Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Gene Costin (Hughes), dead at 80

One of my many sources has drawn my attention to this story:

The southern California man who published the radio scanning bible Police Call has passed away. Under the pen name Gene Hughes, Gene Costin became a household word among geeks in the 1970s when he started cataloging the radio frequencies used by various police and fire departments and other agencies, giving hobbyists something to do with the first generation of programmable scanners then hitting the market.

Anarcho-Tyranny marches on

(Via The Smallest Minority)

Lynn Moses will be locked up in federal prison next Wednesday. His crime? Protecting the city of Driggs, Idaho from flooding.

Remove anything breakable from the vicinity of your computer before reading. Yes, it's that infuriating.

Claire, is it time yet?

Denial is not a river in Egypt

Apparently it also runs through the office of Freddie Mac's CEO:

Freddie’s Forecast Seems A Little Too Bright

As CNBC's Diana Olick notes, the issue is write-downs of of all that toxic mortgage paper that Freddie is saddled with. Financial houses from Australia to Wall Street are writing down the vale of this debt as much as a reported 90%. How much has Freddie written it down?

I think Armando Falcon, a former head of OFHEO, said it best when I interviewed him yesterday:

"They've only written them down by let's say five or 6% total over the past few quarters. If those were sold on the market they would get maybe 50 cents on the dollar for these securities. At some point they can't delay the inevitable about having to mark these assets down to their true market value. They are now holding them close to book value, based on the theory that these are temporary impairments. As the market continues to decline into next year, it will be clear that these aren't just temporary impairments. Then the government will not be able to allow this forbearance on recognizing losses much longer."

Reality Disconnect, anyone?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Leroy! Wake up, man!

Watching the Fannie and Freddie Follies is sort of like watching a horrible wreck happen on the highway when you're far enough away to see it coming and not be directly involved, but you know you're going to be caught in the chaos of the traffic jam to follow.

At Freddie Mac, Chief Discarded Warning Signs

I encourage you to read the entire article (a bit long, but interesting). However, a few of the many money quotes:

Though the current housing crisis would have undoubtedly caused problems at both companies, Freddie Mac insiders say Mr. Syron (CEO of Freddie Mac--FH) heightened those perils by ignoring repeated recommendations.


The depths of Freddie Mac’s problems are complicated by its long-planned, continuing search for a chief executive to replace Mr. Syron, who is expected to remain chairman. Two people who were approached — Kenneth I. Chenault of American Express and Laurence D. Fink of BlackRock — said they did not want to be considered for the position.


“I’ve had four other jobs as C.E.O., and I came out of them all pretty well,” Mr. Syron said. “What I’m working for right now is to save my reputation.”

As passengers in the Econo-mobile, all we can do at this point is hang on and hope the crash isn't too bad.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


So Friday I took the day off to visit the eye doc. Good news is that my eyes are fine and I don't need new glasses just yet. Bad news is that I had to have "those drops" to dilate my pupils, which means that I had to wear welding goggles for the next few hours.

Anyway, after the drops had pretty much worn off and the temperature had pretty much reached its maximum for the day, Son and I decided to go to the range. Smart, huh?

Even given the heat (92o), we had a good time. Heck, it's hard not to when you have a new gun to try out:

The Kel-tec PF-9 is a 9mm, DAO, locked breach, polymer frame gun that weights about 1 pound when loaded with a 7 shot magazine. It's also physically small, about 6" x 4.5", and less that 1" thick. In other words, it's an ideal carry gun if you're wearing clothes that make it hard to conceal anything big, like a 1911.

This particular gun is the hard chrome version, which I picked in order to help with corrosion issues. It gets warm and humid here in the South, and we sweat. A lot.

I got a good price on the gun--it, 2 extra Kel-tec mags and 2 20 round boxes of Federal Premium Hydrashocks for a bit less than $400. This particular gun is a bit difficult to come by right now for some reason, so I was pleased to get it at all. Getting a really good price was a big bonus.

Disassembly is easy, and accomplished with only an empty piece of brass as a tool. After a swab through the barrel and some Mil-Tec grease for the slide rails, we're ready to shoot. After shooting several magazines of Winchester White Box 115 gr. ball ammo without a single failure of any sort, we decided to video the last few rounds, and split them between 2 magazines. Me first:

As you can see, the little gun is snappy, but it's quite controlable. (Yes, 4 of 5 at 10 yards isn't all that good. I'm working on it.) Son decided he'd like to test it out with the remaining magazine:

He didn't find it as controlable as I did. I'm guessing that's small hands. However, I will state that after about 75 rounds, I had enough as well.

At any rate, I've quite impressed with the little gun, and I think it's going to make an excellent carry piece. (No, it isn't a Kahr, but it doesn't carry that kind of price tag, either.) I'm going to be looking for a holster, and I'm seriously considering the wallet holster from Pocket Holsters, althought the DeSantis Nemesis is also a possibility.

In doing my research before I bought the gun, I ran across a good resource for Kel-Tec owners, the Kel-Tec Owner's Group, an unoffical group of Kel-Tec afficianados. They have a lot of good info there, including their Tec Werks, with a bunch of articles on how to make these little guns better shooters. I haven't tried any of their "fluff and buff" procedures yet. I'd really love a way to lighten that double-action trigger just a bit. It isn't bad, but for someone used to single actions, it's a bit heavy. I'll consider that idea along with some fluffing and buffing (Man, that sounds like it goes right along with the gun porn thing, huh?) after I've ran a few hundred rounds through the gun.

Oh dear! Fannie and Freddie are more broke than they thought!

Surprised? You shouldn't be. Now that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a blank check on the US Treasury bank account, the truth is going to start "leaking" out. Of course, some folks knew this earlier, but kept that knowledge private. I can't imagine why.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to stop beating around the bush. If you haven't prepped for at least a long-term economic downturn, you time to do so is short. (Even if this doesn't turn out to be a long-term downturn, it will come, probably within the lifetimes of those who read this blog. The policies of our government insure that.) Get out of the stock market if you're still in it. Pay down debt. Stock up on food and other essentials. See to your and your family's personal defense. Consider some extra training for a depression-resistant job.

Learn to garden and preserve your harvest. Make friends with your neighbors. Learn--really learn--about the area you live in. If you have money in a bank, WATCH THAT BANK--carefully. Keep an eye on your employer, too. Mind your insurance companies as well. At this point, considerall financial entities as only marginally trustworthy. Cash and tangible goods are your allies.

At this late date, this is a large task, and it's one the entire family will have to pull together to achieve. If you don't know where to start, let me suggest the book When All Hell Breaks Loose by Cody Lundin. It isn't an encyclopaedia work that tells you everything you might possible need to know, but it covers nearly all aspects of what you need to consider and will give you a good place to start from. There are links over on the left for other blogs, web sites and web forums, all full of advice from folks who are doing this every day. Amazon has a gazillion books on every necessary subject. So does your public library.

It's still possible that the current situation will work itself out, somehow. It's also possible to reengineer a frog so he doesn't bump his butt every time he jumps. I'm unwilling to bet my life, or the lives of my family, on either.