Monday, December 31, 2012

Voyager 1 cruising along magnetic highway

Voyager 1 cruising along magnetic highway
Posted: December 3, 2012

The Voyager 1 spacecraft, sailing through the unexplored frontier of the solar system, has detected a new region of space at the enigmatic boundary between the sun's sphere of influence and the interstellar medium, scientists said Monday.


Artist's concept depicting the Voyager 1 spacecraft exploring a new region at the edge of the solar system. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

More than 35 years since launching from Earth, the plutonium-powered Voyager 1 probe has flown past Jupiter and Saturn and is now pioneering science at the edge of the heliosphere, a teardrop-shaped bubble blown out by the solar wind.

Beyond the heliosphere lies a vacuous expanse known as interstellar space, where the solar wind stops and material expelled from exploding stars hold reign.

Voyager 1, the most distant human-made object, is the first spacecraft to explore the boundary region.

In July and August, scientists noticed intriguing data coming from Voyager 1's particle counters as the craft flew more than 11 billion miles from Earth.

"Voyager has discovered a new region of the heliosphere that we had not realized was there," said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The instruments registered dramatic, temporary changes in the levels of cosmic rays and low-energy particles two times in late July and mid-August.

On Aug. 25, Voyager 1 detector sensed a permanent rise in high-energy cosmic rays, just as the probe's telescopes a sharp drop in low-energy particles coming from inside the heliosphere.

Scientists believed cosmic rays, which originate from outside the solar system, would not penetrate the heliopause, the border where the heliosphere and interstellar space meet. And researchers thought low-energy particles from the solar system would be constrained inside the heliosphere.

"If we had only looked at particle data alone, we would have said we're out. Goodbye, solar system," said Stamatios Krimigis, principal investigator of the low-energy charged particle instrument, based at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

But scientists instituted a third test to check whether Voyager 1 had crossed the heliopause and left the solar system.

Inside the heliosphere, the magnetic field is oriented in an east-west direction due to the spinning of the sun. Outside, scientists say, evidence points to the magnetic field being in a north-south direction.

So far, Voyager 1 has not recorded a change in magnetic field direction, according to Leonard Burlaga, a Voyager magnetometer team member based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.


This artist's concept shows how NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft is bathed in solar wind from the southern hemisphere flowing northward. It also depicts Voyager 1's location relative to the heliosphere and interstellar space. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

But Burlaga said Voyager 1's magnetometer indicates the craft is in a much more intense magnetic environment than before the summer.

"We are in a magnetic region unlike any we've been in before - about 10 times more intense than before the termination shock - but the magnetic field data show no indication we're in interstellar space," Burlaga said. "The magnetic field data turned out to be the key to pinpointing when we crossed the termination shock. And we expect these data will tell us when we first reach interstellar space."

Voyager 1 passed the termination shock in December 2004, entering a region called the heliosheath, in which the million-mile-per-hour solar wind slowed and became turbulent. From December 2004 until the summer of 2012, the environment around Voyager 1 was consistent.

Researchers say Voyager 1 is now in a region where the sun's magnetic field lines are connected to interstellar magnetic field lines. The connection creates an avenue between the solar system and the space outside, allowing low-energy particles from inside the heliosphere to stream out and allows cosmic rays from interstellar space to pass inside.

Scientists call the connection a magnetic highway because the magnetic field lines allow particles to freely flow in and out of the heliosphere.

Stone said it is impossible to predict exactly when Voyager 1 will leave the solar system.

"It could take several more months or take several more years, but we believe this may be the very last layer between us and interstellar space," Stone said.

Voyager 1, along with a twin craft named Voyager 2, launched in 1977 to tour the solar system's outer planets. Both probes are now on trajectories leaving the solar system.

Voyager 2, flying in a different direction than its sister craft, is now about 9 billion miles away and will reach interstellar space several years after Voyager 1.

"In 1977, no one knew how large the heliosphere was, and no one knew how long the spacecraft would last," Stone said. "We're very lucky that there seems to be a compatibility between our mission lifetime and the size of the heliosphere."

Suzanne Dodd, Voyager's project manager, said about 12 engineers and support personnel work on the mission full-time at JPL. Another dozen researchers are on the Voyager science team.

The Voyager probes are powered by the radioactive decay of plutonium-238. A power generator converts heat from the plutonium's decay into electricity.

The power source will be sufficient to operate all of spacecraft's science instruments until around 2020, then controllers will begin to switch off the sensors one-by-one. By 2025, there be no electricity for any of Voyager's instruments, according to Stone, who has been with the project since launch.

But scientists are confident the Voyager probes will last long enough to leave the heliosphere and taste interstellar space.

"We could well be quite surprised once we get outside the bubble," Stone said.



"Benedict Arnold" Kerry, Secretary of State?

Keep up with the latest political information at:

"Benedict Arnold" Kerry, Secretary of State?
by Bob Pappas

It is notable that Secretary Clinton is recovering from her concussion right on schedule with her planned departure from the State Department. It is equally notable that the media has had little interest in exploring the connection between the Benghazi disaster, its cover-up, Clinton's fall and the concussion that ostensibly was the reason for her not testifying. But now that the time for her departure is rapidly approaching, she is getting better and will emerge from sequestration just as soon as her departure date passes. Good, honorable behavior, precisely what Americans expect of their public servants, not.

Enter Senator "Swift Boat" Kerry, the darling of every America-self hater, a latter day liberal and pariah for most Vietnam, Iraqi and Afghanistan Veterans.  The Senator has an earned reputation of maligning the sacrifice and service of American Servicemen and women and now looms large as Obama's nominee for Secretary of State.  Had he been a patriot who supported military members, he would at the least be tolerable despite his insufferable arrogance.  Kerry has consistently engaged in disinformation and defamation of the nation's military and is unworthy to represent the United States of America to the world. But alas, consider who is nominating him.

He was deservedly "swift boated" by all but one or two of his Navy, Vietnam cohorts during his candidacy for President. Upon his separation from military service he maligned military members in a self-promoting monologue at Senate hearings; tossed his military awards onto the White House South Lawn in protest against the Vietnam War; consorted with North Vietnamese during the same; cultivated relations with the Sandinistas during U.S. efforts to liberate Nicaragua from Communist domination; the same with Assad of Syria and Hussein of Iraq during those tyrants' reign; and both the Soviets and Chinese Communists during the Cold War. 

That any Senator would sully his reputation by endorsing much less voting for Senator Kerry's confirmation is all but incomprehensible. Take Senator "Maverick" McCain who spent five and a half years as a POW in Vietnam at the precise time that Kerry was consorting with the enemy for example.  Yet, McCain has evidently endorsed Senator Kerry...and whereas that is a magnanimous gesture at the personal level, it is an unforgivable insult to every serviceman and woman who served in Vietnam and the Middle East. One hopes he changes his mind otherwise he will go down in history, not as a great American hero who did and stood for what is right, but as a pathetic ineffective loser who wasted his own life and desecrated the service of millions of brave and patriotic Americans.

One understands that elections have consequences...but consequences do not spell "anything he wants." If that is the case why not give Obama everything he wants, close up shop and go home...regardless of the effects on the nation?  Whether Secretary of Defense or State, confirming Kerry would be a slap in the face of the 58 thousand patriots who gave their lives, the hundred fifty thousand plus who were wounded and the 8 million who served in Vietnam...not to mention 600 plus POWs (except the turncoats and Senator McCain); and all service-members'  families. 

I believe in forgiveness...have written as much on a number of occasions. But forgiveness presupposes penitence and neither Benedict Arnold nor Senator Kerry have been penitent nor sought forgiveness. Senator McCain and all other right thinking Senators should show some political spine, forget Senate collegiality and do what is right for American service men and women, not to mention America, by voting against Kerry's confirmation. 

Semper Fidelis and Peace
Bob Pappas

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Copyright © December 31st, 2012 by Robert L. Pappas. With proper attribution, this essay may be quoted and redistributed, except it may not be used in conjunction with any advertisement without the author’s expressed written permission.

Washington Post Endorsement of Kerry Curious and Curiouser

December 30, 2012

The editorial staff of the Washington Post surely meant well. They wanted readers to think that Sen. John Kerry's vast experience in foreign policy over four decades equips him to serve as Secretary of State in the second Obama administration.

The editorial, titled "John Kerry: Well-suited to be Secretary of State," gets that part right. The natty Mr. Kerry certainly looks the part of a globe-trotting senior U.S. diplomat.

As to his qualifications for that role, we're reminded of Frederick the Great's response when he was urged to make a less than stellar general a field marshal. Reminded the only-occasionally victorious general had been in every battle for years, Frederick pointed to his mount: "So has my mule. Must I make him a field marshal, too?"

The Post editorialists offer a tour d'horizon of world hot spots and suggest Kerry has already been helpful in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt and Sudan.

Can anyone point to improvements in U.S. policy toward any of those benighted lands under this administration? Do we really need Kerry's help to persuade Hamid Karzai to take more U.S. gold to hold more dubious elections?

The millions of Christian refugees who have fled Sudan will find cold comfort in the thought that John Kerry has helped smooth their flight.

Pakistan? Only two percent of Pakistani citizens pay taxes, NPR tells us, but now Americans will face tax hikes in part so we can continue lavishing money on a country that hates us.

The Post editorial helpfully reminds us that Kerry was "convinced by" Syria's cynical Bashir al-Assad that the Damascus butcher was actually a reformer.

And, this is evidence of Kerry's fitness for office?

Perhaps, the most curious part of the Post endorsement of Kerry is the notion that defeated presidential candidates have something special to offer as Secretary of State. Nice thought, until it collides with the test of history.

Consider William Seward, Lincoln's defeated rival and hand-picked Sec. of State. Seward gave Lincoln shrewd advice on the Emancipation Proclamation, to be sure, and on shepherding the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery through a lame-duck

Congress (as the movie Lincoln memorably records).

But Seward's foreign policy ideas were positively dangerous. In the midst of Civil War, he welcomed a war with Great Britain. That could have proven fatal for the embattled Union. Lincoln wisely leashed the wily New Yorker, saying: "One war at a time, Seward."

Another presidential loser, William Jennings Bryan, was Democrat Woodrow Wilson's disastrous choice for Sec. of State. Pacifist Bryan busied himself concluding binding arbitration treaties with scores of foreign states-like Uruguay and Switzerland.

When Germany sank the Lusitania in 1915, killing thousands of civilians, Bryan quit in a huff. Despite the deaths of hundreds of Americans, including infants, Bryan thought Wilson's stiff note-typed on his own typewriter--was too "one-sided" against the Germans. It seems Bryan thought the doomed Lusitania had put herself right in the path of those German torpedoes.

Republican Charles Evans Hughes lost to President Wilson by a whisker in 1916. Former President Theodore Roosevelt, frustrated with Hughes (who hailed from T.R.'s native New York) dismissed the wishy-washy Hughes as "Wilson with whiskers."

A poor campaigner, Hughes was even worse as Warren Harding's Sec. of State. Hughes pursued naval disarmament after World War I. That antagonized Japan. And stripped U.S. defenses in the Pacific. Thousands of the nearly 80,000 U.S. and Filipino troops taken prisoner died on the infamous Bataan Death March of 1942. The crosses over their makeshift graves bear mute testimony to unwise foreign policies heedlessly pursued.

Speaking of New Yorkers who failed to catch the presidential gold ring, we come to former senator, now Sec. of State, Hillary Clinton. We sincerely hope Madame Secretary recovers from her concussion soon. But, while her widely anticipated congressional testimony on the Benghazi debacle will grab headlines, the totality of her tenure should not be passed over.

She badgered Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, most undiplomatically in public, in Ottawa for not pushing abortion in pro-life East African nations. She helped Vice President Biden force abortion into the new Kenya constitution, threatening these African Christians with a cutoff of U.S. aid. This, from a Secretary of State who once admitted abortion is "wrong." [Newsweek, Oct. 31, 1994]

While claiming to champion women worldwide, Hillary Clinton has been mum about the global war on unborn baby girls. Estimates range in the hundreds of millions of unborn children killed because they were female.

But, we digress!

Given the record of defeated presidential candidates trying to make a comeback as Secretary of State, the Post's endorsement becomes curious and curiouser.

Senators should press Sen. Kerry hard before taking the Post's advice on this nomination.

Editor's Note: This column was co-authored by Bob Morrison.

Regulating the Militia

Regulating the Militia

My friend Brett Joshpe has published an uncharacteristically soft-headed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle arguing that in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook, conservatives and Republicans should support what he calls “sensible” gun-control laws. It begins with a subtext of self-congratulation (“As a conservative and a Republican, I can no longer remain silent . . . Some will consider it heresy,” etc.), casts aspersions of intellectual dishonesty (arguments for preserving our traditional rights are “disingenuous”), advances into ex homine (noting he has family in Sandy Hook, as though that confers special status on his preferences), fundamentally misunderstands the argument for the right to keep and bear arms, deputizes the electorate, and cites the presence of teddy bears as evidence for his case.

Brett, like practically every other person seeking to diminish our constitutional rights, either does not understand the purpose of the Second Amendment or refuses to address it, writing, “Gun advocates will be hard-pressed to explain why the average American citizen needs an assault weapon with a high-capacity magazine other than for recreational purposes.” The answer to this question is straightforward: The purpose of having citizens armed with paramilitary weapons is to allow them to engage in paramilitary actions. The Second Amendment is not about Bambi and burglars — whatever a well-regulated militia is, it is not a hunting party or a sport-clays club. It is remarkable to me that any educated person — let alone a Harvard Law graduate — believes that the second item on the Bill of Rights is a constitutional guarantee of enjoying a recreational activity.

There is no legitimate exception to the Second Amendment for military-style weapons, because military-style weapons are precisely what the Second Amendment guarantees our right to keep and bear. The purpose of the Second Amendment is to secure our ability to oppose enemies foreign and domestic, a guarantee against disorder and tyranny. Consider the words of Supreme Court justice Joseph Story — who was, it bears noting, appointed to the Court by the guy who wrote the Constitution:

The importance of this article will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected upon the subject. The militia is the natural defence of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expenses, with which they are attended, and the facile means, which they afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers, to subvert the government, or trample upon the rights of the people. The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.

“Usurpation and arbitrary power of the rulers” — not Bambi, not burglars. While your granddad’s .30-06 is a good deal more powerful than the .223 rifles that give blue-state types the howling fantods, that is not what we have a constitutional provision to protect. Liberals are forever asking: “Why would anybody need a gun like that?” And the answer is: because we are not serfs. We are a free people living under a republic of our own construction. We may consent to be governed, but we will not be ruled.

The right to keep and bear arms is a civil right. If you doubt that, consider the history of arms control in England, where members of the Catholic minority (and non-Protestants generally) were prohibited from bearing arms as part of the campaign of general political oppression against them. The Act of Disenfranchisement was still in effect when our Constitution was being written, a fact that surely was on the mind of such Founding Fathers as Daniel Carroll, to say nothing of his brother, Archbishop John Carroll.

The Second Amendment speaks to the nature of the relationship between citizen and state. Brett may think that such a notion is an antiquated relic of the 18th century, but then he should be arguing for wholesale repeal of the Second Amendment rather than presenting — what’s the word? — disingenuous arguments about what it means and the purpose behind it.

If we want to reduce the level of criminal violence in our society, we should start by demanding that the police and criminal-justice bureaucracies do their job. Massacres such as Sandy Hook catch our attention because they are so unusual. But a great deal of the commonplace violence in our society is preventable. Brett here might look to his hometown: There were 1,662 murders in New York City from 2003 to 2005, and a New York Times analysis of the data found that in 90 percent of the cases, the killer had a prior criminal record. (About half the victims did, too.) Events such as Sandy Hook may come out of nowhere, but the great majority of murders do not. The police function in essence as a janitorial service, cleaning up the mess created in part by our dysfunctional criminal-justice system.

We probably would get more out of our criminal-justice system if it were not so heavily populated by criminals. As I note in my upcoming book, The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome, it can be hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys:

For more than twenty years, NYPD detectives worked as enforcers and assassins for the Gambino crime family; in 2006 two detectives were convicted not only of murder and conspiracy to commit murder but also on charges related to such traditional mob activity as labor racketeering, running illegal gambling rings, extortion, narcotics trafficking, obstruction of justice, and the like. This was hardly an isolated incident; only a few years prior to the NYPD convictions more than 70 LAPD officers associated with the city’s anti-gang unit were found to have been deeply involved in gang-affiliated criminal enterprises connected to the Bloods street gang. Their crimes ranged from the familiar police transgressions of falsifying evidence, obstructing justice, and selling drugs seized in arrests to such traditional outlaw fare as bank robbery — they were cops and robbers. More than 100 criminal convictions were overturned because of evidence planted or falsified by officers of the LAPD. One scholarly account of the scandal concluded that such activity is not atypical but rather systemic — and largely immune to attempts at reform: “The current institution of law enforcement in America does appear to reproduce itself according [to] counter-legal norms . . . attempts to counteract this reproduction via the training one receives in police academies, the imposition of citizen review boards, departments of Internal Affairs, etc. do not appear to mitigate against this structural continuity between law enforcement and crime.”

The Department of Homeland Security has existed for only a few years but it already has been partly transformed into an organized-crime syndicate. According to a federal report, in 2011 alone more than 300 DHS employees and contractors were charged with crimes ranging from smuggling drugs and child pornography to selling sensitive intelligence to drug cartels. That’s not a few bad apples — that’s an arrest every weekday and many weekends. Given the usual low ratio of arrests to crimes committed, it is probable that DHS employees are responsible for not hundreds but thousands of crimes. And these are not minor infractions: Agents in the department’s immigration division were caught selling forged immigrant documents, and DHS vehicles have been used to transport hundreds (and possibly thousands) of pounds of illegal drugs. A “standover” crew — that is, a criminal enterprise that specializes in robbing other criminals — was found being run by a DHS agent in Arizona, who was apprehended while hijacking a truckload of cocaine.

Power corrupts. Madison knew that, and the other Founders did, too, which is why we have a Second Amendment.

— Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent for National Review.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

[I-S] Obama Administration: We Can and Will Force Christians to Act Against Their Faith

Obama Administration: We Can and Will Force Christians to Act Against Their Faith

December 29, 2012

( - In a legal argument formally presented in federal court in the case of Hobby Lobby v. Kathleen Sebelius, the Obama administration is claiming that the First Amendment—which expressly denies the government the authority to prohibit the "free exercise" of religion—nonetheless allows it to force Christians to directly violate their religious beliefs even on a matter that involves the life and death of innocent human beings.

Because federal judges—including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor—have refused to grant an injunction protecting the owners of Hobby Lobby from being forced to act against their Christian faith, those owners will be subject to federal fines of up to $1.3 million per day starting Tuesday for refusing to include abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plan.

The Obama administration is making a two-fold argument for why it can force Christians to act against their faith in complying with the regulation it has issued under the Obamacare law that requires virtually all health care plans to cover, without co-pay, sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortion-inducing drugs.

The first argument the administration makes against the owners of Hobby Lobby is that Americans lose their First Amendment right to freely exercise their religion when they form a corporation and engage in commerce. A person’s Christianity, the administration argues, cannot be carried out through activities he engages in through an incorporated business.

"Hobby Lobby is a for-profit, secular employer, and a secular entity by definition does not exercise religion," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery in a filing submitted in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.

"Because Hobby Lobby is a secular employer, it is not entitled to the protections of the Free Exercise Clause or RFRA [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act]," Delery told the court on behalf of the administration. "This is because, although the First Amendment freedoms of speech and association are ‘right[s] enjoyed by religious and secular groups alike,’ the Free Exercise Clause ‘gives special solicitude to the rights of religious organizations.’"

In keeping with Delery’s argument, the Washington Post, as a corporation, can use its First Amendment-protected freedom of speech to write editorials in support of the Obama administration imposing its contraception mandate on businesses like Hobby Lobby. But the members of the family that created and owns Hobby Lobby, because they formed Hobby Lobby as a corporation, have no First Amendment freedom of religion that protects them from being forced by the government to act against their religious beliefs in providing abortion-inducing drugs.

The second argument the administration makes to justify forcing Christians to act against their faith is more sweeping. Here the administration argues it can force a person to act against his religion so long as the coercion is done under the authority of a law that is neutral and generally applicable—in other words, as long as the law was not written specifically to persecute Christians as Christians, the government can use that law to persecute Christians.

Hobby Lobby is a family business. David Green created it in his garage in Oklahoma City in 1972. He and his wife, Barbara, and their three children—Steve, Mart and Darsee Green Lett-- have grown the business to where it now operates 500 stores in 41 states. David Green is Hobby Lobby’s CEO; Steve Green is its president; Mart Green is vice CEO; and Darsee Lett is vice president. Mart Green is also CEO of the privately owned Mardel chain of Christian bookstores, which operates 35 stores in 7 states. Through Hobby Lobby, the Greens have created more than 13,000 jobs. Mardel has created 372 jobs.

The Greens, who are Evangelical Christians, do not suspend their religious beliefs while running their businesses. Instead, they strive to run them fully in accordance with their Christian beliefs. They are unanimous in stating that they have always "sought to run Hobby Lobby in harmony with God’s laws and in a manner which brings glory to God." They do not have two sets of morals—one for when they are at church or at home and another for when they are working on their businesses. They have only one set of morals—that they strive to follow at work or any other activity. For example, they close their business on Sundays, so their employees can spend that day with their families, and they pay their full-time workers a minimum hourly wage of $13, which is far exceeds the federal minimum wage.

They also provide their employees with a generous self-insured health care plan, and they even operate an on-site, cost-free health clinic at their corporate headquarters. But, guided by their Christian faith, the Greens believe that human life begins at conception and that aborting on unborn life is wrong. In keeping with this, they do not cover in their employee health plan abortions, abortion-inducing drugs or IUDs that prevent implantation of an embryo.

Unlike Catholics, the Greens do not believe that contraception and sterilization are morally wrong.

In September, the Greens, Hobby Lobby and Mardel bookstores sued Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the departments of Health Human Service, Labor and Treasury. Their complaint said that the Obamacare contraception mandate violates their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion because supporting abortion or counseling for abortion is contrary to their religious faith.

As the mandate now stands, the Greens must begin complying with it on Jan. 1. On Nov. 11, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton refused to grant a preliminary injunction to stop the mandate from being enforced on the Greens while the court decided their case on its merits. In his ruling on the injunction, Judge Green determined that the Greens were not likely to establish they had a right to "free exercise" of religion while operating Hobby Lobby.

‘[T]he court concludes plaintiffs have not established a likelihood of success as to their constitutional claims," said Judge Heaton. "The corporations lack free exercise rights subject to being violated and, as the challenged statutes/regulations are neutral and ofgeneral applicability as contemplated by the constitutional standard, plaintiffs are unlikely to successfully establish a constitutional violation in any event."

The Greens appealed their request for an injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. A panel of two appeals court judges refused their plea. They then appealed to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who sits over that circuit, and she declined to reverse the lower courts and issue an injunction.

When Sotomayor ruled against a preliminary injunction on Thursday, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the Greens, issued a statement indicating that the Greens would not start complying with the mandate on Tuesday and that they would continue to pursue their case in federal court.

"Hobby Lobby will continue their appeal before the Tenth Circuit," said Becket Fund General Counsel Kyle Duncan. "The Supreme Court merely decided not to get involved in the case at this time. It left open the possibility of review after their appeal is completed in the Tenth Circuit. The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees. To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs."

As the nation approaches the much publicized fiscal cliff, it also approaches a moral cliff: Will the Obama administration compel Christians to act against their faith? As of now, the answer seems plain: Starting Tuesday, it will.

So True


Warm Regards

Cyber Criminals Are Targeting Your Smartphone: McAfee

Cyber Criminals Are Targeting Your Smartphone: McAfee

  Published: Sunday, 30 Dec 2012 | 3:49 AM ET

As more people use their mobile devices to access their bank accounts, make payments and store financial and other types of data, cyber attacks are on the upswing, Michelle Dennedy, Chief Privacy Officer for security software firm McAfee, told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" this week.

According to McAfee's 2013 Threat Prediction report, "Cyber criminals and hacktivists will strengthen and evolve the techniques and tools they use to assault our privacy, bank accounts, mobile devices, businesses, organizations and homes."

– Article Continues Below –

Cyber attacks on mobile devices can take two forms, Dennedy told CNBC. In addition to the traditional hacking and malware threats that plague traditional PCs, cyber criminals are now exploiting a mobile phone's near-field communications, which is how consumers use tap-and-pay mobile wallet services.

"Crooks are able to walk through crowds and literally bump into your phone and your steal information," she warned.

The McAfee report also predicted a rise in "ransomware" where criminals hijack a users' ability to access data or communicate to extort a payment from victims who hope to have their access restored.

(Read More: Cyberattacks 'Huge Security Issue' For US: PNC CEO)

While Dennedy said there are things companies are doing to protect consumers who use mobile devices, consumers still need to do more to protect their data and financial information. She recommends maintaining only a small cyber-footprint and frequently changing passwords.

(Read More: Cyber Crime: Everyone Is a Target)

Beyond the consumer threats, McAfee, which is owned by semiconductor maker Intel, predicts that online hacktivists like the group Anonymous will be less active but will be replaced by more politically-committed groups.

"They will be eclipsed a little bit by more and more nation states becoming prepared and aware of cyber warfare and cyber attacks," Dennedy said of Anonymous and other groups. "We will see more probing and testing of exploits to test the enemy's vulnerabilities and even our friends' vulnerabilities."

There could also a pick-up in large-scale attacks against key infrastructure. Dennedy said energy infrastructure and food supply are areas "that could shut down our economy or cause disruption," if subject to attack. These "are obvious places we need to be prepared on the information side as well as the physical scale," she said.

New Sign





Saturday, December 29, 2012

A laugh filled e-mail - guaranteed!

U.S. general: Obama paralyzed by fear

It figures, leftists are generally cowardly bullies.



By Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady, U.S. Army (ret.)

Now I understand! For years, many veterans and active military have been alarmed about the idiocy of the changes in battlefield aeromedical evacuation known as Dust Off. For reasons having nothing to do with patient care, Dust Off has been removed from the control of the professionals, the medics, and put under the control of amateurs, aviation staff officers, or ASOs. This is the first such change since the Civil War.

I document the unparalleled excellence of Dust Off, and the effects of the changes, in my book, “Dead Men Flying.” Needless to say, it was the most outstanding battlefield operating system of that war – some one million souls saved and unprecedented survival rates. No warrior of Vietnam is more revered than the Dust Off crews.

In the words of Gen. Creighton Abrams, former U.S. Army chief of staff and former supreme commander in Vietnam: “A special word about the Dust Offs … Courage above and beyond the call of duty was sort of routine to them. It was a daily thing, part of the way they lived. That’s the great part, and it meant so much to every last man who served there. Whether he ever got hurt or not, he knew Dust Off was there. It was a great thing for our people.”

Fast forward to current battlefields. We hear horror stories about patients waiting and dying because Dust Off didn’t launch or came too late. The launch standard in my unit in Vietnam was two minutes; today it is 15 minutes! Can anyone imagine a fire truck taking 15 minutes to get under way? I could go on and on, but one has to ask, why? Why the changes to an excellent, proven system?

The answer is the Obama-Panetta Doctrine. In response to the horrible abandonment of dying Americans in Benghazi, Defense Secretary Panetta said: “(The) basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place.”

On its face, that is a remarkable, indeed incomprehensible, change from America’s doctrine in past wars. By that standard, there would have been no Normandy or Inchon. In fact, I can’t think of a war we fought in which we didn’t go into harm’s way without real-time information or to save lives – something the president refused to do in Benghazi. Dust Off would never launch in Vietnam under that doctrine.

Medal of Honor recipient Gen. Patrick Brady tells the inspiring, miraculous story of his days as a Dust Off air ambulance pilot in Vietnam. Get his newly reissued book, autographed: “Dead Men Flying: Victory in Viet Nam.”

To fully understand the doctrinal change, one has to understand President Obama. He has a dearth of understanding of our military and military matters. We hear he is uncomfortable in the presence of ranking military and seldom meets with them. He is not a person who can make decisions, and he takes an extraordinary amount of time to do so, leading to such unseemly labels for a commander in chief as “ditherer in chief.”

President Obama may have set records for voting “present” on important issues. He cowers from crisis decisions. He is a politician who thinks only in terms of votes and his image. Although I was a psychology major back in the day (I’d love to hear a professional analyze risk and Obama), I won’t try to define his insides, but I believe he is risk-averse – fearful of risk – and that is the basis of the Obama-Panetta doctrine.

This aversion for risk dominates Dust Off rescue operations where, in addition to an unconscionable reaction time, risk assessment is the primary consideration for mission launch – not patient care. In two years flying Dust Off in Vietnam, I never heard that term, nor did any Dust pilot I know. The ASOs, remote from the battle, have developed time-consuming algorithms to analyze risk while the patient bleeds, something that’s impossible to do by anyone other than the pilot and the ground forces at the scene.

And Obama’s terror of risk contributed to the massacre of Americans by terrorists in Benghazi. We hear that the president did not even convene the Counterterrorism Security Group while the Benghazi terrorist massacre was visually and verbally available in real time. That is like ignoring FEMA during Hurricane Sandy. But once you bring in a group labeled anti-terrorist, you have to acknowledge terror exists, something the president is loath to do.

My veteran friends are horrified by the Obama-Panetta doctrine. At least 359 retired flag officers support Mitt Romney – only five that I know of support Obama. Some 150 former prisoners of war also support Romney; I know of none who support Obama.

America needs to listen to these veterans. They understand leadership. They know how to deal with risk in war. They would not want this man with them in combat or crisis. They never left a needy comrade behind. Obama did.

Get the full account of Gen. Brady’s Vietnam rescue operations in his book, “Dead Men Flying,” a riveting tale from America’s most decorated living soldier – autographed!

Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady, retired from the U.S. Army, is a recipient of the United States military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor.

French 75% income tax struck down by constitutional council

29 December 2012 Last updated at 11:54

French 75% income tax struck down by constitutional council

Francois Hollande has favoured tax rises over spending cuts to tackle France's deficit

France's constitutional council has struck down a top income tax rate of 75% introduced by Socialist President Francois Hollande.

Raising taxes for those earning more than 1m euros (£817,400) has been a flagship policy for Mr Hollande.

The policy angered France's business community and prompted some wealthy citizens to say they would emigrate.

Mr Hollande's government said it would rework the tax, due to take effect in 2013, to meet the council's complaints.

In its ruling on Saturday, the Constitutional Council said the new tax rate "failed to recognise equality before public burdens" because, unlike other forms of income tax, it was to be applied to individuals rather than households.

For example, that meant a household in which one person earned more than 1m euros would pay the tax, but a household in which two people earned 900,000 euros each would not have to pay.

The council also rejected new methods for calculating the tax.

Pressing ahead

But Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the government would press ahead with the new tax rate.

"The government will propose a new system that conforms with the principles laid down by the decision of the Constitutional Council," he said.

The new rate was seen as largely symbolic since it would have only applied to some 1,500 people for a temporary period of two years.

But along with other tax rises, it has still been the subject of fierce debate in France.

French actor Gerard Depardieu recently announced he was moving to Belgium to avoid taxes, sparking a furious reaction from some on the left.

There was also speculation that people employed in high-income jobs like banking and finance would move elsewhere, including to London.

Mr Hollande campaigned against the austerity policies used in many European countries affected by economic crisis, favouring higher taxes rather than spending cuts to bring down the deficit.

The 75% rate for high earners was included in the government's 2013 budget, approved by parliament in September.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Why Arabs Hate And Kill Palestinians Why Arabs Hate And Kill Palestinians

by Khaled Abu Toameh
December 26, 2012 at 5:00 am

The Arab League did not hold an emergency meeting to discuss what Palestinians describe as "massacres " against the refugees in a Syrian camp, home to more than 50,000 people. Those who meddle in the internal affairs of Arab countries should not be surprised when bombs start falling on their homes. Palestinians are not always innocent victims. They bring tragedy on themselves and then want to blame everyone else but themselves.

More than 800 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds others injured since the beginning of the crisis in Syria nearly two years ago.

In the past two weeks, thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus after Syrian jets bombed their homes, killing dozens of people.

More than 3000 refugees have fled to neighboring Lebanon, where some politicians and cabinet ministers are already calling for closing the border to stop the influx of Palestinians into their country.

The Arab world, meanwhile, has done nothing to help the Palestinians in Syria.

The Arab League did not hold an emergency meeting to discuss what Palestinians described as "massacres" against the refugees in Yarmouk, home to some 50,000 people.

This is not the first time that Palestinians living in Arab countries find themselves caught in conflicts between rival parties. Those who meddle in the internal affairs of Arab countries should not be surprised when bombs start falling on their homes.

The Palestinians have a long history of involving themselves in the internal affairs of Arab countries and later complaining when they fall victim to violence. They complain they are being killed but not saying why they keep getting into trouble.

Palestinians are not always innocent victims. They bring tragedy on themselves and then want to blame everyone else but themselves.

In Syria, a Palestinian terrorist group called Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, which is headed by Ahmed Jibril, had been helping the Syrian regime in its attempts to suppress the opposition. Jibril's terrorists are reported to have kidnapped, tortured and murdered hundreds of anti-regime Syrians over the past two years.

The last time an Arab army bombed a Palestinian refugee camp was in Lebanon. In 2007, the Lebanese army destroyed most of the Nahr al-Bared camp after another terrorist group, Fatah al-Islam set up bases there and attacked army checkpoints, killing several soldiers.

In the 70s and 80s, Palestinians played a major role in the Lebanon civil war, which claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people.

The Palestinians also payed a price for meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq. After the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, thousands of Palestinians were forced out of Iraq for helping the dictator oppress his people for many years.

After the liberation of Kuwait more than 20 years ago, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from the tiny emirate and other Gulf countries. Their crime was that they had supported Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait -- a country that for many years had provided the PLO with billions of dollars in aid.

Jordan was the first Arab country to punish the Palestinians for meddling in its internal affairs. In 1970, the late King Hussein ordered his army to crush armed Palestinian organizations that had severely undermined his monarchy. The violence resulted in the deaths of thousands of Palestinians and ended with the expulsion of the PLO to Lebanon.

What happened in the Yarmouk refugee camp in the past few days shows that the Palestinians have not learned from their previous mistakes and are continuing to meddle in the internal affairs of Arab countries. That is perhaps why the Arabs are reluctant to help the Palestinians overcome their financial hardships.

Arab League foreign ministers recently promised to provide the Palestinian Authority with $100m. per month to solve its financial crisis. But the Palestinians have not yet seen one dollar from the promised aid. And if they continue to meddle in the internal affairs of their Arab brothers, the only thing they will see is more bombs falling on their homes and thousands of people forced out of their refugee camps.

Why Do Democrats ♥ Revolvers?

More proof at how really clueless liberals truly are.



If I were a semiautomatic pistol, I would be getting a complex. What Democrats really hate is semiautomatic rifles, although it isn’t clear exactly why. True, the Sandy Hook killings were carried out with such a weapon, but in the scheme of things, rifles of any sort are rarely used as murder weapons. In 2011, according to the FBI, there were 14,612 victims of homicide in the U.S., down 14.7% from 2007. Of those 14,612, only 323 were murdered with any type of rifle. More than five times as many were killed with knives. More were killed with blunt objects, and more than twice as many were killed with the assailant’s bare hands. So it is hard to understand the current obsession with semiautomatic rifles.

Nevertheless, the obsession is there. And when liberals set out to ban semiautomatic rifles, if you read the fine print, they always sweep in a greater or lesser number of semiautomatic pistols, too. What puzzles me is why they always seem to leave out revolvers. Revolvers are used in vastly more crimes than semiautomatic rifles, so why do they get a free pass?

True, the cylinder of a revolver generally holds fewer bullets than the magazine of a semiautomatic rifle or pistol–usually five, six or seven, although some cylinders hold nine .22 caliber bullets. But so what? A lunatic bent on mass murder can just bring along three or four revolvers. Or he can reload.

For a long time, a gangster with a revolver was a symbol of menace:

Of course, the good guys used them too:

Revolvers are as lethal as any other firearm and there are still millions of them being sold, so it is not clear why they are being left out of the current gun control debate. I suspect the main reason is that the people who are arguing for gun control have no idea what they are talking about, don’t know the differences between one type of firearm and another, and find the word “semiautomatic” scary and therefore politically useful.

Of course, your attitude toward firearms can depend on whether you need one or not. Dianne Feinstein, who is introducing draconian gun control legislation in the Senate, formerly had a concealed carry permit. In 1995, she explained:

[T]he [New World Liberation Front] shot out all the windows of my home and I know the sense of helplessness that people feel. I know the urge to arm yourself, because that’s what I did. I was trained in firearms.

When I walked to the hospital when my husband was sick, I carried a concealed weapon. I made the determination that if somebody was going to try to take me out I was going to take them with me.

So, what happened? Feinstein explains that she “got rid of the permit once the New World Liberation Front was no longer a threat to her.” So obviously, once Feinstein no longer needed to carry a firearm, no one else needed to, either. It’s typical liberal hypocrisy. Barack Obama and David Gregory think Wayne LaPierre’s proposal to post armed guards in schools is outrageous. They send their children to Sidwell Friends, which, according to news reports, has eleven armed guards on duty, and that is before you get to the Secret Service detail for Malia and Sasha. It’s typical liberal logic: my kids are safe, who cares about yours?

So I guess we should be grateful that they apparently intend to let us keep our revolvers.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.


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INTERESTING AGAIN--Part 10 No Rifle was used... Sandy Hook

Subject: IMPORTANT Sandy Hook update!

ONLY HANDGUNS were found in school, and there were FOUR of them, not just the 2 belonging to the mother. The RIFLE was indeed left in the trunk of the car! SO all this talk about banning these clips on guns which David Gregory waived in the face of NRA CEO LaPierre is all bullcrap as no rifle was used. Also where did the TWO ADDITIONAL handguns come from?

Happiness Is a Worn Gun

Happiness Is a Worn Gun

In the 1943 noir thriller The Fallen Sparrow, John Garfield asks the police inspector whether his permit to carry a gun is still valid.

“Good for a year,” the cop says wearily. “Why did you want to carry a gun?”

“To shoot people with, sweetheart!” Garfield snarls, as the cop’s face falls comically.

I think about the ambivalence of that line every time I strap on my .38—mixing the brutality of shooting people with that wise-guy sweetheart. It’s so endearingly American.

Garfield’s were the days when people who wanted a concealed-weapon permit had to convince the police to issue one. Merchants in rough neighborhoods, bodyguards to the rich, and the well connected could usually manage it. The rest went unarmed, or carried illegally. That’s how it was for generations: if you wanted permission to carry a gun, you had to have a good reason.

Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.

Good thing or bad? Most people can answer that question instinctively, depending on how they think about a whole matrix of bigger questions, from the role of government to the moral obligations we have to one another. Politically, the issue breaks along the expected lines, with the NPR end of the dial going one way and the talk-radio end the other.

The gun-carrying revolution started in Florida, which in 1987 had a murder rate 40 percent higher than the national average. Another state might have reacted to such carnage by restricting access to guns, but Florida’s legislature went the other way. Believing that law-abiding citizens should have the means to defend themselves, it ordered police chiefs to issue any adult a carry permit unless there was good reason to deny it. In the history of gun politics, this was a big moment. The gun-rights movement had won just about every battle it had fought since coalescing in the late 1960s, but these had been defensive battles against new gun-control laws. Reversing the burden of proof on carry permits expanded gun rights. For the first time, the movement was on offense, and the public loved it. The change in Florida’s law was called “shall-issue”—as in, the police shall issue the permit and not apply their own discretion. Six states already had such laws, but Florida’s became the model for the twenty-nine others that followed. Most of these states recognize the permits of other shall-issue states. Nine remain “may issue” states, leaving the decision up to local law enforcement. Alaska and Arizona have laws allowing any resident who can legally own a gun to carry it concealed with no special permit. And one—can you guess which?—is silent on the whole issue, meaning anybody over sixteen from any state can walk around secretly armed inside its borders. (Most people guess Texas, but it’s Vermont.) Only two states, Wisconsin and Illinois, flatly forbid civilians to carry concealed guns.[1]

I got hooked on guns forty-nine years ago as a fat kid at summer camp—the one thing I could do was lie on my belly and shoot a .22 rifle—and I’ve collected, shot, and hunted with guns my entire adult life. But I also grew up into a fairly typical liberal Democrat, with a circle of friends politely appalled at my fixation on firearms. For as long as I’ve been voting, I’ve reflexively supported waiting periods, background checks, the assault-rifle ban, and other gun-control measures. None interfered with my enjoyment of firearms, and none seemed to me the first step toward tyranny. As the concealed-carry laws changed across the land, I naturally sided with those who argued that arming the populace would turn fender benders into gunfights. The prospect of millions more gun-carrying Americans left me reliably horrified.

At the same time, though, I was a little jealous of those getting permits. Taking my guns from the safe was a rare treat; the sensual pleasure of handling guns is a big part of the habit. Elegantly designed and exquisitely manufactured, they are deeply satisfying to manipulate, even without shooting. I normally got to play with mine only a few times a year, during hunting season and on one or two trips to the range. The people with carry permits, though, were handling their guns all the time. They were developing an enviable competence and familiarity with them. They were living the gun life. Finally, last year, under the guise of “wanting to learn what this is all about,” but really wanting to live the gun life myself, I began the process of getting a carry permit. All that was required was a background check, fingerprints, and certification that I’d passed an approved handgun class.

I live in Boulder, Colorado, a town so painstakingly liberal that the city council once debated whether people are “owners” or “guardians” of their pets. “Guardians” won. Bill O’Reilly regularly singles out Boulder for his trademark contempt as a place even more California than California. I expected to have to drive some distance to find a class, but it turned out that half a dozen shooting schools operate in the Boulder area, with classes so overbooked I had to wait a month for a vacancy. The number of carry permits issued annually in Boulder—Boulder!—has risen eighteenfold since 2001; almost 3,000 of us, about 1 percent, carry guns, and 900 more apply every year. I began examining more closely the aging hippies milling about Whole Foods.

I ended up taking two gun-carry courses. The first sent me an enrollment-confirmation email on November 5, the day that Major Nidal Hasan killed thirteen people and wounded thirty others at Fort Hood in Texas. The next day, Jason Rodriguez of Orlando, Florida, used a handgun to kill one person and wound five others at the office of his former employer. He told reporters, “I’m angry.”

The classes I took taught me almost nothing about how to defend myself with a gun. One, taught by a man who said he refuses to get a carry permit because “I don’t think I have to get the government’s permission to exercise my right to bear arms,” packed about twenty minutes of useful instruction into four long evenings of platitudes, Obama jokes, and belligerent posturing. “The way crime is simply out of control, you can’t afford not to wear a gun all the time,” he told us on several occasions. We shot fifty rounds apiece at man-shaped targets fifteen feet away. The legal-implications segment was taught by a cop who, after warming us up with fart jokes, encouraged us to lie to policemen if stopped while wearing our guns and suggested that nobody in his right mind would let a burglar run off with a big-screen TV. It’s illegal to shoot a fleeing criminal, he said, “but if your aim is good enough, you have time to get your story straight before I [the police] get there.” Thank you for coming; here’s your certificate of instruction. The other class, a three-hour quickie at the Tanner Gun Show in Denver, was built around a fifteen-minute recruiting pitch for the NRA and a long-winded, paranoid fantasy about “home invasion.” “They’re watching what time you come home, what time do you get up to go to the bathroom, when you’re there, when you’re not,” said the instructor, Rob Shewmake, of the Florida company Equip 2 Conceal. “They know who lives in the house. They know where your bedroom is, and they’re there to kill you.” (Eighty-seven Americans were murdered during burglaries in 2008; statistically, you had a better chance of being killed by bees.)

Both classes were less about self-defense than about recruiting us into a culture animated by fear of violent crime. In the Boulder class, we watched lurid films of men in ski masks breaking into homes occupied by terrified women. We studied color police photos of a man slashed open with a knife. Teachers in both classes directed us to websites dedicated to concealed carry, among them, an online gathering place where the gun-carrying community warns, over and over, that crime is “out of control.”

In fact, violent crime has fallen by a third since 1989—one piece of unambiguous good news out of the past two decades. Murder, rape, robbery, assault: all of them are much less common now than they were then. At class, it was hard to discern the line between preparing for something awful to happen and praying for something awful to happen. A desire to carry a gun seemed to precede the fear of crime, the fear serving to justify the carrying. I asked one of the instructors whether carrying a gun didn’t bespeak a needlessly dark view of mankind. “I’m an optimist,” he said, “but we live in a world of assholes.”

At the conclusion of both classes, we students were welcomed into the gun-carrying fraternity as though dripping from the baptismal font. “Thank you for being a part of this, man. You’re doing the right thing,” one of the Boulder teachers said, taking my hand in both of his and looking into my eyes. “You should all be proud of yourselves just for being here,” said the police officer who helped with the class. “All of us thank you.” As we stood shaking hands, with our guns in our gym bags and holding our certificates, we felt proud, included, even loved. We had been admitted to a league of especially useful gentlemen and ladies.

Partly, gun carriers are looking for political safety in numbers. Alongside a belief in rising crime lies a certainty that gun confiscation is nigh. I had a hard time finding cartridges for my hunting rifle the past two seasons because shooters began hoarding when Barack Obama was elected president. Since then, the gun industry has had its best sales on record. At the Tanner show, posters of Obama’s stern face over the words firearms salesman of the year were as common as those of him in Joker makeup over the word socialism. Looking for a holster for the .38 I planned tocarry, I stopped at the table of a big man wearing a cargo vest and a SIGARMS cap and idly pickedup one of his Yugoslav AK-47s. Buy it now! he barked. Tomorrow they may not let you! I must have looked skeptical; he reached across the table, snatched the rifle from my hands, and slammed it down. “You don’t think he’s waiting for his second termto come and get them? he said. Youre dreaming.

Shooters see their guns as emblems of a whole spectrum of virtuous lifestyle choices—rural over urban, self-reliance over dependence on the collective, vigorous outdoorsiness over pallid intellectualism, patriotism over internationalism, action over inaction—and they hear attacks on guns as attacks on them, personally. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence sound like groups even the NRA could support: who wouldn’t want to prevent violence? But the former was called, until 1989, the National Coalition to Ban Handguns, and the latter wants to prohibit the “military-style semi-automatic assault weapons” popular among shooters. From the point of view of gun enthusiasts, it’s not gun violence these groups want to end, but gun ownership. Another gun-show vendor—wearing a T-shirt that proclaimed alcohol, tobacco, and firearms should be a convenience store, not a federal agency—was yelling to potential customers that they’d better buy guns now because the “liberals want to take away your gun and your McDonald’s both.” As I headed for a table heaped with old holsters, I picked up a free copy of the NRA’s America’s 1st Freedom magazine. Its editorial captured perfectly the class-based resentment that permeates modern gun culture, characterizing the opposition as “those who sip tea and nibble biscuits while musing about how to restrict the rest of us.”

Beyond mere politics, gun carriers are evangelizing a social philosophy. Belief in rising crime, when statistics show the opposite, amounts to faith in a natural order of predators and prey. The turtle doesn’t apologize for his shell nor the tiger for his claws; humans shouldn’t be bashful about equipping to defend themselves. Men and women who carry guns fill a noble niche between sheep and wolf. “Sheepdogs” is the way they often describe themselves—alert, vigilant, not aggressive but prepared to do battle.

In both classes, and in every book about concealed carry that I read, much was made of “conditions of readiness,” which are color-coded from white to red. Condition White is total oblivion to one’s surroundings—sleeping, being drunk or stoned, losing oneself in conversation while walking on city streets, texting while listening to an iPod. Condition Yellow is being aware of, and taking an interest in, one’s surroundings—essentially, the mental state we are encouraged to achieve when we are driving: keeping our eyes moving, checking the mirrors, being careful not to let the radio drown out the sounds around us. Condition Orange is being aware of a possible threat. Condition Red is responding to danger.

Contempt for Condition White unifies the gun-carrying community almost as much as does fealty to the Second Amendment. “When you’re in Condition White you’re a sheep,” one of my Boulder instructors told us. “You’re a victim.” The American Tactical Shooting Association says the only time to be in Condition White is “when in your own home, with the doors locked, the alarm system on, and your dog at your feet. ... The instant you leave your home, you escalate one level, to Condition Yellow. A citizen in Condition White is as useless as an unarmed citizen, not only a political cipher but a moral dud. “I feel I have a responsibility, and I believe that in my afterlife I will be judged,” one of the Boulder gun instructors said. “Part of the judgment will be: Did this guy look after himself? It’s a minimum responsibility.”

Just as the Red Cross would like everybody to be qualified in CPR, gun carriers want everybody prepared to confront violence—not only by being armed but by maintaining Condition Yellow. Hang around with people committed to carrying guns and it’s easy to feel guilty about lapsing into Condition White, to begin seeing yourself as deadweight on society, a parasite, a mediocre citizen. “You should constantly practice being in Condition Yellow all the time,” writes Tony Walker in his book How to Win a Gunfight. Of course, it’s not for everyone; the armed life in Condition Yellow requires being mentally prepared to kill. As John Wayne puts it in his last movie, The Shootist. “It’s not always being fast or even accurate that counts. It’s being willing.”

Whoa: wrong example. The policeman helping with the Boulder class was adamant. “Hollywood,” he intoned, “will get you killed.” Real gunfights are nothing like the ones on-screen. They happen instantaneously and at arm’s length, with no time for clever repartee, diving for cover, or even aiming. “There is nothing sexy about a gunfight.”

Alas, the very word “gunfight” is sexy. The first American narrative movie, The Great Train Robbery, made in 1903, is all gunfight and ends with a villain shooting straight at the camera. All we know about carrying and using a gun—at least at first—is what we learn from the movies and television. How else did I pick up that insouciant way of swinging open my revolver’s cylinder to check its loads, that casual manner of jamming it up into my shoulder holster or down the small of my back? The gun I chose to wear concealed, a second-generation Colt Detective Special .38, is one I grew up watching just about every fictional dick and gunsel use, from Edward G. Robinson in Key Largo to Detective McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O. (I’m old; younger guys prefer their own generation’s TV guns: the Glocks of CSI; or the SIG Sauer P228 Jack Bauer carries on 24.) I know it’s foolish to conflate Hollywood with reality, and when I’m armed I try to discipline my mind back to my training. But anyone who tells you he has no fantasy life constructed around his gun either has been packing it for as long as he’s been watching television or is flat-out lying.

Having carried a gun full-time for several months now, I can attest that there’s no way to lapse into Condition White when armed. Moving through a cocktail party with a gun holstered snug against my ribs makes me feel like James Bond—I know something you don’t know!—but it’s socially and physically unpleasant. I have to remember to keep adjusting the drape of my jacket so as not to expose myself, and make sure to get the arms-inside position when hugging a friend so that the hard lump on my hip or under my arm doesn’t give itself away. In some settings my gun feels as big as a toaster oven, and I find myself tense with the expectation of being discovered. What’s more, if there’s a truly comfortable way to carry a gun, I haven’t found it. The revolver’s weight and pressure keep me constantly aware of how quickly and utterly my world could change. Gun carriers tell me that’s exactly the point: at any moment, violence could change anybody’s world. Those who carry guns are the ones prepared to make the change come out in their favor.

Living in Condition Yellow can have beneficial side effects. A woman I met in Phoenix told me carrying a gun had made her more organized. “I used to lose my stuff all the time,” she said. “I was always leaving my purse in restaurants, my wallet in the car, my sunglasses at friends’ houses. Once I started carrying a gun—accepted that grave responsibility—that all stopped. I’m on it now.”

Like her, I’m more alert and acute when I’m wearing my gun. If I’m in a restaurant or store, I find myself in my own little movie, glancing at the door when a person walks in and, in a microsecond, evaluating whether a threat has appeared and what my options for response would be—roll left and take cover behind that pillar? On the street, I look people over: Where are his hands? What does his face tell me? I run sequences in my head. If a guy jumps me with a knife, should I throw money to the ground and run? Take two steps back and draw? How about if he has a gun? How will I distract him so I can get the drop? It can be fun. But it can also be exhausting. Some nights I dream gunfight scenarios over and over and wake up bushed. In Flagstaff I was planning to meet a friend for a beer, and although carrying in a bar is legal in Arizona, drinking in a bar while armed is not. I locked my gun in the car. Walking the few blocks to the bar, I realized how different I felt: lighter, dreamier, conscious of how the afternoon light slanted against Flagstaff’s old buildings. I found myself, as I walked, composing lines of prose. I was lapsing into Condition White, and loving it.

Condition White may make us sheep, but it’s also where art happens. It’s where we daydream, reminisce, and hear music in our heads. Hard-core gun carriers want no part of that, and the zeal for getting everybody to carry a gun may be as much an anti–Condition White movement as anything else—resentment toward the airy-fairy elites who can enjoy the luxury of musing, sipping tea, and nibbling biscuits while the good people of the world have to work for a living and keep their guard up. Gun guys never stop building and strengthening this like-minded community. When I mention that I’m carrying, their faces light up. “Good for you!” “Right on!” “God bless you!” The owner of a gun factory in Mesa, Arizona, spotted the gun under my jacket and said, with great solemnity, “You honor me by wearing your gun to my place of business.”

I was crossing the corner of Dauphine and Kerlerec Streets in New Orleans late one evening with my gun under my jacket. (Louisiana is one of the states that recognizes a Colorado permit.) I wasn’t smelling the sweet olive, replaying in my head the clackety music of Washboard Chaz, or savoring the residuum of dinnertime’s oysters Pernod. I was in Condition Yellow and fully aware of two scruffy guys lounging in a doorway up ahead. “Can you help us out?” one asked. I made my usual demurral and walked on. When I got about fifteen feet away, one of them yelled, “Faggot!”

I’ve never been one to throw down because someone called me a name. But it’s possible that in the old days I’d have yelled something back. At the very least, I’d have felt my blood pressure spike.

This time, I didn’t become angry or even annoyed. A Zen-like calm overtook me. I felt no need to restrain myself; my body didn’t even gesture in the direction of anger. Pace Claudio, my hand meant nothing to my sword. Rage wasn’t an option, because I had no way of knowing where it would end, and somehow my brain and body sensed that. I began to understand why we don’t hear a lot of stories about legal gun carriers killing one another in road-rage incidents. Carrying a gun gives you a sense of guardianship, even a kind of moral superiority. You are the vigilant one, the sheepdog watching the flock, the coiled wrath of God. To snatch out your gun and wave it around would not only invite catastrophe but also sacrifice that righteous high ground and embarrass you in the worst possible way. I don’t know how many gun carriers have read Robert Heinlein, but all of them can quote him: “An armed society is a polite society.”

But is it a safer society? In 1998, John Lott, later a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, published a book with the provocative title More Guns, Less Crime. Violent crime had been dropping in states with shall-issue laws, he argued, because the concealed-carry revolution left criminals unable to know who is and who is not armed. The gun rights lobby lofted Lott on a pedestal, academics attacked him, and a heated round of my-data-set-can-beat-up-your-data-set ensued. Lott turned weird, first by claiming to have conducted a large national survey that he couldn’t prove to have done, and then by inventing an online alter ego named Mary Rosh to blog his praises. Still, he is widely quoted.

Shall-issue may or may not have contributed to the stunning drop in violent crime since the early Nineties. The problem with the catchy More Guns, Less Crime construction, though, is that many other things may have helped: changing demographics, smarter policing, the burnout of the crack-cocaine wave, three-strikes laws, even—as suggested by Freakonomics authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner—legalized abortion. And crime dropped more in some states that didn’t adopt shall-issue laws than in some that did.

But shall-issue didn’t lead to more crime, as predicted by its critics. The portion of all killing done with a handgun—the weapon people carry concealed—hasn’t changed in decades; it’s still about half. Whereas the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., can produce a list of 175 killings committed by carry-permit holders since 2007, the NRA can brandish a longer list of crimes prevented by armed citizens. I prefer to rely on the FBI’s data, which show that not only are bad-guy murders—those committed in the course of rape, robbery, and other felonies—way down but so are spur-of-the-moment murders involving alcohol, drugs, romantic entanglements, money disputes, and other arguments: the very types of murders that critics worried widespread concealed-carry would increase.

One number that jumps out from the FBI’s 2008 data is how many alleged criminals were shot dead by civilians: 245, not many fewer than were shot by cops. I found that statistic amazing until I reflected on how seldom police are present when a crime is occurring. i carry a gun because a cop is too heavy, goes the bumper sticker.

Law enforcement tends to oppose shall-issue laws, at least institutionally. A group of Iowa sheriffs agitated against a shall-issue law their governor signed in April, and Ohio’s Fraternal Order of Police is objecting to a bill designed to open bars, stadiums, and other venues to concealed guns. Every street cop I’ve met lately, though, sees it the other way. “Absolutely I want more people armed,” one told me in Las Vegas. “If I’m shooting it out with a bad guy, and an armed citizen can step in and throw fire downrange, I’m all for it.” At traffic stops, a person’s concealed-carry permit pops up on the computer. “That tells me they’ve been checked out,” he said, “that they’re probably someone I don’t have to worry about.”

The inclination nationwide is still to make concealed-carry permits easier, not harder, to get, and the recession may be helping the cause. In Ohio, a judge recently suggested that, in the face of law-enforcement budget cuts, people should “arm themselves.” An Ohio concealed-carry activist told the Toledo Blade that he thinks hard economic times are “causing all these law-enforcement officers, whether they’re police officers or sheriff’s deputies, to get laid off, and people realize they’re in a situation where they may have to be responsible for their own safety.”

Whatever the reason, the handgun industry is pleased with the legal drift, given that the Obama-panic bubble is fading and the long-term industry trend is bleak. Young adults buy markedly fewer guns than older people. They want to be urban and digital, and guns are the opposite of that. A big push by the industry to feminize the shooting sports has fallen flat; only in hunting has women’s participation increased, and even there just by a little. The bright spot in the industry remains small handguns and all of their accoutrements—holsters, belts, purses, and an entire line of clothing, 5.11 Tactical, designed to conceal weapons. Back in the mid-Nineties, when handgun sales were falling fast, Shooting Industry magazine wrote, “Two bright rays of sunshine gleam through the dark clouds of the slump in the firearms market. One is the landslide of ‘shall-issue’ concealed-carry reform legislation around the country. The other is the emergence of a new generation of compact handguns.” Shall-issue saved the handgun business; sales were half again higher in 2007 than in 2000, and much of that growth was in concealable weapons. At the gun-industry trade show in Las Vegas in January, the people crowding Ruger’s enormous booth were a lot more focused on the new high-tech pocket guns than on what one salesman derisively called the “Dirty Harry” guns—flamboyantly gigantic weapons—that were the hot item a decade ago. “Anymore it’s the small personal defense gun where the action is,” said Robert Robbins, a Smith & Wesson salesman, as he let me dry-fire a brand-new line of lightweight, scandium-framed pocket revolvers. “People are perceiving it’s a more dangerous world, and they’re thinking, ‘I should get one now before it gets harder.’ His face clouded and his voice dropped. Its mostly older people, to be frank. The younger people tend to be more liberal. They’ve been led to believe the police are going to be there for them, that guns are bad and made for killing. They’re fed that crap, and they believe it.”

Now that they’ve largely won the concealed-carry fight, gun-rights activists have begun a new offensive: “open-carry.” Advocates for wearing guns in plain view hold armed picnics and urge people to wear their guns visibly wherever it’s legal. Forty-three states let citizens carry openly, including some that remain reticent on concealed-carry and one—Wisconsin—that doesn’t allow concealed-carry at all. Open-carry became a national issue last year, when people displaying guns showed up at New Hampshire and Arizona rallies attended by President Obama. Reporters seemed surprised that police made no arrests, but open-carry is legal in both states and none of the gun carriers made threats. The open carriers are pushing it; in at least six states, citizens have sued police after being stopped for wearing a gun. In January, a group of California activists began wearing unloaded guns openly to Starbucks, but if they were expecting to get arrested or thrown out they were disappointed. They drank their lattés and left. Starbucks, a company official told reporters over and over, respects California state law, which as of this writing allows open carry as long as the guns are unloaded.

When I called Mike Stollenwerk, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who is a cofounder of, he told me right away he thinks displaying a gun outside a presidential event is for “the Tea Party nutties.” He wants more people carrying handguns openly because “we want everybody to have that right.” Wearing guns openly so you can wear guns openly sounds to me like the old Firesign Theatre joke about the mural depicting the historic struggle of the people to finish the mural. Open-carry is already legal almost everywhere. But Stollenwerk said the movement is about changing culture rather than law. “We’re trying to normalize gun ownership by openly carrying properly holstered handguns in daily life,” he said.

I’ve tried carrying openly a few times, wearing a loaded, long-barreled .45-caliber revolver in a hip holster to Safeway, Home Depot, Target, Whole Foods, and my local Apple Store. The only person who objected was my wife (“For Christ’s sake!”). Nobody else said a word. The kids at the Apple Store, in their rectangular-framed glasses and blue T-shirts, stood right beside me as I played with an iPad for half an hour. It isn’t possible that they didn’t see the big handgun. More likely, it didn’t interest them: a World War I revolver is pretty dull competition for a touch-screen device running a 1 GHz A4 chip and 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. At Target, I made a point of standing for a long time directly in front of a security guard. Nothing. What he saw was a balding, middle-aged man in pleated pants and glasses with a tired old gun on his hip—not a particularly threatening sight. He may have figured I was a useless cop or a ranger from the city’s vast parks system. Either that, or the sight was so incongruous that he and everybody else in Target failed to register it. Then I stopped at a gritty little Mexican grocery I like, for some tortillas and crema, and everybody noticed, their eyes flicking over my belt and going wide. “Señor, is it real?” a chubby little boy asked as I locked up my bicycle. In Mexico, almost nobody gets a license to own a handgun, let alone wear one. “¿Por qué la pistola?” a man at the meat counter asked. “¿Por qué no?” I answered. He shrugged and walked away, shaking his head—not like I was dangerous, more like I was simply a gabacho fool. Overall, I felt less safe with the gun openly displayed than with it concealed. I worried that someone would knock me on the back of the head and steal it, or that some genuinely aggressive nutcase would challenge me to draw. Mostly, though, I felt obnoxious. In all likelihood, I was making somebody silently anxious. It remains to be seen how Stollenwerk’s open-carry strategy will work. I suspect it will backfire, that instead of acclimating people it will frighten them, and that they’ll eventually ask their legislators to put a stop to it.

Even in shall-issue states, guns—whether visible or concealed—are often barred from places where they seem especially inappropriate: college campuses, schools, bars, parks, churches. The list can vary from town to town. When I take a long road trip, I keep a sheaf of gun-law printouts on the front seat so I don’t inadvertently walk into the wrong place with my concealed revolver. In Boulder, it’s a nuisance to keep taking my gun off and finding a place to stow it when I’m going to visit the university library, toss a Frisbee in a schoolyard, or see a movie on campus. I’ve been checked out, fingerprinted, and trusted by the state with a carry permit; having to ditch my gun feels vaguely demeaning. To those already feeling slighted, gun-free zones are a continual insult.

Someone bent on killing people isn’t going to be dissuaded by a no firearms sign on the door. Gun carriers tend to think that such rules serve only to alert the malevolent to good places for mass shootings. And they’re right that no matter how stringent our background checks, we’ll never do a perfect job of keeping guns out of the wrong hands. Guns are well-made things; the rifle I hunt with was made in 1900, the revolver I carry was made in 1956, and both are as lethal today as the day they were built. So even if the United States were to ban the import, manufacture, and sale of new ones—unlikely—there would still be some 250 million privately owned guns in the United States. Unless we’re willing to send the police door-to-door to round them all up, the country is going to be awash in firearms for years to come. Thugs will push guns into the faces of convenience-store clerks, lunatics will shoot up restaurants, aggrieved workers will spray their offices with bullets, and alienated students will open fire at school. The question that interests gun activists is how we’re prepared to respond. A Republican legislator in Wisconsin wanted to arm teachers so they could cut down Columbine copycats, and college students in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Michigan, Texas, and Virginia are agitating for the right to carry concealed weapons on campus so they can defend themselves against the next Virginia Tech–style shooter. An armed civilian might be even more useful during a massacre than a police officer; cops hit the people they’re aiming at less than half the time—in some departments much less. That might be because criminals identify police by their uniforms and so get the first shot off. A civilian might have the element of surprise.

My friends who are appalled at the thought of widespread concealed weapons aren’t impressed by this argument, or by the research demonstrating no ill effects of the shall-issue revolution. “I don’t care,” said one. “I don’t feel safe knowing people are walking around with guns. What about my right to feel safe? Doesn’t that count for anything?”

Robert Bork tried out that argument in 1971, in defense of prosecuting such victimless crimes as drug abuse, writing in the Indiana Law Journal that “knowledge that an activity is taking place is a harm to those who find it profoundly immoral.” It’s as bad an argument now as it was then. We may not like it that other people are doing things we revile—smoking pot, enjoying pornography, making gay love, or carrying a gun—but if we aren’t adversely affected by it, the Constitution and common decency argue for leaving it alone. My friend may feel less safe because peopleare wearing concealed guns, but the data suggest she isn’t less safe.

To the unfamiliar, guns are noisy and intimidating. They represent the supremacy of force over reason, of ferocity over refinement, and probably a whole set of principles that rub some people the wrong way. But a free society doesn’t make people give a reason for doing the things they want to do; the burden of proof falls on those who would forbid. I started out thinking widespread concealed-carry was a bad idea. But in the absence of evidence that allowing law-abiding citizens to carry guns is harmful, I come down on the side of letting people do what they want.

Why shouldn’t being prepared to defend oneself be on the list of skills we expect of modern citizens? I’ve encountered five reasons not to wear a gun: you think it so unlikely you’ll be attacked it’s not worth the trouble or the sacrifice of Condition White; you expect the police to come to your aid in the event of trouble; wearing a gun makes you feel less safe instead of more; you’ve decided you couldn’t take a life under any circumstance; or you don’t want to contribute to a coarsening of society by preparing to kill at a moment’s notice.

It’s true that crime is down, but it’s certainly not nonexistent; hideous things happen to good people every day. We carry fire insurance even though fire is uncommon; carrying a gun may be no more paranoid. Expecting police protection is delusional; they’ll usually do no more than show up later to investigate. Carrying a gun is unsafe for those who haven’t been properly trained, but a good class and regular practice can fix that. Only the last two reasons strike me as logically complete arguments not to go armed. Being willing to die rather than kill is an admirable and time-honored philosophical position. I’m not certain, though, how many of us would hold to it when the fatal moment was upon us. I, for one, count myself out. I’m willing.

At least I think so. Those who write about and te