Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Witching Hour Approaches

A week ago, the Telegraph (UK) ran a story called, "Market crash 'could hit within weeks', warn bankers" (H/T SurvivalBlog). 
"The problem is a shortage of liquidity – that is what is causing the problems with the banks. It feels exactly as it felt in 2008," said one senior London-based bank executive.

"I think we are heading for a market shock in September or October that will match anything we have ever seen before," said a senior credit banker at a major European bank.
Taken by itself, this really doesn't say much, but let's add some additional data points.  A few weeks ago, I ran a quote from Bill Bonner, of Agora Financial, and linked to an article where he says, (as a tease - go RTWT)
We don’t know what game Mr. Market has in mind.  But we know he can play a cruel hand.  It’s not that he has no sense of pity.  He just wants to teach a lesson that investors won’t soon forget.  Here’s what we think he’s up to:

First, he will dally around a bit.  Let investors recover their breath and their nerve.  Then, he’ll move prices back up….this would draw more money into the stock market.
and paints a picture of a market moving up, enticing more buyers in, and eventually destroying them all.  Could the recent "winning streak" be a sign of this?
This is the DJIA, with lines painted on it that crudely match the slope of the 50 day moving average (top) and the resistance line (bottom) of the last few weeks.  Longtime readers here know that I refer to this "technical analysis" as drawing lines on charts and believing those lines mean something.  If these lines really do mean something and create a triangle or flag pattern, that says a breakout, either up or down, will happen before the point is reached.  By that scale, I'd say within two - three weeks.  Which happens to agree with the Telegraph article.  Considering the general world economic conditions, I'd expect a break down rather than up, but more technical data is needed to call the direction. 

What about the traditional safe haven, gold?  Monday, Minyanville posted this really interesting chart showing the uncanny similarity between gold's price in 2006 and now. When scaled in price, not time, they lie on top of each other with very high correlation. 
This implies that gold may be correcting, and getting ready to go on sale, with a bottom in the end of September, possibly down to $1500/oz, if it retraces the '06 lines precisely. The contrarian view is that the recent pullbacks have been due to trading margin requirements being raised, (silver had this done back when it was over $50/oz and has never gotten back) so that there is no correction going on and the overlay with 2006 is just coincidence.

You'll remember, I assume, that during the crash of '08, which was caused by a lack of liquidity (the same thing the Telegraph article says is going on now), that gold dropped by a large percentage, too, dropping around 30% (from over $1000/oz to just under $700).  The reason was simple: debts were owed and thugs were at the door demanding cash money.  Any asset that could be sold to raise money, even at a frightful loss, was sold to pay off the other debts.  If we face another nasty downturn in the stock market, the few who hold gold might well repeat the sell of 2008. 

There are plenty of wildcards that can upset this.  QE3 is still being talked about and when you have influential loonies like Paul Krugman saying the administration should make up alien invasion stories to justify spending levels that would make TARP, QE1 and QE2 put together look small, you know the Keynesian "one size fits all" solution is what they're going for.  "QE3 will be launched by the year end, reason being that the U.S. is heading for a recession and a liberal monetary policy is one of the few policy measures remaining with the Federal Reserve." - Nouriel Roubini (h/t)  Some event could cause the rest of the world to lose faith in the dollar and cause a currency collapse.  There are too many possibilities to list. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Guess What? It's Probably the Sun After All

A few weeks ago, I was looking at Bad Astronomy, one of those blogs I occasionally visit.  Blog owner Phil Plait was blasting the idea of a solar cause for global warming and proved one of those axioms of science, that a scientist looking at a problem that's not in his area of expertise is no different than any other intelligent layman, except that he believes he's more qualified.  Plait commented on the idea that changes in solar irradiation can't account for warming but nobody is making that argument - certainly none of the solar physicists who study this link say that.  If you go to Bad Astronomy, read it for the astronomy; for anything else he talks about, frankly, you get better, more clear thinking from Borepatch, Kevin, or the other engineers' blogs that I visit (including this one, I hope!).

The mechanism that appears to give the best fit is solar activity; sunspot cycles.  The later half of the 20th century included unusually strong solar cycles, including the strongest cycle ever measured (peak in about 1957), and these strong cycles correlate with warming.  Similarly, the periods where sunspots vanish correlate with cooler periods: the Maunder minimum correlates with the little ice age, that we are still just coming out of.  So sunspots = warmer?  Aren't sunspots cool places on the sun that appear dark by contrast? 

Yes sunspots are cooler, but the sunspots themselves are just symptoms of the real issue: solar activity.  Sunspots correlate with an active sun.  In the 1990s, Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark hypothesized that the active sun's expanded magnetic field and particle ejections would reduce the number of cosmic rays reaching the earth.  The cosmic rays, in turn, are one of the principal causes of cloud formation, so reducing cosmic rays reduces clouds which causes warming.  Svensmark proposed experiments that could be done with the European Union's particle accelerators, building a model atmosphere and measuring cloud formation.

Such a simple experiment that could break down the entire Catastrophic Global Warming position had to be opposed by the IPCC: the front organization for the warmist industry that stands to make trillions of dollars off global climate change hysteria, and oppose it they did.  Lawrence Solomon in the Financial Post puts it this way:
The hypothesis that cosmic rays and the sun hold the key to the global warming debate has been Enemy No. 1 to the global warming establishment ever since it was first proposed by two scientists from the Danish Space Research Institute, at a 1996 scientific conference in the U.K. Within one day, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Bert Bolin, denounced the theory, saying, “I find the move from this pair scientifically extremely naive and irresponsible.” He then set about discrediting the theory, any journalist that gave the theory credence, and most of all the Danes presenting the theory — they soon found themselves vilified, marginalized and starved of funding, despite their impeccable scientific credentials.
To the credit of their ability to block any real science from getting done, the IPCC was successful in keeping the experiment from being performed for over a decade. It was finally completed last year, the experiment confirmed Svensmark's hypothesis, and we can finally come close to saying "the science is settled" (in as much as it ever is - as Richard Feynman once said, “If you thought that science was certain - well, that is just an error on your part.”). James Delingpole covers the story in the Telegraph
The research, published with little fanfare this week in the prestigious journal Nature, comes from ├╝ber-prestigious CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, one of the world’s largest centres for scientific research involving 60 countries and 8,000 scientists at more than 600 universities and national laboratories. CERN is the organization that invented the World Wide Web, that built the multi-billion dollar Large Hadron Collider, and that has now built a pristinely clean stainless steel chamber that precisely recreated the Earth’s atmosphere.

In this chamber, 63 CERN scientists from 17 European and American institutes have done what global warming doomsayers said could never be done — demonstrate that cosmic rays promote the formation of molecules that in Earth’s atmosphere can grow and seed clouds, the cloudier and thus cooler it will be. Because the sun’s magnetic field controls how many cosmic rays reach Earth’s atmosphere (the stronger the sun’s magnetic field, the more it shields Earth from incoming cosmic rays from space), the sun determines the temperature on Earth.
So why isn't this big news?  The CERN, under political pressure, is doing its ultimate best to squash the story!   Delingpole again:
So if it’s so great, why aren’t we hearing more about it? Well, possibly because the Director General of CERN Rolf-Dieter Heuer would prefer it that way. Here’s how he poured cold water on the results in an interview with Die Welt Online:
I have asked the colleagues to present the results clearly, but not to interpret them. That would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate change debate. One has to make clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters.
"Highly political" indeed, when the director of one of the world's top research facilities tries to hide the research his institute produces to appease the UN/IPCC.  Isn't it bizarre that the head of the CERN would try to muffle important research which should result in better funding for his institute?    Says a lot about how powerful the politics he's fighting against are, doesn't it?

So now there are at least three good quality, scientifically backed arguments against man-made climate change:
  1. Svensmark's cloud formation/cosmic ray link (all of the AGW computer models are notoriously crappy at handling effects of clouds)
  2. The temperature inversion in the mid-atmosphere that all of the computer models predict (illustration below) is missing in satellite data.
  3. Roy Spencer's work, based on 30 years of satellite data, which shows that there is no positive feedback in the CO2/temperature curve, which all models which predict thermageddon depend on (last graphic). 

The climate sensitivity to CO2 as measured has the opposite sign of all of the models.  This plot is assembled from two in a paper by Richard Lindzen of MIT.
The plot shows how all models depend on a relationship of sea surface temperatures (SST) and heat flux in Watts per square meter.  The bottom right plot is the measured data from two satellite missions.  It has a completely different slope from all of models; as you can see, all the models have a (more or less shallow) negative slope, while measured data has a steeper positive slope.  That means the model results don't predict what will really happen.  In my world, that means worthless.

(The text in the yellow box that I clumsily covered reads: "The fact that all models show a negative slope corresponding to a positive feedback, has led virtually all scientific bodies including the IPCC to declare this property to be ‘robust.’ But, what does the data show?" and leads to the plot I inserted, from the next page in the presentation.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Real Problem with the Gibson Raid

Robb Allen over at Sharp as a Marble hits the important points that I've lost track of.

Regardless of any other explanation, any of the politics, money kickbacks or anything else, this was a raid by armed federal agents.  That means if anyone at Gibson had even given the impression of resisting, they would have been slaughtered like an animal, and the officers would face the same justice as the vast majority of other raiders: none. 

As Robb says:
But what bothered me the most was that... They had enough people willing to kill other human beings over pieces of wood that a raid was possible. Not one of them went “You want me to put people’s lives in jeopardy because they purchased wood in a manner that even India doesn’t really enforce?”
And that says it all.  Jeff Cooper once said "Not long ago it was easy to tell who the bad guys were. They carried Kalashnikovs. Now it is much more complicated, but one thing is sure - any man who covers his face and packs a gun is a legitimate target for any decent citizen."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Qui Bono? Who Benefits? - or - Follow the Money

The reaction to the US Fed.gov raid on the Gibson factory has been widespread, even being picked up by Fox News - I saw it on the ticker along the bottom of the screen during the Irene-athon.  It has resonated with a lot of people concerned about the emerging police state and reinforces those views.  It was even picked up by groups not concerned with guitars, like The Truth About Cars, because the same "crimes" Gibson is being harassed about can apply to cars, too:
Here’s an example. Let’s say you are driving a Bentley Flying Spur with a rosewood interior. Importation of Brazilian rosewood is a felony under the Lacey Act. Do you know where the rosewood in your Spur came from? Can you prove it? In Gibson’s case, it was Indian rosewood that supposedly caused the bust; although the importation of Indian rosewood is legal, it has to be finished and prepared to certain standards in India. If raw Indian rosewood is sent to Bentley for finishing into dashboards — and make no mistake, that is how it is done — it may not break any British laws, but it breaks an American one, and you are now a convicted felon for visiting the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and coming back.
BS Footprint, commented that (perhaps) "A jealous competitor dropped a dime on them."  That's looking like a possibility, but it's just as likely that Gibson is being pursued because of Chicago-style politics as bloodsport.  Doug Ross has a long column today pointing out that Gibson's CEO donates to GOP candidates, while one of their chief competitors (at least, in acoustic guitars) contributes to Democratic candidates.  It's entirely possible this was started by Martin calling in a tip to DOJ, but it's just as possible (IMO) that the DOJ is running on its own. 
One of Gibson’s leading competitors is C.F. Martin & Company. The C.E.O., Chris Martin IV, is a long-time Democratic supporter, with $35,400 in contributions to Democratic candidates and the DNC over the past couple of election cycles. According to C.F. Martin’s catalog, several of their guitars contain “East Indian Rosewood.” In case you were wondering, that is the exact same wood in at least ten of Gibson’s guitars.
Ross links back to the Landmark Report (source of that quote) which also says
The fact that the government would issue warrants based on their interpretation of another country’s laws is laughable–and scary–in and of itself, but that they would demonize an American, non-unionized (coincidentally, I’m sure) company for something that isn’t even a crime (especially not in the American lawbooks) is a gross misjustice. Keep in mind that the Indian government itself wasn’t involved in the Gibson warrants and raid. [emphasis added - GB]
Gateway Pundit runs with another story that centers the similarity with the NLRB prosecuting Boeing for opening a factory in South Carolina:  
Gibson is the only guitar company targeted by the Obama DOJ under the Lacey Act -- Tennessee is a right-to-work state.

Fender, Taylor, Rickenbacker, Danelectro, Carvin, MusicMan, and ESP are in California; Spector is in New York; Martin is in Pennsylvania; Guild, Ovation, and Hamer are in Connecticut; Alvarez is in Missouri; B.C. Rich is in Kentucky; Heritage is in Michigan; Washburn is in Illinois. --  All are forced-union states. [emphasis for Martin added]

Peavey is another guitar and electronics company, located in the right-to-work state of Mississippi.  --  Since 2009, Peavey has been the target of multiple lawsuits filed by a competitor, MUSIC Group, which alleges that Peavy products fail to meet federal safety and emissions standards.
It's worth considering the idea that DC just might be trying to hammer Gibson down, like a nail sticking up too high (they're too successful); that sort of treatment is not without precedent.  It's widely thought in the industry that the true intent of the US DOJ vs. Microsoft case was to extort political contributions from the software giant.  In the 1990s, Microsoft had risen from being just Microsoft, to being a dominant player on the world's stage.  They viewed DC as a continent away and irrelevant to the new world they were helping create, so their contributions to political parties and candidates reflected that disinterest.  But to use the old quote, "just because you're not interested in politics doesn't mean politics isn't interested in you", and they were harassed by lawsuits until they settled with DOJ.  Today, Microsoft contributes a bundle to politicians and campaigns.   The Ruling Class found them out of line and slapped them around until they agreed to pay their indulgences to the Vatican (Washington).

I don't think Gibson is big enough, on the economic scale, to warrant that sort of shakedown.

Eric Holder's Department of Justice has proven itself to be a political organization, that is stunningly corrupt, and not only not interested in enforcing laws, but willing to kill anyone anywhere to achieve their political goals (Gunwalker anyone?  Dealing with drug cartels to allow them to move cocaine into the US?).  The entire administration plays politics as bloodsport.  After all, resident Obama told a group of Latino voters, to "punish our enemies", and told followers in '08 "if they bring a knife, we bring a gun".

Does it seem even remotely out of character that they might try to destroy Gibson for being a non-union shop, or for not contributing enough money to democrats?  I don't think so either. 
(old school thugs were more direct than fed.gov's thugs)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

To My Friends in the Path of Irene

For my friends who are in the path of Potentially Possibly Catastrophic Tropical Weather System of Some Sort Irene, here's hoping it goes easy on you and your cleanup work isn't terrible.

It has been a little serious here lately, so a little "funnin' around" is good for the soul.

Hurricanes are such a pain in the *ss.  Putting up shutters, taking care of things that might blow around or get wind damaged and all that junk before the storm, then the cleanup after the storm - chopping up broken branches or trees, repairing anything damaged - what a pain.   The only good point is that a hurricane is kind of a lazy man's disaster.  You see the scenes on TV of all the sheep cleaning out the grocery stores of bottled water and raiding the home supply stores for plywood and duct tape.  Me, I just have all that stuff around all the time.  I got metal shutters 15 years ago.  We have it down to being able to shut our house up like a clam in under an hour.  So all summer, I check the tropical forecasts every day - more often if there's something big and/or close.  Our hurricane drill?  When it looks like we're getting it, we put up shutters, take down ham antennas, move potted plants, garbage cans and a few other outdoor items into the garage, and pop a cold one.  The indoor stuff like making ice and charging batteries can be done for days in advance.

The thing about this one that I'm watching with interest (and glad to be a long way away from) is that it's going over some really densely populated cities with some bad areas.  From Baltimore up to NYC.  Most people don't even own cars so they can't get out of Dodge, no matter what Mayor Doomberg says.  If you stick 4 feet of flood water in those places and take down the power grid, they'll be eating each other inside of 3 days.

Friday, August 26, 2011

More Tales From the Over Regulated State - A Series

Wherein tonight's installment can be entitled, "What's up with the FDA and their weird, raw milk fetish, anyway?"

Earlier this year, everyone reported about the year long sting against an Amish farmer who only sold raw milk to local folks who went out of their way to buy it.  Likewise, people have reported on the raids in California and earlier raids on Amish farmers.  They seem to latch on to some group, like Rawsome foods in Venice, California, and simply will not let go until they've taken their ton of flesh.  

As I'm fond of saying, don't worry, it's not that bad; it's worse.

Mike Adams, at NaturalNews posts a chilling article about a secret war between the FDA and raw milk dealers.  I'll be honest; I'm a bit uncomfortable about posting this because, from my standpoint, it's single-sourced to Natural News - there are no links in that article to check.  Mike says he bases this story on confidential informants who are in fear for their careers - if not their lives - if they were traced.  In this case, I'm going to treat Mike and Natural News as I treated Mike Vanderboegh in December when he said he had confidential informants who were telling him about BATFE allowing guns to walk to the worst of the Mexican drug cartels. Perhaps we'll have some informants on TV before this is over, too. 
You should read the whole piece on NaturalNews, but let me pull out a few bits to get your attention.  On the matter of sources:
The existence of this elaborate spying operation has been confirmed by NaturalNews through three different sources, all of which demanded anonymity as they fear being targeted by the FDA with armed raids, false arrest and destruction of their property, as we recently witnessed with the Rawesome Foods raid. One source told NaturalNews they feared the FDA would stage a Waco-style siege of their farm and invent some justification to assault their farmhouse and shoot them and their family. Yes, this is how much freedom has been lost in America today, where farmers are afraid to speak out for fear they might be killed. And yet, it's not paranoia: They have legitimate reason to fear their own government is targeting them for termination.
....
• FDA agents visiting local farmers' markets and gathering names of possible raw milk providers to be targeted. [tense is correct in context - GB]

• FDA agents calling those targets and trying to convince them to sell raw dairy products by telling "sob stories" of how they have a baby that can't breastfeed, and they need raw goat's milk to keep the baby alive. (This is why most undercover FDA agents are women -- they make more convincing social engineers when it comes to issues like finding goat's milk to feed babies.)
.....
The FDA, in particular, simply writes its own law without any congressional approval whatsoever. It wages its own secret wars, runs its own spy network and is essentially rising up to become its own secret police organization (or terrorist group). None of this has ever been approved by Congress. The head of the FDA is not elected by the voters.
Possibly the most bizarre thing in the article is this:
• FDA officials have stated, during these monthly "Raw Milk Calls," that their goal is the complete destruction of the raw dairy industry in the United States, and that achieving this goal was a top priority of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. [emph added - GB]
But why?  Why raw milk?

Look, this isn't the 1800s and people who drink unpasteurized milk are doing so because they want to.  I have no idea if the benefits claimed for raw milk or cheese are true, but that's not the issue.  The issue is whether it's so dangerous that the FDA should outlaw free choice in what people choose to eat, and make destroying raw milk "a top priority".  I was able to find a CDC web page full of scary tone about how dangerous it is, but the only statistical facts were these:
From 1998 through 2008, 86 outbreaks due to consumption of raw milk or raw milk products were reported to CDC. These resulted in 1,676 illnesses, 191 hospitalizations, and 2 deaths. Most of these illnesses were caused by Escherichia coli O157, Campylobacter, or Salmonella. It is important to note that a substantial proportion of the raw milk-associated disease burden falls on children; among the 86 raw dairy product outbreaks from 1998 to 2008, 79% involved at least one person less than 20 years old.
Let me get this straight:  1676 illness over 10 years is a crisis?  Two deaths in 10 years makes raw milk a "top priority"??  One incident of contaminated Spinach (2006) killed 3 people in one summer of one year.  But that wasn't tracked to a small health-food farm like Rawsome; that was tracked to contamination from a factory farm.   This year's outbreak in Europe was many times more deadly with 45 deaths - again in a few weeks in one year.  So far spinach and fresh vegetables are many times (28) more deadly than raw milk - and I'm not digging hard to find these.  And by the way, did you notice they did the same thing the gun control freaks do and called 19-year olds children ("a substantial proportion of the ... disease burden falls on children") ? 

Look, food safety is serious.  I get it.  I actually took a junior level (college) class in microbiology so I'm probably more aware of what's out there than many.  But it seems to me that if you want to fix a problem, you should go after the big ones.  You know, pareto's principal: go after the 20% causing 80% of the problems?  Lather, rinse, repeat?

This looks more like going after an easy problem than going after an important problem.  And I get the feeling the most important aspect is that it won't affect the big corporations who are involved with all of these major food safety problems, and who feed the FDA lots of money.  

Welcome Readers of Larwyn's Linx and WSRA

Welcome to readers of Doug Ross' Larwyn's Linx, and Western Rifle Shooters Association where I'm honored to be one of the links of the day.

The topic of over-regulation and the way it gets in the gears of society like glue, or abrasive particles, is one of my regular topics.  The most popular post I've ever written is on this topic, as well as others (and ... and ... and ... and ... and more if you look around).     


Thursday, August 25, 2011

More Tales From the Over Regulated State - A Series

Wherein tonight's installment can be entitled, "Where were you when owning wood became a felony?"

I noticed on the news today that the offices and factories of Gibson Guitars in Nashville and Memphis Tennessee were both raided yesterday (8/24) by armed federal agents, forcing a shutdown of operations, and sending employees home.  Since I remembered hearing about Gibson being raided in 2009, this caught my attention. 

What's going on here?  Why is a company best known for producing electric guitars being raided by armed feds?  Is it labor?  Illegal aliens?  Are they selling raw milk on the side?  No, it's about wood.  Wood? 

In the last year of the W, the 2008 Farm Bill passed after his veto of it was over-ridden.  Buried deep in this 663 page bill - that now seems tiny compared to the multi-thousand page engorged-tick monstrosity bills of the Obama administration - there was a provision nobody mentioned, nobody talked about, and nobody outside of a few activists even knew about until after the law was enacted.  It was an amendment to the Lacey Act, a law passed in 1900, that "...prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, transported or sold" to quote the Wiki.  I remember reading this summary in 2009, from the excellent piece on Classical Values, whose name I modified for this posting, and which you simply must read.  Read this paragraph carefully: 
This amendment deals with illegal plants -- the primary thrust being illegal wood. Henceforth, all wood is to be a federally regulated, suspect substance. Either raw wood, lumber, or anything made of wood, from tables and chairs, to flooring, siding, particle board, to handles on knives, baskets, chopsticks, or even toothpicks has to have a label naming the genus and species of the tree that it came from and the country of origin. Incorrect labeling becomes a federal felony, and the law does not just apply to wood newly entering the country, but any wood that is in interstate commerce within the country. Here are some excerpts from a summary:
Looking around my house, not one piece of wooden furniture - either the ones I built or the ones I bought - has a label telling the genus and species it came from along with the country of origin.  Certainly the toothpicks and knife handles don't.  I see perhaps 2 dozen felonies within eye shot.  Perhaps I should shut up about that.
Anyone who imports into the United States, or exports out of the United States, illegally harvested plants or products made from illegally harvested plants, including timber, as well as anyone who exports, transports, sells, receives, acquires or purchases such products in the United States, may be prosecuted. (italics added, bold in original - GB)
This is mind-boggling.  Virtually everything can be regulated under this law.  What isn't included?  Metal is about all I can think of.  Here are some examples from the regulation summary with some highlighting I added.
...the scope of products that will require a declaration under the Lacey Act is broad and includes certain live plants, plant parts, lumber, wood pulp, paper and paperboard, and products containing certain plant material or products, which may include certain furniture, tools, umbrellas, sporting goods, printed matter, musical instruments, products manufactured from plant-based resins, and textiles.
[...]
After September 30, 2009, based on experience with the implementation of the electronic system for declaration data collection, we will phase in enforcement of the declaration requirements for additional chapters containing plants and plant
products covered by the Lacey Act, including (but not limited to) Ch. 12 (oil seeds, misc. grain, seed, fruit, plant, etc.), Ch. 13 (gums, lacs, resins, vegetable saps, extracts, etc.), [vegetable saps and extracts? like olive oil, maple syrup? - gb] Ch. 14 (vegetable plaiting materials and products not elsewhere specified or included), [the wildcard so they can arrest you for anything - gb] Ch. 45 (cork and articles of), Ch. 46 (basket ware and wickerwork), Ch. 66 (umbrellas, walking sticks, riding crops), Ch. 82 (tools), Ch. 93 (guns), Ch. 95 (toys, games and sporting equipment), Ch. 96 (brooms, pencils, and buttons), and Ch. 97 (works of art). We will announce a specific phase-in schedule for those chapters in a subsequent Federal Register notice.
....
Ch. 93 Headings (arms and ammunition).
9302 -- Revolvers and pistols.
93051020 --Parts and accessories for revolvers and pistols.
Ch. 94 Headings (furniture, etc.).
940169 -- Seats with wood frames.
Ch. 95 Headings (toys, games, & sporting equipment).
950420 -- Articles and accessories for billiards
Is your head spinning, yet?  Did you know you're a felon if you buy, own, or sell anything in that list that doesn't comply with the law?  This is the kind of stuff that will give you nightmares.

Reading something like this literally makes me sick.  You are at the mercy of whoever decides to find something to charge you with, because anything can be argued to be illegal.  And, yes, Ayn Rand's famous quote about tyrannies passing laws to make more criminals is ringing in my ears.  Gibson's response makes it clear they believe they did everything legally, according to their legal team.  What appears to be the charge is the violation of the laws of India as interpreted by the US DOJ!!
(credit)
You know, I've always kinda wanted a Gibson Les Paul, but (to be honest and knowing I'm losing most of you) never could really decide between a Les Paul and a Fender Stratocaster.  Maybe I could stick a few bucks in the "defend Gibson" kitty. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

As part of the settlement by which congress agreed to screw us all into perpetuity raise the debt ceiling, the politicians created a Super Congress.  This group is to report back to the congress at large before Thanksgiving with specific cuts to the budget to start reducing the debt.  These recommendations must be accepted or rejected on a single up/down vote, with no additions or removals, no changes at all.  If they can't come up with these cuts, mandatory cuts designed to inflame both hard line Evil and Stupid party members: equal parts cuts to defense and social programs.  It is true, as far as I can tell, that the super congress could add any provision onto the bill they present and have it incorporated by the single up/down vote.   

Let's leave aside the question of constitutionality (it's blatantly, obviously, completely unconstitutional, but that doesn't stop the Ruling Class anymore). 

Let me jump on one of my favorite themes: no one in congress, no one in government, ever thinks more than one move ahead.  They never think of unintended consequences of what they rule.  What do you think would happen when a group is given this much power?  How do you think the K-street lobbyists will respond?

By showering the most powerful group in the congress with money.

A friend of mine sent me this link to Maplight.org showing political contributions to this group as of last week (8/15).

Top 10 Industry Contributors to Super Committee Members (PACs and Employees)
Industry Totals
Lawyers/Law Firms $31,529,149
Securities & Investment         $11,221,416
Democratic/Liberal $9,647,264
Health Professionals $9,321,588
Real Estate $8,793,350
Education $8,568,460
Misc. Business $7,902,021
Business Services $6,563,524
Women's Issues $6,396,728
Insurance $5,693,595
Top 10 Organization Contributors (PACs and Employees) to Super Committee Members
NOTE: The Club for Growth's and EMILY's List's total also includes contributions from its members.
Organizations Totals
Club for Growth* $1,008,884
Microsoft Corp. $810,100
University of California        $629,495
EMILY's List* $594,883
Goldman Sachs $592,684
Citigroup Inc. $561,081
JPMorgan Chase & Co. $494,316
Bank of America $349,566
Skadden, Arps, et al. $347,356
General Electric $340,935
The top table sums to 105.63 Million dollars spread around the 12 members of congress given these plum jobs.  Note these are just the top 10 contributions, not the total.  Based on how gradually the line items are decreasing, I suspect there's at least another $20-30 Million.  Note who's contributing: Lawyers/Law firms would include lobbyists; Securities&Investment would be "Wall Street".  Do you think Club for Growth will agree with Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup?  They contributed more than either, but not both.  Do you think the pro-abortion EMILY's list will agree with General Electric? 

Perhaps they did think more than one step ahead.  Perhaps they created this super congress so that a selected group could get stinkin' rich on lobbyist money.  Do ya think?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Adult Conversations

Let me tell you a little story, that you may have heard before.  Bear with me, I have a point.

As fall was approaching, a young bird decided he didn't want to fly south.  "That's what everyone does, but not me!  I'm a non-conformist!"

As October turned to November, our little bird friend was fine.  He was proud to still be in his meadow while all his wimpy friends left.  Then November turned to December and the snows came.  He was cold.  The fields (and the food) started to freeze over.  Finally, our little friend decided he needed to fly south.

Funny, that.  As he climbed a few hundred feet into the sky he got even colder.  He flew into a snow cloud and soon was getting coated with ice!  Eventually he fell to the ground.  Things looked bad for our little friend.  He was coated in ice, shivering in a cow pasture, and began to think he was going to die. 

And then a miracle happened.  A cow came walking by, and by the greatest fortune, dropped a great steaming pile of shit on him.  Sure it smelled awful, but it was warm!  Wonderful warmth!  Our friend started to feel better.  He could move his wings!  He was so happy he began to sing ... and then a bobcat, following the singing, found him and ate him.

Which leads to the dual morals of our story:  everyone who shits on you isn't your enemy, and everyone who gets you out of a pile of shit isn't your friend.   

What does this have to do with anything?   This posting on Market Ticker.  Go watch, it's a 8 1/2 minutes long but must see. 

The "kill the bankers" theme is wrong.  The bankers the narrator talks about are a tiny group of international elite that the viewer will probably never see or ever get to.  There is no logical difference between saying "the bankers caused my trouble, let's kill them" than the Free Shit Army saying "the white people caused my trouble, let's kill them" or "the crazy right wing nuts caused my trouble, let's kill them".  All they're doing is starting a bloody civil war.  It smells of this (SEIU invades a bankers home and lawn):
It smells of mob tactics, and to use the phrase Ann Coulter is using everywhere, it smells Demonic (and, no, I haven't read it).  

Look, I'm not defending the bankers.  But they aren't the only ones responsible:  don't forget Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the incredibly stupid Jamie Gorelick, (you can almost hang the 9/11 attacks on her neck, alone) and the astonishingly corrupt Franklin Raines.  Don't forget the Community Reinvestment Act which first Jimmy Carter, then Bill Clinton used to force the banks into giving out bad loans, ACORN and other groups that would protest in the lobbies of the banks or at the homes of the bankers if that bank didn't give enough loans to people who couldn't afford to pay back the loans.  Don't forget ACORN founder Wade Rathke, his embezzling brother Dale and for God's sake don't overlook Dr. Evil - George Soros.  Throw in Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, and as many house and senate banking committee members as you want: it was there job to over see Fannie and Freddie - you can see how well they did. 

There's a very well done piece on what caused the 2008 meltdown at Investopedia.  Their conclusion:  the Congress is largely to blame.  

Your local banker has virtually nothing in common with the big banksters this video waxes poetic about killing.  The banker down the block is just a working Joe like all of us, trying to do what he thinks is a necessary job - and provide for his family.  Your local credit union banker is probably even a non-profit, "folks helping folks".  They're not the cow. 

My version:  talking about "the bankers" is the same as talking about any group.  Groups aren't responsible: individuals are.  Those people need to be arrested, tried and otherwise dealt with.  It's a national shame they haven't been, but you just gotta know one reason is that they'd implicate congress. 

Update For NJ, NY, CT and MA

Every single forecast, every single one, has moved the 5 day track farther to the right than the previous forecast.  A couple of days ago, it went up the center of Florida, then hugging the east coast, and so on.  It's been a while since we've seen a hurricane hit NYC.  Might be entertaining - from a distance.  They'll be eating each other within 3 days. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Nothing Big - Just Religion vs. Science

So Jon Huntsman Jr., who is apparently running for president this year, has decided he wants to differentiate himself from the rest of the Stupid party candidates by saying,
"To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."
This is the sort of thing the New York Times and other liberal establishments love, because they absolutely love to paint any person of faith as a raging lunatic who wants to bring us back to the stone age (unless the person of faith is Muslim, in which case, they're just peachy-okay-fine!), and "punish her with a baby" if their teen daughter should get raped.   And re-institute slavery, kill all our grandparents, you name it.  

Back to the story, going a little farther,
...Tim Miller, a spokesman for his campaign (said). “He doesn’t believe the party can be an antiscience party.”
Now I realize that there are those who don't think people of science can be people of faith; since I consider myself both, I strongly disagree.  And I really don't consider myself any kind of expert on reconciling religion and faith, but both live happily in my little mind and it hasn't caused my head to explode, so let me just fill in two arguments against what he just said.

To me, these are trivially easy.  Anyone, even a Political Science major, should understand this.

Let's start with Global Warming.  And let me even give the climate warmists a headstart and say there is global warming and some portion of it is manmade.   To my mind, and many others, this raises questions that I personally have never seen the Thermageddon crowd address:
  1. Is there anything that can be done to stop warming?
  2. How much does that cost in money and lives?
  3. Are there better ways to spend that money?  
  4. And how come they never talk about this? 
For example, let's say it will cost 25% of world GDP to lower CO2 output, but we can advance the quality of people's lives more and not throw civilization away by relocating people, or building things for 10% of GDP.  Shouldn't we be doing that and not the expensive option?  How come options are never discussed?  Over the history of the earth, climate changes all the time; humanity adapts, moves, does whatever it takes to live. 

But over a year ago, I showed that if you took their numbers being passed around for the effects of CO2 and took their numbers for the amount of CO2 reduction they want, and then did their math on how much effect it would have, there would be no improvement at all.  No surprise, when you catch them in the rare moments of being honest, they will admit all this will have no effect.  And they admit doing what they want would shut down the entire world's economy for no purpose.  They say so in this video (at about 45 seconds in)

It is the biggest money making scam in history, to shuffle trillions of dollars through places like the now-defunct Chicago Climate Exchange, and skim off trading fees and commissions. 

Now let me back up and say I don't think the climate scientists are right. Their predictions of global temperatures have been spectacularly wrong.  Lord Monckton's paper in the American Physics Society journal is still a good intro.  If nothing else, read his conclusion - a single paragraph.  The Hadley-CRU emails show a level of dishonesty that is horrifying.  Many real scientists were disturbed by what was going on - and honestly never knew. 

So it is completely reasonable to come from a scientific background and question this; skepticism is what science is all about!  Predictions should match reality for a long period of time before you conclude a model is right.  Constantly putzing with a model and changing parameters is a sure clue something is going on.  Real scientists try to prove themselves wrong not right.  As R.P. Feynman said, "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool". 


Evolution is portrayed as completely verified by experiment.  There's an important logical gotcha in here; just because selection has been verified by experiment and just because populations under selection pressure can change doesn't mean the origin of all species has been proven.  "Evolution" is very different from the origin of life.

Go ahead and describe for me an experiment that can be done that will take inorganic chemicals and produce life.  It has never been done.  That's the big step that can not be experimentally verified, and I'm a hard-assed empiricist.  If something can't be proven by experiment, it's philosophy, not science.  But there are more things to consider.  In Darwin's day, the complexity of the cell was like looking at an egg: a cell had a nucleus and it had some "glop".  Today's model of the cell has the complexity of an aircraft carrier.  There are enzyme systems in there that had to spring into existence all at once, because to come into existence with Darwinian gradualism would not have been possible - read that, would have been fatal. Darwin himself said such a thing would prove his theory false. 

Do real organisms evolve?  More than likely; I'm comfortable with that.  But there's an enormous gap between existing organisms evolving new species and everything you see around you arising from clay and amino acids by random acts.  A pretty good summary is here, H/T to the great Sense of Events.  Here's a tease from the article. Go read the whole thing.

  • “According to modern science, life originated about 3.8 billion years ago…”The earliest known life form, before which nothing has ever been found, is a type of bacterium. These have been dated by scientists as being alive on the Earth approximately 3.8 billion years ago. Despite their size being measured in the millionths of a meter, a bacterium is of a level of functional complexity on the order of an F-15 fighter bomber (actually that is understated). Dr. Robert Hazen: “The simplest living cell is intricate beyond imagining…human brains seem ill-suited to grasp such multi-dimensional complexity.” Dr. Michael Denton: “each is a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of elegantly designed pieces of molecular machinery…far more complicated than any machinery built by man and without parallel in the non-living world.” Dr. Paul Davies: “[bacteria] have a fine tuning and complexity as yet unmatched by human engineering.” Perhaps it is best summed up by Ilya Prigogine, winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1977: “But let us have no illusions… [we are still] unable to grasp the extreme complexity of the simplest of organisms.”
So you see, Mr. Huntsman, it's not "anti-science" to question things.  Questioning things is the essence of science.  Just accepting things the scientists say is the essence of religion. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

How Many Have You Read?

Thanks to Bayou Renaissance Man for a link to NPR's top 100 science fiction and fantasy books. I thought I'd play with this one, too. The idea is to copy the list and highlight the ones you've read:
1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King
26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange, Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis
I've only read 26 of them, but I'm not much of fantasy book fan so that knocks 20 or 30 off the list to start with.

Lists like this are always as much a reflection of the person who made them up as the books themselves. What would you add to that list that isn't there? If you were going to say, "Dude, if you like hard sci fi, you have to read...", what number or title goes in there?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Big Question

Commenter JM Johnson over at Western Rifle Shooter's Association asks the big one: 
“If and when the big poop hits the fan…” That is the million-dollar(no pun intended) question. We could end up like Japan, which has been operating with 100% debt-GDP ratio for years. Or, we could end up like Argentina, with private retirement accounts confiscated, high crime rates in the cities, but still a functioning country. Scenarios like in Rawles’ PATRIOTS are entertaining and sobering. They sell a lot of books. But just how realistic is Obamageddon?
How realistic is it?  Which country are we more like?  Japan is culturally pretty homogeneous; I've even heard them referred to as xenophobic.  They are inveterate savers (although not so much lately), and because of their cultural "closeness" are more inclined to do things for the good of the country.  Personally, I'm surprised they haven't had a currency collapse since the quake/tsunami which really knocked them back on their heels.  I know the Yen has been close to collapse several times, but intervention has kept it from happening. 

No, I think we're currently more like Argentina.  They have a charismatic Marxist president just like we do, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchener - whom Surviving in Argentina host Ferfal refers to as "she who shall not be named".  Their anti-discrimination laws have been expanded to include saying bad things about the government.  Remind anyone of John Kerry?  Crime is rampant, but if you should defend yourself, it's ordinarily portrayed as the rich vs. poor.  Sound familiar?  Inflation is raging, the government is a corrupt thugocracy that would be right at home in Chicago.  They've confiscated retirement accounts and shut down internet sites - if they make Cristina look bad. 

No, in my book, we're more like Argentina, and I expect an Argentina-like economic collapse.  Ferfal says the same things about a US collapse (and more here).  I suspect our riots will be much worse than Argentina because of the 50 years of stoking the class warfare ideas in the inner cities.  You can thank the Great Society, social welfare programs and the work of Cloward-Piven fans for that. 

Ultimately, like I said over on WSRA, you pays your money and you takes your chances.  If we go through a long period of economic stagnation like Japan has, that would be easier to live through - uncomfortable, but better than the alternative.  If it goes Argentina on us, life will be harder, more brutish, nastier.  In neither case is it a total collapse like Patriots; you won't be stacking bodies of mutant zombie bikers in your front yard, but you may have to bribe the local LEO to get out of a bogus traffic stop.  If you do have to defend yourself physically, you'll probably have to defend yourself in court.  And no one can rip you to pieces like the legal system can. 


Friday, August 19, 2011

If You or I Killed an Eagle...

we'd be doing hard time with bad men.  Unless you're a girl, in which case, well, you know.  But you and I aren't wind farm owners endorsed and loved by the Greenies who think wind power is The Answer.  In California, dead eagles are being swept under the rug (so to speak) in an effort to keep the windmills running.
"The cumulative impacts are huge," said Shawn Smallwood, one of the few recognized experts studying the impact of wind farms on migratory birds. "It is not inconceivable to me that we could reduce golden eagle populations by a great deal, if not wipe them out."

California supports roughly 2,500 golden eagles. The state's largest wind farms kill, on average, more than 80 eagles per year. But the state is set to triple wind capacity in the coming years as it tries to become the first state in the nation to generate 33 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2020.
I think that by now everyone has heard that the big wind turbines kill lots of birds.  There's even a small industry growing up to provide bird detection radars to wind farms, so that the power can be shut off if birds are approaching.  You have to admire a technology (the radar) whose sole purpose is to make a crappy original system even less efficient.  Wind farms are an expensive, ground-wasting method to produce energy to begin with; now we're going to shut them down if birds are approaching?  And just when are there no birds flying?  As one commenter said here to a posting on green energy, in December of 2010,
BTW, you might like to know that, over the Christmas period, our myriad wind turbines (UK) have produced as much as 1.6% of our electrical energy ... and as little as O%. Sometimes, they actually consume energy as they require internal heating in cold, still, weather. They also are driven, in still weather, to prevent damage to the bearings. Or something.”
And as the picture implies, "One of these days, a turbine's going to fall on someone".  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

This Isn't Getting Enough Coverage

I've only seen this story on one other blog - Kerodin's III Percent Patriots - but it needs to get more widely talked about because of the implications.

Ohio Electrical Contractor John King was shot at by union thugs, who were on his property, spray painting "SCAB" on his SUV.
But last Wednesday the attacks grew more heinous when King discovered an individual on his property attempting to vandalize his SUV.  When King yelled at the man to stop, the vandal shot King, hitting him in the arm.
Like many people involved in a shooting, he wasn't aware he was shot (a "graze" is reported) until the police arrived and brought paramedics to examine him.  From the most detailed article on this I could find, on The Blaze .

Mr. King runs one of Toledo's most successful electrical contracting businesses.  He keeps his shop non-union, which makes him a target, and has been for years.  For years, it meant buying new tires regularly:
“Back then, it was nothing to have to regularly buy a new set of tires,” King said during a telephone interview on Tuesday. “The ice pick was the weapon of choice.”
You can hear his interview with Glenn Beck on the Blaze here.  He says:
In an exclusive interview with Glenn Beck, King discusses what happened when he was shot by an alleged union member. In describing the situation, he told Beck, “The landscape…has changed dramatically.” What once was slashed tires and minor legal troubles has now turned potentially deadly.
Now stand back and consider more things, like the incidents of union thugs calling for violence, whether it's last summer's invasion of a (sympathetic) banker's property, or this week's Verizon union workers sabotaging the networks and calling for personal attacks, it's getting progressively more hostile out there.
‘It is open season. Follow them safely, but when you get to a location, torture them, torture them with chants and noise. Be so loud that they can’t concentrate and wish they never got out of bed,’ says the recorded voice. Another part of the message states:

‘They are trying to break our union. Understand brothers and sisters, we can never let these [expletive] piece of [expletive] pigs break us. So, we are stepping up our efforts.’

The message stopped short of calling for physical violence, but it was removed after a NewsChannel 9 reporter called the CWA for comment.“
How much closer can they get to calling for physical violence?

Think of this as more evidence that they're coming.  The time of riots and open violence is approaching - if not already here.  It's hard to look at the Verizon situation and the Toledo incident and not think something has changed, and the zombie wars have already started, as Bill Bonner said. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

News Flash: More Guns, Less Crime

OK, I'm being sarcastic; everyone except the Brady bunch, the VPC and a few other retards groups that aren't fact-based knows this has been proven.  And it's essentially codified into law, with every state except Illinois now having some sort of process for concealed carry (technically, Wisconsin still doesn't, because the law goes into effect in November).

Every time a law is passed that allows more carry, these groups go into PSH over how it will cause blood baths, people shooting each other in streets/parking lots/whatever.  You know, you've heard it all before.  And you know it never happens.

The latest example is that the state of Virginia enacted a law a year ago which allows concealed carry license holders to carry in a bar, or the bar portion of a restaurant.  In the first year, gun crime in bars went down 5.2%.  
David Rittgers, an attorney and decorated former Army special forces officer who is now a legal policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, said the growing number of states that are adopting concealed-carry measures like Virginia's have seen no appreciable rise — and in some cases a decline — in violent crime.

"The worst that you can say about these laws is that they are statistically value neutral" in terms of impacting the crime rate, Rittgers said.
And that is downright generous with the statistics.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How's Your Consumer Confidence?

So the market is all better, right?  Here's the DJIA chart from StockCharts.com
the average is up about 600 bucks since it's low last week, and it has apparently recovered from the shocks of last week.  Talking heads on Tout The Market TV are reminding you the time to buy is when there's blood in the streets.  Ready to dive back in?

Bill Bonner is one of the founders of Agora Financial, and co-host of the website "The Daily Reckoning".  Bill is one of the financial guys who gets it.  From a link on Lew Rockwell I got to Bill's 8/12 column, "Mr. Market's Next Attack".  You should read it if you're thinking of getting back in and following the early '00s advice of "just buy into an indexed fund and never look at it".  A few choice observations:
Mr. Market is a cagey fellow, no doubt about it.  And if he has a story to tell, he keeps it to himself.  That said, he’s only natural.  And there are certain natural laws that even he has to obey.

For example, he can’t allow debt to build up forever.   There always comes a moment of awful recognition, when lenders realize they’ve been idiots…when they see that they won’t get their money back.  Savvy speculators try to sell the debt short before lenders catch on.

..... But Mr. Market is a fooler.  He doesn’t make it easy.

All over the world stocks are down about 20% from their recent peaks and about 5% to 10% for the year.  But they’re far from cheap.  Shiller’s normalized earnings put the P/E on US stocks today at about 20.   Major bear market bottoms come with the P/E down at 6 to 8.   The typical bottom, according to Shiller, comes at about 13.

So, if this were a bear market (we don’t know)…and if it were a typical bear market (we don’t know that either)…it would bottom out at about 8,000 on the Dow (now, 11,143).

If this were a major bear market, we’d look for a bottom in the 4,000 to 6,000 range.
This 4000 to 6000 range is where another prediction comes to mind.  Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital predicted a Dow to Gold ratio of 1:1.  No specific price; just that an ounce of gold will be the same price as the DJIA. It could be $4000 or $6000 - or it could be $2000 or $10,000, but with the current prices and spread, somewhere close to $6000/oz makes a lot of sense to me (FWIW). 

Bonner's article is a good read that goes from discussing how such a bear market would likely unfold to watching the UK riots and deciding that the zombie wars have already started.  Go read.   And speaking of zombie wars, Bonner's piece really fits in nicely with the article at Sword At The Ready, linked to by Borepatch and lots of others  Obama's Amerika: Inciting A Race and Class War to Achieve a Dictatorship.



Monday, August 15, 2011

Warren Buffet is a Hypocrite

Warren Buffet, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, one of the world's richest men, the so-called "Oracle of Omaha" for his investing prowess, made the news today by writing in the NY Times that super rich people should be taxed more and that he pays a lower tax rate than the staff that works with him.  
"Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent." 
It shouldn't take you long to realize he's talking about a taxable income of $39.88 million, and whether or not 17.4% meets some arbitrary definition of "fair" is not something I care about.  I just want to point out a couple of facts.

First off, anyone at anytime can send as much money as they want to the US treasury through Treasury Direct and they will gladly cash the check. 

Second, note that his taxable income is very different from how much wealth he gained this year. 
According to Forbes, Mr. Buffett’s net worth went up by $3,000,000,000 over the last year.  If he had to realize those gains, even at 17.4%, he would have had to pay $522,000,000.
Whats the matter, Warren?  Cat got your balls?  Why don't you just mail in that $522 million?  No one is stopping you.  Not enough?  You can send in the whole thing.

And speaking of paying less in taxes than he could, he's actively sheltering his money from taxes by pledging almost his entire estate to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Now I am completely down with tax deductions for charitable giving, and it's way better in my mind for private citizens to donate to private charities than to pay it to the wildly incompetent Fed.gov in taxes, but I'm not the one writing in the paper that folks need to pay more taxes! 

Doesn't it just frost you how guys like this want someone else to pay more money, but when there's a valid argument they could pay more, they're not exactly breaking down the treasury doors to give their own money?


So which is it, Mr. Buffet?  You're saying rich people should pay more taxes, but you do your best to not pay them yourself.  Do you think other people shouldn't get the tax shelters you do?  

Before you go thinking "The Oracle of Omaha" is some sort of financial genius and must be right about this stuff, remember that just a few weeks ago he was saying the debt ceiling should be eliminated because it's such a distraction.
“All it does is slow down a process and divert people’s energy, causes people to posture. It doesn’t really make any sense,”
Look, I don't care how much Warren Buffet makes and I don't care how much tax he pays.  I don't even really care about how much the CEO of my company makes and it's arguable that might affect me somehow.  I just think it's a futile gesture to tax anyone at more than the existing rates as long as the current spending addicts are in control.  It's like asking the crack addict to cut back while giving them more crack. 

Actually, I think we should tax the poor - although that would go over like a turd in a punchbowl.  I think a fundamental problem in our country is that we are perilously close to that point where enough people don't pay taxes that they can vote for the complete confiscation of the other half's wealth. If everyone gets to enjoy the experience of paying tax, then everyone has some skin in the game of keeping the country intact. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday "Must Read"

In line of yesterday's topic, and thanks to Western Rifle Shooters Association for the link, I came across this link today, from the Telegraph (UK), "How do you Destroy a London Borough?
First, identify your enemy: the respectable, the mainstream. People with small, quiet lives, whose fondest wishes are to earn a living and pay off their mortgage and maybe have a park they can walk in with their families. They don’t look very threatening, but the social mores they have upheld for generations are your biggest barriers to progress. You have to criminalise their thoughts; make them powerless. Marginalise them.
The column is short but good.  You should read it.

I got the link in a comment from a new blog on my reading list Jaded Haven, an interesting blog from Texas that I've been to a few times via links from Improved Clinch. Today's link was from Borepatch's link. To quote from Jaded Haven:
I happen to believe that you strip a man of his dignity and humanity when you treat him like an ignorant, incapable animal. He becomes a dangerous pet to be fed and housed, pandered and lied to, in order to gain his complacency for your act of cruel altruism.

It’s one thing to offer a kind helping hand to someone in need, it’s entirely another to create a separate, dysfunctional society consisting of a nothing more than a dependent, seething underclass that can no longer feed itself.

The only action our governments require of these people in return for their daily ration of abject humiliation and bureaucratic swill, is the shaky promise that they’ll refrain from rioting, looting and burning in John Q. Taxpayer’s prosperous backyard.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Logical Dead End of the Nanny State

Quote of the Day from Mark Steyn in today's Orange County Register:
This is the logical dead end of the Nanny State. When William Beveridge laid out his blueprint for the British welfare regime in 1942, his goal was the "abolition of want" to be accomplished by "co-operation between the State and the individual." In attempting to insulate the citizenry from life's vicissitudes, Sir William succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. As I write in my book: "Want has been all but abolished. Today, fewer and fewer Britons want to work, want to marry, want to raise children, want to lead a life of any purpose or dignity."
In Steyn's unique style of wit and sarcasm, and having witnessed much of it personally, he speaks the truth no one else dares to: 
...one-fifth of children are raised in homes in which no adult works – in which the weekday ritual of rising, dressing and leaving for gainful employment is entirely unknown. One-tenth of the adult population has done not a day's work since Tony Blair took office on May 1, 1997. (emphasis added)
The European Nanny State is collapsing in front of TV news cameras every day.  There are really only two possible outcomes that I can see: either the governments collapse into bankruptcy and currency destruction, or the EU turns into a giant command economy: communism, fascism or National Socialism (Nazism).  Years ago, I remember quipping "who would have thought world communism would collapse because there's no money in it?", but it's true.  A command economy can never out compete a free market economy, even one like ours which had been hobbled by a century of socialist policies.  If the EU becomes a command economy, it just kicks the collapse can down the road and makes it worse.  Janet Daley, writing in the Telegraph last week said,
The truly fundamental question that is at the heart of the disaster toward which we are racing is being debated only in America: is it possible for a free market economy to support a democratic socialist society?
As both Steyn and Daley emphasize, and we can clearly see, the idea that a capitalist economy can support an ever-expanding socialist welfare state is collapsing in flames right in front of us.  It's not the poor vs. the rich.  It's bored kids who have never earned any self-esteem by accomplishing anything (precisely because of the welfare state) going "wilding" and burning and stealing because they're bored.  How else do you explain the millionaire's daughter breaking down stores to add to her (presumably) already stuffed closets?  Or the "stunning 22 year old model", and the others who give the lie to the story that it's poor people getting revenge. 

Back to Steyn,
The London rioters are the children of dependency, the progeny of Big Government: they have been marinated in "stimulus" their entire lives.
There is literally nothing you can't get Her Majesty's Government to pay for. From page 205 of my book: "A man of 21 with learning disabilities has been granted taxpayers' money to fly to Amsterdam and have sex with a prostitute."
Hey, why not? "He's planning to do more than just have his end away," explained his social worker. "Refusing to offer him this service would be a violation of his human rights."
If taxpayers funding a man's flight to Holland to employ a prostitute (is this one of those jobs that British women just won't do?) isn't enough; Ann Coulter contributes this:
A year earlier, in 2007, another product of the new order, Fiona MacKeown, took seven of her eight children (by five different fathers) and her then-boyfriend, on a drug-fueled, six-month vacation to the Indian island of Goa. The trip was paid for -- like everything else in her life -- with government benefits.

(When was the last time you had a free, six-month vacation? I'm drawing a blank, too.)
This is one of those cases where you need a Ph.D. in economics to be stupid enough to fall for the idea that everything can be paid for by a productive class and will be forever.  "From each according to his abilities to each according to his need" always, always, falls apart at that "need" part, when need turns from a meal to a flight to Amsterdam for a prostitute or to India for six months vacation.  From bread to circuses.  At some point, the system falls apart.  The productive class sees the life that parasites lead, sees progressively less and less of their efforts, the sweat of their brow, being "allowed" to stay in their wallets, and they quit.  Then the whole society collapses.

Starting now.
‘Bread and Circuses’ is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader—the barbarians enter Rome." - Robert A. Heinlein

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Heartwarming Story of a Stolen 1911

Somehow, my web surfing ended up here today, at the Southern Oregon Mail Tribune, with a heart warming story about a guy who bought a 1911 at auction, and doing some research, found it had been owned by a Medal of Honor winner.  He found it had been stolen from the MOH owner and he was in possession of stolen property.  He did the right thing and not only tracked down the owner, he returned it to the owner. 

There's a law of the Universe that every religion talks about, and it's one of a tiny number (2?) of social laws that are as inescapable as gravity.  Eastern religions call it karma; Christians say "you reap as you sow".  Before that, Jews said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"*.  As the gentlemen who returned the gun said, 
"Concern yourself with what is right and you'll never second-guess that decision".
It's a great story.  Go read.  I should point out that the website apparently will use cookies to make sure you're not reading the old articles too many times in a month, so read it once and smile.  (I always heard that news in the morning was bird cage liner by that evening.  I guess they're holding onto everything they can.)

Photo from the paper (obviously)...

* I know: same author.  I'm tryin' to wax poetic here!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Conversation With My Senator

I received an email from one of my US Senators today, Bill Nelson, D, in which he posts his “Common Sense” ideas on how to get out of our financial mess as published in Politico.  For a member in good standing of what many refer to as the Evil party, not what we call the Stupid party, he sure dispenses plenty of stupid.  As anything I say would never be read by the Gentleman from Florida (as they say up there),  I thought I'd fisk this here for tonight's amusement.  I will leave his pearls of wisdom in black text, and add my comments in blue. 

Close the tax loopholes
By: Sen. Bill Nelson,

"There’s no mystery about what we have to do. It’s just common sense. In addition to the spending cuts Congress just made, we need tax reform. And by tax reform, I mean closing loopholes, special interest tax breaks and corporate subsidies. It’s just plain wrong to be protecting tax breaks for oil companies and to be rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas." - Sen. Bill Nelson

After watching Standard & Poor’s performance in the Enron and housing debacles, it’s hard to stomach their decision to downgrade America’s credit.

Meh.  Complaining about S&P's performance is like TV producers complaining about Neilsen ratings.  You may complain all you like, but it's what the industry uses.  In truth, we've been degraded by other agencies, almost a year ago by the Chinese equivalent of S&P, and nobody over here said a word.  Frankly, I think S&P was right. 

But even coming from S&P, there is a message we should hear: The finger pointing and hyper-partisanship has to stop. If it doesn’t, we really will be on the road to ruin.

Democrats need to see tea partiers as something other than debt-limit hostage-taking Republicans. And Republicans need to see President Barack Obama and Democrats as something other than big-spending socialists.

We’ve got to stop this attack madness. We have to bring civility back to the public square. We have to put the country back on the path to fiscal sanity.

To do that, we need to cut some $4 trillion to $5 trillion. We made a down payment on this with the $2 trillion dollars we cut just last week. Now we need to go further.

I believe you're suffering from what the doctors call “premature congratulations”.  Your vaunted plan will not affect the big picture because that $2 trillion is in a 10 year plan and doesn't start for another three years (2014).  We need to cut much more than that. Here's a before/after graph with and without your cuts:

To understand what we have to do, though, we first need to look at how we got here.

We went from a $236 billion budget surplus in 2000 to a $1.3 trillion deficit last year — and a record $14 trillion debt. A huge chunk of the debt comes from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re bringing the troops home.

It's been reported that the total cost of those wars is about $1 Trillion.  Too low?  Let's triple that and say we spent $3T.  3/14, or 21%, is not a “huge chunk” in my book; huge starts at around 2/3 or 3/4.  “It's the spending, stupid”, and stupid spending at that.  But I tell you what: if you went back to the spending levels of 2000 the problem would go away!  Don't want to do that?  Didn't think so. 

The implication here is the old “it's all Bush's fault”, which is a fantasy.  Bush was no fiscal conservative, and had many bad policies (which, strangely, have all been retained by Mr. Obama) but the deficit for this February was more than the entire year of 2007!  There is simply no equal in history for the deficit spending of this administration. 
Another significant piece stems from the Bush-era tax cuts. Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway, says the tax cuts for the wealthy should be left to expire. They’re set to do so at the end of next year. We should let that happen.

First off, I hate to break your bubble, but Buffett is a has-been. I have done quite well with my meager 401k by doing the opposite of whatever he suggests. 

There is a persistent confusion of tax revenues with tax rates, which you seem to fall into, Mr. Nelson. The two are not directly related in the mathematical sense. If you raise rates, people can be relied upon to change their behaviors and revenues can fall – or, at a minimum, don't go up as much as you expect.

The historical limit on tax revenues as a percent of GDP is around 18-19%, regardless of tax rates.  Revenues are currently lower than that for a simple reason: the economic downturn is reducing the national income just as it has reduced the income of so many citizens. The emphasis should be on trying to create conditions that lead to job creation to push that revenue up, and raising taxes just isn't one of those. Never has been, never will be. 

See Hauser's Law in your favorite economics textbook.
(Hauser's Law from the Peter G Peterson Foundation)
Or, as a converse, when rates are low, the “rich” can pay more revenue, as in the fact that currently, the top 1% pays more than the bottom 95% combined.  Which leads to the very simple question: since the top 1% of incomes pays more than the bottom 95% of incomes, what is their “fair share”? You don't have much to choose from. 96%? 97%? Should the top 1% pay for everything? If so, I don't want to live in your world.

Agree or not, don’t you think most Americans were better off before the tax cuts than they are now?

Nope.  They were better off before the housing bubble burst, blown quite deliberately by the Federal Reserve, aided and abetted by the Congress. 

Much of the rest of the debt comes from the economic downturn since 2008. That brings us to today. And there’s no mystery about what we have to do. It’s just common sense. In addition to the spending cuts Congress just made, we need tax reform. And by tax reform, I mean closing loopholes, special interest tax breaks and corporate subsidies. It’s just plain wrong to be protecting tax breaks for oil companies and to be rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas.

The other word for “loophole” is “law”; a loophole is a law that someone whom you don't like is obeying.  You guys write the laws, so those “loopholes” wouldn't be there if you hadn't put them there.  Oil companies get fewer tax breaks than any other industry and are being punished as it is. And the reason companies move jobs overseas is that our tax system is the worst in the world. Maybe if congress grew up and realized that businesses don't pay tax, they simply collect it from their customers (that is, from you and me), and drastically reduced our corporate tax structure, you'd attract companies here from all over the world. 

As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth Subcommittee, I’ve scheduled a hearing for early September to investigate closing many of these loopholes. Doing so will likely generate $2 trillion over the next decade. Add that to the $2 trillion in spending cuts we’ve made — and we’re in the $4 trillion range that we need to hit. It’s time to stop the shouting and bickering and political attacks. It’s time to show the world that America can take care of business.

Here's a few ideas for your consideration: we've deficit spent over 2.2 Trillion in failed stimulus, TARP and other ineffective programs. What if we said there was to be no income tax at all next year? The cost would be about the same as what we've spent.  We'd borrow 100% of spending instead of 43% of it, but with some discipline, perhaps we could just get it down to doubling what we now borrow. 

Do you think that would stimulate things, if everyone kept their taxes and spent it on whatever they want? Or do you think people would rebel when they had to pay taxes the following year? 

No good? How about if we eliminated corporate taxes, since they don't pay tax anyway. If that's too radical, how about if instead of having the highest corporate taxes in the world, we had the lowest? Do you think that might give some foreign companies a desire to move here? Do you think some American companies might want to “in-source” more into our country? 

It's a law of economics that if you want less of something, you tax it, and if you want more of it, you reduce taxes (or give other incentives). If we want more jobs, we should cut corporate fees, and taxes. 

And if you really want to increase tax revenues (not rates!), have you looked at the Fair Tax people? Of course, you and I both know, that the purpose of the tax code isn't to raise revenue.  One purpose is to punish behavior you don't approve of and reward behavior you do approve of. Social engineering. The other purpose is to reward the people you like with loopholes that they can use.  The tax code hasn't been about revenue in a long time - if ever.


Cordially,
SiliconGraybeard