31 March 2009

Home Defense

I've been having an interesting discussion with Tom in the comments, and the subject of distance keeps coming up. Tom trains for 25 yard pistol shots. I don't. I'll plink at that range, but when it comes to "draw/rack/shoot" training I go for much closer.

The reason why is that I live in a completely different state where the legal constrictions on lethal force are more numerous. That being said I have a few tactical reservations about pistol work past halitosis range.

First, fine motor skills go out the window when you are stressed. Pistol shooting requires a lot more fine motor skills in the aiming department, which is why Cops who get into shootouts generally miss. I'm not saying that it can't be done, you can train your body to put lead on target at distance under stress. But unless you are training for a significant portion of your day, that isn't going to happen. These skills are perishable and most of us simply don't have the budget to train to that level. One particular CQM course I took we fired a few thousand rounds of 5.56 per student over the course of three days, and we improved greatly, but without running through those drills consistently my body now lacks some of the knowledge that my brain has. Training will bring those skills back, but humans are not a static tool. If we aren't gaining skills we are losing skills.

Secondly, a pistol is a last resort defense tool. A rifle or shotgun is a much better choice. Depending on where you live the local DA might frown on defending your home with an AK but be perfectly cool with a SxS shotgun. I don't know, and I don't know the distances that you have to play with.

Massad Ayoob has given the advice "use what your local police use" because if an attorney uses the tactic "you used excessively dangerous bullets designed to kill" you can call in the local Sherriff or Chief of Police and have them explain why the local law enforcement chose that particular bullet. It is good advice from a man who has been an expert witness at more than a few trials.

Here in the soggy state of Washington the State Patrol uses an AR-15 variant as the patrol carbine, and prior to that used a Winchester 30-30. Both are excellent home defense choices. A Remington 870 is almost universal in Law Enforcement armories.

There is no tactical advice that will cover every situation. No matter how hard and dilligently you train, anyone who gets the drop on you can kill you. The first part of staying alive is staying alert, but even then stuff just happens sometimes. Like an angry parol violator using a California Legal AK with California legal 10 round magazines to kill cops. Some days the goblins win.

29 March 2009

Self Defense, terminal ballistics, concealed carry

There are a few schools of thought on concealed carry pistols. Generally speaking the most powerful handgun that you can comfortably use is the one that you should carry.

There are MANY schools of thought on pistol shooting. I really don't care which what technique that you use, if it works for you then good. There are those that feel IDPA is "teh utlim8" when it comes to practical training (the same crowd that derides Olympic rapid fire pistol as unpractical). Weaver verses Isoscolese anyone?

Now here is my position. Accuracy goes out the window when you are stressed. The cure isn't to shoot in a highly stressed state, the cure is to practice practice practice so that when your brain is out of the loop your muscles know what to do.

Secondly, it doesn't matter how much recoil your carry loads have compared to your practice loads. Adrenalin is going to give you a grip on the handle like you've never gripped anything before and you won't feel any pain until your heart rate drops down to normal.

Train for accuracy as fast as you can. I'm a big believer in instinct shooting, keeping your eye on the target and letting your body put the bullet there. It won't do for any distance, but within normal handgun engagement ranges, it is "good enough". Central Nervous System shouts are nice, but air in blood out works too.

27 March 2009

Guns and Gender

Marko, Tam, and RobertaX are all in on the fray when it comes to misogeny and firearms. I've been guilty of it myself, but helping my wife learn to shoot taught me a whole helluva lot. So here is the story of my enlightenment.

A buddy of ours showed my wife how to shoot his Glock in 40 S&W. I still believe that husbands/boyfriends shouldn't try to train their wife/girlfriend. Let her choose someone that she can respect as an instructor introduce her to shooting, later on there will be plenty of time shooting together as partners.

Anyways she then knew that she COULD shoot, but didn't like the recoil of a compact Glock in 40 S&W. I thought "what the heck" and let her shoot my 1911. And she handled it just fine, and I got her a Glock 19 but it is still too "whippy" as she describes it. While we were at Ft. Benning we went to a local range and just kept renting pistols until she found one that she LIKED. Springfield XD's, Walthers, Browning HiPowers...

It turns out if she has to shoot a pistol she prefers a full framed revolver in 38 Special with a 4" barrel. My wife is a tad under 5'2" with tiny hands and nearly insignificant wrists. She likes to shoot the 1911, but it isn't a realistic carry piece for her (or for me for that matter, 2lbs of steel is tough to get comfortable).

I'm looking for a compact/mid sized steel frame revolver with a 2 1/2" or 3" barrel. A stainless Taurus is what I have in mind. This is the best compromise we can find between what she would like to shoot and what she would like to carry.

My wife knows the difference between practice rounds and carry rounds, so getting range time without hurting her won't be an issue. I can and do handload light 38 Special loads with a 125 gr bullet and a starting load charge of Unique. Less recoil or energy than a 9mm, but recoil and energy don't count when you are training. And every time you pull the trigger you are training, building either good or bad habits, so light loads really help you avoid flinching.

It took time and effort to figure out what my wife liked to shoot and what would fit her needs. There is no way that some gun store clerk or internet commando could have helped my wife by proclaiming that an "airweight snubnose revolver" as the perfect pistol and shoving her out the door with a box of +P ammunition.

One down

While my Brigade doesn't hit boots on the ground in Iraq until later this year my company packed and sealed one 20 foot shipping container for Iraq. The logistical footprint of a Stryker Brigade is pretty big, but compared to a Heavy Mech or Armor brigade it is much simpler.

It feels almost surreal packing up for an operation that happens after our trip to California and a rotation through the National Training Center. But doing so will save the Army money, and shipping between 10% and 25% of our shipping containers early means that they can be shipped slower and cheaper.

Soon the Big Army will announce our deployment orders to the world in a press release. Maybe they already have and I just haven't got word down at my level. My boss (and his boss) let me know that I dodged the Military Transition Team bullet and am still slated to deploy with my unit. What my job will be in the Battalion is still up in the air.

Life is uncertain, my schedule is flexible, but there is a gunshow this Saturday. I am so there. I'm not looking for any killer deals, just going to try to unload a Turk Mauser to help pay for a revolver or two. As compact as a Glock19 is it still is just a tad too bulky for my wife to properly conceal.

25 March 2009

Hat tip to Firehand

Nobody feels comfortable around people willing to murder other human beings for money. That's why we only care about them when they're in a combat zone.... It's also why they're there and we aren't - because we know that murder is wrong no matter whether you call it war, abortion, capital punishment or anything else!

Someone called Dharmadhatu made the above comment.

I really hope that sorry excuse for a human being pays a crap ton of taxes to cover my paycheck. Cause it is so not hypocritical at all to only care about someone who is doing something for you, and then forget that they ever did it.

The name of this blog is AmericanMercenary because of asshats like this. It is true that I get paid to do what I do. And what I do doesn't leave a stain on me that others can see so they can shy away. My soul isn't open for the world to judge and no law requires me to dress in rags and mutter "unclean, unclean" as I walk through life.

I really hope life kicks Dharma right in the gut, repeatedly, until Dharma figures out that sometimes it is a moral obligation to fight against evil and tyranny. After all, the most positive force for good in the last hundred years has been the American GI.

One of these explains the other

CNN's political ticker had these two posts.

March 24, 2009
Schneider: Obama looks comfortable
Posted: 08:19 PM ET
(CNN) – The president appears very comfortable discussing complex issues and often performs well in these press conferences. It is no doubt reassuring to many Americans.
And take note: He is responding without a teleprompter.

Ok, that is interesting, maybe Obama doesn't need a teleprompter to discuss complex issues such as possible negative outcomes from his Iraq exit strategy and how a troop surge in Afghanistan is supposed to to help with the current Status Of Forces Agreement with the Afghan Government.

Oh wait...

March 24, 2009
Borger: Lack of foreign policy questions astonishing
Posted: 09:15 PM ET

Obama was not asked about Iraq or Afghanistan.
(CNN) – It's astonishing President Obama was not asked more about foreign policy.
The president himself had to raise the issue of his Iran tape. There was some talk on Mexico and a tad on the Middle East, but NO Iraq and Afghanistan???
How can that be?
And when was the last time a president had a press conference without mentioning those, or without being asked about those?

24 March 2009

Economic/Social Collapse

If you haven't spent time reading Dmitri Orlov's blog, http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/ I highly recommend spending some time getting to know his position. I don't agree with everything he writes, having never lived through a huge collapse the way he has, but allow me to explain myself.

I don't believe that an economic collapse will necessarily lead to a social collapse because it didn't during the Great Depression. That is the only American model of economic collapse and I'm not sure how the Soviet Collapse is more applicable than the Japanese Lost Decade.

I don't believe that our current economic path is an irreversible slide. I am hopeful for technologies to mature that will make the need for oil obsolete. Right now biodiesel has only a 30% return over investment (1 gallon of fuel in equals 1.3 gallons of fuel out), but that is still a net gain in energy.

Also hybrid technology has matured quite a bit since Chrysler first unveiled it's 55 mpg diesel/generator prototype in the mid 1990's. Now the only thing that is missing is a hyper-efficient diesel hybrid for the consumer market, expect that by 2010 from Japan and Korea. It's quite a pity that I can't expect that product from Detroit.

So our American Lifestyle, road centric and decentralized, which would be a huge liability if we all had to start riding bicycles and taking public transportation, could possibly be maintained through a transition to electric and hyper-efficient hybrids. After all, even in Russia the power wasn't out ALL the time.

We can continue to run out electric grids on coal, nuclear, hydro, and the relatively insignificant green wind/solar/tidal. As long as we can run our farm equipment and distribution vehicles on biodiesel (or fossil diesel) and the electric is running, we will be ok. The problem is if there is a Global collapse, then recovery will be much longer in coming.

Finally, I don't believe that we need the amount of central planning that Orlov advocates. I believe in decentralized planning on an individual and possibly community level basis. If the collapse does happen, I predict that Salt Lake City will go on business as usual except for fewer vehicles on the roads. New Orleans can't even follow their own plan so there is no way they would follow my plan.

Disaster predictions are always sensational, "Climate Change" and "Economic Collapse" prophets both have one thing in common, they require us to drastically change our lifestyle to avoid the worst possible predicted outcome. However as we saw last time gas was over 3 bucks a gallon, the US Consumer used their vehicle less as economic conditions required them to do so. The free market works. If gas costs 4 bucks a gallon we conserve more than when it costs 2 bucks a gallon.

23 March 2009

Hat tip to Brigid

You Scored as William Wallace

The great Scottish warrior William Wallace led his people against their English oppressors in a campaign that won independence for Scotland and immortalized him in the hearts of his countrymen. With his warrior's heart, tactician's mind, and poet's soul, Wallace was a brilliant leader. He just wanted to live a simple life on his farm, but he gave it up to help his country in its time of need.

William Wallace


Captain Jack Sparrow

Batman, the Dark Knight

Neo, the "One"

Lara Croft

The Amazing Spider-Man

Indiana Jones

The Terminator

James Bond, Agent 007

El Zorro

Rate this quiz

20 March 2009

Samson Alabama, Active Duty MP's

Over at Politics, Guns, and Beer we have this post.


RickR just emailed me a pointer to the following article - normally I’d only quote part, but this is so full of WTF!? that I’m going to republish the whole thing:

Army Investigating How and Why Troops Were Sent Into Alabama Town After Murder Spree

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Army has launched an inquiry into how and why active duty troops from Fort Rucker, Ala., came to be placed on the streets of Samson, Ala., during last week’s murder spree in that tiny South Alabama community. The use of the troops was a possible violation of federal law.

“On March 10, after a report of an apparent mass murder in Samson, Ala., 22 military police soldiers from Fort Rucker, Ala., along with the provost marshal, were sent to the city of Samson,” Harvey Perritt, spokesman for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at Fort Monroe, Va., told CNSNews.com on Monday.

“The purpose for sending the military police, the authority for doing so, and what duties they performed is the subject of an ongoing commander’s inquiry–directed by the commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Gen. Martin Dempsey.”

TRADOC is the headquarters command for Ft. Rucker.

“In addition to determining the facts, this inquiry will also determine whether law, regulation and policy were followed,” Perritt added. “Until those facts are determined, it would be inappropriate to speculate or comment further.”

Jim Stromenger, a dispatcher at the Samson Police Department, confirmed the MP’s presence in the town, telling CNSNews.com that the troops “came in to help with traffic control and to secure the crime scene”–and the department was glad for the help.

“We’ve been getting a lot of calls,” Stromenger said. “They weren’t here to police, let me make that clear. They were here to help with traffic and to control the crime scene–so people wouldn’t trample all over (it).”

Stromenger said the town needed help–calls had gone out to all police departments in the area.

“We only have a five-man police department,” he told CNSNews.com. “We had officers from all surrounding areas helping out. There were a lot of streets to be blocked off and there had to be someone physically there to block them off. That’s what these MPs were doing. I don’t think they were even armed. The troops helped keep nosy people away.”

But Stromenger said it wasn’t the Samson Police Department that called for the troops.

“I don’t know who called Fort Rucker. But someone did. They wouldn’t have been able to come if someone hadn’t,” he added.

Under Whose Authority?

The troops were apparently not deployed by the request of Alabama Gov. Bob Riley — or by the request of President Obama, as required by law.

When contacted by CNSNews.com, the governor’s office could not confirm that the governor had requested help from the Army, and Gov. Riley’s spokesman, Todd Stacy, expressed surprise when he was told that troops had been sent to the town.

No request from President Obama, meanwhile, was issued by the White House–or the Defense Department.

Wrongful use of federal troops inside U.S. borders is a violation of several federal laws, including one known as the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, Title 18, Section 1385 of the U.S. Code.

“Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both,” the law states.

David Rittgers, legal policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said there are other laws barring use of federal troops outside of federal property, as well.

“Title 18, Section 375 of the U.S. Code is a direct restriction on military personnel, and it basically precludes any member of the army in participating in a ‘search, seizure, arrest or other similar activity, unless participation is otherwise authorized by law,’ “ Rittgers told CNSNews.com.

“The security of a crime scene is something I think that would roll up in the category of a ‘search, seizure or other activity,’” Rittgers added.

In addition, there is the Insurrection Act of 1808, as amended in 2007, (Title 10, Section 331 of the U.S. Code) under which the president can authorize troops “to restore order and enforce the laws of the United States” in an insurrection.

“Whenever there is an insurrection in any State against its government, the President may, upon the request of its legislature or of its governor if the legislature cannot be convened, call into federal service such of the militia of the other States, in the number requested by that State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to suppress the insurrection,” the law states.

In 2007, Congress expanded the list to include “natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition” as situations for which the president can authorize troops, provided that “domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the state or possession are incapable of maintaining public order.”

Congress has been clear that the use of U.S. troops for civilian police purposes is forbidden.

“One of the statutes explicitly says that military brigs can’t even be used to detain domestic criminals,” Rittgers said. “It really is supposed to be a black and white line.”

The U.S. Department of Justice, meanwhile, would have prosecuting authority, if any violation is deemed to have occurred. The Justice Department did not comment for this story.

Ft. Rucker, located in Southern Alabama, is the home of Army Aviation.

This is why I believe in pitching a fit. If we didn’t call attention to and grouse about this kind of thing, I believe the Army would be more than happy to look the other way. The only way we will get accountability is to demand it. I, personally, expect prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. A frowny-face on someone’s fitrep is not sufficient.

I’m going to let the folks at TRADOC know that - care to join me? You can email their Public Affairs Officer at monr-tradocpao@conus.army.mil.

Here is my response:
The author of the article is mistaken, there is no "orders of the President as required by law" except when the President invokes the "Insurrection Clause". Military Officers in Command have the ability to "self deploy" their unit to assist in the case of natural disaster, terrorist attack, or other emergency event where civilian agencies are overwhelmed.

However they are also required to inform their higher commander within 24 hours and can expect to face a board of inquiry for that decision.

Responses to requests from civil authorities prior to receiving authority from the President or chain of command are made when immediate support is critical to save lives, prevent human suffering, or mitigate great property damage. When such conditions exist and time does not permit prior approval from higher headquarters, commanders or officials acting under immediate response authority may take necessary action to respond, but must advise the NMCC [National Military Command Center] through command channels by the most expeditious means available and seek approval or additional authorizations.

DoD Joint Homeland Security Doctrine, August 2005, p. IV-3.

We in the Military do not want to be used for Domestic Law Enforcement (or Foreign Law Enforcement for that matter), but we don't want to be forced to watch idly by while bad things happen to Americans when we have the power and resources to help the situation resolve. This is why Officers are given the freedom to act on their own initiative to render assistance if they deem it necessary. There is a lot of "grey area" legally since there are very few situations where action by a commander is questionable. On 9/11 the NYNG self deployed to ground zero even before the Governor ordered, and then those same soldiers were activated to provide security at Airports before the TSA took over.

However, in this case where there is public outcry then you can expect that the Officer who decided to render assistance will have to answer for his/her decision. After all, that is what we get paid to do, make tough decisions and be responsible for them.

Global warming Science


Scientists at the university used a math application known as synchronized chaos and applied it to climate data taken over the past 100 years.
"Imagine that you have four synchronized swimmers and they are not holding hands and they do their program and everything is fine; now, if they begin to hold hands and hold hands tightly, most likely a slight error will destroy the synchronization. Well, we applied the same analogy to climate," researcher Dr. Anastasios Tsonis said.

And this is why Global Warming computer simulations are so stupid. None of them have taken into account anything more than Solar forcing as a constant and Carbon Dioxide as a greenhouse gas. These are simple math functions that will give you the answer that you want.

There was another group that used simple math to get the answer that they wanted, and it worked for a time. At least it worked with a very limited data set that was consistent until chaotic market action BROADENED their data set.

"For five years, Li's formula, known as a Gaussian copula function, looked like an unambiguously positive breakthrough, a piece of financial technology that allowed hugely complex risks to be modeled with more ease and accuracy than ever before. With his brilliant spark of mathematical legerdemain, Li made it possible for traders to sell vast quantities of new securities, expanding financial markets to unimaginable levels. His method was adopted by everybody from bond investors and Wall Street banks to ratings agencies and regulators. ... [T]he real danger was created not because any given trader adopted it but because every trader did. In financial markets, everybody doing the same thing is the classic recipe for a bubble and inevitable bust."

I define a very good scientist as having at least one of two characteristics. 1) Has the knack for looking at unsolved questions and designing an experiment that answers that question. 2) Able to explain complexity to teach.

When someone tells you that "they have it all figured out" then they are probably talking out of their fourth point of contact. You can't "figure it all out", but you can figure out quite a bit about a small portion of it. Whole system analysis is rarely an easy task, and cellular biologists are still coming up with answers in their field, biologists are still learning about ecosystems, and mathmaticians are still learning to accurately model complex networks.

Global warming economy

This is not a blog post about global warming, but about politics and trying to get what you want. Popular sentiment is that Carbon Dioxide is the new anti-Christ, and that everyone should cut their emissions (except the Goreacle, because he's special).

Li Gao, China's top climate negotiator, said that any fair international agreement to curb the gases blamed for global warming would not require China to reduce emissions caused by goods manufactured to meet demand elsewhere. Notice that he didn't say "gasses that cause global warming" only "gasses blamed for global warming". China hasn't drank the global warming coolaid, and probably has enough rational scientist to be immune from the hysteria, and has a grip on their media so the public won't get beat into a frenzy...

This makes sense from China's point of view. We pollute so you can have cheap crap in WalMart, so you should deal with the polution. Our answer should be surprisingly simple. If we don't want China polluting we need to give them an economic incentive not to pollute. Say a 25% Tariff?

Unfortunately since China holds such a vested interest in the US dollar, we do not have an economic incentive big enough to get what "we" (the enviroweenies) want.
How do you get what you want when you can't take it legally or by force? Well then you don't get what you want. The US is not in a position to negotiate except by the possible good will of China. And beggars can't be choosers...

Perhaps a 2% tariff per year for each year of "non-compliance" with greenhouse gas emissions? It gives future economic incentive for China to invest in cleaner manufacturing solutions, and it gives America time to prepare for sticker shock of paying more for crap at WalMart.

I don't really care about the Chinese stance on global warming. I care much more about the Chinese position of economic power. So using "greenhouse gas emmissions" as an excuse to actually do something, that might be worthwhile.

16 March 2009


There is a distinct difference between the American idea of "revolution" and everyone else's idea.

Our idea of "revolution"is framed by our revolutionary war. The "revolution" had specific grievances that the Crown would not redress. Once the "Revolution" was won we had a period of about a decade where the Articles of Confederation gave us a weak central government and a lot of infighting between the states. From a system of oppression with no representation to a loose collaboration that didn't work. So we rapped up the "Revolution" with the US Constitution replacing the Articles of Confederation.

The "everyone else" version of "revolution" gets the throwing off the yoke of oppression part done, and then immediately oppresses anyone who seems disloyal to the "revolution". It is the ultimate straw man argument, if you don't support the "revolution" then you must support the no longer present oppressors. Their revolution has no endpoint because there is no way to achieve the stated goals, therefor the revolution cannot end. There is no freedom because the "revolution" never ends...

After all, if the "revolution" ended, how could the revolutionaries give the power back to the people they claim to be revolting for?

Then again, "revolution" is past tense for revolt, but it is also past tense for revolve, meaning "come around again and again and again and again..."

Makes sense in a weird sort of way......

Product Review: Virgin Islands Bay Rum

This is not a drink, it is an aftershave. The name "Bay Rum" comes from the main scent note, west indian bay tree, and the historical distillation solvent, rum. The next biggest scent note is cinnamon, in the form of cinnamonaldehyde (sure it has a scary name and comes from a lab, but it is perfectly safe and is the main flavor note used in cinnamon candies).

The west indian bay is not of the same family as the familiar bay leaves used in cooking. Cooking bay leaves come from various members of the laurel family. While they share the name "bay" and a pleasant aroma, that is about it.

Pinaud is an old name in American toilet water, and the Clubman line has been a staple of barbershops for over fifty years. Many people associate both the Pinaud Clubman and Bay Rum scents with barbershops and old men. A whiff of an old familiar aftershave can bring you back to childhood, Dad freshly shaved on a Sunday morning before church (the only day he would wear any scent).

I had to stop for a half gallon of milk at the local Walgreens and noticed that they had Pinaud Clubman aftershaves in stock. The three scents were Clubman, Lilac Vegetol, and Virgin Island Bay Rum. Since I like Old Spice I figured that the Bay Rum would be a good place to start.

Since today is my first day back at work I decided to do a "double shave". Lather up, shave with or across the grain, rinse, lather, shave against the grain. This gives a very close shave, and with a light touch on the razor can avoid irritation. Splashing on the bay rum was like dousing my face with fire, it burned like any alcohol based aftershave. The initial scent was very powerful, even offensive to my wife.

The unexpected part came on the drive to work. The associations I have with this scent are of professional men, and it made me feel like a professional man. The fashion industry says "the clothes make the man" and while an untalented person like Warren Harding can get to high office by "looking presidential" they do not often stay there without help. Still, it helps to look the part you are trying to play, and part of that is smelling the way you want to smell. I read an article about the tricky art of perfumery, making a scent that is attractive to the opposite sex and also confidence boosting to the wearer. It is tough to do, but that hasn't stopped anyone from trying.

Ever since I joined the Army I've done my best to eliminate my scent profile. I've been using Mitchum unscented deoderant long before they started their "You're a Mitchum man" advertising blitz. But the current war isn't in the jungles of Southeast Asia where the enemy was just as likely to smell you as spot you, when we go out EVERYBODY knows we are moving, so I have a little more freedom to smell more like a gentleman and less like a man.

Photo from walgreens.com, where you can pick up a bottle of Pinaud, but I would avoid the Lilac Vegetal.

15 March 2009

Instant Connections

I have heard people say "when I saw my baby for the first time there was this instant connection" and how "Things will never be the same now", I wondered if I would feel the same.

The answer is no, I did not feel an "instant connection" or life changing epiphany.

What that says about me, I don't know. But I asked my wife if she had an "instant connection" and she also admitted that she didn't feel one. My wife is a very loving woman, a dedicated mother (the son had his first round of projectile vomiting and Mommy was in tears with concern, Daddy laughed and took the son for his first sink bath).

The lack of a connection has bothered me quite a bit, mainly because I've heard it repeated so often. But then I realized that the "connection" is all in your head. Everything we experience comes through our grey matter processing station, and sometimes we experience things that are fabricated by the grey matter processor. Maybe the "immediate connection" and "life changing epiphany" are other peoples way of dealing with what the wife and I already dealt with?

The son is working on three weeks now, and there has been exactly ONE trip to the store to get baby stuff. Turns out he prefers "soothie" brand pacifiers instead of the orthodontically correct pacifiers I had insisted on, so we went and stocked up on the brand he likes. This baby has had months of preparation to welcome him into the world, and part of that was Mom and I preparing ourselves.

So instead of a "life altering moment" and "emotional bond" life just cruised along the path we hoped it would (life is tricky about planning, but it is still smart to plan). At this point the son does little more than eat, sleep, cry, and poop, and it is actually pretty simple to be a parent all you have to do is feed, clean, change, and comfort.

Tomorrow I go back to work, so my wife will have her first day "alone" with the son. Hopefully the rythm we've established will allow me to take over for a couple hours when I get done with work. And then when NTC rolls around I shouldn't be gone for more than a month.

14 March 2009

Hope is not a Plan

In the Military we say that "Hope is not a plan" when the plan is deficient in some manner. In fact the largest part of junior officer development is centered around "planning". Ranger school may be the Army's premier leadership school, and a HUGE portion of Ranger school is planning.

President Barack Obama said Friday his administration is working to create a "post-bubble" model for solid economic growth once the recession ends.

Uhm, sparky, shouldn't your administration have done that BEFORE trying to "stimulate" the economy that we already have? I mean, if we plan on creating something new to replace what we have, why are we saddling my son with debt?

On Friday, the president called on Americans to keep "focused on all the fundamentally sound aspects of our economy."

Whoa, so we are really trying to fix THIS economy? What about all the hopey changey rainbow farting unicorns of the "post-bubble economy"?

Hope is not a plan. Hope is in fact the absence of a plan. And when you fail to plan, you plan to fail (another old bit of wisdom that holds true).

The "stimulus package" is even less thought out than the original Bush stimulus package that was explained this way SEN Coburn says he supported that they had to do something. Unfortunately "doing something" is usually a worse plan than "doing nothing".

When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Administration officials were criticized earlier this year for painting too dark a picture of the economy in an effort to win congressional passage of the president's $787 billion stimulus package. The Dems rushed us into a new "stimulus package" before the funds from the Bush stimulus package were even spent. That is digging a deeper hole to try to get out of it.

But what do I know? Maybe I'm wrong about all this, but then again maybe I'm not.

12 March 2009


"Let me see you make decisions, without your television..." I like Funker Vogt's version of "Stripped" better than the original, but your mileage may vary.

Picked up two Yankee Hill stripped lower receivers today. The price was higher than I liked, but with a gunshow coming up it is always smart to have trade stock on hand. Often a stripped receiver is like a blank page, ready to have poetry written on it. If that poetry is written in steel and wood like a Mauser, it is like calligraphy from a fountain pen set. If that receiver is an AR, well the poetry is more like the output from a dot matrix printer.

There is no soul in an AR. Somehow the car analogy fails here, an old Mauser is much more likely to give you trouble free service, tick tock every time, as opposed to a new AR. But the old Mauser is going to be heavier, fire more slowly, and recoil like a beast. The first time I touched off a Mauser it was a commercial 30-06 and it rocked my world. That Day I touched off 59 more rounds of milsurp 30-06 and the smile on my face lasted just as long as my sore and bruised shoulder.

The first time I touched off an AR was the FN manufactured M16A2 in basic training, February 1997. There I learned to shoot further than I had ever shot before in my life. The day I realized that I could reliably kill other human beings over three football fields away there was a light but steady breeze over the rifle range. Suspended in that sky was a red tailed hawk, hovering into the wind. I was eighteen years old, and grappling with the possible consequences of pulling the trigger one someone trying to pull the trigger on me and my own.

Eleven years later I still savor that memory, the red gold sand that left stains on my elbows and knees from hours of crawling through the dirt, the crack of the rifle range, the crisp cold wind against my face, and a hawk hanging out in the sky wondering what all the fuss was about down below.

Images used in good faith, YHM receiver photo from midwayusa.com and Redtailed Hawk from wikipedia.com.

11 March 2009

Big Tent Politics

Anyone remember the Green Party, Communist Party, and Rainbow Party? Anyone? Buehler?

The reason that the Greens, Commies, and Jesse Jacksons personal politics don't make the news anymore is that all their unique and special agendas have been adopted by the Democrats. The Democrats have their "blue dogs" and Cynthia McKinney's, and the California branch of the Democratic party Pelosi, Feinstein, and the rest pretty much control our national politics because they expanded their base by adopting the fringes.

Tam asks the question, "Why does the GOP insist on offering me The Handmaid's Tale as its cheery alternative to the Democrat's promise of 1984?"

And the answer is that Republicans have utterly failed at "Big Tent Politics". When was the last time the Big Republicans really embraced the Log Cabin movement? How about Libertarians? Now I know that you aren't going to get a lot of the fundamentalist vote if you embrace the GLBT community, but simply embracing the religious right isn't a recipe for political success.

In order to embrace the fiscally conservative masses Republicans need to embrace the socially permissive fringe. If the Republican party can brand itself as a Fiscally responsible National Party, and leave all the social issues to State politics, it would to much better. After all it is very reasonable that a Republican from California would have a different position on Gay Marriage than a Republican from Utah.

If Republicans HAD been the party of fiscal restraint the Democrats would never have regained a majority in Congress. Unfortunately history has shown us that whenever one party gets a clear majority they are big spenders, no matter how they campaign. The only time that we get fiscal responsibility in the FedGov is when Congress and the Executive are different parties. Expect no restraint from the Dems.

I guess it is easy to kick the Republicans now that they are down and mostly out, but they got here by catering to the religious right instead of a true fiscal conservative base. Politics makes for strange bedfellows, the only reason that the greens/commies/Rainbowites aligned with the Democratic party is because they all believe that more government is the answer. Those of us who love freedom must get under one tent, even if we don't agree with the faith/lifestyle/choices of the one next to us.

Big Tent politics works, the Democrats are proof that you should never underestimate the power of large numbers. After all even sheep can trample someone to death in sufficient numbers.

09 March 2009

Book Review: Blink

Malcolm Gladwell has written two back to back nonfiction sellers for good reasons. In "Blink" the author takes us on a tour of researchers, professional musicians, day traders and soldiers in order to examine why more information isn't always better.

One of the more interesting notes from the book deals with the subject of prejudice, how our unconscious tendencies manifest themselves in many different ways, from how we taste food packaged in different containers, to how we hear musicians based on how they look. Orchestras were male dominated until the audition process began taking place behind black screens, so that the auditioning committee could only hear the audition. Less than a few decades and the number of women in professional orchestras jumped from 5% to 50%. Another example is how black students did poorer on the tests where they had to list their race at the beginning of the test. How the vast majority of CEO's are over 6 feet tall, even when that represents less than 10% of the general population. Malcolm Gladwell calls these "Warren Harding Errors" based on the president Warren Harding.

There was nothing spectacular about Warren Harding except that he "looked" pesidential. Harding's personal charisma let people make a snap decision in the blink of an eye that they would rationalize away with their conscious mind. It turns out that in politics it is more important to make the first impression that you are a person of wisdom/maturity/morality than it is to actually have wisdom/maturity/morality if you want to get elected.

07 March 2009

Politcs, Vietnam, couldn't sleep....

One of the biggest lessons from Vietnam is simply this, fight the enemy and not the plan. Using WWII Company and Battalion sized conventional tactics does not win a guerilla war. A few adaptable men such as Col David H. Hackworth, Lt. Col Tony Herbert, and Col John Paul Vann knew this and succeeded in implementing their effective solutions, but were unable to cause lasting institutional change.

They fought the enemy, not the plan.

The current round of stimulus packages and budget fights leaves me feeling like a lonely grunt walking through a minefield because someone with rank on their collar decided the enemy was "thataway". No real idea of who I'm supposed to be looking for, (some guy named Charlie I guess) and no idea why I'm supposed to be looking for him...

If we were to break down the problems with the economy into definable "enemies" it seems pretty easy to see that the credit market is the core of the problem. Sure there are different branches of the credit markets that are in trouble but at the core they all relate back to people lending other people money and not getting paid back. Mortgage, credit cards, vehicle loans and all the alphabet soup credit products that paper pushers bought and sold to each other are all related.

So if credit is the problem, the "enemy", how do we fight the enemy?

I don't know of any "expert" out there that would tell someone who is near bankruptcy to "just get an even larger loan to pay off all your current accounts, so that you can continue to draw against those current accounts and maintain your lifestyle."

Essentially that is what the various rounds of "stimulus" packages are, one big loan to clear out the loans in jeapordy so that they can continue to be used in the manner that caused the problem in the first place.

The first step to financial recovery is a budget analysis. How much do you make, how much are your obligations. The very basic "in" and "out" of finance. This isn't double ledger accounting or anything complicated, it is making the "in" exceed the "out" and working out a plan so that the "out" can get smaller over time (or at least not grow larger).

None of the current "stimulus" packages even attempt to fix the problem. The "stimulus" is trying to stop the decrease of the "in" column by increasing the "out" column. It doesn't make sense. Kinda like writing a huge check to someone else, then writing an even huger check to yourself to cover the check you wrote to someone else.

I understand taking a massive loan to start a business, but none of the "stimulus" packages are trying to start a business, at best they are trying to put financial institutions and major employers on life support so that someday maybe they can pay back the "stimulus loan". And none of this is fighting the enemy, systemic bad credit, it is trying to say "there there now, don't fret, bad credit makes the world go round."

If you cannot financially recover, if your "out" column dwarfs your "in" column then the only thing to do is declare bankruptcy, allow the courts to liquidate your assets and try to move on with your life. Evidently when one person does this that's just too bad, but when 8,000 people a day do this it is somehow a national emergency that needs a lot of pork, because somehow pork is going to make the Smith's trying to keep up with the Jones's able to pay their bank note.

The vast majority of these defaulting loans are because somebody didn't examine their "in" and "out" financial columns before taking on more "out" in the first place, and financial institutions willing to make those "No Income No Asset" loans and sell the debt to other idiots.

If you are going to fight unwanted behavior, you have to have consequences. The abuse of the credit industry by those who were stupid at best or villainous at worst is not going to be fixed by taking away the consequences of their actions.

Fight the enemy, not the plan. The enemy is bad credit brought on by individuals and financial corporations. Taking away their consequences is not going to fix the problem, it rewards their bad behavior.

I know that all finances are connected, I know that innocent people will get hurt. But the "stimulus" packages hurt innocent people too, and deliberately.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I don't understand the issues. But like John Paul Vann said, "we told a bright shining lie" referring to telling people what they wanted to hear instead of the bitter truth. The bitter truth (and consequences) would serve us much better now than the bright shining hopey changey lie. As a nation it would be better to go through another Depression, tighten our belts and come out the other side with a healthy "in" and "out" budget than try desperately to trim the coinage to prolong the supposed apex of a golden age.

04 March 2009

Book Review: Steel My Soldiers' Hearts

COL(R) David Hackworth is no stranger to the national media scene. His memoirs about his time as Commander, 4th BN 39th IN in Vietnam hit home a lot of the lessons that the Army is constantly relearning.

If you are a military professional "Steel My Soldiers' Hearts" needs to be on the short list of books that E5's through O3's read. Good leaders aren't liked but they are respected.

If you are a civilian then this is a good inside look at institutional inertia in the US Army, and how easily an effective leader turn that inertia around into effectiveness. Current leaders like GEN Petraeus are good examples.

03 March 2009

Conspiracy Theory

He tapped his fingers with impatience. The current briefer was some mid level researcher with a Ph.D, receding hairline, and a nervous habit of pushing up his glasses over the large Roman nose in the midst of his homely face.

"The population density of the top energy consumers is quickly reaching unsustainable levels, and without a change to the current world population we will be unable to maintain world order. The technology to move beyond fossil fuels has not matured according to the proposed schedule as of 1995 and without a drastic reduction in demand for oil we will not be able to grow the world economy. As the economy stagnates it will cause the decline and breakdown of various complex systems one by one until we enter the modern equivalent of the 'Dark Ages'. Unfortunately the depletion of easily attainable surface minerals, including fossil fuels, means that this would be a much longer period than that caused by the fall of the Roman and Byzantine Empires." The Ph.D pushed up his glasses and gave a half smile toward the silent audience.

The briefer continued. "We have developed several plans to deal with the current situation."

"Plan One, using FEMA emergency powers to ration energy and resources. The justification could be 'global warming' or 'peak oil' or a 'terrorist attack'. By careful rationing the predicted lengthening of the current level of technology and government could continue for an estimated 80 years by which technology is expected to advance to the point where rationing could be disctontinued. The difficulties in this plan come from the current cultural and legal tradition in the US"

"Plan Two, a massive die off in world population. While the US consumes a huge amount of energy eliminating the equivalent of Europe, India, and China would allows for a current standard of living with no rationing past 2230 given the current rate of population growth in the US. The large difficulty here is that in order to reduce the world population by 50% there will be collateral damage to the population of the US. There is no current or projected method of selective targeting that can reduce US casualties to below 25%."

"Plan Three, a combination of plans one and two. Using a pandemic to reduce the world population as the reason for suspending the Constitution and implementing FEMA control." A nervous finger shoved the glasses up the nose. "This plan has the highest probability of favorable outcome for the longterm success in maintaining civilization through the next three hundred years."

The President drummed his fingers in impatience for the second time. The briefer stammered on at a slightly faster case.

"Current trials for Avian Flu vaccines look promising unfortunately the H5N1 virus has had no success as a biological weapon to date. A much more successful strategy would be to release the Variola virus and "

"Variola Virus" the President interrupted.

"Smallpox Mr. President" the Ph.D. half smiled and pushed up his glasses. "It would be relatively easy to blame terrorists by using a Russian strain of the virus, after all public opinion of Russian security would back our claim." A thin smile spread across his face without touching his eyes. "The manner in which several of your predecessors used the disinformation campaign about DDT to increase the human toll due to malaria die off has already given us an estimated 60 years of prosperity but we cannot expect any more benefit from that program."

"But getting back to the Variola, ahem, smallpox virus it is estimated that we could achieve up to 30% mortality, which could offset any shortcomings of an influenza pandemic. While reducing the world population by 50% is an optimistic number it isn't beyond reality especially since there has been no effective vaccination program for smallpox since the early 1980's and there are no vaccines for H5N1."

A quick nod to the agent by the doorway caused the lights to brighten and the projection screen to retract up into the ceiling. The floor was open for a brief period of questions.

The man to the President's left asked, "What would be the military effects of a dual pandemic for the foreseeable future?"

"A measurable reduction in our current military capability due to the influenza, but no effect from the smallpox. Other nations that do not use the vaccinia inoculation would see a drastic drop in military power. The long term affect is that our pending war with China would be pushed further into the future, without 30 million unattached men their plans for expansion would have to be curbed."

A period of peaceful silence lasted until the President spoke, "Thank you Doctor, your briefing was most helpful."

02 March 2009

Vaccines and Autism

When a Doctor looks you dead in the eye and tells you that vaccines are completely safe, they may in fact believe the lie they tell. Doctors are generally very intelligent and driven individuals who really do in fact want to help people. Doctors are not usually experts in every field of medicine, so your pediatrician may know a lot about babies and normal healthy development, and maybe not so much about sodium channel gene mutations, mitochonrdial dysfunction, and other mechanisms associated with Autism.

One thing that I dislike from most Doctors is how they assume incompetence in new patients without first asking questions to establish a baseline of knowledge and common understanding, I'm tired of being treated like an idiot. There are even some in the medical community that want to take away parental choice when it comes to childhood immunizations (reference: Balancing individual rights versus collective good in public health enforcement. Med Law. 2006 Jun;25(2):273-81).

Right now the research side of the medical community still has absolutely no clue as to what causes Autism. Thimerosal has been eliminated as a primary cause (it has been used since 1931 and only in the last 20 years have we seen a dramatic upswing in the autism spectrum population), and the MMR vaccine has been shown to have no statistical association (reference 1: Pediatrics. 2006 Jul;118(1):e139-50 Pervasive developmental disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: prevalence and links with immunizations)

Since Thimerosal has been eliminated from childhood vaccines in the US we can eliminate it as a cause for all new cases of autism. One research article has demonstrated a downswing in neurological disorders since the removal of thimerosal from vaccines (reference: Med Sci Monit. 2006 Jun;12(6):CR231-9. Epub 2006 May 29 An assessment of downward trends in neurodevelopmental disorders in the United States following removal of Thimerosal from childhood vaccines).

Now how can a doctor look me in the eye and tell me that vaccines are safe when thimerosal was used for over 60 years before causing an upswing in autism? They can't. It is true that as new vaccines became available (such as HiB, Rotavirus, etc) that more and more "thimerosal loading" could have overloaded systems that were unable to handle the heavy metal poisoning. That doesn't explain why we haven't had a sharp drop off in new autism cases since thimerosal was removed from vaccines. It could be that more accurate testing is the culprit, but that is only one possibility among many.

Right now I believe that autism will end up being a primarily genetic disorder with avoidable environmental triggers. This would mean that vaccines could still play a significant role as a "trigger" event, along with any active infection during key developmental stages. Genes need a trigger to turn them "on" or "off". This may be why there hasn't been a significant difference in the autistic population of those vaccinated verses unvaccinated, vaccine can trigger OR infection can trigger....

Now, if you have a new child, there is VERY little risk associated with childhood vaccines, and since the removal of thimerosal they are safer than ever. There is a very large risk associated with not having your child vaccinated. My son is in a slightly different category as his father scores very high for autism spectrum disorders, and boys are 4 times more likely to be affected than girls. My younger brother suffered from rather sever dyslexia, my wife is left eye dominant, and I am left handed (how sinister of me) and those traits have been positively associated with severe autism (references: Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2003 Mar;3(2):149-56.The neurobiology of autism: new pieces of the puzzle; J Child Neurol. 2008 Feb;23(2):151-4. Epub 2007 Dec 13 Handedness in patients with developmental coordination disorder; Int J Dev Neurosci. 2007 Jun;25(4):223-6. Epub 2007 Mar 24 Handedness, eyedness and nasal cycle in children with autism). Whether or not those are concerning factors to the pediatrician is irrelevant, they are concerning factors to me. However there are definitely two distinct developmental pathways to left handedness and we still don't have a clue which pathway of handedness is associated with autism (or if both are).

I appreciated the pediatricians government approved literature (brochures from the WA Dept of Health and the CDC pamphlet) but the official government line has always been that vaccines are safe. The official line has always been about "public health" not necessarily the health of my son. The greatest good for the greatest number and all that. By my son is not a number, not a statistic, he is an individual who deserves the best chance we can give him to develop into a fully functioning adult.


There is an old joke about a recruit in Basic Training and was being outprocessed to get shipped off. The Drill Sergeant says "I bet you are going to wait until I die just to piss on my grave."

To which the recruit replied, "Negative Drill Sergeant, when I'm out of the service I'm never going to stand in line again!"

Today I wanted to purchase a PCIexpress x16 video card for my wifes computer. It turns out that Windows Vista does not support multiple video cards to enable multi screen support. Thus the need for a new video card since the bone pile only has single VGA out PCI cards and the motherboard doesn't have an AGP slot.

Anyways I stopped in at Best Buy with my younger brother, picked out an overpriced (let's face it, it is really hard to get a reasonable deal on computer parts from a retail store) video card and figure that the extra 30 bucks was me paying for convenience.

But it isn't convenient to have five checkout stations and only one cashier. One poor little cashier who assured the ever growing line of customers that more cashiers were on the way while she continued to struggle with the customer who was doing an exchange.

After five minutes I set my stopwatch and decided that if I wasn't being helped in 2 minutes and 30 seconds that I would not spend my money at that store. I will pay extra for convenience, or for great customer service, but when there is neither convenience nor excellent customer service then I might as well go home and make my purchase on the internet.

The hundred dollar Best Buy video card (before tax) had a slower GPU and half the RAM of the video card that I just purchased from newegg.com for less than 73 dollars (with shipping). I know that my one purchase isn't going to make Best Buy executives and store managers tremble, but this is the new reality. If you can't give me what I want right now with a smile on your face then I'm not going to spend my money. I the customer like to be in control of the financial transaction.

I have to stand in lines at work, at the DMV, post office, but I do not have to stand in line for buying a non-essential computer part. Especially not a stagnant line. Why a floor manager wasn't over their helping the one girl working the register I will never know.

Hopefully in a few days the new video card will arrive and work fine. I will set my wife up with a dual monitor capability so that she can use her graphics programs to their best ability. She hasn't updated her blog in a while (pregnancy and being a new mom can do that) but stop by Utopian Rain and see some of the digital scrapping kits she's put together. Link is in the blogroll.