Saturday, January 11, 2003

A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER
Steven den Beste had a post yesterday that discussed his admiration for a 74 year old store owner. It seems this senior citizen shot two of three felons who were pointing guns at the guy he had hired as a clerk and demanding money. One robber died, one robber was wounded and one just ran away. This story is news worthy because the 74 year old has to use a walker to get around.

Today Mr. den Beste replies to an Email he received from Andrew. It would appear that Andrew has taken an opposing view. He doesn't think that the old man should have shot anyone, since the robbers were simply demanding money and hadn't killed anyone. He also doesn't like Mr. den Beste's admiration for the old guy.

I think Andrew is missing the boat here. The three felons had weapons, loaded and deadly, pointed at an innocent and unarmed clerk. Not only had they willfully placed this person's life in grave peril, they were promising to kill him unless he gave them money. In this case any action taken to end this threat is justified as long as it doesn't result in the death of another innocent. To suggest that one has to wait until the robbers actually kill someone before deadly force is justified shows a complete lack of understanding about crime and violent situations. To suggest any other course of action to the 74 year old, outnumbered and outgunned and facing three opponents in their physical prime, is extremely naive.

Finally, Andrew's indignation for Mr. den Beste's satisfaction over the death of the robber is very strange. I certainly find it very reasonable to be reassured when someone who showed such contempt for the lives and well being of others is no longer able to place anyone else under threat of death.

JUST THE FACTS, MA'AM
I went to go see The Two Towers (again!) and had to sit through several commercials even before the trailers started. One of the commercials was for a new Dragnet starring Ed O'Neill as Detective Joe Friday.

The original Dragnet was pretty incredible. A realistic portrayal of the methods used by the police to solve crimes, it also was a pretty good way for laymen to see the "police culture" we all hear about in the news media. It was shot on location in Los Angeles, and meticulous care was taken to reproduce the offices that the police were using at the time. I hear that they even made sure that the doorknobs were the same kind as found at LAPD HQ.

Few police officers have to use their guns in the line of duty. The original Dragnet had very little violence compared to the other police dramas of the day (and almost none at all compared to what we see on TV now). Instead of combing Hollywood for the most gorgeous of actors, Executive Producer Webb tried to use professional actors that looked as much like real people as possible. Only the women were allowed to use any sort of makeup, and then they had to bring it to the set and apply it themselves. Many times common sense safety tips would be presented as part of the story.

Dragnet started out as a radio show in 1949. It was so popular that it became a TV show from 1952-1959. Then, in 1967, Jack Webb managed to revive the show for four seasons. How many times does a TV show have eight successful seasons, go off the air for seven years, and then come back for another succesful and critically acclaimed four year run?

Now they have this new show starring the dad from Married, With Children. To be fair, Mr. O'Neill has played a cop before. He was in a short lived TV series called Popeye Doyle, which was about the character from The French Connection who was originally played by Gene Hackman. The series never went anywhere, and I'm afraid that this revamping of Dragnet probably won't either.

Friday, January 10, 2003

SCOOPED BY A BUNNY!!
Last Tuesday Anna posted about some interesting pics of Davis Montham AFB. Now I see that StrategyPage has a post about using old, non-functional planes for spare parts to keep others in service.

Read the SP post and you'll notice that they don't mention Davis Montham. They just talk about AMARC. But all becomes clear if you follow this link to the AMARC webpage. Take a look at the top of the page for links to the place where the old planes are stored until they're used for spare parts. What do you see? That's right. Davis Montham.

I figure that SP just kept from mentioning Davis Montham because they're embarrassed about having a bunny show them up.

YEAH, SURE. IT'S ALL SOME BYZANTINE PLOT
According to Paris police, the baggage handler that was caught with full-auto weapons and explosives in his car was framed.

Seems that the guy who first alerted police claims that it was all a plot cooked up by the family of the handler's dead wife. They blamed him for their little girl's death, you see, and they wanted to punish him. So they planted guns and explosives in his car and had this dupe get the cops.

But there's still plenty of questions I want to have answered. For one, the police admit that the handler's personal locker has tested positive for explosive residue. What, did the family have someone sneak into the employee lounge and rub a block of semtex on the locker? And something else that puzzles me. If this is a plot by the inlaws to get back at him, what do they need the police for? Hell's bells, they had a bunch of explosives and some weapons that are fancier than anything I have in the gun safe. Why didn't they just blow this guy out of his socks some dark and stormy night?

And where the heck did the in-laws get all of this hardware, anyway?

Looks to me that there's a plot going on, but I think the French police are trying to find ways to prove that there's no terrorism in the country. Get this baggage handler guy to roll over on his terrorist buddies that he hands the guns off to, then make up some crazy story to keep the newspapers happy.

JANE'S ROUNDUP
Jane's Defence just came out with their latest non-subscriber teasers. Let's see what they're talking about.

More Money For Robots
In a move that's sure to make Anna happy, more money for armed robot planes is being spent. The most exciting is a stealthy version, the Boeing A-45 UCAV. (Hey, doesn't that beauty just look like something StarFleet would use?)

The article goes on to state "The US armed services are far and away leading the field when it comes to UCAV development." Well, duh! Who else has the technology, the will and the budget? Europe? (heh heh)

Time for Some Good 'Ol Fashioned Competition
The British gov has a habit of awarding contracts to firms that have gotten contracts before. This means that the same company can supply the military for decades or even centuries even when there's better equipment for a better price. Two examples are Webley (which supplied heavy revolvers to the UK armed forces through WWII), and Lee-Enfield (which supplied good bolt action rifles for a century, then tried to foist off an incredible piece of crap which 17 years of effort hasn't been able to fix).

Seems the powers that be have finally learned something after the SA80. They've actually allowed private shipbuilding firms to compete for the contract to build the Future Aircraft Carrier.

I can feel my American readers shrugging from here. "So what?" Sure this is nothing new here in the US, but in Britian these things Simply Are Not Done!

This should result in a better product at a lower price. What competition is all about in business.

So Now the Terrorists are Expanding Their Targets?
Most people have heard about how Brit police snared some poison-making terrorists before they had a chance to use the stuff. Good work! (backslaps all around)

How did they do it? Details are sketchy, but I think someone had to turn snitch. Detectors that can find harmful substances are very primitive. This article takes a look at some of the more common and effective ones on the markey. Notice that you have to be right on top of the stuff you want to test. Driving a car down the street and waiting for the detector to go off is still Star Trek.

WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN
According to the Chritian Science Monitor, "smart guns are safer guns". I suppose that's true, since "smart guns" don't exist they can't be danger to anyone. They certainly can't help anyone, either, but the gun grabbers don't seem to think that's very important.

So New Jersey did what I'd expect someplace like California to do and passed a law banning any sales of non-smart guns. They got around the fact that the technology doesn't exist by saying that the law will not be enforced until two years after the NJ Attorney General states that smart guns are ready.

Ask any gun owner and they'll tell you that they'd LOVE smart guns (as long as they're not too expensive). A gun that can only be fired by the owner, and can never (ever) be fired by an unauthorized person? Heck, we're all worried about theft. It's a common nightmare: our guns are stolen and used to harm an innocent person. Not only wouldn't we worry about that but theft of guns would become virtually non-existant. What would happen if thieves can only steal worthless guns that they can't even sell for a hit of crack?

Colt Firearms has been working on this longer than anyone, and they eventually gave it up. Here's Colt's position paper on the issue. Notice that it was written in 1998, and that it states that smart guns will be on the market in 2-3 years.

Now look back at the article from the Christian Science Monitor. It, too, says that the technology is expected to be declared "safe and reliable" in 2-3 years. I expect the "2 or three years" will be a figure that crops up every year for some time to come.

If you read the CSM article you'll notice how full of crap the author is. "Smart guns can help prevent accidental deaths or suicides." Excuse me, but how will a gun that can only be fired by it's owner actually stop that owner from committing suicide?

Another statement shows how idiotic the editorial staff at the CSM is. "...in the recent Washington sniper case, the gun couldn't have been used by the two individuals involved, had it been "smart."" Uh, excuse me. The gun shop that sold the rifle might have ignored some ATF regs, but they accepted money and turned the gun over to the sniper. It wasn't stolen. How in the world could smart gun tech have kept them from shooting anyone?

It looks to me that whoever wrote the editorial is an idiot, and proud of their idiocy to boot. They seem to think that a smart gun will be loaded with sensors and super computers. If a human being is in the sight picture then the gun simply will refuse to fire.

I can't imagine that everyone at the CSM is a friggin' moron. Looks like I'm wrong, considering that they printed this editorial without anyone pointing out how mindless it is.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

CANADIAN CONUNDRUM
So I was reading this news story about how the Canadian gov will keep the gun registry they've spent $1 billion on without any evidence that it's actually done any good.

Well, it's their money, their country. If that's what they want to waste their bucks on....

Something puzles me, though. They quoted Ottawa police Chief Vince Bevan as saying that the gun registry helps police track illegal firearms in Canada. He says you can't identify and prosecute criminals for illegal possession of firearms unless you have a way of proving legal possession.

Uh, it might be different up there in the Great White North but down here in America it's already a crime for someone with a previous felony conviction to have a firearm. If someone is caught without a previous felony conviction is found to have a firearm then it's obvious if a crime has been committed or not. Like if they use it in a holdup, or if they're found in an airport with one. The way that it's presented here it looks like a witch hunt to desperately pin some sort of crime on anyone who the police finds with a gun, no matter what the circumstances.

Still can't figure out what good the registry does if someone wants to keep Canada a reasonably free country. Maybe Chief Bevan could explain that one to me.

GREAT WAR MOVIES
Many people consider this to be one of the greatest war movies ever. I happen to be one of them.

Zulu (1964)
Plot- A small British garrison defends itself from overwhelming odds in 1879.

For film buffs, the major appeal for this film will be that it was the first starring role for Michael Caine. Even if war movies leave you cold then you should take a look just for that.

The movie relates an actual incident that took place during the Anglo-Zulu War (most people just call it "The Zulu War"). After a large column of infantry, supported by artillery and cavalry, was wiped out at Mt. Isandlwana by native troops, a small supply station at a place called Rorke's Drift was attacked by a force 25 times their number. Unlike the larger and more heavily armed Brit force that had been wiped out the defenders had advance warning. Hastily prepared defenses did the trick, and the majority of the Brits survived some incredibly bitter combat.

The movie appeared right before what we in the U.S. like to call "The Vietnam Era", which was characterized by extreme anti-war sentiment where the government could do nothing right. Zulu takes pains to show that everyone involved is acting the best that they can, with no clear villians. The enemy Zulus are portrayed in a sympathetic light as noble warriors while the Brits are shown as simply desperately trying to survive.

The battle scenes are brilliantly staged, with the gear and (generally) the tactics used being rather authentic. The characters are well drawn with fine performances all through the film. You get to know the characters a little bit, enough so that you find yourself on the edge of your seat when the battle starts, rooting for your favorites. I've always found it to be an exciting and emotional film.

Like all films that portray real events, some liberties had to made with the details to tell a good visual story. Many people come away from the film with a desire to research what really happened that day. Just don't be too disappointed to find out that it didn't happen exactly as the movie. The use and effectiveness of the weapons used is very realistic, another selling point for those of us who shoot and are interested in antique guns. I just wonder where they found all of those Martini-Henry rifles that the actors were using.

Just as a point of trivia, it's said that there were more Victoria Cross medals awarded to the defenders of Rorke's Drift than to any other unit of it's size for a single action (which means they passed out the medals fast and furiously). It's obvious that passing out the highest award that the U.K. has was a blatant propaganda ploy. Probably. But I think the guys who got the Cross also deserved it.

Monday, January 06, 2003

WHAT IF ESKIMOS BOYCOTTED A SWIMSUIT COMPANY?
Looks like those freaks and weirdos at PETA are launching a boycott of KFC. (The link is to a story on the Yahoo! news server, so it will rot in a few weeks)

At first I thought "More chicken for me, then!" But when I thought about it I realized that those PETA guys never eat chicken anyway. I don't think that anyone who takes them seriously eat meat, either.

So how is this supposed to hurt KFC? Bad publicity, I suppose.

POKE A BULL IN THE SNOUT ENOUGH TIMES AND....
Stephen den Beste has had it with Palestinians targeting innocent civilians. He's finally gotten to the point where he feels that any action to stop such barbarity and protect the innocent is justified. He links to a bunch of bloggers who agree with his emotional post. One of them even relates how he'd kill someone celebrating the deaths on 9/11 with his bare hands.

Welcome to my world, guys! 'Course it's not just terrorists I have a problem with. It's anyone who'll harm the innocent. Common criminals will do for me just fine and dandy. After all, it's very possible that this 38 year old might find himself in a position to stop a violent criminal attack some day. I don't think it's very likely that I'll be able to help clean out a nest of Middle Eastern Islamofascists.

Next thing you know these guys will all apply for their CCW licenses and start packing heat so they'd have the tools they need to stop a violent attacker, instead of just complaining about it on their blogs. Not that I don't agree with their sentiments, it's just that I think actions speak louder than words.

GREAT WAR MOVIES
I've run out of silent war films that I'd label as "great", so I decided to expand to the talkies.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Plot- Enthusiastic German youths during WWI find out what war is all about.

The film treatment of a novel by a German writer, the film was controversial in the way that it depicted the average German infantryman in a sympathetic light. It realistically portrays the average foot slogger's life in the trenches with the filth, rats and lack of food and supplies. Any idea of grand strategy, or even of what's going on more than a few hundred yards away, is non-existant.

Though not the focus of the film the battle scenes are very striking and detailed. I was particularly impressed by the way an artillery barrage is shown. During an attack all human figures are quickly obscured by the noise and dust kicked up by the shells. One scene has a soldier run up to a strand of barbed wire and grab it right before a shell goes off at his feet. When the dust clears the only thing you can see is his hands, still clutching the wire.

Like most films that depended on the theater for it's actors the acting is hammy and overdone in many places (one must project so the people in the back can appreciate the performance). Still, the director tries to keep that down to a minimum. The characters are well defined, pains are taken so the gear and sets are as authentic as possible, and the portrayal of infantry life is topical even today. If you've never seen a war film before you wouldn't go wrong by making this the first one.

(Trivia- There was a made for TV remake of the film starring John Boy Walton.

KEEPIN' THE CAP UP
One of the things that became painfully apparent during World War II was that the only real way to protect aircraft carriers is through the use of Combat Air Patrol. This is a fancy and manly way of saying that you have fighters in the air over the carrier all the time when the weather permits. This way they can instantly pounce on any threatening aircraft.

Obviously, the main stumbling block is keeping the aircraft flying CAP fuelled up. If the naval aircraft are close enough to land then the Air Force can send out some big tanker aircraft to keep the Navy planes flying. If the carrier group os too far away from Air Force bases then they can use smaller tanker aircraft that are carrier capable. (Just to show how neat the U.S. Navy is, their tankers are potent strike/electronic warfare/CandC aircraft as well as being able to refuel thirsty fighters). This is more important than most people realize. Glance at a map and look at all that space that the oceans take up and it becomes apparent that what would be considered "long range" over land is next to nothing when travelling over the sea.

Yesterday I posted some thoughts about how the Chinese are looking in to the feasibility of building their own carrier. Some analysts believe that it's pretty much a done deal and the Chinese are just waiting till they have the money and expertise before they go ahead with the project.

A new post on StrategyPage.com relates how the Chinese have mid-air refueling capability. (No permalinks on StrategyPage, so you might have to scroll down the page a bit). The Chinese use an archaic 1950's Soviet bomber design to perform the mission. Apparently it's a very capable aircraft, able to refuel two aircraft at once, and the Chinese crews are well-trained and competant.

If the flag should go up and we find ourselves fighting China, I know what the U.S. Navy's strike aircraft will be hunting for.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

GAMING THE WAR
According to a post on StrategyPage.com, the the U.S. will participate in the annual wargames that Taiwan holds every spring. (StrategyPage doesn't have permalinks, so you might have to scroll down the page some to find the post)

Ever since the country went Communist and the old government had to flee to Taiwan, China has had a hankerin' to extend it's power over that island. This should be easy considering that Taiwan is within easy reach of aircraft based on the mainland. The only thing that has been giving them pause is the U.S. Navy. More specifically, it's been the USS Kitty Hawk and her carrier group. China knows that any attempt to take Taiwan by force is doomed to failure due to these guys. Anyone else would have given up by now, but the Chinese have a bee in their bonnet about Taiwan and just can't stand the idea of people who speak Chinese but who aren't subject to the Communist government.

So what can they do about it?

Coupla things. First off the Chinese have been building up their Navy as much as they can. Notice that they have a preponderance of submarines and amphibious warfare boats. The amphib craft are to carry the troops to Taiwan while the subs sink the American carriers. The only problem with that is all of the anti-submarine warfare gear the Americans haul around with them everywhere they go. Any ship within 200 miles of a carrier is probably going to be sunk.

Okay, what else can they do? Well, they can build their own carrier and have it keep the Kitty Hawk busy long enough for a landing to occur. They've never built one before and they can't afford to build more than one or two, so they'd better get it right the first time. With this in mind the Chinese have purchased two crappy aircraft carriers, the HMS Melbourne from the Australians and the Varyag from the Russians. The Melbourne was to have been cut up for scrap and the Varyag turned into a floating casino (no, I'm not joking about that), but so far both carriers have been left in their original condition and are currently being studied by Chinese shipwrights.

Okay, so they probably want to build a carrier but they're taking their time about it. What are they waiting for?

I think they're waiting for the Three Gorges Dam to be completed. The project is to build a dam to control the destructive and deadly floods that roar down the Yangtse River every year as well as generate desperately needed electric power for the region. One of the side effects of the project is that the reservoir created will easily be able to handle deep water ocean vessels. This means that naval construction facilities that will be able to build something as large as a carrier will be situated 1200 miles inland, safe from prying eyes and any airstrikes that might try to stop construction. The deep water vessels can navigate the Yangtse for a brief period during the spring floods, so the idea of building a carrier so far inland isn't as sand-poundingly stupid as it first seems. The reservoir will also be large enough so that sea trials can be conducted deep in the Chinese heartland. The Three Gorges Dam project is set to be completed by 2009.

Okay, so the dam will be completed and the reservoir filled by 2009. Read back through some of the links above. It seems that the Chinese have been making noises about floating an aircraft carrier by 2010.

GREAT SILENT WAR FILMS

The Big Parade (1925)
Plot- Spoiled rich kid enlists in the infantry in WWI.

This movie takes awhile to get to the war part, but it's well worth the time. It starts off rather aimlessly, quickly introducing the rich kid and the two working class buddies he meets after he joins up. For what seems the longest time there's nothing but clowning around and romance with shy underage French girls.

At long last Rich Kid and his buddies are going to the front. This results in one of the most hilarious scenes ever captured on film, but the swelling music and utterly serious way it's filmed show that the director intended it to be sad and poignant! It's worth the cost of the rental just to see this one sequence.

The French girl can't handle the thought of Rich Kid passing out of her life so she grabs a chain dangling off of the back of the truck the American troops are travelling in and gets dragged along for a hundred yards or so. When she can't hold on any longer she picks herself up from the dirt and runs along behind the truck for 1/2 mile. Rich Kid starts tossing her stuff that he has in his pockets. He even throws her his watch. When he sees that she's still keeping up with the truck (good endurance those French peasant lasses have) he pulls his boot off and throws that to her as a keepsake. By the way the smitten girl cradles the stinky shoe you can tell that she will treasure it for all time.

Finally (finally!) we get to the war. This is the point that you start to get your money's worth. Through a long sequence the men are unloaded from the truck, form a skirmish line, and start to advance at a slow pace through the peaceful forest towards the battle. As they encounter sporadic and increasing enemy resistance the landscape slowly changes until it finally looks like a nightmare. You keep expecting to see zombies rising from the mud to crack open some skulls and suck the brain-meat right out.

At the time The Big Parade was the most realistic depiction of combat ever put on film. It does a great job of showing how terrifying the business of war is without having more blood and gore than was allowed back then. After all that time of light-hearted woo pitching with willing French maidens and shoe throwing to same the war scenes are a shock. If you should see the film watch it from the beginning so you don't lose any of the impact.