Memorial Day

I try to attend Knoxville’s Veteran’s Day parade every year.  A couple of years ago, it was a beautiful, unseasonably warm November day for the parade.  I took up my usual spot near the intersection of Gay Street and Summit Hill.  As the parade went on, I noticed a lady standing close by on the sidewalk. She had on a vest with several patches and pins for various veteran’s organizations.  She also had a large pin with a photograph of a soldier who I assumed was her son.  Then I noticed a smaller pin in the shape of a gold star.  I realized at that point I was probably standing next to a Gold Star Mother, a mother who lost a child in combat.  I wasn’t sure, but I glanced at her a couple of times as groups of veteran’s passed by and marching bands played.  Her face told the story.  I could see the pride on her face and the sadness in her eyes.  I felt like I was in the presence of someone very powerful.  I felt like I needed to acknowledge her in someway, but what do you say to a person who has made that kind of sacrifice? I thought hard about what I should do as the parade carried on.  As it ended, I turned to her, shook her hand, and simply said, “Thank You”.  That’s all I could come up with.  As utterly insufficient as those two words are to express what was going on in my gut, they seemed to be proper, as she simply nodded and smiled as tears filled her eyes.  I got a little something in my eyes as I walked back to the office. It was dusty, you know.

I hope you enjoy your Memorial Day weekend and that it is filled with family, friends, and fun.  But take a minute to consider the cost of the freedom you have to do those things.  Think about the courage it takes to be willing to give your life for your country.  Remember the estimated 1.1 million Americans who have done just that, and remember their families. Visit one of the 135 national cemeteries or any of the dozens of state veteran’s cemeteries.  Walk along the rows of stones and read the inscriptions.  I have been in several and always learn something from my visit. They are emotionally powerful places that provide a great deal of perspective.

My brief encounter with a Gold Star mom on a sidewalk in Knoxville will stay with me for a very long time. I consider myself very fortunate to have met her, even for a moment.  She, and all Gold Star families, will be on my mind tomorrow.


Look at this photo.  Look at it and remember when your child was 8 years old.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  Like my own daughter, this little girl was loved by her parents, liked by her classmates and teachers, and had a nearly limitless future.  This little girl’s name is Saffie Roussos.  On Monday night (May 22, 2017), Saffie attended the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England.  I don’t know Saffie, but if she’s anything like my daughter, she was still excited by all the things she’d seen and heard as the concert ended around 11:30 pm.  She was probably already thinking about what she was going to tell her friends about the show the next day as she exited the arena into the foyer that leads to the parking garage and Victoria Station.  That’s where Saffie died.

Saffie Roussos was one of 22 people killed by a terrorist suicide bomber Monday night.  She was the youngest.  She was 8 years old.  Eight. Years. Old.  EIGHT YEARS OLD!  Her short life was ended by a coward wearing a suicide vest who undoubtedly believed he was doing god’s will.  The murderer was a 22 year-old man of Lybian descent with possible ties to terrorist organizations in that country.  He was known to British security agencies and had been reported to have been radicalized, likely by some hate-spewing nut-job imam on the internet (merely an assumption on my part).  I will not give him the honor of using his name and you sure as hell will not see a photo of him on my page!  He entered the foyer as it filled with men, women, and children leaving the concert after a night of fun.  He wore a vest packed with explosives, along with nuts, bolts, and nails so he could be sure to injure as many people as he could.  He approached the doors at the busiest exit from the arena and detonated his vest, killing 22 people and injuring 116 others.

The other 21 fatalities included three 14 year-old girls, two 15 year-old girls, a 17 year-old girl with her 19 year-old boyfriend, an 18 year-old girl and two 19 year-old girls.  The rest were adult men and women ranging in age from 28 to 51 who were there primarily with their adolescent children or simply to pick them up after the concert.  Marcin and Angelika Klis were there to pick up their children, who are now orphans.  Philip Tron died while picking up his partner’s daughter, Courtney Boyle, who was also killed in the blast.  It seems apparent that this attack was targeted at young girls.  I don’t know anything about Ariana Grande’s music, but I would assume that her target audience consists primarily of adolescent girls.  I’m sure the planners behind this knew that very well.

With that in mind, let’s apply a logical analysis of this situation.  A 22 year-old man has somehow been convinced it will help his so-called religion defeat the infidels of the decadent West by killing himself and as many little girls as possible.  I want someone to tell me what threat any of the victims posed to his religious beliefs or his “people”?  A large portion of the audience probably wasn’t even old enough to vote, let alone cause any harm to him or Islam whatsoever.  All any of these people were doing Monday night was trying to have a good time and give their kids a fun experience.  And yet, somehow, they all deserved to die in the twisted eyes of the mullahs and imams who continue to brainwash these weak, stupid individuals who continue to commit these heinous acts.  How is it possible to make someone believe that their religion not only condones the killing of innocent civilians, but demands it and rewards it?  How do you hear reports of nurses washing bits of blood and flesh off of children and cheer?

As sad as this is, I didn’t react strongly to the news of this attack initially.  Yes, you feel bad for the people involved, but it has almost become common.  But then I saw this picture and the pictures of the other victims.  My blood turned to ice, then started to boil.  I keep seeing my little girl’s face when I look at Saffie’s.  She loves going to concerts and is quickly approaching an age where she’ll want to go to more.  I can not imagine what Saffie’s parents are going through.  They will never get over this.  I would never get over it.  I feel for the first responders and doctors who treated so many injured people, so many who were so young.  I feel for the Muslims who go about their lives every day like everyone else, but have to deal with the acts of fanatics like this.  I keep coming back to one question: why?  Why did Saffie and the others have to die that night?  I don’t have an answer.  I’m afraid there isn’t one.

Hug your kids extra tight.  Not one of the parents thought that Monday would be their child’s last day on earth.  But do not live in fear.  The only way this enemy wins if we change the way that we behave and limit our own freedoms.  Be vigilant, be careful, but do not be afraid.

Mountain out of a Molehill: Sheriff Clarke’s Uniform

A recent Twitter rant about Sheriff David Clarke’s uniform went viral to the point of being reported by the media. The problem is, it is chock full of logical and factual errors. The series of tweets railed against his uniform, accusing the Sheriff of wearing unauthorized items and implying (but not stating outright) stolen valor. Media reports took it one step further (imagine that), with headlines like  “Looks like Sheriff David Clarke’s “army” medals might be B.S.” Social media comments outright accuse him of stolen valor (even using the sharp sign, err… hashtag), along with the usual foaming-at-the-mouth ad hominem tirades.

Let me attempt to inject some sanity into this ridiculousness, if you please. Scattered within said 14-tweet screed, the author asserts the following: “You see all that shit pinned all over his dress uniform jacket? That’s not supposed to be there”, as well as “On the left side, you have what appears to be more badge replicas/pins and several ribbons, one of which looks unauthorized.” Also, “… and then up top, you have the flag pin arranged on the lapel as though it’s part of the uniform code. Pretty sure it’s not.” My problem with this is not his attack on David Clarke. If you read the entire series of tweets along with other of his writings, it is blatantly obvious he has an axe to grind with Sheriff Clarke. That’s his problem, not mine. I’m not here to defend the Sheriff, that’s his job. I’m here to defend logic. My first issue with this is quite simple, and best described in question/answer format. Who sets the uniform standards for a Sheriff’s Department? The answer: THE SHERIFF. Period. End of story. Therefore, every single point raised above is absolutely incorrect. If the good sheriff wants the uniform to be a pink leopard-print romper with a green Borat mankini on the outside, then that’s the uniform code. Another burr under my saddle was this gem: “It’s literally a sloppy assortment of badge replicas arranged neatly…” Which one is it? It’s either a sloppy assortment, or it’s arranged neatly. It cannot be both. My second issue is that in all the pics which were posted as evidence, I did not recognize one single solitary piece of military insignia. I will concede, however, the last point in time I was subject to Army uniform regulation (AR 670-1) was likely before the author of that rant was a gleam in his daddy’s eye. There are undoubtedly many pieces of authorized insignia which have been added to the mix since I’ve been out. That being said, the burden of proof is on the doubter. It is his job to specifically identify each piece of wayward insignia and why it doesn’t belong, according to standard. I won’t hold my breath.

The remainder of his missive is, as I mentioned above, mostly personal attacks on the sheriff. As I also mentioned previously, that’s not my problem. I’ll leave it at this; for the sake of logic, if you wish to raise an issue (with anything, not just this), be precise with your statements. Be accurate with your accusations. It is hardly within the realm of logic to accuse one of wearing unauthorized uniform items/uniform not being up to code when the target of your attack is the one who sets the code. Chill. AR 670-1 doesn’t apply to a sheriff’s department.

Whether or not said code is over the top is a separate issue from the above, and certainly open for discussion. Now that it has been mentioned and I’ve looked, his dress uniform jacket does look a bit busy. Frankly, though? I’ve got better things to worry about.

I do find it puzzling from a logical perspective to see this story was picked up by the media. Politically, though, it’s easy. If David Clarke was an outspoken Democrat and/or a Hillary supporter, there would have been nothing but crickets on this one. David Clarke’s only real sin is being a black man who supports Republicans and speaks out against the terrorist group BLM.

Cut Through the Noise: The Truth about Suppressors and the Hearing Protection Act


On January 9, 2017, the Hearing Protection Act of 2017 was introduced in the House or Representatives (H.R. 367) and Senate (S. 59).  The bills are identical, each seeking to reclassify sound suppressors for firearms as regular long arms.  In my opinion, this is a bill which is long overdue.  By removing the $200 tax and onerous regulations on suppressors, they will become more affordable and accessible to American shooters, making shooting sports safer.  I see no downside, but that isn’t stopping the usual gnashing of teeth and rending of garments by those who oppose anything making gun ownership easier or actually safer.  As is often the case, many of the objections I’ve heard are based on misunderstanding and outright falsehoods perpetuated by the media.  What I’d like to do with this article is provide you with some facts about suppressors, including a little history, what they actually do versus what you may think they do, and why this bill is a good idea.

The modern suppressor was invented in 1902 by Hiram Percy Maxim, the son of the inventor of the first portable, truly automatic machine gun.  Maxim’s device was patented in 1909 and was widely marketed to hunters and shooters across the country.  They were available to everyone and were popular devices.  Maxim’s Silencer (a misnomer that we’ll address shortly) was a tubular device that contained a series of baffles which trapped the escaping gases from the muzzle of a firearm, greatly reducing the report, muzzle flash, and felt recoil.  The same basic principals are used in modern suppressors.

The passage of the National Firearms Act of 1934 changed everything.  The original NFA was the first widespread attempt by the American government at gun control.  The act was largely a response to the waves of crime perpetrated by the likes of Al Capone and John Dillinger during the Prohibition era.  At that time, anyone could own an automatic weapon, although there were very few available and they were expensive.  They were, however, used by gangsters such as Capone and Dillinger in the commission of their crimes.  It was thought that if those weapons were banned, the result would be a reduction in crime (if this sounds familiar, you’re right).  Interestingly, the authors of the NFA were actually more concerned with handguns than machine guns and wanted to ban them as well.  The National Rifle Association (yes, the NRA) successfully lobbied to remove handguns from the bill.  The authors of the bill knew very well the American people would never allow their 2nd Amendment rights to be stripped in such a way, so it was decided to regulate these weapons through taxation.  The NFA placed a $200 tax (equivalent to about $3500 today) on “firearms”, which it defined as “a shotgun or rifle having a barrel of less than 18 inches in length, or any other weapon, except a pistol or revolver, from which a shot is discharged by an explosive if such weapon is capable of being concealed on the person, or a machine gun, and includes a muffler or silencer for any firearm whether or not such firearm is included within the foregoing definition”.  In addition, anyone who manufactured, imported, or sold these items was required to be registered with the Treasury Department and pay a hefty tax, and anyone owning these types of weapons were required to register them.  Private sales between individuals were not allowed.

To read the original transcripts of the hearings that lead up to the passing of the NFA, please follow this link and download the document available on Google Books.  It is a fascinating read and will be covered in more detail in a future post.  Interestingly, there was almost no discussion of so-called silencers throughout the proceedings, so it is unclear why they were included at all.  Gangsters the likes of Capone and Dillinger did not generally use suppressors.  They staged their crimes in broad daylight, relying on sheer audacity and superior firepower, not stealth, to commit their crimes.

Today, suppressors remain legal, but are not simple to acquire.  The $200 tax has not changed, although subsequent legislation and the creation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosive (BATFE) has added layers of aggravation to the process.  Assuming you live in one of the 42 states where it is legal to possess a suppressor, the first step is to pick out and purchase the one you like.  Once you have made your purchase, the dealer maintains possession of the suppressor as you await approval from the BATFE.  You must submit two copies of completed BATFE Form 4, two finger print cards, two copies of your passport photo, and a completed BATFE Form 5330.20.  To complete Form 4, you must obtain certification from your Chief Law Enforcement Officer.  Once all of this has been submitted you wait for at least three months, and usually longer.  Once your purchase has been approved, the seller will receive one copy of your Form 4 with the tax stamp and will be allowed to release your suppressor to you.  Simple, huh?  That’s all you have to do to purchase a metal tube filled with baffles, which is legal to own and makes shooting safer.  Our government at work!

The primary reason suppressors were ever restricted and remain so is simply that most people do not understand what they actually do.  Maxim’s name for his invention, silencer, was more for marketing purposes than a functional description of the device.  The rise of spy movies in the mid-20th century showing assassins moving through the darkness and dispatching their target with a silencer-equipped pistol with barely an audible sound have reinforced the misconception.  Silencers do not actually silence the report of a gunshot, they merely suppress it.  Hence, the use of the term ‘suppressor’ by people in the industry.

The sound of a gunshot is produced by two different phenomenon that occur simultaneously when a shot is fired.  As the projectile leaves the muzzle of the gun, the gases created by the burning propellant escape, causing a pressure wave that is perceived by the human ear as a loud blast; a BOOM, if you will.  The second is the projectile breaking the sound barrier, which produces a sharp CRACK.  With the exception of specially produced sub-sonic ammunition, almost all commercially available calibers exceed the speed of sound at the muzzle, which is approximately 1125 feet per second (fps).  Suppressors only attenuate the sound produced by the escaping gases.  Each of the baffles inside the suppressor captures a portion of the gasses and directs the remainder forward into the next baffle, rather than outward in all directions.  They do nothing whatsoever about the sonic boom created by the projectile after it leaves the barrel, and this is a significant portion of the sound profile of a firearm. Using a suppressor also results in less felt recoil, which is conducive to accurate shooting.  If you’d like to see more information on this and how your ear perceives the sound, check out this series of slides prepared by Phillip H. Dater, MD.

The decibel (dB) level of a gunshot is dependent on many factors, including caliber, muzzle velocity, barrel length, and position relative to the muzzle.  The decibel level of a variety of calibers of ammunition is presented in the chart below as the blue bars.  This information is based on the work of James E. Lankford, who compiled the data from a series of five different studies.  They are presented as the peak decibel level for each caliber.  I have simplified Lankford’s data somewhat, as he lists numerous calibers and the weapon from which each was fired for testing. According to OSHA, “exposure to impulsive or impact noise should not exceed 140 dB peak sound pressure levels”.  Sounds that exceed 140 dB can cause permanent hearing damage immediately.  As you can see from the chart, every caliber produces sound levels in excess of 140 dB.  If you think it’s ok to go out and shoot your .22 without hearing protection, you’re wrong.


Unsuppressed and suppressed decibel levels of common calibers.

OSHA further requires hearing protection to be provided to workers who are exposed to long term noises over 85 dB, which provides a good threshold for safe levels of noise exposure.  This level is represented by the yellow line on the chart.  Based on my own quick search of several manufacturers,  suppressors reduce the dB level between 20 and 40 dB, depending on make, caliber, and a number of other factors.  For this article, I have assumed an average of about 30 dB in noise reduction for every caliber.  That number is represented by the red bars.  The chart clearly shows that for every caliber, with the exception of the .357 magnum, suppressors reduce the dB level to below 140 where permanent damage can occur immediately, but for no caliber does it reduce the level to below the 85 dB level.  In other words, suppressors reduce the sound of a gunshot to a safer level, but not to the point where hearing protection is not necessary.  When you see our movie assassin fire a shot which goes “fffft”, that’s Hollywood magic, not real life.

Even though suppressors do not make gunshots safe for unprotected ears, there are numerous advantages to their widespread use.  Those of us who hunt understand that it is almost impossible to use hearing protection while hunting.  Great improvements have been made in electronic ear muffs that allow for normal hearing while canceling out any sound as loud as a gunshot.  They make it harder to distinguish between birds scratching in the leaves and deer walking right behind you, however.  The same is true for bird hunters.  Shotgun blasts tend not to be as painful as rifle shots, but a day in a dove field where the hunter might fire 50 rounds or more can do a lot of damage without protection.  Electronic muffs do not lend themselves to shotgun use and plugs prevent the hunter from hearing calls from other hunters, either identifying birds coming in or cautioning against shooting at low birds or non-game species.

For new shooters, the noise and recoil associated with shooting can be intimidating. This can lead to poor habits such as flinching, poor trigger control, and failure to follow through.  A suppressor reduces both the noise and the felt recoil, making learning to shoot a more pleasant experience for the student and the instructor.  As for ranges, many are under threat of closing as housing developments spring up on adjacent properties and fill with people who do not like the noise.  The use of suppressors can make ranges better neighbors and opens the opportunity for new ranges where none could have been built before.  If you frequent an indoor range, you know that you often have to use both ear plugs and muffs in order to shoot comfortably.  Even then it can still be very loud.  I think suppressors should be a must for indoor shooting.  For those who shoot a lot, such as law enforcement and competitive shooters, the use of suppressors during practice will help prevent the cumulative damage which comes from firing thousands of rounds of ammunition, even with protection.

As you can see, there are many good reasons why the Hearing Protection Act should be passed and no reason it should not be.  Criminals do not use suppressors.  Period.  They are big, bulky, and very obtrusive, all things that criminals try to avoid in a weapon.  Poachers, by and large, are not concerned with noise.  They rely on isolation and often darkness to conceal their activities.  If suppressors become more easy to obtain, there will not be roving bands of assassins murdering people at will with their totally silent guns, any more than concealed carry laws have led to the “blood in the streets” about which the anti-gun folks warned us.  Friends, I hope you’ll support the passage of the Hearing Protection Act by contacting your representatives and letting them know that you want to see a piece of truly common sense legislation concerning guns pass.  You can follow this link to get the information for your representatives, or you can submit forms here expressing your support for the bill.

As always, thank you for reading!  I hope you found this article informative and that you’ll share it with your friends.  Please leave me a comment here on the page.  Remember, ignorance is our common enemy!


Why Firing Comey Doesn’t Matter (right now)

I’m not sure it’s possible for one to not see the foolishness involved in the reporting of anything related to Donald Trump these days. Only the most partisan of Democrats could fail to acknowledge the obvious bias and agenda in what passes for journalism in the U.S. at this point in time. Before continuing, I will reiterate now what I have said many times; I am not a Trump fanboy. I was extremely skeptical of his candidacy, and he was far from my first choice. That being said, it is getting more and more difficult to pay much attention to the “reporting” taking place today when the desire to trash a public figure is so prominent that disparaging stories are written because he takes two scoops of ice cream with his dessert (insert eye roll here).

I’m a “big picture” kind of guy for the most part. I’m also a skeptic. For those reasons and more, I don’t often get swept up in the day’s stories. More often than not, I wonder what’s *not* being reported more so than becoming anxious about what *is* being reported. Because of that, I’m going to offer some food for thought about the President’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

1. The Director of the FBI serves at the pleasure of the President. Hearings don’t need to be convened, HR doesn’t need to weigh in – if the President wants to fire you, the President has that power. Period. End of story. Doesn’t. Matter. Why.
2. This particular FBI Director has earned scathing criticism from all political sides. One can only defend his job performance through a highly politicized and agenda-rich perspective. Many prominent Democratic figures are on record calling for his head.
3. The President exercised restraint and showed deference to protocol. How, you say? It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to see Democratic obstructionism has caused difficulty for this administration through foot-dragging in reference to cabinet nominations. The Director of the FBI’s boss is the Deputy Attorney General, who reports to the Attorney General, who reports to the President. Jeff Sessions wasn’t sworn in as the Attorney General until February 8th. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wasn’t sworn in until April 26th. Comey was fired on May 9th, just shy of two weeks after his boss was finally allowed to take his position. Hardly a questionable timeline given the circumstances. President Trump waited on the formal recommendation of Comey’s next two levels of supervision before ending his service as FBI director, when he could have done it on January 20th.
4. Rod Rosenstein is widely regarded by both sides of the aisle to be exceedingly apolitical, very ethical, and a consummate professional. This lends significant credibility to his recommendation for Comey’s dismissal. Given his record, it is unlikely he would produce a recommendation with which he disagreed.
5. Relieving the leader of an entity does not immediately end the activities of said entity. The only person in the FBI throwing up their hands and not doing their job any more as of May 9th 2017 is James Comey. Every other FBI agent reported for duty on May 10th and continued doing their work, and every investigation currently under way by the FBI will continue to be conducted until it is concluded or ordered closed. Judging by the apoplexia on display from the usual suspects, one would think no FBI activity at all has taken place since Comey was fired. There is simply no logic in acting as if this is the de facto end of any investigation.

Let’s review: We have an FBI director with an easily documented and indefensible record of poor job performance (marvel at my understatement), two levels of supervision recommending his removal, and the end of his chain of command has the clear and unrestricted power of dismissal. And your problem is?

Accusation: He was fired to hinder investigations which may cause trouble for the President.
Counter: Even if he was, it cannot be proven. Move on. The time to make hay in regard to this is if the new director takes provable action to actually impede any particular FBI investigation for political reasons.

Accusation: He was going to fire him anyway. He just waited on those recommendations, which he ordered to be written, as a form of political cover.
Counter: One could just as easily say, possibly with more credibility, he wanted to fire him but asked for input from every link in the chain of command between the two in order to make a more fully-informed decision. That shows good leadership. I may not like the man as a person, but do you really think given his record of performance he doesn’t know a thing or two about being a leader? The timing of it, as previously mentioned, was largely determined by Democrat foot-dragging.

There are multiple investigations being conducted by multiple entities looking into possible Russian interference in our election. There may be more. This firing will have no effect on the FBI’s ability to do what it does. For that matter, I think it more likely to cause a “double down” response, ultimately causing more scrutiny, not less.

Ultimately, I personally believe the Russia argument is a pile of excrement, and largely a product of sore losers hell-bent on causing as much pain as possible for this administration. There is much more documentable evidence of Democrat involvement with Russians than Republican. In any case, let them investigate. As I said, I believe nothing credible will come of it. If it does, then the necessary steps will no doubt be taken.

This firing is no smoking gun. At most, one should make a note to consider this as a small piece of the puzzle if a smoking gun is ever found. In the mean time, right now, the firing of James Comey just doesn’t matter.

Attitude of Gratitude

Like many of you, Saturday is a usually a day for getting the stuff done that fell by the wayside during the week.  At our house, that usually means grocery shopping, yard mowing, house cleaning, and other chores.  Our daughter has responsibilities too, including keeping her room and bathroom clean.  This is how she works off the expense of her cell phone.  Last weekend, her mom wanted her to clean out the drawers in her dresser.  They were over-stuffed to the point of being unable to close.  She’s a 13 year old girl, so this happens occasionally.  I reminded her at some point during the day that she needed to get it done and I got THE LOOK. If you have a teenage daughter, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  THE LOOK comes when you say something that is either so annoying or stupid the child doesn’t know how you remember to breathe.  This was followed by “I was going to do that next weekend”.  I told her today would be much better for her continued enjoyment of life.  She made it plain that she wasn’t crazy about that plan, but set about her task.

As I was thinking about this minor dust-up, it occurred to me the basic problem was the child has too many clothes and she doesn’t understand how fortunate she is to be in that situation.  I’m not the smartest dad, but it seemed to me that this was what you call a teaching moment.  Let me just say that she is a great kid.  We have no serious behavioral issues with her, just occasional bouts of teen ‘tude.  Anyway, we talked about it later that day and I explained to her there are a lot of kids who would be thrilled to have half of her wardrobe, and she should keep that in mind while taking care of her stuff.  She had pretty well gotten over herself by then, and she nodded in agreement.  By then, she and her mom had straightened things up, producing several bags of clothes to be donated to our local thrift store.  I gave her a hug and all was well.

I think there is a larger lesson here, a lesson we all need to be reminded of from time to time.  I think we forget to be grateful.  No, this isn’t some Pollyanna-unicorns and rainbows-type statement.  I know things are tough and the world is insane.  Believe me, I understand the struggle.  It gets harder every month to make ends meet.  The cost of food, fuel, insurance, and most everything else goes up while our salaries don’t follow suit.  Something is ALWAYS sucking up our time and money, forcing us to make hard decisions.  We are bombarded constantly by the 24/7 news cycle with reasons why we should hate the government, hate our neighbor, fear the boogieman, and just generally be unhappy.  This constant negative reinforcement is very effective and can work on you in ways you don’t even realize.  If you don’t try to counter it, it will just wear you down.

So how do we counter all of the doom and gloom?  It isn’t easy and the solution is different for everyone as we all have our own sources of trouble.  One thing we can all do is try to look at the positive aspect of our troubles.  Sometimes it is very difficult, almost impossible, to find the positive.  Personally, I’m a realist who leans toward the cynical, so I have to force myself to look for the so-called bright side.  But having a positive outlook can make a lot of our day to day aggravations look a lot smaller, and make the larger issues more manageable.  The example I used with my daughter was mowing the lawn.  I don’t like mowing the lawn, but I have to do it just about every week through the spring, summer, and fall.  No, I don’t like to do it, but I’m grateful I have great tools which make the job easier, and more than that, I’m grateful I have a lawn of my own to mow!

There are many more examples I could use.  For example, I am an archaeologist. We are underpaid relative to other sciences.  I’m partially responsible for recording and protecting our common past, which I think is a vital task.  Engineers with my education and experience make twice what I do.  Since the crash in 2008, our wages have been stagnant as companies just try to survive.  I am good at what I do and I work hard at it, so this is frustrating.  But, I’m grateful.  I have a job  I enjoy and which challenges me every day.  I have managed to stay employed when many of my peers have lost their jobs and had to seek employment outside of archaeology.  I’m still able to go into the field and do a good day’s work looking for lost treasure (actually other people’s trash, but treasure sounds better).  I realize how lucky I am to be doing what I do, so I’m grateful.

This blog was founded as a means of expressing the contributor’s frustration with politics and the lack of reason and logic that plague us in so many political discussions today.  We are truly Frustrated Americans.  For me at least, this frustration is tempered by the knowledge that we live in the United States of America.  I am grateful to be a citizen of a nation where I am allowed to vent my frustration openly and without fear of reprisal.  I can sit here and write whatever I want, be it serious or silly, and you can read it or not, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.  I am grateful to the thousands of Americans who have fought and died to preserve that freedom.  I am grateful for the opportunities which are available to all of us if we’ll just work for them.  We have major problems, make no mistake.  There are serious issues at play which can alter the course of our nation.  I’m grateful, however, for the fact that we all have a least some say in the outcome.

Friends, I hope you’ll join me in trying to adopt an attitude of gratitude.  There are days when it’s hard, when I get tired of the struggle.  It always seems I’m reminded of reasons to be grateful about the time things are darkest.  An amazing wife and daughter remind me daily.  I think we’ll all be better for it if we try to take a little time and consider the things for which we’re grateful.

I hope you enjoyed this article!  Please leave me a comment to let me know what you think and share the link with your friends.  Also, I’d like to attribute the title of this article to Knoxville radio personality, Hallerin Hilton Hill.  Mr. Hill hosts one of the best talk shows you’ll hear, the very best in this market.  He admonishes his audience every day to adopt an attitude of gratitude.  I hope you’ll tune in to his show.

Like It or Not, My History is Important

As a historical archaeologist, a large portion of my education was in history.  History was always my favorite subject in school, likely due to some excellent teachers in that subject.  The American Civil War is the most interesting period of history to me and has been for many years.  I’ve been fortunate to have visited several Civil War battlefields and museums, and I’ve even gotten to do archaeology on a few.  No period in history has left such an indelible mark on our culture, especially for those of us who grew up in the South.  My own ancestry includes at least one Confederate soldier and probably one Union, but I haven’t been able to prove it yet.  Those four years changed everything, some for the better and some for the worse.  The battles and military strategy are fascinating, but it’s the people which interest me the most.  Sure, Grant and Lee and their subordinates have volumes written about them and rightly so.  But the people who you don’t read about in books also have a story to tell.  The common soldier who left his family farm and traveled to town to enlist, then went to fight in places he had never heard of for causes he may not have fully understood, he’s what intrigues me.  What causes a man to leave his home and go fight, fight against his countrymen and possibly his own relatives?  For the Confederate soldier, he knew his home and life as he knew it were being threatened and that was cause enough.

Politically, there is little question that the issue of slavery was central among the causes of the war.  It was not the only cause, but was certainly paramount among them.  The many issues, political, social, and economic, that brought on the war are beyond the scope of this article, but may be discussed in a future contribution.  Unfortunately, history is written by the victor, so the war today is often taught and understood as a fight between the noble Union that only wanted to free the slaves and the wicked Confederacy, which only existed to preserve slavery.  This is a gross over-simplification of the issue.  Slavery had little direct impact on the lives of most men who fought for the Union.  There were many soldiers who considered themselves abolitionists, but that was not necessarily their reason for joining the fight.  The primary goal of the Union forces was to prevent the division of the United States.  Abraham Lincoln made this clear in an 1862 letter to Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, where he stated:

My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.   

The January 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves held in the Confederate states, but did nothing for those in the border states.  It was as much Lincoln taking advantage of a political situation as it was a noble effort to free enslaved human beings.  I do not mean to minimize the impact of the Emancipation Proclamation, only to point out its political value.

For the Confederate soldier, he likely as not owned no slaves.  Estimates vary wildly, but it appears that approximately one third of soldiers in the Confederate army were from slave-owning families.  It would be interesting to know what number of slave owners were officers versus enlisted men, but that is research for another day.  Slavery was an integral part of the Southern economy, so yes, the preservation of slavery was important to many Confederate soldiers and was most definitely a central cause of the War.

The difficult question is how do we view Confederate soldiers and their leaders through the lens of history?  Were they inherently evil men fighting for an evil cause?  Were they heroes who fought and died trying to protect their homeland and way of life?  This question is still hotly contested even 152 years after the end of the War.  As a historian (at least partly), it is my opinion we must view the behavior of people from a perspective of the time in which they lived.  We can all agree today that slavery was a horrible, evil practice.  It is a shameful, ugly scar on our collective past.  But in 1861, it was an economic reality for those who relied on the production of cotton and other agricultural products, particularly in the Deep South.  For the Confederacy, the Civil War was about slavery in much the same way the Gulf War was about oil.  Most wars are fought over threats to the economic well-being of the combatants.  The fact the Confederate economy depended on slave labor does not make the practice any less reprehensible, but it does provide context for why thousands of young men were willing to suffer what they did.

Sadly, modern political correctness dictates all things Confederate to be inherently evil.  People who express pride in their Confederate ancestors, or even their Southern heritage, are labeled as ignorant racists intent on glorifying slavery.  It is no longer acceptable to display the Confederate flag.  A note here to point out that most people have no clue how the true Confederate flags appeared.  The flag which gets everyone fired up is the battle flag, the so-called “Southern Cross” (featuring the St. Andrew’s Cross), not any of the three official national flags or the Bonnie Blue flag.   Even states such as Georgia and Mississippi, which had flags featuring the Saint Andrew’s Cross, have been pressured to change or stop displaying them.  I was angry to see my home state of Georgia caved under the pressure, but I was very proud of the response.  The new flag looks like nothing so much as the First National Confederate flag!  The critics of the original Georgia flag were too ignorant to even notice!

First National           GA Flag

The whole flag thing was bad enough, but now they’re after Confederate monuments.  Municipal governments across the South are under pressure to take down statues of Confederate generals and soldiers and to change the names of streets, schools, and buildings named for them.  New Orleans has caved and is even now removing statues of Lee, Beauregard, and Davis.  This is a dangerous over-reaction.  While it makes the politically correct crowd feel good about themselves, like they’re somehow atoning for the sins of the past, hiding the history of the Confederacy and its people is short-sighted and ignorant.  Where does it end?  Are we to remove the Confederate monuments and memorials from Gettysburg?  Should the statue of Lee on Traveler on the spot where he met his shattered army after Pickett’s Charge be taken down?  What about the Confederate soldiers who are buried in Arlington and other national cemeteries?  Why not dig them up and hide them away somewhere?  I contend there is no difference as these monuments serve the same purpose.  They remind us of our ancestors, of their accomplishments, and their faults.  Lee was a great man and general, whose tactics are still being taught in military academies across the country.  But like every human, he was flawed.  The fact he owned other human beings should not be minimized or ignored, but it should be understood in the context of the time in which Lee lived.

Today’s proponents of this revisionist history appear to take it for granted I have no right to be proud of my Southern roots. I beg to differ! I am proud of my Southern ancestry, including those who served the Confederacy.  My great-great-great grandfather, John W. Hardy, served in the 40th Georgia Infantry and was captured north of Atlanta.  He was then taken to a Union POW facility in Ohio called Camp Chase, dying there from the small pox he contracted before being taken prisoner. He never owned slaves.  I am proud of his service, and of the courage he displayed while fighting to protect his home.  I would almost certainly disagree with many of his opinions about people and why he was fighting, but I’m proud he did it.  It isn’t right to deny us our history and it frustrates this American to see so much effort being put forth to do just that.  If we’re all supposed to get along and all supposed to be equally important, it makes no sense to marginalize the 25% of the country’s population inhabiting the South.

In closing, I will leave you with the inscription on the Confederate Memorial located at Arlington National Cemetery (yes, Arlington).  The memorial was placed in the early 20th century during a time of reconciliatory feelings between the federal government and former Confederate soldiers.  Think about these words the next time you start to cheer the removal of someone’s history.

Not for fame or reward
Not for place or for rank
Not lured by ambition
Or goaded by necessity
But in simple
Obedience to duty
As they understood it
These men suffered all
Sacrificed all
Dared all-and died

As always, patient reader, I welcome your feedback, good or bad, on this article.  Feel free to comment, but please keep it logical and civil.  I hope you’ll share TFA with your friends.  Thanks for reading!



Big Fun at the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting

This weekend (April 28-30), I attended the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Annual Meeting in Atlanta.  I went with my dad and brother, so we were guaranteed to have a good time!  The meetings and exhibition were held at the Georgia World Congress Center, which is about the size of a small city.  The exhibit hall covered 15 acres, which does not include all of the meeting rooms and auditoriums that were in use throughout the weekend.  There was something for everyone in the shooting sports.  If you were looking for information on gun laws, it was there.  Like to hunt?  There was a session for you.  Want to put your hands on that brand new model you’ve seen in the magazines?  It was there.  Heck, even the President was there!  The big draw for the Avery men was the exhibit hall, however.  Imagine the biggest gun show you’ve ever seen.  Now multiply it by 10 and you’re about there!


View of a tiny piece of the exhibit hall from above.



Panoramic view of the exhibit hall.

The amount of guns, accessories, knives, flashlights, clothes, and general cool stuff was just incredible.  It was difficult at first to figure out how to go about trying to see it all.  I must have handled 200 different guns through the course of the event, some more interesting than others.  We visited all of the big guys, plus a whole bunch of smaller companies, some that I’d never heard of.  I tried to visit all of the booths for the companies whose equipment I use, which was really cool since I was able to talk to upper management level folks in several cases. For example, I use a Comp-Tac holster and magazine pouches in competition.  I walked into their display to discover that the founder of the company, Gregg Garrett, was not only working the floor, but had found a stool so that my dad could sit down for a few minutes.  We talked with him for several minutes and had a very nice chat.  I like their gear a lot and it turns out I like their founder pretty well, too!  I also spoke with Randy Lee, president of Apex Tactical Specialties.  I have their Competition Action Enhancement Kit in my M&P 9 Pro, which made it a different gun!  I thanked him for making a great product and for the instructional videos that made installation possible for people like me.  There is nothing more frightening than seeing the guts of your pistol laying on the bench!  Randy’s videos made it much less scary.

I have been wanting to get my hands on Walther’s Q5 Match pistol and finally got to at the show.  It is similar to the PPQ that I carry, but has a full five-inch barrel and even better trigger.  If I was going to buy another gun for Production, I’d have to consider it.  The ergonomics and trigger are top-notch.  As a Smith and Wesson fan, I was pleased to see the M&P 2.0.  They have improved the trigger significantly over the old factory trigger.  The M&P is hard to beat.  If I were itching to get into the Single-Stack game and money were no object, the Colt Gold Cup Match in .45 ACP would be my choice.  I made the mistake of picking one up and trying the trigger.  My knees got a little weak and I broke out in a cold sweat!  It is a gorgeous gun and appears to do justice to the Colt name.  The $1700 msrp price tag is not out of scale with other 1911s and I’m pretty sure that no further work would have to be done to it.  Another good choice would be Remington’s yet to be released 1911 set up to the high standards set by pro shooter Travis Tomasie. While I was at Remington’s display, Tomasie and his team mate, Gabby Franco, walked up and started talking.  You might remember Gabby from Season 4 of Top Shot.  Both were very nice and extremely knowledgeable.  I thought it was pretty cool to talk to a guy with his name on a gun!  If punching paper is your sport and you want to look good doing it, the Sig P210 is an absolutely beautiful target pistol meant to put multiple projectiles into a single hole.  The bore axis is extremely low and the grips are, well, perfect.  At over $2000, they should be!


I can’t leave out the old guns and the new versions of old guns that were prevalent at the show.  I have a soft-spot for the Single Action Armies and Winchester lever guns that I saw in use on my favorite Westerns.  Cimarron Firearms and Uberti USA‘s reproductions of these classic arms are well made and nothing short of beautiful.  There is something just wonderful about the fit of the SAA in the hand and the smoothness of pulling back the hammer and squeezing the trigger!  I loved Cimarron’s 1876 Centennial Rifle, chambered in buffalo-stomping .50-95 caliber!  Then there was Auto Ordnance’s reproduction of the 1927A1 Thompson submachine gun.  The modern version is a semi-automatic in .45 ACP and appears to be very well made.  It’s hard to not feel like a bad-ass when you hold a Thompson!  I don’t know if they’re USPSA-legal, but I’d like to see a Pistol Caliber Carbine shooter bring a Thompson to a match!  They’d win the cool points for sure.

All of the guns and gear were great, but the best part was the people, both the industry professionals and celebrities as well as the visitors like me.  I met several professional shooters representing the cream of the crop in the shooting sports; the very ones you see on TV.  I understand these folks are there to represent their sponsor’s brand, so they’re getting paid to be nice to all of us commoners.  But not one of them gave me the impression they were anything but genuine.  They all seemed to enjoy being there and spent way more time than it takes to get a photo and an autograph.  I almost expected that, but was still very impressed to see it actually come to pass.  It was just like talking to my friends at the range.  I’ll admit a certain level of fan-boy came out in me, especially talking to Jerry Miculek and Julie Golob.  But they were both very nice people and easy to talk to.  There is a list of the folks I met at the bottom of this article with links to their websites.  I hope you’ll check them out and consider their sponsors when you’re looking to buy your next toy.

Even with all of the stuff and celebrities to see, I most enjoyed the crowd.  I haven’t heard any official attendance figures, but 80,000 were expected.  I believe at least that many people were there.  Normally, I hate crowds, but this one was different.  It was simply a friendly crowd.  We talked to several people during the course of the show, either at lunch, in line to see a celebrity, or just in passing.  Rudeness is one of my pet peeves and will set me off pretty fast.  I almost expect it in a crowd that size.  That didn’t happen in three days of walking the show floor.  The other aspect of the crowd I really enjoyed was the diversity.  The leftist media wants you to think the NRA is made up of a bunch of angry, white, male, John Wayne-wannabe, rednecks.  They’re wrong.  I saw men, women, children, families, fathers with sons, fathers with daughters, mothers with their children, people across the age spectrum, and people with a wide array of ethnic backgrounds.  All were there together and getting along just fine.  That is what makes the NRA the strongest lobbying organization in this country.  It does not appeal to any one group, but to everyone who believes the Founders got it right when they wrote the Constitution.  If you’re forming your opinion about the NRA and its members based on what the mainstream media is telling you, then you’re just flat wrong.

If you have any questions about the NRA, or any other shooting or gun related issues, please feel free to contact me anytime.  If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it or find someone who does know.  Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to comment and share!

These are the folks I was privileged to meet at the meeting.  Each is linked to a website where you can find out more about them.

Rob Leatham – A pro shooter with Springfield Armory.  He is one of the people that has built the action shooting sports into what they are today.

Julie Golob – Veteran, mom, author, champion shooter, and very nice lady!  Shoots for Smith and Wesson.

Jerry Miculek – The fastest man on Earth in terms of shooting.  His You Tube channel is hours of entertainment. Shoots for Smith and Wesson.

Max Michel – Max is an incredible shooter for Sig.  Also a very nice guy.

Lena Miculek – The daughter of two great shooters, she was destined to be great.  And she is.  Shoots for Sig.

Travis Tomasie – Travis is a veteran and incredibly talented. I got to talk with him for several minutes at Remington’s display, shooter to shooter.  Very cool!

Gabby Franco – Gabby is a former Olympian and appeared on Top Shot.  She’s a mom and a great shooter, and a very nice lady.

Colion Noir – Colion is a spokesperson for the NRA, doing excellent videos on gun rights issues and the shooting sports.  I was very excited to meet him.

Eric Blandford – Eric is owner of the extremely popular You Tube channel, iraqveteran8888.  The kind of guy with which you could drink a beer.

Chad Sims – Chad is also part of the iraqveteran8888 team.  As nice as guy as his coworker!

Please take some time and check all these folks out.  It’s worth it!