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Friday, February 24, 2012

Nike Galaxy - Riots? Really?

Nike just released a new, even more hideous pair of shoes to the public with a price tag of $220, the Nike Galaxy Foamposite.

Chris Richardson at Webpronews.com has posted 2 videos and some enlightening twitter comments on the "Nike Foamposite riots". Check out those videos in a bit. But the bottom line is 100s (perhaps 1000s) of people went out to buy a $220 pair of shoes that look like something I'd get for the kids at Stride Rite. Now I cannot really comment on the fashion of these shoes. After all, my brother and I had matching Converse X-High tops that were two-tone flourescent - mine orange and his turquoise both with yellow insides - and we wore them folded down like this (you gotta love the 80's):

So let the kids wear what they want to wear from a fashion perspective. They will, like me, look back on it fondly but laughingly regret it when they are in their 30s. But if we have overall unemployment at near 10% and youth unemployment significantly higher - near record levels - in the younger demographics, I have a few questions.
  1. First, where are they getting the money to blow on these shoes?
  2. Second, why would you want to get involved in civil unrest over these shoes (or any shoes so long as you have a pair on)?
  3. Finally, is it just me or has our country gone completely and utterly insane?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Update on the Constitution series

I have recently shifted to a strange shift 23:00-11:00 6 days a week. I have been unable to keep up the pace of a daily post on the Constitution. I am slowly but surely working on the next post but I only have about 15 minutes per day of time online when I'm not sleeping or spending time with the kids. I hope to have the post out by this weekend, as I plan to work on this type of thing during my night off when everyone else is sleeping.

Thanks for bearing with me. Here is a link to each of the previous posts:
Basics
Preamble
Article I, Section 1-3
Article I, Section 4-6
Article I, Section 7

Monday, February 20, 2012

US Constitution: Article 1, Section 7

Revenues, Vetos, & Overrides, Oh My!
"Section 7. All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.


Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.


Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill."


Section 7 starts out with an interesting tidbit of our nation's fiscal trivia. Namely, only the House of Representatives creates bills for raising revenue, aka taxes or other cash flow generating entities. So your tax bill is all the House's fault - but wait - a tax bill is still a law and must be passed by the Senate. The constitution explicitly provides an allowance for the Senate to come up with and/or agree with amendments to these bills (so, duh... it's a bill just like any other). And the Senators don't pass up an opportunity to amend the bills to better fit the desires of their constituents lobbyists. If the Senate tries to initiate a revenue bill (and it has, proving in a small way that sometimes these guys just ignore the Constitution!) the House sends them a "blue slip" - basically reminding the Senate that this is the House's job, thank you very much. Too bad we can't give the entire Congress a blue slip for the way they are running this country to remind them of their responsibilities.


After the founders cleared up who controls the money bills, they continued laying out the process for lawmaking. The second clause of Section 7 simply explains that for a bill to become a law it must be signed by the President. So if the President doesn't agree with the law and he doesn't want it to become law he has 10 days to return it to Congress and explain why he doesn't agree. If Congress can muster a 2/3 (66.7%) majority, they can override the veto. If he doesn't send the bill back in 10 days, poof! It becomes law without his signature (see below for a request for action). The exception to this is when Congress is about to adjourn. If they send the President a bill within 10 days of adjourning, the President can just sit on it until they leave and the bill dies. This second presidential maneuver is called a pocket veto - as in the President just puts the bill in his pocket and waits. In every case I can remember, the President telegraphs that he is going to veto a bill like a high school freshman quarterback aiming at his best friend in the receiving corp. So I have never really understood why Congress would send one of these bills up within 10 days of the end of their session. Really folks? I know there are some smart people up there, but this seems fairly elementary. If you have sufficient margins to pass a controversial bill in both houses, get it done 11 days before the session is over. Then the President has to at least put his objections on paper. That said, the pocket veto has been used multiple times by various Presidents. Congress never ceases to amaze.


The final clause of Section 7 basically rehashes the second clause but is applicable to the things that must be concurred on - presidential appointments, treaties, "National Pink & Purple Flowers Day" resolutions, etc. This is the last section in Article 1 that can be discussed with any brevity. If you thought the meat on this section's bones was a T-bone, Sections 8-10 are a whole side of beef.


REQUEST FOR ACTION: The Constitution is explicitly clear that Congress can pass a law without the President's signature in a few ways - 1) override a veto or 2) pass the bill and give the President 10 days to disagree. However, I can't find an example in which this has occurred. I'm not a legal scholar and I do not have the time to chase down all of the "slip laws" on all of the laws that have ever been passed. Slip laws are the step-by-step story of a bill as it becomes law including all of the committees through which it passed, votes, and it's signature - produced by the Archivist of the United State. I would really like to find an example or two out there of laws that were passed by Congress and ignored by the President for 10 days, therefore becoming law. If you find it, I will post a link to it here and credit you. You (for your effort) and I (for my blog) will become instantly famous as the only known source on "the internets" for this information. (The last sentence was a joke for those of you without a sense of humor.)


Updated with links to the other posts:
Constitution Basics
Preamble
Article 1, Sections 1-3
Article 1, Sections 4-6

Saturday, February 18, 2012

US Constitution: Article I, Section 4-6

I was going to address a little bit more "meat", but if I went to Section 7 I would get into some pretty heavy stuff so I popped the chalk line for this post after Section 6.
"Article I, Section 4. The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.

Section 5. Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.
Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.
Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.
Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

Section 6. The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office."

Section 4 was changed by the 20th Amendment to require Congress to convene in January vice December. But I will go into that in more detail in my discussion of that Amendment. Other than that, there isn't a ton in this section. In the scheme of things, the when and where of Congress is a lot less important than the what, why, and how.

Section 5 is where the meat (if there is any in this grouping) begins. I think the most apropos part is that they shall keep a journal of their proceedings, but they get an out for secrecy. Having worked with a significant amount of classified information, I know that there is way more information that is classified or treated as secret by the Government than there needs to be. Once you are qualified to classify something and do so, there isn't really much of a check on whether or not it actually should be. With our incessant need for security seemingly at any cost, I truly worry that this Article I Section 5 power might be abused. The real kicker... we won't know until it's already done and in this case it's by the book. I mean, do we really trust "Ancient DC" Barbie & Ken (Nancy Pelosi & John Boehner) to do something in our interests and not in the interests of their beloved parties and major funding sources? I mean, who's going to pay for the tons of makeup they use each year if they are just doing things for the people?

Section 6 is pretty vanilla, though the occasional wedge issue will be brought up on laws based on this portion of the document. For instance, there used to be a regular debate about congressional salaries. But they aren't really paid all that much (<$200,000) compared to their corporate counterparts. These guys are basically the equivalent of corporate directors/vice presidents. They have quite a bit of power collectively, but they still have a relatively large power structure above them (party leaders, major constituents, and most importantly major donors/lobbies). The most interesting part of these sections (though not that important in practice) is the protection afforded members of Congress when they are attending a session. They aren't allowed to commit a felony or treason, but they are otherwise allowed to do just about anything they want. This includes outright slander or even a good brawl, which has happened more than a few times in the past. The wikipedia article only lists some of the accounts. There have been more and everyone is covered once the smoke clears by Section 6. It's like high-class WWE.

On that note, I'll leave this section. More to come...

Updated with links to the other posts:
Constitution Basics
Preamble
Article 1, Sections 4-6
Article 1, Section 7

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Write your Congressman - Laugh & Be Frustrated

You often hear from activists that you should write/call your Congressman. I write when there is a topic on which I would like to express my position or if I would simply like to get the position of my representation. The response has never - not ONCE - lived up to my expectations. I will say up front that I understand interns and the underpaid staff are tasked with writing these responses. But the same folks are the people who are supposed to help the member form their policy position on issues and legislation.
In the latest round I asked my Congressman & both Senators what their position was on SOPA/PIPA and explained that I understood the bills had already been tabled and would not be voted on right now. I specifically requested a discussion about their position on the legislation with respect to the rights granted under the applicable portions of the constitution. I used the online form submission method, saving 3 stamps, weeks of time, and the cost incurred due to marking the replies to me. Below are some examples of what I received. My congressman appears to have at least sent me a well-written form letter. My junior Senator pasted in the paragraph in italics onto the body of a form letter. So at least I got a human response of a single paragraph. I've seen nothing from my senior Senator. Awesome... glad to see they're earning their $1/4-million salary and perks. Names omitted to protect the useless.

Congressman's Response
Dear Dillon:

Thank you for contacting my office regarding H.R. 3261, the “Stop Online Piracy Act.”

I appreciate you sharing how this change will have a direct impact on you. Hearing from constituents like you helps to shape the future direction of our nation.

This legislation has been introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar Smith of Texas and referred to the House Judiciary Committee. This committee recently held a markup to vote on this proposal and adjourned after considering 25 amendments. Because of recent concerns expressed by internet users and websites, Rep. Lamar Smith has expressed interest in revising H.R. 3261 in such a way to alleviate those concerns. It is uncertain when or if this legislation will make it to the House floor for a vote.

As I continue to learn how this legislation would impact the Third Congressional District and Mississippi, I will take your thoughts and concerns into consideration. Again, I appreciate you sharing your views with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of assistance.

Sincerely,
Gregg H.
Member of Congress
Junior Senator's Response
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act. I am glad to have the benefit of your views on this issue.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced S. 968 in the Senate on May 12, 2011. This bill would allow the U.S. Department of Justice to seek a preliminary court order against web sites that it determines are peddling copyrighted material and counterfeit goods.

The intellectual property rights of Americans should be protected online, and I believe we can find a way to do that without hindering the public's free access to the internet. I am glad Senate Leadership has decided to delay a vote on this legislation so we can find a balanced approach on this important issue.

Be assured I will keep your views in mind as Congress considers legislation affecting online copyright infringement and the protection of intellectual property. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can ever assist you.

With best wishes, I am Sincerely yours,
Roger W.
U.S. Senate

Senior Senator's Response
crickets... I think may get a "written"/sealed/marked response
I'm fired up about not getting a response from one of my members. But I am steamed that the ones who did respond sent me such blatantly robo-generated drivel with a little "real" sprinkled in.

US Constitution: Article 1 Sections 1-3

"Article I. Section 1. All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives. Section 2. The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States... Section 3. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State..." Full Text
Article 1 describes the legislative branch - Congress. Section 1 is pretty obvious from above, but just lays out that we have a bicameral legislature - not a new idea and extremely similar in concept to the British House of Lords (Senate) and House of Commons (Representatives). Section 2 describes the House and the qualifications to be part of it. Section 3 describes the Senate, making explicit that each state will have 2 votes. It is the equivalent of the "upper" house in which the elite make decisions without as much care for the fickle whims of the common man. The 6-year term in the Senate helps insulate these more powerful positions from that fickle public. Conversely, the House more closely reflects the will of the people and has always been viewed as the "lower" house. Congressmen serve only 2 years and a smaller number of people (with exceptions in VERY small states). This makes them (in theory) a bit more pliable to the direct will of their constituents, but also a bit more irrelevant and impotent to directly affect the path of the federal government. The high-falootin Senate augustly equalizes the playing field, making Senators from basically irrelevant states in the scheme of people-power (Bernie Sanders, VT; Harry Reid, NV; Thad Cochran, MS) into significantly more powerful individuals than their state "deserves" (based on size). I don't really have a beef with the first couple of sections of Article I and how we are implementing it. After all, this part is just the "what it is" part and not the "what it is allowed to do" part. I will go into a bit deeper discussion on the balance of Article I - some might even consider it a rant - to explain my expectations of Congress for the people to maintain our willful consent to be governed.

Check out TheSmartVoter.com to read more about government. Craig is starting up the site and needs participation. Take it as an opportunity to make your voice heard.

US Constitution: Preamble

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Umm... wow. So where to start with this one? How about WE THE PEOPLE for a lot of good reasons ordain and establish this Constitution. When written, the new country was operating under the Articles of Confederation which had some problems addressing commerce and basically how the states would act as one. I think of it like trying to decide where the family (republic) will eat while on a road trip with everyone in the car (the states) getting an equal vote and the ability to just go do their own thing in the food court if they disagree with what I (dad, or the federal government) say. Basically, the original Articles left much of the sovereignty at the state level and the nation couldn't stand as a cohesive unit. The people of the various states wanted to make it better - a more perfect union - so they determined it was in their best interest to cede more sovereignty to the federal government. This subject will be broached multiple times in the course of a constitutional discussion. But the founders believed in individual sovereignty (expressed by exercising our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). Just try googling "Benjamin Franklin individual". As soon as you pass the "d" and Google recognizes you aren't going for "inventions", all of the auto-complete suggestions are references to Franklin's strong individualism. That individual sovereignty was ceded at some level to a local government which coalesced into a state government. The preamble to the constitution lays out why the people (at the state level) are ceding their sovereignty to this three-headed dragon that is the federal government. The articles that follow it expressly describe the limits to which that cession of sovereignty was to reach in each branch.

The preamble, often recited by kids in grade school, sets the stage for a whole lot of heavy duty limits that the people place on the government. We'll see that the limits provided seem to be breached on a regular basis in today's world. But we'll save that discussion for another day.

Links to the other Constitution Posts:
Constitution Basics
Article 1, Sections 1-3
Article 1, Sections 4-6
Article 1, Section 7

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

US Constitution: Basics

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time...
This is not a history lesson. It is a civics lesson from my perspective. Many people I meet who span the entire age spectrum have not ever read the US Constitution, or at least not since they were in grade school. I personally keep a copy in my car and my briefcase just in case someone in either the government or a fellow citizen needs to know what the document we say we revere actually says. So I will start out with the basics and then move into each article/amendment, probably a section or two at a time. But here is an overview of the whole thing boiled down into a single paragraph.

The US Constitution is broken into 7 articles, with articles 1-3 describing the powers granted to the various branches of government. Granted will come in as an important point as we discuss how we implement the Constitution today. Articles 4-7 lay down the rules for how the government is to be viewed by the various states as well as the rules for changing the document itself. There are also 27 amendments, the first 10 of which are the Bill of Rights (think an addendum to your homework that you turn in a day late). Amendments 11-27 handle issues that the country faced over time including slavery, suffrage of various groups, term limits, et al (we'll get to it all soon enough). I look forward to breaking down this elephant of a document, the oldest constitution currently enforced in any nation, into bite size pieces that we can all understand and discuss. Perhaps a constitutional scholar with some direct article 2 experience will weigh in... nah. Those article 2 guys seem to be summarily ignoring the rest of the document these days - regardless of party. Speaking of parties... let's get this one started.

Updated with links to the other posts:
Constitution Basics
Preamble
Article 1, Sections 1-3
Article 1, Sections 4-6
Article 1, Section 7

Projects - Guide to Astronomy or Constitution?

I have 2 projects in mind to post here as a series. I can't decide which one to do first or whether to alternate and do both at the same time. The two subjects are the US Constitution and backyard astronomy.

I would like to take the constitution article by article and amendment by amendment and dissect it a bit, give a little history behind the article, enlighten those who just don't know what the various parts say, and discuss how we are or are not using it today. For example, the 4th amendment discussion will be a VERY long post given all of the things our government has done to weaken it over the last couple of decades.

I would also like to do a quick & dirty guide to the night sky. Put astronomy in terms that anyone can understand and provide a little of the side story behind the planets, stars, and constellations we all but ignore these days. A starry sky - even a light polluted one - holds many interesting features that, if nothing else, help you realize how small we are on Earth.

I don't receive comments on this blog often, but please leave one if you feel one way or the other and let me know in which topic you would be more interested.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Contagion? NZ Flu was a good fire drill

This weekend while perusing my twitter feed, I ran across stories of a strange flu-outbreak on a flight to New Zealand. I immediately found it strange that a bunch of people on the same plane broke out with symptoms and was, to be honest, a bit concerned that some new strain of flu could potentially be breaking free from SE Asia. Probably didn't help that I recently watched Contagion. But the NZ authorities took measures immediately to quarantine the flight. I still thought about the upstream issues (the departure airport, local area there, flights elsewhere from there, etc). But if all of these sypmtomatic folks broke out over the course of a flight, people would know quickly if they had the disease and be more easily quarantined. So news was slim and time was ticking...
Whew! Concerns Overblown! Now the kiwis say they went overboard but to err on the side of caution. This bothers me a bit and here's why. They did what they SHOULD HAVE DONE! You don't decide that you're overreacting to an event that has explosive potential during the event. You knock the everliving bejesus out of it (Mississippi for attack it really hard) and then address that in the after action report. Some worry that the public will be desensitized to the reaction by this overreaction. I say keep it coming, we need all the practice (with little impact) that we can get when something that ends up being relatively harmless happens.

You play like you practice and I'm proud of NZ for playing pretty well (even though they didn't know it was a scrimmage). I'm glad everyone is OK but this really drives home that we should all be ready to take action in the event that something like a pandemic breaks on our shores.

Here's another article from The Sydney Morning Herald

Thursday, February 09, 2012

AP1000s at VOGTLE APPROVED!

Vogtle will soon be a 4-unit site!
As a young guy in the nuclear industry who has repeatedly been told by the older generation that this nuclear renaissance thing is not gonna happen, I fight an uphill battle convincing folks that I think it will. I've already been involved with the commissioning of 8 reactor plant in my career and want to make that number a lot higher before I'm done. Based on the news today, I have one word... NYAHHH!! I know they haven't completed the site yet, but they have done a ton of non-safety work on the twin-units 3 & 4, which are AP1000 pressurized water reactors built by a consortium of Shaw/Westinghouse, and they can now pour the basemat and begin welding major structures, systems, & components. So those of us who will still be around in this industry in 20-30 years can have some hope that we can put some more on the ground, too.

UPDATE: I was pretty excited when this new came out. I was able to keep a handle on my engineering skils but lost the bubble on my English. So I had to make a few fixes to the sentence structure. My apologies.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

I Won a Soil Cube!

The Soil Cube is a small tool used to start seeds. More specifically, it is a mold that you stuff full of your soil and press into a small cube. You then press a small hole into the top with a threaded press. I've been wanting one, but it was way down the list of things I planned to buy as I have a few hundred dollars of other items to get to put the new L-shaped, Eliz-approved raised bed in the backyard. After all, my Pop never used a soil cube. Nonetheless I really wanted to add one to my toolbox for use starting seeds... meaning I wanted it now because IT'S TIME!

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I have become an avid listener of The Survival Podcast by Jack Spirko. Jack occasionally has listener appreciate contests in which you send the appropriate key words in the subject and a sponsor will send the winner their product. AWESOME! But there are more than 25,000 listeners and I listen to the podcast at least 5 hours after the podcast posts, so snagging a win out of one or two potential prizes before the other listeners get to them is like catching a t-shirt out of a t-shirt gun while sitting in the middle deck at an ACC football game. NOTE: I was gonna say football game generically, but I'm from the SEC. We have 25,000 at our spring scrimmage games.
But lo and behold, this morning after the dust cleared from a couple of busy meetings, 6 missed calls from my boss, a contractor, and my wife, I got an email saying I'd WON the soil cube. I never win anything in random drawings... I mean like NEVER. So this really brightened my day. I will do a review of the soil cube once I get it and have some free time to start my seeds. It's the least I can do for Clayton and Jack. THANKS Y'ALL!

PS - I'm jumping the gun a hair since Jack hasn't announced the winners as of this writing (he had to unexpectedly can his episode today), but he says getting content out there is the most important thing and write about what makes you tick... this is it today. So I hope I didn't ruin the suspense for any of the 50-100 people per day that read this if you are also a TSP listener.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Syria: Prayers & Source for Info

My prayers include a special mention and meditation for the people of Syria. They are going through a situation that is unimaginable to the latte-drinking crowd to which most of us belong. I'm trying to wrap my head around it. The mainstream media is barely talking about Syria, with an occasional mention on "the bottom line". However, Andy Carvin of NPR is on the ground and tweeting up a storm. He is sending out some pretty wild original stuff. But he is retweeting things for which you should take a moment to prepare yourself. But this stuff is happening... so we should ALL look. Don't ignore what's going on and then take some action based on what you see and hear. I leave it up to you to decide what to do and even how to feel about what you see. But take some time to find out about some of the horrible things going on in our world right now. It will put in perspective the "bad day" you think you had today. Here is a link to Andy's twitter profile @acarvin.

Whatever your beliefs, keep these people in your prayers. Or keep the people in Egypt, Sudan, or anywhere else where atrocities are happening in them.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Smart Voter Are you one? Find others.


Check out TheSmartVoter.com to help form the basis for your votes on election day. A guy I went to high school with has taken the last year to develop a site that encourages discussion about the people who will end up in office before they get there, as well as discourse between people who care about the issues that are confronting our country. Here are links to the various ways to engage in the site:
Here's why I'm there. I hope you will find your reason and join me. This country needs all of the SMART voters we can get. I have been interested in politics since I was in high school. To my stepmom's chagrin during a fund raiser in 1995, I told Trent Lott that I was going to take his [US Senate] seat one day. I spent election night '95 watching the results roll in while hanging out with the MS Speaker of the House followed by the parties. I loved the idea of being able to effect change on my state, my country, and our world. The years have added a bit of salt to my taste for politics, but as a voter I still stay on top of the issues that I think both matter and can be affected by a given position (i.e., the immigration position of a Secretary of State in MS is irrelevant, but not for a Presidential candidate). I believe that, unfortunately, the masses in our country vote based on the sophomoric ads put forth by the monied politicians who keep aerosol hair spray producers in business. Those guys will say just about anything to get in the game and then say AND do anything to stay in it. It makes me sick, so I really try hard to know who I'm voting for or whether I need to simply abstain totally because I can't vote for either clown on a ballot.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Project: Build rifles for the boys with granddaddy

Now that I've been back home in Mississippi for a few years, I am getting back to my roots a bit with respect to gardening, hunting, and other skills that I let founder over the course of my college and Navy career. When I was 8 I started with a single shot .410 shotgun from Harrington & Richardson. From there, I moved up to a rimfire rifle with my Marlin 75C .22 caliber rifle (the old carbine version of the Model 60, which now IS the model 60). Both of these were squirrel terminators. Neither kicked to speak of and were easy weapons on which to learn marksmanship and firearm safety. I later moved up to a 12 gauge identical to my 410. There is a great set of videos from Dave Canterbury (of Dual Survival) about the H&R 12 gauge and its versatility. My sons are old enough that they & their friends are starting to get BB guns and at an age close to where I got my 410. But now I look back and think of how I would have made different purchases if I was doing it now to end up with weapons that are more versatile long term but just as simple to learn and use as a kid. My dad always wants gifts to be meaningful. Between his desire to be meaningful and our shared goal to teach the boys lots of skills that everyone used to know, I think the next couple of birthdays/Christmases are going to focus on building up the boys sets of long-term tools like firearms and knives.

That leads me to starting them out on a 22 and letting them use my 410 until they can handle a 12 gauge and centerfire rifles. I've looked around at 22s and I certainly considered buying a couple of Marlins. After all, 2 is 1 and 1 is none. So 3 Marlins is like having 1.5 or something like that. However, that means I would spend somewhere north of $100 per rifle and be limited to 14-shot 22s. A little more digging and review reading led me to drop in conversions of AR-15s chambered in .223/5.56NATO to allow shooting 22s (25-round magazine). It provides an affordable alternative to shooting .223 or just a reliable platform from which to shoot 22s that can grow up to a 223 as the boys grow. To end up with a working AR-15, you need either 1 -OR- 2 AND 3 (more customizeable and cheaper) below. I threw in 4 below just for fun. It's a good little gun, best pump 12-gauge for the money, though admittedly is basically a copy of the Remington 870. To get the working AR-15 to become a 22, you also need 5 (or something similar from their comptetitors).

1. Whole Rifle: $650 & up You can literally spend as much as you want on these things. But if you spend $1000 or more, you're paying for the label. Mil-spec is mil-spec. Almost all of these rifles will be better than the marksman pulling the trigger.
Olympic Arms "Plinker Plus" flat top ("A4") with collapsible stock and railed gas block. This is kinda the bottom end of what I'd want to get for them. It has no customization and would require optics/backup iron sights to function.

2. Complete AR-15 Kit EXCEPT Stripped Lower Receiver $400 & up. This is all of the parts necessary to build a rifle except the lower reciever, which is the part of the rifle that is actually classified as the firearm by the feds. Similar to the entire rifle, you can go anywhere on the price spectrum from Yugo to MacLaren with these parts. The kit linked below gets you into a functional rifle with an adjustable length of pull (so the kids can use it) as well as a flash hider to which a suppressor that my family is considering can be mounted. J&T Distributing
- LW (lightweight) Barrel
- 6-Position DS-4 adjustable stock
- Picatinnny Rail Gas Block
- CAR Handguards
- Standard carrier, charging handle, trigger, trigger guard
- Hogue grip +20
- Phantom A-2 flash hider +$25

3. Stripped Lower Receiver: This is the only part of the rifle that has to be bought/picked up from a firearms dealer locally. Can't ship to your house, etc. But there are multiple options here and if it's mil spec it truly doesn't matter that much which you go with. Just find one you like, click, buy, pick up at local federal firearms licensee.
Mega Arms "Gator" with atom logo $109 (What nuke shouldn't have an atom logo reciever?)
Spikes Tactical SP-15 with spider logo $99 (The spider is just bad news)
Aero Precision $79
CMMG $79 (If sold out, there are others like DPMS for +$10-20)


4. 12-gauge Pump Shotgun for Home Defense/Hunting
New England Firearms "Pardner Pump" NP1-P18 (18.5" barrel, black synthetic stock, 5+1)

5. Drop in 22LR Conversion Kit from CMMG. You literally open up the rifle, remove the bolt carrier group, insert the kit and insert the 22 magazine... poof! You have a 22 on the AR platform.

Once you have 2 and 3 in your possession, it's a relatively simple matter to put all of the parts together assuming you have a couple of tools around like a strap wrench, vice, and some punches. Assembling your own rifle allows you to be familiar with its inner workings and I think letting my sons help assemble their rifles would be both a great learning experience and a fantastic memory with their dad and grandfather.