Looking carefully at that which is unseen.

Monthly Archives: February 2014

Thinking about: Democracy

Democracy. From the Greek “demos,” meaning “mob” and “cracy,” meaning rule. Granted “demos” is more traditionally translated as “the people,” but I fail to see any practical difference.*

Yanis Varoufakis is a professor of economics at the University of Athens and has written many insightful articles about the issues Greece faces in these economically troubled times. Currently he’s directing our attention to the question of whether the internet can democratize capitalism.

Professor Varoufakis nails it on the head when he writes that my “qualms about direct people-rule are due to a deep-seeded mistrust of ‘common folk’” Which, indeed, they are. Because unlike Professor Varoufakis I am an ardent fan of that great philosopher George Carlin, who said (at 0:37 or so – and ADULT LANGUAGE):

In short, it’s not a case of “the capacity of the multitude to know what is good and proper for them,” it’s a case of “the multitude are dumber than a box of hair and their participation only lends covering fire to the oligarchs who are running things.

The real solution is not some sort of e’democracy as much as it is getting away from this concept that two wolves and one sheep are allowed to “vote” on lunch. Unlikely, though, because the wolves are not going to give up on the menu until there are no sheep left – and there will be sheep always…until they discover that the bullet box outweighs the ballot box by a considerable margin.

Got popcorn, Remnant?

*Professor Varoufakis says that the demos is “an active community of citizens in which the political sphere, the economy, the State and civil society all co-existed within the Assembly” I still fail to see any practical difference with “mob,” particularly when he talks about the demos “shaping the individual’s everyday life.” Which is what mobs tend to do, whether that individual wants to be shaped up or not.

Thinking about: What goes around…

More Army fun. It seems that the Army wants to reinvent something like the Stuart tank. Which, if I recall correctly, they abandoned due to its speed not really compensating well for the lack of armor protection.

As Drill Sergeant Bob said, “If it can be seen, it can be hit. If it can be hit, it can be killed.” To which I’d add, “And a lack of armor sure makes it easier to kill.”

Got popcorn, Remnant?

Thinking about: My Army Life

I have, I believe, what may be the only “D” grade in Penn State ROTC history. Might be a C – I’m not pulling out my transcripts to be sure – but the reason for the less-than-stellar grade was my writing of an operations order in which I had to get a mechanized infantry company across a river in the face of Soviet (yes, that long ago) opposition. There were four enemy bunkers on the other side, along with other unknown unknowns. The standard solution was “lay down smoke and have the APCs cross the river” or something like that. I went for a different approach – I planned to begin the assault by having my vehicles equipped with wire-guided missiles put 17.5 pounds of high explosive through the front window of each bunker, giving the machinegunners inside something to think about (like, “Where the heck’s my liver???) rather than shooting up my troops. My discourse with the captain criticizing my plan went something like this:

CPT: You can’t use TOW missiles on bunkers.

Me: Why not?

CPT: They’re an anti-tank weapon.

Me: So?

CPT: What if the Soviets have tanks?

Me: We reload.

CPT: What if they have more tanks?

Me: Then we’re an infantry company attacking a Soviet armor battalion and we’re so far beyond screwed that the light from Screwed will never catch up.

My grade was also far beyond screwed.

Fast forward to Desert Storm. And what were TOW missiles being used for, just 10 years later? Bunker busting. Why? Because the things can’t hit moving targets worth a damn.

Likewise, a decade of experience playing US Army led me to have no illusions that all “training” was carefully scripted play, rather than reality based. We held up an armor battalion in Germany for several hours (waiting for the backerei to open so we could buy streusel) by “blowing up” a bridge that wasn’t supposed to be destroyed. Took ’em two freakin’ hours to finally get troops across the large stream, troops who found nothing left of our defense but streusel fumes. Our unit was taken out of play for messing up the “plan.” On another occasion a company commander parked his tank on a bare grassy knoll (to better see, not to assassinate a president) and despite being scouts we used our MILES laser system to “destroy” his tank. It interfered with the play and we were forced to hand over all the keys to our lasers.

Even while still enlisted, I would often opine that “real” training would consist of things like taking a hodgepodge of units – two scout sections, a bridging vehicle, three tanks from two different battalions, a couple of support unit trucks, and one piece of field artillery – and handing them to two captains and a lieutenant, and making THAT the element being “tested and trained.” Never happened.

But apparently, like with the TOW missiles, reality has taken notice yet again of the dusty old Hobbit View, and the Armed Forces Journal has now noted that the Army doesn’t really have much in the way of actual training nor truly serious combat experience. Makes me wonder how they’re going to do if called up to do something on the domestic front – when dealing with a lot of freaks like me who don’t play the game the way the Army wants it played.

Got popcorn, Remnant?

Thinking about: Change

Simon Black puts a veneer of respectability and adds some depth to the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in a recent article discussing revolutions.

The interesting thing about most human psyches is that, particularly in times of stress and upheaval, they prefer to cling to the known and usual. This is no real surprise – the unknown is a scary place and many of our collateral ancestors who wandered outside of the firelight got themselves eaten by something or other, resulting in a strain of incuriousity and fearfulness in the survivors. Add in a large dose of “it’s not my guy/side/issue that’s the problem, it’s the OTHER guy/side/issue that’s the problem” (see the disparate ratings between individual Congressmen and Congress as a whole, for instance), stir in a dash of greed and a pinch of envy, simmer the whole stew over an economic flame of limited resources and you have a perfect recipe for what we’re seeing in current events.

Is there a solution? Doubtful. So long as the majority of humans insist that there must be Leaders and Led, anyone not fitting into that mold will be quickly stomped down (either physically or socially) by Leaders afraid of losing power, and Led afraid of taking responsibility for themselves. The old adage about leading a horse to water, but can’t make him drink comes to mind – the Led are never going to want to think, particularly so long as the Leaders are willing to do it for them. Regardless of how much of that “leading” is driving the Led to the slaughterhouse.

Got popcorn, Remnant?

Thinking about: The rest of the story

I often come across news articles and think, based on personal experience, “that can’t be right” and that there must be more to the story than what the media is saying. Whether from bias, or a lack of curiosity, or outright concealment on the part of the writer (or, let’s be honest, the parties), the story just ends up making no sense as written. Doesn’t mean that it isn’t correct in every aspect, it just doesn’t feel right.

Take this little bit of joy.

Now it may well be that a municipal traffic judge in Georgia has Awesome Cosmic Powers above and beyond what one might find in other courts, but a quick comparison makes me wonder about these bits:

Riley went to court to try and get the fine reduced, but the only way he could talk to the judge, who is the only one who could reduce the fine, was to go to trial.” Most judges of my acquaintance are not going to go through the trouble of setting up and conducting a trial just so that defendants can “talk to them,” though a majority do require a guilty or no contest plea first. In fact, one of the worst things in the world to hear is on the order of, “No, the officer is completely correct, I just wanted to talk to the judge.” It’s a waste of court time, of officer time, and occurs generally because the defendant misunderstands the process, not because the court requires it as “the only way.”

There was no recording made of the courtroom proceeding, but records showed Riley received a much stiffer sentence than just a $250 fine.” Not unusual for a traffic court to not be a “court of record,” as they are called when there are recording devices. And stiffer-than-presumptive-fine sentences are possible as well. But, again, those are generally not handed out on whim but because of other factors that occur during trial. In theory those other factors should be limited to things like “lack of understanding” or “lack of remorse” by a defendant, but, granted, there are almost certainly judges who go with some sort of add-on from a trial request. Might even be statutorily allowed, for all I know.

Quoth the defendant (who apparently was not memorable enough for other court personnel to remember him and on whom the judge refused comment), “”I asked him to lower it, but instead he give me a $1,000 fine, 12-month probation, driving school and he banished me from the county,” Riley said. The only thing here is that the story is, again, single sided. The judge claims he can’t comment (possible in Georgia), other personnel won’t comment, so we have no real clue as to how or why the judge turned a $250 fine into $1,000 and a banishment. The method of “asking” becomes something of interest – there’s a huge difference between, “Please, Your Honor, I’m on a fixed income and it will be a hardship. Seeing as how it’s a first offense could you lower it to the minimum or suspend?” versus a defendant who clearly had no defense besides hoping the officer wouldn’t show and, at sentencing says, “F**K YOU, YOU FAT-A$$ED B*****D, you’re only doing this for the money!” as part of the “request.” Also, no note is made as to whether there is any suspension of that fine, and the fact that there’s probation involved suggests it may well be something like that. And Georgia must have some serious probation out of traffic court – here it’s more of a “don’t let me see you back in this court again or I’ll impose the suspended portion” thing.

Gotta say, though – that law allowing a judge “to banish someone from the county,” power, backed up by possible jail for offenders who return, is interesting, even if it’s rarely used. It reminds me of what I’m told was called a “sundown pardon” in Oregon: “If you’re out of town by sundown, and don’t come back, there’ll be no further prosecution.” True, it just moves the offenders around to different jurisdictions … but they’d be happier in California anyway.

Thinking about: Carrying firearms

There are some fairly solid writeups on the recent California-centric 9th Circuit decision in regard to carrying firearms, one of which is here.

What gets interesting, though, is the suggestion that states may prohibit *either* concealed carry, *or* open carry, but not both. Which leads to the question, though, of “what happens when a state prohibits concealed carry, but then doesn’t rein in police who harass lawful open carriers?” There are far too many examples of that these days, and regardless of whether the carrier provoked the confrontation or the confrontation was just on the uninformed officer’s own over-initiative, I would suggest that it’s probably going to take a lot of settlement money being paid out of taxpayer coffers in order to get the attention of The Powers That Be that maybe the pendulum really is swinging the other way.

That said, tyrants are not noted for giving up power gracefully.

Got popcorn?

Explosives cause harm, fire burns, water is wet…

In the spirit of stating the effin’ obvious, Dr. S. Andrew Josephson, having slept through all of his 20th century history classes, dreaming of how to get a liplock on the public teat (apparently) wants to inform the world that after a study, he has discovered that high explosives “…sends blast waves through the bodies of people even hundreds of yards from the detonation, leaving some nearby outwardly unharmed but disrupting their molecules and inner tissues. Years later, such changes could lead to adverse symptoms…”

Despite this being a family blog and all, there really is no better response than, “No shit, Sherlock!” Why he’s “discovering” this just now, though, leads me to suspect that he’s looking for more tax money to study the “problem.”

I particularly appreciate his fatuous and remark demonstrating an utter lack of education, that, ““This is a totally different type of injury than our troops were exposed to 50 years ago,” given that soldiers and civilians have been exposed to high explosives detonating hundreds of yards away for over a century now.

On the other hand, *I* certainly have been exposed to high explosives detonating within a hundred yards – or less – so maybe that explains my attitude toward ignoramuses like Dr. Josephson.

Thinking about: Cognitive dissonance

Naked Capitalism and Corrente are a couple of my favorite blogs (and I mean that in all seriousness – I generally enjoy what the hosts write and link to) lean decidedly leftward. Nothing wrong with that, per se, since everyone is entitled to his own view of the world, no matter how wrong or unrealistic it may be. But that being said, one of the areas of the Left that always leaves me puzzled (not that the Right doesn’t have it, the Left just has MORE of it) is the “it’s for thee, but not for me” syndrome.

Take for example this recent bit. It’s a computerized system that knows your birthday because you have to give that birthday in order to obtain an account. Because, you know, rules and stuff. The writer makes some generally excellent points, but what I don’t understand is the final bit of “PROACTIVE mass surveillance is not our friend!” It leads to two questions – first, is “REACTIVE mass surveillance okay?” Along with a side order of “is it ‘mass’ surveillance when it’s just directed at one person?” Me, personally, I’m not happy with ANY surveillance, mass or otherwise, pro-or-reactive, public or private. The right to be left alone to conduct one’s affairs as one sees fit, absent inflicting harm on others, just seems to me to be a basic human right. But the second question is more interesting: I have been assured by one of the World’s Serious Lefties, Ms. Clinton, that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Combined with all of the Left’s burning desire to regulate and surveil (if that’s a word) and incarcerate for no end of harmless issues, it seems that the writer’s complaint is not with surveillance … just with surveillance of her, when she doesn’t want it (or actively notices it) because she doesn’t personally approve of the organization conducting it.

I know, I know. “Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” Still, though, I can’t help thinking that in some areas – like human rights – some consistency in belief, and application of the Golden Rule, would go a long way toward making the world a much smoother and nicer place to live in.