Sunday, September 30, 2012

Going Backwards

Kevin at The Smallest Minority links to the latest Bill Whittle Afterburner video, "A Great Future Behind Us".  It's Bill's almost tearful goodbye to shuttle Endeavour.  Go watch the video at Kevin's or on Bill's YouTube channel.  It's a lead-in to this rambling.

I've also written about my sadness at seeing the US lose manned access to space.  The country that put men on the moon has to buy access from the Russians, flying a ship first designed at the dawn of the space age.  Whittle points out the frightening fact that no one born after 1935 has ever walked on the moon.  Not before 1935, after.  They are all old men, and are leaving us.  In a few years, I expect dear granddaughter to say something like, "Grandpa, is it true men walked on the moon when you were a boy?"  And that will break my heart.

But it's not all grim.  There are private companies doing what they do best - innovating and going after that monopoly that the Russians have.  Elon Musk's company SpaceX has sent their unmanned Dragon capsule to the Space Station, atop their Falcon launch vehicle, and recovered it after return, making them the first private company to do all of it.  They have announced a design path to man-rate the Dragon capsule and a path to upgrade the Falcon to a heavy launch vehicle: in fact, it will be the most powerful launch vehicle in the known booster fleets of the world:
Falcon Heavy 28.5 degrees 200 km 53,000 kg
Space Shuttle 28.5 degrees 200 km 24,400 kg
Delta IV Heavy 28.5 degrees 407 km 22,980 kg
Titan IV-B 28.5 degrees 150 km x175 km 21,680 kg
Proton M 51.6 degrees 200 km 21,000 kg
Ariane 5 ES 51.6 degrees 407 km 20,000 kg
Atlas V 551 28.5 degrees 200 km 18,810 kg
Japan H2B 30.4 degrees 300 km 16,500 kg
China LM3B 28.5 degrees 200 km 11,200 kg
The Falcon Heavy will use the principle of running flight-proven engines running as a cluster of 27.  This has the advantages of keeping the hardware the same as what they've developed, and allowing graceful failure, should one engine shut down.  Since this will be liquid fueled and not a solid booster, like the space shuttle system used, it has some safety characteristics that the STS didn't.  Plus, it will connect all three vehicles' fuel and oxidizer tanks "in parallel" so that they all draw off the same tanks; this means that the central core will still have most of its fuel when the boosters drop away.  Concept video here.  More details on the SpaceX fleet and engineering here.

SpaceX is a startup company, and I'm amazed at how successful they have been.  It's a truism in the space launch business that as older guys who "just knew how to do stuff" retired, older problems started popping up again.  It's not uncommon for such errors to cause the loss of the vehicle.  An industry giant, like Boeing, who has been in the launch business as long as it has existed is interested in this market, too.   Boeing essentially has the designs for launch vehicles in its possession, since it has been the contractor making so many of the unmanned vehicles.  There are others in pursuit of the launch business. 

Perhaps it's time to get the out of the space business.  Yes, they have opened the way into space, but they have left us with access only a major world government can afford.  No, I don't know of any new developments that these companies are working on, but perhaps it's time to turn the keys to the door to space over to entrepeneurs who keenly want to do more with less. 

Got an Hour?

Last month, the inimitable Karl Denninger from The Market Ticker was almost in town - a few miles away -  talking to the Republican Liberty Caucus.  I didn't go; it was about a $200 evening, and while I like Karl, I just didn't feel like dropping $200 to see him. 

He has posted his talk in its entirety, and it's pretty good quality for this kind of capture.  It's worth the viewing time.  As our time slips away.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A WWII Story

This story has been around a few years, but that doesn't detract from it.

Look carefully at the B-17 in this painting and note how shot up it is - one engine dead, tail, horizontal stabilizer and nose shot up. It was ready to fall out of the sky. (This is a painting done by an artist from the description of both pilots many years later.) Then realize that there is a German ME-109 fighter flying next to it.
Charlie Brown was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton, England.  His B-17 was called 'Ye Old Pub' and was in a terrible state, having been hit by flak and fighters.  The compass was damaged and they were flying deeper over enemy territory instead of heading home to Kimbolton.  They were lost. 

After the B-17 wandered over an enemy airfield, a German pilot named Franz Steigler was ordered to take off and shoot down the B-17. When he got near the B-17, he could not believe his eyes. In his words, he 'had never seen a plane in such a bad state'... The tail and rear section was severely damaged, and the tail gunner wounded.  Bits of the top gunner's remains were all over the top of the fuselage. The nose was smashed and there were holes everywhere. 

Despite having ammunition, Franz flew to the side of the B-17 and looked at Charlie Brown, the pilot.  Brown was scared and struggling to control his damaged and blood-stained plane.

Aware that they had no idea where they were going, Franz waved at Charlie to turn 180 degrees. Franz escorted and guided the stricken plane to, and slightly over, the North Sea towards England. He then saluted Charlie Brown and turned away, back to Europe.

When Franz landed he told the CO that the plane had been shot down over the sea, and never told the truth to anybody.  Charlie Brown and the remains of his crew told all at their briefing, but were ordered never to talk about it.

For more than 40 years, Charlie Brown wanted to find the Luftwaffe pilot who saved the crew. After years of research, he found Franz Stigler in 1989.  Stigler had never talked about the incident, not even at post-war reunions.
(Franz Stigler, artist Ernie Boyett and Charlie Brown)
They met in the USA at a 379th Bomber Group reunion, together with 25 people who were alive - all because Franz never fired his guns that day.

When asked why he didn't shoot them down, Stigler later said, "I didn't have the heart to finish those brave men. I flew beside them for a long time. They were trying desperately to get home and I was going to let them do that. I could not have shot at them. It would have been the same as shooting at a man in a parachute."

Both men died in 2008, Stigler in March and Brown in November.  There are various embellishments of this story that don't appear to be true, such as the two pilots living within 500 miles of each other, but the story itself is true.

Of course it's an awesome story, but the often-told story leaves out something.  Franz Stigler didn't shoot down Charlie Brown that day because this particular Nazi officer and his British enemy had similar value systems.  Franz Stigler thought it dishonorable to kill a man in a disabled plane limping home.  I suspect there was enough ammo on board that "Ye Olde Pub" could have shot at the German, but because he didn't threaten them, they didn't shoot.  Fast forward 30 or 40 years into the heart of the Cold War.  The reason MAD - Mutually Assured Destruction - worked was that at heart the Soviets didn't want to kill off all of their population just as the US didn't want to kill off all of its population.  When push came to shove, nobody wanted to destroy the world and wash it in blood. 

Most modern mailings of this story end with something like, "This was back in the days when there was honour in being a warrior.  They proudly wore uniforms, and they didn't hide behind women and children, nor did they plant bombs amidst innocent crowds. How times have changed.."  And this difference in value systems, this willingness to kill innocent bystanders, and the eagerness to wash the world in blood - this is the main difference we face today. 

"The Project" Followup And Conclusion

I thought I'd post a thought or two, since I started down this road on Wednesday night.

First, I didn't learn any big new facts from the shows, just that a bit more of the magnitude of the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood (parent organization of about a hundred others) into the highest levels of our government.  It really is stunning.  Many of the guests interviewed were people with inside knowledge; people who have investigated, and, in some cases, been fired for persisting at trying to get the truth out.  Again, I've written about this before.  Most notably here, which included details on Sec State Hildebeest's closest advisor, Huma Abedin (Mrs. Anthony Weiner) and her connections to the brotherhood.
A Clinton/Weiner connection is probably only good for a Beavis and Butthead chuckle, and the fact that Mrs. Weiner is from Egypt hardly worth mentioning.  What is worth mentioning is that Huma Abedin's family is in the Muslim Brotherhood,
Furthermore, Huma Abedin's brother, Hassan, "is listed as a fellow and partner with a number of Muslim Brotherhood members."  Hassan works at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (OCIS) at Oxford University.  The Egyptian Al-Azhar University, well-known for a curriculum that encourages extremism and terrorism, is active in establishing links with OCIS.
Does this prove that Huma is influencing Hillary and state policy?  No, I don't think so.  It's just an example of how closely they have the ears of power.  The Project documentary outlines many examples of people who go from being on high level terrorist watch lists to being invited into the White House.

"Civilization Jihad" is real, and their plan really is to take down the US.  If this is news to you, or you think there's some sort of grand conspiracy to start a war between the US and any Muslim country, that sure wasn't the context of the program.  The main context of the program was that there are 80 some banker's boxes full of documents on the Project and the Brotherhood filed away in the DOJ, but DOJ refuses to let anyone examine them.  Never mind our tax money paid for the work.  These are documents used in the Holy Land Foundation trial and others like it.  They believe that there is much info in here about who has infiltrated our government and therefore where they are working.  Under so-called discovery at trial, the Brotherhood was given this info, so they already know what knows.  Only the citizens are kept in the dark about it. 

If you really think there's no threat to you from an emerging caliphate, I urge you to do some reading and try to catch up. Perhaps you're not aware that they are actively working in the UN to nullify our first amendment protections for free speech?  The pretext is that it becomes illegal to insult Islam.  It seems the insult need just be in any Muslim's opinions.  Already, left-leaning magazines and web sites are pushing the idea that free speech is obsolete in the internet age.  In that case, blogs like this one go away - or we don't write about truth. (Glenn McCoy at Townhall)
Is it the biggest threat we face?  I don't think so - I think the economic collapse is bigger.  By analogy, if you have pneumonia and heart problems, the infection can still kill you.  The Project is the infection. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

If You're Driving Into Florida This Year

Bring small bills.

The U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling that if you attempt to pay a toll on any of the state's toll roads with a large bill (sometimes "large" meant a $5 bill!) you may be detained as long as they feel like detaining you. 
Motorists can be held indefinitely at toll booths if they pay with large denomination bills, according to a federal appeals court ruling handed down Wednesday. A family of drivers -- Joel, Deborah and Robert Chandler -- filed suit last year arguing they were effectively being held hostage by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the private contractor in charge of the state's toll road, Faneuil, Inc.

Under FDOT (Note: Florida Department of Transportation - SiG)  policies in place at the time, motorists who paid with $50 bills, and occasionally even $5 bills, were not given permission to proceed until the toll collector filled out a "Bill Detection Report" with data about the motorist's vehicle and details from his driver's license. Many of those who chose to pay cash did so to avoid the privacy implications of installing a SunPass transponder that recorded their driving habits. They were likewise unwilling to provide personal information to the toll collector, but they had no alternative because the toll barrier would not be raised without compliance. FDOT policy does not allow passengers to exit their vehicle, and backing up is illegal and usually impossible while other cars wait behind. FDOT dropped the Bill Detection Reports in 2010. [emphasis added - SiG]
For a state that gets such a large percentage of its GDP from tourism, this is a mind-bogglingly stupid policy, but we are pretty full of stupid policies in Florida.  How is someone coming into the state by road supposed to have the "SunPass" transponder?  Do they expect everyone driving into the state to stop and buy a transponder, register it online, and put money in their SunPass account before they do everything?
"The fact that a person is not free to leave on his own terms at a given moment, however, does not, by itself, mean that the person has been 'seized' within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment," the court wrote in its unsigned decision. "In Florida, a person's right and liberty to use a highway is not absolute; it may be regulated in the public interest through reasonable and reasonably executed regulations."
This decision - and the policies it comes from - represent a giant steaming pile of Court Justices.  If being held by the government is not considered seizing, what is?  If holding someone a few minutes while the background information is taken doesn't constitute seizing them, what about holding them a half hour?  How long does it have to take?  If a person doesn't have a right to use a highway, then how are they to get around the state?  One can't walk; ignoring the impossibility of avoiding private property, the state is too freaking big and too much of it is swamp.  Excuse me - wetlands.  I don't live anywhere near one of the state's borders, southern tip or the keys, yet I drove 9 hours on the interstates, and changed time zones to get to my son's former home in Panama City Beach - and that was still at least an hour's drive away from the western end of the state.  
I should add that it's possible to get around the state without ever venturing onto a toll road.  Historical routes like the old US1, A1A or US441 aren't tolls roads; or you can stay on the interstates but just watch the signs.  For example, I-75 south into the center of the state merges into the toll road Florida Turnpike around Wildwood, and you have to make a move to not end up on the toll road.  (If I remember that interchange correctly).  There may be a few places you can't get to without a toll.

This is just another swipe at liberty, and the ability to go where and when one chooses.  H/T to SurvivalBlog

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Project

If you listen to Glenn Beck but don't subscribe to the TV channel or radio program, you have heard a lot about The Project, a documentary which will be broadcast in two parts, tonight and tomorrow.  The shows have been promoted as only Beck can; almost wall to wall on the radio and TV.  The previous link is to a page on the documentary.  It contains this summary:
In 2001, an inconspicuous manifesto now known as "The Project" was recovered during a raid in Switzerland: A manifesto that turned out to be a Muslim roadmap for infiltrating and defeating the West. Today, files containing evidence from the largest terror financing trial in U.S. history, which include details about "The Project", are being withheld by the Department of Justice.

In an explosive two-part mini-series, TheBlaze documentary unit investigates how the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the American government and exposes how our nation's safety is in jeopardy as a result of this dangerous government cover up.
Beck's channel, now called The Blaze and no longer GBTV, is on Dish network and I believe it's free for folks with one of their packages (I don't subscribe to  Dish Network - don't take my word).  It's also available online with a couple of different rates.  Beck says "start a two week free trial and then cancel it; I don't care". 

It's a topic I don't talk about much, but there really is a threat from Islam.  If you read Sultan Knish, Gates of Vienna, Atlas Shrugs, or dozens other sites, you get way more information than I've ever touched on.  But I think I'm going to watch that online tonight (don't me started on Roku boxes...)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Warp Drive Just Became Much More Possible

Buried in the news flood from last week was an intriguing story about the real scientific research being carried out on warp drive.  Warp drive, the ability to exceed the speed of light in travel by bending the fabric of space time around a space ship, is a staple of science fiction.   Interstellar travel is made difficult by a simple fact.  As Douglas Adams so aptly described it:
"Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."
Distances to astronomical bodies outside the solar system are usually given in light years, the distance light travels at 186,000 miles per second.   There are 5.879 Trillion miles (soon to be called 5.879 Bernanke miles) in a light year and the nearest stars are just over 4 light years away.  A trip without warp drive requires much more than four years because acceleration to light speed has to be slow enough to not kill the crew.  Acceleration has to be limited to one G or so.  When you warp space/time the ship is unaffected, and to the people on board it feels as if nothing is going on.  If you went the speeds we can currently go, it would take generations to travel to the nearest stars.
The idea of bending space time became an area of real scientific research some time ago, and a concept for a real-life warp drive was suggested in 1994 by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre.  His system had a substantial problem, though: it required the energy you'd get by turning a planet the size of Jupiter into energy.   Since Jupiter-sized planets aren't convenient to carry around for fuel, and aren't just floating around everywhere, that's a bit of a problem. 

Years ago, someone told me that once something has been shown to be theoretically possible by they physicists, the rest was just an engineering problem, "implementation details".  Last week, Harold “Sonny” White of NASA’s Johnson Space Center announced that by reconsidering the geometry of the ring around the football-shaped spacecraft (shown here, poetically, with football laces) they can bring the energy down to much more achievable levels. 
But recently White calculated what would happen if the shape of the ring encircling the spacecraft was adjusted into more of a rounded donut, as opposed to a flat ring. He found in that case, the warp drive could be powered by a mass about the size of a spacecraft like the Voyager 1 probe NASA launched in 1977.

Furthermore, if the intensity of the space warps can be oscillated over time, the energy required is reduced even more, White found.
According to the Wiki entry, Voyager 1 weighed 1592 pounds which is like 1 godzillionth of the weight of Jupiter.   Suddenly warp drive got much more possible.  So possible, in fact, that they have started experiments in the laboratory to see if they can make a micro version time/space warp.
They set up what they call the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer at the Johnson Space Center, essentially creating a laser interferometer that instigates micro versions of space-time warps.

“We’re trying to see if we can generate a very tiny instance of this in a tabletop experiment, to try to perturb space-time by one part in 10 million,” White said.
According to Star Trek canon, the first human powered warp drive flight was/will be conducted in  2063 by Zefram Cochran.  According to the film "First Contact", Cochran was born in 2013.

2063?  You know, it just might work out to be pretty close to 2063. The movie also implies that warp drive would have been invented sooner if not for the effects of World War III.

Monday, September 24, 2012

About That Whole Global Economic Collapse Thingy - Part VIII

There's supposedly an old Chinese curse that goes "may you live in interesting times".  Unfortunately, we live in very interesting times.

The thing I found the most alarming in the Fed's defacto announcement of QE3 is that they didn't put a ceiling in place.  They just said that they were going to buy $40 billion in MBS per month and let it go at that.  For size comparison, a year of that or $480 billion dollars, is about a third of our annual deficit but since congress has not passed an actual budget since 2009 in order to maintain plausible deniability, it's hard to know what the real deficits are.  The Fed has been buying our debt for quite some time, they recently admitted to buying 61% of our debt last year, but this isn't exactly buying our debt.  It's really an incredible wealth transfer from the people to the banks.  The banks are the ones who will benefit.   But it could also lead directly to the collapse of the economy. 

To begin with, an MBS is a Mortgage Backed Security.  These are the generally recognized cause of the '08 crash, and the crisis in derivatives that's still there.  (See here )  H/T to WRSA for a link to Jim Sinclair's MineSet where Sinclair explains it all in "QE3 to Infinity- the Final End Game".  Let me try to extract some of what he said, while keeping it short.  Seriously, RTWT, it's not that long and quite good.
  1. OTC derivative manufacturers and distributors sold fraudulent paper to almost every entity as clients of the Western world financial system.
  2. ...when Lehman was forced into bankruptcy it broke the "Daisy Chain"...The problem has no practical solution other than transferring all losing paper to the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve where then it was anticipated no non-government "mark to market" audit would ever occur. It was the perfect hole to stick the junk. 
  3. The size of the OTC derivative market was $1144 Trillion dollars.  That's many, many times Gross World Product.  That's according to the BIS, who reduced this to $700 Trillion by using a different accounting scheme.  It's still several times GWP. 
  4. In the first and second round of QE the Federal purchased OTC derivatives including the securitized mortgage debt to remove them from the balance sheets of the Western world financial system, thereby improving the Western world’s financial institutions balance sheet and preventing an international industry wide bankruptcy. That means the Federal Reserve has impaired its balance sheet in order to repair some of the balance sheet integrity of the Western world financial system. 
  5. That didn't work, so now the Fed is applying QE to infinity to try to rescue the world financial system.  It is a move with terrible possibilities in front of it. 
  6. As QE3 to infinity moves ahead, the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve continues to acquire worthless paper in exchange for dollars. Junk moved onto the balance sheet of the US Federal Reserve as the common share of the USA, the US dollar, continues to expand exponentially.
Sinclair predicts the recession to continue into 2015 to 2017 before the collapse.  But this could end sooner for many reasons.  The most obvious is a loss of trust in the banker of last resort, the Federal Reserve.  A bond auction would then fail requiring an increase in interest rates which would accelerate the collapse of our economy.  But that's the easily predictable.  What if China does start a war with Japan, as they're threatening?   Economic or shooting?  Japan has a 200% debt to GDP ratio, so it won't take much push to knock that house of cards over.  It's not like we have the money to help them.  The Mideast is flush with possibilities.  Not just Iran vs. Israel, but what about the emerging caliphate?  What if they decide to jack the price of oil up, 1970s style, to $200/barrel?  They'll get it for a little while, until the rest of the world collapses, which they want to see, anyway. 

Bayou Renaissance Man has a good roundup of stories on this. 

I'm fond of saying that infinity is a really helpful concept in math, but pretty useless in the real world.  The banking system created a make believe world to pass around money to each other, and their connected customers, to be honest.  But it was based on infinite growth, which can't exist.  Like a game of musical chairs where all of the chairs got removed while the group was up, there is no safe place to sit.  This is not going to end well.  But it is going to end. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Gun Day

Took the day to meet a friend down at our club rifle range.  He was sighting in a new scope on an AR, and since I haven't shot my DPMS LR-308B for a long time, it's a good excuse to go throw some 150 grain bullets down range.  It's always easy to get Mrs. Graybeard to go for a morning at the range (although when an alarm goes off on a Sunday, I seriously doubt my sanity). For reasons I can't claim to understand, she has wanted a lever action rifle for a while, and we finally settled on a Marlin 336XLR in time for a birthday present last month - this model is stainless, laminated stock, in 30-30. So she still has some time to go with the Marlin before it's second nature. 
Alarms on Sunday?  I know it was the equinox yesterday and it's officially fall, but it's still summer here and will be for a while.  Today, it was still 90 and humid at noon.  It's best to get out early and get out of the sun before it gets too bad. 

I brought my home built AR-15, too.  Didn't shoot it much, but it's nice to put cross hairs on a target at 200 yards and have it hit exactly where it's supposed to.  Yeah, I can get careless, but the gun is dialed in now, and "just works".  Friend got his AR sighted in acceptably.  We shot each others' LCP/TCP to compare them.  A moderate amount of powder was burned and a nice time had by all.  No target pictures.  Left without going back down range. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Ran across it somewhere the other day... If it's yours, I'd be glad to post a link back. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cult of Personality

It's no secret that I don't believe in big government, which means that I'm not a fan of the president.  It's also no secret that I think one of the biggest problems we have is the over-regulation caused by the always-expanding Code of Federal Regulations.  I see, by the way, that in the last 90 days, is up to the biggest number of regulations in 90 days I've ever seen, 6417. 
They've been running about 6000/90 days.  Maybe they are trying to get a bunch more regulations put in place in case they get a new boss who sends them home. 

But the thing that genuinely creeps me out about the president is the cult of personality that sprung up around him.  It was there before he was elected and hasn't eased up.  I mean, there were the school kids singing his name with alternating with "umm, umm, umm", there were kids who looked almost paramilitary, there were all the hopey changey ads, the pictures with lights behind him to give a halo effect - you've seen it all.  There have been several degreed psychologists and other doctors saying they see enough evidence of narcissism to make a diagnosis. 

But the cult of personality stuff like yesterday's "Pledge Allegiance to Obama" is just going too far.  That's the fans, the rank and file Democrats, not just the Dear Leaders themselves.  Miquel down at Gun Free Zone has quite the compilation of things to look at.  Go read.  Did you know there's a Little Blue Book of Obama quotations?  I mean, considering the strong Maoists in his administration, it's not surprising they'd emulate Mao's famous Little Red Book.  Just because Mao's book was so widely used during the cultural revolution where Mao's people killed around 20 million of their fellow countrymen is no reason to think a Little Blue Book might be used here, is there?  There's no reason to think they might seriously think of killing millions of Americans, right?  I mean besides Bill Ayre's friends saying they wanted to. 

Regardless, it's creepy.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fisking a Poll

My son sent me this Pew Research Center poll which makes the claim that Obama has a bigger lead than anyone since Bill Clinton in 1992 and '96. 
At this stage in the campaign, Barack Obama is in a strong position compared with past victorious presidential candidates. With an eight-point lead over Mitt Romney among likely voters, Obama holds a bigger September lead than the last three candidates who went on to win in November, including Obama four years ago. In elections since 1988, only Bill Clinton, in 1992 and 1996, entered the fall with a larger advantage. 

Not only does Obama enjoy a substantial lead in the horserace, he tops Romney on a number of key dimensions. His support is stronger than his rival’s, and is positive rather than negative. Mitt Romney’s backers are more ardent than they were pre-convention, but are still not as enthusiastic as Obama’s. ...

Since this flies in the face of what most of us think is going on, I thought I'd look at this a little more closely and see if I could find anything fishy about their statistics or their approach.  Read the fine print.  While they don't exactly hide this information they put it at the very back of the report, page 6

One of the most pervasive problems with polls is bias in the selection of the group polled.  They explain their methodology - kudos to them for that - and present us with some descriptive stats on who they think they polled.  That will be my starting point:
First thing to examine is the fact that there are more "registered voters" than "likely voters".  Likely voters are the preferred people to poll because they're interested enough in the process to know they're going to the polls.  It's always turnout that matters.  Most Stupid party folks I know would walk through fire to vote Obama out; are the Evil party folks that motivated?  Some are, for sure, but more than Stupids?  Unfortunately it's hard to hang a number or correction on this value (other than that 10.5% more registered voters than likely voters were polled, which isn't much).

Among the registered voters they polled 21% more Democrats than Republicans.  This is a big red flag.   While we can't completely rule out "Obama Republicans" (today's version of Reagan Democrats), and we can't rule out Romney Democrats, all things being equal, you'd expect the groups to be within a percent or two of party lines.  They also poll more independents than Republicans by a more modest 5%.  Independents, of course, are what that whole 47% thing from Romney was all about - that he had to put his effort on the undecideds, not the ones who are completely in the bag for Obama and won't change (which was all blown out of proportion by the lame stream media). 

Another red flag is that they had 11.9% more people who said they were Obama supporters than Romney supporters.

In summary, this poll is biased as all hell.  In a country where a 4% win, like 52%-48%, is a big win, they start between 12 and 20 percentage points in favor of Obama.  This poll can't possibly be accurately measuring the electorate.  Actually, given that 12-20%, he should have done better in this poll than the 8% they claim.  That probably augers badly for Obama. 

So how should the sample group be composed?  Does it need to be 50-50?  Rasmussen has an interesting page showing the party affiliations by month every year.  This August (still the most recent) breaks down as Rep: 37.6%, Dems 33.3% Other 29.2%, which is 4.3 more registered Rs than Ds (R-D).  In August of 2008, it was 33.2% Rs, 38.9% Ds and 28.0% others, for a -5.7% R-D.   That's 10 point swing in registered Republicans vs. Democrats compared to August of '08.  

That implies the polls should over sample Republicans over Democrats by at least the current 4.3% more registered (if not the 10% difference from '08 to now) to better model the electorate, but none of them that I've seen do that.

I debated with myself whether or not to put this simple an analysis up for my readers.  Most of you are probably better at this than I am.  But you never know who's going to be wandering around the Inter-Toobs and a little education is a good thing.  It's not hard.  All you need to do is percentages on a calculator.  No p values, no r coefficients, no confidence limits.  Honestly, I've never seen a poll that needed fancy statistical techniques to evaluate.  It's easy to decide whether to believe it or not.  But, as the famous guy once said, "trust, but verify".  Do your own math.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Post-Apocalpytic TV

SurvivalBlog and some other places have had a mild buzz about the NBC series Revolution which premiered with its pilot episode this week - Monday night at 10.  I stuck it on the DVR and forgot it was there yesterday, so we just watched it. 
When I first heard about this show earlier in the summer, it was referred to as post-EMP, but it's not.  The pilot opens with the main characters at home.  Kids are watching TV (a clever homage to an old Bugs Bunny cartoon featuring a little gremlin who breaks everything on a plane Bugs is flying), when husband rushes home with a box of what looks like office supplies, he starts ranting about needing to store more water and other things.  Wife stops him and says, "it's happening, isn't it?".  We soon see lights flickering and then going out, followed by scenes of rampant destuction, airplanes flat spinning out of the sky, and then a view of the globe going dark in a spreading wave, over several seconds.  

The next scene we see is a voice over a caption saying "15 Years Later" explaining how electricity stopped working.  The laws of physics went crazy.  No one knows why.  But while they imply fire-powered things stopped working, fire still works because they have dozens of candles in every room,  and if fire works, that means internal combustion engines would still work. 

They never really explain why everything goes dark, but hours of simulation here at Muppet Labs has revealed that it was ... a plot device to set up the series.  Which apparently will whirl around some little jewelry-looking pieces that allow electricity to work near them.  The ability to turn on the power is highly sought after by various ruthless rulers.  So the charming heroine girl, the hard-drinking tough uncle, the doctor lady and the nerd boy must keep the precious away from Sauron's army.  No ... wait... Scratch the end of that sentence. 

As writers on SurvivalBlog said, they may not have electricity, but they clearly discovered a cache of Revlon, L'Oreal, and other cosmetics.  People who can make nice looking cloth instead of burlap are still in business, along with those designer firms that make tight leather pants and jackets.  The crossbows look pretty tacticool, so we must assume that they're left from before it went dark.  The bad guys have guns, muzzle loaders for the most part, but the baddest guy has a 1911 of some sort.  It has a certain feel to it that makes me think of the sales pitch, "let's make a show to cash in on that Hunger Games chicks with crossbows thing!"

That was a little harsher than it deserved.  In truth, it wasn't bad for network TV.  An insane coincidence or two; some guys hacked up in a sword fight who die, but don't bleed out.  But reasonable action, and just enough hook to make you wonder what's up.  I may give it a week or two to see how it goes.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Inflation or Deflation?

"I'll take Economic Catastrophes for $500, Alex". 

"The answer is, ' QE3 and the current depression ends in this' ".

H/T to Bayou Renaissance Man for the tip to John Mauldin's "Outside the Box" newsletter (PDF).  In it, Mr. Mauldin argues that we are going to face a deflationary collapse.  In it, he quotes Harry Dent (video ad) saying we are going to die of deflation and the Fed won't be able to control it. 
Most of you reading this expect inflation in the years ahead, right? Well, I don't.  In fact, I am firmly in the deflation camp. 

Just think about it.  What has happened after every major debt bubble in history?  What happened after the 1873-74 bubble?  Or after the 1929-32 bubble?  Did prices inflate or deflate? 

We got deflation in prices ... every time.

This time around, with the latest bubble peaking in 2007/08, the outcome will be exactly the same. There is deflation ahead. Expect it.  Prepare for it.
It shouldn't be a surprise that the collapse of a bubble is deflationary.  The image of collapsing a bubble itself brings deflation to mind.  Dent goes on to claim that the deflation is the result of things we've talked about here: the cycles of spending at different times in life, and the retiring baby boomers.  He says the private sector is getting out of debt as fast as it can, and there's more private debt than public.  And he thinks deflation will happen no matter what the central banks can do.  He specifically argues that these generational patterns are what killed the housing market and are what are keeping it from recovering. 
Basically, his deflationary argument is Bernanke's and the central bankers'.  They feel the only way to prevent the deflationary collapse is to inflate our way out of it.  Create so much money that they can restore the housing prices through price inflation.  They don't count/don't care that they'll raise the prices of food, energy and everything else.  They don't count/don't care about the horrible toll it will take on savers.   

So the question is simply whether an unlimited amount of monetary creation can prevent the deflation.  It really is an unlimited supply of currency they can create.  They don't have to buy ink and paper, they just need to add decimal places in a microprocessor that can support very, very big numbers.   I can imagine pretty big numbers.  Those numbers won't change the value of things, but the prices can be manipulated pretty much at will. 

While his arguments are interesting, and I have to agree with much of what he says, I think the only thing we completely agree on is that the central banks can't save the economy or prevent the coming global economic collapse. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy Constitution Day

As a friend said:  Today is Constitution Day.  Read it and weep.

Someone cranked up the Quick Meme generator and there already are almost 1500 copies of posters based on the photo of the arrest of film maker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.  H/T to Sister Toldjah and PJ Tatler. Zombie on PJ Tatler lists several of his favorites, and I include two my favorites here:

There's a lot of really good ones in there, and a lot of repetition.  It's your time, but look around. 

Frederick Douglass said in an 1860 speech, "Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one's thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist.  That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants.  It is the right which they first of all strike down". 

While the first amendment may be under more threat today, don't forget the attacks on pretty much all religions except Islam, the second amendment is under constant threat from outsiders.  The Supremes may have been marginally accommodating to the right to bear arms, the same doesn't apply to the UN.  So, yeah, the last meeting of the UN Arms Trade Treaty broke down, but they're still working on it. 

The fourth is pretty much gone, between the TSA's groping children and randomly seizing cupcakes, no-knock SWAT raids,  and courts ruling, for example, you have no right to resist police entry into your home even if it's unlawful entry.  

Of course, the constitution is more than just the Bill of Rights.  They're tearing it all apart at an amazing rate.  Time to read it before it's all gone.

And weep. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The New 54.5 MPG Mileage Standards

A couple of weeks ago, the Administration announced a new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) mileage standard for the year 2025, 54.5 MPG.  Note that the "Average" in there explicitly says that every vehicle in the manufacturer's lines doesn't need to get 54.5 MPG, just that a manufacturer's fleet average needs to hit this magic number.  Cars are treated differently than trucks, and one of the reasons for the explosion of SUVs is that they are counted as trucks, while station wagons were counted as cars.  Not many station wagons being made these days.  There is great legal wrangling and fighting over how to classify any given vehicle because not every vehicle has a prayer of hitting that kind of mileage

The NHTSA press release touted:
  • A savings of more than $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, or an average fuel savings of more than $8,000 by 2025 per vehicle over its lifetime,
  • A dramatic reduction in reliance on foreign oil to the tune of 12 billion barrels of oil a year, or 2 million barrels a day, of oil imports, by 2025
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks by 6 billion metric tons, or more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States in 2010
  • Does anyone besides an engineer ask how much we need to spend to save $8000?  It's going to be free, like the free candy from unicorns that poop skittles?  No?
    Design News reports this week that there have been a couple of engineering consulting groups  studying just what it takes to increase CAFE to that level.  The government says it will add $2500 to the price of the average car, but the Center for Automotive Research (CAR, of course), disagrees, saying it could hit $11,000 to save that $8000.  Scenaria, "a consulting firm specializing in the study of technology investment decisions, contended that the figure would minimally reach $5,000 per vehicle, and might hit more than $8,000 on many models."  Are you sure you want to spend $5000 to save $8000? Sounds better than spending $11,000 to save $8000.
    Consultants also worried about the rule's effect on the market for new vehicles. "When you reach 35, 40, and 50 miles per gallon, the cost to achieve it gets too high," David Cole, chairman emeritus of The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) and a former professor of automotive engineering the University of Michigan, said in an interview. "And the value returned to the customer gets to be less and less. The risk is that people will say, 'Why should I buy a new car? I'll just keep the old one. It's a better business decision.' " 
    CAR also analyzed how much the annual fuel cost is for 15,000 miles of driving, and posts this graph of cost vs. MPG for three different fuel costs.  They all share the shape of a curve of diminishing returns, and even at $5.00/gallon, the savings aren't very great as mileage goes beyond about 30.  For example, the cost of fuel at 20 MPG is 50% higher than 30 MPG, but from 30 to 40 the fuel cost is only 33% higher. 

    The laws of physics can only be broken in advertising (and Looney Tunes).  To deliver the power it takes to move big things requires power out of the engine: long piston strokes, large pistons, large engines, lots of torque.  The internal combustion engine has been optimized as a system for about a hundred years, and you're not going to suddenly make it 70% more efficient (the difference in CAFE standards from now to 2025).  Instead, to reach the new standard the cars will get lighter, with more plastics and thinner metal structures.  The shorter way to say that is they'll be less safe.  These new standards will cost more lives. 

    In a rambling rant a month ago, I commented on a similar situation with the regulations that essentially outlawed top-loading washing machines, and how our single-minded bureaucracies always think they know better than the market.  I've got news for the administration: a real half ton pickup (the most common size) that got twice the current MPG would be snapped up so fast it would set every truck sales record imaginable.  Nobody's against that.  We're just against being forced to pay more for a flimsier, less safe vehicle than we save by buying it, and we're against getting stuck with one that doesn't do everything we need it to do.


    Saturday, September 15, 2012

    Does Cancer Cause Coffee?

    A little Saturday geek fun.  Yes, I meant to say it backwards like that.  

    Every Sunday morning on the news/talk shows, there's usually a segment hosted by a doctor. CNN, Fox, the networks, it's pretty common.  They go over the medical news; some of it legitimate news, such as new surgical treatments or new drugs making news, but more often it's the type of story we refer to as "he who stories" or just "he whos".  Just this week, we've heard that "he who" is stressed at work is under increased risk of heart attack (didn't you hear that when you were a kid?); heavy drinkers are at increased risk of stroke (did anyone ever say heavy drinking was good?), and that children of alcoholics are at increased risk of addictions (and children of Chinese speakers are at increased risk of speaking Chinese, too).  

    If you're like me, you've probably had it with these stories.  I might listen to the story to see if the group was a few people or thousands, and throw it out if it's less than 5000 people, but the truth is that I pretty much  hit the channel button.

    Now comes the kind of analysis of this sort of story that gives a better reason to ignore them, "Coffee Causes Cancer?" on  Perhaps you remember that story the other day that eggs were as bad for your cardiovascular health as smoking.  Like the vast majority of those studies, this was a food recall study, where they ask people how many eggs they ate over several years.  In the broader sense, studies that rely on observations of groups, instead of controlled experiments are notoriously inaccurate.  The worst kind are the "data mining" studies where groups of statistics assembled under a wide variety of observations are piled together in an attempt to extract more data out of them.  As says:
    Statisticians have long been wary of scientific claims based on observational data - there is too much room to "torture the data long enough, until Nature confesses," in the words of Ronald Coase, the Nobel Prize-winning economist.  Fiddle with the variables and model parameters sufficiently, run enough comparisons, look at enough subgroups, and you can find statistical significance in almost any observed data.  Statisticians prefer controlled experiments, but those are expensive and hard to do, and most published epidemiological research is based on observational data.
    In a study of 12 of these observational studies, investigators found 52 testable "statistically significant" claims to test, and they designed controlled experiments to test them.  Quoting again:
    There were 52 "statistically significant" claims arising from the original observational studies.  None replicated in the controlled randomized studies.  Five actually achieved statistical significance in the opposite direction.
    Hence my title.  If 5 out of 52 actually were completely backwards, then the next time you hear coffee causes cancer, there's almost a 1 in 10 chance they have it exactly backwards.  But it's virtually a lock guarantee that it's wrong.  According to this study.

    Quote of The Day - Constitution Shredding Edition

    "If you’re not gasping in shock and outrage over this, you should be." - Sister Toldjah

    Our administration, proving yet again how little respect they have for free speech, investigating the makers of the "film" that is being blamed for the riots in the Caliphate.  They have even released his name and general location where he lives.  NBC Los Angeles reports on the story.
    LA County Sherrif’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore confirmed to NBCLA that Nakoula was taken to the Cerritos sheriff’s station for interviewing by federal probation officers aimed at determining whether he violated the terms of his 5-year probation by uploading a video to the Internet.

    "We are in an assist mode," he said.
    Going back to Sister Toldjah:
    In “assist mode”? To who?

    Look, we all know what’s going on here but it’s being done under the pretense of the “filmmaker” being “suspected of violating his probation.”  Do not be fooled.  This ‘film” was released months ago but he is only now being taken in for questioning why exactly?  Because radical Islam is literally setting the world on fire, and the feds want to put on a dog and pony show to indicate to the Muslim world that they are “doing something” about this filmmaker who so offended the sensitivities of fundamentalist thugs who hate Western values.

    Let me also say this: Nakoula doesn’t sound like a paragon of virtue, but he was expressing his First Amendment rights to an opinion some people don’t agree with. Does he deserve the treatment he is receiving by the press, other critics, the feds, and the Obama administration?
    And what was his crime that he's on federal probation for? 
    A federal grand jury indictment in February 2009 charged Nakoula in an alleged bank fraud conspiracy. The indictment accused him and others of fraudulently obtaining the identities and Social Security numbers of bank customers at Wells Fargo and withdrawing $860 from bank branches in Cerritos, Artesia and Norwalk. (emphasis added - SiG)
    $860?  Yeah, this really is all about $860, and not about making a show like Sister Toldjah says.   As I've said many times, the average American commits three federal crimes every day.  Federal prosecutors have the Infinite Checkbook of the at their disposal.  They will find something on him.  Constitution be damned. 
    Ann Barnhardt is demanding to be arrested for blasphemy because of her famous Koran-with-bacon-bookmarks videos.  The feds wouldn't dare.  They might have someone shoot her from a thousand yards, but they wouldn't dare put her on a witness stand. 

    Friday, September 14, 2012

    If We Had Competent Leadership - Libya Edition

    If we had a competent government, with a commander in chief who knew what he was doing, and a state department that understood the world, we wouldn't need to talk about this.  If we had a competent government that wasn't infiltrated at every level with Muslim Brotherhood, CAIR and Organization of Islamic Conference agents, who removed every reference to jihadism or Islamic radicals from FBI and other agency training materials, we wouldn't need to talk about this.  If we had a competent government that was concerned about protecting, not just us "flyover country yokels" but their own coworkers, we wouldn't need to talk about this.  Even if we just had competent Pentagon leadership who said, "I don't care what State says, guards need ammo", we might not need to talk about this. 

    But we don't have any of the above.  So we need to talk about the best way of handling the situation.  Certainly the best at the time would have been, oh, a couple of 2000 lb smart bombs right in the rioting crowd.  You know that most of the bad actors were there, and injury to innocents would be minimized.

    I don't think that the answer is to carpet bomb the area, or park a battleship offshore and shell.  99% of the people don't know who did what and I bet most of them don't even care.  At this point, I think the best course is the stuff we are worst at humint - human intelligence.  People on the ground who can get details on where certain people are.  A few Predators putting Hellfire missiles through the right windows might get some respect.  Someone in a high enough position in Libyan intelligence to know that our ambassador was in a safe house, so that he could be attacked and killed there, needs a Hellfire or two up his ass - sort of a retribution in kind.  As Stormbringer puts it:
    As many as 400 attackers took part in a coordinated military-style assault on the consulate in Benghazi. This kind of organized operation makes mockery of the theory that these attacks are any kind of emotionally-fueled reactions to a goofey movie on YouTube.

    The attackers not only hit the consulate in Benghazi, they knew the location of a classified safe house where the ambassador and security personnel withdrew to after the initial hit. This is where our ambassador's vehicle was fired upon with RPG rockets, and he was subsequently killed and his body dragged through the streets. It is not certain whether he was sodomized before or after he succumbed to his wounds and smoke inhalation.
    A new site I've recently found, The Diplomad 2.0,  presents an interesting read "We're Not At War ... Just Under Attack"
    The reason we see deranged or at least nasty and unpleasant dictators in the Arab world is that Arab societies are deranged, nasty and unpleasant--thanks largely to the brand of Islam practiced in those societies which is particularly deranged, nasty, and unpleasant. In the Arab world you can have a brutal authoritarian who tries to restrain the even more brutal religious fanatics, or you can have religious fanatics who lash out at anyone who does not see the world as they do.
    Diplomad 2.0's profile says, "Long time US Foreign Service Officer; now retired; have served all over the world and under all sorts of conditions. Convinced the State Department needs to be drastically slashed and reformed so that it will no longer pose a threat to the national interests of the United States."  Worth reading.

    While it might be too quiet and we want a public show for the "deranged, nasty and unpleasant" Arab street, I personally wouldn't mind something like the happy ending scene in "The Sum of All Fears", where the folks who orchestrated the atomic bombing of Baltimore all get taken care of.

    Thursday, September 13, 2012

    Helicopter Ben Rides Again

    It has been a busy night.  But in light of the goosing of QE3 today, I thought I'd link to this old post of mine, from April of 2011 saying the Fed would be forced to do QE3

    I'll grade it a "B".  Big picture is right, but some details really changed in the last 17 months. 

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    The Chicago Teacher's Strike

    It's hard not to have at least a little Schadenfreude over Rahm Emmanuel's problems with the teachers' unions in Chicago.  Here's one of the great union defenders, former chief of staff to a president who bragged how pro-union he is, and the unions are taking the opportunity to stick the knife between his ribs.
    (Foden - King Features)
    Mark Butterworth at Liberty's Torch has a really interesting perspective on the strike that I absolutely never thought of. 
    The teachers are merely pawns, but here’s the kicker: they are mostly white, female pawns and so they’ve got to go. As Steve Sailer has often pointed out about disparate impact in police and firemen’s groups where having to pass basic tests to get hired has caused blacks and hispanics to be hired at very low rates, the courts have insisted the tests are discriminatory based on race.

    Now, as much as we might despise public unions, they’re the only ones who are fighting to protect white police, firemen, and teachers in preserving their jobs.

    In Chicago, the threat to the teachers is that they are against the system of new evaluations intended to weed out ineffective teachers and improve classroom learning. But that’s really code for getting the white teachers out.
    In Butterworth's view, the point of the whole situation in Chicago is to get rid of those white females and give those nice fat checks to minorities.  He does present some data to back his argument.  Go read. 

    In general, like most folks, I don't care to work in union environments and have only worked in a couple during my career.   I fully understand the desire to negotiate a pay rate, though.  Corporations don't, as a rule, go buy things at the first quoted price; they negotiate.  I get that.  So why shouldn't workers negotiate, too?  They could.  The only drawback is what happens when they negotiate a price much higher than the market would pay.  In that case, much like the factory paying more for their sheet metal or their plastic parts, they would try to find a cheaper source.  A cheaper labor source probably means moving to place with lower wages, either a non-unionized place (a right to work state) or offshore.  In the long run, then, unions can only really survive with trade protectionism or captive markets.  Perhaps electrical power, phone, gas and other utilities, whose rates are overseen or set by state commissions, or perhaps trades like plumbers and electricians.  These are jobs that can't be outsourced.  (Hello Bangalore?  I'm in Penobscot, Maine, in the US and my toilet won't flush.  What do you mean, "so what?"? )

    Outsourcing has many justifications.  In many cases, it's a trade between the saved labor costs and the other costs.  These jobs can't stay unionized for the long term, in my view.  Most companies won't offshore to save a few percent, but they will do it to save half the cost.  A union has a very small margin to negotiate over the market rate for labor before those jobs leave.  The total costs of business in the US, including the regulatory burden for US workers, have forced many jobs overseas.  It's the old story about unintended consequences and the fact that congress never seems to think to the next move - to use a chess analogy.   

    Tuesday, September 11, 2012

    9/11 - A Different Perspective

    Today I was trying to recall if I had written anything about 9/11 last year, so I went to the archives and looked it up.  I was surprised to find that I had written a couple of pieces about it.  Not sure what that says, but Whoomp, there it is.  

    I know lots of people will write poignant, touching columns about it.  Read Brigid's latest at Home on the Range (everybody knows and loves Brigid, so it isn't like I'm giving you some amazing secret here).  A very intelligent piece is Sultan Knish's column - it may be the best read out there. 

    I want to talk about something else.

    As we slide closer and closer to a complete totalitarian state it occurs to me that much of where I am and who I am today came about in reaction to 9/11.  On 9/10, I was much more ignorant.  I tended to think of politics too much along party lines, although I distinctly remember telling a former co-worker at Southeast Area Defense Contractor that both parties were only about getting and keeping power, and didn't give a damn about us or the country.  This was in the early 1990s.  I was much more ignorant of history. 

    Since 9/11, I've plunged into learning more about history, and especially our founding.  I've learned about the problems with our Federal Reserve.  I started to see the historical inevitability of a coming collapse unless we drastically change our ways (we won't - that's what makes collapses inevitable).  I learned about the problem with subprime mortgages by about '06, and saw how it could literally crash the world.  I learned about the attacks on our liberties through the PATRIOT act, the multibillion dollar-sucking DHS that hasn't earned a single dime of that; the NDAA; drones over the heartland; FISA courts and their "formerly illegal warrantless wire taps"; that giant NSA complex in Utah and so much more.  I've also learned about the genuine threats against America by the Muslim Brotherhood and the other radical Islamist groups who want "the flag of Islam (to fly) over the White House", including Brotherhood infiltration into all levels and branches of the US government.  There really are "Enemies Foreign and Domestic". 

    I voted for W in 2000, but was never very fond of him, and became less so over his eight years.  He had his redeeming points - how he initially responded to 9/11 for one - but he was an economic disaster, and oversaw some of the first terrible attacks on our liberties. 

    I guess you can say I woke up.  I got armed.  I started getting trained.  I got even more independent. While I still see insufficient difference between the parties, and still agree with my early-90's assessment, I still see that there might possibly be civil remedies for our messes, if enough people wake up and demand it.  Because they value their jobs. 
    (image from RangerUp)
    I also know that the saying in the military is true: America isn't at war.  America's military is at war; America is at the mall.  Or home, trying to eek out a living. 

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Affirmative Action Queen

    I'm talking about Princess High Cheekbones herself, Elizabeth Warren.  The nickname, of course, refers to her claimed American Indian heritage, ("because my mother told me") and the pictures of ancestors with the high cheekbones characteristic of the Cherokees.  Too bad her family actually traces back to the other side of the "Trail of Tears" - the ones pointing the guns at the Cherokees. 

    While that's a funny story, this concerns her professorship at Harvard.  The Daily Caller writes:
    In a 1994 interview, then-Harvard Law School dean Robert Clark said his institution was actively applying an affirmative action policy to hiring female faculty, The Daily Caller has learned. The famed law school first offered Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren a professorship in 1992 and granted her tenure in 1995.
    Let me point out the obvious: the fact she was hired at a time the HLS was actively looking for affirmative action hires doesn't mean she was hired only because of her sex or her claimed Indian heritage.  It might be coincidence.  For the definitive look at whether or not it was because of those and not her legal scholarship, I'll quote a professor from her Alma Mater, Rutgers, who knew her work:
    In 1991, Rutgers Professor Phillip Schuchman reviewed Warren’s co-authored 1989 book “As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America” in the pages of the Rutgers Law Review, a publication Warren once edited. Schuchman found “serious errors” which result in “grossly mistaken functions and comparisons.”

    Warren and her co-authors had drawn improper conclusions from “even their flawed findings,” and “made their raw data unavailable” to check, he wrote. “In my opinion, the authors have engaged in repeated instances of scientific misconduct.”

    The work “contains so much exaggeration, so many questionable ploys, and so many incorrect statements that it would be well to check the accuracy of their raw data, as old as it is,” Schuchman added.
    Translating professor to redneck that translates roughly as, "Where did she get this crap?!?".  Sounds like an affirmative action hire to me.  Let's be honest here: we've all met them.  Every industrial training video features the Mandatorily Interracial and Gender-Diverse cast.  The Lovely and Geeky Mrs. Graybeard was an electronics technician "in the early days" of women in the field.  She knew she had to demonstrate she really knew the stuff and wasn't an affirmative action hire.  
    And this quote from Ms. Warren herself kinda seals the question:
    Warren herself seems to have doubted her own fitness to be a Harvard Law professor. “If you’d told me [I would be granted a tenure offer], “I’d simply have laughed at you and said, ‘What a charming thought! I have as good a chance of flying a rocket ship to the moon,’” she told the Record in February 1993.
    Affirmative Action.  It hurts the more qualified candidate bumped for the less qualified one.  It hurts the candidate by putting them in a place they know they can't live up to, perpetually over their head in life.   It hurts the candidates by depriving them of the motivation to push themselves to really excel.  And it hurts the rest of society as it has to suffer through the policies of someone like Elizabeth Warren.  Or the medical decisions of the AA doctor. 

    Meritocracies really are better for everyone.

    Sunday, September 9, 2012

    More Tales From the Over Regulated State - The Horror of Civil-Forfeiture

    Back in May, I wrote about the case of the Motel Caswell, a piece of property that was being sued by the city of Tewksbury, Massachusetts in a rather obvious attempt to seize the motel for a city asset.

    Welcome to the world of civil-forfeiture, where anything you own can be seized by increasingly desperate governments to obtain operating funds - or luxuries for the government workers.  It's not that this is a new problem, but the problems is only getting worse.

    David Codrea links to a Washington Times post, GHEI: ATF's Latest Gun Grab.  
    The Obama administration is making it easier for bureaucrats to take away guns without offering the accused any realistic due process. In a final rule published last week, the Justice Department granted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) authority to “seize and administratively forfeit property involved in controlled-substance abuses.” That means government can grab firearms and other property from someone who has never been convicted or even charged with any crime.
    Don't jump at the "property involved in controlled-substance abuses", that's a red flag to distract you.  The problem is the last sentence, that, "can grab firearms and other property from someone who has never been convicted or even charged with any crime".  There is no evidence the prosecutors ever roll things like this back in the direction of more liberty and if you believe this will only apply to "the war on drugs", I've got a bridge to sell you. prosecutors always push for seizing more property.  The Washington Times, again:
    It’s a dangerous extension of the civil-forfeiture doctrine, a surreal legal fiction in which the seized property — not a person — is put on trial. This allows prosecutors to dispense with pesky constitutional rights, which conveniently don’t apply to inanimate objects. In this looking-glass world, the owner is effectively guilty until proved innocent and has the burden of proving otherwise. Anyone falsely accused will never see his property again unless he succeeds in an expensive uphill legal battle.
    James Lieto found out about civil forfeiture the hard way when the FBI seized $392,000 from his business because the money was being carried by an armored-car firm he had hired that had fallen under a federal investigation. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Mr. Lieto was never accused of any crime, yet he spent thousands in legal fees to get his money back.  (emphasis added - SiG)
    This guy loses $392,000 and has to spend thousands at trial to get his money back because he hired someone that the Fibbies were investigating?  Something that, as far as I can find he was absolutely not responsible for?  What kind of crap is this?  As I said in that post last May,
    Governments bully small guys who can't afford teams of high-powered lawyers.  They're easier to screw over.
    Add it up and there's a fantastic opportunity for the raiding authorities to line their pockets and screw over people who were never convicted of doing anything wrong, indeed, were never even charged with doing anything wrong.

    Online publication Directory Journal takes it farther with "They ARE Coming for YOUR Car, Your Land, Your House"  They link to the story of Donald Scott, killed by police in 1992, in what appears to be a case motivated by wanting to acquire his property. 
    In Malibu, California, park police tried repeatedly to buy the home and land of 61-year-old, retired rancher Don Scott, which was next to national park land. Scott refused. On the morning of October 2, 1992, a task force of 26 LA county sheriffs, DEA agents and other cops broke into Scott's living room unannounced. When he heard his wife, Frances, scream, he came out of his upstairs bedroom with a gun over his head. Police yelled at him to lower his gun. He did, and they shot him dead.

    Police claimed to be searching for marijuana which they never found. Ventura County DA Michael Bradbury concluded that the raid was "motivated at least in part, by a desire to seize and forfeit the ranch for the government . . . [The] search warrant became Donald Scott's death warrant."
    They include stories of people like breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsey who is in modern debtor's prison for not paying a medical bill she received in error, and was told to ignore.   Or the people who have lost their homes over an unpaid utility bill.  Or people who lost their home over imminent domain so that cities could generate more tax income.  Or the several stories of people who lost cash they were carrying - life's savings or an insurance payout or government-demanded cash bail - because a drug sniffing dog reacted to the money (or, more likely, reacted to their handler's mood). 

    The ISIL quotes Brenda Grantland, asset-forfeiture defense attorney as saying:
    • Suffolk County, New York. District Attorney James M. Catterton drives around in a BMW 735I that was seized from an alleged drug dealer. He spent $3,412 from the forfeiture fund for mechanical and body work, including $75 for pin-striping.
    • Warren County, New Jersey. The assistant chief prosecutor drives a confiscated yellow Corvette.
    • Little Compton, Rhode Island. The seven member police force received $3.8 million from the federal forfeiture fund, and spent it on such things as a new 23-foot boat with trailer, and new Pontiac Firebirds.
    If you read those links in here, including the ISIL and Directory Journal, and your blood doesn't boil, you might want to check your pulse.  You're probably dead.

    And if you think it can't or won't happen to you because you've done nothing wrong, congratulations; you are dead. 

    Saturday, September 8, 2012

    Gun Salesman of the Year

    The Blaze reports on Smith and Wesson's quarterly results, using the phrase "insane earnings" and "revenues skyrocket".
    “Gross profit for the first quarter was $51.3 million, or 37.7% of net sales, compared with gross profit of $26.5 million, or 28.9% of net sales, for the comparable quarter last year [emphasis added],” the company said in its press release.
    As with most industries, it's best to look at year over year instead of quarter to quarter, but they're done pretty well there, too.  Aside from the slowdown in 2010, it has been pretty steadily upward for the team at S&W. 
     Graph from Zerohedge, who also notes:
    Well one comment: when the final bubble does pop (and here we make the wild assumption that no intelligent extraterrestrial life will be found to bail out the central banks in time), at least everyone will be locked and loaded.
    (I swear I've used almost those same words about extraterrestrials, although I may have edited them out).
    And some highlights from the just released investor presentation:
    • Record-level quarterly sales growth from continuing ops of $136.0M, +48.3% Y/Y
    • Record-level quarterly income from continuing ops of $18.9M, or $0.28 per diluted share
    • Record Adjusted Non-GAAP EBITDAS of $36.1 Million
    • Raised Full Year Fiscal 2013 Financial Guidance
    • Exceeded high end of upwardly revised sales guidance
    • Quarterly unit growth +30.1% vs. market growth +23.5% (Adjusted NICS)
    • Backlog of $392.4M versus $148.8 one year ago
    A 263% change in order backlog!   No wonder they're working extra shifts and adding people.
    I'm sure you've seen this before...

    Smith & Wesson is worth following because as one of the only firearms companies that's publicly traded, it gives us an indication of how the industry is doing. I hope to see Ruger's results soon.