No IBM1 for Me. :-(

Well, the ODCMP is taking applications for the few IBM M1 Carbines they have starting October 1, and I’m not going to be able to get one.


Truck tags are due in October, the Gunblogger’s Rendezvous is in October, I just dropped a chunk of change to replace my stereo receiver (that, or get psychoanalysis for my wife who cannot live without her music), and I can’t find the damned form I have that says I’m qualified to buy a rifle from the ODCMP anyway.

Anybody want to buy ten 15-round M1 magazines? It looks like I won’t be needing them after all.


UPDATE: In comments, Sebastian from Snowflakes in Hell points out my poor reading skillz: The IBMeraphim go on sale in October of 2008, not 2007! I can still save my pennies and get an IBM1!

The offer of my ten M1 Carbine magazines for sale is hereby withdrawn!


A while back Kim asked via email, well, let’s use his own words, since he apparently isn’t going to do the post, and I don’t want my work to go to waste:

After my offhand comment the other day about how people should get into reloading, I’ve received over a dozen emails asking how a complete tenderfoot would get into it: with a low budget, modest reloading amounts, and so on.

I would appreciate advice from you all as the a “basic” set of equipment one would need, as well as some recommendations for stuff like powder and such.

Here are the parameters.

1. Go to this page at MidwayUSA, and select the items you think would work for a beginner. Please use only this page as the starter — I am aware that other places may offer more choices, but this is as good a place to start as any. Get to the item as though you were about to stick it in the shopping cart, and then save the link (eg. thus: Hornady Lock n Load Single Stage Press) and include it in your return email to me.

2. Include everything that will make the beginner’s life less complicated — simpler is better, but precision/quality might also be better. Err on the “budget” side — remember, we’re starting from scratch, and a big ticket will just scare people away. A comprehensive list of stuff is imperative, however: scales, calipers, dies, manuals, videos, whatever.

3. Assume that the beginners will be reloading a modest selection of calibers: .38 Spec/.357 Mag, .45 ACP and and one “esoteric” cartridge like, say, .30 Luger for pistols, if that would require different handling; and .22-250, .243 Win, .308, .30-06, and one “esoteric” cartridge like, say, 32-20 or .30 Carbine for rifles. Assume also that only about 50 cartridges will be reloaded at a time, and assume FMJ “practice” bullets only.

4. Keep it simple. The more technical you get, the less likely someone (like me, for instance) will listen to you. Also, stick to SAAMI “medium-strength” loads if possible.

5. Powders: a single clean-burning “universal” powder each for rifle and handgun cartridges (quick-burning for handgun, slow-medium for rifle).

6. Primers: one pistol, one rifle brand (or just one if that will do double duty).

7. Finally, include a simple, step-by-step process of reloading. Assume you have ONE expended .45 ACP and .308 Win cartridge casing, and take it from there. Avoid jargon. (“Now ream out the casing” is meaningless, for example, unless a description of the tools and action is included.)

I responded almost immediately, and waited for Kim’s post. I waited a couple of weeks, then dropped him an email asking if he was going to carry through, and got no response. Now that it’s been over a month, I thought I’d go ahead and post my response for your review. You can tell me if I was overcomplicated.

Without further ado, Reloading 101:

I started off dirt cheap, and until recently still used the original press I purchased in 1987. Here are my recommendations:

Beginner’s press kit:

Lee Anniversary kit – $89.99

Includes powder measure (not a great one, but it functions), priming tool with (most) shell holders, scale (again, not great, but functional), and a reloading manual.


.38/357 Lee Carbide
– $30.99
.45ACP Lee Carbide – $21.99
.30 Luger Lee Steel – $20.99
.22-250 Lee Deluxe 3-die – $24.99
.243 Lee Deluxe 3-die – $24.99
.308 Lee Deluxe 3-die – $24.99
.30-06 Lee Deluxe 3-die – $24.99
.30 Carbine Lee Carbide – $30.79

Case lube:

Hornady One-Shot
– $6.99


6″ steel dial caliper – $25.99

I’d recommend case gauges, but this is sufficient for a beginner who doesn’t load large quantities.

Loading Block:

Hornady universal 50-round – $4.79

Reloading manual (in addition to the Lee that comes with the press – two manuals are a MINIMUM)

Speer Reloading Manual #14 – $26.99

Rifle Powder:

IMR 4064 – $18.99/lb

Use this for .22-250, .243, .308, & .30-06 – 30 Carbine is more of a pistol cartridge.

Pistol Powders:

.38/.357, & .30 Carbine: Winchester 296 – $17.99/lb

.45ACP, .30 Luger: Winchester 231 – $17.49/lb

Pistol Primers:

CCI Small Pistol (.38/.357) – $21.99/1000

CCI Large Pistol (.45ACP) – $21.49/1000

Rifle Primers:

CCI Large Rifle – $22.99/1000

CCI Small Rifle (.30 Carbine) – $22.49/1000

(It looks like Midway’s getting out of the primer business – lots of “out of stock, no backorder”)

Case Cleaning & Prep:

Iosso Brass Case Cleaning kit – $14.99 (Cheaper than a tumbler)

Lee Primer Pocket Cleaner – $2.09

RCBS Chamfer and deburring tool – $13.79

Safety Glasses – $8.99

Total: Less than $550.00 not including freight, and not using the sale prices.


First, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. Yes, I know that “real men don’t need instructions,” but seeing that you are potentially building little bombs that can blow up your gun and disfigure you for life (or kill you if you’re REALLY unlucky), RTFI! Read the instructions that come with the press, read the instructions that come with the dies, read the instructions that come with the priming tool. Read the instructions that come with the powder measure. Read the instructions in reloading manuals. READ EVERYTHING.

Familiarize yourself with all the parts. Mount the press to a STURDY surface – you don’t want it moving around too much when you start resizing .30-06 cases. If possible, have a SEPARATE surface nearby on which to place your balance scale. This isn’t imperative, but it can be helpful. Make sure whatever surface you place the scale on is LEVEL and will stay that way.

We’ll start with reloading straight-walled brass (.30 Carbine, .38/.357 and .45ACP). Because this brass does not have a significant taper nor a bottleneck, it can be resized without using lubricant as long as the resizing die has a resizing ring made of carbide or other very hard material. It is imperative, however, that the brass be CLEAN, as grit can damage the ring resulting in scored cases. The brass doesn’t have to be polished to a high sheen, it just needs to have no grit of any kind on it. This is doubly true for standard steel dies, as they are even more vulnerable to scratching.

Locate and insert the properly sized shell holder to the ram of the press – the steel rod that goes up and down as you operate the handle. Raise the ram to its full height, and screw in the resizing die until it just touches the shell holder. Lower the ram, and screw the sizing die in approximately 1 more full turn. Raise the ram back up until the shell holder presses on the die, and tighten the locking ring on the die with a wrench so it cannot back out. Lower the ram and look at the depriming pin on the resizing die. It should stick down low enough to push the primer out of the case completely. Adjust it per the instruction sheet and make sure you lock it down so that it cannot move once it’s adjusted properly.

Fill the reloading block with up to 50 clean cases. Insert the first case into the shell holder and slowly raise the ram. When the case reaches the die and begins to enter there will be significant resistance. It shouldn’t STOP, however. If it does, you need to make sure that it is fully seated in the shell holder, and not offset to one side or you will crush the mouth of the case against the bottom of the die. Operate the lever of the press to the bottom of its stroke. This will take some effort – you are, after all, squeezing metal. When it is all the way down and the ram is all the way up there MAY still be a slight gap between the top of the shell holder and the bottom of the die (that’s why you screwed the shell holder in an extra turn during setup.) You should also hear the primer pop out of its pocket. If the case stops BEFORE the handle is all the way down, the rod that carries the depriming pin is screwed in too deeply and has bottomed out in the case. Raise the operating handle and readjust the decapping rod, then size the case again (it won’t hurt it, and you’ve got to size it all the way.)

Take your first resized, decapped case and MAKE SURE IT CHAMBERS IN YOUR GUN. Drop it into all the cylinders of your revolver or make sure your automatic will close on the empty in the chamber. This is the quick-and-dirty way to make sure you’ve properly resized the case and you won’t be making fifty rounds that don’t fit anything. A better way to do this is to purchase a case gauge, but we’re attempting to start on-the-cheap, and this works just fine. If everything is copacetic, resize the rest of your cases.

Now, INSPECT the cases. What you’re looking for is any evidence of a crack at the case mouth, or a bright ring on the cartridge body near the case rim. If you’re using once-fired brass, or brass you know hasn’t been reloaded a dozen times already, you can probably skip this step, but it only takes a minute. Also, check the primer pocket. If it’s got a lot of soot in it, use the primer pocket cleaner tool to scrape it out. At this point you can use the chamfer/deburring tool to dress the inside and outside of the case mouth, but with pistol cartridges this is seldom necessary.

Remove the resizing die from the press and replace it with the expander die. It’s now time to open up the case mouth just enough to let you seat a bullet. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on adjusting the expander die, but bear in mind that if you mangle a case it may not be correctable. Do your adjustments in small increments until there is just enough flare at the case mouth to allow you to start a bullet without fighting with it. Too much flare may prevent you from crimping the mouth properly, so getting this adjustment right is pretty important, and bear in mind that this adjustment hinges on the cases all being the same length, so if you’ve picked up range brass of unknown origin you might want to check the cases with your dial caliper and sort them by length. (And make sure they’re within SAMMI specifications.) Otherwise, use brass of known origin, or invest in a case trimmer when you can afford one. Once again, once the die is properly adjusted, LOCK IT DOWN so it can’t come loose. Run all the cases through the expander. (They probably won’t chamber now, so don’t bother to try it.)

Now it’s time to prime the cases. These are little explosives, so WEAR EYE PROTECTION. The kit I recommended includes Lee’s AutoPrime tool, which I like a lot. Again, read the instructions and set the tool up for the proper size primer for your caliber. The .38/357 and .30 Carbine use a small primer, .45ACP uses a large primer. The .30 Carbine uses a rifle primer, and yes, there’s a difference. Select the correct primer for your cartridge and PAY ATTENTION because, while they are the same size, rifle and pistol primers differ in hardness and power. I like the AutoPrime because I can easily dump 50 primers onto the tray directly from the primer box. Then by gently shaking the primer tray the primers will all “flip” until they are oriented correctly with the cup facing up. Place the correct shell holder in the AutoPrime before you do this. The shell holder for the AutoPrime is different from the shell holder for the press, but it bears the same size number. Once you have fifty primers properly oriented on the tray, put the clear cover in place, grip the handle so that the operating lever is fully depressed, and move the tool at an angle that will cause the primers to slide down toward the shell holder. Insert the first case into the shell holder, release the lever, give the tool a gentle shake to drop a primer into place, and then squeeze the grip. You should feel the primer hit the primer pocket, and then resistance as it slides into the hole. It is not necessary to squeeze like a gorilla, but a firm grip is necessary. The primer tool handle should move through almost its full range of travel before the primer bottoms out in the pocket. Relax your grip on the lever, but don’t let it open all the way, and extract the primed case. Examine the case. The primer should be seated so that the cup is just below flush with the case head. Run your finger over the case to be sure – the calibrated finger pad Mk. 1 works really well for this. If it is not, put it back in the tool and give it a little more grunt. You don’t want to try to seat another primer on top of the first, which is why I said to not let the lever go all the way open. Once you have a feel for just how far the lever needs to travel, you won’t have to do the visual inspection again. Finish priming the rest of the cases.

If you have a case where the primer went in with suspicious ease, you may want to discard that case, or at least mark it with a permanent marker so you don’t load it again. It has been shot too many times or overloaded so that the primer pocket has expanded. This is much less likely to happen if you use brass that you know the history of. Picking up brass off the ground at the range means having no clue what the yahoo before you did with it. Inspecting such brass for signs of overpressure (like a primer that has flowed out of the pocket) and discarding beforehand is strongly recommended.

Once you’ve resized, decapped, expanded and primed fifty cases, you should be ready for a break. I know I was the first time. WASH YOUR HANDS, kick back, have a drink (non-alcoholic!) or even take a day off. They’ll wait.

Charging the case and seating a bullet is next. Many reloaders charge all their cases and then seat all the bullets. I don’t. I charge each case and seat a bullet before moving on to the next case. Why? For me there’s a lower risk of screwing up that way. Time to set up your scale. Again, the scale needs to be on a level surface. Read and understand the instructions for your particular scale. Set it up and adjust it per those instructions so that it reads 0 grains when the powder pan is sitting in the scale. Check your loadbooks. Check them TWICE. Pick a good starting load, not the one marked MAX. Pull out your powder of choice. VERIFY that you pulled the right cannister (don’t, for example, confuse Winchester 231 and Winchester 296 just because they are in VERY similar packages.)

Now there are two ways to throw a powder charge. You can use the Lee dippers (which I do NOT recommend) or you can use the powder measure that came with the press. Bear in mind, it’s a pretty cheap measure and not likely to throw really accurate, consistent charges, so you’ve got a couple of options I’ll get to in a minute. Set up the powder measure close to the scale and follow the instructions to adjust it. This basically consists of closing down the adjustment to its minimum, pouring powder into the hopper, and then operating the handle to dispense powder into the powder pan. Place the pan on the scale, check the weight, and adjust the measure. Lather, rinse, and repeat until you’re at or near the weight you want. It is very important when operating the powder measure to do it the exact same way every time. You want the powder to fill the chamber just-so on each successive attempt so that the variation in weight is minimized. Here are your two choices: live with the variation that will inevitably occur (and, depending on the powder you use and the measure you have, it can be significant) or weigh each individual charge and – by hand – adjust the charge weight. Using a ball powder like Win 231 or 296 the variation is usually small, but on flake and especially on extruded stick powders like IMR 4064, it can be more significant. The variation is more important when the charge weight is small, as it is in handgun cartridges than in rifle cartridges where a +/- 0.2 grain difference isn’t all that much compared to a charge weight of 47 grains. If you want to individually weigh the charges, use a small bowl with some powder in it and one of the Lee powder dippers to add or remove powder from the scale pan. This is quite tedious, and probably the biggest PITA when it comes to reloading, especially if you’re interested in tack-driving accuracy. If you’re building “blasting ammo,” pick a charge weight that is safe +/- a half grain, make sure your scale will throw charges within that accuracy range, and reload.

I STRONGLY RECOMMEND checking the charge weight every tenth round or so to make sure the powder measure has not gone out of adjustment if you go that route.

Once your powder measure is adjusted, you can throw a charge directly into the case mouth from the measure (probably, depending on the measure’s design) or place the funnel over the case mouth and throw the charge into the funnel. Once the powder is in the case, look to see how full the case is. NOTE THIS. On some cases it is possible to throw a double-charge, or put twice as much powder in as you intended to, if you are not being careful. Cases like the .38 and the .357 Magnum are good examples. The .38 was originally a black-powder round. Smokeless powder takes up much less space. This is one reason why I charge the case and then seat a bullet immediately. It greatly reduces the possibility of making this error.

Now it is time to set up the bullet seating die. If you’re using a bullet with a cannelure (a groove around the bullet that the case mouth is supposed to be crimped into) then setting up the die is pretty simple. If it does not (like a .45 hardball bullet) then you need to know what the overall cartridge length should be, and you will need to use your dial caliper to measure the finished cartridge as you adjust the die. Place an empty, primed, expanded case in the press and raise the ram to its full height. Take the seating die and unscrew the seating stem until it is almost all the way out. Screw the die into the press until you feel it touch the case. Back it out about half a turn and lock it down. Now, take the case out of the press, charge the case with powder and start a bullet into it. Place the case in the press (don’t let the bullet fall sideways) and raise the ram SLOWLY. You should be able to put it all or almost all the way up before the seating stem hits the bullet. If it does go all the way up, hold it there and screw the seating stem down until it touches the bullet. Lower the cartridge, screw the seating stem down a little bit, and raise the ram to press the bullet into the case. Again, do this carefully and in small increments. Either observe the cannelure or use your dial caliper to measure the overall cartridge length (you want it a little shorter than maximum) until the stem is adjusted properly for your bullet. Lock the stem down once it’s adjusted properly. You’re ready to rock. Charge a case, start a bullet, seat the bullet. Repeat until you’ve done them all.

You’re still not finished.

You need to crimp the case. The Lee die sets come with a “factory crimp” die. Follow the instructions and you’ll get a good crimp. If you’re using someone else’s dies, the seating die usually will also be the crimping die. The body of the die will either roll or taper crimp the case. It’s possible to do the seating and crimping as a single step, but I don’t advise it. It’s harder to set up, and you run the risk of screwing up your first couple of cartridges if you don’t get it right during the adjustment phase.

Once all your cartridges are crimped, you’re done. There, wasn’t that easy?

Now let’s do bottleneck cases! (Don’t groan!)

Actually, bottleneck cases are a lot easier, with fewer steps, but there is one additional thing that has to be done: case lubing.

Put your fifty cases in the loading block, neck up. Put your resizing die and the proper shell holder in the press and adjust as directed above (this part is no different from resizing straight-wall cases.) Again, it is very important that the cases be CLEAN. Once the die is properly adjusted, take your can of Hornady One-Shot and shake thoroughly. Spray the cases from above at about a 45 degree angle so that the spray can get into the case neck. Spray one side, making sure you get all the rows. Don’t skimp on the ones on the corners of the loading block. Turn the block 180 degrees and spray the other side of the cases. Let them sit for a minute and dry. If you’ve done it properly, each case should have a nice very thin greasy coating of case lube. More is better than less, but there is such a thing as “too much.” A little practice and you’ll know the difference. Now, resize just as you would a pistol case. Note, it will take more effort because there’s a lot more case to squeeze down, but it shouldn’t require Aaahnold’s biceps to operate the press. If it does, you didn’t use enough lube. If you REALLY didn’t use enough lube, you will get a case stuck in the die. We won’t be going there in this little tutorial, so USE ENOUGH LUBE. This is why I recommend Hornady One-Shot. It’s hard to use too much. Not impossible, just hard.

Now, when you lower the ram you will feel it want to “stick” partway down. This is the expander ball being drawn through the case neck. This die does three functions: it resizes the case, decaps the primer AND it expands the case neck for a new bullet. Rifle case mouths don’t get a “flare” like pistol case mouths do. Once the case is sized and decapped, wipe it clean with a rag or a paper towel to get the lube off. Again, PUT THE FIRST CASE IN YOUR GUN TO MAKE SURE IT WILL CHAMBER. Either that, or buy a case gauge. Once the cases area all resized, INSPECT THEM for cracks, dimples, and that bright ring near the base that indicates incipient case head separation. Little dimples are not a major worry. BIG dimples mean “throw it away, you used too much lube!” Clean the primer pocket if necessary.

Priming a rifle case is identical to priming a pistol case. Select the proper tool size, get out the right primers, and go to work. Verify that you’re seating them to the proper depth. If you’re loading for a semi-auto, a high primer can contribute to a slam-fire, and you can blow up your gun that way so PAY ATTENTION. Once the cases are all primed, it’s time to charge the case with powder and seat a bullet. The instructions are exactly the same. It’s much harder to double-charge a rifle case, but it is possible to accidentally use a pistol powder instead of a rifle powder, and again, you can blow up your gun that way so PAY ATTENTION. It may be a bit more difficult to start a rifle bullet into the case because the case mouth doesn’t get flared. There are a couple of things you can do to make it easier. First, boat-tailed bullets are very easy to get started in a rifle case, so I recommend them if you’re willing to spend a little more money. Or, you can use the cone-shaped end of the chamfer/deburring tool to cut a bevel on the inside of the case neck so that the bottom of a flat-base bullet can start easier. Or, you can just push hard. Set up the powder measure and scale as previously described and charge a case. Set up the seating die as described and seat a bullet. Verify the overall length. Lock the die down and repeat until complete. If you really feel it necessary you can crimp your rifle cases. In most situations, I do not. Unless you’re reloading for a tubular magazine rifle, or your gun is chambered in an überthumper caliber, crimping is not (in my humble opinion) really required. Again, Lee makes a “Factory Crimp” die for most calibers that works quite well.

Please, use eye protection. Don’t eat or smoke while reloading. Don’t reload when you’re tired or in a hurry, and don’t let yourself be distracted. Wash up afterward. The residue from fired cartridges and from new bullets doesn’t contain much lead, but lead is a cumulative poison. It’s easy to wash it off. It’s not easy to get out of your system.

One note about my recommendations. A lot of people hate Lee reloading equipment. Personally, I think they’re equipment snobs. No, Lee does not make top-of-the-line stuff, but this request was not for top-of-the-line stuff – it was for someone trying to get into reloading on a tight budget to make practice ammo. Lee is absolutely fine for that, and a lot less money than RCBS or Hornady or Big Blue (and I love Dillon). Lee die sets come with the correct shell holder so you don’t have to purchase it separately. In addition, I love Lee’s collet neck-sizing dies. If you’re loading for a bolt-action rifle and you’ve only got one in any particular caliber, then neck-sizing is for you! The Lee collet die works beautifully, and without case lube. The “Factory Crimp” dies work as advertised, too. I have RCBS or Hornady dies for most of my rifle calibers, but I’ve got a Lee Collet neck-sizing die for every bolt-action caliber I own. I have a Dillon Square-Deal B press set up for .45ACP and an RL-450 for everything else, but I’m currently considering setting up my old Lee Challenger “O” press again for those jobs where a single-stage press is the right tool for the job.

Dear Laura:.

I read with interest your latest obloquy, Let’s Pry Open Those Cold, Dead Hands published at In These Times last week, and was inspired to once again put fingers to keyboard in response. I hope that you will again endure to read to the end, even though this is just one more of the “rabid responses” your plaints attract.

I was struck, at first, by the fact that the heart of your piece was on the topic of my first email to you – the grassroots response of those of us who (from my perspective) defend a crucial right of the individual; the fact that we respond spontaneously, in volume, and with our time and money, and your side’s obvious deficiency in this regard. I suppose I should feel honored.

The second point of interest you pronounced in your piece was that we “People of the Gun” as you term us (a term we have since embraced as only the speed of the internet allows), are largely suburban and rural white males. Regardless of the smattering of vocal urban males, females, and people of color who make up our number and are welcome among us, your observation is largely correct. (If you’re interested in the female “People of the Gun” among us, I would be more than happy to forward you a number of web addresses.) Here’s a hint, though: you really should de-emphasize the networking capability of the NRA. They are far too slow and cumbersome a group, and tend to be dragged along behind the leading edge which is made up of the gun blogs and gun boards on the internet. I dare say that most of us don’t visit the NRA’s web site very much. I know I don’t. You are stuck in the mindset that some monolithic organization must lead people in the desired direction. I assure you, it doesn’t work that way any longer.

I was struck thirdly by your citation of the Justice Department report that blacks, who make up only 13 percent of the population, constitute 49 percent of the victims of homicide.

I was struck, because most people avoid mentioning this fact which has been the case for quite a while, and I am loath to do it myself in most discussions on the topic of gun control because, like a corollary to Godwin’s Law mentioning race in any internet discussion almost immediately devolves into accusations of RACISM™! and the discussion quickly crashes to a halt. But since you brought it up, if you’ll do further research you will discover that about half of the perpetrators of homicide are also among that 13 percent of the population. In fact, they are far less than 13 percent. They are most definitely not suburban and rural white males, they are a very tiny, very identifiable demographic: Young. Urban. Black. Males. And they kill each other and the innocent at a rate six times that of the rest of the population. You are absolutely correct that “African Americans have plenty of motivation” to address this problem. They’ve had this motivation for literally decades.

But whose throats do you want to shove “tougher gun policies” down? Whose “cold dead hands” do you intend to “pry open”?

And just how, exactly, will doing this affect that much smaller than 13 percent demographic in any way, shape, or form?

Allow me to quote the final paragraphs of your column:

The Rev. Michael Pfleger knows the numbers. In June, Pfleger and Jackson were arrested for criminal trespassing during a protest outside a gun shop in a Chicago suburb. Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina’s, an African-American Catholic Church on Chicago’s South Side, has been crusading for stricter regulation of gun shops and manufacturers. Pfleger is in agony over the 34 school-age children in Chicago who were killed by gun violence in the first six months of 2007.

St. Sabina’s 2,200-member congregation is 70 percent female. Pfleger, who happens to be white, is recruiting the pastors at neighboring churches to get into the fight. “The church should be leading the path,” he says. “Women are much more vocal. I believe partly because of their sensitivity to the murder of children. Historically, women are much more progressive. Thats why churches are so vital, because women make up the main membership.”

I venture to guess that the 2,200 members of St. Sabina’s are 70% female because there’s a distinct lack of older black males, in part because of the epidemic levels of violence have been ongoing for so long. But let me point out that the 34 school-age children who died in Chicago were not killed “by gun violence,” they were killed by young black men firing guns. Young men who live in those very communities. The sons and grandsons, the nephews and neighbors of those congregations.

Pardon my asking, Ms. Washington, but don’t you think all those churches and those women could be far more effective at reducing the truly horrific carnage if they addressed their efforts directly at the young men in question, rather than at the suburban and rural white men who are not?

Again, if you’d care to discuss the topic further, I remain:

Your Humble Servant,

Kevin Baker

(Let’s see if she responds to this one.)

On the Road Again.

I’ll be on the road through Friday. Posting will be minimal, as will commenting on my part. Sorry. It looks like next week will be much the same. Hopefully Mr. Hupp and I will work out the logistics of our gun control discussion in the next few days, but I don’t expect it to start until this time next week at the earliest. Please, as a favor to me, don’t inundate him with a deluge of comments in the mean time. He already has a poor opinion of us, and I’m on record stating that sometimes we are our own worst enemies, even (sometimes) inadvertently.

Do It Again, Only HARDER!.

Say Uncle points to another Laura Washington piece on gun control. It seems Ms. Washington wants to “energize the base,” since in her previous jeremiad she stated that she wanted to “get organized and shove tougher gun policies right down their throats.”

One of those throats, obviously, would be mine. Now she wants to “pry open those cold dead hands.”

Guess whose?

Say Uncle has done a masterful job fisking her op-ed (and I’ll get back to that), and Ahab has some things to say about it, as does Sebastian, and Countertop, and Alphecca. Since Ms. Washington states in her current piece, “Whenever I write about the plague of gun violence, I get a huge blowback from the gun lovers of America,” I thought I’d do my part as well.

Before I do that, though, allow me to bask in the pleasure that Ms. Washington took what I told her in my first email to her, and wrote an op-ed from it. I wrote previously:

Ms. Washington, you note in your piece: “(I)t seems the gun control advocates have been outmatched. Abigail Spangler acknowledges as much. Spangler is the founder of, a Virginia-based group that has been spearheading a slew of anti-gun protests around the nation.

“Gun control activists, she wrote me, ‘are TRYING HARD but they are seriously affected in state after state by lack of funding and contributions.” She recently met, she says, with the leader of Virginia’s only gun control group. “He says they may not even be able to afford any lobbyist at all soon in Virginia!'”

Ms. Washington, the citizenry will offer an opinion to anyone. Opinions are free. But activism costs money – and the anti-gun side has shown that the hearts and wallets of the general public are not really into it. Ask any hundred random people on the street if they favor stricter gun laws and most likely the majority will say “yes.” Ask them what the current gun laws are, and they won’t be able to tell you. Gun rights activists can. The gun control side of the argument has been supported for decades with money from foundations, perhaps the largest contributor being the Joyce Foundation. Look them up. Those of us who believe in the right to arms are the true grass-rooters, and there are far more of us than the mere four million that the NRA claims as members. As someone once put it so pithily: “Poor Lefties; they’ve been playing on astroturf so long that they don’t know grassroots even when fed a mouthful of divot.”

In the current piece she writes:

Through organizing, the Internet, and plunking down plenty of cold hard cash, the gun lobby has proven it is ready for primetime. Meanwhile, its opponents are languishing in the wee-hours of late-night local cable.

Right. The Violence Policy Center, the Brady Center, IANSA, the Second Amendment Research Center of Ohio State University, the Harvard School of Public Health, the…. Well, you get the idea.

Gun control advocates should piggyback on the success of online activist groups like and These efforts have raised millions to promote political candidates and the antiwar movement. The money is there. Barack Obama, for one, has raised over $17 million on the Internet. Marches and protests are fine, but it is imperative to devise a response that is sophisticated and symmetrical to the gun lobby’s tactics.

She realizes her side needs money, but I don’t think she knows the mailing address for her grant application to the Joyce Foundation.

ANYWAY, back to Say Uncle’s fisk. In it, he uses one of my favorite “Uncleisms” – “Gun control is what you do instead of something.”

Ms. Washington makes two statements that I think are crucial to understand about the topic, but that almost no one on either side ever addresses. To wit:

The gun army, made up almost exclusively of white men from suburban and rural areas….


According to a recent report by the U.S. Justice Department, nearly half the people murdered in the United States in 2005 were black. Most lived in cities and were felled by guns. While blacks make up about 13 percent of the nation’s population, they comprised 49 percent of all murder victims.

I am reminded of the truth of the first point every time I go to the range. While Zendo Deb, Denise, Tam, Bitter, KeeWee, Breda, and hundreds if not thousands of women, not to mention black men like Kenn Blanchard and Walter Williams, are members of the “gun army,” the overwhelming majority of us are white males, mostly suburban or rural.

But very nearly half of the victims and perpetrators of violent crime are less than 13% of the population. A very identifiable less than 13%.

Young. Urban. Black. Males.

In fact, the level of violence committed by and upon this tiny demographic skews America’s violent crime rates markedly, as I pointed out in Questions from the Audience? back in January of last year.

But whose throats does Ms. Washington want to shove “tough new gun policies” down? Whose “cold dead hands” does she want to pry open, in the apparent belief it will somehow affect the problem she herself identifies?

If you misidentify the problem, it’s no surprise that you misidentify the solution, but it’s more than a little exasperating when the other side points right at a crucial datum, and continues to make the same error. It leads one to suspect either a logical disconnect, or an ulterior motive.

“Gun control is what you do instead of something” indeed.

Another Debate (That I’m Supposedly Terrified Of).

Yesterday Say Uncle linked to a rather hysterical (as in PSH, not ROFL) piece by someone who is, shall we say, rabidly anti-gun. Having lost two family members in separate incidents, his hatred of the tools of violence is understandable, but he’s extended that hatred out to those of us who defend the right to arms as well.

One of the posters defenders is also a blogger, and has written an invitation to debate at his blog, Unique Like Everybody. Now we just need to work out the logistics of how to do this; either trade posts at each other’s sites, or (I would prefer) post everything at both sites. I prefer to keep a record of the exchange, after The Fabulous Baker Boys debate disappeared.

JHupp, the poster at Unique Like Everybody appears to be a reasonable, intelligent person. While I doubt either of us will change our positions much, these discussions aren’t really aimed at that. They’re aimed at the audience of fence-sitters, the people who don’t have much knowledge of the topic, but who want to know more so that they can make up their own minds.

I hope he’s serious. It’s been a while since I’ve had this opportunity.

Quote of the WEEK.

America’s health-care problem is not that some people lack insurance, it is that 250 million Americans do have it. – John Stossel

That quote is from his opinion piece Bad Medicine, published today.

Here’s the whole thing:

Bad Medicine

JFS Productions, Inc.
September 21, 2007

Almost daily we’re bombarded with apocalyptic warnings about the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance. Senator Hillary Clinton wants to require everyone to have it, to require big companies to pay for it, and have government buy policies for the poor.

That is a move in the wrong direction.

America’s health-care problem is not that some people lack insurance, it is that 250 million Americans do have it.

You have to understand something right from the start. We Americans got hooked on health insurance because the government did the insurance companies a favor during World War II. Wartime wage controls prohibited cash raises, so employers started giving noncash benefits like health insurance to attract workers. The tax code helped this along by treating employer-based health insurance more favorably than coverage you buy yourself. And state governments have made things worse by mandating coverage many people would never buy for themselves.

Competition also pushed companies to offer ever-more attractive policies, such as first-dollar coverage for routine ailments like ear infections and colds, and coverage for things that are not even illnesses, like pregnancy. We came to expect insurance to cover everything.

That’s the root of our problem. No one wants to pay for his own medical care. “Let the insurance company pay for it.” But since companies pay, they demand a say in what treatments are—and are not—permitted. Who can blame them?

Then who can blame people for feeling frustrated that they aren’t in control of their medical care? Maybe we need to rethink how we pay for less-than-catastrophic illnesses so people can regain control. The system creates perverse incentives for everyone. Government mandates are good at doing things like that.

Steering people to buy lots of health insurance is bad policy. Insurance is a necessary evil. We need it to protect us from the big risks–things most of us can’t afford to pay for, like a serious illness, a major car accident, or a house fire.

But insurance is a lousy way to pay for things. You premiums go not just to pay for medical care, but also for fraud, paperwork, and insurance company employee salaries. This is bad for you, and bad for doctors.

The average American doctor now spends 14 percent of his income on insurance paperwork. A North Carolina doctor we interviewed had to hire four people just to fill out forms. He wishes he could spend that money on caring for patients.

The paperwork is part of insurance companies’ attempt to protect themselves against fraud. That’s understandable. Many people do cheat — lie about their history, demand money for unnecessary care or care that never even happened.

So there’s lots of waste in insurance, lost money and time.

Imagine if your car insurance covered oil changes and gasoline. You wouldn’t care how much gas you used, and you wouldn’t care what it cost. Mechanics would sell you $100 oil changes. Prices would skyrocket.

That’s how it works in health care. Patients don’t ask how much a test or treatment will cost. They ask if their insurance covers it. They don’t compare prices from different doctors and hospitals. (Prices do vary.) Why should they? They’re not paying. (Although they do in hidden, indirect ways.)

In the end, we all pay more because no one seems to pay anything. It’s why health insurance is not a good idea for anything but serious illnesses and accidents that could bankrupt you. For the rest, we should pay out of our savings.

The old bromide goes, “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by human stupidity.” But if you’re someone who thinks that a coup d’etat occurred in this country on Nov 22, 1963 and the people who have more or less run this country since then have made certain that everyone either plays ball. If they don’t…well, at first they were just killed and now they are just marginalized through a variety of smear tactics and propaganda. then the health care “crisis” is of their making, rather than the predictable fuckup of government in cooperation with “the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.”

So we ought to expand government’s involvement in our health care so that everybody is covered. (Yes, I’m scratching my head at that “logic” myself.)

I guess I’m part of that vast right-wing smear machine.

When do I get my cut of Halliburton’s Iraqi oil profits?

He Earned It

I heard about this on my way in to the office this morning:

A Beloved Professor Delivers The Lecture of a Lifetime

Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor, was about to give a lecture Tuesday afternoon, but before he said a word, he received a standing ovation from 400 students and colleagues.

He motioned to them to sit down. “Make me earn it,” he said.

They had come to see him give what was billed as his “last lecture.” This is a common title for talks on college campuses today. Schools such as Stanford and the University of Alabama have mounted “Last Lecture Series,” in which top professors are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and to give hypothetical final talks. For the audience, the question to be mulled is this: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?

It can be an intriguing hour, watching healthy professors consider their demise and ruminate over subjects dear to them. At the University of Northern Iowa, instructor Penny O’Connor recently titled her lecture “Get Over Yourself.” At Cornell, Ellis Hanson, who teaches a course titled “Desire,” spoke about sex and technology.

At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch’s speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months.

RTWT. There’s video of part of it, too.

UPDATE: Most of the lecture is available on YouTube, divided into ten parts. I strongly recommend you watch it.
The whole thing is also available here that runs under Windows Media Player 9 or Flip4Mac. The quality is much better, too.