Opinion Archive


Revolver vs Semi-auto

Perhaps even older than the perennial argument about the relative superiority of 9 mm vs .45 ACP is the argument about the viability of the revolver vs the semi-auto as a self-defense weapon.

There are still those that claim that the revolver is a better choice for some classes of people, most notably women. The argument is that a revolver is simpler, and easy to operate. Presumably, the implication here is that women are also simple and mechanically inept. Not only is this untrue (at least in my experience) but it is inviting (at minimum) a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

So lets take a look at the relative advantages:

  • Capacity. The smallest semi auto is competitive in terms of capacity. Small revolvers firing decent power ammunition will typically have 5 or maybe 6 rounds. A small semi-auto will typically hold 10 rounds. Even the minute Ruger LC9 9mm holds 7+1.
  • Reloading. Reloading a semi auto typically involves pressing a button to drop the empty magazine, sliding a full magazine into place, then releasing the slide. A revolver typically involves pressing a button to release the cylinder, swinging the cylinder out, hitting the ejector to extract the used cases, then loading rounds, typically one by one into the cylinder and finally closing the cylinder. This can be sped up by the use of speed-loaders, or moon-clips. The only disadvantage to these being their bulk.
  • Physical size. One of the problems with a revolver is that there just isn’t much you can do about the diameter of the cylinder. For a given capacity, a semi-auto is always going to be smaller.
  • The slide. The slide on a semi-auto is probably the  most intimidating part. Having that chunk of metal whiz back at blinding speed 1/8″ above your hand is disconcerting until you get used to it. Then there is the problem of racking the slide. The spring on some guns making this a challenging task for the uninitiated. However, I contend that with a bit of coaching, I can get people who claim that they just can’t do it, happily racking their slides in a couple of hours. It is mostly technique, although there will undoubtedly be some people with real physical problems for whom this will always be a problem.
  • The cylinder gap. The gap between the front of the cylinder and the barrel leads to a blast of hot gas (flame) and potentially small pieces of metal blasting out with each shot. Unless you fire a revolver in the darkness, this is often unnoticed until someone gets a finger or hand in the way. As with the semi-auto slide, dealing with this is simply a matter of training yourself to keep your hands well away.
  • Mechanical complexity. The revolver is typically touted as being mechanically simpler. In fact, it is arguably considerably more complex. Leaving aside the trigger/hammer/sear which is reasonably consistent across revolvers and semi-autos, a semi-auto (non 1911) consists of basically a chunk of metal (the slide), the barrel and a spring. You can’t get simpler than that. If you want, you can add in a box and spring for the magazine. A revolver is more complex. As you start pulling the trigger, the cylinder has to un-lock so that it can rotate. The cylinder has to rotate the next cartridge in line with the barrel, accurately, to a precision of a thousandth of an inch or so. The hammer is rising at the same time. Before the hammer falls, the cylinder has to be locked in place, then the hammer falls. There is a lot of precision placement and timing going on during that trigger pull. From the outside a revolver may look simple, but internally it is relatively complex.
  • Jamming. Semi-autos seem to find an endless variety of ways in which to jam. In reality, they are all variations on  a couple of themes: extracting and ejecting the empty case and feeding the next round from the top of the magazine. Short of the dreaded double-feed, most jams can be fixed by the slap-rack-bang technique. Revolver jams are usually due to a single cause: There is a lot of leverage cylinder to trigger. Just try holding the cylinder between two fingers and pulling the trigger — you can’t. So the revolver depends ipon a very freely moving cylinder (when unlocked). Small amounts of dirt from just about any source in the wrong place will make the cylinder rotation stiff, and the trigger pull impossible.
  • Ammo problems. There are two (rare but important) ammo problems to consider. The first is a squib load – too light a charge of powder. The result is the same for revolver or semi-auto: a bullet lodged in the barrel, and the distinct possibility of losing at least a finger or two if you pull the trigger again. The second is a hang-fire. On the range these are easily and safely dealt with, just keep the gun pointe down range for 30 seconds, and if it doesn’t go bang, it is safe to remove the dud bullet and continue. In a self defense situation you cant do this. With a semi-auto, you just rack the slide – taking care to keep fingers and eyes away from the open action in case it does go off. With a revolver, you really can’t pull the trigger again, because the fizzling round will rotate to a position where the bullet has nowhere to go. If it does fire it will probably take the side out of the cylinder, and maybe half your hand with it. All you can do is a full eject/reload. Rare as hang fires are with modern commercial ammo, they do happen, and this, above all, is probably why I would not use a revolver for personal defense.

Gun myths and disinformation

A friend posted a link to an article pushing gun control in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado killings, and I promised a response to that. The comment section of Facebook is not really suitable for something of this length, so I am choosing to compose my response here, and will post a link to this article in the Facebook thread.

I will begin by saying that I think it highly inappropriate to use such an event to push a personal agenda, especially at such an early stage where full facts are not known, victim’s families are suffering, and emotions are running high — unless of course, an emotional response is the aim. If that is the aim, it says much about the character and political morals of the writer.

Facts surrounding this are mostly based upon media reports, and leaks from ill-informed “police sources”. For example, initial  reports claimed than an AK-47 had been used. Hardly surprising, since the illiterate US media tend to call any semi-automatic rifle an AK-47, totally ignoring the fact that an AK-47 is a true assault weapon, capable of full automatic fire, and not readily available to the general public in the USA.

There were also claims that the perpetrator was wearing full body-armor. It now appears that he was actually wearing what marketing people call a “tactical ballistic vest ” and “ballistic leg protectors”. What that translates to in common English is a nylon (so-called ballistic nylon, a trademark of Cordura, the sort used to construct back-packs, purses, flight bags etc.) with pockets to hold magazines, flashlight, radio, water bottle etc. The leggings are typically used for thermal and abrasion protection. A throat protector falls into two categories, one is when talking about real armor, and extends the protection around the neck – most often used in scenarios such as bomb disposal, not often used outside those specific applications because it is uncomfortable and restricts movement too much. A much lighter weight version is available to protect against knife attack and or low velocity shrapnel. Gloves are to protect against things like barbed wire and cold weather and to allow (to put it bluntly) beating people up without damaging your hands and leaving incriminating evidence.

So the AK-47 turns out not to be  an AK-47 and the body armor turns out not to be anything that would stop anything beyond (perhaps) an air rifle pellet.

It now appears that the rifle actually played a minor role, that most damage was done by a shotgun and a pistol, so concentrating on the rifle appears strange.

On to examining what was actually written in that article.

Lets begin with:

I do not understand people who support public ownership of assault style weapons like the AR-15 used in the Colorado massacre.

Being pedantic, it sounds as though he doesn’t support government organizations owning AR-15s (public ownership) but is quite ok with private ownership.

He then says “assault style weapons” so his issue appears to be with the look of the gun more than anything else, he has (apparently) no issue with assault rifles, but only with rifles syled to look like them. Fuzzy thinking indeed.

The term “assault weapon” probably deserves some discussion. The term “Assault Rifle” was coined in Germany during WWII by non other than Adolf Hitler when he was shown the Maschinenpistole 43 which became the Sturmgewehr 44  (translates as storm rifle 44). Assault rifles have a defined set of characteristics:

  • It must be an individual weapon with provision to fire from the shoulder (i.e. a buttstock);
  • It must be capable of selective fire;
  • It must have an intermediate-power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle;
  • Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable magazine rather than a feed-belt.
  • And it should at least have a firing range of 300 meters (1000 feet)

This is an internationally and industry recognized term, which is why when the US “assault weapon” ban was introduced, they used that term rather than “assault rifle” since “assault rifles” are actually already banned. This ban concentrated on cosmetic issues (what the gun looked like) rather than on any functionality characteristics. It was an end-run around the constitution, since it didn’t actually ban any class of firearms, only a set of cosmetic features.

The key here is the second bullet – it must be select-fire, which means that it must have a switch to select either semi-automatic fire (one pull of the trigger, one shot) or automatic fire (one pull of the trigger, multiple shots). Also note that it does not fire high-power rounds, so the phrase beloved of reporters and their editors (high-power assault rifle) is nonsensical.

The term “assault weapon” (as opposed to assault rifle) is tracable back to one Josh Sugarmann, director of the National Coalition to Ban Handguns, who wrote a memo which said:

 “…the semiautomatic weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion ..[that] anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun – can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons

The term was deliberately coined to confuse.

Back to the article under discussion – he throws in the word “massacre” to begin the emotional wind-up.

Not a good start.

He continues:

 Despite these massacres recurring and despite the 100,000 Americans that die every year due to domestic gun violence – these people see no value to even considering some kind of control as to what kinds of weapons are put in civilian hands.

In his “recurring massacres”, he again uses an emotional term, and conveniently forgets other “massacres” that have occurred which did not make use of assault weapons, and in some cases, not even firearms.

The reference to 100,000 dying as a result of domestic gun violence is a complete fabrication. According to the FBI statistics for 2010 (latest complete statistics available) there were 12,996 TOTAL murders in the USA. Of these  8,775 were by firearm, 6,009 of them by handguns and 358 using a rifle. Putting number of murders into perspective, there were 33,963 road traffic deaths in 2010.

After a rambling discussion on the US constitution, where he carefully avoids mentioning that US federal law specifically states that the militia is every able-bodied man, and that even if that were not the case, the Supreme Court  of the US has ruled that firearms possession is an individual right, we move on to this gem:

What purpose does an AR-15 serve to a sportsman that a more standard hunting rifle does not serve?

Where did “sportsman” come from? There is no reference to that in the second amendment to the US constitution, and what is his definition of sport? Why does he think that the only sporting use of firearms is to kill animals (seems to have killing on the brain…). Has he considered those sports where these types of rifle are actually required?

Based upon his own words, a standard hunting rifle serves the same purpose as an AR-15, if that is so, does he want to ban those too?

In the same paragraph:

Let’s see – does it fire more rounds without reload? Yes. Does it fire farther and more accurately? Yes. Does it accommodate a more lethal payload? Yes. So basically, the purpose of an assault style weapon is to kill more stuff, more fully, faster and from further away. To achieve maximum lethality.

Does it fire more rounds without a reload? Well, yes, he got that part right. One might ask the question compared to what? but since he specified a “hunting rifle” we will take that as the benchmark. It may be worth pointing out that the AR-15 is a legal hunting rifle for small game in many states, but he obviously has a pre-conceived notion of what a hunting rifle is.

Does it fire further and more accurately?

Well, lets look back at the definition of an assault rifle: “It must have an intermediate-power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle”  Hmm… so it doesn’t shoot further than the benchmark “hunting rifle”.

For comparison, here is a 5.56mm bullet (used by the AR-15, compared to a 7.62mm round as used in full-power “battle rifles” (as well as many hunting rifles). It is also worth noting that military sniper rifles (that is, rifles specifically chosen for range and accuracy) are almost invariably versions of standard hunting rifles, most often a Remington 700, and are bolt action, not semi-auto.

“More lethal payload”

The 5.56mm (or .223 if you insist on using inch measurements) is significantly smaller, with significantly less powder behind it. One of the original arguments made for using 5.56 in a military rifle was its DECREASED lethality – more likely to wound than kill, and that wounded soldiers absorb much more military resources than dead ones do.

A quick application of Google will find numerous stories of the US military on the ground in the Middle East complaining that the 5.56 round is underpowered and not lethal enough. Those that have the ability to choose their own weapons often use the M16 predecessor, the M14, which uses 7.62 ammunition.

So this paragraph is complete, unadulterated garbage. Someone talking through his hat, simply reciting the mantra of gun control groups.

The article only indirectly touched upon the other factor that is a gun-ban favorite: Magazine capacity.

An unattributed “expert” claimed that the 100 round magazine (found practically full in Aurora) would enable someone to fire 50 to 60 rounds in a minute, I don’t know where this “expert” comes from, but I can tell you that with marginal practice, I would be able to fire in excess of 60 rounds in a minute using the small 20 round (30 round is standard) magazines. Whether I would be able to hit anything is a different question, but the same applies to the 100 round drum. There is a reason why these are not used by the military (and its not all related to their tendency to jam). There is also a reason why the current version of the military M16 does not have full auto fire as an option – only a three round burst – that being that full auto fire is notoriously inaccurate and ineffective — even when used by trained professionals. It may look good in films, but then so does Harry Potter’s wand.

For those that think that pulling the trigger around once per second is as fast as you can go and that reloading is slow, take a look at the following video, using the slowest firearm around — a revolver:

This person has also fired 8 rounds from his revolver in one second – that’s 480 rounds per minute.

When gun-ban proponents accuse others of not being willing to engage in discussion, the reason is that they are immune to fact, immune to logic and continue to push an argument based upon falsehood and emotion.

There is no rational discussion with these people.

As for what you need to defend your house, lets finish with a slightly humorous take on the subject:



The Police State takes a half-step backwards

A while ago, I posted an article about a court decision in Indiana which basically said that people were not allowed to defend themselves against police invading their homes, even if such actions were illegal.

It seems that the residents of that state were less than happy with this, and in March of this year the Indiana legislature passed a law to explicitly allow citizens to use deadly force against public servants, including police, who illegally enter their homes. The governor signed this legislation and it is now law.

Predictably, the police are very unhappy with this state of affairs, basically saying that they have a right to expect to be able to go home safely at night, even if that involves the citizens they are supposedly there to protect suffering harm, or even death at the hands of rogue police officers.

A typical reaction:

“If I pull over a car and I walk up to it and the guy shoots me, he’s going to say, ‘Well, he was trying to illegally enter my property,’ ” said Joseph Hubbard, 40, president of Jeffersonville Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 100. “Somebody is going get away with killing a cop because of this law.”

Somewhat reminiscent of the familiar story of  “I thought he was armed, I feared for my life” excuse that is trotted out almost daily in many cities when police gun down unarmed citizens. Strange how when it is reversed it becomes something BAD.


Global warming cools

Things are not going well for the purveyors of doom and gloom, otherwise known as Cataclysmic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW).

Their climate models continue to show increasing temperature, but reality  continues to disagree, as global temperatures remain stubbornly flat, or even to fall slightly depending upon how you look at the numbers (see graph on left), while the evil CO2 concentration continues to rise. According to the models, more CO2 means higher temperatures, but its not happening. What to do?

Well, initially refusal to acknowledge reality seemed to work, but only for so long. As the gap between the virtual reality of the models and actual reality continued to grow, cracks began to appear in the CAGW wall of “settled science” and “consensus” .

The first indication was a leak of the next report from the IPCC. This appears to be a deliberate leak, to test the reaction to them beginning to back off from their predictions of the imminent fiery demise of the world if humanity doesn’t go back to living in caves and eating grass while paying huge taxes to finance a world-wide carbon market.

The leaked IPCC report suggests that previous predictions may have been overly pessimistic, and that the next 30 years or so may actually see flat temperatures, if not declining temperatures. Apparently, the natural climate variations that CO2 was supposed to be completely overriding is, in fact, the dominant determinant of climate temperature, masking any CO2 effect. But don’t worry! eventually (when the current generation of “climate scientists” are retired or dead and buried) CO2 will prevail!

However, another study, which was even reported by the BBC (who typically publish nothing which contradicts the CAGW orthodoxy), claims that the CO2 sensitivity, that is, the temperature rise for a doubling in CO2 concentration, is much lower than that being used in climate models. It did so by taking the models themselves, and the CO2 concentrations from ice cores covering time back to the last ice age, and determined that with the sensitivity set to the values currently being used, the ice sheets would have extended way past the 40 degree lattitude that it actually reached, right down to zero degrees (the equator) and that recovery would have been impossible, the world would still be one big ball of ice. Since that didn’t happen, the models are obviously wrong. They could be adjusted to reflect reality by reducing the CO2 sensitivity drastically, to something in the range of 1.7 to 2.0 degrees, which actually agrees with what many of the more skeptical climate scientists have been saying all along, rather than the previous claims of up to 11 degrees C.

The graph to the left shows the temperature record for central England, which is the longest continuous temperature record in the word, plotted with the CO2 concentration. The CO2 effect is rather difficult to pick out from the gradual temperature rise which os recovery from the cold “little ice age” temperatures. Actual temperature readings are not showing anything like the CO2 sensitivity used in the climate models.

To add to the discomfort of the CAGW merchants, both the public, and governments, who were stampeded into action my stories of doom, and the idea of being able to levy a tax on the air we breath were starting to get a little twitchy. The IPCC, once seen as a rock solid institution of scientific research has shown itself to be anything but, using scare stories from non-scientific sources and heavily filtering the actual science it does use, selecting only that science which backs its cause. For a really good explanation of  how badly the IPCC is broken, see the book by Donna LaFramboise – “The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert“.

With a meeting coming up in Durban to discuss what to do when the Kyoto protocol expires, this could not have come at a worse time. Combined with economic problems and the dismal failure of those carbon markets which have been established, various countries have made it clear that they will not be signing up for more of the same, let alone a stronger version. The real kicker was Japan, who hosted the original Kyoto discussions, announcing that it will not be signing up to a renewal.

Then bad news from the USA, which now refuses to back the UNFCCC, the parent organization of the IPCC, disagreeing with its funding and structure.

The only light in the CAGW universe seems to be the suicidal decision of the Australian government, alone amongst all countries in the world, to introduce a carbon tax. They rammed this through in time for a G20 meeting. At that meeting, they fully expected their lead to trigger many other countries to pledge to follow. Instead, they received pats on the back, and comments about how brave they were. The Australian labour party committed political suicide for “the cause”, and “the cause” reciprocated by doing … nothing.

The bottom also appears to be falling out of the renewable energy pipe-dream. Prince Philip going so far as to call the UK’s windmills “absolutely useless“. The Solyndra affair continues to fester in the US, and there are hints from China that they may be closing some of the solar pannel factories which are uneconomic to continue to run.

To top things off in the run-up to Durban, the same person (or persons) that released the original “Climategate” emails, released another batch of 5,000, now referred to a Climategate 2.0. These not only reinforce the case for the unacceptably bad and unscientific behavior of the IPCC scientists, but also adds some more light into the relationships with and behavior of various other institutions. This includes the BBC, who are seen to be anything but impartial in their reporting, pre-existing relationships with the “independent” investigators of the original climategate emails, and somewhat surprisingly, evidence that Professor Phil Jones, far from being a simple bumbling, absent minded professor, is, in fact a rather unpleasant and scheming character. Michael Mann just looks even worse (if that’s possible). If there is any justice in the world, this batch of email will result in a few lost jobs, and possibly a few prison sentences. Traction in the MSM is,as to be expected, somewhat limited, but it is there, and they are obviously finding it much harder to ignore these emails than they did the first batch.

As an added bonus, along with the 5,000 emails, is another zip file, which is heavily encrypted, but contains an additional 220,000 emails. Presumably, at some point in the future, the password to unlock there may/will be released. The most current theory is that the first batch of emails centered on the IPCC and its behavior. The second set has centered on relations with, and behavior of certain institutions, and that the final batch may well expand the net to include political figures. If that is the case, they are potentially dynamite. A ticking time-bomb under highly placed politicians and civil servants.

What we are seeing, is quite probably the beginning of the end of the CAGW scam. Rats are deserting the sinking ship, but still trying to do so without endangering their huge cashflow (government grants).


Back to the dark ages

The world was on an upwards path. The hand to mouth existence of the past was just a memory for many. Cities were being built, universities were spreading knowledge and libraries were storing that knowledge for future generations. Trade was spreading, and publicly financed sanitation projects were driving disease and pestilence back into the darkness. War was something that happened far away, at the edges of the empire.

Then something happened. The Roman empire collapsed and was overrun by barbarians. The world descended into an age of ignorance, superstition and fear. The Dark Ages had begun, and would last for 1,000 years before the renaissance (around 1500 AD) slowly re-established civilization, and put the world back on course.

Exactly what caused the collapse is not entirely clear because much of the written history of the period was destroyed.

This was not a unique event. Previous great civilization in Egypt and Greece had gone the same way. Undoubtedly the people alive even as the descent into chaos began never thought that it could happen to their civilization. Too much invested, a world class army, trade and influence covering unthinkable distances.

There was no single event that triggered the fall, it was a long term degeneration. The lack of political will in Rome allowed the military to degenenerate to the point that when the Huns forced the Visigoth migration, there was nothing to stop them flooding the empire’s borders and ending up with the sack of Rome in 410 AD. In 476 the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustus, abdicated. Not a big deal in itself, since he held no real power either politically or militarily, but effectively he was the last one to leave who put out the lights on the Roman Empire.

Modern historians like to play down how bad things were, even to the point of rejecting the name “Dark Ages”, but in fact it truly was darkness that descended.

But that is just ancient history. There is no way the world can go any direction but onward and upward, is there?

Well, I might argue that we are already on the downwards slope.

Lets look at a bit more history. When Victoria came to the throne in 1837, it was in an England that had not really changed for the last 1,000 years. Someone transported from an earlier period would not find much changed. People lived off the land using the same farming techniques that previous generations had used. Trade was carried by wind powered ships.

By the time of her death, Victoria had seen the rise of England to dominate the globe, driven by an industrial revolution which had replaced wooden ships with iron, sails by steam, muskets by rifles, machine guns and artillery. Medical practices began to actually become effective. Electrical power distribution was on the horizon. The internal combustion engine was being fitted into cars, trucks and busses. Radio was in its infancy, one year after her death the first trans Atlantic radio transmission was made by Marconi. Three years after her death the first powered flight was made by the Wright brothers.

A huge change in one lifetime.

In the next lifetime, even more changes took place. Antibiotics meant that previously fatal disease could now be cured, immunization bought plague outbreaks under control,  electricity was in most people’s homes, radio and television became ubiquitous, the power of the atom was harnessed producing weapons capable of leveling entire cities and generating limitless power, jet engines made mass air travel possible, Yuri Gararin orbited the Earth, starting a new exploration phase that ended with men walking on the moon, computers began to become truly general purpose and available as consumer items, faster than sound commercial flight began, the network which would evolve into the Internet was created.

The rate of change was exponential. Science fiction became reality, or shown to be hopelessly short-sighted.

So where are we now?

An image by a FaceBook friend (on left) probably illustrates this quite well. The thing to notice is that really isn’t anything new there. The cell phone has become smaller and offers more features, but its not really that much different, its still a cell phone. The car hasn’t changed much, more bells and whistles and clear-coat paint, but essentially the same, the game console is still … well .. a game console. The PC has evolved into a laptop, and has much more power, but is still just apersonal computer.

The space shuttle has … well … gone.

Where are all the new things wich didn’t exist in some form or other 30 years ago?

The stream of new inventions has dried up and been replaced by “innovation”, which is basically just re-applying or adding bells and whistles to already existing things.

Not only has the creation of new inventions and concepts dried up, but in some cases we are actually moving backwards.

We used to have supersonic commercial air transport. It is no more.

We used to have the means to put men on the moon. But no more, it was replaced with something that could only reach low earth orbit, destined to be itself replaced with what is actually little more than a glorified bottle-rocket. The people that knew how to put men on the moon have retired or died. The methods used to produce some of the materials they used is now unknown. The programs they used are stored (if not destroyed) on media that readers no longer exist for, and if the media could be read, the processors on which it ran no longer exist.

There are even a number of people that now believe that there never were people walking on the moon.

Malaria was under control, and heading for extinction. Its now back in full swing, killing millions every year, and making the lives of millions more a living hell.

Cheap farm machinery allowed third world countries to begin to produce enough food to keep their populations fed and healthy, even to build up stocks to see them through lean times. The rising cost of fuel will soon stop that.

We had cheap and abundant power, slowly but surely the power systems are degrading with power outages becoming more rather than less common. We also have the prospect of power becoming so expensive that we will go back to the time when people dreaded the onset of winter with the prospect of illness and death from the bone-chilling cold and damp.

We are moving from the age of atomic power to the age of windmills, a technology that never really worked, and won’t now.

We had the possibility of personal transport which we could use to drive from one side of a continent to another. It is now rapidly coming to the stage where using that transport simply to get to and from work may be no more than a dream.

We have gone from walking into a room, flicking a switch to instantly light the room, to sutumbling around in the semi darkness waiting for the feeble glow of our CFLs to grow into the harsh monochromatic light that we are now forced to live with. The supposed savings they produce burned up (and more) by leaving them on to avoid the long warm-up time, and having to replace them seemingly more frequently the old incandescent bulbs due to them expiring if turned on and off too frequently.

The evidence is all around that technologically and sociologically thing have come to a halt, and may even be going backwards.

The great armies built to maintain peace are disintegrating. The USSR is no more, England is finding it difficult to provision even minor engagements on the middle East. The US military power is more and more dependent upon technological superiority, at a time when domestic technology is on the decline. The US doesn’t even have the capacity to manufacture its own LCD displays.

The Visigoths may no longer be a threat to civilization, but their modern barbarian counterparts are continually present at the fringes, and announce their continued presence with random acts of terrorism.

Invasion is taking place, destabilizing societies. Continual influx from external societies is necessary for any healthy civilization, its the sociological equivalent of new DNA in the gene pool, but just as infusing new DNA by mass rape is not a good idea, there is a maximum rate at which foreign culture and people can be absorbed. Western society is well beyond those limits, building up tinder-box conditions which once ignited will be very difficult to suppress.

When the Roman Empire faded, its place was taken by the Church, which was not the warm and welcoming Church of today, but an organization typified by the Spanish inquisition and brutal suppression of any ideas of which they didn’t approve. They were responsible for holding back scientific progress as Galileo and his compatriots discovered.

The Church’s likely equivalent in the event of a new Dark Age may well be the transnational corporation. Failing that, there are many other pseudo religions (Green, Gaia etc.) who see their role as being to reduce the world population to what they consider manageable proportions, and to ensure that those population employ only green-approved technology.

Pray to whatever gods you believe in that its the transnationals that take over. If its the other group, Pol Pot’s Cambodia is going to look like a holiday camp.



The invisible battle

For a subject which is supposedly critical to the future of not only humanity, but the Earth itself, the media silence on the latest IPCC blunder is, to say the least, surprising.

Not that misinformation based upon hype rather than science is anything new from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but one might think that with enough black eyes from basing its scientific credibility on non-scientific, non-reviewed papers written by non-scientists for “green” pressure groups in the past, and being censured for the practice in the past, that they would have learned their lesson.

Sadly, it appears not. Of course, all the hype they based upon this non-science was immediately picked up by the media and blasted out of every media outlet as the top story, for days on end.

The latest news is that about a month ago, the IPCC released a press statement claiming that it had been shown that 80% of the world’s energy could be obtained from renewable sources. The report on which this press release was based was not available at the time. A month later, with no fanfare at all, the report appeared.

Steve McIntyre
Steve McIntyre

Various people had been intrigued, and a little skeptical about how such a high proportion of energy could be derived from renewable resources, including Steve McIntyre of destroying the hockey-stick fame.

After digging through the report, Steve discovered that the 80% number quoted actually wasn’t 80% at all, but 77%. A small thing in itself, but exaggerated claims have no place in science.

But that wasn’t the worst part. A bit more digging, and it appears that … well, I will quote Steve’s own words:

Here’s what happened. The 80% by 2050 figure was based on a scenario, so Chapter 10 of the full report reveals, called ER-2010, which does indeed project renewables supplying 77% of the globe’s primary energy by 2050. The lead author of the ER-2010 scenario, however, is a Sven Teske, who should have been identified (but is not) as a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace International. Even worse, Teske is a lead author of the IPCC report also – in effect meaning that this campaigner for Greenpeace was not only embedded in the IPCC itself, but was in effect allowed to review and promote his own campaigning work under the cover of the authoritative and trustworthy IPCC. A more scandalous conflict of interest can scarcely be imagined.

The IPCC must urgently review its policies for hiring lead authors – and I would have thought that not only should biased ‘grey literature’ be rejected, but campaigners from NGOs should not be allowed to join the lead author group and thereby review their own work. There is even a commercial conflict of interest here given that the renewables industry stands to be the main beneficiary of any change in government policies based on the IPCC report’s conclusions. Had it been an oil industry intervention which led the IPCC to a particular conclusion, Greenpeace et al would have course have been screaming blue murder.

So, we have, yet again, Greenpeace writing a report based upon little more than speculation, having the author of the document set up as lead author for the IPCC report, review his own work, and include it as scientific fact in the report.

Given the past problems for the IPCC where, based upon similar pieces of imaginative literature, they claimed that 50% of Holland would flood, 50% of the crops in Africa would fail, 40% of the Amazon rain forest would die because of drought, and, of course, the famous claim that the Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2030, it would be reasonable to assume that they would be incredibly careful to avoid such stupid issues again.

Apparently not.

So what happens when the claim is questioned, and the IPCC asked to explain how and why this happened? The usual. The AGW crowd come out in force and attack the people asking the questions. They have done this before when one of their own, Professor Judith Curry asked some awkward questions about some of the “science” behind AGW. The non-answers accompanied by personal attacks has turned her from an AGW proponent to someone who is willing to believe, but needs convincing evidence, and hasn’t seen any yet.

Mark Lynas
Mark Lynas

The same is happening this time, with Mark Lynas, who was a strong advocate of AGW and author of a book on the subject, beginning to question some of the foundation of his beliefs:

Well. You can imagine the furore this would cause at Greenpeace. The IPCC would be discredited forever as an independent voice. There would be pious banner-drops by Greenpeace activists abseiling down Exxon HQ and harshly criticising the terrible stranglehold that fossil fuel interests had achieved over supposedly independent science. Campaigners everywhere would be up in arms. Greenpeace would feel doubly justified in taking direct action against new oil wells being opened up in the Arctic, and its activists could demonstrate new feats of gallantry and bravery as they took on the might of the world’s oil industry with some ropes and a rubber dinghy somewhere near Greenland.

How is the Exxon scenario different from what has just happened with the IPCC’s renewables report? And why – when confronted with this egregious conflict of interest and abuse of scientific independence – has the response of the world’s green campaigners been to circle the wagons and cry foul against the whistle-blowers themselves? That this was spotted at all is a tribute to the eagle eyes of Steve McIntyre. Yet I am told that he is a ‘denier’, that all his deeds are evil, and that I have been naively led astray by him. Well, if the ‘deniers’ are the only ones standing up for the integrity of the scientific process, and the independence of the IPCC, then I too am a ‘denier’. Indeed, McIntyre and I have formed an unlikely double-act, posing a series of questions – together with the New York Times’s Andy Revkin – to the IPCC report’s lead author Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, to which he has yet to respond.

If there is any justice in the world (which may be a vain hope), the IPCC may have just put the final nail in its own coffin, and governments can turn from spending vast sums on “alternative energy”, which just doesn’t work, and plans to levy crippling “carbon taxes” to facing the prospect of cold and starvation as the sun begins one of its periodic quiet periods.


Fall of Empire

Articles on the imminent fall of the American Empire are hardly few and far between, but one recently published in the Guardian newspaper (UK) persuaded me to think yet again about this topic.

That America is in a serious situation is hardly open to discussion. Even with government numbers fudged by re-definition to hide the true numbers unemployment and inflation are at worrying levels.

Using the same metrics as during the great depression, unemployment in America is now somewhere north of 20%, and putting fuel and food back into the inflation calculation, it is now running at somewhere around 11%.

American influence is also failing rapidly.

People like to draw parallels with the Greek, Roman and British empires and the way they collapsed, claiming that the collapse is a result of decadence and corruption of the political system. However, it can be argued that these are by-products of collapse, not the cause.

Empires are built upon three things: Industrial capacity, a strong military, and a willingness to use force to achieve  dominance. Empires fall when the balance between these three fails.

Empire building

America gained power and influence through its industrial capacity, which was driven by access to a whole continent’s natural resources, and the huge internal free market and continent-wide,  unimpeded, communications. Noth through military conquest as previous empires have been built.

At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries America’s military was not up to the task of building a traditional empire. Attempts in China and South America failed pretty miserably, which reinforced traditional isolationism. Even the (somewhat belated) entry into what was essentially an European conflict, turning it into WWI only really made a difference because of the added industrial power and large numbers of warm bodies added to the conflict.

American trade was increasing all the time, and reached levels sufficient to cause world-wide problems when the 1929 Wall Street crash occurred.

The financial collapse which led to the great depression was caused by the financial services industry becoming too greedy. This industry existed (and exists) for a reason, it provides a marketplace for the sharing of capital. This should be a service industry, with fairly limited potential to make money, but given the huge amounts of money it controlled (not owned) there was a strong temptation to use the availability of that money to make more money. This can work, and if done correctly is relatively safe. However, with seemingly no limit to the leverage that could be applied, the amount of “virtual money” in the system expanded dramatically. Once it became clear that there actually was insufficient actual money to cover “investments” people panicked and withdrew what they could, effectively bankrupting the entire financial system.

Recovery was possible because the underlying industrial infrastructure was still there. Industries which required access to capital to continue suffered, especially agriculture, but although production slowed, it continued, and continued to make profits, pay workers, and form the base for recovery.

Recovery was finally enhanced by WWII. Not only did this cause a massive expansion in industrial output and capacity, but achieved what America had failed to do militarily in the past; produce a large foreign market with somewhat captive buyers.

The empire that America built was quite different from previous large scale empires. It was not deliberate government policy, with the government providing the military muscle to expand territory, giving access to new resources and cheap labor. Commercial interests did influence government policy significantly though. The changes in immigration policies in the mid 1960’s imposed entry restrictions on the traditional European immigrants, who were becoming more affluent, and less and less reliable as a source of cheap labor, in favor of the much poorer (and therefore much cheaper labor pool) immigrants from the Pacific rim and S. America.

Empire stagnation

Beyond the territorial expansion of influence post WWII, there was no further real expansion of the empire. There was the possibility of expansion in SE Asia, but the failures to secure victories Korea and later Vietnam effectively excluded America from those areas. The small boost given by the cheap labor available with the modified immigration policies helped to keep American industry competitive, but the real expansion was happening on the periphery, in countries with much cheaper labor, Japan, The Philippines, etc. it was also clear that these countries were detaching from the US as they became self-sufficient and prosperous.

Commercial interests saw these changes and attempted to influence American policy to compensate. NAFTA was one such attempt after seeing the success of the EU Common Market in increasing market sizes and providing access to cheaper labor.

Empire was getting close to unstable. Although the military was strong, there was a distinct lack of will to use it to its full potential. Vietnam was probably the biggest indicator of this. A militarily winnable war was lost because of lack of will. Industry, although still dominant in terms of innovation and sheer capacity, was slowly becoming less and less competitive.

The 1970’s problems with oil supplies was a final indicator that America was not a traditional empire, and was reluctant to defend what it had. Previous empires would not have hesitated one second to annex any resource needed. Indeed, a few years earlier France and the UK had mounted a joint military operation to recover the Suez Canal from “nationalization”. Both countries were less than happy that American pressure halted their operations, especially since at that time America had its own oil sources and was not dependent upon middle eastern oil.

Commercial interests saw these indicators of long-term weakness, and evolved a couple of strategies to decouple their fortunes from those of America as much as possible. There were two principle components to this strategy.

The first was to move many operations offshore. At first, this was not obvious as a strategic move. New factories were built overseas, and this was described as, and seen as simply expansion into new markets. However, over time, more and more of production and operations took place outside America. When existing operations and production were shifted, with consequent loss of jobs the strategy became obvious. The most obvious assumption is that it is simply to make use of cheap labor, but there is more to it than this. Much of the profits for many companies is earned overseas. This is principally why we see news articles on the fact that some company made X billion dollars in profits, but only paid $5 in federal taxes. The taxes were paid overseas. For example, Microsoft has approximately $50 billion in cash, but virtually all of it is held outside America, and is unlikely ever to come to America because of the 30% tax which would be imposed if it did.

The second part of the strategy was to move from companies within America dealing with physical product to services and “soft” industries trading in much less tangible items (media, intellectual property, consumer debt etc.). These companies are much less capital and labor intensive. They can also be leveraged at much higher levels. However, as we saw with the dot com crash, many of these companies are only worth what people think they are worth, and that can change drastically in a very short time.

Empire decay

With the foundations of empire missing (advanced industrial base, military used to impose empire) decay is inevitable. The only question is how fast will that decay happen?

The lessons of the great depression had not really been learned. There are a group of people within the country that put profit before any other consideration. They will push the envelope as much as possible, take risks that are capable of bringing down the economy, and worst of all, believe their own hype about companies and products based upon little more than wishful thinking. The banking crash of 2008 was essentially the same problem that caused the great depression and the dot com crash: Valuation put on traded commodities that far exceeded their intrinsic value.

The big difference between 1929 and now is that there is no longer  a vibrant manufacturing base which will drag the country out of recession. The majority of the economy is financial services, which rely on money, which is in very short supply and what there is is rapidly losing its value.

The government has not helped, by consistently spending beyond its limits. As the economic situation became worse, they actually accelerated their runaway spending. The actions that they took exposed the fact that rather than being a government of the people, for the people by the people, they were a government of the people for the benefit of the corporations. Help didn’t go to the people, it went to the corporations, who either transferred the money into their already huge stashes abroad or used it for personal enrichment of their executives.

As economic progress falters, the difference in wealth between the have and have nots is rapidly increasing. Wealth is being taken from the majority for the further enrichment of the corporations and the very rich individuals within society.

Government is taking actions that are by any reasonable standards calculated to cause further deterioration.

The American (to say nothing of world) economy is highly dependent upon relatively cheap energy. America government policies are (seemingly intentionally) forcing energy costs to rise. This is compounded by speculation in energy prices, which because of the artificially restricted supply (bans on drilling, bans on new power plants, threats of new carbon taxes) allows the traded value to soar well above the intrinsic value, and enrich the very same people that already at least partially destroyed the economy.

Higher energy prices cause virtually everything else to rise in price too. This is especially true of food. Not only is food production being limited by government policies favoring using land to produce ethanol rather than food, but the entire food distribution system relies heavily on land transport. Even the largest supermarkets only have a day or so of stock. That stock is constantly being replenished with “just in time” deliveries from food producers. As the cost of the constant deliveries rises due to fuel rises, so do food prices. Remember, food and fuel are excluded from the inflation calculation, so the problem goes unnoticed, except by the population that has progressively less and less money because they have to spend more to get to work (if they have any work) to spend on food which is getting progressively more expensive.

As if this is not bad enough, the runaway overspending by the government is rapidly devaluing the currency, which further adds to the cost of imported energy.

The inaction of government to acknowledge, let alone address the fundamental issues guarantees continued decay.

Corporations undoubtedly would welcome a collapse of the USA. The huge pool of relatively well educated cheap labor that would become available would be most welcome to them.

Federal government policies all point to a desire for a system in which states and individuals have much less freedom, and actions appear to be pushing towards a breaking point, whether deliberately or through incompetence is perhaps open to question.

If (or is it when?) the breaking point is reached the big question is whether the American empire will go quietly into the night, or whether the disintegration will look more like this painting.


Politicians and guns

A recent blog post by a friend of mine on the subject of gun ownership included a short essay by L. Neil Smith, which has been around a while, but is still as true today as it was the day it was written.

For those that have already seen it, refresh your memory. For those that haven’t ever read it, read, and think.






by L. Neil Smith

Over the past 30 years, I’ve been paid to write almost two million words, every one of which, sooner or later, came back to the issue of guns and gun-ownership. Naturally, I’ve thought about the issue a lot, and it has always determined the way I vote.

People accuse me of being a single-issue writer, a single- issue thinker, and a single- issue voter, but it isn’t true. What I’ve chosen, in a world where there’s never enough time and energy, is to focus on the one political issue which most clearly and unmistakably demonstrates what any politician — or political philosophy — is made of, right down to the creamy liquid center.

Make no mistake: all politicians — even those ostensibly on the side of guns and gun ownership — hate the issue and anyone, like me, who insists on bringing it up. They hate it because it’s an X-ray machine. It’s a Vulcan mind-meld. It’s the ultimate test to which any politician — or political philosophy — can be put.

If a politician isn’t perfectly comfortable with the idea of his average constituent, any man, woman, or responsible child, walking into a hardware store and paying cash — for any rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything — without producing ID or signing one scrap of paper, he isn’t your friend no matter what he tells you.

If he isn’t genuinely enthusiastic about his average constituent stuffing that weapon into a purse or pocket or tucking it under a coat and walking home without asking anybody’s permission, he’s a four-flusher, no matter what he claims.

What his attitude — toward your ownership and use of weapons — conveys is his real attitude about you. And if he doesn’t trust you, then why in the name of John Moses Browning should you trust him?

If he doesn’t want you to have the means of defending your life, do you want him in a position to control it?

If he makes excuses about obeying a law he’s sworn to uphold and defend — the highest law of the land, the Bill of Rights — do you want to entrust him with anything?

If he ignores you, sneers at you, complains about you, or defames you, if he calls you names only he thinks are evil — like “Constitutionalist” — when you insist that he account for himself, hasn’t he betrayed his oath, isn’t he unfit to hold office, and doesn’t he really belong in jail?

Sure, these are all leading questions. They’re the questions that led me to the issue of guns and gun ownership as the clearest and most unmistakable demonstration of what any given politician — or political philosophy — is really made of.

He may lecture you about the dangerous weirdos out there who shouldn’t have a gun — but what does that have to do with you? Why in the name of John Moses Browning should you be made to suffer for the misdeeds of others? Didn’t you lay aside the infantile notion of group punishment when you left public school — or the military? Isn’t it an essentially European notion, anyway — Prussian, maybe — and certainly not what America was supposed to be all about?

And if there are dangerous weirdos out there, does it make sense to deprive you of the means of protecting yourself from them? Forget about those other people, those dangerous weirdos, this is about you, and it has been, all along.

Try it yourself: if a politician won’t trust you, why should you trust him? If he’s a man — and you’re not — what does his lack of trust tell you about his real attitude toward women? If “he” happens to be a woman, what makes her so perverse that she’s eager to render her fellow women helpless on the mean and seedy streets her policies helped create? Should you believe her when she says she wants to help you by imposing some infantile group health care program on you at the point of the kind of gun she doesn’t want you to have?

On the other hand — or the other party — should you believe anything politicians say who claim they stand for freedom, but drag their feet and make excuses about repealing limits on your right to own and carry weapons? What does this tell you about their real motives for ignoring voters and ramming through one infantile group trade agreement after another with other countries?

Makes voting simpler, doesn’t it? You don’t have to study every issue — health care, international trade — all you have to do is use this X-ray machine, this Vulcan mind-meld, to get beyond their empty words and find out how politicians really feel. About you. And that, of course, is why they hate it.

And that’s why I’m accused of being a single-issue writer, thinker, and voter.

But it isn’t true, is it?