Friday, February 29, 2008

Taking a Slow Boat 

Continuous, unflagging effort, persistence and determination will win. Let not the man be discouraged who has these.
--James Whitcomb Riley

I'm just burned out on being pissed off at Nanny Staters, disgusted with my government officials, and corrupt businesses. I'm going to a "boy's weekend out", hopefully to recharge my batteries. So much is so wrong, it gets very discouraging.

Some parting thoughts:
Well, I'm off to over-eat and drinking like a fish. Also gonna buy some gold, and a shitload of .223 rounds. It's all my little effort to help spur the economy. I'm just that kinda guy.

See ya Monday.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Incompetent Voice 

I would rather have a competent extremist than an incompetent moderate.
--Leon Jaworski
I'm very worried about guns right now.

We keep having these mentally deranged people going out and slaughtering sheeple. The anti-gun people think the way to address it is to take MORE guns away from the sane, law-abiding people. That will make us all safer. The bad guys will go away.

What the fuck is wrong with them?

I'm worried that those of us that recognize the value of privately-held and deployed weapons are quickly losing the hearts and minds of the public at large.

Where is the NRA? Why isn't this organization getting their collective asses on TV every damned time there is a shooting and asking the question, "How many lives would have been saved if the victims weren't in a Gun Free Zone, and thus unarmed? Don't you realize that the bad guys don't obey the laws and the "crazies" don't understand them? Don't you get it that the police are there primarily to investigate crimes, not to stop them? What part of 'self-defense' confuses you?"

I wrote the NRA a year or so ago and told them that I would sign up for their most expensive membership category if they simply STARTED the discussion to normalize California's carry laws. They didn't even have to succeed, just start the ball rolling. No reply.

Since it seems to be inconvenient to get off their asses and get on TV, perhaps they could send out a press release now and again. I went to the NRA-ILA site to see what they've been up to. It looks like a bunch of whining.

They have an article titled, "Following The Playbook To A 'T' " They're bitching about how some anti-gun organization was "exploiting" the NIU shooting:
One week after the shootings at Northern Illinois University, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) reverted to its playbook by exploiting this tragedy to advance its anti-gun political agenda.
Hey numbnuts, how about developing a playbook of your own? At least these gun-grabbers recognize that the public ear is tuned-in to guns when a tragedy occurs. It is an opportunity to get your perspective heard.

Do you somehow feel morally superior because your opponent took advantage of the "tragedy"? How are you going to feel when our elected officials come to take our arms or further restrict our access because they were just, "listening to public opinion"?

This is just disgusting. They are as useless as tits on a bull. These are the bastards that are supposedly on our side. Our opponents must be laughing their asses off.

Ammo storage question: For one of my caches, I intend on taking rounds and placing them in vacuum sealed bags. I'll put 50 or so rounds in each bag, single-thickness in the bags, along with an Oxygen Absorber pouch and a desiccant pouch for moisture. I'll then vacuum seal the bags and place them in a cache.

Does anyone see anything risky with this? They should stay perfectly dry (I may double-bag them) regardless of the conditions in the cache, even if it were directly in the water.

Input will be appreciated.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pay Me Now, or Pay Me Later 

The legacy of Democrats and Republicans approaches: Libertarianism by bankruptcy.
--Nick Nuessle
I've been ranting and raving over the past couple of posts about how the policies and actions of our government - the Federal Reserve Bank in particular - is eroding our financial systems. In my post titled, "A House of Cards" I wrote:
The Fed invent the TAF to allow banks to essentially liquidate loans that the free market has said are worthless. In the event these loans default, the banks are supposed to replace these bad loans that are securing their government borrowings, with good loans.

What happens if the bank can't do that? What if they don't have ANY good loans (or at least not enough to cover their borrowings)? The government will be left holding the bag with these nearly worthless loans. They can either liquidate the bank or find a buyer. Or they can nationalize the bank.
It seems that someone agrees with me. That would be the FDIC, the government agency that liquidates failed banks.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is taking steps to brace for an increase in failed financial institutions as the nation's housing and credit markets continue to worsen.
What the hell could the Fed expect to happen? These banks made poor decisions in regards to these loans. The Fed made the bad decision by trying to prop them up with cheap capital. One way or another, we're all going to pay for this.

The FDIC is technically funded by bank assessments. Just like corporate taxes, the companies don't actually pay the fees/taxes, the consumer does, through higher costs.
"Regulators are bracing for well over 100 bank failures in the next 12 to 24 months, with concentrations in Rust Belt states like Michigan and Ohio, and the states that are suffering severe housing-market problems like California, Florida, and Georgia," said Jaret Seiberg, Washington policy analyst for financial-services firm Stanford Group.
The key to stopping the hemorrhaging will be liquidity. Real liquidity.
In many parts of the country, the housing-market decline has hamstrung banks, and regulators have reported weakening performance of commercial real estate, small business and credit-card loans. Exacerbating the situation is a cash-flow crunch, which makes it harder for banks to obtain funding to originate new loans.
The proposal I spoke about yesterday to get a government guarantee to refinance these sub-prime loans can keep bank failures to a minimum. The banks can restore their liquidity by bundling the loan and the Negative Equity Certificate and selling them on the secondary market. That certificate will be like gold.

And we'll have paid for it. Our tax dollars and the devaluing of the dollar because of our Fiat Currency policies will keep these banks alive.

It has been very interesting watching this whole thing unfold. The big-boy politics are truly fascinating.

It plays like this:

Get the news stations to show vivid images of people being kicked out of their homes by the big, bad banks.

Politicians say it's horrible, but there will be no government bail-out.

Banks float the idea of government participation, not a bail out. Nanny comes to the rescue, pressuring banks to ease up on borrowers. Banks don't like this at all.

Banks get a politician in their pocket. One with ambitions to higher office, or maybe just a huge ego (THIS is the key). Someone with powerful financial ties. The head of the FDIC in this case. Banks float the idea of a government guarantee to help refinance the bad loans. Get the politician to back this idea.

Rivals of the politician - the head of the OTS, in this case - not to be out-done, float their own proposal, offering up even more government resources to "help the little guy". We now have a full-fledged bail-out.

Repeat as necessary.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Charity Case 

Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it.
--John D. Rockefeller

Where's Rockefeller when you need him?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece called, "Brother, can ya spare a trillion?" where I discussed, in part, how the Credit Suisse Group had asked the FDIC to propose a bailout (using the FHA) of bankers and borrowers of sub-prime loans.

Well, the one-ups-manship is in full splendor. Not to be out-done, the head of the OTS (Office of Thrift Supervision) has now proposed a new, albeit similar plan.
Under the regulatory agency's proposal, still in its early stages, these borrowers would refinance into government-insured loans that cover the current value of their homes. The refinancing would pay part of what's owed to the original lender. For the remainder, the lender would get what the plan's backers call a "negative equity certificate." The lender could redeem the certificate if the home is eventually sold at a higher price.
What this means is, a borrower who is "under water" - has more loan than value in his home - can refinance his loan (you usually need 15% or more equity). In this way, the borrower gets to keep his home, even though he can't afford it, and the banks get to fortify their balance sheets because the loan plus the "negative equity certificate" will equal the value of the property.

This certificate will be a government guarantee that the lender will come out whole. No more write-downs, no more foreclosures, no more heads on the chopping block. All very nice and neat.

Sounds good, right? Well, yes and no.

If you are like me, and already own a home, it is great news. If put into place, it will almost immediately stop the massive numbers of foreclosures. That means home values will stop the steep decline we've seen in the past year or so, and prices should begin to stabilize, and maybe even start creeping upwards.

This should also be very good for people that own stocks. As I've discussed before, this sub-prime mess has trickled down to companies and industries that are not even engaged in the mortgage business. They should get a boost in their stock price.

Companies directly tied to the sub-prime mess will really benefit the most. Look what happened today in the market (from the WSJ):
The Dow industrials surged 189.20 points, or 1.5%, to 12570.22 as investors welcomed S&P's affirmation of Ambac and MBIA's AAA credit ratings.
Amback and MBIA are companies that insured the sub-prime loans that had been sold off as securities. If this FHA guarantee goes into effect - and it or something like it will go in place - these insurance companies will be let totally off the hook. So of course their shares soared: They took the insurance premiums, but will have little or no liability should the loans go bad. Not a bad gig if you can get it.

So who gets harmed by this? If you were planning on becoming a new homeowner and were waiting for prices to hit bottom in 2009, you're out of luck. We're probably at or near bottom now (or when this goes into effect).

Clearly, bankers and secondary market investors won't learn from this. Sure, some took hits, a couple of head rolled, but banks like mine that saw this sub-prime lending frenzy for what it was - uncontrolled greed on the part of the banks and borrowers - will now look like idiot as we are punished because we did not take advantage of the gorging while we had the chance. We could have put away serious capital reserves from the profits that could have been made.

And obviously, the lending public will have learned nothing about financial planning and the consequences of your actions.

Well, I take that back. They'll have learned that there is no down-side to borrowing more than you can afford to pay back. Screw up, and Nanny will bail your butt out.

That's a great lesson to be learned. Geez.... class dismissed.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Trusting Your Gut 

Intuition is the supra-logic that cuts out all the routine processes of thought and leaps straight from the problem to the answer.
--Robert Graves

As a follow up to my last post, I thought I'd dig a little deeper on the financial side of our plans.

Back in November of last year, my "gut" told me that the stock market was overheating, it was set for a tumble, and I needed to adjust the investment allocations in my 401(k).

But I hesitated. I hemmed and I hawed and I read and I calculated. I've been a banker my entire adult life, and I have a generally conservative financial outlook. I like to be sure of a situation before I move.

In early December, I finally, "pulled the trigger" and essentially got out of the stock market and into bonds. That indecision - the delay in acting - cost me thousand dollars. Not horrible, but I'd rather have those dollars than not.

Around that same time in October, I was considering buying some gold. My wife and I had actually discussed it in the summer, when prices were in the neighborhood of $650 an ounce. Again, we didn't make a move, even though it had risen into the $800's. Gold is now very near $1,000 an ounce. THAT would have been a very tidy profit.

No, this isn't a coulda-shoulda-woulda post. It's about trusting your instincts.

A year or so ago, I read a book called, Blink. I highly recommend it. It's about how all humans have the ability to assess a situation in the blink of an eye. Think about professional poker players. How are they able to "read" a bluff better than a normal schmoe?

They pay attention and they trust their instincts. They have taken in all of the small, seemingly inconsequential ticks, glances, gestures and other patterns that they have observed over thousands of hands of poker. They may not even know specifically what they have seen in your actions, but their gut tells them that you're bluffing. Or not. And they act accordingly.

The amateur player will generally make the comment of, "I just KNEW he was lying...", as his last chips are being stacked in front of the pro.

So, these poker players aren't really making decisions in the blink of an eye, they are able to take in their accumulated knowledge and experience, and quickly apply it to the situation.

What is your gut telling you about the economy?

Mine says, at a minimum, inflation is going to keep climbing. Our social engineering policies, such as ethanol subsidies will continue to push food prices higher. Our aversion to making real change to improve our energy independence - punching more holes in Alaska, California and the Florida coast, plus building nuclear plants - will continue to push oil prices higher. These higher oil prices will trickle down to all aspects of our lives, as almost everything we consume gets to the store via a big, gas guzzling truck.

The dollar is going to keep dropping. The Fed's insistence in artificially lowering rates to fight inflation and provide liquidity to the market, is causing big sell-offs of dollars. The large investors and nations holding dollars continue to sell them for Euros or other currencies.

Investing in personal residential real estate, at this time, is toxic to your financial health. This sub-prime debacle has caused mortgage lenders to seriously tighten lending standards. This will reduce the number of available buyers, keeping prices down. When combined with the glut of homes coming onto the market at bargain prices (because of foreclosures), the outlook is not rosy. As I've noted before, the last of the sub-prime loans will not reprice until early 2009. The last of the foreclosures won't hit until mid-2009.

Bank stocks, especially large banks, are going to continue taking massive downward hits (although they've climbed as of late). They are getting hit by the double-wammy of having to hold these crap loans on their books (hurting liquidity and earnings) while being pressured by regulators to cut deals with the borrowers. There is a lot of paper-shuffling going on right now. Citigroup (and others) are moving the assets and liabilities of a number of subsidiary companies onto their own balance sheets. The reasons for these moves don't seem to be well understood, but the market, at least for now, likes it. How this helps the fundamentals of their business is a mystery to me.

Taxes are going to climb, especially in "blue states" because of their large welfare programs and shrinking tax payer base. Unemployment is up by over 300,000 people compared to a year ago, to roughly 7.6 million people. Remember, though, that this does not include the 1.7 million people considered, "discouraged or marginally attached".

For now, we're substantially out of the stock market. The most conservative option in my 401(k) plan is a couple of bond funds. We've "banked" the gains we have made over the past years, and we'll be sitting there for a while.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, our new money IS going into the stock market, but in foreign stocks. Europe in particular continues to take advantage of the weak dollar, and is growing. The gradual purchase of stocks is called, "Dollar Cost Averaging". Little bits of money go in so if hits happen, the individual impact is not so bad, but it keeps you invested in the potential of a future upside.

A portion of our cash will go into gold immediately, and more will be purchased similarly to the Dollar Cost Averaging approach to stocks. This is as a hedge against inflation. As I've discussed, money sitting in a savings account right now is actually costing you purchasing power.

Medium-term, we're looking to get out of the People's Republic of California to further strengthen our finances for long-term security. This aspect of our plan requires that the California real estate market does not totally crash over the next few years. My hope is that the bottom will hit in mid-2009, it will stabilize and recover during late-2009 to early-2010, and we can sell with enough equity to purchase a new place for cash. That might be a bit overly optimistic, but we should at least be able to make a sizable down payment.

What's your gut telling you, and what are you doing about it?

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Butter, Guns, Dirt and Ducats 

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
--Charles Darwin
Change. It is a-comin'...

Yesterday, I discussed some signs in both the domestic and international financial markets that have given me some concern. Through the use of fiat currencies, the central banks of the major world financial countries have, in my opinion, artificially propped up the economies of their respective countries.

The sub-prime mess has shown that, "the Emperor has no clothes", how inter-twined the world economy is, and how this practice of printing money when the central banks need it has seriously eroded the purchasing power of the average American.

So what do you do to weather the storm, or perhaps even thrive and profit?

It depends.

Everyone's situation is different. My goals and aspirations are different from the next guy's. I have two kids in college, a wife that works close to home and a career that pays well but takes a great deal of time during "off hours".

Each of us has also got to take a guess at what we think is going to happen. We can hedge our bets by getting educated. Educated by staying informed of issues that may affect our lives.

There is a scale of events that can happen. On the financial side, it can range from a mild, 8-month recession similar to that which occurred in 2001. Or it could be a total collapse of the US and world financial systems, plunging the world into a global depression.

I believe the financial aspect is just a part of what should be included in your plan. I think you need to look at the social aspects as well.

We have been slowly drifting towards a more socialist society over the past 30 years or so. Welfare, food stamps, Section 8 housing, WIC, Medicare, blah, blah, blah. We have Universal Health care, global warming carbon taxes, more restrictive gun access and hate speech laws on the very near horizon. How will these events figure into your preparedness plan?

What happens if the money to pay for all of these services dries up?

What does that event scale look like? I'd say it goes from a slow cut-back in services causing some bitching and moaning, but not a lot of action, to a dramatic elimination of social services down to the bare minimum - police and fire - and these people that have become utterly dependent upon Nanny for their very being will come unglued. It will make the mayhem that occurred in LA after the OJ verdict look like a church picnic.

Lastly, I think you have to assess the timing of these events. Few things actually happen instantaneously. There are usually "trigger" events that foretell of the upcoming event. Once again, staying in tune with what's going on in the world around you is the only way you can keep your fingers on the pulse of change. Read, read and read some more.

What follows is how I see things, what I think is going to happen, when I think it will happen, what I'm doing about it, and why. Again, everyone needs to do their own assessment/response plan for their individual situation and expectation.

What is going to happen? Financially, I think we are headed for a very deep recession, perhaps a depression. So much wealth has been lost by so many people by this sub-prime crap, I think it is too big for even the government to patch back together.

I've discussed in the past how my bank made the conscience decision to stay out of the sub-prime market, yet we're feeling the pain. The trickle-down affect of this is so far reaching, it is astounding.

As an example, a local city, Vallejo, is on the verge of declaring itself bankrupt. Why? Because their social programs have outgrown their income stream. With the home sale market tanking, they are not getting the same level of tax revenues as they have enjoyed in the past. I heard on the local TV news last night that they have 10 firemen (not chiefs) that EACH make in excess of $200,000 a year.

We all know that the state will end up paying for this. They'll buy the cops and the fire fighters, and pay for all of the social services, albeit at a reduced level, but they'll make sure the basics are met.

But what happens with the next city goes tits up? Our state is already $16 billion in the hole (recently upgraded from a mere $14 billion a few weeks ago). How are we supposed to pay for this? Uncle Sugar will have to bail us out. That means you.

California may be the canary in the mine, but this exact problem is a very real likelihood in almost every state in the nation. The financial disaster is already affecting the social aspects of our lives.

At this point in time, I do not see a way out of a significant decline in our financial system (a deep depression) which will be coupled with a massive decline in government-sponsored hand-outs because of a steep decline in tax revenues. This will result in massive, wide-spread violence, looting and death. People that have been wards of the state, or those that have not adequately prepared for a collapse will panic and riot. Desperation, cold and hunger do strange things to normally level-headed people.

You'll be on your own, or with small groups of similarly prepared people.

When is this going to happen? This is the most difficult aspect of this plan, in my opinion. If we knew with certainty when it was going to hit the fan, our plan and action would be easy. No such luck. This is a WAG (Wild Ass Guess), but it's based upon what I see happening and my experience. My perspective could be clouded because of my personal beliefs, prejudices and upbringing. They most likely are. The key is to try and look at the evidence dispassionately. Easier said than done.

Clearly, the financial decline has already begun. Inflation is climbing, real estate values have tanked, social services are beginning to feel the strain. If inflation continues to rise, a recession will be likely (some say we're already in the early stages of one). Recessions lead to layoffs. Layoffs lead to reduced spending levels, and a deepening of the recession. Deep recessions lead to depression.

I don't think it is possible to easily recover from the current downward spiral.

The last of the sub-prime loans are set to re-price in early 2009. The last of the wave of sub-prime-caused foreclosures will be in mid-2009. For real estate, at least, that should be the bottom of the market. Clearly, that assumes no other material economic event occurs in the interim.

For me, this is a potential ray of sunshine into this picture. If the central banks across the world are able to keep bank failures to a minimum over the next year and a half or so, we might dodge the total-collapse scenario. Confidence will have been restored to the secondary markets, market liquidity will be back in play and market-driven rates can once again be established.

My plan, though, assumes the following. This is how I think California will fare, because of the massive social programs that are in place. Your mileage may vary in your state depending upon the depth and breadth of its social services programs:

In the next 0-9 months, we will enter an official recession. This entails greater numbers of people being laid off. Because equity has been sucked out of personal real estate, current home owners will not be able to draw on home equity reserves to weather the storm. They, and other non-homeowners will be forced to rely upon local and state governments for housing, food and clothing. Because of lower tax revenues at the local level, cities and counties will be unable to care for these citizens. The cities and counties will still be able to turn to the state for assistance. There will not yet be civil unrest to any significant extent.

In the next 9-18 months, it gets increasingly ugly. More and more city failures are the result of a deepening recession, now bordering on depression. Layoffs and the lack of personal safety nets are pushing un-manageable numbers of people into government programs, at the same time that the money is drying up. A real sense of panic is starting to take grip on people. Looting and rioting are now common in large city ghettos. What business that once existed have now fled. The massive numbers of people applying for government services have caused riots and looting to begin spreading to the better parts of the large cities and to the surrounding suburbs.

Inflation is rampant. Bank failures become common as they are unable to make home or business loans because of the civil unrest. No one wants to risk capital investment. Food staples are still obtainable, but with increasing difficulty. As long as the bills are paid, utilities are still unaffected. People who are able, are leaving the cities and suburbs in droves.

That's as far out as I feel comfortable taking a stab. There are just so many variables to consider that it becomes fantasy to a certain extent. In my opinion, the end-game of the housing crisis will largely determine how this turns out. If we can weather this, at least for the short-term, we won't be in the shitter.

Long-term, our social structure will absolutely, positively implode. No structure can continue to provide for a growing group that is paid for by a shrinking group. It just won't work. For me, the good news is, if we get through the current rough times, the big social collapse won't happen for 15-20 years.

With all of that being said, what am I doing about it?

I am planning as though there will be a total economic and social collapse in the next 12 months. As I've shown above, I don't think this will happen, but if it does, it's my job to be as prepared for it as possible.

If there is a total collapse, that means, for the most part, money will be useless. Even gold and silver coin or bullion (more on this in a bit). I believe that tangible, usable commodities will have the most value, both for immediate use and for trade or barter.

As the title of this post indicates, my order of priority is food, protection, land and then tangible money.

We currently have 2 months worth of food for 4 adults and the ability to prepare it should "the grid" go down. We have the ability to quickly get this food into our vehicles, and onto our backs to be packed if need be. We increase this storage by about 2 weeks worth of meals each month. I will most likely accelerate that storage plan. For the near-term future, all of our excess cash flow will go into food, firearms or ammo.

Our weapons cache has been supplemented as well. I won't go into great detail on what we have. Suffice it to say we have a number of handguns, shotguns and rifles, and we all know how to use them. Increased levels of ammo are being purchased on a regular basis. I have developed a caching scenario that will allow sufficient home protection, but also make a small number of weapons and ammo accessible should we have to Get Out of Dodge in short order (meaning not being able to return home before leaving).

I don't think it will come to the point of having to fire on people to protect my family and property, but I damned well am not going to risk our lives on that belief. In a less violent scenario, both guns and ammo would be extremely valuable trading commodities.

The gaping weakness in my personal plan is land. I live in a suburb of the San Francisco Bay Area. I have a tidy mortgage on my home and land. If the economic collapse scenario happens, I clearly won't be able to make house payments or pay taxes.

To address this, I'm taking a trip to Idaho in March. It is our intent to move from California sometime after our boys get out of college. I'm thinking in 2010 or 2011. If Idaho looks acceptable, we may purchase land NOW to build on later. This would give us the added benefit of having an unencumbered piece of property to plop a trailer on if things go worse-case.

So where does gold or silver coin fall into our plans? As you can see, it is at the bottom of my list, but I think it is still an important part to be considered. In a total collapse scenario, gold and silver will be mostly useless. You can't eat it or wear it. It represents the potential of a commodity. A bucket of wheat is a commodity.

Still, a total collapse is unlikely, in my opinion. Gold or silver can act as an excellent hedge against inflation, and is easily convertible to cash when you need it. I will most likely move 25-50% of my current cash reserves into gold coin or bullion. I don't see gold prices falling any time in the near future.

So there you have it. My take on what's going to happen and how I'm preparing. I hope I miss my predictions by a mile.

The real beauty of a plan like this is, even if the worse-case scenario does not happen, you still have the goods, land and gold you acquired during your planning process. I think it would be a mistake to go into debt to supply your larder, unless you knew for a fact that the following day society was going to dissolve.

Keep informed. If you don't have one, open a Gmail email account and set up Google Alerts to inform you when key words and phrases hit the Internet. Brady. Inflation. "Market Crash". You get the idea. You will get current information on topics that matter to you and your plan, without having to spend the time to find it.

Knowledge is your friend. Ignorance gets you dead.

I saw a quote on one of the survival/preparedness sites (sorry, don't remember where) that I simply love: "The only thing harder than preparing ahead of time is having to explain why you didn't."

Truer words were never spoken.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

House of Cards 

It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours.
--Harry S. Truman
A buddy of mine called me on my way home yesterday (did you see the eclipse? - very cool) about his plan to buy a bunch of gold and silver coin. He was concerned that with the current economic climate, he wanted the security of some tangible assets.

I could not disagree with his reasons. In fact, I told him I was considering a similar move.

I told him about a meeting I held yesterday for our Enterprise Risk Management Committee. We use this committee to act as a crystal ball, peering into the future and guiding moves to either lessen the negative impact or increase the profit for a given event.

Over the past 6 or 8 months, there have been a number of these events that, by themselves, are perhaps interesting, but not of real concern. When taken in concert, I'm beginning to have some worries. Real worries. On a personal level.

The events and players:

Sub-prime loans. This problem, I think, has brought to light the weak underpinnings of the US and global financial markets, and it is now undermining the whole of it. Low quality, high risk, high rate home loans.

Fiat Currency. Huh? Car money? No, a fiat currency is one that is not based upon a tangible asset - i.e., gold or silver - but upon the, "full faith and credit" of the issuing government. The US and the whole of the G7 have fiat currency.

The problem with this is, when they need more money, they just print it. No need to stack up bricks of gold. Simply turn on the printing presses. The result is it lowers the value of the currency. More of something - without any underlying collateral - makes it less valuable. Supply and demand. It is a major contributor to inflation.

Capital markets. The financial strength of the US and the world is based, in large part, on the flow of capital - liquidity - between businesses and individuals. A typical example is mortgage loans. A bank lends you money to buy a house. You get the cash, they get a promise from you to pay a certain amount over an agreed upon time frame.

The banks then take that promise from you, and sell it for a profit. You got $100,000 from the bank, and they sell it to the secondary market for $101,000. The secondary market investor bases his purchase price upon your creditworthiness and the value of the collateral securing the loan.

The bank can now lend another $100,000 and your payments go to the person that bought your promise to pay. Everyone is happy: You got your house, the bank got their profit, and the investor got their income stream. Well, that's how it's supposed to work.

Government borrowings by banks. All central banks have programs to allow private banks to borrow from them for short-term liquidity purposes. The banks are required to pledge collateral - usually mortgages - as security for the borrowings. There are certain quality requirements that must be met for the loans to be used as collateral. This requirement was changed with the introduction in December 2007 of the Term Auction Factility (TAF). It allows banks to bid for money from the Fed, and, "... allowing the Federal Reserve to inject term funds through a broader range of counterparties and against a broader range of collateral than open market operations,".

That means that crap loans that the secondary market would not buy, can now be used as collateral for additional borrowings.

These borrowings have gone through the roof. In November of 2007, all banks in the entire US had total borrowings of $366 million. On December 1, 2007, that total had risen to $15 billion. On January 1, 2008, it had skyrocketed to over $45 billion. Take a look at the St. Louis Federal Reserve page. Notice that, historically, since 1919 or so, borrowings have run in the sub-billion dollar range. One noticeable spike in 1985. And then nowadays. Yikes.

So why the concern on my part?

The Fed sees US banks having problems with their liquidity. No one on the secondary market will buy the sub-prime loans because they are utter crap. The trust element in these loans - the appraisals which certified the value of the collateral, as well as the creditworthiness of the borrowers - have been shown to be wildly overstated.

The Fed invent the TAF to allow banks to essentially liquidate loans that the free market has said are worthless. In the event these loans default, the banks are supposed to replace these bad loans that are securing their government borrowings, with good loans.

What happens if the bank can't do that? What if they don't have ANY good loans (or at least not enough to cover their borrowings)? The government will be left holding the bag with these nearly worthless loans. They can either liquidate the bank or find a buyer. Or they can nationalize the bank.

Sound far fetched?

It just happened to Northern Rock bank on Sunday in Great Britain.
The decision to nationalise marks the failure of a five-month effort to sell the stricken lender, which last September suffered from the first serious run on a British bank since the 19th century.
The European Central Bank and the Bank of England have both allowed their member-banks to borrow government funds collateralized by sub-prime loans. Just like our Fed has decided to do.

So we've got the very real possibility that sometime in the very near future, we're going to have one or more huge banks become nationalized here in the US (Northern Rock is the 5th largest mortgage lender in the UK). That means that Uncle Sugar will be competing directly against privately operated banks for your business.

The regulator will officially become the operator.

Your government will decide who is able to borrow, and who is not. Your government will be privy to confidential insider information that, while not illegal, may not be in your best interest if Nanny knew about it (tax strategies, etc.).

"So what?" you say. "How will this mess affect ME directly?"

Because of this need to prop up these banks with easy access to money, the Fed must continue to push down rates. As demand for these funds increases, the Fed artificially keeps rates low by printing more money. Literally.

This causes and exacerbates inflation. Your personal purchasing power is diminished.

This rising inflation makes the profits of business less valuable as well. This pushes down stock prices. Your 401(k) or IRA are most likely invested in the stock market. The Dow Jones Average has dropped 15% since October, and about 10% since December alone.

Let's say all of your money is in the bank. In a safe and sound savings account. Not so much. Rates have long been anemic and will not even keep pace with inflation. The longer you keep your money in the bank, the less you are able to buy with it. Oops!

Now that I've blown this sunshine up your collective skirts, I'll make you wait until tomorrow to discuss some strategies to weather this storm. A teaser: Remember, if there is a wide-spread financial collapse here in the US, your purchasing power may be one of the least worrisome aspects of your life. The social decline will most surely trump the financial decline...

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Nanny, May I? 

Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred.
--Jacques Barzun
This one may actually do it. I fully expect the vein, viciously throbbing in my forehead, to splatter all over my monitor, ending my life in a final, gruesome puddle.

The legislature of the People's Republic of California are considering getting into the business of helping you pay for your car. As long as it's the right kind of car.

Now, there have often been state-sponsored rebates and such, but this is the first time where buyers of the "wrong" car will have money seized, and it will be given to buyers of "good" cars.
This week, the California Assembly is expected to vote on the California Clean Car Discount Act, which, if passed, would be the nation's first "feebate" law, imposing charges and granting rebates based on a vehicle's emission of carbon dioxide and other gases.

One-time registration fees of up to $2,500 would be levied on new gas guzzlers, such as Hummers, Dodge Vipers and Chevy Tahoes. Some cleaner sport utility vehicles, pickups and minivans would be exempt from any charge, while the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra and other fuel-efficient cars would get hefty rebates.
This is absolutely stunning. A state government is directly punishing one business to the benefit of another. And it all sounds so reasonable:
Say you buy a car that coughs out a lot of greenhouse gases. Should you pay more for the privilege of polluting?

And say your neighbor buys a car that spews out far less. Should he be rewarded for helping to save the planet?
Well, clearly the answer is a resounding, "Yes! Yes! Oh, Yes!". The eco-freak must be filling their recycled, sustainable species, carbon-neutral panties with, uhm, carbon-based fluids. Eww.

Look at the "logic" put forth by the local academia:
"Industry argues that market signals don't exist for consumers to buy low-greenhouse-gas and fuel-efficient vehicles," said Daniel Sperling, director of the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies and a member of the Air Resources Board. "This bill fixes the market forces."
Translation: The market doesn't want this crap, so the do-gooders in Sacramento will force it on you, you stupid, stupid people.

I am in an insane asylum, plain and simple. The usual suspects of the eco-freak brigade are nearly apoplectic in their glee.
A federal carbon tax in the U.S. appears to be a political dead letter, but all sorts of interesting experiments in carbon pricing are underway regionally.


Although not quite a carbon tax, the system does establish clear price signals for energy efficiency, and such feebate systems are thought to be an improvement over CAFE.
So sorry we couldn't make it a full-fledged tax, you socialist prick.

One silver lining to this storm cloud:
Under the bill, the air board would rank passenger vehicles, beginning with 2011 models, according to the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases they emit.
I should be gone from this festering boil of a state by then, so let them go to it. I'll be laughing so hard that my carbon output will be significantly increase. Send me a bill.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

National Pride 

Pride is a personal commitment. It is an attitude which separates excellence from mediocrity.
What is pride? To me, it's something in which you can feel good about contributing.
pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself
You can be proud of a home you build, the work you do at the homeless shelter or how you carry ourself in public. You can be proud of your kids when they hit a home run, graduate from school or invent a product because you have - generally - contributed to their skill, knowledge or perseverance.

I don't think you can be proud of something over which you have not contributed, nor can you change. Black Pride. White Pride. Male Pride. Female Pride. Gay Pride. Irish Pride. German Pride. You get the idea.

You had nothing to do with those things. They just "are". No matter what choices you make, you'll always be those things - have those traits. How could you be proud of that? You didn't do anything to get there.

Some, maybe most, will disagree with that perspective. Bummer. It's how I look at things. I care about accomplishment, not inheritance - be it money, looks or ethnicity.

Michelle Obama is getting slapped around today for a quote she made on American pride. She said, in essence, that this is the first time she has been proud to be an American in her entire adult life.

Most of the people slamming her are questioning her patriotism and political savvy. It hit me from the other side: This has been the first period in my adult life (actually my whole life) where I have not been proud to be an American. This troubles me deeply.

I started this blog four years ago after I began seeing this country going to shit. What really troubled me was that I was actually considering leaving this country. Hitting the ex-patriot route in Mexico or Costa Rica. Perhaps elsewhere.

In my eyes, our country had turned the bend in the road, and there was no coming back. Back in 2005 I wrote this:
People react very strongly when I tell them that, because of shit like this, I may leave the US when I retire in 12 years. Mexico or Costa Rica. "How could you abandon your country?" is the usual refrain.

"This" isn't my country. My country values personal freedom and responsibility above all else. My country values the individual and his or her right to make decisions about themselves and their family. As long as my actions don't infringe on your right to happiness, stay out of my face.

I will work my hardest over the next 12 years to help right the ship, but I'm not optimistic. We have vast numbers of Americans that actually want this type of intrusion into our lives. Welfare junkies on the left. Censorship zealots on the right.

It's feeling kinda lonely here in the middle.
Right now, I feel like my country is a child that has gone astray - gotten into drugs or, more accurately, is running around with the wrong crowd.

I still love my kid - and my country - with all of my heart, but I sure as hell am not proud. My country has become a fat, bloated, socialist also-ran. We've lost our national purpose.

We need a tough-love program to get things back on track. Our country needs leaders, not panderers. The sense of individualism and pride of personal accomplishment will, ironically, re-instill a feeling of community. And of pride.

I'm trying to do my little part by educating people on what we used to be, where I think we should be headed and what the Constitution says we should be. Again in 2005, I wrote:
I've been verbally abused as "abandoning ship". I disagree. I came to this decision 3 years ago, and said I would work my hardest over the next 15 years to help right the ship. If it isn't fixed by that time, to me it isn't America. Oh sure, that's what it says on the money and on the official stationary, but the ideal of America will have been lost for me, and it will have become just another collection of people in a smattering of towns across a souless land.
America has to be more than a slogan and a flag. It has to be a way of life. A belief. A part of your being.

I want to again be proud of this country I love.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Vittles, and such 

Red meat is not bad for you. Now blue-green meat, that’s bad for you!
--Tommy Smothers
I recently added Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) to our home disaster supplies and Bug Out Bags. Since I've never eaten these before, I decided to give them a try.

I purchased some complete meals from www.CheaperThanDirt.com. They ran about $4 each in a case of 12. They have a main course, 2 packs of crackers and jelly, an energy bar, coffee, sugar, salt, pepper, plastic spoon, handi-wipe and a food heater.

The case came with 4 different entrees, so I decided to try the Chicken Breast Strips in Salsa. The heater had instructions that basically said to open the bag, slip in the food pouch, add some water, get the heater board-thing wet for about a minute, then wrap it up and wait 10 minutes or so for it to heat up the meal.

I followed the instructions to the letter. After 10 minutes, the heater bag had expanded a bit, and was pretty hot. But, there was this powdery crap all over the food bag. Someone help me here: Is this normal, for this powdery (now wet) stuff to be all over the bag, or did I have a bad heater?

Anyways, since I was at home, I opened the heater bag and rinsed off the food pouch. I cut open one of the ends, and it smelled pretty good. A quick taste showed that it was WAY under seasoned. I added the salt and pepper, and I must say, it was pretty good. For a meal in a bag that has a 5-year shelf life, I was impressed.

Except for one thing: De-caffeinated coffee! You've got to be kidding me. If I'm drinking coffee, I want my caffeine! Otherwise, it's like drinking alcohol-free beer. There oughta be a law.

On a related food note, I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was going to try and drop some weight. A buddy of mine read this blog and called me up. At the beginning of January, he had started the NutriSystems diet. In one month, he dropped 20 pounds!

I told him I was thinking about doing that as well, and he told me to save my money. He said that the key is simply to eat a bunch of smaller meals throughout the day. Breakfast, break, lunch, break, dinner, dessert. Small portions in the 200-250 calorie range. Veggies are unrestricted at any time of the day.

I'll be damned if it hasn't worked for me as well. Ten pounds in 2 weeks (woo hoo!). And this time frame includes two MAJOR cheats. One on Superbowl, and one last weekend when I made my World Famous Cioppino.

It was a little tough the first day or two, but it's been a piece of cake ever since. For the breaks, I'm usually at work. I just crack open a box of raisins, some home-made jerky or a couple of those 100 calorie snack packs (THOSE are expensive as hell, though).

No hunger pangs - in fact I usually have to make myself eat all of the meals (I set alarms on my cell phone). The philosophy is that your body is like a fire: Feed it small amounts of fuel and it burns hotter and more completely. Dump on a large log, and most of it goes unburned.

Makes sense to me, and it seems to be working!



Thursday, February 14, 2008

Well, duh! 

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe.
--Albert Einstein
Another gun-free zone has had another shooting.
As many as 20 people were reportedly shot after a gunman opened fire in a classroom at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill., according to local police and university sources.
I just checked, and it appears as though the whole state of Illinois is a gun-free zone. No one but LEOs can carry. I guess when they were passing around copies of the Bill of Rights, the sheet with the Second Amendment must have been misplaced.


It's too early to tell if any were killed, but they do say the shooter was parading around with a shotgun. I wonder how many followed the instructions of their Emergency Guide and cowered like sheep before the slaughter (see page 7).
Keep quiet and act as if no one is in the room.
Yeah, that worked well at Virgina Tech, I'm sure it was successful here as well.

Will we never learn?

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Brother, can ya spare a trillion? 

Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something.
--Frederick Smith
The risk/reward models for all aspects of life - at least here in America - keep getting dumped on their ear.

I've talked quite a bit lately about the sub-prime mortgage mess, and how it had trickled down to my bank. A bank that had made the conscience decision to not participate in these loans. In a rant called, "You Too, Shall Pay", I made this observation/prediction:
The only "logical" solution will be a government cash infusion or, more likely, a guarantee.
Today in the Wall Street Journal, there is an article titled, "Worried Bankers Seek to Shift Risk to Uncle Sam".
The banking industry, struggling to contain the fallout from the mortgage debacle, is urgently shopping proposals to Congress and the Bush administration that could shift some of the risk for troubled loans to the federal government.

One proposal, advanced by officials at Credit Suisse Group, would expand the scope of loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration. The proposal would let the FHA guarantee mortgage refinancings by some delinquent borrowers.
Sadly, it was not that difficult of a prediction. We have seen the federal government, "ride to the rescue" since the Great Depression, but more often and with broader societal consequences in the past few decades.

The biggest example of this, to date at least, was Katrina. This demonstrated that people who had made the decision to live below sea-level, that routinely re-elected officials that were squandering their tax dollars, and that chose to ignore multiple warnings that "the big one is coming" had no negative consequences of their decisions.

Sorry. Some did have consequences. Many had to give up their government-paid housing for alternate government-paid housing.

This is just mind boggling to me. If you can't foot the bill yourself, or get insurance to hedge your bet, why in the hell should I have to subsidize your bad decisions with my taxes?

FEMA bought over 125 THOUSAND trailers before and after Katrina. At least 10,000 people STILL live in them. How do I know this? Because the bastards are now suing FEMA because of some health concerns. So really, they're suing you and me.

They have lived in housing I helped pay for, and now they're thanking me with a lawsuit.

Sadly, they'll win and the lesson learned will be, "Don't worry, Uncle Sugar will take care of you, no matter how stupid, cheap or lazy you may be. Have a nice day!".

The quote up top talked about taking risk - the fear of failure - with the implication that there may be a reward. That paradigm has changed: There is no risk any more, as the potential losses are now non-existent.

My guess is that the American automobile industry will be next in line for a hand-out.

This new outlook on life will bite us very hard in the ass...

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Welcome To Irrelevancy 

Some things you must always be unable to bear. Some things you must never stop refusing to bear. Injustice and outrage and dishonor and shame. No matter how young you are or how old you have got. Not for kudos and not for cash. Your picture in the paper nor money in the bank, neither. Just refuse to bear them.
--William Faulkner
My utter contempt and disgust with our Congress has no boundaries.

These bastards have sunk to new lows over the, "warrant-less wiretapping" bill. It appears as though the just-approved Senate version will be a slam-dunk through the House.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
There is no qualifying statement that allows for the amendment to be overridden because some pantie-weights in DC have wet themselves. It is plain, simple and straight-forward in design and intent.

How can something like this be approved, let alone allowed to stand by the SCOTUS? It is a bold-faced slap in the face to the fourth amendment. It is not even marginally Constitutional. Yet, it will stand.

Much to my surprise, ass-hat Christopher Dodd expressed my sentiments the best:
But with Democrats defecting to the White House plan, he acknowledged that the national security issue had won the day in the Senate, even among many of his Democratic colleagues. “Unfortunately, those who are advocating this notion that you have to give up liberties to be more secure are apparently prevailing,” Mr. Dodd said. “They’re convincing people that we’re at risk either politically, or at risk as a nation.”
What these bastards are doing is killing the country. We continue to erode the Constitution in the name of safety. We have turned into a bunch of fucking cowards. We are giving Radical Islam a victory by changing the very soul of our country.

The kicker on this is that these cocksuckers will also give a pass to the telecom companies that broke federal law.
With resistance led by Mr. Dodd and Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, critics of the administration’s plan argued that it effectively rewarded phone companies by providing them with legal insulation for actions that violated longstanding law and their own fiduciary responsibilities to their customers. Immunity would protect the phone companies from some 40 lawsuits now pending that charge the firms broke the law by taking part in the program.
Let me see a show of hands of people that don't think massive amounts of money exchanged hands over this?

Shitting on the Constitution and wiping your ass with hundred dollar bills. What could possibly be more dishonorable?

This country has devolved into a spineless, shit-hole of payoffs, bribes and insider deals. Our elected representatives regularly legislate to increase the powers of the federal government, and make the individual less relevant. Actually, irrelevant.

I am numb.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Another Scam 

Could people be trained to be less gullible? Or are you as stuck with gullibility as you are with skin colour?
--Keith Henson
Most folks have heard about and received the Nigerian email scam. It usually goes something like this: You get an email from a Nigerian banker that has discovered a large sum of money in the name of a long lost relative. Some relative you've never heard of.

This guy is worried that the money is going to be seized by his corrupt government, and wants to help you out. He'll give you the lion's share of the money - he only wants a little for his trouble - but he needs some cash up front so that he can arrange things to get the money to you. You only need to send him $5 or $10 thousand dollars, and you'll be rich beyond your wildest dreams.

Of course, it's a scam. Your money is gone forever, and some guy is in Iyan up to his ass (go on.... you know you want to click it and see what it is.....)

If you look at the email carefully, you'll see that your beneficiary really doesn't have a lot of specific, personal information. That's because this same email was sent to tens of thousands of email recipients. They're phishing for suckers.

A new scam has recently popped up on the Internet. It's a death threat.
The Division of Public Safety is issuing a public safety alert after receiving numerous inquiries concerning a threatening e-mail that has been circulating around campus. This e-mail is from an alleged ‘hit man’ who makes a death threat against his target, the recipient of the e-mail. The sender then promises the termination of the contract in exchange for money.
These guys must work for the government: They recognize that fear is a great motivator. Do you want to risk this being a hoax? Is it really worth it to have some guy in a black stocking mask show up at your home?

I'm going to bet that this scam is wildly successful.

What I find interesting is that if you key in "email death threat" into Google, you get a ton of hits, but they're all from local newspapers or agencies - nothing on the national level.

As with any email you receive from someone you don't know, or aren't expecting, don't open it! It is most likely spam, has a good chance of having some sort of virus or bot attached to the message, and is a general waste of time to read.

If you do look at one, look for personal, specific information. Remember, they can say they know where you live, where you work, your dog's name, etc., but do they disclose that information in this initial message? No, they don't.

Obviously, if they do have this information, call the cops. You're being stalked! Boooooo!

Update: Here's a copy of one of the emails.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Disaster Preparedness Kits 

Despair is most often the offspring of ill-preparedness.
--Don Williams, Jr.
I spent a good part of this weekend getting our home disaster supplies reorganized.

I was reading some site, and they were talking about how you need to be able to "bug out" under certain circumstances. If your disaster supplies are in non-portable containers, you may have difficulty bringing your stuff with you.

I'm sure you all remember the Oakland Firestorm in 1991. My grandfather lived in the Oakland hills at the time. I remember calling him to see if he was OK. He said he could see the smoke "way over near Lake Temescal" and not to worry about him. Ten minutes later, he called me saying the police were requiring him to "bug out". All he had time to grab was 5 old tool chests full of gold and silver coins. He was a self-employed contractor, and those coins were his personal retirement plan.

I live a stones-throw away from the Sacramento river. It has levies that are in desperate need of repair. It is not beyond imagination that these levies could burst en masse (one or two usually breakdown each year) and flood my town. And being California, we've always got the earthquakes, but those would most likely be "hunker down" situations.

Our supplies were in three, 15 gallon Rubbermaid bins. Two of them in particular were heavier than hell. I had difficulty moving them out of the storage room. It would have been impossible for my wife.

So, I purchased 4 used German duffel bags from www.CheapThanDirt.com, and broke the supplies down so that each bag contains food and supplies for 1 person for one month. They are easily portable, as the duffels have two shoulder straps so they can be carried like a back pack if necessary.

This also got me off my butt to break-down the food supplies. We've long had one of the vacuum sealers, but it had finally given up the ghost, so we ran out and picked up the newest model. Very impressive. Very quick and efficient.

I took the 10 pound sacks of rice, beans, sugar and flour, and broke them down into 2 pound packages. I had read on a site that if these staples were taken out of their original packaging and vacuum sealed, they would virtually last forever - the absence of oxygen and all.

BTW, when vacuum sealing ground flour, I found that it worked best to first put the flour into Ziplock bags that I manually squeezed the air from, then I put the Ziplock into a vacuum bag, and vacuum sealed the bag-in-a-bag. Otherwise, the vacuum sucked the fine flour dust into the sealer. It looked like a problem in the making.

I think I'll still do my normal cycling of staples by consuming and replacing them before their recommended due date, but I'll keep one, two-pound package of each, and let them go for 5 years or so. I'll then crack them open and see if they're still edible.

I also picked up some civilian MRE's that supposedly have a 5 year shelf life. I've never eaten these, and have heard stories - both good and bad - about their flavor. I'll crack one open this weekend and give it a whirl.

My last thing to do is to make up 2 more Penny Stoves to give each bag a means for cooking food and sterilizing water. These things are amazingly light and efficient. I have found that the yellow bottles of Heet fuel line anti-freeze to be the best fuel and container. Heet is denatured alcohol, which is actually cheaper when purchased in bulk, but more difficult to carry. I just throw a couple of the Heet bottles in the bag, and that will provide fuel for at least a week.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Pushed Too Far? 

All oppression creates a state of war.
--Simone de Beauvoir
It sure seems like there have been a lot of shootings in the news lately. From what I've seen, they've all been in private homes or in "Gun Free Zones". I'm sure that The Brady Bunch will be jumping all over these as further rationale to further restrict our gun rights.

It only makes sense to do this. I'm sure it was only an oversight on the part of the shooters that they didn't see the "Gun Free Zone" signs. Since it was just a mistake on the part of the shooters, there's no need to allow the common guy the ability to defend himself. The cops will take care of it for us.

Oh, wait. This one happened at a police station and the city council hall.
A gunman killed five people and wounded two Thursday night at a police station and City Council meeting in suburban St. Louis before officers shot and killed him, police said.
I'm going to ask this clearly so any of you gun grabbers that read this may be able to comprehend its significance:

If the police are unable to protect you, even at a police station, why in the hell do you think they'd be able to protect you anywhere else?

Enough about this, though. I really didn't want to preempt the upcoming Brady Blitz, I really wanted to discuss the guy that did the shooting.

The thing in the article that caught my attention was this:
"The only way that I can put it in a context that you might understand is that my brother went to war tonight with the people that were of the government that was putting torment and strife into his life," Thornton told KMOV.

"And he had spoke on it as best he could in the courts, and they denied him all access to the rights of protection, and therefore he took it upon himself to go to war and end the issue."
Now, this guy sounds like he may have had a screw or two that had come loose. He did a number of things that disrupted the City Council meetings. He'd been arrested for this, but could not seem to get satisfaction with his local government.

I found this very disturbing:

According to a Thursday article written by the First Amendment Center -- before the shooting -- Thornton asked to speak during public-comment portions of 2006 meetings on specific topics but instead discussed his alleged harassment by city officials.

In his lawsuit, Thornton said his First Amendment rights had been violated. But in a January 28 ruling, U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry said that the public-comment portion of a meeting could be reserved for certain groups and topics of discussion.

Rather than discussing the subject at hand, Perry wrote, "Thornton engaged in personal attacks against the mayor, Kirkwood and the city council. ... Because Thornton does not have a First Amendment right to engage in irrelevant debate and to voice repetitive, personal, virulent attacks against Kirkwood and its city officials during the comment portion of a city council public hearing, his claim fails as a matter of law," according to the First Amendment Center.

That just doesn't seem right. If it was a public comment period, let the public comment. Simply because the guy is a pain in the ass should not be a valid reason to silence him. Even pains in the ass have their rights.

Do you know who was going through my mind as I was reading this article? Timothy McVeigh. Someone else who snapped over what they perceived to be government injustice.

I'm not going to defend either of these guy's actions, but I sure understand their frustration. You observe or experience great injustice at the hands of your government, and you snap.

You would hope that government officials would recognize incidents such as these as wake-up calls, and not dismiss them as the "actions of a mad man".

But they won't. They see incidents such as these as infringements upon their power. And those infringements must be crushed or silenced at all costs.

To that end, we will get more restrictive gun laws, and "public safety" will be the excuse. More "mad men" will twist off and more violence will be the result. More laws will be enacted.

This cycle of further erosion of our rights without addressing the underlying reasoning of the "incidents" will continue until the "mad men" become the majority.

Now those will be interesting times....

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Eco-freaks Just Desserts 

While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions.
--Stephen R. Covey
It seems to be a common trait among the eco-freaks. They see something that might, just might, be a problem, and they scamper around like chickens with their heads cut off, all cackling, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

There is rarely any reasoned discussion or study. We must act before it is too late!

Predictably, there come consequences - usually negative ones - when you act before thinking. Chalk up the rush to bio-fuels as the latest victim of the Chicken Littles.
While the U.S. and others race to expand the use and production of biofuels, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests these gasoline alternatives will actually boost carbon-dioxide levels and thereby aggravate the problem of global warming.
Bio-fuels will actually increase CO2 levels. Gawd, that's rich! Don't ya just hate it when scientific evidence trumps hype?
Scientists have long touted the benefits of biofuels because growing biofuel feedstock would remove greenhouse gases from the air, while gasoline and diesel fuel take carbon from the ground and put it in the air. However, the earlier studies didn't account for one hard-to-measure factor: The decision by farmers world-wide to convert forest and grasslands to grow feedstock for the new biofuels.
Another factor that I have never seen discussed is the CO2 that is produced as a result of the fermentation process, not just burning the fuel. When you're making ethanol, you start out making a mash, just like beer. You then refine the mash liquid by distilling it to reduce the water content.

The fermentation process produces amazing amounts of CO2. In my early days of beer brewing, I had occasion to not monitor the blow-off valves of my brewing buckets, and they became clogged. The buckets lids would explode off and paint everything in the room in brew and yeast.
Is this being included in the CO2 production calculations? Doubt it...

In January, I wrote about how the rush to bio-fuels was making people go hungry because all of the fields that were producing food corn were being converted to bio-fuel corn. Yet another example of acting without supporting information.
In one of the Science papers, researchers concluded that corn-based ethanol would double greenhouse gases over 30 years instead of leading to an anticipated 20% reduction.
Do you think the eco-freaks will get a clue? Do you think they will stop and think about the harm they may be doing by acting with incomplete information? Do you think they will take off their blinders and act rationally?

Yeah, me neither....

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Good Bye, Sweet America! 

Communism is the death of the soul. It is the organization of total conformity - in short, of tyranny - and it is committed to making tyranny universal.
--Adlai E. Stevenson
The title of this post is the favorite exclamation of one of the radio show hosts I listen to each morning (Armstrong & Getty.... yes, you can get them via the Internet each morning 6-10am PST). He uses it each time he sees something where America slips closer to becoming the ultimate Nanny State.

This weekend, I was trying to put together a piece on the differences between fascism, socialism and communism. Instead of having differences, they all had a single, consistent theme: A strong, centralized, authoritarian government. Tyranny.

As part of my research, I ran across The Communist Manifesto. For some reason, I have never had to read nor discuss this (shocking, considering I attended San Francisco State University - I figure it must have been part of the student manual). So I'm browsing through it, and run across the "10 Planks" of the Manifesto.

We are so screwed, because basically, we're already there. A strong breeze from behind will push us over the line on all counts. Here they are:
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralisation of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc, etc.
What a nightmare. Just think about the Kelo decision, asset forfeiture laws, the Federal Reserve system, minimum wage laws, agri-business and government operation (as opposed to simple regulation) of all parts of our lives. It is frightening.

But the best was left for last. It's pure genius: Socialize education so the state is free to indoctrinate at will. Control the message, and it becomes the truth. As time passes, the concept of the individual is replaced by collectivism. It takes a village.

I swear, I read that list and it was like a punch in the gut. Good Lord, Marx and Engels published this document in the mid-1800's, and we're living it today.

I don't know what you do, though. The courts debase the Constitution, and the education establishment indoctrinates our youth. What do you do about this?

Good bye, sweet America, indeed.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

We're Number One!! 

Our government... teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.
--Louis Brandeis
Not surprisingly, California got the highest marks from the recent Brady Bunch ranking of state gun laws.
The state with the strongest gun laws is California with 79 points, followed by New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maryland.
The Brady's had a number of criteria that they used to rank each of the states:
The Brady Scorecards are designed so that states can score up to 100 points across five major categories of laws: Curbing Firearm Trafficking; Strengthening Brady Background Checks; Child Safety; Banning Military-style Assault Weapons; and making it harder to carry Guns In Public Places. The national state-by-state scores are available in complete category-by-category detail at www.bradycampaign.org.
These bastards do their evil by trying to push the idea that guns themselves cause crime. An honest, legitimate ranking would be to compare gun laws (or lack thereof) with actual crime statistics. Of course, they can't do that because those statistics overwhelmingly show that states with "loose laws" have markedly lower incidents of violent crime.

These people are professionals and win most of their battles on the PR front. Take a look at the opening paragraph of this story:
PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Officials in most states have done little to keep criminals and other dangerous people from easily obtaining guns, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The new redesigned scorecards are being released today for all 50 states.
This "story" was nothing more than a press release. It was copied, in its entirety, by Fox News, and presented on their website under, "Latest News" . They even included the press release headline of, "New Brady Scorecard Shows Most States Lack Common Sense Gun Restrictions".

Fair and balanced? How about Hook, Line and Sinker...

Like I said, nothing surprising here. One nugget of information was quite useful:
The rankings show that most states don't have laws to effectively combat gun trafficking. States like Arizona, Kentucky, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah have no laws on the books to effectively combat firearm trafficking or to prevent dangerous people from gaining easy access to guns.
Ahhh. More states to add to my list of places to consider for relocation. Thanks, Brady!

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