Monday, February 28, 2011

But OPEC Is A Cartel - There's No Free Market in Oil

A commenter to my post on an oil price chain letter pointed out that OPEC is a cartel and able to charge what they want. 

OPEC is, indeed, a cartel; just as DeBeers is with diamonds.  And neither of them is able to charge "whatever they want" for their products.   The more they charge, they more they motivate their customers to find alternatives to their product.  It's a tenet of free market economics that "cartels don't last".  DeBeers is cracking (largely due to Russian and Canadian diamonds).  OPEC has historically been unable to hold production down and prices up.  In both cases, we have an impaired market.  Not a free market, but not a cartel monopoly, either.

I have a lot of admiration for the marketing genius of the diamond cartel.  They have taken a stone that is not particularly rare (they are, after all, produced in whatever quantity is desired, year after year) and created a tremendous aura about it.  One of the problems diamond sellers have is found in their slogan "a diamond is forever"; their product does have an essentially unlimited life, given reasonable care.  If a decent fraction of women who own diamonds were to sell them it would easily outstrip the world's annual supply, collapsing the price.  So they have been able to create such an intense attachment to the little stones that most women will sell almost everything they own before they sell their diamond ring. 

OPEC doesn't have that marketing power, but they have a few things going for them.  First, the world needs their product.  Most importantly, people must destroy their product in order to use it, ensuring a steady parade of buyers (and which is the complete opposite of diamonds).  In turn OPEC members have to deal with buyers who might pressure them in other ways.  Don't like my offer for your oil?  Perhaps we should cut our foreign aid back (yes, I realize we're paying for it either way).  I'm trying to show that OPEC is not really charging whatever they'd like for the oil. 

Let's look up a fun fact or two.  In 1974, right after the price of oil "shot up", a gallon of regular gas averaged 53 cents. An ounce of gold averaged around $155.  That means a gallon of gas cost .0034 ounce of gold.  In today's inflated money, that gallon of gas costs $4.79.  This means that in terms of a gold price, gasoline has gone down. 

I'll be the first to admit this is a crude way to analyze the situation, and it's strictly a snapshot, but OPEC doesn't seem very effective at that whole "charge what they want" thing, do they? 

In the final analysis, what we pay at the pump is the result of a bizarrely complicated mixture of the deal between buyer and seller for the crude, the government's regulations of gasoline mixes a refinery can make, the time of year (they make less gas and more heating oil this time of year) thousands of EPA regulations, but most importantly the pernicious influence of the detestable Ben Bernanke, whose insane monetary policy is being called responsible for the Mideast unrest that catalyzes and inflames all of this. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

That Didn't Take Long

Oil prices are up about 15% and gas prices are up 20 cents in the last week, and this old email came today (you can tell it's old by the prices they mention):

>I hear we are going to hit close to $ 4.00 a gallon by next summer and  it might go higher!!  Want gasoline prices to come  down? 
> We  need to take some intelligent, united  action.  
> The  oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't  continue to "hurt" ourselves by refusing to buy  gas .. 
> By  now you're probably thinking gasoline priced at about $2.00 is super  cheap.  Me too!  It is currently $3.08 at Arco and Costco  for regular unleaded in Salem, Oregon and climbing every  week.
> Now  that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to  think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50 - $1.75, we  need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the  marketplace..not sellers. 
> With  the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to  take action. 
> The  only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit  someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas!  And, we  can do that WITHOUT hurting  ourselves. 
> How?  Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying  gas. 
> But  we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a  price war. 
> Here's  the idea: For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY gasoline from  the two biggest companies (which now are  one), EXXON and MOBIL. 
> If  they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their  prices.  If they reduce their prices, the other companies will  have to follow suit. 
> But  to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and  Mobil gas buyers.  It's really simple to do!  Now, don't  wimp out on me at this point...keep reading and I'll explain how  simple it is to reach millions of  people!!
And it goes on to prompt you to mail it to 10 or 30 friends and let's get those oil companies.

There are two problems with this idea.  The first is the author stops thinking after step one and never asks "and then what?".  Simply put, if you don't buy gas from two companies, you'll create excess demand at the other companies.  Excess demand on constant supply means the price at the other dealers goes up. The companies you're not buying from may drop their price to lure you back, but if you're principled, you're buying from the expensive source. 

The second is that oil is the very definition of a fungible commodity.  It's as if every drop of oil from every well in the world went into a giant tub and we bought scoops out of it.  We don't buy Libyan oil, per se, (about 5% of sales), but Libyan oil not going into that tub raises the price of all oil because there's less of it.  And if we don't buy from Exxon and Mobil, the tub still has the same amount going into it and coming out of it. 

If you hate the oil companies, your anger is displaced.  This cartoon is pretty much right, although I think the profit is high; it's more like 6 cents per gallon.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Red State/Blue State = Small Town/Big Town

By now, everyone is familiar with the Red vs. Blue division on the political spectrum.  I don't know who made this up, but it's a mainstay of political pundit-speak these days.  Like all such divisions, it's largely imaginary; the big problems in our country now aren't party arguments, they are big government versus individual rights.  America is, unfortunately, really a purple country with some areas being more red or more blue than others.  We are a relatively evenly split country with roughly equal numbers of Stupid and Evil party backers.  In truth, elections are decided by the undecided - the people who don't know who will get their votes until right before the election.  (Statisticians use the term "morons" for these voters.  If you haven't, you should take 10 minutes and watch the video "How Obama Got Elected".)  Vast amounts of money are spent trying to reach those swing voters.  True, the country will get into a snit and go one way or the other by as much as 5 or 6 % from time to time - kind of like going out and getting drunk every so often.

By late 2009, America had the collective experience of waking up to find the hot presidential dude they brought home was a total looser.  The 2010 mid-term elections were the electoral equivalent of waking to find a coyote ugly girl in bed with you and gnawing your arm off to keep from waking her and having to talk with her. This was the same experience as the 1994 reversal after electing Bill Clinton, only with a stronger revulsion. 


This map shows the 2004 (Bush/Kerry) results, with an interesting twist.  First, it shows the red/blue counties, and then it shows the voter density by the height of the "towers".  It shows, for instance,  that northern New Mexico (Taos, Albuquerque) is blue, but that the number of voters was much higher in Denver, just to the north.  When you look at this, what do you notice? The reliably liberal areas are largely the cities.  Denver, Detroit, Chicago, Portland, New York, New Jersey,  and El Lay stand out prominently.  True, there are blue areas with very low density, such as the "blue belt" from Louisiana to the Carolinas, but these are very low voter density.  Probably rural poor. 

This relief map shows vividly the most important distinction between red and blue areas.  Blue areas are almost always big population centers.  Judging by the heights of those relief towers, the highest voter density areas.  The democratic base appears to be either rural poor, or urban dwellers.  People who are not self-reliant, but who need to rely on handouts from others.   I read recently that in the Silicon Valley of California, the very poor and the very rich are socialists; only the middle class is conservative. 

A story comes to mind that illustrates the red/blue difference.  It comes from some workers I knew at the Kennedy Space Center.  In one of the surrounding small towns, a teenager was starting to become a problem.  I believe he was selling drugs, although that part isn't very important.  Some of the men in town invited him out fishing, as they had when he was younger, and he accepted.  Once out on the lake, one of the men started chumming the water until a few good sized gators came alongside the boat.  The sound of the gators snapping down on some chunks of meat they started flipping into the water became louder and rather impressive.  At that point, they mentioned they had heard "someone" in town had been dealing some drugs, and if they continued, well, those gators would be well fed and no one would ever find the remains.  It worked. 

A self-reliant group of adult men protected their towns and their families.  No need for government involvement or police.  No need for counseling or anything else.  A reliably red state area. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Nation Paralysed, Motionless Under Its Laws

A hat tip to John at Improved Clinch for a lead on an article that takes my breath away.  The latest Federal judge to rule that Obamacare is constitutional ruled that the government may regulate what you think under the commerce clause. The American Spectator provides some more details:
The ruling by the Clinton appointee, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler of the District of Columbia continues the pattern of Democratic-appointed judges siding with the Obama administration and Republican judges siding with the plaintiffs in ruling the mandate unconstitutional.

(actual x-ray of Judge Gladys Kessler, courtesy of the Kraft clinic)

And the "good judge" herself said, in phenomenal example of reaching a decision and then trying to rationalize it,
As previous Commerce Clause cases have all involved physical activity, as opposed to mental activity, i.e. decision-making, there is little judicial guidance on whether the latter falls within Congress’s power...However, this Court finds the distinction, which Plaintiffs rely on heavily, to be of little significance. It is pure semantics to argue that an individual who makes a choice to forgo health insurance is not “acting,” especially given the serious economic and health-related consequences to every individual of that choice. Making a choice is an affirmative action, whether one decides to do something or not do something. They are two sides of the same coin. To pretend otherwise is to ignore reality.
While many of us refer to us as being a nation WROL - and in many ways we are - this is the opposite.  This is regulation of everything, because if the can regulate "mental activity" - what we think - they truly can regulate every aspect of our lives.  Ignoring the "how would they know?" question that says thought has to be translated into action for them to know what you're thinking.  Pending Minority Report.
(Actress Samantha Morton, copyright Spielberg and Twenty Century Fox and all that - but you knew that)

Did you think a hostile thought about the  Did you mentally rebel against your mandatory weight loss program, or mentally curse your mandatory smoking-cessation program?  Did you think unkind thoughts about having to floss?  These could be regulated, too. 

It's not a coincidence that the President and Executive branch threw out their constitutional duty this week, and declared themselves above the law by announcing they were not going to enforce a law they didn't like.  It's not supposed to work that way.

Someone once said the key to understanding the United States is to imagine your favorite guy implementing some policy or law you love, then give that same power to your most detested enemy on the planet.

If you're against the Defense of Marriage Act and think the president should have the right to not enforce it, think long and hard how you'd feel if your worst enemy, say President George W Bush, or President Sarah Palin or President Michelle Bachmann, suddenly decided that they were going to outlaw abortion because Roe vs. Wade wasn't a good constitutional decision.  Can you imagine the outcries we would have if W had done that? 

If abortion and gay marriage are too emotional for you, what about the FCC telling congress to take a hike and instituting Net Neutrality laws.  If you like that, how will you like it when another FCC rules all Internet content must be safe for 6 year olds?  Or that satellite broadcasters and premium movie channels must obey the same censorship laws as conventional TV?  If you think the EPA should have the right to regulate CO2, do you think another EPA in a few years should deregulate lead in your water, or mercury in your tuna?  

Do you think regulations should go back and forth like that?  Depending on who grabbed power?  Depending on how well a few thousand voters slept the night before the election, or how many votes are faked?  If you think that's a good thing, you're not well. 

This is thugocracy.  Totalitarian, fascistic, executive-driven government.  If you are in the inner circle, and spread your money around, you can get away with anything.  If you're not in the inner circle, well, as has been said, if you're not at the table you're on the menu. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Positive Article About Shooting? In the Boston Globe???

A surprisingly positive article about the MIT shooting team in the Boston Globe.  In a state where you almost have to get police permission to talk to someone who owns a gun. 

Go read. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


This blog is now one year old!  I missed my actual blogiversary - which was Monday, the 21st. 

My first post was nothing much, just a "hello world".  Later that night, I put up a long post that presaged a lot of what I've done here, and has some quotes I've gone back to, "The Economic Mess That Changes Everything".  There's a few mistakes in there, but I still say it has more insights per inch then you get from the traditional media. 

According to Blogger's stats page right now, there have been 21,918 page views, with the most views, 1637, of my long post "On Germs, Weeds, Companies, Governments and Skunks".  It has been widely linked to.  Second was "The Slippery Slope Just Tilted a Bit More" (which surprises me), with just about half the total number of views (773). 

So as we flail through 2011 into the future with what appears to be a full-blown global socialist revolution beginning, my thanks to everyone who stops by; big thanks to anyone who left a comment for encouragement; and let's hope the country is more free on February 21, 2012 than it is today.  Personally, I wouldn't take that bet. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And Now How My Gorge Doth Rise At It

to borrow a little Shakespeare...

I think the public employees unions are in the process of screwing the pooch, as they say up the road at the rocket ranch.  The number of people outraged at the circus going on in Wisconsin is pretty large and seems to be growing. As the problem spreads into Ohio, Indiana and the rest of the states with budget problems, more "regular" folks are going to get mad and counter protest. 

Unions for public sector workers were even opposed by FDR.  It can't work.  Now you have an elite class, earning more than the people paying their salaries, on average.  I hear lots of people calling for every striking union member to be fired.

It's like this:

(from Town Hall's daily cartoons)

Because of this: 
(found at Michelle Malkin's site)

When the Wisconsin Education Association donates $1.5 Million to get legislators elected, that is the same as getting their contract.  You can't consider teacher contract negotiation as being in good faith - both the unions and the state are guilty of conflict of interest. It is fundamentally conflict of interest to appropriate dues money (i.e., "steal" if you or I did it) to get congress critters elected so they will give you fat contracts. 

No more public employee unions!  End it now! 

Monday, February 21, 2011


The folks who stop by here daily will have noticed I had nothing to say this weekend.  The more accurate statement was that I didn't have a minute to post. 

This weekend, the diminutive but deadly Mrs. Graybeard and I attended an Appleseed weekend.  The event we attended was close enough to commute to, but just barely.  We were up at 5 on Saturday, out by 6:45, home at 8:45 PM and did it again on Sunday.  Except I fumbled the alarm on Sunday and we ended up getting up 15 minutes late; if it hadn't been for Mojo the cat waking me to get petted, I would have overslept really late. 

Let me do the short version first: if you have have never attended an Appleseed weekend, you should go do one.  

The longer version is “so what's an Appleseed and why should I go?”

Appleseed is a project of the Revolutionary War Veterans Association.  From that mission page:
“Through Project Appleseed, the Revolutionary War Veterans Association is committed to teaching two things: rifle marksmanship and our early American heritage. We do this for one simple reason, the skill and knowledge of what our founding fathers left to us is eroding in modern America and without deliberate action, they will be lost to ignorance and apathy.”
The RWVA wants to be known primarily as a history teaching organization, and it's helpful to think of the shooting as a core part of the history teaching.  The training makes more sense if you keep that in mind.  Their emphasis is to remind Americans of the incredible sacrifices our founders did to give us this country we're loosing today.

So here you are, checking in at 8:00 AM somewhere probably far from home, and then anxiously waiting to spend a weekend working on your rifle marksmanship.  Instead, you're treated to a short history lesson on the events of April 19, 1775, “Patriot's Day”, the day the war for Independence started.  To underline the lesson of the marksmanship skills of the colonists, your first target is called Redcoats, and the object is to see if you can shoot as well with a modern machined rifle as those shopkeepers, farmers and regular townsfolk did with a smooth bore musket.  The targets, printed in red, are scaled to be the same angular size as a man, a British Regular (Redcoat), at 100, 200, 300 and 400 yards, with a separate target that's roughly the size of an average guy's head at 250 yards.  For your first attempt at this, you're allowed to shoot from any position you'd like to use.  You are given 13 rounds (recalling the 13 original colonies), and are given three shots at each target, plus one for the 250 yard head shot.  You must hit all 3 shots in a target to claim it (obviously not including the last).  I think it's an old military saying that “once is an accident, twice is coincidence and three times is enemy action”. 

As the day goes on, three history lessons, the first, second and third “strikes of the match” became the best part of the day, to me.  Along the way, you're taught how to use a GI sling standing, sitting and prone.  You're taught to find your natural point of aim (NPOA).  You're taught to shoot on a rifleman's cadence.  You're taught basics of long range shooting.  You're taught how to transition from standing to sitting or standing to prone, find your NPOA and get rounds on target quickly.  The emphasis is definitely on quickly.  Finally, there is talk in the handouts of how to read your targets and see what you're doing wrong.  

The vehicle they use is called an AQT, the Army Qualifying Test – except that at the end of the event you're told that military officers have come to shoot Appleseed events and tell the trainers that Appleseed training is much harder than the current military training.  How an AQT is run at Appleseed is you shoot everything at 25 yards, with targets scaled in angular terms to be man-sized at:
  • 100 yards (1 target, 10 rounds, standing, essentially unlimited time)
  • 200 (2 targets, transition standing to sitting, 10 rounds but mandatory magazine change, short time)
  • 300 (3 targets, transition standing to prone ,10 rounds but mandatory magazine change, short time)
  • 400 yards (4 targets, prone the whole time, 10 rounds, essentially unlimited time) 

As you can imagine, those transition stages are the hardest.  In between all of those stages you are rushed to prepare magazines and generally made to feel pressured.  The approach is not unlike how competing in IDPA with the stopwatch going can make you better in a real fight. 

You will shoot many, many of these runs.  Most of the Appleseed's second day (Sunday) is spent shooting AQT runs. 

The Rifleman patch that can be awarded is highly regarded by anyone who knows what it takes.  You must score over 220 on the AQT.  No one qualified at our event, and if I recall correctly, the highest score at our event was a guy who has qualified for rifleman already and shot in the 180s.  I am happy to say my wife out-scored me. 

I will make no excuses for doing poorly – much worse than I thought I could do.  With my AR's barrel on a Caldwell rest like the one above, I can keep everything in a 4 MOA circle at 200 yards – what their targets are – whenever I shoot.  I specifically went to Appleseed to learn how to do that without the front rest.  My groups did get better as the weekend progressed, achieving better precision but not the required accuracy - as in the second picture of this famous illustration. 

Along the way, we met great people: our instructors "Rambo Granny", "Eric ItsAnSKS", Dr. Bruce, and Paul - a machinist and photographer with a taste for bad puns (you could use the same words to describe me).  These folks have all qualified for the rifleman badge and give freely of their time to wake up fellow patriots.  Along with teaching them to cope with the dark times that seem to be accelerating as they approach.  Will we go back?  I'm not sure.  The rifleman honor would be a big accomplishment, but I'm more concerned with the journey than getting the pat on the back. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Abbreviated Post for A Busy Friday Night

Ever wanted to fly? Not like being a private pilot, in a small plane, but all by yourself in the air?  This just might be as close as you get without diving off a mountain.

It's a real company, Martin Aircraft, and a real product.  Currently in flight testing, and likely to be sold to small businesses that will rent it to you for a while.  Last price I could track down was $50,000.

It has a 5 gallon gas tank, runs on high test, and has a maximum range of 31.5 miles at 63 mph.  It has a planned ceiling of 8000 feet, although they haven't tested that, yet.  

This would cover my commute easily.  Instead of driving through school zones at 15 mph, I could zip over them. 

We can dream, can't we?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Strangely, It's Not As Bad As It Was

Rasmussen Reports leads with the headline that "Just 28% Say Federal Government Has Consent of Governed" (i.e., the government is legitimate).  Strangely, this is better than it was!  Almost a year ago, February 23, they reported only 21% said that. 

So we've gone from around 1 in 5 thinking the government is legitimate to almost 1 in 3 thinking that.  Almost 1 in 3! That's a pretty massive improvement. Not only that but
"Thirty-seven percent (37%) of voters now think a group of people selected at random from the phone book could do a better job addressing the nation’s problems than the current Congress..." 
By contrast, in 2008, almost half the people thought that a random selection out of the phone book would do better than congress.  It almost seems like people are thinking congress has gotten more competent.  Or they think less of their fellow phone book inhabitants. 

"When the last session of Congress closed its doors in December, just 13% of voters rated its performance as good or excellent, consistent with its ratings for much of the two years it was in existence.  That number had fallen to 10% less than a month after the new session of Congress began." 
Nope, if the approval rating for congress has fallen from 13% to 10%, it must be they think the folks in the phone book are worse. 

It's not all sunshine, lollipops and roses, though.
" 71% of those in the Political Class believe the federal government has the consent of the governed" 
which is a virtually exactly the opposite of what the people who elected them think.  And 67% of the public think this is not news:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Inflation - We Haz It

I must work with a good bunch of guys.  They were all talking inflation when I walked up, and were even talking gold and silver.  They've all noticed, which is good.

The Numbers Guy at the Wall Street Journal noticed.
Over the past 30 years, the federal government has made a lot of changes to the way it calculates inflation. It's taken place under presidents of both parties. Each change in methodology has come with plausible-sounding justifications. But, as if by magic, each change has had the effect of flattering the numbers. Funny, that. 
This is the single biggest reason to buy silver or other hard assets and not Treasury Inflation Protected Securities.  If you're depending on them to pay you more if inflation occurs, you can bet that they will find the one thing in the world that has not been inflated to base your payments on.  ("The cost of individual transistors in a microprocessor goes down by a factor of 2 every year, which is what we pegged our TIPS to.  Forget interest: you owe us money!")

John Williams at Shadowstats thinks the current inflation rate is approaching what it was under Jimmy Carter - nearly 10%.  As linked on Zero Hedge, in a good article that expands on the story.
The storm is onshore, but the worst of it isn't here, yet.  We're in for rough times.

Edit 2135 EDT: the graph looked better in "Preview" than one published.  Put it back the way I usually scale pictures.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

There Really Is Truth. There Really is Reality

BS Footprint links to a good story about the current abysmal situation at the once-great magazine Scientific American.  Go read.

I first subscribed to Scientific American when I was geeky teenager, so sometime in the late 1960s.  I dropped that subscription that I'd almost had continuously since then in the mid or late 1980s.  The quality was going downhill.   The quality of articles was going from upper-division college level to general-public.  By the time I dropped it, I'm not sure it would have been suitable for anything except high school general science classes - if you watched it carefully. 

The story is about a journalist staffer at Sci Am, who decides to blame the Arizona shooting on the gun and not the shooter, so we need to get rid of guns.  Then, even though he admits there's ample evidence that he's wrong, he ignores it and believes what he wants to.  This is the complete opposite of science.  Ignore contrary data, ignore any other evidence, decide you're right because it feels right.  He has no business being within a mile of a science magazine.

Richard Feynman once noted, "science is about not fooling yourself, and you're the easiest one to fool".  As I noted before, anybody really worthy of being called "scientist" spends much, much more time trying to prove themselves wrong than right.  You're supposed to be a skeptic.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Do We Need To Abandon Google?

I'm hoping that a few of my fellow blogspot (small "L") libertarian, 2A friendly bloggers see this. 

Is it time to abandon Google and Blogger/Blogspot?  They have gotten too tightly involved in leftist causes.  I mentioned Wael Ghonim on Friday's posting, a Google exec who proudly claims to have been one of the forces behind the Egyptian revolt.  Today, we learned of Jared Cohen,
"... another Google guy, Jared Cohen,  Director of Google Ideas,  heads up the Alliance for Youth Movement (AYM), a group that teaches digital activists to foment for revolution.  AYM has connections to the April 6 group, which is at the forefront of the current protests in Egypt."
The AYM is now called  As documented by Associated Content (Yahoo) here, Cohen and Undersecretary of State Glassman are involved with a group called Howcast, because:
... the possibility of "unleashing something here that is going to come back to bite you." Adding also that "any one of these groups could suddenly decide to, you know, turn violent or something like that" and, "now you're getting involved in something here that you have zero control over".
Which sounds to me like "plausible deniability", or giving a little space between official channels and the rabble rousers, in case things get ugly.  
"So now it was up to Howcast to organize this and get it ready to go live. Howcast has five co-founders, 4 are former Google employees. Amongst them is Jason Liebman, also a co-founder of AYM."
I could go on, but I won't.  There's lots of reading there.  We've known for some time that the two founders of Google were close to progressive causes and all these little acorns are falling close to the tree.  I recommend spending some quality time with some Associated Content linkery.  Here we find that, when it started to be reported that they were involved in the Mideast situations, the AYM ( started purging their web pages and changing content.
However, there was a push to get quite a bit of information "updated". On the original page (now deleted) the schedule was a short video entitled "How to be an Effective Dissident" immediately followed by "Overcoming Adversity: A Case Study from Egypt".
So why exactly would they scrub their web pages if they're not putting things up there that they don't want to be seen by the wider audience they're getting? 

Here we are: TSM, Borepatch, Mike, and many more (most of my reading list on the right bar), living on the servers of a group of people who seem entirely opposed to us.  Maybe we're being silly to look at the shaving off communications like a razor.  Maybe we should be looking at Google as the Big Brother who would do that.  Maybe we should pick up and go somewhere else.

Where?  My only issue with Wordpress is that I can't read it from work.  Live journal?  Ideas?  All suggestions appreciated. 

We don't pay subscription fees for blogspot, but supporting these guys is starting to feel like a bad idea. 

(How about a little "Burning Down the House" imagery?)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

No Signs of The Economic Collapse Being Headed Off

Today's talk shows are all a-twitter about the President declaring "$1.1 Trillion in deficit cuts" but not mentioning that this figure is over 10 years.  With a deficit this year of about $1.4 trillion, or $14 trillion dollars in debt over 10 years with zero growth in deficit per year, cutting $1.1 T amounts to less than an 8% cut.  In other words, it's pretty close to meaningless.  Imagine being on a boat far from shore and you're taking on water at an alarming rate.  Sure, it would be nice to bail out 8% of the water, coming in, but it doesn't change your ultimate fate.

Repeat after me: "It's The Spending, Stupid", a recurring theme of mine, (here, here, and here

The president talked about freezing non-discretionary domestic spending, but that's less than 15% of the budget.  In other words, meaningless.  It's like the alcoholic saying he's not going to stop drinking, just "freeze it at current levels".  Only in DC is not increasing your spending called "slashing spending". 

With a deficit of $1.4 Trillion this year, I'd like to see spending cut of, ... oh, I don't know... how about 1.4 Trillion not 1.1 - and do it this year, not over 10 years!!??!!  Are you saying, "Dude, you're crazy!  Think of the damage it would do!"?  How much damage is done by not cutting spending?  If the economy collapses, how many people are going to be hurt by that? The stupid party is showing a slight edge here, although the really stupid ones still think there are things that should not be cut.  Supposedly, each party is trying to make the other one look like the party that cuts social security and Medicare.  It's politics like this that makes the collapse appear unavoidable. 

I subscribe to a silver investors newsletter.  The letter quotes Chuck Butler of the "The Daily Pfennig" saying,
"Let me explain what I see for the U.S. this year [regarding the federal deficit]... The CBO has already said the deficit this year will be $2 Trillion, and that's before health care's $1.5 trillion price tag... So... If health care goes through, (Heaven help us) that's a total of $3.5 trillion in new financing that the U.S. will have to deal with... Who on earth, I ask politely, is going to step up and do another $3.5 trillion in loans to the U.S.? Just keep thinking about that one, folks..."
As I've said before, who can possibly loan us that amount?  It's way more than the GDP of all but a couple of Nations and the EU.  Folks, this is ending one way or another, and none of the possible ways are pretty. 

I should point out that the sale on silver appears to be ending.  The 30 day chart shows a nice re-grouping, finds a bottom, and starts back up again. 

If you had planned on buying silver on the dip, but didn't do so by a week ago, you've probably missed the dip.  I personally only got a little more.  And I continue to regard anything less than $50 per Troy ounce to be a good price.  That may continue for the year, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see massive price run-ups, if the Mideast degrades much more.  I should point out that Donald Trump has been quoted as believing the Mideast turmoil might collapse OPEC for good.  Maybe he's on to something.  Oil is at a 10 week low, when I'd expect the uncertainty around the Suez Canal would increase its price.

But, hey, why worry?  Lady Gag showed up for Grammy awards in an egg!  How cool is that? 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

We Pause For A Brief Diversion

If you're in Florida, you should know that the state senate's committee on criminal justice is poised to vote whether to bring to the full senate a bill allowing open carry.  Robb Allen at Sharp as a Marble has the details.  The whole effort is being coordinated by Florida Open Carry

I've emailed the entire committee.  Personally, I'm not a super-big fan of open carry, but I think it should be our right and decision.  Besides, as I noted in Gun Culture 2.0, I think anything that helps normalize gun ownership is a Good Thing.  If nothing else, people openly carrying would make it easier on people like me who might expose their gun while bending over in the store, or reaching for the top shelf.

While I'm on the subject, I tried something today that I've never done before and carried in a fanny pack.  We were headed to Orlando for the day, an event in a tourist town where fanny packs and "shoot me first vests" are very common.  I'm still a bit stiff from a twisted back a few weeks ago, and while getting dressed, my regular holster was causing my belt to bother my back.  I tried putting my XDsc into a regular pack, the kind that's not designed as a holster, and it worked fine.  No back soreness, and as comfortable a day on my feet carrying as I've ever had.

As Milhouse said, when Bart Simpson asked him how it feels to ride a girl's bike, "it's disturbingly comfortable". 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Now It Gets Interesting...

The Mubarek government has fallen and power taken by the military.  It is said that the military is a stabilizing force, and friend to the US - at least at the highest levels where they have the most experience with our military trainers.  It has been widely reported they are a very large recipient of our military aid in the region, and their elite forces have been trained by our elite forces. 
Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Higher Military Council that took control of Egypt on Friday after President Hosni Mubarak was swept from power, has spoken with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates by phone five times since the crisis began, including as late as on Thursday evening.

Now it gets interesting.  This has been, as best I can tell, a true open source revolution - a group of groups fighting together with only one common interest, the removal of the regime.  The riots were not spontaneous.  Visitors a couple of months ago say it didn't seem to be a place on the brink of revolution.  These protests were organized by leftists such as Code Pink, The Muslim Brotherhood, and - very strangely - Google.  Srsly.
"Google executive Wael Ghonim, one of the principal organisers of the massive anti-Hosni Mubarak protests "
I suppose we could just lump Google in with the random leftists/statists involved; after all, they have been tight with Obama since the early days.  So we have leftists, trade unions, Islamists, and regular folks who just want the freedom to make a better life for their children.  Where does Mohammed El Baradei fit in all this?  Is he an Islamic radical or Islamic Socialist?  I'm not entirely sure, but I lean to "B".  Anti-western for sure, after the lies he propagated as head of the IAEA.  But before I leave the causes, don't overlook the effect of the inflation in food prices exported by Bernanke's QE2 and the administration's policies (or this policy).

So now what?  What do communist organizations have in common with fundamentalist Islam?  Remember the phrase "Godless commies"?  Communism places the state above all else.  Religion is the "opiate of the masses".  It just doesn't seem like they should get along.  Throw in conservative military like General Tantawi, and the mix gets interesting. 

When does the next round of shooting begin?  Do you bet on the commies, or Muslim fundamentalists?  The questions come down to not only who is the nastiest, most ruthless fighters, but who has the most infrastructure in place, and the deepest "bench", to borrow the sports analogy.  If the killing gets really severe, who has the best second and third string?   

In the best case, Egypt falls, the region shudders, then rights itself.  Yeah, right.  In the worst case, the Mideast regimes all collapse like dominoes.  If that happens, expect regional fighting that turns into a new Caliphate under the leadership of (potentially) Iran; possibly Saudi Arabia or the new Egypt, whatever that might be.  Expect it to spread.  In the last several months, Angela Merkel of Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy of France and the UK's David Cameron have all said that multi-culturalism has failed.  Multi-culturalism is Politically Correct speech for allowing Muslim immigrant communities to live as islands, with their own laws and not integrate into the culture of the community (Lodon or Dearbornistan). Expect this to mean that the Muslim communities in Western Europe will ignite in attempt to become part of the Caliphate.    

And I have to admit I need to smoke some of what they've got going up on Wall Street.  We have the Suez Canal in the hands of, well, who knows whose hands it will be in by Monday?, protests going on in Jordan, Yemen, and Syria; protests planned for Algeria, Iran, Tunisia - did I miss someone? the IMF calling for a replacement for the dollar, and the stock market is up, the dollar is up, while oil, gold and silver are all down today. 
(source)  Peaceful now; it's halftime.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Anyone Want To Give Odds

That we've just seen the start of the next World War? 

"There comes a time in every revolution where the President tells the General to fire on the crowd.  If he fires, the revolution is put down.  If he doesn't, the revolution is won"  - I forget where I first saw that.  Maybe I made it up. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Little More Shop Talk

We all know the economic collapse is coming.  It's time to emphasize learning how to do stuff to survive it.

Let's say you wanted to make a model of something like a tractor, a steam engine or  something with bolts or other hardware visible from the outside.  How do you model that?  The problem with shrinking a 1/4-20 bolt, for example is that when you shrink the diameter to 1/5 of it's originals, .050", what do you do about the screw pitch?  To keep it looking the same, the pitch has to go up by 5 to 100.  Ever seen a .050-100 screw?  It's not a standard you can just go buy.  You can use something else, but if you're a serious modeler, it just doesn't look right? 

If you're hobbyist Jerry Keiffer, you figure out how to make .050 -100 screws.  I had the privilege of meeting Jerry the one and only time Mrs. Graybeard and I went to a model show, the North American Model Engineering Society's annual show.  The year we went, it was in Toledo, OH, instead of just outside Detroit as it is this year (motto: "Detroit - what a century of Democrat Party leadership looks like").  Jerry is a modest guy, but the work he does will make your jaw hit the floor. 

Two pictures will show you some of his work, which is stunning. 

Nice drill press, isn't  it?   (Jerry holding it, BTW)  But what does every drill press need?  A vise! 
That's a fully functioning model, with a fully functioning vise.  If I remember correctly, that screw is .025 diameter by 300 turns per inch!

When Jerry posted a photo of a motorcycle model he's making, it prompted a very experienced machinist to quip, "Gosh, Jerry.  Where'd you get the giant quarter?"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Neat Things To Do With CNC Machine Tools

Sure, you can make all sorts of incredible models.  (More at the Internet Craftsmanship Museum).  You can make tools.   You can make  model cars.  There are many guys who make fully functional internal combustion engines.  You probably know I used mine to make my AR-15 lower receiver.  Of course, you can make all sorts of useful things once you know how to use these tools.

But using them for art is a different proposition. 
Go check out Chris Bathgate Sculpture  Spend a while looking at the Process page.  Pretty amazing stuff.  Literally tons of jewelry is made with CNC carving of waxes that are then cast in precious metals.  The same techniques are good for many intricate little parts you might need. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Do You Read Ann Coulter?

Ann has a self-described "sweet gig" as a pundit.  I read her every week because she's witty, smart, and never puts out a column without research.  She's also a bit incendiary and more than a little bit sarcastic - but I think that's part of the act. 

This week, Ann talks about the reactions of the gun grabbers to the Arizona shootings:
It's so adorable when people who wouldn't know a high-capacity magazine from Vanity Fair start telling gun owners what they should want and need.
She goes on to say, "Look, you ninnies"
There's only one policy of any kind that has ever been shown to deter mass murder: concealed-carry laws. In a comprehensive study of all public, multiple-shooting incidents in America between 1977 and 1999, the highly regarded economists John Lott and Bill Landes found that concealed-carry laws were the only laws that had any beneficial effect.
I admit it:  I added the "Look, you ninnies" part.  But you can feel it there. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, on her own website's photo gallery, there's what looks to be an old, faded, scanned-in, photo of a young Ann playing with a rifle on the back step of frame home.  I think she's one of us.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Gun Culture 2.0

I got to spend a really nice Friday this week.  I took off the day and spent it with my older brother; just he and his wife, with my wife and I.  We live about 150 miles apart, so we're close enough to get together if it's important, but, somehow, it's rarely important enough to get together.   As we talked about what we were up to, how life was going and getting all caught up, I naturally talked about doing some shooting.  My brother seems to be where I was a few years ago; he's not anti-gun, just hasn't bothered to get one.  I believe that's where most of America is.  

Why am I telling you this?  Kevin, over at The Smallest Minority has an excellent piece on Renormalizing the Gun Culture.  I consider this really important. Kevin says,
"As I see it, there are essentially three "gun cultures" in this nation: the criminal gun culture, the genteel gun culture, and the gonzo gun culture.

The criminal gun culture is self-explanatory. It exists everywhere, even (perhaps especially) where gun ownership by individuals is heavily restricted or forbidden. The genteel gun culture is the culture of what many of us term the Fudds, the people whose only interest in firearms is for hunting, for example,  or who only shoot sporting clays and see "no reason" for any type of firearm other than what they themselves own.  "Nobody needs" type X gun, as far as they're concerned."
Kevin then goes on to define the gonzo gun culture as
"The gonzo gun culture is the one that encompasses all other forms of shooting and collecting, from those of us who shoot IPSC and USPSA to those who spend literally thousands of dollars annually just feeding their Class III habit. We're the ones who shoot a lot, and like pretty much anything that goes "bang!" "
By this definition, I'm a full-up member of the gonzo gun culture. Michael Bane, whose TV series The Best Defense is the one gun-related show I record and watch every episode of, refers to people like us as Gun Culture 2.0.  I've never been hunting, I couldn't tell you the difference between sporting clays and skeet shooting - if there is one - and I wasn't raised shooting.  2.0 people come from the self defense side and get interested in shooting for fun. 

Normalizing the idea that good guys carry guns seems extremely important.  I'm not looking for social acceptance - I couldn't care less what the elitists think of me - but society has been brainwashed by Hollyweird and the media into thinking the only gun culture is the criminal culture.  I think this is the underlying root cause of the tragic killing of Erik Scott last summer.  I can't imagine this would have happened if the "20-something security guard, who made a 911 call to police" wasn't freaked out over someone in the store having a gun.  It seems that in any real tragedies there's usually more than one thing that goes wrong, and if that account is right, Scott did make the mistake of staying in the store when the first employee told him he was not allowed to carry there; but the police made the mistake of shouting conflicting commands and then shooting an innocent man before he could mentally process what was happening to him. 

Look, I know police work is stressful and I know it's split-second decision time.  The goal is not to be in that situation.  Maybe, just maybe, if crime isn't the first thought when someone is seen with a gun, Erik would be with us.  I'm sure there are others as well.  

(image from our friends at the NRA, strangely enough)

If nothing else, the constant drum beat that the criminal gun culture is the only gun culture makes it easier to get other weapons bans, magazine bans and all the other fascistic crap the other side is pushing for.  So how do we normalize the idea that safe, sane people carry guns to protect themselves and their families?  Especially if we all don't have Oleg Volk's talent and ability to create eye-candy messages?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

On Recycled Newspapers, Plastic and Green Energy

or I Don't Care What Harvard Said, You're Not Smarter Than The Market

When I was a little kid, around 10 years old, I somehow learned that I could save up newspapers and sell them to make some money for toys (I believe I wanted a chemistry set).  I vividly remember saving up that stack of papers until it got to be the required size (50 pounds, IIRC) and I also vividly remember how much effort it was to stack up that much paper and how long it took to get my dollar - or whatever it was.  The process convinced me there wasn't enough money to be made saving up newspaper and I think I started mowing lawns. 

Fast forward to the 1980s and the Greenies got an idea going that we should all recycle our garbage.  It would be fantastic: all we had to do was separate our wastes into glass, newspaper and metal cans, stack them in different plastic bins, and they would be whisked away to willing buyers.  Apparently not a thought was given to the waste that would be moved from the garbage can to the sewer system as folks cleaned out the cans and bottles rather than just putting them in the garbage.  Cities would make money selling the recyclables, waste streams would get smaller, we would save energy, and, I don't know, maybe the polar bears would come give us all hugs.  Or wouldn't eat us given half a chance.
As always, it didn't work out the way the environmentalists sold the idea. 

When supplies exceed demand, prices decline.  It's a law you can't change.  In fact, the Law of Supply and Demand is as close to the character of physical law as you get in the social sciences.  Many of the recyclables were just unusable and no market ever started for them.  In Energy Efficiency and Technology magazine, editor Leland Teschler lays out some interesting facts in this editorial:
My friend Terry and I had each finished off a bottle of beer. I looked around for a recycling bin while Terry just pitched his bottle in the trash.

Was Terry indifferent to the environment? Nah. He works at one of the biggest breweries in the U.S. and knows first-hand what happens to recycled glass. “We can’t use recycled glass for making bottles. It’s just too brittle. So glass put in recycling bins generally ends up in landfills anyway,” he explains.

Terry knows what he’s talking about. Canada’s National Post reports that all the glass collected last year by recycling programs in Calgary, Edmonton, and several other Canadian cities ended up landfilled because there were no buyers for it. The situation is similar for plastic. Reports are that Germany has millions of tons of recyclable plastics piled up in fields because nobody wants the stuff. And it is literally more expensive to collect some recyclables than to just pitch them. San Francisco’s Dept. of Waste figures it pays $4,000/ton to recycle plastic bags for which it receives $32/ton.  (emphasis added)
(The article contains some important ideas beyond this one.  It's a trade magazine for the people who are actually designing the high energy efficiency items we actually want, so it's worth reading. )

I rush to add that there really are good markets for some recyclable materials.  Cans and other metals come to mind immediately; many machine shops sell scrap cutoffs of aluminum and steel to reduce their waste costs.  Jewelers have been saving (or selling) gold and silver scrap for a lot longer than you and I have been alive! 

But the fact that there's a market for some products to recycle doesn't negate the fact that you can't create a market for something by wishing it into existence.  If there's a use for X tons of waste newspaper on the market that's provided by a handful of companies (and 10 year old boys), when the supply suddenly goes to 10 X or 100 X, the price is going to fall proportionally, and you're still going to end up with tons of newspaper you have no market for.  How much would you pay for something you had absolutely no use for? 

The same is true for “green energy” programs.  Windmills are among the first such power plants that greenies advocate for.  The UK has adopted the idea and placed thousands of wind turbines around the country.  Everybody knows that wind speed and energy is variable - the wind doesn't blow the same amount everyday anywhere.  The Renewable Energy Foundation reports
“... at 17.30 on the 7th of December 2010, when the 4th highest United Kingdom load of 60,050 MW was recorded, the UK wind fleet of approximately 5,200 MW was producing about 300 MW (i.e. it had a Load Factor of 5.8%). One of the largest wind farms in the United Kingdom, the 322 MW Whitelee Wind Farm was producing approximately 5 MW (i.e. Load Factor 1.6%).”
Back in December, an anonymous commenter here said,
“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.”
Tell me how this doesn't guarantee higher prices to consumers?
And, of course, no one ever talks about any problems with the technology, now, do they?

The Green Jobs campaign that Obama has cited repeatedly as his model has failed.  A report from the Spanish cabinet, leaked by the Spanish newspaper La Graceta, has said that every job created by the Green Economy has come at the expense of two “regular” jobs.  Is Van Jones - former Green Jobs advisor to the president and self-declared communist - listening, or does he even care?  If the plan is to put people out of work so you can collapse the country, or to put one group of people out of work so that others can work, maybe this is just the ticket.

Markets work when there is no intervention in them.  Government regulation to ensure fairness is fine; the problem is when companies (cough GE cough) or the unions (cough, SEIU, UAW cough) get in bed with government to suppress their competition.  Perhaps this has something to do with why GE paid 3.6% tax last year and why GM bond holders had their legally binding contracts violated so that the UAW could get a better deal.  Alternative energy sources will have their day when they make market sense, not a minute sooner.  The market can't be fooled with subsidies and other government manipulations.  Those might work short term, but no government is big enough to hold off the world's market forever.    

In my first big blog posting, almost a year ago, I had a quote from Karl Denninger that goes well here: “The market is bigger than any one man or any one nation and it does not suffer arrogance lightly. Virtually everyone who has tried to tangle with it has wound up with their head between their legs after not only their head was chopped off but both arms as well.” When you hear that Windmills or Tidal Generators or any scheme of any kind will deliver thousands of jobs, eliminate our dependence on foreign energy, and all of the usual hype, you should be very suspicious.  If someone is telling you this face to face, put one hand over your wallet and back away slowly. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

It's Time I Talk About My Disease

But first, I'd like to publicly thank Larry Potterfield at Midway USA for sending me a birthday discount to his fine candy store.  I've heard talk from insiders that Larry is really a very nice guy and completely genuine.  And, no, I'm under no illusions that Larry personally was sitting up there last week and said, "Hey, the Silicon Graybeard's birthday is coming up!  Let's give him a discount on everything!"  But he did set up the business.

So Midway made it a bit cheaper for me to buy myself something I've been contemplating for a while: a kit to get started reloading.  After reading ASM826's articles on reloading last month, I was pretty sure I needed to try this.  I have a friend locally who reloads, but we can never seem to get together so that I can watch.  Both of them own an RCBS Rock Chucker Single Stage Press, so that's what I got.

Since I'm an absolute novice at this, I didn't get any powder or primers.  I've saved brass from my .223 and .308 rifles, so I'll start with the .308.  I got a set of dies and shell holders for both of those calibers.  Eventually, I will almost certainly add pistol reloading.

Now it's time to come forward about my little problem.  Everyone knows there are "fad diseases" that get lots of attention and become big celebrity fund raisers.  Anything that has a ribbon associated with it, from breast cancer to autism. I don't have one of those.  Everyone has heard of Attention Deficit Disorder, ADD.  I don't have that; I have its opposite, Attention Surplus Syndrome, ASS.

ASS is not as widespread as ADD, and there are no drug treatments for it.  ASS is characterized by paying extreme amounts of attention to things.  ASS sufferers tend to be involved in extremely intricate tasks that, simply stated, require the amount of attention only those with attention surplus can provide. They can't watch half-hour TV shows because, "they're over before they start getting interesting".  Hour shows are somewhat better, but a two hour movie is about right.  ASS sufferers can be easily recognized by the quote, "I don't know where the time went!  I just sat down to do this!" 

The previous paragraph hints at the diagnostic tests for ASS. 
  1. Sits quietly engaged in any activity for more than 20 minutes. 
  2. When presented with a new problem, studies alternative solutions rather than just saying "do something!"
  3. A wide range of hobbies is possible: model trains, making any sort of models from scratch: ships, cars, trains, - anything.  Mathematical problems, crossword puzzles, things that combine manual skills with mental effort, such as jewelry, lapidary, telescope making, stained glass making, music, F-class shooting or any long range shooting.   
Because of their innate ability to do tasks others can't, ASS patients can be well-paid, although obviously not as well paid as the ADD cases that hire them.  And because they tend to be absorbed in their puzzles and problems, ASS patients integrate well with society.  They may not "play well with others", but they don't ruin other people's play, either. 

Physicians consider it diagnostic to leave an intractable problem with them (Fermat's last theorem has been used) and casually suggesting, "anyone should be able to do this". 
Three famous ASS sufferers (artist's depiction). 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Government Has Shut Down the Internet – Part Four

As I was saying the other day, "sure you're paranoid, but are you paranoid enough?"

This morning, a friend at work who is also a graybeard engineer and liberty-minded guy, brought up the topic of communications when the Internet is shut down.  As far as I know, he doesn't know about this blog - I've never told him about it - so it wasn't in reaction to my long posts over the last weekend.  We talked about ham radio, packet radio, and the stories we heard about Egyptians pulling phone modems out and going back to BBSes and the really old ways of communicating.  A while later, he sent me a link to this article, on PC World, "Get Internet Access When Your Government Shuts It Down".  In addition to the stuff I covered, they have some interesting twists and new ways to form ad hoc networks. 

When a mainstream magazine like PC World covers such things, you know the concern is widespread.  This goes double for the "Apps for the Apocalypse" article linked in there.

Seems prepping is going mainstream.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Could We Be Looking at the Start of the Next World War?

Viewers and listeners of Glenn Beck's programs on the radio and on TV are aware that Glenn thinks the unrest in the Middle East is probably going global.  He maintains the Mideast, most of North Africa, and possibly as far as parts of Europe and Asia, will become an Islamic Caliphate.  The civil war that results from millions of Muslims in the UK, France, Spain, Germany and the rest of the EU seeing the chance for an Islamic state and fighting in the European streets will collapse it while the oil price gyrations destroy the US. 

Pretty bleak.  But Bayou Renaissance Man posts the intriguing idea that this could be the lead-in to the Biblical Armageddon
Is that going to happen?  To borrow my favorite science quote, "Prediction is very hard, especially about the future".  But it's not a real long reach, either.
Israel now finds itself in the extraordinarily dangerous position of having avowed enemies, both political and (fundamentalist) religious, far to the East (Iran); to its north-east (Syria); north (Lebanon); south-west (Gaza); and possibly to the south (Egypt) if the Muslim Brotherhood or its allies take control there. Furthermore, to the east is an unstable, unpredictable and politically (if not militarily) hostile Palestinian government in the West Bank.
Israel is a nuclear power.  Iran probably isn't at this point, but it's not completely absurd to think that Iran could have bought a couple of nukes from the North Koreans, just for "special occasions".  Imagine Israel, isolated and alone, surrounded on all sides by nations that want it destroyed.  Burning bright in Israeli memory is the holocaust, and that this must never happen again.  That to die fighting is better than being carted to the chambers again.  That the determined small group in the Warsaw ghetto held off the Nazis longer than the nation of Poland did. 

The Israeli papers are not mincing words:
One comment by Aviad Pohoryles in the daily Maariv was entitled “A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam.” It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks.
and further down the article,
“Throughout Asia, Africa and South America, leaders are now looking at what is going on between Washington and Cairo. Everyone grasps the message: “America’s word is worthless … America has lost it.” (emphasis added)
Now imagine Israel alone, fighting on every front including internal bombings from Gaza and the West Bank, outnumbered by at least 10:1.  No help from the toothless US.  The Chinese are happy to see the parasites over their (bought and paid for) oil possessions eliminated and the Russians happy to see the Iranian instigators behind the Chechen rebels being killed off.  Neither feels too inclined to help.  Is it hard to imagine Israel would defend itself with everything it has?

Time is running out.