Saturday, December 14, 2002

NEED SOME READER FEEDBACK
So I wandered over to Dean Esmay's blog and read this post. Seems that one of Dean's casual buddies stabbed his mom to death (the buddy's mom, not Dean's). Dean also mentions that he had another causal buddy who was into sex with children. Dean then asks of anyone else has had similar experiences.

Michelle over at A Small Victory left a comment but didn't post on her own blog. She said that yeah, sure, she used to have a boyfriend that was rather violent. He just wasn't as competant as Dean's buddy 'cause he didn't manage to kill anyone.

I left a comment myself. I said that I seem to be able to recognize someone with a criminal nature. I attribute this to workign as a fingerprint technician for the police, even though I was never an officer myself.

Jack Burton used to be an officer, and John Daley currently serves. Maybe they should weigh in with a comment or two.

THIS SURE DOESN'T LOOK LIKE VEGAS TO ME
I mentioned aircraft carriers in the post below. Victor Davis Hanson makes the good point that the Soviet carriers were boondoggles of staggering dimensions. Those guys just couldn't seem to get it right, probably because the incredibly demanding and dangerous business of landing on a tiny carrier landing strip while it pitches and rolls in the sea is next to impossible considering the state of Soviet equipment. If you can't keep everything in good repair then even the simplest tasks become daunting, and the next-to-impossible moves up a notch.

But there is one carrier out there. It's the Varyag, or Viking, and it never was operational. Instead it was given to the Ukraine when the communist Soviet Union decided that starving wasn't all that great and they were really capitalists at heart. Taking the new policy even further, the Ukraine government sold the hulk to a Hong Kong based company called the Chong Lot Travel Agency for 20 million USD. The C.L.T.A. said that they wanted to turn the Varyag into some sort of casino/luxury hotel. Sorta like the Disney cruise ships but without any giant rodents wandering around.

Not surprisingly, the Chong Lot guys don't actually book any trips and aren't listed anywhere that I can find except where the Varyag is concerned. It would appear that Chong Lot is a (gasp) front for the Chinese gov, who want an aircraft carrier to counter the USS Kitty Hawk, which is assigned to Japan and protects Taiwan from Chinese invasion (amongst other things).

So far they haven't done much with the carrier. Just let it sit and rust, I suppose. There has been speculation that they plan on examining the craft and reverse-engineer it so they can build their own fleet of carriers (like the Chinese have never copied Soviet military hardware). Jane's seems to think that they could use it for training carrier landings when they finally get off their butts and start building their own carriers. Some people say that someday, maybe, any week now, the Chinese will actually fix it up and start on a grand new era of sea power.

For some reason no one is saying that the Chinese might actually turn it in to a giant floating casino. I wonder why that is?

Friday, December 13, 2002

RIDIN' IN ON A BATTLESHIP GREY HORSE
Military historian extraordinaire Victor Davis Hanson talks about how America's aircraft carriers are the modern world's Greek phalanx; a terror weapon that no one can stand against.

Dr. Hanson spends most of the article talking about the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy. My favorite is the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, probably because I think Teddy could have kicked any two other President's butt.

Dr. Hanson also mentions a few other country's carriers, but he forgets that Italy has one. You can see the Giuseppe Garibaldi (CVH 551), as well as most of the foreign carriers, in this picture. Two American carriers are also there, but there's 10 more that weren't at the photo shoot.

WHAT'S THE MEASURE OF BEING AN AMERICAN?
Anna over at the Belligerent Bunny Blog had a 40's theme weekend last Saturday. Of course she mentioned the most momentous event that occurred in that decade (as well as in the century), World War II. It was the Russians that pretty much defeated the Germans, much as we Americans would like to think that we're the ones who shot the Axis down. Still, few would be so dopey as to deny that it was the material aid provided by the Arsenal of Democracy that allowed Russia and England to hold on long enough until the Japanese committed the fatal blunder that got us into the war.

But there was another momentous event that happened in the 40's. One where America stood alone against a great power, spending treasure and lives to help keep people free. Not because we got anything out of it but because it was the right thing to do.

In 1945 a defetaed Germany was divided into occupation zones in an effort to keep her too weak to wage war again. The capital of Berlin was deep inside territory held by the Soviets, but it was divided in to four zones of control anyway (America, England, France and Russia).

Except that wasn't good enough for Russia. They tried to starve the other Allies out through a blockade. Millions of civilians were gonna starve.

So America stepped up to the plate. Land routes through Soviet held territory were forbidden, but there wasn't anything the Russians could do about supplies brought in by air. So that's what we did.

It was impossible. There weren't enough runways to support the thousands of flights needed to keep starvation at bay, so the we built more. There weren't enough cargo planes, so we built more. The cargo planes we had couldn't move enough in one load, so we developed and built what we needed. The impossible wasn't when America decided it needed to be done.

Who else would have done this? What other country, what other people, would decide that the average Joe was innocent of the terrible things that had happened? What other country would spend lives to help when there wasn't anything in it for them?

I think this is the quintessentially American thing to do. Stand up on your feet. Do what you think is right. Try hard to help. If we fail it's not because of lack of effort.

SHOOTIN' CHEAP PART III: GETTING STARTED
As I've discussed here before, shotguns are so inexpensive that they can be bought new. Some models are fancy and overpriced without increasing the effectiveness in any way that I can see. If you want one of those go ahead and get whatever deal you can, but your first choice should be a simple and rugged model.

When it comes to the first ever rifle, handgun or shotgun I always insist that my students buy new. Guns are precision instruments, and they sometimes fail even if factory fresh. It's worth the extra money to have the warranty just in case things don't work perfectly (even though this is very rare in today's world o' guns). Not only must the new gun owner choose what's right for their needs but they also have to be careful to buy a gun from an established manufacturer with a history of fast, courteous service.

Still, a new gun doesn't have to cost as much as a new car. Some manufacturers are very reasonable even when it comes to their new products.

For handguns and rifles I usually suggest Ruger Firearms. Although the only shotguns they produce are overpriced snobby models their autoloading handguns, revolvers, autoloading carbines and bolt action rifles are a bit on the pricey side but worth the money. Ruger produces a quality product that won't wear out for longer than your lifetime as long as you take care of it.

Still, there are even cheaper alternatives that will gve good performance. Taurus is a manufacturer that specializes in revolvers and autoloading handguns. The guns are about $100.00 less than similar products from Ruger, but I do have to admit that Taurus guns aren't as robust.

For quality rifles that don't require a second mortgage it's hard to beat Marlin Firearms. Marlin is famous for two things: .22 LR rifles that the majority of shooters remember fondly from their youth, and lever action rifles that bring to mind the Old West. Any of their products provide a good way to get started in rifle shootin' without having to rob a bank.

REDUCIN' THE BLOGROLL
The reason I have a blogroll is because I'm a lazy, lazy bastich. The blogroll allows me to quickly and easily click in to the blogs that I find interesting. This way I can read have all of you guys entertain me while I sit back and waste my life sucking at the glass teat. But what if someone in my blogroll hasn't done their job? What if they've slacked off in a way that I can completely identify with? Then it's time to take steps so I don't waste time looking over stale content.

Badabingbadablog is written as if the head mobster from the Sapranos started a blog. The first few entries were freakin' hilarious, the last one about a parade less so. But there hasn't been any new content for awhile so it's time for the blog to sleep with the fishes.

One of the reasons I started blogging was due to the fact that people like Paul Orwin were out there blogging before me. Educated, articulate and intelligent, Mr. Orwin had the most off-base ideas about gun ownership, even going so far as to paint draconian and discriminatory gun control measures as being reasonable and rational. He challenged anyone to provide original sources of facts and figures that would change his mind. I did that close to a year ago and Mr. Orwin hasn't bothered to crack a single link and check out the data. Oh, well.

Other than this particular blind spot, Mr. Orwin has been polite and kind enough to reply every time I've Emailed him or tried to engage him in a private conversation. His posts RE biology were easy to understand and provided a glimpse in to the world of the professional researcher that few of us ever see. He's even linked to this blog in his own blogroll. Unfortunately it would appear that Mr. Orwin has given up blogging, at least for awhile. If he should ever decide to join the ranks of the Bloviators again then I hope he sends me some Email and I'll relink to him lickety split.

JOE BOBB SPEAKS OUT
Joe Bobb Briggs has an Email that he sends out to the faithful (of which I'm one). Although I dislike using another's content on my blog, I figured that this was just too, too funny.

"Pets can no longer be "owned" in the state of Rhode Island
or the cities of Berkeley, California; West Hollywood,
California; Boulder, Colorado; Amherst, Massachusetts; Sherwood,
Arkansas, or Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. The term used in all
laws and ordinances is "guardian," a designation that animal
rights groups are pushing for all across the country. Dogs are
celebrating the new legal status by peeing on all trees at the
periphery of their guardians' property as an expression of
solidarity. Cats issued a terse statement saying the
acknowledgment of a higher status was long overdue."



Wednesday, December 11, 2002

JANE'S ROUNDUP
Jane's Defence has just released the new non-subscriber articles. Let's see what's going on this week.

Distant Early Warning
Remember the D.E.W. Line? It was a string of radar intsallations in the far frozen north to warn the free world of Russian missiles that were coming over the North Pole on the way to their targets. Now it seems that the Russians are coming over the Pole after all. In an effort to open new commercial air routes, Russian airlines will be flying to North American airports via polar routes. This is something that might very well have started WWIII just 30 years ago, but now the only problem is trying to get enough vodka from those little airline bottles.

Making a Living in the Air
The airline industry took a big hit after 9/11. Less people wanted to fly, the "security" procedures at airports seemed to be designed to annoy passengers, and many travellers decided that they could just drive to where they were going. According to this article the bad times aren't over for the airline industry. The upcoming war with Iraq will see a further reduction of air traffic over the next year. If there's a major terrorist attack against an airliner (like the attempted one in Kenya earlier this month) then expect to see even worse performance.

Give the People What They Need
I find that the most shrill and vocal criticism of law enforcement agencies is usually unwarranted. Equipment, training and doctrine to deal with new threats don't happen overnight. The public is rarely reasonable, though, so they demand instant results even when it's impossible to deliver.

The increased terrorist threat has largely caught law enforcement agencies flat-footed, but efforts are being made to get ready for the next crises. One of the problems is that terrorists don't just confine themselves to one type of attack. They'll strike in new and novel ways. Preparing for the inevitable tragedy is impossible, even for the best funded and equipped law enforcement agencies in the world. The range of threats that need to be countered, and the number of potential targets that would need to be defended, means that some attacks will prevail. Still, it's heartening to see that everybody is doing what they can

Stop Stuffing Your Face and Get Off Your Fat Behind
About ten years ago most U.S. law enforcement agencies realized that they had a problem with out-of-shape personnel. Usually the powers that be simply imposed rigorous fitness standards, such as those that had always been in place for many state's Highway Patrol officers. While it made sense to make sure that a lone officer, tasked with patrolling lonely and empty stretches of highway far from any aid, was in top physical condition it made less sense to impose the same criteria on the officers that filled the diverse jobs that a big city agency required. For example, the fitness levels that a SWAT team member had to meet should be different from those required of a meter maid. Simple and arbitrary fitness standards were a disaster.

Now it seems that British law enforcement has recognized the same problem. What's encouraging is that it would appear that our cousins from across the Atlantic have learned from painful U.S. experience. Defining the level of fitness required for the job is crucial, as well as making sure that health screening is part of the process. This could turn out to be a very good thing for both the police and the public they serve.

Putting All Their Eggs in one Basket
Decreased defence budgets in Europe have prompted many EU countries to look for ways to cut costs. One of the ways is to have a do-anything fighter/bomber. This aircraft is called the Typhoon, and projects to upgrade the fighter have had a few teething problems. The latest was a crash in Spain after both engines lost power. According to this article the powers-that-be have determined that it was just a fluke, nothing to see here, move along and go about your business. The project will continue with no effort made to make sure that it won't happen again.

Tweaking the Dragon's Nose
U.S.-China relations have never been all that good. One of the sticking points has been the island of Taiwan. China has always maintained that Taiwan was an outlaw province and that they'd be comin' along any day now to make sure that they came back in to the fold, just you wait, gonna happen soon, next week maybe, ready or not.....

The major stumbling block has always been the U.S. and our Navy, which essentially makes any attempt to attack or invade the island a suicide run. Still, with over a billion consumers eager for U.S. goods it's always been in America's best interests to try and keep the Chinese happy enough to keep importing our stuff. This has kept Chinese officials hoping that Washington might one day withdraw military support for Taiwan.

According to this article the opposite has happened. Military aid and arms sales to Taiwan have increased over the past decade. China's dreams to forcefully re-integrate the rogue province aren't gonna happen anytime soon. This doesn't mean that Beijing won't keep looking for a solution, as the next item so clearly illustrates.

Invisible Dragons
Stealth technology was originally proposed in the mid-1970's. Although hailed as the technological marvel that it is, there really isn't any reason why other nations with disco-era tech levels can't duplicate it.

Now it looks like China wants to join the invisible club. Stealth aircraft in the hands of the Chinese? Well, I think that the Russians would probably think that it's a bad idea. No wonder Moscow wants to strengthen ties to the U.S. After all, we already have stealth tech, and we're constantly developing ways to counter it. It would be a good thing to be in our camp if a potential enemy manages to make their strike aircraft disappear.

Monday, December 09, 2002

SHOOTIN' CHEAP PART II: SHOTGUNS
In other installments of this series I'll be discussing ways to cut expenses with handguns and rifles. Some of the methods are buying ammunition in bulk or reloading it yourself, buying surplus and used guns, and buying military surplus ammunition. All of these methods are simply not necessary with a shotgun.

Shotguns are perfect for whatever you want to do with a gun except long-distance shooting. There is ammunition that will enable you to hit any target out to 150 yards or so, and shotguns are perfect for home defense. They are also very reasonably priced.

Take a look at this product guide page. Notice that most of the models of this pump-action shotgun sell for about $200 USD. The most expensive gun on the page is the 91X model which sells for $250 USD. The extra cost is due to the fact that the gun is configured to be useful in any situation. Buy that gun (along with a few accessories) and you'll never have to buy another shotgun. Ever.

So which gauge is the best? The 12 gauge is what the military and the police use. A powerful and no nonsense round, it's fully capable of killing the largest and most dangerous game in the world with the right loads. The second most popular cartridge in the world, it has a dizzying array of ammunition available for it. The only problem is with the one thing that makes it stand out: it's power. The recoil can be uncomfortable, particularly for smaller people.

There's a solution, though. The second most popular shotgun is the 20 gauge. It's half the power of the 12 gauge, and many people prefer it because of that. Professional and Olympic shotgun competitors use the 20 guage just for that very reason. But what if someone decides that they need the extra power?

No problem. The 20 gauge Magnum cartridge is twice the power of normal shells. This means that it's about as powerful as a 12 gauge. Just make sure that, before buying the gun, you ask the sales clerk "Can this shotgun chamber Magnum shells?" If the answer is a yes then it's what you want.

This is about as perfect a solution as you'll ever find. A 20 gauge pump shotgun is reasonably priced, rugged, has plenty of ammunition available to select from, and can easily be loaded with more powerful ammunition if the owner decides that what is needed. If an interest should be developed later for other shooting sports, such as sporting clays (shooting those little clay frisbees out of the air), hunting or combat shotgun competition, then the exact same gun can be used with great effect.

SHOOTIN' CHEAP PART I: GETTING STARTED
There were two overriding reasons why I started the free firearms training course. The first was to try and help people be safe from violent assault in their own homes. The second was to try and promote safe gun ownership (which pretty much takes care of the first reason).

One of the major differences between the newbie and the dedicated shooter is a certain degree of obsession (how many shooters do you know who own only one gun?). We think that $1,000.00 guns are expensive, but we'll eat beans and mac-and-cheese for a few months to be able to afford it. Most people starting out don't have that level of commitment and are scared off by the initial expense of buying a gun. This is a damn shame, and I think it's the major reason why there aren't more people shooting today.

Another problem is that those starting in the shooting sports are uncertain as to what their needs are. Handgun or shotgun or rifle? 12 gauge or 16 gauge or 20 gauge? .30-06 or .308 or .30-30? Revolver or autoloader? These are questions that have to be answered, and most of us have seen our desires and preferences evolve over years or decades. If we're going to have new people explore the sport and stick with it then some of these questions should be answered right away.

Besides teaching safe handling, operation and the fundamentals of marksmenship, this is all my handgun course entails. I have a variety of handguns and over the course of three days the student is taken to the range and allowed to try a wide assortment of pistols while under supervision. By the end of the course the student has a very good idea as to their limits, preferences and needs.

But what about the people who can't avail themselves of my services? I usually suggest that they take a safety course and then go to a local range that rents handguns. There they can try different guns and get an idea of what they need. But what about the expense?

Most ranges will rent a gun and sell a box of ammunition for $30.00. How many would the student need to fire before they have a clear picture of what they want? Let's say that they shoot a .380, a 9mm and a .45 ACP. These are the most popular autoloaders and it should give them a chance to see what the general choices are like. With revolvers a .38 Special, a .357 Magnum and a .45 Long Colt should do the same thing for wheel guns. Even considering that you could simply rent a .357 Magnum and shoot the box of .38 Specials through it, you're still talking about $150.00. Throw in targets, range time, the cost of the safety course, and eye and ear protection and you're lucky to walk out of there $250.00 poorer. With many people that $250.00 is the difference between buying a gun and doing without.

Unfortunately there isn't any better solution. It's essential (essential!) for any shooter to be safe, so the safety course cannot be ignored. Another $200.00 for gun rental and ammo is cheap if one considers that the new shooter might buy 2 or three guns before finding the right one. It's simply cheaper (and quicker) to rent a bunch and try them out before buying.

Still, there are ways to keep the costs down. I'll discuss them in further installments.

ISN'T THIS SEXIST?
I've been seeing advertisements for jewelry shops lately. They're always the same. Attractive yupster scum husband gets expensive mineral deposit for his wife. Wife melts into hubby's arms and you know that they're about ten seconds away from hot monkey sex (or HMS, and you'll never be able to read about a British Navy ship without giggling again).

Okay, so the commercials pretty much say that we men aren't gonna get any unless we cough up the gems. Why aren't the women getting us something expensive?

Probably because everybody knows that we're sluts of the first order. If we got a diamond watch or ring for Christmas about 99% of us would say "Yeah, jewelry. Kewl. So, wanna have HMS or what?"

You women can just save your money. We'll even settle for the "or what?"

Sunday, December 08, 2002

A LONG WALK HOME
Gun blogger Kim du Toit has a question for all of us that think livin' out in the weather is fun. He imagines a time machine that will transport someone, alone, to New England circa 1650. Your job is to cross the North American wilderness armed with a long gun, a handgun, two knives and some other necessaries. You'll have a supply of ammo for the trip, enough to keep you if you're careful, as well as a horse, mule and dog. You'll be given enough money to buy supplies good for 5 days and then the long trek begins.

Kim favors a 7X57mm bolt action and a 10-shot 22 Long Rifle revolver, both of which are good choices. The only thing I'd do different would be to go for stainless steel guns with polymer stocks. I spent a few weeks traipsing around the Rockies once with two horses. Stuff starts to rot real quick when you get out in the wet.

Some people have said that they want a drilling or combo gun, which is a double-barrelled gun with one barrel for shotgun shells and the other for rifle shells. This is fine and dandy, but I'm well aware that the North American continent at the time was chock full of people who probably would want to do you harm (sorry to all of those people out there who cling to the fantasy of the peace-lovin' Native American, but the facts don't support this view). I'd want something with more than two shots.

One way that you could increase the amount of ammunition is to go for a flint lock rifle along with the bullet molds necessary to make your own bullets. Then you could use the money given you for 5 days worth of food to buy powder and shot. This could very well give you another 200 rounds or so, and the bore will be big enough so you could load up on smaller pellets and make a half-assed shotgun. This wouldn't do anything to help me hold off the Injuns, though, so I'd stick with modern bolt actions.

MOVIE REVIEW: EQUILIBRIUM
A few days ago I started to see reviews for a new movie named Equilibrium. They all made a point of stating that the action sequences were impressive, so I decided to go see it.

The movie takes place a few decades from now after WW III. The survivors decided that emotion was what keeps getting us in these fixes, so they developed a drug that damped them all down. Anything that might evoke an emotion is outlawed, so the possession of literature, art, music or Snoopy posters is punished by death. Even considering the harsh penalties (death seems to be the only punishment meted out) there are people who deliberately avoid taking their medication. They also trade and collect the pretty contraband.

The law has plenty of regular cops to enforce the law, as well as some really well equipped SWAT teams, but the real enforcers are some sort of super-ninjas called Clerics. They're trained from birth not only to recognize when someone is feeling, but also in a martial art called "GunKata". With this ultimate of fighting styles the Clerics can dodge out of the line of fire just before an oponent pulls the trigger. Cover isn't necessary when you're a Cleric.

I thought the director did great things with a limited budget. The cast is very good, and I suppose they spent most of the money on the actor's salaries. The only real problem is that it seemed to drag for me in places. The dialogue could have been punched up some, and the plot was pretty predictable. Still, it was only 107 minutes long so it was worth just sitting back through the slow parts and waiting for some action sequences to start.

The fight scenes didn't disappoint. Oh, there was a bunch of spinning around and shootin' with a gun in each hand and stuff like that. But it looked pretty cool and that's what I came to see.

Don't ask me what kind of guns the Clerics were using. Sometimes I could have sworn it was a Desert Eagle and at other times they were obviosly using a modified Baretta 93R (which is a select fire 9mm pistol, a tiny machine gun). I suppose that they just had the actor wave around whichever gun they thought looked the coolest.