Monday, July 23, 2012

All Hail the Police State, part 6

On of the things that defines a tyrannical regime is selective application of the law.  Either I'm just paying more attention as of late, or there is a noticeable increase in instances of this recently.  Here are some examples I saw just this week.

Nobody likes the IRS but they are a necessary branch of government.  It is imperative they be fair and unbiased, especially if they get to the point where they are taking action against a taxpayer.  They should be fair during audits, and if they get to the point of seizing property or locking bank accounts they especially need to follow procedure.  However, during a recent audit they didn't follow their own guidelines during property seizures more than 20% of the time.  That's startling.   This report highlights the significant ways those procedures were not followed to the detriment of the citizens involved.

Nobody likes the TSA and unlike the IRS, they are completely useless.  The accounts of individual TSA employees not following procedure, stealing property, harassing citizens and breaking the law in other ways are legion.  They are the fastest growing government agency and offer a lot of negatives as a trade off for intangible or even non-existent benefits.  This story was more unsettling than most, as it doesn't involve individual or even groups of officers, but an endemic scoffing at the law by the organization as a whole to not comply with a court order, a full year after that order was issued.  They view themselves as above the law, apparently.

The BATFE has had a rough couple years with the debacle they call Fast and Furious.  It seems they had this genius plan of helping criminals run guns to drug cartels with no way to trace them and no convictions.  There are been people killed with those guns, including a federal agent.  But mostly Mexicans, which apparently the ATF doesn't  worry too much about. 

But the new thing that is disconcerting is their change to the Form 4473.  This is the form you have to fill out to purchase a gun, one that is kept by the gun dealer after he calls in a background check.  They added a new box, labeled 10a.  The old box called 10a is now 10b.  10b asks what race you are, Caucasian, African American, Latino, etc.  But for some reason they needed a new box, one that only asks if you are "Hispanic or Latino" or "Not Hispanic or Latino".  You know, because checking one box if you identify as Latino wasn't enough, now you have to do it twice.  What happened to laws against racial discrimination and profiling.  I don't know what the goal is being box 10a, will dealers have to start divulging this information during background checks?  Will Latino citizens get extra scrutiny?  I don't really understand why this is important to track.

Lastly, we see the influence of public sector unions.  We look to Oregon, where it seems you can't fire a cop without the union having him reinstated, no matter how heinous the transgression.  In the private sector any of these actions would get normal citizens fired and likely brought up on charges.  But in Oregon the cops get a brief paid vacation while the union gets them their job back.  Again, they are above the law.

I'm sure there are other ways that government agencies are not applying justice fairly, but these are the ones that caught my eye this week.  Yes, all these are stories from this week.  I find that alarming and I'm nervous about what next week will hold.

Stay safe out there!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Thoughts About Mass Shootings in the US

In the United States we have a violence problem.  We have one of the highest violent crime rates of any first world country.  We have one of the highest rates of incarceration of any first world country.

We are seeped in violence, it permeates our culture.  It's celebrated in our music, on our television and movie screens, our video games, our sports.  Mixed Martial Arts is growing by leaps and bounds and we have rules governing fighting in the middle of games in the NHL.  Football is a brutishly violent sport where massive men build themselves to peak strength in hopes they can endure the pounding of a dozen games a season for 5 years.  We have moved in the last few years from capturing enemies of the state and bringing them to trial to assassinating them in foreign lands, often with bombs dropped by remote controlled drones that have racked up an impressive number of civilian fatalities.  Our police force is less interested in maintaining peace and more interested in kicking in doors with grenades and machine guns to capture or kill suspects.  Violence is everywhere.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Tragedy in Colorado

Last night a young man dressed for battle (or as my local paper said, as a SWAT officer) and entered a movie theater in Denver and proceeded to shoot people.  He did so after throwing a tear gas canister into the theater, perhaps for concealment or to create confusion.  The casualty count was high, with several dozen wounded and around a dozen killed.  It's a terrible situation.

There are appropriate responses to this in public forums, and inappropriate responses.  We should offer sympathy for the victims and their families and friends.  We should support justice for the offender.  We can ponder the situation, learn from it and be better prepared ourselves.  Those are all positive responses on the day after a tragedy.

What we shouldn't do is postulate the motives of the killer, try to pin blame on people we don't like or use the death of people to emotionally advance a political agenda.  We saw the media do this with Jared Loughner a couple years ago.  Many media outlets started blaming random "right wing" people and groups- they surmised it must have been the Tea Party stirring up the violence, or people like Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin.  When it turned out Jared was more of a lefty all those assumptions were proven wrong.  I'd like to suggest they were even slander.

The sad thing is the media didn't learn from it.  They are so eager to be first with a story, they have given up the concept of accuracy.  Reason magazine has done a good job of cataloging media reports that jump to conclusions and assign blame on this story.  One of my favorite blogs, Says Uncle, has a similar report offering some entertaining commentary.  Without knowing facts, these so called "journalists" and news companies have started slinging accusations without basis.  From blaming the Tea Party, to the loss of Christian values, to video games, to the Occupy Wall Street movement and even Star Trek.  It's all conjecture at this point.  And I'm going to suggest that not only is this speculation an immoral attempt to make money, but it's illegal slander as well.

Because that's what the news organizations are- multi-billion dollar companies.  And the best way to try to change their habits is to stop supporting them, stop watching and reading the sensationalism and funding their profits.  Very rarely do they report anything useful anyway, and there are better sources for the news.  Today you can read the news directly from the Associated Press (which admittedly, have their own issues) which is where the big news companies get their stories.  Or go to sources you respect.  Every visit to Fox, MSNBC or CNN puts money in their pocket from advertising.  It's time to stop supporting these companies.

Today is a day of mourning and waiting for the facts.  In a few days I'll share my thoughts on practical solutions to preventing mass shootings in the US.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

All Hail the Police State, part 5

There is a lot of real crime in world, but we see bureaucracies in this country increasingly cracking down on code violations.  We have forfeiture laws that allow police agencies to take your property if there is reasonable suspicion if you're using it to sell drugs.  Untold amounts of cash, cars and even homes have been taken in this manner.

But this case seems a bit overboard, even for the current state of the US.  It seems somebody at the Department of Transportation has decided to crack down on illegally imported cars.  These cars aren't illegal because they are stolen, they are illegal because they didn't make the list of cars that were tested for sale in the US in a given year.

There are lots of cars sold in other countries that aren't sold in the US.  One of the reasons is it costs about a million dollars to get an engine tested by the DOT and the EPA.  So we have cars sold in Europe and Asia and even Canada and Mexico that we can't buy in the US.

Of course, this makes people want them more.  I'd love to be able to buy a a Land Rover Defender, but they stopped selling them in the US in the 90's.  Because of that the ones in the country have continued to go up in value.  Land Rover still sold them in Canada and Mexico for a time, but if I bought one in one of those countries and tried to license it in the US I wouldn't be able to.  Even though it's identical mechanically to another year that is legal to license.

This car is now a bunch of Coke cans or something.
But lately the evil car has been the Nissan Skyline.  One of them was featured in the movie The Fast and The Furious which made people want them.  Maybe a dozen made it into the country.  Since they can't be licensed they can't be operated on the street, so they end up as show cars and racing cars.  It's technical illegal.  The bad, bad men that brought them into the country should face a fine or something.

Instead, they've taken to confiscating them and crushing them.  The DOT is basically showing everyone they have a bigger cock than everyone else.  By the way, one of the cars crushed was the one used in the movie.

Oh, and this isn't the first time somebody decided they needed to confiscate Skylines.  

But this is how a police state works.  It starts enforcing minor laws with draconian responses.  Soon people are afraid to not fall in line for increasingly overbearing laws.  Oh, and of course there's nary a week that goes by that cops don't harass or shoot innocent people in this country as well. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

How the EPA makes the environment worse, part 2

In Part 1 I discussed how regulations regarding sound levels on automobiles actually has a negative environmental impact for very little gain in sound pollution.  Part 2 of How the EPA makes the environment worse is again about sound regulations, this time regarding motorcycles.

First, allow me to say that history has show that you can't subvert human desires.  Sure, you can suppress them for a time with draconian authoritarianism, but in time human nature will triumph.  Especially when you look to a country like the United States where people take their freedoms to make their own choices in life very seriously, when you impose a law that flies in the face with this you're going to get non-compliance.

How to Select a Good Shooting Instructor

I found these thoughts from the Vuurwapen Blog very rational and well stated.  Keep in mind, this is written by a guy who served in the Marines.  I agree with the sentiment, when you take a shooting class you should be focused on learning how to shoot better.  The instructor that can best do that is the right one for you.  Who that is and what sort of class depends entirely on your experience and skill.

I've taken basic shooting classes and tactical classes.  I've found value in both.  However, if I had taken a tactical class when I was a new shooter it wouldn't have done me any good.  I both needed to have mastered the basics and developed solid shooting habits before a class like that could be of value.

Last month I attended a class where the total round count for one day was something like 600.  This was a pistol and carbine course, and I have reasonable pistol and carbine skills.  If I hadn't already has experience with moving and shooting, performing reloads under pressure and clearing jams, I would not have gotten much out of the course because I'd be focusing on those things.  I needed to already have those things mastered to be able to learn the new things they were teaching.

Next month I'm planning on taking a basic shotgun course where the round count will be less than 40.  Over 8 hours.  That's a lot of classroom time and running drills with unloaded shotguns.  It's the appropriate level for me because I don't have any practical experience with shotguns.  Throwing a bunch of shot downrange isn't going to improve my skill right now.  If I instead signed up for a more involved shotgun course I wouldn't get the most out of it because I hadn't mastered the basics.  I'd be struggling with tactical reloads while the rest of the class already had that down and was working on other skills.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

How Rimfire Ammo is Made

I saw this video about how rimfire ammo is manufactured at the CCI plant and thought I would share it.  I have to say I'm always amazed how little products cost after seeing how they are manufactured.