Jun 29, 2014

The New Caliphate

A tragic thing.  Over all these years of  desert war, none of us has ever thought to remind our American government that spending young blood and vast treasure in the Middle East was merely another stupid attempt to police religious wars and tribal spats of 1,500 years standing.

Perhaps our leaders in Washington might re-deliver their inspirational Arab Spring speeches of a couple years back. Just, you know, to make certain we don't lose confidence in their wisdom and foresight.

Jun 28, 2014

Out of Africa

Our friend Wouter down in Cape Town offers as cogent a take on World War 1 in 300 words or less as you are likely to find anywhere. Besides, if you click his link "gun" you'll get nice little assortment of vintage eye candy in various calibers.

Jun 25, 2014

No, it is economics where truth is the first casualty

Here's a good place to expose the fairy tale tellers  such as Janet Yellin, Barack Obama, and most every politician and professional economist in thrall to government in one way or another.

It is a daily Wall Street Journal feature reporting cash prices for about every basic item that folks buy and sell.  They are not futures, not speculation about what a thing might be worth next month; they are cash-on-the-barrel-head wholesale prices representing actual sales, actual deliveries in return for a handful of Federal Reserve Cartoons.

Edible tallow was 39 cents a pound yesterday, nice white grease the same. Gold bullion at $1324.60 per troy ounce. A nice young chicken carcass,  ready for  your broiler,  was $1.114 a pound.

And to get to life's basic necessities, lead solder traded hands at $1.31 a pound.  (Which, for you non-reloaders,  is about 7000 grains or roughly 35 200-grain semi-wadcutters for your 1911A1.)

This isn't pure lead. It is some sort of solder alloy, but that is beside the point because it is decidedly leadish and we're interested only in comparing real prices with government fairy tales, the chief of which are its "tame" inflation nonsense and Fed promises that it will continue to regulate its printing presses to max out inflation at 2 per cent.

Back to the WSJ chart. That lead sold one year ago yesterday for $1.22 a pound. Subtract and divide and discover that lead is up 7 per cent in 12 months.

I'm cherry picking only slightly. Grains are down substantially, for instance, but that probably reflects the decline of the ethanol-thug subsidies more than any real market force.

The chicken? Up about 6 per cent. Butter up 56 per cent. And let's not depress ourselves with pork and beef. If you're looking for stability and "affordability," I can recommend only the tallow and grease which are actually a penny or two cheaper over the year. And burlap, down from about 41 cents a yard to 39.  Chow down. Get yourself a nice new wardrobe.

Ma Joad, in the box car East of Eden where survival was measured in the ounces of fried dough still possible:  We got enough grease for two more days.

Two per cent inflation?  It is Grimm, a yarn with  all the credibility and integrity of  Bush II in 2003, under the Abe Lincoln banner, about Iraq's glorious future as the Peoria of the Middle East: "Mission Accomplished."

Jun 23, 2014

See? Saw

"Hitachi,'  I believe, transliterates as "rice hulls with a dragon-shit binder, carefully injection molded." But perhaps I err.  Hope so.

The DeWalt 12-inch mitre saw buzzed off after two decades of hard use and nonexistent maintenance.  I was sad, but she'd earned her rest after cutting untold thousands of kerfs in everything from from fine cocobolo to junk oak kindling, bark on, at an ownership cost of something like a buck-ten a month.

There was no identical replacement at any of the usual suspect retailers around here, so I hied me to Menards which was advertising an epitcanthicly enhanced  $300 version on sale for $200. Wrote the check this morning, hauled her home, plugged her in,  and made a few cuts before reading the instruction manual, just to prove my libertarian manhood..

The garish green appears identical to some day-glo sneakers I saw  on a girl jogger yesterday, so maybe I'm at last riding the fashion wave.

She works fine and feels okay, even the laser beam that magically predicts the kerf center.  I should not like that sort of modernistic gimcrackery. But, dammit, I do.

As to her ultimate place in my affections, ask me in 20 years.

Jun 20, 2014

Nautical Distractions (1)


A personal event directs my thoughts back many years, to boot camp where a lad's exposure to sea stories begins. He learns almost immediately the difference between a fairy tale and a sea story. One begins with "Once upon a time," the other with "Listen you guys, this is no s--t."

A kernel of truth embellished with all the literary art forms makes up the best of the sea stories, satire, parody,  mockery, (especially self mockery), mild fantasy, wish fulfillment, and so forth.

Literal minded people are too quick to scorn the sea tale as just so much bull s--t.  Winfred Blevins* had it right even if  in a different context.  Referring to the tall tales of the Rocky Mountain fur trappers (about 1820-1845) he observed: "What was wanted here was not fact but entertainment."  He also notes that the yarn is a form of journalism even though a detail here and there requires heavy discounting.

The young sailor is well advised to listen with patience and appreciation  -- or the best approximation thereof he can muster -- even to the banal ones he's heard before. It will make him a better ship mate  in the eyes of his fellows,  and that is one of the pillars of a happy cruise.

Of course, he may absorb so much that he'll wind up as an aging blogger. Never mind. That's just another one of the perils of the sea.


*Give Your Heart to the Hawks  ISBN  0-380 - 00694 -4, p. 76

Jun 18, 2014

Another junk post -- Winchester 97 junk

Poor man that I am, when someone offers me a Winchester 97 for $25,  I'll find a way.  Maybe borrow a bicycle and go can collecting along the highway.

She's seen here somewhere between before and after. The masking tape that held her wood together is gone, along with some of its gummy residue.  Some of the patina is missing.  But she's still jammed open and will probably stay that way. I hate tearing down Model 97s.

If I got enough of the gunk from the oil-soaked chip and butt stock wrist,  I'll epoxy them back together, reattach  the wood, steel-wool the rest of the tape crap off, and offer her up as a "parts" gun or decorator. If the glue won't hold, I'll push her as one of the few Model 97 three-piece takedowns in existence. Or maybe a rawhide wrap. Add a few brass tacks and she becomes a genuine Injun gun.

It's something to do in my dedicated gun-tinkering time while I'm waiting for the Commander slide. If the nice folks at Caspian meet their promised schedule, it's due in three weeks.


Sure I know the old Corn Shucker's provenance, all the way from the night Private Alvin C. Blatnik (ret.) of Strawberry Point, Iowa, won her from Teddy Roosevelt in a five-card stud session at the 10th annual Rough Riders reunion.  But you guys wouldn't be interested.

Jun 17, 2014

The Brave Squaw Battle

About this time of evening 138 years ago, Crazy Horse led his triumphant Sioux and Cheyenne light cavalry northward to the Great Camp on the Little Big Horn. Behind him, General George Crook retreated southward from the valley of Rosebud Creek.

The prelude to Little Big Horn was  over, final score Indians 53 kills, Blue Coats 8, a lopsided upset of the White Eyes and personal victory for the man who has come down to us as Crazy Horse (nee Curly and, later, Strange Man).

We remember it (if at all)  as the the Rosebud Battle. The Indians recall it as the Fight Where Buffalo Calf  Woman Saved Her Brother.

Warrior "chief" Comes-in Sight was shot from his horse. She batted her own mount into action, charged no-man's-land, and whisked him to safety as the Blue Coats lobbed big .45-70 bullets all around her.  Nine days later, Indian legend has it, she was fighting alongside her husband some 30 miles to the north and was perhaps the warrior queen who knocked Custer from his horse.

(So, a century before Ms. Magazine, women of the Horse Indians were welcome to combat  duty if they wished. It was no big deal. Certainly it was something other than a social experiment in gender politics.)


The airy, opinionated,  and semi-dependable Mari Sandoz wrote briefly of Rosebud in her biography,  Crazy Horse.* She credits him with the same decoy tactics he used in the 1868 Fetterman slaughter.  More interestingly, she somehow knows his private thoughts as he overlooked the creek valley where Crook's mule-mounted infantry rested  in marching order.  (Flop where you stop and don't get too worried about guards and pickets.)  Crazy Horse wished for better guns, she wrote, and for braves who would fight cooperatively and win rather than made mad rushes for coups and die.

It didn't matter much at Rosebud, nor later at the Custer fight. The Indian alliance mixed up some sound unit tactics with their traditional lust for individual glory and won. Both times.


Crook's order of battle is fairly clear, about 960 of the mule-riding infantry,  some 250 civilian employees and hangers-on, and up to 300 Shoshone and Crow "scouts." It may be telling that he ordered  an ammunition allowance of just 100 rounds per man for their 1873 Springfield single shots.

Crazy Horse didn't have an orderly to write up nice neat daily morning reports.  So the Indian TOE that day isn't clear, although the weaponry ranged from war clubs and bows to a few modern rifles and revolvers taken from the enemy dead in earlier battles. He appears to have been one of the leaders of something like 1,000 fighting men. And one valiant woman.


Travel note: It is a middling-hard slog into the actual battle site, and I was glad for high ground clearance. In wet weather the four-wheel-drive would have been a necessity rather than my macho manhood symbol. Still, it's an interesting and beautiful site, and if you're in the neighborhood I suggest you pop in. Carry a snake stick for sure, and a sidearm may make you feel a little more secure in the well-ravined isolation.


*ISBN 978-0803292116, pp. 317-322

The federal government has learned that Marshalltown, Iowa, is full of lazy, flabby kids, a crisis of deep national concern, so:

Last fall, the Marshalltown School District ... (landed a $1. 4 million DOE grant)  to focus on getting kids active. The district purchased 4,000 pedometers with the grant money and found many students weren’t reaching a recommended goal of 9,100 steps a day.


Physical fitness in the 1950s:

Scene: The breakfast table.

Dad: Cut the grass this morning.

Jim: But I was going to hike down to Kalo with Richie and Ron. 

Dad: Cut the grass first.

So it was spoken. And done.


Free pedometers for layabout kids? ? You have to sh*tting me.

The Youth Physical Fitness plank in my 2016 presidential campaign platform.:

"Cut the grass you lazy little creeps."

Jun 16, 2014

Do I need glasses or is truth really getting even fuzzier?

Three days ago our Commander-in-Chief stood on the White House lawn and told America: No combat troops to Iraq.  That was pleasant to hear given that American warriors are relatively untrained in adjudicating disputes between rival religious sects.

This afternoon we learn that he has told congress he's sending "up to"  275 special forces troops to Iraq.

If I know government flackery correctly, the Ministry of Truth is warp-speed keyboarding the logical explanation that these forces are not "combat"  troops. While "equipped for direct fighting," they're really some other kind of troops. Therefore the White House/State Department complex is not nearly as schizoid as any intelligent observer would first believe.

If so -- if they are other than active warriors -- then WTF are we directing them to do? Organize block parties? Hold knitting bees? Help the Jihad reduce its carbon foot print?

When we learn to our amazement that none of this works, we can surge in some more people. Why not? It is certainly a vital national interest to promote a reasoned dialog about who gets first crack at the afterlife virgins, not to mention the lion's share of oil loot; well worth all the young American blood it takes.

Storms, then and now and leggy

I fell asleep reading about one storm, 160,000 years ago,  and woke up in time to experience another one, still going on.

As my body succumbed to the fatigue of more work (actual work; moving matter) than I'm accustomed to lately, Donald Goldsmith* was telling me about Supernova 1987A. It actually happened sometime around the era when homo sapiens was killing off, and perhaps eating, competing bi-pedals, but it was far away.  So far that the radiation didn't knock on our door until February 23, 1987.

And, rude Earthlings that we are, we turned out the lights, drew the drapes, and pretended not to be home.  The neutrinos were left to their wanderings.

Of course, everyone these days knows something about neutrinos, a product of exploding stars. They are notable for being almost non-existent in a material sense. No gravitas. But they are blessed with a blind and driving energy, and if you want to explain this to your kids by an analogy involving Barack Obama, it's okay with me.

A few days later the rest of the rays and particles from the explosion started calling. This time we were paying attention. The most noticeable result? Hundreds of ambitious astronomers and physicists rushing about and tripping over one another in a mad dash for research grants.

That part of Space Storm 1987A is calming down, as is the great Camp Jiggleview Deluge of June 16, 2014. The most noticeable result of this one will be the Commandant's activities tomorrow. Moving matter, downed burr oak branches and assorted small debris blown around here and there.

There's no real damage, just a certain annoyance that my recovery day will be delayed. I'll entertain myself by photographing the foot of so of water standing in the shallow ditch in front of the private Camp Jiggleview Forest. It's happened before, a great big puddle that goes way in a day or two.  Of course when I'm telling my Green Party friends about it I use the term "rain garden."

All that done, I'll start getting ready to replace some blown roofing on the shop-office-guest room building.  So (sigh) If I seem a little surly for the next few days, please be understanding and kind.


I'd have preferred this one, but not even exalted Commandants get everything they want.


*In "The Astronomers" 1991, ISBN 0-312-05380-0. (It's a little dated, of course, but still a rather useful explanation of cosmology for lay folk, especially when read with Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything." If I'd read it before Hawking's two popular books I might have understood more of what he said in fewer than three readings.)

Jun 11, 2014

Third Reich Gun Porn, gratuitous, of course

You don't see this one often. A nice kid from nearby  Titonka captured it from one of Hitler's officers in  the North African campaign.*  His heirs donated it to the Algona POW museum where I stopped a few days ago on a long and lazy road trip.

The glass had too many weird reflections and I just glanced. Ho-hum, another souvenir PPk. I'm glad I looked twice. It's a SIG P38h, a substitute standard for the Walther .32.

You see so few because production topped out around 200,000 compared to some 5 million PPks. It is somewhat clunkier looking than the Walther.

The "h" stands for "hammerless"** to avoid, we're told, having Lt. Heinie confuse it with the big Walther 9mm. My friend Ken observed "h" could just as easily stand for "hammer." True enough, maybe. There's just no understanding the Nazis, maybe helping us understand why we killed them at every opportunity.


*Mr. President and CinC Obama:  North Africa came before D-Day, and Patton was there,  just like in the movie you saw.  But he didn't command an army yet. That happened a little later when he "unleashed" his 7th Army on Sicily.  To make sure I'm putting this complicated chronology clearly enough for your Teleprompter, it was North Africa, then Sicily/Italy, then D-Day at Normandy, then General Patton at the head of the 3rd Army. Just in case you ever need to make another warrior speech or something.


**Shrouded hammer, actually.

Won One

No matter how potentially evil a thing,  by itself  it is a neuter.  So next time you're in your head shop and feel like getting a glass pipe to blow bubbles with or something, y'all just go right ahead in these parts.

Keep the idea of your gun in the back of your head while you digest this. Some Des Moines cops decided to bust a store and confiscate glass pipes as drug paraphernalia. The owner sued to get them back, lost in district court, but won at the Iowa Court of Appeals.

The report from Radio Iowa says: "The Appeals Court ruling says the law requires the pipes to be used to ingest drugs to be considered illegal. The court says no drugs were found in the store and there was no evidence to conclude the pipes had been used."

There you go. Drugs are evil but glass pipes for smoking them are not, so...

Hold it Jim!

Yes, stupid of me to lose the distinction, even momentarily.

Drugs and pipes share no moral qualities. They are ethical castrati at least unless some mysterious happenstance empowers a smoky hemp plant to vote in congress.  (Tempting as it is, I won't go further in that direction today.)

People who use them are possibly evil and  probably stupid to begin with; certainly they become dumber by the puff.  Or the guzzle in the case of ethanol based drugs.

Now, about all those "illegal" guns the politicians and journos keep yakking about:  Wouldn't it be nice if a senior court hearing an appeal from an innocuous, law-abiding fellow charged only with possession of a weapon heard about the Iowa pipe case and got to thinking along the same lines?

Jun 6, 2014

The Longest Wind

Good Lord. Can it be that long since President Obama first showed his arse to the world in a D-Day speech?

He's still fumbling for his Commander-in-Chief britches,  but in all fairness he has improved since the rhetorical embarrassment he uttered five years ago today when he proclaimed that the Normandy invasion was launched by generals who planned to fail.

Today's 2014 edition is less laughable, pretty good, in fact for His Ineptness. If you want to think he ordered his speech writers to study up on Peggy Noonan's  the boys of Pointe du Hoc gem I won't argue with you.

On the other hand, he forgot to remind his staff that maybe they might want to think about consulting someone who is at least casually acquainted with the summer of '44.

By the end of that longest day, this beach had been fought, lost, refought and won -- a piece of Europe once again liberated and free. Hitler's Wall was breached, letting loose Patton's Army to pour into France.

All I can figure is that his pollster told him Patton is a supremely recognizable name while Omar Bradley is  by now a whoduhhellizzat?  I mean,  George even had a movie made about him, and it is still getting decent numbers on teevee reruns.

On D-Day, Patton was giving speeches in England and commanding a ghost army of rubber tanks and plywood trucks to fool Nazis into believing in a main attack later across the Dover Straits. He was quietly training his real army -- the Third -- which went operational more than a month later, long after the first Normandy beach breakouts.

The point isn't Patton. It is a president who commands resources vast enough to inform him -- assuming he gives a damn --  that, among the Americans, Bradley and his First Army carried the load for weeks beyond "The Longest Day." It's basic stuff.

But maybe it is important only to old cranks who cling bitterly to the notion that when presidents speak their stuff gets written down in books and, therefore, the lower the nonsense quotient the better.


And then he read off his Teleprompter:

To the East, the British tore through the coast, fueled by the fury of five years of bombs over London, and a solemn vow to "fight them on the beaches." 

Just for the record, the quote is from Churchill in 1940 and had nothing to do with Overlord. Winston was rallying the home army -- and the home folks with shotguns and cricket bats -- to hold fast on the beaches of Britain.

Oh well. What difference does it make, anyway?

Jun 5, 2014

The unmasking of a president

In The Unmaking of a Mayor, William F. Buckley, knowing full well he would lose his race,  reflected:

I am running to advance certain ideas. It makes no difference to me who implements these ideas so long as he is a good administrator.  (Paraphrase)

Barack Obama's nervous jitterbugging on the five-for-one swap with Taliban terrorists illustrates the value of Buckley's words.

Obama says he told congress; then he apologizes for not telling congress; then he remembers that he really did tell congress but it was three years ago; and, besides, Bergdahl is a hero, or if not a hero at least another deserving American boy. Or. Maybe. I said. I meant. He's glad the hometown would celebrate the return. He understands why they canceled the party.

Proving that this guy is to the presidency as Barney Fife is to police work. Praying folks should petition their gods that the coming 31 months bring the nation no crisis requiring clear thought and administrative competence.