Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson around the Web

I put up my own reactions to the Ferguson grand jury verdict earlier today.  There have been a few other very worthwhile articles and blog posts that I'd like to share with you.

My buddy Lawdog has some trenchant thoughts on the matter.  A sample:

I think that the other old saying about actions having consequences should be followed closely in Ferguson, Missouri.

If you are a business owner, and a rampaging mob of Social Justice Warriors has looted and burned your place of business -- call your insurance company, take the cheque they're going to write, and use it to get the hell out of Ferguson, Missouri.

Take your vulnerable hide and your tax revenue somewhere that the local community doesn't think that it's perfectly okay for a bunch of thugs to burn you out because they've got a beef with the po-po.

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading.

Another buddy, Larry Correia, responds to the ignorance displayed by many protesters and journalists by looking at the legalities of shooting people.  It's a long, complex article, but that's the nature of the subject, I'm afraid.  A sample:

Violent encounters are complex, and the only thing they have in common is that they all suck. Going into any investigation with preconceived notions is foolish. Making decisions as to right or wrong before you’ve seen any of the evidence is asinine. If you are a nationally elected official, like say for example the President of the United States, who repeatedly feels the need to chime in on local crime issues before you know any facts, you are partly to blame for the resulting unrest, and should probably go have a Beer Summit.

You can’t complain about the bias in our justice system against some groups, and how the state unfairly prosecutes some more than others, and then immediately demand doing away with the burden of proof, so the state can more freely prosecute. Blacks are prosecuted more and sentenced more harshly, so your solution is to remove more of the restraints on the state’s prosecutorial powers, and you think that’ll make things better? You want people to be prosecuted based on feelings rather than evidence, and you think that’ll help? The burden of proof exists as a protection for the people from the state. We have a system for a reason. Angry mob rule based on an emotional fact-free version of events isn’t the answer.

Again, more at the link, and well worth your time.

The (black) National Bar Association has decided to sound off against the grand jury's findings.

The National Bar Association is questioning how the Grand Jury, considering the evidence before them, could reach the conclusion that Darren Wilson should not be indicted and tried for the shooting death of Michael Brown. National Bar Association President Pamela J. Meanes expresses her sincere disappointment with the outcome of the Grand Jury’s decision but has made it abundantly clear that the National Bar Association stands firm and will be calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue federal charges against officer Darren Wilson. “We will not rest until Michael Brown and his family has justice” states Pamela Meanes, President of the National Bar Association.

More at the link (if you want to waste your time on such racially biased claptrap).  I find it supremely and bitterly ironic that an association of lawyers and jurists is objecting to the outcome of this case - an outcome produced by the same legal system within which they work.  I submit that their protests would carry more weight if they all resigned their official positions and refused to operate within that system any longer . . . but then they'd have to actually work for a living, wouldn't they?

I note with gratitude that not everyone 'rolled over and played dead' in the face of screaming protesters.  Faced with the almost complete absence of police protection, some citizens took matters into their own hands.

Along West Florissant just north of 270, in Greystone Plaza, about 20 men with handguns and AR-15 rifles stood around the perimeter of the parking lot, guarding the dozen or so stores.

They estimated that 100 cars had come by throughout the night, seemingly to check the place out, but turned away.

Mike Cross, the owner of St. Louis Ink at the plaza, said: “There's nothing in this strip mall open, so you're going to get scrutinized.”

Well done, those people!  If I lived nearer to Ferguson, I'd have been proud to stand alongside you.

Finally, I note with anger and frustration that the bias of journalists and the mainstream media is as obvious over Ferguson as it was before and during the recent mid-term elections.  The New York Times published the address of Officer Wilson and his wife, and Salon went so far as to publish a picture of the house.  As you can imagine, protesters picked up on that right away and disseminated the information via social media.  I suspect at least some journalists would like nothing better than to photograph, and report on, a screaming mob of protesters attacking Officer Wilson's house and torching it (preferably with him and his wife still inside it).

I have a suggestion.  If Officer Wilson's home is damaged or destroyed by protesters, let's find out the names, addresses and other personal details - in other words, the same information they've reported about Officer Wilson - of every single journalist, editor and manager who collected, authorized the publication of, and helped to disseminate it.  Let's publicize the information we've collected on our blogs, through our organizations, and in any other way that we can, and leave it up to our readers to decide what to do with it.  After all, in the words of the proverb, "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander".  Let those media scum experience for themselves the same fear - and possibly the same consequences - that they so blithely foist upon others.  I doubt they'll enjoy it, but who cares?  They certainly don't seem to care about those they endanger by their actions!


Just what the world's been waiting for . . .

I'm afraid this might ruin the old limerick.  The Telegraph reports:

A Frenchman has developed a range of pills aimed at making people’s flatulence smell sweeter - of chocolate or of roses - which he says will make the perfect Christmas present.

The 65-year-old artist and inventor says his pills are aimed at easing indigestion and are made of 100 percent natural ingredients such as fennel, seaweed and blueberries.

The pills are sold on the internet under the Lutin Malin (Crafty Imp) website pilulepet.com and have been approved by health authorities, according to Christian Poincheval, who is based in the village of Gesvres in western France.

For this year’s festive season he has added a new product to the range which he has titled “The Father Christmas fart pill that gives your farts the scent of chocolate”.

There's more at the link.

I'm sorry, but I can't stop giggling over this one.  Considering schoolboys' obsession with fart jokes (and yes, there are even Web sites about them!), I can just see some budding juvenile chemist taking this idea and running with it in the school lab, producing his own variation on 'fart pills' that will make the result smellier than ever.  Limburger cheese farts, anyone?  Sulfur dioxideButyl mercaptan (a.k.a. skunk oil)?

Oh - the limerick?  You don't know it?  Believe it or not, it was one of my mother's favorites.  It goes like this:

There was a young man from Australia
Who painted his **** like a dahlia.
The color was fine,
Likewise the design:
The aroma?  No, that was a falia!


The Ferguson verdict

Well, the verdict's out at last.  Officer Darren Wilson will not face criminal charges in connection with the shooting of Michael Brown in August.  I'm not surprised;  for weeks, it's been clear that the balance of evidence was that it was a justifiable homicide.

It's also been clear for weeks - ever since the shooting, in fact - that protesters could not be trusted to demonstrate peacefully their opposition to the racial tensions in Ferguson, MO, and the events that led to Michael Brown's death.  Predictably, many of them were not interested in the facts of the matter, only in their perceptions of and emotions about the incident.  After the announcement of the grand jury's findings, the inevitable happened.

I have no problem accepting that racial tensions run high in the area.  I equally have no problem accepting that law enforcement there has serious problems that are as yet unaddressed.  When you have a community that's more than two-thirds black, but its police force is 94% white, that's prima facie evidence of an imbalance.  When investigations incontrovertibly reveal a long-standing culture of law-enforcement and justice-system discrimination against black people, it's even worse.  I urge you to read the following reports to understand the legitimate and very real anger of black people there.  These reports are fact, not fantasy - they're the reality of life on the ground there.

It's no good trying to write off those reports as liberal or progressive propaganda.  The facts have been checked by many different sources.  The problem is real.  That's why the reaction of the local black community to Michael Brown's death has been so visceral.  It's not primarily about Michael Brown as a person.  His death has become a symbol of what they perceive - and experience every day - as persistent, institutionalized racial bias in local law enforcement and the local justice system.

Unfortunately, the community's anger has been manipulated by those with their own agendas to pursue.  Activists are deliberately trying to inflame community anger to provoke outbursts of rioting, looting and insurrection - with considerable success.  When there's so much tinder lying around, it doesn't take much of a spark to produce a conflagration.  This, in turn, provokes even greater intransigence among local law enforcement, and among the white community.

Even those of us who strive to acknowledge the fairness of black grievances in the area are outraged when protesters set fire to vehicles and buildings, and loot stores.  Those are crimes, not protests.  As far as I'm concerned, anyone perpetrating such acts deserves to be treated like the criminals they are, not handled with kid gloves . . . but if the police do that, they'll be accused of being 'insensitive' or 'bullying' or 'racist', largely due to the perceptions to which their own actions in the past have given rise.  They can't win.  If I lived in Ferguson, and encountered a mob of protesters trying to torch my home or business, and used lethal force to stop them, I'd be just another Officer Wilson in the eyes of the mob.  They wouldn't ask whether or not I was justified in my actions - it would be all about their perceptions, which to them have the force of reality even if they're not factually correct.

Let's be blunt.  I'm not an apologist for Michael Brown.  Before he was shot he'd used marijuana and robbed a convenience store;  and the evidence presented to the grand jury indicated conclusively that he initiated the assault on Officer Wilson that led to the latter shooting him.  I agree with the grand jury's findings:  there's no evidence of wrongdoing in his death.  It's in similar vein to the shooting of Trayvon Martin - who openly boasted of his drug use, illegal possession of weapons, and 'thug' persona on social media - by George Zimmerman in 2012;  the evidence proved that Martin assaulted Zimmerman, who shot him in self-defense.  Two wannabe thugs - Brown and Martin - are dead, and our streets will probably be safer in the future as a result.

Unfortunately, the fates of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin are now going to be inextricably linked and manipulated by the racial grievance industry.  It's already happening.  They're going to exploit their deaths for whatever gain they can wring out of them, and sweep their undoubted criminal proclivities and actions under the rug.  In turn, the 'thin blue line' of law enforcement and the local justice system are going to get their dander up about the 'unfairness' of many of the accusations against them, and resent the hell out of those making them . . . which may well prevent the authorities from recognizing, acknowledging, and dealing with the very real shortcomings they've demonstrated in the past.

There are no winners in this situation;  and, unless calmer heads prevail, there won't be any in future either.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Crimson Trace laser sights

I was asked today why, in previous articles, I've recommended Crimson Trace laser sights for pistols over all other brands.  My correspondent pointed out:

Most other laser sights are half the price of the Crimson Trace equivalent, and work just as well.  Why should I pay double for the CT version?

I admitted that he was quite correct about the pricing:  but cost isn't everything.  I thought some of you might like to hear my explanation.

Let me begin by emphasizing that I don't earn anything for recommending Crimson Trace - no endorsement fees, no free products, nothing like that.  I recommend them because, in my experience, their products perform as advertised, and they have one significant advantage that no other laser sight has.

Most people who've been in a few fights - whether involving fists, knives, guns or whatever - will confirm that things happen fast.  It's seldom like the movies, where there's a build-up of tension, an exchange of words, mood music, lowering light levels, and all the other signs saying that violence is about to erupt.  Look at some video clips of the so-called 'knockout game' circulating on YouTube, or some of the mugging attacks caught on camera.  You'll notice most of the attacks come out of nowhere, with little or no warning.

That's where many (but not all) models of Crimson Trace laser sights have a priceless advantage that others lack.  They work by what CT calls 'instinctive activation':  as your hand grasps the firearm, your finger instinctively and automatically depresses the activation button for the laser, which is positioned on the grip itself.  The button is highlighted by the red arrow in the illustration below.

On some models the button's at the back of the grip, rather than the front:  but wherever it is, you don't need to use another finger or your other hand to activate the laser.  It comes on as you grasp your gun.  I've learned the hard way that when the proverbial brown substance hits the rotary air impeller, simplicity is speed, and speed of reaction is what will most likely save your life.  You almost certainly won't have time (or a safe distance) to activate a laser using both hands.  It'll take too long.

There's also the factor of your position.  If a mugger has just knocked you down, and you're trying to react to save yourself before he stomps you, you won't have time to fiddle with your gun.  You're on the ground, unable to take a firm two-handed firing grip and leisurely align your firearm's sights on your target.  Your support hand will be trying to lever you up off the ground or fend off a blow or kick - you can't spare it to grasp the gun or fiddle with a laser sight.  If you can simply grab your gun and have its laser sight come on instantly, so that whatever your position and wherever the gun may be, you can simply put the dot on your attacker and pull the trigger . . . that may make the difference between you walking away from the attack, or ending up in the hospital - or the morgue.

There are a few other instant-on options.  Viridian, for example, offers waistband holsters with a built-in 'switch' that activate its laser sights the instant the gun is drawn.  That's fine, if you're carrying in a waistband holster.  If (as I often do) you need a type of holster they don't offer, or are carrying a smaller handgun in a pocket holster, that won't work . . . whereas the CT system will.

I'm not trying to say that the products of other laser sight manufacturers are technically inferior.  They're not - they work just fine (mostly) and are often cheaper than Crimson Trace equivalents.  However, they lack the 'instinctive activation' feature that CT patented some years ago.  (Yes, I think CT's prices are unreasonably high:  but they're charging what the market will bear.  Since they're the only company to offer grip-activated lasers, if we want that convenience, we have to pay for it.  That makes life difficult for my disabled and handicapped students, many of whom have enough trouble affording guns and ammo, let alone laser sights . . . but CT isn't a charity, and we can't expect it to operate like one.)

To date I've installed CT grip-activated laser sights on Ruger LCP's and LC9's, various models of Springfield XD's, Glocks and Kahrs, Smith & Wesson and Ruger revolvers, and a few long guns.  I've never had one fail me or a student when it was needed (as long as one's made sure to replace the batteries as and when required), and the instinctive activation feature has proved its worth on more than one 'social use' occasion.  That's why I'll be buying more of them, despite their relatively high price.  In my experience, no other laser sight works as easily and instinctively on a handgun in the heat of the moment.


Medical costs and US government spending

Karl Denninger has produced this video presentation that lays it on the line about how medical costs are crippling the US economy and our government's budget.  He hasn't made up a thing - he uses official US government figures.  You need to watch this, carefully.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Of course, there's the question of how to do it.  Our current crop of politicians won't - they've been bought and paid for by corporate lobbyists.  Just look at the top ten business sectors in terms of how much they spent on lobbying in the 2014 fiscal yearFour out of the top ten are medical groups.  If you think they're throwing away tens of millions of dollars each year out of the goodness of their hearts, you need help.

The only way we're going to change this is to hold our representatives and Senators accountable.  Tell them, bluntly, that we won't support them for re-election unless they do something to fix this;  and then act on that promise when the time comes.  Insist that those who want to replace them should commit to doing something about this problem, and un-elect them in their turn if they fail to keep their promises.

Of course, that would require an informed, involved, active electorate . . . something that's in short supply in this country right now.


I thought this was faked, but it's real

I was astonished to learn an advertisement that I was sure was CGI was, in fact, real.  The Telegraph reports:

The video was created as an advert for EMC technology, who are technology partners for Lotus F1 team.

The Lotus team are now in possession of an impressive new world record as the F1 transporter managed to clear the longest ever truck jump at 83 feet and seven inches.

There's more at the link.

Here's the advertisement.

I'd love to know how they prepared that truck for the attempt - clearly, it must have been stripped of every possible ounce of weight.  Even so, I sure wouldn't have volunteered to drive the car as the truck crossed over my head!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

A great (and free) literary resource

Courtesy of a link at Instapundit, I was led to an article in Open Culture that described the Harvard Classics series.

It was in 1909 ... before the advent of modernism and world war, that The Harvard Classics took shape. Compiled by Harvard’s president Charles W. Eliot and called at first Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, the compendium of literature, philosophy, and the sciences, writes Adam Kirsch in Harvard Magazine, served as a “monument from a more humane and confident time” (or so its upper classes believed), and a “time capsule…. In 50 volumes.”

What does the massive collection preserve? For one thing, writes Kirsch, it’s “a record of what President Eliot’s America, and his Harvard, thought best in their own heritage.” Eliot’s intentions for his work differed somewhat from those of his English peers. Rather than simply curating for posterity “the best that has been thought and said” (in the words of Matthew Arnold), Eliot meant his anthology as a “portable university”—a pragmatic set of tools, to be sure, and also, of course, a product. He suggested that the full set of texts might be divided into a set of six courses on such conservative themes as “The History of Civilization” and “Religion and Philosophy,” and yet, writes Kirsch, “in a more profound sense, the lesson taught by the Harvard Classics is ‘Progress’.” “Eliot’s [1910] introduction expresses complete faith in the ‘intermittent and irregular progress from barbarism to civilization’.”

. . .

What may strike modern readers of Eliot’s collection are precisely the “blind spots in Victorian notions of culture and progress” that it represents. For example, those three harbingers of doom for Victorian certitude—Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud—are nowhere to be seen. Omissions like this are quite telling, but, as Kirsch writes, we might not look at Eliot’s achievement as a relic of a naively optimistic age, but rather as “an inspiring testimony to his faith in the possibility of democratic education without the loss of high standards.” This was, and still remains, a noble ideal, if one that—like the utopian dreams of the Victorians—can sometimes seem frustratingly unattainable (or culturally imperialist). But the widespread availability of free online humanities certainly brings us closer than Eliot’s time could ever come.

There's more at the link.

All fifty volumes of the Harvard Classics, plus twenty volumes of The Shelf Of Fiction that accompanied them, are available free of charge as e-books from Bartleby.  I can't recommend this resource too highly.  If you want to give yourself the classical education that most schools failed to provide;  if you have kids or grandkids who are even less well informed about these literary greats;  or if you just plain enjoy good books - you owe it to yourself to click over to Bartleby and download your own copies of these works.


Saturday Night Live gets it said

I know many bloggers have already embedded this, but it's so accurate I think I'll join them.  Saturday Night Live skewered President Obama's 'imperial' proclamation of concessions to illegal aliens in a very well-done sketch.

I doubt whether President Obama will give a damn, though . . .


The horror of surgery before anesthetics

Through a link in an article at Taki's Magazine, I came across Fanny Burney's description of her mastectomy in 1811.  It's horrifyingly graphic in its details, and conveys the agony of surgery without anesthetic better than anything else I've ever read.  Here's one paragraph from her account.

... when the dreadful steel was plunged into the breast—cutting through veins—arteries—flesh—nerves—I needed no injunctions not to restrain my cries. I began a scream that lasted unintermittingly during the whole time of the incision—and I almost marvel that it rings not in my Ears still! so excruciating was the agony. When the wound was made, and the instrument was withdrawn, the pain seemed undiminished, for the air that suddenly rushed into those delicate parts felt like a mass of minute but sharp and forked poniards, that were tearing the edges of the wound—but when again I felt the instrument—describing a curve—cutting against the grain, if I may so say, while the flesh resisted in a manner so forcible as to oppose and tire the hand of the operator, who was forced to change from the right to the left—then, indeed, I thought I must have expired.

There's more at the link.

Ghastly to read, but it makes me very thankful that anesthetics have been available for all the surgeries I've undergone!


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Bombs planned for Ferguson?

It's reported that the FBI has arrested two would-be bomb-makers who were planning to use explosives to disrupt demonstrations in Ferguson, MO.

... two men described as reputed members of a militant group called the New Black Panther Party, were arrested in the St. Louis area in an FBI sting operation.

As initially reported by CBS News, the men were suspected of acquiring explosives for pipe bombs that they planned to set off during protests in Ferguson, according to the official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the case.

The official said the two men are the same pair named in a newly unsealed federal indictment returned on Nov. 19 charging Brandon Orlando Baldwin and Olajuwon Davis with purchasing two pistols from a firearms dealer under false pretenses.

There's more at the link.

The New Black Panther Party again?  They're the bozos who were accused of voter intimidation some years ago.  If they have explosions in mind, here's just the transport they - or, rather, we - need.  This Volkswagen advertisement goes back a few years.


A morning at the gun show

I drove down to the gun and knife show at Franklin, TN this morning.  It was an interesting visit, the first time I've been to that particular show.  It had almost as many tables as the Nashville gun shows to which I'm accustomed, but fewer people walking the floor.  I was pleased to see that at least two dealers had marked their firearms at prices almost as good as the best I've found online, and I've made a mental note to talk to them in future about my needs.

There were quite a few folks trying to sell guns privately, too, and I was sorely tempted by a couple of them . . . but I was there to sell two of my own guns, not buy more.  I'm planning to give several Crimson Trace handgun lasers as Christmas gifts, and install them on more of my own handguns too, so I was raising money for the purchase.  I sold a Winchester .357 Magnum carbine for a reasonable price, and that money's already gone into the laser kitty, so to speak.  A pistol attracted less interest, so I may try again tomorrow.

Many ammo dealers don't seem to have got the word yet that stocks are returning to normal - prices, too.  There were many sellers asking 15c per round and upward for brand-name .22LR ammo, which I've been able to buy at retail for 10c per round or even less for some time now.  They weren't doing much business.  One of them professed disbelief when I informed him that I'd been able to buy CCI Minimags (which carry a premium in the market) for $10.95 per box of 100 earlier this week.  He wanted $19.99 for the same thing.  Needless to say, I didn't offer him my money.

I was surprised to see that some dealers don't keep up with internet pricing.  For example, right now CDNN Investments is offering new-in-the-box Ruger SR45's at $369.99 (the best price I've seen for that model in a long time).  However, a dealer was offering an older model, a Ruger P345 (long since discontinued), for $450, allegedly 'new-in-the-box'.  When I pointed out that it was a discontinued model and priced much higher than its replacement, he was rather huffy about it.  Oh, well . . . that's his problem.  He might find a sucker willing to pay that for it, but not me.  I'd say the discontinued P345, even new, should be more in the $300-$325 range, and its predecessor, the P97, in the $250-$275 bracket.

All in all, a relaxing morning.  I don't get to many gun shows these days, so it's nice to enjoy one when I can.


Doofus Of The Day #802

So many things could go wrong here that it earns an instant Doofus award . . . but it still looks like fun.

Boys and their toys, indeed!


Friday, November 21, 2014

Danny Macaskill does it again

Danny Macaskill has become legendary in the 'extreme biking' world.  His latest effort is to ride Cuillin Ridge in the Hebrides.  Watch it in full-screen mode for the best effect.



Obama and illegal aliens

So, as expected, the Lightbringer has announced executive action to allow up to five million illegal aliens to obtain legal temporary residence in the USA.  I believe his actions are unconstitutional (based as much on his own reading of the law as anything else, as we'll see in a moment), but fortunately they're not as damaging as they might have been.  Dr. Jerry Pournelle has a succinct analysis of them over at Chaos Manor - it's worth reading.

The biggest problem, to me, is that President Obama has deliberately, callously and cold-bloodedly chosen to ride roughshod over the constitution and laws of the United States.  His Justice Department has produced a 'justification' for his actions (the link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format), but his own words belie it.  No less than 25 times in the past few years, he's made this clear.

He even (in so many words) admitted it during his speech last night:

And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary.

Unfortunately for Mr. Obama's rhetoric, Congress has already passed a bill - more than one of them.  They currently form the law of the land.  Mr. Obama really means that he wants another bill, one that conforms to his actions.  I doubt very much whether he'll get it.

I think Mr. Obama's words last night demonstrated very clearly his contempt for the constitution and laws of this country, the legislative and judicial branches of its government, and the voters who - two weeks ago - handed an almighty shellacking to his policies and his party, a gigantic vote of no confidence in anyone's language.  Clearly, he doesn't give a damn about any of them, and he's set course for a gigantic confrontation with all of them.  As fellow blogger Murphy's Law has pointed out, what he's really saying is:

... it's not like I care what Congress wants or does. I mean, they just represent and speak for peons, and I, Barack Obama, am the leader and sole decider of what will or will not happen in this country.

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading.

It's my personal belief that President Obama now represents a clear and present danger to the rule of law and the supremacy of the constitution in these United States.  The same applies to all who support his misguided and unconstitutional policy changes announced last night.  He, and they, must be stopped.  If the new Republican majority in Congress and the Senate fails to do so, they'll have branded themselves not only utterly ineffectual, but complicit in the danger he and his policies pose.  Unfortunately, I expect nothing better from them . . . as I've said many times in these pages, I trust neither Republicans nor Democrats to put the interests of this country ahead of their partisan political objectives.

I won't be surprised to see some individuals and groups, who (justifiably) feel abandoned by their government, turn to more direct actions to deter the presence of illegal aliens.  Under the circumstances, I can hardly blame them.