Saturday, June 29, 2013

Police Loot Calgary Homes (Updated and bumped)

The Calgary Herald reports on systematic looting of flooded homes by law enforcement, who were specifically targeting firearms. From the article:

RCMP revealed Thursday that officers have seized a “substantial amount” of firearms from homes in the evacuated town of High River.


“We just want to make sure that all of those things are in a spot that we control, simply because of what they are,” said Sgt. Brian Topham.


“People have a significant amount of money invested in firearms ... so we put them in a place that we control and that they’re safe.”
So why do I describe it as looting?

First, they are not letting residents back in to collect their property:

About 30 RCMP officers set up a blockade at the checkpoint, preventing 50 residents from walking into the town. Dozens more police cars, lights on, could be seen lining streets in the town on standby.
Officers laid down a spike belt to stop anyone from attempting to drive past the blockade.
 Second, they broke into homes to obtain the firearms:

Sgt. Topham ... did confirm that officer relied on forced entry to get into numerous houses during the early stages of the flood because of an “urgent need”....

Police are no longer forcing themselves into homes and the residences that were forced open will be secured, he said.
 Third, they didn't record what firearms came from which homes, and will require the rightful owners to prove that they own a particular firearm:

“We have seized a large quantity of firearms simply because they were left by residents in their places,” said Topham.


The guns will be returned to owners after residents are allowed back in town and they provide proof of ownership, Topham added.
In other words, if an owner can't prove it is theirs, the cops will get to keep it. They should be charged with burglary and/or receiving or transporting stolen goods.

Short lesson, if you have to evacuate, take your guns with you.

Update (June 29, 2013): An op-ed at Canada's National Post indicates that the RCMP keep changing their story about their looting.

Turmoil in the Middle-East

Expectations are for massive protests--and violence--in Egypt tomorrow. From Reuters:


Mass demonstrations across Egypt on Sunday may determine its future, two and half years after people power toppled a dictator they called Pharaoh and ushered in a democracy crippled by bitter divisions. 
The protesters' goal again is to unseat a president, this time their first freely elected leader, the Islamist Mohamed Mursi. Liberal leaders say nearly half the voting population - 22 million people - have signed a petition calling for change. 
But with the long dominant, U.S-funded army waiting in the wings, and world powers fearing violence may unhinge an already troubled Middle East, Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood and militant allies pledge to defend what they say is the legitimate order. 
* * *  
Religious authorities have warned of "civil war". The army has said it will step in if violence gets out of control but insists it will respect the "will of the people". 
Mursi, who on Saturday met the head of the military he appointed last year, interprets that to mean army support for election results. Opponents believe that the army may heed the popular will as expressed on the streets, as it did in early 2011 when the generals decided Mubarak's time was up. 
That would depend on a massive turnout, which is uncertain. Islamists suspect that agents of the old order are intent on shedding blood to trigger a military intervention.
In Cairo, thousands of people gathered on Tahrir Square, the seat of the January 25 uprising of 2011, some saying they will camp out until Mursi goes. Others gathered outside the presidential palace several miles away, which was under heavy guard.
 
In a nearby suburban neighborhood, the Muslim Brotherhood and allies who include former militant organizations, have set up camp outside a mosque. Guarded by baton-wielding civilians in protective clothing, the Islamists say they will defend Mursi.
Meanwhile, protests continue in Turkey:

Thousands of protesters marched to Istanbul's Taksim Square on Saturday chanting slogans against the government and police after security forces killed a Kurdish demonstrator in southeastern Turkey.
The protest had been planned as part of larger unrelated anti-government demonstrations that have swept through the country since the end of May, but became a voice of solidarity with the Kurds after Friday's killing.
"Murderer police, get out of Kurdistan!" some protesters chanted. "This is only the beginning, the struggle continues. The murderer state will pay!"
Turkish forces killed the man and wounded 10 others when they fired on a group protesting against the construction of a gendarmerie outpost in the Kurdish-dominated region.

CEOs Now Earn 273 Times The Average Worker's Pay

The Atlantic discusses the issue and history of CEO pay. The article notes that "[t]hirty years ago, the average chief executive of a large public company earned less than 30-times more than the typical worker."

Gold Prices Are Tanking

CNBC reports that, on Friday, gold prices fell below $1,200 per ounce, which is considered the production cost of gold. The potential result is that some producers may go out of business. The article states that once production drops, supply will also drop, and the prices will go back up. However:
"This fall in the price of gold is not truly based on supply and demand - It's based on expectations of what the Federal Reserve is doing," Su said. "I think that somewhere along the line the gold prices will simply start rising, because production will reduce supply significantly." 

Signs of the Times--War on Christians and Usurpation of the Government

One of the signs of approaching the tribulation is persecution and killing of Christians. Revelations expressly notes the blood of saints calling for justice prior to the opening of the seventh seal. Looking to the Book of Mormon as an example, the time prior to Christ's birth and later appearance was marked by increased hostility and persecution of the rightous among the Nephite nation. 

We are seeing increased persecution and killing of Christians in the Middle-East, and it is clear that our current administration is okay with that. From Raymond Ibrahim at PJ Media:

With the recent decision to arm the opposition fighting Syrian President Assad, the United States has effectively declared a proxy war on Syria’s indigenous Christians — a proxy war that was earlier waged on Christians in other Mideast nations, resulting in the abuse, death, and/or mass exodus of Christians.
Ironically (if not absurdly) this proxy war on Christians is being presented to the American people as a war to safeguard the “human rights” and “freedoms” of the Syrian people. Left unsaid by the Obama administration is the egregiously inhuman behavior these jihadis visit upon moderate Syrians in general and Christians in particular, from bombed churches to kidnapped (and often beheaded) Christians. Days ago they massacred an entire Christian village.
Ibrahim then describes how the Administration's empowering of Jihadists in Libya, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, has lead to persecution and murder of Christians in those nations. But it goes even further:

Outside the Mideast, where Muslims are often not majorities, the administration wages its proxy war on Christians in other ways. For example, in Nigeria, where more Christians have been slaughtered and churches bombed by Boko Haram jihadis than all throughout the world combined, after the Nigerian government went on a serious offensive to neutralize Boko Haram, John Kerry warned it not to violate the “human rights” of the jihadis — the same jihadis daily abusing the human rights of Christians, often in most inhuman ways.

The meaning of Boko Haram’s name — “Western education is a sin” — is also a reminder that those Muslims who attack Christians naturally also hate the West, seeing the two as one and the same, all infidels. In other words, wherever the U.S. has empowered anti-Christian Islamists, it has also empowered anti-American forces. Put differently, Muslim persecution of Christians is the litmus test of how “radical” an Islamic society has become. Thus, in all those Mideast nations that the Obama administration has interfered — Egypt, Libya, and now Syria — the increase of Christian persecution in those countries is a reflection of the empowerment of forces hostile to the U.S. and Western civilization.


At this point, some may well raise that old question: is Obama a secret Muslim doing all he can to empower Islam? In fact, this is an irrelevant question. For even if he was, what more could he possibly do than he is doing right now — under the gaze of a somnambulant America?
 Whatever we do with "immigration reform," we should be prepared, as a nation, to accept those Christians being driven from their homes in Syria, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere.

Another sign of the times is the destruction of government by criminal conspiracies and networks. The current Administration is well on the way down this road. Michael Walsh writes:

Which brings us to today — and to the terrible threat the modern Democratic Party poses to legitimate, constitutional government in our country. I often refer to it as a criminal organization masquerading as a political party, and it is; its sordid history is indisputable. Were it not for its uncanny ability to make gullible voters believe it is the exact opposite of what it really is, and for its media wing to continue to misrepresent it as willfully and happily as ever Pravda did for the CPUSSR, it would long ago have been run out of town on a rail.


This is not to hold any brief for the Republican Party. With its characteristic soft-headedness and its perpetually round heels when it comes to “bipartisanship,” the GOP is only marginally less dangerous. ...


But the Democrats have taken municipal corruption — their specialty from the time of the Tweed Ring and the rise of Tammany Hall in the mid-19th century, right up to the 1930s — to a whole new level. For what they learned as the Machine took over one big city after another — not just New York, but Chicago, Kansas City, New Orleans and others — was that once they’d seized the big population centers (which is where the votes were), it was but a short hop to taking control of a whole state. Which they did. ...
The genius of the two most recent Democratic presidents, Clinton and Obama, has been to take systemic corruption to the ultimate level — all the way to the top of the federal government. Anybody who’d spent even half a moment considering where Clinton and Obama hailed from — Madden’s Arkansas and the Combine’s Illinois — could have seen what was coming a continent away. A young Bill Clinton hung out regularly at Madden’s Southern Club on Central Avenue in Hot Springs, imbibing the atmosphere of political, er, horse-trading and taking it with him first to the Arkansas state house and then to the White House.

But no, the national media couldn’t be bothered with even the most cursory investigation into their pasts and past connections, preferring to present both candidate ex nihilo as it were, the Man from Hope (itself basically a lie) and the Man from Hope and Change — both, conveniently, with a Compelling Personal Narrative carefully scrubbed of anything that didn’t Fit the Narrative. Biographies of Clinton, for example, make almost no mention of Madden, except in his sanitized guise as a “retired gangster” who’d left Manhattan upon the death of Dutch Schultz and spent the next thirty years doing good works. As for Obama’s past…
And so here we are, with the Obama administration beset by scandals both foreign and domestic, most of them entirely predictable. Where Obama was the night of the Benghazi debacle is the subject of speculation, most of it highly unflattering to the current occupant of the Oval Office given his well-documented Choom Gang past. But it’s the domestic outrages — especially the IRS’s targeting of conservative and Tea Party groups in the run-up to the last election (thus explaining why the Tea Party, which had stunned and frightened the progressives in 2010, was such a non-factor in ’12) — that really sting. The clear message that Obama is sending — whether through force of his famous glower or “jokes” about using the IRS to target folks who displease him — is that his enemies are also enemies of the state.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Is South Africa On the Bleeding Edge of Genocide?

The Daily Mail reports on another deadly killing of a white farmer in South Africa by a black gang. The story notes that the killers were motivated by a desire to kill and terrorize, not steal. It then goes on:

The statistics — and the savagery of the killings — appear to support claims by these residents that white people, and farmers in particular, are being targeted by black criminals.
Little wonder that what unfolded on the Du Plessis homestead has sent tremors of fear through the three-million-strong white community.
Last month alone there were 25 murders of white landowners, and more than 100 attacks, while Afrikaner protest groups claim that more than 4,000 have been killed since Mandela came to power — twice as many as the number of policemen who have died.
It is not just the death toll, but the extreme violence that is often brought to bear, that causes the greatest fear in the white community.
Documented cases of farm killings make for gruesome reading, with children murdered along with their parents, one family suffocated with plastic bags and countless brutal rapes of elderly women and young children.
These horrors have prompted Genocide Watch — a respected American organisation which monitors violence around the world — to claim that the murders of ‘Afrikaner farmers and other whites is organised by racist communists determined to drive whites out of South Africa, nationalise farms and mines, and bring on all the horrors of a communist state’.
Indeed, a disturbing number of whites are terrified that Mandela’s passing will lead to an outpouring of violence from black South Africans, no longer contained by the sheer power of the great man’s presence, which endures today even though he stood down as president in 1999.
For its part, the ruling ANC party dismisses claims that such murders are part of any sinister agenda, pointing out that South Africans of all colours suffer violent crime, and that wealthy whites are simply more likely to be targeted.

Perhaps. But white nerves have not been soothed by the disturbing behaviour of Jacob Zuma, the ANC’s leader and the country’s third black president since Mandela.
At a centenary gathering of the African National Congress last year, Zuma was filmed singing a so-called ‘struggle song’ called Kill The Boer (the old name for much of the white Afrikaner population).
As fellow senior ANC members clapped along, Zuma sang: ‘We are going to shoot them, they are going to run, Shoot the Boer, shoot them, they are going to run, Shoot the Boer, we are going to hit them, they are going to run, the Cabinet will shoot them, with the machine-gun, the Cabinet will shoot them, with the machine-gun . . .’

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Couple Articles for the DIY Gunsmith

First up, Guns'n'Girls has posted an article on the DIY application of Cerakote (h/t The Firearms Blog).

Second, the Firearms Blog has been (slowly) publishing a series on building an AR from an 80% receiver. However, they mention today that EP Lowers is selling a polymer 80% lower that should be easier for someone to build at home with common tools. Of course, at $100 per pop, you are hardly saving anything over buying a complete receiver.


The Role of the Rifle After The SHTF

FerFal discusses the role of the rifle for preppers. He states, and I agree, that the primary weapon for a prepper should generally be the handgun simply because it is the firearm you are most likely to be carrying. The rifle is secondary--a backup for special situation--although I know that some people rely on rifles (or shotguns) for their go-to home defense weapon.

While you are at it, FerFal also recently published a post discussing the truth about the 2001 financial meltdown in Argentina. He emphasizes (as he did in his book) that even with the financial crash, cash was king--not gold, not food, not other trading goods--but cash. However, I would note that financial and economic turmoil can lead to food shortages. For instance, following the Russian revolution and in 1920's Germany, there were food shortages, and selling food was a good way to make cash. (A rather macabre example of this is Fritz Haarmann, a German serial killer, who is believed to have sold "meat" from his victims on the black market).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book Review: No Easy Day by Mark Owen (Updated)

Source: Amazon.com





Book: No Easy Day by Mark Owen. (Amazon link).

Overview: This is an autobiography by a former Navy SEAL of different events while a member of SEAL Team 6 and, specifically, the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden.

Impression: This is an easy book to read--good writing, well-paced, and an interesting story. Having read several books by former SEALs, I have to say that it was nice to read one that didn't dwell on the selection and training process of becoming a SEAL. Instead, the author focused on a handful of memorable events or missions, finally leading up to Operation Neptune Spear (the name is a such a dead giveaway as to the SEAL's involvement, I have to wonder if it was the actual code name). The events sort of skip around, starting at the beginning of the raid, then jumping back to when the author was on "Green Team" (the selection and training to join SEAL Team 6), forward to a mission, back to his childhood, forward again, etc. At first, I thought this style of writing would be distracting, but it actually was very readable--coming across like a good friend or relative relating old war stories.The accounts were very sanitized, with identities changed, and abilities understated or changed. For instance, even though it has long been known that the team infiltrated into Pakistan on special, stealthy helicopters, the author refers to the helicopters as simple Blackhawk helicopters.There are no secrets spilled here. However, it was a good read, and I give it two thumbs up.

Notable Points: As mentioned above, the accounts have been sanitized. There is little to no discussion of  special tactics, equipment or training. Nevertheless, there are a few interesting points:

1.  Having read other books concerning the SEALs, Delta Force, and so on, it was interesting to note the evolution of tactics from hostage rescue situations to combating insurgents. Older accounts of CQB, based around hostage rescue and taking down terrorists, focused on sudden, rapid and violent penetration of building with widespread use of breaching charges, flash-bangs, and rapid progress through a building. This is still the basis of SWAT training. However, the author here details an evolution from this type of attack (which generally began with "landing on the X"--helicopter deployment to the target location), to missions where the team would land some distance off, approach the location quietly, and move through a target building slowly, carefully, and stealthily--similar to what Special Forces did in Vietnam and Rhodesia. In fact, one of the points that was memorable about the take down of bin Laden was that because of the location in an urban setting, the team had to make a "landing on the X" infiltration which, by that time, was unusual.

2. The author discusses mistakes or lessons learned. For instance, while on Green Team, he messed up on the kill house by forgetting to notify his teammate of a movement; in an early mission, several team members had not tested their equipment and had improperly secured it, so several vital pieces of equipment were lost. In another instance, an EOD specialist only used one detonator (the practice was to have a backup) which failed to work, emphasizing the "two is one, one is none" rule.

3.  If the account is accurate, bin Laden had some really poor security preparations and others that were not fully exploited. Because of roving blackouts, his compound did not have electricity during the attack, with the result that his guards had no lights to neutralize the SEALs' advantage of their night vision equipment. (Of course, we don't know if special weapons were deployed to knock out power to the area). Apparently bin Laden's guards didn't use flashlights or have any other method to see their attackers. There were no dogs or geese or other animals that could have warned of an attack (although, with two helicopters, including one that crashed, this may have been a moot issue). The use of steel doors and security doors, including an internal gate in the house, slowed the SEALs down considerably in taking the house. Yet, other than one guard, the SEALs encountered no active resistance; in fact, bin Laden's firearms in his room weren't even loaded. There was no emergency escape route, either out of his suite of rooms on the third floor of the building or the compound. Given his resources, I was surprised that there wasn't an escape tunnel. Bin Laden and one of the guards was killed when they poked their heads out of doorways to look.

Update (June 27, 2013): There were a couple other points that struck me from the book, that I would like to add.

4.  Depending on the weapons available, good internal security in a structure may only buy you some time. In one of the missions the author related, the team assaulted a building where the insurgents had built a sandbag "pillbox" on the second floor that prevented successfully taking over the building. However, Bradley fighting vehicles were called in and, using their 20 mm cannon, destroyed the second floor of the building.

5.  It was disturbing to see, by the end of the author's time in Afghanistan,  that insurgents were being afforded more rights than American citizens could expect from police here in the United States. The author related that the rules of engagement had changed such that the military forces could no longer do "no knock" raids on a house, but had to bring along someone with a bullhorn to announce the attack and give the people inside an opportunity to surrender or lay down their arms.

6. After the mission to kill bin Laden, Obama met with the team. The team members were required to go through a metal detector and couldn't even bring a pocket knife into the meeting. If the SEALs' training and screening cannot be trusted, why should we trust background screening to be effective in any other circumstance?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Brazilian Riots Systemic

Investors Business Daily explores the causes of the riots in Brazil. The problems are systemic:

"I talk to a lot of Brazilian business-people and their complaints are pretty uniform: high taxes, shoddy services, restrictions on trade, crime," wrote one Miami attorney who does business in Brazil on Facebook. "If they could only do one thing, they really need to embrace free trade, and drop restrictions on imports."

While special interests benefit from the carrots of socialism, the broader society gets the stick.

"We work four months of the year just to pay taxes and we get nothing in return," a protester told the New York Times recently.

They also deal with 6.5% inflation, police brutality, shoddy teachers and hospital unions, and rafts of regulations and bureaucrats.

All of this is not a bug, but a feature of socialism — a socialism by so-called experts. And just like Spartan aristocrats more than 2,000 years ago, Brazil's rulers now watch, dumbfounded, as the helots revolt.


PMag Introduces 10-round Magazines

There is a new P-Mag in town. A 10-round magazine. I would also note that PMag has a 5-round limiter that reduces the magazine capacity by 5 rounds. So, in conjunction with the 10 round PMag, you would be legal for hunting in those states that limit you to 5 rounds.

TTAG has a review here. I have to agree--sometimes it is nicer to have a shorter magazine. Particularly when shooting from a bench, such as when sighting in a rifle or target shooting using a bag or shooting rest; or when shooting prone.

What Not To Do When You Conceal Carry

APT Training has reproduced a training poster used by the NYPD on how to spot someone carrying a concealed weapon. It is a nice summary of all the things NOT to do when you legally carry.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Inside Abandoned Resort

The Grossinger resort, in New York's Catskill mountains, was abandoned in 1986. The Daily Mail has the story and photos of the rotting building.

Anti-Facial Recognition Glasses Developed

Fox News reports about glasses designed to combat facial recognition. The process is similar to videos I've seen for the last several years on the internet. Basically, you put a bunch of infra-red diodes right around the house (this example uses glasses, but I've seen some that mount them on a hat). The IR diodes, when lit, essentially blind or wash out a security camera, blocking the view of the user's face. This works great on security cameras that use infra-red, but, of course, will have no impact on regular cameras.

Gold Prices Slide as the Dollar Rises

From Fox News.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Imminent Military Coup in Egypt?

CBS News reports that Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the head of Egypt's army, has warned "the military is ready to intervene to stop the nation from entering a 'dark tunnel' of internal conflict." The warning comes a week before mass protests by Pres. Morsi opponents and counter-protests by supporters.

Power to Downtown Calgary May Be Off For Weeks or Months

The Guardian reports:
Power cuts in the Canadian oil capital of Calgary could last for weeks or even months, city authorities said on Sunday, after record-breaking floods swept across southern Alberta, killing three people and forcing more than 100,000 to flee their homes.
Some Calgary residents were able to return to sodden homes as rivers dropped and some evacuation orders were lifted. But Bruce Burrell, director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, said power restoration in the city centre, where many of Canada's oil companies have their headquarters, could take days, weeks or even months. Many oil companies were making plans for employees to work from home.

Spree Shooter in China Kills 6

According to ABC News, the man shot 5 people and beat a sixth victim to death. Also from the article:
Guns are hard to come by in China. Firearms are tightly controlled and private ownership is for the most part illegal. Citizens who have hunting permits may apply at their local police station for permission to own a hunting rifle.
One of his victims was a soldier apparently armed with a rifle.

Magnetic Pole Reversal NOT a Sign of Doomsday

EarthSky Magazine has an article on magnetic pole reversals:

Reversals are the rule, not the exception. Earth has settled in the last 20 million years into a pattern of a pole reversal about every 200,000 to 300,000 years, although it has been more than twice that long since the last reversal. A reversal happens over hundreds or thousands of years, and it is not exactly a clean back flip. Magnetic fields morph and push and pull at one another, with multiple poles emerging at odd latitudes throughout the process. Scientists estimate reversals have happened at least hundreds of times over the past three billion years. And while reversals have happened more frequently in “recent” years, when dinosaurs walked Earth a reversal was more likely to happen only about every one million years.
Of course, that doesn't mean that bad things might not happen. At a minimum it will mess with any navigation, by man or animal, that relies on magnetism.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Midwest Industries Mini-Red Dot Mount/Burris FastFire II Combo

A few months ago, I ordered a Midwest Industries Mini-Red-Dot mount from Primary Arms with a combo deal that included a Burris FastFireII mini-reflex sight to mount in my AK. Obviously, you can go to their respective sites to get more technical information and pricing on the product. Midway has information on the Burris FastFire II sight.

Left-side View
I had tried mounting an optic on this rifle--a 2-7X Nikon scope--using a side mounting plate and sight base. I found that the combination was heavy and unwieldy, while the scope was overkill for what the rifle was capable of in accuracy and range. Plus, it ruined the lines of the rifle, which for me was important.

What appealed to me about the MI mount with a small red dot sight is that (a) it didn't require gunsmithing, (b) it didn't need to be removed to conduct cleaning, (c) it co-witnessed with the front site while providing a back up rear sight, and (d) didn't significantly alter the appearance of the rifle.

The sight base, as you may be able to tell from the picture, is two parts. There is a steel section that fits into the existing sight base (you have to remove the old AK rear sight). There is a pin that goes through the pin hole for the sight, and then a vertical screw that tightens down on the pin. Then, in addition, there are two screws on each side of the piece that tighten down on the sides of the old sight ramp to prevent horizontal movement. Finally, there is a large set screw at the rear for adjusting the height above the sight ramp.

The second part of the mount is an aluminum piece that slides into dovetails at the rear of the steel section. The aluminum section is held in place by a set screw. It is this section which has a rear iron sight (to use as a backup) and the base for mounting the FastFire II.

The MI mounting kit comes with a small tube of lock-tite. You will need to use it on every screw. Once you have everything aligned as you want, back the screws out slightly one at a time and apply a small dab, and then retighten and repeat with the other screws. I neglected to do this with the set screw for holding the aluminum extension in place (thinking I would be able to adjust for windage), and it loosened up after a few shots the first time I used the sight. So, lock-tite all those screws.I bore sighted the rear iron sight before applying the lock-tite.

The FastFire II box came with a Picatinny mount which you won't need, although I held on to it in case I ever decided to move the sight over to another gun. One thing I want to point out is the FastFireII is very small and light--it is primarily designed to mount on handguns.

The FastFire II has a small rubber coated plate that mounts onto the base with four holes. You then put the sight over this, then tighten down with two screws. This plate is important because without it, water and dirt can get into the electronics. The two screws come with lock washers, so there is no need to use lock-tite here--and you don't want to because, unfortunately, you have to remove the sight from its base to replace the battery. Fortunately, the battery is supposed to last 2 to 3 years under normal use. You can turn the sight off, but if you prefer to leave it on, it comes with a cover to protect the glass and reduce power usage. It does not automatically shut off.

If you have a laser bore sighter, bore sighting is easy: simply line up the red dot from the Burris over the dot from your laser. Then tighten down the lock screw for the sighting and you are done.

Rear view


I haven't had an opportunity to really give the sights a workout, but here are my initial impressions from just handling the sight and my second shooting trip with it (after I had fixed the lock-tite issue). First, if you have correctly bore-sighted the backup iron sights, they are actually visible and usable. In fact, there is probably one condition where you will have to rely on them. The FastFire II automatically adjusts the brightness level for the sighting dot, which is fine with me. I can see it, outside in bright sunlight, or inside with dimmer lighting, without having to fiddle with brightness buttons or knobs. The only time this doesn't work is being in a dark location, while aiming through a window or doorway into an area that is brightly lit. The light sensor adjusts the dot for your dark location (i.e., by dimming the dot) so that it can be hard to see to use to sight in for the bright location of your target. At first this irritated me, but then I realized it is actually the ideal situation for using the iron sights on the weapon. So, if you have adjusted your iron sights correctly, this is actually not an issue.

Right side view

I set up a dynamic course where I had to move around and shoot targets. (I have an area with high berms on three sides).  I liked this sight because it kept the rifle light and handy. The dot was bright enough to see in bright, noon-time daylight. I recognize that this may not be the strongest, most durable mounting system or sight, but it works for my situation and my desire to keep this particular rifle looking "authentic" while giving me a modern optical sight at a reasonable price.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Senators Hoeven and Corker Sell Out Gunowners

From Ammoland. It is perhaps little appreciated that the illegal alien amnesty bills would introduce not only more Democratic voters to the U.S., but also anti-gun voters.

Santa Muerte and Narcoculture

Since this conflict began, over 45,000 people have died in the fighting, and the areas of impunity have grown to include wide swaths of territory constituting hundreds of locales now under control of the cartels. The criminal insurgencies waged by the cartels and gangs, centered on a strategy of securing nongovernmental interference with their illicit narcotics and other criminal economic activities, have received much attention and debate. Far less has focused on some of the darker spiritualistic parts of the drug wars.
One component entails the rise of the cartel and gang narcocultura (drug culture) variant of the Cult of Santa Muerte (literally translated as “Holy Death”). This variant of the cult promotes greater levels of criminality than the more mainstream and older forms of Santa Muerte worship. Sometimes it can be so extreme that it condones morally corrupt behaviors—what many people would consider as resulting from an evil value system that rewards personal gain above all else, promoting the intentional pain and suffering of others, and, even, viewing killing as a pleasurable activity.

While addressing the rise of such dark spirituality requires a balanced perspective (e.g., avoiding a repeat of the Satanism scare of the 1980s), enough ritualistic behaviors, including killings, have occurred in Mexico to leave open the possibility that a spiritual insurgency component of the narcotics wars now exists.

Not all of the narcotics leaders, their foot soldiers, and assassins have remained religious or, alternatively, embraced secularism. But, evidence suggests that the numbers of defections to the cults that worship a perverted Christian god (e.g., La Familia Michoacána and Los Caballeros Templarios) and the various unsanctioned saints (e.g., Jesús Malverde, Juan Soldado, and Santa Muerte) have grown for years

This rise in deviant spirituality has not come as a surprise. Mexico still contains a significant population of persons living in poverty and feeling disenfranchised by a government system perceived as being based on patron-client relationships and the influence of wealthy ruling families. This underclass produces a disproportionate amount of unsanctioned (folk) saint worshipers—though only a small percentage of them end up as killers for gangs and cartels. Still, many of these men and women who brutalize, torture, and kill others need a way to rationalize their activities.

If not offered solace via mainstream Catholicism, they will seek comfort elsewhere. While the adherents of a more benign drug saint, such as Jesús Malverde, can engage in nonreligious killing, others who worship Santa Muerte increasingly appear unable to separate their criminality from their spiritual beliefs.

For U.S. law enforcement agencies, the rise of a criminalized and dark variant of Santa Muerte worship holds many negative implications. Of greatest concern, the inspired and ritualistic killings associated with this cult could cross the border and take place in the United States.
The article goes on to describe more details of the ritualistic aspects, including blood sacrifices and blood pacts, and lists some possible ritualistic murders in Mexico and the United States. Read the whole thing.

Zetas Arrests in Texas


Federal agents arrested 30 alleged members and associates of a prison gang Thursday on charges that they worked with Mexican organized crime to bring drugs into the U.S. in South Texas and distribute them north.

Thursday's sweep was the result of a four-year investigation by the DEA and FBI into the notorious Mexican Mafia prison gang and its drug trafficking, said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Javier Pena. The gang has close ties with the Zetas cartel, which maintains a stronghold in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico across the Rio Grande from Texas.

For years, Mexican drug trafficking organizations have used U.S.-based prison gangs to handle some of their enforcement activities, as well as their U.S. drug distribution. The gangs are generally run by leaders who are behind bars, but they maintain an extensive network of members on the outside.
 
The Mexican Mafia allegedly brought drugs across the border at Laredo and moved them up through San Antonio, Austin and Fort Worth. One of those arrested Thursday was the alleged Mexican Mafia captain who oversaw the gang's activities in Laredo, Pena said.
 Just another story confirming the slow spread of the cartels into the U.S. This should accelerate in future years as more people emigrate from Mexico to the U.S. What is worrisome is that the cartel's tactics will also begin to spread north.

China Cash Crunch

According to the Financial Times, China's central bank is tightening the reigns on the money supply, notwithstanding requests from member banks to inject additional money in the system. From the article:
Instead, the People’s Bank of China ordered a thorough implementation of the new “mass line education” campaign launched this week by President Xi Jinping – a campaign that in its propaganda-style and potential scope carries echoes of the Mao era.

The Communist party cadres that run the central bank were told to attack the “four winds” of “formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance”, as demanded by Mr Xi.
The concern is that banks will need to begin calling in their riskier loans. Although not mentioned in this article, it is notable that a lot of the riskier loans seem to have gone to local governments and into real estate. If these local governments and real estate developers have to suddenly get money to repay loans, it could set off a wider financial crises in the country.

Brazil's Protests Continue -- And Get Bigger

The Guardian reports:

A vast crowd – estimated by the authorities at 300,000 and more than a million by participants – filled Rio's streets, one of a wave of huge nationwide marches against corruption, police brutality, poor public services and excessive spending on the World Cup.

A minority of protesters threw stones, torched cars and pulled down lamp-posts. Police responded by firing volleys of pepper spray and rubber bullets into the crowd and up onto overpasses where car drivers and bus passengers were stuck in traffic jams. At least 40 people were injured in the city and many more elsewhere.

Simultaneous demonstrations were reported in at least 80 cities, with a total turnout that may have been close to 2 million. An estimated 110,000 marched in São Paulo, 80,000 in Manaus, 50,000 in Recife and 20,000 in Belo Horizonte and Salvador.

Clashes were reported in the Amazon jungle city of Belem, Porto Alegre in the south, Campinas north of São Paulo and Salvador.

Thirty-five people were injured in the capital Brasilia, where 30,000 people took to the streets. In São Paulo, one man was killed when a frustrated car driver rammed into the crowd. Elsewhere countless people, including many journalists, were hit by rubber bullets.

The vast majority of those involved were peaceful. Many wore Guy Fawkes masks, emulating the global Occupy campaign. Others donned red noses – a symbol of a common complaint that people are fed up being treated as clowns.

Bottom Dropping Out of AR Market

It may a good time to start looking for an AR rifle according to The Truth About Guns. They report overstocked shelves and slashed prices on ARs as the market shifts from scarcity to oversupply.

U.S. Troops Receiving Riot Training for Middle-Eastern Deployment

According to KCEN-TV:
A group of soldiers are preparing for their deployment to Egypt with riot training on post.

They're planning ahead for violent protests or riots and the possibility of protecting the country's border with Israel.

Soldiers encountered Molotov cocktails and other dangerous items in the training.
Is this to support Morsi's government in Egypt? Or to help control a flood of refugees into Israel when Egypt's government collapses?

WHO To Hold Emergency Meeting on MERS

MERS, as you may know, is a deadlier version of SARS--it has a 60% fatality rate, although it is not very contagious--that has appeared in the Middle-East and appears to be concentrated in Saudi Arabia (the probable source of small pox, interestingly). The Telegraph reports that the World Health Organization is convening an emergency meeting to discuss methods of preventing and treating MERS. According to the article, "The three-day meeting called by the World Health Organisation will look at developing guidelines for Ramadan. In October, more than two million people are expected to attend the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

TTAG Reviews the Law Tactical Folding Stock Adapter for AR Rifles

This is an adapter that allows you to fold the stock on an AR using a buffer system. You can't shoot the weapon while folded, but it makes it easier to transport, which is the purpose. Full review here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Anti-Crappy Government Protests Continue in Brazil


Tens of thousands of Brazilians again flooded the streets of the country's biggest city to raise a collective cry against a longstanding lament - people are weighed down by high taxes and high prices but get low-quality public services and a system of government infected with corruption.

That was the repeated message Tuesday night in Sao Paulo, where upward of 50,000 people massed in front of the city's main cathedral. While mostly peaceful, the demonstration followed the rhythm of protests that drew 240,000 people across Brazil the previous night, with small bands of radicals splitting off to fight with police and break into stores.

Mass protests have been mushrooming across Brazil since demonstrations called last week by a group angry over the high cost of a woeful public transport system and a recent 10-cent hike in bus and subway fares in Sao Paulo, Rio and elsewhere.

The local governments in at least four cities have now agreed to reverse those hikes, and city and federal politicians have shown signs that the Sao Paulo fare could also be rolled back. It's not clear that will calm the country, though, because the protests have released a seething litany of discontent from Brazilians over life's struggles.
Seems to be a common refrain all around the world.

Venezuela Enacts Tough New Gun Control

It already has tough gun control laws, and one of the highest murder rates. Yet Venezuela's president has signed a new law outlawing the selling of firearms and ammunition, and restricting the possession of firearms outside one's home.

The Collapse of Municipal Finances

An interesting conundrum--actually, a terrible one. Detroit wants concessions from unions as to pensions and insurance, or it will seek bankruptcy. The unions want bond holders to take a cut. If the unions win, and bondholders lose, municipal bonds threaten to lose their favored status as "safe investments." If the unions lose, then other cities may follow in cutting benefits to retirees. And the average tax payer loses no matter what.

More on the War Against Christianity

Obama attacked Catholic schools as being divisive. He is quoted as saying:
“If towns remain divided—if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another and fear or resentment are allowed to harden—that too encourages division and discourages cooperation,” Obama said.
Are his comments restricted to Ireland? Does he realize that in the U.S. lots of people that aren't Catholic attend Catholic schools because the public schools are so deficient? Does he care? I'm going to hazard answers: no, no, and no.

Meanwhile, Turkey is considering converting former Christian cathedrals (which are currently museums) into mosques.

Bernanke Talks, Stocks Fall

CNBC notes that stocks fell after Fed Chairman Bernanke suggested that the Fed may reduce its purchase of government bonds--i.e., ease up on quantitative easing.  Since stock values have been artificially inflated due to the Fed's program, it should be no surprise that stocks would fall in value just on the mere whiff that the Fed may discontinue its program.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Ammo Shortage of 2013

From the All Outdoor Blog:

Some shooters locate the blame for the current state of affairs in DC, and conspiracy theories abound about the government buying up all the ammo for one shady reason or another. But those theories are wrong, according to the ammo makers I’ve talked to. Sure, the post-Newtown rush to “Do Something!” may have created the climate of fear and uncertainty that initially sparked the current panic, but that panic has now taken on a life of its own and is feeding back into itself. At this point, everybody is panic buying because everybody is panic buying, which means that the shortage won’t stop until the panic subsides.
* * * 
My sources tell me that if things stay the way they are, that it will be between 18 months and 2 years before they can catch-up on back orders. And this is assuming that things don’t take a turn for the worse. All we need is another mass shooting or terrorist attack and there will be more talk of gun and ammo controls, which will bring on another round of panic buying, longer waits, higher prices and more shortages.
The author of the article suggests that the solution is to simply stop "hoarding" ammo. What I think he means is to stop panic buying. The world is not ending tomorrow.
 
Some shooters locate the blame for the current state of affairs in DC, and conspiracy theories abound about the government buying up all the ammo for one shady reason or another. But those theories are wrong, according to the ammo makers I’ve talked to. Sure, the post-Newtown rush to “Do Something!” may have created the climate of fear and uncertainty that initially sparked the current panic, but that panic has now taken on a life of its own and is feeding back into itself. At this point, everybody is panic buying because everybody is panic buying, which means that the shortage won’t stop until the panic subsides. - See more at: http://www.alloutdoor.com/2013/06/12/ammo-shortage-2013/#sthash.BDiuWkgY.dpuf
Some shooters locate the blame for the current state of affairs in DC, and conspiracy theories abound about the government buying up all the ammo for one shady reason or another. But those theories are wrong, according to the ammo makers I’ve talked to. Sure, the post-Newtown rush to “Do Something!” may have created the climate of fear and uncertainty that initially sparked the current panic, but that panic has now taken on a life of its own and is feeding back into itself. At this point, everybody is panic buying because everybody is panic buying, which means that the shortage won’t stop until the panic subsides. - See more at: http://www.alloutdoor.com/2013/06/12/ammo-shortage-2013/#sthash.BDiuWkgY.dpuf
Some shooters locate the blame for the current state of affairs in DC, and conspiracy theories abound about the government buying up all the ammo for one shady reason or another. But those theories are wrong, according to the ammo makers I’ve talked to. Sure, the post-Newtown rush to “Do Something!” may have created the climate of fear and uncertainty that initially sparked the current panic, but that panic has now taken on a life of its own and is feeding back into itself. At this point, everybody is panic buying because everybody is panic buying, which means that the shortage won’t stop until the panic subsides. - See more at: http://www.alloutdoor.com/2013/06/12/ammo-shortage-2013/#sthash.BDiuWkgY.dpuf

The Impact of a Carrington Event

From a Washington Examiner article on a proposed bill to harden the country's infrastructure:

He cited a new Lloyds of London report that determined that the area from Washington, D.C., to New York could be without electricity for up to two years in a major solar flare-up.

The legislation will be introduced Tuesday by Franks and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at a meeting of the House EMP Caucus. Officials said that the legislation, provided in advance to Secrets, will include information from a recent EMP commission report that "contemporary U.S. society is not structured, nor does it have the means, to provide for the needs of nearly 300 million Americans without electricity.''

Gaffney told Secrets that there are some 300 huge electric transformers around the nation that control the grid and that have to be protected. "You are basically talking about surge protectors, of a somewhat exotic kind, but it is a means of interrupting the pulse," he said.

Protests in Brazil

From Reuters:
As many as 200,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Brazil's biggest cities on Monday in a swelling wave of protest tapping into widespread anger at poor public services, police violence and government corruption.

The marches, organized mostly through snowballing social media campaigns, blocked streets and halted traffic in more than a half-dozen cities, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia, where demonstrators climbed onto the roof of Brazil's Congress building and then stormed it.

Monday's demonstrations were the latest in a flurry of protests in the past two weeks that have added to growing unease over Brazil's sluggish economy, high inflation and a spurt in violent crime.

While most of the protests unfolded as a festive display of dissent, some demonstrators in Rio threw rocks at police, set fire to a parked car and vandalized the state assembly building. Vandals also destroyed property in the southern city of Porto Alegre.
* * *

Contrasting the billions in taxpayer money spent on new stadiums with the shoddy state of Brazil's public services, protesters are using the Confederation's Cup as a counterpoint to amplify their concerns. The tournament got off to shaky start this weekend when police clashed with demonstrators outside stadiums at the opening matches in Brasilia and Rio.

"For many years the government has been feeding corruption. People are demonstrating against the system," said Graciela Caçador, a 28-year-old saleswoman protesting in Sao Paulo. "They spent billions of dollars building stadiums and nothing on education and health."
It doesn't help that the Brazilian officials sold out to China, essentially agreeing an arrangement where Brazil's economy is dependent on importing goods from China, while only exporting commodities to China. These backroom trade deals deserve greater attention.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Another Foreign Policy Victory (Not!)

CNN reports that the al-Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate, is the best armed branch of the terrorist group, and is actively seeking chemical weapons.

Concern about the Syrian al Qaeda-affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the al-Nusra Front, is at an all-time high, according to the analyst, with as many as 10,000 fighters and supporters inside Syria. The United States has designated al-Nusra Front as a terrorist group with links to al Qaeda in Iraq.
 
That assessment is shared by some Middle Eastern intelligence agencies that have long believed the United States is underestimating the Sunni-backed al Qaeda movement in the country, according to a Middle East source. It is also believed that Iran is running training camps inside Syria for Hezbollah and that other Iranian militia fighters are coming into the country to fight for the regime.


* * *

With the growing strength and support for al-Nusra, U.S. concerns are growing about its influence to further destabilize Syria and potentially pose a greater regional threat, administration officials have told CNN.

"They are making desperate attempts to get chemical weapons," the analyst told CNN, noting that in the past few weeks, security services in Iraq and Turkey arrested operatives who were "trying to get their hands on sarin."
Nevertheless, Washington still wants to arm Syrian rebels.

Obama has not detailed the increased military support, but Washington officials told CNN that the plan includes providing small arms, ammunition and possibly anti-tank weapons to the rebels.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told CNN's Candy Crowley there is a strong consensus on arming Syrian rebels.

"As the Foreign Relations Committee voted nearly a month ago on a strong bipartisan vote of 15-3 ... we believe the rebels need to be armed, the moderate elements of those rebels," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey.

Tsunamis in Lake Geneva

I came across this article from the November 2012 Economist:

IN 563AD a tsunami devastated Geneva. ...

The tsunami of 563 started at the opposite end of the lake from Geneva, at the point where it is fed by glacial meltwater carried into it by the Rhône. Both accounts say the wave began with a massive rockfall on what was then called Mount Tauredunum (this has led to the tsunami becoming known as the Tauredunum event). Tauredunum is thought to be a mountain now called the Grammont, which is located near the river mouth.

In the past, one favoured theory was that this rockfall created a natural dam across the Rhône, which held the waters back until it could no longer sustain the pressure. When the dam burst, the resulting wave swept the length of the lake. A one-off event, in other words. But a paper just published in Nature Geoscience by Dr Kremer and her colleagues offers a different and more worrying explanation.

... Dr Kremer thinks that the rocks crashed down onto soft sediments which had accumulated at the river mouth because of the slowing of the river’s flow when it enters the lake. These sediments form an underwater delta that has several canyon-like channels. When the falling rocks hit the delta they destabilised the sediments and caused the canyons to collapse. It was this collapse that created the tsunami.

It is a plausible theory. What suggests it is true is that the sediment from such a collapse would have been propelled towards the lake’s centre, forming a large tongue of material on the lake bed. And, using sediment cores and an instrument called a pinger, which analyses the reflections of sound waves that can penetrate the material of the lake bed, Dr Kremer thinks she has found this tongue.
* * *

The crucial element in this explanation is the accumulation of sediment in the underwater delta. That is a continuous process. Once enough sediment is there, it just needs a trigger to set it going. That could be a rockfall, an earthquake (though this part of the world is not particularly seismically active) or even a violent storm. Moreover, Dr Kremer’s pinger shows evidence of four layers deeper in the lake bed which also look like turbidite. The formation of these might or might not have triggered tsunamis. But they are a worrying sign.
 The article also describes what probably happened in 563 AD:

Within 15 minutes of the collapse [of the delta], a wave 13 metres high would have reached Lausanne, a city on the northern shore of the lake. But Lausanne is built on steep slopes, so most of it would have been spared. The damage would have been much greater when, 55 minutes after that, an 8-metre wave reached Geneva, at the other end of the lake. Geneva is a lower-lying city than Lausanne and, to make matters worse, the lake narrows here, funnelling water to the point where the Rhône becomes a recognisable river again. It would similarly have funnelled the wave.

... The wave, they believe, would have passed over the city walls, and wiped out watermills and a bridge across the Rhône, just as the two accounts say it did. En route, as Marius wrote, it would have destroyed many lakeshore villages, “with humans and cattle and even churches”.

NYC To Require Recycling of Food Scraps


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has tried to curb soda consumption, ban smoking in parks and encourage bike riding, is taking on a new cause: requiring New Yorkers to separate their food scraps for composting.
* * *

The residential program will initially work on a voluntary basis, but officials predict that within a few years, it will be mandatory. New Yorkers who do not separate their food scraps could be subject to fines, just as they are currently if they do not recycle plastic, paper or metal.

Mr. Bloomberg, an independent, leaves office at the end of the year, and his successor could scale back or cancel the program. But in interviews, two leading Democratic candidates for mayor, Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, expressed strong support for the program — including the plan to eventually make it mandatory.
I have a couple questions. Is the non-recycling of food a big problem--i.e., creating a large quantity of landfill? I know the article says that food and organic waste constitute 1/3 of trash in New York, but what constitutes "organic waste" and what is its percentage.

Also, what happens during the next sanitation workers' strike? If people are already throwing this stuff away in the trash, perhaps there is no net impact in the event of a strike.

The article mentions that San Francisco and Seattle already have similar programs. Anyone have experience with those?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Obama Administration Specifically Targeted Christian Churches

The Examiner reports:

On Thursday the Examiner provided an exclusive report indicating that the Obama administration had implemented a covert program beginning in 2009 that was intended to spy on conservative, evangelical Christian churches.



That program involved infiltration -- sending in government operatives to join churches for the purpose of data collection. The government snoops would keep their eyes and ears open for criticism of the Obama administration, talk of Tea Party participation, conversations about gun ownership, and a number of other issues.



But a special report issued today by Fox News indicates that the program went far beyond infiltration and snooping. The IRS was used to harass Christian churches if they were identified as places where large numbers of anti-Obama citizens congregated for worship.



The Obama administration, according to the report, considered any public criticism of administration policies to be political in nature and should therefore impact whether or not these congregations were allowed to gain or keep their tax exempt status.



But pastors have long maintained that there are a myriad of areas where political and moral/spiritual issues overlap, and thus, the pastors feel obligated as the guardians of spiritual truth to speak out concerning these issues.



Abortion, for example, is both a political and a spiritual issue. Most conservative, evangelical Christians believe that Biblical principles are abundantly clear concerning the sanctity of human life. And many pastors thus feel constrained by their calling to condemn abortion as a hideous and barbaric assault on the sacredness of human life.



But liberal politicians such as Barack Obama consider the issue to be purely political since it involves civil law and Supreme Court rulings. And thus, churches should not be allowed to speak out about such an issue.

Further Signs of Conflict Spreading Outward from Syria


Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri says the nation’s militant Shia movement, Hezbollah, is risking the “fate of the nation” by taking on an expanded front-line role in neighboring Syria’s civil war.


The warning from Hariri comes a week after Hezbollah guerrillas from Lebanon, fighting beside Syrian government troops, led the attack on Qusair a strategic Syrian town on the main highway into Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. The government’s capture of Qusair is considered a major blow to the Syrian rebel movement, which has been trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad.


Hezbollah, the militant arm of a Shia Muslim movement considered stronger than Lebanon’s own army, has been closely allied with Assad, whose Alawite religion is an offshoot of Shia Islam. Most Syrian rebels belong to the Sunni branch of Islam.


The United Nations estimated about 93,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war, which has been going on for more than two years. On Thursday, the Obama administration in Washington said it had concluded that Assad’s forces had been using chemical weapons in the fighting and that the United States would begin helping to arm the rebels.


Hariri said on Thursday the Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, was [endangering] Lebanon by dragging it into the conflict next door. Nasrallah, He said, was acting as though he was Lebanon’s head of state by “allowing the borders to be opened for thousands of fighters to take part in the Syrian war.”


The fear is that Hezbollah’s prominent role in Syria will upset the delicate political and religious balance in Lebanon, where Christians and Sunni and Shia Muslims have maintained a fragile truce since ending a bloody civil war of their own 23 years ago.

All Your Emails Iz Ours--Putting the Scandals Into Perspective

Michael Walsh writes at the New York Post (h/t Instapundit):

As former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has pointed out, the courts have held that, while the contents of phone conversation are private, the records — who called whom, when, from where and for how long — of such calls are not.


What makes the news scary are the revelations of what else Team Obama’s been up to. Follow the bouncing scandal ball:

* On Benghazi, the administration has simply clammed up, keeping suspicions alive that there’s much more to this story. A handful of intrepid reporters have bucked the tide, but others have stopped asking why no help was sent and where President Obama was that night. Because . . .

* In clear violation of the First Amendment, the administration — allegedly angered about national-security leaks — seized phone records from the AP and Fox News in a what looks like a transparent attempt to put the fear of God into them and keep others incuriously toeing the party line, which mostly amount to: Trust us. But can we? Consider . . .

* The strange goings-on at the Environmental Protection Agency, where recently-departed chief Lisa Jackson was using a fictitious e-mail account in order to communicate privately without all those pesky “transparency” requirements. How widespread is this practice? What to make of word that Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was also using “secondary” e-mail accounts?

* Then came the IRS bombshell — something every taxpaying American can relate to. That a supposedly neutral collection agency with powers far beyond what we entrust to law enforcement would cheerfully target Tea Party and other righty groups for special scrutiny is the stuff of Orwellian nightmares. And although the IRS has tried to blame “rogue elements” in its Cincinnati office, whistleblowers are coming out of the woodwork to point the finger directly at the White House.


All this adds up to a perfect storm of mistrust, now exacerbated by the fears of the surveillance state that has mushroomed since the panicky post-9/11 “reforms.” Thus Americans now fear a culture of suspicion among top law-enforcement officials, who treat more than 300 million overwhelmingly law-abiding Americans as potential criminals, subject to snoops and pat-downs.


And when that leviathan falls down on the job — as it did in failing to spot the Tsarnaev brothers — then the trade-off between liberty and security becomes a very bad bargain indeed.


No wonder sales of George Orwell’s dystopian classic “1984” are suddenly soaring.
 The thing is, the Prism program is just the tip of the iceberg. The Associated Press reports:

But interviews with more than a dozen current and former government and technology officials and outside experts show that, while Prism has attracted the recent attention, the program actually is a relatively small part of a much more expansive and intrusive eavesdropping effort.
Americans who disapprove of the government reading their emails have more to worry about from a different and larger NSA effort that snatches data as it passes through the fiber optic cables that make up the Internet's backbone. That program, which has been known for years, copies Internet traffic as it enters and leaves the United States, then routes it to the NSA for analysis.

* * *
Tapping into those cables allows the NSA access to monitor emails, telephone calls, video chats, websites, bank transactions and more. It takes powerful computers to decrypt, store and analyze all this information, but the information is all there, zipping by at the speed of light.
"You have to assume everything is being collected," said Bruce Schneier, who has been studying and writing about cryptography and computer security for two decades.
The New York Times disclosed the existence of this effort in 2005. In 2006, former AT&T technician Mark Klein revealed that the company had allowed the NSA to install a computer at its San Francisco switching center, a key hub for fiber optic cables.

* * *

The government has said it minimizes all conversations and emails involving Americans. Exactly what that means remains classified. But former U.S. officials familiar with the process say it allows the government to keep the information as long as it is labeled as belonging to an American and stored in a special, restricted part of a computer.
That means Americans' personal emails can live in government computers, but analysts can't access, read or listen to them unless the emails become relevant to a national security investigation.
The government doesn't automatically delete the data, officials said, because an email or phone conversation that seems innocuous today might be significant a year from now.


What's unclear to the public is how long the government keeps the data. That is significant because the U.S. someday will have a new enemy. Two decades from now, the government could have a trove of American emails and phone records it can tap to investigative whatever Congress declares a threat to national security.


* * *
Prism, as its name suggests, helps narrow and focus the stream. If eavesdroppers spot a suspicious email among the torrent of data pouring into the United States, analysts can use information from Internet companies to pinpoint the user.
With Prism, the government gets a user's entire email inbox. Every email, including contacts with American citizens, becomes government property.


Once the NSA has an inbox, it can search its huge archives for information about everyone with whom the target communicated. All those people can be investigated, too.


That's one example of how emails belonging to Americans can become swept up in the hunt.
In that way, Prism helps justify specific, potentially personal searches. But it's the broader operation on the Internet fiber optics cables that actually captures the data, experts agree.


"I'm much more frightened and concerned about real-time monitoring on the Internet backbone," said Wolf Ruzicka, CEO of EastBanc Technologies, a Washington software company. "I cannot think of anything, outside of a face-to-face conversation, that they could not have access to."


One unanswered question, according to a former technology executive at one of the companies involved, is whether the government can use the data from Prism to work backward.


For example, not every company archives instant message conversations, chat room exchanges or videoconferences. But if Prism provided general details, known as metadata, about when a user began chatting, could the government "rewind" its copy of the global Internet stream, find the conversation and replay it in full?


That would take enormous computing, storage and code-breaking power. It's possible the NSA could use supercomputers to decrypt some transmissions, but it's unlikely it would have the ability to do that in volume. In other words, it would help to know what messages to zero in on.


Whether the government has that power and whether it uses Prism this way remains a closely guarded secret.