Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin for PRESIDENT!


Ah hell, let’s just run Sarah Palin for president against Barack Obama. John McCain can go home now. You want CHANGE in Washington? Put a woman in the White House.

Wild Thing for President of the USA!

I am James A. Zachary Jr. and I approved this message.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Entry for August 29, 2008


Swiping a slice of pie from the table of Obama political strategy, John McCain just played his superficiality and fluff trump card. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is obviously a woman, and choosing her as veep is a plain and simple tactic to woo some women voters over to his side of the voting booth. She is young, attractive, intelligent, patriotic, conservative, gutsy, articulate, and ambitious. She is a gun-toting, NRA card-carrying political maverick. She is “Wild Thing.”

Cactus John and Wild Thing have their work cut out, and the next sixty days will be a tough row to hoe. I think she is every bit as qualified as Hillary or Barack, but that is not a high standard. McCain and Biden carry the only credentials in this race. Sarah Palin and Barack Obama will be the race on superficiality and emotion, high ideals and big ideas, chances for barriers to be forever broken.

In making this choice, did McCain have a stroke of genius, a stroke of desperation, or just a stroke? Was this a defining moment or a senior moment? We will find out for sure in November.

I still say Condoleezza Rice as veep would have bagged this race for McCain. Maybe she was too intimidating for the crusty old boy. She would make a better president than either Obama or McCain. Sorry Condi, maybe next time. She will be the only part of the Bush administration that I will miss.

I am still a believer. I believe it’s now time for three fingers of bourbon.


James A. Zachary Jr.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Entry for August 27, 2008


Just for fun, let’s do a “one gun” scenario. Let’s pretend that for some reason, either because of some bizarre government law or because of limited personal finances, I can only own one gun. I can choose a handgun, rifle, or shotgun, but I can only have one firearm.

My choice would be to keep a pump action 12-gauge
shotgun, one of my Mossberg-500s.

First off, the variety of loads available for the 12-gauge shotgun provides the means to bag game ranging in sizes from mallards to moose. Birdshot, buckshot, slugs, and sabots, are all available and affordable.

Second, the reason that law-enforcement and the military use 12-gauge pump shotguns is because they are reliable and effective.

The Mossberg-500 is versatile, having interchangeable barrels available for any hunting or home-defense contingency. If I desired, for home defense I could remove the shoulder stock and put a pistol grip on the gun.

I consider a handgun a better primary home defense weapon, but if I can only have one gun, a shotgun will be it.

James A. Zachary Jr.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Entry for August 25, 2008


To those that like issues and experience, Joe Biden, with a certifiable big mouth and plenty of on-the-job experience, offers some credibility to the presidential campaign of our Junior Senator from Illinois. After November, it will be long argued whether this decision won or cost Barack Obama the election. The cynic in me believes politicians win on emotion and superficiality, and Obama was winning that war on every front. An Obama / Clinton ticket would have united the election money and machinery. Now the Obama / Biden ticket needs to make some machinery repairs and attend to some deep ego wounds. By bringing this down to an equal footing of issues and name-calling, Obama may have just put this race dead even.

Should McCain choose an unknown, we can all save the TV time and call it “game over.” A Mitt Romney as veep may just make this game go into extra innings and hanging-chads.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Entry for August 21, 2008


Never catching on like the competing Glocks and Sigs, H&K dropped their entire line of squeeze-cocking pistols from production.

The German Police have retired all of their old
Heckler and Koch (H&K) PSP P7 service pistols. Quite a number of these lightly fired, factory-reconditioned pistols are available in the USA for around $700 each; roughly, half of what was the price of a new P7/M8. A couple of months ago I added one of the surplus PSP P7 pistols to my collection.

The PSP P7 handles the
9MM Parabellum cartridge (AKA 9MM Luger, 9X19) with a unique piston that retards the blowback ejection of a spent cartridge. This allows for a lighter slide weight and use of a fixed barrel. The pistols are very accurate, and their thinness, low relatively weight and compact size make them suitable for concealed carry. They are very fast to bring into action from a holster; just draw the pistol and squeeze the grip and it is ready to fire. Yes, strange as it seems, squeezing the front of the grip cocks the pistol; releasing it uncocks the pistol. I am always reluctant to use the word “safe” when it comes to describing any gun, but much of the overall design of the squeeze-cocker was to make this pistol as fast and as safe as possible.
The PSP P7 enjoys something of a cult following to which I do not belong, but I do find it to be a very well designed, interesting, functional pistol.

NOTE: Reportedly, H&K is very slow to provide any needed repair parts.

James A. Zachary Jr.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Entry for August 20, 2008

A couple of weeks left in August, then all of the months of September and October, roughly two and one half months left until our “historic” presidential election. In one corner, we have a rather uninspiring, fatalistic, curmudgeonly, super senior citizen, Vietnam War hero with many long years of rather mundane political experience. In the other corner, we have a dynamic, inspiring, idealistic, young, inexperienced, skinny snot nosed kid, thoroughly wet behind his big floppy ears. Are these choices supposed to be a step up from George W. Bush? Time will tell.

The rhetoric from both candidates has been predictable. The only campaign excitement left will be their respective choice of veep running mates and possibly the party conventions. If Barack chooses Hillary, he may prove unbeatable. If he chooses someone more competent but less notable, he will be vulnerable provided McCain does not put us into a deep coma with his veep choice.

The polls show McCain may have jumped ahead due to Barack stammering around some pointed questions that Cactus John barked right through. Temporary glitch, I expect the Democratic Convention extravaganza to push Obama way ahead in the polls. I then expect the Republican Convention to be a waste of party money and a waste of TV time, and it may make Cactus John look like an afterthought.

Barring surprising developments, such as Hillary becoming Barack’s veep candidate, I expect the presidential race to even out in the polls by November, with Obama in the lead but with McCain close enough to make the televised election returns worth watching, unless there is an old Cheech and Chong movie on a different channel.

Vote early and often.

James A. Zachary Jr.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Entry for August 19, 2008


To me, the Colt Anaconda always looked like a Colt Python on growth hormone and steroids. It had the same lines as the Python, but never any hint of the elegance.

I sold my Colt Anaconda .44 Magnum shortly before I retired. I originally purchased it with the hope of using it during the state of Illinois annual pistol season for deer. Finding the time and a suitable place to hunt proved to be major obstacles, so the Anaconda never saw more than a few trips to the pistol range. Even though it is heavy enough to shoot full magnum loads accurately, I would have needed substantial range time to gain the skills needed to take a deer with it.

Colt dropped double-action revolvers from their product line, making the Anaconda more of a collector’s piece than a shooter, so I took my profit from the sale and moved on. If an opportunity arises to pistol hunt deer, there are other options available in the gun safe.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Entry for August 16, 2008


One of the oldest guns I own is a first generation Colt Frontier Six Shooter. According to a Colt-archive letter of verification, it left the factory in the year 1881, making it now 127 years-old. My revolver is not as nice as the one in the photo, but has the same configuration of wooden grips, 7 ½-inch barrel, and caliber of .44-40 (AKA 44 WCF or Winchester Center Fire).

As a collector’s piece, the value of mine is at the low end of the price wars since, even though all of the part-numbers match, it was refinished at least once and the barrel etching for “Frontier Six Shooter” is very hard to make out. The gun makes a nice knockabout shooter or a very good candidate for a proper (and very expensive) restoration by a true expert.

Revolvers of this vintage were designed to shoot cartridges loaded with black powder, which generates much less pressure than modern smokeless gunpowders. Shooting smokeless loads in this revolver most likely would cause irreparable damage to the gun and possible grievous injury to the shooter. I do have several hundred rounds of cartridges loaded with modern black powder substitutes that would be safe and very effective to shoot in this gun.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Entry for August 14, 2008


It has been a while, so a couple of hours today were set aside to go to the pistol range and blow some cobwebs out of a few guns. Actual range time was only about an hour, the balance spent driving there and back. Another couple of hours more have yet to be spent cleaning and re-oiling the pistols.

I only took three pistols today, a Glock 26 9mm, an old Berretta Jetfire .25 caliber, and a Seecamp .380 caliber. One hundred and thirty rounds were put through the Glock 26, which consisted of emptying three ten-round magazines that had been lying around loaded for quite a while, plus another couple of boxes of cartridges. I emptied two eight-round magazines through the Berretta, and only seven rounds through the Seecamp.

All three pistols that I fired today are
semi-automatics. A full-automatic weapon most people know as a “machine gun” will continue to fire as long as the trigger is pressed. A semi-automatic will fire only one round for each pull of the trigger, same as double-action revolvers do. Both semi-automatics and full-automatics feed (self-load) cartridges from a magazine to the chamber of the gun via the action of a reciprocating slide or bolt activated by the round being fired. (NOTE: Some machine guns feed cartridges from a belt.)

The
Glock 26 is a compact 9MM pistol with a light, high-tech polymer frame with a steel slide and barrel; capacity is ten rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber.

The
Berretta Jetfire is a .25 caliber; small, pocket size pistol, aluminum frame with a steel barrel and slide; capacity is eight rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber.

The
Seecamp is .380 caliber (the .380 cartridge is AKA 9MM Kurz, 9MM Corto, 9MM Short, 9X17, 9MM Browning), capacity is six rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber, and is actually a bit smaller than the Jetfire and made entirely of stainless steel. While less powerful than the 9MM Glock, it is substantially more powerful than the .25 caliber Berretta. The recoil of the .380 cartridge is harsh in such a small pistol, and your trigger finger will take a beating from bouncing off the trigger guard with each shot fired. It is the smallest .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol in the world, the most powerful semi-automatic pistol for its size. Larry Seecamp certainly knows how to pack power into a small package. He also makes the same pistol in .32 ACP, which has somewhat less recoil than the .380 ACP and is still more powerful than the .25 ACP. (NOTE: ACP in gun jargon is short for Automatic Colt Pistol ammo designed by the late John Moses Browning.)

How well did I shoot today? Fair to middlin’, I’m out of practice, though I would never win a shooting tournament on my best day. Collecting and shooting guns is a fun, somewhat expensive hobby. I hope to get into the habit of making it to the range more often.



Monday, August 11, 2008

Entry for August 11, 2008

I know it is an oak tree but I am not sure which type. I believe it is a white oak, the official state tree of Illinois. It popped out of the ground in my patio garden during the spring of 2003, which would make it an acorn that dropped during the fall of 2002, possible even 2001. Whatever year the acorn was born, it became a tree in 2003.

During construction of my brick patio, the contractor hauled away a great deal of dirt from here that he used in the restoration work of a previous job. When my patio was finished, he hauled in dirt from his newest job to do the restoration here. In the restored area around the patio, I planted some shrubs and flowers, and weeded the area weekly. One day I noticed a sprig poking out of the ground with what looked like small oak leaves on it. Curious to see what it grew in to, I put a stake by it to remind me not to dig it out during weeding. Indeed, Mother Nature had decided that the patio needed an oak for shade.

Since there are no oaks nearby, I assume the acorn came with the dirt hauled in by the patio contractor. The oak tree is now just over five years old and is much more than a whip, no less than twelve feet tall. If it survives disease, insects, weather, and kids, it could live more than a couple of hundred years and grow to more than eighty feet tall, with branches that extend thirty feet from a trunk measuring three feet in diameter. Mother Nature may have put the tree too close to the house since it is only about thirty feet away, but that detail is for a time when my remains will not be warm enough to worry about it. It will be a perfect patio shade tree for the morning and early afternoon sun; though I am sure that it will not grow to that size during my time on earth.

If the oak survives a few more years, I may have a brass plaque made documenting the year it first popped out of the ground so those that follow can better appreciate that mighty oaks do indeed start from one small acorn.


James A. Zachary Jr.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dumb Luck Investing Update

Now that we are used to the idea of sub-prime mortgages failing, we get news that a substantial number of PRIME mortgages are also defaulting. When the A+ moneymakers can’t pay their tabs, it makes me wonder if things may be more calamitous than we realize.

We all know the words to these subsequent sad songs of recession. People are losing their jobs. People are losing their homes. People have record debt. People are losing credit worthiness and the ability to qualify for loans. People have negative savings, and many have negative net worth. People have raided their retirement savings, some to the point of ruin. People cannot afford healthcare or health insurance. People who have children, especially those that are sole providers, need divine intervention in order to survive.

We cannot eat our own flesh to provide nourishment. The availability of credit via low interest rates has usually been the stimulus for our economic booms; available cash rarely spawns an economic recovery simply because cash is rarely available. Currently, interest rates are not historically very high but lenders are only willing to make loans to sterling customers, i.e. people who really don’t need the freaking money in the first place. That leaves most people to stack more debt, usually just for essentials, onto their high interest credit cards, which further erodes their credit worthiness, and further erodes their ability to spend because of the juice they are paying on the card debts. Loan sharks are running and ruining our lives.

This sluggish economy may just hang around for years like an unemployed relative. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself needing to adjust to an even lower standard of living.

Wishing the very best of dumb luck to us all, it looks like we are certainly going to need it.


James A. Zachary Jr.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Entry for August 05, 2008

Call me a dumb patriot, but I really want to think of the FBI as a bunch of heroes. It sure is hard to do sometimes. When they screw up by being too conservative or organizationally disjointed, buildings blow up. When they are too aggressive, they often ruin the lives of innocent citizens using tactics that border on psychological torture. The following AP article says it better than I can.
-----------------------------


FBI used aggressive tactics in anthrax probe

By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer

Before killing himself last week, Army scientist Bruce Ivins told friends that government agents had stalked him and his family for months, offered his son $2.5 million to rat him out and tried to turn his hospitalized daughter against him with photographs of dead anthrax victims.


The pressure on Ivins was extreme, a high-risk strategy that has failed the FBI before. The government was determined to find the villain in the 2001 anthrax attacks; it was too many years without a solution to the case that shocked and terrified a post-9/11 nation.

The last thing the FBI needed was another embarrassment. Overreaching damaged the FBI's reputation in the high-profile investigations: the Centennial Olympic Park bombing probe that falsely accused Richard Jewell; the theft of nuclear secrets and botched prosecution of scientist Wen Ho Lee; and, in this same anthrax probe, the smearing of an innocent man — Ivins' colleague Steven Hatfill.

In the current case, Ivins complained privately that FBI agents had offered his son, Andy, $2.5 million, plus "the sports car of his choice" late last year if he would turn over evidence implicating his father in the anthrax attacks, according to a former U.S. scientist who described himself as a friend of Ivins.

Ivins also said the FBI confronted Ivins' daughter, Amanda, with photographs of victims of the anthrax attacks and told her, "This is what your father did," according to the scientist, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because their conversation was confidential.

The scientist said Ivins was angered by the FBI's alleged actions, which he said included following Ivins' family on shopping trips.

Washington attorney Barry Coburn, who represents Amanda Ivins, declined to comment on the investigation. An attorney for Andy Ivins also declined to comment.

The FBI declined to describe its investigative techniques of Ivins.

FBI official John Miller said that "what we have seen over the past few days has been a mix of improper disclosures of partial information mixed with inaccurate information and then drawn into unfounded conclusions. None of that serves the victims, their families or the public."

The FBI "always moves aggressively to get to the bottom of the facts, but that does not include mistreatment of anybody and I don't know of any case where that's happened," said former FBI deputy director Weldon Kennedy, who was with the bureau for 34 years. "That doesn't mean that from time to time people don't make mistakes," he added.

Dr. W. Russell Byrne, a friend and former supervisor of Ivins at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., said he had heard from other Ivins associates that investigators were going after Ivins' daughter. But Byrne said those conversations were always short because people were afraid to talk.

"The FBI had asked everybody to sign these nondisclosure things," Byrne said. "They didn't want to run afoul of the FBI."

Byrne, who retired from the lab four years ago, said FBI agents interviewed him seven to 12 times since the investigation began — and he got off easy.

"I think I'm the only person at USAMRIID who didn't get polygraphed," he said.

Byrne said he was told by people who had recently worked with Ivins that the investigation had taken an emotional toll on the researcher. "One person said he'd sit at his desk and weep," he said.


Questions about the FBI's conduct come as the government takes steps that could signal an end to its investigation. On Wednesday, FBI officials plan to begin briefing family members of victims in the 2001 attacks.

The government is expected to declare the case solved but will keep it open for now, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. Several legal and investigatory matters need to be wrapped up before the case can officially be closed, they said.

Some questions may be answered when documents related to the case are released, as soon as Wednesday. For others, the answers may be incomplete, even bizarre. Some may simply never be answered.

It is unclear how the FBI eliminated as suspects others in the lab who had access to the anthrax. It's not clear what, if any, evidence bolsters the theory that the attacks may have been a twisted effort to test a cure for the toxin. Investigators also can't place Ivins in Princeton, N.J., when the letters were mailed from a mailbox there.

Richard Schuler, attorney for anthrax victim Robert Stevens' widow, Maureen Stevens, said his client will attend Wednesday's FBI briefing with a list of questions.

"No. 1 is, 'Did Bruce Ivins mail the anthrax that killed Robert Stevens?'" Schuler said, adding, "I've got healthy skepticism."

Critics of the bureau in and out of government say that in major cases, like the anthrax investigation, it can be difficult for the bureau to stop once it embarks on a single-minded pursuit of a suspect, with any internal dissenters shut out as disloyal subordinates.

Before the FBI focused on Ivins, its sights were set on Hatfill, whose career as a bioscientist was ruined after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft named him a "person of interest" in the probe.

Hatfill sued the agency, which recently agreed to pay Hatfill nearly $6 million to settle the lawsuit.

Complaints that the FBI behaved too aggressively conflict with its straight-laced, crime-fighting image of starched agents hunting terrorists.

During its focus on Hatfill, the FBI conducted what became known as "bumper lock surveillance," in which investigators trailed Hatfill so closely that he accused agents of running over his foot with their surveillance vehicle.

FBI agents showed up once to videotape Hatfill in a hotel hallway in Tyson's Corner, Va., when Hatfill was meeting with a prospective employer, according to FBI depositions filed in Hatfill's lawsuit against the government. He didn't get the job.

One of the FBI agents who helped run the anthrax investigation, Robert Roth, said FBI Director Robert Mueller had expressed frustration with the pace of the investigation. He also acknowledged that, under FBI guidelines, targets of surveillance aren't supposed to know they're being followed.

"Generally, it's supposed to be covert," Roth told lawyers in Hatfill's lawsuit.
In the 1996 Atlanta Olympic park bombing that dragged Jewell into the limelight, the security guard became the focus of the FBI probe for three months, after initially being hailed as a hero for moving people away from the bomb before it exploded.


The bomber turned out to be anti-government extremist Eric Rudolph, who also planted three other bombs in the Atlanta area and in Birmingham, Ala. Those explosives killed a police officer, maimed a nurse and injured several other people.

In another case, the FBI used as evidence the secrets that a person tells a therapist.

In the Wen Ho Lee case, Lee became the focus of a federal probe into how China may have obtained classified nuclear warhead blueprints. Prosecutors eventually charged him only with mishandling nuclear data, and held him for nine months. In what amounted to a collapse of the government's case, prosecutors agreed to a plea bargain in which Lee pleaded guilty to one of 59 counts.

In 2004, the FBI wrongly arrested lawyer Brandon Mayfield after the Madrid terrorist bombings, due to a misidentified fingerprint. The Justice Department's internal watchdog faulted the bureau for sloppy work. Spanish authorities had doubted the validity of the fingerprint match, but the U.S. government initiated a lengthy investigation, eventually settling with Mayfield for $2 million.
___
Associated Press writer David Dishneau contributed to this report from Hagerstown, Md.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Entry for August 03, 2008


That sure went by quickly. One year ago today, August 3, 2007, was my last official day of work before retirement. Since then, I have painfully learned NOT to say that I am retired when someone asks what I do for a living; they feel compelled to the harangue me about being too young for retirement and warn of the austere life that will follow. I now simply tell people that I am acutely jobless, which usually brings an immediate end to further personal inquiries, especially if I ask the inquisitor to loan me fifty bucks to hold me over until my next unemployment check arrives

Not all of the people lecturing me can possibly be wrong so I am here to agree and tell all of you working people that retirement sucks. Too much fun in one’s life is not a good thing. Relaxation is not good; having too much fun is no fun at all. Humans evolved to be competitive, to be pissed at everyone and everything, and retirement is against that objective of nature. There was no evolutionary design for men and women to be creatures of leisure. We are nothing but animals, so viva la evolution! A person having enough money to enjoy life without working for it is living a life of debauchery, unless of course that person is of a noble heritage, such as a preacher, politician, or a pimp.

Heed my cultured guidance, whatever you do, you must NOT save for retirement; remove all of the plans for retirement from your thought processes. Work that thankless-job of yours until you drop blissfully lifeless to begin decaying in your tracks; I guarantee your soul will thank me for it.

As for my destiny, given that I have gone through all of the difficulty of retiring, regrettably I feel obligated to see it through to the dreary end. I am not a quitter, I need to finish what I started, or I’ll be unable to find the little self-respect that remains. Harsh as it is, I will fight the enjoyment; I’ll struggle against relaxation until my gurgling final breath. I will forever curse the day I retired as the nastiest moment I ever experienced, but I am a man of my word who can never return to gainful employment. Learn from my feverish wretchedness, save yourselves while you still can, and forever work, work, work, work.

Now if you will excuse me, I have a need to prepare a goodly supply of iced tea for consumption while catching the early afternoon patio sun. It will be just another of the endless unavoidably enjoyable rituals of retirement that must be grudgingly suffered.

Thanks once again for checking in on me, please favor me with kind thoughts, send money when you can, and remember this satirical paraphrase of the words of General Douglas MacArthur, “Old sewage-treatment-plant operators never die; they just smell that way.”

Cheers.

James A. Zachary Jr.