Friday, August 31, 2012

Epilog to Fed Watching

So what did the Bernank do?  He did just about nothing, it's what he said.  He issued a tepid statement early in the day, 10 AM eastern, which is 8 AM out in Jackson Hole.  If they had announced the QE round, they probably would have issued that statement after the markets closed, at 3 or 4 PM out in Wyoming.  No, this appears to have been done to cause the market to go up.  My opinion only, of course.  The Blaze reported:
Chairman Ben Bernanke sent a clear message Friday that the Federal Reserve will do more to “help” the still-struggling U.S. economy. His remarks seemed to leave two questions: What exactly will the Fed do? And when? 
The "what" is pretty obvious.  With interest rates essentially zero, there's not much room to lower them; what's another quarter percent going to do?  The "what" will have to be some form of QE, most likely buying more US Treasury bonds, as they've been doing for quite some time.  The Wall Street Journal put it this way:
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke left almost no doubt this morning that he’s leaning toward another bond-buying program, quantitative easing,  a so-called QE3. He offered a studied defense of everything the Fed’s done so far, and he isn’t sold on economic growth. Inflation’s only a ghost, so the deck’s are clear on that front.
Inflation's only a ghost!  "That Minx!  What a lively sense of humor" (Otter - Animal House).  Food inflation of 10% is just a ghost!  Non-existent!  Hahahahahahahaha!  Wew.  After that knee slapper, the WSJ continues:
From our reading of the speech, it appears that Bernanke has given up on the idea of Congress stepping up and taking care of its business, which means he thinks the “fiscal cliff” will remain an issue through the November election and likely right up to the end of the year. The drag on the economy will only get worse the longer that hangs around, and that’s apparently unacceptable to the Fed chieftain.
And from my reading of the WSJ and the markets' reactions, they all believe Bernanke is going to "take care of business".  The major indices, DJIA,  NASDAQ and the S&P 500 were all up about 0.6%, but the metals were up more:  Gold was + $36.30, 2.19%, Silver + $1.30,  4.27%.  The dollar, not surprisingly was down, 0.52%.  So, now the "when" question comes up.  My guess is whenever this little goose to the markets starts to decay away, or if the election looks too close.  End of September?  Just a WAG.

Helicopter Ben will ride again.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Time to Put On Your Fed Watching Gear

Tomorrow marks the annual meeting of the Federal Reserve Banks at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  You may have noticed that most of the markets have been trading in a narrow range over the last week or so, IMO in anticipation of the direction that will come out of this meeting.  There was a run-up in prices toward the beginning of the month in anticipation of another round of free money, er, money printing, um, I mean quantitative easing. 
Remember, one of the Rules of Trading is "buy on the rumor, sell on the fact".  The rumor clearly broke around the 20th.  So will there be another round of QE? 

First, for new visitors, I'm essentially a student of the Austrian school, rather than a Keynesian.  That means I believe, as our constitution states, that money should be made from gold and silver; paper should be backed by that amount of gold and silver on demand - the way it was before 1973 when we broke all ties to the gold standard.  It also means, among other things, that I'm deeply suspicious of the utility of creating worthless money, backed by nothing other than "we say it's a dollar, so it's a dollar".  Anyone with any sense knows that the dollars they get are inherently worth less than the ones they are promised, yet they continue to take them.  The Keynesian world economy is a dance in which every partner is insane and disgusting, and the only way to "win" is to end up with the least insane and least disgusting. 

On a more practical level, even if you are a Keynesian, one of the fundamentals of economics is the marginal utility function - the idea that, for example, if you're broke, your first $20 bill has high utility, while if you're a billionaire, another $20 bill doesn't add much utility.  If the first several trillion dollars were ineffective at turning things around, how many trillions will have to be created to make a difference?  The more dollars there are, the less they're worth - which is the cause of inflation.  How much inflation are they willing to create?  Are they willing to go all Zimbabwe and reduce the value of the dollar to the value of the paper?  That could be the outcome.  At the very least, anything you've saved for retirement will be inflated away to nothing.

On the other hand, from Bernanke's seat, it could be the only alternative.  The ECB is getting ready to print more to try to keep the EU from collapsing.  And Romney has already said that if he's elected, Bernanke is gone.   Although party platforms aren't really worth the paper they're printed on - no one is required to follow them (heck, no one is even required to read them) - the Stupid Platform says it's time to create a committee to study getting back on the gold standard - something last done during the Reagan administration.  (See  "Could the US Return to a Gold Standard" for some thoughts).  Since releasing an enormous amount of money is going to do something, perhaps that's enough to force Bernanke's hand, and have him do it.  Personal survival/job security.  He doesn't have to fix the economy, he just has to make it look good enough to get Bamster reelected. 

You have to admit, the timing is perfect.  Not just a Friday press release, but a Friday on a holiday weekend?  This is when they tend to drop the bombs, after all.
(Fed watchers gather in the mountains outside of Jackson Hole)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Stay Classy, Democrats

I've only recently become aware of a young woman from Utah, mayor of the city of Saratoga Springs, and Republican candidate for the US House, Mia Love.  I heard the name within the last couple of months and saw her once on TV.  She's charismatic, poised, and presents herself well on TV.  I was impressed with her grasp of the fight for liberty and the America of our founders, quite possibly because she has lived it.  First, being from Utah, deep in flyover country where self-reliance and helping your neighbors are equally deep in the DNA, and second, from watching her parents build a successful business after coming to America from Haiti "with 10 dollars in their pockets". 

Impressive, attractive young woman whom nobody knows, why not put her onstage?  So the Stupid Party gave her an early time slot as a speaker at the convention.  No, I wasn't watching, (I don't typically watch much of the conventions - as I've said before, I hate day to day politics) but apparently the Evil Party was, because Twitter soon began telling stories about her entry in the Wikipedia was being defaced.  As Twitchy reports...
Tuesday night after rising GOP star Mia Love brought down the house with her inspiring convention speech, the stomach-turning Left labeled the black conservative a “token” and an “Aunt Tom.”

Meanwhile, revoltingly racist, woman-hating Wikipedia vandals were hard at work updating her entry with disgusting slurs like “House Nigger” and “dirty, worthless whore.” The page called her a “total sell-out to the Right Wing Hate machine and the greedy bigots who control the GOP.”
Oh, yeah.  I guess I never mentioned she's black.  No "dog whistle" racism here, this is the real, putrid deal. 

My black, conservative friends have tended to be engineers (for the last 30 years), so I haven't exactly watched them get ostracized at work or in their communities, but they've said they have family problems for not being liberal.  I certainly have read the same from many black conservatives online.  If you watch reactions to black conservatives, they get extreme amounts of hate dumped on them for "getting out of line" - literally "not knowing their place".  Remember when the leftist protesters outside a conservative summit openly talked about killing Clarence Thomas, or torturing him by cutting off his toes?  The Evil Party appears so determined to keep control over every black person in America that they get truly, viciously angry when blacks stray from the party line.  As more blacks realize what a bad deal voting straight Evil Party tickets has been for them, it will have to turn into a problem. 
(Mia with her husband and family)
The speech, preceded by a few minutes of campaign commercial is here on YouTube, as well as her site (linked above).   It is good. 

A little over two years ago, I wrote about how charges of racism - like the "dog whistle racism" oxymoron - is the equivalent of the Atomic Bomb of Argument.  Like being called a Nazi, it's supposed to get you so concerned about denying the charge that you go off your message and dispute the charge - a win-win for the opponent.  And I discuss why I don't believe there is such a thing as race. 
This may shock some people, but I don't really believe there is such a thing as race.  I believe there are nationalities, and people from different areas of the world look different, but those differences are superficial and go away as cultures blend.

Most variation is within, not between, "races." Of the small amount of total human variation, 85% exists within any local population, be they Italians, Kurds, Koreans or Cherokees. About 94% can be found within any continent. That means two random Koreans may be as genetically different as a Korean and an Italian.  No matter how different you think the Italian and Korean look from each other.
Of course, when you think this way, the entire race-baiting industry goes away and that's a set of jobs the Evil Party will never let get away! 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

QoTD "Hardware is the New Software"

That quote is from the New York Times, of all places.  Well, slightly modified.  The article is about how the Silicon Valley is making a return to its roots.  As the piece says,
THE shift away from the Valley’s obsession with dot-com services and Web-based social networks is a return to the region’s roots. The Valley began as a center for electronics hardware design in the late 1930s, when Bill Hewlett and David Packard built an audio oscillator that Walt Disney used in the production of the movie “Fantasia.” At the start of the 1970s, the label Silicon Valley was coined because of the proliferation of semiconductor companies. In the mid-1970s, a group of computer hardware hobbyists started the Homebrew Computer Club here, which gave rise to several dozen start-ups, including Apple Computer.
Places like the Silicon Valley (and, to a lesser extent, my own Silicon Swamp) become hotbeds of innovation as engineers get a better idea and head off to start their own companies.  A good technical university can serve as both a backbone and feedstock.  To be successful requires some minimum size and number of businesses, and while many cities have tried to be "the Next Silicon Valley", the original is still the standard.  Of course, this goes on against the backdrop of the ongoing economic collapse of California that "the Professor", Victor Davis Hanson, has so eloquently written.  The Valley may not survive but be replaced by Boise or another similar community. 

One of the emphases of the piece is how the rapid prototyping industry is part of this.
Instead, any designer now has the ability to quickly experiment with new product designs using low-cost 3-D printers. These printers can churn out objects to make prototypes quickly — a fork, wall hooks, mugs, a luggage clasp — by printing thousands of layers of wafer-thin slices of plastics, ceramics or other materials. Products can be made quickly in contract assembly plants overseas, usually in China.
Make no mistake, software is still a very big part of these designs, and they are very much cousins to the (current) grand master of the Valley, Apple.  They highlight several interesting products coming out of the area: the Nest, a self-programming thermostat; Lytro, a really innovative camera which produces images that can be re-focused and zoomed after they come out of the camera; and Shaka, a plug-in for your smart phone to measure wind speed. There are more.  
I think I need to get me one of these! 

As hardware engineer, these developments are encouraging to see.  But I gotta tell you, as a pure radio designer, I feel more and more like a dinosaur these days.  The amount of pure RF design is shrinking yearly; most commercial radios are 1/10 radio and 9/10 computer.  If you are getting started, or serious about building stuff at home, you should look into learning how to program FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) at home.  FPGAs allow you to almost completely encapsulate large sections of digital logic in one moderately priced chip which you program to your requirements. It's where digital design is going.   It's almost getting hard to purchase individual logic gate chips these days.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Narcissist in Chief Honors Neil Armstrong

Most of us have posted a remembrance of Neil Armstrong.  I haven't.  But IMAO links to Daily Caller who links to the Obama campaign's own Tumblr page with this image:
Yes, that's Mr. President himself.  He honors the death of a truly great man with picture of himself.  I'll be charitable and say I really doubt that he's personally involved in this sort of thing, and some kid campaign staffer chose this picture - "Hey!  We got any pictures of his Lordship and the moon?".  If it gets approved it's probably not a high-level insider like at Valerie Jarret's level.  No, I can't prove he had anything to do with it, and I can't prove he didn't.

Neil Armstrong was a remarkable man.  I won't go into details of his missions, his ability to fly the lunar lander "flying bedstead" as well as anyone, or recovering control of his Gemini spacecraft after the Centaur he docked with started swinging wildly out of control.  Those things are online.  What I find most remarkable about Armstrong is how he steadfastly refused any honor and accolades.  He was just doing his job, he was just the guy NASA called up for a tough mission, a mission with a large chance of not coming back from.  When he found that someone was selling autographs, he stopped giving them out, he didn't start charging.   He left NASA to go teach college and worked quietly at that. 

In a day of people who are famous for being famous, and kids who rank fame above life's accomplishments, I find that really refreshing.  I have some pictures around here, from a 25th anniversary celebration of the landing, when Mrs. Graybeard worked on the Shuttle.  I have some pictures of all three of the crew.  Gotta find them and scan them in before they fade away.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Should You Act In Your Own Best Interest?

An anonymous commenter the other day posted this viewpoint on the way the Greeks are coping with the collapse of their country and the recommendations from John Robb:
What you say sounds reasonable from an individual perspective - but from a societal perspective it's horrible. If everyone spent their time farming their backyard rather than productively working somewhere, then our standard of living all declines. In other words, what's in the interest of the individual to protect their future is not in the interest of the corporate whole.
My first thought is "who says what's best for society?"  It's the same as my point from two days ago, about the randomness of the market being better than the bureaucrats who decide what products we need:  the movements of the vast majority of society are right.  They're right because people are moving in their own best interest.  If everyone is doing what's best for them, that makes the movements best for society.  It may displace people in some jobs - the spread out infrastructure for instance - and it sure won't be best for the displaced people, but that sort of displacement happens all the time.   Remember the slide rule industry?  If everyone tried to become more self-sufficient, more resilient, it would surely change society, but society changes all the time.  It's changing now, and the reality of what's going on is what pushes John to make his recommendations.  He's trying to save lives as this megatrend unfolds. 

I don't know what percentage of people would try to get a garden going in their yards, or what percentage of people even could, due to living in apartments with no space, I'm going to bet it's a small percentage for now.  Much like with Tom Baugh's "Starving the Monkeys", I don't know what percentage of the people would leave the life they know to become an independent contractor and I don't know what percentage would leave the life they know to create a small, self-sufficient community.  Would they make that move if they thought their family's lives and safety were at stake? I bet more would. 

Right after that first anonymous comment (obviously long before I write this) commenter Candide3 posted this:
This is exactly what has happened in the Soviet Union, both before and after its collapse. People spent an inordinate amount of time and effort working their 1/7 acre plots for food. Thanks to these plots they never starved, but the standard of living went through the floor.
What the Soviets did was right for themselves and helped them get their society going again, without the episodes of nastiness that have happened so many times through history.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saw This Somewhere ...

Saw this somewhere and just had to do the "right click - save image".  Don't recall where.

Edited to add: as I learn more about what the Russian girls did, I see this meme isn't true.  Brandon Raub did not do the same thing.  He did far less, and he did it far less offensively to anyone else.  They were trying to be outrageous and offensive.  He was having a private conversation.  If Mr. Raub was sent to a mental hospital for 30, the girls of Pussy Riot should be in a Siberian gulag for years.  8/27 2050 EDT

Friday, August 24, 2012

Telescope Mirrors, Washing Machines and Our Philosopher Kings

From time to time, I've been know to string together strange analogies around here, and tonight I present another one, involving going places no sane person goes for an obscure analogy.  But if you're up for a few minutes in a totally different world, pull up a seat and a cup of whatever.  

Let's talk about making a telescope mirror.  Do you know that an average person, who simply follows instructions well - you, for example - can make a telescope mirror with their own hands that is among the most precise things humanity knows how to make?  How precise?  Just to be functional, the surface of the mirror must be within 1/2 wavelength of light of the right shape, or within around 10 millionths of an inch.  The performance of a half wave mirror is so bad, though, that most amateur astronomers wouldn't stand it.  Instead, most experienced mirror makers turn out mirrors to better than 1/10 wave - often much better.  That's better than 2 millionths of an inch.  With your hands and extremely primitive tools - glass and abrasive grit. 

Furthermore, the average person is going to produce a more precise surface than most machines, unless a lot of thought went into the design of the surface.  Why?  Because a person can't make the same grinding stroke on the mirror every time while a machine can.  Because we're imperfect.

In a nutshell, here's how you grind a telescope mirror.  First, you put a hard ceramic or glass plate "tool" on the top of a stand of some sort (55 gallon drums are the ideal), sprinkle some abrasive on top of it, spritz some water, then put the glass for the mirror on top of this tool.  Now you stroke the mirror back and forth in a broad "W", turning the mirror a little and stepping sideways the opposite direction around the barrel.  Eventually, you wear a hollow depression in the piece on top, while the bottom piece wears down on the edges.  Once the curve is shaped, you clean up and switch to a smaller abrasive, grinding away the imperfections of the coarser grit.  Refine the surface like this a few times, followed by a polish and you have a surface ready for the real "magic", the optical figuring; making the surface meet the optical prescription.  This can be very easy or take weeks, but when it's done you have a telescope mirror.

We can make this nearly perfect surface because the thousands of strokes are all different in exactly how they work the surface.  The thousands of sprinkles of abrasive grit and water are never exactly the same amount.  The randomization of the actions produces a surface that's an average of the thousands of different strokes, much more perfect than can be produced by machine.  While all larger mirors are made by machine, smaller instruments are not, and the standard of excellence is still the hand-figured mirror. 

OK, now I can hear you saying, "that's moderately interesting, but I have no desire to make a telescope: why are you telling me this?" 

It's an extremely good analogy for the free market.  Millions of imperfect decisions being made by imperfect humans together form a more perfect decision than any machine, or in this case, more perfect than our "philosopher kings" - who are just one of those millions, after all - could ever make. 

Case in point is top-loading washing machines and the Department of Energy (source editorial here).  The DOE, of course, is driven by the agenda that energy efficiency is the single most important characteristic in any appliance, and if you consumers don't always buy the most efficient, then you're just too stupid and need to nudged into the right choices.  Consumers, however, seem to consider a wider variety of factors in choosing things to buy, not just the energy efficiency.  In reaction to how consumers were not always buying what their algorithms concluded were the most efficient machines, the DOE created rules that effectively eliminated top loading washing machines - protested by almost 3:1 among consumers.  One study showed that the average family does fewer loads of wash per week than the assumptions built into the rules did.  These folks saved far less money with the front-loading machines.  Consumers seem to be smarter than the DOE at figuring their total cost of ownership. 

This is just a subset of the study by Ted Gayer and W. Kip Viscusi of the Brookings Institute, called "Overriding Consumer Preferences with Energy Regulations".  (pdf)  It's a 46 page report, but interesting reading.

Consumers aren't perfect because humans aren't perfect.  They will buy a washing machine that isn't as "good" because it's on sale and they're short of money, say.  But they're better at figuring out what's best for them at that time, and the movement of millions of consumers, the market, is better than the models the government regulators  use. 
You're saving some petty bureaucrat's job. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tightening the Fence; Putting up the Wire

By now, you've all undoubtedly heard the story about gathering wild pigs for slaughter.  A good example is "The Wild and Free Pigs of the Okeefenokee", where a crafty old guy gathers a herd of wild pigs by scattering food for them for a while, then adding fence posts, one at a time, eventually building a fence and closing the pigs inside.  From wild pig to bacon and Boston butts in a few months.

It's arguable the same thing is being done to us.  William Norman Grigg, normally of Pro Libertate, has a piece on Lew Rockwell examining the links between Brandon Raub, the decorated Marine put in a mental hospital for 30 days (he was released today, early) for writing "politically incorrect" things in a private Facebook discussion and some similar cases.  All involve the Glorious Motherland sending someone to a gulag, um, I mean mental hospital, apparently simply for attracting attention.  These include Matthew Corrigan, a depressed veteran seeking help for a sleeping disorder, David Pyles of Medford, Oregon, whose crime appears to be using a tax refund check to buy a couple of guns shortly after being terminated from work, and engineer Gregory Girard, who doesn't appear to have any transgressions, just the misfortune of being married to a psychologist who knows how to game the system.
Photo from Grigg's column.  Go read, bacon.    

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Life In Greece After the Collapse of Civilization

Although it has largely disappeared from our news, Greece has collapsed.  The economy, such as it was, is gone, and people are back to largely living by subsistence farming and trading whatever skills they might have, whatever things they might have.  It's post (or pre-) civilization in Greece.

John Robb's Resilient Communities brings the story, with links to the BBC. 
  • There are more unemployed people than employed.
  • About 1,000 people a day are losing their jobs (that’s a big number in a small country).
  • 76% of the population wants to emigrate (most can’t afford to).
Greece is a great example of what collapse in the modern world looks like:
  • Cubicle jobs in corporate and government bureaucracies evaporate.
  • Personal savings aren’t worth much due to across the board market declines (from stocks to bonds to commodities), and what’s left depletes rapidly.
  • The cost of essentials, from food to energy to water to products, get increasingly hard to afford.
  • Rent and mortgages become negotiable.
  • While protests can occasionally turn into riots, the biggest security risk is from petty property crime and government corruption.
 (BBC photo - "The members of the community on the isle of Evia live off the land")

While this isn't the Book of Eli, it clearly isn't the lap of luxury, either.  Life is hard, day to day survival.  It's not the Zombie apocalypse, it’s just depressing.

While that photograph links to an article mostly about happy hippies who wanted to get away from civilization, the situation isn't all kids living out dreams.
Until last year, Thomas and Eleni lived with their two children in Athens. But as they lost their jobs and faced soaring taxes, they decided that the everyday struggle of city life was too much. The family moved back in with Thomas's mother in her house in the tiny village of Pahikalamo, in north-west Greece.

Around a simple lunch Eleni tells me there was no other option. "We lost our income and had two children to raise," she says. "I was waking up and doing nothing except trying to find work. And then I couldn't sleep at night because I so worried about tomorrow."
The Greeks are reversing the megatrend of the last century: they're moving from the big cities back to the countryside.  The population of Athens doubled in 30 years (1950-1980).  Now 70% are saying they want to move back to the smaller towns.  They're also reversing the worldwide megatrend of the 20th century: they're abandoning currency and credit, and are returning to money and barter. 

Unless the American megatrend of increasing debt with no end is broken, this is our future, too.  How far out?  That depends on far too many variables to give an accurate answer.  We still have time to work on our own resilience: our abilities to work the ground, try to grow some food, try to achieve more preparations.  As Robb says, we can better bounce back from an economic collapse ...
By becoming resilient in our personal lives.  By learning how to make our own jobs.  By becoming healthy and fit and helping others to do the same.   By turning our homes into productive assets that reduce our expenses and increase our incomes.  By connecting with our families and neighbors to build resilient communities and dynamic local economies.  By producing most of the food, water, energy, and products we need locally.  By learning to sell and trade artisanal products and services we make locally, to the world.
While I have my doubts about the last one (who buys artisanal products when no one has luxury goods? - maybe I don't understand how he's using that word) there's no doubt the rest is reasonable advice.   And it certainly seems to be no doubt that we are living in the days Ludwig von Mises described:
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 a result of the voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved. -- Ludwig von Mises

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Coolest New Tech

A camera that photographs at a trillion frames per second, so fast that it can watch light propagate:

11 minutes long. I really recommend you watch full screen.

Monday, August 20, 2012

We Don't Have a Mass Shooting Problem

The media has reacted with their usual PSH over the fact that we've had three mass shootings this summer: the Colorado shooting that killed 12 - which would have been a "normal to quiet" weekend in Chicago - was preceded by a shooting with five killed at the end of May in Seattle.  And, of course, the Aurora shooting was followed by the attack of a looney at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin.  There's no doubt that the "gay marriage crusader" who shot up the FRC was intending a mass killing, or more than one mass killing, but came across a guy who took a bullet and didn't give up trying to save the folks around him.  Some have speculated the 15 Chick-Fil-A sammiches were not to guarantee an insanity plea, but to shove one in the mouth of, or leave one beside, every victim as a calling card

Planning multiple mass killings, yet not prepared for even unarmed resistance?  Not that I'm complaining, but that's some pretty poor planning skills, there, Scooter. crime writer James Alan Fox has an interesting article on the topic of mass shootings, and shows data to demonstrate this has not been an unusually bad year. 
As Fox puts it:
Without minimizing the pain and suffering of the hundreds of who have been victimized in seneless (sic) attacks, the facts say clearly that the (sic) has been no increase in mass killings, and certainly no epidemic. Occasionally, we have witnessed short-term spikes with several shootings clustering close together in time.
But then, although the data says that there's nothing unusual going on, he says we need to do something about this nothing.
The lack of any upward trend should not stop us, of course, from trying to find causes and solutions for extreme violence. A fitting the legacy to this summer's tragedies would be the expansion of mental health services. We should also have a serious debate about sensible restrictions on gun sales but absent the politics. And perhaps we should all try harder to reach out to those around us who seem to be struggling financially, socially or psychologically. 
"Sensible restrictions on gun sales absent the politics" is made of magic unicorn poop.  We're going to "sensibly" restrict the rights of whole groups of innocent people to have an effect on a freakishly improbable event and it won't involve anger or political fights?  Dude, you must be dreaming.  I quoted Tam above in jest, but let me paraphrase her as accurately as I can in dead seriousness, "I don't care if every other one of the 800 million guns in America killed someone yesterday - mine didn't". 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Quotes of the Day

John Ransom:
Clearly, our government, as it operates now, doesn’t work. They pass laws that don’t address actual problems, they foster a tax code that is corrupt at its core, they borrow money in excess of what future taxes can support and they refuse to listen to calls for reform.

The last several election cycles the voters have voted for change. This time the politicians better get it right- or I fear for the future.
In the coming months, you'll hear the argument that the Stupid Party wants to rescind the laws protecting us from those scary, unregulated banks.  They may even mention Dodd-Frank by name, the epic bill to "regulate" the banks.  There's just one problem: that's a lie.  Dodd-Frank does not protect us from those banks. 

I read a lot of financial sites.  Not just Denninger, and Zero Hedge, but a wide range, including banks and capital companies.  In most cases I have no idea which way the writer leans in our political space.  I have never come across anyone, anywhere who was not known to be on the Evil Party payroll who said Dodd-Frank does anything to correct the fundamental problems that caused the last crash.  The exact opposite is the case; they all say it does nothing to correct the problems.  (More background here).
The other quote of the day comes from an awful story about recent events in the Glorious Arab Spring that Dear Leader praised so highly.  Not just Dear Leader, but the Hildebeest and her Muslim Brotherhood assistant, Huma Abedin.  The Eqyptian Muslim brotherhood has begun crucifying anyone opposed to their new president, Morsi, with special viciousness reserved for the Coptic Christians.  The quote in this case is:
Center for Security Policy Senior Fellow Clare Lopez cited chapter and verse from the Quran to explain that crucifixions are not simply normal for Islam, they’re demanded.

“Crucifixion is a hadd punishment, stipulated in the Quran, Sura 5:33, and therefore an obligatory part of Shariah,” Lopez said. “It’s been a traditional punishment within Islam since the beginning, even though it’s not exclusively Islamic. The Romans used it too." (emphasis added - SiG) 
It's time for the Coptics to get out of Egypt before it's too late.  If they were organized and armed, it would be a different story, but they're not.  For the Coptics, it's starting to look like Germany in the early 1930s.  The Islamic Caliphate is ascendant.  How long before the Muslim Brotherhood is crucifying Christians in other countries in the region?  They've been doing it (example).  How long before they're doing it here?  Want to take bets?  

Blogroll Updates and Stuff

I was going to point out that TFS Magnum has moved her blog to Wordpress as "357 Magnum" and that I've changed my link under "Florida Blogs", but instead of simply that, I want to point out two posts on wind power that are worth your time to read.  The Cost of Green Power  and  How Much Does Wind Power Contribute to the UK's Energy Usage   From the first piece:
In the following three weeks, the voltage weakened at the Hamburg factory two more times, each time for a fraction of second. Since the machines were on a production break both times, there was no damage. Still, the company invested €150,000 (approx $200,000) to set up its own emergency power supply, using batteries, to protect itself from future damages.  (Note: €150,000 is approx $200,000 - Graybeard)
Nice trade for the environment, there.  Batteries, with today's technology, are probably either lead-acid or lithium ion.  So while the wind power farms cause businesses to spend hundreds of thousands to ameliorate damages caused by the wind power, the official sources will never count that cost.  From the second piece,
At one point last week, Britain’s 3,500 turbines were contributing 12 megawatts (MW) to the 38,000MW of electricity we were using. (The Neta website, which carries official electricity statistics, registered this as “0.0 per cent”).
In this space, back in December of 2010, a commenter here posted:
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.”
As always, pithy, smart stuff from Zendo Deb. 

You'll notice I've added a link to Erin Palette's Lurking Rhythmically under my Florida gun blogs list, too.  Erin describes herself as "The Bratty Little Sister of the Gun-Blog-o-Sphere", and while she's way too young to be my little sister, she alternates some good gun & survival stuff with a lot of Role Playing Games and My Little Pony (sorry if I got that wrong), if you're into such.  As I understand, within the last year, Erin had the wake up moment we all (probably) have had: she realized she's responsible for herself and her own self-defense.  In addition to arming herself, she gotten her mother armed.  This is all good stuff!  Let's face it: most of us "gun bloggers" don't actually write about guns anywhere near all the time. 

In my general reading list, I've added Stormbringer.  Hosted by (as the about page says) "Sean Linnane is the pseudonym of a retired Special Forces career NCO...", that says it.  I think, like American Mercenary (whom I've had listed a long time), he brings insights that only the real deal can bring.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

It's a New Meme

on account of bloggers always need something to write about...

Not Clausewitz opens up with 5 music related questions.  Why not?  The questions are:
1.) What was the first song you ever bought?
2.) What song always gets you dancing?
3.) What song takes you back to your childhood?
4.) What is your perfect love song?
5.) What song would you want at your funeral?
6.) Time for an encore. One last song that makes you, you.
1.  I kid you not, the first song I ever bought was the 45 RPM version of the Monster Mash by Bobby Boris Pickett and the Crypt Kicker 5.   Link is to somebody's pretty decent sendup of it as a video montage.  (Note: kids, 45s were black vinyl precursors of CDs, with a long spiral groove in them that transmitted the music.  They were recorded and played back while spinning at 45 revolutions per minute.  What are CDs?  Later.)

2.  Maybe surprisingly, most anything.  I didn't say I was good, just that I don't sit still very well.  And, srsly, there's no group of artists I understand less than dancers.  "Now I will dance to spring" makes as much sense to me as "Now I will hum differential equations". 

3.  Groovin' by the Young Rascals always takes me back to about 7th grade, out on Miami Beach.  I suppose because it was my early teen years, first times fairly independent of home.  Other songs from 1967-68 take me to specific places: beaches, friends' houses, football games. 

4.  This is harder.  It has changed many times over my life.  After all, when we're kids, love is about burning passion.  As we age, it's more about devotion, commitment, and protection of our families.  Maybe today, Alan Jackson's Remember When

5.  Funerals are for the living, so as much as my inner egotistical wise a** would say Sinatra's "My Way", I think that something in a more classical feel like Amazing Grace or Ave Maria is more appropriate. 

6.  None.  No song is the definitive me.  I think Strauss' Blue Danube waltz might be the most beautiful song ever composed, but I sing along to almost everything on the radio.  I go back and forth between Chopin, and The Beatles; Mozart and Lynyrd Skynrd.  I think I have as many CDs by Tony Toni Tone' as Mozart. 
George Clinton, one of my musical influences.   

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sometimes Engineers Just Ain't That Smart

I ran across something interesting the other day, on industry engineering magazine Design News' blogs.  Author Beth Stackpole, who ordinarily seems to be a pretty cogent writer, did a piece that attracted my attention.  Design News, like all of them, will send you a daily newsletter with links to some of the news stories going on around us.  This one was featured with lead-in:
"Inspired by the growing 3D printer-driven maker revolution, an engineer has created a working 3D printed AR-15 automatic rifle".
The lead was terribly misleading, and while the article eventually got in all the words that described it properly, you had to tease out the facts that:
  1. It wasn't an automatic, it was a conventional semiautomatic
  2. It wasn't a rifle
  3. It wasn't even an AR-15, but a .22LR pistol built on an AR-15 lower receiver.  
Now we know that anyone handy with tools can build an AR lower.  That's not news.  In addition to the 80% lower route I went, guys have made functioning AR lowers out of pieces of 1/8"thick  aluminum plate, drilled, tapped and screwed together (with some milling involved), and we've seen one AR made from a plastic kitchen cutting board.  I understand soft pine hasn't worked out very well, but walnut has.  The novelty was that the lower was printed on a 3D printer.  Not a $500 home printer, but an old Stratasys commercial printer that sold for tens of thousands when new. This story has been around for a while now.
(test receivers, both 3D printed from
But what got me about this article was not the errors in terminology, but the comments.  I understand that people who aren't really firearms literate would not be aware of many things, but the view of firearms as inherently evil rather than amoral mechanical things was plainly evident.   
  • However, the idea of deploying highly accessible technology to output firearms cheaply -- and without legal sanction -- is pretty frightening, given recent events and all the loopholes that can impede effective gun control. (this by the author in the article) 
  • If your contribution to humanity is 3D home-made weapons. Try to balance your karma by contributing to some good cause.
  • Guns are already too easy to make.  What we need is a weapon that is truly defensive and doesn't act as judge jury and executioner.
  • Americans waste far too much time and money on this non-productive and destructive activity.  Please can we move forward to a more peaceful country. 
So much for engineers always being logical and thinking critically.  Sigh...


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In Obama's World, This Makes Sense

I was surprised tonight to see an article on The Daily Caller which quotes one of Michelle Obama's thesis papers from Hahvahd Law, and publishes the paper in full.  In logic that only a liberal could espouse, the article reports:
During her third and final year at Harvard Law School, first lady Michelle Obama — then named Michelle Robinson — penned an article for the newsletter of Harvard’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA), arguing that Harvard and its students were perpetuating “racist and sexist stereotypes” by not intentionally hiring minority and female law professors on the basis of their sex or skin color.
So the answer to "racist and sexist stereotypes" is to ... (wait for it)... enforce racism, in the form of requiring schools hire different races and sexes, regardless of any qualifications the faculty may think they have. 
Carrying signs demanding an “end to racism,” they occupied the dean’s office for 24 hours and demanded that Harvard Law School hire 20 female or minority professors in the next four years as tenured, or tenure-track, professors. Seven of those professors, they insisted, must be black — and four of those seven female.
I have never understood that line of thinking, because it always seemed more motivated by revenge than anything.  In my little brain, I would think victims of anything are going to be sympathetic toward other people potentially becoming victims, and try to protect them, but time after time it has been shown that many people simply want someone else - anyone - to suffer.

In liberal America, we are still a nation of bitter, evil racists. Is there racism?  For sure - but it's marginal.  After all if something like 10% of the people believe we never went to the moon, some margin will apparently believe anything.  There are, after all, the New Black Panthers with their incessant calls to go kill white babies and bomb nurseries (language is rough), as virulently racist a group as you'll find.  But only in liberal America, the Panthers can't be racist because while they can kill you and bomb babies, they don't have political power.

In liberal America, we are such a racist place that only a staid white man can be elected president!  I heard President Barack ... Hussein...... Obama say it himself....  Wait a minute...Isn't he something like 50% black?  How did he....?

On tonight's GBTV, Glenn Beck did an epic rant on the topic of racism and just who we are as a people.  This is a bit long at 18 minutes, but funny and worth watching.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

DHS To Purchase Another 750 Million Rounds Of Ammo??

This story has been making the rounds from Alex Jones Prison  Even Drudge had a link to the story buried in there that the National Weather Service wanted to buy 46,000 rounds of ammo.

So what's going on?  Good question.  The ammo is being ordered by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) which seems to buy for all agencies.  Everyone seems to be saying it is for DHS only.  Consider Jones' opening paragraph:
Fears that federal authorities are preparing for mass civil unrest have increased after it was revealed that the Department of Homeland Security is planning to buy a further 750 million rounds of ammo in addition to the 450 million rounds of hollow point bullets already purchased earlier this year.
It links to this "Fed Biz Opps" listing.  That page looks like this:
I downloaded the pdfs.  The original FBO was listed April 17 and is a pre-solicitation.  It says that a list of different ammo they want to buy will be provided, and if they like the deal and the quality they will buy more, but (here's the big part) they only commit to buy 1000 rounds of each line item for 5 years:
The Government guarantees a minimum of 1,000 rounds per year on each resultant contract. Contracts will be for a base year and four (4) 12 month option periods.
The list was released on July 19, and is a long list, with about 160 line items (rough count - I just scrolled through it).  Those lines may be a few thousand rounds over five years, or may be millions per line.  It includes, for example 3.14 million .357 SIG JHP rounds and 2000 rounds of .38 Special semi-wad cutter. 

The second update, from August 10, is just answering some bidders' questions.  There are no increases in the ammo order.  For example, the first one is:
1.QUESTION - CLIN 0003, Page 2: Would a 223 Rem 64 Grain soft point round be acceptable?

ANSWER - Yes, that would be acceptable.
All of the questions and answers are what I'd call "administrivia". 

I think everyone knows the 450 million rounds deal may or may not be 450 million - it's the same type of deal,
The order comes under an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for HST bullets.
I seem to recall looking at that one and it also only guaranteed 1000 rounds in each of five years, which, of course, is likely to be well exceeded.  It may not be 450 million rounds over five years, but it's not bloody likely to be only 5000 rounds either. 

Why does the National Weather Service need 46,000 rounds?  It turns out that was a mistake.  It's NOAA that's ordering it, so while NOAA runs the NWS, it also runs the NOAA Fisheries Service.
UPDATE, 1:07 p.m.: NOAA says there was a “clerical error” in the FedBizOpps announcement stating the NWS required ammunition. The solicitation actually originated from the “NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement” not the National Weather Service. See bottom of post for more details.
The NOAA Fisheries Service is the group that boards commercial fishing boats to ensure the encyclopedia-sized fishing laws are complied with.  While I don't imagine they're under much threat, that's easy for me to say.  Threat or no, though, I can't imagine federal agents going on any sort of law enforcement mission without overwhelming fire power.  

The way I read it, this solicitation turns the number of lines (160-ish) into that number of contracts.  Like the previous contract, it is "indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity", with a guaranteed minimum 1000 rounds per year (and we all know how fast that goes).  It's more like saying, "if we need ammo, you're the company we're going to" than like saying, "put 10 million rounds on my dock by October 1".

Now if you have any real data, or know differently, I'm sure the readers here would love to hear it as much as I would.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Little More on the Lemming-like March into the Abyss

Commenter itor posted an epic comment to Saturday's post  I reproduce it here:
In your lifetime, can you definitively point to any national election which resulted in a restoration and practice of supposed constitutional values and principles?

Can you give any example anywhere in the world, from any time period when people voted themselves free? When any government voluntarily restrained & limited itself?

With the upcoming national election we are presented the “choice” between the former governor of the most liberal state in the union, and a marxist homosexual. Both candidates support abortion, both support a state seizure of health care, both support cradle to grave meddling in the lives of free individuals.

Perhaps the former governor embraces 98% of the marxists’ views. Maybe it is only 92%, or 85%. The point is that by voting for the candidate who is not (openly) the marxist homosexual, one is supporting 85%,92% or 98% of the marxist agenda.

You have then unwittingly anchored yourself to marxist policies, creating a new beachhead, a new starting point for the next round. Just as with the previous election. By voting, not only have you endorsed and sanctioned policies abhorrent to your values, but have endorsed and sanctioned the entire process as well.

Please consider – what substantive policies of the Bush administration has Obama overturned? Any? And what policies of Obama has his supposed former rival McCain railed against? Any? Why not? The answer is that we have been continually presented with false opposites. The entire system is designed to perpetuate itself, while pretending that a choice exists. Any supposed differences put forth are merely of degree, of style, not of kind. The growth is always in one direction, and that direction is worship of an all powerful state.

How did this happen? It happened because our entire process of thinking, of acting, of viewing persons and events has been corrupted – by design. When we are opposed to X, we are conditioned to support those who are X-1, not realizing there simply is no real difference. A (mandatory) choice between A or B eliminates the possibility that we might otherwise choose none of the above.

Time to quit playing the rigged game. Recognize the process, the system for what it is – a fraud. Voting for a new master every few years does not make us free. It does not promote our beliefs or values.

It is false hope in a device that always disappoints

End the fraud.

Strike the root.

To begin with, of course, I can't tell you of a single time voting to reform a nation has ever worked.  I don't believe it has ever been done.  On the other hand, I don't believe any country that has collapsed even had the mechanism to have such a vote.  There is a difference, however, between saying something has never been done and saying something can not be done.  At first glance, that may sound like the commies who say Marxism has failed every time only because the right people didn't try it.  The first difference is that communism goes against human nature and (going all Christian on you) against the will of God. Second, simply no other nation was founded like this one. 

Note that I did not say voting ends this and gets us out of this mess.  I said,
Many of us have said many times that we are not voting our way out of this, and that is absolutely true.  However, voting is part of the process of getting out of this.  
To drag in the term mathematicians use, voting in a smaller government is a necessary condition, but it's not sufficient.  Voting, by itself, will not change things for the better.    

See, you say - with ample evidence - that the system is rigged; that the problem is the system.  I believe the problem is the people.  The people have abdicated their responsibility to run things to slick talking politicians who promised to do all that dirty work for us.  The people let the system be formed.  And that's not to be too hard on the people; everyone was living their lives, building their careers or families.  Their problem was that they trusted the used car salesmen (politicians).  Besides, it's simply easier to sit around and just vote D or R than to challenge yourself to think about every issue. 

The founding fathers, however, left us a system with the chance to change everything.  The key is the very first words of the Declaration: We The People.  We have the power to change everything.  Politicians, parasites that they are, are addicted to their power and perks, and like any drug-addled rat in a lab experiment, they will respond if we deny them their drug.  If the people dumped them regularly, they would respond to people's demands.  If the people - or a determined minority - demanded more liberty, I believe it would happen.  As you well know, the percentage of people actively involved in the American Revolution was not the vast majority.  It wasn't even a simple majority.  Social sciences researchers have shown in the last year that if as few as 10% of the population adopt a given opinion, it eventually takes over the population.  A good example is gun ownership.  Twenty years ago, 80% of the population wanted more gun control; today it has flipped to 80% saying to leave guns alone.  Better yet, consider the patriot movement (tea party, 9/12, etc.).   These basically started up in 2009 as people began waking up to how bad it has become.  After a few protests, they went to work quietly on getting like-minded candidates elected, and has been hitting a very good percentage. 

I can't fix the system, but I can fix myself and my family.

The problem, of course, is the Free Sh*t Army, and the culture of "let someone else do it".  We have at least two generations of people brought up without seeing an adult go off to work.  Families broken - lives broken - as the inescapable result of evil government policy.  We have to fix the people. I'm not dumb enough to think this will go quickly or easily.  The mathematics is on our side, though.  If the country continues on our present course and we don't change spending, nobody is going to pay the FSA their benefits because the money won't be there.  The economy and country collapse.

It all may collapse, anyway.  Regardless of how much we try to change course.

I ask what's the alternative?  What do you mean by "Strike the root"? 

I really see three main alternatives:  (a) try to fix the system  (b) start shooting (that is, destroy the system) or (c) withdraw - figuratively lay down and die.  It may be too late for any of them, but in my view, it's worth trying to fix things. 

While I understand the sentiment to go off and try to be left alone, as we leave all others alone, that doesn't work.   The fed hydra won't leave us alone.  We could ask Randy Weaver how well that worked for him when the government was a small fraction of its current size.  Or the Branch Davidians.  Or Elian Gonzales' family.   Or Krister Evertson

The hydra is a good model for the  Chop off one head and another grows back.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

An Economics/Budget IQ Test

A couple of times in the last few months, I've talked about putting together a simple quiz about economics to see how much people know.  Sort of a "federal budget IQ test".  It might be useful, might be interesting.  Might be.  I see this as something to talk about with friends, so you can see if they understand the realities of the economy. 

My goal is to make it only things that are facts I have researched answers and URL links to scattered about in the history of this blog.  One might say, "I don't trust that source", but at least it's not based on my opinions.  Here's a first cut at the quiz.  I'm thinking of barraging some friends and family with this, just to see how good they think it is.  The answers are all provided at the bottom, and are "closest guess wins".

1.  What percent of the total federal income tax revenue does the top 1% of earners pay?
a - None.  They don't pay tax.
b - 20%
c - 40%
d - 60%

2.  About what percentage of the total national income do the top 1% earn?
a - 10%
b - 20%
c - 40%
d - 60%

3.  Over the last century, when tax rates went up, what happened to tax revenues, as a percentage of GDP?
a - go up
b - stay the same
c - go down

4.  The annual US budget shortfall, the deficit, rolls up every year into the debt.  How does the debt compare to the total US economic output, the Gross Domestic Product?  (not counting social security and medicare)
a - debt is much less than GDP
b - debt is less than as GDP
c - debt is the same as GDP
d - debt is more than as GDP

5.  On the current economic trajectory, the (non-partisan) Congressional Budget Office predicts:
a - smooth sailing.  Things get better and better.
b - potential trouble by the time all "boomers" are long retired (2050)
c - economic collapse before all the "boomers" have retired
d - potential trouble but Obamacare saves the budget from getting into trouble

6.  It has recently been proposed that we have a maximum wage - that no one should be allowed to make more than $5 Million a year (indexed to inflation).  If the government seized every penny of individual income over $5 Million per year, how long could we run the government without adding budget deficit?
a - forever - we have a minimum wage; a maximum wage makes as much sense. 
b - six months
c - one month

7.  What percentage of "discretionary spending" (for example, Defense, NASA, Department of Education, DHS, and more) would we need to cut to balance the budget?
a - about 40%
b - all of it
c - cutting all of it isn't enough to balance the budget
d - about 25%

8.  Who benefited more, as a percentage, from the "Bush Tax Cuts"
a - the top tax bracket
b - the bottom tax bracket 

9.  What percentage of the US population actually makes money off federal income tax?
a - none
b - about a third
c - about half
d - more than two thirds

10.  The US constitutes about 5% of the world's population, but consumes 25 to 30% of the world's energy.  What's the biggest explanation?
a - lavish lifestyle and big fat slob population
b - the US produces about 25 - 30% of the world's wealth
c - the US refuses to mandate high mileage cars and hybrids or electric cars
d - the US threatens to militarily squash other countries who compete with us for energy

11.  For the last two years, who has been the biggest financer of the US deficit? 
a - China
b - Japan
c - the European Union
d - the Federal Reserve Bank makes money up out of nothing. 

12.  If social security and medicare commitments ("unfunded liabilities") are included with the national debt, how does that compare to the total economic output of the world (the "Gross World Product" or GWP): that is, "all the money in the world".
a - less than one year's Gross World Product
b - about one year's GWP
c - more than one year's GWP

Answers - 1 (c), 2 (b), 3 (b), 4 accept either (c) or (d), 5 (c), 6 (b), 7 (c), 8 (b), 9 (b), 10 (b), 11 (d), 12 (c)
EDIT 1850 EDT question 8 after chat with commenter Xenocles. 
EDIT 1725 EDT 13-Aug-12 to clarify question 3

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Deranged Lemming-like March into the Abyss

From Mark Steyn's latest, "Milquetoast Mitt", a possible campaign button for Obama, “Forward” is seen as sunny and optimistic rather than a deranged lemming-like march into the abyss.
The words “WE BELIEVE” appeared on the screen, followed by youthful hands raised to a clear blue sky at the dawn of a new day, shafts of sunlight gleaming through ears of corn, a puppy gamboling across a meadow, a kitten playfully pawing, happy green-T-shirted volunteers of many races unloading a recycling carton . . . and I thought, despite myself, “Well, say what you like, but the reassuring vapidity of the Romney campaign is at least getting more professional.” At the end, in the spot where the off-screen voice is supposed to say “I’m Mitt Romney and I approve this message,” it instead said: “Introducing Purina One Beyond: a new food for your cat or dog.”
("reassuring vapidity of the Romney campaign" - you just can't buy quality writing like that)  Mark makes the excellent statement that half the country is oblivious to oncoming disaster of the debt.
Half the country is entirely unaware of the existential threat Obama-sized government represents, and Mitt seems in no hurry to alert them to what’s at stake, save for occasional warnings that if we’re not careful America will end up like Europe. We should be so lucky.
I keep telling myself I'm going to write up a little quiz that we can send to friends and family to see if they understand this.  How many people know the Congressional Budget Office says the country will collapse in a few years if we stay on the same financial path we're on?  How many people know that every year we borrow more than the GDP of all but about ten nations every year?  How many people know the fed buys 70-80% of our long term debt - monetizing it - because the few nations that could finance our debt have enough problems of our own.

The CBO runs on a peculiar basis: when a bill is presented to them, they have to accept the assumptions in the forecast.  For an absurd example, if a bill is presented that includes the assumption "we will borrow more than the combined GDP of the planet, by making contact with the Zeta Reticulans", they must go with that, and not question whether there is even a snowball's chance in Florida that could happen.  That's why the cost of Obamacare came in at under a trillion dollars.  The assumptions were bogus.   In the case of predicting the collapse of the US, the assumptions were not far-fetched.  They were to assume "business as usual".  If things go along as they have been, the US ceases to exist.  To quote Treasury Secretary Geithner to VP Candidate Paul Ryan, "We don't have a definitive plan, we just don't like yours" (at about the 2 minute mark here).

The selection of Paul Ryan is not bad, but it's not great either.  It simply confirms what we've all been saying about Romney being a party insider, toeing the party line.  Contrary to what the MSM thinks, you and I know the tea party/9-12 Project/Freedomworks groups are not parts of the Stupid Party, they are dedicated to the overthrow of the current Republican party.  That's why someone who strongly appeals to this crowd, like Rand Paul or Marco Rubio, was not chosen.

Many of us have said many times that we are not voting out way out of this, and that is absolutely true.  However, voting is part of the process of getting out of this.  The first shot of chemotherapy or the first round of surgery does not cure your cancer: it's the first step in the process of getting rid of your cancer.  That's more like what we're facing.  Having gone through cancer with Mrs. Graybeard and many others, I've seen that getting through cancer is an enormous endurance contest - and getting out of the budget hole will try the endurance of us all. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Was Fast and Furious Not About Gun Control?

An interesting article turned up on the Blaze today, about a high ranking member of the Sinaloa drug cartel alleging that F&F was not what we think it was. 
It wasn’t about tracking guns, it was about supplying them — all part of an elaborate agreement between the U.S. government and Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa Cartel to take down rival cartels.

The explosive allegations are being made by Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, known as the Sinaloa Cartel’s “logistics coordinator.” He was extradited to the Chicago last year to face federal drug charges.
Nobody with an IQ above freezer temperature thinks F&F was ever about tracking guns.  Maybe the Bush version, which actually put tracking hardware in the guns, but everyone admits the Obama/Holder F&F guns were lost as soon as they left the country.  Realistically, they were lost as soon as they left the stores.  

Now Zambada-Niebla is not exactly up there in the realm of great character witnesses, right?  I mean, he is a logistician for the Sinaloa cartel, and desperately trying to win his freedom.  But there actually is some background that argues there might be truth here. According to the Blaze story:
Also, U.S. officials have previously acknowledged working with the Sinaloa Cartel through another informant Humberto Loya-Castro. He is also allegedly a high-ranking member of the Sinaloa Cartel as well as a close confidant and lawyer of “El Chapo” Guzman.
So this doesn't seem to be something completely out of the blue.  Perhaps it's just another side to a story that is leaking out. 

Let's speculate on this for a minute.  The US would provide guns to Sinaloa; for information.  Then the US would use the info to kill off the competing cartels, yet another benefit to Sinaloa.  It seems that Sinaloa is getting all the benefits, and giving up nothing of value to them.  In fact, it seems that what the US DOJ/DEA offered Sinaloa was unrestricted access to the US drug markets - apparently for nothing. 

So Sinaloa cartel got everything, and the US got nothing out of this?  Possibly, DOJ/DEA got only one cartel to deal with, and once the others were gone, they could "nuke" this one and be done with all of the cartels.  If that was their plan, I have a bridge I'd like to sell them.

Was it just for money?  Did the DOJ/DEA/whoever make a deal to hand the drug market in the US over to the Sinaloa cartel in exchange for money?  Did the DOJ sell us out for money from the cartels?  Which was it: epic stupidity or epic corruption? 
The claims seem to fall in line with statements made last month by Guillermo Terrazas Villanueva, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state government in northern Mexico who said U.S. agencies ”don’t fight drug traffickers,“ instead ”they try to manage the drug trade.”
With an estimated 3000 Mexicans killed in the state of Sinaloa alone, including police, you can understand the Mexican state officials being upset with this.
Soldiers and police officers guard packages of seized marijuana during a presentation for the media in Tijuana, Mexico. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)

This could be an interesting trial - if it happens.  The is predictably playing the national security card, but the few terse statements and denials that they make seem to hint this isn't all bull crap.

I also want to note that even if this is true, it still doesn't mean the plan behind F&F was not intended to give leverage for gun seizure or control.  It could have been a happy "two-fer". 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Abusing an Olympic Athlete

Michael Bane's blog on Saturday covered an awful story about the hate being heaped on Olympic trap shooter Corey Cogdell.  It seems that, in addition to being an Olympic trap shooter, Corey's a hunter.  The ever-so-tolerant left* has showered Corey with an astonishing number of death threats, apparently for being a hunter.
Michael opens:
I received a lovely email this morning, one that I would class as a thinly veiled threat to me and mine. It was, of course, obscene and unsigned (and neither the first I've received, nor, I imagine, the last), but I can share a bit of the joy with you:
F$%@ off, asshole! You are the s&%# that ruins America!
Yet for all that venom, it is nothing compared to the deluge of sludge, including multiple death threats, that has fallen on Olympic trapshooter (and bronze medalist in 2008) Corey Cogdell, a fine athlete, an outstanding person...and a hunter.
Michael then links to Bitter at Shall Not Be Questioned:  article 1, and article 2.  Honestly, I won't print it here.  It dignifies these scum bags more than they deserve.

At least one of the national organizations, Safari Club International, is getting behind Corey, and they all should (Hint: NSSF - this is where you should shine).  Michael has an optimistic note to end on:
I have noted the increasing calls to violence among not just anti-hunting zealots, but anti-shooting (more correctly, anti-rights) zealots as well. I believe these increasing calls to violence are because we not only are winning, but have in fact won. Americans don't want more gun control, and Americans think hunting is a perfectly fine sport. The antis have thrown everything they had against us for the last 30 years, and the American people have responded by tuning them out.
In the egalitarian world of the Internet, it's possible that Corey, Michael, and others who have been targeted by the Anti-Hunting bozos will see this.  I stand with you in every way I can.

Addition:  Michele Malkin carried this story on her site Twitchy.

* - I know they're commie anti-gun and not conservative for two reasons.  First is extending the axiom "If a conservative doesn't like hunting, she doesn't go hunting.  If a liberal doesn't like hunting, she tries to ban hunting worldwide".  Second, more pragmatically, I never met a conservative that objected to hunting.  There must be one or two out there, but they're not sending death threats: see point 1.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

US Government Extortion

I have these loose odds and ends lying around here that just need to be picked up and tied off...

One of the most popular posts I've run here concerned the raids on Gibson's guitar factory in Nashville, by armed SWAT agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service. From almost a year ago:
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. 
I've been trying to keep my eyes and ears open on this, to see what eventually happened.  Yesterday, Gibson agreed to settle out of court, paying $350,000 to  the DOJ, and further relinquishes claims to about $261,000 worth of wood seized by the government.
“Gibson has acknowledged that it failed to act on information that the Madagascar ebony it was purchasing may have violated laws intended to limit overharvesting and conserve valuable wood species from Madagascar, a country which has been severely impacted by deforestation,” Ignacia Moreno, head of the department’s environment and natural resources division, said in the statement.
Simple case, right?  Gibson f'ed up and got caught.  Not so fast.  Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz put it this way:
“We felt compelled to settle as the costs of proving our case at trial would have cost millions of dollars and taken a very long time to resolve,” he said in statement released via the company’s @gibsonguitar Twitter account late Monday.

“We feel that Gibson was inappropriately targeted, and a matter that could have been addressed with a simple contact (by) a caring human being representing the government,” the statement said. “Instead, the Government used violent and hostile means with the full force of the U.S. Government and several armed law enforcement agencies costing the taxpayers millions of dollars and putting a job-creating U.S. manufacture (sic) at risk and at an unfair disadvantage.”
You may remember that after last years' raid, it was pointed out that other manufacturers use the same woods as Gibson but are left alone.  The theory was raised that perhaps Gibson was singled out for being non-union and not a donor to democratic candidates, unlike Martin and other guitar makers.  Are union thugs at the root of this? 

I think everyone has that stereotype image of a stoic entrepreneur fighting a long battle in court and eventually having their honor restored.  A more realistic scenario is that you look at the costs of battling the unlimited resources of the federal prosecutors vs. cutting your losses and settling.  Settling becomes the practical way to keep your business and not spend your life in court proceedings.  Any resemblance to extortion is purely coincidental.

In another loose end, it seems that emails indicate that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was the prime driver behind ending retirement benefits for 20,000 non-unionized workers at Delphi.  Delphi used to be called Delco and was a subsidiary of Peoples Automotive Collective Number One, back when they were GM.  For the last 13 years, Delphi has been an independent company.  
The move, made in 2009 while the Obama administration implemented its auto bailout plan, appears to have been made solely because those retirees were not members of labor unions.

The internal government emails contradict sworn testimony, in federal court and before Congress, given by several Obama administration figures. They also indicate that the administration misled lawmakers and the courts about the sequence of events surrounding the termination of those non-union pensions, and that administration figures violated federal law.
So union members get protected while everyone else gets their pensions cut off.  "You should join the union. We wouldn't want nothing bad should happen to you."

Finally, the Blaze reports on the investigations of billionaire Sheldon Adelson.  National security editor (and former Three Letter Agency analyst) Buck Sexton reports that the billionaire has said that he will donate potentially unlimited amounts of money to get Mitt Romney elected - much as billionaire George Soros has donated essentially unlimited amounts of money to buy and take over the Democratic Party.
The casino company owned by Mitt Romney’s wealthiest supporter, Sheldon Adelson, is now in the Department of Justice’s crosshairs. That revelation is making the media rounds today, as someone in the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s office leaked word of a money laundering investigation involving Los Vegas Sands Corp. to the Wall Street Journal.
Not that they're actually leaking word that Adelson was personally involved, it's just a coincidence that an unattractive probe of a big donor to Mitt Romney would start up just around the conventions. It's just a random, unintended consequence that rabid Evil Party websites like Firedog Lake would refer to Adelson as "Daddy Whorebucks" (nope, not gonna link to them).

But wait, they've been doing this for a while.  A few weeks ago, another Romney donor made the "enemies list" over at
Frank VanderSloot was one of eight Republican donors named on Obama’s enemies list this past April. Fast forward a few months, and Mr. VanderSloot suddenly finds himself in the middle of two different audits from the federal government.

Mr. VanderSloot, who is 63 and has been working since his teens, says neither he nor his accountants recall his being subject to a federal tax audit before. He was once required to send documents on a line item inquiry into his charitable donations, which resulted in no changes to his taxes. But nothing more—that is until now, shortly after he wrote a big check to a Romney-supporting Super PAC.

Two weeks after receiving the IRS letter, Mr. VanderSloot received another—this one from the Department of Labor. He was informed it would be doing an audit of workers he employs on his Idaho-based cattle ranch under the federal visa program for temporary agriculture workers.
Executive use of the powers of the office - the DOJ, the IRS, and the Treasury Department - should make everyone's blood run cold.  Unlike congressman or senators, whom we elect to represent our little districts, the executive is supposed to represent us all.  They're supposed to be above all that, not thugs.  When the DOJ has the time to investigate minor crimes of illegal aliens on farms or in hotels, but won't do anything about stopping the flood coming over the border, it's simply wrong on all levels.  When the DOJ has the time to send armed agents against a guitar maker but won't answer the simplest questions about the arms they sent to some of the worst of humanity through Fast and Furious, it seems felonious.  These examples are nothing but using the powers of the executive branch for extortion against political enemies. 
Actor Cesare Danova as Mayor Carmine DePasto in Animal House, "So, if you mention extortion again, I'll have your legs broken"