Monday, December 31, 2012

That was then, this is now

Obama, 2008:

“I believe in the Second Amendment. I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won’t take your handgun away…I am not going to take your guns away. So if you want to find an excuse not to vote for me, don’t use that one because it just ain’t true. It ain’t true.”

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rights, responsibilities and guns

Advocates of still more gun laws are now saying "everything should be on the table"  in a great national dialog on guns and violence. I wonder if they really mean that, or simply mean that they want all kinds of new restrictions on gun ownership. Below I talk about the things I would particularly like to see on the table.

Safe storage requirements

We probably don't need new laws about this; the matter is covered in most states' law codes. We do need a talking-up campaign to emphasize the importance of keeping your guns secured from improper use. Though the laws are on the books they are frequently overlooked or ignored. We see that in stories where a little kid brings mommy's gun to school. That should be impossible. 

I have from time to time advised people who have particular challenges storing a gun safely at home--kids from the neighborhood in and out of the house, or a visiting batty relative or whatever--to look into off site storage. A rental storage locker will do. Another option: Some gun clubs and target ranges will store your guns for you, for a modest fee.

Though the details are likely unknowable, both eyewitnesses being now deceased, it may be that the Newtown massacre involved, to some extent, improper gun storage. It appears that the lawful owner and user of the guns was not the only one who could put her hands on them. All we know for certain is that her disturbed son got her guns, killed her and then undertook the massacre.

Nut control

As the federal law is now written, you are barred from buying or owning a gun if you have been adjudicated mentally incompetent or committed to a mental institution. That was a good and robust safeguard to society when it was written into the law, years ago. The trouble is that today, mental health professionals are hesitant to expose their patients to the indignity of being declared insane. Adjudications of incompetence and involuntary commitments are often not undertaken when they are due, or even overdue. In trying to practice a kinder and gentler psychiatry, the profession is letting down society as a whole, for society needs protection from violent lunatics. In the Tucson shooting in 2011, the shooter, Jared Lee Lochner, was well known by those around him to be way off. His shrink, a faculty member of the college he attended, had alerted campus security that Lochner could be dangerous, but no further steps were taken, toward commitment or adjudication or even to alert area law enforcement about Lochner's condition. 

It emerges after the fact, in many of these horrific shootings, that everyone knew the shooter was crazy but no one did what was necessary to get him put away. Kinder and gentler? To whom?

The problem of parity

The Second Amendment has deducible purposes behind it. Those purposes should inform our discussion of in what ways it is proper to limit the rights involved. Rule making and restrictions must preserve the people's ability to protect their lives and their liberty. States must retain the ability to call up an armed defense force of the people. These purposes require effective arms. The flintlock rifle was good at the time these rights were reviewed and protected in law; it is useless, for Second Amendment purposes, today. We need up-to-date guns.

We know that after any ban, criminals continue to get whatever guns they want. They are criminals; circumventing laws is what they do for a living and they are quite good at it. Crazies will be able to get whatever guns they want, as well--from the criminals. Never underestimate the determination and resourcefulness of those following their inner demons.  So while criminals and crazies will be as well armed as ever, 'we the people,' the rest of us, will be less well equipped to deal with them.

Then there is the potential use of the people's privately owned weapons to deal with a tyrannical government, should one arise. That possibility was very much in the minds of the Constitution's framers. You can be sure that if we face a tyranny in the future, whether its origins are foreign or domestic, that tyranny will not limit itself in what rifles its henchmen may carry or how many bullets each magazine holds.

In short, the good guys need something close to parity in personal weapons with the bad guys. Has the government forgotten that we the people are the good guys, and that the armed citizen is the final guarantor of our liberty and safety? The sane and law abiding citizen needs to be well enough armed to stand up to the threats he may face in this unsafe world--criminals, lunatics, societal disorder and even the specter of tyranny.

If all of the nasty and scary guns are taken away from the law abiding, they will not serve their deterrent purpose, which is to scare the people they are supposed to scare. The local drug thugs have thirty round magazines; no one can do anything about that. Why is it a problem if their honest neighbor has one?

The return of moral teaching

I've written elsewhere on this blog about the breakdown of Western society's ideas of true and false, right and wrong, good and evil. It is now okay for everyone to do what seems right in his own eyes. A thing may be "true for you but not for me." We are urged not to "impose your morality on other people."

What has that gotten us? We ought not be surprised when a certain number of children grow up morally depraved or thoroughly amoral. After all,they have heard since birth that there are no absolutes, right and wrong are arbitrary categories that vary with the individual, and the like. They are told that only unsophisticated rubes take seriously the absolute requirements of moral standards that stand higher in importance than the individual.

This pseudo-philosophical stance is not helping us. People, unless they have been taught otherwise by a parent, pastor or maybe some good reading materials, will not know how to say "I won't; that's just wrong." They no longer have an intuitive sense of "just wrong." And that is just wrong. 

Loss of moral standards may lie somewhere close to the center of our violence problem. When you say there are no absolutes, "Thou shalt not kill" gets thrown out with the rest.

But are these things really up for discussion?

Obama says, at least, that he isn't all about new gun laws. He wants to look at every angle of a complex issue. I hope he means it. My fear, of course, is that he is so thoroughly the leftist ideologue that when he says all angles, he means something else--all angles that accord with his own slant on things. He says, at least, the right thing:

In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.
Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Keeping schoolchildren safe...

The Israeli way.

The problems we create for ourselves by declaring gun free zones would be obvious if we were to examine the matter logically. Saying, as if wishing would make it so, that there will be no weapons in a certain place is a denial of the world we actually live in. Only the law abiding observe the laws. 

Side note: That looks like an M1 Carbine. It is nearly an ideal weapon for schoolmarms, for it is handy, light and it earns high marks for being easily controllable in rapid fire. 

H/T to AZMulder77 on Twitter for posting a link to the picture.

Tactical grimness

Google credits me with the first use, on the Internet, of the term "tactical grimness." That is what I call the overserious attitude and dire words of many people when they talk about guns and shooting. I think it is an emotional response to their inner discomfort with the idea of shooting people or animals. If you are not comfortable shooting living targets, don't do it. Problem solved! The cop who has never fully come to terms with the thought that he might one day need to drop a felon, DRT, should change his line of work. The hunter who has issues over what he did to the animal should probably get his meat from the grocer.

On the other hand some of the tactically grim people you meet just talk that way because they think it is expected. Some people behind the counters of some lesser gun shops talk that way, but it is just part of their sales patter. I'm so impressed I shop elsewhere.

It's not that shooting is not a serious matter. But it is serious in a different way. Safe gun handling calls for a meticulous approach and unflagging self discipline. Accurate shooting calls for self discipline and close attention to technique. The moral responsibility of being armed is a matter for deep reflection. Seriousness of this kind comes through in a different way. It's recognizable and recognizably different when you encounter someone who has fully come to terms with the danger of guns and the moral implications of owning something deadly.

Instructional video: basic revolver shooting

I do not want to give the impression that nothing the government does ever suits me. This old video from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center is excellent. It explains and demonstrates the use of the double action revolver. Thanks to PublicResourceOrg for making it available on Youtube.

My ideas about guns were formed back in an era when it was widely assumed that all of one's sidearm needs were adequately met with a small revolver and a big one. The classic pairing of a pocket snubnose and a full sized belt revolver, of the same brand, made particular sense in that both guns worked the same way, so you did not have to remember to do anything differently when changing from one to the other. I still think a fellow is pretty well armed if he has a couple of good revolvers and knows how to use them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

External ballistics of buckshot

A ballistics calculator for round ball shooting is available as a free download via this link: . Hats off to the programmer for creating this calculator and making it freely available; it's a very nice tool.

I'm not much into muzzle loaders myself, but I do shoot buckshot out of a newfangled breechloader. Because buckshot is just a lot of small round balls, you can use the calculator to take note of the exterior ballistic factors affecting the flight of your pellets.

Among the things you can learn is how much buckshot drops at 100 yards if you know where to hold to hit at 30 yards, or at some other distance. I was interested to see that standard velocity 00 lands a little more than a foot low when held for 30. Smaller sizes and lower velocities drop even more. You can also find out how buckshot blows around in the wind and find out how much velocity and energy your pellets have at various distances. I have no intention to shoot buckshot at 100 yards, unless it is at zombies, but it is interesting to check the numbers. You may find more realistic uses for the program. Let's say you have a buck load and barrel combination that patterns well enough at 40 yards for ethical hunting, but you want to check up on the projectile energy out at that distance. The calculator has that covered.

To get you started with using the calculator, here are the nominal sizes of buckshot. There may be shot size  differences, small ones, from one shotshell manufacturer to another but these are the standard dimensions. If you want to be very precise you can mike the pellets and weigh them, but that's unnecessarily fussy: Buckshot is not a precision munition. The nominal sizes and the Connecticut Muzzleloaders calculator will tell you what you need to know.

Buckshot sizes (see also )

#4 -------.24 cal
#3 -------.25 cal
#2 -------.27 cal
#1 -------.30 cal
#0 -------.32 cal
#00 -----.33 cal
#000 ---.36 cal

Why communism fails inevitably

It is rather puzzling that some people continue to promote communism, the most thoroughly self-discrediting creed in history. Perhaps this video I found on Youtube will help to explain my puzzlement.  It traces communism's development from its beginning as an altruistic attempt to help the poor through its transformation into totalitarian police states that killed millions. The video includes pictures of some the victims, graphically dead. If you are deeply disturbed by that kind of thing, you should not watch it.

The video stops too soon, though, by not proceeding to point out communism's inevitable breakdown and demise. It is not a sustainable plan for it makes no economic sense. Therefore the complete progression is from altruism to murderous brutality and from there to economic failure.

It is a pretext, nothing more, when anyone who still wants communism talks about it helping the poor. The poor are not helped by declines in productivity followed by utter ruin of the economy. They are not helped when the government begins its programs of coercion. They are not helped because under communism the poor are still poor, but lack the freedom to try to better themselves.

The reason communism develops into totalitarianism is not difficult to figure out. Everyone must cooperate.  People are, though, inclined to do as they please. So cooperation must be enforced and the enforcement becomes more drastic as time goes on and the plan still isn't working. Communism's  failure to work as desired, though, is not due to insufficient cooperation; it can't work, ever. Human society must be organized in a way that takes into account people doing as they please, for they are happiest and most prosperous in broad average when left free to conduct their own affairs. That is also how you make an economy sustainable, able to meet its inevitable problems and move on.

The reason is that distributed decision making is a more robust and resilient process than centralized planning. When millions of people make their own decisions some will decide well, some badly, and it will become evident who did which. You have millions of people working on solutions, rather than a few politicians in a central bureau. Most people will copy the good outcome of the neighbor who did wisely and prospered rather than the poor outcome of the neighbor who did something stupid. Under central planning, when the central bureau does something stupid, everyone suffers and no one knows what to do about it.

Scale up the same process, whereby neighbors look at each other to see who has the right idea. Nations can look around and see which ideas about governing made people in other countries happy, well and prosperous and which did not. Hence my puzzlement that anyone is even giving a second thought to communism today: It's a stupid idea. History shows it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What is truth?

In a previous post, I mentioned the dual intellectual heritage of the West: moral reasoning from the Bible and logical reasoning from the ancient Greeks. I would like to say more about that. It is now plain that we have squandered two inheritances. Neither kind of reasoning holds sway today. Instead, what people are interested in is affirming the things they want to be true and finding pretexts to do so.

The title of this little piece quotes Pontius Pilate, who condemned Jesus to suffering and death. Its modern echo is  "That may be your truth, but it is not my truth." Either saying uses a little philosophical dodge and wriggle to produce a single answer that will work against all challenges. It is intellectual laziness so phrased as to seem clever and wise. Try it: If I tell you that something is surely true, you can simply respond that it is true for me but not for you.

At times it is a fair enough thing to say. If I tell you that Mossberg makes a better pump gun than Remington, you may disagree using terms much like the above, and be perfectly correct. What I have told you is a statement of taste and nothing more. As a practical matter, a hunter may use whichever he wishes, and it will make no difference in practical outcomes: it makes no difference to the bird.

There are other statements I might make, though, that have practical consequences. What today's little Pilates do is act as if every question is a question of taste. They can then fall back, without saying so, on the old bromide that there is no accounting for tastes. If I say that the drunkard or drug abuser will seem a fool to all his friends and likely die early and poor, that is hardly a statement of personal taste; it is a fact. The morally relative rejoinder: Well, what if that is an acceptable outcome to him?

I need not go into detail about how that kind of reasoning works. There are too many examples before us every day, of sound reasoning, moral or logical, denied because the hearer wants to hear a different tune.

I think the reason why the re-election of Barack Obama seems, to American conservatives, like such a watershed event is precisely that the voters who voted for him set aside so many sound reasons not to, moral and logical. They instead voted their hopes and desires. That was a majority, and in a country that decides so many things by voting, it is spooky to think of the majority acting that way. The things they voted for, benefits for everyone, free phones, health care subsidies, socking it to the evil rich, 'marriage equality,' saving the planet from the exploitative, polluting energy companies, and all the rest, were considered apart from the moral and practical downsides. Much of it amounts to unsustainable, impossible fantasy. People wanted it all to be true, though, so they voted for it.

This is the triumph of long efforts at derailing our culture's ideas about what is true and how you know. Now anything is true. Put another way, nothing is false. Matters are simply as you would like to see them. Make no mistake: It is conservatives who have sought to preserve Biblical moral reasoning and if-then financial logic from the forces on the left, whose efforts in the legal system, in education and in media and entertainment have been all to the contrary. Of course we are disappointed that the country went the other way. We were telling it not to. Now a new reasoning is in place, one that operates on contrived neologisms, knee-jerk reactions and political correctness. Four legs good, two legs bad!

The reason conservatives were holding out against all this was not simply to be annoying. There are consequences for abandoning wisdom and reason. But there is not much more we can do about it. A part of the blame for this disastrous election must, though, go to the Republican Party's curious propensities in nominating candidates. It is quite possible that some other candidate could have won, for the vote was far from unanimous.

Not everyone has lost track of the idea that a thing might be true despite one's preference in the matter, or false despite one's hope. Perhaps, as the consequences of this election sink in, the numbers who think "true" has some meaning beyond taste or preference will increase.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The moral basis of socialism

You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.

If you do not know where that comes from, it is in the Bible, Exodus Chapter 20. Moses has led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt. God has given the people a short set of laws, the Ten Commandments. The passage quoted above is one of the ten.

Of course this law and the rest are bedrock values of Judaism. Christianity, too, has recognized the high moral value and divinely practical tone of the Ten Commandments. The laws of God via Moses, as transmitted through Christianity, have been profoundly influential in shaping the ways Western culture has looked at things.

Not coveting anything your neighbor has would seem to rule out the basis of 'redistributive social justice,' aka socialism. While both Christianity and socialism aim to help the poor, there is a fundamental difference. Christian charity is voluntary and inspired by love, or at least a sense of neighborly concern. Socialist redistribution is coerced. It uses the force of law and the might of the state to take from one and give to another. That is a big difference. Socialism, if it were not coerced, would cease to be socialism; it would then be indistinguishable from charity.

If one objects that people's charity is insufficient, they don't give enough, saying therefore that coercion is needed and the government is to decide how much everyone gives and to whom, it raises several difficult moral questions.

  • Politicians, who are only human, will tend to give the proceeds to those who vote for them. Another way of saying it is that they will buy votes. 
  • The 'moral hazard' of spending other people's money is ever present. Waste and fraud in the use of public money are well documented. People spending their own money, in what they perceive to be a high cause or a holy purpose, are more careful.
  • If you think your neighbors are not giving enough and must give more, would it not be a good time to lead by example and give away more of your own, voluntarily? Would it not be good to get up a drive, pass the hat, ring a bell beside a bucket or mail out circulars asking for donations?
The idea that the poor should trust in God and the mercy of their neighbors is anathema to certain people on the left, who openly say that faith in God is an obsolete superstition and only mankind can better the lot of man. With a stance like that, of course they are not going to believe that the collection plate is the answer and socialism is not. 

The trouble is that socialism is no answer. It always fails because it always must. Consider the contrast: Charity is initiated by the generous. Socialism is demanded by the covetous. After all, the usual line of argument in favor of socialism is that it is very wrong and unfair that some have a lot and some have only a little. Make it more fair: Give me yours or else. How can we hear, in such declarations, anything but the belief that what is their neighbor's should be theirs instead? Even if you know little of God's laws, and care less, there is an entirely down-to-earth and practical difference between charity and socialism. Generosity has its limits. Does covetousness?

Why does socialism fail? The vigor of the economy is lessened as people become, increasingly, takers rather than  givers. There is at first a seemingly endless supply of more and more that can be demanded from your neighbor. That illusion is sooner or later dispelled. 

Thomas Peterffy, in the clip below, makes a very cogent point. "Yes, in socialism the rich will be poorer. But the poor will also be poorer." He saw it happen in the country where he was born and he remains soured on the whole idea. Perhaps that is the way it has to work. The most committed anti-socialists are always those who have seen what socialism leads to, lived through the grief it causes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shooting at zombies

Discussion of zombie invasion scenarios is the shooting fraternity's way of poking gentle fun at itself. For years there were people working out what-if plans in case the country were invaded (the Red Dawn scenario) or in case of the breakdown of constitutional rule (WROL) or some other massive cultural disaster (TEOTWAWKI), such as anarchy ensuing after a nationwide failure of the electrical grid. While the Second Amendment and all it stands for would be of obvious usefulness in a national emergency, none of the scenarios happened, year after year.

Thus was invented the zombie apocalypse scenario, a humorous way of lumping together all the awful what-if scenarios people had thought about. If you are ready for the zombie apocalypse, you are more than ready for any of the real world disasters mentioned above. We go to the range and have a good time shooting at zombie targets, which may, optionally, be rigged to bleed green blood when hit.  Obviously it is all a bit tongue in cheek, but there is a semi-serious purpose behind it, of being in practice just in case a disaster of some sort occurs.

Whether a real national emergency is a likely impossibility or, instead, an unlikely possibility, it does no harm to be in practice with your favored weapon and it might do you a substantial amount of good. It's not a bad thing to be up to snuff as a shooter even if nothing goes massively wrong, for there will always be incidents where the unfortunate need arises for plain old justifiable self defense.

My choice for the gun to bring to a  zombie apocalypse is a 12 gauge pump. It is a superb weapon for close defense. Close range is the only truly important scenario to consider because I can hide from other kinds of threats. I am merely a private citizen, not a soldier or policeman, so I have no duty to go forward to engage hostiles. I need something that will stop bad guy zombies if they come forward looking for me. Thus the shotgun is, or so it seems to me, an emminently sensible choice.

The JSSAP shotgun program conducted by the U.S. military concluded that a shotgun has twice the hit probability of a rifle and is nearly half again better than a submachine gun. Notice that while the submachine gun is now rare in military and police use, there are a whole lot of shotguns issued or available for issue.   A generation or two ago, many cop shops and military ground combat units had some buzzguns around. Live and learn.

The plain jane riot gun is just fine. The same basic configuration has been rolling the bad guys since around the turn of the last century. It is derived from the sporting shotgun: Take your basic duck blaster and put a shorter barrel on it, with a cylinder bore or only a slight amount of choke. Load the gun with large shot. All of that has simple and obvious reasons behind it.

At that, if you have a duck gun you don't really need a riot gun. Just take out the magazine plug and load with buckshot. If the gun has choke tubes, put in the most open one you have. The longer barreled gun is in some ways the  better weapon. It points more naturally and swings more smoothly. The riot gun's short barrel is merely for convenience in confined spaces and at close quarters.

I don't need a whole lot of tacticool stuff hung on the gun. A simple bead sight is fine because I'll be shooting buckshot. A sling is a good idea because I won't want to hold the gun in my hands all the time. Doing so is tiring, interferes with doing other things with my hands  and sometimes it makes bystanders nervous. I like quick release sling swivels so that if the strap is in the way I can quickly remove it and pocket it. A thick rubber recoil pad is a good idea if there are lots of zombies.

A fitting to mount a flashlight on the gun is getting into "maybe" territory. A light is useful for identifying your target but it also tells the zombies exactly where you are. On the plus side you can simply leave the light turned off if using it would create problems rather than avert them. So, on the whole, a light on the gun is a sound enough idea.

There are all manner of other things that can be mounted on a shotgun. All of them include downsides along with whatever advantages they offer. Ammo carriers on the gun increase the weight and bulk of the weapon and change its balance. Though they do a good job of keeping some spare ammo with the gun, they slightly reduce the gun's nimbleness. I think of the shotgun as first and foremost a snap shooting weapon, so anything that slows it down, or makes it more prone to snag on things, is going to make me wonder if that accessory is really a good  idea. Thus, I do not have a sidesaddle or butt cuff ammo carrier on my zombie gun.

Rifle sights are splendid if you intend to shoot slugs. You will not shoot slugs with real efficiency if you do not have sights. The red dot optical sight is an outstanding choice for slug shooting. It is fast, has no critical issues of eye placement and is more than precise enough for any shooting you would undertake with a slug fired from a smoothbore. When you are shooting shot loads you can turn off the dot if you find it distracting.

But I intend to shoot bird shooter style, both eyes on the target and the barrel in my peripheral cone of vision. I intend to fire shot loads, not slugs. I was more enthusiastic about slugs before the invention of ultra-tight patterning buckshot shells, such as Federal FliteControl and Hornady VersaTite. Those shells are dangerous to a zombie a good deal farther than old fashioned buckshot.

Mounting an optical sight on a gun I probably won't shoot slugs out of is a waste of space and contributes clutter to my visual field. So, though the dot  sight is cool as the dickens, I'll leave it at home.

If it turns out I'm all wrong in my assumptions, I could add a sight bracket and a sight to the shotgun, but switching to a rifle might make more sense. Of course I don't think I'm wrong. Does anyone, really, until after the fact?  Anyway, when the zombies come shambling over the hill, I'm grabbing my shotgun.

Product mentions (I get a commission)

Get your zombie targets at Amazon.

This bracket allows you to mount a light on an 870  shotgun receiver.

This less expensive option mounts a light on a shotgun's barrel.

How do you mount a sling on a shotgun? I'm glad you asked.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The last forbidden four letter word

I and wiser heads heads than mine have observed that the Western democracies, including the United States, are in moral, social and financial decline. I do not expect them to recover. They have thrown away their magic, lost the key that made them great. They will fall into history's ash heap.

The word that defined the West was "truth." It meant something objective not personal. What was true for one was true for all. People could debate, and vigorously did, which things were true, but some things were and some were not. That was the thread that wove the social fabric.

There were two contributors to this, Jew and Greek. The Jew said, and the Christian after him, that things were true because God's prophets spoke and what they said bore out. The Greeks said you know what is true for everyone because anyone can find it out for himself: repeatable observations, backed by formal logic and math, which they invented to prove their point. In other words the West received a dual inheritance, moral reasoning from the Bible and science from the Greeks.

I have written elsewhere  about how these two views have been pitted, falsely, against one another. They are not in disagreement at all. Science talks about repeatable observations. Without those you have no science. Religion talks about the once only events. You can stand all your life where Ezekiel stood and never see what he saw. You missed it; it is over now. Science cannot study it; it is not a repeatable episode. Religion cannot fairly criticize science for failing to make exceptions to the rules of science, which is what it would amount to if science treated miraculous claims as evidence. Scientists, in turn, cannot offer an intelligent critique of what falls outside their realm of study. Any non-repeating event, that is to say anything miraculous, falls outside their competency.

The imaginary conflict between science and religion is unfortunate, because while people were arguing about that, they lost track of what should interest them most. That is true things. People need to take an interest in what is true and what is not because truth is a friend. If you know what is true you can plan accordingly. But while we were arguing about how you know what is true, a diabolical proposition crept in. Truth is what you want it to be. A concept may be true for you but not for me. Who are you to impose your truth-concept on me?

Truth that flexible is not a friend but a fiend. It is obviously and objectively true that you cannot sail downwind from France to New York. No amount of wishing can make it otherwise, because the wind blows the other way. The difficulty arises in considering questions that have answers that are less immediately apparent. It is less obtrusively true that you cannot beggar your neighbor and thereby prosper yourself. The societal failure that comes from socialism takes time to develop. In the interval, people can lie to themselves about what they are doing, and what is happening to them, if they have a flexible sense of truth and falsehood.

The societal breakdown that results from socialism always develops the same way. If you propose to take from some and give to some, people line up to be given to. They step out of the line of people to be taken from.

The socialist, when faced with his creed's former failures and disasters in countries around the world, and told his efforts are doomed, does not see it that way, that's only your truth, his truth is he will continue to progressive social nirvana. The lessons of the past he sees as unfortunate not conclusive. He wishes to continue the experiment. But neither concept of truth supports him. He is indifferent, even dismissive, toward the truth in divine revelation. Science, for its part, says that what didn't work before won't work now. But the progressive is ever hopeful.

That is the problem with the progressive. He rejects both ideas of truth. The pulpit and the objective facts gained from observation are against him, but he knows in his heart he is right. He therefore rejects both faith and reason. He believes he can make a difference. He can make the world a better place. He needs your money to do it, your obedience, your liberty and your reason and faith.

The last thing he wants to hear, the only four letter word, really, that is forbidden any more, the word a tyrant never wants to hear from "liar!" Because, of course, if there are no firm standards of truth, who are you to impose your standards of falsehood on someone else?

The 2014 elections

...the political ploy of bribing the people with their own  money falls apart. What happens when the people demand a bigger bribe?

Dreary as the political situation is, there is some positive news. The Democrats will be very vulnerable in the midterm elections. How vulnerable they are depends on how bad the economy is then. I cannot see it being very good. Here and in Europe there are rumblings of troubles beyond those we have experienced heretofore.  Even the less reflective members of the public, here and abroad, are starting to understand that more government means less business. I want to focus on the European situation because I think it will likely come to a head in the next year or two.

European governments are beginning to talk, at least, about curtailing public benefits. It's an unpopular idea. The populace decides what's popular and this ain't it. So we have an awkward balance of dissonant thoughts wherein the public is unhappy that there is not more public money. This is the endgame, where the political ploy of bribing the people with their own  money falls apart. What happens when the people demand a bigger bribe?

Stein's Law tells us that if something cannot go on forever, it will stop. All we need to wonder about now is how big a jolt the stop will be. There will be pain and distress in Europe, we can say that much. How big will the repercussions be for America? They will not be as severe here as there, obviously, but they will be in two kinds. Together they will be persuasive, I think, to American voters.  First is the dollar loss to American enterprise from European trading partners falling into trouble. That will be felt throughout our economy. The other is the political lesson, taught by example. Europe went down a path that led nowhere good, we are on the same path, giving away what is our neighbor's and our children's , so maybe we should get out the map again and figure out where we should be going instead. These considerations will be enough to damage America's Democrats, who will not be able to offer the excuse that the trouble in Europe is Bush's fault.

I call politicians who rely on social giveaway schemes 'rocking horse losers,' after the D.H. Lawrence story. "There must be more money!" Anyway, the good news is that giveaway schemes always fail because they always must. Their failure in Europe will not seem like good news as it is happening, for there will be a great deal of distress when the flow of socialist blessings trickles and stops. But then there will be the reemergence of the light of truth after long years of darkness and the people can welcome that, surely, as they begin to rebuild. What shall they rebuild? They need an economy defined by work and thrift, risk and ownership of risk, and rewards commensurate with how one manages those defining aspects. An economy steered about by government fiat is exactly what people don't need, though increasingly that is what we have in America, and what Europe has been laboring under for years.

So then America has, in some sense, a golden opportunity. We can learn from the mistakes of others, by observing the European example, or we can continue on the same merry way and fall into the same hole. The midterm elections will show which we have decided to do.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

An unwholesome social dynamic

 ...even if a solid conservative had been running and had won the election, it would, in one important way, have made no difference.

The ideas I'm going to share here came up in an email conversation with an old friend. I thought they might be of wider interest so I rewrote them as a blog post. I added some further thoughts that would have been obvious to my friend, who already knows how I think, but which might need a little bit of unpacking to be clear to other people.

Firstly: Am I disappointed that Obama got reelected? I certainly am. I see his ideas and policies as all wrong. I am a fiscal conservative with libertarian leanings; he is a big government statist of the leftist persuasion. Unfortunately no one of my own persuasion was running: Romney, the Republican candidate, is a notable RINO. So there was really no one for me to vote for; I voted against Obama. Not enough people did.

It is difficult for a challenger to win when not much differentiates him from the incumbent. People who want a leftist are going to vote for the real thing, not for a RINO and Leftism Lite. People who want a right winger are not going to have much enthusiasm to vote for either choice. This is a mistake the Republican party makes over and over, running safe candidates who lose.

But even if a solid conservative had been running and had won the election, it would, in one important way, have made no difference. I'm fearful of the further harm Obama may do, particularly in the matter of judicial appointments, but there is a dangerous long term trend that neither conservative nor liberal knows how to do much about. The problem is that government does not know how to shrink. Instead it grows and grows.

I can foretell America's future. I am not a prophet and neither I do not have a crystal ball. What I do is read the news from Europe. The Europeans are on the same path we are and a few years farther down it. They are now experiencing long term economic malaise with no end in sight. There is not enough public money to match the public's desire to receive things from the government.

There is an unwholesome social dynamic at work here. There is not the political will to fix the problem. The prevalent political will is itself the problem: the will to give things away from the public treasury. People are little inclined to vote themselves less largesse.

There, in a nutshell, is the fatal dynamic that leads inevitably to a downward spiral of unprosperity. Once people figure out that they can vote themselves benefits and their neighbors will be made to pay, a self-perpetuating trend is established. There is nowhere to go but downward, to less enterprise, creativity and drive in the private sector, because business has less money to work with, even as more money is distributed by the public sector. Together with that you get more taxes, more rules and more bureaucracy. To the extent that some people manage to avoid work who could work, the economy is deprived of the strength their labor would have contributed.

Putting a conservative in the White House would have slowed down the growth of government, perhaps, but I have never heard a politician from either party put forth a credible plan to make the government shrink. Politicians talk about such ideas from time to time but it never gets beyond the talking stage or a few cosmetic changes. Things work in one direction only, toward more, bigger and costlier government.

Until someone figures out a way to shrink the government or at least halt its growth, we will see problems stemming from the continual proliferation of laws, rules, regulations, programs, taxation and borrowing. Of course all of these things impact the financial health of businesses and thus the economy in general. We could get by with less of all these things and would be the more prosperous.

I do not think we are at risk of a big dramatic fall of civilization. I foresee a slow decline instead into general mediocrity and shrinking freedoms. Our place in the sun as an unusually prosperous country will be taken by others who understand the link between economic freedom and plenty. The Chinese, after making a complete disaster of their economy in the last century, are now very apt pupils of the lesson that teaches about freedom, risk and gain as intertwined concepts. Though we knew that lesson well at one time, we seem to have forgotten about it.

The unwholesome social dynamic I see at work in America is, then, the tendency of government to grow but never shrink and the inevitable crunch that will come when, like Europe, we can no longer afford our government.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Dangers of dialectic: No, Mr. Schumer, it isn't reasonable

Chuck Schumer is at it again. Exploiting the most recent case in which a mental patient got a gun, he sought, according to this article, to

...make it illegal to transfer or possess large capacity feeding devices such as gun magazines, belts, feed stripes and drums of more than 10 rounds of ammunition with the exception of .22 caliber rim fire ammunition. 

He finds this reasonable.

“We can debate where to draw the line of reasonableness, but we might be able to come to an agreement in the middle,” Schumer said. “Maybe, maybe, maybe we can pass some laws that might, might, might stop some of the unnecessary casualties … maybe there’s a way we can some together and try to break through the log jam and make sure the country is a better place.”

The trouble is it is not reasonable at all. If we have violent gangsters rolling around with 30-round, normal capacity magazines, or 100-round, additional capacity drums, and there may be several of said criminals, then no, it is not reasonable that I be limited to a 10-round magazine. I take it as reasonable that I be at least as well armed as the bad guys and crazies and terrorists. The country is not "a better place" if the honest man is routinely outgunned by the lawless.

The Aurora, Colorado shooting is tragic, of course. If the suspect's psychiatrist had flagged him as dangerous, thereby keeping an insane man from arming himself, that would make the country a better place. As the law is now written it takes a formal finding of mental incompetence or commitment to an institution to deny the right to arms. If either of those happens to someone, it is supposed to show up on his background check. But many psychiatrists prefer a low key style of treatment that does not turn the patient's world upside down. A strong intervention, involving a sanity hearing or a commitment, even if timely and called for, will wreck the patient's life in several ways beyond his ability to buy guns. It will probably nix his ability to form contracts and get credit, for example. It may mean he can never get a decent job again. So, often, the psychiatrist will err on the humane side and try gentler means.

Still, there is such a thing as a doctor's word to the wise, a whisper in the proper ear, an off the record phone call to the chief of police that Patient X is unhinged, in potentially violent ways, and you probably want to keep an eye on the guy--and the gun sales records. It didn't happen in this case. Perhaps making that phone call violates medical ethics, but it is a narrow technical violation if it does. It is done for the patient's good. The patient's good is not served if he ends up with dead bodies piled up and unable, as the suspect now says, to account for the matter. He  says he doesn't remember.

If you heed Mr. Schumer's remarks, it would seem that he does not know that we already have thorough background checks (as thorough as the information that goes into the system, anyway) and laws intended to prevent the insane from arming themselves. From there he proceeds to a bill against sane people having normal sized magazines, a non sequitur.

“Maybe we could come together on guns if each side gave some,” Schumer said.

The trouble with dialectical reasoning like Mr. Schumer's is that each side must have something it can give up. Schumer is offering nothing and we on the other side have given up quite enough already. The problem here isn't gun control or magazine control. It is nut control. No compromise is possible on the basis that honest citizens, sane ones responsible for their conduct, should be treated like crazies. The sane, honest, law abiding citizens shall have weapons suitable for their own defense. Neutered Clinton magazines are inadequate.

No, Mr. Schumer, there is no reasonable compromise by which the sane are tasked for the acts of the insane, or the law abiding for the acts of evil people. Arms, as in the right to keep and bear them, mean the efficient kind, credibly able to deal with real world threats.

Let me try to put this magazine capacity issue into a perspective the Congressman will understand. Let us suppose we make it a rule in your district that people of a certain party may vote once each, but people of the opposing party may vote three times to their once. Oh, wait. Never mind...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Obama has it backwards

Even if you grant him the full context of his remarks, they are still pretty damning.

President Obama is taking heat for saying "If you've got a business, you didn't build that." His defenders, here for example, say he is being taken out of context. But if you grant his remarks their full context, his words still reveal a basic misunderstanding of business and the economy.

Here is an excerpt from his remarks, quoted from the White House web site. I trust I have included enough context for fairness; if not, the above link will give you the whole speech. I have emphasized the bit that is most controversial.

 You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.  (Applause.)
     If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
     The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires. 

Those who have been paying attention to the national scene will recognize this as a retread of previous remarks by Elizabeth Warren,  remarks I critiqued previously. What Obama and Warren are both overlooking is that government money comes from successful enterprise in the first place. It comes from taxes. Most of us pay taxes out of wages and salaries paid by enterprise. The government worker pays taxes too, but that money also comes from enterprise, since government salaries are paid by taxes paid by the rest of us--and that money comes from enterprise.

A good deal of the costs left over are paid by corporate taxes and capital gains taxes and other taxes and fees--on enterprise. Some of the money that pays for the government comes from government borrowing. Government money that comes from borrowing is in the end underwritten by the taxpayer; it is not magic money from nowhere. So then, what the government does is empowered by those at work in the private sector.

At this time, a number of people involved in private enterprise are saying that government has gone far beyond helping and is at this point getting in the way of growth, with a rising tide of regulations, new costs and demands and a generally business-hostile attitude. The cost of government, which is deducted from company profits and your wages, has become startling if you include the skyrocketing Washington debt. The complexity of government is incredible; government seems to have an interest in all areas of your life and business dealings.

Money a business sends to Washington cannot be used to re-invest in the business or increase your wages or hire new workers. You do not get to spend or save or invest all you earn; Washington spends it for you. That is what Tax Freedom Day is about: it marks the day when you can finally say you are working for your own benefit, or your family's, not for other people or the presumed benefit of society in general. It is a way of keeping track of how much all this government is costing. I am reminded of Will Rogers' quip, "Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for."

Obama, in copying Elizabeth Warren's line of reasoning, is like her one sided. He is oblivious to the flip side of his sunny vision of government's role. Government is not all about helping and enabling; it is not a fairy godmother to enterprise, but more like a vampire, feeding on the hard work and hopes of the people who strive and save and dream. The idea that all the money paid in taxes, or even a substantial part of it, comes back to enterprise in the form of indirect benefits is an innumerate fantasy. A great many things government spends our money on are wasteful, counterproductive or self-serving.

The trouble with Obama's thinking is it seeks justification for government policies that are harming the country. Because enterprise is the engine that drives everything, it should be fostered and protected, but now it is scapegoat, whipping boy and target for Obama's populist campaigning. Blaming the rich will not solve the problems of the poor, and taking more out of the productive part of the economy will not solve the problems of a government that already spends more than the people can afford.

There are two visions here. Only one of them can be right. To find out which one, try this thought experiment. If the federal government were to shut down, business would continue. It might be messy and there would, doubtless, be some problems with crooks and profiteers that would take a while to sort out on the state or local level. If business were to shut down, though, all government would perish. Of course, either scenario is an extreme case that will not be played out in the real world. But perhaps it points to the reason why business people are frustrated, along with many of the rest of us, with the refrain that says "We're from the government and we're here to help you."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The end of socialism

Socialism in its present form began as an intellectual fad in the nineteenth century, was tried in various countries in the twentieth and faces its final collapse in the twenty-first. Its end result is never a thriving economy or a good life for the people. In the last century it led to many millions of deaths.

Currently the news is filled with the precarious health of Europe's 'socialism lite' schemes, which have led to unsupportable debts. In the U.S., Obama and his Democrat allies are pushing us down the same precipitous path. This cannot end well. At best, the West is facing a period of financial correction that will put an end to public confidence in socialists of all stripes. At worst...well, let us hope it does not come to that.

Socialism is never sustainable because when you say 'to each according to his needs' everyone has needs, and when you say 'from each according to his abilities,' people's abilities flag. When you say 'to each according to his abilities' everyone tries hard to discover his abilities. But that is the one thing the socialist never says.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The French Mistake

The French people have spoken. They did not say what they intended, but said something that came out as an embarrassment. They are now living in that entertaining moment of having misspoken but not yet realized it. Everyone is snickering at them and they don't know why.

What they have said, of course, is that they reject government austerity drives and approve of the burden imposed on the economy by public spending. They have elected a president who thinks government spending is a good thing and France needs to do more of it. The new president doesn't like bankers and wants to raise taxes on corporations and the rich.

The new French president is borrowing a page from Obama's playbook in promising to soak the rich. The trouble with that plan, there or here, is that there are never enough rich people. You could beggar them all and not have enough money to run the country.

At the same time, money taken from those who have it is money that will not be invested in productive enterprises that offer some hope of returning a profit. Profit is where riches and growth and prosperity and a resilient economy come from, and confiscating profit produces all the opposite results.

Of course, the socialist hope is that they can draw blood from the prosperous without weakening the economy too much. They will take from the rich, but not so much as to collapse trade and enterprise. How much is too much? They offer no precise answer to that. It is clear, though, that they always come back for a little bit more money than last time, because that is always how much the government needs to support its projects of ever expanding largess.

Because the scheme cannot be balanced entirely on the backs of the rich, the tax burden is pressed downward upon those who are merely prosperous, rather as Mr. Obama's despised "millionaires and billionaires," once the fine print is examined, include individuals making $200,000 a year. Rather than using their money to continue and expand whatever enterprise it was that made them well to do, they shall pay over more and more for their less enterprising neighbors. Heaven knows what the ceiling will be for the next generation, the threshold at which one is deemed to have "made enough money." A hundred thousand? Fifty?

We come back again to socialism's built in error. To the socialist, it is always time for the government to expand. In good times, it is time to grow the government. In bad times, it is time to grow the government. It is always time. When the bad times become chronic, the socialist is at a loss to say why. He thinks it must be time for more spending. Stimulus, not austerity! That is his answer because it is unthinkable that more government is not a good thing, that perhaps government is something we could have too much of. The idea that government spending could have a parasitic effect on the health of the general economy is simply not in his lexicon of ideas. If it were, he would not be a socialist.

The French have voted for their short term good at the expense of the long term. They will have the government spend money on them, and will not inquire too closely into where the money comes from. When they realize the joke is on them, will they have the grace to laugh?

Update: Democrats here in the U.S. are encouraged that the French vote went the way it did. They too think it is time to spend more not less and austerity is the wrong idea. This may be one of those questions we must leave for history to sort out, but I know which way I'm betting. The principle here is that of the goose and the gold eggs.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The crisis of the West

Beginning in Greece, and spreading across Europe, we see clear evidence that the socialistic way of doing things is a failure. I do not see how the USA can avoid similar painful lessons, since we won't or can't stop government growth, intrusion, waste and expense.

There are two visions at work, two views of man and society. One says that the government is or should be the most important, biggest and most definitive factor in society. The other sees government as a necessary evil and wants to keep it to a minimum. The first view has the upper hand at the moment, but the second is having its point proven for it by the futility of legislating nirvana.

You run out of other people's money. You find that you cannot borrow prosperity. What you subsidize you get more of, what you tax you get less of. So when we subsidize failure and bad lifestyle choices and, to pay for that, we tax success and thrift, the trend down the drain pretty well establishes itself.

Greece is where Western civilization began. Is it now showing us how it ends?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pigeons coming home, roosting everywhere

Municipalities are feeling the pinch from spending too much money. It is like the federal trend and the trend at the state level. Everyone figured out ways to grow the government. No one thought the matter through. Now we need to shrink our governments at all levels--and we don't know how.

Harrisburg, PA
Stockton, CA

These are just the tip of the iceberg.

The financial situation in Europe continues to deteriorate. The news from Greece and Spain is discouraging and there are new rumblings in Portugal. As I have said before, the USA cannot escape a similar fate so long as we are pursuing a similar course. Last month the US government ran up the highest monthly debt in history. We lack the political will even to look squarely at the problem: You cannot borrow prosperity.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Return of The Copybook Gods

This poem, written in 1919, is prescient of our own era. Back then, socialist ideas were making inroads against civilized society (the Russian Revolution was in 1917) and various utopian and progressive ideas were in vogue in various countries. The Western world was weary of war (Word War One had ended in 1918) and looked for a better tomorrow, usually in the wrong places.

What, you may ask, was a copybook? It was an exercise for small schoolboys. At the top of the page, in perfect penmanship, was some wise saying or old maxim. The pupil was to copy the heading repeatedly down the page, imitating the penmanship. In the process he learned to be legible. At the same time he acquired a store of conventional wisdom and learned a bit about spelling and good phrasing as well. 

A number of things in Kipling's poem are recognizable today because modern progressive ideas are not actually modern, but old tired ideas. The supposedly modern themes of arms control, sexual liberation and socialism may be found in the poem, and they were not new in 1919.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings 
By Rudyard Kipling

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know." 

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death." 

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all, 
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul; 
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy, 
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die." 

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began. 
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire, 
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins, 
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn, 
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

China sees what's going on

China has voiced concern over Europe's debts. Well they should. As I have previously noted, the West's debt crisis touches Chinese interests.

China's Premier Wen Jiabao says China wants to help resolve the crisis. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Top stories update

As I noted previously, there are three particularly important news stories in the present day: the Western debt crisis, rising Islamism in the Mideast and discontent and uncertainty in China.

In this morning's news, we have riots in Greece as the government makes some gestures toward cost control, and a report that Iran is prepared to carry out suicide boat attacks in the Persian gulf. The Tibet situation continues to ferment, of course, and has spilled over into parts of Sichuan, and a young nun has burned herself to death.

On the other side of China, the village of Wukan is in the process of electing its own officials. You may remember that late last year, Wukan rebelled against what residents perceived as a dishonest land grab by officials.

No news reports of discontent, at this time, from points between eastern and western China. That must mean nothing is happening. . . or being reported.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Do it for the children

The next time some social liberal wrings her hands and says "do it for the children," meaning the congress must pass some expensive do-gooder scheme for the sake of future generations, point to this article about the plight of Europe's young people. Unable to find jobs, in economies exhausted by government excesses, they are very frustrated.

What the children need and deserve is opportunity, not the endless nannying of a welfare state. They cannot have both; it is one or the other.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mossberg MVP bolt action rifle

Here's a review from Peterson's Rifle Shooter magazine. The MVP is a 7 1/2 pound bolt action rifle that fires 5.56 NATO / .223 and--get this--feeds from AR-15 magazines. The design magicians at Mossberg did something rather clever to make the rifle feed reliably. In the past it has been a troublesome thing to make a bolt rifle feed from autoloader magazines, so they rethought the problem. Details are in the review linked above.

The usefulness of a rifle of this sort is obvious: It's just the thing for the fellow who prefers a bolt action, but likes the convenience and extra firepower of box magazines. Because it fires the ubiquitous service cartridge and uses commonplace magazines, it will be fairly cheap to feed.

At present the only stock offered is a benchrest-styled and robustly proportioned one made of laminated wood. For some uses a synthetic stock of lighter weight and trimmer lines would be preferable. Perhaps that will be an option by and by.  It looks like at least a pound could be taken off the rifle's weight by use of a lightweight stock. Not everyone would like that, but it would be an improvement for some uses.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Is the Pope Catholic?

The Pope's remarkable offer to Anglicans, to join the Roman Catholic church on a fast track, while keeping some distinctive aspects of our worship and ministry, has something wrong with it. I am sure the Pope was and is unaware of the defect. After all, he is not an Anglican, and you would have to be one to see it.

The people joining up under the Pope's offer are from the high church, and mainly the corner of it called Anglo-Catholic. The low church is not much interested.

The problem is, without those low church people, it isn't really Anglicanism. We need them, for they are a part of us, as surely as a thumb is necessary to a hand. The glory of the Anglican communion is our integration of all shades of orthodox* belief in one church. It looks to me as if Anglicanism's Roman branch will lack the very thing that makes Anglicanism great.


A news story about the American ordinariate
The Apostolic Constitution that frames the enterprise

* Our habit of broad tolerance of people's views has been used against us, of late, to assert some things as acceptable that have no place in church tradition, except as things opposed by and to that tradition. Various strange ideas and enthusiasms have arisen in the church before, and we have gotten over them.

Nice, politically correct warfighting

This poor jarhead, Lt. Joshua Waddell, has gotten jacked up over nice, politically correct rules of engagement in Afghanistan. There are several things wrong with an elaborate rule book about fighting nice, not least of which is the other fellows don't have one.

At least there's no inflation

The good news, per the gummint in Washington, is there is little inflation, practically none--ain't that nice? The only significant increases are in food and fuel. Now, as it happens, those are the only things I'm buying these days. So the news that price increases are largely confined to those things is not real swell news. Obama should stop patting himself on the back about it before he tires out his arm.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Personal defense: Further thoughts on the shotgun

Why a shotgun?

The fighting shotgun is the best match to the usual scenarios that fall under the heading of justifiable self defense shootings. You need heavy firepower at close range and the best hit probability you can get.

Almost all self defense shooting is at short range, and the shotgun, loaded with multi-projectile shells, is simply the best short range weapon. Its hit probability is twice that of a military rifle and nearly half again better than you get from a submachine gun. That is what was reported out of our military's JSSAP efforts and I see no reason to doubt it.  My informal range experiments show the shotgun is fast to address close targets because of the confidence factor. The shotgun's margin for error allows you to shoot quickly.


As an expedient for longer range firing, the rifled slug, from a smoothbore shotgun, is effective at 75 yards, if the shotgun is equipped with rifle sights. When zeroed at 75 yards the typical slug's rise above the sight line is less than two inches, which is certainly manageable. The trajectory is 20 inches low at 175 or thereabouts, depending on the brand and style of the slug. Accuracy at such a long distances is, in any case, hit-or-miss, literally. At much beyond 100 yards, slugs are decidedly an iffy proposition. But they add versatility to the shotgun by turning it into a smoothbore musket that throws a large caliber projectile.

Some people, of the sort who like to devise training programs, have  come up with the 'select slug' drill, which works like this: You look at the distance to the target and if it is farther than is ideal for shooting with buckshot, meaning the shot will spread enough that some pellets may miss the assailant, you insert and chamber a slug and aim carefully. My  thought on the matter is this is a solution in search of a problem. In any likely scenario, you will not have time to select a slug  and there will be no need to do so, because the distance will be short. Carry some slugs if you wish, but the likelihood of needing them is slight.

We know that most self defense shootings are at less than 15 yards, often much less. If you have a justified self defense shooting situation the distance will nearly always be such that the rigmarole of estimating the range and deciding which shell to use (and taking up precious fractions of seconds to do so) is pointless in the first place. As I have indicated elsewhere, the usual problem isn't shot that spreads out too much, but that most guns and shells pattern too tightly at the very close ranges that are usual in self defense.

The Body Armor Problem

Nothing you can load into a shotgun will penetrate body armor reliably. But since the armor doesn't cover everything, you are not helpless. The targets ordinarily available on an armored assailant are hands and arms, neck and face, legs and pelvis. Smallish shot with good pattern density, such as #4 Buck, will help you hit what the armor does not cover. That will work at short range; I don't know of a long range solution, except to suggest you figure out how to hide from the bad guys.

Most criminals do not wear armor, but enough do that you need a plan. Criminals who have been in the ground force military are well briefed on the stuff, and might even have brought some home with them.

It is perhaps counter-intuitive that smaller shot is better than the mighty double-aught, if the opponent is armored, but it is true when you think it through. The ability to hit a certain structure of the body, that is, to assure a hit within a certain smallish area, depends on pattern density, and that means small shot. Ideally you use the smallest shot that will give adequate penetration, a rule of thumb well proven in sporting uses of the shotgun.


Will you need your self defense weapon at 15 yards' range? Perhaps, and very likely not that far, if you need it at all. 30 yards? Not likely, but possible. At such distances the shotgun is the best small arm of all. 60 yards? Unlikely. 120? Very, very unlikely. Yet the shotgun, properly loaded and managed, can deal with all those distances. The problem with it is it is not very satisfactory for dealing with someone who is wearing a ballistic vest, beyond 20 or 30 yards. That is not a big problem because most hostile encounters, outside the battlefield setting, are at shorter ranges than that, and most criminals are unarmored.

It seems, to me at least, that it is sensible to think in terms of likely scenarios, instead of an unlikely worst case. If your armed encounter follows any likely scenario, the shotgun is the best thing you can have going for you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Big government: What is wrong with it

Our problem is simple. Government, at all levels, has grown too big. It commands too large a share of the economy. It enforces far too many laws, policies, rules and regulations.

Big government, the kind set up to solve everyone's problems, is at odds with two things I like very much, individual liberty and a robust economy.

Fortunately, mega-governments always implode. They micro-manage what the people are doing and spend themselves to death. These things are interrelated because freedom and prosperity are related. Unfreedom leads in turn to unprosperity. By simultaneously demanding your money and making it harder for you to get some, government creates its own biggest problem. It mars the prosperity it depends upon to generate government revenue.

If you, as a businessman, have to carefully tiptoe your way through thousands of pages of rules to make sure it is really okay to start that new business or project you have in mind, you may conclude that the regulatory overhead is too costly. You don't try the new idea.

Or you may decide to go ahead. If you make a go of it, a big chunk of your profit is vampired away to support government. Your hiring and business expansion plans are not dependent on profit, but upon profit minus taxes, fees and regulatory overhead. Government is a cost of doing business. I suppose that is always true everywhere, but when the burden becomes too great, business stagnates. Cash is always tight and it's somebody's full time job to make sure you are not transgressing any rules.

There are also risks of direct government interference. Let us say that what you developed and brought to the market is a new and wonderful way of preparing French fries. Your fries are the best on earth, customers are wolfing them down, restaurant chains are bidding to licence your special process, and then--it hardly stretches the imagination to suppose this, especially given the current administration--the government launches a campaign against French fry eating. You did not see that coming, or the special tax placed upon french fries or the excise tax on potatoes, all to save the people from themselves.

Of course, your more sensible customers knew all along that your French fries were greasy, and delicious, so ate them once a week instead of every day. The real beneficiary here is government. They get  more rules to administer (and they hire more administrators) and they get two new tax streams.

Better luck next time. Got any recipes for arugula?

What happens in the end is the government, in trying to have a finger in every pie and rule books for all occasions, strangles the economy that supports it. The idea is to meet every voting bloc's needs and desires out of the profits of the actually productive, which is self defeating, if you think about it. At some point it becomes tempting to drop out of the rat race and become a taker, not a maker.

Do you think I'm making this up, painting my own fears atop the current scene? To the contrary; it is an old story.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ruger American Rifle

Ruger is on a roll, introducing new guns faster than I can keep up. The Ruger American is a bolt action rifle with closed top receiver, interchangeable magazines, synthetic stock and a  short bolt-lift of seventy degrees. The trigger has a safety blade on its face; the trigger's pull weight is said to be adjustable from three to five pounds. Weight of the rifle is listed as 6.12 to 6.25 pounds.

I haven't seen an example of this rifle yet. I remark at this time because the rifle reflects an industry trend toward the closed top, and because it is quite a departure for Ruger. Their high powered bolt actions have heretofore been based on the Mauser 98, a conservative approach.

The Model 77 series (son of Mauser) continues in production, including the nifty Gunsite Scout Rifle.

Some previous designs that followed the closed top, interchangeable magazine approach are the Steyr SBS and the Tikka T3. These are successful and well liked rifles. Perhaps Ruger called their new model the American to fend off the observation that it owes a certain amount of its design thinking to Europe.

No word yet on the price of spare magazines for the new Ruger American.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday the 13th: The Euro Zone

S&P downgraded the credit of nine countries; story here. In my estimate this is only the beginning. The dynamic is in place, and has been for a long time, for governments to grow and spend, but no one thought the matter through, and thought they might one day need to shrink and save.

The humanist dream of government solving everyone's problems has proven to be a golden calf. Moses is coming down the mountain. Stay tuned for details.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The handbasket we are in, and where it is going

Allow me to vent. Thank you. Sometimes I need to.

The government continues to grow in expense and intrusiveness. The economy continues to splutter along, like an engine missing on several cylinders. It now appears the gummint is cooking the books* on the unemployment rate. I suppose there are nicer ways to say it; what is reported out of a formula depends on the inputs and assumptions, but this is looking like a case of garbage in, garbage out. As it happens, the reporting bias just happens to make the administration look better than it would if the numbers were reported more on the square.

The public is being habituated to more and more government intrusions into daily life. The founding principle of America, that of limited government, seems to have been thrown away in efforts to. . .run things. If you begin with the assumption that government ought to run things, to assure everything works out right--well, you are in for a disappointment.

For starters, we have to remember that government is by nature parasitic. It produces no increase in wealth. It can only take and spend. When it attempts to get into the venture funding business it makes mistakes, because government decisions make political sense, not business sense. Tax money is apportioned by fiat--to failed auto makers, to 'green energy' companies offering dreams not reality, to Wall Street firms that should have sunk into well deserved bankruptcy--skewing markets and subtracting needed cash from the real economy that works and grows wealth by responding to market demand, not political whims.

Government 'stimulus' efforts are a bad joke. Keynes was a very bright man and right about a lot of things, but not about this. The Keynesian theory about government spending stimulating an economy simply does not match the way things work out in practice. The rationale has been retained, though, in public rhetoric. It amounts now to self-serving fraud, a convenient pretext, on the parts of those who feel government should always grow, grow, grow. Stimulus didn't work in the 1930's and it does not work now. It drains vitality from the real economy into the shadow economy of government spending.

In short, the government in Washington operates on beliefs and assumptions, or maybe just pretexts, that are divorced from reality. This is quite a problem: The people calling the shots do not know, or cannot admit, what is really going on. They act instead upon a fantasy they have built for themselves, one that says all that is separating us from nirvana is the need for one more law, one more program, or a new government department.

That will be our undoing. The government is incapable of ever saying, we now have enough government in place, enough governing is now going on: It is a monster that does not know how to stop growing.

At this writing, the federal government's indebtedness is 100.3% of the entire output of the economy for a year. This is a horrible number, like those seen in the socialist pseudo-economies of Europe. What is happening there will shortly happen here.

Watch Europe! There we can see our own future, for they are several years farther down the road to ruin than we are. The whole sorry fraud of meeting the people's needs with money the government takes from the people is coming unraveled.

I don't know just what will happen as the situation deteriorates. I will have to wait and see. Since this is a gun column, when I don't get sidetracked into politics, I probably ought to mention something to do with guns. Good news: we may not need them. Unrest in Europe has so far been slight. Its perpetrators are those who don't understand the situation, and feel government spending should continue unabated. Since the troublemakers are drawn from the small subset of citizens who do not understand arithmetic, we can expect a less than apocalyptic reaction there, or here, to the dawning realization the nanny state was a fraud all along, and the people have been had.

Here is an update, 3 Feb. 2012, about the government adjusting downward the labor force participation rate number. Of course when they do that it looks like there is less unemployment.