AR-15 Ammunition And Barrel Twist Rate

Herschel Smith · 19 Feb 2017 · 5 Comments

There are a lot of articles and discussion forum threads on barrel twist rate for AR-15s.  So why am I writing one?  Well, some of the information on the web is very wrong.  Additionally, this closes out comment threads we've had here touching on this topic, EMail exchanges I've had with readers, and personal conversations I've had with shooters and friends about this subject.  It's natural to put this down in case anyone else can benefit from the information.  Or you may not benefit at…… [read more]

The Moral Case Against SWAT Raids

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 6 months ago

From The MetroWest Daily News:

FRAMINGHAM — Officer Paul Duncan was trained to have his M4 rifle in safety mode unless he was ready to fire. But the SWAT team member wasn’t necessarily wrong to have the safety off when he went to search Eurie Stamps Sr. for weapons during an early-morning drug raid, an expert has found.

In his review of the Jan. 5 fatality released yesterday, Steve Ijames found that Duncan and the rest of the SWAT team may have been operating under conflicting rifle-handling guidelines.

The team’s M4 rifle instructor told Ijames that officers are trained to keep their rifles on “safe” until they perceive a threat.

Lt. Michael Hill, in an internal Police Department report related to Stamps’ death, recalled slightly different instructions: for the first officers entering a room to have safeties off – and rifles in semi-automatic mode – if they perceived a “possible” threat.

That qualifier is important, Ijames suggested.

“The key consideration here is that Officer Duncan removed his weapon from safe moments after entering 26 Fountain St.” early on Jan. 5, Ijames wrote.

Authorities say Duncan shot and killed Stamps, a 68-year-old grandfather, when he lost his balance and accidentally pulled the trigger.

Stamps, who wasn’t a target of the raid, was face-down in a dark hallway, and Duncan was moving to secure the man’s hands behind his back when the shot was fired.

Ijames wrote, “The mechanical safety is what stands between good intentions and a potentially deadly outcome – but it can only do so when engaged.”

Police Chief Steven Carl sought an outside review of the tactical and technical aspects of the Stamps shooting from Ijames, a SWAT expert and retired assistant police chief from Missouri.

The town’s lawyer released Ijames’ report yesterday, as well as Hill’s internal report.

Ijames determined that Duncan and the other SWAT team members were well-trained, and that it was appropriate to use the heavily armed team to search 26 Fountain St.

He criticized the team, however, for failing to calculate a written formula (known as a SWAT threat-assessment matrix) beforehand to determine whether it needed to use that stealth. In the matrix, points are assigned based on questions such as whether targeted suspects have a record of violence, resisting arrest, drug use, mental problems, gang ties or a law enforcement or military background.

Using a SWAT team is considered optional under that formula if the tally is 1 to 16 points, while the commander weighs in if it totals 17 to 24 points. Team activation is considered necessary if the total is 25 or higher.

Analysis & Commentary

Take careful note of the foci of Ijames’ criticism: the position of the safety, and failure to use the threat assessment properly.  So apparently it is acceptable, even verging on “well trained,” for these officers to enter a home with their finger on the trigger of their weapon, but not acceptable for them to do so without the safety engaged.

This position is so odd as to be bizarre (and perhaps even dishonest).  Every responsible firearms owner, and especially every Concealed Handgun Permit holder, knows the importance of proper trigger discipline to his life, his family’s safety, and the safety of those around him.  He has had it drilled into him, night and day, through classes, practice, observation, time at the range, and so on.   There are reasons for this, and it has to do with more than just accidental discharge.  It pertains to sympathetic and involuntary muscle contractions.  There are three scenarios that may elicit involuntary muscle contractions that are sufficiently strong to bring about the involuntary discharge of a firearm: sympathetic contractions, loss of balance and startle reaction. Dr. Roger Enoka, one of the most renowned sports physiologists and director of the Human Performance Research Laboratories in Arizona (USA), was invited to testify in a court case held in Frankfurt, Germany in 1995, concerning involuntary discharges.  Here is part of his findings.

The term sympathetic contraction refers to the fact that an involuntary contraction may occur in the muscles of one limb when the same muscles in the other limb are performing an intended forceful action. In physiology literature this effect is known as a mirror movement, with the intensity of the sympathetic contraction depending on the amount of force exerted during the intended action. In policing, a common situation that may evoke such a sympathetic contraction would be, for example, a law enforcement officer attempting to restrain a struggling suspect with one hand while holding a handgun in the other.

The second scenario described by Enoka involves loss of balance. When balance is disturbed the human body evokes rapid involuntary contractions to return itself to a position of equilibrium. Thereby the involuntary contractions used to prevent a fall depend on the options available to counteract the disturbance of balance. Usually, compensatory movements following gait perturbations primarily involve correcting movements of the lower limbs to keep the body in balance, whereas movements of the arms are restricted to their extension forwards as a safeguard to counter an eventual fall. When an individual is holding a handle for support, there is, however, a tendency to use the arm muscles to maintain balance rather than the leg muscles. Under such circumstances the focal point of automatic postural activity is any contact point an individual has with his or her surroundings. In other words, if an individual’s posture is disturbed while grasping an object, for instance a handgun, he or she is likely to grasp it more forcefully.

Startle reaction, the third scenario identified by Enoka, is a whole-body reflex-like response to an unexpected stimulus, possibly a loud noise. It evokes rapid involuntary contractions that begin with the blink of an eye and spread to all muscles throughout the body. The reaction of the hands occurs less than 200ms after the stimulus and leads to individuals clenching their fists. Enoka concludes: “Accordingly, an officer who is startled by a loud, unexpected noise while searching for a suspect with his weapon drawn would surely increase the grip force on the weapon, perhaps enough to cause an involuntary discharge.”

Responsible firearms owners know this.  That’s why most firearms owners have worked so hard, and are so hard on each other, concerning proper trigger discipline.  The investigator in this so-called “independent” investigation knows this too.  That he didn’t bring it up is informative.  This officer is guilty of malfeasance by entering a home such as this with his finger on the trigger.  Moreover, take particular note of the circumstances.  Not only had this poor man surrendered, he was on the floor.  The officer in question was attempting to secure him, and this … with his finger on the trigger of a rifle with a round chambered.  The officer lost his balance, and lo and behold, he discharged his weapon.  Not only is this officer inept, his trainer(s) and supervision is inept, and perhaps even dishonest, to have accepted such a slanted “independent” assessment of the incident, and to allow this SWAT team out with weapons to terrorize citizens with their ineptitude.

But this all points to a larger problem.  Seldom is a police officer held accountable (or a better way to say it is that s/he will always get the benefit of the doubt no matter how significant the doubt it), and this goes double for SWAT teams.  If it offends our sensibilities for the Phoenix Tucson police department to have forcefully entered Jose Guerena’s home and shot him to death without due process, then that is true in the superlative for this poor man, Mr. Stamps, an innocent man, lying on the floor at the time he was shot to death.

But this last point about due process is really the crux of the issue.  We should see SWAT raids as a high risk evolution.  Risk is technically consequences times probability (C x P), and the product is used to make comparative judgments between alternatives.  Something with a high probability but low consequence can be high risk, something a low probability but a high consequence can be high risk.  As for SWAT raids, the evolving historical record shows them to have at least a moderately high probability of violence, with that violence having significant consequences.  The tactic is an extremely high risk evolution, and it will remain so.  The risk may be reduced by better training and competent officers, but in every case, management has made the decision to place the lives of suspects at high risk by use of the tactic.

In America, a man’s home is his castle.  Thus, the castle doctrine has passed into law (in various forms) in many states, and will enjoy continued success in the courts and legislatures of the states.  Rightly so.  The fact that the inhabitant of a home is a suspect in a crime doesn’t (or shouldn’t) mitigate the fact that he has a right to self defense, and defense of his loved ones.  And home invasion by criminals pretending to be police officers is becoming commonplace.

As to this last issue, by use of military tactics on American citizens, the police have bypassed legitimate constitutional protections and right to a trial by jury by placing the suspect in a position where he or his family may be in danger no matter whether he surrenders or not (a criminal will simply take his life with no remorse, while a police officer may do it with no accountability).  Moreover, SWAT tactics are routinely used on suspects who have no involvement with capital crimes.  Yet by the use of military tactics on these suspects, the police may be perpetrating capital punishment on criminals (or suspects) who do not deserve it.  The police have become judge, jury and executioner in this circumstance without regard to the nature of the crime.

While military tactics used against U.S. citizens may in fact currently be legal, such tactics are immoral in the vast majority of circumstances.  This isn’t meant to rule out the occasional use of such tactics when hostages are in play, or gun shots have already been taken, or other such exigent conditions.  But I have cataloged the evolution of tactics and danger level in SWAT raids and home invasions for a while now (and will continue to do so), and the police departments in the various cities and counties of the country – while they may be legally exonerated of wrongdoing – have some soul-searching to do.  It will be done now or in eternity, but it will be done.

Enabling Catastrophe: the NYT Serves Up Denial

BY Glen Tschirgi
5 years, 6 months ago

At first glance, this article in The New York Times about the financial cliff facing the U.S. Postal Service seems to be just a sample of the news that has become all too familiar in 21st Century America:  another government institution struggling with huge budget deficits.

But if we step back just a bit, there are a few features of this story that help clarify the outlines of the larger crisis facing the U.S. now.

The general theme of the article is that the U.S. Postal Service (again, like so many other problems portrayed in the State Run media) faces intractable, no, insurmountable problems: in a world of internet communications and direct purchasing and exchange, the USPS has seen a rapid decline in mail volume while it has been tied in to rising costs due, mainly, to hefty union contracts that cannot be modified.

The United States Postal Service has long lived on the financial edge, but it has never been as close to the precipice as it is today: the agency is so low on cash that it will not be able to make a $5.5 billion payment due this month and may have to shut down entirely this winter unless Congress takes emergency action to stabilize its finances.


The post office’s problems stem from one hard reality: it is being squeezed on both revenue and costs.

As any computer user knows, the Internet revolution has led to people and businesses sending far less conventional mail.

At the same time, decades of contractual promises made to unionized workers, including no-layoff clauses, are increasing the post office’s costs. Labor represents 80 percent of the agency’s expenses, compared with 53 percent at United Parcel Service and 32 percent at FedEx, its two biggest private competitors. Postal workers also receive more generous health benefits than most other federal employees.

So, at its most basic level, this story is reporting about yet another government agency that cannot live within its means and the unlikely prospect that the two parties in Congress can find any agreement to solve the problems.   But the more troubling aspects of this story are not necessarily as evident.

First, consider the reporting of the story itself.  For many Americans, The New York Times is still considered one of the premier news outlets in the country.  Personally, considering the repeated and politically motivated inaccuracies often found there, I cannot understand why anyone gives the NYT any credence, but many still do, unfortunately.  Yet this article– which is being put forward as a news report rather than opinion piece– fails to even note the most obvious and often-mentioned solution to the perpetual problems of the USPS:  privatization and the break up its remaining monopoly on so-called “letter mail” delivery to receptacles marked, “U.S. Mail.”

In fact, there are many, astounding facts and figures omitted from the article and possible solutions.  See the Cato Institutes site that fully discusses the problems and solutions of the USPS for comparison.  For a major piece in a supposedly leading, American newspaper, it is woefully deficient in its scope and facts.  Is the Times’ reporter simply ignorant of the wealth of information available on the subject or is he intentionally depriving readers in order to enhance the theme of hopelessness that pervades the piece?  In either case, this incomplete reporting inevitably leads to last-minute, panicked decision making by political leaders, without adequate, public debate.  And this myopic reporting happens all the time.

Second, this article points to a larger problem without really getting to the heart of it:  the role of public employee unions.  Whatever one may think of unions in private enterprise, the presence of unions in government agencies and other, publicly-funded work is always pernicious.  In the private sector, a company is relatively free to reach an agreement with the union that can be sustained by the profits actually earned by the business.  If labor costs reach an unsustainable level, the company can always resort to Chapter 11 to re-work labor agreements or, failing that, liquidate.  Such is the price of unwise management.

For public entities, however, the unions are in the unique position of mobilizing their organizational power to elect politicians who will favor the union with ever-higher wages and benefits, regardless of the sustainability.  In essence, public employee unions can install the “managers” who will decide compensation while passing along the burden of those decisions to taxpayers.  Even the NYT article cannot hide the fact that the USPS’ financial problems are overwhelmingly caused by public employee unions that have extracted far higher costs for labor than those paid by competitors FedEx and U.P.S.   Yet the article makes it clear that no politician, so far, is willing to take on the unions in order to get labor costs in line with the shrinking revenues.

Finally, the drift of the article is that the U.S. Government will be forced to bail out the USPS with emergency funding without finding any, effective solution to the underlying problems.   This is the sort of thing that is simply killing this country.  Everyone knows beyond a doubt that there is simply no money to bail out the Postal Service.   The federal deficit for 2011 is veering toward $1.3 trillion, the third largest deficit in U.S. history according to the Congressional Budget Office.  Nonetheless the NYT paints a picture of dire consequences if Congress does not bail out the USPS.   What is the justification?  Here is the perspective of one of the USPS labor union leaders:

Fredric V. Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, warned of disaster if partisanship keeps Congress from acting.

“This is about one of America’s oldest institutions,” he said. “It survived the telegraph, it survived the telephone, and we have to do everything we can to preserve it and adapt.”

In the face of national bankruptcy, the U.S. Postal Service simply must be preserved.   This attitude cannot continue.  Everything must be preserved.  Every program, every agency, every facility, every perk and benefit is sacred.   Nothing can be cut or eliminated.  The reality is simply not sinking in yet.  Everyone wants to pretend that the fiscal problems can be solved by cutting someone else’s agency or program.

The prospects are frightening.  If the 2012 elections do not produce a clear mandate for fundamental change in the nature and structure of the federal government– if the American electorate, in other words, opts for the status quo– then it is only a matter of time until a solution will be imposed.   Perhaps that is economic collapse, worse than the Great Depression.   Perhaps it is the rise of a Dictator who will use “emergency powers” to impose a decision.  Perhaps it is secession.  Perhaps it is a combination of them all.   But it is clear that the so-called American Elite– the opinion leaders in the media and politics– are in denial and we have foolishly entrusted our Republic to them.

New Approach in the Pech River Valley?

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 6 months ago

From CSM:

Nestled in a lush but mean valley on the banks of the Pech River, Camp Blessing was no longer the sort of place, US commanders decided in February, that warranted the bloodshed of American soldiers.

Instead, the US war effort would benefit from focusing its limited resources on population centers, they concluded, and away from the Pech’s brutal terrain and rather xenophobic citizenry, ready and more than willing to skillfully take up arms against outsiders.

Better, they concluded, to leave this sparsely settled region – where Afghan fighters mustered to make the first successful stand against Soviet occupation – to the Afghan Army.

So soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division towed away the modern toilet trailers and stripped Camp Blessing of its amenities – air-conditioning units, flat-screen monitors, and the covered plywood porch where senior US troops convened to smoke cigars and discuss the news of the day.

In March, they rechristened the base “Nangalam” and turned it over to Afghan forces.

Today, however, US soldiers are back. The conditions at the once built-up outpost are now spartan. Troops bathe with baby wipes and bottled water and sleep on the floors of buildings that, they discovered upon their return in late July, were littered with human feces.

Insurgents had advanced so steadily since March that the Afghan Army could lose the base itself, say a new crop of US commanders.

They see the return as an opportunity to forge a new model for cooperation and mentoring with the Afghan security forces. But while the Pech is admittedly one of Afghanistan’s toughest assignments, the Afghan Army’s failed four-month attempt take the reins of security illustrates its shortfalls – and how far there is to go, US officers say, if NATO is to turn all security responsibilities over to Afghan forces by 2014.

The troops who have come back to this jagged spine of mountain peaks are under no illusions about the difficulty of the task that awaits them. Their code name for this operation: “Hotel California.”

“It’s like the lyrics,” says 2nd battalion intelligence officer Maj. Marcus Wright of the Eagles song: “ ‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.’ ”

When US forces moved back into Camp Blessing in late July, they were greeted with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, one of which hit the underbelly of a US Chinook carrying supplies for the base. That marked the first shoot-down of a Chinook this year. The pilot was able to land relatively gently without any serious injuries, though passengers were forced to sprint when thousands of rounds of ammunition caught fire and ignited, causing shrapnel injuries and destroying the helicopter.

It was a pattern of hostility repeatedly encountered by US forces. “We really had to reoccupy the base,” says Maj. Glenn Kozelka, executive officer for the 2nd battalion, 3rd brigade combat team of the 25th Infantry Division.

Security had deteriorated rapidly after US forces departed. Within weeks, the Afghan battalion commander at Nangalam could not safely get to meetings in a Asadabad, Kunar’s bustling capital 25 miles east. The Taliban overran and occupied the capital of a nearby district center.

At the same time, insurgents routinely attacked Afghan National Army (ANA) patrol routes. By May, the Afghan commander stationed at Nangalam had abandoned the outpost, along with his top staff.

“It was better before” the US left, says Afghan commander Col. Adam Khan Matin. “When the coalition forces left, the [insurgent] training camps came back.”

Stopping for a moment for some observations on insurgent bases, U.S. commanders (specifically, McChrystal and his staff) might have argued for a population-centric approach to counterinsurgency, but regular readers know that I didn’t.  Continuing with the CSM article.

Lt. Col. Colin Tuley, the top US commander at Nangalam, grappled with how to address the regression. His battalion now had responsibility for an area that had previously needed two. His 800-plus soldiers were spread out across multiple forward operating bases and command posts.

Simply holding that ground would be challenge enough. After evaluating the capabilities of the ANA at Nangalam, Col. Tuley came to a conclusion. “We needed to do something else.”

In his idea is a hope central to the American exit strategy: If US troops focused more intently on creating a workable partnership with the Afghans, perhaps the mentoring could make up for the diminished number of US troops and ensure that a decade’s worth of US battles are for not for naught.

So began what Tuley calls a “permanent embedded partnership” – or PEP – an experiment that could hold lessons for the American war effort in Afghanistan.

The PEP will revolve around 40 US troops at Nangalam working with multiple companies of the Afghan Army. Most immediately, with a stronger base here, Tuley hopes US forces “can come in and do operations as necessary,” allowing NATO to extend its reach farther into the valley. Perhaps more long-term, he adds, the PEP “is a great kind of interim phase to get the ANA to where [the transition is] not as abrupt.”

The US platoon will run workshops on basics from marksmanship to first aid – lessons that have been taught before, Tuley acknowledges, but bear repeating.

“If you think about it, this [Afghan commander at Nangalam] never had a partnership, Tuley adds. “It was. ‘Here’s your battlespace.’ ”

The first order of business – and lesson for Afghan commanders – is to bolster base defenses. When the US was here, Nangalam had early-attack warning systems, including towers with cameras that sent images to screens in a base defense center, which allowed troops to monitor the perimeter.

When Tuley returned, no vestige of those defenses remained. “The security definitely wasn’t at the level that I would ever feel too comfortable having my soldiers out there,” he says.

In response, he has assigned a US platoon of about 30 soldiers to patrol the surrounding area, and he stationed a single US soldier with night-vision goggles at each Afghan guard post along the perimeter of the base.

Beyond base defenses, Tuley must help the Afghans carry out their own missions more effectively.

The PEP’s first big test: A humanitarian mission into one of the more isolated and government-averse areas of the country.

PEP teams.  It’s permanent now, except that it’s not.  U.S. troops will be leaving, and leaving the ANA in a lurch without the cultural framework, logistical know-how, equipment or honesty to run an army.  And they don’t understand force protection.  Furthermore, historically, only Western armies can field high quality NCOs.  And it doesn’t really produce much confidence that a humanitarian mission is the first really big test of the ANA.  During the battle of Kamdesh at COP Keating, ANA soldiers were found curled up in fetal positions in bed under blankets.  We’ve got larger problems than whether the ANA can pull off humanitarian missions.  Continuing.

Afghans also lack equipment, including night-vision goggles. “That’s a pretty critical piece of equipment to provide security,” says Tuley. US officials worry, however, that if they give night-vision goggles to the Afghans, particularly with ANA attrition rates remaining high, they could fall into insurgents’ hands.

Yes, expensive equipment will end up in enemy hands.  Said one ANA soldier about his conditions, “Some of the guys wear sandals at the border because their boots have been taken by officers who sell them.”

Finally, the most important part of the report.

For now … the US troop presence at Nangalam is likely only to increase.

As the first week of partnership at Nangalam winds to a close, Tuley is increasingly convinced that rather than the 40-plus soldiers currently taking part in the PEP, he will need closer to 200.

He knows, too, that this plan comes with opportunity costs. With US forces set to draw down across Afghanistan, he can only bolster the American presence at Nangalam by closing a combat outpost or a forward operating base.

After the PEP’s first big mission, though, he believes that expanding US forces here is key to US troops being able to one day go home for good.

This is important enough to bear repeating.  He needs more troops (or a higher ratio of U.S. forces to ANA).  The only way he can accomplish that is to close COPs or FOBs.  I repeat.  Marines to Kunar.

NATO Rushes To Seal Afghan Border

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

A U.S. Army soldier from Alpha Company 2nd battalion 27th infantry (the Wolfhounds), Task Force NO FEAR watches out from OP Mace in eastern Afghanistan Naray district, Kunar province near the border of Pakistan early August 27, 2011.  From Reuters

U.S. soldier Staff Sergeant Frankie Berdecia of Alpha Company 2nd battalion 27th infantry (the Wolfhounds), Task Force NO FEAR from Puerto Rico, operates a TOW missile system at Observation Post Mace in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province near the border with Pakistan August 28, 2011.  From IHT.

Romney Set To Attack Perry In South Carolina

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

From Marc Thiessen:

Rick Perry may have jumped to the front of the GOP pack in national polls, but here in first-in-the-nation New Hampshire Mitt Romney still holds an 18-point lead. When I asked Romney about Perry during a recent campaign swing through the Granite State, he replied, “I don’t know what all of his positions are, you’ll have to ask him . . . I don’t spend a lot of time looking at [other candidates’] positions.”

That may be, but Romney’s campaign strategists are certainly spending a lot of time poring over Perry’s positions — and developing a plan to stop the surging Texas governor.

Romney has been criticized for refusing to engage Perry, but his campaign advisers see no need to do so now. They point out that the Democratic National Committee is going after Perry, hundreds of reporters hoping to make names for themselves are scouring his life and record, and other candidates that Perry has passed in the polls are determined to take him down. Why should Romney attack Perry directly when the Democrats, the liberal media and Michele Bachmann will do it for him? Romney’s strategists note that Perry will have to survive five debates in six weeks — ample opportunity for Bachmann to “rip his eyes out” (as she did to Tim Pawlenty) or for Perry to blow himself up.

If Perry fails to implode and continues to surge in the polls, Romney eventually will have to go on the attack — an assault his advisers say will commence “at a time of our choosing.” Romney strategists are quick to note that in his book, “Fed Up!,” Perry writes that “By any measure, Social Security is a failure” and calls the program “something we have been forced to accept for more than 70 years now” that was created “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.”

Look at what happened to Paul Ryan when he proposed a plan to save Medicare, they say. Romney’s campaign will argue that Perry is against the very idea of Social Security and Medicare, and that he will use Perry’s book to scare seniors in early-primary states with large retiree populations, such as Florida and South Carolina.

Very bad idea.  South Carolina is currently Perry country, but that’s not because Perry is untested, or Romney  hasn’t yet gone on the attack, or the fact that Rick Perry has a Southern accent.  These ideas are far too dumbed down to do S.C. and its people justice.

Governor Pawlenty dropped in the polls when he went on the attack against  Michele Bachmann, Senator Santorum is still tanking even as he attacks Perry, and Huntsman’s attacks against Perry brought him absolutely no benefit (but to be honest, he wasn’t a serious contender anyway).  Romney will drop in the polls when he goes on the attack against a fellow Republican.  Watch it happen and remember that I predicted it.

I know something about S.C.  When Romney swept into S.C. for the 2008 campaign he made some fatal mistakes.  But first, let’s discuss Jim Anthony.   Jim Anthony is a developer who promised the world and delivered problems to the people of S.C.  He purchased huge tracts of land in the upper part of the state with borrowed money, gated it off to the people of S.C., and sold it to very wealthy people – people like Oprah Winfrey who is never there.  This land was and is pristine, with flora and fauna not to be found anywhere else on earth.  The people of S.C. used it for hiking, camping, hunting, shooting, and just about everything imaginable (without destroying or significantly altering the land).  After Jim Anthony they will never see this land again.  Jim Anthony is seen in S.C. as a robber baron.  Just ask anyone in S.C.

Yet Mitt Romney’s sense of things brought him into S.C. and into a relationship with big money, and … you guessed it … Jim Anthony.  While McCain shook hands with just about every veteran in S.C., Romney was seen across every TV screen in the state with Jim Anthony.  Today Jim Anthony faces foreclosure on much of his property, and is now suing his bank and partners.

But whether Romney has the bad sense of things to hook up with Jim Anthony again, he did so in the beginning because he is a big money man.  South Carolinians aren’t impressed with this.  In fact, the strategy of invoking a government program is a bad, bad sign of his continued intransigence regarding his understanding of the South in general.  If Romney is down in the polls enough that he has to go into S.C. with big government proposals, he is doomed.

In fact, Romney cannot win in S.C.  It is impossible.  And if Romney temporarily surges when he begins campaigning in S.C.,  all Governor Perry has to do is show up at the shooting range in Pickens County, S.C., where I often shoot, carry along some reporters with him, and then inform his fellow shooters that Governor Romney signed an assault weapons ban in Massachusetts (and would do so again).

Romney will be seen as a big government republican who opposes guns, and he won’t have the libertarian vote.  He cannot win in S.C.  Remember that I told you so.

Obama Allows Mexican Police To Violate U.S. Sovereignty

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

From St. Louis Today:

President Barack Obama’s administration has expanded its role in Mexico’s fight against organized crime by allowing the Mexican police to stage cross-border drug raids from inside the United States, according to senior administration and military officials.

Mexican commandos have discreetly traveled to the U.S., assembled at designated areas and dispatched helicopter missions back across the border aimed at suspected drug traffickers. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration provides logistical support on the U.S. side of the border, officials said, arranging staging areas and sharing intelligence that helps guide Mexico’s decisions about targets and tactics.

Officials said these so-called boomerang operations were intended to evade the surveillance — and corrupting influences — of the criminal organizations that closely monitor the movements of security forces inside Mexico. And they said the efforts were meant to provide settings with tight security for U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officers to collaborate in their pursuit of criminals who operate on both sides of the border.

Former U.S. law enforcement officials who were once posted in Mexico described the boomerang operations as a new take on an old strategy that was briefly used in the late 1990s when the DEA helped Mexico crack down on the Tijuana Cartel by letting the specially vetted Mexican police to stage operations out of Camp Pendleton in San Diego.

Recall that I recommended combined and even unilateral military operations against the cartels by U.S. forces.  Do you reckon that Mr. Obama bargained for unilateral U.S. operations against the cartels?  Or perhaps was it just a one-way agreement?  Which is most likely?

Bill Keller’s Idiotic Questions

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

Bill Keller wants to get down and dirty into the weeds of the candidate’s faith.  I’ll let you read his list of questions if you want, but of particular interest to me was this one posed to Michele Bachmann.

You have said that watching the film series “How Should We Then Live?” by the evangelist Francis Schaeffer was a life-altering event for you. That series stresses the “inerrancy” ­— the literal truth — of the Bible. Do you believe the Bible consists of literal truths, or that it is to be taken more metaphorically?

Good grief.  Keller isn’t educated enough even to pose the question the right way.  As he has posed it he blunders into the fallacy of the false dilemma.  Let’s see if I can help out.  Any thinking Christian has to answer Keller’s question, yes and yes.  It is both-and, not either-or.

The Bible contains simile, metaphor (which is extended simile), allegory, data and facts, parables (Jesus taught us in stories), wisdom literature (Psalms and Proverbs, Song of Solomon) and so on and so forth.  Different rules of hermeneutics must be followed based on the kind of literature.  Isaiah 46:9-10 and Ephesians 1:4-5,11 must be taken quite literally.  The book of Daniel, quite obviously, is comprised of much that has to be taken figuratively.

If Keller is referring to whether one believes in the historicity of miracles, then he should have posed the question specifically that way.  Asking whether one believes in the inerrancy of the Bible is, equally stolid and incomplete.  The Christian doctrine pertains to the infallibility of the autographs.  These kinds of things – hermeneutics, doctrine – are taught in classes usually held in places such as seminaries.  Keller might want to attend one before he tries to play ball in the major league again.  He struck out this time.

But I’m glad that Keller opened up the floor for discussion.  Now it’s my turn.  Mr. Keller is no defender of the second amendment, and the New York Times is usually considered to be the enemy of gun ownership.  Very well.  Here is the set of questions for Keller.

Do you believe in individual gun ownership?  If you don’t, is it based on a belief that mankind is too variable and prone to fits of rage to prevent himself from being a danger to those around him?  Depending upon the answer to this last one, there are two followup questions.  If the answer is yes, then please explain the moral flaw in your character that makes you this way.  If the answer is no, then please explain to us why you would relinquish a tool that could be used to defend your family and loved ones from danger and death if in fact your are not susceptible to this moral flaw (also explain why this moral flaw affects everyone else but not you).  As a related issue, why would you force others to relinquish these same tools to defend and protect their loved ones unless you were certain that they too suffered from moral flaws.  Finally, if you do not believe in any system of faith at all, please explain your conception of this moral flaw.  What is a moral flaw?

I’m glad that we could have this conversation.  I look forward to your responses.

Revisiting the Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

David Savage with The LA Times:

The 2nd Amendment’s “right to keep and bear arms” is proving to be a right to keep a gun at home, but so far not a right to bear a loaded firearm in public.

The Supreme Court breathed new life into the amendment when it struck down strict handgun bans in Washington and Chicago and spoke of the “inherent right of self-defense.”

But to the dismay of gun rights advocates, judges in recent months have read those decisions narrowly and rejected claims from those who said they had a constitutional right to carry a loaded gun on their person or in their car. Instead, these judges from California to Maryland have said the “core right” to a gun is limited to the home.

Now, the National Rifle Assn. is asking the high court to take up the issue this fall and “correct the widespread misapprehension that the 2nd Amendment’s scope does not extend beyond the home.”

Stephen Halbrook, an NRA lawyer, said “some judges have buried their heads in the sand and have refused to go one step further” than saying there is a right to have a gun at home.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence hailed the trend and called the high court’s rulings a “hollow victory” for gun enthusiasts. “The gun lobby has tried to expand [the 2nd Amendment] into a broad right to carry any type of gun anywhere. And they have been almost unanimously rejected by the courts,” said Jonathan Lowy, director of legal action. He conceded, however, that “this battle is far from over.”

The uncertainty began with the Supreme Court itself. In 2008, Justice Antonin Scalia said the history of the 2nd Amendment shows it “guarantees the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” But other parts of his 5-4 opinion stressed there is no right to “carry any weapon in any manner,” and that bans on “carrying concealed weapons were lawful” in the 19th century.

Since then, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed to challenge gun restrictions. In California, federal judges in San Diego and Yolo counties rejected suits from law-abiding gun owners who were denied “concealed carry” permits.

“The 2nd Amendment does not create a fundamental right to carry a concealed weapon in public,” U.S. District Judge Morrison England ruled in May.

“That’s the cutting-edge issue: whether the 2nd Amendment applies outside the home,” said Chuck Michel, an NRA lawyer in Long Beach who has appealed the question to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

State judges in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York have also ruled recently that there is no constitutional right to carry a loaded gun for self-defense. And in Virginia, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the federal conviction of a man who fell asleep in his car near Washington’s Reagan National Airport with a loaded gun.

So what is Savage talking about?  The best summary statement can be found directly in the Petition for Write of Certiorari to the Supreme Court on behalf of Sean Masciandaro.

Heller and McDonald left open important questions regarding the scope of the self-defense right beyond the home and the appropriate method for evaluating government regulations affecting it. The lower courts have struggled mightily with these issues. See, e.g., Masciandaro, 638 F.3d at 467 (“But a considerable degree of uncertainty remains as to the scope of that right beyond the home and the standards for determining whether and how the right can be burdened by governmental regulation.”); United States v. Skoien, 614 F.3d 638, 640 (7th Cir. 2010) (en banc) (“Skoien II”) (Heller creates an individual right that includes keeping operable handguns at home for self-defense but “[w]hat other entitlements the Second Amendment creates, and what regulations legislatures may establish, were left open.”), cert. denied, 131 S. Ct. 1674 (2011).

The highest state courts that have considered the issue unanimously decided that the Second Amendment right is limited to the home. Maryland, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Kansas have all limited Heller to its holding. 9 For example, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld Maryland’s firearm permitting statute, concluding that the right is unavailable outside the home. Williams v. State, 417 Md. 479, 496 (Md. 2011) (stating that “[i]f the Supreme Court, in this [Heller] dicta, meant its holding to extend beyond home possession, it will need to say so more plainly”), petition for cert. filed, 79 U.S.L.W. 3594 (Apr. 5, 2011). That court noted that Illinois, the District of Columbia, and California also limited the right in similar cases. Id. at 496-99. Given this trend, state courts that confront Second Amendment issues in the future will likely limit its protection to the home.

Other state and federal courts have held that even if the right might exist outside the home, it is substantially weaker than the right enjoyed in the home.

So there are massive problems with Heller and McDonald.  While I am a huge fan of Justice Scalia, he let America down on the issue of gun rights.  Heller was too narrowly decided.  To be sure, there is a second amendment right, and it applies to individuals, personally, and not just in the home, but everywhere else as well.  I see bans on concealed carry, bans on high capacity magazines (e.g., California), bans on firearms based on type or function, bans on carry in places of worship, and so on, in the same category.  They all violate the Second Amendment.

The lower courts’ confusion is simply because they are confused.  The Supreme Court shouldn’t have to spell it out that this extent.  But moderately vague language in the SCOTUS decisions, progressive tendencies among the judiciary, and laziness of the American people to assert their constitutional rights, have led us to the point again where the stolid judges, lawyers, politicians and law enforcement officials everywhere must be told that Americans have a God-given right to self defense, at all times, in all circumstances, and by any means.

Man Kills Grizzly, Fights For His Freedom In Court

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

In what could masquerade as a sad Orwellian novel if it weren’t true, an Idaho man defended his family from a potential grizzly bear attack, and is now in court defending his freedom.

A man charged with unlawfully shooting and killing a grizzly bear had so many supporters at his arraignment Tuesday in federal court that the judge had to move the hearing to a larger courtroom.

Even there, every seat was taken as his family, friends and neighbors, young and old, squeezed in.

Jeremy M. Hill, 33, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court to killing the animal with a rifle on his 20-acre property near Porthill, Idaho, at the Canadian border. He lives five miles from the closest grizzly bear recovery zone.

The grizzly bear is classified as a threatened species in the lower 48 states, according to the Endangered Species Act, and protected by federal law. Hill’s charge is a misdemeanor.

Magistrate Judge Candy Dale set trial, at least for now, for Oct. 4.

Hill has declined comment. His lawyer, Marc Lyons of Coeur d’Alene, said he plans to defend Hill on the basis of self-defense and protection of family.

Following the hearing, his father, Mike Hill, of Athol, said, “This whole thing is a waste of taxpayer money.”

He said his son was concerned for the safety of his children playing outside when a mother grizzly and two cubs wandered onto his property on May 8.

Jeremy Hill has six kids, ranging in age from 14 years old to 10 months old. At least five were home when the grizzly was killed, Mike Hill said.

The bears had gone after some pigs in a pen that the kids had been raising, Mike Hill said.

He said his son shot one of the bears, then called authorities to notify them of the kill. The other two bears ran off.

He said his son could have just buried the animal and not said anything to law enforcement. He said his son is being penalized for coming forward.

State Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, attended the hearing in full support of Jeremy Hill.

“The charges are simply unjust,” she said following the hearing. “Hopefully common sense will prevail. It’s clearly an issue of protecting the family.”

She predicted that punishing someone who reported killing a grizzly will damage government efforts to protect the animals.

She said nearly $20,000 was raised by community members for Hill’s defense.

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho was asked about the case while appearing in Sandpoint on Tuesday.

While Labrador said he needed to be careful in dealing with the prosecutorial side of things, he did have this to say:

“Clearly, we have a problem with the ESA when situations like this happen.” He later added, “We’re doing everything we can to make sure this man is treated fairly.”

Based on a subsequent report, it isn’t clear whether it was Jeremy Hill or one of his sons who killed the bear, or if it was the mother or a cub.  It doesn’t matter.  There is a lot of local support for Jeremy, and in fact, Idaho Governor Butch Otter is appealing to Obama to look into the facts of the case.

It’s ridiculous that it has gotten this far.  The fact of the matter is that regardless of whether the federal government comes to its senses now or soon, some federal prosecutor (U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson?) made the sophomoric decision to carry this case forward.  How embarrassing this decision must be for this attorney.

It is said that exception makes bad law.  Perhaps.  But failure to address the exception makes for bad justice.  Jeremy isn’t a poacher hunting bear in this area.  He is a father and husband, defending his children and wife.  It hurts progressives to hear it, but man is made in God’s image.  Animals are not.  The only evil that could possibly have happened that day would have been if Jeremy had failed to defend his family.

When the framework for righteousness is found in the myriad rules and regulations that pass through the Federal Register every day as lawyers promulgate an increasingly burdensome bureaucracy on a hapless American public, America has lost its way, and has forgotten what true righteousness is all about.  The justification for regulations has become deonotological, needing no foundation outside themselves, and the means has become the end without regard for consequences or affect.  And it is all without heart or soul.

Nuristan, Kunar, Pakistan and the Taliban: The Nexus

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

We’ve covered the Taliban strategy of using Nuristan as a safe haven, and a base from which to launch attacks against the government of Afghanistan.  Kunar is adjacent to Nuristan, and there may as well not be a border between provinces.  As stated by one Taliban commander, “Trouble here can break the central government,” said Qari Ziaur Rahman, a regional commander for the Taliban who is also a leader of the Punjab-based militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad, in a 2008 interview. “Whoever has been defeated in Afghanistan, his defeat began from Kunar.”  For this reason I have insisted on aggressive U.S. troop presence and kinetic operations in both the Kunar and Nuristan provinces, and all along the Pech River Valley.

Thankfully, Tim Lynch of Free Range International could not completely desist from writing about Afghanistan, and he educates us with yet another good post on the current situation in Helmand.

A few months back as they were pushing south, the Marines would run into situations that, for guys like them, are a dream come true.  An ANP commander pointed out a village where his men have hit 3 IEDs in as many weeks and each time the villagers poured out with AK’s to start a firefight.  So, a few nights later the Marines blow a controlled det on the road to simulate an IED hit and when the villains rushed out with their flame sticks they met what we lovingly call the ‘L shaped ambush’.  No doubt (knowing the Lava Dogs) the villains also met Mr. Claymore, were introduced to the proper use of a machine gun section, and were treated to a 40mm grenade shower from those new and super deadly  M32’s.  Bad day.  Not many survived that textbook lesson on the proper use of an ambush squad, but those days are long gone.  Rarely now will somebody shoot at the Marines in southern Helmand, and when they do, it is from so far away that it is hard to notice anybody is even shooting at you.

So the Taliban has returned to doing what guerrillas do when they suck so bad at regular fighting – they rely on the indiscriminate use of  IED’s to fight.  And as everybody in the world (except President Karzai) knows, these IED’s kill and maim vast numbers of innocent Afghans, yet rarely inflict casualties on ISAF units.

Because of a long, flat narrow area, where the population is confined mostly to strips of land in close proximity to the Helmand River and its main canals, the Marines are able to spread out into COP’s (combat outposts) PB’s (Patrol Bases) and OP’s (observation posts) covering the entire AO.  These positions are manned by junior NCO’s and in one PB the senior Marine was a Lance Corporal.   They move positions frequently;  every time the Marines set up in a new one of any size,  local families immediately move as close to the positions as they are allowed and start building mud huts. For them a small band of Marines equals security and the implicit trust shown by this pattern of behavior is something in which the Marines rightly take great pride.

Read Tim’s entire post.  More forces are needed in order to maintain security, but as for the direct firefights, it’s over with the Taliban in Helmand.  They cannot match the U.S. Marines.  The Marines are currently needed elsewhere, specifically, Kunar and Nuristan.

The Taliban are still active there, and are still pursuing their strategy.

“Bullets rained on our house which was close to the site of the clash,” one resident told me. “We were so terrified that we didn’t step out of our house until the next day.”

Another resident said by launching an attack in Mehtar Lam, the insurgents wanted to show that they can still strike at will in any of the seven locations handed over by Nato to Afghan security forces.

In the past month insurgents have killed a judge, a prison guard and a local official in this strategic city known as the gateway to Kabul.

Security handovers like the one in Mehtar Lam are seen as the first step in a lengthy process ultimately aimed to put the Afghan army and police in control of their country by 2014, the deadline for complete withdrawal of Western forces from combat operations.

But judging by developments in Mehtar Lam, the road to transition appears to be far from smooth.

“People live in fear,” said Shah Gul, a barber. “People think that if the security forces can’t protect themselves, how will they protect the people?'”

Insurgents – mainly in the shape of the Taliban or the Hizb-e-Islami militia of former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – are active in many districts of this mountainous province.

Laghman borders the eastern provinces of Nuristan and Kunar.

“This allows insurgents to carry out attacks in Laghman and then escape to Nuristan or Kunar,” said an Afghan intelligence officer.

“By targeting cities handed over to Afghans, the insurgents and their foreign backers intend to prove that Afghan security forces are not capable of protecting their people.”

Just like I predicted.  But in a twist that leverages this lawless area as the trouble-spot of the world, Pakistan is directly involved.

The Pakistani spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), with the help of Taliban, has revived the Al-Huda outfit of Gulbuddin Hikmatyar to target Indians in Afghanistan.

As many as 350 persons have been trained so far particularly to target Indian business interests and development works being executed in the war-torn country.

India’s premier external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), recently reported the development to the Centre. Following the RAW report, security of Indian assets has been beefed up with a view to thwarting any misadventure by the ISI-backed militia.

According to the report, the ISI will provide funds, training and shelter besides intelligence on movement of Indians to the trained recruits of Al-Huda for anti-India operations.

Two training camps were organised recently by the ISI to train the recruits in southern Afghanistan at Chunar and mountainous regions of Nuristan in Afghanistan on Pakistan border, intelligence sources said.

Both — Chunar and Nuristan — are areas dominated by the Hikmatyar group and the NATO forces suffered heavy reverses in the recent past while carrying out operations in these regions. The Hikmatyar group is known for its mastery in ramming explosive-laden vehicles on targetted assets and executing landmine attacks.

India is funding over 300 developmental projects in Afghanistan, including construction of roads, bridges, hospitals, Government office complexes and also the Parliament building of that country. India is the biggest donor country extending aid in revival of the war-torn nation pledging a budget of over $2 billion.

Besides the construction engineers, supporting staff and the personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police guarding the work sites of the ongoing development projects there, the Indian assets in that country also include as many as 24 consulates across Afghanistan and the Indian embassy in Kabul.

Following the inputs, the Indian embassy and the consulates there have been alerted and a security audit of the installations are being carried out to further tighten the security measures, particularly the outer periphery of the office complexes so that any fidayeen attack or blast of an explosive-laden vehicle is checked at a reasonable distance from the perimeter of the buildings, the sources added.

The Taliban had attacked the Indian embassy in Kabul on October 8, 2009 killing 17 persons and injuring 63 others. The Taliban had in the past also targetted work sites maintained by the Indian companies.

The ISI move comes following reverses at the hands of the Americans amid talk of withdrawal of the US forces from the war-ravaged country.

The Pakistani sickness and obsession with India, its own importance in the world, and having access to things (e.g., nuclear weapons, the Taliban, etc.) way beyond their ability to control is working directly against the stability of Afghanistan, the security of U.S. troops, and in fact, the security and stability of the entire region.

Marines to Kunar.  It’s the move that should be made, and sooner rather than later.  If we need more Marines to Helmand in order to pull this off, then so be it.  Someone tell the Marine Corps Commandant to stop playing Iwo Jima, as if we are ever going to conduct a large scale amphibious assault against a near peer state again.  Without chasing and killing the Taliban in his safe haven, the campaign will be lost.

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