Monday, March 27, 2017
A few weeks ago, I appealed to you, dear readers, for your support for my Western novel 'Brings The Lightning' in the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance's Book of the Year contest for 2017.
For several weeks, I was quite a long way ahead of the rest of the field. However, in the past couple of weeks, supporters of John Ringo's 'Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge' have caught up with me, and surpassed my total votes. At this time, the voting looks like this:
I'm therefore appealing to all my readers once more. If you haven't yet voted in this contest, and you like my Western, please click over to the voting page and cast your vote for 'Brings The Lightning'. (Of course, if you think another book is more deserving of the win, please vote for that one!) Voting is open until midnight on Friday, four and a half days from now, so please don't delay too long.
This is turning out to be a lot of fun. I think the CLFA hasn't had anything like this many votes before. Let's run up the totals, no matter who wins!
(Oh - and, if you missed my post yesterday morning, the sequel to 'Brings The Lightning' should go on sale later this week! We'll see if it gets nominated for next year's CLFA contest.)
These statistics are so unbelievable they're ridiculous.
Nearly 15 percent of female undergraduates at the University of Texas at Austin reported being raped in a survey released by officials at the 50,000-student campus Friday.
. . .
The Texas survey data works out to about 1 in 7 undergraduate women in Austin. Nationwide, about 1 in 4 college women reported unwanted sexual contact in a 2015 survey by the Association of American Universities.
The flagship Texas campus is one of the largest in the U.S. and released Friday's report ahead of schedule after a legislator this week revealed the 15 percent figure during a hearing in the Texas Capitol.
. . .
The University of Texas report was the result of an internet survey of more than 7,600 students and was funded by the school. Among the other findings were 28 percent of female undergraduates reporting unwanted sexual touching, and that 87 percent of all incidents occurred off-campus.
There's more at the link.
This is simply nonsensical. To say that one in seven women on campus has been raped is beyond the bounds of rationality. It's prima facie impossible, if only because parents and siblings would long ago have taken the law into their own hands, and begun roaming the campus, heavily armed, to deal with those molesting their daughters and sisters. This report is moonbattery and political correctness, masquerading as fact.
I think this survey concentrated on feelings rather than fact, asking respondents whether they had been raped without consideration for the legal definition of that crime. It also ignores the reality that many teens and young adults get drunk, or use illegal narcotics, or go to high-risk places, or do other things that make them more vulnerable to being used (and abused) by others. If one drunk teen sleeps with another drunk teen, who later cries "Rape!" because she really didn't want that, but was too drunk to make her lack of consent clear, that's not rape. As one who's worked in and with the law enforcement profession as a chaplain, and also as a pastor of a church, I can assure you, there are many after-the-fact regrets that manifest themselves as false allegations like that. Cops are all too familiar with them. That's why a lot of rape accusations are never prosecuted - because cops and prosecutors know full well that there's no evidence to substantiate the allegations.
When such alarmist numbers are bandied about, it helps to look at the physical reality that they would imply, if true. When you see undergraduate students wandering around a university campus freely, cheerfully, laughing and carrying on as they do . . . that campus does not have a serious rape problem. If one in seven female undergraduates had been raped there, they wouldn't be behaving like that. They'd be cowering in fear. Q.E.D.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Great news! My second Western novel is almost ready for publication. Expect to see it within the next week to ten days, if all goes well. Here's the proposed cover.
I'll have more to say about it in a few days.
Because it's a Western, here are five Western-themed or -inspired songs to set the mood.
And finally, because the book is set in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and New Mexico from beginning to end:
Have a great Sunday!
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Received via e-mail from Jim H., this picture of a home-made shotgun pistol (a typical 'zip gun') found in the Dominican Republic.
My wrist is already aching, in sympathy with whoever tries to fire that thing!
Amid all the shouting and tumult over the defeat of "Trumpcare" in Congress, it's worth remembering that this is basically all political posturing. Both sides of the debate are ignoring the real issue.
As Karl Denninger has pointed out:
Last fiscal year the Federal Government spent $1.417 trillion on Medicare and Medicaid, 9.3% more than the $1.297 trillion it spent the previous year. Last year was not an aberration; it was in fact very close to the historical expansion rate from the 1990s forward. Spending has almost quadrupled on these programs since FY 1998. Total outlays in 1998 were $1.651 trillion of which Medicare and Medicaid comprised 23%. Last fiscal year 37% of all fiscal expenditures were made on these two programs. The ACA (Obamacare), for all of its warts, only managed to dampen that rate of expansion in spending for two years, after which it returned to trend. At this rate of spending expansion within the next four years the government will attempt to spend $2.02 trillion on these two programs combined which will blow an approximately $600 billion additional hole, per year, in the deficit. That will not be able to be financed since if you ignore this issue it will be clear that within 10 years the government would try to spend $3.4 trillion per year on the same two programs -- an utter impossibility under any rational expectation for economic expansion. The impact on private health spending has been even larger on a percentage-of-increase basis due to the blatant cost-shifting that is well-documented in myriad reports and is responsible for a large portion of the stunting of economic progress in America that has occurred over the previous two decades.
. . .
We either admit to what we've been doing and stop the scam or it will overtake the economy and our ability to pay -- both in the government and otherwise, within the next 4-5 years.
We either stop it now or it destroys the economy, asset prices and the nation.
This isn't politics. It's math.
The facts are what they are. Demonstrating them is easy and irrefutable.
There's more at the link.
I'm unmoved by assertions of ideological purity. I note with cynicism that the chairman of the so-called "Freedom Caucus", Rep. Mark Meadows, derived much of his election-year support from the health care industry, so he's hardly a disinterested party.
The health care industry is in this to make as much money as it can out of the pockets of ordinary Americans. That's the only reason the current mess exists. As many commentators have pointed out, Obamacare "enriches only the health insurance giants and their shareholders". Its official name, the 'Affordable' Care Act, is a joke. (As an interesting exercise, look at how much input the health care industry had when the act was being written. The link leads to a very left-wing, progressive-oriented article, by the way - it's hardly conservative fear-mongering.)
I'm glad so-called "Trumpcare" did not pass. It would have done nothing to fix this problem. It would merely have stuck a few more fingers into a massively leaking dike. Obamacare is a catastrophe. It needs to go away - regardless of screams of outrage that it will leave this, or that, or the other many millions of Americans without healthcare coverage. If those Americans stay with Obamacare, or Medicaid, or any other bureaucratically and politically approved form of coverage, they're going to find it worthless anyway, because this country will be so bankrupt it won't be able to afford to pay for it.
Obamacare is an abomination. Trumpcare would have been the same. Let's get rid of both of them, and return to sanity in healthcare - fiscal and otherwise. We're already going broke as a nation. If it isn't fixed, healthcare will merely bankrupt us faster.
Friday, March 24, 2017
My first blog post this morning, about a unique Smith & Wesson Model 3 revolver I found in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum a couple of weeks ago, has attracted a fair amount of attention. Several e-mails have asked for more information about the gun, particularly because its widespread use in the 'Wild West' isn't as well known as its Colt Single Action Army rival (popularly known as the 'Peacemaker').
You can read more about the revolver at the links I provided in this morning's post. Here's a video evaluation by YouTube user Hickock45, in which he demonstrates how it's loaded and fired, and goes into more detail about its features.
In my next Western novel, 'Rocky Mountain Retribution', due out in a month or two, you'll be able to read a lot more about these revolvers, and their greatest advantage over all competing weapons of the 1870's. The only reason they didn't vastly outsell Colt's Peacemaker was that so many tens of thousands of the S&W revolvers were shipped to Russia and other overseas customers, instead of being sold locally.
Readers may remember that, a couple of weeks ago, Miss D., Old NFO and myself went up to Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle, where we met Alma Boykin and spent a couple of days doing research for future books. One of the places we visited was the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, which has an outstanding firearms collection. Thanks to their generously cooperative curator, we were able to spend a couple of hours examining that part of their collection that isn't on display, which contains some real historical rarities.
I was fascinated by one example of Smith & Wesson's Model 3 revolver, which looked as if it had started life as a second variation Russian model. These were ordered by the Russian government for its army, chambered for the .44 Russian cartridge, progenitor of the later .44 Special and .44 Magnum rounds. Most were manufactured in 1873. A limited number were sold on the US civilian market as well. Here's what the original second variation Russian model looked like. The picture is courtesy of Mr. G. W. Leiper, whose Web site 'Russian Revolvers' offers encyclopedic coverage of that very interesting subject. Recommended reading for firearms enthusiasts. (Click all images for a larger view.)
The revolver in the Panhandle-Plains Museum has been extensively modified from its original configuration. I'll show it to you first, then discuss what's been done to it.
This must have been somebody's cherished possession, because the amount of work put into it far exceeds whatever its monetary value may have been. For a start, the 'hump' on the backstrap of the grips has been ground or filed down until it's almost round, much like the original 'American' variant of the Model 3 (scroll down at the link for photographs) or the first variation Russian Model 3's. The spur on the trigger guard has also been expertly removed.
Next, the six chambers and the barrel have been reamed out and filled with inserts in .22 caliber. I suspect that the unknown gunsmith may have turned down on a lathe the outside of a .22 rifle barrel, cut lengths off it to suit, and then sleeved the original barrel and chambers with it. The chambers would then have been bored out to take the rimfire cartridges, and a new extractor star fitted, to eject the much smaller rounds. Here's the back of the cylinder, showing the sleeves. (The white-gloved fingers holding the gun are mine! Old NFO took the pictures, for which my grateful thanks.)
The barrel is only 5" long, down from the original 7". This is often referred to as the "Wells Fargo conversion", as that company bought a large number of Smith & Wesson Model 3 revolvers from US Army surplus stocks (usually the later Schofield variation), and cut down the barrels to issue to its stagecoach drivers and guards. There are a great many forgeries in circulation, probably more than there were original Wells Fargo conversions, making positive identification difficult. This may not have been a Wells Fargo revolver at all, of course; any gunsmith could have cut down the barrel, re-crowned it, and remounted the front sight.
The engraving covers the surface of the firearm, but it's not as even or as high-quality as factory-engraved guns I've seen. I suspect that either a gunsmith or artisan added it later, or perhaps the owner of the gun tried to do it himself. I suppose we'll never know. At any rate, the gun has also been nickel-plated, common in the days of blackpowder rounds, as nickel resisted the corrosive powder salts better than blued steel. I suspect this gun was not originally nickel-plated, because the plating has filled up the letters and engraving to a certain extent.
Another interesting modification is the repaired hammer. At some point, I suspect the gun was dropped and the hammer spur broken off. Someone has formed a new hammer spur out of a piece of steel, ground and/or filed to approximately the same pattern as a standard S&W Model 3, but not exactly identical, as one can see if one compares it to an original hammer. A dovetail was then cut into the broken hammer, and the new spur inserted and (probably) pinned and soldered into place. Here's a close-up photograph of the repair.
The repair must have been made after the gun was nickel-plated, because the replacement hammer spur is still in blued steel.
I can't help but wonder what was so special about this gun, to make someone spend a great deal of time, energy and money converting it like this, and preserving it. Was it carried by an Old West lawman or outlaw, whose descendants wanted to hold on to the memories it carried for them? Why would someone have gone to all the trouble and expense of sleeving the barrel and chambers for a different caliber, and engraving and plating the gun, and repairing the hammer, when the cost of those repairs and restorations would have paid for not just one, but several new guns? Who did the work, and when, and where?
If only this gun could talk . . . I reckon it would have a lot of stories to tell!
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Dennis Prager makes the point that entitlement programs are even more addictive, in their own way, than drugs.
All addictions — whether to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex or cigarettes — are very hard to escape.
There is one addiction, however, that may be more difficult than any other to escape, in part because it is not even regarded as an addiction. It is entitlements addiction, the addiction to getting something for nothing.
One indication as to the power of entitlements addiction is the fact that while great numbers of people have voluntarily given up drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc. — almost always at great pain — few give up an addiction to entitlements. For the majority of able-bodied people who get cash payments, food stamps, subsidized housing, free or subsidized health insurance, and other welfare benefits, the thought of giving up any one of those and beginning to pay for them with their own earned money is as hard as giving up alcohol is for an alcoholic.
Politicians know this, which is why it is close to impossible to ever reduce entitlements. And, of course, the left knows this, which is why the left almost always wins a debate over entitlements. Every American who is the beneficiary of an entitlement backs them, and many who are not beneficiaries of entitlements would like to be.
Aside from ideology, this is why the left constantly seeks to increase entitlements. The more people receiving government benefits, the more people vote left.
There's more at the link. Recommended reading.
Entitlement programs have another, less commonly considered benefit; they create thousands of jobs, all of which can be filled with those who support the politicians who enact the programs. Just look at the size of the bureaucracies needed to administer Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and other welfare programs. All those jobs depend on entitlements. Take away the entitlements, and those reliable voters will be out of work - and their votes will no longer be reliable.
If you wanted to know why the vast majority of federal government employees think and vote Democrat, that's a pretty good indicator, right there. Which party supports the constant expansion of government, and the creation of more and more government jobs - at taxpayer expense?
Makes you think, doesn't it?
A couple of days ago, I posted an article titled 'The Washington bubble continues to ignore fiscal reality'. In it, I pointed out:
I already know that every dollar in my pocket today buys about half - sometimes less than half - of what it did in the year 2000. I can go out right now, and go shopping, and compare what I get for my money today with what I got for it seventeen years ago. Forget the "official" rate of inflation, and look at actual expenditure. You'll find the same thing I do - your money today is worth less than half what it was then. What's going to happen if that continues, and gets worse?
One of the things that's going to happen - is already happening, in fact - is that fewer and fewer people are able to afford to buy their own homes.
Fifty-two of the 100 largest U.S. cities were majority-renter in 2015, according to U.S. Census Bureau data ... Twenty-one of those cities have shifted to renter-domination since 2009. These include such hot housing markets as Denver and San Diego and lukewarm locales, such as Detroit and Baltimore, better known for vacant homes than residential development ... A 2015 report from the Urban Institute predicted that rentership would keep rising through 2030, thanks to demographic trends that include aging baby boomers who downsize into rentals.
. . .
Most low-income families don’t rent by choice, said Nela Richardson, chief economist at Redfin. And plenty of higher-income households rent because they can’t afford to buy. “We don’t have enough affordable supply in either rental or for-sale markets,” said Richardson, adding that cities interested in promoting renter-friendly policies can rethink their zoning policies to encourage more construction.
There's more at the link.
Housing prices are a problem, to be sure, but it's not so much the supply side that's preventing home ownership. It's that average disposable incomes have declined in purchasing power. As I said in my earlier article, the money in your pocket buys about half - sometimes less than half - of what it bought in 2000. Your income hasn't doubled in that period, unless you're exceptionally fortunate. Since housing costs have to come out of the same money every month that feeds and clothes your family, you simply have less money available to buy a house. Q.E.D.
Miss D. and I faced this dilemma two years ago. We wanted to buy a house of our own, but were price-restricted in Nashville, TN, where we lived at the time. We were in the fortunate position of being able to move anywhere we chose, and we had good friends in a smaller Texas town, so we changed states. By doing so, we were able to buy a relatively modern three-bedroom house, in very good condition, for approximately half what the same house would have cost us in a similar suburb in Nashville. What's more, we deliberately bought a smaller home, one we could afford to pay off in a maximum of fifteen years, and took out a mortgage loan for that long only. God willing, we'll pay it off in less than ten years, because we're making that a priority. If we succeed in doing so, we'll instantly boost our disposable income - or, to look at it another way, we'll drastically reduce the disposable income we need to pay our bills every month. It'll take a lot of financial pressure off us.
I know we're very lucky to have been in a position to do that. Many people today aren't. I fear that home ownership will become a pipe dream for them, just as it is for many people living in cities where housing prices are so high they're out of reach for most middle-class couples. (It's not just US cities, either: Australia is another good example.)
Another factor is that, with stock and bond market jitters as high as they are, many investors have turned to property as a "safe haven" for their funds. Consider these headlines:
- Investors dominate housing market
- Behind the Rise in House Prices, Wall Street Buyers
- How Wall Street Has Turned Housing Into a Dangerous Get-Rich-Quick Scheme—Again
- Your New Landlord Works on Wall Street
- Desperate Chinese Investors Flood US, Canadian Housing Markets, But Real Numbers Are Taboo
This institutional, investor-driven wave of purchases has actually prevented housing prices from dropping as far as they should have, following the 2007-08 collapse of the housing market. That's all very well for investors . . . but it means many people like you and I, already struggling with declining personal purchasing power, can no longer afford the housing they want to buy. They're reduced to renting it from the investors, instead, sometimes at a monthly cost equal to or even greater than what they might otherwise pay on a mortgage. (Miss D. and I are paying about the same every month to service our home loan as we were paying to rent a much smaller duplex in Nashville.)
The housing market is going to remain very difficult for the average American until such time as our purchasing power is restored . . . and the odds are against that for the foreseeable future. Batten down the hatches, hold on to what you've got, and don't buy property at inflated prices, is all I can suggest. It's going to be a long and bumpy ride.
I'm getting very fed up with the stupidity of the mainstream media when it comes to terrorist attacks such as that in London yesterday. From the screams of alarm in the headlines, you'd think this was something new, unprecedented, a mortal threat to our society. It's not, of course. It's merely the latest incident in a long, long parade of them, and there will be many more in future. Welcome to the reality of fundamentalist terrorism. It's here to stay.
Another thing about the mainstream media: why is it that so many of them have some sort of mental or moral block about using the word "terror" or "terrorist"? For example, consider these headlines gathered at about 4 p.m. (local time) yesterday:
ABC News: "Suspect shot dead after killing 4, injuring 40 in London"
The Atlantic: "London Attack: What We Know"
Boston Globe: "At least 5 dead in London attack, including assailant, and 20 injured"
CBS News: "5 dead in car rampage, knife attack in London"
Chicago Tribune: " 5 dead in London vehicle and knife attack, including police officer, attacker; 40 hurt"
CNN: "London attack: Four killed in British Parliament carnage"
By that time it was as plain as the nose on your face that this was a terrorist attack. Other media outlets were (correctly) labeling it as such . . . but not those mainstream media "big names". Their politically correct policies prevent them from calling a spade, a spade, until it's been confirmed by a dozen independent "authorities" that it is, in fact, a human-powered earth-moving implement - and even then, they'd prefer to call it the latter, rather than use the simple, direct term for it.
As for what it means for you and I: I've said it all before, as have many other commenters. The advice applies to not just terrorist incidents, but any criminal threat. Some of my previous articles include (but are not limited to):
- The changing urban self-defense environment
- The scary realities of self-defense
- Security lessons from the Kenya terrorist attacks
- Stupid and sage advice on security
- Why you should avoid urban shopping malls
- Lessons learned anew in Paris (the Charlie Hebdo attacks)
- Paris and the pain of being human (the November 2015 attacks)
- In the aftermath of Paris (November 2015)
- After San Bernardino: self-defense considerations
- An ISIL terrorist cell in Minnesota?
All the suggestions and recommendations I made in those articles apply in the wake of the London attack, too. As I said: same old, same old. We'll be reading similar headlines again in the not too distant future, I'm sure - and the same advice will apply yet again.
Be ready for this. Terrorism is nothing new, and it'll be with us for a long, long time to come. I daresay our children's children will be fighting it, too.