Friday, December 20, 2013

Calling out Glenn Greenwald.

Wait, what was that?  Calling out Glenn Greenwald?

Yes.  You read that right.  And I'm talking about a legitimate calling-out, too--not the playbook-regurgitated tripe that you'd expect from the various flavors of American Exceptionalism.

I've been following, with some interest, Arthur Silber's recent work on this topic (which seemed to start back in June, here and here), and as much admiration as I have for Greenwald's work (and I do), Silber's core point cannot be denied.  He articulated it in October, this way (emphasis in original):

...Greenwald, together with the other journalists to whom he has granted access to the Snowden documents and who abide by his ground rules, is engaged in precisely the same exercise of power that the State employs. Yet Greenwald continues to vehemently condemn the State's exercise of such power, just as he condemns those who obey the State's edicts, while he and his enthusiastic fans view his identical exercise of power in glowing terms, offering endless praise for the "bravery," "courage" and "independence" demonstrated by those who bring us these carefully selected, sanitized, edited, and redacted tidbits from the documentation of the State's actions and crimes.

Silber makes this case by illustrating the substantive differences between WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden (emphasis in original), of which this is just an excerpt:

...WikiLeaks' methodology stands in stark contrast to that used by the journalists to whom Edward Snowden gave his document trove. These journalists insist that filtering of the "raw" documents is indispensable to understanding by the otherwise untutored (and, presumably, unwashed) public. These journalists will first select which documents we will be permitted to see, and which we won't (which is most of them). But that is far from sufficient in the view of these journalists, who are gifted with powers of understanding and judgment far exceeding the abilities of us ordinary schmucks. We are told that the Snowden documents are "difficult" and "complex." Therefore, when we are allowed an occasional glimpse of carefully selected documents, these journalists will explain to us what we should think of them, and what conclusions we are entitled to reach. These self-appointed authorities are genuinely dedicated to the role they have granted themselves: they will guide us in every step we take. Our "protectors" will guard from all the dangers that might unleash chaos resulting in the immediate implosion of the rigid structures that narrowly circumscribe our lives: an original thought, a unique perspective, an unexpected insight.

You can see where he's going with this.  And while it's not that I want him to be right about it--Greenwald seems to make for a truly excellent hero in many respects--I sure can't see where he's wrong.  (As with so much of Silber's work, you don't so much read it as confront it--which is what makes it some of the most useful writing available today.)

And if I'm understanding events properly, Greenwald just seems to be serving himself up perfectly according to the very script he seems to have spent so long railing against.  For anyone who does bother to look beyond his past laurels and view his current actions critically, it ain't lookin' so good for Glenn Greenwald.  (Emphasis and links in original.)

If there is a single general theme to Glenn Greenwald's career as a journalist, it is that he constantly confronts and challenges power and those who exercise power, primarily in the political sphere. Greenwald himself has often proclaimed this to be his major concern, and he repeated this conviction in a recent interview: "I came to believe if you’re smart, skilled, and have the resources, you should use those things to fuck with the powerful.”

So challenging power and those individuals who exercise power is a positive good, one of critical significance. Indeed, if you are able to do so, you should "fuck with the powerful."

Pierre Omidyar is a multibillionaire. On Fortune magazine's list of "The World's Billionaires," Omidyar appears as number 123. Fortune describes that article as follows: "The names, numbers and stories behind the 1,426 people who control the world economy." At 123, Omidyar is very high on the list of people who control the world economy.

Look, I'm hardly against the idea of wealth honestly earned, but even if Omidyar is just exactly, precisely that, still:  that's painfully ironic and Greenwald has got to know that.  (For anyone who isn't yet up on the Omidyar connection, see here and here.  The short story is that he seems to want to make GG into some sort of large-scale franchise.)

Nor does it help that the State seems to have found a perfect comfort with Greenwald's "filtered leaks" strategy.  Rather than offer a quote from the article, I'll just use Silber's title, which says it all:  The Establishment Makes Big, Sloppy Love to the Snowden Leaks.  Again, more than worth a RTWT.

As much as I hate to admit it, as a whole this stinks pretty big.   I wanted to believe better, but with Master so content, chaos replaced with subjective "management", and what leaking there actually is backseated for books and branding deals...

...well, it'll take something pretty spectacular to recover from that.  I don't think I have that much more breath left to hold.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Kurt does it again.

This wound up here because the commenting engine over at Examiner (currently Disqus) got all stoopid again, at least for me, this morning.  I thought it was worth keeping.

Kurt Hofmann has another great article out there, comparing the recent Arapahoe High School shooter and professional victim disarmer Evie Hudak.  It's worth the read.

This is what I tried to post in response.

Excellent work, Kurt. The comparison is a simply outstanding observation.

Not to pick on you specifically as you're hardly the only one who does this, but I dislike dehumanizing terms like "filth" to describe other people--even the very worst examples anyone could imagine, like killers or politicians. You know me well enough, I think, to understand what I mean by this. Dehumanization is a deliberate tactic of the very people
that wish "our kind" could be removed from the earth entirely, and we should always avoid the path of becoming what we behold, even when it seems like picking nits. I'm also of the opinion that it doesn't add anything to the weight of a valid point--and your point in this article is SO superb that I'd not want anything hanging out there that someone could use as a lever to actively ignore it. After all, many people are committed to their ignorance, and are just looking for something to grasp onto when they have nothing of substance themselves. We should deny that comfort at every opportunity.

Just to be clear, I certainly don't mean to steer anyone away from the fine art of properly-targeted ridicule for those who so richly deserve it. Here, for example, the term "self-righteous busybodies" is right on--both dead accurate, and also distinctly human.

And once again: a truly outstanding observation. You're becoming somewhat of a specialist in this format--I do hope you keep it up. :-)

Friday, December 6, 2013

From the 'Problem? What problem?' file...

Behold the logo of the newest National Reconnaissance Office satellite:

Nah.  Nothing to see here, peasant.  Move along.

H/T to LRC, via Grigg on Facebook.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

And...I loves me some Pyramyd Air.

Wow, that was quick.

Here's the deal, briefly:  

If you know anyone who is either already into the Jeff Cooper "scout scope" concept, or who would like to try it out,  please pass on this news.  A promising new glass from Leapers is now available, and the outstanding folks at Pyramyd Air have agreed to carry it.  It may not be for everyone, but it seems worth trying out.

Here's the story:

It was only recently I found the back-post on Tom Gaylord's blog about SHOT Show 2013, in which he reported on a new scout scope offering from Leapers, a variable-power glass promising a full field of view.  (For anyone who has been around the scout scope concept for a while, that is a Big Deal.)  I must have missed it the first time around (I've been reading Tom's outstanding airgun blog for over a year now), and frankly I don't remember exactly what it was that caused me to look there so long after the fact, but Hugo Foxtrot Sierra, am I glad I did.  :-)

And it now seems that Pyramyd Air will carry the glass.  The funny part is that I may have had a small hand in that.  At the bottom of the comment stream to the SHOT post (the thread starts here), you can see me getting all excited about it, offering up some reasons I think people might be interested in the scope.  And suddenly Tom reports that Pyramyd Air will indeed stock it.

Awesome.  I look forward to seeing what they offer it for, if MSRP from Leapers is $200.  (I don't have a Spidey-sense yet for how street prices and MSRP relate in the airgun world.)  That already seems like a great value for what this represents.

The planning part of my mind has already decided that I may need at least three of these.  (That part doesn't bother to wait around for the fiscally responsible part, before making plans.  :-)   Provided that the glass does what it seems to promise, I'm currently thinking of using it on the following:

  • An '03 "Springfield scout" .30/06.  I originally conceived this as a backup to the Steyr, and it would remain that, but...with a 2-7x variable that gives up nothing but (a lot of) weight to the fixed 2.5x, this might well become the primary hunting rifle as well.  Left at 2x, but with the ability to dial up to 7 if appropriate...with significantly improved field of view and light transmission from a 30mm tube and 44mm (adjustable) objective...with adjustment-friendly turrets and available illumination on an etched reticle (i.e., not subject to breakage, and simply black on any illumination failure)...and for $200 or less?  Hell yeah, I'll try that out.

  • The Benjamin Marauder .22 air pistol I've got such a jones for right now.  The trick will be mounting, but if that can be sorted out this would seem to be a great fit.  The "pistol" comes with a carbine buttstock, and I would think the advantages of the scout scope would fit that system very well.  Among other things it would clear up the loading area for the rotary pellet magazine.  With airguns especially, if I am learning things properly, the advantages of an adjustable objective and adjustment-friendly turrets are considerable.

  • An as-yet-to-be-conceived Airsoft bolt rifle.  The way discussions are going with Tom Gaylord's commentariat, it seems that a spring Airsoft bolt rifle just might be capable of enough precision to make a viable firearm trainer, and so the idea of building one up as an "Airsoft scout" is up in the fore-brain right now.  Again, the trick will be mounting, but I'm hopeful on that.  With the magnification left low and/or the target perspective considered carefully (smaller targets for the closer ranges), this might allow a whole lot of practice cycles for a very efficient use of funds.

  • A flattop AR .223.  As I learn more about the AR platform, I find myself coming back to the idea that it might be possible to set up a carbine with scout features.  For a while it seemed like this would be counterproductive, but I'm not at all sure that's right any more.  And the Leapers unit would make lots of sense on a gun I see as being a real sport-utility piece (defensive, varminter, and with Barnes X-bullets, some light big game at moderate range):  friendly adjustment turrets, a useful magnification range, and all the available speed of the intermediate eye relief concept.  The way the AR is arranged, the scout scope is not an essential item the way it is on a traditional rifle (the other AR setup option for me is to use a conventional glass along with the "backup irons" that are offset 45 degrees from the top rail, which is actually more intuitive than I'd have guessed) but the consistency and redundancy of using the same scope style across everything still appeals, and may not give up much in the end.

And of course other ideas percolate as well.  The Marauder (air) rifle might also benefit from the magnification range and adjustments;  it seems that lots of people put much bigger glass on their "M-rods", but jeez, with the Steyr I can hit reliably at 400 with a 2.5x, so I'm still thinking that an available 7x is going to be plenty for even a long-range airgun.  (Do these guys know something I don't?)  As well, if I do get serious about Airsoft (and I suspect I will, soon), it would be smart to set up an Airsoft AR the same way the firearm is set up, both with the glass and any backup irons, Ching Sling, etc.  (And then there are the .22 rimfire versions of both the bolt-gun and the AR carbine, which would also benefit from setups that mirror the centerfires they support...  See where I'm going with this?  :-)

The 2.5x Leupolds will still stick around, of course.  They work well, at least out to the limits of which I am capable.  The Steyr will continue to wear its original glass (I know exactly what I can do with that system, and feel no need to change it), and I like the idea of having quick-detach scout scopes available for rifles whose primary sighting system is irons, like the Marlin 45/70.  Clamp the scope on for load development, then remove to set zero and carry afield.  Or, hunt with it--certainly wouldn't be the first time!

I'm excited about this new option.  (Can you tell?)  Call it enthusiastically hopeful.  Now, it's certainly possible that the new Leapers glass offers little advantage to someone who already understands the scout scope concept.  After all, magnification over 2-3x is usually unnecessary for sighting (since we don't glass for targets through riflescopes, right?), and can even be counterproductive as the disparity of focus between the two eyes (which are both open and tracking, right?) gets larger.  And bells and whistles always come at a cost, which in this case isn't so much in dollars, but in weight.  They should buy something for that cost.

I have a hunch that they do, here.  How much, I'll have to see for myself once I acquire my first example.  But the promise of improved field of view, improved light transmission, and the durability of an etched reticle, with the available options of dialing up and illuminating the reticle--and at a cost which seems very reasonable--may make the option worthwhile.

Kudos to Leapers for offering the glass, To the invaluable Tom Gaylord for making me aware of it, and to Pyramyd Air for carrying it.


Edith Gaylord updates us both with a link at Pyramyd Air, and indirectly, with the offering price:  $180.   Excellent!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Nixed personally by Bob Costas?

It's not that I get all misty-eyed at the plight of the "betrayed soldier".  Voluntary fealty to the Beltway brass just doesn't impress me at all, and would seem to carry entirely predictable results from the beginning.  But--provided it's true--I've gotta give Daniel Defense one up on this effort.

It seems that this submission for inclusion as a Super Bowl ad got summarily rejected on account of being insufficiently supportive of what might now be called The Costas Opinion.  Not really much of a surprise there;  the NFL has certainly made its opinion of the grubby masses perfectly clear before, and seems to have been stepping it up with some regularity lately.

And that's what I like about DD's effort here.  It's something, on record now, that lots of people can identify with, that exposes the league's transparent bigotry for what it is.  And aside from replacing the soldier with a true Everyman, it makes an excellent and unapologetic point available for pretty broad consumption.

Good on 'em.

Of course, I'm more of a crank, myself, and I'd have probably gone a little farther.  In this vein, it seems that Colion Noir has got the news too, and personally, I'd prefer to see his response run as the ad:

Nicely done. 

But my real pick for a slot to run during the Super Bowl would still have to be this one:

Sunday, December 1, 2013

This is significant.

Via airgun ace Tom Gaylord, I recently learned about a new "scout scope" offering from Leapers, which promises a full field of view from a variable-power, intermediate eye relief glass.  Tom had seen a 3-9xthis one is a 2-7x.

The negative:  at over 25 ounces it's almost painfully heavy, compared to the workhorse Leupold fixed 2.5x unit (7.5oz) I've grown so accustomed to.  Yowch.

The unknown:   how low this unit can mount may be open to question.  I also don't know how Leapers scopes hold up.  IIRC, Gaylord said he found the optical quality on the scope he saw, to be comparable or better than a Leupold Vari-X II, and he would think that the durability and overall quality should be about the same. 

But boy, the rest of it is all very intriguing.  Field of view, the raison d'etre here, is listed (at 100 yards) as 32' at 2x and 10' at 7x;  compare this to Burris' 2-7x scout scope (21' at 2x and 7' at 7x), or to a conventional eye relief 3-9x variable at 33' at 3x and 13' at 9x, and you begin to understand the significance.  (The Leupold 2.5x scout is 22' at 100yd.)  Exit pupil numbers, on a 30mm tube and 44mm objective, are impressive.  Turrets promise to be friendly.  The illuminated reticle options seem more like a frill than a requirement, but they might be nice, and the etched reticle itself really does seem like a nice touch.

2-7x is a pretty useful range, for a variable, and hell, for someone accustomed to scopes fixed at 2.5x, dialing up to 7x is going to seem huge.  For the price (Leapers has MSRP showing two bills) that would seem to be a good value.

So!  Plans duly modified.  Start by testing it on the AR platform, and if it works out there, maybe add a copy to the 03 Springfield Scout.