Thursday, October 19, 2017
CNBC has a very interesting (and, depending on where you live, a potentially devastating) article showing the liability of residents of each state to pay off the current shortfall in that state's unfunded debts, pension shortfalls, and so on. Here's a helpful chart to show where you stand.
There's much more information at the link. It's important and highly recommended reading - and remember, the figures above exclude federal government debt and privately held debt, which together amount to far more. Frankly, if you live in one of the worst-performing states on that list, it may be time to do anything and everything you can to get out of there before things get worse!
Dave Karpf says that "digital inexperience paid off" for the Trump campaign, in a big way.
The 2016 Trump campaign’s digital director, Brad Parscale, was featured on 60 Minutes last week. Much of the interview focused on the central role of Facebook in Trump’s digital strategy. Parscale shared that he “understood early that Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win. Twitter is how he talked to the people. Facebook was going to be how he won. …We did [ads] on Twitter, Google search, other platforms. Facebook was the 500-pound gorilla, 80 percent of the budget kind of thing.” He also revealed that the Trump campaign had been closely advised by Facebook staffers who were literally “embedded” within their offices. While this little fact led the news, the truth is that top tech platforms have been offering such services to political campaigns for years. What was news, however, was the revelation that the Clinton campaign had turned Facebook down.
. . .
Back before Trump was being treated as a serious candidate, the 2016 election was supposed to be the one when Republicans finally started to catch up with Democrats in their use of social science experiments in elections. Then Trump happened, and everything got, well, weird. Many Republican digital campaign professionals were active #NeverTrumpers, further isolating the Trump digital team from any established base of digital campaign knowledge.
As a result, the experienced digital politics professionals weren’t in the room for Trump when Facebook arrived with its marketing pitch. The Clinton digital team had seen the experimental results. They had been around for past cycles, and had heard all these bold social media promises before. Facebook was touting its new-and-improved lookalike advertising product and asking for a giant slice of the digital advertising pie. The data from past elections said otherwise. Parscale, meanwhile, effectively responded by saying, “Magic beans?!? Take all of my money!”
Google and Twitter sent embedded staff to the Trump campaign as well. And the Clinton campaign accepted some staff embeds from big tech firms, even if Facebook was not among them. The digital technology firms didn’t just have a seat at the table with Trump’s digital program; they were often the most knowledgeable and experienced voices in the room. That’s generally a terrible way to run a campaign. You’ll get sold a bill of goods more often than not.
Except this time, the beans turned out to actually be magic.
There's more at the link.
That's a fascinating thought. Were the "experts" on the Clinton campaign so over-exposed to "hype" about technology that they automatically distrusted it, or at least some aspects of it? And were Trump's "experts" less expert, and therefore less jaded and more willing to listen to technologically savvy advice? Did that make the difference between victory and defeat?
I'm looking forward to learning more about this as the post-election analysis continues. It may hold interesting implications for future campaigns.
I wonder which Puerto Rican officials are responsible for this? (A tip o' the hat to reader Jason L. for sending me the link to the video.)
Probably some of the same officials responsible for this.
FBI agents in Puerto Rico have been receiving calls from "across the island" with residents complaining local officials are "withholding" or "mishandling" critical FEMA supplies -- with one island official even accused of stuffing his own car full of goods meant for the suffering populace.
The accusations come in the aftermath of deadly Hurricane Maria, which devastated the U.S. territory last month.
“The complaints we’re hearing is that mayors of local municipalities, or people associated with their offices, are giving their political supporters special treatment, goods they’re not giving to other people who need them,” FBI Special Agent Carlos Osorio told Fox News.
. . .
Some of the claims have come by phone and others have poured in over social media, but the allegations stretch across the island.
Osorio told of one allegation where a party official is accused of pulling his own car around the back of a government building and driving off after loading it full of FEMA supplies.
“We’re going out and investigating these claims,” Osorio said. “We don’t know yet if they’re accurate or not...but yes we have received many similar allegations from people in many different parts of the island.”
The allegations of misconduct come amid a pitched back-and-forth between island officials and President Trump over the federal response to Maria.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, a frequent Trump foil, reportedly accused Trump on Thursday of “genocide” for not doing more to aid in the relief efforts.
There's more at the link.
Perhaps the best disaster relief for Puerto Rico might be to remove from office every state and local government official, and replace them with qualified, competent, honest people from the mainland - perhaps retired businessmen and administrators, who can teach and/or show them how it's done. Many of them need the jobs, and Puerto Rico needs better government, making it a win-win situation. What say you, readers?
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Courtesy of a link at Vox's place, I came across this very troubling article.
Researchers warn that large parts of biomedical science could be invalid due to a cascading history of flawed data in a systemic failure going back decades.
A new investigation reveals more than 30,000 published scientific studies could be compromised by their use of misidentified cell lines, owing to so-called immortal cells contaminating other research cultures in the lab.
The problem is as serious as it is simple: researchers studying lung cancer publish a new paper, only it turns out the tissue they were actually using in the lab were liver cells. Or what they thought were human cells were mice cells, or vice versa, or something else entirely.
If you think that sounds bad, you're right, as it means the findings of each piece of affected research may be flawed, and could even be completely unreliable.
. . .
Serge Horbach from Radboud University in the Netherlands ... and fellow researcher Willem Halffman wanted to know how extensive the phenomenon of misidentified cell lines really was, so they searched for evidence of what they call "contaminated" scientific literature.
Using the research database Web of Science, they looked for scientific articles based on any of the known misidentified cell lines as listed by the International Cell Line Authentication Committee's (ICLAC) Register of Misidentified Cell Lines.
There are currently 451 cell lines on this list, and they're not what you think they are – having been contaminated by other kinds of cells at some point in scientific history. Worse still, they've been unwittingly used in published laboratory research going as far back as the 1950s.
"After an extensive literary study, we believe this involves some 33,000 publications," Halffman explains.
"That means there are more than 30,000 scientific articles online that are reporting on the wrong cells."
There's more at the link.
This has enormous implications for medical research. For example, if the FDA approves a new drug to treat a certain illness, and it turns out that the drug was tested on the wrong cells, its usefulness may be overstated at best - perhaps even overturned entirely. Furthermore, our understanding of certain diseases, like some types of cancer or tumors, might be completely wrong. Doctors and scientists may have to revisit some issues from the ground up, repeating all the flawed research using cell lines that are proven to be correct - a massive, perhaps unsupportable expense.
The potential lawsuits stemming from this might be mind-boggling in their complexity. I suspect medical malpractice lawyers are, right now, setting up urgent conference calls and preparing advertisements. As far as they're concerned, this might just be bonanza time.
I recently tried a pair of Pachmayr Renegade wood laminate grips on one of my snubnose revolvers. I liked them so much, I've just ordered another pair, and I daresay I'll be "re-gripping" a number of my revolvers with them.
They look very attractive, and are usually available in plain or checkered form. Here's a composite image, showing one of each style sized to fit a snubnose revolver.
The smooth finish is very smooth, and seems to be finished in polyurethane. The combination can be slippery if your hand is wet; but that's not been a problem for me, since I make sure to use a firm grip. The smooth finish lets the gun slide easily into a pocket (which is where I usually carry a snubnose revolver). They don't "grab" the pocket material at all, which is a big help. The checkered version offers more traction, which will be useful to control more powerful rounds, but still isn't overly "grabby" on pocket material (unlike soft rubber grips). I think my .357 Magnum snubbies will carry the checkered grips, while my .38 Special snubbies will sport the smooth versions.
The Renegades are a little larger than standard snubby grips, so that the gun fits my hand better (giving a full 3-finger grip) and points very naturally. I find, as I bring it up into line with my target, the front sight nestles almost instinctively into the dovetail of the rear sight. That's handy. However, they're slightly less concealable because of the larger grips; something to keep in mind, and compensate for if necessary in the way one dresses. The gun still conceals well in an ankle holster, too. People with smaller hands may not find the Renegade grips a good fit.
I haven't tried the Renegade grips on larger-frame revolvers yet, but I plan to do so soon. They're available for several models of semi-auto pistols as well. Best of all, they're priced very reasonably, much more so than some other "fancy" wood grips. The rosewood grips look good on either blued or stainless firearms. There's also a charcoal finish that I find too dark for my taste, but I'm sure there are those who'll prefer it.
No, Pachmayr isn't paying me to advertise their products, and I've received no compensation in cash or in kind for mentioning them. I simply like to tell my readers when I find a product I really like, that does its job well. These Renegade grips are worth a closer look, if you're a shooter.
That's the title of a very interesting article by Aaron Clarey, a.k.a. Captain Capitalism. If you've been wondering about Bitcoin (the original "cryptocurrency"), "Initial Coin Offerings" and the like, he provides a great deal of information of which I hadn't been aware. In particular, he highlights the risks involved in dealing in such pseudo-commodities.
... unlike say, a bond, a stock, or a rental property, currencies (crypto or not) do not produce income. They are a tool of economic exchange, a store of value, and naturally forming and evolving economic phenomenon since humans existed. Silver bars do not poop out little silver coins and gold coins do breed to make little gold coins. And since all currencies produce nothing, there is no means by which to value them. The value of currencies are therefore determined by their rarity relative to one another, whether they have intrinsic value (precious metals), utilitarian/commodity value (silver is used in electronics), purchasing power (the Big Mac Index) and the amorphous, whimsical, and impossible-to-measure trust and faith of the entire world's people.
. . .
I'm no economist, but as far as my logic takes me, the world should only need ONE cryptocurrency. Maybe three or four in order to account for the fact people would want to diversify out of being reliant upon just ONE cryptocurrency. But when I did the research for my client...now approaching 4 months ago...there were....(drum roll please)
But wait, it gets better! In those four short months the number of cryptocurrencies has increased by 200!
Do not tell me this isn't Dotcom II all over again.
. . .
Very simply "The We Accept Index" reconnects and measures the only thing that matters with a currency - whether it is accepted as such. Whether you can use that currency to purchase ACTUAL TANGIBLE PHYSICAL THINGS IN THE REAL WORLD. Whether other people deem it to have value. And it is here we find out just how few cryptocurrencies have value.
In all honesty, only two, MAYBE four have value:
Dogecoin (and this was started on a lark!)
The remaining 99.7% of cryptocurrencies, in literal economic terms, have no value.
There's much more at the link.
This is a very informative and useful guide to the area of cryptocurrencies, and the explosively expanding market for them. I'm forced to agree with Mr. Clarey; this looks like yet another bubble, one that may take the fortunes of many investors with it when it (inevitably) implodes. There is no real, tangible value underlying it at all.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
I've written frequently about debt and its effects on our economy. John Mauldin draws the inescapable conclusion about federal government debt, and how it may - almost certainly will - impact our retirement.
The projected total US debt will be $30 trillion within 10 years, using the CBO’s own numbers. But the CBO also makes the rosy assumptions that there will be no recessions and that GDP will grow at a 4% nominal rate ... If you asked me to bet the “over/under” on the debt in 2027, I would bet the over at $35 trillion.
. . .
Note: That ... does not take into account the off-budget deficit that still ends up having to be borrowed. Last year the deficit was well over $1 trillion—but we were told it was in the neighborhood of $600 billion.
If any normal company tried to use accounting like the US Congress does, the SEC would rightly declare it fraudulent and shut it down immediately.
. . .
... looking at the demographic reality of longer lifespans and lower birthrates, it’s hard to believe Social Security can survive over the long run in anything like its present form.
But any major change will mean that the government is breaking its promise to workers and retirees.
And now we come to the really uncomfortable part.
Larry Kotlikoff wrote in an article on Forbes that we would need an immediate approximately 50% increase in taxes to fund our future deficits. That’s what we would need to create a true entitlements “lockbox” with the funds actually in it.
But surely everybody knows by now that there is no lockbox with Social Security funds in it. That money was spent on other government programs and debts. And so when the CBO doesn’t count the trust funds as part of the national debt, they are not only being disingenuous, I think they are committing financial fraud.
The money that will actually pay for Social Security and Medicare down the road is going to have to come out of future taxes, just as for any other debt of the US.
So at some point – even though Republicans are jawboning hard about cutting taxes now – we are going to have to raise taxes in order to fund Social Security and Medicare. I personally think it will have to be done with a value-added tax (VAT), because the necessary increase in income taxes would totally destroy the economy and potential growth.
. . .
But the simple fact of the matter is that no Congress is going to fund Social Security and Medicare through tax hikes. Before they ever go there, they will means-test Social Security and increase the retirement age – which they should.
There's more at the link.
So, if you're expecting to rely on Social Security for any part of your retirement income (let alone a significant proportion of it), keep in mind:
- SS is very likely to become a means-tested program, meaning that only those who lack other means of financial survival will get it (or part of it). No matter how much you, personally, have paid in Social security "contributions" (for which read "taxes"), you are no longer guaranteed a return on that money. It'll depend on your net worth and other financial factors.
- Your tax burden is almost certain to increase, whether by direct or indirect means. Therefore, you may get less than you expected from SS, and you may have to pay out more in taxes - a double financial whammy.
I think the odds of both happening are pretty darn good, as Mr. Mauldin points out. Mathematics is a hard science, not a feeling or an opinion. If the money isn't there, it can't be spent; and if Congress wants to spend it, it has to find more money somewhere. Either way, we're the victims.
I was intrigued to find this video review at The Vulgar Curmudgeon's place.
He's also done an earlier review, on the original, smaller toilet paper "tablets". Those may be found here, if you're interested, while the larger ones may be found here. There are similar products from other manufacturers, too; see some of them here.
I'd never heard of these things, but I have several friends and acquaintances who regularly hike in back-country areas, or go on hunting trips where they travel as light as possible. I asked them whether they'd ever used such products. Three said they had, and recommended them from personal experience. They said they weren't as comfortable as toilet paper, but got the job done, and the saving in weight and space in their backpacks were so impressive as to make the choice a no-brainer.
A fourth friend, however, added a cautionary note. He's from Minnesota, and hunts there in winter; and he's traveled to Alaska to hunt there, too. He reminded me that one has to dampen these things to get them to expand, and pointed out that in sub-zero temperatures, applying a damp piece of cellulose fiber to one's nether regions would be both exceedingly uncomfortable, and a potential health hazard if the damp material should freeze to . . . shall we say, delicate portions of one's anatomy. He reckoned the defrosting process could also be hazardous to one's health, given that the only heat available would be from a fire or camp stove. "What happens if the darned thing freezes to your tush, then catches fire when you try to warm it up to get it off?" he wondered. Once he'd pointed that out, I wondered the same thing!
If you've used these or similar products, please let us know how you found them in Comments. I might have to add some of these to my emergency kit. At least, living in Texas, the freezing hazard is likely to be minimized!
Monday, October 16, 2017
There are still many unanswered questions about the Las Vegas shootings a fortnight ago. Law enforcement seems to be changing the timeline and other details to suit their own narrative, and they've done it so often as to call their professionalism and expertise into serious question.
Two articles summarize the current state of play:
Go read them for a very good summary of the issues that remain unsolved (at least, as far as the public is concerned).
I'm particularly concerned that little or no internal security footage from the hotel has been released. I'm sure such video would be date- and/or time-stamped, and reveal the truth about who responded to the situation, at what time, where and how. The fact that it has not been released speaks volumes about a potential police cover-up of a flawed, delayed response that may - I emphasize, may - have doomed dozens or scores of people to death or injury. Unfortunately, in the absence of the release of this sort of information, we can only speculate; and many are doing precisely that. Law enforcement agencies are doing themselves no favors at all by their reluctance to provide details.
I'll let Karl Denninger sum it up.
As for the LVMPD quit covering **** up, especially whatever you know about that "guard's" legal status vis-a-vis being in the United States and why he doesn't show up on the Nevada License site as holding the license he would almost-certainly need to be a security guard.
Oh, and quit playing with the timeline too.
Finally, you and the Fibbies obviously can't find your ass with both hands. How else does a (dead) suspect's house, which you breached violently and then searched, get broken into by burglars while you have it under surveillance? Either cops broke into it (with your explicit permission so they could literally loot it) or you lack the basic ability to do your damn job and your entire department needs to be defunded since you are all a sufficiently-bad waste of oxygen that you deserve to get lost in the desert and expire. The rank incompetence during and immediately following the event is bad enough but this tops the list when it comes to getting paid to do literally nothing and nobody in your state should sit for one second more of that crap.
I'm not buying what you're selling -- I don't know why or what you're covering up but that you are is evident from the ever-changing timeline and your failure to address the inconsistencies, including said "Security Guard" who is a ghost according to the requirements of Nevada law to hold that position. You knew damn well what was going on there within hours of the event and have intentionally blackballed all discussion of same.
There's more at the link.
Frankly, I think Mr. Denninger is right in almost every respect. Why is the LVMPD still evading the issues in this case, two weeks after the fact? This stinks of a cover-up at every level.
I was intrigued to read this article by Karl Denninger.
Walmart has said they expect a 40% e-commerce increase (in dollar terms) over the next 12 months.
Here's my view on them vis-a-vis Out-Amazoning Amazon: Amazon is in trouble. Serious trouble.
WalMart has done a lot with their online presence of late. Further, and far more importantly, they do not charge a "subscription fee" for some "premium" tier such as Amazon does with Prime.
Why is this important? Several reasons:
- Walmart now handily beats Amazon for a lot of products when it comes to price. In fact if you don't check Walmart's online listing before ordering from Amazon you are a fool and almost-certain to overpay. It's that blatant now, and has been getting more-so over the last few months.
. . .
- You need buy no special plan to get free delivery. You can, as with Amazon, get free delivery to your house if you have a modest amount spent in one transaction. However, you can also get free delivery to any of WalMart's stores irrespective of the amount of the transaction and typically the product is there in 2-3 days -- in other words, just as fast as PRIME. WalMart will hold it at their customer service desk for about a week and you can come get it at your leisure.
Next up Walmart has announced that they intend to make returns of their internet purchases zero hassle (requiring just seconds) at any of their stores. That's a huge win over returning something via Amazon where you typically have to go to a UPS retail outlet or similar to drop it off and deal with printing their return label. In this case just take it with you the next time you go to Walmart, check it back in at the store and it's done.
There's more at the link.
On Sunday morning, I was researching the purchase of some home gym equipment to supplement the strength training that Miss D. and I are currently doing. After reading Mr. Denninger's article, I decided to do a direct, like-for-like price comparison between Walmart and Amazon (same equipment, same manufacturer, same model, just a different vendor). To my astonishment, Walmart had the cheapest price every time - and it wasn't a small difference, either. Across six different products that I wanted, Amazon and/or its third-party vendors averaged 258% - i.e. two and a half times - more than the prices at Walmart. That's astonishing! Admittedly, this was for relatively expensive specialty items, not "normal" shopping like groceries or clothing; but even so, that sort of difference in price is mind-boggling. What's more, Walmart offered the same free shipping I'd receive from Amazon. In addition, it was far cheaper than every other online retailer I could find selling the same make and model of equipment - many of whom would have charged shipping and handling fees on top of their retail prices.
Needless to say, I dug out my credit card and ordered what I needed from Walmart without further delay, for about $450 less than Amazon would have charged me for the same goods. I'll be able to pick up my order at my local Walmart on Thursday. It's nice to know it'll be held securely for me; I don't have to worry about someone stealing it from my front porch (which has happened in the past, in other towns). That's a definite plus.
After that experiment, you can bet I'm going to be much more diligent about price comparisons between online vendors in future. Amazon has done a wonderful job of making online transactions as easy and painless as possible. Where the difference in price is very small, I'll probably opt for the convenience of using their tried and trusted services, rather than open accounts at more vendors. However, when buying more expensive items, the kind of savings I've just enjoyed have been a real eye-opener. I suspect Amazon has been "coasting", resting on their (well-earned) laurels for customer service, trusting that clients will value that so highly that they won't bother to check prices elsewhere. For me, that's just come to a grinding halt! I only have so many dollars to spend. If I can stretch them further by taking a bit more time and trouble, so much the better. I'll use Amazon to check user reviews of products I'm considering (it's still by far the best online resource for that), but I'll check prices elsewhere, too, and "follow the money" in terms of savings.
Kudos to Walmart for putting so much effort into improving its online ordering process, which is noticeably easier to use than it was in the past. They've definitely upped their game. If their handling of my order is equally good, they're going to become an e-commerce force to be reckoned with. I think Amazon is going to have to work very hard to maintain its current leadership position.
(For another perspective on the e-commerce rivalry between the two behemoths, see "The Amazon-Walmart Showdown That Explains the Modern Economy". It's a good article, and worth reading.)
Sunday, October 15, 2017
It's Sunday morning, but by some minor miracle my back let me sleep later than usual (I normally wake up in the small hours of the morning). I'm not fully awake yet; so what better time to give you a song or two about waking up?
Let's start with possibly the most famous Goon Show dialog of all time. Eccles and Bluebottle are in "the ground floor attic of a nearby clock repairers", and have this conversation.
When you've stopped laughing, here's an Irish song about waking up.
I reckon that'll do it for this morning!
Saturday, October 14, 2017
I'm sure most of my readers are aware of the ongoing controversy surrounding dietary supplements: vitamins, minerals, weight gain, weight loss, "energy drinks", the whole schmear. I regard all of them with suspicion, given the number of studies that have shown them to have little, if any, positive effect.
Many people aren't aware that the dietary supplement "fad" began in weightlifting and bodybuilding circles in the 1960's. It was unscientific, but promoted by the suppliers of equipment to the sport, as they realized they could make a lot more money out of bodybuilding supplements than they could out of one-off sales of equipment (because barbells, etc. don't wear out and never need replacement). A very interesting six-part article by Dr. Ken Leistner recalls the period, and how supplements grew into a multi-million-dollar industry.
If you trained with weights during this era, you also had an interest and a financial investment in any number of nutritional supplements. One of the oft-quoted summaries regarding this came from famed collegiate and NFL strength coach Dan Riley, who in one lecture remarked, “For those of you familiar with the statue on top of the York Barbell Company building, I want you to know that I paid for half of that with all of their supplements that I bought.” I immediately piped up from the audience, “Dan, I believe you because I paid for the other half!”
My own odyssey that wound through the nutritional supplement field was no doubt as typical for the era as it is possible to be. It began with the awareness that my training efforts needed a boost, some sort of push forward that training alone could not and would not provide. At least the muscle magazines told me this. Of course this wasn’t true, as weight training was in the process of taking me from an undersized 120-pound youngster to a 232-pound collegiate athlete. The training was doing its job, but like so many, I read the ads that were aimed at fourteen and fifteen-year-old trainees and fell prey to the purveyors of protein powder, vitamins, minerals, wheat germ oil, and brewer’s yeast. In the early 1960s these were the “standard fare” for anyone involved in weight training who deemed themselves to be “serious about things.” No one was more serious about their training than I was, and I believed the advertising copy, much of which passed for legitimate articles in the various muscle magazines.
Please allow for another reminder, especially for those young readers of the Internet Age: the dissemination of information was extremely limited – often limited to what was printed in the magazines, if one could not actually get themselves to a storefront gym, garage, basement, or warehouse where serious lifters or bodybuilders trained. The “information” in the York publications clearly boosted “the fact” that the featured lifters and bodybuilders used York Hi-Proteen powders, tablets, Energol germ oil, and their other supplements. The Weider magazines, published under an almost dizzying array of titles, focused primarily on bodybuilders, but again the key feature was the intake of the Weider brand of nutritional supplements, many of which mimicked what York was selling.
. . .
A true observation about training with a barbell ... was made in 1970 by Arthur Jones in his Nautilus Training Bulletin. He noted that once a trainee purchases a barbell set, he is effectively removed from the marketplace as a consumer unless the barbell itself is defective. Any failure in performance of the barbell set becomes evident and a replacement will be sought. He clearly stated that it is much more difficult to judge the efficacy of a can of protein powder, and once established as a customer, the purveyor of nutritional supplements will have the user as a monthly customer, perhaps for a very lengthy period of time as he replenishes his depleted supplement supply.
This was also the realization of Hoffman, Weider, and a few smaller manufacturers or distributors who jumped onto the supplement bandwagon.
There's much more at the link, which takes you to the first article in the series. Links to the other parts are at the foot of the article.
Reading Dr. Leistner's recollections of supplements in the weightlifting and bodybuilding "industries", one can see many similarities to how supplements are promoted for general use in TV advertisements and other media today. The comparison is interesting, and thought-provoking. Recommended reading if you're interested in fitness and/or strength training, which is the discipline Miss D. and myself are following. We're very happy with the results so far - and no supplements are needed!
. . . according to Stephan Pastis and his "Pearls Before Swine" comic strip.
Click the image to be taken to a larger version on the cartoon's Web page.
Friday, October 13, 2017
Today's award goes to a French "intelligence agent".
A French intelligence agent sent a text message by mistake to the mobile phone of a jihadist, inadvertently warning him that he was under surveillance and undermining an investigation, it emerged on Friday.
The target of the probe, described as an “Islamist preacher” based in the Paris area, immediately understood that his phone was being tapped and his movements monitored.
He called the agent to complain and warned his contacts that they were under surveillance. As a result, separate investigations by two different intelligence services came to nothing, M6 television reported.
“It was undoubtedly the worst mistake the agent ever made,” M6 commented. Interior ministry sources confirmed the report.
There's more at the link.
Sounds like a peculiarly unintelligent intelligence agent, if you ask me!
Given Miss D.'s and my recent gym activities, I had to laugh at this cartoon from The Devil's Panties. Click the image to be taken to a larger version at its Web page.
Thursday, October 12, 2017
I daresay many of my readers have seen Michael Moore's suggested changes to the Second Amendment to the United States constitution.
PROPOSED 28th AMENDMENT TO THE US CONSTITUTION
“A well regulated State National Guard, being helpful to the safety and security of a State in times of need, along with the strictly regulated right of the people to keep and bear a limited number of non-automatic Arms for sport and hunting, with respect to the primary right of all people to be free from gun violence, this shall not be infringed.”
. . .
- As over 90% of gun violence is committed by men, in order for a man to purchase a gun, he must first get a waiver from his current wife, plus his most recent ex-wife, or any woman with whom he is currently in a relationship (if he’s gay, he must get the waiver from his male spouse/partner). This law has greatly reduced most spousal/domestic gun murders in Canada.
- All automatic and semi-automatic guns are banned.
- No gun or clip can hold more than 6 bullets.
- To activate a gun for it to be used, the trigger must recognize the fingerprint of its registered owner. This will eliminate most crimes committed with a gun as 80% of these crimes are done with a stolen gun.
- One’s guns must be stored at a licensed gun club or government-regulated gun storage facility. Believing that having a gun in your home provides you with protection is an American myth. People who die from a home invasion make up a sad but minuscule .04% of all gun murders in the US. And over a third of them are killed by their own gun that the criminal has either stolen or wrestled from them.
- To own and operate a gun one must obtain a license (like one does to operate a car). To get a license you have to complete a gun training and safety course and pass a thorough background check.
- As nearly half of all gun deaths are suicides, mental health care must become a top national health priority and must be properly funded. And by making it more difficult to purchase a gun - and requiring its storage outside the home - easy access during a suicidal moment is denied.
There's (unfortunately) more at the link.
Needless to say, such an "amendment" would be no amendment at all, but rather a complete negation of the Second Amendment and all it stands for.
Daniel Greenberg summarizes why people like Mr. Moore want to accomplish that.
The left will lecture on the failure of drug prohibition, but is sure that gun prohibition would work. Why? Because they usually have some personal experience buying drugs, but little experience buying guns. And so they’re sure that a ban that they would ridicule in any other area will somehow work with guns.
. . .
Gun control isn’t a policy. It’s a moral panic. Like prohibition, it’s a xenophobic reaction to a different culture that shares the same country with them. Guns have come to embody a rural conservative culture in the minds of urban leftists the way that alcohol once embodied foreign immigrants to prohibition activists and the way that drugs represented urban decadence to rural America.
It’s why the “common sense solution” talk quickly gives way to broad denunciations of a “national gun culture”, of “white privilege”, of rural folk “clinging to their bibles and guns”, of American militarism and toxic masculinity, and of all the things for which guns are merely a symbol to the leftists who hate them.
A cultural critique is very different than a common sense solution. It isn’t guns that the left wants to ban. It’s people. It was never really about banning guns. It was always about the culture war.
Again, more at the link.
We'll just have to make sure that Mr. Moore, and others of his ilk, don't succeed - whether or not they manage to get legislation, or even a constitutional amendment, through Congress. There are words on paper, and then there's the reality on the ground. Mr. Moore is most unlikely to change that.
I'm sure most of my readers are familiar with the nastiness surrounding 2nd Lt. Spenser Rapone, who posed in uniform for pro-Communist photographs and disrespected the Secretary of Defense and others on his social media accounts.
An open letter by retired LtCol Robert M. Heffington, a former lecturer at the US Military Academy at West Point, paints a grim picture of the institution.
... during my time on the West Point faculty (2006–2009 and again from 2013–2017), I personally witnessed a series of fundamental changes at West Point that have eroded it to the point where I question whether the institution should even remain open.
. . .
First and foremost, standards at West Point are nonexistent. They exist on paper, but nowhere else. The senior administration at West Point inexplicably refuses to enforce West Point’s publicly touted high standards on cadets, and, having picked up on this, cadets refuse to enforce standards on each other. The Superintendent refuses to enforce admissions standards or the cadet Honor Code, the Dean refuses to enforce academic standards, and the Commandant refuses to enforce standards of conduct and discipline. The end result is a sort of malaise that pervades the entire institution. Nothing matters anymore. Cadets know this, and it has given rise to a level of cadet arrogance and entitlement the likes of which West Point has never seen in its history.
Every fall, the Superintendent addresses the staff and faculty and lies. He repeatedly states that “We are going to have winning sports teams without compromising our standards,” and everyone in Robinson Auditorium knows he is lying because we routinely admit athletes with ACT scores in the mid-teens across the board. I have personally taught cadets who are borderline illiterate and cannot read simple passages from the assigned textbooks. It is disheartening when the institution’s most senior leader openly lies to his own faculty — and they all know it. The cadet honor code has become a laughingstock. Cadets know they will not be separated for violating it, and thus they do so on a daily basis. Moreover, since they refuse to enforce standards on each other and police their own ranks, cadets will rarely find a cadet at an honor hearing despite overwhelming evidence that a violation has occurred.
. . .
Academic standards are also nonexistent. I believe this trend started approximately ten years ago, and it has continued to get worse. West Point has stated standards for academic expectations and performance, but they are ignored. Cadets routinely fail multiple classes and they are not separated at the end-of-semester Academic Boards. Their professors recommend “Definitely Separate,” but those recommendations are totally disregarded.
. . .
Even the curriculum itself has suffered. The plebe American History course has been revamped to focus completely on race and on the narrative that America is founded solely on a history of racial oppression. Cadets derisively call it the “I Hate America Course.” Simultaneously, the plebe International History course now focuses on gender to the exclusion of many other important themes.
. . .
Conduct and disciplinary standards are in perhaps the worst shape of all. Cadets are jaded, cynical, arrogant, and entitled. They routinely talk back to and snap at their instructors (military and civilian alike), challenge authority, and openly refuse to follow regulations.
There's much more at the link.
If LtCol. Heffington's allegations are true, then they serve as a public indictment and condemnation of every Superintendent and senior administrator at West Point for at least the last generation or so. Such problems don't arise overnight - they develop slowly, one mistake or lapse building on another until the whole edifice is rotten to the core.
I presume that by now, Secretary of Defense Mattis and Secretary of the Army McCarthy are aware of LtCol. Heffington's open letter. I further presume that they're investigating the entire Rapone affair, and trying to figure out how to solve the problems it's exposed. I wish them the best of luck in that endeavor . . . and I hope and trust their efforts will result in speedy reforms, including the removal of any and every officer, administrator and lecturer who contributed to the current, seemingly poisonous atmosphere at West Point. If LtCol. Heffington is correct, it can only be described as inimical to good order and discipline, and a potentially fatal weakness for any fighting service. How can it fight and win if its leaders are educated and formed in such an environment?
Finally, one hopes that the other US service academies will also be checked out, to make sure that none of the problems identified at West Point exist there, too. If they do, they'll have to be dealt with just as speedily and just as severely.
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
USS John S. McCain, the destroyer damaged in a collision off Japan earlier this year, is on her way to the shipyard for repairs. GCaptain posted the news, along with this time-lapse video of the destroyer being positioned aboard the transport ship MV Treasure, which had been ballasted down to allow the warship to float over her mid-section. After McCain was in position, the ballast was pumped out, raising the ship's deck (and her cargo) out of the water.
That was some intricate maneuvering, and some good work by the tugs.
Let me begin by reiterating what I've said many times before: I'm neither a Republican nor a Democrat. I distrust both major political parties in the USA. I regard them as motivated far more by what's good for them, than by what's good for the country as a whole.
That said, when I read this headline yesterday:
I couldn't help laughing out loud. It's long overdue - and if it leads to civil war within the GOP, and the possible loss of that party's slim Senate majority, who cares? They're as bad as the Democrats. I don't see how that'll make them any less or any more effective . . . unless we get rid of the self-seekers and the time-servers among them, and replace them with people who'll put the country first.
The fight appears to have been launched with Breitbart's exposé of Tennessee senator Bob Corker's underhanded deal to get millions of dollars from an Alabama retail development, paid for by the taxpayers of that state. Immediately after the deal was uncovered, Corker announced that he would not be running for re-election next year. If that's not a tacit admission of guilt, I don't know what is! It was clearly a "sweetheart deal" between political cronies, and not in the public interest at all.
Steve Bannon, former White House chief of staff and boss of Breitbart, has now thrown down the gauntlet.
Bannon said he is declaring "war" on the Republican establishment and those that don't back what President Trump ran on. He said there is a "new game in town" and promised to "cut off the oxygen" to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and stop his fundraising for establishment candidates. Bannon said any person running for the Senate in 2018 that wants his support must oppose McConnell as the Republican Leader.
The Breitbart chief gave a warning to all incumbents: "Just voting is not good enough. You have to have a sense of urgency. Nobody is safe. We are coming after all of them and we're going to win."
Bannon also called on Sen. Bob Corker to resign immediately. He said McConnell, Corker and the entire "establishment global clique" on Capitol Hill have to go.
"If Bob Corker has any honor, any decency, he should resign immediately," Bannon said. "He should get back in because he's going to get crushed in a primary. He doesn't have the guts to get in -- he doesn't have the guts to get back in the race. He should resign immediately."
There's more at the link, and in this TV interview (which is pretty explosive stuff, and worth watching).
The "swamp" in Washington is ruled by self-serving, self-aggrandizing denizens from both sides of the political divide. I think the Democratic Party needs its own Steve Bannon, to drive out its own incumbent problem children and bring new blood into Washington. Let's get politicians in there who are genuinely seeking the good of the country, not their parties - and then let them have an honest debate, and some honest deal-making.
- "You want billions of dollars for environmental causes? Well, OK - if you give us an honest immigration policy, with a wall and the teeth to get rid of illegal aliens."
- "You want more defense spending? Well, OK - but only if you cut spending elsewhere to compensate."
That's the sort of horse-trading this country needs; finding solutions that are bipartisan and that work, not deals that feather the nests of those making them!
I woke up this morning to find that three readers had independently sent me this picture. I don't know its source.
A clever design and great execution. It's a pity it was left attached to the stump . . . that would look great in a museum or exhibition, or even in someone's home as a central talking point.
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
As a pastor, I spent several weeks in Philadelphia some years ago. I drove through the neighborhood described in this article, and tried to minister to some of its residents. I saw then what the author describes today. It hasn't changed.
The poverty rate and true unemployment rate in these West Philly neighborhoods exceed 50%. Over 80% of the children are born out of wedlock. The crime rate is off the charts. The residents are functionally illiterate and completely dependent on the state for their sustenance. Drug dealing is the main form of commerce. There are as many vacant boarded up, dilapidated, crumbling fleapits as there are occupied eyesores. I’ve witnessed some of these pigsties fall down after a heavy rain. The steady deterioration of West Philly continues unabated as Democrat welfare policies encourage dependency, ignorance, sloth, and depravity.
Sink holes appear and are ignored for months by the less than pro-active government drones. They dig holes to fix whatever sewer or water line has broken underground, but feel no obligation to refill the holes. Gaping chasms in the middle of streets remain for months, as incompetent, uncaring, union government workers and their bureaucrat paper pushing apparatchik bosses care more about their gold plated pension plans and retaining their bennies than serving the public. Exploding water mains flood entire neighborhoods on a regular basis as city taxes are funneled to corrupt politicians and their cronies, rather than basic infrastructure needs.
. . .
Democrat politicians in West Philly and hundreds of other urban shitholes throughout the country ... [have] no intention of helping blacks succeed. Keeping them chained on a welfare plantation ensures their votes to keep their free shit coming. So they are left living in neighborhoods like this ... This is what 50 years of Great Society welfare programs and rule by Democrat politicians has wrought. Bombed out German cities after World War II looked better.
There's much more at the link, including more photographs.
I've had the opportunity to minister to inner-city communities in several US urban areas, in states such as New York, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, South Carolina, California, and others. In all of them, I saw approximately what the author describes in West Philadelphia. It's mind-boggling to see such squalor and hopelessness in the middle of the richest country in the world . . . but it's a reality.
People in these neighborhoods have no conception of working for what they get. They either take what they want (by stealing it, or committing crimes to pay for it), or they demand that the government (local, state or federal) give it to them. If the "gravy train" of government handouts dries up for any reason, they feel absolutely justified in taking what they want from anyone and everyone within reach - including wholesale looting, if necessary.
I've personally witnessed a West Philly neighborhood store get emptied of food within half an hour by shouting, screaming "welfare ninjas" who couldn't wait for their next infusion of government (read: taxpayer) cash. One woman just stormed in and started helping herself, screaming at the storekeeper that he was "a racist piece of ****" who exploited them for their welfare benefits, so now he was going to help her, whether he liked it or not. As he called the police (from behind the bulletproof glass partition that surrounded the till area), others standing around outside suddenly decided to join in, and started stripping the shelves of anything they wanted. More arrived as word spread. By the time the cops arrived, the store was denuded of its stock. I saw grown men running down the streets, cramming entire bags of candy into their mouths, throwing the empty packets away, shouting unintelligibly at each other with their mouths full, laughing and posturing at their "success". Others offered "high-fives" in congratulation, running alongside the thieves and holding out their hands for their share of the loot.
Those of us who believe in the rule of law, who work for a living, and who take pride in providing for our families, are living in a different world to these people. If push comes to shove, they'll be along to take whatever they want from us - and they'll scream at us for being racist, and selfish, and anything else they can think of, if we resist or dare to "push back".
Welcome to the low-hanging fruit of the "welfare state" - the "entitlement society".
The current scandal swirling around Harvey Weinstein and his sexual antics is nothing new in the history of show business. It's always been regarded (and frequently has been in reality) a hotbed (you should pardon the expression) of sexual immorality, whatever the "morality" of the time may have been. Alan Royle has noted:
... right from the beginning, morality was an issue in the fledgling [movie] industry. Regardless of their sexual persuasion, the coming together of a lot of physically attractive, young people, created a target rich environment for carnal predators, and in Hollywood there has never been a shortage of those. Add into the mix a virtual limitless supply of money, booze and drugs, and no discipline to speak of, coupled with a liberal sprinkling of European men and women who brought their own brand of ‘sexual freedom’ with them, and any semblance of maintaining even a modicum of morality tended to fly straight out of the window.
. . .
MGM had an account at The House of Francis [a Hollywood brothel] under an assumed name, so that Mayer could treat out of town guests (usually major distributors of his films) to ‘freebies’. Once he opened Mae’s, however, he closed his account and bribed the police to close the House of Francis forever. LB did not like competition.
Mayer never went to any of these establishments himself. There was no need to. Every girl he signed at MGM was first ‘sampled’ by him in his adjoining private room next to his office. He would give them his ‘fatherly’ speech, accompanied by a piece of fatherly advice. ‘I will look after you, but first you must look after me’. Most of them did, right there in his private room. Not that Mayer was alone in this regard, not by a long shot. The universally detested Harry Cohn, head of Universal Studios, verbally and/or physically ravaged every girl he signed. He would use a pencil to open a girl’s mouth so he could check her teeth. Then he would use it to lift her dress and inspect her thighs and what lay between them. If he liked what he saw, he took the lucky applicant into his private dressing-room and mounted her.
There's more at the link.
Today a commenter noted that the Weinstein scandal was "just the beginning" of what may come out about the current situation in Hollywood. What I find most sickening about it is the degree to which the Hollywood "powers that be" stick together and cover up for each other's abuse of young, vulnerable would-be performers. It's a very widespread problem, not confined to the movie industry alone. It's in any and every form of entertainment. To take just one example, the number of scandals surrounding so-called "boy bands" is legion.
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.
And, on another occasion:
Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality.
As far as Hollywood is concerned, it's a case of "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."
The Los Angeles Times is resurrecting the tired old debate about whether "high-capacity" magazines should be banned or more strictly controlled.
Perhaps the single most important dereliction of duty by Congress in recent years is the expiration of the ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, which was enacted in 1994 and lasted only for 10 years.
There were signs during the ban that it was beginning to take these especially lethal weapons out of criminal inventories. Gun violence experts believe that trend would have continued, had the ban remained in effect. Instead, Congress allowed it to lapse in 2004. The consequence has been increased use of these weapons in crimes of all sorts ever since.
. . .
Mass shootings such as the Las Vegas event account for a very small proportion of total U.S. gunfire violence, but tend to seize the public’s attention because of the sheer number of victims and the sense that they’re random victims, injured just from being in the wrong place at the wrong time, rather than inviting violence through an association, say, with drug dealers or organized crime. Assault weapons magnify the toll because of their murderous efficiency — they allow many more shots to be fired than conventional weapons, which translates into more people getting hit and more of them suffering multiple injuries.
. . .
The recovery of assault weapons with large-capacity magazines — the feature that best defines those weapons — has risen by almost 50% in Baltimore, where their prevalence was estimated at 11.1% of gunfire crimes in the first years after the ban expired and 16.5% by mid-2014. In Richmond, Va., their prevalence among seized firearms has more than doubled.
Weapons with large-capacity magazines, which are defined as those that can hold more than 10 rounds at a time, appear to be especially prevalent among guns used in murders of police — assault weapons accounted for up to about 16% of the weapons in those crimes, but large-capacity magazines were seen in more than 40% of those incidents.
There's more at the link - not that it's worth reading. It makes the usual mistake of conflating feelings and opinions with facts. Oh, it calls upon pseudo-scientific "facts" . . . but when you analyze them, and test them in the real world, they fall apart.
Former Sheriff Ken Campbell of Boone County, Indiana (now running Gunsite Academy in Arizona) conducted a pretty definitive test comparing higher-capacity magazines to lower-capacity ones. He demonstrated that the time taken to use multiple smaller magazines, including swapping them out, was not appreciably greater than using fewer, larger-capacity magazines. Here's the video. After a few introductory text screens, the action begins at 1m. 45sec.
The Las Vegas shooter would have been able to kill just as many people using smaller magazines as he did using the very-high-capacity units he'd purchased for the purpose. It would have taken him perhaps two or three minutes longer to do so, at the very most.
So much for high-capacity magazine bans. They're nothing more than a feel-good panacea for those who won't face facts.
Monday, October 9, 2017
They do say that all good things must come to an end. Sadly, Blogorado 2017 drew to a close this morning, with a final gathering for breakfast at the venue that's become known to most of us as the Obligatory Cow Reference (due to its name). Our numbers weren't as great as the day before, because several people left yesterday in order to get back to work on Monday; but there were enough of us to keep the waitress running hard. I indulged my inner glutton with huevos rancheros, with a side of breakfast steak. Delicious!
Miss D. and I were among the first to depart, shivering in a chilly 38° (F) morning with a stiff breeze blowing from the north and west. It warmed up rapidly as we headed south, so that by the time we hit Amarillo, it was in the mid-50's. (I was wondering why our fuel economy was hovering at almost 38 miles per gallon, far better than expected, until I got out of the car at a gas station in Amarillo. That's when I found out that a very strong tail wind had been blowing us merrily along. I daresay, if I'd been able to erect a sail on the car's roof, we'd have made about the same time without the aid of the engine!) Turning east-south-east to head for home, the tail wind became a cross-wind that made driving tricky for a while. It was still very strong, so much so that most of the wind turbines near Amarillo had been shut down; but it eased off as we drew nearer to our destination. By the time we got home, the wind was mild, and temperatures were in the mid-70's. I fear our recent hosts are still shivering at around freezing point tonight.
All the fun and games (plus driving there and back, and to and fro during our stay) caught up with me this afternoon. I had to take one of my stronger pain-killers when we got home, to get my injured back under control, and flopped into bed immediately after supper to rest for a while and let it take effect. I'm feeling more human now, although still a little dehydrated after several days of sun and fun. I have a liter of water at my side as I type these words, and I think I'll drink most of it before I go back to bed.
Normal blogging will resume tomorrow morning, God willing. Thanks for your patience while I've been out and about.
Another fine, warm day with lots of noise. We met at Ye Olde Local Hostelry for breakfast as usual, then headed out to the farm, and from there to the shooting range. The muzzle-loading cannon had departed, along with its owner, but there were still more than enough firearms for everyone to enjoy.
We scrounged around among ourselves and came up with several hundred more rounds of .22LR ammunition for our young Australian visitor to turn into smoke and noise. I suspect her fellow teenagers back home are going to be green with envy when she tells them how many thousand rounds she shot over the weekend - and she'll have the photographs and videos to prove it!
I was surprised to see the difference in shooting residue between .22LR CCI Mini-Mags and Federal bulk-pack ammunition (which Miss D. and I had brought with us), and Remington Golden Bullet bulk-pack ammunition (provided today by another shooter). The Remington left a lot more detritus in the gun - a gray, sticky residue that gunked it up after a couple of hundred rounds, causing misfeeds and failure of the bolt to close properly. A quick cleaning (I always take a cleaning kit to the range) removed the residue and restored the gun to normal operation . . . but it irritated me to have to do so. I'm used to much cleaner-burning ammunition. I suspect Remington has tried to manufacture its Golden Bullets to a price point rather than a quality point, and it shows. I won't be buying their bulk packs any more. I'd rather pay a little more for higher-quality cartridges.
There were a lot more people at the pistol range today, who'd spent the previous day at the rifle or shotgun ranges. All sorts of handguns were in evidence, from several rimfire pistols and revolvers all the way up to the bigger magnum rounds. There was much gigglage as people tried guns and cartridges they'd never fired before, or new versions of older favorites. I've no idea how many thousands of rounds went downrange, but it was a lot! A suppressed .22LR AR-15 clone, equipped with a red dot sight, was the envy of many shooters. It made hits on steel targets so ridiculously easy that even a rank amateur would look like a sharpshooter, and the suppressor meant that ear protection wasn't needed. It was a hoot.
I spent part of the morning testing two Mossberg 930 semi-automatic shotguns and my 90-year-old Montgomery Ward-branded Stevens 520 pump-action shotgun. The latter worked just fine, after I'd figured out that it didn't have latches to keep the shells in the tubular magazine. They protruded past the end of the tube, to be held in place by the shell lifter. It looked strange to eyes accustomed to more modern designs, but it's how the shotgun was designed, and it worked just fine once we'd figured it out. The 520 kicked hard - harder than I expected, even with its Limbsaver recoil pad - but gave no problems. I think it'll make a very good travel shotgun, particularly given its take-down feature to make it a smaller, more concealable package.
One of the Mossbergs, a used Jerry Miculek-branded competition model that I recently traded into, gave no trouble at all. One of our Australian visitors took great delight in punching eight or nine rounds of buckshot out of it into the berm in rapid fire, and confided it would have been a useful gun to have in some of the tight spots he'd been in during his military service. It didn't like low-brass birdshot rounds, which are lower-powered and didn't provide enough recoil impetus to cycle the action; but with high-brass (i.e. more powerfully loaded) birdshot rounds, and with buckshot, it was fine.
The other Mossberg 930, though . . . that was very disappointing. It's a brand-new, previously unfired tactical model, and it misfed rounds, failed to eject fired cases, and sometimes failed to fire at all. I reckon there was a malfunction of some sort every second round! I suspect the action spring(s) are defective in some way. It's going straight back to Mossberg next week, with a strongly worded letter of complaint. It should never have left the factory in this condition. I suspect their quality control people are falling down on the job. Once again, it demonstrated the necessity of never taking a new-to-you gun's functioning for granted (as I mentioned yesterday). Any gun, and the ammunition you select for it, should be thoroughly tested before you entrust your life to its/their reliability.
Lunch (prepared at the farm and grilled at the range) was hamburgers with all the trimmings (except ketchup, which was forgotten in the rush; I found a combination of mayonnaise and Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce worked just fine as a replacement). The old portable gas grill had been giving trouble the day before, and continued to do so today, so FarmMom issued an executive decree; after lunch, it was to be turned into a target. It was duly positioned well down-range, to avoid bullet ricochets and/or back-splatter, and everyone loaded up their rifles. On the command, a "mad minute" ensued, everyone emptying their magazines at the hapless grill and riddling it with more holes than the average Swiss cheese. (There'll be a replacement on hand in time for Blogorado next year.)
We gathered at the farm once more for supper (a beef stew with garlic bread) and more conversation. It was a quieter evening than earlier ones, because some of our number had to leave during the day on Sunday, to get home in time to go to work on Monday. The rest of us will be having breakfast together on Monday morning, then heading out in all directions. It'll be sad to say goodbye, but we know that Blogorado 2018 is already in the planning stages! (Note to self: must bring lots more rimfire ammunition next year!)
Miss D. and I will be heading homewards as well. We'd planned to spend a couple of days in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, doing research for a forthcoming book, but we're told it's already snowed there, and another cold front is scheduled to arrive on Monday, bringing more snow and ice. I don't do well in that sort of cold (hey, I'm an African boy, and snow and ice aren't in our vocabulary much!), so we'll postpone the research trip until a warmer time of year. Please say a prayer for us, if you're so inclined, for traveling mercies. I expect to resume normal blogging by Tuesday.
Sunday, October 8, 2017
Today was our first day at the range. Much fun and games for all concerned.
I brought along several firearms I needed to function-test. Saturday was revolver day; three .357 Magnum and .38 Special revolvers. I tested them with Sellier & Bellot 158gr. LRN (lead round nose) ammunition as a first step, and found to my surprise that two out of the three revolvers (both snubnosed, short-barrel firearms) "hung up" after four rounds. They were recoiling hard enough to "pull" the bullets a little out of the cartridge cases, meaning that they protruded out of the front of the cylinder, preventing it from turning. This surprised me, as I hadn't had that problem before. I suspect my latest batch of S&B ammunition might have been less tightly crimped than what I'm used to. However, both firearms functioned just fine with other rounds - some Winchester ball and a box of Sig Sauer 125gr. JHP +P. I therefore don't hold the malfunctions against the guns. Tomorrow (Sunday) will be shotgun testing day. I have three tactical/defensive short-barrel shotguns to function-test, and I brought with me 250 rounds of 00 buckshot for the purpose. Since I don't want to bruise my shoulder by firing all of them, I'll be offering the shotguns to all and sundry to put rounds downrange.
(The ammo issue with my revolvers highlights a very important point. Far too many people buy a handgun in a moment of fear or tension, plus a box of generic ammunition, but never test-fire it, or at best only fire a few rounds. Thereafter, they put it away and don't shoot it again for years, if ever. That can be dangerous if the ammunition they've bought isn't a good match for the gun. If I'd relied on that S&B ammunition, in those revolvers, I might have been "caught short" by a malfunction when I needed to defend myself. Far better to put at least a box or two of your chosen defensive ammunition through your defensive firearm, to make sure it functions properly. No firearm is malfunction-proof, so it's best to test your chosen gun-ammo combination before entrusting your life to it. If problems arise, change the ammo, or the gun, or both, before it's too late.)
Miss D. brought one of her Ruger Mark IV 22/45 Lite handguns and about 900 rounds of ammunition - far more than she needed for herself, but we brought extra for others who might want to play. It turned out that our Australian visitors, whom I mentioned yesterday, wanted to play very much! Julie's daughter is now of an age to be allowed to use rimfire ammunition, according to Australia's rather odd-seeming firearms laws, so she had a heap of fun burning through almost all our .22LR ammunition. She's already nagging her mom to buy a similar gun in Australia, promising to buy it off her when she turns 21.
While her daughter was playing with Miss D.'s pistol, Julie and the rest of her party were having a great time shooting everything available. (That's one of the fun things about our Blogorado gathering; everyone lets everyone else shoot their guns and use their ammunition, so one can get a great deal of hands-on experience in a very short, compressed timescale.) They fired everything from .50 BMG to .22LR, including cartridges that are hard to find in Australia such as .45 GAP and 357 SIG. They seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.
(I was surprised to learn that they would have to search their clothing and luggage very carefully before returning to Australia, to make sure no spent cartridge cases had fallen into pockets or folds in the material. Even one fired cartridge case, in a caliber for which they don't have a firearms license, is apparently enough to make them criminals under Australian law. That sounds insane to me! Julie is taking some linked .50 BMG cases back with her, but to do so legally, she first has to have them bored through with a drill from side to side, and have the primer pocket drilled out, to render them incapable of being reloaded. Talk about legal convolutions . . . )
One of Old NFO's friends brought along something new to all of us - a half-scale replica of a M1841 Mountain Howitzer. The M1841 was a muzzle-loading black-powder cannon that could be disassembled into its component parts and transported on the backs of three or four mules. Its short range meant that it wasn't much used for set-piece battles, but it could be carried where conventional artillery could not travel, making it useful during the Indian Wars. (At Custer's disastrous last stand in 1876, he left two carriage-mounted Gatling guns and two later-model mountain howitzers behind, apparently because he felt they would slow his progress. I suspect he might have had time to regret that, before he died.)
The replica cannon at the range yesterday was half-scale, with a 3" bore instead of the 4.62" of the full-size gun. Technically, that would make the replica a 3-pounder cannon, instead of the full-size 12-pounder. It fired hard-frozen bottles of water as improvised ammunition (although one can cast lead balls to fit the bore, if one is so inclined). Old NFO had parked his car just in front of the muzzle when we arrived, so there were all sorts of "helpful" suggestions about washing the dust off it by firing the cannon loaded with non-frozen water bottles. He declined our proffered help and moved his car, rapidly, in case we suited the action to the word! The morning was punctuated by deep booms from the cannon and clouds of drifting blackpowder smoke. Lots of fun.
There are thousands of Monarch butterflies moving through the area at present, on their annual southward migration. It's a bit disconcerting to have them perch on one's barrel, or hand, or arm, as one tries to aim a firearm! The area is also rife with prairie rattlesnakes. FarmDad ran over one on the road to the range yesterday, and brought it to show us what one looks like (after having cut off the head - he says fervently that he never wants a dead rattlesnake with a head in his truck, in case it isn't as dead as he'd prefer). We noted how well its skin blends in with the vegetation on the ground, making it very hard to see. I think all of us were more careful than usual after that, looking at the ground as we walked to make sure there wasn't anything that would be dangerous to step upon.
Supper was mammoth steaks carved from the late Sir Loin, the steer we clubbed together to buy for our annual gathering. They were immense - a good inch or more thick, and so large that many of us cut them in half, and shared one steak between two people. The bones were discarded in the general direction of the 20-30 semi-feral cats that hang around the barn. Hilarity ensued as the cats tried to stand on the bones while yanking at the meat on them with tooth and claw, and growling at the others to make them go and find their own supper. One kitten had me doubled over with laughter as it growled and postured at a bone from a couple of feet away, then dashed in to rip off a piece of meat, then backed off to eat it before attacking the bone again. It was having a great time.
On Sunday we'll gather for our usual breakfast, then adjourn to the range for another day's shooting. I'll put up another report Sunday night or Monday morning. Meanwhile, if you're starved for reading matter, please enjoy the blogs listed in my sidebar.
I haven't had time to prepare my usual Sunday Morning Music post, so to honor our gunblogger gathering, here's Johnny Cash with The Last Gunfighter Ballad, the title track from the album of the same name.