Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Hillary Bot

I track politics quite a bit, as an analyst for the bureau, ok, for the fun of it.  This means I am abreast of the latest about Hillary's email server.  As such, I can't seem to understand how her supporters still, well, support her.

The obligatory, these days, disclaimer must be said, and then mostly disbelieved, that I don't care that Hillary is a woman.  I only care that she is a bad candidate.  She's not very good.

It amuses me to no end that her campaign has reliably been forced to trot out the fact that she is incompetent as proof she is not a criminal.  What do I mean?

The most recent bit, trotted out by her campaign, is that she doesn't even know how to use a computer.  She used a Blackberry because she knows how.

Wow, where to start.  This woman would have us believe she's competent to run the free world but not competent to use a computer?  That she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that her home server was secure but she doesn't know how to use a computer?  I can go on like this for a while.

A reasonably wise and competent leader would at least attend a class, break out one of the 'Idiots' books, or hire someone to personally teach her.  She's rich enough.  The fact that she hasn't even, minimally, done this suggests that she's just not that interested in being the best possible public servant she can be.

That isn't really a surprise; being a servant isn't part of her character.  She's an 'elite' in her mind.  She's better than the rest of us and we should be ecstatic, I tell you, ecstatic to let her be involved in running things because, well, there's something or other she has or does that makes it all better.

Except that it doesn't.  She wasn't particularly good as Secretary of State.  She was almost a non-entity as a senator.  As First Lady, her only policy effort failed, thank goodness, and has recently been held up by a federal court as a model of mendacity.

The only thing she shows any aptitude for is lying, although she's incompetent at that too.  Bill would lie and then stick with his story.  Hillary tells one lie, gets called out, shifts to a new lie, gets called out, then, sometimes, shifts back to the original lie hoping we've all forgotten.  Her lies are now too numerous to print.

The thing is that if she'd simply seized the narrative and said that she did use a personal email server, State was not aware of it, but it wasn't illegal and wasn't insecure, and, yes, classified information likely did pass through it but she was not aware of any, she'd now be looking at a slap on the wrist and it wouldn't likely affect her campaign as much.

It is the lies that affect her campaign.  It's not that she's dishonest; that was known because she is, after all, a lawyer and a politician.  It's the fact that her lies were all so transparently aimed at conning the American public into electing her, which, combined with the evidence she believes she's entitled to the office, paint a picture of someone who lacks the humility to properly serve the American people.

She, if elected, intends to get out in front of all of us and lead us to where we were going anyway, as she does not actually have an original idea.  The only things she intends to try to make happen that are against the public opinion are things that are very bad.  She is the caricature of the establishment candidate: led by the nose by special interests, only willing to stand up for ideas that are inconsequential except to harass populations considered evil by liberals, and completely certain of her personal superiority and therefore the right to make such decisions on our behalf.

What Is Really Going On With Donald Trump

Today I watched Hillary Rodham Clinton stand up with a grim look and pronounce that Donald Trump did not have the temperament to be president.  She then reminded us that the President of the United States would have the secret nuclear codes.  She felt this piece of knowledge, apparently, would shock those American citizens who support Donald Trump into supporting her.  She is very, very wrong.

For starters, her argument actually works better against herself: would you want someone as president who is not even reliable enough to avoid risking exposure of state secrets just for her personal convenience?  That is, of course, the most charitable explanation, that she is too incompetent and/or lazy to bother with following official directions.  Should such a person really be allowed to control the nuclear codes?

However, this post is actually about Donald Trump.  A problem most of the anti-Trump crowd has is that they assume that people are listening to politicians and rationally picking the one that makes the best arguments.  Were this the case, Hillary wouldn't be doing well, either, but Trump would certainly be doing poorly.

Trump appeals because he is not a part of the establishment.  From the fact that he is independently wealthy to the fact that his brash statements and lifestyle obviously show he is not beholden to public opinion, Trump sets himself apart from the serious society that modern politicians expend great effort aping.

So, when Hillary attacks Trump in this way, not only does she expose herself to counterattacks, but she also completely fails to get the point.  In a way, nobody in Hillary's position, or anyone in any talking-head position, can attack Trump effectively because Americans are pretty sure they're all lying to forward their own agendas because, well, they've been caught at it so many times.  Attacks from them mean little to a Trump supporter.

As a matter of fact, given how low the average American's opinion of the establishment has sunk at this point, getting attacked by the establishment merely burnishes Trump's appeal.  There is no effective way to attack this man.  That, alone, makes him one of the most appealing candidates in some time to the kind of people that want change.

The constant creeping of bureaucracy that has accelerated under Obama grates.  It has come to the point that nothing short of revolutionary effort will stop it.  I do not intend to become apocalyptic, but our current government attempts to control as much of our lives as possible under the guise of enlightenment.  Trump, whatever his political views, is seen as the only candidate that can effectively stand up to this, if only because he's a loose cannon, a bull in a china shop, whatever metaphor you like, and has the intestinal fortitude to steer his own course no matter what.

I am not praising the man.  I will vote Gary Johnson, as I did last election.  If you don't know who Gary Johnson is, you should take some time to Google him to see if maybe he presents a better option than the two presumptive nominees.  However, I am cautiously optimistic about a Trump presidency as long as he makes an effort to surround himself with good people.

Unfortunately, it could all go very, very wrong.  If he sets about to making new laws and new regulations, then he will just contribute energetically to the death spiral of over-regulation we seem to have slipped into and thus hasten the apocalypse (ok, a little apocalysm slipped in).  I still don't see, personally, how he could possibly be worse than the known evil of Hillary Clinton, the lying, manipulative, venal, corrupt and greedy woman who honestly does not care about this country so long as she gets to run it, something she sees as her entitled right for some reason or other that escapes me.

Just as a final shot, note that every single accusation she's leveled at Trump applies to her: she insists he's just doing this for personal gain (she certainly is doing it for personal gain), he's unstable and unfit to be president (she's never held an idea longer than it was of use to her personal political campaign), he's corrupt and pays for influence (she's corrupt and has sold influence, to Trump), and so on.  The personal gain argument is particularly mendacious as Trump will not make more money as president than he could as, well, the Donald.  As a matter of fact, he's spending his own money on the campaign.  Hillary, on the other hand, will make much more money after she is president, peddling influence, among other potential career opportunities.  This is the final advantage of Trump, that he has already made his money, so has no need of being bought.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Why I Support Donald Trump

There, I said it.  I support Donald Trump for president.  Not that I care particularly for him as a candidate; I don't.  Not that I think a Republican would be significantly different than a Democrat; I don't.  Not that Donald Trump has shown significant insight or deep understanding of the issues; he hasn't.

No, it's pretty simple: the kinds of people I loathe in national politics simply hate Donald Trump.  That means there must be something there, and, even if there isn't, it will send a definite signal if Donald Trump achieves the presidency: the people are angry.

The average voter does not have the inclination nor the time to understand what is going on in the world.  Indeed, the world is so large and chaotic that no group of dedicated persons, even those in the Bureau, have the slightest chance of understanding everything.  Therefore, the average voter uses a rule of thumb to decide on an election.  In this election, that rule of thumb is that they are tired of the establishment screwing around and robbing us blind.

There are other reasons.  Trump actually has a point when he says nobody outside of America really respects Obama, and that mantle of disrespect would be assumed by Hillary were she to become president.  Whether a strong personality should occupy the Oval Office or not, at least Trump does, indeed, possess a strong personality.

Then, there's the question of success.  Whether or not Trump got his billions by righteous means, whatever those means are to you and yours, he did, indeed, get billions.  By comparison, nobody else in the entire field is anywhere near as successful.  This means Trump is, at least, minimally competent to run a large organization, something that cannot be said of Hillary, whose primary income is derived from speech giving and, apparently, influence peddling.  As a matter of fact, Trump has, indeed, purchased influence from the Clintons.

And, finally, and, perhaps most tellingly, Trump basically cannot be bought.  This is unique in recent memory.  Prior to Trump, there simply has not been a candidate in my lifetime that was so situated and had a chance in the general election.

I do think Trump's heart is in the right place.  I believe he's been watching the country veer towards authoritarianism, aided and abetted by petit dictators in both parties who would enforce their idea of heaven on the rest of us (exempting themselves, naturally) so that we could all live a 'better life' than we could achieve by our own efforts.

Given that, politically, I am a rather radical minarchist, I support Gary Johnson as being both the closest to me politically and the most likely to make any real change in governance.  Since he's a Libertarian, he's not going to get the election at the moment, so, instead, I will help elect Donald Trump at the two main parties as a promise of further electoral revolt if they do not mend their ways and see to the simple pastime of making a government that operates smoothly and improves lives by not screwing them up.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Why $15 an hour minimum wage is a bad idea

Several candidates (and many voters) are enamored of the idea of a massive increase in the minimum wage, with $15 or even $17 being quoted, as this is assumed to improve the lot of the very poor.

More than one problem exists with this idea:

Wrong demographic

Actually, rather than helping the 'poor', this is likely to impact the newly employed.  Most of those who earn minimum wage are actually young workers.  Sure, there are families whose wage earners earn minimum wage, and we will get to them, but the majority of those impacted will be workers looking for their first job, which are normally teenagers and young adults who need the money a lot less than the truly poor.

Drives inflation

This one is a bit difficult, as it isn't immediately obvious, but think about all the people who earn minimum wage.  We often speak of the makers of burritos in these pages, and we will do so again.  The actual cost of a burrito is heavily dependent on labor costs, most of it at the low end.  Increasing minimum wage will cause an increase in the cost of the burrito.  It won't be completely proportional; other issues impinge that we discuss below.

This will increase the cost of production of nearly everything.  Over a relatively short period of time, a few years, nearly everyone will have to be making more to have the same purchase power as before, so those on minimum wage will suddenly find themselves little better off than before.  For instance, in an economy comprised of a doctor and several burrito producers, in order for the doctor to get as many burritos, he will have to raise his prices, leading to burrito producers having to pay more, largely negating the gains from the increase in minimum wage.

Drives unemployment

First, and almost immediately, while inflation has not taken hold, our mythical burrito house is faced with a difficult decision: raise prices or fire workers and make the remainder work twice as hard.  As time goes on, he will get a third choice: buy new equipment to replace workers for much less.

So, let's look at the hypothetical dual wage earner family that makes, right now, say, $9 an hour each, for $18 an hour.  In order to meet the new minimum wage requirements, the burrito house has to lay off one of them.  The other, being senior, is actually given more than the minimum wage, say, $16 an hour, but, as you can see, that's less total pay than both got before.

Since the wage earner is unskilled labor, the remaining wage earner will have a hard time finding a job.  They will have to spend less money, which may not be possible.  It is quite likely that raising the minimum wage in this way will actually cause higher unemployment and serious hardship for the very demographic it is intended to help.

As time passes, it will be financially advantageous to replace workers with machines.  Inflation often does this.  Once again, this will lead to unemployment, except it will be permanent this time.  Since inflation will eventually remove the effect of the minimum wage, it will eventually remove the unemployment effect, but if a particular industry has already mechanized production, it is unlikely to walk back from that.

The final cause of unemployment is that we have a global economy, and, unless we are willing to enact stringent isolationism, raising the minimum wage will drive production to countries with lower wage costs.  This has already happened repeatedly.  This will, of course, lead to lower employment.

Reduces entry level jobs

For a new job seeker, often a teenager, with no skills and no job history, it can be very difficult to get a job.  Raising the minimum wage will make this much worse.

Mechanization will require skilled operators.  This means companies that mechanize in response to the increase in the minimum wage will face higher training costs, and this presents a very real risk.  The company has to bet on an unskilled worker working out, and is paying much, much more for the worker while the worker is not making the company any money.

Even companies that have not mechanized will be reticent to hire new workers.  Since a company is in the business to make a profit, they need to sell more product than they incur in costs.  A new worker is unlikely to turn a profit for some time at the new, higher minimum wage.  This means companies will be less likely to take a chance on a new worker.

Of course, eventually, inflation will fix this problem as well.

It doesn't work

In the long term, raising the minimum wage will raise costs.  It will raise costs rather quickly, rapidly wiping out the income gains for those to whom it applies, and causing hardship for those on fixed incomes, who can't respond to such massive inflation.  It may trigger hyperinflation.

If we instead got rid of the minimum wage, we'd see the cost of nearly everything either stay the same or drift lower.  What this means, to the target demographic, is that the things they buy can get cheaper.  This is improved purchase power.  While the target demographic does not have more money, they can buy more because prices have fallen, so they are better off.

If we got rid of the minimum wage, we'd see higher employment, which results in lower crime as well as lower welfare costs.  Giving people the option to work with dignity for their wage is always better than forcing them to not be able to work by enshrining a number in law.

So, what should we do?

We should eliminate the federal minimum wage.  States are welcome to set whatever minimum wage they like, so, if you want to live in a state with a minimum wage, you can.

Eliminating the federal minimum wage would allow for greater employment, meaning more people can support themselves and get on the job track rather than the welfare or crime track.  It will allow companies to train younger workers while paying them pocket money, and will mean that people who find themselves in economic trouble can at least get some cash flow.

Eliminating the federal minimum wage would allow real data to enter the argument.  Since different states would have different minimum wages, or none at all, we'd be able to compare them with a chance to make an observation on who is really right on this issue.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Think About It

Some time ago, a simply horrid movie entitled 'The Last Temptation of Jesus Christ' was released.  So bad was this thing that your humble author, a veteran of schlock cinema, having witnessed several entire Troma films, could not suffer through the entire thing.  Nevermind the lack of redeeming quality, it has become sort of a must-see film simply because there are so many people against the thing.

They protested it.  People went to see it to find out why.  In the Arab world, they recently started protesting some unknown Youtube video.  Prior to that, the only people who had really seen the thing were the ones protesting it; after, nearly everyone saw it to find out whyfor the ruckus.

Now, liberals, including the chief liberal, are rattling their sabers against private ownership of guns.  It's getting to where I can no longer watch the Daily Show.  Stewart, normally a fairly well-informed and intelligent man, made a statement, "surely there's no use for hollowpoint and armor piercing ammunition outside of the military."

Of course, us gun nuts would love to point out a standard fact that the definition of 'armor piercing' very much depends on what kind of armor, as piercing the armor of a main battle tank takes a multi-stage warhead complete with high temperature gas burn prior to main payload ignition.  Piercing most body armor is accomplished with literally any rifle you have.  Basically, any caliber can be armor-piercing if the armor is weak enough.

However, it is the other bit that really pissed me off.  John Stewart, of all people, should be well enough informed to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the military is forbidden from using hollowpoint ammunition of any form by the Geneva Convention.  Of course, the reason for this is that a wounded man is more of a bother for the enemy than a dead man and most militaries use sufficient armor to defeat most hollowpoints anyway, although the non-hollowpoint versions of the common rounds will defeat most common body armor employed by the military.  So, which do you want to be rid of, hollowpoints or armor-piercing rounds?

Also, consider that, once fired, a hollowpoint has a far lower chance of dangerous ricochet, tending to fragment on a hard surface, and also has a much lower penetration against a soft target, meaning lower chance of killing the guy behind the guy you shot.  In other words, while substantially more effective against the intended target, hollowpoints are generally safer to everyone else.  As important or more important, hollowpoint rounds cause the attacker to stop attacking faster, reducing the risk to everyone of further violence as well as, quixotically, increasing the attacker's survival rate, as he will generally suffer fewer rounds due to having gone down more quickly.  I'll save you the grisly science of wound channels and just state that, for defensive purposes, anyone not using a hollowpoint is a bloody idiot.

Anyway, my intent wasn't really to refute silly misconceptions by silly liberals; my intent was to point out that, thanks to Obama, the gun culture is far stronger than ever in my entire life.  I've been a gun nut since '94, when I turned 21 and could go buy my first pistol, a quaint little piece of junk called a Jennings J-22.  My current arm, an EAA Witness 10MM, is a far cry from that modest pistol, and is one of the evil guns that our dearly beloved liberals would do away with to  protect us from, well, us.  In those early days, I did not know much about guns and gun violence; I just knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wanted a gun, and would do anything, including moving my corpus to a more gun-friendly clime, to get one.  This is an attitude shared by many of the analysts here (and, yes, there are more than one).

See, these idiots, as there is no kinder word, and most of the unkinder words are unprintable, have decided to go after not only guns, but gun owners and the 'gun culture'.  When they did that, people who used to be considered basically normal, reasonable people, people who have never owned a gun before, are now buying them.  While it is in a way glorious that I no longer get treated as a sort of pervert outcast for owning, well, a few guns, it is also very, very annoying.

Why is it annoying?  It has made it nearly impossible to buy worthwhile guns and ammunition.  For instance, I sold my Sig Pro because it really didn't fit my hand, and wanted to buy a Glock 20.  I was unable to find one.  Seriously.  So, I went with the other gun I have long wanted, the EAA Witness 10MM, but only because I could find a used one.  I also paid way too much for it.

Why do I need ammunition?  To practice, of course.  No self-respecting gun owner would consider using a gun in self defense until he had spent quite a bit of time with it.  Hitting someone three feet away is easy and within the realm of nearly any gun.  Hitting a man at ten feet starts to be more difficult, and often impossible to people just starting out with a pistol.  At 35 yards, the last distance I practiced with, with my new (to me) 10MM, I put in about a six inch group, which I'm not that happy with, although, by the end of the day, it was down to a more respectable two inches or so.  Before I got old and my hands started to shake, I could hit a one inch target at 100 yards with a decent revolver, but I boast, er, digress.  Let's just say that you need to know what you can accomplish with your gun, which means range time to find out, you need to develop muscle memory so that the gun and you become fused, as it were, and that requires ammunition down range.

How much?  at least 200 rounds to get started, then shooting every six months as a minimum to keep it up.  I prefer every other week, but I like to shoot and hold myself to a much higher standard with a pistol than most do.  Why do I?  Were some nut shooting my children 35 yards away, I have to hit him on the absolute first shot and put him down hard as fast as possible.  I'd do it for your children as well.  Can I live with myself if I end up in such a situation and fail?  Could you?  So, I practice partly because, well, it's fun, and I justify the expense because it is absolutely necessary.

So, back to the purpose of this post: idiot lefties decided to go after guns.  Nothing really appreciable can come out of it because everything they're trying to do falls into one of three categories: a) unconstitutional as per decisions so recent the ink isn't dry, b) impractical in real life and c) not never gonna no way pass the House of Representatives. In other words, the political reality is that none of the gun control efforts so far put forward have any chance of actually becoming law.

The first class of proposals include most of Feinsteins astonishing miscategorization of guns, as the Feinstein taxonomy defines as 'assault weapon' any weapon that can rapidly fire more than ten rounds at a time.  As per Heller and McDonald, two recent US Supreme Court decisions, the right to self defense has been incorporated, and the contributory right to the means of self defense is therefore protected, and the decisions do specifically mention handguns of high effectiveness, including high capacity magazines, as well as carbines (the true term for what everyone thinks is an assault rifle), which, of course, are protected by the far more plain reading of the second amendment, them being military purpose rifles, which are exactly what the second amendment was set to protect.

The second class of proposals, the attempt to outlaw the private sale of firearms, which may also fall in the first class, is pretty much going to be impossible to enforce.  Are we going to create an Orwellian network of snitches?  Seriously?  It is pretty much impossible to prove that I sold a gun to someone else, nevermind when, where or for how much...

The third class includes pretty much everything except a redefinition of what a firearms dealer is and therefore who must engage in background checks, as that is pretty much the only thing the Republican controlled House is willing to do.  Everything else proposed won't even pass a Dixiecrat smell test, let alone a Republican smell test, when his entire district is buying every single arm they can find.  It is simply impossible to do.

Also, none of the proposals put forward so far would have had any impact on any of the recent shootings.  There are acres of prose on this particular subject, so I won't dwell on it, but these lefties are trying to take away my freedom and happiness to enact laws that have no real effect other than to take away my freedom and happiness.

And, so, in the end, the final calculus, the day of reckoning, when we all have to answer for the stupid stuff we've done, where will these lefties be?  They will be stuck explaining how their utter failure to in any way affect the gun laws in this country led to the single largest increase in gun ownership, as far as I know, in the history of this country.  Seriously, both as a percentage and in numbers, known as 'gun penetration' and 'gun stock', this country has seen a massive, sustained increase since Obama took office, and an acceleration in the last three months or so.  The number of guns owned in this country is nearing one per person, well over 300 million and counting.  Gallup reports gun ownership at 47%, with a huge gain in gun ownership by women.  In other words, it has backfired, outside of traditional Democratic strongholds, causing exactly the opposite reaction they wished to engender.

Also, please remember that Obama and his toady, er, vice president, promised no action on gun control prior to being elected.  This change, while not unexpected, is just another example of the mendacity of politicians, which leads most of us to not really care what they say, them having been caught lying so often.  Also, it plays directly into the hands of the far right, with their repeated predictions that Obama would do exactly this when elected to a 'lame duck' session, thus lending credence to the rest of what they have to say.  Think about that for a bit.  Not only has Obama managed to increase the size and strength of the 'gun culture' he hates, he has also managed to strengthen the nuttiest of the far right.  Good job, number one president, have a cookie and please take your nap before you ruin something else.

PS: Mendacity, thy name is gun control may become a common theme on this here collection of electrons.  Please do not merely accept statistics from gun-control groups, as they are either out of date, misrepresented or merely wrong.  Were these people at all rational, they could look at the numbers and come to some sort of conclusion, but they have already made up their minds so the numbers must be bent to say what they want.  Nevermind that real scholars such as John Lott and Gary Kleck have done manful work on the question of the effect of guns on society, the arguments from the left persist.  As an example, see here:

The first link has Gallup's numbers on gun ownership.  The second link quotes those numbers, stopping at 2010.  This, of course, is on purpose, despite the article having been published in 2012, as if they kept the graph up, they would see an uptick in ownership.  The graph they have shows a huge upswing in pistol ownership, a trend that has continued.

Also, consider Mother Jones:

The argument is that a ban on 'assault weapons', which is defined as whatever Senator Dianne Feinstein does not like, pretty much, as the term of art 'assault weapon' commonly refers to a select-fire machine carbine, and not, as in her bill, to a raft of guns including shotguns and pistols.  She is rebranding them so people won't notice that perfectly serviceable defensive weapons are being banned as well.

Anyway, the article tries to point out that most of the people who engaged in mass killings and spree killings used 'assault weapons', when, in fact, they mostly used pistols.  Further, it implies with its graph that reducing magazine capacity would reduce the number of killings, which is pretty much rot.  Many of the shooters, according to their own data, did just fine with 10 round clips.  There is no evidence to support the idea that fewer rounds in a clip will result in fewer killings, as the worst killing spree in England that I know of was accomplished with a .22 rifle and a side-by-side shotgun.

Anyhoo, the last magazine limitation law that was passed did have an effect, although it was probably not the intended effect.  Prior to that law being passed, the 9MM was gaining ground as the gun of choice, both among criminals and among law-abiding citizens.  After the ban, the .40 S&W pretty much took over because 10 rounds of .40 is lots more effective than 10 rounds of 9MM.  In other words, the number of bullets were reduced, but the individual effectiveness was increased.  Also, we tended to see an increase in the use of the shotgun because 8 rounds of 12 ga is roughly equivalent to 72 rounds of 9MM.

It is a quaint fallacy, depended on by the Mother Jones article, that making a thing illegal will stop it from happening.  All over, we have evidence to the contrary.  People speed on the highways, use illicit drugs, connect cable illegally, download stuff they know they shouldn't and so on.  Guns flow into this country as easily as drugs, and, just like drugs, getting a gun from a criminal simply is not that hard.  If you don't believe me, consider England, a nation entirely surrounded by salt water:

Both are English media articles detailing the violent crime situation in England.  Interestingly enough, while violent crime has soared since guns have been outlawed (pretty much as Lott predicts in his book, 'More Guns, Less Crime', based on statistics on concealed carry laws in the US), the murder rate has been going down.  The interesting bit to notice, of course, is that guns are, apparently, readily available despite there being no nearby country that has lax gun laws and there being, well, water everywhere, meaning that the guns have to come in by port or smuggler boat.  In other words, were it possible to stop the influx of illicit guns, it certainly could be done in England, and it has not been done there despite both massive public will to accomplish it and some of the strictest laws about it anywhere.

The murder rate, of course, is the only statistic the lefties want us to look at when discussing England, but, remember, the murder rate has always been lower in England, and, believe it or not, the vast majority of murders in England now are not committed by gun:

And England is at a 30 year low, meaning that, prior to the recent gun ban, the murder rate had been the same or lower (the tightest gun bans in England were all in the 80s and 90s, iirc):

And, besides, as per above, despite the massive recent increase in gun ownership, the US is, apparently, at a 55 year low, meaning the crime situation has improved substantially since the early 90s (the high water mark) when all those concealed carry laws started being passed.  No blood in the streets as the liberals wailed, but much lower in nearly every category of crime.  Yes, slight increase in petty theft, and slight increase in aggravated assault, but much, much lower murder numbers, and lower everything else.

Oh, and the mass killings?  Do you really want to exchange all the rapes, murders, robberies, burglaries and general criminal activity deterred by the private ownership of guns, something like 2.5 million occurrences annually?  How much misery are you willing to trade to save the lives of 20 children?  This is the actual decision we must make, not the heated discussion of the moment, but the sober facing of the truth that untold human misery is prevented by the presence of a gun, specifically a pistol.

See, a 120 pound girl cannot stop a rape committed by a 250 pound fit male by herself.  With a tiny little .25 auto, she may prevent it from ever happening by simply brandishing the gun, and, were it to come to it, do the entire world a service by at the very least aiding in the capture of a predator, and, ideally, saving the effort and paperwork of prosecuting him by summarily ending his life.

This is why the pistol has sometimes been called the great equalizer; it makes us all on the same level.  I, at a stropping 270, am at the same level as my wife, at her (redacted) weight.  She has a .40 S&W Baby Eagle, otherwise known as a Jericho.  She is very good with it.

And, one thing missed by the anti-gun crowd is that guns, by their mere presence, deter crime.  They don't have to be used to effect a reduction in crime.  They don't even have to be shown.  The criminal merely has to believe there is a gun there along with someone willing to use it, and he will go find an easier target in, say, Maryland, where he knows a law-abiding citizen must retreat in his own house in the face of armed robbery. As an example, Virginia, being a Southern state, has adopted the castle doctrine, which basically states that your house is your castle and you may defend it.  Despite soaring gun purchases, Virginia is seeing a constant drop in crime:

Maryland, right next door, has strict gun laws and restricts how you can use them to defend yourself.  While violence is decreasing in Maryland, it is decreasing at half the rate in Virginia:

None of this, of course, proves that gun ownership lowers crime; that research is very complicated to do when trying to disentangle socio-economic factors and demographics, but it pretty much puts paid to the idea that more guns means more crime...

Anyway, as I said above, shooting guns is a great pleasure to me, so the lefties are messing with more than just my right to self defense; they are messing with my happiness and the happiness of many people in this country, and they are doing it for no good reason.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Why No Real Recovery Will Happen

Right now, major central banks are acting on your behalf. They are shoveling newly-created money into the coffers of their cronies at the major international banks. That money will largely go to finance governmental debt. Here is how it works.

First, a bank that has managed to get labeled 'too big to fail' approaches their former employees now running the local branch of the central bank, and says that he needs a 'loan' to survive. This loan is duly issued, as per policy. These loans come from the interbank or commercial loan operations. These operations have been established as 'lender of last resort' for some time now. When you hear the 'fed rate', this is the rate the banks will be charged. Not only is this rate well below the rate of inflation, both real and reported, it is well below the rate that the government pays for its debt.

That last bit is important, as most of this money, at last count $7.7 trillion in the US alone, is lent to governments because the bank will not hold cash. It doesn't make sense for the bank to use it to handle bad debts; they will simply swap those for US bonds from the fed anyway. This is another program the fed has. It provides swaps of government bonds to banks in exchange for the toxic assets the bank has. So, the banks can unload their toxic assets for bonds anyway, but must retain a 'reserve'. This reserve can be in any 'monetarized' asset, such as, for instance, government bonds. So, the bank tends to put its new loans from the fed into the bond market, one of the real reasons that the fed prints this money.

The bonds thus bought have a payment rate above the rate the money was borrowed at. For instance, the fed loans at, say. 1/4 % (0.25%), while federal bonds pay, say, 3%. This means that the bank is making 2.75% on borrowed money, 100% leveraged. For instance, it borrows $1 bn, buys bonds with it, pays $2.5 mn in interest to the fed (who, by the way, 'invests' that 'income' in, you guessed it, federal bonds), and sees the value of the bond increase on its way to maturity by 3% per year. That works out to $30 mn. This is $27.5 mn in profit. Remember, this is profit for no real investment.

This dodge is used primarily to provide profit for the banks, increasing bonus payouts (the money was free anyway), and provide support for US bond auctions, which might otherwise go no bid. This is very bad, as it would cause an increase in the cost of the bonds, in order to get bids, reducing the faith in the US government. As faith is what holds this system together, loss of faith can lead to the whole system falling apart.

These 'leaders' are really playing an end-game, and this end-game is known as a 'delaying tactic'. The idea is that if the thing is delayed long enough, the economy will recover, and the debts can be covered. There is one major problem with this: the delaying tactic is seriously distorting the economy.

Each time some bank pays bonuses to a banker for managing to suckle the teat of government, each time the government creates some new bureaucrat or boondoggle, each time money flows into some sort of production that nobody wants, the overall production pool of things people want shrinks.

We can use our hypothetical economy. With ten people in the economy, under normal conditions, one of them would be involved in government, say, and one in banking and financial services. When the government guy colludes with the banking guy, the government sector grows to, say, two people, and the banking sector grows to, say, two people. That's now four people. This results in a 25% reduction in the productive sector, from 8 to 6. However, as we've said before, the demand for goods remains the same. This drives the price up, as money was printed to purchase substantially less goods. The efficiency used to be 80% and is now 60%. The only way, of course, to continue keeping things as they are, is to print even more money, which leads to even greater public sector consumption, as well as more bankers with fat bonuses. As time progresses, the percentage producing drops. At the moment, some estimates put it around 50% in this country.

Ever wonder why they call it a 'gilded age'? The roaring twenties had a lot in common with this age; things are not as well built and they cost more. The only way to make a capital purchase, such as a car, is on credit because cheap credit has driven the price up by distorting the market. The only way to buy land or a house is on credit. Nobody can expect to save enough to buy anything because our real wages are continuously decreasing and available investment vehicles mostly lose money compared to inflation.

See, when the bank buys bonds with money borrowed at 1/4%, it drives the yield of the bond down. That means that someone playing with his own money will now make less. In our example above, it ends up being 3%, which is less than real inflation. Now, our investor will have to pay 40% tax on whatever he makes, so his real return is less than 2%, which means he is losing money.

One of the results of this kind of monetary shenanigans is the increasing price of insurance. When bond prices go down, insurance prices go up. This is because insurance companies are required by law to keep their money in highly liquid investments, meaning investments that can be easily and quickly traded for cash with little loss of principle. Bonds are commonly used. When bond yields go down, particularly when the bond yield is lower than the rate of inflation, the insurance company has to buy more bonds to meet his reserve obligations, meaning he has to raise rates in order to afford the bonds. This is certainly not the only reason for the rise in the cost of healthcare, but it is a major reason.

So, to recap, the average person cannot save because they lose money, cannot save anyway because their real income is falling, and thus must finance everything with cheap money, which leads to an increase in the cost of goods which drives price inflation. As a result, bankers get rich off of play money and the federal government gets to spend and spend and spend. And the best part? All of this is perfectly legal...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Maybe I Was Born Paranoid

Some people see the glass as half full; we call them optimists. Some see the glass as half empty; we call them pessimists. Some people worry that the state of the glass is not known; we call them skeptics. Some people worry we will never find water, that the glass is completely empty and that it is poison in the glass besides; we call them paranoid.

In engineering, there is a concept of 'insufficiently paranoid', a condition where someone has failed to consider all the possible ramifications. Insufficiently paranoid engineers often go on to design systems that fail spectacularly, bringing their pride down to a more appropriate level.

I guess what I am getting at is that paranoia is not a bad thing. Too much paranoia leads to inaction or to action that is not particularly helpful, such as stocking a bunker in the Nevada desert. Too little paranoia has you sitting on a beach as a hurricane bears down. The right amount of paranoia is, quixotically, referred to as 'prudence'.

So, what is a prudent man to make of the world? Russia sabre rattling at Georgia, with the US and NATO apparently unable to take steps to accept Georgia's inclusion into a group armed with nuclear missiles, pretty much the only thing that will guarantee Russia will leave Georgia alone.

Russia, however, may soon not be a problem, that is, if EU countries are willing to allow the drilling for gas in their shale gas reserves, but the truth is that the greenie is against anything that might smack of progress, as they relentlessly march us all into their cold grey future where thousands of us must die so Gaia can quit crying or whatever.

Watermelon is the term commonly used to refer to the alliance of the old red with the new green, green on the outside and red on the inside. Why must the red/green hate progress so? Is it happiness they hate? Why do normal ordinary people follow these tenets of green, such as pointless recycling and reduction of energy use?

The truth, as it stands, is that the world has never been so flush with energy. It is good news. It should be leading to cheaper energy, which normally leads to an economic boom for everyone. Instead, we have nations rationing energy, constructing bird slicers and other, even dafter ideas to harvest 'renewable' energy, such as tide power, which is an idea that literally leaves me speechless. Seriously.

Take windmills -- please, take them. Windmills cause changes in the wind pattern in the lower atmosphere leading to a reduction in the relative humidity, causing those areas downwind to dry out and see a reduction in vegetation. This is on top of their killing birds wholesale. They also require invasive modification of whatever land they are placed on, including cutting trees, leveling ground and mounting massive concrete and steel bases that will probably never be removed. All of this for very little power when the wind is blowing, which is not nearly often enough.

Take electric cars. The battery in an electric car uses toxic chemicals. The magnets in the motors use rare earths. The cars themselves are very lightly constructed, meaning they are not particularly safe. They have a low payload. They are also much more expensive to purchase. Under most conditions, they will not cost less over the lifespan of the vehicle because their purchase cost exceeds the difference in fuel cost. This includes hybrids.

There are some valid engineering reasons to build electric cars, and, when the day comes that they are cost-effective, I will gladly buy one. However, in the short term, trying to increase the uptake of hybrids and electrics through taxes is just wasting money to make people feel better, when we should be telling them the truth.

For instance, recycling is mostly a waste (haha, bad pun). The commonly recycled materials, glass, paper and aluminum, each have their problems. Of them, aluminum is easily the most useful recyclable, something that the junk man will actually pay you for because he can sell it on.

However, paper is a relatively pointless thing to recycle, if for no reason that, naively, putting the paper in the ground (landfills) sequesters CO2. Other than that, there is the question of hauling it to a recycling plant, recycling it and then selling it back into the market. All of this is generally more costly than simply using new wood, which is normally sprint-grown for this purpose. If you add up all the costs of recycling paper, you find there is a very slim reduction in energy used for certain post-consumer products, such as napkins, but that slim reduction in energy comes at a high cost.

Glass is just silly. Glass is made out of sand, and, if left alone, will become sand again. The cost of reconditioning glass is really about the same, overall, as the cost of making new, and glass in a recycling bin will be colored, which is a problem.

Saying we're running out of material so must recycle glass is admitting to not understanding anything about the production of glass. It is as laughable as those who wish to argue we're running out of water, when what they really mean to say is that we're running out of cheap water, that the budget has other concerns than fixing the leaking pipes and besides, we all need to sacrifice because it takes a village.

The water thing, in particular, annoys me. I have low flush toilets. I have a four inch main sewer pipe. I have to run water in my tub periodically to keep the pipes clean. The toilets do not produce enough flow to keep the pipes clean.

Besides, how good is a low-flush toilet if it has to be flushed multiple times?

Then there are the evil low-flow shower heads I hate so much. Why am I penalized for wanting to be clean?

Were this at all necessary, it'd be one thing, but the fact is that those toilets and that shower constitute a tiny percentage of the water used. The greenies will tell you that the percentage is large, but the percentage they use is of domestic water use, not total water use, and, almost certainly, industrial water use dwarfs domestic water use, so, even were the toilets and showers 50% of domestic use, that would run up to, say, 5% of the total use.

All those numbers are off the top of my head, and you can do your own research on the subject.

I'm just saying that we are flush with resources, and we need to push back against these greenies that seem to be grabbing power everywhere.