Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Tilt your screen 45 degrees to the left, and this graph becomes accurate!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Progress, comrades!

Everyone knows that manufacturing has experienced great leaps and bounds in the last century. CNC machining, aluminum, titanium, and tungsten metalworking, and, of course, plastics are just a few of the innovations in manufacturing that we've seen since 1900.

It's no secret to connoisseurs of fine antiques that "they don't make 'em like they used to", but surely such people are just Luddite blowhards, sour about the great progress that's been made since their pappy's heyday.

Of course, in 1900, things were much less expensive, but naturally that's just a product of inflation, not of any greater difficulty today in making them. Inflation is something that can't be helped, of course, as every good Progressive knows. It's a cost of the great march forward.

Things may have been cheaper then, but were they more affordable? Well... Yes, at least for the example that I'm about to show you.

By pure Providence, I have procured a page from the 1902 Sears Catalog, describing the Winchester rifles that they offer for sale. We will examine just one: Item No. 6R836, the Winchester 1894 Repeater, in .30-30 smokeless caliber with an octagon barrel. In 1902, this rifle sold for the handsome fee of $14.75, which would be more than two weeks' pay for a textile laborer at the time.

Oh, glory, that we live in such a society where you don't have to wait for months, saving your pennies, to buy a fine rifle from a big name manufacturer!

Wait, what?

That is the 2005 Winchester catalog, which is the second to last year that they produced Winchester 1894s at the same New Haven, Connecticut plant where they had produced rifles for the past 140 years (and also conveniently before the recent economic downturn, avoiding any noise from that). As you can see, the price of the Winchester rifle, now listed as the "Model 94 Legacy Rifle Octagon" (pictures on page 21, prices on page 53) sexagintupled  from 1902-2005. But, surely this is all due to inflation. When we adjust for it, it should come out about the same.


When we adjust for inflation, we find that the price of the Winchester rifle had nearly tripled by 2005.

Winchester doesn't make that particular model of rifle any more, but in 2011, Winchester re-introduced the 1894 series (produced by a Japanese company, this time). What do they cost today?

These imports are nearly four times more expensive when adjusted for inflation than their American-made counterparts from a century and a decade ago.

Well, Americans are making more money today than they did before, right?

No. Minimum wage in my home state runs over $7.50, and that's about what you'll make if you work at a fast food restaurant or gas station. At this pay grade, working 56 hours a week the new, imported Winchester rifle costs us well over three weeks' wages. Granted, you're at least less likely to be eaten by a textile mill.

Even in 2005, it wasn't really any easier to buy a New Haven Model 94. The minimum wage in my state then was a little over $5, and the Winchester rifle would still have cost you over three 56-hour weeks' wages, even before the recession.

The purpose of this article isn't to wail that all industry today sucks and that the early 1900s were soooo much better. In fact, quite a lot has gotten better since then. Just restricting it to the firearms industry, ammunition is both cheaper and better today than it was in 1900, materials advancements have greatly enhanced the reliability and durability of firearms in many cases, and brand name semiautomatic rifles can be had for less money than today's Winchester rifle (though still more than that Winchester would have cost in 1902, after inflation is accounted for).

However, it is clear that 110 years ago, we could make high quality items from machined steel and cut wood for far less than we can today. I have a number of suspicions as to why, but those will have to wait for a later post.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Speaking isn't one of the great Sith powers

Moldbug does not do a very good job speaking. My mentor in evil he may be, but it pains me to see him make the mistake of speaking in public twice, without remedy. At least this time, he did not submit himself to the jaws of the vicious Progressive torture machine - debate.

He simply isn't a convincing orator. His speech is wandering, beset heavily by the Um, the dreaded highwayman, who robs it of pacing and fire.

My advice to Lord Moldbug is to get himself a few speaking classes, or to use writing as his only medium from now on.

H/T Foseti.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Absurd Notions on National Reform: Kingmaker Edition

I was stopped in the street today by someone handing out pamphlets for Mitt Romney. Since I had the time, I decided to engage them in a conversation. I told them that I was not intending to vote for anyone in the election, and that I frankly didn't care about it much either way.

This would not do. The campaigner pressed me on the issue, assuming that I had never considered voting at all. I assured them that, no, I had once been political, and yes, I'd voted (by absentee ballot no less). I was asked somewhat personal things about my life, I suppose in an attempt to pin down what sort of demographic I came from. Eventually, I disengaged the conversation, probably leaving the campaigner quite confused as to why a person well-educated on political issues would choose to take no side in the matter.

Besides the fact that elections are a tribal conflict, of Optimates and Vaisyas against Helots, Dhalits, and Brahmins and I'm a Brahmin who doesn't really fit well into any political bracket (if I voted according to tribal lines, I would either vote for Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich), there's a more Bayesian reason why I don't vote.

It doesn't matter. Fractally so.

Orange-blooded reactionaries know that voting does not matter because the President and Congress have no meaningful power, and you can't vote for bureaucrats. What if we're wrong? What if the President and Congress actually have power?

Well, then voting still does not matter.

Voting is normally sold as a civic duty of high importance. Based only on the description given by election ushers, an alien visiting Earth might even believe that he was chosen, alone, among all humans, to choose the bearer of an office of high importance.

If voting were that - kingmaking - it would matter. It might not be a good way to do things, but can you imagine if it was indeed your duty to choose, alone, the next bearer of such an important and high office? You might not sleep for days. You would ponder every candidate, you would endeavor to meet them, to find out everything you could about them, you would probably take your job very seriously, and if you didn't, a great many people would think less of you.

Some people treat voting this way. I once did. However, most do not. Most don't think about their vote until the impelling heat of the election storm is at its greatest. Even then, they probably go to the poll and either vote along tribal lines, or vote for whomever they liked best on TV.

Voting clearly doesn't hold much importance to people, yet you ask almost anyone about voting, and they will assure you that it's very important.

Here is a stark case of lying without confidence. These people act as if voting doesn't matter, but their convictions do not agree with their actions. How confusing modernity is! Lying without confidence is a telltale sign of a religious belief (know of any armies that truly believed God would carry the day and laid down their arms? Neither do I), and we live in a highly religious country.

I've committed a grave sin. I haven't explained my thesis yet. So, why doesn't the very act of voting matter? Well, think about the reality, not the dogma for a minute.

There are 300 million give-or-take people in the United States. 217 million of these are eligible to vote. Of these, perhaps 90 million will actually vote. So if you vote, you are .000001% of the vote. You are, in fact, such an insignificant element of the voting population, that my phone's calculator rounded you to 0. To my phone, your vote does not matter at all.

To this, many will respond "but what if the vote is very close? Then my vote would matter!"

Ignoring the fact that the electoral college is free to give the popular vote the finger if it chooses, such close votes have literally never happened. Even the closest presidential elections have depended on no less than several hundred votes.

Ah, what fun would it be to end there, though? Let's say it happens. The Closest Election Ever. It's 2044, and Justin Bieber is running against aged statesman Tom Cruise in a personality battle royale. Besides being close, this election truly matters. Bieber's platform is that broiled babies make the healthiest breakfast. Cruise's platform is that babies shouldn't be eaten, cornflakes should, as they prevent compulsive masturbation. You truly believe that masturbation is a human right; Tom Cruise is going down!

Well, it turns out the Closest Election Ever was decided in the 9th district of Kandahar, in the relatively young state of Afghanistan, not in your native district, in the US capital in Honolulu (D.C. long since having been swallowed by Maryland's expanding marshlands). The pathans there feel strongly about masturbation, and Tom Cruise wins. Tough luck, kid.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

OK, fine, the election was decided in favor of Bieber in your native district in Honolulu by exactly one vote (it just so happened that all the half-votes cast by children under 13 ended up cancelling out). But, was it your vote that decided the election? The truth is that just as you have a choice to vote or not to vote, so does everyone else in the election. In the absolutely astronomically improbable event that the election comes down to one vote in your district, you are still not a kingmaker, because everyone else has that choice, too. Just as easily as you could make Bieber king, or deem him unworthy, someone else in your district could undo that by choosing to vote instead of doing something terribly important, like bathing.

Voting is easy. So why not vote? Well, let's put it a different way. What if you had a one in a billion chance of finding $10,000 lying on the ground at the courthouse if you went there today any time from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM (we're assuming here that you don't already have an important appointment there)? Would you go? You might say yes, but consider that one in a billion is a pretty low probability, and that you probably actually do have about those kind of odds of finding $10,000 dollars at the courthouse. Are you rushing out right now to the courthouse? I didn't think so.

Given this, I find it very strange indeed that my father, who would, often and loudly, declare that "gambling is a tax on people who can't do math", is a firm believer in voting as a civic duty.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Absurd Notions on National Reform: So-Not-a-Terrorist Edition

Oleg points out what should be obvious: Insurgents with rifles tend to lose hard against regular infantry.

If you grew up with hunters, think about them for a moment. Wannabe insurgents often assume that they'll get to use every hunter in America as an ad-hoc soldier. Fine, we'll say that they do.

What does the average American hunter look like? He is usually older, past forty (like it or not, hunting is a tradition that's being lost in America). He probably will not be a great marksman; besides most kills not occuring beyond 50 yards, subsistence hunting is uncommon in America today. If you don't make it, you either try again with another $1 round of ammunition, or you go out for steaks afterwards. Some hunters are good marksmen, but they tend to be exception, not the rule.

The average hunter is probably not in great shape, either. Certainly not in such uniform fighting condition as regular infantry. Even if he is not obese or disabled, his ability to traverse large amounts of terrain on foot is most likely limited.

There are how many hunters in America? This NSSF estimate gives us 14 million regular hunters. The combined US armed forces number about 3 million, many - possibly a majority - in noncombat roles.

Ahah! See, we outnumber them 5 to one!

That may be, but having an effective military is more than just having a bunch of guys who can shoot rifles well. Beyond what Oleg mentions, there's artillery, air support, armor, naval power, etc. Oleg does not even mention that it's more important to have an infantryman who can keep moving quickly and for a long time than it is to have one that can shoot well. The goal of infantry is not to kill the enemy, as many wannabe insurgents believe; it is to displace the enemy. Even if America's hunters are great marksmen, how are they supposed to displace such a well-supplied, mobile, well-armored enemy?

How are the insurgents supposed to counter the heavy weapons of the US armed forces? US armor is pretty much invulnerable to the weapons available to the Usian hunter. One commenter mentions a quip by Tito about how tankers have to get out to take a leak sometime. What he fails to consider is that armor does not operate alone, that armor is equipped with smoke dischargers, that no armor platoon would be dumb enough to all go piss at once, and that tankers can hold their urine long enough to lob a few HEAT shells at rebel infantry. What about artillery? Artillery can cause huge amounts of casualties and deny whole sectors to insurgent activity without ever even seeing the enemy. Can Joe Hunter out-sneak a recce fireteam of Army Rangers scouting for artillery? I doubt it. Sure, commando raids can knock out artillery, but are Usian hunters qualified to carry out such raids? For starters, do they have any C4?

Few, if any commenters addressed the issue of how small armed insurgents are supposed to kill even light aircraft. What does the insurgency do when the military shuts down all non-approved movement of materiel and just airlifts the necessary supplies from unit to unit? You cannot shoot down a Chinook with a hunting rifle. Many wannabe insurgents assume that they will simply hit military personnel, knocking out pilots on the ground, drivers in the motor pool, etc. What about UAVs? A Reaper or Firescout loaded with APKWS is more than enough to knock out an entire unit of insurgents with rifles or a convoy of trucks carrying supplies to rebel forces, and the insurgency can't do diddly about it. Meanwhile, their pilots are sitting back, sipping coffee in a well-defended military base, far from danger. With either aircraft, the pilot does not even have to fly the aircraft; both are capable of fully autonomous flight. Far from being expensive aircraft to keep flying, both aircraft are designed primarily for endurance, and both run on lamp oil.

What is the insurgency supposed to do about the blue water Navy, which besides being perfectly capable of shutting down shipping entirely, can fire long-range cruise missiles and launch aircraft against insurgent forces from positions untouchable by the insurgency? What is the insurgency supposed to do about the Navy's latest brown water ships, purpose designed to fight low level wars like the kind they want to start?

And why would a 14 million man militia have a smaller, less vulnerable supply chain than the 3 million man combined US armed forces? Why couldn't the US military use the same supply chain disrupting tactics that wannabe insurgents claim will be their saving grace? Wouldn't those same tactics be as or more effective on an ad-hoc supply chain carried on the backs of F-150s hauling pallets of grandma's cookies than on an organized, well-defended, and in many cases airborne professional military logistics machine?

Don't worry. You're insurgency won't starve. It'll break up and everyone will go home long before then.

It's also assumed by wannabe insurgents that Usians, including those in the military, will see the nobility of their cause and rise up to aid them. How has that worked out previously? In no instances in the past 150 years did the American public rise up and join la resistance, and in many cases, the insurgents are remembered only as terrorists.

Insurgencies don't work by themselves. They need external support of another nation to succeed. Are the insurgent wannabes prepared to ally themselves with China or Russia? Hahahahah, wouldn't that be amusing?