Friday, April 29, 2011

The Corruption is Stunning - Part II

This time, add in-your-face arrogance.  The BATF, embroiled in the Gunwalker (aka Fast and Furious) scandal, is trying to push through silly restrictions on the purchase of long guns.
Under the proposed rule, gun dealers would have to report sales of two or more rifles to an individual at one time or during a period of five business days if the rifles are semi-automatic, with a caliber greater than .22 and detachable magazines...  (emphasis added - GB)
This proposal was out for comment in December, and I wrote them asking what "caliber greater than .22" meant.  Do they mean .22 long rifle or .22 short?  Is a .22 magnum larger than a .22?  Is .22 Hornet larger?  .22 WRF?  What about .22-250, .22 Swift, .22 Cheetah, .22 BR Remington, .22 PPC...?  I see a big future for .204 Ruger if this idiocy is passed.  It's smaller than .22 any way you measure it, but can go around 3500 fps.  Business opportunity: .204 Ruger uppers for your AR lower.

This idea that Mexican drug gangs come into the US, spend hundreds of dollars for a semi-automatic AK-47 in American gun stores, when they can get fully automatic versions in Guatemala for $25, is insane.  Cables released by Wikileaks verify that the majority of the arms the cartels use come from Central America, not the US.
Yet one of the cables maintains that 90 percent of the heavy armament Mexican security forces seize from cartel gunmen comes from Central America.
Heck they probably get guns given to them by corrupt Mexican Army members, or steal the AKs from the Guatemalans.  Which makes more sense?  Come across the border into the US, and bring back a few expensive semi-automatics, or buy a cargo container and pick it up at the port?  I know that rifles do go across the border from the US - they're all being shipped by the BATF!  Whistleblowers say thousands of guns were involved in Gunwalker, making the US Government the largest known runner of guns into Mexico.

According to Mike at Sipsey Street:
It was first published in December and had a 60-day comment period that garnered almost 13,000 responses. About 30 percent opposed the reporting requirement and 70 percent favored it, ATF said.
Looks like a concerted effort by the antis - Codrea says it was Mayor Bloomberg; also looks it's time to comment to BATFE again.  Care to join me?
Excuse me, ma'am, but where did you get that AK?

Hmm.  Maybe I should try to lobby them for my version of common sense gun laws.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How To Avoid A Dark Age

Got this link from Alan over at SnarkyBytes (who needs no introduction from me...)

Best 15 minutes I've spent in a while.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Markets React to Ben Bernanke's Talk

Gold up about $25 from a low today of $1502/oz to $1528

(read the green trace, )
Silver up $3.50, from $44.86 to $48.36
 (green trace again)
 And the dollar index hit a 2.5 year low. 
(Kitco News) - Comex gold and silver futures prices rallied sharply and moved to daily highs in afternoon trading, in the wake of a bullishly construed statement from the Federal Reserve. June gold hit a new all-time record high of $1,524.20 an ounce. The U.S. dollar index weakened and fell to its daily low, hitting a fresh 2.5-year low, in the wake of the FOMC meeting statement, which contained no major surprises but did hint that U.S. interest rates would remain low for some time to come. That was bullish for metals due to the inflationary implications and because it was also bearish for the U.S. dollar.

I find this particularly funny because I saw Elfin Timmy Geithner on TV first thing this morning, saying the US is firmly committed to a strong dollar.  I almost dropped my breakfast: 
“Our policy has been and will always be, as long as at least I’m in this job, that a strong dollar is in our interest as a country,’’ Geithner said in remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “We will never embrace a strategy of trying to weaken our currency to try to gain economic advantage.’’
Seems the investors of the world don't believe him.  You can see why Pimco is shorting US bonds and China has been dumping US dollars since at least last October, when they became net sellers of US debt.  

As Karl Denninger says, “The market is bigger than any one man or any one nation and it does not suffer arrogance lightly. Virtually everyone who has tried to tangle with it has wound up with their head between their legs after not only their head was chopped off but both arms as well.” In this case, the market has concluded that the Fed is going to keep deflating the dollar, keep monetizing our own debt, and the US will keep declining until the collapse.


(note: in the half hour I've been composing this, silver has gone up from $48.36 to 48.57; since the world markets reopened, not even two hours ago, up 80 cents per ounce)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fun Rumor Out of the LHC

Turning our backs on the economic collapse, I note some interesting rumors flying around the Large Hadron Collider over at CERN.  There's some evidence that they have indeed spotted the Higgs Boson, one of the reasons for constructing the LHC.
A look down the axis of the Atlas detector in the Large Hadron Collider.  Note the people: one standing facing camera on the large white block in the middle, and another working on the left (the yellow safety helmet stands out).

In English?  Over in Switzerland, near Geneva, the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) has constructed the largest scientific instrument ever made, the Large Hadron Collider.  It is a particle accelerator and colliderl that is, it's a large machine for colliding hadrons, not a machine for colliding large hadrons.  The claim to fame of this instrument is that it is designed to generate higher collision energies than have ever been observed.  It does this by generating particles and anti-particles, accelerating them around an enormous (17 mile circumference) loop until they accelerate to nearly light speed, and then smacks them into each other in that detector (or another one like it).

The purpose of this is to understand what matter is made of, and test theories in physics.  Also, another purpose is  to look at the machine, it's parts, and the printouts of results and say, "cool...".  The idea is that when you smash the particles into each other, they break apart into the things they're made out of, much like if you smashed two watches into each other at nearly the speed of light, you'd get a shower of gears, springs and dust.  The size and energy levels in the LHC led to a lot of pre-construction speculation that it was going to somehow destroy the earth, perhaps by forming a black hole or strangelet or by bringing beings from another dimension, or something like that.  Since we haven't seen Elvis, and the planet hasn't been sucked into a black hole (unless I slept through that) I assume those were just crackpot ideas. 

The Higgs Boson features in almost every major theory of physics, but has never been observed.  The particle is named for Peter Higgs, the theoretician who figured out it must exist.  A famous physicist, Sheldon Glashow, I think, said something to the effect of "A Higgs boson is like a toilet; every house has one, but they're not objects of great beauty, and the owners don't talk about them much".  Which leads to here.

And I think an excursion that leads from the most avant garde physics of our time, to the largest particle accelerator ever built, to the Higgs Boson and finally to an over-priced toilet is probably enough for one night.

Edit: 2139  photo problems

Monday, April 25, 2011

Yo, Mr. Prez! I Can Tell You Who's Responsible for Gas Prices Going Up!

Hey!  Mr. Obama!  Hey A.G. Holder!  You don't need to appoint a fancy commission.  I can tell you who's responsible.

Look in that mirror there: that's who's responsible.  You are! (Who's the cute little despot?!  You are!!!)

Every single action you've taken since you took office has helped raise oil prices.  You shouldn't be surprised; back in 2008 (when you were running) you said "under my plan, energy prices would necessarily skyrocket".  You said, "building a coal-fired plant won't be illegal, we'll just make it so hard on them no one would want to open one".  Anyone who listens to you knows you want to destroy the American standard of living, making energy costs impossible for working Americans.  Only your rich cronies like Jeffy Immelt and Georgie Soros will be able to afford to live.

  • You canceled oil drilling permits on lower 48, offshore oil fields.
  • You've restricted the ability to drill onshore or in shallow water, forcing oil companies into deep water. 
  • You've tied up Gulf of Mexico drilling permits since the BP disaster, but allow Petrobras and other foreign entities to do it. 
  • You've had your EPA shut down an arctic ocean drilling program causing billions of dollars in losses to Shell Oil.
  • You've contributed to instability in a major oil production area by encouraging uprisings in Egypt and all over the middle east, not to mention by bombing in Libya.
How does any one of these help keep gas prices low?  Every single one has been chosen to make energy more expensive.  It's almost like you want energy prices to go up and have been working really hard to make them go up. 

And then, to ice the cake, you've gone on a spending spree like no spree in the history of the world, and you're paying for it by devaluing the dollar down to the value of Charmin.  You've had the Federal Reserve create more money than ever existed in the world to buy up our debt.  More dollars chasing a fixed amount of oil has to make oil go up in price - think of oil as a commodity standard, like gold or silver.  They know you're making up more funny money, so they raise the price of oil in dollars to get more of them and offset your deliberate devaluation of the dollar.   I know Economics 101 is advanced for you guys, but you ought to read it.  Not the Cliff Notes book, the real thing.  It explains a lot!  You know, that Marx dude was a moron.  And your buddy Bill Ayers - whew! what a moron.  Hate to break it to you, but I'm just sayin'....

When you create an increase in the number of dollars like that, do you honestly think it has no effect on commodity prices? 

See, Mr President, if you knew a little about Economics 101, you wouldn't say stupid things like, "if the raw materials a business needs go up in price, they make more profit".  That means their costs went up and they may not even be able to offset those costs!  I hear you saying, "Gosh, Mr. Economics Dude: are you saying if what the oil companies pay per barrel went up, they don't make more profit??" and I say, "Way to go, little Skipper, you're getting it!"
(from Denninger)
You really ought to learn a little business math, too.  Did you know you can do percents directly on most calculators?!  That way, when someone tells you that Big Oil company made a big profit, you could figure what percent of revenue that profit is.  Then you can see that if Exxon made a big profit, on a percentage basis, it's much less than your buddies at Google or GE or Apple.  And maybe, just maybe, you can see that if you raise taxes on businesses, their customers pay the tax, not the corporation itself...

But maybe I'm asking for too much all at once.  Tell you what, Skipper: just study that Economics 101 and forget the business math 101 for now. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Easter Story

(Source here)
Last Saturday, author Lee Strobel wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal called "How Easter Killed My Faith in Atheism".  It's short, only about "a page", so it's worth your while to RTWT - if you're the kind of person with any questions about faith, or can't understand "how can an intelligent person believe in God?", a common idea.  Ever noticed how when the average comedian does a parody of a dumb person, it's always someone with a southern accent?  If they're going to make fun of Christians, it's always a dumb southerner who pronounces "Jesus" with three or more syllables?  I'll leave the topic of perceived intelligence of southerners vs. northerners for another day (well... except for this).

In a way, his story starts the same way mine does:
It was the worst news I could get as an atheist: my agnostic wife had decided to become a Christian. Two words shot through my mind. The first was an expletive; the second was “divorce.”
This was me in the mid 1980s.  In Lee's case he goes on to say,
I thought she was going to turn into a self-righteous holy roller. But over the following months, I was intrigued by the positive changes in her character and values. Finally, I decided to take my journalism and legal training (I was legal editor of the Chicago Tribune) and systematically investigate whether there was any credibility to Christianity.
My wife didn't show any of those "positive changes in her character and values" - she really didn't need any - (no disrespect to Mrs. Strobel intended).  And although I didn't have "journalism and legal training", I had studied biochemistry and microbiology in college through my third year before eventually getting my degree and starting to ply my trade as an engineer.  Strobel's own book, "The Case for Christ"* played a role in filling in the gaps in my historical knowledge.

Easter is the most important day in Christianity and far more important than Christmas because of the resurrection.  Everyone has a birthday, but only one man in history has been resurrected.  So since virtually everyone, including honest atheists, agrees Jesus was a real man in history and died on the cross, the question becomes whether or not it can be verified that Christ was seen after the resurrection by someone other than the closest circle of disciples. Strobel says:
Did anyone see Jesus alive again? I have identified at least eight ancient sources, both inside and outside the New Testament, that in my view confirm the apostles’ conviction that they encountered the resurrected Christ. Repeatedly, these sources stood strong when I tried to discredit them.
Could these encounters have been hallucinations? No way, experts told me. Hallucinations occur in individual brains, like dreams, yet, according to the Bible, Jesus appeared to groups of people on three different occasions – including 500 at once!
In the end, after I had thoroughly investigated the matter, I reached an unexpected conclusion: it would actually take more faith to maintain my atheism than to become a follower of Jesus.
The other religions of the world are about ritual and ultimately about self, about proving yourself worthy; Christianity is about grace.  You're not good enough on your best day; you are saved by Grace.  No other religion teaches Grace.  Islam teaches that Allah is unknowable.  Christianity teaches that not only is God knowable, he wants us to know him.  Islam doesn't teach salvation, it teaches servitude to a fickle, arbitrary, distant Allah.  Christianity teaches forgiveness by Grace; that you're given a gift by a God who wants a close personal relationship with us.  I like the way the Message translation does this verse (Ephesians 2: 8)
It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. 
Evolution vs. creation? I believe people pay way too much attention to this.  There's no mention of evolution in the bible, but there's no mention of the laws of thermodynamics, Avogadro's number, or relativity.  The bible isn't a science book.  Look at it this way: the creation story, how we got here, takes up a page.  The next thousand pages (or more, depending on font size, paper size, and so on) are concerned with how we treat each other while we're here.  Creation is clearly not the emphasis of the book, it just starts out that way.  And saying nothingness or a fluctuation in the quantum vacuum exploded into light ("Let there be light") sounds like as good a picture of the standard model of cosmology for non-physicists as I can think of.

Enjoy your day.  Enjoy your families.  I have a pork shoulder and three-quarters of a chicken in the smoker as I type.  Enjoy things while we can. 

* - it's probably time for my frequent disclaimer that links to books on Amazon are so you can see the book I'm talking about; I don't make any money off anything you see on this web page.  It's entirely self-funded; as long as lots of folks keep flying commercial air travel, I'll have a job as long as I want.  

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How Government and Big Bank Cronies Destroyed a Hedge Fund

From Rob Kirby at Goldseek.com comes a detailed investigation of how a small hedge fund, Amaranth Advisors LLC, was apparently destroyed by the crony-capitalism collusion of JP Morgan (aka JP Morgue) The Federal Reserve, the Fed.gov and, well, the powers that be connected to the Ruling Class.  If you're counting, this was in 2006, soundly in the midst of the Bush administration, which proves the more things change the more they stay the same.  There's a reason Goldman-Sachs is called "Government Sacks"; high level executives have been going back and forth between Fed.gov and the "private sector" for a long time. 

"Amaranth Kill Shot: Collateral Damage in a 78 Trillion Dollar Derivatives Book Compliments of J.P. Morgan Chase"

A really disgusting and sordid tale.  There's a rather interesting chart in there that I'd like to point out:
Note that as of December 31, 2010, the total value of the derivatives these groups hold is essentially 300 Trillion dollars.  That's around four times the GDP of the world

Amaranth was destroyed for trading in natural gas futures.  Even in 2006, with the burgeoning Asian economies clamoring for energy, betting on natural gas to go up seemed logical.  The destruction of Amaranth occurred over a period of a few weeks in August and September of 2006.  The cover story is that a statistically unusual event took place, bleeding Amaranth of an average of $420 million dollars per day for the first 14 trading days of September, a loss of around $6 billion.  One analyst says this not just "unusual", it's a 9 sigma event.  That's about once in the life of the universe, so not bloody likely. As Kirby says:
You see folks, when you are printing money like a banshee and telling the world that inflation is running at 2 % - you don’t want interlopers with deep pockets – like Amaranth – bidding the price of strategic commodities like natural gas – UP.
So the Federal Reserve, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and a few of their other lackeys broke up their party long enough to destroy a hedge fund.

Call it Brokeback Banking.

Signs of Our Times

Looks like I'm not the only skeptical of this whole airline traveler's bill of rights thing...

and this one is just prescient
Both from Townhall.com Political Cartoons.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day And Vilfredo Pareto

Today is Good Friday, and let me convey my wishes for a blessed one to my fellow followers of Christ.  I'll have more to say later.

Where I want to go is the other "holiday" we're recognizing today; the entirely secular, gaia-worshiping Earth Day.  Earth Day, as most of you know, is a holiday made up in the late 1960s at the start of the national environmental movement.  Ira Einhorn is one of the main founders of Earth Day, if not the guy who started it.  Ira practiced what he preached: he murdered his girlfriend (less stress on the planet) and composted her body in his closet.  (Hey - reduce, re-use, recycle!)
You won't find Ira Einhorn's name listed in any of the Earth Day promotional literature, as the organizers have taken great pains to distance themselves from this man, at least since he became better known for composting his girlfriend in a trunk in his closet for a couple of years in the late 1970s.
I was a science geek in high school in 1970, the first Earth Day, and indoctrinated into the liberal crap of the day.  Who can forget the commercial with the crying Indian ("Iron Eyes Cody", who - BTW - was Italian, not Native American) looking at the spoiled earth.  Caught up in the spirit of the day, we went looking for pollution, and tested a local canal for coliform bacteria.  

The movement led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, probably the best example of an agency that has outlived its usefulness. 

I suppose the ethos of modern America requires that I say I consider myself an environmentalist.  Long before 1970 and ever since, I've been a fisherman, hiker, camper, cyclist, runner, biathlete (I'm a really crappy swimmer...) and outdoor photographer.  I want a clean, healthy environment.  Nobody wants dirty air or water, nobody wants pollution, nobody wants to make themselves or their children or anybody else or anybody else's children sick.  Can we get away from those useless stereotypes and be grown ups from now on? 

That said, 95% of being environmentally responsible is cleaning up after yourself.  Most of the rest of that last 5% is recognizing "there is no such place as 'away' where you throw things".  All you do is relocate your problem from right under your nose to somewhere else. 

I don't think there's anyone alive who remembers the 1960s that doesn't think we're better off today than we were then.  The laws removing lead from gasoline and paint removed tons of the metal from the environment.  Removal of combustion products of Nitrogen from vehicle exhaust, reduction of sulfur emissions at power plants, and mandating catalytic converters to remove heavier combustion products are all big steps. 

Enter Vilfredo Pareto. 

Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian engineer who turned his mathematical skills to economic problems.  What he is best known for is the "80-20 Rule", the observation that 20% of the efforts produces 80% of the results.  Although it's an approximation, the rule is more or less right far more often than it is wrong.  Often called Pareto efficiency or Pareto Optimality, it has appeared in quality control, industrial engineering, and popular books

Let's say you're the head of the newly founded EPA.  How do you start?  Pareto (and most of today's Quality Engineers) would say measure your problems.  Find the 20% that cause 80% of the harm and get rid of them.  Then "Lather. Rinse. Repeat."  In a factory, you might find something like this:

You would concentrate on fixing the first two problems which add up to 65%, or the first three that get you over 80% letting the others slide while that effort takes place.  You remeasure some time later, find the new problems which cause 80% of the effects and go after them. 

In real life, you don't run out of problems, but the population changes.  Now you get a lot of small problems that contribute small totals.  Instead of three problems adding to 80%, perhaps it takes 10 to add up to 80%.  The quality improved so much that you've hit the point of diminishing returns. 


The EPA is there.  I would argue that when the things on their list to clean up are small engines that are rarely used like lawnmowers, or personal boats, the pollution problem is essentially solved.  While I know a lawnmower can produce some visible exhaust, compared to cars and buses running five days a week or more, the total amount they contribute is a tiny fraction of what we started out cleaning up.

The EPA proudly lists a lot of its accomplishments.  There's a lot of items in that list that are more "hall of shame" than "hall of fame".  Take the CFC bans they brag about.  This science has all but fallen apart in the years since the ban, sure evidence that they jumped onto a bandwagon rather than waiting for good science (I love the conclusion to that Science paper, "we don't know what we're talking about and none of our theories work, but don't doubt the conclusions that CFCs are to blame!" - yeah and frogs with no legs are deaf, too)  It has been suggested that the whole CFC ban and Montreal Protocol was expert manipulation of the governments by Dupont Chemical, because their patents on Freon 12 were going to expire and they invented a way to get the world to come to them for the solution, R134!  Does that give you much confidence the EPA regulating carbon dioxide is anything other than a handout to some groups or some people that are going to profit wildly from carbon restrictions? 

DDT?  How many people were killed by the absence of this cheap, effective malaria preventer (by killing the mosquito vectors)?
"[Any known alternative to DDT] only kills farm workers, and most of them are Mexicans and Negroes. So what? People are the cause of all the problems. We have too many of them. We need to get rid of some of them and this is as good a way as any," said Dr. Charles Wurster, chairman of the Environmental Defense Fund's Scientific Advisory Council and a key promoter of the DDT ban.
I have to tell you that those people feel differently, Dr. Wurster.  Perhaps you and your fellow travelers will do the planet the favor of offing yourself first?  

But go back to that EPA accomplishments page.  They say:
EPA bans use of DDT because the widely-used pesticide is found to be cancer-causing and accumulating in the food chain...
Contrast that with (source):
"The scientific literature does not contain even one peer-reviewed, independently replicated study linking DDT exposures to any adverse health outcome [in humans]," said Dr. Amir Attaran, who is with Harvard University's Center for International Development and is a former WHO expert on malaria who used to support the environmentalists' call for using alternatives to DDT. Attaran changed sides on the DDT debate after he witnessed what happened when South Africa. After intense U.N. and environmentalist pressure, South Africa stopped using DDT and switched to the U.N. Environmental Program's alternative pesticides as a way to control malaria. But the mosquitoes quickly developed resistance to the new pesticides and malaria rates increased 1,000 percent....
and
Not afraid to put his mouth where his moxie was, Edwards took to swallowing a tablespoon of DDT on stage before every lecture on the subject. In September 1971, Esquire magazine pictured Edwards doing just that. The accompanying text explained that Edwards had "eaten 200 times the normal human intake of DDT." He did not even consider this gesture risky. In the one year of 1959, for instance, unprotected workmen had applied 60,000 tons of DDT to the inside walls of 100 million houses. Neither the 130,000 workmen or the 535 million people living in the sprayed houses had experienced any adverse effects. (emphasis added - Graybeard)

These two examples, gathered in a couple of hours of thought and searching, tell me the EPA is a political body that gets the occasional thing right, but has outlived its usefulness.  Perhaps there's some use for a skeleton crew to administer a few things, but No. New. Regulations. Not. One.  Shutter the windows and bar the doors.  Mr. Speaker, if you're looking for an agency to zero out in the budget and save some money, look no further.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

BAG Day Will Be Late This Year

I totally forgot to post this, but it will be a while before I can post any real pictures, anyway (besides stock photos).  For our BAG purchase, the diminutive but deadly Mrs. Graybeard and I put in an order for a couple of those rifles you have to order from CMP. 

You know - the ones General Patton called, "The greatest battle implement ever devised".  They look something like this.  Actually, they look very much like this:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Idiots Are Everywhere

In our rush to get through our daily lives, maybe make things better for someone, I personally completely missed "Steal Something From Work Day".  Srsly. 
Does your boss work less than you but take home a bigger paycheck? Is somebody zipping around in a private jet at your expense? If the corporation is making money at the end of the day, that means they’re not paying you the full value of your labor – that’s where corporate profit comes from! So if you need something in your workplace, take it. You earned it!
There's so much wrong here, I don't know where to start.  Could it be your boss knows things you don't know?  Could it be they have, you know, some training you don't have?  Could it be it was their money that they risked to start the company and maybe they should get a bigger reward for that gamble?  Could it be that the private jet is more cost effective than the scheduled airline, and it would be a dereliction of their duty as CEO to take the Greyhound?  All profit comes from stealing from your labor?  That sounds like famous Moron Bill Ayers' radio interview the other day with Larry Elder where he said all wealth comes from theft.  Not people agreeing to exchange things they value for mutual benefit, no, no, no.  Theft. 

Let's switch to the FAQ:

Is STEALING SOMETHING FROM WORK immoral?

Stealing is immoral, yes. That’s why your employers should pay you the full value they obtain from your labor, rather than a fraction of it. If you take something from the workplace, you’re not stealing, but simply taking part of your fair earnings.
The sense of entitlement is dripping from it - it reeks of the "everyone gets a trophy", "you're so special" mindset.  As they said when my peeps were young: you're unique - just like everyone else.  With the implied "get over yourself".

Your boss shouldn't pay you what you've agreed to work for, but what you think the "full value they obtain from your labor" is, as if you - in your infinite wisdom - know.  What crap.  When you take a job, you agree to work for what they pay you.  If you didn't want to work for that pay, you shouldn't take the job, it's that simple.  You had to take it, but you didn't really like the offer?  Were you raised by jackals?  You made a deal; you agreed to work for that pay.  If your word isn't worth anything, you're not worth anything.

I was hoping this was some sort of bizarre satire that I just wasn't getting, but it doesn't look good.  Look at the links and participants.   


In other Moron news, here in Central Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reports the state spent $73,000 on a campaign to give capes to the unemployed.  That's right, capes. 
Dubbed the "Cape-A-Bility Challenge," a $73,000 public-relations campaign by Workforce Central Florida features a cartoon character named "Dr. Evil Unemployment" and includes handing out about 6,000 red superhero capes to jobless Central Floridians.
Maybe I'm way too old fashioned, but if somebody handed me a cape and told me I was "Cape-a-ble" I might have to hurt them.
The campaign, revealed Saturday in a report in the Orlando Sentinel, was met with derision by many unemployed who questioned spending more than $14,200 on capes and $2,300 on foam cutouts of "Dr. Evil Unemployment." They said the campaign's tone risked minimizing the severity of the region's labor problems.

On the other hand, $14,200 for 6000 capes  ($2.37 each) sounds like they got a pretty good deal on the capes.  Plus, they're red which is like the second best looking cape.  Plus they've got that whole "naughty librarian" vibe going on, although not as well as Sarah Palin pulls it off....maybe we shouldn't complain too much...

No, no, no.  We should complain as much as we can.  I want my part of that $73,000 back, please. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Not That It's Needed, But In Defense of Ann Barnhardt

I had different plans for what I wanted to write about tonight, but ran across this story on WSRA. 

Like most of you, the first time I heard of Ann Barnhardt was her fiery  videos on YouTube two weeks ago in response to Lindsey Graham (first one here).  As you'll recall, Graham embarrassed himself and the whole country by implying we need restrictions on the constitution in the light of that moron preacher (just up the road from here) burning a Koran as a publicity stunt.  I interpreted her burning of a Koran more as a smack down of Graham than to offend Muslims, although I have to say it's hard to care less than I do if Islamic Rage Boy gets offended by her, or anything else for that matter.   Islamic Rage Boy gets offended by everything from birds singing to being around dogs, and God knows he'd poop his drawers at Denny's Baconalia

So I read past entries on her blog to learn a bit about her, and added her to my regular reading checks.  She has written several really good, perceptive pieces in the last few weeks, including a couple of smart summaries of self-defense for "Turn the Other Cheek" Christians (Jesus and Guns, parts 1 and 2), On Justice and a really good response to a YouTube criticism of her videos.  Ann is a devoted Catholic who "gets it", and I say that as someone who spends a lot of time digging into the Word and trying to "get it" myself!   

On April 7th, a self-anointed American spokesman for the Religion of Peace (tm) went and issued a death threat against Ann.  Ann's website doesn't allow direct links to her writing (you should, Ann), so borrowing from WSRA:
And I was beginning to feel unloved . . .
Dr. Moshen El-Guindy posted this charming little screed at
http://www.politicalislam.com/blog/burning-korans/#comments
Copy and paste the URL above into your address bar to view. Be warned - Dr. Mo isn't much for brevity.
She then gives Dr. El-Guindy a reaming he's not likely to forget:
Dear Dr. ElGuindy-
If you can dismount your six year old nephew (who is also your half-brother and your double-cousin) for long enough to read this, hear me clearly. I will never, ever, ever submit to islam, which is a satanic political system, founded by an insane con-artist pedophile dirtbag.
I'm 3/4 of a continent away from Ann, so I can't rifle up and help defend her door, but I stand with her.  And I think we all should.  I don't spend anywhere near as much time talking about the threat from Islam as I could or should.  People need to know this.  

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tax Day Ramblings

Isn't it ironic that the reason Tax Day wasn't Friday the 15th this year is that Friday was holiday in D.C. because of a Saturday Holiday declared for Emancipation Day

It's not just "It's The Spending, Stupid" (or... or.... or....)  It's the stupid spending, too (or...  or... or...)

The evil-party meme that all we have to do to balance our budget is tax those evil rich is really getting a lot of air play.  As I wrote the other day,
A few months ago, when the debate over raising taxes on incomes over $250,000 was going around, the Secretary of Treasury, TurboTaxTim himself, said it would add about $30 billion for this year and $700 billion for 10 years.  $700 B, not 10 times 30 or $300 B?  They must be assuming some wild growth.  For this year, $30 billion from those taxpayers is 2% of the projected deficit of $1.5 trillion.  Really makes a difference, doesn't it.  Repeat after me: "It's the Spending, Stupid".
One of the under-reported (by which I mean "never-reported") aspects of the "Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthy" is that they increased the percentage of the tax burden paid by the wealthy to levels never before seen in our history.  The top 1% pays nearly 42% of the total tax burden!  The morons on the bottom should be trying to thank those people, not take more of their stuff!
Our ruling class shows a fundamental failure to understand the difference between tax rates and tax revenues - or they think their stupid constituents don't understand it and take advantage of that.  Hauser's law is called a law because it has always worked.  At the left end of that chart, the top tax rate on incomes was up nearly 90%, at the end of the white area, the rate was closer to 30%, yet the revenues were constantly around 19% of GDP.  You can see the sharp divergence of income and spending when Obama took office.  The decrease in income is probably due to the extreme depth of this depression. 

On a day when Standard and Poor's downgrades their outlook on the US from "stable" to "negative", indicating an attitude that we don't take our debt seriously, what are we to do?  What's the sense of having a debt ceiling, if every time they get close to it, they just raise it?  What if we just cut spending? 

John Galt Fla over at Shenandoah puts the Paul Ryan plan under the microscope and shows how the numbers just don't work out.  (H/T, WSRA)  Unfortunately, his recommendations fall short in my estimation, and some of the numbers "just don't seem right" (Social security with a surplus?  Didn't that go away last year?).  All of his recommendations are cuts to discretionary spending, and as I understand it, you could shut down every last Federal agency except Medicare and Social Security and still not fix things. 
This chart is not that different than this year (remember, the evil party didn't submit a budget for this year - what they've been haggling over is the 2011 budget.  If you borrow about 40 cents out of every dollar you spend, you'd better consider cutting your spending by 40%.  If you ever want to pay off the debt you have, which is essentially 100% of GDP.  

So Ruger has announced their SR1911?  From what I see, John M Browning (PBUH) would be pleased.  For me?  I don't know... I am strangely drawn to 1911s until I pick them up.  One of these may be more in line for my safe.   Or one of these, if I'm ambitious.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Yet Another...



Atlas Shrugged review.  Strange as it may seem, small town Central Florida (well pop. of about 100k) got it.  And the theater was about half full. 

Terrible confession that I know puts me at the bottom of the libertarian pecking order.  I've never read the book.  Been meaning to, and all, but I've never been much on fiction, and I don't think much of her writing, at least what I've been exposed to.  In high school, I had to read The Fountainhead, and I found her writing (searching for a word) painful.  Tedious.  Ponderous.  Most of my reading tends to non-fiction, things like what you see on that list over there on the right...

All that out of the way, I enjoyed the movie.  The movie is dated 2016, and the headlines and actions of the politicians seemed completely believable.  It's a sign of the times we're in that an openly socialistic/crony-capitalistic government that passes laws to reward some companies or states and punish others is a faithful depiction of life and not the extreme fiction it was when Atlas was written.  None of the government actions struck me as going too far.   I thought Grant Bowler, as Henry Rearden, and Taylor Schilling, as Dagny Taggart, both put in compelling performances.  Certainly, Taggart, Reardon, and Ellis Wyatt were the most developed characters and the characters who made the most sense.  (Ellis Wyatt, by the way, was played by Graham Beckel, conservative brother of regular liberal commentator Bob Beckel).  Extra style points for a minor character in the movie: Dr. Potter, the government wonk that offers to buy out Rearden Metal from Hank Rearden, getting him to sell out rather than excel.  The mousey Dr. Potter is played by Armin Shimerman, best known as "Quark" in Star Trek Deep Space Nine - minus the Ferengi ears. 

I don't know enough about the book to know what's coming, but I hope they continue to get part II out next year and part III out the following year.  All planned for tax day. 

We hesitated about going because of what we've read online.  Don't know if you've noticed it, but the liberal Rand-haters hate the movie (as expected) and the die-hard Rand-fans are bad-mouthing the movie, too, for failing to live up to their expectations.

Go see it.  Maybe a few times. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Very Busy Saturday

It has been a busy day making a bunch of things work together, but I read something I think most of my readers would like to see.

David Galland, managing director of Casey Research, on the coming endarkenment.   To whet your appetite:
Roaring in to office on a wave of anti-Bushism – an easy wave to catch – Obama dazzled a gullible public with visions of paradise on earth: a place free of pollution, evil capitalists, fat cat bankers, war mongering militarists, anti-humanist free marketers, and corrupt politicians. A place where free health care was a native right and a succoring government would kiss the boo-boos of all who suffered.
.....
While some efforts were made to cover the tracks of the true character of the president and his administration – for example by appointing people with the right progressive credentials to positions in agencies such as the EPA – even a casual examination of the president’s actions reveal him and his associates for the sociopaths they are.
.....
The signs of this trend are now appearing here, there, and everywhere. Ominously, one of the most visible signs is an upwelling in the popular media of calls for punitive levels of taxation on anyone considered wealthy.
.....
… Jeffrey Neiman, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice in Fort Lauderdale, said that “under my reading of the Fbar rules, if the government can prove that a financial institution willfully caused an Fbar violation, the government could seek a penalty on the financial institution, no matter where in the world it is based, for up to 50 percent of the balance of all accounts in question.”
.....
The next phase in the current economic crisis, which we are entering now, will be of a different nature than the sharp market reaction that occurred in 2008, though we are likely to see such a crash as well.
A little long, but the best thing I've read today.  Read the whole thing.

Edit right after posting 2157EDT:  Mis-attributed the author!  

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Corruption is Stunning

We've all talked about the Gunwalker scandal, and how it all points to the highest levels of the Department of Justice, Attorney General Eric Holder and probably the White House itself.

We've talked about how the DOJ dropped a "slam dunk" case against the New Black Panther Party, and how whistle blowers from the DOJ said it came from the top.  Whistle blowers said the DOJ policy was not to prosecute anyone for voter intimidation unless they are white. 

We saw how AG Holder talked about how focusing on dropping the NBPP case demeans "his people" in congressional testimony. 

Now another DOJ whistle blower reports the DOJ is refusing to prosecute the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other domestic groups with ties to Islamic terrorism.
To say things are different under Obama and Holder would be an understatement. Many of the people I work with at Justice now see CAIR not just as political allies, but ideological allies. They believe they are fighting the same revolution. It’s scary. And Congress and the American people need to know this is going on.
To quote from higher up the page:
I asked my DOJ source why they decided to come forward now. The source said:
This is a national security issue. We know that these Muslim leaders and groups are continuing to raise money for Hamas and other terrorist organizations. Ten years ago we shut down the Holy Land Foundation. It was the right thing to do. Then the money started going to KindHearts. We shut them down too. Now the money is going through groups like Islamic Relief and Viva Palestina...
Read The Whole Thing.  The level of corruption in this administration is absolutely stunning.  We may not - yet - be a third world nation, but this is a third world justice department.   

H/T to Ann Barnhardt and PJ Media.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why The Fed Must Implement QE3

"What??" ... "Have you lost your mind??"... "Graybeard, how could a deficit hawk like you even suggest that???"

I don't mean that I want them to; I mean that we're coming to the end of the road, and there are no good solutions.  It's the "least awful" thing they can do.

It won't work.  It can't work.  But they'll think it's the right thing to do.   

Look, the world really changed the day of the Japanese quake/tsunami; if you'll pardon the analogy, the economic tectonic plates shifted as much as the real tectonic plates.  Japan used to be our number two buyer of debt; they're out of the market.  China ran a trade deficit and is raising interest rates to head off the inflation they're importing from us.  The only other market in the world large enough to buy a large amount of our bonds, the European Union, has seen its European Central Bank start to raise interest rates.  How long do you think we can sell a $45 billion in bonds per day (the projected deficit for 2011 divided by 365 days)?  The Federal Reserve is the biggest buyer of our bonds right now.  Alright, they technically don't buy them; they give the money to another bank who buys them and then the Fed buys them from that other bank.  Pimco and other institutional buyers of US bonds have either publicly stated they're getting out of our bonds or are short selling them. 

That's at least five pressing reasons why our interest rates must go up.  But that would kill the last little false glimmer that the Fed believes is saying the US economy is in recovery. 

By the way - have you noticed that most stores selling Mountain House freeze dried foods and other "survivalist" supplies are backordered for months?  No number 10 cans available at all from Mountain House themselves?  And no, it's not FEMA, according to Mountain House.  That was a request for prices on a bid that never got placed.

So the Fed is in a can't win situation.  If they raise interest rates to where they should be - if inflation is currently running close to 10% the rates paid on the bonds should be there - that will cause more economic havoc and make them look bad.  If they don't raise rates, no one will buy our debt and they'll need to create more money to buy more bonds - QE3 - which will lead to worse inflation and make them look bad.  While episodes of true hyperinflation are historically rare, there's a real chance they could create that, too.  Then they'd likely look really, really bad.  This could conceivably bring down the Fed. 

The famous deal the two parties made last Friday?  Meaningless.  It amounts to cutting spending less that 1% - which means the budget for 2011 is still bigger than 2010.  Obama's listless, inaccurate "eat the rich" speech?  Equally meaningless (this graph from Heritage is only through the rest of this year)


I believe that since they are consistently, almost institutionally incapable of seeing the inflation they create, the Fed will see more quantitative easing as unavoidable and will buy more bonds.  They will believe that inflation is the better option.  The Fed bought 80% of the bonds in 2009, so really, what's another 20% between friends? 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New Toy For the Surveillance State

TiaLinx, a small company in California discloses the invention of The Owl1-A a wall/container penetrating radar that can tell if someone is breathing inside a sealed shipping container.
TiaLinx says the system can be used for air, sea, and land shipping, and may reduce the need for large, expensive X-ray scanners. The scanner is light enough for handheld use, the company says. (quote source and my lead)
They also have this nifty little UAV, the Phoenix, that can land on a roof and tell if someone is breathing inside.
Granted, at least one guy was apparently found trying to go somewhere inside a shipping container, but just how much do you spend to find these people?  
 
The technology is called UWB or UltraWideBand.  When UWB first showed up on the market, the press releases sounded like it was "Sub-space" from Star Trek.  In fact, it's just a very short (picosecond) radio pulse.  If you look around TiaLinx' website, you'll see references to "V Band"; that's the designation for the frequencies they're using.  V Band covers a wide range of frequencies, 50-75 GHz, but their model names "active array transmitter (TLXAT60) and receiver (TLXAR60)" give the impression they're running at 60 GHz. UWB uses very short pulses, and the universe is put together so that the shorter the pulse, the wider the spectrum the pulse energy is spread out over.   In other words, knowing the frequency exactly may not be necessary. 

About 20 years ago, I worked on 60 GHz hardware for a system that was going into space.  It's tricky to generate and manipulate because the wavelength is so short.  The waveguide is tiny; WR-15 is 0.148" by 0.074" - picture a rectangular tube of that size, essentially a metal straw for a Wendy's Frosty, only the big dimension is the straw diameter.  Air absorbs 60 GHz very effectively, so this must be a short range device. 

There's nothing really novel or new about the idea of UWB, and without knowing a lot about the subject, I suspect the development of some high speed digital techniques to generate the pulses is what turns it from concept to product.  Wikipedia has decent summary of the technology.  For most of us, I imagine, it's enough to know this exists.     

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Net Neutrality Starts To Rear Its Ugly Head

In my angry post Saturday, I noted that although the house had told the FCC they had no authority to regulate the Internet and to drop its net neutrality laws, Comrade Peloski said, "Screw you, we're doing it anyway".

Sunday, WyBlog posted that the FCC has already begun applying their social justice laws to the wireless service providers. 
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is hell-bent on redistributing the networks built by AT&T and Verizon to every penny ante bit player who comes along. 
Why build your own wireless network when you can get Socialists R Us to force the existing networks to carry your traffic for you? The FCC cleverly calls it "equal access" but it's anything but equal. So now we have a new player such as Burt's Broadband and Bait Shop who can set up one mobile access point, and instantly be granted an unfettered ability for his customers to use every AT&T or Verizon 3G or 4G hotspot nationwide. 
Burt gets all the benefits of a nationwide broadband network for little or no capital investment. That is what the government calls "net neutrality."
I call it "theft."
Hat tips to WyBlog and IOTW.

I've been beating this horse since last summer (at least) - I don't see how a group of self-admitted communists like Genachowski or his buddy McChesney are going to do anything good here.  As usual, they're trying to do the opposite of what they claim.
“Today, Republicans first want to shut down the Internet, then they want to shut down the government,’’ said US Representative Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat and a staunch supporter of net neutrality.  Video here).
How, exactly, is trying to preserve the legal framework and free enterprise that created widespread broadband anything like trying to shut it down? 

(Note: the link to a video of Markey is for anyone who thinks we're dealing with rational people.  For any other EE's reading this - Markey's so far out on the j-omega axis it's hard to imagine anyone can think like that.  He makes Charles Manson sound sane.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Odds and Ends Round Up

I got to hear about half dozen commentators speaking about the budget deal today.  Not one of them thought it was anything that mattered.  Not one of them thought it was good.  Admittedly, none of them used as rough a term for the Stupid party as I did on Saturday, but they probably have more class and decorum than I do.

Calculated Risk blog updated one of the graphs I look at regularly.  I haven't posted it here in a while, so check this out:
This is certainly the record breaker, isn't it?

Is there really a recovery in progress?  There are signs in some areas, but few and far between.  Plus, you never really know if something like the DJIA going up is due to recovery or Quantitative Easing.  "Dr. Copper" is signaling to be cautious.
The resistance up at about $4.55/lb has held and prices haven't really been testing that.  The pattern looks like it might be lower highs and lower lows.  Perhaps the bull is running out of breath?  The WSJ reports that
Chinese buyers are now facing the double whammy of higher copper prices and the government's aggressive moves to tighten credit. Moreover, evidence has recently surfaced of previously unreported copper stockpiles, a sign that much of the purchased copper hasn't been put to use.
Copper has been called "Dr. Copper" before because it has had a tendency to help predict future growth.  It's such a heavily-needed industrial metal that it's a good leading indicator of expectations.  Is copper warning of a global slowdown in the coming months?

You may have heard that our glorious overlords at the Federal Reserve (in the person of apprentice Lord of the Sith, Janet Yellin) have said inflation is not a problem  and they have no intentions of shutting off the free money pipeline for their cronies.  No need to raise interest rates.

Does anybody in the US take it seriously when Evil party representatives come out and make the statements they make?  When a budget cut is about 1% of total spending and they scream like someone ran their hand over power tools?  Like when Harry Reid whines about the budget impacting the cowboy poetry festival or the cherry blossom festival?  Does anyone not shake their head at this guy?

Lastly, have you noticed the new talking point, "we're not broke" or "we're not out of money"?  A plea to tax the rich more.  (Rich is defined as anyone who makes more than the person making the statement - other than Michael Moore).  Oh, no, we're not broke.  We're way past broke.  We'd have to save a few trillion to be broke. 

A few months ago, when the debate over raising taxes on incomes over $250,000 was going around, the Secretary of Treasury, TurboTaxTim himself, said it would add about $30 billion for this year and $700 billion for 10 years.  $700 B, not 10 times 30 or $300 B?  They must be assuming some wild growth.  For this year, $30 billion from those taxpayers is 2% of the projected deficit of $1.5 trillion.  Really makes a difference, doesn't it.  Repeat after me: "It's the Spending, Stupid".

Sunday, April 10, 2011

It Took a While to Get Here, But I Made It

I finally fired my first handloaded ammo today. 

"When we last left our story..." my RCBS hand primer was giving me all sorts of troubles.  I returned it to RCBS at their request, and it was replaced with a new one that came Thursday.  Friday night, I sat down to try it out and had much more success.  I still buggered up a few primers, but definitely got better results than the first time.  I'm willing to consider that not all of the brass fits the CCI primers well, and if it gives me a hard time pushing the primer in place, I'll just pull the cartridge out of the tool and start over with a fresh one. 

At the end of it all, I had 70 cartridges primed out of a tray of 100 primers - 30% of the primers were lost.  Most of those the first day.  

Yesterday was devoted to making our powder dispenser work, weighing charges, changing settings and repeating, until I could get it work repeatably.  I set up three different combinations of loads for the bullets I had bought, Hornady 68grain BTHP "match" bullets with Hodgdon Varget powder (the ones pictured here have a cannelure, which the actual bullets don't have; stock picture I assume).  The 68 grain BTHP bullet must be new, as there isn't a recipe for it in any source I have, but some generous folks had posted some loads online somewhere; it's in the new Hornady book.
I ran into some issues, but never anything serious, so by about 11:30 this morning I had this tray.  There were supposed to be 10 rounds of each mix, but with the little problems I was going through, I managed to drop some powder out of two of the low end load, and just poured the rest of the powder out and put those cases in the back. 

One of the things I like about this combination is that it isn't possible to double-charge a shell; the brass is almost full with a single charge.  A few of the online comments were that when you do a redline load of Varget with this bullet, you can hear some powder crunch when you seat the bullet.  A good thing. 

I decided to shoot the "Willie Nelson" load (the one in the middle) first, and put all 10 bullets reasonably close (by my definition of reasonable).  Then I went to the high velocity load followed by the low velocity.  All of them seemed fine to me.  Naturally, I was concerned about a slam-fire, where the bolt closing sets off the round and was happy that didn't happen.  While a bit scary to start off, the day was quite uneventful.  Everything went where I put it.  In reality, the combination of match grade bullets and precisely measured Varget powder is better than I am - for now - so I'll just choose one powder load and go with it.  
Of course, I shot everything with my home-made AR, which is essentially a DPMS made on a Colfax 80% lower.   
First 10 rounds of my handloads, 23.4 grains Varget.  Supposed to be 2600fps,  although I don't have a way to measure that.  Target at 100 yards.  Temp about 90 with gentle winds and low humidity for here.  Those rings are 1" apart, so the best 3 are about 3/4".  Twice.

All told, it took longer to produce some hand loaded ammo to try than I had expected, but I learned a lot along the way, of course.  Doing one round at a time batched through the single-stage press is surely not a fast way to generate lots of ammo for your AR.  That sounds like a job for a progressive press.  This method is probably better for small amounts of ammo for bench rest shooting a bolt action something or other...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

We Are Well and Truly Screwed

After I stopped listening to the news out of the corner of my ear the stupid party agreed to do nothing and agree with the evil party, and government shutdown was averted.  Extra style points for saving the government from shutdown on a weekend when 99% of the bureaucrats don't even work.  Wow.  What a bunch of guys!  This morning, many of the news sources were calling this a stupid party win.  The only explanation I can come up with is that the terms of the agreement must have been "you'll tell everyone we won, and we'll be your peg boys". 
In this illustration, posted last night, the final agreement was to cut $40 billion.  That's not even meeting the Democrats 1/2 way.

I caught a few seconds of Governor Huckleberry Hound as I was coming in from church at 8, and he was explaining that the evil party controls 2/3 of the government so it really doesn't matter what the "people's house" does. 

Let's grab a few headlines, shall we?  All these from Drudge Report at 2130 EDT.
  • US Debt Jumped $54 Billion in Week Preceding Deal to Cut $38 Billion
  • Obama takes credit for 'biggest annual spending cut in history'
  • Deal falls short of GOP cut pledge; 'As good as we could get,' Boehner says
  • Budget deal includes D.C. abortion rider, money for school vouchers
  • Despite Vote, We're Keeping FCC Internet Rules!
Let's see - no vote to keep the EPA from regulating CO2, no vote to de-fund Obamacare, and even though they voted to tell the FCC to drop the net neutrality laws, Comrade Peloski said, "Screw you, we're doing it anyway".  Does this sound  like a win?  Ooooh - they're going to force the senate to vote to approve funding for planned parenthood.  That'll show 'em.  Don't they vote to approve funding for everything, all the time? 

I gotta tell you, while I continue to be bullish on commodities in the long term, I have no idea how the market is going to react Monday.  Are they going to run the dollar down?  Will $1475 gold and $41 silver look cheap by Friday?  Isn't that like sitting on the Titanic and marveling that the sea looks awfully high tonight?  Or are the central bankers going to say, "OK, problem's over, back to business as usual" and the dollar goes up?

In the meantime, as they say around here when hurricane warnings go up, "Preparations should be rushed to completion".
 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Of Course, You Know This Is Theater, Right?

This "government shutdown" nonsense is just there to entertain us, right? There's no such thing as an actual shutdown of the Fed.gov leviathan. 
As Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., noted this week, "three-fourths of the federal workforce would stay in place" during a shutdown — making it not a shutdown but a slowdown. In addition to Social Security, "the military would continue to be paid, and all essential services" would go on, Bachmann told reporters.

The stupid party is proposing about $60 Billion in cuts.  That's good in principle, but it's only a few days spending.  The evil party is counter proposing a day or so in spending cuts.  The whole thing is hung up over the stupid party refusing to fund Planned Parenthood (slogan "aborting black babies since before it was even legal!" tm)  The evil party doesn't have any religion, except environmentalism and abortion.  Since abortion is their "most holy sacrament" they will shut down the government so that they can keep doing abortions.  Don't believe that crap about no breast cancer screening: planned parenthood doesn't do that.  You go, evil party.  Your mama would be so proud. 
Michael Ramirez, IBD, 4/8/11

A good cartoon (I love the way he draws our anointed leader) but this pie chart (also his) will stay in your memory. 
In my mind, the risk of collapse doesn't get significantly smaller until that pie looks more like it came out of the oven and less like it survived a horde of kids (or just survived me).  The problem is that world isn't necessarily going to wait for us to do that. 

Our deficit this year is going to be $1.65 trillion (last time I heard). The problem is that's more than the entire GDP of all but about 8 countries in the world. Who can loan us that much at any interest rate? It comes down to only three places: the EU, who has their own problems (I'm betting they collapse within a year or so); Japan, who isn't going to be lending much to anyone for a couple of years while they clean up from an incredible run of disasters, and China, who has their own problems - there are writers expecting them to go down soon.

I can't see how this ends well, but it will end sooner than later. Things that can't go on won't go on. We've generated more debt than the proverbial "all the money in the world".

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thought for the Day

They keep saying "Government Shutdown" like it's a bad thing.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dead Drops

In the Age of Paper (tm), dead drops were done by leaving an envelope in a place no one would look for it.  "Behind the hot water pipes, third washroom along, Victoria Station" as Monty Python put it.  Dead drops are the classic method for field operatives to contact each other.  Perhaps you're deep in Foreign Evil Empire doing contract social work.  Your contact at the company may leave something for you while you're not present and you show up later and retrieve the item.

Enter modern technology, of by and for people who might want to file share for various reasons.

This is not going to be good for communications when the SHTF.  Too insecure.  You don't have privacy, you have anonymity.  Until someone decides to plant a camera to ID everyone who goes to that USB connector sticking out of the wall.  

A better solution, if you need to contact someone is to write the file, encrypt it with Gnu-PG or similar, copy it to a thumb drive, and then drop the drive in an envelope or some other agreed way, somewhere your contact is likely to be the only one who gets it.  If someone else gets it, assuming they don't track it back to you, you've only lost the drive. 

A bulk order of flash drives might be reasonable prepping. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Maybe This Is Just Lost In The News?

Maybe there's too much to talk about with government "shut down" (as if).  Maybe they decided we needed to hear about Charlie Sheen's show bombing.  Or the real bombing - in Libya, or somewhere else.  I'm sure it's something like that.

Meanwhile, the US spent more than eight times its revenue last month...
"That $1.0528 trillion in spending for March equaled 8.2 times the $128.179 (Billion) in net federal tax revenue for the month."

Just last week, I was pointing out the Fed.gov spent $225 more than it took in for February, the largest monthly deficit in US history.  So for March, the deficit was almost five times bigger and nobody mentions it.  Is it normal for March's deficit to jump up so drastically from February?  Even when February's was so big? 

I've just been to WSJ Online, Fox Business, Investors Business Daily, Business Insider and the LA Times (since they had last months' story) and don't see anything else. 

Personally, it gives me a bit too much pucker factor to relax. 

By the way: did you notice silver is over $39/oz today?  Gold broke through a previous resistance line to over $1456?  Both of those are all time highs in "nominal dollars" (no inflation adjustment).  If Gold stays above that line for a couple of days, the next line of resistance is over $1500, if I read that right. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Stupid, 7th Century Savages

Yeah, you know who I mean.  Mark Steyn probably said it best,
A mob of deranged ululating blood-lusting head-hackers slaughter Norwegian female aid-workers and Nepalese guards — and we’re the ones with the problem?
As for the disgusting wastes of perfectly good oxygen like Lindsey Graham, Harry Reid, and the others like them, they're unfit for office.  They need to read that document they're sworn to protect and defend. 

Look, Pastor Jones is a media whore, plain and simple, and I have no use for him.  While I'll concede his point about being tired of Christianity getting hammered all the time and no one saying anything, while a single cartoon can enrage the entire Mideast; burning Qurans - or any book because you dislike it - is stupid.

Burning a Koran is archaic and only a savage from the 7th century would be upset by it.  Not only that, it's slow and inefficient compared to the modern equivalent.  You can download an electronic Quran and delete it a thousand times in the amount of time it takes to burn one.  You could write a little program to download and delete copies all day.  Wouldn't mean a thing.  I don't think the head-hackers would understand that the file still exists and nothing happened to it.  Just as they don't understand that the Quran (concept/"master copy") still exists after one copy is burned.  Do they riot and kill the nearest westerner if a madrasah burns down and all their precious books go with it?

Does anyone think we ought to have a Download And Delete The Quran Day?  We could destroy millions of times more copies than Pastor Jones did.  And yet the original would be right where we found it. 
Credits: image by ThePeoplesCube; Islamic Rage Boy by TheNoseOnYourFace

Sunday, April 3, 2011

On The US Becoming a Nation of Takers, Not Makers - Part II

To summarize where we were yesterday, Stephen Moore at the WSJ wrote an editorial about the relative numbers of government employees (who take wealth) vs. manufacturing, farming, mining, and other jobs that make wealth.  As someone who has worked in the US manufacturing sector almost all my life, I approached this topic from the perspective of hiring people into manufacturing companies and especially my world. 

But there are other perspectives that beg mention, too.  To begin with, many or most people have heard of Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad Poor Dad book and, well, empire.  I have read a few of the books, and I like where he comes from but I'm not a "zealot" about his ideas.  One of his major points, though, is that people can be divided along a line of how much financial risk they're willing to take in life.  In my mind, the opposite ends of this line would a entrepreneur who gambles everything they have to start a business that they believe to be "the next big thing", while the other end would be a municipal worker and union member.  Everything this latter guy has done is aimed at getting a job that "takes an act of congress" to be fired from.  The first guy is willing to bet everything, willing to fail and live homeless, penniless in a car, to get a shot at greatness.  The second guy wants a guaranteed job, guaranteed income, guaranteed retirement, - everything guaranteed.  One has no need for security while the other needs security most of all. 

I believe we need more of the first kind of person and fewer of the second.  As Moore puts it:
Don't expect a reversal of this trend anytime soon. Surveys of college graduates are finding that more and more of our top minds want to work for the government. Why? Because in recent years only government agencies have been hiring, and because the offer of near lifetime security is highly valued in these times of economic turbulence. When 23-year-olds aren't willing to take career risks, we have a real problem on our hands. Sadly, we could end up with a generation of Americans who want to work at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
I understand that these are tough times economically, and security is going to be more attractive than during boom times.  And to be honest, I have more of a tendency to want security and repeatability than I like in myself.  But America needs more Bill Gates and Henry Fords than we need Patty and Selma Bouvier. 
This security-seeking attitude has the added downside of removing these workers from the pool of business starters because the first 10 years after getting out of school and starting a career are also the years most will start families.  If there was ever anything that tended to keep young adults in their jobs, that's the big one.  

The graph of how private college tuition has increased at about triple the rate of growth of the cost of living reveals another problem.  The Federal Government is taking over student loans, and offers amnesty if the student works in the approved "government service" job for the required number of years.  Come work for the government and we won't even ask you to pay back your loans.  This can't fail to make more people dependent on the Fed government - which seems to be a major goal of this administration. 

Federally guaranteed student loans are one of the reasons why tuition has increased as much as it has, by providing a money hose from Fed.gov through the students to the colleges.   Now there are commentators making the case this will allow the Fed.gov leviathan to squeeze some private schools out of business by not lending their students tuition money.  They've already come out against the awkwardly-named "For-profit colleges" with proposals to prevent student financial aid.  Is extortion too strong a word?  Already, there are those recommending that the Fed.gov not loan to colleges or programs that aren't finding political favor.  If you're a professor who steps out of line on global warming or some other fad, your livelihood could be shut off; do you think the college will want staff that keeps them from getting students?  (What's the difference between a private college like Harvard that earns a profit and a "for profit" college?  Political connections?)

Finally, I should never imply that college is essential.  If anything, it's looking like a worse deal all the time. 

There are many jobs that simply can't be taught without the student doing the task.  There may be no better example for "you can't learn it by reading a book" than shooting.  You can read all you want, but sooner or later you need to master your physical gun handling.  As another example, I've ground a few telescope mirrors.  Like shooting, you can read all about concepts, but nothing other than actually doing it will teach you how to do it; it's a task overwhelmingly controlled by the feel, the sound, and the behavior of the glass in your hands.  Things like this were taught by apprenticeship before the gentrification occurred that says we need everyone to attend college.  I have tremendous respect and admiration for opticians, machinists and other workers who can exceed the accuracy of their tools and produce works of mechanical art.  On the opposite end, surgeons go through an internship and residency where they learn the hands-on work of surgery.  This is nothing if not an apprenticeship, for people who already have eight to 10 years of college.   

Go look again at the top graph in yesterday's post, the total spent on education vs. the improvement in measured results.  Any rational person would look at that graph and say public K-12 education has failed; no matter what we spend and what we do, the results don't improve.  As if to underline that, you'll find that colleges are teaching remedial classes more and more to try and get their incoming students up to college level (not that this is a problem for them; they simply collect more tuition).  The College Board (famous for their SAT) says up to 40% of students need remedial classes. Kevin, at The Smallest Minority has regular coverage on how bad modern education is, with the recurring theme "I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit - it's the only way to be sure".  Public education is the prime example of Pournelle's Iron Law

Every job has some specialized knowledge or skills that are required to do that job.  In rough terms, the more specialized the knowledge, the more of that knowledge needed and the larger the impacts of getting it wrong, the more you get paid.  There are, or should be, alternate routes to getting that knowledge or skill set.  A straightforward trade would be that you can get a recognized, standard degree in four or five years, or learn it on your own while working in the field in perhaps twice that time.  You could then decide whether it was better to roll up years of debt in school, or work at a lower pay rate while you learned the subjects. Instead, we have a system where the degree is used an excuse for the hiring manager.  If the new employee fails and costs the company too much, no one will say too much if the employee had all the qualifications on paper; on the other hand, if the manager offers the job to someone without the degree and they fail, the manager might get fired.  In our world, we say, "no one ever got fired for hiring an MIT grad".

Stephen Moore's essay points out a major problem.  We will not restore the economy and grow as long as risk-averse wealth takers out number the real wealth makers and risk takers.  This trend is going in exactly the wrong direction.