Friday, June 21, 2013

Michael's Rant de Jour...

I think I gotta go all Big Bang Theory nerd boy on you today and talk about Niels Bohr, a Nobel Prize winner for physics in 1922 and one of the fathers of quantum mechanics. He was also 'way cool...Bohrs proudly referred to himself as a "dilettante," because he felt it was important to approach each new question from a starting point of total ignorance. When the Nazis invaded Denmark, Bohr's home, in 1940, he wanted to make sure the Nazis didn't find the Nobel gold medals awarded to Max von Laue and James Franck. He dissolved the gold medals in acid, then stored the acid on a shelf in his Physics Institute throughout the war. After the war, the gold was precipitated out of the acid and the medals re-struck by the Nobel Foundation. That, my friends, is the ultimate Nerd Save.

There are 2 quotes from Bohr that should be carved in the digital marble over the entrance to the Internet and memorized by everybody who passes that way. The first is:
An expert is a person who has found out by his own painful experience all the mistakes that one can make in a very narrow field. 
I'll tell you the second quote in a minute.

There are 2 memes on Ye Olde Internete that are driving me bonkers crazy these days. The first is this pompous navel-gazing on how we all might determine which are the "good" — read, people who agree with me — gun blogs versus the bad — read, people who either don't agree with me or are actually making money at this — gun blogs. Who's an expert, and who's not. Sort of reminds me of a "law" about science fiction a few decades ago, I believe attributed to author Ted Sturgeon, something along the lines of, "Ninety percent of all science fiction is crap, but that's okay since 90% of everything is crap."

Pantheon in Rome, built A.D. 126 and never restored

Of course that was a few years ago, and the percentage is not doubt higher today. When my Sweetie and I went to the Pantheon in Rome a couple of weeks ago, she marveled that this amazing structure, built in A.D. 126 was not only still standing, unrestored, but still amazingly beautiful. I noted that, hey, our culture has created Hangover 3!

Let's stipulate that, based on Sturgeon's Law, 90% of all gun blogs are crap. Okay, cool. But I would say our challenge is to sift wheat from chaff...even in the crappiest of the 90% there is still wisdom to be found. Even the least "expert" of experts might bring us the single nugget of truth that might, just might, be the one that saves your life on the day when the balloon goes up. And here's what I think is a critical point...experts, even experts under Bohr's definition who have actually done as opposed to reading about other people doing, often have radically different interpretations and opinions about similar topics. There are quite legitimate experts with who I drastically disagree (not to mention dislike), but that doesn't mean every word that comes out of their mouth is total dreck.

We live, for at least a little while longer, in an open marketplace of ideas. A key point of living in that open marketplace of ideas is that the individual is responsible for sorting through those ideas. Gosh, doesn't that sound just like what we say about self-defense, that the individual is ultimately the only person responsible for his or her self-defense? Do both those responsibilities put more pressure on the individual? You betcha!

Never trust "gate-keeprs," including me. The problem with gate-keepers — people who ostensibly want to steer you toward those blogs/experts/products/whatever that are "certified" (by said gate-keeper) — is first that they want to be gate-keepers at all. LOL! Use your own brain!

The second meme that is irritating me to death is the seemingly endless tripe about how the ammo shortage is the result of "hoarders." I have written and talked about on DOWN RANGE Radio my thoughts on the ammo shortage (here's the short list), to wit, that it is the result of a "perfect storm" that includes increased demand from the flood of new shooters (Gun Culture Ver. 2.0) and the changing shooting habits of existing shooters, the increased demand caused by the very real attempts by the state and federal government to restrict ammo purchases/possession, increased world-wide tensions resulting in preparatory ammo purchases by numerous governments, the continued U.S. war footing (including a depletion of the National Reserve of ammo) that guarantees massive Dot.Gov ammo purchases for the foreseeable future, the exhaustion of the massive WW2 and Cold War surplus ammo caches in Europe, the drastic increase in demand for baseline manufacturing commodities like lead and copper, necessary for ammunition production, from countries like China and India and probably a couple of other factors I have totally overlooked.

Whenever I read that everything would be just ducky if we all only bought only what ammo we needed instead of a case, it reminds me of where that thinking comes from: "Jeder nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen!" That rollicking Karl Marx! What a card! But in the last couple of weeks I read forum posts where shooters who always picked up a single box of ammo at Wally-World on the way to the Saturday match now bitterly attack "hoarders" who have made this stupid practice impossible; other shooters who explain how they have refused to take up reloading because it is 1) expensive, 2) boring and 3) takes a lot of time and now those damn hoarders have ruined it for them.

I have said this definition of a "hoarder" is someone who was smarter than you. Given the current vicious meme about ammo hoarders, what does this tell us should the feces really hit the Schumer (as Jim Rawles says)?  How quickly do you think your neighbors, your friends, your relatives, will turn on you about the "hoarded" food in your basement, your "hoarded" medical supplies, that "Hoarded" Big Berkey water filter you bought to guarantee your family's fresh water or the solar panels you're "hoarding" on your roof? We are a nation of grasshoppers who like to tell ourselves we're ants right up until the point that we're tested on the very things that ants do. And keep in mind that a horde of locust can quite literally overwhelm a country.

For years I and many other people have talked about the necessity of taking responsibility for the safety of ourselves and those under our care. We have urged you to simply follow the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared!

For those of you bemoaning those damn ammo hoarders, what did you think "Be Prepared!" actually meant?

Finally, Niels Bohr's other great quote:

Some subjects are so serious that one can only joke about them.

Remember it!


Matt said...

Unfortunately, Michael, the definition of a hoarder will someday be: someone who broke the law.... and as a result had their stash hauled away.

Michael Bane said...

And I fear that day is coming faster than any of us imagine...


nj larry said...

As Keynes the long run we 're all dead. MB u sound like you are about to have a breakdown. Relax. Everyone should have an up armored hummvee and a G5. Dont do 99.99% of humanity any good to even think it is within their reach. Figure out what you are having for dinner.

Caleb said...

Obviously Michael, you and I should determine which gun blogs are legit and which ones aren't. That way we can keep out the riff-raff.


SiGraybeard said...

Bohr's other greatest quote also fits here well: "Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future".

The ammo manufacturers seem to have been reluctant to add physical plant until very lately. Of course, these are expensive machines and big outlays for a company. They obviously don't want to spend a lot of money and have the demand dry up. The talk about hoarders helps discourage them from adding capacity because it fosters the idea that this is just a market bubble and demand will drop back off in a year or so. Predicting the future has been hard for them.

With over 16 million NICS checks last year, and checks going up year over year since like '03, how can the daily average demand for ammo not go up? And that's ignoring the demand you mentioned. Predicting that shouldn't have been so hard.

Anonymous said...

Picking "good" or "bad" blogs is really pretty simple regardless of subject .
Is their information consistently accurate?
What else matters ?
I've got no comment on "hoarders since I agree with you and have frequently told others the same thing.
Tom Bogan
Laconia NH

Six said...

Agreed and well said Michael. We're starting to see some easing here in Southern Utah. I picked up three boxes of 9mm 115 FMJ the other day for 10 bucks a box at WalMart (3 box per customer per day maximum). Granted it was TulAmmo but practice rounds by any other name go bang just as loud. They also had a little .223, .40 and .44 mag. No 22 LR though. Of course, I'm one of those hoarders who managed to put away 15,000 rounds of 22LR pre ammo crisis. I'm also seeing more than a few EBRs. Maybe things are finally beginning to recover a bit.

Gun Shy Tourist said...

What pi$$ed Gun Shy off was those a-holes that were buying everything in sight, and then putting it on Gun Broker for five times the price. Most of those idiots weren't even shooters. They made it hard on the legitimate shooters.

Kevin said...

One of the things about experts in a field is that they tend think that their expertise extends well beyond where it does. Like, say, a physicist deciding to become involved in international relations based on his superficial understanding of how various governments actually work. For example, take Sudoplatov's description of Bohr's contribution to the Soviet Unions' nuclear weapon program in "Special Tasks". Not that his assistance was nearly as critical as Oppenheimer's, Fermi's or Slizard's but they were pretty much a victim to the same mistake.

Harry Callahan was right when he said "A man's got to know his limitations".

Anonymous said...


Todd said...

I happen to agree but having gun shops jump the price up on 22 ammo to 89 dollars for a box of 550 Remington and 39 dollar p-mags is ridiculous when you know they are not buying it for that.


DamDoc said...

As Grandma DamDoc, who lived through the great depression used to tell me as a young lad: "You have to get it BEFORE the horders get it"

shawn w said...

like doc said, i got it before the hoarders did. i took MB's advice and spent a small fortune.

I'm now trading ammo i have no gun for , for all sorts of outdoor gear & goodies from game cams to hunting glass to a climbing stand for pennies on the dollar.

I'm profiting from the laziness of others. what's wrong with that.
i always barter and everyone leaves with a smile.
i want stuff! cash sucks!
want some .40 , I'll take that tent. need some .45 I'll take that chainsaw lol high school ring for some 380, yeah i can do that.
my battery is taken care of with a little redundancy built in for my err "hunting buddy".
he decided to start prepping after the election.
former marine!
who woulda thought?
but you gotta look out for your friends.

happy hunting all.

Charlie Foxtrot said...

+10, Michael.

I've long "hoarded" a couple of boxes of ammo each Wally*Mart trip. Always thought it was a good prepper play, plus a hedge against the threatened Obomaflation and general pervasive price increases. It works for me - and has helped several friends who've been caught out.

Doing same with canned food, water, etc.

KevinC said...

Buying up a bunch of ammo at prices that are relatively close to what they were in 2011: Smart.

Buying up a bunch of ammo at today's ridiculously inflated prices and thinking you're smarter than anyone else because you've got ammo and no one will ever be able to ammo again: Not smart.

Prices will go down again and availability will go up. It's not a question of IF, it's only a question of WHEN.

The Freeholder said...

Michael, all I can say is "Yep".

Well done.

Anonymous said...

Of course if you prepare for a possible but unlikely event, you will be hailed a genius. However it ignores that fact that the event is highly unlikely to occur in the first place. Isn't it strange that people will prepare for possible but unlikely events mostly when a gun is the answer. Many I know do not even have a fire extinguisher or other safety equipment in their homes and cars but they do have guns.

Anonymous said...

"To be ready is not"... Ponce

There is always something else to do.

"If you don't hold it, you don't own it"...Ponce

What can I say?


Rob Taylor said...

I don't get the hate for "hoarders" considering how many people who shoot talk about prepping. When I moved from NYC to SC I got to do a lot more shooting and gun buying. When I find ammo I like I get a lot of it. I bought an Uberti .22, took it to a range planning on shooting maybe 100 rounds through it so when i went to Academy I bought 300 or 400. That way I have extra.

I guess no one has read The Alpha Strategy or has thought of a little thing called inflation. I buy more socks than I need too if I find a brand I like because if I wait they might me more expensive. We really are a nation of grasshoppers.

tablekiller said...

Excellently said Michael. Listening to the Podcast every week, made me realize I talked a good game but didn't really practice as much preparedness as I should. I never considered myself a "prepper". I bought ammo here and there and knew this attack on gun rights would come in Obama's 2nd term. Therefore, I have a good "stash" of ammo. I can still train and have enough on hand to feel comfortable if the shit hits the fan. So, thanks for sharpening my mindset. The Podcast, is indispensable because of your insights and expertise. Thanks for all you do and you keep Podcasting and I'll keep listening!
Chad Hendrix
Biloxi, MS

lineman said...

Why is that the people who don't store or save anything and get caught by surprise of increase in demand always complain the loudest of everybody is hoarding and price gouging...The thing is most people are reactive in life...They deal with things as they come up and if its bad they are usually behind the curve and they end up paying for it monetarily, physically, emotionally, or with their life worse case...The key in life is to be proactive...Know history, keep up with current events, save things that will be of use to you in the future, and many others things to help you keep the most for the least amount of blood, sweat and tears...The words hoarding and price gouging are made up words from the people who envy what others have saved up for their benefit...

Anonymous said...

I would like to respectfully disagree with any/eyeryone who is complaining about "hoarders", "scalpers", and "profiteers". Some factors I don't think you are considering, in no particular oder:
If you don't like the price don't pay it.
If a business is run by selling product, and they can't resupply product they HAVE to increase the price of inventory they have left so that they can stay in business. The business may have to make several monthes of profit to survive until product becomes available again. Rent, payroll, utilities are due every month regardless of sales...
If you are a shooter, and didn't see this coming, and didn't take steps- shame on you!
If you think that you should determine the "fair" markup that a business should sell their product at, you might be quite content in Cuba, Korea, or the former Soviet Union. Bye.
By raising prices on goods, retailers actually make rare products available to more customers. Example: You have $100 to spend on magazines, they were $20/ea., you hoped to buy 5, but there are only 5 left at the store. Now they are $50/ea. You now can get two, and the next guy can get two also (provided he also has $50). This is good for the shooting community as a whole, but maybe bad for you. Again, if you are a shooter, and didn't see this coming- Shame on you!