Saturday, May 11, 2002

A post I wrote yesterday about modern day pirates was commented on by a good friend of mine who runs an Esperanto blog, Kathryn Woods. She suggested that armed decoy ships, made up to look like helpless prey, be employed to thin out the pirate herd. Since Kathryn has joined the U.S. Navy and is currently assigned to the USS McFaul (DDG 74), and thusly is in a position where she might actually have a chance to launch some ordnance pirate-ward, I gave the suggestion a great deal of thought.

The Brits were very fond of armed decoys during WWII, but they weren't worth the trouble or expense. In all of the war they only managed to sink 2 ships. Why the lousy success rate? Mainly due to the fact that the ocean is vast and the Germans liked submarines. A warship on the surface was a rare sight so the decoys never had much of a chance to shoot anything.

A similar problem would exist today due to what I call the "School of Fish Effect" (at least I call it that since three minutes ago). Depending on the time of year and the weather, somewhere between 95% and 98% of all of the stuff in the world that's being moved somewhere is on a ship. So how many decoy ships would we need to ensure that there would be a good chance that pirates were attacking an armed opponent? 100? Lots more? And buying, equipping, crewing and operating a vessel are big expenses. As long as the pirates don't kill too many people (they almost never kill anyone of the big merchant vessels), and they only ask for a fraction of the value of the ship/cargo, it just isn't worth the money.

Most of these pirates like to go after large and slow targets. Oil tankers are a favorite. Some years ago I read that it became such a problem that Exxon was supplying $20,000.00 to the captain of all of their tankers for pirate bribes, an incredible windfall in the 3rd World mud patches that breed these criminals. There was also talk about having a security group of about 20 men go along with the tankers. On would be designated a sniper, and the rest would be armed with sub-machine guns (which started my interest in Full Auto Machine Pistols (FAMP's) since there was some talk about just equipping them with FAMPs). This would actually be a very good deterrent, since the pistol ammo that sub-machine guns use wouldn't penetrate the skin of a ship and there's rarely more than 20 pirates at a time. This way the ship would be safe from damage and the pirates would probably be outnumbered.

The problem with this approach is international treaties and insurance. Even though the ship itself would be safe from damage, insurance costs will go up steeply if you have a bunch of armed men running around. Also most of the world's cargo vessels are flagged to 3rd World countries. This is to reduce taxes, but it also means that they have to abide by the laws of the nation whose flag they fly. Since most of these countries have treaties that prohibit the arming of merchant vessels.....

There is one solution. It seems that there are places where it's very dangerous for small, privately owned craft to venture. Mostly it's due to weather, since even the dopiest yacht owner will generally steer clear of high-crime waters. Still, there are sometimes lapses in judgement. Usually the pirates would strip the boat and scuttle her along with the crew, but it's so rare that they even see a yacht that it's like an armored bank truck having an accident in front of your house and spraying money all over your lawn.

So someone who wants to do their part to make the world a safer place could outfit a yacht to go a-hunting. Any billionaires read this blog?

Friday, May 10, 2002

It seems that the Crusader artillery system is no more. Two days ago the money needed to develop the system and field the first units for testing was cut from the budget.

Back in the bad ol' days of the Cold War, military paraphenalia was desperately sought after by collectors. Some kid who's uncle gave him a shoulder patch from the Strategic Air Command could make enough money to buy a new bicycle if he knew where to sell it. This was noted by the running dog Capitalist corperations that built the hardware the military needs.

Kathryn Woods, a friend of mine who joined the Navy, pointed out something on the official Crusader website that I had missed. An online store where you can buy stuff with military logos on it, even before the weapon systems are even working. This is more than surreal to someone who grew up in the Bad Ol' Days. But, when it's all said and done, I suppose that this is one of the reasons that Capitalism won and Communism didn't.

Better collectibles.
People who complain of the "cultural elite" tend to lose my interest. The idea that a few ultra-rich, well educated snobs with connections and the right family name can run roughshod over the American people is certainly possible, and we even see evidence of it from time to time. Still, it doesn't happen very often because of the U.S. tradition of the free press. Obvious attempts to force policy based on your own prejudices are few and far between because the 5th Estate will jump all over it like a dog on a dropped chicken wing.

But what happens when the press is obviously ignoring reality in favor of their own prejudices?

The U.S. Justice Department has articulated a new position on the 2nd Amendment. From now on the Feds will look at the 2nd as protection for an individual's right to own firearms. This is hardly a bad idea, since all research on the subject has found that increased gun ownership/less restrictive concealed carry laws lower violent crime.

But the media doesn't agree. Every damm editorial I read states that it's a catastrophically bad idea, that Ashcroft is wrong, and this policy shift will directly harm people, and Ashcroft is making laws instead of enforcing them. This development is actually described as "alarming".

So how did I come to such a different conclusion than all of these people who have better educations than I do?

When I was working for the police in my home town of Columbus, Ohio I would see 20 to 30 people arrested each night on weapon/drug charges. Each one would have prior convictions, which would mean that they would get extra time for having a firearm or drugs on them. And each of them would have a gun and some drugs.

You can go two ways on this issue. You can allow people the tools they need to defend themselves or you can ban all guns and go to incredible lengths to keep them out of the hands of criminals. This means that just about all of the Bill of Rights would have to be rescinded so the police would be able to go and find the guns. Private homes would have to be searched, random searches and checkpoints would appear on the streets of American cities, suspected criminals and ex-cons would have to be tracked day and night and their movements severly restricted, all cargo and shipments would have to be opened or X-rayed, and the borders would have to be closed down a la the Berlin Wall during the Cold War.

But it gets worse. Anyone with basic tools can rig a gun together. That means that most tools found in the average hobbyists basement would have to be confiscated and destroyed, and the sale and possesion of certain common household chemicals would have to be severly restricted (so a gunpowder substitute couldn't be manufactured). Even the holy 1st Amendment would have to go, since the recipes for these explosives are easily found in a variety of how-to books. The freedom of speech can't be allowed to get in the way of saving people's lives, now can it?

But the implications of what these people are advocating just doesn't seem to register. They think that restrictions on firearms will mean that no one, even criminals, will be able to hurt anyone ever again.

These guys need to get out in to reality a little more often.
I heard about a new online petition to rename the movie "The Two Towers". The idea was that the title was trying to cash in on the 9/11 attacks. When people pointed out that the book was written close to 50 years before the attack, the progenitors of the petition said that the title should be changed to show some respect. (Hey, I like that. "Progenitors of the Petition". Might be the title of the next Star Wars movie.)

Damm near busted my gut when I heard that. Someone is obviously trolling for reactions. (heh, heh. "Trolling". Double entendre.)

There's close to 3600 signatures, so I looked a few of them over. Most people don't get the joke and only sign the petition to rant against it. But a few are really in the spirit. Look at signature # 2085. It's from "Reverand Al Sharpton", and it had me chuckling for hours. And excerpt:...

"Too many crackaz in this film, and not enough of them are portrayed as oppressive demons!!"

It's not PC, but it's soooo gawdamm funny!
A post on Reynold's blog is very interesting. The subject is about Al Qaeda goals and methods in this new war we were thrust in to. It seems that some Email sent by Michael Marion is very pessimistic. An excerpt....

"The ultimate goal is a completely Islamic world. The penultimate goal is to bring the non-Islamic world down to the subsistence level of the Islamic world. That makes the fight more even, where the sword of Islam is mightier than the pen of freedom and commerce.

Mr. Marion's views are very well thought out and he writes in a very articulate manner. But I have to agree with both Reynolds and another reader he quotes named Will Allen. They both agree that, should Islamic fundamentalism prove too great a threat (by unleashing a Weapon of Mass Destruction), then there won't BE an Islam very soon after.

Go read the whole thing. It's very good, not least by pointing out that Al Qaeda might just wipe out everything they're trying to preserve and promote by being too succesful.
I can't find the story on their website, but USAToday carried anews story about how pirate attacks are up all over the world.

An excerpt: "There were 87 armed attacks on ships worldwide from January through March, a 28% increase from the same period last year."

I mentioned the pirate problem in this blog some time ago. And now I see that pirate activity is up.

Don't you see? The pirates are reading my blog! They must think that I'm going to give them helpful how-to tips.

Well, maybe not. But it is a problem that should be looked in to. Steven denBeste mentions an incident between a Navy supply ship and some pirates. Unfortunately, increased insurance fees and treaties between 3rd world countries make carrying arms on merchant ships almost impossible.

So what's the solution? Don't have one. Shooting pirates is the only thing that seems to work, and since that's not going to happen I suppose everyone will just have to live with it.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Other bloggers have undoubtadly mentioned this, but I thought I'd toss out my two cents.

I came across this article in the Economist. It discusses the recent killing of Dutch canidate Pim Fortuyn. Notice how they keep pointing out that Mr. Fortuyn is "extreme right". Yet the article also mentions that Mr. Fortuyn was against immigration, and the motivation for his politics was to preserve the traditional Dutch values of tolerance.

Here in the U.S. an openly gay sociology professer that is campaigning for efforts to preserve tolerance would hardly be considered Right. Pretty far Left would be the consensus.

It's becoming pretty clear why the member nations of the E.U. can't seem to understand why the U.S. isn't interested in their views on our own foreign policy/military affairs. They're just way out in Left field compared to U.S.
Thanks to Reynolds, we now have a chance to see what the new EU flag looks like.

So how does this discriminate against those with disabilities? Well, just look at it! Any one who has epilepsy will be down on the floor swallowing their own tongue in a New York minute.
This article is from the Yahoo news server. It reports on the Bush administrations policy on the 2nd Amendment (they say that individual Americans have the right to own guns), and the administration is asking the Supreme Court to uphold that interpretation.

For years I've been accused of wanting to kill children (because I own guns). Media personalities have publicly stated that I should be thrown in jail (because I own guns). Lobbying groups have insisted that I'm little better than a violent criminal myself (because I own guns). So it's nice to see some progress for a change.

But the media bias still sucks. Take a look at the Yahoo news story I linked to above. It's well balanced and simply states the facts.

Now read this article from the Washington Post. The Post, posted....that gun proponents reads the 2nd Amendment as "granting an absolute right to all Americans." This might be true for some, but the majority of gun proponents have no trouble with denying firearms to those convicted of violent felonies (or any felony), the mentally ill or incompetent, or minors unless under strict supervision. Painting gun owners as irrational absolutists is insulting and misleading.

'Course, it IS the Post.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Well, according to this article the Army's new artillery system, the Crusader will probably be axed.

As anyone who actually reads this blog can tell you, I actually like innovation. I think new gadgets and systems are just great, and anything that gives the U.S. an edge is just fine and dandy so far as I'm concerned. But I'm not really against the discontinuation of the program.

The whole thing comes down to resource allocation. Sure, the Crusader system will save on maintenance/operation costs, but only if we replace every single one of our artillery peices. And the savings we reap in the future will come only after we spend spend spend right now for development/construction. The system will be more capable then our current hardware, but with air supremacy almost a done deal for the next 25 years or so it's tough to see why we need a stand-alone system like this. If more countries in the world could tie up our air cover, sure it would be a good idea. But not right now and not for the forseeable future.

I guess we'll just have to get along with the old crappy guns that we have now.

Monday, May 06, 2002

I just came across this news article that reports that Dutch right wing politician Fortuyn has been repeatedly shot and killed. No information about his assailant has been released as of yet. Who could it be?

Fortuyn was openly gay. Maybe it was someone who is anti-gay. In Holland? Get real!

He openly supports personal liberties. Maybe it was someone who wants to control the masses. In Holland? Get real!

He also sharply criticised lax immigration policies and was stridently opposed to Holland's growing immigrant population.

Hmmmm, I think we may be on to something.

UPDATE: Well, looks like I was wrong about the shooter being an immigrant. The Dutch police report that they have captured a suspect that's a "white man of Dutch ancestry."

Maybe it was someone who was against personal liberties, after all.
Thanks to Reynolds I have found proof that the United States isn't ahead of the rest of the world anymore.

This article from the Daily Telegraph shows that the United States lags far behind almost all the E.U. countries when it comes to crime. So far the only category we have a decided lead in is murder, which isn't a crime that was included in the survey.

An excerpt: "The United States, despite it's high murder rate, was among the middle ranking countries with a 21 percent victimisation rate."

If I'm reading the article correctly, they gathered data about 17 countries. The graph of overall victimization rates shows 9 countries, which means that the U.S. can't be any higher then 10th place.

10 out of 17 places us in "the middle"? Not "towards the low end"? What if there were 15 countries with higher rates than the U.S., would we still be in "the middle"?

Sunday, May 05, 2002

For years I've seriously disliked the French. The main reason for such bad feeling was that the French didn't like me! And the reason that they didn't like me was due to the fact that I wasn't French, and I couldn't speak French.

Well, thanks to Steve denBeste I was able to read this article by Andrew Sullivan. It would appear that I was ahead of the curve by about 20 years.

Now if only I could predict the winning lottery numbers.
I was reading the London Times online when I came across this article. As soon as I read the first few sentences I said to myself "Oh, gee, another anti-firearm article in the British press."

But I was wrong. The author (correctly) concludes that a better armed criminal element calls for a police force that's armed even better than the bad guys. Like I always say the only way to stop a violent act is with an overwhelmingly violent response, either in threat or actuality.

The author mentions non-lethal weapons and decides that they couldn't do the job. This is correct since non-lethal weapons are really only effective when the attacker is unarmed, and they become less than useless when the perp has a firearm.

But there's one thing that's made apparent, and that is the fact that the Brits have a better understanding of police work than we do here in the U.S. Most American officers aren't allowed to have shotguns in the cruiser, let alone a scary-looking carbine that resembles a terrorist sub-machine gun. Semi-auto 9mm or (very occasionally) a .45 are the best that the vast majority can hope for.

It used to be that all officers except for some foot patrols had another officer with them at all times. Their partner. But starting in the 1970's many departments have adopted a "1 cruiser, 1 cop" policy to cut costs. Considering the fact that police officers have to approach within arms reach if there's no obvious sign of threat, all alone and with no one to watch their back or come to their aid, and it's perfectly understandable why so many police get shot with their own weapons.

Sure, the Brits have rising crime that's turning increasingly violent. But they seem to be trying to address it in a logical way from the police officer's perspective.

Now if they would only let their citizens have a few guns for protection, or stop putting them in jail when they do defend themselves, then they'd have this little problem nipped in the bud.