Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'Scuse Me, I Have a Dead Horse to Beat

A few odds and ends from the economatrix.

Peter over at Bayou Renaissance Man has an excellent coverage of today's announcement that the Fed will be "easing exchanges" with the ECB and other world central banks, allegedly until February 1. This ensures that you and I get to help pay for the bailout of the euro, which is bound to be just as productive as spending the money on hookers and cocaine, but without any stimulation for anyone putting out.  This deal is one of the big reasons behind the 500 point jump in the DJIA today, and probably part of the increase in everything, as inflation gets priced in.  He then follows up in the position of Economic Winner today with another great piece, The Fundamental Dishonesty of our Financial System.
The whole system is now built on lies. The lie that banks are solvent. The lie that the Federal Reserve actually cares about regulating the financial system. The lie that crimes will be punished. The lie that Congress will reform Wall Street. The lie that we’ll get “change” at the ballot box.
The piece includes information on how one of the most despicable humans on the planet, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson (hawk, spit), gave hedge fund managers advanced notice that the was going to "rescue" Fannie Mae.  For non-ruling class folks, that's called "insider trading" and punishable by hard time in the gray bar inn. 
Over sandwiches and pasta salad, he delivered that information to a group of men capable of profiting from any disclosure. 
“You just never ever do that as a government regulator -- transmit nonpublic market information to market participants,” says Black, who’s a former general counsel at the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco. “There were no legitimate reasons for those disclosures.”

Despicable humans?   I imagine you've heard by now that Gerald Celente of Trends Research was personally robbed by MF Global, John Corzine's little empire.  Celente (whom I respect greatly) is, unfortunately, just one of many folks that the MF'ers at MF Global F'ed over. H/T to the Blaze, for this video of Joe Biden bragging about going to Corzine for his expertise.  You can't overlook Corzine when you're looking for the worst of humanity. 

And what do John Corzine and Hank Paulson have in common?  They both ran Goldman Sachs.  See The Fundamental Dishonesty of our Financial System.

QoTD - Proper Role of Government Edition

"The basis of political economy is non–interference. The only safe rule is found in the self–adjusting meter of demand and supply. Do not legislate. Meddle, and you snap the sinews with your sumptuary laws. Give no bounties: make equal laws: secure life and property, and you need not give alms. Open the doors of opportunity to talent and virtue, and they will do themselves justice, and property will not be in bad hands. In a free and just commonwealth, property rushes from the idle and imbecile, to the industrious, brave, and persevering."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What Will The Collapse Look Like?

This is a really hard question.  I think the most accurate answer is nobody really knows.  It seems reasonable to expect bank holidays, and mandatory limits on withdrawals.  Add in travel restrictions to keep the common folks from fleeing their place in the fire for the frying pan of the UK or the US.   The Telegraph reported over the weekend that the UK's Foreign Office is considering how to get ex-pats home.  They anticipate riots and possibly thousands of UK citizens stranded without access to their money.   

British embassies in the eurozone have been told to draw up plans to help British expats through the collapse of the single currency, amid new fears for Italy and Spain.

A friend in the UK (years ago) told me they referred to spending the new currency as "euronating".  Perhaps we should borrow the term and refer to their troubles as the central state euronating on the currency ...

Edit 11/30 2100EST - that error-inserting gremlin was bothering me all day. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

FT: The Eurozone Has 10 9 Days At Most

The Financial Times is one of the preeminent business and economic publications in the world, so take it seriously when writer Wolfgang Munchau says the Eurozone has 10 9 Days At Most (the article says 10, but was datelined yesterday).
Last week, the crisis reached a new qualitative stage. With the spectacular flop of the German bond auction and the alarming rise in short-term rates in Spain and Italy, the government bond market across the eurozone has ceased to function. 
Munchau goes on to describe what he thinks will fix the debt problem and it's ... wait for it... more debt!  But not just any debt, special debt!
First, the European Central Bank must agree a backstop of some kind, either an unlimited guarantee of a maximum bond spread ...

The second measure is a firm timetable for a eurozone bond. ... What matters is that it will be a joint-and-several liability of credible size. The insanity of cross-border national guarantees must come to an end. They are not a solution to the crisis. Those guarantees are now the main crisis propagator.

The third decision is a fiscal union. This would involve a partial loss of national sovereignty, and the creation of a credible institutional framework to deal with fiscal policy, and hopefully wider economic policy issues as well. ...
I am hearing that there are exploratory talks about a compromise package comprising those three elements. If the European summit could reach a deal on December 9, its next scheduled meeting, the eurozone will survive. If not, it risks a violent collapse. Even then, there is still a risk of a long recession, possibly a depression. So even if the European Council was able to agree on such an improbably ambitious agenda, its leaders would have to continue to outdo themselves for months and years to come. (all italics added - GB)
The first problem is that many (I include myself) don't believe it is possible to fix the problems in EU-land even with the extraordinary measures Munchau talks about.  You simply don't fix a debt problem by incurring more debt.  Where does that "backstop of some kind" come from?  Who's going to pay it?  The second problem is more philosophical: just what kind of a state are they creating?  There has already been " partial loss of national sovereignty"  in Greece and Italy - we talked about this almost a month ago in "This Was the Week Democracy in Europe Died". They are creating a dictatorship run by the money changers; the central banks.  The EU leadership is clearly working on creating a sort of pan-European socialist state and damn the people they squash doing so.  After all, Mao killed around 70 million, right?  Omelets: eggs, so be it.

The central banks have separated themselves from reality - and us - in this financial crisis.  The Federal Reserve, our central bank, gave $7.7 Trillion dollars just by March of 2009 to the banks and not just US banks.  That link (Business Insider) takes you to this piece on Bloomberg News:
The amount of money the central bank parceled out was surprising even to Gary H. Stern, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 1985 to 2009, who says he “wasn’t aware of the magnitude.” It dwarfed the Treasury Department’s better-known $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Add up guarantees and lending limits, and the Fed had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S. that year. (italics added - GB)
But where does the Federal Reserve, which is just a collection of private banks, get half of the GDP of the entire US??  This means the Fed is creating this money out of thin air.  Banks have already made a pretty good profit off this money, over $13 Billion dollars - note that the graphic at the top shows foreign banks took part in this US Fed money giveaway; the Royal Bank of Scotland (which seems to be a non-US bank) earned an estimated $1.2 Billion from the Fed's handouts.

The fed now owns more US debt than China and is the number one holder of US bonds.  Do you see why I often say that the US government is a wholy owned subsidiary of the Federal Reserve? 
As of Sept 28th the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet lists $1.665 trillion in US Treasury securities compared to runner up China’s at $1.1483 trillion. In layman’s terms, that means that the Federal Reserve now owns the largest portion of the total US public debt (which is about $10.3 trillion out of the whole $15 trillion pie)
(source)  Does this mean the US Federal Reserve will own the eurozone, when they're done bailing out the IMF, who bailed the eurozone out?  Don't forget: our tax money goes to the IMF - the US is their biggest contributor - so you and I are paying for that nonsense in Europe.  In return, the coming inflation that the central banks are creating is going to wipe our life's savings, which means we don't get to retire, which means the 40-somethings behind us don't get promotions and higher titles because we older guys are tying up the corner offices.  Meanwhile, the entire generation behind them is having their dreams wiped out by their insane student loan debt which means they will not be able to pay for the entitlements that the retirees "are owed".  The system is going to collapse because of what the central bankers are doing to save the system. 
A couple of days of normalcy bias really was kinda sweet, I tell you what. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Normalcy Bias Feels Pretty Darned Good

Normalcy bias is a pretty good way to get killed, generally speaking. The term refers to a very strong tendency for people to think that life will keep going more or less the same way as normal.  It's why people in the World Trade Center, after the first plane struck, took the time to gather belongings and turn off their computers before leaving.  The Survivors' Club, by Ben Sherwood, talks in great length about normalcy bias and how that one of the biggest things that separates those who survive disaster from the rest is that survivors considered that it could happen; they looked for the emergency exit on that plane, looked for the life preservers on their ferry, or considered what to do if an armed person tried to rob them at gunpoint.  Hat tip to Western Rifle Shooters Association for a link to John Robb's Global Guerillas column on the Parable of the Happy Turkey for getting me thinking of Normalcy Bias.
  1. In the morning, a nice man comes for a visit.  
  2. He puts food in your bowl.  
  3. The food is fresh and tasty.  
  4. The food is always in plentiful supply.
  5. At night there's a warm place to sleep.  
  6. The next day, the process is repeated.  The nice man visits, he feeds you, and you sleep comfortably.  It repeats day after day.   
  7. You think: everything is right with the world.  How could anything possibly go wrong?  In fact, the only thing I really have to fear is getting hit by lightening when it rains or a the rare chance a fox might get under the wire and into the coop (which very seldom happens).  The Turkeys that worry about this are pessimists.
  8. One day, the nice man arrives.  
  9. The nice man grabs you.
  10. He lays you across a stump, your neck exposed.  
  11. He raises an axe and cuts off your head.   
The leap in Robb's article is to the 2008 financial collapse and how the "idiot savants at Goldman Sachs" put wunderkinds in charge of billions of dollars; 20-somethings (who were very smart, don't get me wrong) who could not anticipate the real risks because they didn't have enough experience in life to doubt their computer models.  It's a perfect example of why you shouldn't put kids like that in charge of important things without a graybeard to say "what if?". 

The normalcy bias, though, is pretty darned comfortable.  I spent the weekend enjoying the sensation that this Thanksgiving weekend was a normal one, and probably not the last Thanksgiving of plenty I'll get to share with my family.  I dare say it's why most of America is watching TV or fighting over $2 waffle makers
(Graybrother bringing more food to the already-rich Thanksgiving table.)

But if you've been here before, you know that while I may occasionally look away or pretend things are normal, it's not a steady diet.  Even troops on guard duty "take five" now and then.  I will continue to look the coming disaster in its face and tell you what I see coming. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

What's Need Got To Do With It?

What's need go to do,
got to do with it?
What's need, but an
odd justification?
What's need got to do,
got to do with it? ~ with apologies to Tina Turner
So last weekend the fun show was in town again, the last until New Years, and we went up to see what there was to see.  I found something I've been kind of looking for, for a while.  A nice looking stainless .22LR revolver.
This is a Rossi M-511, apparently called the Sportsman.  It's a six-shot, DA or SA with nice adjustable sights.  The grips are not original equipment, but are nice target shooting grips.  Clean, relatively free of scratches, scuffs or other marks.  As Tam said the other day,
500 rounds in a day in a .45 will leave your hands feeling like you've been hitting a heavy bag. 500 rounds in a plastic nine will still leave you knowing that you've been shooting when you pick up your utensils at dinner that night. 500 rounds of .22 will have you asking "Is that all we brought? Who wants to run to WalMart for more?"
22LR pistols like the Walther P22, and the Sig Mosquito are very popular, and during the extreme ammo shortage of '09, I got a S&W 22A pistol - the reason for the "what's need got to do with it?" song parody.  It's just a ton of fun to shoot - well balanced, aims very naturally for me, just a lot of fun.  I set my targets back about as far as the range allows, and I could empty a box of 500.  While the little Smith will shoot pretty much all brands of modern, supersonic 22LR ammo, I have come across some that won't cycle properly (some old Remington Thunderbolt lead RN an old timer sold me).  I suspect that the revolver will be quite a bit less fussy with it, and even allow subsonic ammo.  Hopefully we'll see on Sunday.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Obligatory Happy Thanksgiving Post

It was a busy day here at Castle Graybeard.  We finished replacing a shelf for the "Armageddon closet" (don't recall who invented that term...); I built it last weekend, and finished it with Polycrylic today.  Put it in place and did a little Spyderco-assisted surgery on my thumb to remove the only big splinter.  Watched football, smoked a turkey, replaced strings on my guitars, played a bit, and just enjoyed a quiet day with Mrs. Graybeard, and the delightfully crazy cats.
(Smoked a turkey?  How big are the rolling papers?  How do you light it?)

I am thankful for so much... despite the coming troubles, I am richly blessed here and now, and I know it. May all of you enjoy a wonderful day with your families and friends.  Or by yourself, if that's your day.  Thanks to the EMTs, Nurses, Doctors, LEOs, Firefighters and others who work today so we can have the day off.  Thanks to the service men and women who keep the barbarians from the gates and give us the chance to relax.  For now, eat, drink, be merry, and pray. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

When Folks Talk About the FSA...

Just because it's an army of non-productive folks dedicated to feeding off the productive (see "remora") doesn't mean the FSA won't expend any effort or money to feed.  Especially if it's Other People's Money. 

Several people have linked to Mike-istan's three part series on the coming nastiness, "Concord Bridge or Fort Sumter".  If you haven't, it's worth reading.  (part i)  The paragraph that leapt off the page and slapped me between the eyes was this:
Here in Ohio we just had an election where the biggest issue was a referendum on repealing a pension reform package which would have just slightly slowed the gravy train for public employees. The public sector unions and their allies spent thirty million dollars to convince voters that asking state employees to contribute a few percent of their pay to fund their otherwise completely tax financed salary, benefit, and retirement packages, would leave the police helpless to stop crime, the fire departments without water, and death and destruction just around the corner. The rubes bought it and repealed the reforms by a two to one margin. (emphasis added - GB)
Since all the money public sector unions have comes from dues, which come in turn from wages paid by taxpayers, that's using the productive taxpayers' money to attack the productive taxpayers - it's almost perfect in its worthlessness; almost perfectly evil. 

This has been the large, divisive issue that stands in the way of governments getting their finances straightened out: public sector unions that negotiate with politicians who have no stake in the negotiation.  The politicians give big sweet deals to public sector unions - it's not their money that they're negotiating away, after all - and those unions turn around and contribute money to those politicians to keep the fleecing going.  In my opinion, it will continue to get worse as we slide into worse and worse economic conditions.  At this point, it seems to me that the most likely flash point into actual violence is here.  We know that unions routinely commit violence against those they perceive as enemies; at some point, do they start punching out little old ladies at Tea Party rallies? After all, they got away with beating down Ken Gladney and routinely attack each other, why not taxpayers?
(A remora attaches itself to a shark or other large source of food with a tennis shoe-shaped suction area on the top of its head.  This way it gets a free ride, does minimal work, and consumes a steady supply of crumbs when the shark eats.  A perfect analogy for the AFSCME or SEIU public sector unions.)

How much improvement could have been made in the unions' retirement funds or health plans, if they had spent that 30 million dollars on their members instead of attacking the people who write their paychecks? 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More Tales From the Over Regulated State - A Series

Wherein tonight's installment can be called, "You can tune a piano but you can't tuna fish."
Carlos Rafael, by everything I can find, is an ethical small businessman who owns a small fleet of fishing boats, and attempts to navigate the waters of excessive federal regulations.  Those waters are ending up far more treacherous than the waters offshore Cape Cod, where his business is based.  I say he's an ethical fisherman because he purchased permits for 15 of his boats to allow them to take a giant bluefin tuna.  Bluefins are ordinarily caught on hook and line after great amounts of effort - but his boats are bottom fishing boats that deploy nets.  To catch a bluefin that way is a "once in a blue moon" event, as Rafael says.  The story begins on November 12th
Boat owner Rafael, a big player in the local fishing industry, was elated when the crew of his 76-foot steel dragger Apollo told him they had unwittingly captured a giant bluefin tuna in their trawl gear while fishing offshore.
Bluefins, you see, are highly valued in Japan as sushi; their flesh looks more like beef steak than just about any other fish and commands a very high price.  "A 754­pound specimen fetched a record price at a Tokyo auction in January this year, selling for nearly $396,000."  The fish on Rafael's boat was estimated at more than a hundred pounds bigger than that fish.  If I were him, my thoughts would be running along the lines of "Ca Ching!" over and over.

As the Cape Cod News reports:
However, when Rafael rolled down the dock in Provincetown there was an unexpected and unwelcome development. The authorities were waiting. Agents from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Law Enforcement informed him they were confis­cating his fish — all 881 pounds of it.

Even though the catch had been declared and the boat had a tuna permit, the rules do not allow fishermen to catch bluefin tuna in a net.

“They said it had to be caught with rod and reel,” a frustrated Rafael said.“We didn't try to hide anything. We did everything by the book. Nobody ever told me we couldn't catch it with a net.”

In any case, after being towed for more than two hours in the net, the fish was already dead when the Apollo hauled back its gear, he said.

“What are we supposed to do?” he asked. “They said they were going to give me a warn­ing,” Rafael said. “I think I'm going to surrender all my tuna permits now. What good are they if I can't catch them?”
The Feds, as always, told him he was expected to know that he could only use rod and reel.  It's his responsibility to know every little piece of every regulation in the Federal bible.  "Ignorance of the law is no excuse". What?  There's no mens rea?  That is so last century. 
No charges have yet been filed in connection with the catch, but a written warning is anticipated, according to Chris­tine Patrick, a public affairs specialist with NOAA who said the fish has been forfeited and will be sold on consignment overseas. Proceeds from the sale of the fish will be held in an account pending final reso­lution of the case, NOAA said. No information on the value of the fish was available Friday.

“The matter is still under investigation,”said Monica Allen, deputy director with NOAA Fisheries public affairs. “If it's determined that there has been a violation, the money will go into the asset forfeiture fund.”
I just love the passive voice.  No person, no individual ever "determines if there has been a violation".  Don't want any petty bureaucrat to attract attention for this, do we?  

This is a serious issue, not just for Mr. Rafael, but for anyone who goes fishing.  There are federal rules and state rules that don't usually say the same things.  You are expected to know them all and be in compliance with them all or not go fishing.  If you inadvertently catch the wrong type of fish or catch it in the wrong way, perhaps it's better to just dump the carcass at sea. Protein is never wasted in the sea.

Monday, November 21, 2011


A milestone in the history of our nation was reached about 8:30AM EST today, when our ever-increasing debt to GDP ratio exceeded 100%. Just over 2 years ago, Bill Gross of Pimco, the wizard of bonds, said our debt to GDP ratio could conceivably reach this level in "perhaps as quickly as five years".  Most of us have seen the great visualization sequence at, who gives us this image of the physical size of our debt: here is $15 trillion dollars, in stacked pallets of 100 dollar bills.

I want to show the following chart, a recent, but not up to the minute version of the data, which shows the growth of the debt in the last century.  I like this format because the linear vertical scale clearly shows - with a minor hitch - exponential growth, and that's the fundamental problem (source is from January):
The exponential growth is the example of why this can't be fixed by increasing taxes; which is the equivalent of taking a bucket of water out of a swimming pool and dumping it in the other end.  This is a spending problem.  This is the death spike of a currency. 

As I said last night, with a congress unwilling to make even 3% cuts in spending, this does not end well.  But it does end - it has to - and probably fairly soon: it ends in months, not years.  Infinity is a handy concept in math but not a good basis for economic policy.
There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency involved. - Ludwig von Mises
Oh - that's right.  An anonymous Keynesian commenter in October said that Austrian economics can't make predictions.  Everything is fine.  Just keep on with life.  No need to store food or any of those fruitcake ideas you read about.  You can trust our insect overlords to fix everything. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fiddling While Rome Burns

Remember the good old days when the enemies were foreign and not domestic?  Sigh...

I'm sure you've seen that the news media has been abuzz this weekend about the Super Committee not being able to reach a deal.  The Super Congress is supposed to reach a deal to decrease the deficit by $1.2 trillion dollars over the next decade.  I'm sure you've heard the dire talk that if they don't make this meager change, the cuts will automatically come from defense and social programs.  Predictably the two parties are blaming each other for the inability to cut this trivial amount out of the budget.  Meager?  Trivial?  $1.2 Trillion?  Sure: with no growth, just divided over 10 years that's $120 billion this year.  Our revenue is about 2.2 Trillion so it's 5.5% of the revenue; but less than 3% of spending!  Most people could handle a 3% cut in their spending if they had to, by tightening their belts enough, and probably have in the last year.  The probably looses that much without even noticing it. 

The problem with this whole argument is that we need to cut spending by $1.2 trillion dollars this year, or over the next year or two at the most, not over the next decade.  With the Federal Reserve making up money from nothing and buying our own debt, how much time do you think we have?  Furthermore, I'll bet you almost anything that any deal they come up with will be back end loaded and cuts this year will be minimal to non-existent. All they ever do is kick the can down the road.

I would bet that if they don't come up with a way to cut this meager 3% of spending, that our credit ratings will be (deservedly) downgraded again.  I bet that not making this cut will cause more harm than good as the world has it hammered home that the US is irresponsible and not credit-worthy.  

I said fairly recently that I've seen Robert Kiyosaki talk about this a few times, and the most recent time I saw him (last week) he said he believes the dollar is going to collapse by next summer, with a fairly high degree of confidence.  I don't know when this video was made but he's advocating the things I reported on in that first link. 
  • Grub  - you need food.  Lots of food.  It might take years for production to return.  Think preparations that would put Mormons (1 year) to shame. 
  • Ground - you need shelter, or someplace to go, especially if you're in a city or a place that's likely to descend into chaos. 
  • Gold - for barter.  Silver is just as valid.  So are liquor, chocolate, cigarettes, and all the other things we've talked about. 
  • Gas - fuel.  Energy is life, whether it's for cooking or boiling rain water to drink.
  • Guns - and I'm really sure I don't need to explain this one!
I don't want to seem that I'm arguing by appeal to authority - but when someone as demonstrably optimistic as Kiyosaki is saying to prepare for bad times, that should be a wake up call.  Look - the math is undeniable.  Spending simply can't go on at the current rates. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

If You Ever Needed Proof The EU Technocrats Are Insane

How about the unelected Brussels technocrats banning claims that water can prevent dehydration.  While there might be medical conditions that can cause dehydration no matter how much is consumed, this is completely insane.
Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.

Last night, critics claimed the EU was at odds with both science and common sense. Conservative MEP Roger Helmer said: “This is stupidity writ large.

“The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are: highly-paid, highly-pensioned officials worrying about the obvious qualities of water and trying to deny us the right to say what is patently true.

“If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project then this is it.”

From the Telegraph.  I'm torn on whether to post this one: it's so completely batshit insane it is either true EU bureaucrats or a satire.  But isn't the fact that I can't tell partly the point? 

A Weekend Time Sink

Hat tip to Everyday No Days Off Gun Blog for this link to an amazing collection of WWII Photographs.  I could easily spend hours there - just spent a half hour over lunch looking through a few of them.  In what seems to be a publicity photo, a model poses with a B-17F nose bombardier's dome at Douglas Aircraft. 
Well, I suppose I'm assuming the "Temporary" badge, nail polish, gold watch, rings, double photographer's lights and her general cleanliness indicate this is a carefully crafted picture.  She might well be a worker at Douglas, but this was certainly not a case of a photographer walking in and taking a snapshot of someone at work. 

A reminder of what many of our parents or grandparents went through to give us this nation being taken out from under us by the FSA.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Throw Them All Out

Throw Them All Out is the title of a book by Peter Schweizer, which delves into the many ways the ruling class exploits their position, their "entitlement" to a better life than the voter-scum who elect them, and get filthy rich.  The story in this book is the reason for the now-famous 60 Minutes story about Nancy Pelosi this past Sunday.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bought stock in initial public offerings (IPOs) that earned hefty returns while she had access to insider information that would have been illegal for an average citizen to trade with – even though it’s perfectly legal for elected officials, CBS’s "60 Minutes" reported Sunday night. (emphasis added)
It is not illegal for members of congress to do things that would get any of us put in jail.  For example, billionaire Martha Stewart spent time in federal prison for lying to the FBI over insider trading worth about $100,000.  To put that in perspective, scale her billion dollar worth down to $100,000, and divide that insider trading $100,000 by the same amount and you'll find she spent five months in federal prison over the equivalent of $10 to a more normal income.  In comparison, Nancy Pelosi in just the one case she was asked about on 60 Minutes benefited from insider information to the tune of $100,000, yet it was perfectly legal.

In an interview, Schweizer tells the story of the tumultuous days in 2008 before the TARP funds were allocated. A Newsweek interview puts it this way:
Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus, of Alabama... was known in the House as a guy who liked to play the market, and in fact he was pretty good at it; one year, he reported a capital gain in excess of $150,000 from his trading activities. More striking is that Bachus boldly carried forth his trading in the teeth of the impending financial collapse, the nightmarish dimensions of which he had learned about first-hand in confidential briefings from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke. On Sept. 19, 2008, after attending two such briefings, Bachus bought options in an index fund (ProShares UltraShort QQQ) that effectively amounted to a bet that the market would fall. That is indeed what happened, and, on Sept. 23, Bachus sold his “short” options, purchased for $7,846, for more than $13,000—nearly doubling his investment in four days.

Around the time Congress and the Bush administration worked out a TARP bailout, Bachus made another options buy and again nearly doubled his money.
Again, if you or I did that, we'd be spending time behind bars with bad men, but for them, it's not illegal.  Neither Bachus, nor Pelosi, nor Boehner, nor John Kerry or any of them violated any laws or ethics rules.  Although Nancy might want to be behind bars with bad men - I don't know.

And that's just part of the problem.  They also get rich on land deals, and the crony insider deals we already hear about.  Solyndra and the rest of the green energy scandals are the system working backwards - they make other people rich in thanks for contributing to their campaigns.

In the wake of the story, Joe Lieberman and Scott Brown have introduced a bill into the Senate to make them live by the same rules we do.  In the house, Louise Slaughter, and Tim Walz, have done the same.  It seems likely to me that these bills will pick up additional sponsors but, of course, are in danger.   Such bills have been introduced before and they've always been blocked - Brian Baird of Washington was the last one to seriously push this kind of legislation. They see no reason to have to live like the common people. 

Throw Them All Out is non-partisan, as the "All" in the title implies.  In the 1992 election, when  Ross Perot's siphoning off of GOP votes gave Bill Clinton the presidency, there was a movement called THRO - Throw the Hypocritical Rascals Out.  It appears to be growing legs again.  Meanwhile, Borepatch has been saying this for a long time.  If you haven't gotten the message, read it again. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

$15 Trillion

Yesterday, the US National Debt crossed the $15 Trillion dollar mark; more specifically, $15.0048 at the moment. The debt to GDP ratio is 100% as accurately as I believe such things can be known; the Debt Clock currently has it at 99.861%.  By rough calculation, that will cross 100% before Thanksgiving.  A more depressing and ominous piece of news is that the Federal Reserve has become the largest holder of US Bonds.  In other words, we are creating money out of thin air (well, out of thin bits) so that we can loan the money to ourselves.  Money that is backed by absolutely nothing and is worth exactly that - nothing.

In addition to that depressing number, add in $116.5 Trillion in unfunded liabilities.  Unfunded means just that; it's money that has been promised out (Medicare, Social Security, Medicare Prescription Drug coverage...), but that has no funding behind it.  Money is going to magically appear out of thin air, right when it's needed.  Just like the magic Skittles. 
I have posted on this topic many, many times, and I'm as tired of writing about as I'm sure most people are of hearing about it.  It's hard to talk with those who are not good at math because they invariably say "why is it different now?  You just hate Obama, you racist pig".  So some highlights in brief:
  • Yes, deficits matter.  We borrowed real money from real people both here and in foreign countries, and we promised to pay it back.  They expect and deserve to be paid back with real money.  So the rest of the world should just forget our debts, like the #OWS crowd thinks about student loans?  Do you really think that?  If so, can I borrow a few hundred thousand dollars till next week?  If you inflate the dollar to worthlessness, don't you think the Chinese, Japanese and the rest of the world would be mad at us?
  • The government can't tax their way out of this.  To heck with taxing the "richest 1%", if the government took every single penny from every billionaire, every millionaire and from every single person with an income of over $250,000, the money would be gone in under 200 days.  In my opinion, the talk about "taxing the rich" they float is just to inflame class hatred and envy. 
  • Hauser's Law may be a really counter-intuitive thing, but it has been true for a long time.  No matter what tax rates are, the tax revenues are roughly 19% of GDP.  We just can't spend more than that consistently. 
  • No country with a Debt to GDP ratio much beyond ours has ever survived it as anything other than a walking corpse.  Most have undergone economic collapse.  
  • We borrow roughly 43 cents of every federal dollar we spend.  If we truly intend to reduce that national debt, we not only need to cut out that 43 cents of spending, we need to run surpluses as far as the eye can see.  Our great-grandchildren can think about deficit spending.
  • No one in government has proposed spending cuts like we really need.  Ron Paul (as candidate, not Representative) has proposed shutting down whole departments of the hydra.  Rick Perry has proposed capping spending at Hauser's Law, which is more definitive about cutting spending.   
  • It truly is the spending. 
Most people don't understand exponentials.  We are in a phase that is exploding toward infinity.  It simply can't continue, that's mathematically impossible.  Worse yet, large segments of society howl like they're being fed into a wood chipper if the simply doesn't give them more every year, let alone actually cutting their free sh*t. 

And this is why I think an economic collapse is inescapable.  Right now, I'm leaning toward next summer, although all the pieces are in place such that it could happen any minute. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Short Course on Why The Economy Was Going To Crap Anyway - Part 2

Almost a year ago, I wrote the first piece on this topic.  My point was that the economy was going to unavoidably slow down as we progressed into this century no matter what else happened.  The two biggest reasons are the aging boomer population slowing their consumer spending, and the constant bubble-blowing of the central banks.  Add to that the profligate government spending that comes as a result of politicians believing the good times can never end, or even slow down, and you have a case for an unavoidable crash. 

One of the blogs I read that tends to have a high density of insights per inch is Sense of Events, hosted by Donald Sensing.  Donald is a retired artillery officer who went to divinity school and became a Methodist minister; if that doesn't lead to broad perspectives the rest of his background will.  Donald puts up an excellent summary, The long decline is just beginning which goes over some of the same things I do in that first piece and extends them. Donald talks about the wave of retiring baby boomers which is starting to come onshore, more like a 30 year tsunami than a wave.  
Now, where is all the money to pay for our retirement centers, medical care and vacations in Costa Rica going to come from? It will come from the equity investments we made before we retired. In short, we are going to sell stocks, bonds and mutual funds like crazy starting very soon. And because each successive year adds millions more to the retired ranks, the selloff will accelerate every year into the late 2030s and almost certainly well into the '40s.

The plain fact is that tens of trillions of dollars are going to disappear from the value of the DJIA and other stock indices over the next 20-30 years. And with each year, as the selloff accelerates, the decline in equity-companies' market value will drop even more - because each successive year, boomers will sell more equities than the year before, both as a group and individually, just to stay even.

In fact, if the near-term retiring boomers cash out only $1,500 of equities per month, starting with zero retired boomers and adding about 360,000 every month, then in only six months more than $3 trillion of sold-share value will be reached.

Read this slowly: Three. Trillion. Dollars. Sold off every six months. That's in addition to the previous semiannual's sum. That's $18 trillion of equities sold in just the first 18 months. And it only goes much higher from there. Folks, we are looking at possibly hundreds of trillions of dollars of equity sales over boomers' retirement years.

There are two huge problems with this. First, the total world market's valuation is only $37 trillion. So boomers' simply cannot cash out enough equities to maintain their standard of living because there is literally not enough money in the world to do it, assuming that boomers need only about $1,500 of sold principal per month to make up a shortfall of dividends and interest. Even if you halve the figure, the numbers can't be sustained. (underlines added - SiGB)
Boomers were sold on the stock market on the advice that "over the long term, it has always gone up", and believed it will continue to.  That investment (led by the 401k account) has provided a bonanza in capital for business expansions and start-ups; it helped fuel the tech bubble of the 90s, and that money helped fund the housing bubble of the 00s.  It's a fair statement to say the major market indices will never recover to the levels of growth they had through the 20th century, even ignoring the 1990s, and that a massive economic slowdown is going to be the inescapable result. The 21st century is going to look nothing like the 20th century and that's a big reason.

If you're still in the stock market (WTF?  why??), the old advice of "buy and hold" will be worse than useless.  If you're a trader, it's still possible to make money in the market, because money can be made regardless of the direction of the overall market.  There will likely always be good stocks to buy and bad stocks to short.  But if you're under 50, don't buy into that advice to buy the general market and go long. 
If you're approaching retirement, for this and a variety of other reasons, you probably don't get to retire unless you have well over a million saved. 

True story: I've mentioned before I work for a big company.  Like the majority of the herd, we do annual performance reviews, which is a comparison of goals you submitted a year ago, goals you were scheduled to meet, with what you actually accomplished.  This year they asked us to submit a development plan.  The first question was, "What do you picture yourself doing in three to five years?".  In my mind, I wrote, "In the best case, I'm retired, living someplace with dark skies, on 10 acres I own free and clear, with plenty of recreational opportunities, playing to my heart's content.  In the worst case, I'm crouched in the rubble that used to be my house, wearing a loincloth that some animal I killed was wearing, and defending my wife and I with a rifle.  With two bullets saved for when all other options are gone".  Then I decided not to submit the form until they tell me I have to. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Look Both Ways

While everyone is talking about a European collapse I consistently find I'm the only one warning people that the Chinese are in trouble, too.  Pretty much everyone talks about the Chinese coming here to collect on the bonds they're bought, by taking everything from our land to "our wimmin".  I'm not going to sit here and say that's impossible.  I ain't that foolish. 

But the Shanghai market is on the verge of a big decision point.  Within the next couple of weeks at most. 
When these triangle (also called flag or pennant) patterns appear, the tracked data has to break out of it; there is simply no way it can't.  Which way is it going to break?  That's the bazillion dollar question.  No one can answer that based on this chart.  In the larger sense of what drives investment in the Shanghai market, capital from US and EU sources certainly flows into that picture.  As EU wealth gets sucked up into the ponzi scheme to keep the EU alive, will there be any to look for opportunity in China?  Same question about dollars? 

When the EU collapses and the dollar follows, which way do you think it's going to go?

The simplest way to put it is, if no one has money to buy the cheap crap they produce, how will China have any growth? 

Blogroll Administrivia

I've edited my reading list, just to the right.  The only addition is Quizikle, a kindred technogeek, better-traveled than I.  He describes
Midwest born and raised … adopted The West back when Vegas was a distant spot in the desert … now a recent out-of-place transplant living way back east.
His page lead-in is, "An experienced technician will take less than 5 minutes to find the correct wrench needed to pound in a loose screw".  We must have worked with the same technicians.  Or maybe he worked with me when I was that tech. 

And I note a couple of deletions of regular reads.  Behind the Parapet and Improved Clinch.  Behind the Parapet has been inactive for several months, but is still on Blogspot, so could come back.  Improved Clinch has been inactive since mid-September and now shows a "site is unavailable" page.  Improved Clinch is/was the erudite ex-submariner, John Venlet.  I sent John a personal email to see if was still there and never got an answer.  If anyone knows what happened, pass on the word in the comments.

Monday, November 14, 2011

On The Anniversary of Kristallnacht

Well, not exactly the anniversary - the night after.  If you're not familiar with the word, kristallnacht - literally "crystal night" but usually translated as "the night of broken glass" - was November 9, 1938.  This was the night that Hitler's SS troops went through the country on a night of terrorism, a hint at the coming world war.
Known euphemistically as “Kristallnacht” (“Crystal Night”), this state-organized orgy of violence happened in peace time. It involved the systematic burning of hundreds of synagogues, the destruction of approximately 7,500 Jewish businesses, the murder of nearly 100 Jews and the deportation of another 30,000 male Jews to German concentration camps. (source)
Kristallnacht is important because:
It took the persecution of Jews from economic, political, and social to the physical with beatings, incarceration, and murder. It is often referred to as the beginning of the Holocaust.
This year, on Thursday, November 10, cars were torched, swastikas and anti-Jewish epithets were painted on cars, sidewalks and buildings.  In Berlin?  Damascus?  No, in Brooklyn, New York City.  Residents, including a few survivors of the holocaust, were understandably alarmed.  While it certainly meets every definition of hate crime, it appears to be alcohol fueled: police reported many empty corona bottles in that area.  Not that beer bottles could not have been dropped by anyone traversing the area.  It is certainly tempting and easy to make this association:
Sandra Simone, a speech therapist at a nearby school, tied the attack to the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests, where signs blaming Jews for the economic meltdown have been spotted from time to time.
But to me, it's simply a signpost on the road we're traveling as a country and a world.  Not an exit; I'm not sure any exits are left on this road.  Isolated event?  Not at all.  Antisemitism is rising.  The old hatreds are returning. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Penn State

I've been hesitant to say anything about this because I just don't feel comfortable with the story; it seems like there's something else going on.  The behavior of all of the people involved seems so bizarre, I'm waiting for some other shoe to drop.

Nevertheless, there were riots the other night on the news JoePa was fired.  Students - you ought to read a little about what's going on before you protest this.  The way I see it, Joe Paterno ought to be in jail; or at least on house arrest.  Same goes for the school president, Graham Spanier, who didn't report the rapes to police and the coaching assistant, McCreary, who stumbled across the rapist, Sandusky, in the midst of raping a child and did nothing.

I've thought about this a lot over the last several days, and I keep coming back to the conclusion that there's only a couple of appropriate responses to finding a rapist in the act, and they all involve firearms on brain stems - granted you may need to use a shovel or fire extinguisher if you're in a gun-free/victim-terrorization zone.  If it was your son, your daughter, or wife, or mother; if it was you, what would you want the person who finds it to do? 

OK, so McCreary proved himself to be a coward and just reported it to his boss, Paterno, the next day.  Paterno, in turn, proved himself a coward and reported it to his boss.  At some point, these cowards have another trigger point: if they don't see Sandusky taken away in cuffs within a few days to a week at most, they need to report it to the police themselves.  Having not done that, they're accessories to child rape and need to be behind bars.

The inimitable Mike V. over at Sipsey Street did a great piece yesterday talking about when "The Institution" - the collective - becomes more important than mere individuals, this sort of thing happens.  You've probably read it; if not go read.  I can only say that the only possibility more revolting to explain what went on at Penn State is that the institution which Paterno, Spanier and the others are protecting is not Penn State, but a child sex slavery ring. 

I never attended a college with a football team, but anyone who knows any thing at all about college sports knows about Joe Paterno.  Truth be told, I've always respected him.  No longer.  At this point, he's among the most despicable people I know of.

Shotguns on brain stems.  The only appropriate response. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

British Aerospace Develops Cloaking Device

No Romulans involved.  It only works in the infrared, but cloaking technology took a good step forward with the Adaptiv system from BAE Systems, the descendent of British Aerospace and Marconi Electronic Systems.  This is the type of technology that you can expect to see more of in the professional armies of the world.

From what I can tell, there's no new technology here, nothing depending on fundamentally new science; rather, it's just clever use of current technology.  The system covers the object to be hidden with hexagonal tiles that can be set to specific temperatures, so that in the far IR, they can be set to look like either the background or a specific programmed shape.  In that video, they make the tank look like a station wagon, for example.  ("hey... what's a Volvo station wagon doing out here on the battlefield?")

To blend in with the background, each sensor panel can include a camera that observes the temperature of the environment on one side of the tank (over a small area), and the system then programs the pixels on the other side of the tank to those temperatures.  The results is like looking through the solid object.  Much like this clever guy did with his Halloween costume: using two iPad2 tablets on either side of his body.  The combined cameras and videos allow you to see what's behind him, as if you're looking right through him. 

Invisibility is a subject that gets a lot of university research.  The technology to do this in visible light is very likely many years away, but imagine light-piping (fiber optics) an image from one side of a cloak to another, so that the objects on one side of you can be seen as if you weren't there.  I expect the first uses will be to disguise soldiers from being seen from great distances; it will be a long time before you could stand near someone and not see them. Unless you're over 65. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Union Extortion

Rush Limbaugh read a story on the air today from the Washington Examiner that blew my mind so badly, I spent an hour picking skull fragments out of the wall with tweezers.  In the State of Michigan, if you are taking Medicaid from the state to care for a disabled adult child, you are declared an employee of the state and a member of the Service Employees International Union, SEIU, and dues are deducted from your Medicaid payment.

You have no choice, no vote, no input whatsoever.
Robert and Patricia Haynes live in Michigan with their two adult children, who have cerebral palsy. The state government provides the family with insurance through Medicaid, but also treats them as caregivers. For the SEIU, this makes them public employees and thus members of the union, which receives $30 out of the family's monthly Medicaid subsidy. The Michigan Quality Community Care Council (MQC3) deducts union dues on behalf of SEIU.
Initiated in 2006 under then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm, D-Mich., the plan reportedly provides the SEIU with $6 million annually in union dues deducted from those Medicaid subsidies.
You can be sure that this money will be used to cycle donations to Evil party candidates to keep them in office and keep the money train moving.  The parents in this story don't really work for the state, and have no economic reason to join the SEIU, but the unions got this law passed and signed by former Governor Granholm, so that the parents are declared to be workers and mandatory members of the SEIU, and dues can be extorted from them.  Rush uses the term money laundering; works well enough for me.

To quote from Animal House:
Dean Vernon Wormer:  "Carmine, I don't think it's right that you should extort money from the college."

Mayor Carmine DePasto: "Look, as the Mayor of Faber I have expenses.... and if you mention extortion again, I'll have your legs broken"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Education, Commerce and... Uhh...

By now, everyone has heard Rick Perry's gaff last night, where he couldn't remember the name of the Department of Energy; the third of three agencies he said he wanted to shut down.

The Evil party's rubber-stamped attacks on the Stupid party focus on "they want dirty water and dirty air" and "they want stupid, uneducated slaves to work for big business".  This is straight out of the Evil's playbook; I've heard the president say the first one within the last week. (sorry, don't have enough time to look for links: if you insist on one, it shouldn't take you long).  The Department of Energy was started under the execrable Jimmy Carter to end our dependence on foreign oil.  Isn't it great to be free of precarious foreign oil supplies and immune to disruptions by crazy dictators? Oh, wait.  (I'm ashamed to admit I voted for Carter.  Hey, he was an engineer instead of the career politician Ford he replaced - I was trying)

It's true that all three of these departments are useless.  The Department of Education hasn't educated a single student, and arguably has interfered with the people who are trying to educate students.  In international math competitions, US high school students typically come in somewhere between algae and various species of Elk.  Graphs like this one from the Cato Institute, which shows that test scores are constant regardless of educational spending or teacher to student ratio, can be found everywhere. 
And graphs like this one show that tuition has gone up more than the composite "cost of living" or the hated medical expenses.
So, since the quality of education stays the same no matter what we spend on it, it's clear the Department of Education isn't doing anything for us.  Why should we increase spending?  Is anyone aware of studies that show spending matters? 

See, in my mind, increasing spending should - up to some point of diminishing returns.  In my experience, the only thing that seems to affect test scores is dedicated, motivated teachers - which is why home schooled kids routinely outperform the publicly schooled.   

How about it, gentle readers?  Seen any good studies that show spending more on education buys anything? 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How Can You Tell When A Politician is Lying?

You know that old joke: his lips are moving.  And what do you get when you create a giant group of politicians "working" together?  A government.  As surely as deductive logic follows, how do you know when a government is lying? ...

Earlier this week, it was leaked that congress is looking at new ways to calculate inflation.  You can bet the goal will be to minimize the inflation reported. 
If adopted across the government, the inflation measure would have widespread ramifications. Future increases in veterans’ benefits and pensions for federal workers and military personnel would be smaller. Over time, fewer people would qualify for Medicaid, Head Start, food stamps, school lunch programs and home heating assistance.

Taxes would go up by $60 billion over the next decade because annual adjustments to the tax brackets would be smaller, resulting in more people jumping into higher tax brackets. Annual increases in the standard deduction and personal exemptions would become smaller.
I have reported before, as have thousands of others, that the Bureau Of Labor Statistics does not calculate inflation as it did until the 1980s.  The best known example is that the CPI core inflation does not include food and energy expenses - the most important numbers to the consumer (what's more important than feeding your kids and keeping your lights on?);  a lesser known fact is that their method relies on something called Hedonics, which discounts the cost you pay based on the perceived "pleasure" you get out of it.  In the case of your electronics, as the often cited example goes, you may pay a little more that computer you just bought, but it's twice as fast as its predecessor, so you really saved money on it.  In March of this year, the President of the New York Federal Reserve almost got himself made into soup for telling an audience just that. 

John Williams at make a nice living keeping track of what the government says and running a bullshit to English translator on it. For example, the current reported inflation rate is less than 4%, while the actual number is more like 11%!
The new method being proposed is called the Chained Consumer Price Index.  Proponents argue that it more closely shows the effects of inflation on individuals; for example, if beef goes up in price while chicken doesn't, people will "eat mor chikin".  They neglect to tell us what happens in the current situation - where the price of everything goes up.
We read last week to expect peanut butter prices to go up by as much as 40% in a few weeks.  That's extreme, but Business Insider is reporting inflation of around 9% this year, on their shopping basket average.

It's not just the cost of living they want to distort.  The government proposes a new measure of poverty  which, economists argue, is a better measure of income inequality than poverty.  There's a distinction there: if you live next door to Bill Gates, you might well be a millionaire and not poor in anyone's eyes, but you have less income than Bill. 
... the new tool measures income inequality not purchasing power. Or, as Rector put it, “The old measure told us how much one household can purchase; the new measure tells us how much one person can buy relative to others.” [emphasis in original]

That’s convenient for a government that wants to pursue a redistributive agenda. Call those who are less well off “poor” and people will be far more supportive of programs to aid them. In general, folks agree that poverty is a problem. But, the prevalence of Occupy Wall Street protesters aside, not everyone assumes income inequality is. If everyone in the U.S. was a millionaire or billionaire, income disparity would still exist — but poverty wouldn’t.  [emphasis added]

What is, perhaps, saddest about these figures is that it obscures the picture of true poverty — both in the U.S. and in the world. Like so much of this administration’s rhetoric, it encourages class envy and tends to inspire dissatisfaction with what actually amounts to a pretty decent standard of living among some who qualify as “poor” by the government’s measures.  [emphasis added]
In summary, it appears our government's response to inflation is to: (1) distort the numbers that show how bad it is, which will cut COLA increases to seniors on social security and military veterans, and (2) try to create enough envy to engender class hatred and perhaps feed the OWS attempt at open source civil war. 

at tip to Bayou Renaissance Man for the ideas leading to this.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

If OWS Is Really Against Big Bankers...

If Occupy Wall Street is really anti-big business - and especially banks - why do they keep destroying small businesses?

In San Diego, they "thanked" some hot dog vendors by vandalizing their hot dog carts, throwing urine and blood on them.  They did the same for coffee carts.
In an ironic twist of fate, the owners of pair of San Diego coffee and hot dog carts — who initially provided free food and beverage to Occupy protesters – had to shut down after demonstrators turned violent, splattering their kiosks with blood and urine.
In New York, Marc Epstein, owner of the Milk Street Cafe, had to lay off 21 out of 97 of his workers in this newly (June) opened restaurant.  It's not like he's a new owner who doesn't know how to run a place: he has been running his Boston locations for 30 years and reports this is his first layoff.  His main problem: not the protesters themselves but the inevitable rearrangement of the city's traffic patterns to avoid them.  A prime example of unintended consequences.

I feel sorry for Stacey Tzortzatos, (rt) owner of a little restaurant called Panini & Co. Breads, "across from" Zucotti park.  Protesters would come into her place to use the bathroom.  They allowed this go on for a while, but one of the useful idiots was apparently sitting on the sink and trying to bathe.  The sink departed the wall, broke, ripped out the plumbing and flooded the place.  Cost a few thousand dollars to fix.  Understandably, they now don't want to allow anyone other than paying customers in to the place to use the facilities and she gets death threats.
“I’ve been told, ‘Watch your back!’ 10 times,” Stacey Tzortzatos, owner of Panini & Co. Breads, located across from Zuccotti Park, told The Post yesterday.

She and her employees are terrified by the constant threats, which she said began after she demanded the protesters stop using her shop’s restroom as a place to bathe every day.

The final straw came about two weeks ago, when the demonstrators broke a bathroom sink, flooding the shop, and clogged the toilet -- setting her back $3,000 in damages.
“I have the police in here 10 times a day, [and] I’m the bouncer. I’ve been called the spawn of the devil. “It’s unbelievable what goes on in here every day, ” Tzortzatos said.
The other "City by the Bay", and seeming center of the worst violence, Oakland, has been seen small businesses hurt badly by the protests, with several businesses citing damages and extreme drops in sales.
"We are seeing serious losses of business," said Junge (public policy director of Oakland's Chamber of Commerce.)

"People have lost 40 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent of their sales."
If they really are protesting bailouts to banks and crony capitalism, and not just trying to destroy capitalism itself, the #OWS idiots are singularly ineffective.  Have you heard of a single bank that has been impacted?  I haven't - only these struggling small businesses.  The profit margins in restaurants, taverns, and the other small businesses being hit here are not large and these businesses are not "rich fat cats".  The owners and managers are probably lucky to keep the lights on.

Sure, these people have the right to protest. Absolutely, positively - without any question.  But young Ms. Tzortzatos, Mr. Epstein and all the others have a right to their livelihoods - to run their businesses as they see fit.  The occupier pigs** don't have the right to run them out of business.  It's wearing on too long and NYC has let it get too far out of hand.  Neighbors - just plain folks - are complaining about the constant drumming, the stench and the destruction of their favorite places.  Time for the OWS crowd to go home. 
But the protesters appear to be digging in, erecting three of what will eventually be more than two dozen, 16-by-16-foot military-style tents that will help them stave off hypothermia in the coming winter.

And they’ll have some entertainment today.

Music legends David Crosby and Graham Nash are slated to perform an acoustic set of protest songs this afternoon at Zuccotti Park.
**pigs?  Am I too harsh?  Judge for yourself:
Occupy Wall Street has tried to reduce the strain on local businesses by setting up three 24-hour porta potties several blocks from the park on Friday. But DNAinfo reports that as of yesterday, many occupiers didn't know they existed, and others chose not to use them. "I use a street corner, a telephone pole," 22-year-old protester Terrence Hubbard says. "I did it a couple of times in my tent when I was lazy. Otherwise, I go to McDonald's."[emphasis added - GB]
You relieved yourself in your tent?  What kind of animal are you?  My cats have infinitely more class than that. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

An Alarming Trend

Tonight, I want to make an excursion to something I've never gone into before, the trend of parents refusing to vaccinate their children against childhood diseases due to a misplaced fear of the vaccines causing autism.  Thanks to a couple of links from my not-gray-bearded-at-all son, I've become aware that parents have gone beyond mere paranoia to actual pathological behavior.

Parents are actually staging pox parties to infect their children with wild chickenpox.  They have an open Facebook group to help each other do this.  If that isn't far enough, they're buying, selling and shipping via the postal service, infectious, virus-contaminated waste in an effort to infect their children. To say nothing of the risks to people with compromised immune systems like anyone undergoing chemotherapy, or anyone who has had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. 

Blogger Mike the Mad Biologist says:
The only difference between this and bioterrorism is intent, which given the health risks holds very little importance.

How anyone could think infecting a child with unattenuated live measles, mumps or rubella virus is safe? This is nothing more than child abuse through microbiology.
I have to follow this up with a giant WTF??

I had chickenpox as a kid, along with all the usual "childhood" disease (measles, mumps, chickenpox, even German measles); the only vaccines I recall getting were smallpox and the polio vaccine, when the oral Sabin vaccine first came out.  I remember going to the doctor when my brother had one of them - mumps, I think - and being the one who got the shot.  I must have been 4, and really felt abused.  (I think they gave me gamma globulin to reduce the severity of the infection).  In my mind, the vaccinations are tremendous advancement, and given the choice of getting a vaccination or sick, I always get the vaccine (which reminds me - it's getting past time I should get my flu shot this year!) .  There has been a buttload of misinformation on vaccines and autism since a paper linking them by Andrew Wakefield was published in the UK and later retracted (short pdf).  

Actress Jenny McCarthy has been so vocal about this issue, that someone has put up a Jenny McCarthy Body Count page to track the number of preventable illnesses and deaths caused by her convincing parents not to get their children vaccinated. 

I have neither the time, space nor inclination to get too much more involved with this.  The risks of autism from vaccines are not at all clear or large; the risks of dying from these diseases are both clear and larger than the vaccine risks.  Children used to die of these every year before the vaccines became so widespread.  The idea of deliberately giving your child these illnesses and exposing them to the risk of complications or death, sounds exactly like "child abuse through microbiology" to me. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sarah Palin Nails OWS Hypocrisy

At a Republican meeting not far from here, Sarah Palin nailed the difference between the Tea Party and the Occupy Whatever crowds. While we all may agree that the bailouts were wrong, and we should end the fed, as some occupiers seem to protest, my answer is make the government so small and impotent they can't give bailouts.  OWS says "give me the money instead of them". 
"They say 'Wall Street fat cats got a bailout so now I want one too.' And the correct answer is no one is entitled to a bailout," Palin told the crowd of about 1,000 at the Republican Party of Florida dinner. "The American dream, our foundation, is about work ethic and empowerment, not entitlement."

She compared the protesters and President Barack Obama to the "crony capitalists" they say they oppose.

"Barack Obama is owned by Wall Street [see here - Graybeard]. The fat cats, as he calls them, they're his friends. They're his pals. That's where he gets his campaign donations. And he's very generous about giving these cats their cat nip — bigger returns on their investments in bailouts," Palin said.
She went on to try and convince OWS that they need to be protesting Washington, where the policies they claim to oppose come from.  Fat chance.
Photo from the Orlando Sentinel.

As long as this coalition holds together, I remain convinced this is open source civil war.  They are coming for us.  It's a non-violent movement?  "Puh-leeze".  They desperately want violence.  They desperately need violence to provoke a government clamp down.  Once the regular folks see enough violence, they'll beg the government to clamp down on the protesters - and they'll clamp down on all of us.  "Top down, bottom up, inside out" as Van Jones calls for.  Hate going through TSA molestations at the airports or on the interstate?  That's only the beginning. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was pondering how communists and anarchists could possibly march together when one wants no government whatsoever and the other wants absolute totalitarian government that controls every aspect of their lives.  El Marco records this poster seen on location in Evil Clowns and Radical Ringmasters of the Anti-Capitalist Revolution in Denver 
Translation: stick together until we overthrow the government, then we can kill them.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fun Show Again

There was a gun and fishing show down in the next county south of us, so since the combination of shooting and fishing covers most of our recreational plans, Mrs. Graybeard and I took the 45 minute drive down to check things out.  These shows seem to get bigger every time I go down there, and today didn't disappoint.  No guns, but I did buy a graphite fishing rod.  Mrs. Graybeard bought a Cold Steel knife like my EDC

I know I've talked about this before, but I find it ... interesting... how folks crowd around the handguns but only one or two are looking at the shotguns.  I maintain that for an all around gun, but not one you'd want to conceal, it's hard to beat the value of a 12 gauge shotgun.  Whether it's for putting some food on the table or social work, it will be the go-to tool.  I still see Mossbergs available brand new, with two barrels (self defense and hunting lengths) for $300-ish.  A while back, Guffaw in AZ quoted the old saying, "stopping power begins at 12 gauge" and I think these images say it all.

First, while advocates may argue calibers, I think everyone would concede that 45ACP, 230 grain, JHPs are effective.  I mercilessly ripped this image from Brassfetcher.
Four large, nasty looking rounds, expanded from .45" to around .70", penetrating 12" into a ballistic gelatin block.  I don't know of anyone that would like to take the place of that block.

Now compare it to a single 12 gauge "tactical" (hollowpoint) slug.
Notice that the slug is still visible toward the left - 14" of penetration.  It expanded to 1" diameter.  Now look at the damage that the entry end of the block sustained.  More subtle is that the original entry point was on the left, like the 45ACP test, and the 6x6x16" block of gelatin flipped 1.5 feet into the air and off of the test stand

Penetration?  Let's put a layer or two of heavy denim between the shotgun and the gel.
That didn't make much difference.  As they used to say on those dopey anti-drug commercials, "any questions?"  - Oh, and if you're a smaller person, or sensitive to heavy recoil for some reason, the only difference stepping "down" to a 20 gauge will make is for the coroner trying to find the pellets.
Edit 11-6 0940 EST to make the bottom picture display better on a mobile device

Friday, November 4, 2011

This Weekend's Must Read/Must Watch

There is nothing I can post that is more important than this weekend's must-read posting.  There's well over a half hour of embedded video that's worth watching, too.

The story is at GardenSERF's Plot: "How to Train the Neighbors to Hate and Kill"

As the already-underway Endarkenment proceeds, there will be those strive to control us more, to gather more power, to set neighbor against neighbor so that they can divide and conquer.  From the president's frequently quoted, "tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires", to "we are the 99%" and "Top 1% Y U NO PAY TAXES?!", these are only the beginning.  Next comes: "take it" and "get 'em!!"