Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Obama's Parting Gifts

A Not Funny Cartoon

A lot of folks are raising the specter of Trumpian assaults on speech and press and so on. I've thought for a while that the outrage is of sorta questionable sincerity since Obama had long since put the tools in place for a repressive regime.  

Don't get me wrong, I understand that Bush vastly expanded NSA and government snooping generally but thing is that once a President is in office for a bit, say a day, all of those nasty things become his.  So it was Obama's NSA.  Other areas of repression include his pursuit of leakers and journalists who dared to publish.  In any event, I came across a relevant series of lectures at Columbia Law School.  I down loaded the three lectures for later reading and include the links here.  The thing that caught me was this from the article that pointed me to them:
Eben Moglen, a law professor at Columbia University, gave a series of lectures in which he discussed the idea of “fastening the procedures of totalitarianism on the substance of democratic society.” Moglen’s lectures were mostly concerned with surveillance by the National Security Agency — the title of his talks was “Snowden and the Future” — but his idea applies to other procedures the U.S. government has recently become fond of. Few are more important than targeting whistleblowers and journalists, and Obama has begun the fastening process.

It is a phrase worth repeating, it resonates because of it's truth:

“fastening the procedures of totalitarianism on the substance of democratic society”

That is what Obama did, that is what every well meaning Chief Executive does when they make things "safer" for us.

The lectures ...

The question is not whether Trump would ever exploit such potential abuses, the question is whether he will make them unuseable by future Presidents.  I am not hopeful.

PLUG: If you have an interest in matters of privacy and free speech then I encourage you to visit Popehat.com.  The folks there write eloquently on these topics and more.  In fact I am going to wax eloquent shortly on some points that one of the contributors there, Ken White, made concerning privacy, government snooping and other issues that should be uniting for hippies and righties and basically all Americans.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Secrecy and our government

There does come a point where the risk of danger, even violence, becomes preferable to our government having basically unlimited access to our personal lives. Complete safety is a chimera and the result of attempting to attain it will result in an Orwellian environment that would be the envy of the NAZI police state.

Our government has demonstrated that they cannot be trusted. Even a cursory examination of the statements issued and the realty show lies and obfuscation. Post 9/11 laws have been directed toward criminal matters that were never the stated targets when they were under discussion. The FISA "court" is a reeking corruption of the term "court"; our courts are not secret, are not held in private with results that are kept from our citizens. Allowing this horror shows how far down the absolutist path we have gone.

We need more than a restatement of a few aspects of the relevant law, we need to gut what is there and then have a national, public debate on how much we are willing to give up for the promise of safety (which seems hollow given the notion of personal Jihad).

We do need to wake up and take control of the policing that threatens to make all of us look over our shoulders, not at terrorists but at agents of our own government.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Investing in Firearms

I've sort of casually invested in firearms for many years.  I say "casually" because I have never investigated market conditions, nor have I studied what was hot and what was not.  I had an informal awareness of the fact that Lugers were increasing in value at an obscene rate and that the Python I foolishly sold years ago was now the price of a respectable used fishing boat.  

I have always like Lugers and other early German pistols, as well as Smith's and a few others. These were the basis of my "portfolio".  I also was fortunate to be the recipient of a number of firearms from friends and relatives over the years.   I was doubly fortunate in that most of these were in excellent condition and were very "collectable".   So these weapons are the basis of my Firearm Portfolio:
Manufacturer Model Date  Caliber (mm)
Sauer 38H ~1941 7.65 mm (.32 ACP)
Browning High Power 1986* 9mm
Inland Division M1 Carbine 1941* .30 Carbine
Mauser Werke Mod. 1895 Pre-War  7.63×25mm Mauser 
Mauser Werke Mod. 1895 Red 9 9mm
Smith and Wesson Model 1950 1952 .45ACP
Smith and Wesson Model 624 1985 .44 Special
Colt Officers Model 1916* .38 Special
DWM P .08 Luger 1927 9mm
DWM P .08 Luger 1916 9mm
Mauser Werke P .08 Luger 1938* 9mm
Mauser Werke P.08 Artillery 1917* 9mm
Mauser Werke P-38 1943* 9mm
Walther P-38 1944* 9mm
UBERTI S&W #3 Modern .44 Russian
Colt Targetsman 1974* .22 LR

The asterisks indicate dates of manufacture that are either on the weapon or have been confirmed by a record search.  All are in Excellent condition.  The Mod. 1895's are virtually new. The Lugers have some holster wear but are very nice.  The point is that any collector of these things would be happy to add any of the examples to his collection.

How has this portfolio performed?  Better than my stocks, that's for sure.  However, some of the values, while all have grown, have not increased as much as would have guessed.  The High Power is only about 15% more than I paid though it is virtually new.   The M1 went from (I am embarrassed to say) around $175 to around $1000 (I said "buy smart", didn't I?)

I bring this subject up because of a neat little piece published by our pals at the Rock Island Auction Company (RIAC):

Stocks, Bonds or Barrels by RIAC

It's a good read because if you are  shooter and own firearms, you have already invested.

I commented on the piece but will repeat my thoughts here:

Interesting, and in support of what I have been saying for some time. The main thing (aside from the good caveats that you already mentioned) is condition, condition, condition. Buy one fabulous Python (or Luger or Broomhandle or Mauser Pocket Pistol) rather than 5 Fair Condition C&R .45s. The rate of increase for the good stuff will be jaw dropping, the other stuff will appreciate but it may take a lot more time.

I have a rule of thumb: if you buy a firearm intelligently (ie. used, good price etc) you will be, on average, at break even in 12-18 months. In 2-3 years you will show a healthy profit.

Finally, I would encourage people to not think of firearms as speculative investments. The AR boom has come and gone and AR's, unless collectable, are simply ugly tools whose value is fairly stable. 

Finally, finally, the question always is "is it too late?". That is should one actually buy a Python at today's prices?. I think so, provided you can get something of a deal. Do your research and try to find one that is reasonably undervalued. Then DO NOT HESITATE: go for it and don't look back.

Another thing. If you start accumulating collectable firearms you have to think about storage. Rather than rattle on, perhaps our friends at RIAC could do a piece on that topic.

Thanks for good information guys/gals.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

OK, so you are in your cabin near Big Bear

and you hear that old Chris Dorner may be in the neighborhood looking to pay you a visit.

He may even want to share some of his thoughts for his future activities with you, viz.

I will conduct DA operations to destroy, exploit and seize designated targets. If unsuccessful or unable to meet objectives in these initial small-scale offensive actions, I will reassess my BDA and re-attack until objectives are met. I have nothing to lose. My personal casualty means nothing. Just alike AAF’s, ACM’s, and AIF’s, you can not prevail against an enemy combatant who has no fear of death. An enemy who embraces death is a lose, lose situation for their enemy combatants.
The Manifesto
Yessir, that could make for some stimulating conversation.

Now, as you settle into a long evening in your cabin ...

Alone ...

An hour from any help ...

Not near a cop or neighbor ..

I ask you:

What size magazine do you "NEED"?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

No comment

Well, maybe one.


How's that?

Then again, there are any number of idiot potitions with the same level of tome deafness.

How about The Duke?

or our buddy Kerry?

Now I really have no comment.

Manufactured Terror Courtesy of Uncle Sam, Inc.

You might recall that I wrote about a travesty of justice back in April.  It appeared to me that the defendant, Tarek Mehanna, was well and truly railroaded and sentenced to prison for 17+ years on the flimsiest of pretexts.  I think that we are all uncomfortably aware of various cases where our government appears to play a bit too active a role in the generation of terrorist plots.  It had seemed to me, at least, that this was a real growth industry for various government bureaucrats.

Well, there is a new book, available on Amazon and reviewed in Reason, which tells a very sad and frightening story.  I guess that I wasn't the only one who saw the business connection.  From the Reason review:
Imagine a country in which the government pays convicted con artists and criminals to scour minority religious communities for disgruntled, financially desperate, or mentally ill patsies who can be talked into joining fake terror plots, even if only for money. Imagine that the country's government then busts its patsies with great fanfare to justify ever-increasing authority and ever-increasing funding. According to journalist Trevor Aaronson's The Terror Factory, this isn't the premise for a Kafka novel; it's reality in the post-9/11 United States.

Folks, it is a very short step between catching a person with evil intent and helping him be evil. I will be the first to say that home grown terrorist that plan on planting explosives to endanger us all should be locked up in Supermax.  The problem that I have is when you have some idiots, with limited intelligence  who are guided every step of the way by agents of our government.  And only then arrested.  The idea that unactualized evil is helped along to a point where it is legally actionable is very troublesome to me and it should be to you too.

Which brings us to the concept of a "Near Occasion of Sin".  Let me quote 

In the form of the Act of Contrition that many of us learned as children, the final line reads, "I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more, and to avoid the near occasion of sin." It's easy to understand why we should "sin no more," but what is a "occasion of sin," what makes it "near," and why should we avoid it? 
Answer: An occasion of sin, Fr. John A. Hardon writes in his indispensable Modern Catholic Dictionary, is "Any person, place, or thing that of its nature or because of human frailty can lead one to do wrong, thereby committing sin." Certain things, such as pornographic images, are always, by their nature, occasions of sin. Others, such as alcoholic beverages, may not be an occasion of sin for one person but may be for another, because of his particular weakness.
There are two types of occasions of sin: remote and near (or "proximate"). An occasion of sin is remote if the danger it poses is very slight. For instance, if someone knows that he tends, once he starts drinking, to drink to the point of drunkenness, but he has no problem refraining from ordering the first drink, having dinner in a restaurant where alcohol is served might be a remote occasion of sin. We don't have to avoid remote occasions of sin unless we think that may become something more.
An occasion of sin is near if the danger is "certain and probable." To use the same example, if the person who has trouble controlling his drinking is going to dinner with someone who always buys him a drink and bullies him into drinking more, then the very same restaurant that serves alcohol might become a near occasion of sin. (Indeed, the bullying person can be a near occasion of sin as well.)
Perhaps the best way to think of near occasions of sin is to treat them as the moral equivalent of physical dangers. Just as we know we should stay alert when we're walking through a bad part of town at night, we need to be aware of the moral threats around us. We need to be honest about our own weaknesses and actively avoid situations in which we're likely to give in to them.
(Thank you to Scott Richert, writing in About.Com, for his lucid definition) 
 Interesting stuff, isn't it?   Note the bolded portion.  That is, as they say, the rub.  I have no doubt that there are a lot of people who have evil intent but that is a far cry from being actively dangerous.  If, for example, a person is encouraged and provided the means it seems to me that the forces of the Government have greatly overstepped.  The Government, then, becomes a Near occasion and that is really not a good thing because, frankly, they prey upon the weak as well as identifying the evil.

The frightening thing is that our mealy-mouthed polititions cannot take a stand on something that concerns national security without being slammed by their opponents and, as we all know, reelection is job one.  Bottom line is don't go looking for reform anytime soon.  Like the "War on Drugs" this "war on Terror" is becoming a business and is institutionalized which means it is part of our landscape for the foreseeable future.  

Sad stuff.