Sunday, February 3, 2013

Feeling ‘safe’

Someone told me that the notion of having to carry a gun to feel safe is ridiculous. I would have to agree. I have a gun and even when I am carrying, it is not the most important thing to my safety. Knowing what is going on around me is what makes me safe. Having good situational awareness will keep me out of harm’s way far more often than my gun ever will. How many times have you seen someone walking down the street with their eyes glued to their phone texting away only to come to an intersection and almost get plowed over by a clueless driver who also has their eyes glued to their phone? Having the tools (not just guns) to deal with the things I can't control makes me safer. There is also a difference between feeling safe and being safe.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Write your Representatives

Dear Mr. Merkley, Mr. Wyden, Mr. DeFazio, Mrs. Close, Mrs. Gelser,

I am writing to you as a concerned citizen who resides in your district and votes. With the recent tragedies in Newtown and the Clackamas Town Center, I am worried that these senseless acts of violence will be used to push legislation that will have negative effects on my Second Amendment rights.  If you have noticed, both of these incidents – along with many more similar ones – have happened in gun-free zones.  Most of the time, these cowardly shooters also break many other laws to carry out their evil deeds, ignoring everything but armed resistance. 

Passing legislation that bans standard capacity magazines will not be effective in preventing incidents like these, as the perpetrator usually carries more than one firearm and can easily reload them.  Magazine capacity is rarely a factor in a shooting.  On the other hand, magazine capacity can play a very important role during a gunfight because if one side stops shooting to reload, this leaves them vulnerable to the other side that still has the capacity to return fire. This is especially true for engagements at closer range (most concealed carry gunfights happen at this range), because the side with ammo now has an easier shot to make on a target with very little options. If standard capacity magazines are banned, it would leave the law-abiding citizen at an extreme disadvantage if they were ever involved in a gunfight.

Passing legislation banning so called “assault weapons” will also have very little effect on incidents like this, and is also unconstitutional. First of all, more homicides are committed with blunt objects like hammers and clubs than rifles.  Second, there are already close to 300 million firearms in the hands of citizens throughout the United States, many of which would fall under the cosmetic definition of an assault weapon.  Banning the sale and manufacture of new firearms will not put a significant dent in the number of guns in our country, and again would be very unconstitutional.

I would like to know what you are going to do to protect my Second Amendment rights, especially against attacks that will come in the form of an assault weapons ban and magazine capacity restrictions. 

Thank you for your time,
Lee Bissinger

My first response.

Dear Lee,

Thank you for your letter.  There have certainly been many emails in my inbox in recent weeks about guns and ammunition.  While the vast majority of letters from my district have urged greater control of guns and ammunition, I've also received letters like yours offering an alternative perspective.  It is my understanding that any gun bills this session are likely to originate in the Senate.  I will carefully weigh the policy decisions should I have the opportunity to vote.  I am keeping your letter so that I will be sure to have your words and contact information readily available to me at that time.

Many thanks again for writing.


Representative Sara Gelser

Chair, House Education Committee

House District 16 (Corvallis/Philomath)

My Second response.

Dear Lee,

Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns about legislation and actions being considered to address gun violence.  I appreciate hearing from you.

In the wake of the tragic mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary and right at home in Clackamas Town Center, I have heard a wide range of views from many Oregonians on gun policies and gun violence.  Indeed, I am deeply saddened by these senseless shootings and the loss of innocent lives.

As I consider proposed policies regarding guns, I will have two perspectives. As a supporter of the Second Amendment, I will ask if the proposals meet the constitutional test. Second, I will ask if the proposals will make a difference in the tragic situations we have witnessed.  In short, I will be digging into the facts and research about each of the proposals on the table with these perspectives in mind.

It is appropriate in light of the recent tragedies that this is a national discussion, and I'm glad you are sharing your thoughts with me.  I will keep your views in mind and hope you will keep me informed about the issues that concern you.  

All my best,

Jeffrey A. Merkley
United States Senator

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What Else Would I Write About?

When the topic of the 2nd Amendment comes up, as it always will after tragedies like these, I always wind up debating people on its merits.  Most people (on both sides) have knee jerk and emotional responses to these events and having a good discussion is very difficult and often one sided. But I have a couple of friends that sit on the other side of the political fence than me who aren't complete idiots so I get to put on my thinking cap and throw out some more thought out arguments.  Here are two from the past couple of days.  The first one stands alone but the other is from an ongoing conversation so I will preface it with the arguments made by my friend.

#1 a Facebook Status.

Have you seen the trend of these mass public shootings? They happen in gun free zones and, in this case, in one of the most firearm restrictive states in the union (the Tucson shooting is the one exception). More regulation will stop nothing. As it stands the shooter broke several laws (too young to own a handgun, took it into a gun free zone and more) more laws would not have stopped him. You say we should just stop selling guns, okay what does that solve? There are already millions of guns in the hands of American citizens. Are you just going to take all those away? And if you take all of the guns away from everyone what about our incredibly porous border with Mexico, millions of tons of illegal drugs easily flow through what would stop guns? And if we plug the border what about knives, fires, and bombs? The last two of those three are responsible for much larger tragedies than guns (Happy Land fire 87 dead, Oklahoma City bombing 165 dead). Today in China 22 school children were slashed by an adult with a knife.

We don't have a gun problem we have mental health problem and a lack of real protection for what matters most. Our money is guarded by armed men why can't our children be protected in the same way? 98,817 public schools in the US as of 2010. Two men at $60,000/man per school = ~$12,000,000,000 per year. That is a drop in the bucket of our national budget. Laws are obeyed by people who are not criminals. Criminals are not stopped by laws but by the enforcement of laws.

#2 A response to a private conversation.

My friend brought up the example of Australia who, after their gun ban, has had no more massacres.

My response:  

I'm going to ignore Australia for now for a couple of reasons, one I just don't know enough about their history with firearms and two I don't know there culture very well at all.  I think comparing the U.S. to any other developed country is very difficult because of our vast differences in ideology, culture, history, and form of government. (Besides they’re just a bunch of convicts anyway ; )

Now for what I think is a pretty good response to the all too often comment of, "I don't think our founders would think the same way about guns today as they did then" and all of its different incarnations.

My response:

Now onto Madison and Jefferson.  I am going to argue the complete opposite, but be for warned that this is a new idea that popped into my head so it may not be fully formed.  Most supporters of gun rights and myself would argue that the 2nd Amendment (2A) was crafted to protect the citizen from the government not for self-defense (and the hunting crowd needs to get a clue). This conclusion is fairly well supported and even if you do not agree with it you still would have to admit that there is good evidence for it.  Now if we put ourselves in Jefferson's or Madison's shoes and looked at what they were planning on fighting, the most formidable military in the world, they would probably want every advantage they could get. This would include the most advanced arms they could get (or militarily relevant firearms). A lot of the citizen militia was in fact armed with far superior weaponry than the British and that played key roles in several engagements and throughout the war.  So if Jefferson and Madison were to look upon what our military (and other nation's armies) now have in their arsenal they would argue for far less restrictions and that once common freedoms of no background checks (gun owner lists), owning unlicensed fully automatic weapons, cannons and other weapons that had only a militaristic value (as opposed to self-defense, hunting) should be reinstated so that armed rebellion would be possible.  Now I won't go so far as to say that in our current cultural state that I think we need to 'legalize' everything but if our culture were to shift back to one of self-responsibility then yes our freedoms should be restored.  Also I think that a slow phase out of government regulations (on all things, some more important than gun laws) would start to shift our culture back to one of self-responsibility and accountability.

Now onto one of the obvious attacks on this line of thought, how could the citizen stand up to the might of the military with all of its advanced technology, air power, and mechanized armor?  There are several possibilities and examples of how this would be possible.  Vietnam and to a lesser extent Iraq and Afghanistan are great examples of what an untrained, poorly equipped, and uneducated but highly motivated force can do with only small arms and captured explosives against the most advanced and strongest military the world has ever known.   Another possibility is what lies in waiting in the future. At the moment everything is relatively safe for Americans but no one knows what the future holds especially 40 years from now so why get rid of guns now when they may be very important in the not too distant future.  It does not take long for a government to crumble into nothing leaving its population vulnerable to outside attacks.   It takes an even shorter time for a government to grow far too strong and become a threat to its own populous.

There are probably many more problems with this line of thought but like I said it’s pretty new to me so it still needs to be fleshed out.

Required viewing

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Man of a Different Beard

There are many reasons to grow a beard and there are many beards to grow. This blog post will be about those reasons and some of those beards.  I will use figures and graphs and scientific data pictures to illustrate the powers of facial hair.

Exhibit A, the Tasty Beard.  If your grow your mustache or goatee out long enough it can be used as a food storage device. It can save all sorts of food stuffs but gravy, ice cream, crumbs, and dead flies seem to stick the best. It can even be used to lour unsuspecting females in for a snack

5, the Confidence Booster.  Having facial hair will pretty much make you invincible. I know what your thinking that this doesn't make sense but the only bone I ever broke happened when I was without hair on my face. When I have hair on my cheeks or chin I know that I can do what ever I want without having to worry about the consequences.  6 pitches of 5.7 climbing with no gear, no problem but as you'll notice the guy without hair is a little freaked out. Without my facial being near him he would probably wouldn't have made it.

Figure @, the Don't Mess With Me Our My Associates And Me Will Hunt You Down.  See the picture the title really says it all. (Notice I'm the only real body slinging ninja operator because I have facial hair.)

Illustration BETA, the Fire Beard.  With follicles on your face you can hike longer carry more and get taken far more seriously when you're a firefighter.  Because of my beard I was given firefighting superpowers and burned, sawed, chopped (using a herring), and kicked down more trees than the Sierra Club has ever saved.  

Image ralph, the Monkey Tail.  When things just get a little to serious you need to lighten the mood but maybe you still need to look presentable so what are you to do.  You grow the mullet of the beard world. Surprisingly most people will just miss what's going on and assume you have either a nice trimmed beard or just a goatee and mustache but when the realization kicks in and people finally notice it's a show stopper.

Monday, December 10, 2012

North Dakota gear and how I got here.

So here I am in North Dakota working on the Bakken oil field working for Cruz Energy Services.  For almost the entire fall term at OSU this year I have been going nuts looking at different contractors to intern with and putting myself out there. I have had over 15 face to face interviews, applied online to 4 different places, had one video interview, and one invitation out to dinner. It has been a lot of fun and at times very stressful but in the end I got what seems to be a pretty awesome gig. I flew out of Portland Oregon only 23 hours after my last final for the term, December 8th, and am staying here in Dickinson North Dakota until January 7. This is the part where most people get that oh my gosh it's so cold there look in there face and then tell me, "Oh my gosh it's so cold there."  Having never been to North Dakota I thought pretty much the same thing but after a -12 f day and a 24 f day I feel kind of let down.  I thought -12 f would be worse but with the right layering, a winter protection beard, and enough work it gets down right balmy. 

For my feet I'm rocking a pair of Georgia 8" Loggers with steel toes and some thick Fox River wool socks.  The boots are pretty good, they're water proof, have decent tread, and just a little bit of insulation.  The Fox River socks are okay but they tend to bunch a little bit near the bottom. Sooner or later I'm going to try out some of my smart wools but they are all pretty thin.  My legs are wrapped in a Smart wool base layer, followed by a pair of denim jeans, followed by a pair of Arc'teryx bibs.  The Smart Wool and Arc'teryx bibs have been amazing full range of motion and wind protection from the bibs and the perfect amount of warmth from the Smart Wool.  For my upper half I start with a synthetic tee followed by a Smart Wool top, followed by a sweat shirt or fleece and finally A Sitka Pantanal Parka.  Again the Smart Wool has been awesome and the Sitka parka is a great piece of gear. The parka has a fairly light layer of insulation and Gore Tex shell that keeps the wind at bay and the cold manageable. The pockets are a little busy but I'd rather have to many than not enough. To cap everything off I have squeezing my hard hat over a thick fleece beany.

 Now for the pictures!!!

This is where I sleep.

This the 200 ton crane I helped pull apart and put back together the first day.

It takes about 5 to 6 semi trailors to carry all the pieces in the foreground you can see one track and one counter weight, in the back ground you see the crane body.

 Here she is later that night when it warmed up to 0 f.

This is one of the lighter things the crane picks.