Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lack of Truthiness

According to many polls, citizen's faith in government is at all time low.  As more and more topics are revealed regarding how we've been misled, it seems that lack of faith has some basis.  But it still saddens me as more and more government agencies and individuals employed by government come out as lying to us.

Up today is the Treasury Department.  In general they just focus on the numbers, not spin.  Like the IRS they base their work in math.  Well, that's how the IRS used to operate anyway, recent scandals have shown otherwise.  But not the Treasury!  Right?

According to their records, the national debt has been static for 70 days.  No changes.  Contrary to the entirely of the debt history where it changes (up or down) on a pretty regular basis, for more than two months it's been at exactly the same number- $16,699,396,000,000.00.  Oddly enough that amount is just below our borrowing cap.

I mean, they could be not issuing any debt right?  Well, keep in mind that as part of QE Infinity the Federal Reserve is buying $85 billion in federal bonds.  Every monthBernanke himself just said they plan to keep it up.  If you aren't up on financial concept of bonds it's an agency selling debt.  You buy a bond and the issuer pays you back interest.  It's the main way the federal government incurs debt.  And during the period where the Treasury says the debt hasn't increased a nickel, one single organization alone has caused the federal government to take on an addition $170 billion in debt. 

But no worries folks!  The treasury says we are still $25 million under our debt ceiling, just like we were back in the spring.  And the government propaganda news corporations have been talking it up like it's a good thing, not tremendous fraud. 

Welcome to the future.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fire Fighting

One of my favorite parts of the week is listening to the Michael Bane podcast.  He is often much more reasonable than many people who talk on the subject of firearms and preparedness.  This week he discussed the ramifications of the Zimmerman case and what we can learn from it.  I highly recommend a listen.  But one of the things he said captured a sentiment I totally agree with.  The quote was this (or something quite similar):

Just because I have a fire extinguisher in my house doesn't mean I roam the streets looking to put out fires.

Take a moment and think about that mentality.  I have a fire extinguisher in my house, two, actually.  I have one in my truck.  When the days comes where I take my car to a track day I'll install one in my car.   If there is a fire in my house I will certainly attempt to take care of it myself, even if it is dangerous.  Just the same, if I see a fire while I am out and about, if I think I can help I will.  But I don't have a responsibility to put myself at risk to do so.  There are people with much better equipment and training that are a phone call away and I will gladly call if responding to a situation creates too much risk.

This is the same philosophy used in providing protection for yourself and your family.  Yes, there are professionals that are better armed and trained than most people.  And even if you consider yourself to be better trained in some aspects than most police officers, they have legal authority and protections you do not.  But just as I keep a fire extinguisher and a smoke alarm, it's reasonable I also provide tools for my protection and get training to use them.  But this shouldn't mean I think of myself as a cop.  I'm not.  I have neither the training, nor the equipment nor the responsibility to serve and protect.

Just as with a fire, I will assist in a situation if I think I can help, if I think the need to save lives is dire or if the risk is small.  But that's not my responsibility.  We have designated police in our society.  My first move should always be to engage them first, then render assistance if that seems appropriate.

My main duty is to myself and my family.  If I do something on the street that ends up risking my ability to protect myself, my family and my freedoms I am making a poor choice.  I can't protect my family if I'm in jail.  I can't protect myself and my family as well if I'm crippled by a law suit or lose my ability to own a firearm and vote.  If I see two people fighting in the street and run to the aid of one of them, do I know whether one of them is undercover police?  I do not.  Do I know the history of those people?  Do I know who the aggressor is?  I do not.  And I don't have the ability nor the responsibility to subdue and detain them both until the facts are ascertained.  It's best that I call the police, do what I can without breaking laws or putting myself at serious risk and render aid to people when the fight stops.

Anyway, just wanted to share that thought.  Stay safe out there!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Government Agencies That Work, part 2

I've written before about government agencies that do a good job, and I wanted to add to that today.  Mostly when I deal with the ATF they are quite competent, if not overly speedy.  Here is an example of them doing great work.

267 illegal guns and more than 200 arrests in a 4 month operation to get illegal guns out of the hands of criminals.  This is how you positively impact crime in a region.  Passing more gun control laws doesn't work, but focusing on the people who use guns in crimes does.

Of interesting note, 78% of those arrested had prior felony convictions.  In total, the 200+ people who were arrested had been previously arrested more than 2,300 times.  That's 10 times for each person.  This suggests that many of these people are career criminals.  This is an act that will make neighborhoods safer.  Bravo ATF!  Well done.

Thoughts on the Zimmerman Trial

First off, let me say that I wasn't emotionally invested in the verdict from this trial.  I was interested from an analytical standpoint, but wasn't going to be angry if there was a conviction or not.  There is so much more going on with this case than the legal aspects of the trial and that caught my interest.

The most dismaying thing I've learned, or perhaps had reinforced, is how many of my friends have a very strong opinion on this matter while choosing to be willfully ignorant of most of the actual details of the case itself.  Comments such as:
"out and out abbrogation of justice"
"Zimmerman's attorney is seriously the worst fucking lawyer I have ever seen. I need him disbarred."
"Florida you're system is fucked and your people are brainwashed."

Add to that a number of comments calling out the travesty of Florida's stand your ground law I saw on various feeds.  You know, the law that was never actually called into question or used as a defense.  Mind you, I don't have any issue with people not agreeing with the verdict.  But no one I saw who was outspoken about the verdict was so based on the actual trial.  I didn't see any comments about the forensic evidence, evidence that existed but wasn't used by the prosecution, or evidence of misconduct by the defense.  Instead I saw a lot of talking points that were promoted by various media companies, some which are outright propaganda.

Educated and intelligent people in this country chose to believe propaganda rather than taking a moment to research an issue and draw their own opinions based on the facts available today.  There has been no other time in the history of the world when information has been so easily available, yet people choose to not bother.  That's dismaying to me.

We learned that you can manufacture outrage with a PR firm.  For those who followed the story we know that it didn't make national press until Martin's parents hired a PR firm.  The 4 year old photo of Martin and the fact he had Skittles in his pocket, the lightened photo of Zimmerman that makes him look white instead of Hispanic and the general description of the event all came from a PR firm hired by Martin's family.  In fact, Zimmerman was originally released by the police without charges because the police didn't think there was evidence to prosecute.  In retrospect, it looks like that was the right call by the police department.

Another group of friends was sure there was going to be riots in every city.  They read it in the news, so it must be true!  I'll certainly admit that there was a higher chance of demonstrations and even demonstrations getting out of hand, but in general riots aren't advertised ahead of time.  They grow organically.  The very fact all the news outlets were talking about riots made me think they were very unlikely to happen.   But a group of friends could not be convinced, they were certain the sky was going to fall.

I learned that people only believe in a cause when it's trendy.  In my city there have been dozens of black males murdered so far this year, and there will likely be dozens more murdered before the year is out.  Yet, I don't hear an outcry from the populace regarding those.  Less than half of all violent crimes reported in this country result in conviction of a guilty party and in urban areas the rate is often less than 30%.  In Detroit right now it's 8%.  Where is the outrage against that?  It's happening every day.  Suddenly people care because it's in the news.  Sadly, in 3 months the endemic problems will continue, but no one will care because it's not trendy.

Lastly I learned that government agencies continue to be used as weapons against people who are unpopular with whoever is in charge of those agencies.  That's the downside to having a very large government, they are only as honorable as the people who lead the various portions of them. 

Forensic evidence supported Zimmerman's story that Martin was assaulting him while he was pinned.  It was enough to convince the jury.  But despite that, the media's attempt to portray Zimmerman as a racist, gun-happy wanna-be cop continues.  There was a show on NPR this morning where a guest from the NAACP stated ""Zimmerman made it clear he was out to hunt black males.".  Wow, that seems to be a serous stretch.  The details don't support that.  They mention he "carried a gun without a safety" as if that made him Rambo.  You know what guns don't have external safeties?  All revolvers and many cheap semi-auto pistols, both are very popular for concealed carry.  Zimmerman carried  a Kel-Tec.  Kel-Tec is a good company, but they certainly aren't a top tier company.  People buy a Kel-Tec because they have budget constraints and it's good enough.  It's nobodies first choice, especially not a mall ninja, which the press asserts Zimmerman was.  If he really was a mall ninja he'd carry a HK or whatever the local PD or his favorite special ops team uses.  He carried a Kel-Tec because he's an occasional shooter who bought something cheap as a carry gun.  His choice in that gun tells me that about him.

Increasingly people believe the tales told to them by the giant media companies.  It's a dire place to be in as a country.  We have the tools readily available, there's no reason to no be well informed.  Too often the stories we see or read on popular sites are propaganda.  If you get all your news from sources like Fox, MSNBC or Huffpo (or honestly, most large media companies) it's going to contain a fair bit of propaganda.  It's up to you whether you choose to believe it or choose to be more informed. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why Are Magazine Capacity Limits a Bad Idea?

Because sometimes you shoot the man attacking you 9 times and he is still well enough to run.  A law limited a person to a firearm that can only hold 10 or 7 (like New York) or 3 cartridges puts civilians at risk.  What if this attacker returned?  What if there was a second attacker?  Or two dogs.  Or the panicked victim misses half the shots? 

Laws making "high capacity" magazines illegal don't stop crime, but they do put civilians at risk. 

Eco Friendly?

I was looking for new shoes recently, something I don't really enjoy.  I just want an affordable, quality shoe that lasts forever so I don't have to buy any more.  I know that's unachievable, but it's still what I'd prefer.  So I look at a basic shoe, the Adidas Samba.  Nothing fancy, just a shoe.  It's been good enough for people since the 80's, it's good enough for me.  Only now it isn't.

It seems a few years ago Adidas, and some other companies, starting switching over to a product they call "eco-friendly leather".  That name is a lie, it's neither leather nor eco friendly.  It's plastic.  A petro chemical.  It looks cheap, doesn't breathe and according to reviews it squeaks like like a bunny being hunted on by my wife's cat.  It's a cost saving measure played off as a green move.  That can happen because at some point the popular green movement decided leather was bad for the environment.

And how did this idea happen?  How did the green movement embrace plastic as an ecologically friendly alternative to natural materials?  Leather is a renewable resource (especially the ones that are vegetable cured) and biodegradable at the end of it's service life, which can be quite long.  Plastic is made out of oil byproducts in a factory that pollutes the land and water and it never degrades as it sits in landfills.  It's a movement that believes in something despite of facts to the contrary.

It shouldn't surprise me, as I've written before about people who support ideologies that don't embrace scientific thought or facts about the world around them.  I'm just annoyed I can't buy a pair of plain leather tennis shoes to replace the ones I've had for more than 10 years.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

For All People

Rights should be for all people, I'm a strong believer in that.  I'm not even sure I agree with standing laws that deny rights to felons.  If they are rehabilitated, they should be able to do things the rest of the populace can do, like vote and own firearms.  But quite honestly, I don't feel strongly enough about that to make it an issue.

What alarms me is when a portion of the government seeks to deny rights to specific people based on an agenda.  We saw this recently when the IRS selectively delayed certain applications and gave them more scrutiny.  Today I hear that members from the Department of Justice actually organized protests against George Zimmerman and were instrumental in organizing people to demand a sheriff step down.

That's outrageous.  The government, especially the Department of Justice, should work within the law.  When they campaign against people outside of the courtroom it's a travesty of justice.  Those are strong words, but there is no other way to state this.  They worked to incite public outrage against a man who may or may not be guilty of a crime.  I expect better of democratic first world governments.  Perhaps I shouldn't. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

More Astroturfing

It seems we have a new "pro gun" group that is starting up.  It's comprised of people with no experience on the topic and their agenda sounds mostly anti gun.  There must be an election coming up!

It's a shame, these groups would have no power if media outlets didn't collude with them and make it seem like they are actual groups with actual membership.

If you want to read more about how astroturf organizations are used to shape public opinion, you can do so here and here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Compilation for New Shooters

I started off this blog 18 months ago primarily as a resource for new shooters.  I work with new shooters a fair bit, and found myself typing up very similar advice and information over and over.  I figured if I put topics into a blog post, I could save time by pointing a person at that.  As well, I could take the time to be very inclusive.

Since many of those posts intended for beginning shooters are getting old, I figured I would link them here and offer any updates.  First, of course, we should start with the Rules of Gun Safety.  No matter how experienced you are it's best to start here.  Many people become complacent with safety over time, it's not uncommon for a lifelong shooter or police officer to have a Negligent Discharge.  In fact, just a week ago a guy I know who is a legal gun dealer and former marine fired a gun in his house unintentionally because he became lax with the safety rules.

Next up is how science and physics plays a role.  Many people I know who become interested and owning a firearm as adults are primarily interested in handguns.  Frankly, little guns suck, and here is a scientific explanation as to why.  Small handguns are much harder to shoot well than large guns.  Speaking of carrying handguns for protection, here are some thoughts about choosing a gun used for concealed carry.

I think most people's first handgun should be a 22, with recommendations here and some supporting data here.  But enough on handguns for now, because in general rifles make better defensive tools when they can be used.  Obviously they don't work well for concealed carry, but for most other uses they are an ideal choice. This post goes on to explain features one should look for if they are researching an ideal tool for defensive

Understanding criminals will show that it doesn't take much skill or a high level of equipment to maintain an advantage over common criminals and that's any person can become a credible threat.  Also, if you make the choice to arm yourself, you should put some serious thought as to options you have before a firearm is used.  It should be a last resort, something only used when no other options are available. 

Lastly, why I think you should buy a firearm at a small independent shop instead of a big box store.  It can be a much more pleasant experience.

Stay safe out there!

Keep Stalling that Pipeline!

Every week for the last couple years we hear a new tidbit of news about how the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada is being stalled.  I've written about my opinion on it before in this blog.

The point most people miss is building a pipeline from into the US or not is not related to oil being pulled out of the tar sands.  It will just be transported by other, more costly (both in dollars and environmental cost) methods.  Those transportation methods are more risky as evidenced by a recent wreck where 5 people are confirmed dead and 40 are still missing.  Just look at the devastation in the pictures, it's awful.

Here is my stance.  We should pursue new energy sources.  AND we should use the most current, safest and cost effective methodologies available today to use the energy sources we have available today.  For some reason people in this country think we're only allowed to do one or the other.  The obvious answer is both.  But then, that doesn't make for news, pander to interest groups and get people to vote for you.