Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"What will you get when you #AbolishICE?"

Miguel, over at Gun Free Zone, asks that question - and responds with graphic images of the cartel violence in that country.


That said, if you want to see the reality of what might be coming our way unless we secure our borders, click over to GFZ and view them for yourself.  Miguel is right.  That could all too easily come to US cities as well, unless we get control of our borders.


Trump, Putin, Helsinki - and reality

All the fuss and bother over President Trump's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki is giving me a delicious case of schadenfreude.  The Deep State and its minions in the news media were so sure that they'd set things up in such a way that President Trump could not help but be embarrassed, or come a cropper in some way . . . and he outsmarted them all.  The current screaming and carryings-on are so over the top as to be obvious to anyone with half a working brain cell.  Let's examine things in the cold, hard light of reality, shall we?

First off, President Trump does not trust the US national security apparatus - and, in his shoes, neither would I.  It's the same people who allowed former President Obama and his administration to co-opt security organs, processes and agencies for partisan political purposes, including trying to derail President Trump's election campaign and ensure victory for Hillary Clinton.  It almost worked.  If it had worked, you can bet your boots we'd never have heard a word about all that's come out since the election.  It would all have been covered up, conveniently expunged from the record.  As it is, that was no longer an option;  so the only alternative for the security and intelligence establishments has been to pin all their hopes on a distraction - the "Russia! Russia!" campaign.

What's more, all the protestations about Russian interference in the US 2016 elections are so much hooey when compared to previous US interference in Russian elections.  Remember TIME magazine's cover and report of July 15th, 1996?

Both the USA and the former Soviet Union - and now Russia - have intervened in elections around the world for decades.  The Guardian points out that "Americans can spot election meddling because they’ve been doing it for years".

According to research by political scientist Dov Levin, the US and the USSR/Russia together intervened no less than 117 times in foreign elections between 1946 and 2000, or “one out of every nine competitive, national-level executive elections”.

Indeed, one cannot understand US-Russian relations today without acknowledging America’s role in the internal affairs of its defeated cold war foe.

. . .

Yeltsin relied on US political strategists – including a former aide to Bill Clinton – who had a direct line back to the White House. When Yeltsin eventually won, the cover of Time magazine was “Yanks to the rescue: The secret story of how American advisers helped Yeltsin win”.

Without the chaos and deprivations of the US-backed Yeltsin era, Putinism would surely not have established itself. But it’s not just Russia by any means, for the record of US intervention in the internal affairs of foreign democracies is extensive.

There's more at the link.  It's worth reading, to see just how bad both sides have been.  For further reading on US activities in that area (including the Obama administration) see (among other sources):

So, when the US intelligence and security communities scream about Russian interference, why should President Trump give any particular credence to their allegations?  They're experts in the field, after all, because they've done it themselves - probably more times than they can count!  The "Deep State" has been using the "Russia! Russia!" brouhaha as a lever, trying to exert pressure on President Trump.  That's been obvious for months.  Why should anyone believe those agencies and sources any longer, when they've effectively discredited themselves?

To cite just one example of how untrustworthy the critics are, let's consider John Brennan, former CIA director, who yesterday opined that "Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous."  This is the same John Brennan who lied to Congress, producing headlines such as these:
Those are the same sources that are now reporting - and lauding - Brennan's accusations against President Trump.  What a difference a few years makes - not to mention a change of Administrations!

I think President Trump went to Helsinki prepared to face reality.  That reality is that both the USA and Russia have been guilty - equally guilty - of interfering in each other's internal and external affairs in the past.  Neither side can win by doing so;  but both sides can stir up - and have stirred up - immense problems for the other.  Instead of continuing in the same old way, why not try to "reset" the relationship between these two nations in accordance with reality?  That reality has to embrace realpolitik:  the reality, not the wishful thinking, of global relationships.

One has to start realpolitik by acknowledging facts as they are, not as one wishes they were.  I daresay both Presidents did so, at least implicitly, when they met yesterday - and that truth is not what's being peddled by the US security and intelligence apparatuses and their spokespersons.  I have no idea where things will go from this point onward, but I've learned not to judge President Trump by his words.  Rather, watch what he does.  That, and the fruits it bears, will be the ultimate judge of whether or not the Helsinki summit was a success.

Oh - and ignore the chattering classes.  They're irrelevant to reality.


Monday, July 16, 2018

Don't try to rob this restaurant . . .

. . . because the employees don't like it!

You can read more about the robbery attempt (in Tucson, Arizona) here.  Well done, those people!


"Big Pharma and the Rise of Gangster Capitalism"

That's the title of Charles Hugh Smith's latest article.

Thanks to decades of gangster films, we all know how gangster capitalism works: the cost of "protection" goes up whenever the gangster wants to increase revenues, any competition is snuffed out, and "customer demand" is jacked up by any means available-- addiction, for example.

This perfectly describes the pharmaceutical industry and every other cartel in America. You might have read about the price increase in Acthar gel, a medication to treat Infantile Spasms. (via J.F., M.D., who alerted me to the repricing of this medication from $40 in 2001 to the current price of $38,892.)

The compound first received approval in 1950, and various branded versions have been approved in recent years. Let's be clear: this medication did not require billions of dollars in research and development, or decades of testing to obtain FDA approval; it's been approved for use for the past 68 years.

Yes, you read that correctly: a medication that's been in use for 68 years went from $40 a dose in 2001 to $38,892 today. Don't you love the pricing? Not a round 38 grand, but $38,892. You gotta love these gangsters!

There's another related term to describe this form of capitalism: racketeering.That's what mobsters do--operate rackets.

. . .

Gangster capitalism is the new model of "growth" in America, the model used by every cartel from higher education to Pentagon contractors. Eliminate actual competition, raise prices in lockstep with other cartel members, lobby the government to pay your extortionist prices, and threaten any resisters with severe consequences.

There's more at the link.

I highly recommend that you click over to Mr. Smith's blog and read the whole thing.  He's got a graph representing the rise in prescription drug expenditure in the USA over the past couple of decades.  It's grim viewing - and almost all the increase is because of corporate greed such as the case he highlights above.

The question is, what are we going to do about it?  Are we simply going to throw up our hands and give up, or will we demand that our elected representatives do something about such naked profiteering?  The RICO Act is there for a reason.  Why aren't we using it?


A final reminder about the Dragon Awards

As I mentioned some days ago, a reader contacted me to ask about nominating one of my books for this year's Dragon Awards.  That was a pleasant surprise, and I invited him to go ahead, on the understanding that there are many good books out there, and I don't think I'm likely to be in the running this year.

Be that as it may, the deadline for nominations is July 20th.  Therefore, if you think the book is good enough, please use the DragonCon nomination form to nominate "An Airless Storm" for this year's awards, in the category "Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel".

Please don't nominate any other of my books, because that would divide the nomination votes across multiple titles.  As a result, none of them would be likely to make the slate.



I laughed out loud

This tickled the cockles of my writer's heart - particularly because I've experienced that!

Click the image to be taken to a larger version at the comic's Web site.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sunday morning music

Here's something different for your listening pleasure.  Faun is a German group, self-described as "pagan folk".  They're in the tradition of many other modern groups who interpret old folk music styles (and occasionally original songs and tunes, as well as their own compositions) in modern rhythms and settings.  The group's name is derived from the German Faunus, the name of the mythical ancient Roman horned god of the forest, plains and fields, analogous to the ancient Greek god Pan.

Here are three songs from Faun to whet your appetite.  The first is "Hörst du die Trommeln" ("Do you hear the drums?"), the band's entry in the German preliminary round of the 2015 Eurovision song contest.  It wasn't selected to represent Germany in the finals, but is still a rousing piece in its own right.  I've chosen to leave the video in its full form, including the introduction and comments in German, to set the scene for those of you who speak the language.  The lyrics, including an English translation, may be found here.

Next, here's "Sonnenreigen" ("Sun Dance"), a song for the ancient festival of Lughnasad, which marked the beginning of the harvest season and was traditionally held on August 1st.  Lyrics may be found here.

Finally, here's "Federkleid" ("Feather Dress"), a song in praise of birds and the urge to fly like them.  Lyrics may be found here.

I find their music relaxing and entertaining, and I hope you did too.  You'll find many of their songs at the group's YouTube channel, and more information at their Web site.  Much of their music is available on Amazon.com.


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Some more spectacular rally crashes for you

The video title refers to them as Finnish rallies (or is that Finnish rally drivers?), but some at least were filmed in other countries.  One can only admire the way the drivers hurl themselves at natural obstacles, seemingly intent on beating them into submission.  Of course, it usually ends up the other way round . . .


Friday, July 13, 2018

Doofus Of The Day #1,017

The expression "Hoist with his own petard" comes from Shakespeare's play Hamlet, and describes something not uncommon in medieval and Renaissance Europe.  A petard was an explosive device, usually a wooden keg or metal container packed with gunpowder.  A soldier, probably escorted by a raiding party, ran up to a castle door or drawbridge, placed the petard against it, and lit the fuse;  then he and his escort ran like hell before the device exploded, hopefully demolishing the door or drawbridge and opening the way for an assault.  Of course, medieval gunpowder and fuses weren't always the most reliable.  Sometimes the petard exploded before its bearer could get clear - hence the phrase, "He was hoist (i.e. blown up) with his own petard".

It's a lovely expression, and has been used ever since to describe someone who's caught out by his own cleverness or plans.  Three Democrat congressional representatives have just learned, yet again, how true it is.

Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Adriano Espaillat of New York introduced the Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement Act earlier Thursday, which would abolish ICE within one year of enactment, and also assemble a commission tasked with setting up a new immigration enforcement agency.

Hours later, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced he planned to bring the proposed “Abolish ICE” bill to the floor, reported The Hill.

The three congressmen promptly released a joint statement accusing Ryan of not taking their bill seriously, and as an act of protest, they will vote down their own legislation and instead use the opportunity to discuss Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy and ICE.

There's more at the link.

Uh . . . yeah.  Introduce a politically controversial bill in an effort to pander to the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party - only to have the Republicans jump gleefully on your bandwagon, and schedule a vote on your bill.  Way to paint yourself, and your party, into an extremist corner for all the rest of the US electorate to see!  No wonder the bill's sponsors hastily reversed course.  I daresay they were being bombarded with messages from the Democrat leadership in the House, all saying, in so many words (probably rude ones), "You got us into this mess - now get us out of it, quick, or else!"

Full marks for political opportunism to the Republicans in the House, who have clearly learned from Napoleon Bonaparte's maxim, "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake".  Not only did they not interrupt, they promptly tried to help the Democrats make an even bigger one!  I'm almost sorry they didn't succeed.  I'd have loved to hear those three try to explain their bill and justify it to the vast majority of Americans, who not only don't want ICE abolished - they want it strengthened and expanded instead!

Today's Doofus award is hereby jointly conferred upon Messrs. Pocan, Jayapal and Espaillat.  Way to go, guys!  Political theater at its most entertaining!


Lessons learned from my latest trilogy

Over at Mad Genius Club, I've written a fairly long article outlining some of the lessons learned (so far) from the publication of my latest trilogy, "Cochrane's Company", at approximately 30-day intervals.

The article is oriented towards writers more than readers, but if the subject interests you, click over there to get a feel for the state of the independent author market today.

While on the subject of the trilogy, may I once again ask those of you who've read it to please leave a review of each book on Amazon.com?  Reviews are the life-blood of independent authors, as we don't have the marketing and advertising resources of big publishers.  We rely on word of mouth to help sell our books.  I'll be very grateful if you'll please take a few minutes to leave reviews of the three books.



California's public sector unions, money, and politics

The California Political Review calculates the money taken in every year by public sector unions in that state, and shows how it gives those unions a powerful say in the running of the state.

In the wake of the Janus ruling, it is useful to estimate just how much money California’s government unions collect and spend each year. Because government unions publicly disclose less than what the law requires of public corporations or private sector unions, only estimates are possible.

. . .

In summary, subject to the limitations in the available data and what appear to be reasonable assumptions, California’s public education employee unions, the CTA, the CFT, and the CSEA, altogether are probably collecting around $589 million per year ... California’s public safety unions, the CPOA, the CPF, and the CCPOA, along with their local affiliates, altogether are probably collecting around $135 million per year ... [and] California’s other major public sector unions, AFSCME, the CSEA including SEIU Local 1000, and the CNA (est. public sector portion at 25%), along with their local affiliates, altogether are probably collecting around $135 million per year.

Based primarily on publicly disclosed 2016 form 990s along with information obtained from their individual websites, in aggregate, California’s major public sector unions are estimated to be collecting over $900 million per year.

. . .

It would go beyond the scope of this analysis to speculate as to what impact the recent Janus ruling will have on government union membership and revenues, or to ponder the degree and kind of political influence of the three major blocks of unions; teachers, public safety, and public service.

It is relevant, however, to emphasize that the reach of these unions, because almost all of them are highly decentralized, extends to the finest details of public administration, into the smallest local jurisdictions. When recognizing the profound statewide impact of public sector union political agenda, it is easy to forget that fact, and the implications it carries for virtually every city, county, special district, or school district in California.

There's more at the link.

California's public sector unions have used their financial and political muscle to feather their members' nests.  As the Los Angeles Times pointed out in 2015:

California is among the few states where public employees make as much as 20% more in total compensation than comparable private sector employees.

To a substantial extent, these compensation premiums are driven by the rising costs of public employee pensions and healthcare. In Los Angeles, pension costs have risen to nearly 20% of the city's budget from 3% in 2000. Statewide pension liabilities are increasing at a rate of $17 billion a year, which make the state's current cash surplus a mirage.

As the city and state pay more for public services they've already consumed, there are fewer resources left for other public priorities. Government ends up spending more but doing less, which is a governing formula that pleases neither liberals nor conservatives.

Again, more at the link.

City Journal called California the "beholden state".

The camera focuses on an official of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), California’s largest public-employee union, sitting in a legislative chamber and speaking into a microphone. “We helped to get you into office, and we got a good memory,” she says matter-of-factly to the elected officials outside the shot. “Come November, if you don’t back our program, we’ll get you out of office.’

More at the link.

Public sector unions in many other states wield as much financial - and hence political - clout as they do in California, showing how they've achieved regulatory capture to an alarming extent.  This also illustrates why and how public sector unions in Illinois have succeeded in getting such a sweetheart pension deal for themselves, at taxpayer expense - so much so that it's bankrupting the state as a whole.

I hope the Janus decision will help to rein in the public sector unions' ability to fund their self-serving, antithetical-to-democracy activities . . . but I'm sure it won't go far enough.  Further reform is probably needed.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

The battle for the Internet in the third world

The Economist notes that US internet giants are squaring up to their Chinese counterparts, not so much in the USA and China as in the third world.  It calls the struggle "The most titanic commercial battle in the world".

Facing off are the towering giants of American and Chinese tech, led by the FAANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google’s parent, Alphabet) on one side and the BATs (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) on the other. These are some of the planet’s biggest firms, with a combined stockmarket capitalisation of more than $4trn. At play are some of its most promising markets. Why, then, has the battle largely escaped attention?

One reason is where it is taking place. The titans have avoided each other in their home markets, and rising trade tensions make it ever less likely that a clash will happen there (see article). Except for Amazon and Apple, the FAANGs are already all but banned in China. America, meanwhile, is putting up barriers to Chinese firms ... So the cream of America and China are taking each other on directly only in third countries, such as Brazil, India and Indonesia.

Another reason for the battle’s low profile is that it is not being fought in the open. The American firms have, broadly, transplanted their services to other markets; Amazon has pledged over $5bn to replicate its offerings in India, for example. But the Chinese giants are taking a different tack, buying stakes in local firms and weaving them together into complex tapestries of services. The ecosystem of Tencent and Alibaba, with over 1,000 stakes in foreign firms, includes dozens in emerging markets. Along with Ant, they have backed 43% of all Asian unicorns, startups worth more than $1bn. Chinese tech firms pumped $5bn into Indian startups in 2017, a fivefold increase on the year before. America’s tech giants are wearing uniform abroad; China’s melt into the background.

. . .

America and China are vying for digital supremacy. The fight between their tech champions in other markets will inevitably have political overtones ... its outcome could put third countries in one camp or the other, increasing the risk that the world eventually splits into two techno-blocs.

There's more at the link.

It's fascinating watching this develop from a distance.  I'm most familiar with Africa, of course, being from that continent.  Chinese companies have already established what's almost a stranglehold over vital mineral deposits and mines, and are offering low-cost loans to develop the infrastructure needed to develop them.  When the host country can no longer afford payments on those loans, Chinese companies - or the Chinese government - take over the infrastructure concerned, further entrenching their position and shutting out competition from Western firms (see, for example, the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka).  It's a full-blown commercial war, all right . . . and at present, from my perspective, China appears to be winning.


Child sexual abuse under cover of the education system?

I was astounded to read this article by a blogger calling herself "Autistic Momma".

Our story begins 3 years ago when our 6th child was born. The changes caused our then 7 year old autistic child to experience anxiety and frustration. He began biting his hands as a way to cope. We documented each bite and the school was aware. We implemented in home services and within 2 months the biting stopped. We thought this was the end of the story but we would later realize that it was only the beginning.

Fast forward 3 years, our 3 year old autistic son starts preschool in the same school as our now 10 year old. A week and a half into school we received an email saying that he had been scratched by another child on the playground. No big deal, kids will be kids.

Two weeks later our sons got off the bus. I asked my older son if he had seen his younger brother in school. He put his head down, said no and ran in the opposite direction. I thought it was odd but I didn’t push. He came back a few minutes later and said “I saw him in the nurse’s office”. We questioned why and his response was “to look at our bodies” the entire time he smacked his body and cried. We didn’t push and comforted him the best we could.

Meanwhile, I called and left the nurse a message. That night she called me back. I asked why my children were in her office and why was she looking at their bodies. She said she did it every day to them. Her reason for them being together during this process? My younger son wouldn’t comply. He cried and tried to run so they brought his older brother in to coerce him into compliance. She said it was “protocol”. I asked where the protocol was and she just kept repeating that it was protocol. I asked to see the written protocol. She replied with “it isn’t written”. I informed her that this was against my beliefs on bodily autonomy. She told me that she didn’t need my permission and didn’t need to tell me that it was being done. I informed her that she was grooming my children for a predator. She became angry. She said she had been doing it to my older son for 3 years and it was done twice a day. Wait? Did you just say 3 years? Twice a day? For 3 years you’ve been searching my child’s body without my permission or knowledge? How long did it happen to my younger son? Every day for almost 4 weeks. Years and weeks of violating their rights and privacy. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I just couldn’t. I informed her that my children wouldn’t be returning to school until I had answers. I hung up and started my email trail.

There's more at the link, and in a follow-up article.  I urge you to read the whole thing.  It's stomach-churning.

If this is true, then heads need to roll, and people need to be in prison.  If those had been my children, I honestly don't know how I would have reacted on learning the news.  My anger would undoubtedly have been so great that . . . well, let's not go there.

If this conduct can be proved, then every single person who either permitted it, or tolerated it, or authorized it, or carried it out, needs to be fired, and barred from ever working with children again.  Furthermore, they need to be on trial for permitting, or encouraging, or tolerating, or allowing, the sexual abuse of children.  They deserve to be in prison for the rest of their lives.

What say you, readers?  And what will you do to make sure something like this isn't happening in a school or schools in your area?

As Vox Day points out:

You know how when these pedophile arrests are announced and the police talk about how they found thousands of images on the evil bastard's computer? Well, where do you think those photographs are being taken? I'll bet that a lot of them are being taken at elementary schools, in the nurse's office, by school employees. Notice that the entire administrative system of the school, including the principal and the superintendent, was immediately summoned to try to defend the nurse against charges that should have resulted in her immediate arrest by the police.

. . .

The overall scale of the corruption in the United States is so vast, and so shocking, that ... even good Christians are going to find it very hard to accept the reality of the literally Satanic evil.

Again, more at the link.

The guilty need to be brought to justice.  Quickly.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Daniel Greenfield on "The Second Civil War"

Daniel Greenfield is a well-known commentator, blogger and author.  In a speech to the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention in Myrtle Beach last January, he outlined what he sees as the Second Civil War in the USA - and it's happening already.  In the light of the fuss about the nomination of Justice Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court, I thought it might be worthwhile to remind ourselves of the roots of the opposition to his appointment.

If you prefer, you'll find a transcript of his speech here.  Food for thought, indeed.


Illinois: corruption, regulatory capture, unions, and pension promises

We've discussed Illinois' catastrophic pension situation in these pages on several occasions.  Wirepoints has now conducted an in-depth study of the situation, and points out that the narrative being portrayed by the state government, unions and the mainstream media there is simply not correct.  The problem is that unions have been promised largesse by the state that simply can't be afforded.

One graphic perfectly captures the absurdity of Illinois pensions over the past three decades.

In 1987, pension promises made to active workers and retirees in the state’s five state-run pension plans totaled just $18 billion. By 2016, they had ballooned to $208 billion.

That’s a cumulative 1,067 percent increase.

Contrast that to the state’s budget (general fund revenues) which was up just 236 percent over the same time period. Or household incomes, which were up just 127 percent. Or inflation, up just 111 percent.

Promised pension benefits have blown past any ability of the state, the economy or taxpayers to pay for them.

Wirepoints released a report on these booming benefits earlier this year ... The findings interfere with the narrative that’s repeatedly promoted by public sector unions and politicians – that the crisis is all the taxpayers’ fault for failing to put in enough money towards pensions.

The report proved a lack of dollars wasn’t the issue. Illinois pension assets – buoyed by taxpayer contributions – also grew far faster than the same economic indicators in the graphic above. But taxpayer contributions could never keep up with the state’s explosive growth in promised benefits.

Overpromising is the real culprit of the pension crisis. Freezing and reversing that growth in promised benefits is the fair, and only, way to fix things.

There's more at the link.  Also, read the report and article linked in the excerpt above.  They provide even more evidence about the unholy cabal that's driving this madhouse.

It's a vicious circle.  Unions demand more money for state government employees, and threaten to withhold their votes if they don't get them.  Politicians cave in to their demands:  but they haven't got enough money to pay out immediate benefits such as higher salaries.  Instead, they promise bigger and better pension benefits in future years - then turn around and tell taxpayers that they have no choice but to fund those benefits, because it's a contract between the state and its employees.  They never bother to tell taxpayers that it's a contract that should never have been agreed in the first place!

This is a perfect illustration of regulatory capture.  A pressure group (whether a union, or a company, or a group of unions or companies, or whatever) gains sufficient influence over politicians, or an administration, or an agency of that administration, to ensure that its interests override those of every other interested party when it comes to a particular issue, whether or not that's good for the rest of the state or nation.  In Illinois, government employee unions have "captured the state" in terms of getting what they want, when they want it, and to hell with the taxpayers.

It's long gone time for Illinois taxpayers to indulge in a little regulatory capture of their own, and tell the unions and the corrupt state government that indulges them to go to the hot place.  However, I won't hold my breath waiting, as Chicago's voters control the entire state, and the corruption in Chicago is legendary.

If I were living in Illinois right now, I'd be making plans to move to another state at almost any cost, even if I lost money by doing so.  Given the extent of that state's fiscal mismanagement, and the likely burden upon taxpayers to pay these exorbitant pension demands, there's no future there worth having for private citizens.  What's more, if I was owed money by Illinois, whether a pension or in any other form, I'd be planning to do without it, because the odds are getting better and better that the state won't be able to pay it.

That probably means that before long, Illinois' corrupt politicians and their union cronies will be calling upon the Federal government to bail them out, at the expense of every taxpayer in the USA.  Other states that have similarly mismanaged their finances (California for sure) will probably do likewise.  I can only hope and pray that the response to such demands will be "Not just no, but HELL, NO!"  Why should US taxpayers have to bail out Illinois unions and politicians, only to allow them to continue in the same vein as before?


This one's for steampunk fans

My thanks to the three readers who independently e-mailed me the link to this video.  It's kinda fun. Parts of it remind me of the movie "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom".



Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Some exciting blog and Web site news

For the past few weeks, I've had a consultant and his team working on setting up a dedicated Web site for me, and for the publishing company I set up earlier this year.  We hope to go live by the end of this month, although it may happen a little sooner than that, if all goes well.

The new Web site will incorporate this blog, plus more detailed pages for my books, by genre, by series, and by individual title.  I won't do direct sales from it, due to all the complications of sales taxes and other regulations for fifty different US states (not to mention foreign sales);  those will still happen through Amazon.com for the foreseeable future.  I'll try to write more about current projects on which I'm working, forthcoming books and stories and series, collaborations with other authors, and so on.

It's going to be a bit tricky timing the switch-over.  What will probably happen is that I'll give you three days' warning.  This blog will go dormant for those three days, with existing posts all still available, but no new ones being made.  During that period, the blog archive here will be ported over to the new site, we'll test the URL and other features, and direct the existing blog URL to the new server.  We'll hopefully be ready to go live on the third or fourth day, again depending on progress.  I'll post an announcement about that here, and at the new site.  I hope to do this as seamlessly as possible, with no interruptions or difficulties apart from the three-day hiatus period.  Ideally, if you come to this URL as usual, you should be redirected to the new site without any problem, and you can then update your bookmark(s) to the new URL at your convenience.

There's a lot to get right, but that's why I've hired experts in the field, rather than try to do it all myself.  I can handle basic HTML, but not all the complex bits and pieces of porting, converting and redirecting.  I know my limitations!  I've also got to set up e-mail accounts, spam filtering, a comment system (ditto on the spam), and all that stuff.  I daresay the first few days and weeks of operation may be a bit fraught as we tie everything together, but we'll do our best.

Wish us luck as we prepare for the move.  I hope you'll enjoy the new site.


Doofus Of The Day #1,016

Today's award goes to the far-left, progressive moonbats who exposed their fanatical ideology through dissenting with President Trump's choice of Justice Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court - even before his selection was announced!

First, the Women's March press release was fired off without updating it to include the nominee's name:

In other words, they wrote it before knowing who they were protesting against!  Way to convey sincerity and thoughtful dissent, ladies (?).

Also, there were the preprinted posters dissenting against any and every likely nominee, before the decision was announced.

Clearly, they pre-printed everything they could think of, then threw away those they didn't need.  Great way to demonstrate concern for the environment and saving the trees, folks.  Aren't you supposed to be environmentally conscious?

With this kind of crap going on, how do these people expect us to take them seriously???  If they advanced thoughtful, serious arguments for consideration, I'd give them precisely that - thoughtful, serious consideration - even if I disagreed with the position they expressed.  However, this sort of nonsense leads me to dismiss them - and all expressing such sentiments - as being both dishonest and irrelevant.  It's so ridiculous that it's an insult to my intelligence.

Moonbats.  Idiots.  Progressives.  But I repeat myself . . .


Welfare and immigration: a contradiction in terms

Karl Denninger points out the fundamental incompatibility between immigration and a welfare state.

Fundamentally-incompatible things can be serious trouble.

Put gasoline in your diesel-fueled vehicle and see what happens.  Or the converse.

Drink a bunch and then go operate some sort of machinery.  The outcome is likely to be very bad.

Welfare in general -- where you are given a right to take from someone else by force something you want but have not earned -- is incompatible with a lot of things.

One of the things it's incompatible with is an "open border".

This is math, not politics.  America has ~330 million people.  There are somewhere north of 7 billion people on this planet, most of them with standards of living that are below our poverty line.

If you have an open border and welfare it is only logical that all of them will want to come here.

It is mathematically certain that combining those two things will collapse the economy, asset markets and the government, leading to outright Civil War.

. . .

America long allowed virtually anyone to come through a regular border crossing (not simply walking in) and declaring that they wished to be American.  But being American meant taking the risk of the bad with the potential for the good.  There was no welfare, no Social Security, no disability, no Medicare or Medicaid.  There was no Section 8, nor "EBT".

In short you were free to come, and if you were of good character and demonstrated it by staying out of trouble you could stay, and eventually become a citizen.  But you never had a claim on anything that belonged to anyone else; you could only obtain any of it through voluntary exchange, and the other party both could and often did say "No."

Then we decided, mostly during the time of FDR and since, that being in the country conferred upon you the right to steal from others.

There's more at the link, and it's worth reading in full.

That explains the surge of illegal aliens in a nutshell.  Here, in the USA, they can claim all sorts of welfare payments from the US social "safety net".  They get something for nothing, just by being here.  If those rewards weren't there, there'd be little or no incentive for them to come here.  Sure, there are some illegal aliens who come here expecting - wanting - to work for a living;  but I think the evidence of the past couple of decades shows that the majority are here for what they can get out of the country, not what they can put into it.  Don't believe that?  Try these sources for a start:

I'm an immigrant myself - a legal one - so I understand the struggle to adjust to a new country and make a living:  yet, I've done that.  I've never used even one of the welfare programs typically used by illegal aliens and/or US citizens.  God willing, I don't expect to do so except in absolute, unavoidable emergency.  I came here expecting to have to provide for myself, and, thanks be to God, I've done so.  I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone with even a shred of pride in themselves could come here expecting - hoping! - to leech off the American taxpayer for the rest of their lives!

I think there's an obvious and very simple solution.  Make legal immigrants ineligible for welfare benefits for a minimum of five years after their arrival;  and make illegal aliens permanently ineligible for any state benefits at all.  I think that would have a drastic effect on the immigration situation, to the permanent advantage of these United States.


Note the lie in the headline

An article at CNBC caught my eye yesterday, particularly because the headline - and the body of the article - contain a blatant, out-and-out lie, designed to con the consumer.

Homeowners are sitting on a record amount of cash – and not tapping it

U.S. homeowners today are getting richer by the minute, but they are less likely to cash in on their newfound wealth than during previous housing booms. As home values rise, home equity lines of credit, often used to tap home equity, are flatlining, and the overall amount of money people are taking out of their homes is shrinking.

The collective amount of so-called tappable equity, which is the appraised value of a home minus the 20 percent most lenders require borrowers to keep as a safety net, grew by 7 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the previous quarter, according to Black Knight, a mortgage software and analytics company. That is the largest single-quarter growth since the company began tracking it in 2005. It is up 16.5 percent compared with a year ago.

Homeowners now have a collective $5.8 trillion in tappable equity, the highest volume ever recorded and 16 percent above the last home price peak in 2006. The average homeowner with a mortgage gained $14,700 in tappable equity over the past year and has $113,900 available to draw. This is the amount over and above 20 percent of the value of the average home.

. . .

... overall, just 1.17 percent of available equity was tapped in the first quarter of this year, the lowest amount in four years. Why? [Borrowers] may not know just how rich they are.

“I think the typical American doesn't have that level of awareness, they're not probably studying the numbers,” added Graboske.

They also may have long memories. The housing crash was 10 years ago, but the pain in the housing market is still being felt. Millions of borrowers lost their homes to foreclosure because they used them like ATMs. Some are just now able to qualify for a mortgage again.

There's more at the link.

The lie is to refer to one's home as "cash".  It's not cash at all - it's bricks and mortar, frames and siding, foundations and roof.  There are only two ways to convert that into cash:  sell it (in which case one has to find somewhere else to live, probably at greater expense) or borrow against it.  The latter is what the banks and economists would love us to do;  borrow against our assets, go ever deeper into debt, to fund greater expenditure and grow the economy some more.  The fact that the USA is already neck-deep in debt, collectively and individually, is ignored.  That's merely an inconvenience.  The important thing, as far as they're concerned, is to goose us into greater debt to fund greater spending - so that they can make more money out of us.

I've written about the problem of debt, and how it's killing us, many times before.  I won't repeat all that now.  However, there's only one way I'd recommend using accumulated equity in your home right now, and that is as an emergency measure to wipe out every higher-interest loan and credit facility you have.  If you owe $20,000, or $30,000, or $40,000 (or, heaven help us, even more than that) on credit cards, revolving credit lines, and so on, I'd deal with them by taking these five steps:
  1. Use your equity in your home to take out a lower-interest line of credit of some sort.
  2. Use that money to pay off, in full, every high-interest credit card or other debt that you have.
  3. Close all those accounts you've just paid off, and destroy the credit cards.  Don't take out any others to replace them.  You never want to get caught in that debt trap again!
  4. Use the monthly payments you've just freed up to save an emergency supply of cash - at least one month's worth, preferably three to six months' worth.
  5. As soon as you've built up that reserve, pay the extra amount every month into your home equity line of credit until it's paid off, and you're left with only the original debt owed on your home when you started this process.

By doing that, you'll be helping yourself - and you're the only person you need to be helping, until your finances are in better shape!  If you're already in that happy situation, where you're debt-free except for your home, build up your financial reserve as well - presuming you don't already have one - and then consider paying more into your mortgage every month.  That's what Miss D. and I are doing.  We bought our home on a 15-year note, and we intend, God willing, to pay it off in ten years.  That way we'll own the roof over our heads, giving us greater security, and we'll have our current monthly home loan payment available for other needs.  What's more, the interest rate on our mortgage is many times higher than what we can get on a savings account or certificate of deposit, so by paying more into it, and reducing the interest that we owe, we're effectively paying ourselves that higher rate of interest.

Nobody owns "cash" in their homes - only the value that can be realized by selling it, or borrowed against by going into debt.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you, and has an ulterior motive.  Remember the old Latin motto, "Cui bono?Who benefits?  Today it's often known as "follow the money".  If other people are urging you to take advantage of the "cash" that's in your home, they have a reason - and it's usually one that benefits them, rather than you.  Bear that in mind.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Verily, the mind doth boggle

Found on Gab this morning:

A bicycle . . . and a guitar . . . and a gun . . . in the shower.  Would someone please explain their mutually supporting presence to me?  Is this part of the millennial generation that I've somehow missed?  Is this the "new clean"?  Or is it, perhaps, social media showering?

Verily, the mind doth boggle!


When God is neither he, she nor it, but a feeling

The quite incredible stupidity of the vapid ultra-feminists is sometimes mind-boggling . . . but it's always reliably entertaining.  Consider feminist spirituality.

“Ecofeminist Spirituality” is a senior-level course taught by Dr. Frodo Okulam, and primarily aims to explore “different forms of ecofeminist spirituality” including “feminist biblical interpretation” as well as “goddesses and spirituality.”

“The insight of Ecofeminism is that the oppression of women and the exploitation of the earth are related,” Okulam told Campus Reform, adding that “in its least radical form…it would use existing laws to reform our relationship with nature.”

But Okulam also teaches students about other variations of ecofeminism. In a handout she often provides to students, for instance, she explains that there are Socialist Ecofeminism, Radical Ecofeminism, and Spiritual Ecofeminist schools of thought.

The most radical of these, she says, is Socialist Ecofeminism, which “would end the domination of women and nature inherent in the capitalist economy’s exploitation of both” and “transform the structure of power itself.”

. . .

The last time the class was offered, in Fall 2016, students explored topics such as “What is sacred to me, etc?” as well as “How do I envision the relationships among humans, the earth, and the divine or sacred?”

Selected readings included Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing, Gay and Gaia: Ethics, Ecology, and the Erotic, and The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods.

There's more at the link.

Ethics, Ecology and the Erotic?  I suppose that's possible, if one can be ethically turned on by ecology . . . just beware of splinters from the redwoods one's saved!

This nonsense reminds me of a retreat in which I participated in the early 2000's.  The retreat mistress, a nun, invited us to consider ourselves as musical instruments, and imagine that God was playing us.  She asked us to share, individually, what instrument we were, and our reactions.  My response didn't seem to satisfy her.  I said, "I am a flute.  Blow me!"

The rest of that meditation session was a failure, punctuated by hostile stares from the ladies (?) and irrepressible periodic outbreaks of giggles and snorts from the men.  I know, I know . . . I'm clearly an irredeemable male chauvinist - no, I can't be a pig, because that would be species appropriation.  Just call me whatever.  It won't worry me.


"The Pride of the Damned" is published!

The third and final book in my "Cochrane's Company" trilogy, "The Pride of the Damned", is now available on Amazon.

It's the climax of everything that has gone before.  The blurb reads:

The shadow war started as a simple contract to defend a system against asteroid thieves. The harder Andrew Cochrane and Hawkwood Security fought, the worse things became. Now they find themselves embroiled in an interstellar war with an entire mafia!

Worse yet, the proceedings are so profitable - not to mention bloody - that they've attracted the attention of some of the worst criminal organizations in the galaxy. If Hawkwood is to survive, it'll need all the wits, cunning and ingenuity it can muster - and the unwavering courage and dedication of its people.

The galaxy's not big enough for both sides. One or the other will go to the wall.

I hope you enjoy "The Pride of the Damned" as much as you have the first two books in the trilogy.  When Miss D. challenged me, last December, to consider the project, I had no idea how much work would be involved.  It's been exhausting, but also a lot of fun;  and you, my readers, appear to have enjoyed it, too, if sales figures are anything to go by.

I'm already hard at work on other projects, which you'll see come out over the next few months.  The first will be an omnibus volume of the first three Maxwell novels, which will include a brand-new story that won't be available anywhere else.  I'm also working on the third volume in my Western series, the Ames Archives, and the final volume in the Laredo War trilogy, as well as two short stories, a collaborative novel with a well-known author, and planning two new series in both the science fiction and fantasy genres.

Where's the idiot who said a writer's life was relaxed and easy?  I have news for him!


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sunday morning music

Here's a group I'm sure most of you have never heard of.  It's Clamavi De Profundis, a family group who, among other works, interpret the songs of J. R. R. Tolkien as depicted in his books and in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "The Hobbit" trilogy of movies.  They have their own YouTube channel, where you'll find most of their songs.

I'll post just three here to whet your appetite.  From The Lord of the Rings, here's "The Passing of the Rohirrim", a song of mourning for the Riders of Rohan who died in the Siege of Gondor and elsewhere.

And here's their interpretation of "The Road Goes Ever On", the iconic walking song that epitomizes Tolkien's work and the journey of the hobbits.  It's found in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Finally, from The Hobbit, here's "The Song of Durin".

Lovely stuff!  Check out their YouTube channel for more, and if you're so inclined, consider supporting them on Patreon.  They also offer their music on Amazon - see their songs and albums here, including some not derived from Tolkien's works.


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Dragon Awards?

I received an e-mail this morning from reader Dennison S., who pointed out that the first two books in my current Cochrane's Company trilogy are eligible for nomination for this year's Dragon Awards, the biggest reader-selected award in the USA.

I was flattered, of course, although I don't know what my chances will be against luminaries such as Larry Correia, John Ringo et. al.  They're the superstars in the mil-SF field;  I'm a relative amateur by comparison!  Nevertheless, he wanted to nominate my books, so I said he should go ahead.  I asked him to nominate the middle book of the trilogy, "An Airless Storm", rather than the first one, because it's the most recently published.

Therefore, dear readers:  if, and only if, you think "An Airless Storm" is worthy of nomination for a Dragon Award, please nominate it before July 20th 2018, when nominations close.  Please nominate it in the "Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel" category, not any other, as it most closely fits that genre.  You'll find the nomination form and instructions here.  The more people who nominate it, the better its chances of making it into the voting round later this year.  In that light, please DO NOT nominate the first book in the trilogy, "The Stones of Silence".  Let's concentrate the votes on a single book, not split them between two volumes.

Whether or not you nominate my book (or any other), you'll need to register to vote in the Dragon Awards before August 31st, 2018.  The form to do that is here.  I encourage all who love reading in the science fiction and fantasy categories to register to vote, and to make your voices heard.  The huge advantage the Dragon Awards have over every other similar award is that they're genuinely the voice of the readers, not the publishers or pressure groups or any other faction.  I think they're a great new entry on the awards scene, and I hope that one day, sooner or later, I may write a book that's worthy of such recognition.  Whether or not that will happen this year . . . that's up to you!

Oh - one last note:  the third and final volume in my Cochrane's Company trilogy, "The Pride of the Damned", is scheduled for publication next Monday, July 9th, God willing.  It won't be eligible for this year's Dragon Awards, which cover only books published on or before June 30th, 2018.  However, I hope you'll enjoy it as much as the first two!




The next time there's an Antifa protest against any right-wing gathering or demonstration, I want to see dozens of these placards on the other side.  Courtesy of Wirecutter:


Friday, July 6, 2018

Judge to Feds: "You had your chance, and you blew it. Now go away."

I'm pleased to see that the judge in the Bundy case has finally showed prosecutors the door.

A federal judge rejected prosecutors’ request Tuesday to reconsider her dismissal of the case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, his two sons and friend Ryan Payne.

U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro dismissed conspiracy charges against the four men on Jan. 8 after finding that prosecutors had acted “with prejudice” throughout the trial, The Oregonian reported. Federal prosecutors violated federal law and failed to share evidence favorable to the defendants case with the court. (RELATED: Bundy Case Dismissed, Judge Orders Rancher Released)

“The Court’s finding of outrageous government conduct was not in error,” Navarro wrote in her 11-page ruling, obtained by The Oregonian. “On the contrary, a universal sense of justice was violated by the Government’s failure to provide evidence that is potentially exculpatory.”

. . .

Myhre’s team of prosecutors had dismissed several claims of missing and hidden evidence by the defendants as “fantastical” and a “fishing expedition.” However, an investigation into the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) handling of the 2014 Nevada standoff with the Bundys revealed “incredible bias,” widespread misconduct and likely illegal actions by the BLM.

There's more at the link.

The evidence of misconduct by both the Bureau of Land Management, and then by Federal prosecutors, was so damning that it would have been a travesty of justice to reach any other decision.  I hope Mr. Bundy and his family sues the heck out of the BLM and the prosecutors for their misdeeds.  They deserve it.  I'm just sorry that any award will come out of taxpayers' pockets.  I'd prefer to see the property and possessions of the guilty officials confiscated and sold to pay the damages.


Superstition strikes again - fatally

I see the old "medicine-man-can-defeat-bullets" myth is still out there.

A Nigerian healer has been shot dead after encouraging one of his customers to test the efficacy of his bullet-proof charms.

Chinaka Adoezuwe, 26, was killed wearing the pendants around his neck after he instructed the man to fire his weapon.

The incident happened in the country's south-eastern Imo state and police say the shooter has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

Some Nigerian doctors claim the charms harness various powers and can cure  illnesses.

There's more at the link.

It's easy to mock such beliefs, but they've been around for centuries.  Native American shamans allegedly used them to encourage the warriors of their tribes to fight white intruders;  they were (and still are) common in African tribal religions;  and I daresay something similar may be found in the Far East and South-East Asian regions, if you look hard enough.  Hilaire Belloc put it unkindly, if succinctly, from the colonial point of view:

“Whatever happens, we have got
The Maxim gun, and they have not.”

I only met someone convinced by such superstitions on one occasion, when he attempted to put me en brochette with an assegai.  He was... ah... persuaded otherwise, not with a Maxim, but with a World War II-vintage Remington Rand copy of a Colt M1911A1 pistol.

Nevertheless, the same primitive superstitions are often encountered in the First World as well.  How many consult their horoscope, or check their biorhythms, or wear or carry a lucky charm of some sort (a rabbit's foot, or a four-leaf clover, or something like that)?  How many carry garlic as a protection against vampires, or wear a cross or crucifix to ward off evil?  Such things are far more common than many would like to admit - and they're generally just as useless as faith in an anti-bullet amulet.  In particular, the (mis)use of religious emblems is dangerously facile.  If you, yourself, aren't fully living up to the requirements and expectations of your faith, why should a symbol of that faith protect you?  Something more practical (against worldly threats, anyway) might be a lot more appropriate.


I may resemble that remark

From Pearls Before Swine yesterday (click the image to see a larger version at the comic's Web page):

Particularly for those of us who are veterans, and who saw action, it's frighteningly easy to reach that stage.  When I saw the comic yesterday, I thought for a moment, and realized how true it was.  Without trying too hard, I can think of at least 60 friends and acquaintances who are now dead, the majority of them due to combat and/or violence.  The total is probably nearer, and quite possibly over, 100.  That's a scary thought.

Fortunately, I was able (thanks be to God!) to make a new life for myself, in a new country, with a whole new set of friends.  I am indeed blessed.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

LibertyCon is outdoing - and outgrowing - itself

As you know, Miss D. and I just returned from LibertyCon in Chattanooga, TN last weekend.  We're tired, but getting over it, and picking up the threads of normal life once again.  (Miss D.'s after-action report is here.  We came home with a couple of lovely paintings by Melissa Gay from the Con's art exhibition.  My wife picked out this one for the lounge, and I bought this one to go over our fireplace.)

It was a great weekend.  We enjoyed the company of old friends, made some new ones, gave seminars, took in others, learned a lot, and hopefully helped others learn.  The highlight of my weekend was meeting a couple who told me they'd attended our seminar on the state of the self-publishing market, three years ago, and that I'd encouraged them to step out and try it for themselves.  They did - and they've now sold 17,000 books, and are steadily doing better and better.  That made my day!  There's room in the market for anyone and everyone with the gumption to try, and a modicum of talent, and who's willing to work hard to succeed.

(Fellow author Jon del Arroz also seems to have enjoyed LibertyCon.  He calls it "the undisputed best convention in the world".  You can read his report here.  It was good to see him again there.  He'll be coming out with some more books in a short while - keep your eyes peeled for them.)

However, LibertyCon's popularity has become so great that it's a problem in itself.  You see, the Con is run by a 501(c)(3) organization, with all profits going to charity.  Its constitution limits attendance to a maximum of 750 people.  When tickets for next year's convention went on sale yesterday, they sold out in six hours!

I know a number of people who weren't able to secure their tickets in time, and who are very disappointed and upset.  There's a waiting list, and I'm sure some places will open up, but it's unsettling to find that level of competition for a limited number of places.  (Yes, Miss D. and I bought our tickets in time!)

I don't know what the answer might be.  One suggestion is that fans consider starting "sister conventions" in other cities, so that the LibertyCon ethos and spirit can be carried further afield.  That's an interesting thought, but it'd be a huge amount of work - and we'd have to form an organizing committee from scratch.  We'd need a lot of volunteers, willing to put in the endless (and often thankless) hours of work needed to make something like LibertyCon a success.

What do you think?  Would readers be interested in, say, a Panhandle LibertyCon, based in Amarillo?  That'd be within driving distance for many readers.  Other regional possibilities are Colorado or Kansas.  We'd have to schedule it so as not to conflict with other major events, of course, but it's a thought.  If any of those is of interest to you, please let us know in Comments, and we'll toss the idea around for a while.


Russian military tactics and operations in Ukraine

I'm obliged to Solomon for posting this video of a talk by Dr. Phillip Karber, given at West Point Military Academy, on "The Russian Way of War".  It's just over an hour long, and examines the conflict in Ukraine.  For those interested in the subject - particularly what US forces might have to face in a major confrontation - it's very informative (not to mention deeply worrying, considering how many of the abilities exhibited by Russian forces have been ignored or allowed to atrophy by our own armed forces).

Very thought-provoking.  Recommended.


Starting over: replacing one's firearms battery

Ryan, over at the Total Survivalist blog, put up a thought-provoking article recently titled "Starting a Firearms Battery Over".  In a situation where "the guns I currently have were ALL lost in a boating accident/ fire/ etc.", he asked how and with what he would replace them.  Click over there to read his proposed solution to the problem.

I found his answers interesting, but I approached the problem from a different perspective.  My biggest concern with most firearms owners is that, in a practical scenario, they aren't able to produce rapid, accurate, aimed fire on demand.  If you were to take a hundred handgun owners, selected at random from an average city suburb, and ask them to shoot a basic law enforcement handgun qualification course of fire, I daresay a relatively low percentage would be able to pass it.  I daresay the same applies to the average rifle or shotgun owner, although those weapons are easier to shoot accurately than a handgun.  I therefore place the ability to practice often and cost-effectively very high on my list of priorities.  It won't help me to have "ideal" weapons for my needs if I can't demonstrate adequate capabilities with them on demand.

This is not only a practical consideration, it's also a very important financial one.  Let's say I need to fire 100 rounds per month to maintain basic proficiency with my defensive firearm.  (I'd consider that a bare-bones minimum for most people - more would be much better, but let's go with 100 rounds for now.)  Let's look at comparative costs for the lowest-priced practice versions of common defensive cartridges.  All figures are drawn from the current catalog at SGAmmo, a supplier of whom I've written before.
  • 9mm. Parabellum steel-case practice ball:  $149.80 per 1,000 rounds, or $0.15 per round.
  • .40 S&W steel-case practice ball:  $99.50 per 500 rounds, or $0.20 per round.
  • .45 ACP steel-case practice ball:  $109.90 per 500 rounds, or $0.22 per round.
  • .223 Remington steel-case practice ball:  $22.95 per 100 rounds, or $0.23 per round.
  • 7.62x39mm steel-case practice ball:  $204.90 per 1,000 rounds, or $0.21 per round.
  • .22LR 40gr. lead practice ball:  $209.50 per 5,000 round case, or $0.04 per round.
Those numbers say it all.  Work out your minimum monthly practice costs for each of those cartridges, and see which you'll most easily be able to afford.  It won't take very long to justify the cost of an additional .22LR firearm or two, or the relevant conversion kits or adapters, particularly if you're talking about a family's needs instead of an individual's.  The money you save on practice and training can then be plowed back into buying better (or more) weapons for your joint and several needs.

For this reason, my top priority would be one of the following two options, depending on what was available to me.
  1. I want a primary defensive firearm, be it handgun or long gun, that can use a .22LR adapter or conversion kit to shoot low-cost rimfire ammunition for frequent practice, as well as its primary cartridge.  This has the added advantage of using the primary firearm's own trigger and other controls during practice, helping to provide weapon familiarization.
  2. If I can't find, or can't afford, a primary defensive firearm with that capability, I'd put a very high priority on buying a .22LR equivalent to that firearm for training purposes.  That also has the advantage of providing a second weapon in an emergency, even if in a sub-optimal caliber - which can, nevertheless, be very effective, as I've pointed out before.

For ease of use, simplicity of operation, and common availability of parts and ease of maintenance, there are two defensive firearms that are ubiquitous;  and both can be fitted with rimfire adapters or conversion kits for low-cost practice.
  • The Glock pistol is probably the handgun most widely used by US law enforcement agencies, and is available everywhere at affordable prices.  Rimfire conversion kits are also freely available.
  • The AR-15 family of rifles and carbines is equally common, and many rimfire conversion kits are available.
I would therefore buy one of each as my very first firearms purchases, plus the necessary rimfire adapters or kits.  I'd buy the pistol chambered for the 9mm. cartridge, in the model most suitable for my requirements (the Glock Model 17 or 34 is full-size, the 19 is compact, and the 26 is sub-compact).  The AR-15 would be chambered for the 5.56x45mm. cartridge.  I'd lay in a supply of at least 5 good-quality magazines for each weapon, as well as a few boxes of high-quality defensive ammunition for each gun, over and above cheaper practice ammo.  Rimfire adapter kits would be included, or purchased as soon as possible thereafter.

Of course, I might live in a state or city where AR-15 rifles are highly restricted, and/or where handguns are tightly controlled.  In such circumstances, my first purchase might be a lever-action carbine or rifle in a handgun caliber, such as .357 Magnum or .44 Magnum.  Each could fire lower-power ammunition for training (.38 Special and .44 Special respectively), and would provide adequate defensive firepower and performance in an emergency.  Affordable .22LR lever-action carbines are available for lower-cost practice.  I'd back them up with a handgun conforming to local restrictions, the most powerful I could control under the circumstances.  If you're going to be restricted to only a few rounds, make them the most effective you can control!  If ammo commonality is a consideration, and if semi-auto carbines other than the AR-15 are less politically incorrect in such an environment, Ruger's new PC9 carbine would be a good fit, too.

With such weapons, plus ancillary equipment and accessories such as holsters, magazine pouches, flashlights, etc., I'd be reasonably well equipped to defend myself and my family - my single most important priority.  In a pinch, using suitable ammunition, an AR-15 or pistol-caliber lever-action carbine will also serve to hunt game up to the size of small to medium deer, or hogs, or what have you.  (It might not be legal to use 5.56mm. cartridges for hunting in your area, but in emergency, I daresay such regulations will be honored more in the breach than in the observance!)

At this point, I could begin to expand my horizons.  I could buy a hunting rifle, fitted with a telescopic sight and firing ammunition suitable to take down the game animals in my area.  I could buy a shotgun for bird hunting and/or defensive use;  many pump-action and semi-auto shotguns can be had with long or short barrels, which can be swapped out to make them more suitable for a given application.  My needs there would depend on where I was and what threat I was facing.  Someone in bear country might want a "stomper" such as a .45-70 lever-action rifle to defend against such animals, or a heavier-caliber rifle such as a .338 to hunt them.  In my area, where smaller, less dangerous game is the rule, I currently rely on a .30-30 lever-action rifle, and I'm comfortable with that choice.  Alternatively, a .308 bolt-action or semi-auto rifle would do a very good job around here.  Given my current physical limitations, I probably wouldn't buy a shotgun.

However, there are other considerations.  In an environment with a higher crime rate, it might make more sense to equip other members of your family with adequate defensive weapons, before buying guns more suitable for hunting or sporting use.  Circumstances will dictate what's most important for your needs.  There's also the unpleasant reality that if you use a firearm in self-defense, even in the most clear-cut circumstances where you won't be charged with anything, the police will still confiscate the gun(s) you used for a period of at least several months, possibly several years, for ballistics tests and possible use as evidence.  You'd better have something available to replace them while they're not available - another good argument for having duplicates of each of your primary defensive firearms already on hand, in case your assailant's friends come looking for evens.

That would be my approach to the problem.  What's yours?