Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's Like This...

Michael Ramirez in Town Hall. 

So the buzz today is that "a deal" is near, and our economic troubles are over.  They've done it!  They've slain the beast!
"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.  - Jabberwocky, Lewis Caroll, 1872
Two words:  Bull. Crap.

Let's get real.  The debt ceiling is going to be raised.  No plan that I've been able to see details of actually cuts spending in any meaningful way.  Of course, we don't have a debt ceiling in any meaningful way, either.  Debt always goes up.  The ceiling always gets raised.  Can you say "exponential"? 
Hat tip to Zerohedge - my previous charts only go back to 1980.

More real: we're not going to default unless the President orders it.  Just as the social security checks he threatened about will go out, unless the president orders them not to.  We talked about this before and often enough that I feel my blood pressure spike every time I hear some media moron say "default" when they talk about borrowing more.  (h/t Zerohedge)
Instead of dangling the default threat every chance they get, Obama and Geithner should be telling the world that the U.S. has every intention, and the resources, to meet its debt obligations. They should shout it from the rooftops, put a banner on the Treasury Direct website, and use the Sunday talk shows to reassure investors, not frighten them.
We don't know exactly what's going to happen because terms of the possible agreements aren't being discussed.  There's talk of kicking the can to a "special committee" to recommend fixes by Thanksgiving with "automatic cuts" if the congress doesn't agree to specifics.  That sounds sufficiently spineless that many congresscritters would vote for it - but didn't they just do that with Erskine Bowles/Alan Simpson commission?    If they didn't listen to that commission, why would they listen to this one?

But the debt ceiling going up was a foregone conclusion.  The Stupids only control 1/2 of the legislative branch which is 1/3 of the government (or less - think of the czars and the bureaucrats).  They simply don't have the power to do anything other than try to prevent anything from getting to the president.  Which isn't such a bad option.  Except it leads me to think he would take that opportunity to do what he wants and dare the rest of us to stop him.  "So sue me".

In my book if nothing changes, nothing changes.  The long term prognosis is still grim.  The chances of economic collapse are still great, the chances for QE3 are still high, and the fact that some really bad times are coming is bet-your-life guaranteed.  On this trajectory, we eventually do default and collapse as a country.  Not because of this, but because eventually, no one will buy our bonds.  Right now, the dollar is doing well, because the whole world's financial system is as solid as jello, and they reflexively think the dollar is safe.   

Saturday, July 30, 2011

It's August in Florida

There are many places in this nation where folks look forward to summer; it's time to go outside - maybe for the first time in months, enjoy warm, glorious days; garden, bike, picnic; maybe enjoy a book while lounging on the beach.  Nat King Cole's classic "Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer" comes to mind.

That's not here.

When we first got an HDTV a few years ago, Mrs. Graybeard and I naturally spent most of our TV time searching out HD programming.  One of the first movies we watched was "The Chronicles of Riddick".  You have to understand this is not even particularly good scifi.  It's a fun movie to watch, it's a visual treat, it's a fantastic display of special effects perfect for HD, but don't pay too much attention to the story.  To quote a review, "Furyans, Necromongers, Elementals, The Underverse, the so clearly wants to be epic that it forgets to tie all of these disparate worlds, universes and civilizations into a coherent story. (Director) Twohy clearly makes the mistake of not realizing that there is a huge difference between being grand and being simply confusing and the more ideas that are introduced, the more lumbering it becomes…"  

A large portion of the movie, and one of the longest action sequences, takes place on the planet Crematoria (yes, all the names in the movie are that cheesy) .  Crematoria is a planet that has a tremendous temperature variation (probably an impossible amount) with daytime temperatures of 700C and night time temperatures far below zero.  When the sunrise terminator sweeps through, the force of the heat gales that come with it is literally enough to blow you apart, disintegrating flesh and blowing pieces off until you die.  There's a scene where a character (Purifier) destroys himself by walking into the sunrise terminator and self-immolating.  That's him trying to stand up to the gales while being set afire and having pieces of burning flesh blown off him. 
The first time I saw that scene, I said, "I've been out on days like that".  Mrs. Graybeard said, "Oh, yeah.  We've been out on our bikes when it's like that". 

And that's what life here in Central Florida is like in the summer, for August plus or minus a week or two.  Stay out of the sun.  Do your outdoor activities near sunrise or sunset.  Don't expose bare skin to the sun for longer than necessary - and even then, use sunscreen if you need to be out for any length of time (SPF 3 million is adequate).  Without air conditioning and mosquito control, a technological civilization could not exist here. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Are You a 10 Percenter?

There was a science story this week from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that got some talk in the liberty sphere, and, interestingly, not much other coverage.  Glenn Beck's website for one reported the group announced their computer modeling showed:
... if 10% of people (on any topic) strongly believe in something – 100% of the time it becomes the norm for society. (bold added)
That means if those of us who consider ourselves threepers, could engage enough people with persuasive arguments about liberty, reducing the size of the government and reducing the size of the debt, once we get to 10% of the population, we have won.  To quote a more in depth report at 
“When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,” said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. “Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.”
The abstract is viewable at Physics Review E (but doesn't say much).
The authors cite as example the overthrow of the Egyptian and Tunisian governments, where decades-old governments collapsed in short order.  There is no specific mention of Libya: did they start from much less than 10%?  Are there other forces at play?

A second reason to know this is that Leviathan will certainly use this against us.  Obviously if the liberty sphere figures out that if we spread enough belief in our values we'll collapse Leviathan, and they sure ain't going down without a fight!   They will mount counter campaigns to convert the Free S*** Army zombies that they feed off of.  Plus, we'll be fighting the media.

I will personally file this as "interesting claim that deserves some tests".   It certainly can't hurt to spread the word on our beliefs. 

EDIT 7/30 1144 - I left a sentence in there that was so hard to read it would actually damage your eyes. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Where's My Robot??

I don't know about you, but I grew up reading science fiction, and every story worth a darn had robots.  I remember devouring "I Robot" by Issac Asimov, and all of his robot stories; I ate that stuff up.  By this time, I figured we would all have cool robots as our personal tools.  They'd do the dirty and disgusting jobs for us, and allow us to enjoy more leisure. 

It's no secret that robots are here and they are doing a lot of work.  Humans and robots have been working alongside for over 35 years.  The speculation has gone from intelligent machines (Ray Kurzweil in the 80s) to spiritual machines (Kurzweil in the last decade).  The first human to be killed by a robot, Robert Williams, was decades ago - in 1979.  Obviously that whole "Three Laws of Robotics" thing is a ways off. It's fine to say "A robot shall not harm a human or by inaction, allow harm to come to a human", but the sophistication to decide what's human and what isn't human would choke the biggest computers on earth today.

Allow me to introduce Heather Knight, Ph.D. student and owner of the (fantastically named) company, Marilyn Monrobot.  Engineering magazine Design News had an article on her work that drew my attention to it.  Her interests are in making robots "live" better with humans.  Making them "Devilishly Charming Robots and Charismatic Machines."  Robotics researchers talk of something called "the uncanny valley":
Part of her mission is to address the so-called "uncanny valley" -- a moniker used by roboticists to describe the phenomenon wherein humanoid robots give the creeps to real humans (which most of you probably are).
There's a fine line between making robots that move with us, fit in with us in our homes, but that don't creep us out.  I have seen some anthropomorphic robots that do creep me out a bit.  
Her approach is get the robot to do stand up comedy!  (No, seriously - a robot walks into a bar...)  The robot learns from audience reactions and continually adjusts its routines.  Enjoy this six minute video of the world's first performance of a robot doing stand-up. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Continuing Education for Shooters - II

In response to yesterday's post on an interesting analysis of shootings, commenter Reg T raised some interesting points.  I frequently turn long comments and responses into new posts, and will do so here.  Reg's points (I'm editing here - you can read the whole thing):
When trying to decide what is significant and what isn't, I usually take anything based on plain statistics and throw it out the window. ...(some content deleted for brevity - GB)

When looking to the real world, especially in the effectiveness of ammunition, I tend to think the military - especially in places where there have been many thousands of shootings, like Vietnam, Afghanistan, etc. - provides the best data available.

The Moro uprisings in the Phillipines caused the military to switch from a .38 caliber ammunition to the .45, because the .38s were frequently not effective at stopping Moro warriors, while the .45 was often effective. More recently, the military has given excellent reason to believe the 9mm is often ineffective, and a number of military units that have a choice in what caliber they use have switched back to the .45.

Any ammunition can be effective under the right circumstances, especially with proper placement. Overall, though, especially with troops that do not get the best training with handguns, nor the most effective ammunition (FMJ vs hollow points), real world results measured over many thousands of uses indicate that caliber is indeed significant.

Statistical analyses do not always prove out in the real world. They can sometimes be useful for generalizing or in determining trends, but it is too easy to miss significant data, over weigh some data, or be used to justify someone's personal agenda.

In regard to statistical analyses in general and Reg's distrust, being skeptical is good and healthy.  There's a great quote I got in a statistics class: "Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital!".  In this case, the relevant question is what these statistics are concealing.  While this is counter-intuitive, what if the .22 really was massively superior to the .45, but the statistics showed them roughly equal?  Wouldn't you want to know? You can shoot a .22 all day for $20 (I have) while $20 buys one box of .45 FMJ; it would be nice to know if .22 was better. 

Let me put forward an idea.  I'm not going to argue it's absolute truth, but I think it's logical.  Suppose there's a fundamental difference between the people the military faces and who you're likely to face in a self defense situation?  To use the statistics term, they're not the same population - and that's what his statistics conceal.

The opponents the military faces know they're in a war, and are driven by some mix of duty, honor, loyalty to squad mates and (often) religious fervor.  That means they're much more likely to keep fighting after they've been shot than a criminal is.  After all, he's probably a criminal because he doesn't have a really good work ethic.  From the self defense standpoint, the Moros are not a good model; they were a dedicated army, in a war, defending their homes and families, "reinforced" with various drugs, not a lowlife trying for an easy meal ticket. 

That's what Ellifritz is saying: that the attacker doesn't get incapacitated so much as they quit the attack once they realize they've been shot.  I've heard (can't confirm, obviously) that the Marines are now teaching new guys that they may well get shot in a battle, but just keep fighting. What Ellifritz' data is saying is that in the average self-defense situation, you're not fighting a trained Marine; once he realizes he's been shot, he's going to stop.

Put another way, the most widely accepted statistics (there's that word, again) on self defense say that there's around 2.5 million uses of a firearm in self defense every year, and that thousands of times every day, simply drawing the firearm ends the confrontation without a shot being fired.  Does it really matter if you pull a .32 or a compact .45 if they're going to back down as soon as they see a gun? 

Now, everyone has seen the stories of a drug-wracked stoner who doesn't stop until he's been hit 40 times.  The Moro tribesmen were drugged up on something that kept them going, too.  It's not like that's an unlikely scenario, either, with the prevalence of crystal meth in our society.  Faced with that situation, I'd really prefer 12 ga to the brain stem, but I'd settle for a major caliber handgun.

And the other viewpoint is also obvious: there's often no disadvantage to carrying your .45 instead of something smaller - my .45 when fully loaded weighs an ounce or two less than my 9mm XD subcompact (which has 3 more rounds).  So why not carry the big one? 

Just In - Sarah Palin Endorses This Blog!

Last night, in this video, Sarah said,
"And you know, back in the day, we used to hear that, "Hey, it's the economy stupid." Well, now, simply put, it's the spending, stupid!"
Since I've said that very thing, word for word, many times, I'll take that as an endorsement.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Continuing Education for Shooters

One of the most persistent falsehoods heard from anti-gunners, I mean besides the penis jokes, is that gun culture folks are all toothless idiots who "jest wanna shewt sumthin".  Of course, when you're familiar with the facts, you know that a large percentage of the folks who carry study all the time: they study tactics, take classes and spend a fair amount of their resources trying to be ready should they be called on to use that gun they carry.  (To be fair, there is probably a few percent that fit the mythology, but about 5 or 10% of the population of the country thinks we never went to the moon, so there's a few percent of losers no matter what group you look at.)

So in keeping with the idea of studying, with thanks to the Michael Bane Blog, we have this link to an alternative look at the persistent myth of stopping power, by Greg Ellifritz.  It's really one of the most interesting things I've read in a while. 
The average number of rounds until incapacitation was also remarkably similar between calibers. All the common defensive calibers required around 2 rounds on average to incapacitate. Something else to look at here is the question of how fast can the rounds be fired out of each gun. The .38 SPL probably has the slowest rate of fire (long double action revolver trigger pulls and stout recoil in small revolvers) and the fewest rounds fired to get an incapacitation (1.87). Conversely the 9mm can probably be fired fastest of the common calibers and it had the most rounds fired to get an incapacitation (2.45). The .40 (2.36) and the .45 (2.08) split the difference. It is my personal belief that there really isn't much difference between each of these calibers. It is only the fact that some guns can be fired faster than others that causes the perceived difference in stopping power. If a person takes an average of 5 seconds to stop after being hit, the defender who shoots a lighter recoiling gun can get more hits in that time period. It could be that fewer rounds would have stopped the attacker (given enough time) but the ability to fire more quickly resulted in more hits being put onto the attacker. It may not have anything to do with the stopping power of the round. (emphasis added)
I find that bolded text a very interesting statement.  Look at these two data sets, for example:
.22 (short, long and long rifle)
# of people shot - 154
# of hits - 213
% of hits that were fatal - 34%
Average number of rounds until incapacitation - 1.38
% of people who were not incapacitated - 31%
One-shot-stop % - 31%
Accuracy (head and torso hits) - 76%
% actually incapacitated by one shot (torso or head hit) - 60%
compare that to this one:
 45 ACP
# of people shot - 209
# of hits - 436
% of hits that were fatal - 29%
Average number of rounds until incapacitation - 2.08
% of people who were not incapacitated - 14%
One-shot-stop % - 39%
Accuracy (head and torso hits) - 85%
% actually incapacitated by one shot (torso or head hit) - 51%
Let's resist the conclusion that the .22 is a more lethal round than .45 ACP (34% fatal compared to 29%) with more "stopping power" (1.38 rounds to incapacitation vs. 2.08) and just go with his conclusion:
What I believe that my numbers show is that in the majority of shootings, the person shot merely gives up without being truly incapacitated by the bullet. In such an event, almost any bullet will perform admirably. If you want to be prepared to deal with someone who won't give up so easily, or you want to be able to have good performance even after shooting through an intermediate barrier, I would skip carrying the "mouse gun" .22s, .25s and .32s.
An interesting comparison is how those numbers for "incapacitated by one shot" jumps for rifles and shotguns.  As has been said many times, a handgun is for fighting your way to your rifle.  I'll add "or shotgun".  If you really need to stop someone right freakin' now, grab one of those! 

The famous FBI study of the Miami shootout concluded (to paraphrase) the three things that matter the most are: "shot placement, shot placement, and shot placement".  Ellifritz adds to that, and holds out the prospect that you're only going to need more than two hits in two cases: the goblin is really high on something and is oblivious to having been shot, or the goblin really wants to hurt you and will walk through a hail of lead to do it.

To use his conclusion:
The results I got from the study lead me to believe that there really isn't that much difference between most defensive handgun rounds and calibers. None is a death ray, but most work adequately...even the lowly .22s. I've stopped worrying about trying to find the "ultimate" bullet. There isn't one. And I've stopped feeling the need to strap on my .45 every time I leave the house out of fear that my 9mm doesn't have enough "stopping power." Folks, carry what you want. Caliber really isn't all that important
There's a lot of good stuff in that report; so you should go read.

(Special offer to O. F. Mossberg & Sons: I'll sell you exclusive rights to the phrase, "Mossberg!  When you absolutely, positively need to kill someone right freakin' now!"  Call me).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Miscellany

I've been really bad about pointing out blogroll changes and other administrivia that goes on around here.  So let me do a bit of that now.

First, I have added links to Slogging Toward Liberty, an interesting blog by an interesting guy (known to my regular readers) who profiles himself as "Former LEO, current RN, Rotorcraft rated, Heinleinian non-specialist. A "grouchy old cripple" who "prefers the tempestuous sea of liberty to the calm of despotism."".  Next, most readers know Kerodin from his two blogs Momento Mori and III Percent Patriots where he regularly distills down ideas and events to smaller nuggets than I do.  He says, "This website is the Official home for the III Percent 527 Issue Advocacy Group, dedicated to promoting III values within the political realm. ... We do not claim to speak for the entire III Movement. " 

My Gun Culture was another recent addition, because I value humor.  With the world as it is, we can always use some more humor.

I decided to add a breakout for some other blogs I read from time to time, with the common thread that these are all fellow Florida gun blogs.  These are folks way more widely known than I am; Robb Allen at Sharp as a MarbleGun Free Zone, the political organization pushing for Open Carry in the state, Florida Carry, and Jon Gutmacher, whose book on Florida Gun Law is considered required reading. 

And, although I don't make it as much as I thought I would, I consider this a gun and gun rights blog, too.

I always reciprocal link, and I think I've got links back to sites that link to me.  If I missed it and you want to be included, just let me know.

Finally, is anyone else watching Falling Skies, the post-alien invasion apocalypse show on TNT?  It's on too late for me, since it's over at 11PM eastern and work days start at 6, but we DVR it on Sunday night and watch it... now.  I'm not convinced it's a great show, but it's not a bad show, and how can you go wrong with 6 legged aliens called "Skitters" that communicate by radio telepathy, kidnap kids and put a Puppetmasters-like harness on them to control their every move, and that control giant two-legged kill-bots?  Further, I see they've picked it up for a second season, unlike V, and Jericho, two other shows I started to like.
A "Mech" - the giant kill-bot from Falling Skies. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Never Lose Hold of the Truth

The endless talk about the debt ceiling and "default" would try the patience of a saint, and I'm not one.  It's about as riveting as watching paint dry, but way more terrifying because they're bargaining away our futures, and the futures of everyone we hold dear.  Plus we hear things like the "Gang of Six" proposal and people react as if it's a "done deal" when it's just someone's proposal.  So let's go over some of the fundamental truths.  Chances are we all know these on some level, but I'm putting it in one handy place to remind my family of it all.

To begin with, it's hard to know if the August 2nd date is real or not.  It doesn't matter if it's 2nd or the 15th - we are going to hit our debt ceiling at some point because spending is way beyond what revenues support.  We are borrowing roughly 43 cents of every dollar we spend, so when they run out of ability to borrow, 43% of the budget collapses. 

Note that not being able to borrow is not default

Economist John Lott, who most of us know as the author of "More Guns, Less Crime", wrote this critical analysis, "Seven Myths About the Looming Debt Ceiling 'Disaster' " about a week ago.  The fact that hitting the ceiling is not default is myth number 1:
Not increasing the debt ceiling only means that the government can't borrow more money and that spending is limited to the revenue the government brings in. And, with interest payments on the debt making up less than a ninth of revenue, there is no reason for any risk of insolvency.

Time after time, congress and the president have failed to agree on a debt ceiling increase and still there has been no default. Examples include: December 1973, March 1979, November 1983, December 1985, August 1987, November 1995, December 1995 to January 1996, and September 2007.
You should RTWT.  Lott, as always, brings the logic and fact to the story, which is currently so full of flaming rhetoric that it's almost impossible to listen to.

Since all of the spending and revenue is public information, it's relatively easy know how much revenue is expected.  You will hear something like $200 billion, which is the annual revenue average per month; Denninger uses figures from Bloomberg that say August is a relatively low income month, and it will be somewhere around $150 to $170 billion. 
Here we go, assuming we have $150 billion (I'm a pessimist) in revenue to spend.

First, there's what we must pay.  That's $29 billion in interest.  We have $121 billion left.  Everything else is, legally, a choice.
We will not default in August, unless Treasury intentionally spends the money that they are legally required to pay in interest on the equivalent of "hookers and blow" instead. (emphasis in original)
They can assign priorities - and if Congress doesn't the President will.  I believe that means this President would pay the EPA and HUD to stay at work and not pay the military (i.e., "hookers and blow"), whereas you and I would pay the military and shutter the EPA, HUD, DoE and more (not to mention sending Holder and his pegboys at BATFE to the Mexicans who would like to... thank him for Gunrunner).  If you think Obama would do otherwise, you're more impressed with him than I am.  He's threatening to destroy anything he can to keep the spending he so dearly loves.  As Kerodin put it:
There is nothing meaningful in these debt/deficit discussions, but for the reinforcement that the Establishment and their supporters encompass a very large body of Americans and they have zero interest in genuine Constitutional values.  They want the Constitution out of their way, and they have taken the decision to burn the republic to the ground to get their way. (emphasis added)
While I might dispute that the arguing in DC represents "a very large body of Americans", clearly, the administration doesn't feel there are any drawbacks to continuing spending.  While you get the feeling of austerity planning, if not the actual phrase from the Tea Party-led crowds, it never leaves the lips of the evil party.  To them, it's "laissez les bon temps rouler".  Mark Steyn, in this piece in the OC Register, says:
The word has become so instantly ubiquitous that Leftie deadbeats are already opposed to it: "Austerity Protest Takes Place In Dublin." For the rentamob types, "austerity" is to this decade what "Bush" and "Iraq War" were to the last. It can't be long before grizzled old rockers are organizing some all-star Rock Against Austerity gala.

By contrast, nobody seems minded to "speed austerity measures" over here. The word isn't part of the conversation – even though we're broke on a scale way beyond what Ireland or Portugal could ever dream of. The entire Western world is operating on an unsustainable business model...
We are, as Steyn says, the brokest nation in history, but only a small number of elected officials seem to care.  To most, this whole "debt ceiling" bit is a charade; after all, every other time in history the question has come up, the ceiling has been raised, so for all intents and purposes, it doesn't exist at all.   They criticize Paul Ryan for having a plan, but the evil party hasn't proposed a single plan of their own.  They just want to blame the stupids for everything that's wrong. Back to Steyn for a moment (and you should RTWT):
Obama has done his best to pretend to take them seriously. He claimed to have a $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan. The court eunuchs of the press corps were impressed, and went off to file pieces hailing the president as "the grown-up in the room." There is, in fact, no plan. No plan at all. No plan whatsoever, either for a deficit reduction of $4 trillion or $4.73. As is the way in Washington, merely announcing that he had a plan absolved him of the need to have one. So the president's staff got out the extra-wide teleprompter and wrote a really large number on it, and simply by reading out the really large number the president was deemed to have produced a serious blueprint for trillions of dollars in savings. For his next trick, he'll walk out on to the stage of Carnegie Hall, announce that he's going to play Haydn's Cello Concerto No 2, and, even though there's no cello in sight, and Obama immediately climbs back in his golf cart to head for the links, music critics will hail it as one of the most moving performances they've ever heard.

The only "plan" Barack Obama has put on paper is his February budget. Were there trillions and trillions of savings in that? Er, no. It increased spending and doubled the federal debt.
What else do you think that whole charade about "I can't promise social security checks will go out" was all about?  Or the Paul Ryan-esque clone pushing grannie's wheelchair over the cliff?  Nothing but political gamesmanship aimed at keeping control over the throttle.
While a better illustration might be Nero fiddling while Rome burns, this one does have a more realistic feel to it.  (The only issue I have with this cartoon is a subtle implication that the elephant is driving; a better caption would be "What do you mean "turn"? I thought you were steering.")  Or, as Steyn concluded,
In the debt-ridden treasuries of Europe, they're talking "austerity." In the debt-ridden treasury of Washington, they're talking about more spending (Kathleen Sebelius is touting new women's health programs to be made available "without cost.").  At the risk (in Samuel Johnson's words) of settling the precedence between a louse and a flea, I think Europe's political discourse is marginally less deranged than ours. The president is said to be "the adult in the room" because he is reported to be in favor of raising the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67.

By the year 2036.

If that's the best offer, there isn't going to be a 2036, not for America. As the Europeans are beginning to grasp, eventually "political reality" collides with real reality. The message from a delusional Washington these last weeks is that it won't be a gentle bump. (emphasis added)
Everyone has, and is entitled to, their opinion of how the world will play out if a deal isn't reached.  I lean (as usual) to the non-mainstream view that raising the debt ceiling without concrete plans for spending reductions is the worst possible outcome.  We may not need an actual balanced budget amendment to start circulating, but if we don't end up with a path to much less borrowing, that's when the dollar collapses.  A temporary rise in the ceiling would be accepted by the markets if there was a solid plan for reducing it again.  If we don't even produce a path to lower deficits, less spending and fiscal sanity, we've proven our political process is incapable of fixing the republic and the US is not worth the credit rating it has.  That's when the dollar goes Zimbabwe.  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Workin' In A Coal Mine

With a generous hat tip to John at Improved Clinch who has a truly awesome week's worth of posts.  But, first, a little coal mining music... 

From National Review Online a story about coal mining jobs in Appalachia going unclaimed.  As rockhounds, the lovely and plate tectonics-rejecting Mrs. Graybeard and I are more familiar with mining than most folks.  We've chosen vacations around the US to go into mines: open quarries like the Arkansas quartz mines, Utah's Bingham Canyon copper mine, and underground hard rock mines like Michigan's copper mines, Montana's sapphire mines, and more.  We've been in mining museums and seen both the primitive tools of the 1800s, and more modern operations.  Mining of any kind is hard and dangerous work, but it often pays well.  Kids can make $50K per year as a coal miner, right out of high school, doubling that with training which the company provides, and yet coal mines are having a difficult time hiring and retaining employees even in the current job climate. 
I work as an energy trader and recently took a customer down to Appalachia to visit some coal mines. On our visit to one of the mines, there was a large sign prominently displayed: Accepting Applications. Once the meeting and mine tour were finished we were in the mine manager’s office and I asked him, “How come you’re hiring? Did you just lose some workers?”

“Hell, no!” was the reply. “We are always looking for people.”

Not sure if you have had the chance to visit Appalachia, but there are large pockets of poverty here, especially when the overall unemployment throughout the country is close to 10 percent. Hard to imagine there would be any job openings. So I asked him again, “How come? Don’t you pay enough?”

He explained to me that a high school graduate can start working at the mine and make roughly $40K a year. After 90 days of training (or in the industry lingo, when a worker goes from being a “red hat” to a “black hat”) that pay jumps up to about $50K a year.

Now granted, this isn’t easy work. It’s a 50-hour work week (with overtime of course), which includes night shifts and weekends. But $50K for a high school graduate?

The manager went on to explain to me that, “If you know which end of a wrench to pick up” the company will be glad to train you to be an electrician, equipment operator, etc. in which case your salary will rise to $75–$100K a year.

I asked him, “Then how come you can’t get workers?”

His reply was telling. “All you have to do to get a mine job is come to work every day, work reasonably hard, and pee clean. We just can’t find people who can do this.” (emphasis added)
A couple of years ago, a discussion with several friends led me to the shocking conclusion that the work ethic was disappearing from our younger generations.  One woman asserted that all you needed to do to become the manager at a restaurant, or any retail job she had seen, was to show up when scheduled, work a reasonably honest day's work for a day's pay, and do that for a few months.   Do it for a year and you might just be promoted to full partner.  It seems to be the case in the coal mines, too.

But the kicker to this story is the conclusion:
Finally I asked the manager, who was in his mid 50s or so, “What about your kids?”

He replied: “Oh, they both went to college.”

“What are they doing now?”

“Working for the state government.”

“How much do they get paid?”

“About $25 grand a year.”

I won’t waste your time describing how many things about this 5 minute conversation made me depressed about the current state of the U.S.A. I’ll focus on one thing.

How can someone rationally decide that it is a better choice to go to college, waste time and money for four years, only to get a job that pays half or less of another job you could get? Are people so deathly afraid of hard work?
I consider myself fortunate to have profited from college, and ended up with a job that pays me well to solve problems.  On their part, the company asks me what the mining company asks:  come to work every day, work reasonably hard, pee clean ... and solve those problems. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's Virtually a Law of Economics

That if you provide disincentives, such as taxes, you get less of something, and if you provide incentives, all the way from cash to tax breaks, you get more of it.  I've seen Economics defined as the study of incentives and how people respond to them (here, I think). 

Which leads to the disincentives proposed by the gang of six in an attempt to move the "debt ceiling" mythology forward (h/t to Ann Barnhard, and IOTW) (from Accounting Today).
  • The plan reportedly includes three separate tax rates, one at 8-12 percent, another at 14-22 percent, and a third at 23-29 percent, according to the Associated Press. 
  • The plan would also reduce tax breaks on mortgage deductions, 401(k) plans and IRAs, charitable deductions, child tax credits and other areas. 
  • The plan also proposes to close some corporate tax loopholes, lower tax rates for both individuals and businesses, and eliminate the alternative minimum tax. 
  • It would also cut $500 billion immediately from the deficit, and give Congress an additional six months to come up with other spending reductions.
Focusing on the blue item in the light of incentives and disincentives, it appears that, as a country,
  • we want to discourage home ownership, 
  • we want to discourage responsible saving for retirement, 
  • we want to discourage contributing to charity and 
  • we want to discourage having children.   

Note that all of these disincentives have the long term trend to make people more dependent on the government and less self-reliant. 

Next, remember a good working definition of "loophole" is "law" when used by someone the writer doesn't like.  A "corporate tax loophole" is nothing more than a corporation obeying the written law. 

By saying "cut $500 billion immediately from the deficit", they imply that's for 2012, and the deficit will thus be $1.1 billion (as closely as I can track it).  That's about number 13 in the ranking of the world's GDP.  We're still borrowing more than almost any nation can lend. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

More Tales From the Over Regulated State - A Series

Today's post can be subtitled, "wherein the price of all of your electronic stuff goes up".

The exact reason why is another great example of the stuff they throw into those 3000 page bills that congress keeps running through.  In this case, one of the biggest impacts to electronics firms in years comes from the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.  And the impact has virtually nothing to do with finances.

Electronic Design magazine, one of a few trade magazines that tries to embrace all of the industry, carries an article on the impact of new laws on the industry, and the role of Dodd-Frank. Deep in the bowels of the law, the financial reform bill requires companies to document that they don't use "conflict minerals" in their products.  Conflict minerals?  A few years ago, everyone was talking about "conflict" or "blood" diamonds, so extend the term to cover anything coming out of a war zone.  (You're not allowed to include Mexico - that's not politically correct).  The law specifically addresses ...
"...certain minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a region plagued by violence. Trade in the minerals in question—tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold—fuels criminal networks in the region to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year, perpetuating a cycle of violence."
Tantalum is a relatively rare metallic element that has come to have tremendous economic value.  Tantalum oxide makes a very good insulator to use in an electronic components called capacitors; one of the fundamental building blocks of electronics.  Although people have been trying to replace it for a long time (it's relatively expensive), it remains used in millions of places in electronics where its ability to make large value capacitors in tiny parts make it almost irreplaceable.  Everything from cellphones and MP3 players to EKGs, stereos and flat screen TVs to radars, contains tantalum capacitors.
The Dodd-Frank Act does not ban conflict minerals but requires companies that are registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to disclose annually whether or not they have used minerals mined from the region. The legislation aims to stem the violence in the area by curtailing trade and stopping the flow of money to violent regimes. There is much debate over whether or not the strategy will work, with some arguing that it will harm local economies by putting mines that are not involved with the conflict, and their employees, out of business.

Complying with the act requires companies to provide detailed documentation throughout the supply chain, from finished products down to their basic mineral content.

Not to belabor the point, but a financial reform bill aimed at "Wall Street Reform" includes this provision that requires manufacturing companies provide "cradle to grave records" for the origin of the minerals used in their products.  It's almost as if they had to record what sand was refined to make the silicon used in the processor or RAM chips came from, and track all of the sources for every part.  This sort of effort will cost money, of course, and these costs have to show up in the finished product.  The alternative is for manufacturing companies to move their production to places that don't ask this, and only sell their products in countries that don't ask.  And then they talk with anger about manufacturers moving jobs overseas! 

And this is not the only such law that governments impose on electronics manufacturers, not even close.

It's no secret I'm a "radio engineer", an endangered subspecies of electrical engineer, says so right over there under "About Me".   It's also no secret I'm not a big fan of big government and regulations; I believe one of the most common phrases in this blog is "cut the Code of Federal Regulations by 75%".  So when the big government does things to cripple the electronics community, I get really mad. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Moron,, No, Wait... More On Al Gore

Did you see that His Incredible-ness, Al Gore, has decided that he needs to have an awareness telethon for Global Climate Change Whatever They Call It This Week?  Story here 

So.. Al owns a TV network that belches this nonsense 24/7/365; GE/NBC/CNBC/PMSNBC/The Weather Channel runs green week on almost endless tape loop to advertise their products, the greenies own the press, the White House, and most of the Senate, so that we hear about being "green" and reducing our carbon use roughly every 10 femtoseconds of every freaking day... and he still can't compete with those "well-funded deniers"? Face it, Al, maybe you're just not a very effective communicator.

And maybe, Al, Americans are fairly sophisticated about snake oil salesmen and folks know when we're getting, well, a snow job? 

Global Warming protest in Minnesota.  

About 14 months ago I wrote a post called "Imagine There Is Man Made Global Warming"  It's a bit long to quote here, and the intervening year has changed some of the legal stuff, but let me excerpt a little here (edited):
In a pretty nifty piece of do-it-yourself science, World Climate Report determined the amount of CO2 required to raise the temperature of the globe 1C.  It takes ~14,138 million metric tons (mmt) of CO2 emissions to raise the atmospheric CO2 concentration by ~1 ppm and it takes ~125 ppm to raise the global temperature ~1ºC. So multiplying ~14,138mmt/ppm by ~125ppm/ºC gives us ~1,767,250mmt/ºC. To the precision we know such things, that's more like 1.8 million mmt (1.8 million million metric tons).

There has been talk about reducing the US CO2 output by 80% of its current levels ... The 2005 carbon output was about 6000 mmt, so 80% below that is 6000-4800 or 1200 mmt. 4800/1,800,000 per degree is .0027C. So if you took 150 million average, mid-sized cars off the road and reduced electrical power generation and other carbon uses, those add up to a whopping .003C less warming!  In other words, nothing.  In no statistical test could you distinguish that result from zero. Bupkis.

Now, the economic/social havoc of those restrictions is unimaginably awful. No cars, extremely limited electrical power (if any), no ambulances, no police cruisers: a rural, agrarian lifestyle.  For no benefit; you are destroying the USA for no reason at all. If you choose to live that way, help yourself. Move out of the city, grow your own food, live on a farm.  Knock yourself out. 

And that's their dirty, stupid little secret.  What if there really is man made global warming?  Use their numbers.  Calculate how much effect you would have on temperatures by virtually destroying everyone and everything you ever have known, and it has no effect at all. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Nice To Have Backing

Hat tip to Bayou Renaissance Man for a link to Mark Steyn's Article on National Review Online, and a sobering paper by a couple of economists named Kitchen and Chinn.  Kitchen is from the US Department of the Treasury and Chinn is from the School of Public Affairs; and Department of Economics, at the University of Wisconsin.

Steyn begins:
There is something surreal and unnerving about the so-called “debt ceiling” negotiations staggering on in Washington. In the real world, negotiations on an increase in one’s debt limit are conducted between the borrower and the lender. Only in Washington is a debt increase negotiated between two groups of borrowers.

Actually, it’s more accurate to call them two groups of spenders. On the one side are Obama and the Democrats, who in a negotiation supposedly intended to reduce American indebtedness are (surprise!) proposing massive increasing in spending (an extra $33 billion for Pell Grants, for example). The Democrat position is: You guys always complain that we spend spend spend like there’s (what’s the phrase again?) no tomorrow, so be grateful that we’re now proposing to spend spend spend spend like there’s no this evening.

On the other side are the Republicans, who are the closest anybody gets to representing, albeit somewhat tentatively and less than fullthroatedly, the actual borrowers — that’s to say, you and your children and grandchildren. But in essence the spenders are negotiating among themselves how much debt they’re going to burden you with. It’s like you and your missus announcing you’ve set your new credit limit at $1.3 million, and then telling the bank to send demands for repayment to Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s kindergartner next door.

Nothing good is going to come from these ludicrously protracted negotiations over laughably meaningless accounting sleights-of-hand scheduled to kick in circa 2020. All the charade does is confirm to prudent analysts around the world that the depraved ruling class of the United States cannot self-correct, and, indeed, has no desire to.
Kitchen and Chinn's paper (pdf) is called "Financing U.S. Debt: Is There Enough Money in the World – and At What Cost?".  This is a topic I've written about here many times, and they unsurprisingly conclude, sure there's enough money in the world.  We just need to borrow one fifth of the world's GDP.  To quote them directly, the warning is:
...unprecedented levels and growth of foreign official holdings of U.S. Treasuries will be required to keep longer-term Treasury security interest rates from rising substantially above current consensus projections.
But other than that, no problem!  No one in another country would ever hesitate at that!  I say when we need to borrow about $4.5 billion per day, there's not many places to borrow that.  It's more than the GDP of all but about 10 countries, and of those, there's really only three that are likely: the EU, Japan and China.  Guess what?  They all have their own problems (remember Greece, Italy, Spain and so on?  The quake and tsunami?  Seen the Shanghai stock market index?).  Chances are there won't be as many bonds sold as we need. 

Steyn again:
The authors’ answer is yes, technically, there is enough money in the world — in the sense that, on current projections, by 2020 all it will take to finance the government of the United States is for the rest of the planet to be willing to sink 19 percent of its GDP into U.S. Treasury debt. Which Kitchen and Chinn say is technically doable. Yeah. In the same sense that me dating Scarlett Johansson is technically doable.

Unfortunately, neither Scarlett nor the rest of the planet is willing to do it. It’s not 2020 and we’re not yet asking the rest of the planet for a fifth of its GDP. But already the world is imposing its own debt ceiling. Most of the debt issued by the Treasury so far this year has been borrowed from the Federal Reserve. That adds another absurd wrinkle to the D.C. charade: Washington is negotiating with itself over how much money to lend itself.
and finally,
Meanwhile, the World’s Greatest Orator bemoans the “intransigence” of Republicans. Okay, what’s your plan? Give us one actual program you’re willing to cut, right now. Oh, don’t worry, says Barack Obluffer. To demonstrate how serious he is, he’s offered to put on the table for fiscal year 2012 spending cuts of (stand well back now) $2 billion. That would be a lot in, say, Iceland or even Australia. Once upon a time it would have been a lot even in Washington. But today $2 billion is what the Brokest Nation in History borrows every ten hours. In other words, in less time than he spends sitting across the table negotiating his $2 billion cut, he’s already borrowed it all back. A negotiation with Obama is literally not worth the time.
Ready for the kicker?  The Kitchen and Chinn paper doesn't include the full debt of the US - just the "on-budget" amounts!  It doesn't include social security or medicare, which taken together raise our current debt from 98% of GDP at 14.5 Trillion to $115 Trillion.  

As I've said a bunch of times: don't worry, it's not that bad.  It's much, much worse. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

This is Wrong on So Many Levels

In a story reported on The Blaze, Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard-affiliated Children’s Hospital Boston, said it might be better for the child to let child protective services remove obese children from their homes and put them in foster care than to leave them at home.  For reasons I don't understand, he appears to think the alternative is forcing surgery on the child. 

This is so wrong on so many levels, it's hard to know where to start, so let's start here. 

I have two big concerns with Dr. Ludwig's proposal: first is that this idea morphs from something borne of medical “concern” into just another ploy to get children out of a family home, where they become walking bundles of cash to the state systems that feed on the “care” for these kids: 
As Baskerville points out in his horrifying study Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fatherhood, "it is no exaggeration to say that the existence of family courts, and virtually every issue they adjudicate -- divorce, custody, child abuse, child-support enforcement, even adoption and juvenile crime -- depend on one overriding principle: remove the father." When a family is broken up, each child "becomes a walking bundle of cash" -- not for the custodial parent, but for a huge and expanding population of tax-fattened functionaries who "adopt as their mission in life the practice of interfering with other people's children."
I think that CPS, like everything else that governments do in general, has gone from occasionally helpful to almost completely tyrannical.  The actions of child protective services are the reason that Thomas Bell burned himself to death, about a month ago, and that William Grigg talked about here.  It's why a Georgia mom was investigated for having some food storage and subjected to absurd accusations such as “being in a top secret agency against the government”.  (h/t Preparedness Pro)

The other big problem I have with this is the fact that medicine is exceptionally bad at treating obesity.  I (and many others) would suggest that the diet the doctors are recommending is probably the cause of the kids' obesity.  Would it surprise you to know that a leading researcher who has been studying obesity for decades believes dieting may be the cause of most obesity?  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece on some truths about diet and fitness that are hard to get out.  It's not a stretch to say that if you're like most people who haven't studied this, everything you think you know is probably wrong.

“So what's the big idea?  Everybody knows how to treat obesity: eat a little less; exercise a little more is the answer.”  Unfortunately, no.  While saying that losing weight requires taking in less energy than you use is something everyone knows, that approach is remarkably unsuccessful at treating obesity.  It's true that probably anyone can lose weight on a short term, calorie-restricted diet, but the result is an almost universal rebound in which weight returns to the starting point – or higher.  Doesn't everybody know this? 

Researchers have known it for almost 200 years.  You can think of that statement about calories – energy balance – as being information-free.  It conveys no useful information about treating the unbalance.

The diet they're recommending for the kids is causing their obesity?  As Gary Taubes said in his NY Times article, What If It's All Been a Big Fat Lie,
If the members of the American medical establishment were to have a collective find-yourself-standing-naked-in-Times-Square-type nightmare, this might be it. They spend 30 years ridiculing Robert Atkins, author of the phenomenally-best-selling ''Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution'' and ''Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution,'' accusing the Manhattan doctor of quackery and fraud, only to discover that the unrepentant Atkins was right all along. Or maybe it's this: they find that their very own dietary recommendations -- eat less fat and more carbohydrates -- are the cause of the rampaging epidemic of obesity in America. Or, just possibly this: they find out both of the above are true.
The Food Pyramid that has been put out as gospel since the early 80s says to eat mostly carbohydrate with little meat and less fat.  The alternative hypothesis, which is really just the contents of a first course in endocrinology, is that because of the effects they have on insulin and blood sugar, carbohydrates are uniquely fattening.  It's because of this that the Dr.s Eades refer to the food pyramid as th Hog Fattening Diet.  Weight loss diets were researched widely since the 1800s, and the world's first diet book, from the 1860s, said reducing carbohydrate intake was the way to lose weight.  The British undertaker William Banting wrote a best-selling book, “Letter on Corpulence”, in which he discussed his efforts to lose weight, including exercise and various attempts at diet.   

Soy protein appears to be toxic to the thyroid in many people.  Soy protein is often recommended for widespread consumption as a way to reduce consumption of animal fat. We believe Mrs. Graybeard was hurt by the recommendations to eat soy, and needed to adjust her intake of thyroid hormone.  A Bing search returns 579,000 hits on “soy thyroid damage” - I'm sure many are from folks (cough, ADM, cough) who say there's no problem.  This New Zealand web site reports that “Theodore Kay of the Kyoto University Faculty of Medicine noted in 1988 that 'thyroid enlargement in rats and humans, especially children and women, fed with soybeans has been known for half a century'.”   

It's hard to envision a situation in which it's good to give children over to foster care instead of leaving them in a loving home.  I'm sure what Dr. Ludwig is trying to do is to get “allowing” your child to be obese classified as child abuse.  I'm sure there's no reason to think it might eventually morph from obese into just overweight, then mildly overweight, or, perhaps too blonde or allowing them too much time in the sun.  Oh, no, there's never any evidence of over reach on the government's part.

By, the way: been camping with your kids? 

Edit:  2115 EDT   Two bad links fixed.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I've Always Wanted To Do This

Well, it would be better to wear one to work.  You'd look into my office and behind the dual computer monitors would be this pile of straw....

Friday, July 15, 2011

More Tales From The Over Regulated State - A Series

Do you take vitamins?  Do you take glucosamine for that arthritic knee or peppermint for an upset stomach?  Do you take cranberry for a urinary tract infection or St. John's Wort to help even your moods?

You may not be able to take any of that much longer.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a ruling on July 1st - not just a Friday bomb, a Friday-of-a-holiday-weekend bomb, that ought to pretty much destroy the supplement industry and bankrupt every company in the business.   You can read the whole order at the FDA's web page, or read summaries like this one in the Natural News.  I don't read Natural News all the time, but I have found them to be accurate in what they report.  Their coverage of the awful Food Safety Act at the center of this was right on target.

How does this FDA ruling and the Food Safety Act tie together?:
Back in 1994, when the FDA’s war on the nutritional supplement industry was going full force, Congress responded to public pressure by passing the Dietary Supplemental Health and Education Act. This law was designed to get the FDA off of the backs of the nutritional supplement industry, but it did contain a provision that required supplement manufacturers to notify the FDA whenever they added a new ingredient to an existing supplement or created a whole new product out of these new ingredients.

Probably because this provision seemed toothless from the perspective of the FDA, they basically ignored it for 17 years. When Congress passed the Food Safety Bill in 2010, however, this new law mandated the FDA to finally set written standards for NDI (New Dietary Ingredient) notifications. Given its apparent indifference up to this point, one might have expected the FDA to do little
Not so fast, there, proletariat scum.  Our insect overlords know better:
Actually eschewing the concept of simple notification, this front organization for the drug companies is now going to require the sellers and manufacturers of supplements to submit NDI detailed reports on every single ingredient they have added to any of their products since 1994. These reports are supposed to include “proof” of the effectiveness of these ingredients in the form of peer-reviewed articles published in scientific journals and results from clinical test trials. After reviewing this evidence, the FDA will decide whether or not to approve these ingredients for sale to the public. Until that approval comes through, sellers and manufacturers of nutritional and dietary supplements will be required to cease and desist from offering their products for sale to the public.
And here's where supplements are outlawed.  As, I think, everyone who uses them knows, there are very few supplements that have scientific studies that "prove" them effective.  With thousands of herbs containing thousands of compounds, put together in millions of combinations, it just isn't possible to test every combination.

As I frequently say, don't worry it's not that bad: it's worse.  Any change to a supplement that has been on the market since 1994, any change, requires this NDI reporting process, which requires the product be removed from interstate sale for 75 days.  So if a company was offering a vitamin that had 300 mg of Vitamin C and they increase it to 350 mg, they need to file an NDI form and are forbidden from offering the supplement for sale, under penalty of SWAT team assassination.
The requirements for "proving" the safety and efficacy of dietary ingredients is entirely unreasonable. FDA says it requires companies to submit peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, clinical trial test results and even, in the case of botanicals, to provide the name of the scientist who originally gave the plant its Latin name. (Seriously? Is it a trick question?)
From "Off The Grid News" again, 

For those who would argue that the FDA is taking this action simply because it wants to protect the public from unscrupulous operators who want to exploit people’s interest in natural remedies, there are two aspects of this new policy that prove conclusively what the FDA’s agenda really is. First, the requirement that nutritional manufacturers prove the safety of the ingredients they sell actually applies to companies, not ingredients. What does this mean? Simply this – if Company A and Company B both use the same new ingredient in their products, it will not be enough for Company A to submit evidence proving conclusively that this ingredient is safe and effective. Even if Company A gains approval for one of their supplements (fat chance, but for the moment let’s pretend), Company B will still have to apply for an NDI permit for the same ingredient – and they will have to present separate evidence to prove its safety and efficacy! This shows clearly that the point of these regulations is to cause hardship for nutritional companies, not to protect the safety of the public (emphasis added -GB)
and back to "Natural News"

The real kicker in all this? Synthetic molecules that mimic dietary supplements (i.e. those used in pharmaceuticals) are EXEMPTED from all these requirements! So synthetic molecules need no approval from the FDA, while the natural ones do! This conveniently exempts the pharmaceutical vitamin companies who use synthetic vitamin chemicals rather than natural, full-spectrum nutrients. (emphasis in original)
The FDA is one of those offices that was useful at one time, but has fallen into the control of business.  Time to shutter them until they can be deloused.  While I detest the term "Big Pharma" as much as I do "Big Oil" or "Big Agra", the merger of government and business is the worst of all possible worlds.  In this case, it sure looks like the pharmaceutical companies are eliminating all possible competition.
Police during a raid on a California natural food store, for selling raw milk.  At least he isn't wearing a black mask. 

Someone once joked that they thought all those herbal formulas were just lawn clippings stuck in a gelatin capsule, and I've to admit I've had that concern when I took some.  But the choice of the consumer to take those things ought to be their choice alone.  The role of the FDA, if any, should be to ensure that the capsules labeled "St. John's Wort" were really that and not "St. Augustine lawn clippings".

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's Like This

Imagine all your life that you had been trained that you need to water plants regularly, and that was all you ever needed to do to keep them healthy.  You went to college, got a Ph. D. and that's all you were ever taught.  You had some plant in school and watered it like they said and it was fine. 

Then, one day you get some different plants and you water them all the time.  And they die.  Puzzled, you never once consider that you over watered them.  Instead, you think you didn't water them enough. 

So you do it again, only harder, and the plants die again.  No matter what you do, those plants keep dying.  There must be something wrong with the plants. 

It never occurs to you that you're doing exactly the wrong thing.  It never occurs to you that you're killing them.  In your training, in your mental model of the world, in everything that you know, everything that you are, you've done everything right.  You'll do it again.  You'll do it every time.

And that is what we have with the government spending and "quantitative easing" (creating money out of nothing).  And that is why they will never fix the problems until they fix their thinking. 

You can fix stinkin' thinkin' - but first you have to admit you have it. 
Now I admit, this is blaming the problems on stupidity and not malice.  Or both. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why It Keeps Getting Worse

Today's events lead me to be even more sure than ever that economic collapse will not be prevented.  Worse, it appears that the entire world will be affected.  And it will happen because the "experts" can not see reality. 

There's a saying everyone knows: "when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail".   The wisdom in here is deeper than first glance.  It speaks to not being able to get the right answer until you ask the right question.  It speaks to the confusion academics feel when the world doesn't fit into their neat little theoretical boxes.  It speaks to forcing the problem into your world view rather than seeing what's really there.  QE3 is coming, and as Kevin has said about other things, since the results don't match their model, the motto is "do it again, ONLY HARDER!". 

This is the problem we face.  Our leaders have the wrong tools for the problems and are incapable of seeing what to do.  Items from today's news in various places:
Ron Paul today asked Bernanke whether or not he watches the price of gold and if he thinks gold is money. Although Bernanke admitted that he does watch the price of gold, Bernanke said that gold is not money, but it is only an asset. Bernanke explained that central banks only hold gold as a "tradition". (source)

Interesting how this man's education, and that group of academics who all think the same things, allows them to counter over 5000 years of human history.  Gold has always been money - where it existed.  Where it didn't exist something else that was valued and not available in unlimited quantity took its place.  Isn't it interesting that they think their education is going to change human nature?   Wanna bet?  They apparently do. 

"Pimco's Bill Gross made the News headlines today, when he said that: "The Federal Reserve is unlikely to change monetary policy for years as the economy remains mired in an extended period of slow growth".   "But it's not an endorsement of Treasurys. For months now they have been more of an insurance policy than an investment."

What is Gross suggesting?

He is suggesting that the economy isn't going to recover anytime soon ... possibly years.  He's not he only one to think we are going to see a really tough economy for a some time.  There are some strong vocal opinions that think the economy won't even hit bottom until 2013 to 2015.   If this turns out to be true, then Bill Gross will be correct ... even though it means Americans will have to go through more pain."

Bond rates are going to rise.  They must.  Not enough buyers want them at the current yield.  The interest rate is being held artificially low by the Fed buying our own bonds.  In the long term, that destroys the dollar.  When the rates go up, the interest on the federal debt goes up in the budget and that makes the debt problem worse.
So now, look at the circled area on the chart below.  That is where the interest rate fight is going on now.   If the TYX rises above 45.9, there would be a real serious threat to the current 15 year down trend.   Bernanke, home owners, and the economy all need Bill Gross to be right ... even then, it will be a hard road ahead until enough debt de-leveraging has been accomplished. 

Speaking of politics, I found this Dr. Fun cartoon of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.
Just when I thought that maybe those two invertebrates had started to develop  spines, I heard of McConnell's proposal to give Obama and the Democrats the ability to decide for themselves how to handle the debt ceiling.  Oh, yeah.  What could possibly go wrong?  Let's give them the credit card and tell them to just decide for themselves how they want to spend it - what cuts they want to make at some nebulous future date.  That's all they've proposed anyway - cuts at some future date.  Be very wary when you hear things like "(X) proposed a 4 trillion dollar spending cut" - that usually means four dollars a year for a trillion years

Earlier, I posed the question, do you want to bet you can change human nature, and my belief that the heads of the Fed, the ECB and the others think they can.  If history is any guide, they will learn that they can't change human nature when they're on the lamppost. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Hate To Say I Told You So

And it's not completely accurate, but in the Fed's Open Market Committee meeting today...
Some participants noted that if economic growth remained too slow to make satisfactory progress toward reducing the unemployment rate and if inflation returned to relatively low levels after the effects of recent transitory shocks dissipated, it would be appropriate to provide additional monetary policy accommodation....A few members noted that, depending on how economic conditions evolve, the Committee might have to consider providing additional monetary policy stimulus, especially if economic growth remained too slow to meaningfully reduce the unemployment rate in the medium run." (emphasis added, of course)
Translation: QE3.  Not 100% definite but more likely than yesterday.

Gold reacted by setting a 2.5 month high, and has slacked off a bit.  Ireland was reduced to junk bond status by Moody's, joining Greece, and Portugal.  Next up: Italy and Spain.  
Ireland’s debt will rise to 118 percent of gross domestic product in 2012 from 25 percent at the end of 2007, the European Commission has forecast.
Our debt to GDP is not far behind, right at 98.00% (at this moment), according to the Debt Clock.  The continued destruction of the dollar proceeds, along with the destruction of the savings and retirement plans of a generation.   
"And though my lack of education
Hasn't hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall"
- "Kodachrome", Paul Simon, 1972

Monday, July 11, 2011


Steven Chu, Energy Secretary, on outlawing incandescent light bulbs:
We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.
Stunning level of ignorance of the free market.  You see, you individual consumers are so bad at wasting money, you should let the have your money.  They waste money at a rate unlike any the world has ever seen. As Mark Steyn said,
Secretary Chu and his colleagues took a trillion dollars of “stimulus” and, for all the stimulating it did, might as well have given it in large bills to Charlie Sheen to snort coke off his hookers’ bellies with.
That way, at least something would have been stimulated.  The whole stimulus program reeked of being conceived by guys who slept through class.  The program is based on Economics for Dummies, not reality.  Besides, stimulus couldn't work in the 2008 situation, because the crash of '08 was due to too much leverage that had to unwind, not inadequate spending.  Wrong treatment.  You can't fix a broken leg by giving antibiotics.  

Getting back to Dr. Chu, it's a symptom of the technocracy that they put people in charge with no experience at anything except for theoretical classwork, and those people don't have a clue when the world doesn't fit their neat little models. These guys have the lowest amount of real world experience in almost 100 years.  This chart is old, but still valid as far as I know.  

 To let Steyn have the last word: 
There’s a limit to the amount of damage I can do wasting my own money. There are no limits to the damage Chu & Co can do wasting my money. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It Was a Weird Week

"She's the kind of a girl,
who makes the News of the World
yes, you could say she was attractively built"
- Polythene Pam, Lennon and McCartney, 1969, Abbey Road B Side
The guy progressives think is evil incarnate because his media empire includes Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, killed the British tabloid News of the World this week, over a "scandal" involving hacking the phones of a dead schoolgirl, some victims of the 7/7 Tube bombings and some British servicemen who died in Afghanistan.  Classless? No doubt.  Rude?  You betcha.  But that's what tabloids do. The News of the World was a 168 year old newspaper and still wildly popular - can the NY Times say as much?  As the inimitable one, Mark Steyn, said over at National Review,
"Nobody much cares if the Aussie supermodel Elle Macpherson and other denizens of the demimonde get their voicemails intercepted, but dead schoolgirls and soldiers changed the nature of the story, and events moved swiftly. On Thursday, Rupert Murdoch’s son and heir announced the entire newspaper would be closed down. The whole thing. Gone."
and to follow up:
"Last Sunday, it was the biggest-selling newspaper in the United Kingdom and Europe. This Sunday, it’s history. To put it in American terms, consider those George Soros–funded websites claiming they pressured Fox into “firing” Glenn Beck. This is the equivalent of pressuring Mr. Murdoch into closing down the entire Fox News network."
Now the left knows exactly what it has to do to get Murdoch to flinch.  Just bait someone in the hated news service du jour, and keep baiting until they do something that gets a reaction.  Expect this to step up.   

Congress?  We Don't Need No Steenkeeng Congress!

The White House is starting to believe they don't need congressional approval to raise the debt ceiling.  Such sterling legal scholars as Chuckie Schumer and even the occasionally-sane Chuck Grassley are starting to say such things.  Schumer, of course, has taken life on as the politically correct replacement for the phrase, "when the Schumer hits the fan" or "Schumer flows downhill", so he's already a laughing stock.  Grassley is doing good work on Gunwalker/Fast and Furious, and does display occasional cogency.  On the other hand, Grassley is one of the guys who got corn ethanol subsidies passed.  He is from Iowa, after all, a corn-intensive state, and bringing home the bacon, um, bringing home the bread, or cornbread is what he thinks his job is.   

Am I the only one who thinks this is a bad idea?  The debt ceiling has been a legal falsehood since 1917 - false in the sense that a ceiling has never, never, been held when congress wanted to spend more.  So now, when we finally might have the stupid party invertebrates in congress growing the most rudimentary spines and standing up against spending, the president is going to decide this?  Excuse me? 

And, of course, not passing a debt ceiling doesn't mean default - I'm tired of hearing that.  It simply means we have to eek by on $200 billion per month tax income; a lot, but 2/3 of what they want to spend. 

Casey Anthony,  Planned Parenthood's Mother of the Year, Not Guilty

I really shouldn't say much about this, because I did my best to avoid the story.  It was wall to wall on the local news when the poor little girl disappeared, and has been in the news ever since.  For a couple of years, I've been hitting the mute button when coverage came on TV.  As I said in the OJ case, you'd have to be a pretty bad writer to not be able to come up with some plausible scenarios where someone else did the murder.  I know because I'm a pretty bad writer, and I can come up with at least a few. 

So not being contaminated by any, you know, actual facts, I can pontificate with the best of the media.  I think the jury simply concluded the state didn't prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.  As others have said, our legal system is deliberately set up with the view "it's better to let 100 guilty men go free than to hang one innocent man".  I don't think we measure up to that, even on our best days, but it's a worthy goal.  We go so far as to allow juries to nullify laws they find immoral or "wrong" - even if the defendant is thought to have violated that law - by finding them not guilty.  Is young Miss Anthony a psychotic?  Sure looks like it to me.  But being psychotic and being a murderer are not identically equal. 
"...although I will say that there is no truth to the rumor I’m starting that the National Organization for Women (NOW) will be honoring Casey as the “Woman of the Year” for pioneering abortion in the 11th trimester." 
And if you're as old as I am, you'll remember a two season long satire show in the 1960s called "That Was The Week That Was".