Monday, December 31, 2012

While Waiting for Piers Morgan to Self-Deport

While sitting around waiting for Piers Morgan to self-deport because we reject his fantasy-based gun control ideas, Around O-Town Orlando links to an article originally on Pravda.  Not the New York Times, the real one: Pravda.Ru - Americans, Never Give Up Your Guns.  Complete with charmingly bad translation in places.
For those of us fighting for our traditional rights, the US 2nd Amendment is a rare light in an ever darkening room. Governments will use the excuse of trying to protect the people from maniacs and crime, but are in reality, it is the bureaucrats protecting their power and position. In all cases where guns are banned, gun crime continues and often increases. As for maniacs, be it nuts with cars (NYC, Chapel Hill NC), swords (Japan), knives (China) or home made bombs (everywhere), insane people strike. They throw acid (Pakistan, UK), they throw fire bombs (France), they attack. What is worse, is, that the best way to stop a maniac is not psychology or jail or "talking to them", it is a bullet in the head, that is why they are a maniac, because they are incapable of living in reality or stopping themselves.  (emphasis added - SiG)
Today, Russians are still under the thumb of a strongman.  They've replaced a tyrannical communist government with a tyrannical oligarchy.  Conditions are marginally better for people, but incredibly better for the well-connected.  Pravda isn't officially unamerican, but practically, the stories on Pravda blame a lot on the US.  The occasional honest reporting like this is worth keeping an eye on.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Has It Started?

Are we looking at the opening rounds of the next civil war?  The second revolution?  It started when that stupid newspaper published the exact locations of every pistol permit holder in a two county area of New York.  Christopher Fountain at For What It's Worth retaliated by publishing information on the staff of the newspaper: home addresses, Facebook pages and other information.  This is not really the same level in my mind, because this information is publicly available, although it needed to be found and correlated, while the list of license holders was probably illegal to acquire and publish (saw that stated somewhere, but can't find the link now).  A map of the locations of where the newspaper staff lives was eventually published at Talk of the Sound, a local web site

In what appears to be a blatant counter strike, Gannett newspapers has apparently declared war on the gun owners of New York and plans to publish the personal information on every pistol permit holder in the state.  (H/T to Sebastian).  

I don't live anywhere near New York, and I'm sure most people don't, but this affects all law-abiding gun owners.  This nothing less than intimidation, trying attach a social stigma to gun ownership.  Personally, I think it will backfire and if anyone has to worry, it's not the gun owners but the folks whose "Gun Free Zone" homes have just been identified.  Yeah, they may want to rob the gun owners, but only if they're not home to defend their possessions; the people next door who aren't armed are more likely to get the visit from the bad guys who know they'll be unopposed.

We can strike back against Gannett by cutting our business ties with them.  Drop subscriptions to Gannett newspapers or Comcast Cable, owned by Gannett.  As WRSA says "Resist" - by all means necessary.

The larger question is whether this is part of a coordinated attack that will spread nationwide.  The press, as you all know, is very strongly left leaning, and in support of the Obama agenda are nothing short of Pravda. The press could be doing the softening up aspect of the attack that is going to go really hot in January.  Sort of the equivalent of high altitude bombing to soften up the target.

Today, I found no less than four bloggers commenting on the fact that a civil war appears to be breaking out.  I think they are worth your time to read.  The first I read was Brock at Free North Carolina who says,
Americans are preparing to dig-in.  In other words they are preparing for a fight.  They are preparing for the day when the words run out, as they surely will.  They will then have no other alternative than to turn—as their forefathers have done since the country was founded—to the gun.
I bounced from there to Angry White Dude who posted a piece "Hey Senator Feinstein, You Say You Want a Revolution?"  He writes:
While showing her ignorance of the Second Amendment by believing the right to bear arms has to do with hunting, her bill proves exactly why the Second Amendment was included in the Constitution.  We have the right to own firearms to protect our liberties from tyrannists who would seize them.  Just as the chorus of leftists are currently doing. Any politicians who calls for such gun control legislation must realize they are standing at the precipice of the second American revolution. Americans will NEVER allow their guns to be taken by a federal government we do not trust.
From there, I ended up at The Middle of the Right, who posts "Siddown, Pour Yourself a Cuppa Joe", and posts some ideas on what could be coming,
This issue could well break this country. Could lead to armed revolt against our government. Lead to deaths and destruction.  Lead to a second revolution. Lead to the death of the US as we know it. Not all those who cleaned out the inventory of "assault rifles" and ammunition and pistols were first timers or investors... Many were just stocking up. Many were planning ahead. Many were looking at the same thing I am right now. 
 and includes the Solzhenitsyn quote we've all read so many times.
“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? ...”
Finally, I ended up at Bob Owens' "What You'll See in the Revolution".
If we’re lucky, the United States of America, or whatever amalgam results, will again try to rebuild. If we’re very lucky, the victors will reinstate the Constitution as the law of the land. Just as likely though, we’ll face fractious civil wars fought over issues we’ve not begun to fathom, and a much diminished state or states will result, perhaps guided by foreign interests.

It will not be pretty. There will be no “winners,” and perhaps hundreds of thousands to millions of dead.
All of it is worth reading.  Consider that this newspaper skirmish may be the 2012 version of "the shot heard (read) 'round the world"

Me, I went to the local gun show today, not really looking for anything, just to see if the nationwide skyrocketing demand has hit my little city.  Has it ever.  The show is here every 4 to 6 weeks; the average show gets around 3000 attendees.  They had over 5000 on Saturday afternoon, with a line to get in that lasted until 3PM (show opened at 9AM).  A friend reported seeing amazing amounts of ammo going out the doors.  It was packed today, impassable in some rows at some times.  Two or more deep at tables.

I can't say there were no ARs available for sale, but supply and demand being as inexorable as it is, guns that might have gone for $900 at the last show in November were going for $1600 today. Prices were really up. I have a habit of picking up a brick of 500 .22LR whenever I see it under $20 - today it was $30, up 50%. I saw a guy asking $900 for a case of a thousand rounds of .223. Whether he sold it or not, I couldn't say. 30 round magazines were tagged at $30 each - or more. The handgun vendors were low on stock.  Few Glocks, few XDs, few M&Ps.  Some had nothing but the low end guns, like High Points, Jimenez, Sccy and such (not that they couldn't be useful).

I always like to watch and listen to the crowd. Every size, shape, color, age, and ethnicity (as far as I can tell by looking/listening) was represented. Older couples who would look in place in a retirement community, younger 20-somethings that look like they're from Puerto Rico, plenty of "the girl next door" types, too - you name it.  And everything in between.

I think the feeling that something really bad might be coming has reached into a large section of the population.
I know that the argument isn't really going to be settled on the basis of facts when our side argues with facts, reason and logic, and they argue on emotion (and penis jokes), but you'll have a hard time coming up with a better set of facts than this article in PJ Media.  

But Everything is Fine!

Not told to me directly, but you hear it often enough.  "Why are you so down on the economy when everything is fine?  Housing prices have bottomed, and the DJIA is at 13,000, way higher than when Bush was in office, why do you think bad times are coming?" What do you say to someone like this?  They earnestly believe everything is fine.  Recovery is underway.  If we're concerned, it's just partisan politics.  Or raaaaaaacisssssmmmm. 

All of the things they mention say this person doesn't really understand price inflation, or they think it's negligible, like the official stats say.  Let's start there. 

You can ask them if they know what quantitative easing is, and if they know what it means.  Chances are they don't.  You can explain that the Federal Reserve is creating money out of thin air to buy up debt and keep interest rates down, and that they're currently creating $85 Billion per month - in addition to over a trillion already spent.  By having so many dollars available, an enormous supply keeps the price of money (interest rates) down by supply and demand.  You can explain that the federal government borrows about 40 cents of every dollar of Federal spending, and that we sell bonds to countries and banks that will buy them in order to finance that borrowing, promising to pay them their purchase price and some small amount of interest some time in the future.  Here's the first learning moment: ask them who's buying our bonds.  Chances are they'll say China, because that has been said on the news often enough that they'll have heard that, but in reality it's the Federal Reserve that is buying most of our debt, about 70%.  It's really an incredible wealth transfer from the people to the banks.  Now you can say that this is like paying your Visa with your Mastercard; maybe you can do that in the event of an emergency, but in the long run, it's not healthy.  Since the money is created by creating debt in a bank ledger, it's more like writing yourself a check to deposit so that you can write more checks.

Now you can probe: if the Fed is creating $85 Billion per month so that any demand for dollars is easily met, and interest rates kept down, does the large supply of dollars effect anything else?  Simply anyone who wants to sell you something knows that more dollars means each one is worth less, so they ask for more.  What's the real inflation rate?  The government has changed how they report it over the years, but everyone who goes grocery shopping knows prices are up.  John Williams over at Shadowstats makes a living keeping track of price inflation the way it was done before, making it easier to compare numbers over time.  Not surprisingly, he has discovered that the Federal government keeps changing the way inflation is reported to make them sound better.  Here's his latest plot.
It's obvious that there was a major shift in 2009/2010, but ignoring that, it's fair to say that inflation has averaged around 10% since 2005, and 8% from 2002 to 2005.

Going back to the original argument that the Dow is up so high, if the DJIA is approximately 13,000 today, you can reduce that by 10% inflation to say it would be 11818 if there were no inflation.  This compounds like interest.  If there were no inflation for the last two years, the DJIA would be 107413.  You can continue.  The independent investor site "Dogs of the Dow" calculates that adjusted for inflation, the Dow has not gone up since about 2000 - Y2K. 

Price inflation also affects the price of housing.  The inflation-adjusted prices for houses on the national level are just now returning to historical norms. But beware: politics is at play again, and there is thought that regulations have been created to inflate another housing bubble.  That can't end well.

A lot has been said about the Federal debt, but I think what drives it home the best is putting it into dollar values close to what people have experienced, or close to their income level.  This is easily done in a spreadsheet or with a calculator by scaling the enormous numbers involved.  Consider a family with this income and expenses ledger, derived by dividing the Federal budget numbers by 30,000,000 (and striving for nice, round numbers instead of absolute accuracy) :

Per Year
Income $75,000
expense $140,000
yearly shortage $65,000
Existing Debt $550,000
This year they made $75,000 and spent $140,000.  They're already in debt $550,000, over 7 times their income, but instead of paying that down, they're adding $65,000 to their debt.  Who would loan this family money?  I can't imagine any bank agreeing to loan them more money without plans to get out of debt.  Does this look economically healthy?  That's where we are as a country. 

Now point out the Debt to GDP ratio of just over 100% here and other countries.  Compare to other countries:
The thing to point out about this chart is to look at the countries to our left (higher debt to GDP).  Greece is collapsed as a country, Japan is barely afloat, while Italy, and Portugal are regularly reported as being in trouble.  Look to our right.  Iceland had troubles, France is in trouble, and Spain is being reported as the possible next domino to fall.  We're not in a good place.

That's why we're concerned about the economy.  We're not trying to make Washington - the president and/or congress look bad.  They're good enough at that themselves. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Little AR-Foolery

If the AR-15 is Barbie for Men, then half the fun is changing Barbie's outfit.  

First step was I decided to dress up my home built AR by replacing the plastic standard foregrip with a quad rail.  Found a reasonable seller on eBay.  Next a pair of Rapid Transition Sights, from another seller.  It's my understanding Rapid Transition Sights come from the 3-gun world, where they were developed to help competitors engage targets at different distances.  The end result looks like this:

The idea is that I can use my scope for distance work and rotate onto the RT Sights, which are just iron sights, for distances more friendly to old man eyes. This should cover me from a few feet out to a few hundred yards.

Sadly, the anti-gun loonies rants about ARs are correct.  They are blood thirsty.  This one demanded a few drops before the task could be completed.
My left middle finger.  Doesn't look good for guitar practice tonight. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Preparing for the Fight

The details of Babs Feinstein's Assault Scary Looking Weapons Ban have been posted to her website, and it's simultaneously interesting and nauseating to look at them.  Essentially she intends to criminalize any semiautomatic rifle that can accept a magazine larger than 10 rounds, except for some .22 caliber rifles.  While I don't want to waste the space quoting her, it's clear that the flying monkeys staffers who prepared this have listened to some of the criticisms of the old AWB.  For example, it has often been pointed out that the wooden-stocked Ruger Ranch Rifle Mini-14 was acceptable while the functionally identical Mini-14 Tactical version was prohibited, so they responded by calling the Mini-14 out by name and declaring it illegal.  The NRA-ILA has extracted some highlights to include here:
  • Expands the definition of “assault weapon” by including:
    • Three very popular rifles: The M1 Carbine (introduced in 1944 and for many years sold by the federal government to individuals involved in marksmanship competition), a model of the Ruger Mini-14, and most or all models of the SKS. 
    • Any “semiautomatic, centerfire, or rimfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds,” except for tubular-magazine .22s. 
    • Any “semiautomatic, centerfire, or rimfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches,” any “semiautomatic handgun with a fixed magazine that has the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds,” and any semi-automatic handgun that has a threaded barrel. 
  • Requires owners of existing “assault weapons” to register them with the federal government under the National Firearms Act (NFA)The NFA imposes a $200 tax per firearm, and requires an owner to submit photographs and fingerprints to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), to inform the BATFE of the address where the firearm will be kept, and to obtain the BATFE’s permission to transport the firearm across state lines.
Notice in particular that the definition of assault weapons is extended to pistols.  The conclusion here is that for any model pistol that comes from the factory with a magazine that holds over 10 rounds, and there must be a couple of dozen of such models, they become NFA firearms requiring a $200 tax per handgun - and, it's arguable, $200 per magazine - fingerprinting, photo ID, and permission from your local sheriff.

The only technology she appears willing to accept is bolt action rifles with built in magazines holding five or fewer rounds.  I suppose an M1 Garand with its 8 round en bloc clip would be acceptable.  And revolvers.  At least on her web page and the NRA web page, I see no talk about restricting revolvers.  Maybe modern engineers can do something with the old Belgian H.D.H. 20 shot revolver design?
(HDH 20 Shot Revolver - 1895)
There's more.  On her web page, Feinstein lists studies to back up her efforts, and predictably lies about what they say.  For example, she says:
In a Department of Justice study (pdf), Jeffrey Roth and Christopher Koper find that the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was responsible for a 6.7 percent decrease in total gun murders, holding all other factors equal. They write: “Assault weapons are disproportionately involved in murders with multiple victims, multiple wounds per victim, and police officers as victims.”
The NRA quotes the actual paper:
On her website, Feinstein claims that a study for the DOJ found that the 1994 ban resulted in a 6.7 percent decrease in murders. To the contrary, this is what the study said: “At best, the assault weapons ban can have only a limited effect on total gun murders, because the banned weapons and magazines were never involved in more than a modest fraction of all gun murders. Our best estimate is that the ban contributed to a 6.7 percent decrease in total gun murders between 1994 and 1995. . . . However, with only one year of post-ban data, we cannot rule out the possibility that this decrease reflects chance year-to-year variation rather than a true effect of the ban.  Nor can we rule out effects of other features of the 1994 Crime Act or a host of state and local initiatives that took place simultaneously.”
GunFacts (pdf - see page 63) gives more data to back up discussions with antis. 

To paraphrase Greg Gutfeld, listening to Feinstein talk about guns is like listening to a tree talk about algebra. 

Realistically, this could be a negotiating ploy: put up the most outrageous demands she can think of and get what she can.  We need to convince our representatives not to accept anything.  None of these bans will have the desired effects.   Time to get busy contacting your congresscritters - and don't forget your local and state officials either.  The war is not coming, the war has begun.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day Ketchup

Ketchup as in "catching up".
As I said we would, yesterday we smoked a pork shoulder (also known as a Boston butt), a good-sized (supermarket) duck and added some hot Italian sausage while the smoker was going.  Served with finishing sauce, and topped off with some pumpkin squares with whipped cream, it was a feast.  Virtually completely paleo for those of you in to that.  (Pumpkin squares with some artificial sweetener, and almond flour so paleo purists will scoff).

Even the leftovers are wonderful.  Cold smoked duck (not this kind of cold duck) and pulled pork is excellent with some salsa.  Had some smoked Italian sausage in an omelet this morning.

My son, by the way, says the obvious name for smoked duck and pork is "dork".  

"Black boxes" on cars have gotten a bit of press lately, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposing broader use of "Event Data Recorders" starting 2014.  Their "it's all for your safety" idea is to record critical parameters in the car in the moments before a crash.
  • vehicle speed;
  • whether the brake was activated in the moments before a crash;
  • crash forces at the moment of impact;
  • information about the state of the engine throttle;
  • air bag deployment timing and air bag readiness prior to the crash; and
  • whether the vehicle occupant's seat belt was buckled.
In case you didn't know it, most cars made since about 1996 already have these.  The problem with these boxes is that there are no security provisions built into them.  Getting my Borepatch on, it's not that security was an afterthought, security was never thought of.  What does that mean? The simplest example is that if you have the ability to wipe the memory of the transponder, it can't be proven you were doing anything wrong.  And getting my Borepatch with a tinfoil Yarmulke on, if someone wanted to frame you, they can load the EDR with false information.  As the author of that Design News article says, just enter "erase crash data" into the search bar on YouTube and you'll find a page of videos on how to wipe the memory in your EDR.  A quick search on eBay finds a handful of boxes that clear the memory.  The expert quoted in that piece said, "Last time I looked, there were 23 companies making products that allow someone to erase your crash data".

If they don't put anything into the recorders to improve security, it will be a natural for a defense attorneys to dispute the control of the ERD to keep it from being filled with bogus data.  As you might imagine, it has already happened that an ERD was wiped before information useful in a vehicular homicide case could be used.

Our friends at the JPFO link to an article at the South Dakota Shooters forums, where admin Kory has put together a graphic showing the number of school shootings since 1900.  They color code the major gun control laws.  Here's their graphic:
As Tam pointed out the other day, from about 1900 until today both semiautomatic weapons and psychotics were found in abundance in America, so what's different about today?  With one exception, all of the school shootings with more than a handful of victims have been in the last 10 years.  Further, if you go read the stories of the US school shootings, it seems that before about 1970 they appear to largely have been personal fights that took place at a school or a fight that was extended to a school: they weren't carried out by psychos intending to get famous by killing as many innocent victims as possible.  From that graph it's pretty obvious that as the number of laws layered on top of each other has gone up, the number of school shootings has gone up.
The media has pretty well chewed up Wayne LaPierre (warning for self-starting audio/video) for saying armed guards in schools would prevent more shootings.  Of course, most of them - like felon in fact, if not charged, David Gregory - send their children to schools under armed guards.  And, being the mainstream media, they never think to ask the police who respond, the trainers who train those police and the trainers who train those trainers what they think, probably because over 95% of them would want armed citizens in the schools.  Maybe I'm crediting LaPierre with more strategy than he deserves, but I think his overall plan was that when people say "we can't afford armed guards" the answer is "just let those people with concealed carry permits carry on campus". 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

44 Years ago tonight, Apollo 8 was on the world's first mission to the moon. Like sailors sailing out of sight of land for the first time, man was leaving the safety of shore for the first time. We were becoming a space-faring population. Here on the ground 1968 had been a tumultuous year but we were united in watching the Apollo 8 mission in a way few things have united

I'll never forget that message they sent down, that Christmas eve.  Especially after roughly 1:00 into this video.  

Last year, I wrote:
Churches, like all groups, have personalities, and in the one I attend, it would be remarkable to toss a wadded up paper ball and not hit an engineer, nurse, doctor, or a other professional.  It's not news to this bunch that Jesus was probably born in the spring (or fall, depending on whom you read), that the December 25th date comes from adapting to the Roman Saturnalia or other pagan holidays; nor would they be shocked if you told them Christmas has more secular than holy traditions associated with it.  Not that we don't joyously celebrate the reason for the season, but Easter is a bigger holiday than Christmas for the simple reason that everyone has a birthday, but only one man in history has ever come back.  
Since then, I've heard another explanation for why December 25th was chosen.  It's close to the solstice, the longest night of the year - which made it the darkest night of the year in those days.  Jesus was the light of the world, and the symbolism of bringing light when things are at their darkest fits perfectly with the story.  Yes, it's become commercialized; shopping, food and football.  I love it anyway.  Thank the masters of Madison Avenue - propagandists, really - who have learned how to push so many people's buttons - to get us to buy things.

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
-- Dr. Seuss
So however you mark this day, enjoy it well.  Spend time with family or friends or both.  Things are not important; people are what it's about.  If you're LEO, or fire; Nurse or MD, and are one who must work so the rest of us may rest, thank you.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Some Things Are Worth Holding Onto

I received an email today with a story, told in a simple series of pictures, that brought tears to my eyes.  After searching online for a while, I find most of the pictures here on BuzzFeed:  the story of Taylor Morris and Danielle Kelly. 

Taylor is a young man from Cedar Falls, Iowa, who enlisted in the Navy.  Taylor is an EOD - Explosive Ordinance Disposal - officer.  On May 3, 2012 in Afghanistan, Taylor had a bad day, and you probably know that when EODs have a bad day, it can be a very bad day.  He lost portions of all four limbs.  Recovery, still ongoing, has been a long road.  Danielle has been there through it all. Go read.  More here.
As the guy who sent me the pictures said, "If he's a hero, she's an ANGEL".  I suspect they would both reject those labels.  And I wouldn't believe they aren't for a nanosecond.

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like...

Christmas dinner.  Growing up in Miami, I remember my Cuban neighbors having pig roasts, where they'd roast a whole pig, with head of course, for Christmas dinner.  A Cuban friend from work sent me this.
Well, we're not going that big, I'll just be smoking another pork butt for Christmas, so we'll start marinating it tonight.  A butt and a duck. 

Why not?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Alternative Hypotheses

Zendo Deb over at 357 Magnum puts together an interesting posting on the role of psychiatric drugs in episodes of violence: suicide, homicide, murder/suicides and mass killings.  She offers it without much comment, but it's about 15 minutes worth of video to watch, and it is thought provoking. This (elsewhere) has been offered as a possible explanation for the Newtown shootings.

The other thing specified by name has been violent video games, and Erin over at Lurking Rhythmically talks about that.  Erin is more direct, and as far as I know, the studies that have been done categorically reject the idea that violent games lead to violence.

First, let me categorically reject the idiotic "if saves one life..." argument out of hand.  What follows will be a little pondering, an open-page rambling.  I hope it's a little interesting to you. 

In the "after action" analyses of these events, it gets hard to say anything analytically because as horrific as these things are, they're also horrifically rare.  I've heard, but can't confirm, that every school shooter we know of was on a psychotropic drug.  If someone is on such a drug, it gets hard to statistically “tease out” cause and effect. You need big samples and rigorous controls. You can’t data mine old studies. You can't say that any particular person killed themselves because they were on the drug without knowing more than you have available.  Put another way, maybe if they weren’t on Zoloft or whatever, maybe they would have killed themselves sooner. People on antidepressants kill themselves, but depressed people kill themselves: which is the cause? Did they kill themselves because they were taking the drug, or because the dosage was wrong, or because it didn't work in their body?  What if the drugs just mask another, bigger, underlying problem?

The problem with my argument is that you’d need many thousands of school shooters to conclude that the drugs cause their behavior to the kind of certainty that would be demanded, which (of course) is unacceptable.

One obvious problem is that when drugs are tested for efficacy, they're tested in isolation: that's the essence of a controlled trial.  No attempt is made to see if interactions between the drugs with other drugs or other factors change results, because the tests become so complex and expensive that they simply can't be done. (This problem - of interactions between combinations of drugs - is pervasive in medicine).
The problem that is never discussed, and here I put on my “olde farte” hat, is that these drugs – even if they were perfect – may be keeping kids from developing what we old timers call “character”. While I fully understand there are real brain chemistry issues that may require medication, these drugs seem to be massively over used. I read once they’re prescribed up to 20 times more in the US than in other countries. Trouble paying attention? Take this! Depressed because that boy or girl rejected you? Take this! Not “suck it up, it builds character”. Afraid of embarrassing yourself in band? Take this pill! Not practice harder, or work harder, or just plain “everybody gets that”. It’s one reason I oppose marijuana for kids. I’ve seen too many 40-something stoners living in mom’s spare room.  Adults who never developed “character” as a child.  Some times it takes hard determination to get through the day.  That's reality.

Both of these have been offered up as alternative hypotheses to explain spree shooters.  It's an attempt to keep shooters from being created.  There is no doubt that no matter what the cause, the way to stop a bad guy with a gun is for a good guy with a gun to be there. 

The truth here is that we may never be able to know with certainty, on a scientific basis, if either of these is a cause.  I can imagine there might be a sub-population of people, maybe just one in over a hundred thousand, who could be influenced by a bad rap video, a movie, or, yes, a game combined with the influence of a psychotropic drug.  I couldn't prove that wild-assed guess with a billion dollars worth of studies. 
One in a million kids will face a shooter.  All of them will face this.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Stupid Maya! "Assault Weapons" Ban 2 and More

I had to work today.  Then, because it's my last day of work for two weeks, I wanted to leave slightly early so I went to do my online time card around 3:30.  And spent the better part of an hour fighting with some sort of system error.  Not only did I not leave early, I left late enough to be one of the last few cars still in the lot (out of over 200).

Yeah, I know.  No cheese with that whine. 

Let me join the crowd referring everyone to read Larry Correia's piece on the coming gun control fight.  He really does cover it well. 

Some other time before the first, listen to Michael Bane's Down Range Radio podcast, largely on the same subject. 

Today, I got an email from the NAGR saying Marco Rubio, my senator, is backing off his support for gun rights and it's time to bombard him.  They cite this article from "The Hill", which simply begins "Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is open to a "comprehensive study" of gun laws, an aide said."  The actual text of the statement sounds quite different to me.  It reads:
"In the aftermath of the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, Sen. Rubio, like millions of Americans, is looking for public policy changes that would prevent such a horrible event from happening again," Conant said in an email to The Hill. "He remains a strong supporter of the Second Amendment right to safely and responsibly bear arms. But he has also always been open to measures that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

"The challenge with gun laws is that by definition criminals do not follow the law. For example, Connecticut's gun laws, some of the strictest in the nation, were not able to prevent this atrocity. Nevertheless, he supports a serious and comprehensive study of our laws to find new and better ways to prevent any more mass shootings."
Frankly, that sounds pretty sane.  As long as by "serious and comprehensive study", they include  the elimination of gun free zones almost everywhere and ensuring teachers, janitors or other staff who can legally carry will be encouraged to do so.

Listen, I like NAGR, and I send money to them every year, but it's no small coincidence the abbreviation can be pronounced "nagger".  They are the biggest nags for money of all of the gun rights groups.  Every day is a couple of emails over another crisis and another demand for more money.  They are worse than the NRA, and that's saying a lot.  At least those come by snail and can be tossed on sight.  By contrast, I've never heard a word from the SAF asking for anything.  I have to put reminders in my calendar to remember they exist. 

And speaking of AWB2, the reaction to the anti-gunners has been nothing short of stunning.  Tam has an excellent perspective, based on working in gun stores, and links to these pretty impressive pictures.  SurvivalBlog posts a link that Brownells has sold out of - what they thought was - a three and a half year stock of AR magazines in three days.  The NRA, demonized and threatened with personal attacks (note to twits writing this: do you think they're not able to defend themselves?) has been having new members sign up at an all time record pace, 8000 per day.  Kevin at The Smallest Minority reports from a friend in the biz who talks of selling out over 9300 Magpul Pmags in 12 hours, and one Magpul distributor selling 70,000 last weekend.  Stores everywhere are reporting being out of, well, just about anything newbies have heard of.  Americans don't take well to being told what they can and can't buy.  God love us for that.  At least some of that still exists. 

So no magazines, no AR uppers, minimal parts for AR builders, almost sold out of handguns, Mosins moving like hotcakes.  Way to go Babs, you're creating the country you want.  Whether you know it or not.   
Everyone's favorite AR.  I've had this picture mailed to me since this all started.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Politifact Fact Checks - Sort of

Received this link in my email today:  PolitiFact Fact Checks on Gun Control and Gun Violence

My first reaction was "put on the hip waders; the BS is gonna be deep".  After all, when they start talking Gun Violence and Gun Homicide, you know they're only concerned about the instrument and not the crime or its victims.  It didn't disappoint. 

So I wrote back to the emailer:   Ooooh!  Can I play? 

"We do not have any limitation on the number of guns and bullets we can buy. (True)"  Why would any restriction on the number of guns or bullets that a law-abiding individual can buy matter?  Do you know professional competitive shooters (yes, there are such folks) will burn one to two thousand rounds of ammunition in a week just practicing?  How does restricting law abiding people help anyone?  (to be pedantic, Politi-Fact is sounding stupid here: the bullet is the portion of a cartridge that leaves the barrel.  The correct term in not how many bullets one has, but how many cartridges or rounds of ammunition)

"The U.S. gun homicide rate is 20 times the combined rate of other western nations. (Mostly True)" Why does the "gun homicide" or "gun violence" matter?  It's okay to bludgeon someone to death?  Knife attack?  Poison?  Something like 2 million people were killed in the Rwandan genocide in 1994.  Do you know what the most common weapon was?  A machete.  A few cents worth of scrap steel.  A friend of mine who has worked in China recently says dismembered bodies (hacked up with blades of some sort) are common occurrences - but it's not gun homicide so that's OK?  In terms of actual homicide rate, which is what we should care about, the US is 108th place, not "20 times the combined rate of other western nations."  Wiki statistics, plotted by Sean Sorrentino at

What's important in the case of something like the Newtown massacre is whether you make anything better by changing the existing thousands of laws.  An Assault Weapon Ban?  The 1994 AWB, which banned magazines over 30 rounds, was in effect when Columbine High was attacked by those two psychos - who had written their state representatives to oppose Coloado's concealed carry law.  Why should a new AWB be any more effective?  I have read a lot of sources on this and not one, from UC Berkeley to the FBI, says the 1994 AWB had any effect on crime.  Some sources say crime went down when it expired, although since violent crime has been in nationwide decline since concealed carry started to spread across the country in the early 1990s, I think it may just be part of that trend. 

I did more, but I'm sure you can, too...
Not scary.  Just (1) it won't help the situation (2) criminals won't obey it (3) honest people will be under armed if they really need one (4) nobody knows what an "assault rifle" or "military style weapon" is (5) about 10 million legal owners will be inconvenienced.  For starters. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Space - It's Genuinely Scary Out There

On many of the sites aimed at those trying to be more self reliant and self sufficient, people talk about solar flares causing global catastrophes.  It's a topic I've written about several times, because I believe that while the danger is real - in the sense that flares are real and really big ones are capable of causing damage here on the Earth - the media and (strangely)  NASA itself over hypes them. 

The granddaddy solar flare of all time has, until very recently, been regarded as the Carrington Event in 1859, the dawn of the telegraph age. The event was witnessed in real time by British astronomer Richard Christopher Carrington.
"Two patches of intensely bright and white light broke out," he later wrote. Carrington puzzled over the flashes. "My first impression was that by some chance a ray of light had penetrated a hole in the screen attached to the object-glass," he explained, given that "the brilliancy was fully equal to that of direct sun-light."
Note that these flashes were so much brighter than the projected image of the sun in his dark room that he thought daylight was somehow getting into the room.  The story itself is amazing.  That evening, when the Coronal Mass Ejection hit, telegraph operators were able to run without batteries; the flare-induced voltages on their wires working better than batteries.  The aurora display was global, even in the deep tropics.

If such a flare were to happen today, I believe it would take out the power grid on at least the hemisphere facing the sun when the CME hit.  What we have in our favor is that our modern monitoring systems would allow grid operators to shut down some to all of their gear: force the world into a black out, so that the equipment could be reconnected when the storm was over. 

Now comes a story that there appears to have been a flare that could have been 20 times stronger than the Carrington event. 
Everybody loves a good “whodunit?” How else could you explain the number of television shows with the prefix “CSI”? So when a study in Nature identified a previously unknown (and very large) spike in carbon-14 around the year 774 AD, it raised a lot of eyebrows. This radioactive isotope of carbon is created when energetic particles from beyond the Earth transform atmospheric nitrogen to a form of carbon with two neutrons more than the most common isotope.
There are a couple of known mechanisms for creating C14 in the atmosphere, one is a massive solar flare.  774 AD was 600 years or so before the first telescopes were used, so there was no Carrington to be watching.
So when a college student from UC-SD found a record of a “red crucifix” in the skies over Britain in that year, Nature published his note.
The story diverges a bit here, because the original group who tried to calculate how big a flare would have to be to cause the measured amount of carbon-14 in tree rings made a mistake and ended up with a preposterous result, 1000 times bigger than Carrington's granddaddy flare. 
A pair of researchers from Washburn University and the University of Kansas published a comment in Nature pointing out that the solar flare calculations included a rather fundamental error. Working backwards from the intensity required to produce the right amount of carbon-14 in Earth’s atmosphere, they mistakenly calculated the total size of the event as if the flare was emitted in all directions from the Sun, forming an expanding bubble of charged particles.
CMEs, are fairly localized, so the amount of spread would be much less than calculated and a powerful enough flare much smaller than the original calculations.  These researchers derive a number closer to 20x the size of Carrington's flare. 

A flare this size is genuinely scary; I don't know how much bigger it would be than the one pictured here, from November 2003, the largest flare observed since the space age began, but it would fry an entire hemisphere's grids, and if the grids are connected better than I think, would plunge the entire world into darkness.  I don't know if anyone on the Space Station could survive that. 
You can put together an entire catalog of potential TEOTWAKI disasters: a flare like this, a super volcano like Toba or Yellowstone, a nearby supernova, and more.   Something like any of those things or these mega flares is highly unlikely (yeah, I disagree strongly with this and briefly explained why here). 

But you know how a bunch of those UN Agenda 21 freaks want to kill off 95% of the humans on earth?   This just might do it.

Maybe I Shoulda Copyrighted This

John Stossel entitles his post "It's the Spending, Stupid!"

You can search for that term here on this blog, using the little box in the upper left of the page. I've only used it eleventy seven times. 

Note to the anal retentive: "eleventy seven" is an arbitrary number meaning "I swear it was a bunch, but I don't remember how many and don't feel like counting 'em".

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cliff, Schmiff, We're Freaking Doomed

While web-wandering today, I came across an article by Professor of Economics, Walter E. Williams that puts the haggling over "taxing the rich" and "we just need them to pay their fare share" in perspective.  It was embedded in an interesting little piece, "The 20 Most Devastating Stats of 2012 in Quotes" by John Hawkins.

To set this up, two former congressman, Chris Cox and Bill Archer, have done an analysis that says,  “When the accrued expenses of the government’s entitlement programs are counted, it becomes clear that to collect enough tax revenue just to avoid going deeper into debt would require over $8 trillion in tax collections annually. That is the total of the average annual accrued liabilities of just the two largest entitlement programs, plus the annual cash deficit.”  I've often spoken of what they call the annual cash deficit of about $1.4 Trillion, but have never rolled up the costs of the major "unfunded liabilities".

Got that?  Now, let this quote sink in for a few seconds.  Make sure guns, knifes, and other possible implements of suicide or homicide are out of reach:
Washington would have to collect $8 trillion in tax revenue, not to pay off our national debt and have reserves against unfunded liabilities, but just to avoid accumulating more debt. Recent IRS data show that individuals earning $66,000 and more a year have a total adjusted gross income of $5.1 trillion. In 2011, corporate profit came to $1.6 trillion. That means if Congress simply confiscated the entire earnings of taxpayers earning more than $66,000 and all corporate profits, it wouldn’t be enough to cover the $8 trillion per year growth of U.S. liabilities. (emphasis added - SiG)
Now, people making $66,000/year are not "the rich" the progressives always talk about punishing; they're just above the bottom of the fourth quintile of income, so in the upper 40% of incomes

Likewise, Williams tells you just how long you could run the US based on complete confiscation of the income of various levels of "the rich".

The talks coming out of DC today focus on John Boehner's cave to Obama, "Plan B", which would increase revenues by $1 Trillion over 10 years.  The White House promptly rejected it, because it didn't punish the top 1% enough - it just raises taxes on those making over $1 Million per year.  It's just another sign that no one up there considers our debt as a real problem.

There's no sign of any attempt to balance the budget and no way to balance the budget without cutting spending.  As I've said many times, "it's the spending, stupid" (summary at the top).

The talks about the Fiscal Cliff are meaningless.  Yes, they may well cause us more pain and a collapse into a deeper recession within this recession, but it doesn't change the bigger picture.  We are going down. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Keep An Eye on the Other Hand

Yes, the attacks are mounting on our 2A rights.  But don't forget they're getting ready to steal your wallet while they're taking your guns.
They're doing their best to ruin us, one way or another. 

Contact your congress critters or other elected co-conspirators as appropriate. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Little Advanced Electronics

I had a good question in the email this weekend, from a friend reading about EMP protection.  He wanted to know if the advice he'd seen online made sense.  It centered on grounding a box.  I thought this might be something other people would find interesting.  

Every circuit has a return terminal, ground or "earth" as they call it in the UK.  It's pretty common to come across people talking about the importance of a good ground, but what makes a "good ground"?  The National Electric Code, here in the US, calls out a ground rod where the AC feeds come into your house; I think typically 8' long, and they specify wire size.  As it says over on the sidebar there, I design radio systems for a living - systems that go on commercial aircraft.  Kind of hard to sink an eight foot ground on a moving airplane, but we depend on good grounds in all of our stuff.  How can that be?

Here's the problem: as frequency goes up into the radio spectrum, you begin to find that ground doesn't really exist - in that sense.  Radio frequencies have a wavelength associated with them, and to figure out how to ground them, you need to know the wavelength.  Back when I taught Novice ham radio classes, it was pretty common for people to be confused about the way hams refer to some bands by their wavelength ("80 meters", "2 meters") and others by their frequency ("440 MHz", "10 GHz").  The wavelength is important because wires behave very differently when they're electrically very short or long.  A very short wire, under 1/20 of wave long, behaves just like you think: it's just a connection.  If that wire is quarter wavelength long and you ground the "far" end, it's not shorted to ground for that frequency, it's an open circuit - but it's still shorted to ground for DC.  You can't put that radio frequency energy into that wire.  This effect doesn't happen all at once, it gets progressively harder to achieve ground for the frequency you're working with as the distance to ground gets longer.  My usual rule of thumb is that effective grounds have to be less than 1/10 of a wavelength away.  Some folks will say you really need keep them under 1/20 wave.

What that means to your ham shack or radio comms is that the ground rod won't get any RF ("Radio Frequency") into it if it's more than a one or two feet from the radio.  The amateur "10 meter" band (28 to 29.8 MHz) requires grounds shorter than one meter (one yard for 'mercans).  While my system is well grounded at 3.5 MHz (80 meters), that ground rod is about 2 or 3 meters from my station, so it isn't grounded well at frequencies higher (shorter wavelengths) than 20 meters.  

Rules of thumb are handy to work with.  For a frequency, call it f, in MHz, 1/10 wave is just about 93/f.  The answer will be in feet.  So 1/10 wave at 93 MHz is one foot.  Approximately.

So how do you get a ground at 144 MHz or higher?  How do you get it in a moving car?  The chassis, the body is ground.  In radios with a metal chassis, the chassis is grounded.  In handheld radios, like FRS radios and amateur VHF/UHF radios, you become the ground that the antenna uses. (You are a bag of saltwater, you know...)

Getting back to the original question about grounding a box for EMP protection, what's the wavelength of EMP?  It is very broad spectrum, with energy from low frequency up to a few hundred MHz.  A ground wire can only help with part of that spectrum - the rest of the spectrum is unaffected by the ground wire.  Yes, you will shunt some energy away, and that can't hurt. 

What do I do?  I have my emergency back up 2m/440 radio in a metal ammo can, just sitting on my desk.  The desk is steel and grounded to my ground system, but that's not worth much as low in frequency as 20 meters.  A microwave oven should work as well as an ammo can.  Just wrapping it well in aluminum foil is probably just as good.  The most important point is to disconnect the antennas and power lines, to minimize pickup area - minimize signals to carry into the radio.  The power lines are where the majority of pickup from an EMP will come.

This plot of EMP voltage fields vs frequency shows that most of the voltage below 10 MHz, where a ground rod might do you some good. 

Catching Up

I've been remiss in wishing my Jewish visitors a Happy Chanukah this year, and here we are on the last day.  Please accept my warmest, while rather late, wishes for you and yours.

I could do no better than Rabbi Judah Freeman at JPFO, who writes:
Let us remember this Chanukah the lessons that the Maccabees taught us -- that we must be strict and stringent not just with regard to ritual observances like Chanukah candles but with regard to the protecting of the life of the innocent. The Maccabees waged a fierce battle against Greek incursion on Jewish sovereignty and taught the Jewish people that defense of life overrides Sabbath prohibitions. May we too remember that life is sacrosanct, that it is worth protecting, and that we must maintain the tools and ability to do so.

In modern times, here in the United States, that means that we must protect and preserve our Second Amendment rights -- the right to keep and bear arms in defense of self, in defense of family, in defense of property, and in defense of our religious and personal freedom. May we never see the day when we must take up our arms as did the Maccabees in defense of our religious way, and may we never see a time when we give up or lose the ability to do so.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Israeli Method

With major props to Gun Free Zone, this is too good not to share. 
And Miguel also links to Massad Ayoob with an excellent piece, calling for just this. 

The ruling class elites, almost 100% of them, are atheists.  Strongly anti-faith, anti-religion.  Because of this, the vast majority of them have a problem with the idea of evil and good really existing.  In their eyes, people aren't evil, they made "bad choices", or have "chemical imbalances".  That's why, for every call to fix the culture you'll hear this weekend, you'll hear a thousand saying to restrict guns, or standard capacity magazines.  For every reference to too much violence in movies and on TV, you'll hear a thousand screams against "gun violence". 

There is no such thing as gun violence.  Guns are simple mechanisms incapable of violence.  Michael Bane talked about being in a meeting with major media people after another big shooting, and after listening to their prattling about "gun violence", he said (I'm probably butchering the quote):  "I pulled my gun out of my holster and put it on the table.  This was a fully loaded gun with one in the chamber.  Then I took a stick and tried to poke it enough to make it get mad and shoot someone.  You know, that thing never did."   

With every school protected by armed staff, and vast numbers of citizens walking around with rifles, it's no wonder the Palestinians have essentially given up on trying mass shootings in Israel and gone over to suicide bombers and throwing unguided missiles.  Just like their approach to airline safety, we could use to model the Israeli approach to safety in a civil society. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Connecticut Tragedy

Like all of you, I'm saddened almost to the point of sickness at the Newton, CT school shooting today.  At this distance, I can only offer prayers for strength and peace for the parents and families - and the responders who see things that must weigh heavily on anyone's heart and soul.

I have to say that Borepatch has probably summed up much of what I'm feeling and that I think most of us are.  Because along with sadness comes real, deep anger.  You should go read, but Borepatch is dispensing lots of anger at the "Look at me, I'm so sensitive" shows we're going to see in the next week.  For example, I'll lift one for here:
The Usual Suspects - I'm looking at you, Piers Morgan - are blathering idiocy about too many guns and the typical hand wringing.  This infuriates me, because it will do nothing to prevent this sort of thing in the future.  It's all preening - Look at me, I'm so sensitive.  Hey Piers Morgan, STFU if you're not going to do anything to prevent this in the future.  Just STFU.
I'm most angry at the shooters, of course.  All of these pathetic losers who think that because they're feeling pain, they have the right to commit such atrocities.  

It's not like we don't have history on this.  There have been mass shootings attempted in places where people had guns and could fight back.  In those cases, even if the ones fighting back were unarmed, fewer innocents were harmed.  The answer here is obvious - the complete opposite of what you're going to hear in the coming days: more guns, not less.  As the Oath Keepers put it:
This shooting is yet another tragic example of the failed, grotesque insistence on helpless victim zones where any crazed gunman can be assured of a large number of disarmed, undefended, helpless victims, all crammed into one place, where he can kill many children before an armed defender arrives from elsewhere.  It is disturbing and sick that the federal government so hates the right of the American people to bear arms, and so hates their natural right to self defense, that the government insists on making them helpless, disarmed victims for anyone who cares to kill them.   And in this case, all of the teachers and staff were willfully disarmed by the Federal Government, by force of law and threat of prison, to ensure that they would be disarmed and incapable of saving the lives of the children entrusted to their care.
Perhaps the most important thing to tell friends is that while this may be a bad year (I honestly don't know), the data says we don't have a mass shooting problem.  In fact violent crime has been going down since a peak in about 1993, while gun ownership has been increasing - if not outright skyrocketing.  While it may not conclusively prove the "More Guns = Less Crime" hypothesis, it certainly disproves the "More Guns = More Crime" alternative that we'll hear from the usual idiots.
Off the top of my head, I recall about 60 victims of mass shootings this year: the Aurora, Colorado theater, the Sikh temple incident and this.  If that's the number, you can see from this plot that it ends up being a fairly low total year. 

The source of that graph, "Crime and Punishment" columnist James Alan Fox writes today, about the Newton shooting:
As the tragedy was unfolding and before any perpetrator or motive was identified, scores of journalists, from all forms of media and from here and abroad were phoning to ask whether this was the worst school shooting in history. It didn't matter that deadlier episodes had happened overseas (the 2004 school siege in Russia), at a college setting (Virginia Tech in 2007) or involving means other than gunfire (the 1927 school explosion in Bath, Michigan), reporters were eager to declare the Sandy Hook massacre as some type a new record.
Mass murder is horrible enough without the hype. We need less hype, more healing and more perspective. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2013 Is Looking Pretty Shaky

WRSA links to this post by Amity Shlaes on the parallels between what we see for 2013 and 1937 under FDR.  1937 was the Depression Within The Depression, part of the reason the US calls it The Great Depression and the rest of the world just thinks of it as The Depression. (Her home on the web)

I've read her book "The Forgotten Man", called the "finest history of the Great Depression ever written" by Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute.  Naturally, Paul Krugman hates it because she presents evidence that FDR's policies didn't end the depression.  Amity is one of a few genuine experts on the Depression.  If she's talking about things in that period, I'm listening. 

There's that whole theatrical song and dance going on in DC about the "Fiscal Cliff".  Not to say there's not going to be effects from it, but it currently appears to be all about politics.  I'm inclined to agree with the viewpoint that the administration would be perfectly happy to go over the cliff as long as they can get it all blamed on the Stupid party.  Think of it this way, they've arranged a no-lose scenario; if the Stupid party caves on tax increases, it's like George H.W. Bush's famous "read my lips" cave, "OK, we'll raise taxes now and come back later to cut spending" which never happened.  The ability to run on a promise to cut taxes gets severely compromised.  And if the Stupids don't cave and everything goes "over the cliff", the Evils first blame everything on the Stupids, then pass "Middle class tax reform" in the spring, with their solid majorities.  Win-win-win for the Evils. 
(Eric Allie at Townhall)
Taxes are going up, no matter who you are.  Obamacare is just getting started.

Back when that stupid story about "Warren Buffet pays less tax than his secretary" was in the news, I said,
"...if it's wrong that Buffet pays 15% on capital gains while his secretary pays 35% on ordinary income, let's drop her tax rate to 15%, too. "
DC to the rescue.  They not only didn't cut her taxes to the 15% dividend rate, they raised dividend taxes to 43% (for the top brackets - like Warren is in)!  

It's so crazy, that the Bernank all but announces QE4 and nobody says anything about it!   Remember the announcement, just a few months ago, that they would buy $40 Billion in bonds per month, ad infinitum?  They increased that to $85 billion/month at today's meeting.  And nobody says a word...

At this point, it's impossible to know what the big picture will look like for next year.  I expect a more serious recession.  I only know one thing: I sure don't see any signs that we're moving in any directions to avert fiscal collapse. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cataloging Signs of the Apocalypse

I think I'm going to take on a new hobby and start cataloging signs of the coming apocalypse.  It's really easy because they're everywhere.  I don't believe the 12/21/12 Mayan stuff, but it's looking pretty darned crazy out there.

How about parents trying to stay single and to keep their offspring stupid - just because it's more profitable? (H/T Bayou Renaissance Man)
THIS is what poverty sometimes looks like in America: parents here in Appalachian hill country pulling their children out of literacy classes. Moms and dads fear that if kids learn to read, they are less likely to qualify for a monthly check for having an intellectual disability.
You can feel the pain in this NY Times reporter when he says:
This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. 
Antipoverty programs also discourage marriage: In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married couple households only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households
There's a very strong case that the key to living a decent upwardly mobile, middle class life in America depends on a few simple, old truths: don't drop out of high school, don't get married until you're out of school, don't have children until you're married.  The simple act of just getting married and then having children reduces the rate of poverty by 82%

One of the most stunning facts in the culture of dependency is how out of wedlock births changed over time from the world I grew up in.  Anyone remember the lyrics to "Love Child" by the Supremes?  "No child of mine will be bearing, the name of shame I've been wearing"?  It was not something to be proud of.  In today's decadent culture, it's different: by percentages, out of wedlock births account for more than half of the births in the black and Hispanic communities.  Try using the phrase "shotgun wedding" around someone under about 25, see if they know what it is. 

I come from the past, it's a different planet. 

As sad as that story in the NY Times is, at least it's about an attempt to end the cycle of poverty.  Unlike this story out of the UK, (H/T Barking Moonbat Early Warning System).  The story concerns Ms. Leanna Broderick, and concerns how she saved for Christmas for her children.  What's wrong with that?
* Leanna Broderick plans to give children designer outfits, iPads and jewellery

* The 20-year-old has never worked and claims nearly £15,500 a year ( $24,974.00 )

* Claims she is better off on benefits and last year saved £2,500 ( just a bit over $4,000.00 )

* Said there was ‘no point’ getting minimum wage job and paying for childcare
That's right, she's on the public dole.  While I applaud how she managed to save £2500, it apparently never occurs to her who actually own the money she is saving.  But why should it?  The state has promised her that all would be well.  She became a mother while still almost a kid herself.  What are the chances her two “accidents” won’t follow the same path? Poverty follows out of wedlock childbirths - especially when it's encouraged by the state!
“The people at the Job Centre have actually told me I’m better off on benefits than in a minimum-wage job. It’s the system’s fault. My kids would suffer if I worked. This way, taxpayers know I’m raising two well-brought-up kids.” 
Of course, we do the same things here in the US and actively discourage people from trying to get out of poverty.  I've written before about the awful situation where people experience real drops in their usable income if they work harder and make more money:
This underscores the most serious problem with reforming welfare laws.  Note that more than doubling pretax income from $14,500 to $30,000 results in a loss of 28% of their net income.
If you're a poverty pimp and make your living by keeping people in poverty, it simply makes sense.  Makes even more sense if you're deliberately trying to collapse the system.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

This Month, I "Graduate"

Just over two years ago, by a week or two, the lovely and musically-more-trained-than-I Mrs. Graybeard was reading something - Survivalblog, I think - and turned to talk to me.  She told me about the article saying that after the collapse, life was going to be harder ("sure", I replied); we will work harder all day, and may well find ourselves with no TV or cable entertainment in the evenings ("I've thought of that").  Whomever was writing the piece brought up images of homes in the 1800s gathering around by candlelight to play a little music together, and said we will probably go back to that.  I replied something to the effect of "no problem; I know how to play guitar and we have one in the other room". Plus, she still has a flute and could pick that up. 

I did have a guitar in the other room, but it turns out I only thought I knew how to play. 

I think I've only written about this at any length once about 15 months ago.  I had learned to play casually as a kid.  I think I was 13.  Within a year I was playing in garage bands, like millions of other kids.  I played at it mostly through high school, eventually getting an El-cheapo electric guitar and playing with friends.  My favorite instrument, though, was classical guitar and I received one of those as a gift in my 9th grade year.  I had the instrument 8 or 10 years - until the late 1970s.  Strangely, I don't recall what happened to it, although I hadn't played it in years at that point.  In 1988, I got another one and started taking classical guitar lessons, although I dropped out after about six months.  That was the one in the closet.  So out it came, on went some new strings, and I started trying to remember things. 

See, the funny part is that it had been longer since I played than all the years that I played put together.  To say I sucked is a vicious understatement.  The bigger issue was that I wanted the steel string sound, which the classical just won't give.  Shortening the story, I don't want to put you to sleep, by a little after Christmas two years ago, I had one of these:
That's a Yamaha APX-700, acoustic electric - if you're not familiar with the term, they're fully playable either way.  Don't want to be stuck with an electric guitar if there's no power.  And as I pointed out in that prior article, within another few weeks, I had started on the Learn & Master Guitar DVD course.  And as the sidebar says, yeah, I've got a couple of instruments in the stable.

There are 20 lessons in L&M.  This month I'm doing the last lesson - I will finish in two years.  The lesson is on chord inversions and more advanced chords - if you know the instrument you know there are always more chords to learn.  Several lessons ago the course had changed from "let's make you a guitarist" to "now that you are a guitarist, here are some cool tricks that will help".  This lesson continues that. 

So what does two years of DVD lessons get you?  Let me tell you, Walter Becker I ain't.  If he's more your speed, Slash I ain't.  Joe Walsh and Mark Knopfler have nothing to fear.  What I am is light years better than I was with about an encyclopedia's more knowledge than I had.  I went from playing pretty much only in the first position (that means my left hand out there on the far right end of the neck in this picture) to playing the entire neck.  I went from reading chord names to reading music, although not as well as I'd like.  It takes us, what? 8-10 years?, to read English really well, why should we think it would take a few months to read another language (music) just as well?  One of the longest units was to know every note on every fret on the neck, and I worked on that from the start of August until mid-November.  Can I sight read and play something like the riff from "Sweet Home Alabama" or "Hotel California"?  Not quickly, no.  I would muddle it out eventually. 

What's next?  Well, I think it's just as reasonable a way to learn to study some songs individually and build up a repertoire.  I think that's next, alternating with some more study.  Music is one of those things you can learn relatively quickly but work on for the rest of your life, you know. 

We now return you to your regular blog wandering...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Sobering Story

Miguel over at Gun Free Zone posts the sobering story of an Arizona man who was dragged through the legal system after being involved in a "disparity of force" situation (two women and a man punching him) where he drew his weapon and fired. 

I'll echo Miguel and say that if you've been involved in self defense training, you've probably heard of James Yeager who operates a training company out of Tennessee.  I know I've watched some of his many YouTube videos demonstrating his tactics and he is known for doing things many consider unsafe, or just plain over the top.  For example, he will crouch between targets on his shooting range taking photographs of the students while they're shooting.  I'm sure he'd argue that if he's in any real danger, they don't deserve to be carrying, but the fact remains that they're students and not trained operators. His latest antic is to issue a challenge to pay for airfare to his training center to duel or fight anyone that says negative things about him. 

Miguel's point is that there is much more to learn about carrying a firearm than "just the bang bang part", and that your choice of instructor may have a major impact on the aftermath of a defensive shooting incident.  The bang bang part is relatively easy to teach; the parts about just when you're justified are definitely more subtle and less well-defined.  The vast majority of us will never face a bunch of AK-wielding Jihadis shouting "Allahu Akbar", but far more of us will face the prospect of being robbed at gunpoint or even carjacked.  It's not always completely clear what you do in the face of the robber.  Sure they're pointing a gun at you, but assume if you're out in public, it quickly turns into a one-way trip deep into the legal system. 

To quote from the pdf that Miguel posts, Hickey is the defendant, and Nicolini is the prosecutor who tried to convict him based on taking classes from and teaching for Yeager :
Initially, Nicolini grilled Hickey about the concepts and principles Yeager taught him, using notes and handouts from classes, and later he went over the same material with the instructor himself, discussing avoidance, de-escalation, gunfight tactics and many of Yeager’s similes, acronyms and catchy phrases – tools that the instructor used to help students remember important principles.

Alarmingly, out of context advice from instructors to “always cheat; always win,” and the axiom that one should treat every one else in a polite manner while simultaneously having a plan to kill them painted an inaccurate picture about Hickey’s outlook on life. Nicolini harvested these quotes from the training notes and handouts, and made much hay with them, especially during his closing arguments in which he described Hickey in highly inflammatory terms.
Almost all of us have used those sayings, either seriously or as a joke. The prosecutor used them to try to construct an image of Hickey as a lunatic who just wanted to kill someone.  He even tried to sell the jury that anyone who would carry a gun in anticipation of needing it was "out of whack with society".  Hickey wasn't on trial: you and I and anyone else who carries was on trial. 

Go read. 
(Oleg, of course)