Monday, July 31, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #154 - The Legal Episode

This week we discuss the exciting legal cases Norman vs. Florida, Wrenn vs.
District of Columbia, and Kat Von D vs. Dita Von Teese*.

* Sean says I couldn't talk about Dita Von Teese in the intro because we didn't talk about her in the actual podcast, but I showed him!
  • Gun violence!  Beth hates that term. She's going to tell us what's wrong with it, and what we should call it instead.
  • A woman is arrested after robbing a Charlotte bank. Who was she? Sean checks her permanent record.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return next week.
  • Miguel talks about Kat Von D, Contract Law, and why letting your politics interfere with doing the right thing is unacceptable.
  • Florida Carry is assisting with one of the next possible Supreme Court decisions on the Second Amendment, Norman vs. Florida. Here to talk about that case is the lead counsel, Special Guest Eric Friday, of the law firm Kingry & Friday.
  • Tiffany is a busy lady who’s on the move! But even though she’s in an airport about to board her flight, she still takes the time to talk to us about the momentous Wrenn vs District of Columbia decision.
  • Did you know that you can rewrite your brain's conditioned responses to stress? Erin tells us how to hack your brain.
  • When interviewed about Moms Demand Action, Shannon Watts piles it high. Weer’d takes on the lies in part two of her interview on the Hellbent Podcast.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the GBVC Radio Group on Facebook. Join us! and subscribe to this podcast on your smartphone!
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Extinguishing Conditioned Responses
Back in June, I talked about PTSD and conditioned responses and I said that the reason so many people have flashbacks after a trauma is because nerve clusters in the brain fired during the event, permanently associating a specific sensory stimulation with the trauma. This week, I’m going to talk about how you can break that pairing.

This first thing you need to understand is that these conditioned responses are perfectly normal, and are in fact deeply rooted in prehistoric survival traits. For example, let’s say that you were attacked by a crocodile while swimming in a lake, and although you managed to survive, your brain now associates the sound of splashing water with a crocodile attack.

This is your brain trying to protect you. It believes that if you stay away from splashing water, then you won’t be attacked by a crocodile again. This makes a fair amount of sense, but unfortunately, not all conditioned responses make such sense. In one instance, a victim of child abuse associated the sound of rattling keys with impending sexual assault, because the keys announced that her father was home.

What is important to keep in mind, though, is that you are not broken or crazy for associating events or having flashbacks; this is your brain trying to warn you of danger to keep you safe. “Learn this to save your life,” your brain is saying.

The next important thing to know is that talking therapy doesn’t help for severe anxiety disorders like PTSD, and can in fact make things worse. In the early days of the Vietnam War, psychologists encouraged veterans to tell their stories, to “get it all out”, in the belief that this would unburden them. The results were catastrophic and resulted in suicides as the veterans were forced to relive the horror over and over. So don’t ever let anyone make you talk about it unless you are 100% ready.

The next step is to realize that if your brain can be programmed, then it can be un-programmed in the same way. Micki Glenn, the victim of a devastating shark attack, was quite understandably terrified of pictures of sharks. To combat this, Micki’s husband put a close-up image of that very shark -- he photographed it before it attacked her  -- on her computer as the screensaver. Every time Micki walked into the room, she had to confront the face of her attacker. This resulted in an anxiety response, but through breathing exercises she would calm herself and then force herself to look at the picture.

Over the course of several weeks, Micki was gradually de-sensitized to images of sharks. She systematically re-wrote a new memory over the traumatic one. This new memory said “Seeing a shark does NOT feel like pain and terror; it feels like walking into my office.” This process is called “extinguishing a conditioned response.”

At Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, there is a sophisticated virtual reality system called CAREN Dome. CAREN stands for Computer Assisted Rehabilitation ENvironment, and it helps veterans overcome PTSD from ambushes and IED by replicating a lifelike Iraqi village.

At first, the street is completely clean, with nothing on it that can set off a panic attack. Then the technician starts to add gradual details like people or trash until, eventually, the soldier can comfortably walk down a chaotic street. This process often takes years, but it does work.

Next week, I’ll bring this series to a close as I detail other ways people successfully cope with trauma and learn how to survive their survival.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Grievance of the Clergy

You may recall me saying a few weeks ago that I'm giving AMC's Preacher another shot. I'm current with the series now, and I have been re-reading the comic series over the last few weeks, and I've come to a couple of conclusions and what I certainly hope isn't a breaking point in the series.

As of this past episode, one glaring thing has become startlingly clear as of this last episode, a thing which explains why I dislike Cassidy's character in the television adaptation. Spoilers commence now, so if you're going to catch up on the show, bow out if you mind that sort of thing.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Follow-Up to Yesterday's Post

There has been a LOT of discussion about yesterday's post regarding the "Transgender Military Ban" and some great questions have been asked of me. I've also realized that there are some cases where I either made an assumption for ease of discussion and didn't tell anyone I was assuming, or I didn't go into enough detail on a particular topic. I'll address those points here.

"Comparing being Transgender to a disease or disability is just wrong."

Take it up with the military. If eczema is enough to keep someone out of the military, then it's not difficult to see how the armed forces would view gender dysphoria as a rejectable condition.

Keep in mind that the military has been rejecting people based on physical characteristics for over 200 years. It's going to be extremely difficult to change this, and it won't happen overnight. First you have to change their minds; then you have to get them to change their regulations; then they have to change their way of doing things (that includes logistical chains).

Think the government is slow to do things? Compared to the military, the government is practically mercurial. It's very conservative, and I mean that in both the political sense and the "reluctant to change" sense.

"It seems you are acknowledging that transgendered people are permanently non-deployable. If that is true, than there is no place for them in the military, no matter if we're talking 10 years, 20, or a hundred."

I apologize for being unclear. Perhaps this will clarify things:people who are on hormone replacement therapy are permanently non-deployable given current technology. Advances in medicine, such as an implanted patch which releases hormones for several months, may make the logistical problem a non-issue in the future. 

"Why would trans people be permanently non-deployable? The only reason I could think of would be a hormone requirement, but even if that were the case not all trans people take hormones. It seems like you've conflated 'being transgender' with 'medical transitioning' in terms of assessing deployability."

Again, my apologies for being unclear. The short answer to your question is that the issue isn't being on hormones; the issue is hormone supply and its concurrent logistical hurdles. 

The (much) longer version :
If you've transitioned, you need the hormones for life. Going off them causes the body to start reverting to its prior balance (which can be difficult if you've had your gonads removed) and at the very least this causes such discomfort that the person is rendered combat-ineffective. I am not a doctor, but from discussions with trans friends and from reading on the subject this is somewhere between a bad hangover and a case of the flu. One friend says that after missing her dosage for a week she has low energy, migraines, and brain fog. 

"But Erin, soldiers get sick all the time!" That's true, but 1) they get better or they're medically DQ'd and 2) military infirmaries have a hard enough time keeping proper stocks of basic supplies. One military friend commented "I've been to remote military sites where there is no provision for hot food, toothpaste or toilet paper. Military supplies are prioritized: food, ammo, water (most of the time) and spare parts, if available. Anything extra for just one trooper/Marine means less pallet space for critical items for the entire company, platoon, or fire team." So if they can't keep morphine and anti-malarials in stock, do you think they'll be able to keep hormones that only one person needs? That's an inefficient use of money, space, shipping, etc. 

And all of this assume their hormones are in pill form. If they're injecting their hormones, now you're talking syringes and needles, their safe disposal to prevent biohazard, commander worrying that the syringes can be used for drugs, and so on. 

"But Erin! Not all transgender people go on Hormone Replacement Therapy, let alone have Sexual Reassignment Surgery!" This is also true. But think of this from the perspective of the military, which thrives on paperwork. Which is easier:
  1. Blanket-ban all transgender people
  2. Carve out exceptions which say "OK, you can be trans, but under no circumstances are you allowed to start taking hormones, let alone have surgery, or you'll be medically discharged"
I'm going to go with "blanket ban", because not only are the armed forces are already drowning in paperwork and don't want the added hassle, but also because individual exceptions are pretty much completely the opposite of how the military operates with its "These sizes must fit all" principle.

Furthermore, any organization having that much control over a soldier's body is a lawsuit/pubic relations nightmare just waiting to happen, because it's at the same level as "We'll allow you to to be the first female SEAL, but only if you sign this statement that under no circumstances will you become pregnant." The last time I checked, the military cannot FORCE women to have abortions in order to stay deployable, so neither could they forcibly prevent someone from going on HRT. 

And if they can't prevent that, then that person's career is pretty much going to be a dead-end. To quote another friend, "They'll be competing with their deployable peers for school slots, plum assignments, and promotions - so either 1) you'll have a system where transpeople will be eternally "second class soldiers" because they are prioritized lower (why send someone to Air Assault School or the War College if they are never going to be able to perform the jobs they are being trained for in those assignments?), or 2) other, not permanently non-deployable soldiers will (reasonably) resent losing out on school slots, career-enhancing assignments, and promotions for the sake of advancing the career of someone who can NEVER fully replace those they've stepped over.

If you'd like even more reading material on why this isn't hatred but is rather a logistics and combat-effectiveness concern, click through to Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 for some essays by a Marine and an Army officer who have actual experience with this. 

"Friction was the argument against gay people in the military. But it turned out that service members overwhelmingly didn't care. It looks like that's the trend with the trans people currently serving."

In all of the reading I've done, and all of my personal experience with the subject of Gays In The Military back when it was an issue in the 90s, was that the objections were overwhelmingly of the majority being afraid of the minority. From the mild "I dunno if I feel comfortable sharing a barracks/ shower/ foxhole with them" to the insulting "How can we trust them in combat?" (because, apparently, sexual preference and bravery are somehow intrinsically tied together for men) to the outright scandalous accusations that a gay serviceman would somehow rape, assault or otherwise molest his poor unsuspecting straight brothers in arms, they all came down to "Gay people will misbehave."

The argument I made yesterday about friction is the exact opposite, because I'm worried that transgender troops (the minority) will be harmed by cisgender elements (the majority). I'm not using friction as an argument to keep transgender people out; I'm saying "Let's make sure our military is a safe place for them, because if they're going to risk their lives to protect our country then the least we can do is make sure they aren't going to be harassed, beaten and killed by others in their unit."

Again, if we as a culture are still freaking out over which bathrooms transgender people can use, then we as a culture aren't ready for them on the battlefield. We have to change our culture first, and that won't happen in a year or even a few years. If it takes five, we are extremely lucky. 10 years is far more likely, and 20 years is practically a certainty.

Appendix 1: Logistics from a Marine's POV

I did not write this. It was given to me by a friend of mine, Marine Corporal LaForce. - Erin Palette

In this, I am trying to answer a series of common questions and problems presented by the current standing order of our Commander-in-Chief. By way of introduction, I am a former Marine Veteran who served as a Field Artillery Cannoneer in 1st Battalion, 12th Marines (henceforth 1/12) from 2009 to 2013. They were the most eye-opening and enriching years of my life. In many ways they defined the man I finally have become and set the bar for what I try to be. Currently, I’m a student in my junior year of college seeking an English degree. I am also an amateur historian and somebody who loves to find answers. After watching several arguments unfold yesterday in the wake of the White House’s announcement, I started looking for answers and trying to formulate a statement on how and why this all makes sense. After 3 hours and 27 minutes of writing, here it is.

I am going to begin with budget. Some have said “But it’s only 1% of the budget!” Each year’s budget is decided on in advance, and once funds are distributed they can not be reassigned or apportioned without high-level signing off along the way. A Marine's unit operates on such funds. If he is to be deployed, funds would have to be specifically set aside for not only that, but all terrain-specific and mission specific gear. I checked with my buddies in supply about that one and per man, that comes to roughly $5,000. As an example, Master Sergeant Coca made sure to request and obtain nearly 600 pairs of steel-toe capped Danners, enough for every 0811 in 1/12th Marines to have one pair. That’s $350 on one pair of boots. I wore them every day for 7 months. By the time we came home they were separating from the sole and had to be thrown away. $350 high quality boots used and discarded like a stolen mule. This gear is sent out with the expectation that it’s not coming back.

Take a standard size battalion of 800 Marines and sailors. Multiply by 5,000. That’s $4,000,000 in gear out the gate, and you’re expecting it to all get used past the point of being recoverable for another unit to use.

Next comes training: bullets for live-fire training, fuel for vehicles to maneuver. Marine Corps Reference Publication (MCRP) 5-12D, dated 13 October 1998, gives us these figures for weapons loadout of an infantry battalion.

Weapons for Three Rifle Companies
  • M9 9mm pistol, 245
  • M16A2 rifle, 645
  • M249 SAW, 81
  • M240G machine gun, 29
  • M2 .50-cal machine gun, 6
Now let me break this down in terms of cost for each of the cartridge-fed weapon systems, to wit the M16, the M9, the M249, the M240 and the M2.

  • 1 Case of 1,600 rounds 5.56x45 Federal M855 from Lake City on costs $715. That accounts for everybody with an M16. Each man in the battalion could easily shoot a quarter of that in 45 days of maneuvers without real difficulty. That’s $115,293.75 just for the M16s.
  • Lake City Belted 5.56x45 is used for the M249 SAW. My last field op where I carried a SAW, I was given 4 belts, or 800 rounds. That’s $456 for 4 belts of SAW ammo on 1 man. $36,936
  • 9mm Parabellum by Federal in FMJ is $280 per case of 1,000 and figure 3 magazine per M9. Go with 12 cases of ammo. That’s $3,360.
  • .50 BMG loadout is typically 400 rounds per system, and those run $250 per 100-round belt. $6,000.
  • 7.61x51mm for the 240s is 600 rounds per system. They come in cans of 200 at $165 per can. Total for that is $14,355.

Are we starting to see how this adds up? Just training stocks is expensive. Bulk fuel runs $3.73 a gallon. A line infantry unit under the previous specifications would’ve had 41 Humvees, which are 25 gallons capacity apiece. 1025 gallons per vehicle, maneuvering for 30 days (they need to be topped off every other day) means 15 refuelings for $57,349, and that’s without trying to get real crazy. And if you think that’s bad, go check an artillery battalion further along in the manual - they have 58 5-ton trucks!

All of this adds up very quickly. It's just under $4,250,000 and the battalion hasn’t even left for Afghanistan yet. How many infantry battalions does the USMC have? 32 active and reserve battalions. By the time I went to Afghanistan, they tried to keep the deployment schedule such that only 3 battalions of infantry from a single division were forward deployed at one time.

What means is that every 5 months, a battalion was being readied to go from each regiment. 1/1, 1/5, 1/7 go to Twentynine Palms for Mojave Viper in February. 1 April they deploy to Afghanistan. They will be home approximately 10 November. By 1 August 2/1, 2/5 and 2/7 will all be at Mojave Viper. 15 October they will deploy to Afghanistan. Assuming nothing crazy occurs (for the sake of the model), they will be home by 30 March. That is $25,500,000 spent on training and gear, in a single calendar year. And you cannot expect that any of the gear which the first 3 battalions bring back from downrange is going to be serviceable or usable. You must expect that 12 million investment is all used up. So when the 3rd battalions from each regiment start their preparations in January of the following year, they will also need to buy entirely new gear, with no hand-me downs.

Now multiply this by 2 divisions - 25.5 million to 1st Marines, 25.5 million to 2nd Marines and 17 Million to 3rd Marines (which has only 2 infantry regiments). You’ve now spent 68 million dollars in gear, ammunition, and fuel to get a unit it’s final workups for deployment. Meanwhile, you will do more than one field op in a 6-month workup, especially if you’re at Pendleton or Twentynine Palms. That $250,000 for one battalion in the field at a time? That can be spent 4 times on 30-day ops, over a 6-month period without any trouble. $1,000,000, multiplied by 8 active duty battalions all out in the field doing that grunt thing at once, is 8 million dollars in 6 months, which drives the price tag some more.

What haven’t we included in this? Toilet paper, spare parts, replacement parts, medical needs, all the little stuff that makes a battalion of Marines function and work like it is supposed to. How about chow? Marines need to eat, and in the field, it is not unreasonable to need to consume in excess of 2500 calories per day. $300 (roughly) per man, per month in the field. 8 battalions out at once puts that at $1,920,000. Multiply by 4 (30-day field ops) and you get $7,680,000.

How about pay for those guys? Pay is important, because when the grunts come in from the field, they’re going to want real food, real drinks, and probably go find attractive company to enjoy the weekend with. Should they lack pay for some reason, expect problems. Armed problems. Clement VII can tell you how well things go when your very capable troops don’t get paid.

All of these numbers continue to add up, and suddenly we’re talking very real money. This is where we come to a hard fact of life: there is never enough money. We do not live in a perfect world. There is never enough money to spend on fuel, bullets, food, and all those thousands of items so necessary to properly train professional soldiers to wage war upon the enemies of this nation. I served 1 ½ years in a National Guard unit in Northern Utah. It was an artillery battery which was so low on funds they could only afford to operate 4 of their 6 Paladin tracks at a single time. They were hard on gear accountability because they simply could not afford to lose any of it if at all possible. Short of extreme circumstances, if your gear became unserviceable, you were paying for it, and that can really hurt.

Try losing just the stupid parts to the flak vest and see how much that hurts. Supply will make you purchase a whole new system to replace that one measly stupid part. How do I know? PFC LaForce learned the hard way on account of a throat protector. $2,000 is a lot of money to charge a PFC in 2010 for a whole brand new flak jacket he’ll never even get to wear because the manufacturer was so backed up that ordering single pieces of gear was impossible when the production line had a 3-year backlog to fill!

As part of the battalion Administration section post-deployment, I got to see this play out as 1/12 Marines returning to America were told that they had missing gear to account for. They’d been hit with IEDs, and that gear had quite literally gone missing between an IED blast and their trip via helicopter to a hospital where medical personnel worked to save their life. You’d think that signing their gear as “lost in combat” would have happened right? Not under that battalion commander. Here’s your purple heart, you owe $500 for a gas mask.

So that’s the material, supply side of things, but it’s not the logistical. Everything which gets shipped downrange, from beans to toilet paper, has to be accounted for. It has to fit inside conex shipping containers, helicopters, and on the back of trucks. How many rolls of toilet paper we can carry is weighed against the number of pallets of 5.56 ammo versus new socks for the grunts versus mail, versus grenades, versus howitzer shells, versus tents, versus generators, versus bulk fuel bladders, versus everything.

Everything has a price and a cost affixed in terms of "Can it be carried and brought along this time." Everything has a priority. If medicine is coming along, we have to make sure it stays properly stored (for certain items) because if they’re supposed to be refrigerated and the fridge breaks mid transit between Ramstein Air Base and Camp Leatherneck, we just wasted several thousand dollars and a whole lot of time moving it. Diabetics who need insulin cannot be deployed because of exactly this logistic constraint. After checking with a trans woman, I now know that the hormone therapy has to continue for the rest of her life. Please tell me how those items are going to be stored and moved and what will have to be displaced to make room for them?
On the personnel side, we must consider the standard enlistment contract: 4 years active duty, 4 years Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). If Reassignment surgery takes place 18 months into an enlistment and they’re going to be undergoing intensive hormone therapy which makes them non-deployable for the next several months, what has the US Taxpayer gotten from their investment into that person becoming a US Marine? Nothing. They will instead have to be removed from their unit in order to make room for somebody who can deploy. And personnel are a premium. When I left 1/12, many of our 18 guns were down to 5 Marines including the chief, which is the bare minimum allowable to fire under combat conditions. Regulations allow for up to 10 plus the chief. Think about what this does for morale and good order and discipline, because the same workload exists in total, whether you’ve got 10 guys or 4.

Some have suggested this is exactly the same as women in the military, or colored folks (like me) coming into the service. They would be wrong. All jokes aside, there is nothing physiologically different between a white man and a black man. One could make an argument about the skinny Asian stereotype, but Sergeant Yan was one stocky man. (Ain’t nobody who could accuse him of being weak. I darn sure didn’t.) A black man in good shape can perform the same duties as a white man, same with Latinos, Asians, Polynesians, et cetera.
If we wish to discuss gender though, there are physiological differences between genders, which is why women have a different PT test scoring matrix. Will a trans woman be able to pass a female PT Test? Yes. If we flip that around ,though, I very seriously doubt a trans man would pass the Male PT test because they lack the benefit of 18+ years of male hormones and musculo-skeletal development which create the male body.

That’s just the PT test though. What about daily duties? In an infantry unit, this involves marching with heavy loads and fighting when you get there. In the artillery, this involves an extreme of upper body strength, as 155mm shells weigh 100 pounds or more and our towed tubes are in excess of 9,000 pounds. Capable of 6 rounds a minute rapid fire, 4 rounds a minute sustained. In a single Final Protective Fires mission, we did 25 rounds before the Fire Direction Center called for "cease loading". Our platoon sergeant was walking the gun line and had arrived on Gun 6 just minutes before the mission came down, and Staff Sergeant Boughton jumped in alongside the ammo team humping rounds from the ammo truck to the gun. By the time we finished he was soaked with sweat.. in January... at Twentynine Palms, Californa. He looked like he’d taken a bath in his utilities.

“Israel has a coed unit! The US Navy has coed ships!” Yes they do. They also have different circumstances, wherein we run up against a different problem. Israel’s Caracal unit is 70% female. In an 800-person unit, this accounts for 560 women, 240 men. They are an infantry unit, therefore they go out and do infantry things. Of that 560, how many are unfit for full duty at any given time?

35%, which is 196 personnel. Nearly an entire company's worth of personnel are non-deployable at any given time. It only takes 15% losses before a unit is combat ineffective. The Caracal battalion is entirely unusable before it even leaves a staging area. That is not a slight against those women, it is not to say that they are less patriotic or less deserving of respect. But those physiological differences are huge.

 A study conducted by an army physical therapist determined that women are evacuated from Afghanistan and Iraq at better than 2:1 compared to men. And these are men out on patrols, on route clearance, performing fire missions and kicking in doors! That’s the toll that military service takes on a body. Men handle it better... but only for a time. Grunt units have low reenlistment rates for this very reason as bad knees, bad feet, bad back and inches of spinal compression are not uncommon.

In the US Navy, carriers fluctuate between 40% to 50% of their female personnel leaving the boat before the cruise is over due to pregnancy. Not injury, pregnancy. They are removed from the ship and returned to a stateside naval base. The cost of this last year came to a grand total of $173 million dollars, which is the equivalent of sending every single active duty infantry battalion in the USMC to Afghanistan with full equipment after proper training, spent just on bringing pregnant female personnel off the carrier. And no, replacement sailors are not sent out. Current policy does not allow for that, which is how you can go from 6 sailors in a ship’s division manning the guns aboard an Arleigh Burke Destroyer to 2 in a matter of 3 months at sea, and their workload steadily increasing every week. That’s a problem for which there are no good win-win answers, and it is every bit as problematic for all involved as the questions about trans personnel.

Notice what was never brought up in all this? Any slander against trans folks, colored folks like me, or women. Why? Because it’s unnecessary. Trans folks aren’t awful or bad anymore than I’m awful or bad for being Hawaiian.

I keep seeing reports of atrocities taking place against the LGBT community in various countries and frankly, it irks me. As a practicing Mormon, I believe all people, regardless of their choices, to be children of God. I’ve never seen anywhere in the religious text which my church uses any language which suggest that there is justification for an imam-inspired mob throwing a man off a roof simply because he’s gay. There is no reason why Chechen police should be rounding up gays, lesbians and transsexuals into concentration camps or Russia imprisoning a band who supports gay rights. Such behavior is anathema to what we profess and believe as Americans. At times we may trip, we may stumble (Lord knows Mormon history is replete with examples of how badly we got screwed over by government - thanks, Lilburn Boggs and Martin Van Buren), but as Americans we have a will to try and be great.

What we are faced with is a problem which can only be overcome through science and the continued pursuit of knowledge. But until that day comes, we can not in good conscience do other than what our Commander-in-Chief has stated is now the official position of the United States Government. Because if our martial forces cannot win wars, we will cease to exist as a country, and the rights we enjoy right now disappear.

If we wish to have a military capable of protecting us at all times, and in all places, we must be willing to have one which is full of the best trained, best equipped, best led professional soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on the planet. It cannot be done any other way.

Appendix 2: Logistics from a Soldier's POV

I did not write this. It was given to me by a friend of mine who wished to remain anonymous. - Erin Palette

I have occupied leadership positions in the Army from Team Leader, to Squad Leader, to Platoon Sergeant, to Platoon Leader, to Company Commander. I have dealt with every issue, and the biggest that leadership at every level in the military deals with is deployability. If a soldier cannot deploy, they are dead weight until they can. If they are occupying a slot and don't go with the unit, everyone else has to pull their weight. The why doesn't matter: a soldier with pending legal issues in the courts in non-deployable; a soldier who is a single parent who doesn't have a valid Family Care Plan with people on record who will care for their children when deployed is non-deployable; a soldier with certain medical issues that require medical care or continued medications not typically available in the deployed environment is non-deployable. 

This last one will affect the deployability of most trans service members if they are on any kind of hormone regimen that requires a specific dose tailored to them, or any kind of monitoring, or any other medical treatment unique to being trans that will simply not be available in a deployed situation. And while the military may be capable of jumping through a lot of hoops to provide all this while deployed, the effort and cost simply isn't worth the payoff to gain only a few more people downrange, and so it has to come down to the math and the logistics. 

This calculation is not unique to someone on hormones, but is the same for every medical condition and need. A good analogy is sleep apnea: a soldier diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed a CPAP is non-deployable because they must have a CPAP, and that CPAP must have a dependable source of electric power. Now, the military could develop deployable CPAP machines, and make sure spares are available to replace them rapidly when broken, and field some sort of battery backup power system to keep them in power and make sure it travels with them... but the juice isn't worth the squeeze. You will spend more to set up accommodations, with more strain on the system and expense managing it, for not enough return in adding capability to the unit's ability to accomplish the mission.

As a Commander, I had people who were great soldiers and great people and even friends, and I still had to send them to med boards and have medically separated because that was what was best for the service. You can't be emotional about it, you can't be political about it; in the end, every decision on military manpower should boil down to one question - "Is this decision the best, most effective course of action toward making the military more efficient at accomplishing its mission?" - and nothing else. It doesn't matter what the issue is, that is the only question that matters and "fairness" is not involved, because when you deviate from that you are literally a less effective military, and being less effective at warfighting means more dead troops when that less effective force has to fight.

Now some people will say, "Let transgender people serve in non-deploying positions." While it is true there are some positions and units that do not deploy, getting assigned to one of those billets is seen as a respite and a few years of stability for service members and their families. After 6 years in deploying units and multiple rotations, an assignment as a recruiter or instructor gives them a 2-3 window of relief and stability. Keeping non-deployable troops in and assigning them just those positions robs the rest of chances at those positions and increases the time they spend in deployable slots. In fact, Sergeant Major of The Army Dan Dailey - the top enlisted soldier in the entire US Army - has repeatedly identified non-deployable soldiers as the biggest problem the Army faces and has pushed plans to faster separate them from the service.

However, that doesn't mean they can't be a part of the total effort. There are other ample opportunities for service as a civilian employee of the Department of Defense, where you can have a positive impact and contribute in very meaningful ways. If you talk to the civilians working on any military installation, you will find a high percentage are people who were either rejected from military service for medical reasons and still wanted to be a part of it, or former service members medically separated who still wanted to contribute. So there are ample opportunities for people otherwise not medically capable of meeting the requirements for uniformed service to still serve.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Regarding Trump's "No Transgender People in the Military" Announcement

We interrupt this blog to comment upon President Trump reinstating the ban on transgender people within the US military.

Short version: This is disappointing but not terribly surprising. Give it a generation, though, and the situation will sort itself out.

Longer version: Get comfortable, as this will take a while.

The military's job is to kill enemies and break things. 
That's the only purpose of the military, killing enemies and wrecking their stuff. (Please note that "stuff" can be as simple as tanks and aircraft, or as broad as cities and nations.) Most people think that's what war is, but war is only the active version of that mission statement. The passive version, defense, is "Don't attack us, or we will kill you and wreck your stuff." In between is peacekeeping, which is "You all better simmer down, or we will kill you and wreck your stuff."

How well the military kills the enemy and wrecks their stuff is based upon a metric known as Combat Effectiveness, which falls under Logistics. The best way to explain logistics is "It's economics and accounting applied to the military." A great explanation of how logistics affects combat effectiveness is via Real-Time Strategy Games. For example, if you've ever played Starcraft and wondered if you should spend 50 minerals and 1 supply unit to build a Terran Marine now, or if you should spend 150 minerals, 125 gas, and 3 supply units to build a more powerful Siege Tank, you have just considered logistics (how much time it takes to build and how many resources it requires) in terms of combat effectiveness (marine cost less and are faster to make, but they aren't as tough and don't hit as hard).

Everything the military does, it does in terms of combat effectiveness. The Reagan days of Defense Spending are over, and this means that there is a fixed amount of funding for a fixed amount of military personnel. It makes sense to spend this funding on personnel who are combat effective, and not spend funds on those who are not. This is known as being responsible with money and it's something we should all applaud.

The military cannot afford to accept everyone.
There are many, many medical conditions which disqualify you from military service, Some of these are:
  • Active ulcers
  • Anemia
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Poor eyesight
  • Being too tall
  • Being too short
  • Being overweight
And so forth and so on. Looking at these, the disqualification comes down to a few simple questions:
  1. Does this person require regular medication to function?  Example: If you need insulin daily or you will die, and you're out in the field caught in a firefight and you need your insulin, you have to stop fighting in order to inject yourself. (This assumes you'll be able to carry insulin with you, and last I heard it needed to be refrigerated.) And what happens when you run out? You stop being able to fight. You stop being combat effective
  2. Is this person unable to do the tasks required for service? If you can't operate your gun because you have arthritis in your hands, you aren't combat effective. If you can't walk long distances because your knees are bad, you aren't combat effective. 
  3. Can this person use standardized gear? If you are too tall to fit inside an armored personnel carrier, or you are too short to reach the pedals, or none of the clothing fits you, then the military will not make specialized gear for you because that isn't cost effective. Instead, they will deny you service so that your spot can be filled by someone who can use the standardized gear and therefore be combat effective.
Now, some of you may be thinking "But I know someone who was in the military and they developed a medical condition and they weren't kicked out." And you are partially correct about this, but also partially incorrect. The partially correct part is that the military sinks a lot of money into training its personnel, and if that person develops a condition (let's say diabetes) after many years of service and a lot of expensive training, then the military will likely keep them on for a while longer*, whereas a new recruit with less experience and much less training is far more likely to be medically discharged.

However, the pesky asterisk * up there is where you're partially incorrect. You see, the military has a culture of "promote or perish", which means that you aren't allowed to stay in one position for the rest of your career. You either prove yourself competent and are promoted upwards, both in rank and responsibility, or you are discharged (the process is different between enlisted and officers, but the end result is roughly the same). When it comes time for promotion, one of the many things that these review boards will take into consideration is medical fitness, so that diabetic Captain had better be awesome or else he will be asked to retire so that a non-diabetic First Lieutenant can take his place.

The military is not for everyone.
Given that the military's job is to kill enemies and break things, it logically follows that anything which gets in the way of killing people and wrecking their stuff is contrary to their purpose. After all, it is expensive to kill people and wreck their stuff, so when you need it done, you need it done in the most cost-effective way possible. It should come then as no surprise to anyone with a brain that if our country is still losing its collective mind over such entry-level concepts as "Should transgender people be allowed to bathroom that matches their appearance", then -- duh! -- having transgender people in the military, where they would live in close proximity to non-trans people is going to cause some conflict.

Internal conflict is known as Friction, and it interferes with crucial military concepts like Readiness and Combat Effectiveness. Friction affects everyone, even manly cisgender heterosexual dudes who have served honorably in combat:

Let's do some basic causality math here: Even "regular soldiers" have trouble getting along + our nation loses its mind over "transgendered bathrooms" = a hostile if not outright dangerous culture for transgender troops.

Now I foresee two objections to this point. The first is "But Erin, that's during WAR! Surely this wouldn't happen during peacetime!" The answer to that is to repeat that the military's job is to kill enemies and break things. It must be tuned to operate to that specification. If it is not, then what you have is not a military; you have at best a militarized police force.

The military is not a social experiment.
The other objection is "But the military was desegregated before the rest of our country was!" This is a lovely point which, unfortunately, has no relevance. I say it has no relevance because Executive Order 9981 came in 1948, two years after the United States military had demobilized from World War 2 and three years after the end of the war. In other words, the military did not try to integrate during the largest armed conflict the world had ever seen; no, it concentrated on killing enemies and wrecking their stuff.

It was only after the war was well and truly over did the armed forces integrate, and that was only accomplished because we'd had segregated units fighting in the military since at least the Civil War. Desegregation did not happen overnight; it took about 80 years of segregation for the armed forces to say "Well, it looks like black people can fight as well as white people, and they've fought well together during these past two World Wars. I think we can trust them to continue to operate well without enforced segregation."

Compared to that, the speed at which homosexuals have been accepted into the modern US military is staggering. Back in the 80s, it was unthinkable. In the 90s, it was the benevolent neglect of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Today, you can be openly gay in the armed forces of the USA.

The military is even more complicated than this. 
As you may have guessed by now, this is an incredibly complicated situation. I'm approaching 2,000 words and there are still subjects to be addressed, such as:
  • Transgender troops are permanently non-deployable, meaning they're going to be second-class citizens their entire military careers, because why spend precious funding someone you can't field?
  • The inherent sexism within the military and how we're already having trouble with the concept of "Women in combat." Do you think that "Transwomen in combat" is going to make anything easier? No, it will just make matters worse. 
  • The way that carving out exceptions for people just makes those people vulnerable to abuse. For example, if a Female to Male transman joins an infantry unit, then if he's held to female physical fitness standards then the rest of his unit is going to resent him for having it easy; but if he's held to the male standards, he's going to have a much harder time meeting physical fitness standards, and if he washes out there's going to be an immediate outcry of "The military doesn't wants transgender people in it! They set him up to fail!" This is a no-win situation for the brass and blatantly unfair to the transgender soldier. 
At this point, I'm exhausted and I'd be surprised if anyone even makes it this far. So I'm going to conclude with...

TL;DR  aka "My opinion and my advice"
Don't push this. If you do, you will get pushback and it will be twice as bad. Instead, wait another generation. The kids who grew up around transgender people will see it as no big deal in the same way that the current generation doesn't see being gay as a big deal, and we'll have had another 20 years to study the long-term effects of transgender people in society (and hopefully well have sorted out the freaking bathroom issue), so the military will have a roadmap for how to handle it.

In the future, I think that transgender people in the military will be accepted in non-battlefield positions. This means you won't see them in infantry, armor, cavalry or special forces, but you will probably see them in rear element positions like headquarters, military intelligence, medical, military police, etc (I'm using Army terms because it's what I'm most familiar with them; my apologies to the sailors and airmen out there.) Perhaps one day, gender transition within the military will be met with the same attitude as pregnancy -- namely, a lot of grumbling about paperwork and adjusting the duty schedule around recovery times, but not much else.

Because really, if your fellow soldiers/ sailors/ airmen/ marines think of you as "dependable, but a pain in the ass due to paperwork", then you've achieved an amazing level of acceptance within the military.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Beginning of Something Wonderful

So this is the post that started last week's kerfuffle:

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Brownell on the last day of the NRA Annual Meeting, and despite him being terribly busy -- he'd just been elected President of the NRA and suddenly had to deal with with things like needing bodyguards -- he met with me and listened to me. I was impressed with his graciousness, and for taking the time to talk to me, a political nobody. He asked me to get back in touch with him in July, after he'd been sworn in and had time to get acclimated to his new position.

So earlier this month, I called the number on the card he'd given me. I wasn't surprised that I encountered one of his gatekeepers, because I never once expected that the man would give his direct line to someone he'd never met, and I was just happy to be able to ring his office. His secretary told me to call again on Monday at 4 pm.

So you can imagine my surprise when I received a telephone call at precisely 4 pm -- I swear, I think the clock just clicked over from 3:59:59 when it rang -- and it was his personal assistant calling to apologize because Mr. Brownell was busy, and would I mind waiting for him to call me in 15 minutes?

Heck yeah, I'll wait!

And so it transpired that the very busy Mr. Peter Brownell, CEO of Brownells Inc and NRA President, called ME, Schmucky the Wonder Clown, from his personal cell phone to ask for my thoughts on how to make the NRA more welcoming and inclusive to LGBTQ people.

We talked for 45 minutes.
 This very busy man spent three quarters of an hour asking me questions, listening (actually listening!) to my replies, asking follow-up questions and making suggestions on how to make his organization more inclusive.

I'm not at liberty to discuss the things we talked about, but I am confident that this is something he is committed to doing. In this month's "President's Column" of the various NRA magazines (this link is to American Rifleman), titled  "Second Amendment Belongs to All Americans, Regardless of Race, Creed or Gender", he said
"The Second Amendment belongs to every American. The freedom secured by the Second Amendment cannot be put asunder by any conceivable element of discrimination—not by color, race, age, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political ideology or national origin.

"This is the simple, direct message of the National Rifle Association to all Americans. I’m proud of our minority outreach efforts to date, but more work needs to be done. A central focus of my NRA presidency is to help the NRA be more inclusive than it’s ever been."
And those are just the first two paragraphs.

Now, I realize that these are just words, and actions are what matter. But I have full faith that Mr. Brownell does indeed want to make the NRA more inclusive and more welcoming to the LGBTQ community... because, you see, I have his telephone number and I'm not afraid to nag him until that happens.

Great things are going to happen!... or else. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #153 - First, Do No Harm

Actions have consequences.
  • Beth has had enough of the madness! Yet another woman has been shot, by her own gun, from inside her purse. This kind of tragedy is 100% avoidable if you use your brain and follow the do's and don'ts of purse carry
  • An assault suspect is found dead in the basement of a Winston-Salem home. What killed him? Sean takes a closer look.
  • Just this week, a guy sneaked into the Conor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather press conference with badges he cloned from images on Facebook. Barron tells us how it’s done
  • Miguel is on assignment and will return next week.
  • GunBlog VarietyCast Radio is proud to introduce Special Guest Charl van Wyk to our show. Mr. van Wyk was a member of the Saint James Church in Capetown, South Africa, when it was attacked by terrorists, and he was able to save the lives of many by returning fire with his pistol. In the third of a three-part interview series, Charl explains the Christian justification for self defense.
  • What is your calling? Do you know? And are you really being honest with yourself about what your true calling might be?
  • Tiffany salutes those who answer the call of law enforcement, but she also has a warning for those who only do so half-heartedly.
  • Erin breaks a promise this week, but it's so she can explain something you'll need to know for next week. Are you primed for an emotional reaction to stress? Erin explains what that means.
  • Shannon Watts does an interview about the Origins of Moms Demand Action... or at least, how she CLAIMS it happened. Weer'd explains what’s truth and what’s fiction inside Shannon Watts’ mind!
  • And our Plug of the Week is for The Lawdog Files, on Amazon for Kindle.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Emotional Priming
Last week I promised that I would talk about PTSD and ways to break the cycle of flashbacks. However, I’m afraid that I have to postpone that segment for a week, because I need to talk about emotional priming first. 

Put simply, witnessing trauma is itself traumatic to the viewer. This is because humans have structures in the brain called Mirror Neurons, which fire when performing an act but also when seeing an act. This is why you have the urge to yawn when you see another person yawn, why you often vomit when you see or hear or smell another person vomit, and why you wince in pain when you see another person get hurt.

 Mirror neurons are essential to our development during childhood because they are how we learn. “Monkey see, Monkey do” isn’t just a childhood taunt; it’s literally how we and other primates, learn. It follows, then, that if we witness something horrible that happens to another person, our mirror neurons simulate that sense of horror, that pain, that shock within us. And while the sensation isn’t as vivid, it’s still real, and therefore it’s entirely possible to develop post-traumatic stress disorder from watching tragedy happen to another person.

In other words, PTSD can be considered an environmental or occupational hazard as much as a psychological one, especially if you work as a first responder. This means that you are more at risk for developing PTSD if you’ve already been exposed to extreme stress one or more times, and this vulnerability can last the rest of your life. This is what is known as being “emotionally primed” for PTSD. 

Think of your mind like a plate. Each traumatic event you witness is a crack within that plate. Some cracks are minor, but get enough of them, and the plate will fall apart. Get a single big crack, and the plate will fall apart.  Unlike bones, which can heal over time and become stronger, the mind retains the memory of the horrors it sees and this can make it weaker, more prone to injury. This explains why so many first responders take up unhealthy habits in their desire to forget what they’ve seen. They’re trying to erase those memories, to heal the cracks in the plate of their psyche. 

So if you have witnessed anything truly horrific or traumatic, I urge you to seek counseling from a professional. Not because you are crazy, not because you are broken; think of it as preventative maintenance. Just as you see the doctor every 6 months for a physical to keep on top of how your body is doing and to get ahead of potential issues so too should you see a therapist if you have a history with trauma, especially chronic trauma. A professional will be able to detect patterns of unhealthy behavior and poor coping mechanisms, and hopefully will help de-prime you so that you don’t suffer PTSD. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Week From Heck

I can't really call it "The Week From Hell" because I know that things can always get worse.

Here's the short version. I had hopes of getting caught up this afternoon by writing back-dated posts for the past week but I had the chance to go see Spider-Man: Homecoming so I took it. (Go watch the movie, it's Amazing.) I'll likely just turn this into blog posts for next week, because I'm tired of playing catch-up.

But just in case I don't, here are the highlights:
  1. On Monday, I received a call from Peter Brownell, the President of the NRA. We talked for 45 minutes on how the NRA can be more inclusive and welcoming to LGBTQ individuals. 
  2. Also on Monday, Florida started having thunderstorms every afternoon. These storms cause intense sinus headaches for me, because the weather brings a pressure change (either as the storm comes in or when it leaves) and the sinus cavities within my skull try to normalize with the outside pressure but cannot do so due to my allergies/ This means I just have to take painkiller and/or take to my bed and wait for the pressure to equalize and the pain to subside. 
  3. This pretty much tanked all the creativity I have, because constant pain is a bit of a wet blanket. 
  4. The announcement that I and Operation Blazing Sword would be working with the NRA to help make it more inclusive was not met with favor by some people. In fact, some considered it a betrayal to the LGBTQ community, while others just thought the NRA was insincere (lying) and/or using us. While I am always happy to listen to the objections of others, this rapidly turned into a verbal blanket party that lasted for about three days. 
  5. By Thursday, I'd had enough and drafted up an Official Statement On the Matter, along with a clarification regarding our Policy On Receiving Comments and Criticism
  6. I am drafting a Mission Statement to further explain, hopefully in precise detail, why working with organizations which reach out to us is indeed part of our purpose. 
So being in pain, monitoring the various threads, and crafting a precisely-worded mission statement is what has consumed most of my available time this week. Fun, eh?

Hopefully next week will be more productive. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Exponential Outrage Theorem

I'd like to propose a thought experiment. (Bear with me here, I've always been rubbish at maths.)

Something big, something monumental is announced. This thing that is announced is a change. Let's say, just for the example, the casting choices in a major science fiction franchise.

One hundred idiots get mad about this change and over-react. From the reaction of these one hundred idiots, a far Left or far Right blog whips up an article containing six tweets from people who are literal nobodies with an insignificant amount of followers (I don't use my Twitter, so let's say 24. 24 sounds like a nice insignificant number.)

Ladies, gentlemen, and multi-forms, your Twitter nobody.
One thousand people read this article, and become outraged by the "huge backlash" of the one hundred over-reacting idiots. They, in turn, overreact. Ten more extreme-end blogs write articles, including the six tweets and six more attacking the original. Ten thousand people read these articles and are now annoyed. They start a hashtag movement which catches the attention of a few mainstream news sites, which write about the massive outrage over the initial decision, more than likely using words like "manbabies", "piss babies", or "garbage humans." One hundred thousand people read this article and are now annoyed. The reaction is no longer the story -- the outrage is -- and it continues well into the millions.

So, then. On a completely unrelated note. What do I think?
Nice coat.
I think she's not Peter Capaldi. But then, as much as I adore Peter Capaldi's Doctor, I knew it wouldn't be forever. Like the man himself said, nothing is sad until it's over, then everything is. Everything ends, and it's always sad, but everything begins again and that's always happy. So I'll let the Doctor handle everything else. To me, he's been the best thing about the show since it came back, and I pity anyone who has to follow in his footsteps.

Capaldi's final episode hasn't even aired yet (spoilers!) so we're a little premature on pronouncing judgement on her ability. Do I like the choice? I have no idea yet. But she shows promise, and I maintain there has never been a bad actor in the role. Strange choices, maybe, but never bad ones. Here's what I think:
  • I remember her from Attack the Block and Broadchurch, and looked up a series she'd starred in on Netflix called The Assets
  • I think she's a talented actor. Does a surprisingly good American accent. 
  • I think she's very distinctive-looking, which is far more important than attractive for the role. Prominent nose, high cheekbones, slightly strange-looking (Erin's informed me that saying someone "looks a bit like a ferret" isn't a flattering thing that normal people do, even after I assured her that I think ferrets are adorable), I think she looks distinctive enough for the role. Smith and Tennant both looked a bit weird, with Tennant being very thin and goofy but exuding confidence, and Smith looking like a literal alien with vaguely unformed facial features and an enormous chin. 
  • I think she has enough intensity and range to play the role, and the outfit they chose for her looks decent, if a bit unremarkable, but no Doctor keeps the same outfit forever - even Eccleston changed his jumper periodically. 
  • I was hoping for Emma Thompson if we were going female Doctor, but then I doubt the BBC could afford her.
So as far as Jodie Whittaker goes, I'm definitely going to give her a shot. This isn't the first time I've lost a beloved Doctor and I'm not about to quit watching because I'm not 100% sure on the 'new guy.' If I were type to do that, I'd never have seen Paul McGann be tremendously let down by his TV movie or Eccleston shine for a year. But as I said, there's never been a "bad Doctor."

There has, however, been bad writing. One thing we need to keep in mind is that all the groundwork that's been laid for this change to happen is due to the allegedly EVOL MISOGYNERD that is Stephan Moffat. The Corsair, the General's regeneration, Missy, River changing from white to black and back to white, and even Eleven's throw-away line wondering if he was a girl because of his hair all happened under his watch. Now Moffat's leaving the show, and the incoming show-runner, Chris Chibnall, wrote one very good and several very bad episodes of Torchwood, and was the show-runner for the two series it was on BBC.  He wrote several episodes of Doctor Who that... varied in quality. And while it's true that Broadchurch was his show, it was equal parts good and very, very slow and grim.

Moreover, Chibnall is a fan. As a friend and I recently discussed, fans should be kept well away from the reigns of the show, and Chibnall once appeared on the BBC in his capacity as a fan bemoaning the state of the writing during Colin Baker's tenure. While he wasn't wrong, this would be like a modern fan (say myself or my friend) publicly decrying the state of the writing under Stephen Moffat, then decades later running the show ourselves, and that would be very, very bad. I'm more worried that, in a year or two, we'll be begging Moffat to come back than we will be wishing Jodie hadn't come on board.

I have a final thought here: If you're celebrating something based on the negative reaction that you feel a demographic will have, then you're celebrating it for the wrong reason. The legions of "screaming manbabies" have not manifested. The outrage against Jodie Whittaker is as overblown as "black stormtrooper" or the "Fury Road boycott.' In fact, the demographics of the outrage are so wrong that even The Mary Sue has had to address it (albeit in their condescending and short-sighted way), admitting that there are a substantial number of women that aren't satisfied with the decision (the words "internalized misogyny" were thrown around).

Don't mistake this for me saying you're not a "real fan" or a "fake nerd." I'm saying that if you're salivating at the thought of "evil white men", you might be valuing message over entertainment. You may be a fan for the wrong reasons. And it's supremely annoying to someone who considered the Doctor a role model not because he was a man, but because he was clever and cared and helped people while trying not to resort to violence. As Twelve would really like to hear, he was, all in all, a good man. And I hope he can be a good woman, too.

I just hope it doesn't get lost in causes and messages.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #152 - Facepalm, Give a Sigh, Everybody Roll Their Eyes

This episode is brought to you by the letters W, T, and F, and the number 8.
  • It’s more than just a mom’s dilemma: What do you do when you’re too busy to get to the range for some recoil therapy? Beth gives us some advice.
  • What kind of person cuts, strangled and tries to rape a woman? Sean takes a closer look.
  • What happens when an insurance company decides that they’d like to “help” their customers by sending them information on a USB stick? Barron facepalms himself so hard that he gets a concussion, that’s what.
  • Miguel wanted a break from ranting, so he pulled some books from his book pile. This week, he’s recommending two: The Siege and Jim Cirillo’s Tales of the Stakeout Squad.
  • GunBlog VarietyCast Radio is proud to introduce Special Guest Charl van Wyk to our show. Mr. van Wyk was a member of the Saint James Church in Capetown, South Africa, when it was attacked by terrorists, and he was able to save the lives of many by returning fire with his pistol. In the second of a three-part interview series, Charl tells us how he went from being an ordinary young man to a responsibly armed citizen.
  • Tiffy’s back, back again. Tiffy's back, tell a friend. In this installment of The Bridge, Tiffany talks about that Dana Loesch video and what it means to her.
  • Following up on her segment on "proprioception", Erin explains how our brains think of loved ones as extensions of ourselves, and why losing them is like losing a limb. 
  • Protect Minnesota is against a new bill that would bring Stand Your Ground to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Weer’d is back with part three of his three-part series on their anti-self defense press conference.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the Plugable Pro8 Docking Station.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
To Our Brains, Loved Ones Are Limbs
In last week’s segment about proprioception, I asked the question “if an inanimate object can be considered part of someone’s body by the brain, then why not another living being?”

And the answer is “This already happens. We just don’t realize it as such.”

The classic example is a mother with a baby. The act of bonding with that child produces critical changes within the mother’s brain, re-wiring parts of it. While it can be joked that we now have definitive proof that having kids causes brain damage, these changes are in fact vital for the continuation of our species.

When you think about an infant in a clinical, objective sense, what you see is a helpless bundle of needs that feeds parasitically, consumes resources and deprives sleep, and generally acts as a detriment to the parent. Without these changes to the brain, humans would not love their children as themselves, and we would see a huge increase in infant death.

But the fact remains that parents love their children as their own flesh, because their proprioception, their body map, has extended into the child. We see this most strongly in mothers whose arms ache to hold their children. As those children grow, the body map slowly changes to accommodate the growth; the need to hold morphs into a need to have them on your lap, which evolves into the need to hold their hand. This is why parents will forever see their children as, well, children; there’s still a part of them that years to hold us and cuddle us in the same way that those of us who have pets still sometimes wish our dogs and cats were still puppies and kittens.

But this proprioception of another as ourselves doesn’t begin and end with children. It happens with those we love, as well. When you think about it, sex violates the desire of the body to keep its DNA and fluids to itself, but in order to reproduce, we need to bypass this isolationist urge. Seeing our lover as a partial extension of ourselves is how our brains trick our body into violating one of the key principles of our immune system.

This is why losing a loved one causes an aching sense of absence that is above and beyond emotional pain; we are, quite literally, experiencing a phantom limb pain, except the missing limb is the person we lost.

This also explains why so many people seek out rebound relationships: just as a mirror image of the missing limb was able to cure phantom limb pain, so too does finding another person to fill the void of the missing relationship.

So looping back to my first segment on the topic a month ago, losing someone is like losing a part of yourself, which causes anxiety, which activates the rage pathway in the brain.

Next week. I’ll talk more about PTSD and discuss ways to reprogram the “fire together, wire together” clusters which cause flashbacks. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Save Oro
Oro is a gay Muslim who has fled persecution in Tunisia. He is now in Egypt and hopes to move to a western country that will accept him instead of trying to kill him for his sexuality. The funds contributed to his GoFundMe account will be sent to him as soon as he is able to find an apartment, and will be used to help him get started living on his own or possibly to go to school elsewhere - he wants to attend the New England Culinary Institute and become a chef.

If you are an ally of the LGBTQ community, please donate so that he can begin a new, productive life. Under Sharia law, being gay carries the death penalty.

If you're concerned about his religion, don't be. I've talked to Oro. He's friendly to Jews and Christians. He loves Western culture and shares our values. By helping him, you are supporting love and inclusion and fighting hatred.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Preacher: Adaptation Blues

When I was 18 years old, I shared a flat with a couple. Odd pair, a slightly plump bisexual girl and her effeminate, slightly hippy, slightly techno boyfriend. One of the defining moments of this period of my life was discovering Garth Ennis's Preacher comic series. I remember clearly one night finishing one of the volumes and racing over to Books-A-Million (forgive my plebian tendencies, we didn't have a Barnes & Nobles in the roughly-six-horse town I lived in at the time) and begging them to open the doors a minute before their closing time to pick up the next volume.

When I initially heard Preacher was being adapted for television I had very mixed feelings. I felt that television was the best medium for the series, as the story was far too broad to tell within the limitations of a roughly two hour film, but I was wary at the involvement of Seth Rogen. Rogen has made his name in awkward/pothead humour films, which are some of my least favourite genres in existence, with Pineapple Express, Neighbors, Superbad, Knocked Up, and the unfortunate This Is The End, which had to stand up against Edgar Wright's finale of the Cornetto Trilogy, The World's End and really didn't fare well in my eyes. Seth Rogen is not somebody who I trusted to understand Preacher properly.
Picture courtesy Business Insider
As a young Atheist, banished from a church a year prior (for reasons maybe I'll go into later), Preacher was a story that struck a chord with me. A man of God, given a great gift with a terrible knowledge, sets out to hold God accountable. The anger against organized religion that was boiling inside the 18-year-old me resonated with that message at the time. Now, an undisclosed-but-significant amount of time later, I've calmed somewhat, and despite how juvenile and (ironically) preachy Ennis could be at times, now I just want to see the story done justice.

Preacher premiered on AMC last spring. When it first came out, I missed the premiere, so about a month later I watched the first four episodes... and it was rough going. I have to admit, over the years, I've read the series multiple times, and own a trade paperback release of every volume, including the cover collection and the side stories with Cassidy and the Saint. The series had a very high bar for me, and in those first four episode, it did not meet that bar. Annville was there, but it seemed like every single story element in 7 volumes of the comic series had been packed into a single town, and somehow the series still moved at a snail's pace. Aside from a decent joke about Tom Cruise being vaporized by Genesis, nothing really appealed to me. The Reverend Jesse Custer seemed to be a good translation from comic to screen, only losing his wilder hair and white jeans in the process, I was confused by Tulip being black (until I realized that I'd lived 10 years in the armpit of Texas and the demographics actually justified that entirely) and I absolutely hated Cassidy. I was confused why Arseface lived in Annville and why his dad actually spoke to him. I was confused why DeBlanc and Fiore dressed like business-casual cowboys and were in Annville. I was confused why Odin Quincannon's meat-packing plant was located in Annville. And I was confused why it felt like, in the first four episodes, absolutely nothing happened.

This week, I've sat down and watched the remaining six episodes of the first season as well as the first four (that have aired so far) of season 2. I've softened a little, as starting near the end of season 1 the pace has picked up considerably and the "road trip" tone of the comic series is starting to manifest, and I've even gone so far as to purchase the Jesse Custer figure that NECA released (but not the Cassidy figure). Some of the more drastic changes they've made to the series (why is the Saint immune to Genesis? Why did they nerf his guns? Every shot kills and no shot misses. That's the Saint's Colt Walkers. Why was he just in Hell and not a replacement for... well that's getting a little too much into the lore. Read it for yourself, trust me) are bothering me.
Taking his place on the DC Screen Shelf. Anyone tired of my toys yet? 
I have to wonder if Seth Rogen and friends read the books or just a summary of them. Irish vampire? Check. Girlfriend named Tulip that's good with guns? Check. Texas preacher with the Voice of God? Check. But the details, almost every single one, have been changed, and I can't say for the better. I always give a series the first season as a trial ground and assume it's going to suck, and I grant it that the second season, so far, is better than the first, but I have yet to have any confidence in this adaptation. We'll see how it goes from here on out, and I'll check out the episodes as they come, but I'm still wary.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Extending the 15-Minute Adventuring Day

There are two concepts I need to explain to blog readers who aren't familiar with games like Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons before I get on with the meat of this article.
The 15-Minute Adventuring Day: What you get when a group of player characters, after 2 or 3 encounters, decides they need to stop adventuring because they're low on spells and/or hitpoints and/or "X times per day" abilities like Bardic Song or Rage and want to recover them before continuing further into the dungeon. This is because these games are essentially exercises in resource management. 
Resource Management: The mini-game of strategy within the overall roleplaying game that requires decisions such as "Should I use my last healing spell on the fighter now to top him off, or should I wait to see if someone gets injured?" Spells, potions, class abilities, even hit points are all resources to be carefully managed within these games and poor resource management can lead to defeat and death of player characters. 
At low levels, the 15-Minute Adventuring Day is understandable, as player characters have only a dozen or so hitpoints and a handful of spells.At higher levels, this learned behavior becomes an annoying habit of "Well, the spellcasters have used their highest spells, and the melee types are looking a bit peaked, so let's all rest so we can be at full power for whatever is around the corner."

Depending on the GM, such reservation to advance beyond one's safety margin might be warranted, but it can prove to be irritating to move at such a snail's pace - especially if the GM is the kind of person to say "All right, now the dungeon inhabitants know you're coming, so they're on a war footing and spent the day arranging a welcoming committee for you with traps and ambushes."

There have been many solutions on how to solve the 15MAD. Most of them involve what I call "adventure pressure", which is another way of saying that there is a condition of the adventure that makes time a factor, such as a deadline to complete a quest or having to beat other adventurers to a goal. However, I feel that these are external solutions for an internal problem. Put another way, they're using setting to solve a non-setting problem. I feel that the problem is a combination of mechanics and player psychology, so the solution to the 15MAD must come from the same source.

Here's my simple solution: Let an 8-hour rest count as "a day" for purposes of regaining abilities. When you stop to think about this, it makes perfect sense:
  • All arcane casters need 8 hours of rest to recover spells. Why this number? There are a variety of explanations available, but I like the notion that the brain of a caster needs a period of rest from the task of maintaining a spell in preparation. Think of it like rebooting a computer to free up resources and clear out temp files. 
  • If arcane casters only need 8 hours of sleep, then saying they can gain their spells only once per 24 hour period raises questions such as "Is the universe keeping track of how many times they prepare? Is there a fixed pool of magic and only so much to go around? If not, then why an arbitrary 24 hour limit when the rules say 8 hours of rest?"
  • Furthermore, look at the Cleric. The Rules as Written say that a cleric chooses a time of day at which to regain spells, with the implication being that if it isn't that time of day then the cleric receives no spells. I call bollocks on this, for the following reasons:
    1. It presumes that the deity the cleric worships doesn't listen to prayers except at specific times of the day, and
    2. It is contradicted by this passage in the Core Rulebook:  When preparing spells for the day, a divine spellcaster can leave some of her spell slots open. Later during that day, she can repeat the preparation process as often as she likes. During these extra sessions of preparation, she can fill these unused spell slots. If a deity only granted spells during a set part of the day, then this ability wouldn't exist. 
  • Finally, an 8-hour rest restores 1 hit point per character level
I say, standardize everything based on the 8 hour rest. A good night's sleep heals the body and refreshes the brain, allowing the player characters to adventure without having to wait 24 hours -- and 8 hours is definitely enough time for dungeon denizens to compose and execute a proper response to invaders, be it increased watchfulness and patrols, ambushes and traps, or just a counter-attack while they sleep. 

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