Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Confiscation Begins in Cyprus

The Telegraph reported Sunday that the Cyprus confiscation, excuse me, "bail in" has begun (H/T to WRSA):
Bank of Cyprus said it had converted 37.5pc of deposits exceeding €100,000 into "class A" shares, with an additional 22.5pc held as a buffer for possible conversion in the future.

Another 30pc would be temporarily frozen and held as deposits, the bank said.
How much would you love the idea of having 37.5% of your deposits confiscated?  Wanna bet it can happen here?  Actually, it doesn't have to happen directly here.  As long as the Fed keeps creating money, the value of our dollars will drop and you'll lose the value of your deposits.  As WRSA points out, the bank of Serta will not walk off with your cash, but cash in the mattress is going to be worth less as the inflation works its way into everything.

And it's going to happen.  Pimco president Mohammed El Arian points out the fed's going to have to stop buying bonds at the prodigious rate they're buying.  He essentially says they're going to stop for one of two reasons: they're successful or they fail.  It's unavoidable.
"Right now we are seeing distortions in markets," said El-Erian. "Resources are being misallocated. There are already concerns about bubbles. That's what gets broken in this journey."

In case you haven't noticed, Gold and Silver have both broken out of their downfall and are now working their way back up.  Here's Silver for example, dated 4/25 (last Thurday):
(source is Jim Sinclair's Mineset; linking only gets you to the page it's currently on)

And about that May 1st "Everyone Buy Silver" day thing  (if you haven't heard, watch this 6:34 video)...  I think that the chances of it really affecting the worldwide monetary system are small, but there's a bit more chance it could break some of the price manipulation going on in the metals.  The decoupling we were talking about is real; silver dealers are still getting 25 to 30% more for coins in hand than the spot price.  The head of the CME puts out a video saying people don't want paper, they want physical gold (which is a pretty shocking admission itself).  The question is whether a group of small buyers can affect the price of silver when the market is measured in millions of ounces.  

Besides, breaking the worldwide monetary system might be one of those things you'd rather not do - assuming you don't want the whole world to collapse.  If you do want the world to collapse and blood in the streets, we're probably not on the same page. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Was Benghazi All About Gun Running?

Like many people, I've been suspicious about the attack on the US Embassy/CIA station in Benghazi, Libya since last September when it all went down.  There are too many things about this operation that just don't smell right. 

Six weeks after the incident, I wrote this:
Several of us, this blog included, were very concerned about Libya from the start (not to mention here).  It really appears that the US armed Al Qaeda militants in the Libyan war and Stevens was the go-between.  The trail appears to lead to those guns going from Benghazi to Syria, by way of Turkey - hence the meeting with the Turkish diplomat about an hour before the attack on Stevens began. It appears that Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, and his guards, former Seals (/CIA operatives) Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were hung out as collateral damage.  Exactly why they were allowed to be killed is not known yet.  It could be they were left to die because the truth that we were arming Al Qaeda would interfere with the presidential campaign.  Or they could have been left to die as part of the campaign.  Wouldn't bombing Benghazi to avenge their killings make the president look more powerful?   Wag the Dog, anyone?
Today, a "real journalist", Katie Kieffer on Townhall.com writes a more detailed summary in  "BENGHAZIGATE: Obama's Secret Gun Running Program".   It appears the early theories were correct: our ambassador and the three other guys were hung out to die to cover a gun running program to Islamic militants.  Bluntly, to keep from embarrassing the president in the last months of his campaign. 
We now know that President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-CIA Director David Petraeus were likely behind a mishandled gun-trafficking program that ended up arming the radical jihadist rebels who stormed the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya on that fateful day.

Our CIA is still playing the role of vetting which Syrian rebel groups will obtain arms including machine guns, ammunition, and rocket-propelled grenades. While Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are directly purchasing the weaponry, the Obama administration is aiding the Arab governments in shopping for these arms and transferring them from Libya, to Turkey, and finally into Syria.
It's my belief that Petraeus was put in charge at the CIA as damaged goods, someone they put in charge just in case they needed a fall guy.  He was in the midst of an affair with Paula Broadwell, and it seems it must have been known to others in the internal monitoring groups.  Returning to Katie's narrative:
May 26, 2012: Stevens arrives in Tripoli, the capitol city of Libya and sets up camp at the U.S. embassy.

Last summer, Clinton first proposed a plan to then-CIA Director David Petraeus to partner on a gun-trafficking program to arm the Syrian resistance and “vet the rebel groups, and train fighters who would be supplied with weapons,” according to The New York Times.
September 11, 2012: Stevens has an unusual meeting with Turkish diplomat Consul General Ali Sait Akin. Fox News reported that the meeting was “…to negotiate a weapons transfer, an effort to get SA-7 missiles out of the hands of Libya-based extremists.”
Although Katie doesn't get into it, I've read it was quite unusual for the Turkish Consul General to be meeting with the American ambassador hundreds of miles from the American Embassy in Tripoli.  It's my belief that this meeting triggered the attack when Ambassador Stevens tried to get control of the SA-7 missiles - the MANPADS  (Man Portable Air Defense Systems); an estimated 20,000 of these missiles are missing since the fall of the Qaddafi government.  These are the anti-aircraft missiles the US has been afraid of getting into Al Qaeda's hands.  The meeting ended an hour or so before the attack, enough time for the Consul General to get away, but enough time for the request or orders for the attack to make their way to Turkey, up and down the chain of command to the armed militants in the street.

It's looking more and more like Ambassador Stevens, technician Sean Smith, and former SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were all killed due to US gun running to Libyan Islamist jihadis who ran the guns to Turkey and then to Syria.

Call it Fast and Furious: Muslim Brotherhood edition.  Maybe this is why Hillary famously hollered, "what difference does it make now??".  It might make a difference to her 2016 presidential aspirations.  It certainly made a lot of difference to those four men.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Closer, But Not Quite ...

Not quite to the point of having usable ammo. 
These .45 ACP JHPs are dummies.  No powder, not even primers.  Just some brass and bullets to get the two dies set properly.  The way the RCBS nominally works is that the first die (the empty hole behind the second and third rounds from the left) is the de-capper that pops the spent primer out.  Since I've already de-capped all of my brass  before cleaning it, I didn't bother putting in that die.  The second station, right, flares the case slightly and primes the brass.  The third dumps the powder charge.  The fourth (empty right now) is optional, but will get a powder checking die to help reduce the chance of double charges.  The fifth places the bullet and crimps it. 

Probably because I got actively involved in shooting sports when the '09 shortages were playing out, I got some bullets, primers and powders put aside when I didn't really have a need for them, but just figuring I'd want them someday.  Sure am thankful I did that! 

As my vacation is ... suddenly... tragically coming to an end, no more playing with this until the weekends.  Most likely. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Little Gunny Goodness

Today did not work out the way it was supposed to.  We had planned a rifle range day, since the forecast was for nice temperatures and no chance of rain mentioned at all.  Instead, it's been "zero percent chance of raining" almost all day.  We started out for the (outdoor, of course) range and got caught in a downpour on the way.  Since it wasn't supposed to rain, and you couldn't even see it on radar, we kept going, figuring it was a brief shower.  No luck.  We eventually turned around but were almost there by that time. 

Another thing I didn't expect was to get my replacement RCBS parts, but there they were in the mail!  Time to finish that press and get going. 
The micrometer screw that wouldn't zero properly - all better, now.  RCBS was very helpful, once I waited the hour on hold to get a tech. 

Of course, I spent some of the unexpected time tweaking my display, and sent a request for help to Google about the color adjustment on the template that doesn't work.  I can make the black on blue text another color, but only if I make all the text on the page the same color.  If that text were red, this text would be red, too.  Not what I'm looking for.

Tell Me If This Hurts Your Eyes - II

I'm talking to you McThag.   Or anyone else who had problems with the translucent dark blue background I had. 

More tweaking.  Blogger is a strange beast.  It says the description under the Title is a separate piece of text from the rest of blog entries, but it doesn't behave that way.  It has a color adjuster that's dedicated to that text, but it won't affect the color.

Now that part is hard for me to read, but I don't know how important that is.  

Friday, April 26, 2013

Oblivious To Things Today

I'm a little oblivious to goings on today, because we went to see Oblivion this afternoon, then went to dinner, and I haven't hit any of my regular reads. 

I don't know who it was (sorry...) who said something like, "Just go see it; don't read anything about it, don't read spoilers.  Just go see it".  It's what we did, and I'll go with that.  There were times when the questions in our minds were very thick, but let them tell the story.  

I like sci fi and action and it has plenty of both.  There are scenes where it looks like they rented an aircraft and filmed in zero G and others where the scenes look they were shot in some way to look really high G. 

Go see. I'll give it an 8 out of 10. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Rational But Wrong

Yesterday, while stumbling around the web, I visited a blog I catch now and then, written by a friend's son.  He's someone who I'll bet would not think he's a gun-grabber and is being rational, but like the gun grabbers, apparently believes we have too many guns, and the world would be a better place without them.  While there's enough stuff in there to make many on our side mad, there is some good stuff here, the reactions are typical of the kind of people we need to reach: he doesn't know what the current laws are, and doesn't really understand what he wants to regulate. I quote his whole piece here and then my (longer) response.
It’s really as simple as this.

There is one thing guns are for and that’s killing.

There are two ways to obtain a gun and that’s legally or illegally.

There are two ways to use a gun that has been obtained by either method to kill a human and that’s on purpose or on accident.

The 2nd ammendment says we have the right to own firearms, so no wiggle room there. Anyone who suggests guns should be taken away is an uneducated twat.

People who obtain a gun legally usually have no desire to kill a human. People who obtain a gun illegally frequently do want to kill humans. We’ll get back to that in a second, don’t forget this part.

People who want to intentionally kill humans are going to do so no matter what weapons are available. People being killed by accidentally discharging a firearm are not properly handling the weapon.

So far, I think the craziest of gun nuts is still with me.

The solution then, is to require all purchasers of firearms to provide proof of competency with firearms through public certification courses to reduce the number of accidents.

In order to reduce the number of guns obtained illegally, all guns must be kept unloaded with a trigger lock in place inside of a lockbox when not in use OR in a gun safe. Secondary benefit being accidents further reduced.

The mental health care in this country needs to catch up, but long before that happens we can keep guns out of the hands of people who will not properly protect their firearms from being stolen and people that don’t know how to properly handle, store, and care for them.

And how do we pay for certification courses and people to randomly check registered weapons to be secured? Tax ammunition. If ammunition’s sole purpose in existence is to kill, a tax to make sure only the right people are doing the killing needs to be placed on it. Tax it like it’s a goddamn cigarette. It is a public safety issue isn’t it? Similarly, a yearly registration (of the security of the gun, not the gun itself) just like a motor vehicle and accompanying registration fee for each firearm owned. Any gun used in the commission of a crime gets destroyed (if it was stolen, too bad, you lost the privilege of owning that gun by not keeping it secure) and the perpetrator an additional felony count of committing a crime with a unsecured gun.

That’s the real common sense solution.

Now, gun lovers, I haven’t forgotten about you. One of the reasons I hear for people needing their guns is to protect from tyranny. All I really have to say is, if you think you need guns so the government doesn’t overstep its bounds, you don’t understand a microfraction of power the military has. If the US government wanted to pick on you for any reason, it could do so remotely from thousands of miles away or with a SEAL behind you. You wouldn’t know it was coming. No matter how badass you think you are with your gun collection, the government would stomp you like a spent cigarette.

As a certified gun blogger (I wrote the cert card myself!) and recreational shooter, I thought I'd leave some comments from that side of the blogosphere.  I got my first gun when I was 15 (JC Penney, $49.95!) but only recently have gotten interested in sport shooting again.  If there's one overarching theme I hear from gun bloggers the most frequently it's this: the people who are regulating them don't know what they're regulating and don't know what the existing laws are. With all due respect, while your points are rational and obviously the product of some considerable thought, I see some of that here.  While some on my side may just say, "because shall not be infringed, that's why!", since you seem to be trying to honestly reconcile the right and responsibility to bear arms with some measures to fix what you perceive to be a problem. I'll try to introduce some facts you're missing.

First off, the categorical statement There is one thing guns are for and that’s killing is a bad opening. If that's all they're good for, every single gun I've ever seen is defective. Obviously they can kill, but if the purpose of a thing is the use they are bought for, intended for, and used for - in the vast majority of cases it's not killing or even self defense. 

There's probably over 200 million guns in America (it's awfully tough to get a real hard number there) and very few have ever been used to kill. The vast, vast majority are used for recreational shooting, which, is a bigger hobby than hunting. There are "3 gun", "cowboy action shooting", "single action shooting", IDPA, IPSC and still more.  Colleges like MIT and public schools have shooting clubs that punch holes in paper.  It's a very big world you're not considering at all. Plus there's the extremely large market for self defense guns, a market that is dominating the gun industry these days.

With the realization that (I'll bet) over 99.9% of guns have never been used for killing, a gun becomes nothing more than a tool like any other tool. It has things it's good for – they are extremely effective force multipliers, enabling the smaller or weaker to have a chance against bigger and stronger – and things they're not good for.  Statistically (Gary Kleck, FSU criminologist), guns are used far more times to prevent a crime than to commit one, and in the vast majority of "Defensive Gun Use" cases, the gun isn't fired, it's simply drawn. The fact they can be used to kill doesn't mean that's all they're good for.

Your column doesn't say anything about self defense, so rather than my assuming your answer, do you grant the idea that humans are allowed the right of self defense?  Virtually everyone, not just hikers and campers, have heard not to get to between mamma bear and her cubs. Do you think humans have the rights bears do? If Joe Schmo accidentally got between mamma grizzly and her cubs and mamma mauled Joe, would you say the bear made a disproportionate response or didn't have the right to defend her cubs?  I've seen mice rise on their hind legs and threaten cats; do they have that right? Do people?

If you grant that humans are allowed self defense, a gun with a trigger lock in a safe is just about useless for home or personal defense. There are solutions to storage which you don't mention that don't compromise the ability to use it in a hurry as badly. It's a fact of life that you're more likely to have a negligent discharge if you're unloading and reloading a gun everyday to store it. Unless you think having it ready overnight is "in use" and your "safe storage" laws don't apply.

As for taxing ammunition, the statement that “the only purpose of ammunition is to kill” ignores recreational shooting and ignores the fact that even in the military, the vast majority of rounds don't kill. Between practice and other uses, the military shoots (conservatively)  250,000 rounds for every insurgent they kill. Besides, ammunition already is subject to a federal excise tax. The excise tax revenue is typically used for wetlands conservation, and causes friendly to hunting. There's no reason that money couldn't be re-purposed to pay for training for shooters, or providing ranges where they can safely shoot, except that this is overlooking the biggest change in firearms in the last 20 years, the concealed carry movement.

Gun show producer, writer and blogger Michael Bane (I think) coined the term "Gun Culture 2.0" for the “new” gun owners; folks who don't come from a heritage growing up hunting and around guns all the time. These people are largely well educated, often women, or minorities. The 2.0 buyers are the root cause for the surge in gun sales, ammo shortages and many of the other dynamics at play today. State requirements to carry vary but they almost always involve a training class and range time (exceptions for Constitutional Carry in Alaska, Vermont, Arizona and Wyoming). Since Florida started the move for concealed carry laws in 1987, the number of states allowing it has grown to where there is only one, Illinois, with no laws allowing carry at all.  Illinois has had its prohibition struck down and is currently under a judgment from the Federal courts to either draft one, or the federal court will do it for them.

The take home point is these people are happily paying for the training themselves and don't need the tax money or other government involvement. We don't require that the state provide all drivers' education, just that they test drivers to ensure they know the rules of the road; why should we require the state do this training? The state supervises the permitting, completes a background check, and in many cases takes fingerprints.

Essentially what you're describing is the way most states implement their concealed carry programs, only expanded to cover all gun purchases. We don't have to renew our licenses every year - somewhere around 7 to 10 seems the norm - and we don't have your over-the-top registration scheme. Considering the actual numbers of licenses issued vs. the number revoked for a gun crime, annual renewal seems punitive, as do most of your suggestions.  While the goal of reducing accidental death is laudable, the CDC says accidental gun deaths represent 0.6% of the US Accidental Death Rate - about 1300 (2007 WISQARS). I'm from the Pareto school of problem solving: attack the causes of the top 80%, lather, rinse repeat. Accidental gun deaths aren't going to show up in that test anytime soon.

In the case of any law, I think we should always ask if the proposal will actually make a difference, but with an enumerated right in the constitution's bill of rights, we should also ask whether the burden we put on the law abiding is worth it.  As you point out, only the law abiding are going to be following your laws.  Will doing these things really make a difference? You're clearly trying to reduce the supply of illegally held guns.  Excellent; we all want only good citizens to have them.  But I've been told that in the cities in America where guns are most strictly regulated, anyone could buy a gun in under an hour.  What do you do about those?  Will this make a difference or just create another tax-sucking bureaucracy that never goes away? 

In general, guns used in commission of a crime are held as evidence and then "disposed of" in some way, so, again, that's already what's being done. I don't see the sense of penalizing someone because they've been burglarized - who has control over whether their house is burglarized?  You also assume safes are secure and if someone broke in you were being careless.  That's not how safes work.  Even the excruciatingly expensive safes we had when I worked for Fed.gov were not guaranteed unbreakable.  The people who make safes rate them for a certain amount of time being worked on.  Given enough time and tools any safe can be opened.  And having agents of the state come into everyone's house to check that their guns are stored properly is going to be a non-starter in a lot of people's view. After all, people steal cars all the time and injure other people while driving stolen cars: do we penalize the car owner? Do we make them store their distributor cap somewhere else?

Finally, I would submit that the overriding lesson of the wars since WWII is that determined resistance fighters win against large armies. It is ugly, bloody, horrible fighting, but determined minorities have run the occupying forces out time and time again. Our high tech weaponry and "the best military on earth" has basically been run out of Iraq and Afghanistan because, as Clausewitz said, "War is politics by other means" and the political will is not there. The horrible toll that an American civil war would bring would make Iraq look pretty nice, I'm afraid, and the same politics of not wanting to be involved in a long bloody insurgency would be likely here. Remember, too, that a large number of those same SEALS, Delta Force, Rangers, Marines and more will be on the constitution's side.

For reference, in just the last two months of 2012, Americans bought enough guns to give one to every member of the Chinese and Indian armies.  If you add up the number of hunting licenses issued in the US, it's easily the largest army in the world by a large margin. It was stated in many places a couple of years ago that the hunters in only four states, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are the largest army in the world. (source).

You also might want to look at the FP-45Liberator pistol, which the US used to air drop behind Nazi lines in WWII. And if you're in the mood for an essay on this topic,"What Good Is a Handgun Against an Army?" is considered an excellent summary.

And if you want more education, Kevin Baker at The Smallest Minority has put up an excellent post on gun control at his place.  Kevin is one of a handful that can make me seem to write short pieces, and this is no exception. 

But actually, the thing that would do you the absolutely most good would be to go get your concealed carry permit and buy a gun.  Immerse yourself in the thousands of pages of existing laws and learn what gun owners have to put up with.  It's not as simple as walk into the Mountain of Geese, plunk down your money and walk out of the store.

Tell Me If This Hurts Your Eyes

Trial time. 

The template I was using was called "Picture Window" and no matter what I did, I got lines of background picture in the right panel.  I tried a bunch of things, and had no luck getting rid of it.  Switching over to "Travel" got rid of it, and other than forcing some color changes, the page works much better to me.

I also made it wider.  While I have a wide screen monitor here, I tried to keep it good for 1024 x 768 monitors.  That makes the text area wider. 

Because where I live is about as flat as a pool table, mountains appeal to me.  The tropical beach pictures with palm trees and all that are about as un-exotic as a strip mall; to those of you in the frozen north, I imagine you'd have the opposite feeling. 

Under Construction

Messing with blog settings a little today.  There's an artifact I get here on my home PC that I'm trying to track down and get rid of. 

As a result, you may see some weird things here. 

Well, not the content.  That's always weird.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Just A Little Update

Just wanted to update you on some of our little projects going on here.  Back in March, I posted about the movable little planters we picked up.  This is what they look like four weeks later to the day:

There's tomatoes, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, jalapenos, another hot pepper, a watermelon and a strawberry plant (one so far).  The lettuce is in smaller pots closer to and behind the camera, along with more peppers and other herbs, too. Several tomatoes have already fruited and are ripening, the zucchini has set its enormous flowers, and cucumbers are ripening.  So far, so good.

The sun oven is at the opposite end of the back porch, cooking some eggs.

Every now and then, I use this little piece of "resilience", too:
That's my 40W solar charger based on the Small Solar Project page (that solar project still gets a couple of Spam comments a week, to this day).  Visible at the top is the 35A-Hr. AGM battery I use with it.  As you can see, I never built that fancy cart, but it's usable by pulling it out into the sun and keeping an eye on the charge controller on the back.  The charge controller is very similar to one of these - no connection with the seller (I don't even remember where I got it, except for being pretty sure it was on Flea Bay).  The panels together deliver about 3.5A and the controller is rated for 10, so that's a healthy safety margin. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lessons From Boston

Lots of people have opined on last week's events in Boston, with the marathon on Monday to Friday's capture of the 19 year-old second suspect.  I suppose the wimpiness of 21st century America requires I talk about how awful the four deaths and multiple legs and feet blown off is, just like we can't say that these new gun control laws would not have prevented Sandy Hook without saying we don't want to blow up children.  Of course it's awful - that should go without saying.    Here are some of my conclusions:
  • The Government Can't Protect You - this should be obvious.  The Boston Marathon is one of the biggest events in the whole country.  Police were everywhere, bomb sweeps were made, everything they thought they had to do was done, and the kids still managed to place and detonate two low-tech bombs.  In the aftermath of the bombing, during the manhunt, the terrorists walked up and executed a totally uninvolved officer in his car - they couldn't protect him, either, and he was one of them. 
  • The City Lockdown Was an Abject Failure.  Again, it should be obvious.  Despite the wholesale trampling of the fourth amendment, police barging into homes at gunpoint to search for this suspect, they failed to find him and lifted the city "Shelter In Place" order Friday evening before the second suspect was found. 
  • The Police Manhunt was an Abject Failure.  Another face palm-obvious one.  The suspect wasn't found by the helicopter with IR scanners or any high-tech equipment.  The suspect wasn't found by searching door to door.  He was found because a boat owner noticed something wrong with a strap on his boat, went to look and found all sorts of other things wrong.   He had the most interest in and familiarity with his boat. 
(All that constitution tramplin' and nothing to show for it.  How embarrassing.)

All of this leads me to conclude that the City's finest hour was at the bombing, when first responder paramedics and citizens minimized the loss of lives by administering first aid. That leads to some more conclusions:
  • Gun Control Never Prevents Anyone Intending to Harm Others From Getting Guns or Anything.  This is a minor point, but worth remembering.
  • The Reaction to the Attack Cost Far More Than the Attack Did.  Shutting down all commerce in Boston (except Dunkin' Donuts - stereotypically enough) did enormous economic damage.  Boston typically produces about $1 Billion in GDP per day.  The cost will be somewhat less than that because some people will telecommute, but I'll bet over $750 million. 
  • Two Determined Kids Completely Shut Down a Major American City.  Just like Dorner did in LA, they occupied all of the resources of police and national guard, even bringing in units from other cities and states.  Imagine what a determined group could do nationwide. 
  • In a Way, I Admire The Runners Who Kept Running, But...  Get Real, Folks.  When you watched the videos, did you notice how many runners just kept going right by, checking their watches or taking their pulses?  Whether you like it or not, your plans have been changed.  Assuming you're just wearing running clothes and not carrying anything that could be useful, get out of there!  Second or third bombs are extremely common practice. 
  • If Your Life Depends on Police Shooting Well, So Sorry.  You know those practice targets where the bad guy is holding a hostage and the goal is to hit the bad guy, not the hostage?  If you're in that situation, sorry, kiss your ass goodbye.  
A witness to the late night shootout between the brothers Tsarnaev posted pictures he took from across the street and upstairs.  After the shootout, he found this scene in his apartment, across the street and on the second floor.   Most of my readers have enough training to know the axiom (I've heard it attributed to Heidi Smith, Clint's wife) "every bullet that goes down range has a lawyer attached".  The City has an awful lot of damages to pay for - thank God it didn't include innocents being killed by police fire. 
Note the bullet hole through the chair and through the calendar on the wall.  It has been reported the police shot 200 rounds during that late night shooting, and reports are that one police sergeant charged the older brother, Tamerlan, because that officer was out of ammo (and had the chance to charge him).  And these are trained professionals.

You Are Your Own Best Defense And The Only Person You Can Really Count On Being There If There's Trouble.   During the lockdown, what do you think happened to other crime in Boston?  Do you think other criminals suddenly decided to go help out at the orphanage, or did they take advantage of every cop in the city being in Watertown?  What would you have done if one of the brothers had come into your house?  Wait for the police?  This woman "evolved" on the issue in a hurry (H/T Sense of Events)
I realized right then that if I were holed up in my house while a cold-blooded terrorist roamed my neighborhood, I wouldn’t want to be a sitting duck with only a deadbolt lock between me and an armed intruder. There are not enough police and they cannot come to my rescue quickly enough. They carry guns to protect themselves, not me.
Finally, I Just Don't Get Terrorism.  Yeah, I know the purpose of terrorism is to terrify, but it still doesn't make sense no matter how I think about it.  I have no idea what motivated these two douchebags to blow up perfectly innocent people, but I don't understand why any douchebag blows up anybody. Attacks on innocent people make absolutely no sense at all to me. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day 2013

On this annual pagan religious celebration of Gaia, some odds, ends, a partial repost and new plagiarism!

From me, Earth Day 2011...

Earth Day, as most of you know, is a holiday made up in the late 1960s at the start of the national environmental movement.  Ira Einhorn is one of the main founders of Earth Day, if not the guy who started it.  Ira practiced what he preached: he murdered his girlfriend (less stress on the planet) and composted her body in his closet.  (Hey - reduce, re-use, recycle!)
You won't find Ira Einhorn's name listed in any of the Earth Day promotional literature, as the organizers have taken great pains to distance themselves from this man, at least since he became better known for composting his girlfriend in a trunk in his closet for a couple of years in the late 1970s.
I was a science geek in high school in 1970, the first Earth Day, and indoctrinated into the liberal crap of the day.  Who can forget the commercial with the crying Indian ("Iron Eyes Cody", who - BTW - was Italian, not Native American) looking at the spoiled earth.  Caught up in the spirit of the day, we went looking for pollution, and tested a local canal for coliform bacteria.  

The movement led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, probably the best example of an agency that has outlived its usefulness.

I suppose the ethos of modern America requires that I say I consider myself an environmentalist.  Long before 1970 and ever since, I've been a fisherman, hiker, camper, cyclist, runner, biathlete (I'm a really crappy swimmer...) and outdoor photographer.  I want a clean, healthy environment.  Nobody wants dirty air or water, nobody wants pollution, nobody wants to make themselves or their children or anybody else or anybody else's children sick.  Can we get away from those useless stereotypes and be grown ups from now on?

That said, 95% of being environmentally responsible is cleaning up after yourself.  Most of the rest of that last 5% is recognizing "there is no such place as 'away' where you throw things".  All you do is relocate your problem from right under your nose to somewhere else. 

I don't think there's anyone alive who remembers the 1960s that doesn't think we're better off today than we were then.  The laws removing lead from gasoline and paint removed tons of the metal from the environment.  Removal of combustion products of Nitrogen from vehicle exhaust, reduction of sulfur emissions at power plants, and mandating catalytic converters to remove heavier combustion products are all big steps.

..... (rather than repost the whole thing, here's a short version of the part on using Vilfred Pareto's law to methodically find and reduce or eliminate sources of problems.  Chart your problems, smallest to largest.  Go after the 20% of the sources that cause 80% of the problems until you knock them down to minor contributors.  Lather, rinse, repeat.)

The EPA is there.  I would argue that when the things on their list to clean up are small engines that are rarely used like lawnmowers, or personal boats, the pollution problem is essentially solved.  While I know a lawnmower can produce some visible exhaust, compared to cars and buses running five days a week or more, the total amount they contribute is a tiny fraction of what we started out cleaning up.

The EPA proudly lists a lot of its accomplishments.  There's a lot of items in that list that are more "hall of shame" than "hall of fame".  Take the CFC bans they brag about.  This science has all but fallen apart in the years since the ban, sure evidence that they jumped onto a bandwagon rather than waiting for good science (I love the conclusion to that Science paper, "we don't know what we're talking about and none of our theories work, but don't doubt the conclusions that CFCs are to blame!" - yeah and frogs with no legs are deaf, too)  It has been suggested that the whole CFC ban and Montreal Protocol was expert manipulation of the governments by Dupont Chemical, because their patents on Freon 12 were going to expire and they invented a way to get the world to come to them for the solution, R134!  Does that give you much confidence the EPA regulating carbon dioxide is anything other than a handout to some groups or some people that are going to profit wildly from carbon restrictions? 

DDT?  How many people were killed by the absence of this cheap, effective malaria preventer (by killing the mosquito vectors)?

"[Any known alternative to DDT] only kills farm workers, and most of them are Mexicans and Negroes. So what? People are the cause of all the problems. We have too many of them. We need to get rid of some of them and this is as good a way as any," said Dr. Charles Wurster, chairman of the Environmental Defense Fund's Scientific Advisory Council and a key promoter of the DDT ban.
I have to tell you that those people feel differently, Dr. Wurster.  Perhaps you and your fellow travelers will do the planet the favor of offing yourself first?  

But go back to that EPA accomplishments page.  They say:
EPA bans use of DDT because the widely-used pesticide is found to be cancer-causing and accumulating in the food chain...
Contrast that with (source):
"The scientific literature does not contain even one peer-reviewed, independently replicated study linking DDT exposures to any adverse health outcome [in humans]," said Dr. Amir Attaran, who is with Harvard University's Center for International Development and is a former WHO expert on malaria who used to support the environmentalists' call for using alternatives to DDT. Attaran changed sides on the DDT debate after he witnessed what happened when South Africa. After intense U.N. and environmentalist pressure, South Africa stopped using DDT and switched to the U.N. Environmental Program's alternative pesticides as a way to control malaria. But the mosquitoes quickly developed resistance to the new pesticides and malaria rates increased 1,000 percent....
Not afraid to put his mouth where his moxie was, Edwards took to swallowing a tablespoon of DDT on stage before every lecture on the subject. In September 1971, Esquire magazine pictured Edwards doing just that. The accompanying text explained that Edwards had "eaten 200 times the normal human intake of DDT." He did not even consider this gesture risky. In the one year of 1959, for instance, unprotected workmen had applied 60,000 tons of DDT to the inside walls of 100 million houses. Neither the 130,000 workmen or the 535 million people living in the sprayed houses had experienced any adverse effects. (emphasis added - Graybeard)
These two examples, gathered in a couple of hours of thought and searching, tell me the EPA is a political body that gets the occasional thing right, but has outlived its usefulness.  Perhaps there's some use for a skeleton crew to administer a few things, but No. New. Regulations. Not. One.  Shutter the windows and bar the doors.  Mr. Speaker, if you're looking for an agency to zero out in the budget and save some money, look no further.

From John Ransom at Townhall.com, Celebrate Earth Day by Expanding our Carbon Footprint.  A collection of 10 easy steps to creating a bigger carbon footprint, because anyone who is intellectually honest admits it doesn't matter.
 9) Use a Metro Light Rail system instead of your car.

“When taken as a whole, then,” writes Cato’s Randal O’Toole, “most transit systems with light rail use more energy and emit more greenhouse gases per passenger kilometre than they did when they operated only buses. Most also use more energy and emit more carbon dioxide, per passenger kilometre, than typical automobiles.”

8) Move to Germany!

Yes, the model for renewable energy development in the industrial world has yielded impressive results. And they do it by subsidizing a new, technological breakthrough that’s coming to you very soon. Yes, very soon we’ll all be able to power our electric vehicles through coal-powered plants that supplement coal with the use of wood. (emphasis added)

1) Occupy Wall Street, again.

Who can forget the day the people who Occupied Wall Street in order to save the world left behind 26 loads of garbage?

“I pick up garbage [for a living], and these were some of the worst smells I’ve ever experienced,’’ one sanitation worker told the NY Post.
And finally, some quotes from the first Earth Day in 1970:
“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

“By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.”
Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.” Sen. Gaylord Nelson

“The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”
Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
Remember, to really commemorate Earth Day, your lights should be visible from Proxima Centauri.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Self Image

A few weeks ago, Dove (the soap, not the chocolate ice cream bars) started an advertising campaign based on trying to convince women not to view themselves so harshly.  Body dysmorphic disorder is defined by the Mayo Clinic as  "a type of chronic mental illness in which you can't stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance — a flaw that is either minor or imagined."  It is said to be rather common in the female population, but even more prevalent is a general dissatisfaction with their looks, no matter what they look like.  It's - perhaps - the result of being held up to a standard of preternaturally skinny models built like 15 year old boys on the one hand and supernaturally proportioned Barbie dolls on the other. 

Their novel technique was to have women describe themselves to a forensic artist, who would draw them based on their self image.  Then the woman would sit with someone who had never met them and that complete stranger would describe the subject to the artist.  The Dove website shows seven women's images compared side by side with their own description and the stranger's description.  For example, here's "Florence":
I don't know what Florence looks like, but it's pretty clear Florence doesn't either.  The stranger has a much more flattering view of her than she has of herself.

Body dysmorphic disorder has never been documented to exist in men.  For example, here's how one guy described himself vs. the way a woman who had just met him described his appearance.

A group called  NewFeelingsTime posted this parody of the Dove ads on YouTube.

For the record, and I've posted this before so it's not a big secret, this was taken of me during a beach workout.  During my SEAL days.

Two Shot at Denver Pot Fest

From the "why is this news?" department, apparently if you get "tens of thousands" of pot smokers in one place, you'll find one unstable enough to shoot some of his fellow smokers.  A man and woman who were together with their dog were all shot. 
Witnesses described a scene in which a jovial atmosphere quickly turned to one of panic at the downtown Civic Center Park just before 5 p.m. Several thought firecrackers were being set off, then a man fell bleeding, his dog also shot.

"I saw him fall, grabbing his leg," said Travis Craig, 28, who was at the celebration, saw the shooting and said he used a belt to apply a tourniquet to the man's leg.
The guy is expected to be fine, no surprise there.  Honestly, unless the shooter accidentally nicked his femoral artery, the victim was probably at more risk from the tourniquet applied by a stoned hippie.  No one has been identified as the shooter.  No word on the dog's condition.

Alrighty then...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

New Frontiers in Fail - Chris Christie

Scrolling through the news ticker on the bottom of the screen while I was having breakfast, I noticed that Chris Christie has introduced new gun control legislation into the already draconian laws of New Jersey. 
The plan calls for expanding New Jersey’s already strict gun control laws, expanding government-funded mental health treatment, making it more difficult for kids buy or rent violent video games, requiring that would-be gun owners show government-issued IDs and bolstering penalties for gun-related crimes
One that jumped out at me as particularly stupid was this little gem:
New Jersey has the second toughest gun laws in the country. The first facet of Christie’s plan seeks to make them even stricter. This includes banning future purchases of the Barrett .50 Caliber...
Oh. My. God.  We're going to reduce crime by banning "Barrett 50 calibers" by name?  What horrific crime wave are we reacting to here?  Can anyone name a single crime anywhere in the US committed by someone using a Barrett?  The Violence Policy Center has a page listing all the "crimes" committed with .50 caliber guns and with the exception of one used in a drug cartel shootout in Mexico, they all appear to be malum prohibitum crimes, "crimes because we say so": crimes of possession, or of someone who owned one being involved in some other crime (owning while stupid?).  No actual "shooting someplace up" crimes. 

I'd love one of Ronnie's beautiful toys myself, but at $12,000 MSRP stripped, and $170 for each magazine and ammo at about $5 per round, it's undoubtedly a rich man's toy.  You'd need to live somewhere with truly wide open spaces to shoot it.  The rifle club I belong to forbids the use of .50 BMG.  

I'm going to go out on a limb and say if anyone in New Jersey owns and shoots a Barrett .50, they're rather rich and either live in a gated suburb or on an estate farm.  In other words, the people least likely to be involved in crime - but we're going to make sure no one can buy another one.  That's an effective use of legislator's time.

Considering most of us can't tell him from a Democrat, Christie probably just threw away any chance of a Republican presidential run.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

More On Decoupling

A couple of days ago, I noted the decoupling of precious metal spot prices and what you could buy actual silver coins for.  I've since noticed other commentators writing on it, too, including some financial guys at survivalblog

Tyler Durden over at Zero Hedge writes on the decoupling of gold and stocks.  He presents this plot showing the situation.  Major decoupling at the red ovals (top) correspond to the negative areas in the plot (in dark pink). 
The last time this correlation broke badly was in advance of the 2008 market collapse.  Is this just a phenomenon or a precursor?  

It's interesting that the US Mint set its all time record in one day gold sales, 63,500 ounces, on the day gold tanked, April 17th, bringing the total sales for the month to a whopping 147,000 ounces or more than the previous two months combined with just half of the month gone. (Gee, people buy more of something they want when the price goes down?  Who would have thought?)
You know how folks wonder if there's much gold in Ft. Knox?  What if they run out? 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

If They Outlaw Your AR, Then What?

Wirecutter has been running ads from Advanced Rifles for a while now, and I never really looked at the details until yesterday.  They have a very reasonable idea and approach.

The idea is something I talked about a couple of years ago when I built my AR from an 80% lower.  In every legal sense, this is an AR-15 rifle:
That's a completely machined, but completely stripped, AR lower receiver.  That's all.  This particular lower is from Arfcom, but they're made by Colt, Bushmaster, Ruger, DPMS, S&W - you name it.  Everyone who sells their own branded AR-15 makes a lower with their name, identifying model number, serial number and all the markings required by the laws.

Advanced Rifles offers a very reasonable conclusion here.  Let's say you own a Bushmaster model that has just been made illegal by your state.  You are required to turn it in or register it.  If you remove the lower receiver, remove the trigger and all the components in there, stripping it down to just the hunk of metal and a pile of parts, that stripped receiver you're left with is the Bushmaster AR-15 in every legal sense.  You can hand in that stripped lower receiver and comply with the law.

Now what?  You have an upper receiver, barrel, chamber, bolt, charging handle, stock, buffer tube, trigger kit, all the things that are legally just parts made of metal or plastic.  All you need is a lower receiver.  You can now buy an 80% lower receiver, complete the machining yourself, and rebuild those parts you previously removed into/onto your new rifle.  But your lower will not be any of the rifles banned by name anymore because it's not the Bushmaster you started out with.  It may have a Bushmaster upper with a Bushmaster stock and a Bushmaster lower parts kit but it will not legally be a Bushmaster.  It will be whatever you decide to call it.  (Mine's a "Mo's Guns")

I, of course, have had links to how I made my AR up since I started the job.  Unlike me, Advanced Rifles promises to stand behind you and help you build your AR.  It can be done with a milling machine (if you have one, you probably don't need me to tell you this) or a drill press.  Advanced Rifles likes to call it "monkey simple".  You don't need to hold outrageous accuracies to complete an AR.  Remember the AR made out of HDPE - essentially a kitchen cutting board?  Let that be your inspiration.  I should point out that as of tonight, April 17, 2013, Advanced Rifles is getting quite a bit more for their 80% lowers than Colfax Tactical, where I got mine.  The Colfax Tactical non-anodized lower is $99, with $10 more for anodizing.  Advanced Rifles is getting $180 for their equivalent, non-anodized lower.  Advanced Rifles seems to be offering more in the way of an online community and support to help you through the build.

Edit 4/18 2100 EDT:  I had a nice email from Advanced Rifles about this post.  Due to the very high response they've had, they've been able to get some higher quantity discounts and lower their prices.  They also think they'll do better on order backlog time than Colfax.  I'll quote a few pieces here:
Your observation on pricing was accurate and we have been in the middle of revisions for the past week.  We did not expect the response from the market and the patriot community that we received.  "THANK YOU!"  is the only thing we can say!  We have been able to make changes that can only come with high demand.   We were able to bring in more staff, acquire larger/faster equipment and do larger bulk purchases. The boost will dramatically lower costs over a longer period of time. Which we are passing all that savings back to the community. We will still be able to continue our support of the community in other ways at this volume and price point as well.  This is going to be fun.

$120-ea / $110-5pc

There is still a spread, but not much. We will need to get more than Colfax / Redmond due to to the broaching of the mag well. It costs more to produce that way, so it needs to get bundled into the sale price. However, our capacity means that once we get through this catch up period, we won't have a backorder problem.  The other guys are 6-12 months out on back orders.
So count me as a fan of Advanced Rifles.  They've got a nice handful of innovative ideas there - American small business at its best.

No financial ties, no affiliations, I haven't bought a thing from them, I'm just an interested observer on this.  My next project is either going to be an AR from aluminum plate or it's going to be a 0% lower. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Reloading Blitch

Blitch?  A blog bitchfest.  Hey, if a beg can be a bleg, why not?

Back at Christmas, dear Mrs. Graybeard gifted me with an RCBS Progressive reloading press.  The Pro2000 with auto-indexing.  Due a miscommunication or two, she missed a couple of needed parts (shell holders) and while I was able to get them, I wasn't making progress assembling it until, well, today.  Vacations are wonderful things.

My blitch is this: is it just RCBS or are all reloading presses essentially a DIY kit of not-very-well-made parts.  I thought RCBS had a good reputation.  My only experience with reloading has been with RCBS stuff, and I had a heck of a time with the hand primer.  I had to send it back and exchange for a second one that finally worked.

This time, my gripe is with the sexy micrometer adjustment on the powder dispenser.  The dispenser comes with two cylinders, one with a larger bore and capacity, which uses a large screw to meter out the amount of power it will throw, and a smaller set.  The smaller set will handle 2 to 50 grains of powder which covers pretty much everything I've got to reload, so I'm setting up to use the small cylinder and small metering screw.  The manual says to screw the micrometer into the cylinder and note where the index line (zero) comes up.  It should be on the top surface of the cylinder where you'll see it; if it doesn't, three washers are included, each one of which should rotate the index line about 90 degrees back.  My line came up pretty much 180 degrees out, so two washers should get it to the top, right?

Only they don't.  The index line stayed in exactly the same place.  Puzzled, I repeated this process a few times and eventually realized that the washers are loose and flopping around.  That means the micrometer's thread is bottoming out in the cylinder's hole before it can be threaded in far enough so the washers matter. And that means a poorly tapped hole is keeping the micrometer thread from going all the way in.  Tapping through holes ain't exactly rocket surgery, you know.  People have been doing that for a long time. 

Not having the right tap (it appears to be about a 9/16" by 18 TPI hole, but I didn't really measure the pitch diameter), I tried to force it in, essentially using the threaded portion as if it were a tap to clean up the threads in the hole.  Those of you who have done this know that didn't have much chance of working.  And it didn't. 

Now I have both a cylinder with a poorly tapped hole and micrometer with damaged threads.  Note the boogered (damaged) threads at the left end of the micrometer center. 
Pardon my blitch, but is this normal?  Do you ordinarily have to machine your own parts for reloading equipment you buy?  Equipment you buy at no small expense, I might add.  Heck, I'm a home shop machinist, I like to make things.  But nowhere on the box does it say, "Reloading Press Kit", or "holes drilled, you just tap!".  It reads like it's supposed to just go together and work.  At this point, I'll say, "yeah...right".  (And, yes, I've contacted customer support, first waiting on hold for almost an hour, then sending an email.  We'll see how they handle it.)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Silver and Gold Crater - What?

As I'm writing this, gold is at a two year low, while silver's low goes back 2 1/2 years - the white metal closed at $43.05 two years ago today, April 15, 2011.    Oil is lower than it has been in several months, and the industrial metals: copper, palladium, platinum, lead, nickel, zinc, are also down.  Of course the DJIA is down over $200 and the other stock market indices are also down with it. 

Everybody who follows the metals and the apparent coming collapse of fiat currencies around the world is looking at this and wondering what's going on.  With the warning that I'm not a financial analyst, I'm just a random internet dood with a blog, allow me a couple of observations.   

There's a famous saying that "markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent" and that seems to me to be what's going on.  Substitute the word "governments" for "markets" and I think you've got the picture.  Cyprus' central banker, Mario Draghi, has been in the process of selling off his gold to pay the debts he's required to pay off.  Central bankers have been advising everyone to sell gold - but are buying it themselves in massive quantities.  Are they trying to manipulate the price of gold, like they manipulate the price of stocks and everything else in the world?  Do I have to answer that?  Just as you can't bet against the market when the fed's monetary creation is driving it higher, you can't bet on gold when they're trying to crash the price of it. 

If the times we're living in are a massive - perhaps, final - showdown between Keynesian and Austrian economics, and they certainly seem to be, this is a moment where the Keynesian empire is striking back.  It has been looking like the empire was on the ropes; so much money-creation has been going on with the world still mired in crisis after crisis, that it looked like the final Keynesian monetary bubble was going to pop and the world have to resort to money based on something.  The central banks can flood so much currency that they can cover all the losses, if creditors will only accept this freshly created currency.  It doesn't matter that it's not backed by anything if people would only believe the digitized faux-money in their accounts is worth something. For the moment, it's looking like they can keep the illusion going. 

Do me a favor, though.  Go to Apmex or Kitco or your favorite precious metal vendor and try to buy some silver coins.  What you will find is that you can't buy at today's spot price.  The spot price is meaningless.  At the moment I'm writing this, the spot for silver is $22.72.  $1 face value in silver contains 0.71 troy ounce, and a $100 bag of 90% "junk silver" coins contains $1643.55 at that spot price.  Ordinarily, the coins are offered at a small premium, a few percent, to cover the costs of weighing in the coins, bagging, tagging, and so on.  Today, if you can find any in stock, the cheapest I see on Apmex are $2174.50, almost a 33% markup.  In small quantities, they're getting $6.59 each for silver eagles vs. the usual $4.00 or so. 

Various commentators have been predicting that a great decoupling is coming when the spot price will mean almost nothing.  People who had the metal would sell it for their own price.  That seems to be the situation today.  Clearly, if those dealers thought the price was fair and wanted to sell at spot, they could and would.   That tells me they think this is a sudden sale and it won't stay that low.  Why sell it for $1644 if it's going to go for $2174 soon?  Hold on to it; but if someone wants to pay $2174 now, why not? 

At times like this, I ask myself if anything has suddenly gotten fundamentally better in the world economic situation.  If it has, I don't see it.  I could back up the truck and fill it up, if I could buy at the spot price. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hard Choices

Should Remington have decided to leave New York?  Should Mossberg and Colt leave Connecticut?  Magpul made the tough choice to leave Colorado, and I cheered.  HiViz has decided to follow suit and leave with MagpulBeretta has decided to leave Maryland and I cheer again.  Does this mean we should never buy Remington products again? 

I find these decisions harder than the simple black and white "move back to America" idea that's so widespread.  After watching this video between Cam Edwards of "Cam and Company NRA News" and Joe Bartozzi, VP of O.F. Mossberg and Sons, the other side of the argument started seeping into my consciousness. 

Connecticut is his home, and it has been the home of O.F. Mossberg and Sons for almost a hundred years.  Their families are there; their family's roots are there.  The employees and their families are all tied to the state, too.  It's hard to move a factory, but even that pales next to uprooting a hundred or more families.  But Mossberg, Stag Arms, magazine maker ASC and others are considering doing just that.  Individual gun owners are putting pressure on these companies; some to bring the jobs into their own state, most (I believe) because they intend to boycott anti-gun states.
Hundreds of emails are pouring in from customers, like this one to Stag Arms: "I've narrowed down my purchase of an AR-15 to a few companies and yours was one of them until you decided to stay in that communist state."
There are good reasons for these companies to move out of the states hostile to the very industries enriching them: stand by their customers in that state.  Take the tax income away from the state.  Hit the politicians with the very real economic consequences of what they do.  It seems to me that to the true leftist tyrants (I repeat myself) that want to eliminate all civilian ownership of guns, the tax money is undoubtedly "blood money" they'd rather do without.  I'd be glad to help them not have that blood money to irritate their consciences.  Pragmatically, the economic consequences are the part that hurt the states the most.  Why else would every state considering these bills write in exemptions to the manufacturers to keep them from moving?  They need the tax income like any other crack ho needs her crack.

But let me tell you where this gets me a little queasy.  At what point does every gun company leaving a state that passes crazy anti-gun bills turn into the equivalent of giving up your house if a home invader breaks in to your garage?  At what point is the right answer fight, not flight?

By that logic, in the rabidly anti-gun states like Connecticut and New York, the invaders aren't breaking down the gate, they've been there forever.  They already had absurd gun laws - they've just gone from absurd to ludicrous.  In others, like Colorado, the invaders are winning the territory for the first time.  Is leaving Colorado at this point is just giving the state over to Nanny Bloomberg's shock troops?  Is that saying Magpul is wrong to leave?  I just don't know.  Part of me says boycott the state, get your money out, and the part says no; stay and fight.  While researching some links for this, I came across this link at Natural News speculating on companies leaving pro-tyranny states as being the sides forming for the new civil war.  I can see the logic behind that.   

I have a modest proposal.  I wouldn't want to say that Remington, Colt or all the other companies shouldn't sell to the government at all.  I don't want guys in the sandbox to be denied their M24/Remington 700 or other needed tools.  But could we make it so they don't sell to the state or local police forces or other agencies?  There are sticky issues to work out if the companies are under contract to those buyers, but let's conveniently ignore those.  If citizens of New York, or Colorado or whomever are denied AR-15s, well, police are regular citizens, not military, aren't they?  Why should the police be treated differently from the other citizens, just because they've been sprinkled with the magic fairy dust of working for the state.

Would it hurt the gun companies? Not really. Before It's News speculates that of the 11 Million new guns bought last year, police sales add up to less than 1% of sales.  Of course, they don't need to give up that whole 1% of sales; they only give up sales to police in the crazy states that abuse their citizens.  I can imagine a great deal of customer loyalty being created by that. A good starting place is Sean's New York Boycott List.  I'd like to see this grow to a list covering New York, Connecticut, Colorado, Maryland and any others. 
Personally, I'm avoiding spending money with any business in those states.  I know the effects of one guy are small, but since this all started, the choice of buying something from an occupied state or a free state has come up a few times, and I've gone to the free state every time.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Dark Lightning

A slight detour away from the gun control, economics and politics that consumes so much energy, over to the realm of sci-tech.  Within the last week, the story has surfaced that a new form of lightning has been recognized: dark lightning.  Dark lightning is not a conventional flow of electrons, a massive spark between cloud and ground, dark lightning is a discharge of gamma rays.  Every school child knows the story of Ben Franklin flying a kite to attract a lightning strike (Franklin, clearly no fool, was not standing outside in the storm, the kite was tied off to a structure). 
Unknown to Franklin but now clear to a growing roster of lightning researchers and astronomers is that along with bright thunderbolts, thunderstorms unleash sprays of X-rays and even intense bursts of gamma rays, a form of radiation normally associated with such cosmic spectacles as collapsing stars. The radiation in these invisible blasts can carry a million times as much energy as the radiation in visible lightning, but that energy dissipates quickly in all directions rather than remaining in a stiletto-like lightning bolt.
Gamma rays are quite energetic, but are just photons; at lower frequencies (lower energies) photons are visible light.  At still lower frequencies, photons are radio.  But these bursts of energy in thunderstorms are enormously powerful, almost as powerful as stellar events.  Until now, there was no acceptable theoretical physics to explain how this could be.  Dr. Joseph Dwyer of the Florida Institute of Technology and colleagues presented a paper at a press conference meeting of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria, April 10, showing that they've created a physical mod that can explain it.
According to their model, instead of creating normal lightning, thunderstorms can sometimes produce an exotic kind of electrical breakdown that involves high-energy electrons and their anti-matter equivalent called positrons. The interplay between the electrons and positrons causes an explosive growth in the number of these high-energy particles, emitting the observed terrestrial gamma ray flashes while rapidly discharging the thundercloud, sometimes even faster than normal lightning. Even though copious gamma-rays are emitted by this process, very little visible light is produced, creating a kind of electrical breakdown within the storms called "dark lightning."
In this illustration, from NASA by way of PopSci  the pink represents the spherically expanding gamma rays, and the yellow represents the positron stream, both diverging from the thunderstorm at bottom center.  The white circle is the moon:
Because of the association with thunderstorms, it's believed that airliners may occasionally be struck by dark lightning.  Not every thunderstorm can produce this level of energy, but it's considered possible that passengers in a commercial aircraft can be given a large dose of energy from a dark lightning event, perhaps equal to a year's allowed dose of radiation.  For comparison, in the industry we say that the commercial air transport-class jets get struck by conventional lightning once a year.  That's an average with the number depending on where they fly and a lot of other variables.  (click here for a well-known video of an ANA 747 being struck by lightning on take off from Tokyo.)  We design systems to withstand and play through rather outrageous lightning events.   It might surprise any radio hams or hobbyists out there that modern avionics radios play through direct lightning strike to the antennas.  You'll hear a burst of noise during the strike but that's the only service degradation they'll allow (it's pretty much unavoidable). 

Dark lightning is a new one on me, though.

The work here is very new and the physics isn't really well understood.  Quoting the overview in the Washington Post again:
According to gamma-ray researcher J. Eric Grove of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, the gamma-ray flashes that Dwyer’s model describes match closely the best recent satellite measurements of thunderstorm emissions of these high-energy rays. But he also notes that recent data from an Italian satellite implies that thunderstorms might be producing gamma-ray flashes far more energetic than Dwyer’s theory can account for, adding mystery even as it helps confirm dark lightning’s existence. 
It just strikes me as very cool that thunderstorms are capable of this much energy.  Cooler yet that new natural phenomena are being discovered and fundamental physics about how the world works is still being discovered. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Little Clarification

I did a really crappy job of saying what I wanted to say in my previous post, so I'm going to try again.  I won't make excuses (I was tired!  The dog ate my post!)  I screwed up so I'm going to try to fix it.

The important point is that the new mantra is for background checks as if that's going to solve things.  It's not.  Lott quoted a 2004 NAS study showing no reduction in violent crime from background checks, and several other worthwhile facts. 

I know this is old news to many of you, but on the chance new readers haven't seen it, the web site Gun Facts (now up to version 6.2) is an indispensable source of referenced facts to common anti-gun myths.  According to their pdf, the Brady Bill (which mandated background checks) has been a rather total failure.  The percentage of guns used in homicides stayed the same, the percentage of inmates at both the state and federal levels caught with firearms went up, the Feds have apparently never gone after people who fail the background checks in any number, and federal prosecutions of gun-related crimes has been apparently continually declining.

Likewise, the attempts to enforce more background checks and close some mythical "gun show loophole" is going to fail.  Criminals don't buy guns at gun shows - in 2002, 0.7% did (Bureau of Justice). They steal them or buy them from someone else who stole them.  

But just as I virtually pleaded with my Evil Party Senator, Bill Nelson, not to vote for gun control and have had zero effect, no matter what I ask him, I don't think we have a chance of convincing the anti-gun legislators.  What we might be able to do is convince our friends and neighbors that our arguments are right - if they're truly open-minded and care about finding solutions rather than "doing something".

Congress critters are nothing if not self-serving, self-glorifying pigs, right?  As it stands now, until they declare unrestricted dictatorship they need to get re-elected.  They watch the professional pollsters and count votes closer than a pair of four-year olds watch to see one got the bigger cookie.  They watching tracking polls and every indicator they can to make sure they don't make the voters take away their sweet, sweet gig.  The more people we can sway to our side the better - and that especially includes the gun owners who go along with this flawed idea. 

I may be wrong, but I'm close to the idea that the "Gun Culture 1.0" folks, the folks who grew up hunting and around guns - the guys sometimes called "Fudds" - are more apolitical and more friendly to this idea.  These are the folks whom we need to convince of the stupidity of more laws.  Gun culture 2.0, the people who are streaming into gun ownership through concealed carry, seem more on our side already,  based on my small, highly unscientific sample. So try to convince those people, too.   While you're at it, if you know guys who are bow hunters and don't care because they think crossbows are not going to be regulated, work on them, too. 

Background checks sound like a good idea - but laws rarely if ever work out the way they intend them to with no unintended consequences.  It's the same problem as with gun control in general: they're trying to invent laws that stop people who aren't following laws.  They can't affect those people with laws.  All they can ever do is make life harder for the people who do obey laws. 
The original Fudd and Duck Face.  My most popular (stolen) cartoon ever. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

On Background Checks, The New Mantra

John Lott writes the definitive piece on Fact vs. Fiction on  Background Checks and the Gun Control Debate.  A couple of Fun Facts should you be debating an anti-gun type:
Furthermore, there is no real scientific evidence among criminologists and economists that background checks actually reduce crime. In fact, a 2004 National Academy of Sciences panel concluded that the Brady background checks didn't reduce any type of violent crime. Nor have other later studies found a beneficial effect.
The number of criminals stopped by the checks is also quite small. In 2010, there were over 76,000 initial denials, but only 44 of those were deemed worthy for prosecution and only 13 individuals were convicted.(pdf here) Even those 13 cases don’t tend to be the “dangerous” criminals Obama claims are being stopped.
The 76,000+ denials were out of 14,320,489 NICS checks in 2010 (source) represents 1/2% being denied, and the 44 prosecuted is statistical noise.  People who know they will fail a background check don't usually apply for one.  Criminals get their guns from other criminals, not FFLs.  I know: "well, duh!!"

Lott starts with the famous "40% of gun sales take place without a background check" claim Obama and others make.  This is a misleading number for several reason, the biggest being the study was done before the Brady bill required background checks.  The 40% includes all transfers, including non-sales between family members. And besides, even with those two important facts, he rounds up the study's 36% to 40%.
Counting only guns that were sold gives a very different perspective, with only 14 percent not actually going through federally licensed dealers. But even that is much too high as there were biases in the survey. For example, two-thirds of federally licensed dealers at the time were so-called “kitchen table” dealers who sold gun out of their homes and most buyers surveyed were likely unaware these individuals were indeed licensed.
Go read; it's not long.
FBI data at FiscalTimes