Friday, February 21, 2003

According to this article on the Yahoo! news server, some villagers in the Congo accused four teachers of causing a local Ebola outbreak through witchcraft. They stoned the four to death.

I could point out the logical absurdity of this incident. If there really were people who conspired with dark and powerful creatures who could violate the natural laws of the universe, you probably couldn't kill them by tossing a few stones in their direction. Somehow I really don't think logic is the perp's strong point, though.

This is obviously a case of some backwoods rednecks decidin' to lynch the city folk, but I'm going to suggest connections between this incident and broader issues that the facts don't support in spite of that. Ready? Here I go!

We've got all of these people who insist that Americans need to show sensitivity to other cultures, but I have to say that we don't have many people being killed for witching up some disease over here. In my case I don't even believe in the supernatural, yet I doubt the local Presberterians will grab some cinderblocks and come marching down the street to do me in. This is probably a good idea for them. After all, I don't conjure up devils but I do conspire with dark forces. The thing that I obsess about is called the "X" ring.

Scott Chaffin over at The Fat Guy suggests that everyone who's interested in staying alive through an emergency go buy the Boy Scout Fieldbook. The process that led to this excellent suggestion started with this post, where Scott wonders why people are poking fun at the new government site I agree with Mr. Chaffin, there's nothing there that is worth the ridicule.

My take on the subject of preparedness is that very few people are. Simply thinking through what you should do in times of crisis is the first and simplest step, and no one even seems to want to do that. The few times that I've been around when something bad happened I noticed that those around me would either stand still and wait to see what would happen or else they ran around, got in the way and yelled alot. Not particularly helpful in either case.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Swen of the Coyote at the Dog Show has linked to this WaPo article. The news item details how the project to arm airline pilots is finally going ahead. First the pilots will submit forms indicating their willingness, and then they'll undergo psych testing, THEN they'll receive training at either the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Glynco, GA, or the FLETC at Artesia, NM.

Swen is frustrated with the delay, as am I. He states that everything could have been taken care of a year ago if they'd just sent the pilots to a civilian training facility. This is true, but there's other considerations.

First thing, there's a profound lack of money. Many people just assume that the funds will magically appear somehow if you pass a law, but that's hardly the case. In this instance the pilots will have to pay for their travel to the FLETC and their lodging while there. Nor are they going to be paid while taking the training, so the time away from the job will have to come out of their vacation or sick time. This is all due to the fact that no money has yet been made available for the program. I think it's very encouraging that the TSA managed to find five hundred grand to get the program started.

Another reason that Congress is dragging their feet is one of security. Ever since the first American skyjacking in May of 1961, the focus has been on decreasing the ability of the passengers to conduct violence, which is why they have all of those security checkpoints. Consider what would happen if the majority of commercial pilots were armed. There's approximately 8 million departures from American airports every year, although a significant fraction of those aren't commercial flights. Consider how many pilots there are wandering around the secure areas, and none of them are full time police officers. How many times a year would some pilot leave his weapon in the bathroom? This might seem absurd to most but it's a legitimate consideration.

Okay, so we need to change the rules some. The initial guidelines call for the armed pilot to carry his weapon to the plane in a secure metal lockbox. In general I agree with this and think that it's a workable solution.

Of course, I'm not really enthused by all of these handguns. Don't get me wrong, handguns are great fun and an indespensible tool if someone needs to be armed at all times but they're hardly what I'd choose for my main defensive weapon. Considering that they only need one weapon in the cockpit to deny the area to hijackers, I can't figure out why they don't simply have a more potent alternative.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

The non-subscriber articles from Jane's Defence have just been posted on their server. Let's see what's cookin'.

This Sounds Like a Comic Book
It would seem that the Pentagon wants to develop some super-soldiers. They want to have troops that are stronger, faster, better. They also want to enable them to stay awake for up to a week "by means other than drug stimulants". It looks like they have a project goal in mind.

They're also working on a pen-sized water purification system, by which I think they mean a de-contamination unit that would fit in your pocket. There's already stuff to filter water that will fit in your pocket, but they definately won't get any of that chemical stuff out of the H2O.

They Should Have Done This Years Ago
The British main attack/air superiority weapon is the Tornado. The craft is a very capable weapon, even though it does kinda looks like Sky1 from the old UFO series on TV.

During the first Gulf War, the Tornado's were shot down with appalling regularity, mainly because the pilots were trained to fly nap-of-the-earth to avoid Soviet style anti-aircraft missiles. The Iraqi's managed to use radar controlled artillery to good effect because they were so close.

Anti-radar capability was present, but it's expensive. Missiles designed to hunt down electronic emissions and ....uh, ram the source are pretty pricey, and the sensitive sensors needed to use the missiles to their full effect drains the defense budget even more.

But the Brits are finally gonna bite the bullet and equip more of their Tornados with wild weasel capabilities.

Can't See Me!
Stealth tech is pretty neato, but the aircraft that have stealth are pretty much set in one type of mission. There's not much configuration that's going to be done to an aircraft where the bolts holding it together have to be covered up to reduce the radar signature.

It look like they're looking to change that. It would be pretty kewl if they get this project off the ground. What I want to see is a stealthy AC-47 gunship.

Well, that's about it. See you guys next month with more Jane's.

Monday, February 17, 2003

It would seem that the inestimable Megan McArdle has been receiving hate Email lately. It's gotten so tiresome that she's decided to take a break. Maybe a permanent vacation, though I hope not.

I just read a pretty good post over at Pejman Yousefzadeh's blog. His post is worth reading.

I actually consider myself to be a liberal (equal rights for women/gays/minorities in both the civilian and military spheres, preservation of the few wild places we have left, freedom from fear and assault). Yet just about everyone else considers me to be a conservative ("equal rights" doesn't ever translate into "privileged class", environmentalism means that we have to protect hunting rights 'cause it's the only way to manage the wildlife, freedom from fear and assault means that gun rights and concealed carry have to be promoted so people can protect themselves). This has produced a rather odd dichotomy: a liberal who consistently votes Republican.

No matter which political wing I fly on I have noticed that those who vote against the Republicans have become increasingly shrill, rude and personal. Since this blogging thing took off I've also noticed that a significant number of Lefty bloggers use pseudonyms. I've heard the arguement that they want to protect their identities against any backlash, especially considering that the Republicans are in power and there might be a knock in the night if anyone knows who they really are.

Those that have posted this rationale find it compelling. I have to admit that I think it's simply another reason why the Left is having trouble winning any arguements in favor of their views.

Well, whatever. Look down at the bottom of every one of my posts and you'll find my legal name. I live in Columbus, Ohio. Look me up, I'm in the book. Drop on by, I'm an amateur cook and no one's complained yet. I'm certainly willing to engage anyone in a face-to-face discussion about anything at all that they want to talk about. 'Course, it would be tough for them to be impolite if they did that.

In the OpinionJournal, part of Tony Blair's latest speech is reprinted.Mr. Blair states that Hans Bliz will come back to the UN and give another sitrep on Feb. 28. The flag won't go up 'till then, at least.

It makes sense that we'd want to have as dark a night as possible before we let the B-2's and the F-117's fly. The moon will be dark on March 1st.

They better hurry up. Even Steven den Beste is beginning to get frustrated with the delay.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

According to this news item, NATO has finally decided on a course of action RE protecting Turkey if war should break out with Iraq.

For a month France, Belgium and Germany have blocked attempts to plan for protecting Turkey from Iraqi aggression. We're not talking about deploying troops here, the planning hasn't even started!

Turkey is a NATO ally. I suppose that the term "ally" just doesn't mean what it used to.

Read the article. They couldn't reach a decision until they kicked the French delegates out of the room. Without the Gallic trouble makers to stir things up Belgium and Germany quickly saw reason.

The thing that I find most interesting is that NATO, a supposedly autonomous organization devoted to the self-defense of it's members, is now tying all of it's actions in this matter to UN actions. The United Nations might not call the shots, exactly, but Belgium insisted "on linking any eventual NATO deployment to developments at the U.N. Security Council."

I'm thinkin' that both the UN's and NATO's days are numbered.

A .303 HANDGUN???
I'm over at Kim du Toit's blog where he's talking about Smith and Wesson's new giganto hand-cannon, the S&W .500 Magnum!

The gun is a fistful of pain for everyone involved. It weighs in at close to 5 lbs. Some of the loads avaliable produce over 2500 ft/lbs of muzzle energy.

Let's compare that the the British .303. Notice that it's virtually identical. Keep in mind that the .303 was used by the Brits through the Boer war, WWI and WWII. They even had their Spitfires equipped with .303 machine guns as main armament. And now S&W has a handgun that hits just as hard???

Thanks but no thanks. Call me a girly man all you want, I don't need to prove how studly I am by beating up my ears, my pocketbook or my hands.

Douglas Henderson, one of my readers, left a comment on this post asking me to mention ways to reduce the amount spent on ammo. It's taken me a few days to get around to it, but here goes.

There's basically four ways to cut down on ammo cost. They are buying in bulk, by buying inexpensive ammo, surplus ammo and reloading. Of all of these reloading is the most involved, so I'll talk about it in a seperate post.

Buying in Bulk
There are big name ammunition companies that produce a superior product, but the stuff they offer costs money. Your local gun shop will usually knock a few bucks off if you spend $100.00 USD or more. Spend $300.00 or more and they'll reduce the price just a tiny bit more.

This is worthwhile when buying your favorite self-defense ammo. You're not going to be able to see big big savings this way but every little bit helps. I'd say you'd be lucky to see a savings of 10%. In fact, 5% would be more like it.

Buying Inexpensive Ammo
There are a few companies that produce quality ammo specifically for target practice, and they sell it at bargain prices. The king of the low-cost ammo is CCI Blazer. Their secret? They use an aluminim case that can't be reloaded but which cuts down on the cost considerably. I've used their product many times and I certainly don't have any complaints.

Most shooting ranges also offer some in house reloaded ammo. One of the guys who works there collects the spent brass at the end of the day, takes it home and turns it into workable ammunition that he then sells to the customers. The ammo is usually dirty, and the propellant used is almost invariably smokey with a big cloud of dust ejected with every shot. Sometimes the powder is so low-grade that it seems that you're shooting into a fogbank after 100 rounds or so. This means that it'll be more work to clean your gun at the end of the day because you have to scrape all that crap off.

There is a good side to this kind of ammo. It's great if you find a shooting range/gun shop that rents guns. If you have a new shooter who isn't sure what they want to buy you can rent a bunch of different guns and use the reloaded stuff. After all, YOU'RE not going to clean the rented gun.

Surplus Ammo
I've posted a series about surplus guns, and I've mentioned in passing that you can buy surplus ammo from the same guys who sell the surplus guns.

These surplus guns come from governments who bought bunches of guns for their military, and then they warehoused them in case war broke out. After awhile (usually 50 to 100 years), someone decides that they don't need the guns anymore and they sell them off for a few bucks per to dealers that specialize in this sort of things. Usually the vast numbers of rounds that were also stored with the guns are tossed in to sweeten the deal.

You can find ads for surplus ammo in the same trade periodicals that have the ads for the surplus guns. There's both good news and bad news about going this route.

The good news is that you can find some fantastic deals. Try up to 90% off the regular price! If you shoot a bunch (and you really should shoot a bunch if you own guns for defense) then this is the way to go.

The bad news is that most of the deals are for rather unpopular calibers. Most of these old military rifles were chambered for calibers that aren't considered mainstream, even though they are capable. So the vast majority of the really sweet deals are only of use to you if you already own a surplus gun.

But that's just the really sweet deals. You can still buy ammo at 50% the going rate for some popular rifle and handgun calibers. The loads are rather limited, being usually just ball ammunition, but it's just great for practice.

If you're interested in a good deal on ammo then I'd strongly suggest trying the surplus ammo route.