Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Find This All Rather Suspicious

Mrs. Graybeard, who is nothing if not a good researcher, stumbled upon a couple of interesting things last night.  Evidence that what's going on in Libya is not just disaffected students and oppressed locals crying out for freedom. 

To begin with, they've apparently instituted a central bank; their own version of our Federal Reserve.  I won't comment on the wisdom of a central bank, but doesn't it seem strange that a ragtag group of fighters, while not having sufficient C3I to fight a meaningful resistance still has a group that opens the "Central Bank of Benghazi", and signs an oil agreement? (C3I is short for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence - no modern conflict can be won without it).  

Oil agreement??  That's right, according to the BBC, they've already signed a deal to export oil to Qatar.  Bloomberg concurs, and fills in more details than that short BBC piece.  More interestingly, the Bloomberg piece is datelined March 22nd, over a week ago, which is very early in the rebellion to create a central bank and an oil industry.  Shouldn't you actually, you know, win before you do this?

What does it mean? 

For openers, it implies more organization than you might expect, and that this has been under preparation longer.  It's curious to observe how quickly the rebels fielded a fighting force (such as it is).  Could you put together a force so quickly in your area of operations?  Does it seem reasonable to put together a Public Relations website, in English, this quickly?

Second, it might mean that Responsibility to Protect stuff is just a cover.  The attention to Samantha Power, then, could be a distraction.  What's the other hand doing? 

Is it just a "war for oil?"  Probably not on our part.  Due to our longstanding trade restrictions, we don't buy much Libyan oil; but France is perhaps the biggest instigator of this action, and they do buy Libyan oil.  

You will pardon me if I get even more suspicious about this whole operation, won't you? 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Picture of the Day

As well as today's winner of the Intertubes Is... Zomblog's look at Obama's Inner Bracket

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Let's Face Some Realities - Our 401k's are Gone, One Way or Another

Concerned American, over at Western Rifle Shooters Association links to Francis Porretto's Eternity Road on a recurring theme: the economy is going to crash.  If you're a regular here, you've seen me on the same topic perhaps a hundred times. 

There's a lot of good in the Eternity Road piece so RTWT and follow links as time allows. 

Here's a fun fact for you.  The federal deficit for February was $222.5 billion dollars.  That is way more than the deficit for the entire year of 2007 of $161 billion!  A deficit growth of 138% in just four years; where can you and I make that kind of money?!?  As an aside, the next time some idiot liberal tells you Obama is dealing with Bush's deficits, tell that fact. 

As I've said before, the big problem we have - even bigger than the debt itself - is where can we borrow that much money?  Even if we sell bonds, what economy on Earth can buy that much debt?  The Chinese are getting out of our bonds and buying up every commodity they can find.  The EU has its own debt trouble with Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, and on and on.  The Japanese tsunami disaster is very likely going to shut down their purchase of US bonds. 

In plain English, there are no buyers left on Earth who will buy those bonds. In fact, for the last several months, most of the bonds we've sold have been to ourselves.  The Federal Reserve is buying 70 to 80% of our debt.

Barring a deal with the Vulcans, who are too smart, or the Klingons - and you don't want to deal with Klingon loan sharks - we are left with ugly, ugly options.  Gonzalo Lira puts it this way:
If foreign sources of funding will not cover the Federal government’s deficit after June 2011, and Washington will definitely not cut spending in any sort of realistic sense, then there really are only two—and only two—possibilities:

• The indefinite continuation of QE by the Federal Reserve.
• Or the requisitioning of private retirement accounts and pension funds.
I rush to add that this is a short term fix with no backup.  After they raid all the money in retirement accounts, which has been accruing for 30 years (in some cases), there's no place to sell bonds to after that.  Remember it doesn't have to make sense - this is like a crack ho looking for more crack.  Lira continues:
This could be accomplished very easily, from a practical standpoint—just inform banks, and have them turn over to the Federal government all your mutual funds and stocks you agonized over, and get long-term Treasury bonds of nominal equal value in exchange.

401(k)’s and IRA’s would be the first ones the Federal government would go after—for the obvious reason that union pension funds have the union’s political muscle. But individuals? They have no political machine. So they’re screwed.
There is an alternative, though.  QE3 - the whole point of Lira's article.  More money printing, then QE4, 5,.... who knows, there could be a QE10 if there's any country left by then.

The problem is these "Quantitative Easing" things are inflationary, as you know if you buy gas or food or pretty much anything.  Inflation has the effect of reducing the value of your savings. 

So whether they seize your 401k or inflate it to meaningless, it's as good as gone.  To put it another way, it's as safe as social security.

(Michael Ramirez, IBD, 12/7/10)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Arm Them Today - Fight Them Tomorrow

After all, they're the same men you were fighting yesterday.
The Telegraph (UK) is running with the story that jihadists who fought our guys in Iraq, and perhaps killed US soldiers or Marines, are now fighting under our protective air cover.  Not "they're members of a group" who fought us, actual jihadis who fought us are in Libya now.
Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, has said jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

If that doesn't give you warm fuzzy feelings, how about this gem:
Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters "are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists," but added that the "members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader".
When these reports first started to surface, they were coming from the government, so we all laughed and said, "That's good ol' Daffy Qa-daffy for you!  Ha ha!".  I don't particularly feel like laughing now.   So, the jihadis don't mind us being there because "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".  I wonder whom he'll be fighting if they win and his current enemy is no longer there?  So Senator "Maverick" McCain wants to arm them?  If we send them guns, will American forces be looking down the barrels of our weapons in six months?

If you want to know whom to blame for us being involved in this mess, look no further than the darling couple in the White House, Cass Sunstein and his wife Samantha Power.  I couldn't tell you which one is more virulently anti-Israel.  I suspect he's more dangerous, but it could just be I've been studying him longer. She is the creator (one of the creators?) of "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) the UN doctrine that's responsible for us being there.  New Zeal has a good overview of this. Samantha Power seems to be driven by angst over the Rwandan genocide, especially angst that her heroes did nothing to stop it.  Her book, "A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide" lays out the ideas that led to R2P.

Responsibility to Protect has the potential to, or if I may, is intended to, eliminate national sovereignty. 
We can no longer hide behind state sovereignty.
Let that sink in and don't overlook this detail.  Libya itself may be a nothing.  We may be out of there in a few weeks.  The principle and the precedent, though, may just have been established that the US has no right to do what it deems its own national interest, under penalty of international courts.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Mideast Changes Again

The Mideast has a way of making fools of us when we predict things.  It has a way of confounding experts and pundits - not to mention rank amateurs like me.

Caroline Glick, who writes for offers this analysis of the changing face of the terrorist war against Israel.  She points out that the usual groups who rush to take credit for killing Israelis first claimed credit for the massacre of the Fogel family - then said they didn't. 
The fact that today neither Hamas nor Fatah is interested in taking credit for Wednesday’s bombing in Jerusalem or for the massacre of the Fogel family is a signal that something fundamental is changing in the political dynamic between the two factions.
She then goes on to ponder the deeper meanings of what the parties may be after.  
While the internal political dynamics of the various Palestinian terror groups is interesting, it is not the main game in town. For both Fatah and Hamas, the most important target audience is Europe. But before we discuss how the Palestinians’ assessment of Europe is connected to their move to obfuscate organizational responsibility for terrorism, it is necessary to consider the concrete political goal of their new terror war.
Having decided the US is out of the game, and doesn't care what happens to Israel any longer, and knowing the Europeans already live in a state of dhimmitude, they feel they have nothing left to lose, nothing left to hide:

The Palestinians recognize that they don’t need to pretend to be good to get Europe to support them. After the people of Europe have been brainwashed by their media and intimidated by the Muslim communities, they have developed a Pavlovian response regarding Israel whereby every mention of Israel makes them hate it more. It doesn’t matter if the story is about the massacre of Israeli children or the bombing of synagogues and nursery schools. They know that Israel is the guilty party and expect the governments to punish it.
and reaches this conclusion which shakes me to my core: 
What the Palestinian silence on who committed what atrocity tells us is that in this new terror war, the Palestinians believe they cannot lose. With Europe in tow, Fatah and Hamas feel free to join their forces and advance both militarily and politically.
Palestinians hand out sweets to celebrate the slaughter of the sleeping Fogel  babies.  If you have a strong stomach, image search "Fogel family massacre" with your favorite search engine.

Genesis 12:3 (God to Abraham about Israel), "I will bless those who bless you,
   and whoever curses you I will curse;"

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's Earth Hour - Turn On Your Lights

It's Earth Hour from 8:30 to 9:30 local time Saturday night.  I hope you're marking the occasion properly.  Me, I'm turning on pretty much everything I have that uses electricity.  My goal is to be seen from Proxima Centauri.  And remember -
If it can’t be seen from space, you’re doing it wrong.”
There's no end to the nonsense carried out in the name of "climate awareness" (ack phfft).  We may go down in history as the only nation that caused a world wide food shortage over some obscure statistical fraud with some unfortunate (but completely predictable) assistance from nature.  Speaking of fraud, more has been found in hockey-stick land.

For those who don't know the inside stories, Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit is an unlikely global hero, but he is one.  Hearing some stories on the economic impact of climate legislation, McIntyre, a financial guy, wondered why there were no independent audits of the climate scientists.  Since every financial market transaction that might cost an investor a few dollars has to meet audit requirements, why not science that will cost trillions of dollars and millions of lives?  So he started auditing their statistics.  Threw up repeatedly, and then told the world how fraudulent it was, with ironclad, high quality math... 

OK, I made up that part about throwing up repeatedly. 

image from Caltech.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Scraping By On $250,000 Per Year

A friend at work sent me a link to this MSN article on life on $250,000 a year.  It opens:
In the ongoing debate over whether to use tax policy to help resolve the nation's massive deficit, a single number has emerged from the crossfire: $250,000. It's the annual income that President Barack Obama and others have used to define what it means to be "rich" in America today. And while the Bush-era tax cuts were temporarily extended to 2012, when their deadline comes around for the second time, $250,000 will be etched in the minds of policymakers and pundits as the number that separates the middle class from the wealthy.
It's an interesting article, but I'm sure its message won't be that new or shocking to this readership: $250,000 just isn't "rich" any more.  With two working adults and a couple of kids, especially if those adults are working for corporations, they have less disposable income than you might think.  They're probably just squeaking by.  

They may not have much money when the month runs out, but at least they don't have much month when the money runs out.  Most such couples would probably do just as well if one of them stayed home with the kids, they sold off the second car and got rid of all the other expenses associated with that parent working.  In the mid '90s, it was pretty widely stated that in that sort of dual income house, if both parents were making virtually the same pay, instead of household income doubling, it increased by 25 to 30%.

In truth, these are the kind of folks "The Bernank" and "Turbo Tax Timmy" have crosshairs on.  Savers, people playing by the rules, doing their best, are the ones to be drained of blood until there's nothing left.  If you've read Tom Baugh's "Fully Taxated" articles these concepts are familiar to you.  Tom is, of course, selling a book he firmly believes in - nothing wrong with that - called "Starving the Monkeys".  He's not alone in saying these things, either.  Tyler Durden at Zerohedge pointed out In Entitlement America "a one-parent family of three making $14,500 a year (minimum wage) has more disposable income than a family making $60,000 a year.  And if that wasn't enough, here is one that will blow your mind:
"If the family provider works only one week a month at minimum wage, he or she makes 92 percent as much as a provider grossing $60,000 a year."

This underscores the most serious problem with reforming welfare laws.  Note that more than doubling pretax income from $14,500 to $30,000 results in a loss of 28% of their net income.  It would take an exceptionally rare person to go through a drastic drop in quality of life for the possibility of getting really high income and better standard of life some day way in the future. 

It also points out that Tom's main point, that the tax system is set up to milk people like our $60,000 family above, the $250,000 family we started out with, and, to be honest, folks like me.  And many of you. 

If you look up "unsustainable" in the dictionary, you should find the US financial situation.  US Finances Are Near the Worst In the World.  Things that can't go on won't. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Replacement for The Replacement Is In Place

I casually mentioned on Monday that I had a broken computer to fix and I've been bit scarce here.  We developed a plan to replace it with the desktop I've been using for the last three years, and replace that one with a new desktop (we "hand me down" computers until they fail - every room in the house has one, and the cats are surfing the 'net all day).  Thankfully, I'm able to do this without excessive financial hardship, and the new computer is pretty much set up - Ubuntu 10.10 and Windoze dual boot.  With monitor, it cost about what my first PC cost, a Turbo XT (I'm dating myself, but no one else would) - and that XT was a kit without a monitor.  

My regular blend of ... whatever it is ... will be returning soon.  In the meantime, a good read is at Kevin's place.  
In the James Cameron [*spit*] movie "Titanic," there is this great scene that illustrates a point about our current economic situation.  The iceberg is struck.  Because of the glancing blow, the more primitive metallurgy that resulted in brittle steel of the hull, a long gash was ripped across three of the main watertight compartment sections of the front of the ship. With the first three main sections rapidly filling with water, the engineer/ship designer, played by Victor Garber, lays out the side view plans of the ship to show the captain that there is no doubt that the ship is going down and there is absolutely no way to stop it.  It may take an hour or so for the ship to disappear below the waves, but no amount of bilge pumping or anything else is going to stop the inevitable.

That's what is happening with our economy.
Go read Our Economic Titanic.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On European Mountain Goats and Michelle Obama

A friend sent me these incredible photos of a dam in Italy, and the mountain goats (more properly European Ibex) on the shear walls.  These goats scramble across the walls in search of lichen and salt.  I guess you could say they've taken a likin' to it...

Now I'm not a hunter, but as a hiker and backwoods wanderer, I know that there are natural salt licks - places where animals gather to get salt.  I know that hunters will leave salt blocks as a means to gather deer or other animals, and to acclimate them to a certain area.  Mammals have a feedback mechanism that makes them crave salt when they are low in it, and it's my belief that there could be a correlation between these urges for salt and deficiency in other minerals that might naturally occur with it: perhaps magnesium or potassium, phosphorus or zinc.

I've been reporting for just about a year now about the's attempts to control your salt consumption, including the stunning Fed argument that you have no fundamental right to eat what you'd like.  Reducing salt use is one of Michelle Obama's signature issues.  You have the idiotic mayor of New York City spending $300,000 on a campaign to tell you there's salt in canned soup. Should we cut salt consumption because they say so?

Let me jump to the important conclusion (with italics added tonight):
Did you get that?  This Doctor, President of the American Society of Hypertension, said that we don't even know that if we tell the public to cut their salt consumption that it won't hurt them.  So the can't even say, "cut your sodium because even if it doesn't help blood pressure, at least it won't hurt you"; we don't know that.  But the FDA is going to do it anyway.   Michael Alderman, President of the American Society of Hypertension, Department of Epidemiology and Social Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Br Med J 1997; 315: 484-5  

So what's going on here?  By reporting in the press, Americans typically consume about 1500 mg of salt a day.  By analysis of my diet, I know I consume about 1/5 of that.  I have no aversion to salt, don't try to restrict it for any medical reason, I just don't use a lot of it. Could it be that people crave salt for the same reason those goats do? 

Don't those goats on the nearly-vertical wall of that dam know that the US is concerned about them eating too much dam salt? 

I don't have an answer, but just like I know study after study has shown fat people often eat less than "normal" people, I know there are powerful feedback loops in the body.  Could it be the American taste for salt is not because "they like it" but because American food is low in magnesium or calcium or phosphorus - or something - and our feedback system says to eat salt because salt licks often contain those minerals?  Is it that we tend to eat muscle tissue and not livers and other sources predators typically eat?  Is there a physiological explanation for the desire for salt?

Whatever happened to "keep your laws off my body"?  Or does that only apply to uteri?

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Would Have Written This...

...except I don't have the experience to back it up that the author does.  Mike Adams, a professor a University of North Carolina on why "Fill In the Blank" studies programs should be shut down. 
For some time, I have made a habit of asking students their major (and minor) immediately after they ask me a silly question. This is necessary because I teach two basic studies courses per semester – both populated by students from across the spectrum of academic disciplines. I have found (consistently) that nearly all inane questions and comments come from students in just a handful of academic majors.
I know I've posted this thought in various places, but I don't have the bona fides that the author has.  

Go read.  I have a broken computer to work on. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Journalist's View

We have a pretty good local talk show here weekday mornings, on the one AM radio station that still makes enough profit to stay in business.  (Coincidence?  And on a side note: remember when a broadcasting license was a license to make money?)  On Thursdays, the host has a regular visitor - a reporter from the local paper.  This reporter is relatively moderate, and does a fairly good job of digging out objective data.  He even moderates his viewpoints when the data proves him wrong.  Pretty unusual for a reporter these days! 

Last week, the reporter had an insight that I thought was interesting and has been rolling around in my head for about 10 days. 

People on the left tend to think business is the root cause of all the problems.  People on the right tend to think that government is the problem.  On it's face this seems true: think of the number of times you heard left-wing idiots screaming "Halliburton Halliburton!!".  From my standpoint, their argument is silly. 

Let's say a company wants to get me to buy their product.  They can target ads to appeal to me, and do everything they can to try to convince me to buy it, but in the end, if I don't want to buy their product, they don't get my money.  There's nothing more they can do.  By contrast, let's say the government (local, state or federal) decides they want money out of me.  If I don't want to give them that money, someone eventually shows up and puts a gun in my face to get my money.  It may not be a direct gun in my face, but the threat is plainly there.  Furthermore, the government wants the monopoly of force over me so that there is nothing I can do to resist.  Maybe they won't kill me, I don't want to take that bet, but they can put me in jail and destroy my life in every other way.  I'd rather deal with a company any day. 

While a corporation might want to print their own money, they can't and generally don't try (there's a term for companies that do: organized crime).  Local and state governments are in the same boat.  The has given itself the right to do this, causing misery and agony for everyone outside their inner circle. 

One thing I think we can all agree on is that when companies and government get together, that's the worst of all worlds.  Whether it's the "Military Industrial Complex" that Eisenhower warned us about using their might to force us into foreign adventures, or ACORN and the AFL-CIO pushing governments to rob Peter to pay, well, everyone, when government and cronies get together, bad things happen.  I believe some people thought that was the change they were getting with Obama - get rid of the business crony relationships of the Bush White House.  They did - and replaced it with a different bunch of cronies and corporate/government alliances

Saturday, March 19, 2011

So That's Why Obama Went to Brazil!

No, not the girl from Ipanema.  And probably not simply to visit Brazil's Marxist guerrilla president.  It was part of a deal to authorize the Brazilan petroleum giant, Petrobras, to
"operate the Gulf of Mexico's first floating production, storage and offloading vessel, clearing the way for the Brazilian oil giant to start pumping oil from two deep-water fields, federal regulators said Thursday."
Isn't that special!  We're going to allow a Brazilian oil company to do something we've never allowed Exxon or Shell or other American companies to do.  I suppose it's only right, since under our stimulus program, we authorized a loan to Petrobras for up to $2 billion, (although they apparently only used about a sixth of that). But why a Brazilian company?

While (as far as I understand) we can't stop a foreign company from drilling for oil in the open Gulf of Mexico, since it's international waters, this is not where the Cubans/Chinese plan to drill.  We have no authority there; this is 165 miles from Louisiana.  We are favoring a foreign company to produce and sell oil that an American company could just as easily get.  Every one of this administration's policies I can think of is anti-energy and especially anti-US energy.  This is a good example.  What can you expect from a president who campaigned on wanting to destroy the coal industry and cause energy prices to skyrocket (which would further cripple the US Economy)? 

As I said during the BP disaster, I understand the sentiment of not wanting another spill, but saying we're not going to drill anymore is like saying, "I got food poisoning so I'll never eat again".  Ultimately, it's suicidal. Allowing a foreign company to do things Americans are not allowed to do is economic suicide.  But in keeping with the colonialist/socialist views we keep seeing out of this president. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

The World After America

It's here.  Look around.  France is taking the lead in establishing the Libyan no-fly zone, from Italian bases. 

I posted last month that the rest of the world is saying, "America has lost it", and America is done. 

Could it be that at least one reason why the world is on fire now is that Pax Americana is gone?  There are no adults in charge now, and they know no one will do anything about them?  Even the European leaders look at us and wonder what happened to us.  I'm sure anti-American countries and their leaders are celebrating the end of "American Hegemony", but the best explanation of Pax Americana I heard was something along the lines of "think of it as your older brother kicking the shit out of you for hurting the cat". 

Frankly, I don't want US planes covering a civil war in another version of Douchebagistan.  I sure don't want ground troops in another pointless war.  I have to say, though, I think doing this helped aid global stability - at the terrible cost of American lives.

The world is now aligning itself into how it will be arranged after we collapse.   

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Buckle Up - It's Going to Get Interesting

Have you been watching oil?  It had been sagging in price lately, as the pace of the revolutions around the Mideast had been slowing down.  Until about 6PM EDT, when the UN voted to declare war on Libya.  It has been going up for the last 24 hours and just gone into a steeper slope.  I read roughly $6 since last night, and $1 in an hour or so. 

Have You Been Watching the Yen?  Tyler over at Zerohedge has been. Some of this is early reports that may not be right, but the timeline looks like this:

On Monday Night/Tuesday morning (our time) the Japanese market Nikkei index was down 17%.

The Japanese government's first action was to allow the Bank of Japan (BOJ - their equivalent of the Federal Reserve) to buy more Exchange Traded Funds and Real Estate Investment Trusts.  This is an indirect quantitative easing. 

A couple of hours later, the USDJPY (US Dollar Japanese Yen) jumped way too much.  It looked like the BOJ bought a bunch of dollars, but that wasn't formally announced.

Then, another few hours later, it became known they had pumped ¥26.5 trillion into the market, which caused the Nikkei to recover somewhat.  This is direct quantitative easing.

Overnight, they sold another ¥1.1 trillion in long term bonds (20 year).  It's now yesterday morning, US time.

A mere 5 hours later, the USDJPY hit a 16 year low.  It's not over yet.

By the end of the day, the BOJ was pumping another ¥13.8 trillion into money markets.  In case you're adding, that's  summarized as:
The Bank of Japan has offered an additional 13.8 trillion yen (some USD 170 billion) to money markets, bringing to 55.6 trillion yen the total emergency funds made available by it to protect the nation's banking system from the negative impact of Friday's massive earthquake. (speculation from market watchers)
By last night, US, it looked like the Yen was collapsing.  The USDJPY dropped from that 16 year low to a new low over $2 lower.

Meanwhile, in Japan, banks were shutting off ATMs and refusing to issue cash.

Finally, today, the BOJ and Group of Seven (G7) nations come to an arrangement to allow the BOJ to start selling them bonds.  The Nikkei and USDJPY indices both recover nicely. 
The Nikkei 225 index, from the Financial Times

When we judge the health of a market by numbers like the Nikkei or the USDJPY, we allow ourselves to be manipulated by the bankers.  The real question is not "what's the N225?", which gives an answer in Yen, but what's it worthAll central bankers play this game - it's why "the Ben Bernank" will take credit for keeping the DJIA above 11,000 with QE2, but won't take credit for food prices rising.  The Keynesian world floats all currencies with respect to all others.  Nothing has a reference value, there is no standard.  

So rather than say the market has collapsed, they print money to keep the number as close to the same as they can.  See?  It was $10,000 Monday morning and it's 9200 now.  It hasn't gone down that much!  But the extra number of Yen the government has printed means that each Yen is worth less, and that 9200 on Friday is not as valuable as 9200 was on Monday.

And the slide to worthless currency continues.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Little Olds A Little News

I posted on Saturday night that I was having problems with my first reloading project.  The RBCS hand primer was not working properly.

I wrote RCBS on Sunday, explaining the problem (after a reply from MidwayUSA telling me that since it was part of a kit, I needed to contact RCBS).  On Monday, I had a nice answer from their Technical Services Manager, asking a question or two and saying they were committed to make it right. 

I did a few things on my own, reaming the bases of the .223 a little, and successfully primed another handful of shells.  This time I might have been as much as 75% successful.  Still, I buggered a couple of rounds and had to de-prime them.  Both primers were torn open, exposing the primer powder; the one on the right has a sliver of torn metal hanging off to the right.  I sent this picture to RCBS,
and they said, "send it back".  They also asked for the shell holder, because it not being cut right could cause this.  

So my hand primer is on the UPS truck out to Calley-fornia.  Hopefully the replacement will work.

Do you own any of those compact fluorescent bulbs, the darlings of the greenies?  Do you get the famously long life out of them?  No?  Neither do I.  I have to confess I bought my first few of these when they first came out, for use in hard to reach fixtures, before I knew about the toxic mercury load in them.  I have one fixture that seems to get just a few months out them.  I wouldn't be too surprised if they lasted only as long as a regular bulb.  The question of why they don't last as long as they're supposed to comes up in a lot of engineering forums. 

Essentially, there seem to be two common answers: first, the weak area is the ballast, especially heat from the bulb.  This argument is that the bulb works better if they're mounted with the base below the curly glass part, like most table lamps would be.  If your bulb is mounted upside down, like many outdoor lights, or one hanging from the ceiling, the heat from the bulb rises onto the ballast and causes it to die faster. This implies recessed ceiling fixtures, or any fixture with no air circulation, would be a bad place to put these

The second argument is that they are tested and characterized like fluorescent bulbs: they're turned on and left on.  If you turn these bulbs on only long enough to walk into a room, get something, and walk out, they burn out much, much faster.  They don't do well with short on-times. 

No matter the real reason, these bulbs are not worth the hype and not worth the premium over incandescent bulbs.  Stockpile good old "heat balls" while you have the chance.  Cheap LED lights are still a few turns of Moore's Law away.  In 4 to 5 years, they should be reaching really good economics. 
from  - this might be a joke, but it's very similar to what our city garbage collection service says...except they tell us to put it into a plastic bag and hold it.  They'll let us know in 20 years or so what do with that bag. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

So Much Going On, So Little Time

There's so much I could write on tonight, but let's go here:  is it night time where you live?  If so, walk outside where you can see stars and look up.  The farther you are from lights the better.  Stay there a minute or two so your eyes adapt to the dark and you see well.

Everything you see that is shining by its own light is nuclear powered.  Everything you see shining in reflected sunlight (the moon, the planets), all of that is lit by nuclear power.  Now look toward your house or a nearby city.  Everything you see is lit by chemical bonds being broken and re-established.  As someone put it, "everything God powers is nuclear; everything man powers is fire".  Almost true.
Every light in this picture is a thermonuclear fusion reaction. Photo credit is to a friend of mine, who probably wouldn't want to be identified on a blog, but the object is the area around the left star in Orion's belt - the brightest star in the image.  The object just below and to the left of it is the Flame Nebula; to the right, the famous dark nebula known as The Horsehead Nebula.  Imaged under city lights, but in the alpha light of Hydrogen.  Edited by me to colorize, in the Gimp.

Where's this going?  The news is full of dire stories about problems with damaged reactors in Japan.  It is difficult to sort out "wheat from chaff" in the reporting, Dr. Joseph Oehmen of MIT writes,
I repeat, there was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity from the damaged Japanese reactors.

By "significant" I mean a level of radiation of more than what you would receive on - say - a long distance flight, or drinking a glass of beer that comes from certain areas with high levels of natural background radiation.
The whole article, "You Can Stop Worrying About A Radiation Disaster In Japan -- Here's Why" is worth the time to read.  If I may be permitted just another nice quote (since I've given two links back to them, sounds like fair use to me!):
I have been reading every news release on the incident since the earthquake. There has not been one single report that was accurate and free of errors (and part of that problem is also a weakness in the Japanese crisis communication). By “not free of errors” I do not refer to tendentious anti-nuclear journalism – that is quite normal these days. By “not free of errors” I mean blatant errors regarding physics and natural law, as well as gross misinterpretation of facts, due to an obvious lack of fundamental and basic understanding of the way nuclear reactors are build and operated.  I have read a 3 page report on CNN where every single paragraph contained an error.

Dr. Oehman goes to great lengths to describe the attention to cooling used in commercial reactor design.  He didn't mention they have a "SCRAM" mode, in which a failsafe mechanism plunges the moderating rods into the core to stop the main power source (the Uranium reaction).  He didn't quantify the radioactivity from the released gas, and compare it to the banana equivalent dose. I've heard many people got as much radiation as if they ate a dozen bananas.

People are unreasonably afraid of nuclear power.  Call it the Jane Fonda Syndrome, or the Cher Syndrome, whatever.  People react to nuclear power with more fear, even though they get a higher dose of radioactivity from a coal fired plant, or from a ski trip to the Rockies.  Just as we are getting close to putting nuclear plants online, the media has the opportunity to hammer on the fears people have, thanks to this disaster.  "Never let a crisis go to waste", right?  If the president (as a candidate) states "under my policies, electricity prices would necessarily skyrocket", is there any doubt his acolytes would do their best to deny any source of cheap energy?  There has been only one accident in a nuclear power plant that caused loss of life, Chernobyl; a plant designed by third-rate engineers and run by unmotivated idiots.  Even there, the actual effects, while undeniably present, have not come close to the dire predictions of disaster

There are new technologies for nuclear reactors that make a meltdown impossible.  There are many ways to address the technical issues, and I've never met a practicing engineer that's opposed to nuclear power.  We can't lose the public will to put more power stations on line.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

You Can't Fix Stupid

There's a famous story about Winston Churchill, drunk at a party, telling a woman she was ugly.  Incensed, she said, "Sir!  You are drunk!", to which Churchill replied, "Indeed I am, madam, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly!"

In this case, in the morning, I'll be at work, but Larry Summers will still be stupid.

Larry Summers was the director of President Obama's economic council, a former head of the World Bank and president (emeritus) of Harvard University.  You know our Ivy League ruling class is "smaht" - they tell us all the time, but he fell for the "broken window fallacy".  Seriously.  In an interview Friday, Summers said rebuilding after the tsunami "could temporarily boost the Japanese economy."

Now, Summers is not extremely bad in the interview.  He doesn't make a big case for the fallacy, but he does pretty obviously state that it will cause "temporary increments in their GDP", and imply it's "ironically" good for the Japanese economy.  That's just wrong.  Frédéric Bastiat pretty much demolished the idea that disasters were good for the economy in 1850. 

I'm sorry, Mr. Summers.  Lord knows I've said some stupid things, too.  I just expect people with your background to debunk that fallacy, not promote it. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

This Post Wasn't Supposed To Be THIS Post

What I was supposed to post about was how I completed my first reloading session, and had various combinations of hand-loaded, match grade, .223 to try out tomorrow.  But Murphy had other plans.
Gleaming brass from the tumbler.

I ran into a problem priming my brass.  I was able to de-prime it easily enough.  I tumbled it with stainless shot and got it all bright and clean and beautiful, no problem.  But the RCBS hand primer just wouldn't work right.  I barfed up at least half the brass I tried to prime.  Some would go just as smoothly as can be; others would just not prime properly.  When they wouldn't prime, I couldn't remove them from the tool because the damaged or tilted primer hung down and wouldn't allow the brass to pull out of the holder.  One of them had two primers crammed into the bottom, despite the "safety" which is supposed to keep that from happening.

It was really frustrating, and did no favors to the arthritis in my hands.  After way too much time - I took the thing apart and put it back together about 5 times - I realized it just wasn't centered and holding the brass properly.  So if everything lined up nicely (random event), it worked fine.  If it didn't, I messed up a primer badly, and sometimes ruined the brass.

Top view of the hand primer.  You can see that not only is the pin loose and floating around too much, but the white plastic is not symmetrical in the center of the shell holder.  I can't see how you can get accuracy of a few thousandths this way. If you look for feedback online on how these work, you get the usual mixture of some folks with no problems and others with really bad problems (what's a "ka-boom" called when it happens to the hand primer in your hand but not really highly explosive, like in a gun?)

So while I have 16 cases ready to load powder and a bullet, I've called it quits until I can get this hand tool replaced. 

16 primed cartridges in the back, and a bunch of brass waiting for primers.  Many of them have had the damaged primer removed.  The offending tool is at the top (re-set with the large primer guide in it - the way it came, not the way I was using it).    

Maybe next week I'll have it.  Maybe tomorrow we'll just take out the handguns and shoot some paper plates.  We haven't done that in a while.  

Meanwhile, I know I have some reloaders that read this, because we've talked about it.  What do you use for priming?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Man's Vulnerability on Display

Like many, I awoke to the news reports of the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan last night. 

The photographs at the Atlantic Monthly include some breathtaking shots.  The BBC also has some good videos.  This is heartbreaking stuff.  I feel intense pain for the people involved.   

First, keep these people in your thoughts and prayers.  There will be thousands of family members lost when final numbers come in. It will take months to see even a semblance of normal, and years for rebuilding. 

Second, this is a vivid illustration and reminder of how impotent man is when nature so much as flexes a muscle.  The biggest trucks were flung like toys.  Buildings wiped off their foundations.  Boats in city centers.  All we can do is react, the way ants react when someone messes up their mounds.  Put things back to normal, as best as we can. 
Pic from Reuters.
As I wrote last summer, it may be a local event, but for the people involved, it was TEOTWAWKI.  And, as I concluded that piece: don't just be prepared, be useful. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Odds and Ends

Borepatch has a great summary of why we shouldn't fund NPR - they're violating their whole reason for existence. 
The argument for funding NPR is that they can focus in greater depth than commercial news sources, giving listeners more background and context around important stories.  This leads directly to a better informed electorate (so goes the argument) which is a public good.
and then goes on to show that this isn't true.

When Discovery ended her mission yesterday, I went outside to hear and feel the double sonic boom all returning shuttles give - and I realized I'm going to miss this.  From about 1986 until 1997, Mrs. Graybeard worked up there; starting on expendable vehicles and then over to work on the shuttle solid rocket boosters.  After Challenger (she was outside watching - I was working through lunch and watching on TV) they had an open house at the KSC for family; Discovery was on the pad for the return to flight operation, and we got a good look at her.  On two separate other open houses years later, I stood underneath Discovery.  I almost could have reached out and touched her, but I didn't.  Still, I got up close and personal with Discovery like no other member of the STS "fleet".  Yeah, she was getting to look like a used space ship Han Solo might fly, but I'm going to miss her.

As I mentioned in my riff on corporate wellness programs, I work for a major aerospace corporation.  Like many, we have a big "diversity" program.  I can't help but feel like they're going about it all wrong;  they emphasize what we look like, or what we eat, not who we are.  For example, we have a very Indian guy in our group, with a very Indian name, heavy accent, did his undergrad work in India and MSEE in the states.  I have more in common with him than 99% of the people outside the building.  Last week, I was on TDY in the factory.  I was the only "old white guy" in the place, but I had more in common with those technicians and younger engineers, like the young Latina, than with the vast majority of administrative workers, marketing people, HR folks and other non-technical workers - as well as the 99% of the public outside our buildings.  Diversity isn't white guys and Indian guys or "smart Latinas": it's engineers and art majors. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Our Number of Options is Decreasing

Consider the embryonic, pluripotent stem cell.  These cells have the almost magical potential to become any cell in the body.  As soon as the first change is made, however, the number of options goes down.  If the stem cell has started to move down the blood cell line, it doesn't go back to being a stem cell and then become a bone cell.  As it progresses down it's path of differentiation, the number of options available becomes limited, eventually resulting in it becoming one specific type of cell.  Nerve cells don't de-differentiate back to stem cells and become bone cells (well, they sometimes do, and that's called a tumor - but ignore that)
That's where our economy is now: end of a line and out of options (and isn't that the most bizarre reference you've ever come across for the economy?)

TL In Exile beat me to commenting on this story today: "The Insanity of a $6.1 Billion Dollar Debate", so consider this an add-on to his piece.  Mrs. Graybeard and I were discussing this subject over the last few days.  The cuts to the budget being discussed are to discretionary spending, which is less than 15% of the budget, and are small cuts to that.  The budget deficit this year is about $1.4 Trillion dollars; divide that by 365 and you get $3.84 billion per day in pure deficit.  The amount that is causing widespread argument and mutiny (and has Dick Turban in fits) in D.C. is less than 2 days worth of spending out of a year.  Less than 1/2 of 1%.  

Last month's deficit alone was over 36 times that proposed cut. 

They're not talking about paying off debt, they're not talking about stopping deficit spending; they're barely even talking about slowing down spending.  To be real, they probably loose more than $6 billion in a year and would never notice it being gone. By my thinking, if they cut out discretionary spending completely - no more FCC, no more BATFE, no more EPA, NASA, DOJ, National Park Service, no more Department of Energy or Education... it wouldn't be enough.  If we borrow 35 or 40 percent of what we spend, we need to cut spending by that much.  That's more than all discretionary spending combined. 

And that doesn't even address the really big unfunded mandate, Medicare, which has commitments to pay out $98 Trillion dollars - as I look it up at the time of this writing, including the prescription drug portion. 

Our number of options is decreasing.

Option number 1 (do your best Casey Casem voice) is to default.  Not pay anything on any debts or bonds.  Nobody gets Medicare or any other promised payouts.  You make everyone in the world that has a US bond or other debt instrument mad at us (hmm...might already be starting).  The Chinese show up with Nukes, but we have Nukes, too.  Maybe we pay them off by giving them the Federally owned lands out west.  People are dying in the street, but - hey - it happens.  You wanna make an omelet...

Option number 2  Inflate the money to worthlessness, and this appears to be the path we're on.  We promised you $1000/month: here it is.  You can buy one Lifesaver candy with it.  No, not a roll, a Lifesaver.

Option number 3  Soviet gulag?  Some gray, dystopian future where everyone has exactly the same things in life: nothing?  Long lines at the stores to get toilet paper, or mystery meat sausage.  But that may be optimistic. 

Time is getting short.  The number of options is going down.  

Monday, March 7, 2011

Will the Government Try To Confiscate Gold Again?

For those not familiar with it, Executive Order 6102 by FDR in 1933 outlawed the "Hoarding of Gold Coin, Gold Bullion, and Gold Certificates" by individuals.  It had specific allowances for jewelers, dentists, and others who might have legitimate business reasons to have gold on hand.  But folks like you and me?  Hand it over, bud. 

There's some talk about whether there's a risk of it, but there's a fundamental reason to believe they don't want your gold.  There's good reason to believe they won't come after us, so we can buy with silver, gold, brass, bullets, you name it - .22LR, the coin of the new millenium!  

They don't believe in a gold standard - Keynes famously called it "that barbaric relic".  They believe they can create fiat money that will do everything they need money to do.  They won't believe in gold until the fiat system has collapsed, no one wants dollars, the "full faith and credit of the United States of America" is equal to one of those worthless green backed slips of paper, and the barbarians are at the gate with an army to back their collection efforts.  FDR was bound by the gold standard.  Obama has no such restrictions.  Why tie himself to that barbaric relic? 

The Fabulous Mogambo Guru explains it as well as anyone.  If you've never read him before, it will be a bit... unusual. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Resilient Communities

I stumbled across the Windowfarms Project while poking around today.  This is the most encouraging thing I've read about life in the urban wasteland in a long time.  Maybe ever. 

If I were you, I'd watch on Youtube or full screen, higher res. Go ahead.  I'll wait.

The comments are probably right that if you just consider price, they would be better off to work at a job during the time they do all that work to garden and buy their veggies: big farms produce food cheaper because of economies of scale.  That has absolutely nothing to do with why gardening is a popular hobby and even less to do with why this is A Good Thing. 

Anyone who grows their own tomatoes knows that they taste far better than what you get in the store.  Already, in the early spring, we have more lettuce than we know what to do with (it's good-tasting lettuce, too) and a few tomatoes coming in.  The bell peppers never stopped producing, despite some freeze damage in December, and the jalapenos are looking productive, too. 

Last year, I saw an article about people in New York using their kitchen appliances as closet space.  Think shoes in the refrigerator and clothes in the oven. In the event of a disruption in the supply chain, people with shoes in the fridge will be starving within days.  I used to joke that after a hurricane, people in Miami would be eating each other within three days.  I don't anymore; it ain't funny. 

I know it takes a lot of space to grow enough food for yourself.  The hydroponic farm in your apartment window won't make it.  But a little bit of food will really be nice to have when it all goes down.  Combined with the people who grow food gardens in city lots, it might prevent total death and devastation. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Project Gunwalker

I haven't commented at all about the ATF Gunwalker scandal on this site.  I figure Mike Vanderboegh and Dave Codrea have the real story, and everyone who comes by here probably reads those sites too.  Or, at the very least, reads another blog that has covered the fiasco. 

But I heard this story on Fox News while working around the house, AP Enterprise:  US Push Not Halting Guns To Mexico which features this little fact:
In two years, a new effort to increase inspections of travelers crossing the border has netted just 386 guns — an almost infinitesimal amount given that an estimated 2,000 slip across each day.
Consider that the agent who was on the CBS News report reports "thousands" of guns were involved in Gunwalker.  That means that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a.k.a the U.S. Federal Government, might well be the largest single provider of illegal arms into Mexico.  

There are not enough words in the English language for the outrage and anger I feel. 

Look, I'm a big boy; I know that cops run sting operations all the time.  They buy and sell drugs more often than a preppie at a frat party.  But do they get people killed routinely as part of their job?  By all accounts, we have two federal agents killed by the guns the ATF walked into Mexico.  Those ATF agents took the same oath as Brian Terry and Jamie Zapato, to protect and defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.   Those ATF agents in effect took an oath to protect Brian Terry and Jamie Zapato - as officers Terry and Zapato took an oath to protect the ATF agents.  Prison is too good for the ATF officials who planned this operation. 

Time to write our congressmen and senators again.  Or go visit. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

My Turn At The Meme

I've been tapped by Random Acts of Patriotism to answer the Stylish Blogger test:
 The idea is:
List seven things about yourself that other people might not know. Then pass the award to 15 other bloggers.

1.  I find this kind of self-reflective stuff really hard.  I almost reflexively ignore myself and most of my humor is self-deprecation.  Wait!  That's one!

2.  I sing along with the car radio and to almost any music I like. 

3.  I hate sitcoms.  First off, people are far too rude to each other, and second off, they're based on families with idiot parents and bright, savvy, kids.  It's the Al Gore, "you kids know things your parents don't" crap made flesh.  Sure they do, but it's meaningless crap like who the heck Lady Gaga is, not knowledge that's useful for anything.    

4.  That aside, I've been watching the Simpsons since the third season or so.

5.  I worked as a directory assistance operator for the phone company when I was 19 or 20.  I would answer with goofy names.  We were supposed to say, "Directory Assistance" followed by our names.  I'd say, "Major Tom", or "Mr. Buckley" or a name from a sci-fi book.

6.  It doesn't come across well in writing, but I'm very rarely serious.  When someone asks me a question, if I know the person, I'm serious about 10% of the time.  I'm not a "practical joker" and won't do things that physically hurt, but never stop making quips and goofy comments. 

7.  Like most of us, I think, I started out fairly liberal, but began to realize those "warm fuzzy" ideas were not simply not working, they were making things worse.  As the saying goes, "he who is 20 and not liberal has no heart; he who is 40 and not conservative has no brain". I went to work for Major South East Defense Contractor (Inc.) thinking military spending was "middle class welfare" and left thinking it was among the few valid government expenses. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Is Someone Deliberately Trying to Trash the US Economy?

If you think about that from a certain viewpoint, that's a dumb question.  "Someone" may not be trying to crash the US economy, but I don't see what would be different if they were trying.  That someone could be anyone from the current itself to Dr. Evil (George Soros) to any one of a number of other parties.  The Chinese PLA (People's Liberation Army) is said to be transitioning into the hands of younger officers; young men raised in the "one child" paradigm of China since the late 1970s.  These men are said to be less tolerant of the patient approach of watching the US implode that the elders tend to advocate.  Last year, PLA officers urged China to cut back on US bonds they hold to "teach us a lesson" for supporting Taiwan.

In an interesting article from the Washington Times, a Pentagon white paper was leaked, “Financial terrorism suspected in 2008 economic crash”.  The report does not conclude the crash of '08 was an act of economic terrorism, but does go over some interesting facts.  The author, Kevin Freeman, says,
“The new battle space is the economy,” he said. “We spend hundreds of billions of dollars on weapons systems each year. But a relatively small amount of money focused against our financial markets through leveraged derivatives or cyber efforts can result in trillions of dollars in losses. And, the perpetrators can remain undiscovered.
“This is the equivalent of box cutters on an airplane,”
The web is ablaze with all sorts of theories of who's pulling strings, who's organizing the inflation, how the New World Order will enslave us all.  It's hard to figure who could be right.  But when you have The Bernank himself spouting insanity as obvious as this, you have to wonder if he was trying to destroy the country what would he be doing differently? 
"Ben Bernanke says Federal Reserve policy is not responsible for the UN's Food Price Index now standing at its highest level in 21 years or gasoline costs rising 49% in six months."
So Ben will take credit for how the excess money he's flooded the world with might increase the prices on the stock market (as more dollars chase a fixed number of stocks) but won't allow the possibility of having caused food inflation (as more dollars chase a fixed amount of food).  What a maroon.  Gee, Ben, that's not what your central bank brothers say

The way I see it, there's a handful of things that need to happen to signal a collapse of the US economy.  Those are (in no particular order):
In other words, I think everything needed to ensure economic collapse of the US is here already.  Any shock to the system could cause it, or it could stay in its semi-stable state for a while.  If someone is trying to crash us, they will push when their pieces are ready. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Short on Energy Tonight

Sorry, been working TDY far from my office at work.  Long days, far from familiar surroundings and familiar duties.  Too much going on to sit with you.

Re-habbing a slightly injured right shoulder...
Trying to lift weights around that...
Trying to prep some un-needed radio gear to sell...
Trying to read up on reloading...

As Kevin says, no free ice cream today.  I'll try to give you a bigger scoop soon. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Threat to The Republic

Never in my life has the threat to our republic been so great.  The financial problems which caused the Panic of 2008 are not getting better.  Socialists around the world are trying to claim capitalism failed, when it was really the crony-capitalism, better called fascism, that gave birth to the Too Big To Fail problem.  The Mideast is on fire, and it's spreading across the world.  The EU is still in flames.  The policies of the Federal Reserve have given rise to outrageous inflation in commodity prices (from).
 % yr to yr
(corn and wheat price per bushel, sugar in cents per pound)

With the exception of the more "far out" blogs, nobody is predicting mass starvation in the US - and, of course, those blogs might be right.  I can envision food shortages here as a result of deliberate policy: not a deliberate Holodomor so much as taking food off the market in the US to distribute to more starving peoples in other countries.  Combine that with destroying agriculture in the US to protect the Delta Smelt, taking food off the market to make corn ethanol and the crop losses due to record freezes in Mexico and Florida and you can see food shortages.  This administration has almost exclusively made stupid policy decisions; why should we think they'll suddenly get smarter?  Regardless, with wheat prices up almost 40%, corn up 60% and other grains as well, food prices will go up here and there will be mass hunger in the US.  If you think grain isn't food; it's what food eats, this affects you, too.  Prices of all meat sources will have to go up. 

When people talk about oil and gasoline prices, don't lose sight of the fact that the price of fuel finds its way into everything you buy.  Increasing oil prices make food more expensive, along with everything else.  Everything is shipped around the world.  The sudden dramatic increases in oil prices are a sign of what's to come.  Today's $100/barrel oil could be $200 or more, if the wrong things happen.  Wrong things like the riots spreading to, and taking out, Saudi Arabia. 

Inflation will be the dominant story in the coming year - if anyone is honest about it.  You can have an inflationary depression; the notorious stagflation of the 1970s.  I think that's what's coming. I've said before that I think we need to cut Federal spending to the point where we don't incur more debt, which would be close to 45% cuts across the board.  I know it will be painful, I just don't see ways around it.  Gerald Celente of Trends Research says, when the government money stops flowing down to people, the blood starts flowing in the streets.

The Decline and Fall of the Great Middle Class I wrote about last summer seems to be proceeding.  As I've said before, predicting the timing of the final dollar collapse is the hard part, but would you have predicted what's going on in the Mideast just a few months ago? 

Beans, bullet, and band-aids, folks. And small denominations of silver.  Each silver dime face value is around $2.50 in Bernanke notes.