These nuclear reactors are specified as a product, not as a custom assembly; that is, A4W is a catalog designation in the military stock system that they order to buy these. A designates a surface vessel, 4 is the fourth generation reactor design, and W is the prime contractor who builds them, in this case, Westinghouse.  It is important to know that every nuclear-powered vessel has a crew of young adults who run them and keep them trouble free.  There has never been a serious issue with a reactor on a US Navy vessel.  No reactor meltdowns, no vessels being sunk by their reactors.  It is possible that was the root cause in the loss of the submarine USS Thresher in the 1960s, but we don't know that, and it obviously used an old, long-ago replaced design.  It's also possible it sank due to pressure failure of its hull.

How much power is 104 MW?  A typically sized American house probably consumes, at peak, in the vicinity of 20 kW.  104,000/20 is 5200 homes, which says a residential town of around 15,000 people could be powered by one of these reactors.  In reality, you rarely run your house at full capacity, so more houses could run on one of these reactors. Two of these reactors, the complement on a Nimitz, could power a town of 10,000 homes. 

What if we covered the country with these reactors?  Instead of giant, centralized power plants, what if we had a distributed network of thousands of these reactors?

Although there are undoubtedly restrictions on the ability to buy them, let's assume the legislation to allow them to be sold to private concerns could be passed.  The only thing that would prevent wide scale construction and distribution of these reactors is the public's irrational fear of nuclear power.  The expertise to manage them is widespread, with many Navy veterans having run them successfully.  More can be trained with the existing Navy training materials and classes. 

We can either mope and complain about energy getting more expensive, and gripe about losing our quality of life, or we can face the problem head on, and maybe get a jump on our troubles - for once.  As Alvie over at the Cliffs of Insanity says, "which way are you facing?"

Thursday, November 25, 2010


A few thoughts prompted by this post from Brigid on hunting. 

I have said before that I'm a fairly new member of the gun culture, only getting actively involved a bit short of two years ago.  I was never anti-gun, I just didn't own many.  A piece of the Bradys' stupidity lodged with me from time to time until I could shake out my head and think about what they were saying, but not being a regular shooter is different from being anti-gun.  I had a Remington Nylon 66 .22 rifle as a teenager, used to plink at cans and other junk from as far away as we could see, and that was it.  I just wasn't brought up in a hunting family, or with other strong involvement with guns.  My dad had an injury from WWII that prevented him from getting around well enough to go hunting, and eventually confined him to a wheelchair.  He had hunted as a young man before the war, but not after returning.  We fished as a family as I was growing up, before the wheelchair, and I spent a lot of my 20s and 30s fishing as my main outdoors activity. 

The cathedral hush of the ocean at daybreak is as compelling a part of my life as the inland dawns Brigid describes, and hundreds of sunrises are burned into my mind.  From clear, hot skies with a purple sun breaking the horizon to cool, drizzly, sullen sunrises on an ocean fishing pier, where the sun isn't seen, certainly isn't felt, but just a brightening to the clouds.  The ocean at night, even in sight of the bright lights of land, takes on a different feeling than during the day.  The open ocean during the day is certainly a dangerous place, and you feel you're on the roof of an unseen world; but at night it takes on a different, almost ominous feeling.  A fish breaking the surface chasing bait while you sit in utter blackness gives you a gut-level understanding of the ancient fears of sea monsters.

Michael Blane blogged about results from a National Shooting Sports Federation survey that many of the newer shooters don't come from a hunting background, but from self-defense and concealed carry.  As such, the drive for maintaining hunting areas is not as strong as it was, but more people are interested in public ranges.  There is talk about finding ways to split the Pittman-Robertson funds collected on ammunition between hunting land preservation and developing places where concealed carriers can practice.   

The problem is that anti-hunting regulations that choke off the lands are spreading.  Fewer hunters mean fewer voters putting pressure on the lawmakers to leave public lands open for hunters.  Coming from a fishing background, I know that freshly caught fish tastes nothing like processed, frozen fish that you'll get in the stores, and I'd like to try hunting, but I haven't got a clue on how to get started.  I can find ranches and other places that will be glad to give you an all-inclusive experience for around a thousand bucks, but not much else.  So I'd like to go turkey hunting, but without someone who knows the local areas to help me get started, I'm not sure how to start or even where to go. 

To borrow an often overused saying (and a pun in this case), "it's a chicken and egg problem".  You need hunters to help train hunters, but fewer hunters means fewer trainers, which means fewer hunters...

The Osceola turkey is a variety native to this part of Florida.

Finally, on this Thanksgiving 2010, I hope you all had a great day with family and feasting.  One of the things I am thankful for is that fine folks like you stop by here now and then. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Slippery Slope Just Tilted A Bit More

Did you see that China and Russia have decided to drop the dollar altogether and trade in their own currencies?  This is not a complete abandonment of the dollar, just an agreement that all dealing between their two countries will be carried out in their own currencies.  To enable this, they will allow exchange rates between them to be set by an open market. 
As I've previously reported, China has been getting rid of their dollars.  They are doing so in a prudent manner, so that their dollars don't become worth sheets of Charmin in their hands, but they are clearly doing so.  This is probably best seen as another step to the BRIC, the composite currency apparently on the way to replacing the dollar as the world's reserve currency.  BRIC is an abbreviation of Brazil Russia India China, the four nations whose currency will make up the BRIC. 

In a related story, JP Morgan predicts the dollar will likely become the world's weakest currency as a result of the Federal Reserve Quantitative Easing programs. 
“The U.S. has the world’s largest current-account deficit but keeps interest rates at virtually zero,” Sasaki said at a forum in Tokyo yesterday. “The dollar can’t avoid the status as the weakest currency.”
I've said this next thing before but it's a really important point, the kind of thing that news people should be saying.  It's blatantly obvious but I just don't see anyone else saying it, including some really good financial writers.   Our deficit this year was right around 1.4 Trillion dollars.  To do this without buying all of our own debt and going all Zimbabwe, we need to sell that much money in bonds.  The problem is that only the 9 largest economies in the world even have an annual GDP (all of the economic activity of that country for the entire year) as big as $1.4 Trillion.  According to the Wikipedia entry, in all three rankings they show, Spain is the first economy in the world that even has an annual GDP over 1.4 Trillion.  Clearly, they can't spend their entire nation's output buying our bonds.  That realistically limits our customers to the top 2, 3, or 4 GDPs.  Guess what: that's China, the European Union, and Japan.  If you read the news, you'll recognize that Japan is in a 20 year recession, the European Union is on the verge of financial collapse (Ireland just got a bailout, Spain is in trouble, Greece, Iceland, - the whole Euro zone is in deep trouble), while China looks like us in 2007: a stock market bubble and add in inflation they're catching from us. 

In a nutshell, we need to sell more bonds than most of the world could possibly buy, and the economies that could buy them are almost guaranteed to be buying fewer (if any) of them.  That means we buy them, and that means really bad times are coming.  

Things that can't go on won't go on.  Some time ago, Borepatch and I put our guesses forward on when the Euro collapses.  I said by now, and he said next year.  So far, he's got the lead track.  Trends predictor Gerald Celente said last year that by Christmas of 2012, the typical present for loved ones would be food.  It would look more like 1870s America than what we've known all our lives. 

So as we go into Thanksgiving, be extra thankful for what you have.  Pray we have it next year, and that this isn't our last Thanksgiving as relatively well off, more-or-less free Americans.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

If You Like Song Parodies

Then you must see Iowahawk's latest (first?) parody video:

So what's really going on with the Junk In The Trunk pat downs?  And wouldn't Pat Downs be a better name for the director of Homeland Security than Janet Napolitano?  (I have to say, John Pistole is pretty good name for the head of the TSA, though).   Glenn Beck thinks the whole thing is to get the TSA to become the "poor abused workers" who have to be unionized through the AFL-CIO.  Tam (View From the Porch) points to an article that supports that thinking. 

I wrote more about this a few days ago.  Considering the anti-business attitudes of everyone in the administration I can think of,  they have the lowest aggregate experience in the private sector in at least a hundred years, the possibility that they are deliberately trying to collapse the airline industry can't be dismissed.  It would give the Fed.gov a new industry (add it to the banks, auto industry, health care, top-end insurance), reduce the air travel carbon footprint, kill off more citizens (due to the higher accident fatality rate driving than flying) and it would solidify their destruction of the productive class.  Sounds like a natural. 
Hat tip to lawyer/law professor Ann Althouse for this:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Time To Say I Was Really Wrong

Back on August 25th, I predicted that by Thanksgiving, the DJIA would be down to 8000.  To quote exactly, I said:

Let me give a testable prediction.  Here's a plot of the DJIA since New Years of 2009.  (thanks to Wealth Daily).  That pattern forming on the right is a "head and shoulders" pattern, and we are just now going over the peak of the right shoulder.  That means a fall to the downside typically equal to the difference between the top of the head at 11051 and the lows shown by the bottom green line.  This predicts that the DJIA will drop to 8000 or 8200, probably (this is the guess-y part) in 2-3 months.  Since most of the really bad market crashes have come in September or October, this could accelerate things a little and pull it to 1-2 months out.  I expect the DJIA to be in the 8000 range at Thanksgiving, for example. 

Clearly, that hasn't happened.  The DJIA closed today at 11,179 almost the same as that peak, certainly much closer to 13,000 than to 8000.

So what was my mistake?  I doubt that it matters much to you, but since the whole point for me is to learn more about the technical analysis side, it's worthwhile to see if there are lessons to be learned. 

First off, the biggest thing I ignored is the effects of the hundreds of billions of dollars the Federal Reserve has pumped into the economy.  Money is like water, it will leak out somewhere, and some of it has affected the markets.  The banking industry, in particular, has benefited enormously from the cash influx.  For the first time in history, the Fed is paying interest on the money they give to banks - that's even better than a zero interest rate; they actually pay you to take their money.  Second, I paid a lot of attention to the charts posted by Clive Maund, the subject of a July posting of mine. These charts showed several indices with similar patterns developing.  And, of course, there was the Hindenberg Omen being talked about at the time.  

The guys who do this for a living watch a lot more things than this!  I guess my biggest mistake was putting too much faith in these emerging head and shoulders patterns and not looking for things that might prove them wrong.  In getting out of the market when I did, I took about a 30% beating compared to where it is now.  Ouch.  I hope you didn't follow me.  On the other hand, I did get into silver at $5/oz (up over 5x) and gold at $320/oz (up over 4x).  That part of my retirement plans has kept me from being in trouble. 

Is the threat of collapse over?  Oh, no.  With "The Ben Bernank" and QE2, the blossoming trade war with China (who holds virtually all of the cards), the EU arranging a bailout of Ireland, Spain on the ropes, the revolting French, and all, we are closer to collapse than I thought.  It's just that the market seems to be in a world of its own sometime.  More to come on that whole global economic collapse thingy in the future. 

Fix Bayonets!

A lot of folks are linking to this piece at "Stop Shouting!".  It's fantastic.

Looking around a bit, as I always do when I discover a good, new blog, the author apparently doesn't post very often, but posts high quality when she does.

A charge with bayonets fixed is as much an act of intimidation as it is an act of attack.

Edit 11/23 1945  This time the spelling gremlin added some whole words!  Unfortunately, not in standard, spoken English. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

BATFE Is At It Again

There's a joke poster I've seen at work that says, "I got one good nerve left, and you just got on it".  That's the BATFE.

If this isn't your first visit, you'll know I just built an AR-15 from an 80% lower.  This whole market exists because when you get a bunch of butthead lawyers together they have to decide where to draw lines, like the three reindeer law I talked about last night.  In the BATFE's case, what's a gun?  What specific part makes a gun into a gun?  Years ago, they decided the part that houses the trigger assembly, usually called the receiver, is the gun (Tam added in the first comment, "Usually.  Some notable exceptions would be the FAL and the various roller-locking HK long guns and their clones.").  If you own a typical pistol, like an XD, a Glock, a 1911, or whatever, you can buy a trigger, or a barrel or pretty much any piece in there as a replacement part, but you can't buy the lower receiver that houses all those "springs and things" without going to a Federal Firearms License holder.  If you have a lower receiver that's ready to have parts installed, even though none of those parts are there, it's a gun.  Clearly, if you had a huge steel plate, 2 inches thick, and had the correct machines and skill, it could be made into a gun, so they had to decide how much work was needed on a chunk of metal to make it usable as a gun. 

For example, I got an advert from AR15.com for a ready-to-assemble lower.  If you buy this, you have to have it sent to an FFL, go through an NCIS check, and all that junk, the same as if you were buying a fully built, fully functioning AR-15 from Colt (or whomever).
but if you buy this one from Colfax Tactical, it's not a gun, and no FFL is required:

Enter KT Ordnance of Dillon, Montana (a lovely place - passed through there once).  KT sells parts that can go into a gun, and parts that can be made into a gun, like incomplete lowers, but they don't sell guns (as far as I can tell).  By coincidence, I had been looking for partial lowers for handguns as a follow on project to my AR, and found their 60% lower for a 1911 just this week.  According to David Codrea and Mike, from Sipsey Street, KT has just come under harassment by the BATFE for no apparent reason.  As David says at the Gun Rights Examiner,
Here’s the thing: IF Celata (edit: owner of KT) is doing what the government accuses him of, since when do they give out warnings and advise people to get a license?  Can you imagine the DEA finding you formulating and selling Oxycontin and responding by hand-delivering a letter telling you to stop and not resume activities until you become a legally-authorized pharmacist? 
Remember, this the BATFE, the folks who seem like equal partners of the jack-booted Waffen SS, the agency where even the women stomp kittens to death if they don't find whatever imagined contraband they just raided you for.  Can you imagine them not raiding the place with fully automatic, 2-ounce-triggered M-16s raised if they really thought KT was doing something wrong?

No, they are clearly just harassing Mr. Celata.  Why?  Probably simply because they can.

Edit 10/22 1727 EST, to incorporate a correction from the comments where everyone can see it.  Not everyone reads them.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Can We Talk About the "C" Word?

I love Christmas.  I mean, I've run across people in my life who decorate for Christmas way more than I do, and I've known people who plan their Christmas six months in advance, way before than I do.  I know a guy whose house decorations for Christmas put the local shopping centers to shame, and focused his whole year around Christmas.  Maybe if you saw me, or saw my little house, you wouldn't think so, but I love Christmas. 

Christmas is unique among holidays in America.  It has a very strong Christian tradition (well, duh!) as well as a very strong secular tradition, and I love them both.  I love giving gifts to loved ones.  People in retail will tell you that Christmas often determines whether or not they stay in business.  It's not uncommon for news outlets to report sales from the Friday after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) as if they're reporting scores from a bowl game.  Another part of the holiday is the annual struggle to "keep Christ in Christmas" and not overlook the spiritual side of the holiday.  Did you know there is actually a court ruling that tells you how many reindeer (three) a holiday display must have to remain "sufficiently secular" to be legal to display on public property? 

A 2006 Zogby poll showed that 95 percent of folks are NOT offended when they hear the words “Merry Christmas.”  The real kicker is that 1 in 3 are actually very offended when the words “Happy Holidays” push out the phrase “Merry Christmas.”  This should not come as a big surprise because another poll by Fox News/Opinion Dynamics showed that 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas

Some time ago, I must have filled out a survey or signed some online petition or something, because I get junk mail from the American Family Association.  I recently got an email asking me to boycott Dick's Sporting Goods because they won't prominently display "Merry Christmas".  I'm not really very offended by that. 

See, the reason I would go to Dick's is if they happen to have something I'm looking for as a gift and it's a great price.  This is purely the secular celebration of Christmas; I'm not going there for spiritual reasons.  I would prefer they used the phrase Merry Christmas, but I'm not offended by their not saying it.  If they told me to "eat sh*t and die", you can bet I wouldn't go back, but if they're neutral about "Merry Christmas", I'm OK with that. 

Here's where it gets a little dicey.  If there was a Bass Pro or Cabela's in town (both of whom got an "A+" rating from the AFA for saying Merry Christmas a lot) and a Dick's Sporting Goods, I would go to the first two because I'd prefer to go to someone with comparable merchandise and comparable price that was friendlier to my spiritual side.  A smart retailer doesn't run off customers.  But life in 21st century America is plenty hostile to Christianity and a "happy holidays" from a store is small change compared to some of the stuff we go through. 

By the way, a mere five hours after the AFA email asking me to boycott Dick's, I got a second email canceling the boycott.  They swear they're going to say Merry Christmas all the time. 

Maybe it's early to talk about this: it isn't even Thanksgiving, yet, but the emails arrived yesterday.  Don't overlook Thanksgiving, instead, be sure to give thanks.  It's good for you.  By the way, I don't call it Turkey Day, as so many seem be starting.  Thanks Giving is a great concept for a holiday. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why The Food Safety Act is A Bad, Bad Thing

They're at it again, those malicious jerk a**holes up in Washington, Den of Criminals.  This time I'm talking about the Senate, which is getting ready to vote on the Food Safety Modernization Act, S-510.  

What's that?  I can imagine someone saying, "Graybeard, old man, have you lost it?  How can you object to food safety?"

This is about food safety like gun control is about guns.  It's about control. I actually wrote about this last May, but I know I have a lot of newer visitors these days.  That was when the USDA was arguing in court that citizens "do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish", or, to be complete:
"Plaintiffs' assertion of a 'fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families' is similarly unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish,"
You have no fundamental right to your own body?  And just who does?  Since large factory farms have had some contamination issues, you'd think the Feds would target the foreign food imports like the melamine in baby formula people, or that large factory spinach farm located next to the pig farm (remember the e. coli in spinach?) , or someplace like that, right?  Silly person!  The Fed.gov is going to clamp down on you!  They're going to crack down on mom and pop farms, organic farms, and folks who sell the fruit off their trees on roadside stands.  Even without this law, they've raided health food stores with guns drawn to confiscate raw milk - which people were quite happily, and voluntarily, prepared to buy (and probably pay a premium for, based on my experiences with health food stores).
At least he has good trigger discipline.
And it's not just California hippies they're raiding, it's the Amish, too.  Natural News, an online newsletter catering to those who prefer health foods and less industrialization of the food supply, has said,
Senate Bill 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, has been called "the most dangerous bill in the history of the United States of America." It would grant the U.S. government new authority over the public's right to grow, trade and transport any foods. This would give Big brother the power to regulate the tomato plants in your backyard. It would grant them the power to arrest and imprison people selling cucumbers at farmer's markets. It would criminalize the transporting of organic produce....it would criminalize seed saving... it would allow the government to arrest anyone for growing any food in their garden and selling extras... it would completely put the production of food under the Department of Homeland Security
Yes, the DHS, those wonderful folks who brought you the nude scanners and "cop-a-feel" pat downs.  Around here, lots of people have citrus trees and tropical fruit trees.  It's not unusual to see people offering fruit for sale from a small table on their property, or even fruit with an honor system jar next to it.  This will be illegal under the new law. 

This is a dangerous, bad bill.  It gives the government the power to stop you from growing food in your own garden.  It gives them the power to shut down organic farming, and things we frankly don't know because they didn't write them into the bill!  They left it up to the administrator, to be named after the law is passed, to write much of it.  Can you imagine?  The control of seeds alone could bring starvation on Biblical scales. 

No. More. Blank. Check.  Laws.  None.  Need I remind you that food providers are not in the business of killing their customers?  It's bad business practice.  We don't need this law.  Better yet, do some research and read some more about.  There's something in there for everyone to hate and get up in arms about.  Then contact your senator and urge them to vote against it. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

More About the Probulation Agency

Both from the peerless PeoplesCube.com.  

The problem with the TSA is not so much that in many folks' opinions they violate the 4th amendment prohibition from "unreasonable search", but that it's not going to be effective.  There are many reports of people who accidentally went through security with forbidden items and were never detected.  In their own audits of themselves, they fail far too often.  We need to adopt Israeli methods - use trained, intelligent people instead of grunts with million dollar machines.  (This article, while almost a year old, is a "must read".)  Don't tell me there's too much air traffic in the US to do what they do.  Being a big country means we have lots of resources, such as our spectacularly trained military.  

The other day, I was listening to lawyer Peter Johnson, Jr., who is regular contributor on Fox News, talking with Sean Hannity on his radio show, as I was driving home flipping channels.  Johnson said, "when the plane blows up, if they find your body in one piece, it will be naked on the coroner's table, too".  I almost smacked my radio.  That's so wrong it's hard to find a starting place, but how about that it assumes the TSA will find 100% of bombs, and that there is no better way to find them than to essentially molest innocent citizens.  Both of those assumptions are wrong. 

Popehat had this rather interesting take in the fantastically-entitled, "A Thought Experiment Regarding Genitals":  
Imagine this:
A terrorist group — let’s call them, I don’t know, the Pervert Jihad — issues a videotaped threat.
Their demand: America must select 25 million of its citizens per year. Those citizens must give complete strangers working for the government a brief look at a blurry naked picture of themselves. In addition, the complete strangers working for the government must select 1 million of the citizens — men, women, and children of all ages — for “special treatment.” That “special treatment” involves the one million lucky citizens submitting to the strangers from the government briefly running their hands over the citizens’ clothed breasts and genitals, in public, in front of a crowd of annoyed strangers. The whole experience takes about an hour of the citizens’ time every time they have to put up with it.
The Pervert Jihad says that if America does not comply, they will kill Americans every year. They’ll kill, let’s say, about 450 — the capacity of a jumbo jet. We have reason to believe they may or may not succeed at this mass murder if they try.
Would we do it?
It's just a matter of time until something bad happens on a plane.   When that happens, instead of trying to find better ways to screen people instead of looking for devices, they'll come up with more invasive scans, and cavity searches will begin.  And, no, not the kind your dentist does. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Some Final Notes On The Colfax Tactical AR-15 Project

Of course, I've written several pieces on the AR-15 project which consumed a few weekends of my time.  My point in writing this is to add a few notes and make a perma-link posting over on the right side bar, so that the articles are available and relatively easy to find for as long as this blog is here.

First off:  this is not a difficult project.  There's not much in the way of tools needed to turn an 80% lower into a ready to build lower receiver.  In no particular order:
  • Drill bits in 1/8, 5/32, 5/16 and 3/8"
  • A decent set of calipers.  Digital calipers are cheap nowadays.  
  • A bit of a trick here:  either a drill press or a milling machine.  There are many "Mill-drills" (example) on the market which can do this, but an 8" benchtop drill press (for example) will do. If you don't have a drill press, they are just so handy for any wood or metal working that, honestly, use any excuse you need to get one.  I used my CNC Sherline because it's what I had - wouldn't you? 
  • An end mill:  3/8" is a common shank size, almost universal, and will work fine.  A smaller mill takes longer to clean up the insides.  I believe the largest you can use is 7/16".  End mills are available in a center cutting styles, but won't be unless stated.  An end mill is not a drill, but a center-cutting endmill works better for small amounts of drilling than the other kind.  If you use a milling machine, you'll use an end mill holder or collet; on a drill, you'll use the drill's chuck.
  • Most of the lower is 1.249 deep, but there's a "shelf" near the butt stock end that is 0.63" deep.  
  • The Colfax lower comes with a CD Rom that has several worthwhile drawings.  You can find almost all of them online separately, but it's handy to have them in one place.  
  • A fixture: either the one Colfax Tactical sells or the one from CNC Guns. This clip, modified from the instructions will help. 

Once you have the lower hollowed out, it is pretty simple to add all the parts to make it functional.  Parts kits are widely available, and instructions are, too.  At this point, there are some tools you may want that you'd need if you did not finish the lower receiver, like any other AR project - I leave that up to you.  I had never done it before, but finished the lower in an hour or so - going back and forth between this computer (watching a DVD) and the garage, after every major step. 

Finally, there's more than one way to do this.  If you get a different lower with instructions and they recommend different tools, listen to them, not me!  They may have a different set of holes and cuts defined to make their "80%".  

It's easy, it's fun, and you end up with a rifle.  What could be better?  As always, you can email the blog account or comment here with other questions. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Russia to Drill for Oil Off Florida's Keys

(H/T to Babalu)  While the Obama administration has stopped oil exploration and new well drilling in US waters, that hasn't stopped governments with "a lick of sense" (as they say where I grew up). From the NY Times:
MOSCOW — The Russian energy giant Gazprom has joined a growing list of companies that plan to drill for oil in the waters off Cuba, close to the United States but out of reach of its safety regulators. 
and if that doesn't make you a little queasy:
Russian oil firms, which operate mostly on land in Siberia, have little expertise offshore and have sought to form partnerships to gain experience.
Oh, great.  A bunch of people drilling in the gulf who have "little expertise" in offshore oil drilling.  What can possibly go wrong?  

The administration is still living under the delusion (demonstrably false) that the "green energy economy" is going to rescue us.  In doing so, they have condemned us to slavery to the OPEC cartel, and a continuation of all the problems that come with that.  Strangely, the idea seems to be that pollution and oil spills are alright if they happen to dark-skinned people elsewhere in the world, but we wouldn't want them here.  I would say Obama is racist, but it seems that this has been our policy for decades.  Maybe it's just environmentalists that are racist. 

The world runs on oil, and it will do so until something better and cheaper comes along.  It's not coming next week, it's not coming next year, and I'll bet it's not here for another 20 years.  No magical unicorn farts.  Just oil. 
 Edit 11/17 at 1943 to change picture size of the top pic.  Looked terrible at work, but okay at home.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Probulation Agency

The TSA (Theatrical Security Agency) is at it again.  The widespread deployment of the naked porn scanners has caused a sort of Rubicon of sorts where they are trying to force people through the scanners instead of a manual pat down.  In an effort to get everyone to follow the intended path, they have decided to make the groping so painful, embarassing, dehumanizing and humiliating that you'll let the strangers watch you naked instead of being groped. 
"From now on I'm going to refer to it as the Testicle Squeezing Authority."(Alex Sears -- Facebook, as posted by Billy Beck)
Of course, the Feds say the images won't be saved.  Riiiggghhht.  And since they're such professionals, we don't have to worry about them playing immature pranks, now, do we?  Personally, I don't have much concern; nobody wants to look at a fat old guy naked, but if you're a decent-looking woman, you're going to have problems.  When they first started talking about the things, I told my wife the first time Angelina Jolie or another famous actress goes through one, the images will be online before the plane leaves the ground. 

Look, the net is ablaze with talk about this: this article about a guy who set up his trip so he wouldn't encounter one of these machines, then did, and got into a conflict with agents, has almost 5000 comments in a few days.  One more little voice isn't going to mean much.  But can I shine the light from a slightly different angle? 

First off, my frequent read, brother Borepatch has an excellent summary (and some, frankly, disturbing video) of a TSA agent groping a little girl.  There is no situation under which this should be acceptable conduct. 

Second off, the Feds have spent a wad of money on these things and resistance is not an option.  You are going to get it one way or the other.  So what was the overall intent of 9-11?  First of all, it was an attack on symbols of American power: the WTC, the Pentagon and the Capital.  It was an attack on our economy.  It was an attempt to shut down businesses.  Last week, the threat of bombs sent as cargo shut down shipping and shut down air cargo service into and out of Persian Gulf states. 

Is this an attempt to do the same thing, orchestrated by the people who want to shut down the US economy - in other words, domestic economic terrorism?  Orchestrated by the watermelon environmentalists, socialists, and new-world-order nut jobs who want to knock the US standard of living down?  What if the national opt-out day protests work and air travel is shut down next Wednesday - perhaps the busiest day of the year?  What if it leads to a violent uprising?  Can you imagine a father reacting violently when a TSA goon treats his little girl like that?  I sure can.  Many people have suggested the president needs a Reichstag Fire moment - or more politely, an Oklahoma City moment - to get his magic back.  That is, to impose even more draconian restrictions on personal liberties. Consider what would happen if the TSA relents, mothballs the machines and doesn't do anything else - and a plane goes down.  Even if it can't be shown it was a terrorist attack, the screaming media would be saying that the evil racist Tea-partiers and stupid libertarians caused the attack to happen, by interfering with the important work of the TSA.

What you, dear reader, and I know that the TSA apparently does not, is that the bomb is not the weapon, nor is the gun, the knife, or the box cutter.  The weapon is the brain; anything else is just a tool.  The path the TSA on is now and is always going to be - has to be - reactive, and therefore, too late.  The government was in charge of airline security the morning of 9/11 and they didn't do much good.  The government was in charge of airline security when the underwear bomber was stopped by passengers, and they were in charge when the shoe bomber was stopped by passengers.  Until they stop playing with more and more expensive and offensive screening and adopt the methods El Al, the Israeli state airline uses, this is not going to get any better. 

Did you know you get real steak knife on El Al flights?  I rest my case.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Happy Day

One of my Mrs. Graybeard's favorite jokes is the one about the guy who gets into a car accident.  Accidentally rear ends a car at the light.  The hit driver gets out to go back to car that hit him and the hitting driver sees the first one is a dwarf!  The little guy says, "I'm not happy!!", to which the second driver replies, "Well, then which one are you?".  Me, I'm happy. 

It was a happy day with the new project rifle at our club range.  I have to admit some trepidation about the first shot, I didn't put my face right on the stock and kind of just pulled the trigger, but all was well.  It was, after all, a DPMS upper ready to drop in place and use.  The upper is where all the exploding happens, so a production DPMS upper should be safe.  Before pulling the trigger the first time on a live round, I cycled the bolt to make sure it extracted an unfired round cleanly and it did.  I put 80 rounds through it, with no issues at all.  Generic AR-Stoner magazines, PMC .223 ammo. 

I used iron sights and shot up a bunch of rounds at 30 yards, and then tried a magazine at 100 yards.  I'm not going to say that if you're at 100 yards and all I have is iron sights the safest place to stand is in front of me, but your chances of getting away are not that bad.  I need to work on that. 
This was from 30 yards.  The target is about 5 1/2  inches diameter.  DPMS recommends a pretty serious break in on their barrels.  You're supposed to clean every round for the first 25 rounds, then every 25 up to 100.  I have to admit I didn't clean that much. 

All in all, I have to call it a 100% successful project, and I'm completely happy with the way it turned out. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

So Here It Is - Project Complete!

Say hello to my first AR-15 from a pile of parts.
The upper is a 20" barrel DPMS in 5.65x45 NATO, not .223 (so it will shoot both).  The parts kit in the lower I built is also DPMS, so I guess this is basically a DPMS AR-15 - except for the actual lower receiver forging and the work I did. 

I decided that for the time being, I would just serialize it.  This is easy in CNC - too easy, in fact.  You can spend an hour picking a font and getting it the right size.  Not that I know anyone who did this.  There's a wonderful little free utility that will generate G-code for engraving easily, DeskEngrave.  Here's my serial number.
There's a geek joke buried there.  The serial number is in two's complement.

I bought a couple of special tools for it, and the Midway USA "Gunsmithing the AR-15" DVD.  Being a company that sells, "almost everything for gunsmithing", they have a ton of tools to help you.  Lots of custom-machined little pieces of plastic for various fixtures.  If you're going to build a lot of them, then by all means they're a labor saver.  But for one or two, it's easy enough to get by without them.  I bought a couple of roll pin starters, and one little tool for helping to put the take down pins into the housing.  Yeah, they would be trivial to make if you had the dimensions.  I would recommend the DVD or something similar.  Watch it before you start.  Then watch it again.  It's really pretty easy to put one of these things together.
I only made two little mistakes.  I tried to put the trigger in backwards, but caught myself.  Then I put the wrong detent pin and spring in the safety and couldn't get the spring in for the last take down pin.  Once I realized I had the wrong spring in the safety, I took it apart and rebuilt it properly.  Everything works fine dry.  Forecast for tomorrow is for another beautiful day.  I think it's time to see if it shoots! 

Friday, November 12, 2010

And Now For Something Completely... The Same?

(with apologies to Monty Python)

I have never re-posted a blog post of mine. I've excerpted pieces and linked to things I've written many times - almost all the time. But there is so much double talk going on about allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, that I almost have to. I'm going to excerpt more than I ever have. 

Tell your congress critter it's not the taxes. Tell them, "It's the Spending, Stupid."

At least a half dozen times in the last week, I've heard the DNC talking point that they need to end the cuts for the top income bracket because "we need to cut the deficit".  You will hear them "giving them" their tax cuts will "cost us 700 Billion Dollars". 


As always, they assume you're not capable of doing math and aren't really paying attention.  They think you'll hear that number and think they mean $700 billion every year.  You see, the 700 billion dollars is a roll-up for 10 years.  If you think that's an accurate number, go look up what the estimates were for today's economy from 10 years ago: a 10 year prediction is little better than a guess.  Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner said,

Geithner said extending the tax cuts for the top 2 percent of taxpayers would cost $700 billion over a decade and $30 billion for a single year.
Since saving $30 billion a year 10 times doesn't multiply up to 700 billion, you know they're counting on healthy economic growth to get that 700 billion number.  Now remember this year's deficit is 1.4 Trillion dollars, and anyone can see that 30 billion is 2.1 % of it.  They are politically grandstanding about needing the evil rich people to pay 2.1%.  When I ask myself who will benefit more from that, the taxpayers or the feds, it's pretty clear it's not the Fed.gov leviathan. 

The fact is, this is a spending problem.  If you confiscated every single penny from every billionaire in America, you couldn't fix the deficit.  According to the Tax Foundation, you would need to confiscate every single penny from the top 1% of taxpayers to avoid this year's deficitYou can not solve this problem by taxing alone.  Spending must be cut. 

One of the many things that the left never seems to understand is that when you cut tax rates, tax receipts generally go up.  Instead of paying less taxes as their marginal rates have gone down in the last 30 years, the topmost 1% of incomes pay a higher percentage of the tax burden than ever before, now over 40% of all taxes collected:
It is a straightforward mathematically logical conclusion that if they really wanted to raise revenues and get "the rich" to pay more, they should lower their tax rates even further. 

Maybe I should say that I'm nowhere near the income levels of the top 2%.  I'm just a working engineer.  These issues aren't going to touch my taxes, but the class-warfare, soak-the-rich mentality is a cancer on society. 

"You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. 
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. 
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. 
You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down. 
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. 
You cannot build character and courage by taking away people's initiative and independence. 
You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves."

...... Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Few More Notes on Inflation, and All That

A few thoughts that need to be added to my prior post.

First, when I said that "...one thin dime of junk silver is worth essentially $2", that's saying it wrong.  I think most of you know it's more correct to say that the silver has kept its value and the dollar has sunk.  That means, of course, that a dollar is worth 5% of what it was when we issued those silver coins.  Pure inflation.

It's instructive to look at prices, and your salary, accounting for inflation.  There are a lot of web sites which will help you, the trick is getting one that doesn't use the (lying) CPI numbers from the government.  I think this method (comparing a dollar in silver coins to today's prices) is a pretty good approach.  I did this back in June in Luncheon Counters of the Third Kind.  Unfortunately, this method won't do you much good when comparing today's prices to a period well after we went off the gold standard, like the mid-'80s. 

The only argument for holding onto silver and gold is that they have historically been valued by people.  Their value has never gone to zero.  My guess is that they will probably be a medium of trade again.  Don't forget that copper pennies from pre-1984 are still in circulation (they're worth about 2 1/2 cents), and nickles are worth about 6 cents in melt value, so they are likely to be devalued soon, too. This website gives you the melt value of coins, up to the minute.  These things may also be trade items. 

As Brigid says in her comment yesterday, "Think practical. Think barterable. Think provisions."  In the novel Patriots, Rawles depicts a flea market that happens several months after their collapse.  One character has a Corvette, a ferociously expensive car that has been rendered worthless by events and can't be traded for anything.  Not practical. 

John Embry, chief investment strategist at Sprott Asset Management and the Sprott Gold and Precious Minerals Fund was interviewed in "The Au Report" this week.  His opinion is that the results of the election are unimportant and that the die has been cast for the collapse of the dollar.  It will largely be due to the Federal Reserve's QE actions.
TGR: Is it a foregone conclusion that inflation or hyperinflation would lead back into a depression? Will we end up in the same place regardless?

JE: I think we do end up in the same place. There's no example in history that unbridled money creation works to solve any problems; in fact, it usually exacerbates them. I'm not sure it's going to be any different this time because I believe today's financial structure is probably more vulnerable than it's ever been in history. I don't want to get into derivatives and all these various collateralized debt vehicles, but the fact is we've never seen anything like this before. If you try to deflate, that would come to the fore immediately; if you inflate, that just creates a bigger problem later.

So, I'm kind of stuck; I can't see a more positive outcome. I am a great believer in the Austrian School of Economics, and with a hugely excessive debt buildup in the economic system, there's no escaping the consequences. We've had the biggest debt buildup in history, and here we are in consequence time.

TGR: I think everybody agrees about consequence time; it's a matter of the degree of pain.

JE: If you went the tough route initially, you'd go through a lot of pain but you'd probably come out the other end sooner and save your currency. Now, if you go the unlimited QE route—or, as my friend Jim Sinclair puts it, "quantitative easing to infinity"—the currency will be destroyed. When that happens, you unleash an immense amount of inflation in your system; and, in that situation, people lose all their rudders. There's nothing to hang onto when your money's value is destroyed. I worry about social unrest; but in the end, you've got to clean the system out anyway.
JE: That's why I am extraordinarily bullish on gold. Either way, gold will be all right because it's a tangible asset—a hard asset that's existed through centuries. The hardest point to get across is that gold isn't what's changing. Gold is gold. It's been around for thousands of years, recognized as money by most societies. What's changing is the current paper-money experiment.

Without exception, paper money is always devalued in the end and always ends up worthless. We've got a long way to go, but we're definitely en route to that ultimate conclusion. So, it's not gold that's changing; it's the value of the paper money in which gold is valued; that's why the price of gold is going up.
It's pretty straightforward.  If you stay in the paper assets: stocks, bonds, dollars, your money will be de-valued away.  The way to preserve your worth is in things people value or must have.  Food, survival items, probably precious metals.  Brass, copper, and lead.  This is a pretty old story.  It's a sad story, because it didn't have to be this way.     


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Can We Do About Inflation?

In the comments to last night's post on food prices projected by the NIA, reader LeverAction commented,
The only thing I can't figure out is why, after predicting the collapse of society, they then recommend preserving wealth in gold. I would think that if society really collapsed then things of more practical value would be better to have than gold.

Holding gold is a good way to ride out a storm of finite duration, but it carries the assumption that things will return to some semblance of "normal" sooner or later. But if it doesn't, in the case of real 'societal collapse' or 'infrastructure failure', your gold is just a bunch of really dense, heavy metal that you can't eat, can't plant, can't hunt with, and has no value as a tool. If you already have everything else you need the gold might be a good way to preserve the excess wealth, but for goodness sakes concentrate on the practical stuff first.
I envision a multi-layered response.  Gold and silver are part of it.   So are food stores, brass, copper, lead, and a host of other things.  The one common theme is that the response has very little paper; it's all tangible stuff.  Commodities. 

You are right that gold has no inherent worth here.  You can't eat it, you can't plant it, hunt with it, or hammer with it.  It's also so dense in value that you can easily hold $15,000 in one hand.  You're not going to buy a loaf of bread with it.  For that, I think silver coins are going to be well accepted.  I can see both the current silver eagles and the old pure silver, pre-1965, coins commonly sold as "junk silver".  You need to know what they're worth, and the key is that one dollar in face value of the old 90% silver coins held 0.71 troy ounce of silver (silver spot prices are always in Troy oz, not the common avoirdupois oz).  I made a little Excel sheet a while back to do the repetitive calculations for me.  As of right now (spot silver is $27.33) a 1965 face value dollar is worth $19.42 in today's money.  That means one thin dime of junk silver is worth essentially $2.  A silver eagle is going to cost you about $3.50 over spot (you might find a better deal somewhere), so a single one ounce silver "dollar" is about $31 in today's money.  You can find the daily spot price here, fluctuating by the minute.   

If the dollar is collapsing in value, the nightly news is going to be talking about what the closing price for gold and silver are.  The US Silver Eagle will be widely recognized.  Other perfectly good coins, like the Austrian Philharmonic, might not be so widely known.  There's thousands of collectors bars of silver around.  I can imagine them being hit or miss as something you can trade. 

I expect a lot more barter as things get rougher.  We had some major kitchen work done over the summer (a flood/mold issue) so we've worked with several smaller businesses lately.  Most like checks made out to them personally.  Or cash.  I have not broached the subject of "what would you charge me in silver coins?", but I bet that day is coming.  I expect to need to ask my doctor or dentist, someday. 

This website shows projections of how much silver (troy oz) or gold (grams) would be needed by a "typical" family to meet their expenses. 

As barter gets going, depending on how bad the economic mess becomes, then other items of value come forward.  It has been suggested that a round of .22LR will be the quarter or dime of the new millennium.  Consider other common calibers; 9mm, .223 (AR), 7.62x39 (AK), perhaps 12ga, .45 - who knows?  I am concerned about arming people who might want to use it against me, so maybe that won't be my first barter item.  People with addictions to cigarettes will have a hard time and want to trade for them.  Same goes for whiskey, chocolates, and other "traditional" black market trade items (hey - I saw it in a movie, it must be true!). You might trade a loaf of home-baked bread for a can of chili or beef stew or something.  Trade works when each party needs what the other has. 

The nice thing about this system is that you can start from anywhere.  If you're barely able to afford food, get some extra when they have 2 for 1 sales, or other discounts.  You can live on rice and beans in soup for a while if you need to.  If you can afford more, get more.  Junk silver used to be sold only by the $1000 face value bag - which is almost $20,000 today.  Now, you can get $100 face value bag from a major dealer, or buy a few coins at a time from sellers on eBay or other places.  Likewise with Silver Eagles.
90% silver dimes, Roosevelt and Mercury face

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Coming Inflation And Food Prices

Speaking of beating Ben Bernanke like a rented mule, that's about as much as I beat the inflation warnings.  Fortunately, I'm not alone.  The fine folks at the National Inflation Association are on the problem and have put up some very good study work.  Someone made sweet love to their calculator (or Excel or something) for some time to put up these numbers. 

The NIA posted a report a few days ago on the likely effects of the Fed's QE2 on (mostly) food prices.  The web page that includes the articles they print is here and while I'm a member of the NIA, I don't think you need to be a member to download it and read. 

Their numbers are simply shocking, like cold water in your face.  Their methodology seems solid to me, which is to try and establish how prices varied with inflation at other times in history (mostly the 1970s) and apply those same price ratios of uninflated to inflated prices in order to predict the coming prices or goods.  Let me quote a few things that are a bit mind boggling to me.
The median U.S. home is currently worth $171,700 or 6,550 ounces of silver. After the inflationary crisis of the 1970s, the median U.S. home declined to below 1,000 ounces of silver. NIA believes that because this decade’s Real Estate bubble was so large, Real Estate prices will likely overcorrect to the downside and the median U.S. home will be worth only 500 ounces of silver at some point this decade. Therefore, if you buy just $13,000 worth of physical silver today, NIA believes you will be able to pay cash (without any mortgage) for an average American home within the next 5 to 10 years.
NIA expects ... the average price of an ear of corn (currently $1.25) in your grocery store will likely rise to around $11.43.
NIA expects ... the average price for a 24 oz loaf of the cheapest store brand of wheat bread (currently $1.69) in your grocery store will likely rise to around $23.05.
 NIA expects ... the average price for a 11.30 oz container of Folgers Ground Classic Roast Coffee (currently $3.99) in your grocery store will likely rise to around $77.71.
NIA expects ... the average price for a plain white men’s cotton t-shirt at Wal-Mart (currently $5) will likely rise to around $55.57.
The average American family currently spends only 13% of their total annual expenditures on food and they spend 34% of their total annual expenditures on housing. NIA projects that by the year 2015, Americans will be spending as much as 40% of their annual expenditures on food, and as little as 10% of their annual expenditures on housing.  NIA expects the government to implement legislation that will prevent landlords from increasing rents in a way that even remotely keeps up with price inflation. We pray that the U.S. government doesn’t implement similar price controls in the food sector, as it will only lead to empty store shelves like what was seen during recent years in Zimbabwe.
I see two basic problems with their methodology. First, in basing the maximum prices on the 1970s equivalent, they are excluding the possibility that some commodities cost more due to genuine shortage, or policy-driven shortage (for example, buying corn to make ethanol for fuel and keeping it out of the food market) or simply due to changes in efficiencies of producing it.  One commodity may not go up as much as they predict, but something else may go higher.  Second, it's possible that some items will not go up in price as much as predicted, they'll simply disappear.  If no one is willing to buy a Hershey's bar for $15.50, they may disappear from store shelves, or Hershey's may try to sell smaller chocolate portions for $5. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Poppin' a Cap In the Nanny's Ass

The Nanny State is at it again.  The first Nanny-ism I commented on was the Fed.gov's ill-considered war on salt.  Then, of course, there's the First Lady's attack on children's menus.  Now, I'm sure most of you saw that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has banned any child's meal that comes with a toy: McDonald's Happy Meal is the archetype that got the headlines. 
"Supporters of the ban claim it will help protect children from obesity, while opponents see it as just the latest example of the nanny state run wild and say it's the parents' right and responsibility -- not the government's -- to choose what's right for their children."
I'll take B.  Allow me a slight detour first. 

Down on the lower right of the top this page is a small, random selection of perhaps 20 books I've entered into the Library Thing web site.  One of the books that will show up from time to time is "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes, a science writer who has won several prestigious awards in that field: his article "The Soft Science of Dietary Fat" turned the popular perception of this area on its ear.  As someone who has fought the "battle of the bulge" since I was about 15, I've been studying this subject in as much depth as I can for as long as I can recall. "GC/BC" is a very well researched look at much of the common wisdom about diet; about the dangers of eating fat, the role of westernization in the spread of disease, and how the culprit might well be refined carbohydrates rather than fats.  If you have any interest in this field at all, it's really a good read. 

Getting back to the Nanny State, what they won't tell you is that these sorts of efforts have been ongoing for some years now and they are not effective.  If you take the french fries away, kids don't magically get slimmer.  You can really eat anything, anything, and lose weight if you follow some common rules. CNN reports on a professor of nutrition who ate a junk food diet, of " Twinkies. Nutty bars. Powdered donuts.", and lost 27 pounds.

"For 10 weeks, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate one of these sugary cakelets every three hours, instead of meals. To add variety in his steady stream of Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Haub munched on Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos, too."
Adding interest to the story is that many of the blood tests routinely run to monitor health improved for Professor Haub.  The good Professor is reluctant to say he's healthier, but your blood doesn't lie.  If the numbers mean anything to begin with, if you improve the numbers, you've improved your health. 
"Haub's 'bad' cholesterol, or LDL, dropped 20 percent and his 'good' cholesterol, or HDL, increased by 20 percent. He reduced the level of triglycerides, which are a form of fat, by 39 percent."
A simple explanation is that losing weight probably made these blood profiles better.  As I pointed out in my long piece on corporate wellness programs, these indicators don't show that you're "well" so much as they point out that you're young and healthy

It doesn't matter that the Nannies behind the Happy Meal ban are well-intentioned.  Banning toys is not going to have the desired effect and personal liberty continues the long slide down the drain. Obesity is a big, complicated topic, and simply removing options is not going to fix everything.  I always get the feeling that these nannies would walk into a village in the third world with people lying around starving to death and think, "my, look how nice and lean they look!"

Perhaps the best introduction to the topic of obesity for the intelligent lay-person is Adiposity 101, a continuously updated paper online since the early 1990s.  It might just turn some notions of yours upside down.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Let's Make It Go Viral

Video from Karl Denninger,

He asked us to make it go viral, and here's my part.  It shouldn't be a surprise, if you read my ramblings.  I've been beating Bernanke like a rented mule since I started this blog - not that he hasn't deserved all of it and more.

Write your congress critters, especially if you have one of those new ones, like I do.  Back the efforts to audit the Fed, and get rid of Bernanke. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Ready For Assembly

Well, I think it's a lower receiver. At this point, if I was to buy it, I would need to go through an FFL.
As you can see, no engraving, and that's what's left to do before I assemble it.  As I talked about in comments to the earlier posts, Mrs. Graybeard thinks we should name it after our cat Moe and label it "Moe Guns", because who doesn't want Mo Guns?  Also, as I said in the prior posts, it's easier to give it a serial number even though that's really not required unless I sell it.

The milling was straightforward, once I had the limits of the motions programmed.  To get those points, I used the drawings that Colfax Tactical includes with the forging.  I have ported the drawing into my solid design program, Rhino3D, and have both solid models and an updated Autocad drawing.  This morning, I wrote a text file to program the tool paths for the CNC, and fed it into Mach.  An hour or so of babysitting the mill later, the fire control pocket was smoothed out.  I did the more complex end (on the right here) by hand, using immediate control of the mill. 

The drilling was not as trouble free as I'd like to think.  There are marks on the side of fire control pocket from where some drill bits drifted.  I don't believe these will affect performance.  For the non-machinists who read this, no machinist ever considers a hole drilled with a standard drill bit to be a high-precision thing.  They're a rough cut.  The typical result of a drill is neither round, nor straight, nor the right dimension.  I have to assume the folks who put this kit together knew that and put the drill holes where things like this don't matter. 

Here's a shot while I was still working on the lower; you can see the marks from the drill bits on the top of the pocket.  Also, the 5/16" holes that form the trigger slot ended up with one off the centerline, although they both started out on it.   

My goal is for this to be a rifle next weekend.  I have all the parts.

As always, for more info, email me or comment here.

Edited 10/6/10 @ 2250 EDT to add the exclusive CrapCam embedded video.  Forgot I took this. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Federal Reserve Announces Selective Assassinations

November 5, (c) Roy Ters.  In a stunning move, today Federal Reserve Bank chairman Ben Bernanke announced targeted assassinations in an attempt to revive the moribund US economy.  The plan, called the Criticism Removal and Amelioration Program, will start with bloggers and other critics of the Fed, and then spread to citizens chosen at random.  

The chairman of the Federal Reserve announced the move over growing global disapproval of the recently announced second Quantitative Easing program, QE2, claiming the new program to selectively assassinate up to half of the American Citizens would stimulate the economy.  "People will need to spend money for bulletproof body armor, and evasive technologies", said Bernanke.  "I know this sounds like the 'Broken Windows Fallacy' but this time it will work.  People will have to bury their dead.  Estate tax income to the treasury will soar.  There's a host of economic activity that will come from this".

Support was, predictably, split along party lines.  Senator Harry Reid (D) praised the program as "the right move at the right time", while Senator Chuck Schumer (D) called it, "another brilliant example of the way Dr. Bernanke thinks outside the usual box".  

Newly elected senator Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky said, "The chairman is always trying failed programs and saying 'this time it will work'.  Let's assume for a minute that this works.  Then what?  Once they've killed off half the population, the remaining half won't be large enough to keep spending even at pre-CRAP levels!"    

Chairman Bernanke was unavailable for comment.