Friday, April 29, 2011

NRA Annual Meeting - Day One

Well, I'm starting to wind down after taking a couple of tours around two entire floors of gunny goodness.  I've run into some friends from the forums and such, and I've seen a while lot of stuff that made me happy in my pants.

Impressions so far:

  • This is the best trade show I've seen so far.  It even beats out the DotCom Boom computer shows.  Not a lot of schwag, but the people at the booths were uniformly friendly and knowledgeable, and didn't try to get customer contact data out of you.
  • Since this is the year of the 1911, I made a point to check out all of the myriad manufacturers and look at their government model.  My favorite so far was the Remington.  The slide moved like it was on bearings, the trigger was really smooth, and broke very cleanly.  Just for kicks and grins, I went over to the Rock Island Armory booth to check out the example they had that matched my government model, and I could immediately feel the difference.  Now, I love my RIA 1911.  It was inexpensive to buy, and it's fun to shoot.  But when compared to the models from Colt, Kimber, and Remington, it's very rough.  I am definitely going to put getting another 1911 at the top of my pistol list, and I may put some work into smoothing out the trigger.  A few drop in parts might also be in order.
  • The Mossberg representatives were very happy to talk to me about their youth models for shotguns.  I'm in the market for either a muzzleloader or a slug-capable shotgun for Girlie Bear.  I spent a while looking at the Super Bantam Mossberg 500 for her, but after I described her to the Mossberg rep, he said that she might be big enough to handle a full size 500.  He suggested that I let her shoot my 835 a couple of times with a light load and see how she liked it.  If the 835 is too big, then a Bantam 500 might be right.  If the 835 is comfortable for, then a full size shotgun will be in order.   On that one, it's going to come down to whichever I find first that's in my price range, either a rifled slug shotgun or a muzzleloader for Girlie Bear.
  • The Rossi rep was pleased with the success we'd had with the .22/20 gauge CombiRifle that I've been using to train Girlie Bear.   
  • I had a chance to take a look at the new Coonan .357 automatic, and it looks and feels really sweet.  It's a good, solid hunk of metal, and I have no problem believing that recoil from .357 Magnum would be more than manageable with it.  The MSRP quoted to me is between $1200 and $1800, with more added for additional features.  This one is going on my list of "wants" too, but I'll definitely wait until they've had a chance to wash through the used market.
  • While I was at it, I took a look at both the Taurus Judge and Smith & Wesson Governor.  In shape, size, and weight, the Governor appears to be indistinguishable from the Judge at first glance.  According to the marketing posters for the Governor, in addition to the .410 shotgun shells and .45 LC, it can also fire .45 ACP.  Either way, they're silly.  If you want to shoot a shotgun, get a shotgun.  If you want to fire a pistol round, get a dedicated pistol.

While I was doing my best impression of Brownian Motion through the crowds, I listened to what the crowd was talking about.  In addition to the expected "Gee whiz, that's neat" and "Those damn gun grabbers!" conversations, I heard a lot about the economy.  The herd consensus seems to be we're in a hole, someone's digging the hole deeper, and we're screwed.  I found it telling that the precious metals vendor was as busy as Ruger or Smith  & Wesson.

Tomorrow will be a few more rounds around the floor to check out the minor vendors and displays, followed by the Gunnie Prom.

On my way

Just powered up the skateboard I rented for the drive to Pittsburg. ETA 6 to 7 hours.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Update - Finally got to the convention center.  6 hours to get to Pittsburg, 2 hours to get downtown, and an hour to park.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go check out what's going on.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My new Hero

CalvinsMom over at The Transmogrifier Files found a wonderful way to deal with the teenagers who are driving around playing boots-in-the-dryer music:

As they made their second strafing round the block, I ran down to the sidewalk and started gyrating wildly. Ms. Reuben-Jeanne, my neighbor, immediately saw what was up, and did the same on her front walk.

Imagine: two very white, very middle-aged, slightly reubenesque moms shaking their asses, Shakira-style. We enthusiastically worked our mojo.

That mental image really brightened my day, and now you have it too!


Senator Lautenberg of New Jersey is concerned that American citizens who have not been convicted of a crime, avow that they not users of illegal drugs, and have not been judged silly can purchase a firearm at a gun store, even though they are on the government's terrorist watch list.

In order to get on said list, you must at least do something that might, maybe, kinda sorta could link you to terrorism, but didn't get you arrested.  The list is created by the Justice Department and approved by the Attorney General.  You can be put on the list, stay on it for a while, and then be taken off without you even knowing.

Senator Lautenberg wants to stop people from being guns because they are on a secret, arbitrarily populated government list.  Not because they've actually broken the law and been convicted, but because some government functionary decided you were an icky person.

Folks, I guarantee that I am on at least a few lists:

  • I'm a veteran
  • I've held a security clearance with "Burn Before Reading" caveats scattered across it.
  • Incidents I've been involved with have been investigated on at least two occasions by the FBI. (I wasn't the subject of the investigations, but I was advised to bring a lawyer when the nice Special Agent interviewed me)
  • I've travelled extensively throughout Europe, including the old Warsaw Pact and the Former Soviet Union.
  • I've maintained addresses and bank accounts in both neutral and semi-hostile countries.
  • I'm a gun owner and member of several 2nd Amendment organizations
  • Probably a few reasons I can't think of at the moment
All of these activities probably landed me on some list or another.  Not that I'm important or paranoid enough to believe the government is watching me, but I'm pretty sure an Freedom of Information Act inquiry for all of my federal records would be non-trivial. 

But none of these activities has been used against me to stop me from attending whatever church I happen to stumble into, write to my newspaper, refuse to participate in a criminal investigation, or any of the other rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights.  Why should they stop me or any other U.S. citizen, who can otherwise pass a background check, from exercising our 2nd Amendment rights to keep and bear arms?

Folks, if they can strip one right without giving you your day in court, then they can strip all of your rights by checking a box on a form. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Someone has a little time on his hands

A Cleveland, Ohio, man has created a portrait of Prince William and his lady love on an EtchASketch:

I'm actually pretty impressed.  Normally, I'm against kitchy creativity in all its forms, but this has just enough geek factor to grab my attention.  I don't know if it's art, but I like it. 

In other news, there seems to be a wedding or something going on Friday morning.  I won't be able to attend or even pay attention because I will be somewhere between Louisville and Pittsburg when it happens.  I'm sure there will be minor blurb about it in the back sections of the newspaper.

Count Chocula Down!

I say again:  Count Chocula Down!  Frankenberry enroute with milk!

A truckload of breakfast cereal was dumped on the Ohio Turnpike near Toledo today. Apparently it was enough to close the highway.  If it was Fruit Loops or Fruity Pebbles it must have looked and smelled wonderful.  There's enough perfume and pigment in a box of that stuff to freshen up a khalif's harem. If it was bran flakes, and if they were getting any of the rain that the rest of the midwest is getting, it was a real mess.  There's nothing as viscious, smelly, or drippy as wet bran cereal.  I don't want to even think about the mess one of those sugary cereals that makes its own chocolate gravy would look like in a rainstorm.

When I was growing up, my mother the ex-hippie fed us on a steady diet of puffed wheat, puffed rice, and whole-grain hot cereal.  Not a lot of flavor there, unless you count the copious amounts of honey or sugar that I'd throw in when she wasn't looking for that early morning buzz.  When I got out on my own, I went bananas for a while eating Cocoa Pebbles and Chocolate Maltomeal.  Nowadays I'm more likely to have a piece of fruit or a PB&J for breakfast with my morning caffeine supplement, at least on weekdays.  On the weekends, all bets are off.  I've grown quite fond of bacon, sausage, eggs, potatoes, biscuits, and grits.  Being married to a southern girl does have its perks.  We've sent more than one breakfast guest away wondering how they were going to work off all that cholesterol.

What do you all like for breakfast?

It's about damn time

In relation to my rant a while back about the latest attempt to look at the piece of paper that proves that President Obama was born where he said he was, the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has released his complete birth certificate.


Now, can we start talking about more important things that must be weighing on the President's mind:

  • Devaluation of the U.S. dollar and inflation?
  • The sword of Damocles in the form of the Federal deficit?
  • The cost of  gas to get to the golf course and airport from the White House?
  • Fighting three wars at once and blaming the Bush administration for all of it?
  • Y kan't owr childruns reed?
  • Winnie the Pooh, tubbly little cubby or British imperialist bee colony exploiter?
  • And for you Obama fans, what is he going to do to improve his putting?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An apology

To the people who drove their cars on the same stretch of highway as me this afternoon:

I am sorry if my deathstare, gesticulating, and yelling at the top of my lungs concerned you. I don't really hope you all die in a horrible farming accident. I'm sure that all of your mothers are wonderful genteel ladies.

Please accept my apology for driving like a maniac. I will endeavor to do better in the future.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

What a Dream

Not sure what brought this on, but between two episodes of waking up for a tornado alarm on the radio, I dreamt that I was in a karaoke bar watching Dracula sing Elvis songs.  Only one I can remember is this:

Are you lonesome tonight?
Does your hair look afright?
Do the peasants run screaming from you?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Guess who has this detail?

Police in Gary, Indiana, recently found two bodies in a pile of horse manure.  While investigators try to identify the bodies and figure out how they ended up interred in mushroom food, some poor soul is having to sift through the rest of the pile for evidence and more bodies.  I wonder how badly you have to screw up to get that assignment.  Kind of puts the lie to all of those glamorous CSI shows, doesn't it?

While any honest employment is better than the alternative, there are definitely jobs that rate pretty high on the distaste-o-meter. Heck, Mike Rowe has made his fortune spending a day or two doing jobs that most people wouldn't even consider doing.

While we're on the subject, what's the most distasteful thing you've ever had to do while on the job?  For me, it was having to scrub down the pit latrines at one of the ranges we attended during basic training.

Well Crap!

I was worried this might happen.  Looks like Knob Creek Gun Range is at least partially submerged in the Great Ohio Valley Deluge of 2011:

The lowest point in that photo is the bridge that you take to cross Knob Creek to get to the parking area and range.  I'm pointing this out because the water is up over the bridge.  H/T to WHAS for the heads up and photo. 

KCR sits about two miles inland from the Ohio, but the creek empties directly into the big river.  When the Ohio backs up, all of its tributaries flood.  This isn't the first time KCR has had to close due to the creek coming out of its bed, but this is the worst I've ever seen.

If this doesn't clear up by May 7, Derby Day, the first Annual Derby Day Shootenanny may have to be cancelled or postponed.  I'm not hopeful.  The weather critter is predicting another 4 to 6 inches of rain this week, and more next week.


Today is ANZAC Day.  Today we commemorate the brave men of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps's involvement in the Gallipoli campaign of World War I, which was an attempt to knock Turkey out of World War I and open the Bosphorus to Russian, British, and French shipping.  By the time that the British high command realized that the fighting at Gallipoli was going nowhere, almost 150,000 Australian, New Zealand , British, French, and Indian soldiers were dead or wounded.

As far as I know, I have no familial ties to Australia or the rest of the Commonwealth.   But I do remember my mother and her mother making ANZAC Cookies every April.  It was only later in life that I learned just what those hard, sweet cookies meant.  I did serve with some outstanding Diggers from Australia once or twice, and if their great-grandfathers were half as resourceful, professional, and friendly as the soldiers I met, then a lot of good men had their trial by fire on the shores of Gallipoli.

If you're interested in learning a bit about the Battle of Gallipoli and the soldiers who fought on both sides, the 2005 documentary "Gallipoli" was very well done.  I also came across this poem a few months ago, and thought I'd share.  It was written by an Australian soldier who was convalescing from wounds received at Gallipoli.

The new dawn lights the eastern sky;
Night shades are lifted from the sea,
The Third Brigade with courage storm
Thy wooded heights, Gallipoli
Gallipoli ! Gallipoli !
Australians tread Gallipoli.

Thunderous bursts from iron mouths -
Myriad messengers of death,
Warships ply their deadly fire
Watching comrades hold their breath
Gallipoli ! Gallipoli !
There's hell upon Gallipoli.

Serried ranks upon the beach,
Courage beams in every eye
These Australian lads can face
Giant Death, though e'er so nigh,
Gallipoli ! Gallipoli !
There's death upon Gallipoli.

On they press in endless stream,
Up the heights they shouting go;
Comrades fall; but still press on
They press the now retreating foe
Gallipoli ! Gallipoli !
The Turks flee on Gallipoli.

One by one the brave lie low,
Machine Guns, shrapnel do their work;
Brave Australians know no fear,
Never have been known to shirk,
Gallipoli ! Gallipoli !
Their names carved on Gallipoli.

Reduced, cut up, there numbers show
The murderous fire that swept thy field;
But still victorious they stand,
Who never have been known to yield
Gallipoli ! Gallipoli !
Thick dead lie on Gallipoli.

For days they hold with grim set grip,
Their feet firm planted on the shore,
Repelling every fierce attack
And cheerfully they seek for more
Gallipoli ! Gallipoli !
Their trenches line Gallipoli.
For thirty weary days they fight,
For Britain's sake they give their best;
With uncomplaining voice they stand
And neither look nor ask for rest
Gallipoli ! Gallipoli !
They've conquered thee, Gallipoli.

The waves break on thy wave swept shores,
The breeze still blows across thy hills;
But crosses near and far abound,
A sight that deepest grief instils
Gallipoli! Gallipoli !
Their graves lie on Gallipoli.

For those brave hearts that died to show
Australia's worth in this dread war,
The far off tears and sighs for those
Who sleep beneath the cannons roar
Gallipoli ! Gallipoli !
Thou still, shalt pay, Gallipoli.

The few that valiant still remain,
War worn but grim and anger yet
To hurl full vengeance on the foe.
Because they never can forget
Gallipoli ! Gallipoli !
They ask the price, Gallipoli.

Gallipoli I warn you now,
Australia's sons and Turks shall meet
Once more, and then our onslaught yet
Shall sweep the ground beneath your feet
Gallipoli ! Gallipoli !
Thy end's in sight, Gallipoli.

Upon the Graves of those that sleep,
Upon thy wooded slope and vale,
We shall avenge. Remember then,
Australians cannot, will not fail,
Gallipoli ! Gallipoli !
Thy doom is sealed, Gallipoli.

Staff Sergeant Sydney Bolitho.
6th Battalion A.I.F

Sunday, April 24, 2011

She knows me

We've been together 10 years, and she's finally hit a home run on gifts.

Beer, bullets, and whiskey.  Not to be consumed at the same time, though.

That's the new White Dog from Buffalo Trace, which is about as close to legal moonshine as you can get.  That will make an interesting sip or two one of these nights.  The beer is O'Hara's Irish Red, which I've never tried before.  The .22 shells are self explanatory.  

In return, she got a dozen lavender roses (her favorite), a dozen each of the hazelnut and white chocolate Lindt truffles, and a white chocolate rabbit.  

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter memory

Tomorrow is Easter.  For Christians, this is the most important day of the year, a day of renewal and hope.

When Easter swung around in 1996, I was at a really low point.  I'd been deployed to the Bosnia peace effort for about 3 months, before which I'd been away from home for four months, and before that I was TDY 6 of the preceding 8 months.  Homesickness and burnout was becoming a factor in my decision making process.

I was deployed as an individual augmentee rather than with my unit, so I was a stranger among strangers.  The people I worked and lived with were good soldiers and welcomed me, but I was starting to feel the "On the Road Again" burnout as I was sent from one unit with a short term requirement to another.  Arizona to Georgia to Germany to Hungary to Bosnia to Croatia to Bosnia then back to Hungary is a pretty rough estimation of my travels up to that point.  It will tell you something that running into one of my drill sergeants from basic training was the high point of those three months.  Every so often I'd come across or work with someone from school or someone I'd served with in Germany, but for the most part it was new faces every couple of weeks.

The work I was doing didn't help my mood either.  I went from working on mountaintop outposts that were surrounded by mine fields, to providing security and other duties at mass graves investigations, to walking foot patrols in villages that were situated along the line between the forces that had ripped Bosnia to shreds.   You don't get a very good opinion of humanity when you spend your days seeing just how inhumane we can be.

I was also pretty low because I'd made a call home on Palm Sunday and had been told that I should stay overseas as long as I could.  My wife had decided to stay in our home in Arizona until I came home, but then she was leaving and taking our son with her.  She'd just had too much time with me away from home, and thought that if she was going to be a single parent, she should at least be able to be single again.  After that, I walked around in a daze for a while.  Luckily, one of the guys I shared a room with in Taszar took me to the chaplain and kept me from doing anything stupid.

So I was pretty much at the bottom of a well looking down when Easter came a week later.  Of course, I had duty that day.

As we assembled for work, we were all wishing each other a Happy Easter.  We got our assignments, and settled in to do whatever it is that intelligence people do when they work.  After an hour or so, the first sergeant gave us a quick speech about how he knew we were all away from home on a holiday and he appreciated how hard that could be.  The battalion chaplain then took groups of people outside to do a quick Easter service for those who wanted it.   After everyone who wanted to attend services had been taken care of, the chaplain announced that something extra was in store.

The chaplain's assistant, a young soldier from Minnesota named, and I kid you not, Sven, went around and passed out brown paper bags with bunnies and carrots crayoned onto them.  His home church in MiddleOfNowhere Minnesota had put together Easter baskets for all of us.  Each one included some candy, a few personal items like toothpaste or soap, and a card from the child that had put it together.  Mine was from a little girl named Erika, who wished me a happy Easter and hoped that I would be safe and come home soon.

I really think that getting that card, carefully written by a 7 or 8 year old girl who I had never met, was the point at which I looked up at the light and started climbing out of that well.  The fact that someone had taken a few minutes out of her time to wish me well let me know that even though rough times were ahead, something good was left in my world.  As I sat there munching on a peanut butter cup, listening to the joy that the people around me were feeling, I started to feel better.

We all wrote back to the Sunday school classes that had sent us our treats, and Sven bundled them up and sent them back to his pastor.  I'm told that getting our return package of letters caused as much excitement in Minnesota as getting Easter baskets caused in Hungary.

So to all of you, Happy Easter.  When the rock rolls away and you see the warmth and light, you remember that life isn't all darkness and grief.  And a heartfelt thanks to the parishioners of the Lutheran church in little MiddleOfNowhere, Minnesota.  You all have no idea how important that little card was to a heartsick soldier far from home.

Today's Earworm

We've gotten over four inches of rain in the past 36 hours, according to the rain gauge my neighbor keeps on his deck.  The Ohio River is almost out of its banks, and the creek that's at the bottom of the knob we live on is backing up into the Valhalla Golf Course.  I'm not too broken up about that, but I hope everyone who lives down by the water here in Kentucky and Indiana are doing OK.

The best part is that it's supposed to rain hard off and on until Thursday.  If it gets much swampier in our back yard, I'm going to have to start watching for gators.

Thought for the day

There are few better ways to spend a cold, rainy afternoon than cuddled up on a couch with a 3 year old watching Disney movies.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Testicle Photographer?

A man in Florida was punched in the face after he made a comment about codpieces to a "testicle photographer".

Ummmm, Teacher?

I know English well enough to be able to dissect that to mean "One who takes photographs of testicles".  But for the life of me, I can't figure out how you apply that particular title.

Is he a medical photographer, who takes pictures for medical records and research?

Or is he into some weird photo-journalism kink that you wouldn't normally discuss at the local book store.  Heck, I'm not sure I'd discuss that particular fetish in a busy leather bar.

As to why the photographer decided to smack the other man, I have no idea.  A codpiece joke would seem to be par for the course.  Either way, it might be better if I don't know exactly what's going on here.  That which has been read cannot be un-read.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Probably not a lot of content tonight.  I'm just too pooped to pop.

Last night, after BooBoo was in bed, I logged into work to do some stuff that needed to be done during off hours.  I thought it would take two or three hours.  Due to bad planning, oversimplification of what had to be done on my part, and things taking a lot longer to do than I expected, it took six and a half hours.  After three hours of sleep, it was time to get up and do it all over again.

Then I tried to fix a simple problem on one of our servers this afternoon, and correcting some file system issues turned into "oh crap, I better make a backup before this gets worse".

I'm tired, played out, and mind fried.  I'm not going to say that all of this wasn't fun though.  I didn't get into system administration and IT in general because I like creating project plans.  When things don't go exactly as planned, but don't fall completely into the crapper, this job is fun.

But always remember Rule # 1 - Always have a backup copy before you start changing stuff.  Otherwise something that's fun and exciting can turn into a career limiting event.

Well, I'll be dipped

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I'd registered for the Lucky Gunner BloggerShoot over Memorial Day weekend, but I didn't have a lot of confidence that I'd be selected to attend.

Imagine my surprise when I got an email from Lucky Gunner tonight announcing that I'd been approved!

So I will be spending Memorial Day weekend this year travelling to beautiful Knoxville, meeting other gunnies, and making lots of smoke and noise.

Hope to see a lot of you there!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Timing Fails

Two quick entries for the "People with timing issues" list.

First, a fistfight between two women at a McDonald's hiring event ended up with three people, including the owner of the restaurant, injured after being hit by a car. The two pugilistic applicants were arrested.  Ummm, ladies?  I'm no expert in the little things that you should and should not do to get hired in this highly competitive job market, but running over the owner of the business you're applying to must be covered somewhere in the brochure.  Next time, wait until after the interview to try to beat one of your co-applicants senseless.

Next, a group of "militant Muslims" in London is planning on holding a "forceful" demonstration during the upcoming marriage between Prince William and the fortunate genetic donor he's grafting onto the blood line.  The stated purpose of the demonstration is to disrupt the event.  Now, it's been quite a while since I was in London, but my guess is that the most punked-out, anti-social skinhead in the British Isles would be more than willing going to curb stomp your silly selves if you jump out in front of the House Cavalry during the drive to the church.  To call the average Londoner proud to be British is like saying that it's a little loud to be a door gunner on a helicopter in Helmand province.  My guess is that if this group of people finds a way to disrupt the festivities, a few Londoners ranging from WWII vets to 19 year old anarchists are going to re-enact that great British tradition of placing heads on pikes over the river Thames.  Allah forbid someone gets really stupid and takes a shot at the happy couple or blows themselves up during the procession.  That might show Muslim organizations how Crusaders really act when they've got their dander up.

Today's Earworm

Been reading "Bloodlands" lately, and this song keeps running through my mind, especially the line "Rewritten history, then burned all the books".  A review of the book will be forthcoming once I finish it and have time to think, but suffice it to say that the more I learn about Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the more I'm so very thankful we won World War II and the Soviets gave out before we did in the Cold War.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Little Dog Takes a Big Chomp

A greeter at a Home Depot in Canada lost part of her nose to the chomp of a Shih Tzu.  The owner is probably going to be charged with a crime, and the dog may need to be put down.

I personally don't care for small dogs.  I'm sure that most of them are perfectly wonderful, and at least as friendly as our two slobbery mutts.  But my mother had Yorkies.  The only good thing I can say about those little furballs is that they make good burglar alarms.  I can't count the number of times I got busted coming in after curfew when my step-dad heard them losing their bloody minds as I eased the front door open.  Other than that, they were mean, bitey, hairy little beasts who should have been left to hunt rats at the bottom of some British coal mine.

People need to learn that even though something is small and cute, it can still be mean as a snake, especially to strangers.  Lots of people carry their small dogs around like a handbag, and bad things can happen.  Little dogs tend to be nervous to begin with, and when you take an overbred toy whatever and drag them through 18 unfamiliar environments, they're going to get a bit snappy.

Hopefully the lady who was bitten can get proper reconstructive surgery, and hopefully the lady who owned the dog suffers a bit for it.  Lord knows her rag mop fashion accessory will suffer because of her owner's inability to leave the dog at home.

An Open Letter to my Elected Representatives

The following is the text of a letter that I am sending to my Congressman and Senators.

To: Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Rand Paul, Congressman John Yarmuth
From:  DaddyBear

Subject:  Federal Debt Ceiling and Tax Increases


Last week I watched President Obama talk about how Americans in my tax bracket and higher are not paying their fair share, even though these people pay the vast majority of the income taxes that our government collects.  At the same time, I see that 47% of Americans pay no taxes at all.

I and my family are not rich.  We have worked hard all our life, starting at minimum wage jobs.  We have been prudent about our home purchase, and minimized the amount we have borrowed to finance our education.  We both work, and have done our utmost to stay off of unemployment and other forms of assistance during hard times.  Because we have spent our adult lives working up from low wage jobs to jobs that compensate us fairly for our education, work ethic, and skills, we pay higher taxes. We accept that some taxation is necessary to pay for the government services we use such as roads and schools, but we are already doing our fair share.  To have the President go before the American people and say that we are shirking our responsibility when almost half of Americans bear no fiscal responsibility to the nation is insulting.

This weekend, I saw Treasury Secretary Geithner talk about how the United States needs to raise its debt ceiling so that even more debt can be accumulated.  I see him speculate that the government would have to start defaulting on the credit that has already been extended to it if it is not allowed to go deeper into the hole.  At the same time, my family is cutting our expenses as much as possible in order to prepare for higher prices on food, fuel, and other things that we need due to the high cost of petroleum and other essentials.

And yesterday, I learned that Standard and Poor have warned the government that if it does not get its fiscal house in order, the United States government will lose its AAA bond rating.  In that event, the full faith and credit of the United States will be impaired, and the risk of high inflation will become a reality. 

Raising the tax rates to confiscatory levels for Americans who make more than $100,000.00, even if rates approached 100%, would not provide enough revenue to close the current fiscal gap.  We have been on a bender of borrowing and spending since the 1980's, and our rate of debt increase has increased radically in the last decade. Only by going through the federal budget and reducing spending across the board, even on such politically charged areas as entitlement programs and the military, will we be able to soften the blow that our nation is about to feel. 

Gentlemen, as a constituent and fellow American, I urge you to work together to cut our federal spending and prevent the economic meltdown that many are beginning to see on the horizon.

Thank you,

Daddy J. Bear

A Modest Proposal - Errata

Note:  The first three parts of this diatribe should be read first.

OK, now that we've cropped big chunks out of the federal budget by cutting the military and making changes to Social Security and healthcare spending, let's look at the smaller parts of the budget that could use pruning.  At this point, we're taking small bites, but it adds up.

First, lets look at the agencies that I think should be totally removed from the budget.  In other words, these federal agencies have failed so badly that I don't believe that it's worth spending a red cent on them:

  • Education - Educating our children is not a federal matter.  The educational success of the average American student has cratered since this department has created in 1979.  The individual states know that if they want to compete with not only each other, but also foreign locations, for 21st century industries, they need to provide good  education, and will finance education from their own funds accordingly.  The federal government should get out of states business.
  • Department of Veteran's Affairs - The functions of this cabinet level department would be put back under the Department of Defense, where it belongs.  Let today's soldiers look after the interests of yesterday's soldiers, and eliminate redundant staff.
  • The Corporation for Public Broadcasting - I listen to NPR.  I watch PBS.  BooBoo and I watch Sesame Street together.  I contribute to my local NPR and PBS affiliates, and would up my contribution if I knew that my tax dollars weren't being used to finance it.  I don't think that my preferences for media should be financed by other people's tax money.  If the CPB were to lose federal funding, something tells me that Elmo, Big Bird, and Cartalk would be OK.
  • Drug Enforcement Agency - The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 needs to be repealed.  If the states want to regulate what intoxicants may be consumed within their borders, and by whom, that's up to them. The "War on Drugs" is an expensive endeavor that's continued since before I was born, and there are more drugs on the streets of America than there were during the days of the flower children.  Get rid of this useless law, and disband the federal agency that has tried in vain to enforce it. 
Now for the agencies and activities that I think could be changed or pared down:
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms - This agency will go back to what it was designed to do:  issue licenses, check paperwork, and collect taxes.  It will be moved under the Department of the Treasury.  When it finds evidence of a crime, it will refer the matter to a real law enforcement agency - The Secret Service. 
  • While we're on that subject, there will be three federal law enforcement agencies  - The Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Secret Service, and the Federal Marshals.  Everyone else gets to turn in their badges and guns.  If a crime is found by someone in government, they can go to the real cops. All the "investigators" and "operators" in other areas of the federal government get walking papers.
  • Departments of Energy and Transportation - All of the "green" research money that's been funneled to these agencies is cancelled.  If windmills, coal-powered automobiles, and solar films are such good ideas, someone in the private sector will find a way to make them efficient and economic without government funding. 
  • Additionally, the part of the Transportation budget that deals with interstate highways will be gone through with a fine toothed comb.  Hawaii, I'm sorry, but you can't drive to the main land.  You don't get an interstate.  Alaska, you get to make an argument as to why you get to keep your funding, but it better be good.  As for the lower 48, here's a hint:  A four lane road that connects two interstates within the borders of a state is not an interstate, no matter how you number it, and the federal government is not going to pay for it anymore. 
  • College Education - In addition to getting rid of the Department of Education, the Pell Grant and Federal Student Loan programs are going to be changed and reduced.  First, , what you can study and get federal aid for will be changed.  As much as I like reading English literature, our country doesn't need more English majors.  We need doctors, teachers, engineers, and a whole bunch of other professionals whose education didn't amount to four plus years of navel gazing.  Only those studies that have a concrete benefit to the interests of the country will be subsidized by the American people.   Students can still major in Literature or whatever else they want, but they will have to find another way to finance their studies. 
  • On that note, who qualifies for student aid will change.  Using the G.I. Bill as a template, several years of low-paid public service will be mandatory before receiving a Pell Grant or federally subsidized student loan.  Prospective students won't have to join the military.  Positions cleaning highways, picking up and maintaining parks, and working at the bottom rung of federal agencies for 4 to 5 years will work.  But those who want to join the military will have to serve fewer years to gain the same benefits.  Participation will be available to any citizen who wants to sign up, regardless of disability.  Participation will not be mandatory.  Students can go straight from high school to college, but they will do it without public financing.  The plus of this is that less money will be spent in college by 18 year olds who have no clue what he wants to do when they grow up, and the country will benefit from having fewer marketing, communications, and business majors graduate and demand top salaries.  Also, the services provided by these minimum-wage earning volunteers will save money when unionized government workers are shown the door.
  • Transportation Security Adminstration - The TSA screeners at the airports, bus stations, train stations, and the Applachian Trail get to go back to whatever they were doing before they hit the lottery and got a government job.  The individual airlines and such will pay for security again, but will do so while meeting standards established and enforced by the TSA.
  • The law will be changed so that members of Congress and the President will not be paid until the budget is passed, and will not be paid at all if the federal government runs a deficit unless there is a declared war.  In addition, no living or travel expenses for the Congress will be paid by the government.  If a congresswoman wants to live in a multi-million dollar condo in Georgetown and fly home every weekend, it's on her own dime.  These two won't save much money, comparatively, but they will light a fire under Congress to get their business done, be smart about spending, and go the heck home.
So that's it.  We've cut the military by resizing it to meet reduced requirements, changed Social Security and healthcare to save money, and cut a few of the more nickel and dime costs out of the budget.  I'm sure I've slaughtered a few sacred cows, but we just flat can't keep going the way we have been since the 1960's.  We've been trying to have guns and butter at the same time since before I was born, and no-one has learned that this is impossible to maintain.  We will cut our spending.  The question is whether or not we have the guts to do take the pain of doing it ourselves or wait until the rug is pulled from beneath us.

I'm curious to hear y'all's ideas on this.  What you agree with, what you disagree with, and what you think I've forgotten to include.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Modest Proposal - Health Care Spending

Please read Parts 1 and 2 of this discussion first.

OK, now that I've touched on military spending and Social Security, we'll give the pitchfork and torch crowd the final excuse to test my new moat: Health Care.

This one is going to probably be one of the tougher ones to cut. Health care spending that prevents disease and stops epidemics in their early stages is a force multiplier to the country and the economy.  Also, the emotionally wrenching thought of a sick child or grandmother being cut off from necessary care because the government refused to pay for it and they can't afford to do so themselves makes me ill.  I'm tempted to either leave this one alone for the most part, or fall back on the old saw of finding efficiencies and reducing fraud.  But I think we will be able to make at least a few cost saving measures here without violating our senses of decency.

Health Care Spending

General Thoughts:
  •  Federal employees stationed within 50 miles of the District of Columbia, to include members of Congress and their staffs, employees of the Executive Branch, and members of the Judiciary and their staffs, will get their day to day medical care from military doctors at facilities equal in sophistication, staffing, conduct, and decor to the Troop Medical Clinics at the U.S. Army Infantry School.  This will not only cut down on the amount of money spent on these individuals' medical care, but will give them a taste of what they put our soldiers through to get decent medical care.  Use of Bethesda Naval Hospital will be on a referral basis only, and military patients get priority in non-emergency care over civilians.
  • Health care plans for federal employees and their families will provide no more coverage than the best plan that the VA offers military retirees through Tricare or its replacement programs.This is an upper limit, not a gold standard.  If we have to have public employee unions, then I expect management negotiators to get the cheapest healthcare coverage for them as they can.
  • Anyone who signs up for a government health care program of any kind, including health care insurance for federal employees, voluntarily agrees to not sue the doctors and other medical professionals that treat them under the plan, unless that professional is charged and convicted of a crime in relation to the incident in question. For example, if your cardiologist makes a mistake in reading your test results, or makes the wrong choice in a diagnosis that could go in multiple ways, you can't sue unless she committed a crime such as criminal negligence or malicious mischief.  That alone should bring down the cost of healthcare.
  • The existing legislation, good or bad, will be repealed.  I'm not going to get into whether or not it's a good idea, we just flat can't afford it without raising taxes to the point where I might as well be living in Helsinki.*
  • If you want to provide universal health coverage for everyone, change the Constitution to say that the government a) has that responsibility and b) has that power.   Then raise taxes enough to pay for it. 
  • Good Luck

For those outside the U.S., Medicare is the government program that provides a minimum level of health insurance to our senior citizens.  
  • Just as I said when I discussed reforming Social Security, current recipients and citizens born before January 1, 1950 will still be covered.
  • Citizens born between January 1, 1950 and January 1, 1965 will become eligible for Medicare on their 75th birthday.  In addition, the means testing I discussed for  Social Security will apply to Medicare as well.  
  • Citizens born on or after 1 January, 1965, warm up the lube some more.  You're not going to get Medicare benefits either.  We get to keep paying into the system, but the amount will decrease over time as the number of Medicare recipients dwindles.  
  • To compensate for the fact that the second two groups will have increased out of pocket costs for healthcare in their later years, the cap on the amount of pre-tax income that can be put into Healthcare Spending Accounts will be lifted.
Now that we've established who will be covered by Medicare, let's talk about how the program itself will change.
  • Elective procedures and therapies are not covered. Elective means "It is going to be very difficult for me to be a productive member of society without it", not "If I don't get this, I won't be happy or pretty".  I'm not saying that our seniors get a lot of Botox or Viagra, because I'm sure they don't.  But a lot of the questionable coverage is going to have to go.
  • Only drugs that have gone generic, and are therefore less expensive, are covered. Drug companies can make their money on the non-government funded market.
Federal Medicaid Funding:

For those outside the U.S., Medicaid is the generic name for the program that provides minimal medical insurance to low income people.  It is partially financed and managed by the federal government, with the rest of the money and implementation provided by the individual states.

  • Again, the list of what services are covered by federal funding to Medicaid needs to be rigorously evaluated and thinned.  
  • Just as I recommended with Social Security, a condition of accepting Medicaid benefits will be to submit to regular, random testing for intoxicants.  If you want other people to pay for your health care, then don't spend money on smokes, drugs, or alcohol. 
  • Again, only drugs that have gone generic, and are therefore less expensive, are covered. Drug companies can make their money on the non-government funded market.

Unfortunately, any effort to control spending on these programs will cause medications or procedures to become unavailable to the old or indigent.  While cancer treatment may cover chemotherapy or a mastectomy for a woman, due to budget cuts, it may not cover reconstructive surgery for her breast.  An orthopedist may make sure your broken back is fixed mechanically, but the length of physical therapy for the injury may not be optimal.  The dentist will make sure you have teeth in your head, but government programs won't pay for braces.  In order to help make sure that these and other procedures that may not be absolutely necessary to staying alive, but are still important, I would encourage charitable giving by removing the cap on writing off charitable giving from individual and corporate income taxes.  Yes, I'm forcing some members of our society to go to charities for what is easily available from the government now, but I believe that charity should be voluntary, not withheld from paychecks under force of law.  Prior to 1965, the poor and old weren't keeling over in the streets any more than they are now, and I don't believe that asking them to go to charitable organizations for health care that isn't absolutely essential will make it happen now.

That's the last of the major spending areas I'll talk about.  Next we'll discuss the little, when compared to what that I believe could be done with military spending and entitlement programs, things that I think can be either reformed or eliminated to save just a bit more.

*Not that there's anything wrong with Helsinki. It's one of those places I'd run to if I ever had to leave the U.S.  It's just not the most tax-friendly places on earth.

Today's Earworm

I'm spending the evening watching Sesame Street with Boo, so I thought I'd drag you all down with me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I'm no epidemiologist

But I'm pretty sure this isn't the first time that a disease breakout has been traced to the Playboy Mansion.

Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't antibiotic dispensers in the men's room.

DaddyBear's Burgoo

Yesterday I had planned on smoking one of the HUGE Boston butts we got at the meat counter a couple of months ago and froze, but the weather sucked the zub kebir.  So I threw it in the crockpot with onions, bourbon, and spices, and served it pulled and barbecue-sauced with Irish Woman's favorite vegetable, corn and green beans cooked with salty pork product, and mashed potatoes.

Of course, since there's no way that we could eat an entire pork shoulder roast, I had three quarters of it left, along with quite a bit of corn and green beans.  Today was filled up with housework, laundry, and yard work, so I made something that's easy to prepare in the crockpot.  I decided to make my rendition of burgoo, which is a local soup that is basically some variation of "Take all the leftovers from the barbecue and make soup out of them".


1 to 2 pounds of barbecued, shredded meat. This can be pork, beef, chicken, turkey, sausage, or whatever.  Bonus points for using several different types of meat.
1 small can diced tomatoes with chilis.  Dice up and add your own chilis if you want.
1/4 cup dried onions
1 12 ounce bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce
1/2 cup of your favorite whiskey to add smokey flavor
4 to 6 cups of assorted vegetables, fresh or frozen.
2 cups dry white rice
4 cups water

Thoroughly shred the meat and put in the crockpot along with the onions, barbecue sauce, bourbon, and tomatoes.  Put on low heat for 6 to 8 hours, stirring occasionally.  2 hours before dinner, add the vegetables.  I thoroughly drained the leftover corn and green beans, and added a small package of frozen mixed vegetables.  1 hour before dinner, combine the rice and water in a covered saucepan and bring to a boil.  When the rice boils, shut off the heat and let the rice absorb the water.  Once the rice has absorbed all of the water, mix it into the stock and vegetables.  Let set for 10 to 20 minutes, then serve with fresh baked bread or biscuits.

If you want it a little thicker and a little more authentic, add some okra with the vegetables.  If you don't care for okra, you can cut the amount of water for the rice down to 1 1/2 cups, and let it set in the stock for a little longer to finish cooking.  If you want to up the amount of heat, adding more chilis with the meat creates a nice burn.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thought for the Day

When you are proofreading a response to a letter to the editor of your local fishwrap, if the first line is "Dear Whining Twit", then it's probably better to just delete the letter and move on with your day.

A Modest Proposal - Social Security Reform

In the first installment, I took a chainsaw to the military budget.  Now that I've cut my own favorite programs, let's douse ourselves in salt water and jump on that third rail - entitlement programs.  Specifically, we'll talk about Social Security in this installment.  Other programs such as Medicarewill be covered in the next installment.

Social Security

Here are some ground rules on my changes to Social Security:
  1. If you're receiving it now, no changes to your benefits.  
  2. If you were born before January 1, 1950, you're grandfathered in on the existing benefits plan
  3. If you were born between January 1, 1950 and January 1, 1965, you will receive benefits, but there are changes.
  4. If you were born on or after January 1, 1965, take a few minutes and pick out a nice lubricant, because this might be a little uncomfortable.

Current Recipients and citizens born before January 1, 1950:
  • Like I said, no changes to your benefits.  You have lived your entire lives paying into the system, and it's not your fault you were hoodwinked by FDR and every president since then.  Plus, there isn't enough time to build up your personal savings so that we can just dump the program entirely without pushing all of you onto an ice flow.
  • Seriously, we're not going to rip the rug out from under the generation that survived the Great Depression, fought World War II and Korea, and made this country as rich as it is.
  • Heck, for putting up with the Baby Boomer's and Generation X for the past 60 years or so after going through all that, you deserve better than you're getting.  But the best we can do for you is to keep things going for you.
Citizens born between January1, 1950 and January 1, 1965
  • Anyone born between January 1, 1950, and January 1, 1965 will have their retirement age raised to 75, with no benefits for early retirement. Feel free to stop working any time you want.  You just don't get a monthly check from the government until you're 75.
  • When this age group reaches 65, the current retirement age, they stop paying Social Security taxes.  They also have no cap on the amount of money they can dump into IRA and 401x savings programs.  Between the two, hopefully the BabyBoomers can, as a group, make up for not making the hard choices in the 1970's and 1980's.
  • A couple of means tests will be applied to this age group.  First, if your average yearly income in the last 10 years of employment, age 65 to 75, is more than 200% of the poverty line, your benefits are reduced on a sliding scale.  For example, if the poverty line in the year you retire is $30,000, and you made on average more than $60,000 a year before taxes and pre-tax expenses between your 65th and 75th birthdays, your monthly benefit will be reduced on a sliding scale.
  • In addition to the test of income, if your household assets are worth more than 200% of the amount of benefits you would receive over the first 10 years after retirement, then your benefits are reduced on a sliding scale.     For the second test, let's say you're going to get $30,000 a year from Social Security, you would receive $300,000 in benefits in the first 10 years after retirement.  If your household assets are worth more than $600,000, your benefits will be reduced on a sliding scale.
  • It is quite possible that between these two means tests, a good percentage of this age group will receive no Social Security benefits at all.  Yeah, that sucks.  Sorry.
Citizens Born on or after January 1, 1965, (Which includes me and Irish Woman)
  • This generation will never get Social Security benefits for retirement
  • This generation will continue to pay into Social Security until all people born before January 1, 1965 have stopped receiving benefits.  As that population segment dwindles over the next few decades, the amount of tax paid into Social Security will decline.
  • To make up for the injustice of paying into a ponzi scheme that you know will leave you with nothing, the yearly cap on the amount of money that can be put into IRA's and 401x retirement accounts will be removed.  You want to dump 75% of your income into a tax deferred account so that we don't have to worry about feeding you when you want to stop working?  Have at it.
  • When this generation reaches 75, they may start taking money out of their private retirement accounts without penalty, but will pay taxes on it.  If that's enough to stop working, congratulations.  Otherwise, we get to work until we can't do it anymore.  
One exception to these rules is the Social Security benefits given out to people who are disabled to the point that they cannot work, regardless of age. This one is thornier.  The hard hearted part of me says that those who do not work, do not eat, but I know that there are members of our society who deserve to live, but are unable to provide for themselves.  I can honestly say that I don't see this segment ever being moved completely off of government benefits, including Social Security.  A residual tax on the working portion of society will probably continue ad infinitum to pay for this.  But the criteria for being declared disabled to the point that you need government funding needs to be tightened, and a yearly evaluation of what someone on disability can and can't do needs to be done.  For example, someone I know was in a horrific car accident several years ago.  To be honest, if she'd had the accident 10 years ago, she would have died.  Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, and the fact that the ambulance took her to the hospital that's used to treat injured drivers from the Indianapolis 500, she made it, but is physically and mentally impaired to the point that she's on 100% disability.  In the intervening years, she's continued to improve in both realms, but as far as I can tell, no evaluation of her abilities has been done, and no pressure is being put on her to find employment.  Situations such as this need to change.  Americans are an overwhelmingly charitable people, and we are more than willing to provide for those who are truly disabled.  But as someone's situation improves, they should be motivated to find employment that meets their abilities.   I don't have a good solution for this one.  But if we reform the retirement side of Social Security, I think the hard decisions on who is or isn't disabled, and to what degree, can be answered by those who know more about medicine and employing the disabled and still come out ahead fiscally.

A few more thoughts before I end this too-long-already post. 
  1. You'll notice I always say "Citizen" when I'm discussing these changes.  I sincerely believe that if you're not a citizen of our country, or at least a legal immigrant who is working towards citizenship, then you shouldn't be eating from the communal trough.  Is this unfair to illegal immigrants who work under assumed names and Social Security numbers and therefore pay into Social Security?  Probably.  But if you want to stop being a sucker and paying into someone else's retirement plan, become a legal immigrant and start paying into your own.  Otherwise, feel free to return to the country of your birth, work hard there, and retire using their social safety net.
  2. For those using Social Security in order to survive while disabled, a regular, but randomly timed and selected, test of recipients for nicotine, alcohol, and other intoxicants needs to be done.  We'll talk about ending the "War on Drugs" later, but if you're asking the rest of us to make sure you have a roof over your head and food in your belly because you can't work, you have no business buying drugs, booze, or smokes.
  3. I also believe that if someone who is receiving Social Security benefits, either for old age retirement or disability, is convicted of a felony, they need to stop getting money from the rest of us.  Yes, I know it's easy to commit a felony these days, but we'll talk about trimming a few of the more BS sets of laws later.  If you want to get a check from the rest of us, you've got no business breaking the law.
Now that I've pissed off the VFW and the AARP, I'll get the AMA all riled up next time when I discuss healthcare spending.

Repost - Thunder Over Louisville

It's Derby Time here in the land of beautiful women, fast horses, and strong whiskey.  While Kentucky has grown on me over the years, I can't say I'm a fan of "The Fastest Two Minutes In Racing", or the foofora that leads up to it.  The only benefit I see is that this is the only time of year that the city fathers actually do anything to clean up our roadways.  Kind of like your mother spitshining the house because Grandma is coming to visit.

Anyway, the following was originally posted in 2009.  Enjoy!

Whoopty Freaking Doo!

It's Thunder Over Louisville this weekend, and I have never been happier to live on the other end of town.

I've been to three of these collective insanity episodes. What a great idea. Let's get a couple hundred thousand strangers together, throw in sun, liquor, and explosives, and then try to get them out of downtown Louisville all at the same time. Hopefully a race riot doesn't break out in the middle of it. This year I think they're trying to set a new record for obnoxious twits getting on camera flashing gang signs while some poor reporter tries to put a good spin on the whole thing.

Here's how a day at Thunder goes:

You get up at 6 AM to throw some food down your neck and load the car. The kids are still sleepy, so they move in slow motion. By the time you back out of the driveway, you can feel the throbbing starting in your temporal lobe.

When you get either downtown or across the river to watch it from Indiana, you park about 2 miles away from the event. All of the things that you didn't want to bring but were deemed necessary by your spouse are then strapped to your back and you trudge to the waterfront.

If you're there with family or friends, it's a fun afternoon. The two times we've done it with the Irish Woman's family, the kids have really enjoyed playing with the cousins. The family will usually rent a few camper spaces in a lot over in Indiana, and it makes the day much better if you have a place to relax that's not crowded and actually has a flush toilet.

If, on the other hand, you try to do this alone, you're continually either allowing your kids to run off with strangers or you spend the day trying to not end up on an Amber Alert interview.

While you're enjoying your afternoon, the air show is going on. Sometimes you look up and a neat military or civilian aircraft is going overhead. A lot of times you look up and a bunch of nutballs are flying way too fast, way too close, way too loud, and way too low.

Then you get hungry. You discover that all of the food you brought is gone, so you end up satisfying your hunger with a deep fried Snickers, a funnel cake, and steak on a stick. Wash all of that down with a $5 Pepsi.

Now you're broke. And the nearest port-a-potty is half a mile away, which isn't that bad because that's how long the line for it is.

Then it gets dark. You're shivering because your sunburn is bleeding off the heat from your body. You and your kids and family watch 20 minutes of fireworks that are pretty impressive. Hopefully the wind is blowing away from you, or you get to inhale the smoke from all of those fireworks to add to your later case of black lung that you get just from living in IndiUcky.

Then you begin the death march back to your car. If you're lucky, you don't get mugged or lose a kid in the crowd. Extra points if your kids are so tired and worn out from running around all day that you end up carrying one or more of them, along with all of the things that your wife wanted taken along, but never got unpacked. Last time, I wondered if it would be better to just strap Little Bear and Girlie Bear to my backpack with bungie cords rather than have to pull them along.

Once you get to your car, you strap the semi-conscious kids and wife in, re-pack the car, and spend an hour getting out of the parking lot. On at least 3 occasions you will be scolded for your language by the wife.

You then spend 2 hours trying to get to the interstate to get home. If you parked in Indiana, welcome to a 4 hour ride home, since it makes no sense to let people just come over the river on the bridge that leads directly to Louisville. No, the powers that be will make you drive 25 miles west, then get on a bypass, then get on the interstate that leads you home.

If you parked in Kentucky, welcome to a road company remake of Road Warrior, in which you get to watch nuns cut people off and then threaten their lives. It still takes 4 hours to get home, but at least you have a show to enjoy on the way. The city always has some Rube Goldberg plan for getting people out of downtown without World War III breaking out, but I'm pretty sure they're actually trying to reduce the population using car accidents, shootings, and starvation.

If you're lucky, you arrive home in that sweet spot where you've caffeinated yourself enough after a 16 hour day that you make it home without falling asleep and killing your entire family, but you're not so wired that you can't fall asleep for 4 hours after you get home. Good luck on that balancing act.

Congratulations, you smell of old beer, sweat, and SPF 200 sunblock, and you've survived another Thunder over Louisville. OK, your kids will sleep all day Sunday, and you and the wife won't speak to each other for a couple of days, but wasn't it grand to spend quality time together?

No thanks. I'll stay home tomorrow, maybe cook out, but definitely stay away from all things Thundery. If I'm feeling froggy, I might go to the range and make my own Thunder.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Modest Proposal

Larry Correia is letting off a bit of steam about taxes and the disaster that our country calls a federal budget.  I agree with just about everything he says.  Go read the whole thing, and then come back.

I have a few ideas of where spending can be cut over the next few years.  I'll start by goring my own bull, then move on from there.  Some of these may seem short-sighted, and I'm sure that like everything else in life, there are negative unintended consequences to everything I propose.  But guys, we're beyond eating the seed corn here.  We've eaten the seeds, forced the kids to have babies, and now we're prepping our kids and their kids for the smoker.  Somethings gotta give, and we can deal with the consequences later.

Military Spending

I'll start here because this will probably cause the biggest uproar amongst my readers.  It's probably the part of government spending that's nearest and dearest to my heart.  I know these were the hardest things for me to accept.

General Military Spending:

  • Get us the hell out of Iraq and Libya.  Iraq has had years to get its collective act together, and Libya isn't our fight at all.  Afghanistan has two years to come to some kind of agreement with itself and then we go home. We leave both Iraq and Afghanistan with a promise to not be very delicate with who we send to paradise if we ever have to come back.  In that event, we will make a desert and call it peace.
  • Draw down all of our forces in Europe except for a skeleton crew at Ramstein and Rhein Main Air Force Bases, along with two small Navy bases each in the North Atlantic and the Meditteranean to be named later.  All, and I say again, all Army personnel come home.  
  • Each and every other military mission and installation that's been sprinkled across the globe over the past 60 years and still remains gets re-evaluated with one question:  Is this activity showing any real, direct results towards providing security to the United States?  If the Sultan of the United Emirates of Goats and Sheep can't get whatever forces he needs to stay in power without our help, then he shouldn't be in power and we shouldn't be stationing troops in his rich little craphole to prop him up and try to train his mob of goat herders to shoot straight. Some guide-ons will be rolled up doing this, and that's not a nice thing to think about, but we can't afford to play super cop anymore, and we won't need as many units.
  • All personnel slots for officers over the rank of O-6 and enlisted over the rank of E-7 who aren't in command slots (Commander or Senior Enlisted Advisor Roles) have to be re-justified.  Emphasis will be on elimination of unnecessary staff slots or re-keying them to take personnel of lower rank. 
  • Elimination of a lot of overseas staffs will save money, but we also need to look at the units that we have here at home and eliminate them if they can't be justified.
  • Reduction In Force - Yeah, this sucks.  People we want to keep will jump ship as soon as they can for better opportunities.  People who should really be shown the door will fight tooth and nail to stay.  But we have to reduce the size of our military to what we can afford, and by closing overseas bases and telling the third world to take care of itself, we'll be able to secure our borders and critical sea lanes with a smaller force.  It's possible we can buy off some people approaching retirement and cut back on recruiting to soften the blow, but this one is gonna hurt.
  • All remaining military bases must cut 25% from their operating costs while still being able to accomplish their core mission.  If this means the golf courses, rod and gun clubs, and whatever else on-post activities that don't support the core mission and don't pay for themselves get closed, so be it. 
  • Each and every military research and development effort is to be reviewed and eliminated if it doesn't look like it's going to show a fielded combat or combat support system in two years.  That means new tanks, new airplanes, and new ships will have to wait for a while.
Air Force:
  • F-35 - We're too far in the hole for another new, shiny fighter jet
  • New Tanker Fleet - I'm not going to cut this one back because in the event that we have to send troops or planes overseas, we'll have to fuel the planes.  Bought from Boeing or another American company. If we're going to spend any money, it's going into American pockets.  But they get their initial cost estimate and not one penny more.  Cost overruns get eaten by the nice people in their corporate offices.  If they don't like it, then we can just not spend any money at all until our fiscal situation improves. 
  • New UAV's - Gone.  We can continue UAV research after the bills are paid. 
  • Future Combat Systems, or whatever they're calling it these days.  We'll have to make due with the tanks, trucks, radios, and computers we have now.  It's not like this one delivered much of use anyway.  Some money can be spent to repair/replace existing hardware, but no new development.
  • Yeah, there are a lot of problems with the M-4, but we can't afford new rifles right now.  This one goes on the "When we can afford it, do this first" list.
  • New UAV's - Gone.  We can continue UAV research after the bills are paid. 
Navy and Marine Corps
  • Littoral Combat Ship - Gone.  Good idea, definitely will be done when the money isn't as tight, but we can't afford it.
  • Floating Tank - Like the Army, the Marines are going to have to make due with what they've got.  Some money can be spent to repair/replace existing hardware, but no new development.  Otherwise, the Marines are left alone.  They're usually the firstest with the mostest for our military, so I'm letting them keep doing what they're doing.
  • Annapolis football team - Bye bye - Just kidding!
You'll notice I didn't cut out any mobility or force projection projects.  If we're bringing most of our troops home, we'll need ships and planes to get them back overseas if someone gets frisky and it impacts our vital interests.  That may mean creating more places like Diego Garcia, where we stash military hardware for use in case of war, and just fly in the soldiers.

I also didn't put any cuts to veteran or military pay and benefits.  Veterans, especially disabled veterans, are owed a debt of honor and blood, and I'm not going to try to balance the budget on their backs.  Same for the troops still on active duty. They deserve more than we can afford to pay them, but at least we won't take away from them.

These are my ideas for the military.  Since this is getting into TLDR territory already, I'll put the rest of this into separate posts

Topico Overexposo

Let's get this out there before I start:  I don't like Barack Hussein Obama as President.  I disagree with his politics, his tactics, and his deplorable lack of job experience prior to taking the most power position on Earth.  To be honest, I wouldn't mind having him and his family as neighbors.  I just don't want him to continue being the chief executive of our Union.

That being said, I'm tired of the whole birth certificate kerfluffle.  No matter where he was born, Obama's mother was an American citizen.  I personally believe that he was born in Hawaii, as he and the documentation we've seen so far claim.  But what if he was born in Kenya?  Let's suppose for the sake of the argument that his father wanted his son born in his native land, and took his pregnant wife to Africa.  His mother bestowed upon her son citizenship when he took his first breath.  My only quibble on this one was that instead of a Hawaii birth certificate, he would have been given a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, as was given to my oldest son and to the thousands of American citizens who were born outside the country to at least one American parent.  If we say that because his father was Kenyan, and he may, possibly, sort of kinda might have been born in Africa that he's not constitutionally qualified to be president, what do you do about the children of Americans with foreign citizens who were born overseas, but raised as Americans?  Not just military kids, but the children of businessmen, students, and all of the other citizens who make a baby with the local populace while they're overseas?  Don't they deserve to be considered citizens at birth?

President Obama could make all of this go away by allowing the long form of his birth certificate to be released, along with his academic record from college.  My guess is that he's keeping this controversy going in an effort to bleed off momentum from those who oppose him.  Energy and bandwidth used to squawk about his birth and such is stolen from criticism of his record as a legislator and president.

As someone who wants to see President Obama unseated in 2012, I believe that we would be better served by concentrating on his performance as president.  Sideshows such as where he was born do nothing but distract us from the path to the White House.

Render Unto Caesar

Well, our 2010 tax returns are in the mail.  As usual, I did them myself.  I would have used some software or website to do them, but I refuse to pay $60 to have a machine figure my tax and file it for me when I know I owe money to the government.  If the IRS wants my money, they can deal with a paper return.

I was planning on getting a small return, adding that to my meager gun savings account, and then getting a Buy A Gun Day (BAG Day) gun.  However, my loving ex-wife and our mutual son decided it would be better to have him file his own return, so my tax planning for the year was shot right in the brainstem.  Rather than claim him anyway and trip an audit, I backed down and paid the IRS an amount that coincidentally almost equalled my entire gun savings.  I'll have to remember this the next time he calls needing something.

The funny thing is that we will be getting a small check from the state revenue department.  Not enough to buy another gun, but probably enough to buy a nice amount of ammunition or something.  How we ended up owing federal and getting a check from state is beyond me.

So, how did taxes go for all of you?  Buying anything fun with your returns?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Tonsils

Scene 1 - A doctor's office in Minot,  1977

Pediatrician - "Mrs. Bear, you might consider having your son's tonsils out.  They're huge!"

Scene 2 - Military Hospital in Germany - 1993

Physician's Assistant - "Wow, Sergeant Bear, you've got some pretty large tonsils there.  Too bad you still have them.  When things slow down, you ought to make an appointment with the EENT and have those taken out.  You'll have to find a month where there's nothing going on to get through the surgery and recovery."

Scene 3 - Doctor's Office, Louisville Kentucky - 2005

DaddyBear - "Doctor, how do my tonsils look?  I've been advised to remove them in the past, but what do you think?"
Doctor - "Wow, those are huge!  Do you snore?  Let's get you into the sleep center and see if you have apnea.  Do you know what a CPAP machine is?"

Scene 4 - Same Doctor's Office, Louisville Kentucky - 2011

Doctor - "Gosh, your tonsils are huge!  I thought we did something about that.  Go get another sleep study so we can justify surgery to get them taken out and may be a few other things to get rid of that snoring."

So here we are.  Sometime in the next couple of months I will be going under the knife to have my tonsils and other parts of the back of my throat removed.  Hopefully my snoring and continual coughing due to throat issues will be alleviated.  I've alerted my boss that I will be taking two weeks off, and I plan on putting my feet up the entire two weeks.  No trips with the family, no working from home. I will be eating soft comfort food, taking good pain relievers, and watching a whole bunch of cartoons in between naps.

I'll keep y'all updated in case posting here suddenly stops or gets really weird, like a conservative Jim Morrison poetry slam.

Range Availability - Pretty Good Actually

Matthew over at Straight Forward in a Crooked World has a good post about range availability, the problems that some ranges make for gunnies, and how sometimes we're our own worst enemies.

As for myself, I'm extremely lucky when it comes to places to shoot.  Within an easy drive of home, I have two outdoor and two indoor ranges that I frequent.

First of course, is KCR.  Going out to Knob Creek is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna see.  The staff out there is knowledgeable, friendly, and motivated to separate you from as much of your money as they can by offering a broad range of products that go bang and the things that support them.  The only quibble with KCR is that due to its popularity and the fact that it's $10 for the whole day on the range, if you don't get there early, you will probably have to wait for a lane.  Conversely, one of the things I like about KCR is that since it's $10 for the whole day, you can take time to get your zero right, or to shoot a lot more in one range session without watching the clock.  I will usually be leisurely about shooting unless I see people sitting on the bleachers waiting for a turn on the line.  KCR hosts several shooting classes throughout the year, and has hosted Appleseed shoots.

The other outdoor range I have is a bare bones, known distance range in a state park.  I use this range when I'm zero-ing in a rifle or training Girlie Bear, or if I'm just going to go plinking with the .22.  It's not too terribly crowded except for just before hunting season, and the setting couldn't be prettier.  This range doesn't have a range safety, so you're on your own to make sure no-one is doing something stupid.  For safety purposes, a lever on the side of the firing positions pulls down a thick steel plate over the firing ports so you can go down range for a few minutes without worrying that some bozo is going to pop off a few rounds while you're changing your target.  It's also free of charge to use.

For indoor ranges, I also have an embarrassment of riches.  Open Range Sports is the newest range in our area, and is a great place to go shoot if you can afford the rather steep range fees.  However, if you consider how nice the range is, the excellent staff, and the nerdgasmic target controls that are available on every lane, it's a bargain.  If you learn how to use them, you can program your target holder to go side on, then randomly turn the target towards you at different intervals and distances.  Advanced settings allow you to do a "Shoot, Don't Shoot" scenario where you tape a bad guy target to one side, and a good guy target to another, and have to deduct points for shooting the good guy target when it flashes at you for a few seconds.  The most devilish one of these is made up of two posters that are identical except for the badge one of the figures is holding up.  The staff at Open Range is friendly and helpful, and is always ready to answer a question.  My one quibble with this range is that they don't allow ammunition that use non-reloadable cases, such as Wolf or Tulammo.  They make a bit of money by gathering the brass up and reselling it, so I can see their point.  Classes in CCW and basic pistol marksmanship are available on a regular basis, and are usually taught by the range owner himself.

The other indoor range that I use is Bluegrass Indoor Range.  This establishment does a great job of providing a place to shoot at a reasonable price.  Since it's not as pricey as other places, you can shoot a bit longer within your budget.  But, you don't get a lot of the add-on stuff you get at Open Range.  Another plus for this range is that it's located much closer to most of Louisville than Open Range, which is located in one of the distand suburbs of Louisville. The staff is extremely friendly and knowledgeable.  Again, CCW classes and such are available from the staff.

There are also various shooting clubs around Louisville, which seem to cater more towards trap and skeet shooters as opposed to pistol or long-range rifle shooting.  When the time comes for me to learn how to do something productive with the Mossberg, I will definitely be looking to these clubs for training and practice.

So I guess I don't have much to complain about when it comes to having a place to go shooting.  It could definitely be much worse.

I think I see the problem here

An area of Fort Worth, Texas, is having a lot of trouble with feral hogs.  Animal control and the police are pointing at each other when it comes to finding who should be taking care of the issue. 

Why don't the good residents of River Bend Estate take care of the problem themselves? 

Local laws ban the shooting of wild hogs within the city limits, the neighbors said.
So these people, who live in  a pretty gun and hunter friendly state, are restrained by applying a little bit of copper and lead travelling at a few hundred feet per second or even a pointy carbon fiber tube and making a little bacon because hunting within city limits is frowned upon.

My solution:  Change the law.  You are responsible for where your bullet or arrow goes and what it hits, but nothing can stop you from using whatever reasonable means you want to in order to kill off the feral hogs that are digging up your begonias. 

Areas up north have the same problem with  deer.  Due to city laws, they aren't hunted, and because we've gotten rid of their natural predators, they have no checks on their population that's not powered by an internal combustion engine.  Some have tried birth control in food, or poisoning. When the animals still remain a problem, eventually someone has had the bright idea of letting people pay to correct the issue using bows and/or crossbows.  Amazingly, people will actually purchase permission slips in the form of deer tags to have a chance at bringing down the number of suburban deer.

I say change the law and declare open season on Porky the Barbarian.   My guess is that the hogs will find somewhere not quite so pointy and noisy to live, and once they're outside of city limits, it's a free fire zone on hogs.

In other news

From the "No Kidding" Department:
  • People who swim after eating may get cramps.  
  • People who live in the desert tend to get suntans.  
  • Wild dogs tend to like raw meat.

A study in Texas suggests that people who join gangs are much more likely to be a victim of crime.  What?  Hanging out with criminals makes you more susceptible to having a crime perpetrated upon you?  If you frequent a "social group" whose main claim to fame is how many asses they've busted caps in might get you shot, beaten, or robbed?  By the way, that little triptic is known as the "Detroit Three Way".

In related news, a study done by the University of Minnesota has found that people with small children have a different diet and a higher risk of being overweight than people without children.  Really?  People who are lower on money, sleep, and time tend to eat differently, exercise less, and be heavier than their childless brethren?  You mean a sleep deprived young father may not take the time to make a nice salad, slow-roasted lamb shanks, baby potatoes, and asparagus when the only thing your kid will eat is chicken nuggets, ketchup, and strawberry yogurt, washed down with milk and apple juice?  Who would have thought that a young mother might not get to the gym as much when she's trying to juggle job, pediatrician, day care, and potty training?

Did we actually pay for this research?

This explains a lot

Apparently alcohol and it's effect on the brain may have some positive impact on learning.  While it can make you forgetful and clumsy, it also gives the brain a little positive feedback about what you're doing while you're drinking.

When I was in Russian school, I was known to imbibe a 'few' adult beverages while practicing my conjugation and chatting up the female members of my class in "speech practice".  All of this was after class of course.  Maybe the ethanol lubrication assisted me in learning my verbs.  It certainly made DLI a lot more fun.

Happy Birthday BooBoo!

Today is Boo's 3rd birthday!  He is growing up fast, and the worst of the terrible two's seems to be behind us.

I have a song picked out for each of my kids, and this is the one I think I've settled on for BooBoo. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Going to Hell on a Scholarship

Someone just had their signing ceremony to play power forward for Satan's basketball team today.  The main refrigerator compressor at the Dare to Care food bank in Louisville was broken into last night and the copper coils were ripped out.   That freezer holds 100,000 pounds of meat, which is distributed to needy people and soup kitchens in the area.  I've done some volunteer work for Dare to Care, and I can confirm that they're good people trying to do good works.

It's sad that I'm not shocked.  People are starting to get desperate, and things like this are beginning to become commonplace.  But in this instance I just have to shake my head.  Dare to Care is one of the few charities that I've seen actually make a positive impact.  People that are desperate enough to steal parts of a refrigeration system are only a couple steps up the ladder from needing their services.

The TV news reports that Kroger has committed to helping out with cold storage if necessary.  Hopefully repairs will be in place before that becomes necessary.  I imagine that the new compressor will come with a security cage.

And I hope the goobers who stole the coils enjoy doing two a days for Beelzebub.

Dumbasses in the News

Who Watches the Watchers Department
  • The chief of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in South Florida is being investigated for child porn
  •  A judge in California is in trouble for allegedly making traffic tickets disappear for relatives and friends.
  • A former leader in Michigan politics and talk radio host has been arrested on child molestation charges.
  • Yet another air traffic controller was asleep at the switch while planes were landing, this time in Reno.
Money Don't Buy  Class Department
  • A group of Hollywood celebrities made a series of 'funny' commercials in an inane attempt to stop trafficking in women for sex.
  • An NFL football player was arrested, along with his passenger, after leading police on a high speed chase.
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