Aug 272013

The uncommon but powerful .357 SIG round (left) combines the necked case of a .40 with the bullet diameter of a 9mm.

The TSA – the Transportation Security Administration – was formed shortly after 9/11/2001, and was tasked with taking over airport security screening duties.

Rightly or wrongly (more wrongly than rightly) it was felt that a government coordinated organization could better manage airport security than was the case prior to that time with private security firm contractors at each airport.  In understanding this, it is essential to realize that the box cutters taken on board the four flights that were taken over by hijackers on 9/11 were perfectly legal to take on board the planes.

The failures of 9/11 were two-fold, and neither was the fault of the private security screeners – the biggest failure being the policy of passively giving in to and cooperating with hijackers, and the second failure being arguably the decision to allow box cutters as carry-on items.

But in the panic after 9/11 and the need to blame anyone but themselves, the security authorities saw an opportunity to create a new massive government department and rushed to form the TSA, which then became part of what is now the third largest of all government departments (only the DoD and VA are larger), the also newly formed Homeland Security Department.

Anyway, enough of the history.  You know the TSA – you see them every time you take off your shoes and belt and shuffle through the security screening at any airport.  The TSA now employs about 55,000 people.

Although they’ve tried to make themselves look more like police, now with police style uniforms and shields/badges, the happy fact is that these government employed ‘rent a cops’ have no powers of arrest and are not sworn peace officers.

There’s one more thing about TSA employees.  They don’t carry guns.

So how now to understand their publishing a tender for the supply of 3.454 million rounds of .357 SIG pistol ammo?  This sounds unbelievable, but you can see their official tender document here.  (Note they refer to .347 but it should be .357).

What does an agency made up of non-sworn non-police officers need with 3.454 million rounds of out-of-the-ordinary caliber pistol ammo?

Seriously, what do they want with this huge quantity of ammunition?  Can anyone tell us?

Jul 212013

How did our police transition from being friendly locals to impersonal hostile strangers? Has this change made us safer?

The cornerstones of modern effective policing actually date back to 1829 and England, when Sir Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police Force in London, based in Scotland Yard (hence them sometimes being referred to as Bobbies, or, in a more pejorative sense, as Peelers).

Arising out of his reforms came what are known today as the Principles of Policing, and we’ll list all nine of them before moving on with our article.

  1. The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.
  2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon the public approval of police actions.
  3. Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observation of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.
  4. The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.
  5. Police seek and preserve public favor not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.
  6. Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice, and warning is found to be insufficient.
  7. Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
  8. Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions, and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.
  9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.

The core concept is that the police operate with the support and approval of the citizenry they serve.  This was evidenced by the concept of police officers walking the beat, armed with nothing more than a short wooden truncheon discreetly in a pocket, and integrating into the neighborhoods they serve.  Peel’s most famous statement stresses the integration between the police and community by saying ‘The police are the public and the public are the police’.

We can see the epitome of Peel’s principles expressed in that lovely television series from the 1960s, The Andy Griffith Show, which ran from 1960 through 1968.  As you surely know, Sheriff Andy Taylor was known, respected and liked by all in his North Carolina (fictitious) town of Mayberry, and he never carried a gun.  He didn’t need a gun, because a friendly word, a fatherly word, sometimes a stern word and sage advice was all he needed to keep the peace.

The year after The Andy Griffith Show ended its run, policing in the US took a turn for the worse.  After several years advocating the concept, the then police inspector Daryl Gates of the LAPD (subsequently to become a controversial police chief) was given permission to develop the nation’s first SWAT team, which deployed for in 1969, first in a raid against a holdout cell of the Black Panthers.  The SWAT concept was modeled after the Marine Special Forces.

After some controversy, Congress provided the next tool for the militarization of the police, when in 1970 it passed a new law authorizing ‘no knock’ raids for federal narcotics agents.  After repeated abuses of this power and many probably unnecessary casualties as a result of such raids, the law was repeated in 1974, but strangely, the concept lives on to this day, even without a federal law authorizing it.

Originally, in the 1970s, there were only a few hundred SWAT raids each year, but since that time, the number has been inexorably growing, while the trigger point for requiring a SWAT deployment has been successively lowering.   This article says the number of no-knock raids increased to 3,000 in 1981, and grew massively further to 50,000 in 2005 (that’s 136 times every day), and suggests that over 40 innocent bystanders have been killed.

As well as the 40 innocent bystanders who have been killed in gratuitous shoot-outs, many of the people being raided have also been killed in totally unnecessary circumstances, in situations that would not have occurred if one policeman had simply and calmly knocked politely on the guy’s door and had a discussion with the person when he answered.

The article also points out that criminals sometimes now pretend to be police on a no-knock raid, and, even worse, the police have moonlighted as criminals, conducting unauthorized no-knock raids to seize cash and drugs for their own personal gain and resale.

The article (it is short and you should read it) also points out just a few of the too many dubious uses of lethal force by police in no-knock raids.  What it does not and apparently can not point out, however, is any case where the ‘official review’ of use of force in a no-knock raid has ever been ruled unlawful or inappropriate, or any charges being filed against the police who conducted the raid (or, even better, filed against the judge who inappropriately authorized it).  Our police are increasingly unaccountable for their actions, even when their actions result in the unnecessary loss of life.

Until recently, one of the worst cases of no-knock raids was the shooing of US Marine veteran Jose Guerena in Tucson.  After shooting at him 71 times (and hitting him 22 times), the police then did not allow any medical aid, and watched Guerena slowly die from his wounds over the next hour.  In justifying their actions, the police claimed that Guerena shot at them first, but subsequently it was shown that his rifle was unfired and the safety catch still on.  An official report exonerated the police (naturally).  Details here.

In addition to no-knock warrants, the ‘knock and announce’ type warrant has become more and more closely identical to a no-knock warrant.  In theory, a knock and announce warrant requires the police to knock on the door and call out to the occupants, giving them a chance to voluntarily open the door prior to breaking it in and invading the property.  But how loud a knock, how loud an announcement, and how long a wait is involved prior to the police then breaking down the door and swarming inside, with their fully auto weapons ready to gun down anyone they encounter?  That’s a grey area, and the courts have been increasingly permissive about what the police can get away with.

There are also repeated allegations that police did not knock and announce prior to breaking in to properties.  Of course, in a situation where you have a team of half a dozen or more police officers all claiming they followed procedure fastidiously, and one or two citizens, now either dead or in custody for some trivial crime (perhaps ‘resisting arrest’), who will the courts believe?  The police, every time.  The police are no longer accountable.

After the ‘success’ of the first LAPD SWAT team, other police departments were quick to copy.  After all, it gave the police new fancy clothes to wear, new vehicles to drive, and new toys to play with – who wouldn’t love that.  By 1975, there were approximately 500 SWAT teams around the country.

More recently, in the hysteria fueled by 9/11, the new Department of Homeland Security (now the third largest cabinet level agency in the country, with only the DoD and Veterans Affairs larger) has been awarding grants, totaling over $32 billion so far, enabling police departments everywhere in the country to outfit themselves with military vehicles and military weapons.  The federal government seems to want to encourage the militarization of even the smallest town’s police departments.

Does any Police Department not have a SWAT team now?  Even small towns have SWAT teams.  In 1983, already 13% of towns sized between 25,000 and 50,000 people had a SWAT team, and in 2005, that number had grown to 80%.

It isn’t only PDs that have SWAT teams these days.  Some of the most unlikely federal agencies also have SWAT teams, including the Fish & Wildlife Service, NASA, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Education.

SWAT raids now seem to be the standard way for the police to interact with the citizens they are protecting and serving.  Whether it be the SWAT team that raided a small group of Tibetan monks who had overstayed their visas while on a peace mission, or the repeated SWAT raids on home games of poker, any and every police action seems to warrant a full SWAT deployment.

Think about the slogan ‘To Protect and To Serve’.  The police are neither protecting us nor serving us when they hide behind face masks, helmets, and body armor, and break into our houses in the dead of night for no substantial reason.  They’ve totally lost sight of their mission.  Instead of protecting and serving us, they are recklessly endangering us and dominating us.

Here’s a great history of the rise of SWAT culture in US policing.  (If the link is dead, search for ‘Rise of the Warrior Cop’ in Google, you want to find a Wall St Journal article from July 19, 2013.)

All of the preceding has merely been introduction.  Please now read an appalling story of the latest SWAT raid, and in particular, the circumstances in which it took place.  The police received an anonymous tip suggesting that a child rape suspect was somewhere inside an apartment complex.  They had no specific information that the suspect was in the woman’s apartment that they terrorized, and they had no warrants supporting any of their activity.  But when the woman was slow to comply with their demand to let them in and search with no warrant, that ‘confirmed’ to them that he must have been in her apartment.

Yes, if you don’t voluntarily surrender your constitutional rights, you are now presumed guilty of harboring a rape suspect, it seems, even if you are a 59 year old middle class nurse with no police record or past problems.

Details here.

Look back up to the nine principles of policing.  How many of those are still being observed today?

We read a lot about the terrorist threats against the US.  Some might think that the greatest threat, and the greatest acts of terrorism, involve not Muslim extremists, but our own law enforcement officials, and rather than breaking the laws, they are aided and abetted by permissive laws and even more permissive courts.

Jun 302013

Judge Howard Shore of the San Diego Superior Court.

Okay, so some people might disagree with what the defendant did, but that’s not to say he shouldn’t be allowed a full defence in his criminal trial on 13 charges of vandalism.

Jeff Olson, a left-wing anti-bank political activist (gack) had been scribbling messages such as ‘Stop big banks’ on the sidewalk outside Bank of America branches in San Diego, using chalk to do so.  You know – what kids use, sidewalk chalk, the stuff that can be washed off or which just ‘disappears’ all by itself in double quick time anyway.

Rather unbelievably, one of the Bank of America branches claimed it had cost them $6,000 to clean up the chalk slogans.  Presumably the bank can do this if it wishes, although the city not the bank owns the sidewalk outside the bank building.

After pressure from the bank, the City of San Diego agreed to bring 13 charges of vandalism against the sidewalk chalker.

Which brings us to our headline.  In a pre-trial motion hearing, Judge Howard Shore granted the city’s motion to prohibit the defendant from claiming or even mentioning any rights possibly extended to him under the First Amendment.

The learned (?) judge said that because California’s Vandalism Statute didn’t specifically provide an exemption for First Amendment rights/claims, that means that a First Amendment based defense would not be allowed in his court.

Now, goodness only knows that we’re not attorneys, but we do remember from our law school days a quaint notion being that the Constitution (including all Amendments) was the Supreme Law of the Land.  And no matter what lesser federal, state, county and city laws might or might not say, they could not ignore or overrule the Constitution.

Perhaps Judge Shore skipped class the day this was taught.

It is also surprising that the Judge has prohibited even mentioning the First Amendment in the trial.  It may well be that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to the facts of this particular case, but to prohibit it being raised is an unfortunate decision.

But wait, there’s more.  After word of his ruling filtered out of the court-room, the judge found himself facing a tidal wave of criticism – from the defendant and his attorney of course, from the public, from media, and even from the Mayor of San Diego.

So the judge’s next step was to forbid the defendant or his attorney from talking about the case to anyone!

Secret justice?  That’s an oxymoron, and is totally the opposite of our American notions of the need for justice to proceed in an open court, holding all parties accountable to public scrutiny and review.

That’s another class that Judge Shore may have skipped.

Here’s some background on the case, and here’s a report of the judge’s first decision banning the First Amendment, and here’s a report of the judge’s gag order.

Apr 242013
It requires more well-placed shots than you'd expect to stop a determined attacker.

It requires more well-placed shots than you’d expect to stop a determined attacker.

A problem with firearms and self defense topics is there’s a profusion of ‘experts’ but very little factual basis to many of their opinions.

So, wherever possible, we prefer to ‘let the facts do the talking’ rather than listen to ‘experts’.

Here’s a thought provoking story of a police sergeant in Skokie, IL.  One day he unexpectedly found himself going at it, mano a mano, in a shootout with a fleeing felon.  He had no backup, the encounter suddenly started, and lasted 56 seconds, all at very close range (most gunfights are of short duration and at almost ‘bad breath’ distance).

By the end of the encounter, 54 shots had been fired – 21 by the felon, 33 by the police sergeant.  Probably more would have been fired by both participants, but they were each running low on ammo.

The felon missed with all 21 of his shots.  The sergeant did extremely well, getting 17 of his shots on target.  The officer was also a master firearms trainer and a sniper with his local SWAT team, so clearly had firearms skills and experience way above the average police officer.

There are several points that this real life story makes.  See if you picked up on them.

First, note the massive expenditure of rounds by both parties (and remember they’d have shot more if they had more to shoot).  The point here is that it took a highly skilled police sergeant 33 shots to stop his opponent.  If he’d not had this much ammo for his duty weapon, the outcome of the encounter could have been tragically different.

So – how much ammunition do you carry with you?  Are you prepared for a fire-fight where it takes you 33 or more rounds to fight off a single attacker?  What if there are two guys you are defending yourself against?  Do you have more than 66 rounds?

Second, note that the bad guy missed with all 21 of his shots, and the police sergeant ‘only’ got half his on target (which is at least twice as good as the average police officer, and we’ll wager, much better than the average civilian).

This points to the need to be able to shoot both accurately and repeatedly at your opponent(s).  In other words, a five shot snub nosed wheelgun ain’t gonna be much good.

Third, count the number of times the bad guy was hit.  After being hit 14 times, including six hits that are considered fatal, he was still pressing his attack.  It was only after the sergeant got three (not one or two, but three!) head shots did the fight seep out of the bad guy; and even so, the bad guy lived for some time afterwards and only eventually died in hospital.

If you think you just need to get one or perhaps two shots on target when a bad guy is attacking you, think again.  This bad guy soaked up 14 rounds and continued to fight, and only stopped after taking three more shots to the head.

When you’re defending yourself in an extreme situation like this, you don’t have time to pause and judge the effect of each shot you’ve fired.  You need to just keep shooting as rapidly as you can until the other guy ceases to be a threat.

There’s a fourth point that you would be well advised to focus on as well.  Nothing seems to provoke more controversy than the subject of what is the ‘best’ caliber to use with a pistol.  Did you notice the caliber the police sergeant was using – the caliber so puny that it took 17 hits – nine of them ‘fatal’ hits – to get the bad guy out of the fight?

It was the hallowed sainted .45 ACP!  And probably a high quality hollow point type of bullet.  Yes – all you people who brashly boast about how your .45 ACP chambered pistol will solve any problem you might encounter with a single shot, need to think about the implications of this very carefully.  The facts don’t lie, and the bad guy wasn’t on PCP or any other drug that can sometimes give a person more ‘stamina’ when taking fire.  The first 14 hits (six of them theoretically fatal) didn’t stop the bad guy at all.

It is perhaps unsurprising to read, at the end of the story, that the sergeant no longer carries a 13 round Glock 21 in .45 ACP.  Instead he carries a 17 round Glock 17, chambered in 9mm.  The police sergeant now realizes that the caliber of round really doesn’t make any difference at all – surviving and winning a gun fight is all about getting as many good hits on the other guy as possible, no matter what caliber of round you are using.

Oh yes, and the police sergeant will not be caught out a second time with insufficient ammo.  He now carries 145 rounds of 9mm with him.

He actually did two good things by trading his .45 for a 9mm.  Not only can he more conveniently carry more ammo, and shoot more between mag changes, but he now has a compatible primary and backup pistol.  Both are chambered for 9mm, and both can use the same magazines that he has with him.

It took a brush with death for this police sergeant to improve his game.  Save yourself a similar situation, and learn from his experience.

Mar 062013
Do we need more accountability when we give government officials powers over us?

Do we need more accountability when we give government officials powers over us?

We understand that everyone makes mistakes from time to time, whether they work for the government or not.

That’s unavoidable and okay, if the mistake was sincerely made in the first place rather than a deliberate abuse of authority (and authority is something that government employees tend to have much more of than people working in the private sector) and if the mistake is quickly rectified.

We also understand that some people are not very nice people, and will sometimes vindictively do bad things, just because they can.  That’s not okay, but this also happens in both the private and public sectors.

The key thing here is that the person who acts badly be accountable for their bad actions.  Usually, in the private sector, apart from union-protection issues, people who clearly and deliberately act in appropriately can expect consequences from their actions, including possibly even being fired.  But how often do we think that happens in government departments?

Here’s an appalling example of egregious abuse of authority by a Customs & Border Patrol individual who decided it was easier to impound a guy’s new boat than to correct her paperwork, and who refused to allow the boat-owner to speak to her supervisor or in any other way attempt to get her capricious decision reviewed.

As detailed in a follow-up post, this woman’s decision to impound the boat for no good reason ended up costing over $10,000 in fees to a broker to get the boat back.  The follow-up post is also interesting because it shows two additional things – first, how the woman or her co-workers will self-evidently lie to justify their actions, and secondly, how CBP view us – normal, ordinary, honest, Americans – as the enemy, rather than as the client they are there to serve.

Two questions :  What negative consequence will flow to this woman for what apparently was a wrong act on her part?  (Probable answer – none whatsoever.)

Secondly, will the boat owner and the company who sold it to him get their $10,000 broker fee reimbursed by CBP due to the inappropriate actions of their employee?  (You can probably guess the answer to this, too.)

The more authority we give to government departments and their employees, the more accountable they must become.  Currently, the opposite seems to be the case – we are giving them more and more power and removing their accountability at the same time.

Our government is in danger of becoming out of control, and rather than acting to help us, as was the original intention of progressing from anarchy to government in the first place, it all too often now seems to deliberately make things difficult for us.  There is a growing divide between government employees and the rest of us; an ‘us vs them’ situation which bodes extremely ill for the country as a whole.

Feb 112013
Don't learn your lessons from the movies. Dirty Harry isn't real. And you're not a cop.

Don’t learn your lessons from the movies. Dirty Harry isn’t real. And you’re not a cop.

So there you are.  You’ve surprised three felons about to burglarize your property.  Fortunately, you have your handgun with you, and when you confront them as an armed homeowner, the three felons very sensibly turn tail and flee.

Great.  So far, so good.  Bravo.

But what happens next can completely change your day if you’re not careful.  There you are – heart pounding, blood surging, adrenalin levels off the scale, full of righteous anger, and your gun is in your hand.  Maybe you even have some vague fuzzy perception that it is legal to shoot after felons, perhaps because you are ‘in hot pursuit’ or something like that.

Do you shoot after the bad guys?  Or do you carefully holster your handgun and call the police?

Don’t just answer this question in the calm and comfort of where and how you’re reading this.  Try and really put yourself in the scene, and understand how you’d be thinking and reacting.

Now – the answer.  Would you shoot after the bad guys?

If you answered ‘yes’, go take a cold shower.  Then come back and please continue reading.

If you answered ‘no’, congratulations, but don’t relax.  Drill that ‘I must not shoot’ thought hard into your brain, so that when the situation actually occurs and you’re operating more on instinct and emotion, your rational self can still fight away the blood lust and desire for vengeance and correctly guide your actions.

Don’t just take our word for it.  Read this short news item about a homeowner in a scenario pretty much as we just depicted.  He did the wrong thing, and got locked up for it, and now is facing an expensive journey through the legal system, with the only certain thing in his future being tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, many sleepless nights full of worry, and possibly – probably – a criminal conviction on his record and maybe even some prison time.

Two things to remember :

First :  Your state may or may not have a long laundry list of situations in which it might be legal to use lethal force.  But the only one of these which is likely to be unimpeachable is when you or your loved ones are staring certain death or severe injury in the face, and you have absolutely utterly no way to avoid that outcome, other than to use the least amount of deadly force possible.  All the others are less black and white, and you can find yourself trapped in very unpleasant grey.

As soon as you retreat away from that ‘worst case’ scenario, you start to facing a growing subsequent alternate worst case scenario – either criminal and/or civil action against you after your shooting.  Depending on the jurisdiction you live in, your state’s laws on deadly force may be interpreted permissively or restrictively, and concepts such as ‘what would a reasonable man be expected to do in the circumstances’ could be answered – in a court of law – in very different ways.

Remember also that juries are fickle.  You can never guarantee what verdict a jury will reach.  Get a couple of vociferous anti-gun people, a few others who believe that ‘nothing can ever justify taking a human life’, and have the others basically conciliatory and passive, and before you know where you are, you’re guilty of whatever the prosecutor has decided to throw at you.

Maybe the local community is currently experiencing a backlash against some gun tragedy somewhere in the country, and it is just your bad luck to be the recipient of that backlash.  Maybe you are white and shot at black criminals, and the case has been perverted into a cause celebre for ‘black rights’ and you are made to look like a racist rather than an ordinary homeowner.  And so on and so on.

The bottom line :  Any shooting may have extremely unfair criminal and civil consequences.  Avoid the risk of such consequences, by avoiding the need to shoot.

Second :  Go stand in your driveway and imagine yourself doing like the guy in the news story did, shooting at the would-be burglars as they make their getaway.  Now look carefully at what is in the background.  What do you see – and also what are behind the bushes and fences that you can’t see (but which your bullets can reach)?  Houses.  Apartments.  Cars.  And, most of all, people.

In most residential areas, there’s no such thing as a safe direction to shoot in.  Even if your shots hit the bad guys, they might still travel through and on and cause other damage elsewhere.  Police departments regularly average $10,000 and up, for every shot fired by their officers, in terms of the costs they incur repairing the damage from the rounds expended.  You can expect the same, and it will be money out of your own pocket, because your insurance will refuse to cover you.

Here’s the unfair thing (and – get this – everything about these types of situations is unfair, right from the get go).  If you hold your front door open for the burglars and help them carry away all your gear; insurance will reimburse you as per the policy you have.  They see that as an accident or event you have no control over.

But if you protect your property and shoot at the burglars, the insurance company won’t thank you for acting to reduce the amount of loss they have to pay out.  Instead, they say this was a deliberate act on your part, not an accident or random piece of bad luck, and they’ll refuse to reimburse you any of the costs you might incur as a result of where the bullets went and the damage they caused.

Dirty Harry never had to worry about these things.  He was a policeman, more or less acting, on duty, as employed to do.  Sure, the mayor and his superiors would often berate him for the damage he caused, but Harry never had to pay any of that himself.  The city and the police department, and all their attorneys, would run interference for him.

You have none of this behind you.  Instead, it will all be ranged in front of you and against you.

Bottom line?  Don’t shoot, unless you have no choice, and it is the only option open to you, and necessary to save you or your loved ones from imminent and severe harm or death.  And force yourself to stop shooting as soon as the situation changes.

Update :  The citizen who shot at the fleeing burglars ended up agreeing to a plea bargain.  He has given a guilty plea, and is receiving a $700 fine, must take a weapons safety class, and has been required to forfeit his handgun.  Maybe he got off lightly, depending on your perspective.  Add the incarceration, now having an arrest and criminal record, and thousands of dollars in attorney fees, and those two shots truly changed his life.  Details here.

Jan 132013
King George V reviewing The Grand Fleet at Spithead in 1914. 98 years later, Queen Elizabeth II had to settle for watching a procession of private launches motoring up the River Thames in London.

King George V reviewing The Grand Fleet at Spithead in 1914. 98 years later, Queen Elizabeth II had to settle for watching a procession of private launches motoring up the River Thames in London.

Britain is widely regarded by all (except perhaps our ‘Commander-in-Chief’) as being this country’s strongest ally – it is the country we have a ‘special relationship’ with.  They feel the same way about us too, and they’ve not hesitated to support us whenever we’ve needed it.

The strength of Britain as our ally is measured not just in its moral support of our policies and positions on the world stage, but also in its military support too.  Wherever we’ve been fighting in the last several decades, there have been British troops, planes and ships alongside ours.

It is sobering therefore to understand how Britain’s military capabilities have massively imploded in on themselves.  We not only have our President spurning our relationship with Britain while racing around the world apologizing and bowing to our enemies, weakening the strength of the ties that keep us and Britain so closely together, we also have Britain’s disarming of itself to the point of international irrelevance.

This article, in Britain’s leading and somewhat conservative newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, is mainly of little interest to most Americans, inasmuch as it involves Britain’s dispute with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.  But we can’t let that topic pass without point out how sad it is to note the contrast between the short war with Argentina in 1982 when President Reagan fully supported Britain, and the current situation where our President and his team are unable to even say they support Britain, while cozying up to Argentina.

What is most interesting, however, is to look down to the bottom, at the table of Britain’s military strength as between 1982 and 2013.  In case the link has eroded over time, we repeat the information here :

Total personnel320,000160,000
Assault ships24
Patrol boats154
Minesweepers/hunters     2915
Auxiliary (tankers, etc)     4513


This isn’t just a recent decline over the past 30 years, it has been steady and almost without a break all the way since World War 2.  For example, total personnel in Britain’s armed services in 1972 were 371,000; in 1962 were 434,000; and in 1952 were 872,000.  In sixty years, personnel have reduced five-fold.

In 1913 Britain’s navy was the most powerful in the world, and by official policy, larger than the next two navies combined.  In time for World War 2 Britain’s navy was still larger than any other single nation, but by the end of the war, the US navy was massively larger, and Britain’s navy has continued to decline ever since.

When Queen Elizabeth was crowned in 1953 the Royal Navy put on a formal ‘review’ at Spithead, with nearly all its fleet lined up in massive rows of warships.  When she observed the 60th anniversary of her ascending to the throne in 2012, the tradition of reviews, dating back to the 1700s, was replaced by a ‘flotilla’ of pleasure launches cruising along the Thames river in London.  The Royal Navy was too embarrassed to admit it no longer had enough ships to be reviewed and hoped people would not notice the difference between private boats motoring along the Thames compared to the former might of the Royal Navy in years past.

The reduction in armed personnel is all the more extreme when plotted against the rise in Britain’s total population.  In other words, the number of armed personnel as a percentage of the total country’s population is declining more rapidly than the simple decline in staffing.  This chart below gives a perspective on numbers from 1950 through 2012 (source).


There are two other issues arising from this, beyond Britain’s simple loss of military power.

The first is that it takes a lot longer to train a soldier, sailor, or airman now than it did 50 years ago.  Everything is much more complicated, and requires much more training.  This means that if Britain had to suddenly respond to a ‘high intensity’ conflict, or to come to our aid in a high intensity conflict of ours, by the time Britain could start deploying newly trained recruits, it would probably be too late.

The second issue is more subtle.  For almost all of Britain’s history, the armed services were a key part of the nation’s social fabric.  Occasional high intensity conflicts, occurring once a generation or so, saw large swathes of the population called up for service (as much as 10% of the population in both World War 1 and 2).  It wasn’t just the small percentage who served in wartime, either – even during peacetime, universal conscription – ‘national service’ saw all young male adults exposed to army training and discipline.  This ended in 1960 with the last intake being November 1963 – 50 years ago.

For the last 70 years, Britain has not had any high intensity conflicts, while the ‘pool’ of ex-servicemen has been dwindling as the old soldiers simply die.  The number of surviving WW2 soldiers is now rapidly reducing and soon there’ll be no more.

Britain is losing touch with its proud past, and is instead willing itself to become weaker and weaker.  Even if Britain wished to strongly support us in the future, it will lack the men and the equipment to do so.

Oh – and as for our own military capabilities?  Don’t ask.  It’s a similar story (but one to be told another time.

Sep 222012

The new Smart 911 service allows you to provide whatever information you want to the 911 Dispatch service to help them respond to your calls in the future.

A new service – Smart 911 – is slowly rolling out across the nation.  You can join it now and it is free, and hopefully sooner rather than later your local city/county 911 Dispatch Service will sign up for it too.

It works so that when you call in to a participating 911 Dispatch Service from a phone you’ve registered with Smart 911, the operator’s screen will fill with a lot more information about yourself, your residence, your vehicles, your medical conditions, other people living with you, and so on – all information that you’ve previously loaded into the Smart 911 database.

Now, for sure, some of us hesitate before giving any more information about ourselves to ‘The Man’ than we need to, but you can choose what you want them to know and what you’d rather not share, and if you think it is more likely that you’ll be needing help from The Man rather than hiding from him, you’ll find this very useful.

Normally when you call 911, the operator will only see the phone number you’re calling from, the name and address it is registered to, and perhaps some location data about where you currently are (if using a cell phone).  That’s not a lot to go on, and there may well be situations where you can’t conveniently spend five minutes having a relaxed chat with the operator about exactly what your needs are.  In such cases, the data you’ve preloaded into the Smart 911 service could well be a life-saver – it could well be your life-saver.

You can add a lot of information that might make all the difference when fire, paramedics or police are sent to respond to your call for help.  You can include photos of the people who live in your home to aid in identification, and a photo of your house too.

The photos are great.  It can help reduce a problem that few people think about.  When the police respond to a burglary call, they don’t know who the burglars are and who the lawful residents are.  If they respond to other – eg DV – calls, it can be even more confusing as to who should be living in the property and who should not.  By having your pictures already in ‘their’ database, you’ve helped establish your legitimacy, and so when they see you, their fingers will relax a bit and they’ll not be pulling on their triggers quite so anxiously.

We also recommend keeping some family pictures on display somewhere in your home, so you can point to those when the police are trying to work out who the good guys are.  Pictures of the group of you standing in front of your residence are particularly helpful for that type of purpose.

You can also add information about medical conditions to help paramedics know what they might need to prepare for or respond to, information about pets, cars, and all sorts of other information.

I’ve had problems with first responders having difficulty finding my place in the past.  This new service is sure to help.  Best of all it is free.  So go and join now.  It might save a minute or two of confusion, and that might literally mean the difference between life and death – for you and your loved ones.

Jun 302012

Gun sales continue to increase every month, and violent crime rates continue to steadily fall.

About this time last year, we commented on the annual release of the FBI’s violent crime statistics, showing a continued significant decline in violent crime of all type.  At the same time, other FBI statistics showed a steady increase in the number of guns sold each month.

Is this a coincidence, we wondered?  Or do increased gun sales actually lead to a decrease in violent crime – quite the opposite of what the gun control crowd would have us believe.

Well, we now have another year of statistics, both for violent crime rates and for gun sales.  And, guess what.  The FBI reports that violent crimes are down another 4% in 2011 compared to 2010.

Interestingly, the biggest decreases in violent crime were in the areas where a stronger offender preys on a weaker victim – types of crime where a firearm can be most helpful to restoring a balance between attacker and attackee.

For example, rape, down 9% in non-metropolitan areas (probably also the areas with highest gun ownership), down 6.8% in metropolitan counties, and down in all other categories except one – large cities with populations of 500,000 – 999,999, which showed a slight increase (0.5%).  Interestingly, these types of large cities are also the types of cities most likely to have the greatest restrictions on gun ownership.

At the same time that violent crime continues to decrease (and the decreases are even more significant when you consider that the population as a whole has increased), gun sales have continued their steady growth.  As this table clearly shows, total pre-sale ‘NICS’ checks were 15% up in 2011 compared to 2010, and continue to be up so far in 2012 as well.

A 15% increase in gun sales, and a reduction in violent crime.  And not just in 2011.  But in the last almost 20 years, consistently, almost every year in a row.  Violent crime rates are now down to the lowest point since 1970 – 41 years back.

Kinda makes you feel good, doesn’t it!