Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 
Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Michelle Malkin and UCSC SAW

I first read the story on Michelle's page. The Students Against the War group at UC Santa Cruz ran off military recruiters during a job fair on campus. Clearly this is a case of an abuse of free speech, as the students used their right to abridge the rights of the recruiters and the students who wished to talk to them. In her story, Michelle published the contact information of the SAW organizers which she obtained from their press release, available at multiple sites across the internet. Folks used that information to contact the student organizers, and some went over the line, threatening and harrassing them. Then supporters of SAW started threatening and harrassing Michelle. Now some of the left side of the blogosphere are saying that what Michelle did by publishing the contact information was unethical.

Here's a brief part of what Kevin at Lean Left has to say:
This is a despicable, loathsome thing to do. Malkin deliberately set out to harass people for the “crime” of protesting military recruiters. She didn’t attack their ideas, or debate their conclusions, or engage them in anything resembling an honest fashion...She set out to intimidate the students and make their lives miserable...


Here's what I find as odd; the SAW at UCSC were engaged in exactly the same kinds of activity when they protested the recruiters!

Now Kevin characterizes the protest as "peaceful;" I guess he missed the past history of SAW campus protests, which included slashing the tires on recruiters' cars, rock throwing, and intimidation and harassment of students wanting to talk to the recruiters last year; and the fact that this year, the protesters tried to break through the police lines while a group of students were talking to the recruiters. Maybe because nobody got hurt this time (One school employee was injured last year) that's all it takes for Kevin to consider it a "non-violent protest." But I'll bet any amount of money you want to put up that if a pro-life group set up outside an abortion clinic and engaged in the exact same tactics used by SAW, Kevin would stand squarely in favor of prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law.

To paraphrase Kevin, SAW deliberately set out to intimidate the recruiters, and any student who wanted to talk to them. They set out to harass them for the crime of wanting to serve their country. Doesn't this activity also warrent the labels of 'despicable' and 'loathsome'?

Reading Michelle's piece further, including the updates, I found out that A) not one of the students whose contact information was given out has contacted Michelle in any way to ask that she take down the information, and B) that the information she posted could be found on several other websites. To argue that the information was somehow meant to be private is ludicrous at that point. To take a lesson from another current kerfluffle, we've been told by many on the left that because Bill Hobbs put the cartoon up, he's accountable, even if he didn't publicize it, and even if he took it down later.

Shouldn't the same standard of accountability apply to these protestors?

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Free Speech Carries a High Price

Speaking our minds is one of the quintessential traits we think of as American. And that makes sense; our country was born when we told a king exactly what we thought of him and his rules. In fact, we thought the right to speak our minds freely was so important that we made sure that it was one of the few rights specifically mentioned by our Constitution.

But just because that right is important to us does not mean that it comes cheaply. In fact, just the opposite is true; the right to speak out freely is one that has always carried a high price. People have been imprisoned, tortured, even killed for saying what they believe. We generally don't go for that here in America, but there are still things you can lose by speaking out.

Like your job, for instance.

Bill Hobbs is the latest in a growing list of bloggers who have lost their jobs, seen their businesses suffer and/or fail, or had their anonymity stripped at the hands of folks who didn't like something they wrote. Bill drew a cartoon to illustrate the cowardice and hypocrisy of a media cowed by threats of violence from a fringe element of Islam. The same folks who wrote strongly worded editorials supporting works like he 'Piss Christ' refused to print the Mohammed cartoons, claiming that they had a duty to be 'sensitive' and 'tolerant' of other religions. Bill was angry at this hypocrisy and he went on the attack.

It's not surprising that the media he attacks should strike back; in fact it is to be expected. But there's another angle to this story that makes it disturbing. The attack was delayed. The cartoon was posted in February, about 6 weeks ago, with absolutely no impact. Nobody complained; it seems that Hobbs only became a big enough target when he became associated with the Bryson campaign. Reading Spragens' article, it seems to me that attacking Hobbs was simply a way to go after Jim Bryson. After sliming Hobbs, Spragens goes to great lengths to repeatedly link him with Bryson and Belmont College, not to mention this rather cryptic comment:
Bryson and Belmont, it should be noted, are both faith-based institutions.


So you can take your pick here. You can believe that Bill lost his job for creating an offensive cartoon in an attempt to halt the growing spinelessness of the American press, or you can believe he lost his job for supporting the wrong candidate. Neither choice paints a flattering picture of modern society does it?

Isn't it ironic that some members of the press, the institution charged with maintaining the free flow of news and ideas, instead act more often to suppress ideas they find dangerous through intimidation and personal attacks, or by slanting their coverage, to ignore stories that do not support their preconceived point of view?

So, what's to be done? Should Bill have some legal protections for speaking his mind? Should Belmont be forced to continue to employ a man they apparently find embarrassing?

It's hard for me to say, mainly because I look at the issue from a slightly different angle. The question I ask is this:

"Would you want to continue to work for an employer if the only way to do so was to keep your mouth shut about what you believe?"

I say no, I wouldn't. And based on his statements to date, Bill answers in the same way. Others choose differently; they hide either their beliefs or their names. They value their employment more than they value their right to speak their mind. They speak anonymously, or choose not to speak at all. I'm not saying that their choice is wrong; every person has to set their priorities as best they can. They may have families, or make work in a field where the predominant philosophies run counter to their own. They may believe that it is better to work quietly from within to achieve change. There are many legitimate reasons for some to choose silence over speech.

It's not a choice I can make.

I've written things in this blog that can potentially keep employers from hiring me. I'm a libertarian, the bastard child of American politics. That means I can irritate the left and the right with equal facility. To make matters worse, I'm a small l libertarian, which means I irritate the Big L libertarians almost as much.

But anybody who googles me, and reads some of this blog will know exactly what kind of a person they are hiring. Look at it this way, they have four years of resume to look through. They'll know for certain if there's a good match or not. If so, they'll hire me; if not, they won't, and that will be the best for both parties involved.

And it seems to me that Bill is in that place right now. He is paying a price for speaking out, for getting involved. But he was willing to pay that price, and is moving on with dignity.

As for Belmont College, they're being raked over the coals in the blogosphere now, and I don't know that they totally deserve it. After the Spragens hit piece, they were placed in a very awkward position. The cartoon was offensive, particularly when taken out of its context as a protest. The college had to react. It would have been nice to see them stand up to the pressure, but that's an unrealistic expectation, given the precarious nature of collegiate funding.

So where does that leave us? Well, let's sum it all up.
  • Politics can be an ugly business.
  • Some folks don't care who they hurt to achieve their aims.
  • Freedom of speech does not always mean freedom from consequences.
  • Sometimes, the cost of speaking out is less than the cost of remaining silent.
  • Finally, a man acts according to the dictates of his conscience, then accepts the consequences of those actions, without whining or evasion.


Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Simple, and Misleading: A Response to the “Pro-Life Beliefs” Chart

Via Smijer comes this post about inconsistencies within the pro life position.

The basic premise is that if pro-lifers believe that abortion is the same as infanticide, why then do their policies not carry that belief out to the fullest extreme. Amp goes on to show a table (reproduced below) that, according to him, reveals the most damning inconsistencies.

prolifebeliefchart.gif

On its face, the chart indeed looks very damning. It does seem to demonstrate that the pro-life movement is really the anti-"women having sex" movement. Unfortunately for the pro-choice folks, appearances are deceiving. Let's put aside for a moment the fact that the positions of the pro-life movement are in fact compromises designed to gain the most support, and therefore by nature will be inconsistent with an absolutist position. While this argument alone explains Amp's "inconsistencies," I think it's very instructive to look at the chart in detail.

What I find most interesting about the chart in question is its inherent bias against the pro-life position. In various places, it contains lgical flaws, buried assumptions, and raises straw man type arguments that fall apart when examined closely.

For example, consider the phrasing throughout the chart. Rather than being a normal outcome of sexual activity, pregnancy is referred to as 'suffering' or 'punishment' and placed on the same level as acquiring an STD. Isn't this the rather medieval outlook that Amp is accusing the pro-lifers of having? Most pro-lifers I have known view pregnancy as a natural consequence of sexual activity, a consequence that must be dealt with, not tossed aside.

All adult choices carry with them consequences that must be dealt with. If I choose to drink too much and drive, there will be consequences. If I choose to spend all my money having fun and neglect to pay my bills, there will be consequences to face. If I choose to indulge in risky activities, like hang gliding, or scuba diving, there may be consequences.

To immediately characterize the process of facing the sometimes difficult consequences of our decisions as 'suffering' or 'punishment'is to assume that it is somehow unfair to the one who made the decision, in essence saying they aren't accountable for their actions.

Granted, the availablity of contraception has enhanced the availability of recreational vice procreational sex, the hard fact remains that the sex drive is primarily procreative, and pregnancy is a forseeable result of sexual activity regardless of intent. That means that the possibility of an unexpected pregnancy must be a factor in the decision to have sex in the first place.

Now, let's look at the decision process a little bit closer. For some reason, most pro-choice advocates believe that the decision to have sex should bear no consequences to the female unless she chooses to accept them, while at the same time denying that same choice to the male. His consequences are determined solely by her choices. The usual defense for this is that biology places the greater burden on the woman, therfore she should have the greater choice. I would agree with that, except that most pro-choicers ignore the logical extension of that principle. By nature of her greater burden, and subsequently greater choice, shouldn't she bear a greater responsibility during the initial choice on whether to be sexually active?

The logical answer is yes; implicit in the power to make decisions is the responsibility to make good decisions, and to accept the consequences of those decisions. Abortion on demand is not facing the consequences, but avoiding them by destroying them. As a practical matter, the answer is also yes. It's her body that will be affected; therefore she should be extra cautious about the decisions she makes, and fully cognizant of the potential consequences.

Once we get past this subtle bias in the chart, we find it also contains a few glaring logical errors. Let's start with the first entry.

It claims that nobody would be sympathetic to parents who kill their children, therefore, any provision to protect the woman receiving the abortion from legal repercussions is hypocritical. May I remind Amp about the tremendous support Mrs. Andrea Yates received after drowning her 5 children? Thre were many who supported letting her go free; some of whom wanted to put her husband on trial for getting he pregnant in the first place. Apparently in some people's minds, there are circumstance where parents can be held blameless for murdering their children.

Further on, the chart claims that supporting lower welfare for poor single mothers is inconsistent with the belief that a fetus is a life. It characterizes the conservative position as saying that welfare encourages poor women to have babies, then argues that by cutting welfare, more poor mothers will abort their babies. The assumption buried in this conjecture is that poor women will get pregnant at the same rate regardless of welfare status, and that the amount of welfare available only affects the decision to keep the baby or abort it.

That assumption has not been tested. In fact, the evidence suggests that the opposite is true. Pregnancies to single women on welfare (particularly young women)have decreased and the abortion ratio has also decreased, indicating that not only are there are fewer overall pregnancies among welfare recipients, there's proportionally fewer abortions as well. Clearly, the argument in the chart is flawed. Supporting welfare reduction results in lower pregnancy rates, a lower abortion ratio, and fewer overall abortions, making it perfectly consistent with a pro-life position.

Another logical flaw is contained in the section on abortion bombers. The chart suggests that those who believe abortion is murder must support the bombers, who are only acting to protect the innocent. The flaw is that this analysis overlooks a key ethical standard; the ends do not justify the means. It's the same old moral dilemma; if you could go back in time and strangle Hitler in his crib, would you? If not, are you now partially responsible for the deaths of millions of innocents? The answer to the second question is obviously, "No." The only one responsible for those murders is the one who ordered it done. And this implies the answer to the first question; if you aren't responsible for the murders, how can you justify doing murder yourself?

The next flaw in the chart is it deals in outdated information. For example, the claim that most pro-lifers are against contraception and sex education. Twenty years ago, even ten years ago, this charge was true. Today however, many pro-life groups support sex education and contraception; even those who still favor abstinance as their favored method now grudgingly accept contraception as a better alternative to abortion. The absolutist position is held only by the extreme fringes of the pro-life camp, just as abortion as contraception is approved of only on the fringes of the pro-choice camp.

Another flaw is the section dealing with partial birth abortion. The chart claims that banning the procedure will not result in a single life saved, since doctors will use another process. There are two logical flaws here. The first is obvious. Just because some folks will find a way around a law does not make the law invalid. You could just as well argue that since murder is illegal, but some folks still commit murder, we should abolish all statutes against murder. The second flaw is more subtle. The objective of the ban is to make late term abortions a matter of medical necessity, rather than convenience, a position recognized as constitutional even by Justice Blackmon in the original Roe v Wade decision. Medical opinion on whether D&X is ever a medical necessity is divided with OB/GYNs falling on either side. Eliminating a medical procedure of dubious value, one that has been abused in the past, will save lives, even if another technique is eventually found. If that new technique is as close to murder as is D&X(the difference between a D&X and infanticide is approx 5"; the average length of a fetal head) then that process too will be scrutinized and opposed if appropriate.

So, now the chart is much less damning than it first appeared. Removing the bias, the inaccuracies, and the logical flaws, it is apparent that the chart is basically a well constructed bit of misleading propaganda. Pro-life is not anti-woman in a thin disguise. Most pro-lifers are motivated by a profound belief that a fetus is a person. Now, while many of the apparent contradictions can be resolved with the application of a little research and thought, those that remain are real, but are usually the result of compromise in order to create a larger base of support.

Important Disclosure: As a single male, I have a vested interest in the pro "women having sex" camp, but that interest in no way contributed to this post, or biased me in any way.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Immigrants and Illegal Aliens: My New Perspective

Yeah, I'll get to the Bristol stuff later, but it seems that while I was out of the loop, having a completely wonderful time by the way, illegal immigrants already in this country have been actively protesting attempts to curb their rapid growth by strengthening our borders.

How quaint.

You know, up until today, I took a fairly moderate position on illegal immigration. I acknowledged that it was a crime, but that the solution involved a two pronged approach, easing legal immigration restrictions while discouraging illegal immigration. However, after reading about what has gone on over the weekend, the protests and the violence, I've changed my mind. Somehow, these folks (the illegals) have come to believe that they have a right to be in America, even though they crossed the border illegally, and that's just flat out wrong. That erroneous belief changes the illegals from a nuisance to be minimized to a threat that must be removed. If a nation does not have a right to defend its borders, then it is no longer a nation.

Now, if you believe that America does not have the right to determine who is allowed to immigrate and who is not, then you might as well stop reading this, because you'll disagree with everything I've got to say. Spend the time practicing your Spanish because it will certainly come in handy if your side prevails. (And that's not a racist comment, just an accurate reflection of what inevitably occurs when a decadent culture comes up against a young vibrant one. And if we decide that our borders aren't worth defending, then we most certainly are a decadent culture.)

Let's start basic and work our way up. A nation is defined by its borders. Now some may argue that it's the laws or mores that define the nation, but they really define the character or culture of the nation. After all, those laws and cultural mores stop at the borders. The borders aren't just lines on a map; they are an expression of a nation's willingness and ability to defend its beliefs, its laws, and its culture against other cultures, other beliefs, other nations. By definition, a border recognizes and mediates an adversarial situation. While we co-operate across borders, and trade, and so on, the existence of the border is a recognition that a different belief systems hold sway on either side of the border. If this weren't so, the border would fade away.

Now, if the border defines the nation, then the nation clearly has a right to determine who crosses those borders, otherwise, the border is a meaningless fiction, totally irrelevant in any practical matter.

Given that a nation has the right to determine who crosses, then it must also have the right to enforce that determination, to keep out those who are not welcome, to capture and return those who slip through, and to punish any who seek to violate the border. Without the ability to defend the border, it once again becomes meaningless. Remember, the border isn't just a line on a map, it represents the collision point of two cultures. A strong border prevents that collision from causing damage; a weak border does just the opposite. Unrestrained, the clash of cultures can become violent, damaging both sides, and leading to escalating problems. The border may begin to shift, leading to increased tensions and more violence.

WHile it is clear that a strong border reduces the chances for violence, there are those within the US who will say that any attempt to strengthen our borders is racist. When asked why, they will say because most of those stopped at the border, or returned after crossing illegally are of another race. This argument is silly. They are not being deported because of their race; they are being deported because they are here illegally. Race is irrelevant. Now, if these folks screaming racism could show that members of a particular race are being deported out of proportion to their contribution to the total pool of illegal aliens, then they might have a case, but I am unaware of any such claims. As long as illegal aliens are being deported because of their immigration status, racism is nothing more than attempt to divert atttention from the truth.

Now then, nothing I've written has changed since this weekend, so why has my position changed? The same forces are at work; borders work the same; illegal aliens are the same people as they were Friday. Why the change?

Well, on Friday, I believed that those people in this country illegally knew that they didn't have a right to be here, that they had slipped through the cracks of a faulty system. Now, I find out that instead, they believe that the border shouldn't exist, that they have every right to be here. Think about that for a minute. Just over 3% of the US population, and by some estimates 11% of the work force, is here illegally, and many if not most of them believe they have a right to be here, no matter what the laws say.

Really think about that for a minute. What is the correct term to use for millions of people crossing a border to take what they want in defiance of the laws and customs of the land they've entered?

I'll give you a hint; it isn't immigration.

Invasion seems more like it.

Yeah yeah, I know, I'm being overly dramatic; this isn't an armed invasion; Mexico is not looking to capture the US.

Except, if you read history, you find example after example of invasions that look a lot like this. There are no armies marching to conquer anything, just a steady flood of people crossing the border and taking up residence in a new land. If you think about it, Europeans who settled the US did exactly that, displacing the former residents, who lacked the means to defend their borders.

We have the means; the question is, do we have the will?

And now you know why my position has changed, and why I said earlier that if you believe our borders are not worth defending, then it's time for you to study Spanish. Nations survive only so long as their citizens are willing to defend them; those whose citizens become weak and decadent will not fall to a conquering army, but will collapse from rot within.

Now, I don't know about y'all, but I'm not ready to throw in the towel. I still believe that America is worth preserving. Despite the signs of decadence rampant in our culture, I still believe that America stands for something unique on this planet, and it would be a dman shame to see it fall apart. Because I believe that, I stand against the invaders, even though they come unarmed, looking only for work, and a place to raise a family, not because of their race, but because of their disregard for the laws and customs that make America what it is.

That, by the way, is the key difference between immigrants and invaders and why this has nothing to do with race. A person who immigrates to the US in full compliance with the laws, bringing his strength, his will to succeed, his drive to make a life for himself and his family, this person strengthens our nation, regardlss of his race. The guy who sneaks in, who works to circumvent the law, who seeks to succeed in spite of the law, he weakens us, again regardless of his race.

So, damn me for a racist if you must, call me a hardliner or a xenophobe if you like. I now believe that all people in America illegally must be deported. I believe that our borders must be adequately defended, which I define as reducing the current flood of illegals to a trickle. (True story. A renter of one of our apartments was picked up by police for a traffic violation, A routine check found that he was in the US illegally and he was deported. He was back in East Tennessee within three weeks. It only took that long because he visited family in Texas for two weeks before coming back.)I belive that companies who knowingly hire illegal aliens should be punished for doing so, and that punishment should be more than a slap on the wrist. In short, I believe that the strict bill passed by the House, criminalizing illegal entry and aiding illegal entry, and the hiring of illegal aliens, is the way to go. A guest worker program, while desirable, will have to wait until after we get our borders under control.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, January 09, 2006

Downloading and Copyrights

I admit it; I download content all the time. I'm a "pirate." Of course, I mostly download current TV shows, since it's more convenient for me to watch them on my PC than using a VCR or Tivo, and with the wireless network in my house, way more flexible. I can watch Numb3rs when I want, where I want, and commercial free.

According to Hollywood, that makes me one of the bad guys.

But here's a puzzle for you:

I set my VCR and taped Numb3rs the other night because I was busy doing something else, and I wanted to watch the show. Yesterday, I sat down and watched the show.

Have I violated copyright law?

The obvious answer is no, absolutely not. Under fair use, I have the right to time shift programming. In fact, I have the right to archive that programming as long as it is for private, noncommercial use.

Now, suppose my son Adam also missed the show, and I give him the tape to watch in his bedroom.

Am I in trouble with the law now?

Nope. That is still fair use.

OK, now assume my son is deployed overseas, and I send him the tape through the mail since AFRTS isn't available.

I'm still in good shape with the law because it's still private, noncommercial use.

What if I convert the show from a VHS tape to a digital file and email it to him? Now, where do I stand?

I'm still OK, because the show was freely available over the air.

But what if I recordeed the exact same show off of Comcast Cable and then sent it on to my son. Now I'm a criminal. I'm doing the same thing I did with the video tape, yet according to the DMCA, I am now a pirate.

Something stinks here, doesn't it?

Don't even try to think logically about it because there is no logic. The only difference in the two scenarios is that I'm copying the content from a different signal. It's the exact same content, right down to the commercial breaks, but because the signal is different, I could go to jail.

How did we get to such a ridiculous place?

Well, you have to remember about 30 or so years ago, when people began buying VCRs in large numbers. At the time, Hollywood studios opposed the VCR, saying it would devastate their revenues for reruns. If you remember, they even wanted to put a special 'piracy' tax on video cassettes to compensate them for their lost revenue.

They lost the fight.

Then video stores began renting out copies of movies, and Hollywood had another conniption. They sued, saying that their rights were being infringed, because nobody would buy a movie they could rent.

They lost that fight as well.

Remember when movies started coming out with different pricing structures? Some would be priced to sell to the consumer, at $25 or so, while the popular ones would be priced at $100 or so, for the rental market. They soaked the rental store owner untill they figured out that people would in fact buy movies even if they could rent them, as long as the movies were good.

Then came the satellite dishes. Not digital, like DirecTV, but the big, 10' analog jobs that moved with a hand crank. Cable was hard to find outside of major cities, and for many people, the only way to get the programming was to buy a C-band dish, similar to the ones the cable companies and network affiliates used. Dish owners were able to pick up most cable channels, as well as network feeds and live feeds from sporting events, etc. (I can remember one Monday Night Football broadcast, hearing Don Meredith threaten to dangle Howard Cosell out the window of the broadcast booth by his ankles if Howard interrupted him one more time. This was during a commercial break and obviously didn't make the air. Unless you had a dish.)

Once the dish owner base grew large enough, the programmers started crying foul, claiming that using a satellite dish was piracy, and trying to haul the dish users into court. Their contention was that they owned the broadcast, and that their copyright meant that the simpple act of receiving an open signal was piracy. The son heard the book without paying for it. HBO and ESPN both began airing messages saying that their signal was only available to subscribers, and unauthorized reception was a crime. To make a low tech analogy, it would be like the copyright holder of a book saying that a father could not read a book aloud to his children because they hadn't paid for the book.

Pretty silly, right? They lost this fight as well.

The courts decided that if the signal was transmitted in the clear then those with satellite dishes were not breaking the law by receiving the signal. The courts went even further, and declared that if the programmers wanted to encrypt the signal to keep it secure, they could do so, but they were required to provide a way for dish owners to receive the programming at a cost commensurate with that of a cable customer.

In short, they had to play fair. The programmers began encrypting their signals, and selling decoders, and everybody was happy. In fact, most programmers significantly discounted satellite programming packages, recognizing the additional up front equipment expense faced by a dish owner. (In an amusing development, cable companies began suing satellite providers for encroaching on their territories, because suburban customers began installing dishes instead of cable, preferring the extra value the dish added. cf the Howard Cosell dangling by his ankles story) I can remember in 1995 paying just under $200 for an annual package that included everything, every movie channel, both east and west coast feeds, every sports channel, satellite radio, the whole shebang. You couldn't get basic cable for that.

While the courts had made their decisions, ruling against Hollywood irtually every time, the content providers refused to give up. They searched for a way to roll back the decisions, and with the DMCA, they found their vehicle.

While the law clearly indicates that taping or ripping a program off the air and then sharing it for noncommercial use is allowable,(Note carefully, I'm not talking about ripping TV shows from DVD collections, or movies, games, or music. I am specifically talking about TV shows ripped from a broadcast.) under the DMCA, if the signal has been encoded in any way, this is no longer true.

Now. let's examine this "encoding" thing. What does it mean? In the old C band days, it meant VideoCypher I and II and their successors, i.e. encryption specifically meant to prevent open broadcast. Today, however, we get a different answer. Today, "encoding" is defined as any signal processing whatsoever, including analog to digital conversion. And since this conversion lies at the heart of most cable systems and all satellite systems, if you have watch TV by any method other than rabbit ears, then by the DMCA definition, you can't copy diddly squat without their permission. In fact, the terms of the DMCA are so broad that TIVOing a show is illegal unless you use a DVR approved by the content provider. And you might as well forget the VCR, pal.

It gets worse.

Our caring government, who wants nothing but the best for us, is requiring that all broadcast programming be done in High Definition, possibly as early as 2008. HDTV is, you guessed it, a digital signal and therefore "encoded." That means that all programming, whether over the air, cable, or satellite, will meet the definition of protected content. And if you think I'm exagerrating the threat, programming providers are pushing for the adoption of a "broadcast flag" that will tell your modern HDTV receiver to prevent any recording of the content whatsoever, even on authorized equipment, unless the copyright holder authorizes it.

Between mandating HDTV and the DMCA, not only will the program providers have reversed their losses from the C band wars, they will have gone a lot further, basically eliminating the Fair Use provisions of copyright law. They will have complete control over what you watch, when you watch it, whether you can skip the commercials, and the equipment you watch it on.

How does pay per view everything sound? With commercials no less!

The day I can no longer control what I want to watch, when I want to watch it, and where, that's the day the TV becomes a damn fine boat anchor, and I get a new aquarium.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Why Do They Do It?

In a time when violent crime rates are actually falling, why is it that tales of school shootings are becoming more common? I'm not an expert on teen violence, like Dr. Smith and I'm pretty sure she'll have a different take on this than I do, but the question of why kids are killing teachers is something I want to address as a parent.

Why are kids taking guns to school and shooting up the place? I know when I went to school not too many years ago, this wasn't an issue. You may have not liked a teacher or two (I had a fifth grade teacher I couldn't stand) but you never even dreamed about shooting them. Well, I didn't at least, and even if there were kids who thought about it, they never did it.

Why not?

What was so different then?

First, let's eliminate all the usual suspects. It's not rap music, or violence on television, or violent movies, or books, or any of these thing. These are all symptoms of the same underlying phenomenon, effects, not causes. It's not right wing conservatism or liberal permissiveness, it's not atheism or religious dogmaticism. The true culprit is a profound and pervasive lack of respect for the value of life that has become integral to modern culture. A product doesn't sell unless there is already a market for it. Movies, music, books, and games don't make out culture; they are reflections of it. They are indicators, not instigators.

Instead of placing a value on life itself, we've shifted over the years to placing a value on the quality of life, as if that is something that can be measured, when in truth it is an unmeasurable and intangible quality that can never be quantified; it's subjective. But by pretending that we can assign a value to the invaluable, we allow room in our ethics to do things previously considered beyond the pale and still call ourselves ethical.

Abortion. Capital punishment. Euthanasia. Assisted suicide. Fetal research. Eugenics. What do these all have in common?

All of these practices reduce the value we place on life, yet each and every one is ardently supported by one group or another. Some of them are claimed as rights, some treat life as a commodity, while others are said to be duties of the state in taking care of the general welfare. (And if you don't think that eugenics belongs on the list, then you haven't been paying attention to debates over mandatory sterilization for the mentally handicapped, among other issues.) When the leaders of a society signal so clearly and consistently that the value of life in no longer an absolute, it should not be surprising that some mebers of that society will show a decreased reverence for life, making it more likely that they will kill for lesser reasons than previous generations.

So that's the first factor; kids are more likely to kill today than 20 years ago because we've told them that life is less valuable.

The second factor is that we as a society have deliberately become less judgmental and more permissive. Morality has been replaced with behavioral norms. An action is no longer wrong, it is "inappropriate." While many folks feel that this is a step forward, it also enables those who do not share the cultural norms increased freedom to act outside the bounds of those norms. While listening to callers on the radio today talking about the shootings, I heard one caller blame it on the principals for being to strict. I heard several others claim that the shooter was just as much a victim as those who were shot.

We are no longer comfortable passing judgments on actions regardless of how extreme they are. When Andrea Yates drowned her five children, family and supporters wanted to blame her husband, her preacher, her doctors; everyone had blood on their hands except for the hands that held the babies under the water. She was a victim.

When actions are no longer good or bad, or even normal or abnormal, but merely appropriate or inappropriate then there is less of a societal restraint on those actions because the consequences are reduced.

These are the twin engines driving the school shootings. Combine a reduced respect for the value of life with a more permissive society, and increased violence is the logical result. We don't see this in the adult community because most of us were raised differently, in a society where life had a higher value, and where there were real consequences for our actions.

Like I said, these are the things I see as a parent, and they are things that I've worked at combatting within my family. I've tried to teach my kids, not by words, but by actions, that all human life has an innate value, that right and wrong are concepts with real meaning and are not relative, and that there are consequences for their actions.

Unfortunately, society rarely takes the hard path; more than likely, all we'll see come out of this is a renewed push for more restrictive gun laws, metal detectors in the schools, and clear plastic back packs.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Things I’m Thinking About INstead of Sleeping. (dammit!)

I'm a bit pressed for time this week (2 football programs to write, edit, layout, publish, print and bind; one house to rewire; 5 football games to announce, 3 to write up and add to the website, not to mention the standard load of chores) but there are some things that must be addressed.
  • Bush's nomination for Supreme Court Jester err Justice, Harriet Miers Have I stumbled into some alternate bizarro universe where Jimmy Carter put Billy in charge of the ATF because he had so much experience with cigarettes, whiskey and shotguns? This nomination makes about the same amount of sense as that one would have.
  • Speaking of Carter remember how the dems hollared "Dynasty!" when Bush first got the nomination? It appears the dems have decided if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! Not only are we looking at Clinton v2.0 (New and Improved!! Guaranteed to sleep with 50% fewer women than the first model!), but there's a Carter looking to run for office. Not Amy but Jack Carter, Jimmy's oldest child. (Is this guy like Chuck Cunningham in reverse? If you'd asked me yesterday, I would have sworn Amy was an only child.) He's contemplating running for the Senate because he didn't like the government's response to Katrina. Given that he lives in the desert, I'm sure FEMA is breathlessly awaiting his expertise in dealing with large oceanic storms and massive flooding.
  • Global Warming: It isn't just our problem anymore! Measurements taken of the surface temprature on MArs show that it has heated up aling with Earth's surface. I knew we wee evil nasty polluters, but I never thought that wewere so bad that we could cause the next plabet over to sta heating up!

    Unless of course, something else is causing both planets to heat up. Like the sun, maybe?
  • Oregon's Assisted Suicide Law is Challenged at the Supreme Court Oregon State Law says your doctor may prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to assist you in killing yourself. The Bush Administration insists that a doctor's responsibility is to preserve life, not end it. Also at issue is the federal government's ability to regulate how drugs may be used. They reason that if Oregon is allowed to prescribe drugs in contravention to federal laws, then that opens huge loopholes in the War on Drugs.

    As Glenn Reynolds would say, "That's a feature, not a bug."

    Incidentally, Oregon's governor is using an argument fundamentally identical to the one used by George Wallace, and will probably prove equally as successful.

    As for me, well, I just figure if you really want to die, you don't need a doctor's help to do it. But it's nobody's business but yours if you do.
  • Walmart employees in Florida are organizing. And that's pretty cool if you ask me.

    Why?

    Simple numbers. Look, Walmart is known as a company that is, well, to put it kindly, thrifty. They don't pay much, their benefits are below average, and they routinely treat their workers shabbily. At least, that's what I hear via most news stories and through the gossip mill. SO when I hear that current and past employees are banding together to gain leverage against the retail giant, it warms my heart.

    After all, the only way a union, excuse me, "worker's group", can weild any power is if the employer would have trouble replacing them if they quit. So that must mean that there is a shortage of people available to work for Walmart, which means unemployment is effectively zero!

    Seriously, when I first read the story in the Mountain Press (story not in the online version, I had a positive reaction to it. The AP story I linked to was the basis for the story, but it was heavily edited. The paper made it sound like this was a grass roots groun up type organization, not some union trying to muscle in, or some PAC disguised as a union looking to leach out a few more campaign dollars for their politician of choice.

    Then I read the full piece from USAToday and I find out that it's something completely different. Instead of a grass roots employee driven effort, it's a coalition of unions and interest groups, including ACORN and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. As you recall, ACORN was implicated in voter fraud in several states during the 2004 election cycle, notably swing states.

    Yeah, I trust these guys.

    And the UFCW, well, I had a brush with them several years back. I was still in the Navy, and my buddy's wife was an RN in a Washington State hospital. The hospital was unionized (a frightening thought in itself) and the nurses were members of a nursing union. One day, UFCW workers showed up at the hospital, performing what they called a 'survey.' One of the questions on the survey asked if the nurses there would like more information on the UCFW and how it worked. What the nurses weren't told was that the question was actually a vote on whether or not the UCFW would be allowed to come in and try to replace the existing union.

    Real nice fellows, eh?

    So they filled out the surveys, and a bare majority checked yes on the more info question, and so several weeks of hell began as the UCFW minions descended on the hospital, working feverishly to convert the nurses over to their union.

    Now you may wonder what a food service union had to do with nursing. So did we, but we didn't discover the answer until it was far too late.

    The blitz was intense and as is usually the case in a propaganda fight, the first casualty was truth. The UCFW workers promised the nurses the moon and the stars and all for free, and enough of them bought it and the UCFW became the official reps for the nurses.

    Then they found out the truth. The reason the UCFW wanted the nurses is that they got paid lots more than a grocery worker or a dishwasher, so their dues represented a tremendous financial windfall for the union and the lower paid membership. The nurses represented nothing more than a cash cow for the union, and they began milking immediately.

    Suffice it to say that I'm less than impressed with the organizers of the 'worker's group.'

    Looking at the numbers, out of 92,000 employees working in Central Florida Walmarts, only about 250 have joined the group. That's only 0.2% of the current employee pool, and remember, some of the 250 come from former employees. It seems to me that if Walmart were truly so horrific to work for, we'd see just a tad more activity.


And that's it for now folks. I've got to get busy on more of this free stuff I'm doing.

Hey, does anybody know of a way I could actually get paid to write this stuff? Wouldn't that be a cool job!

Posted by Rich
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Monday, October 03, 2005

The Technological Tragedy

I went to see Serenity last weekend and enjoyed the movie thoroughly. I never got the chance to see Firefly while it was on the air, but I did rent the DVDs, and I was impressed with the series. As anybody who's been reading me for a while knows, I am sympathetic to the Confederacy so I had no problems identifying with the lead character, Malcolm Reynolds. The key issue was the balance of power between the individual and the state. Mirroring the fate of the Confederacy, Reynold's side lost the war, and the Alliance took over everything, with less than satisfactory results for those who valued individual freedoms. Whether that outcome is a commentary on modern times is left for you to decide; how I feel about it should be intuitively obvious to even the most casual observer.

But there's another theme in Serenity that intrigues me, simply because it's one that most folks seem to miss entirely. I've read many reviews of the movie (Incidentally, any reviewewr who refers to spoilers, even obliquely, during a review should be bashed repeatedly over the head with their keyboard until it breaks. And I'm not talking about the keyboard.) and one of the common themes has been Joss Whedon's surprising juxtaposition of Western and Science Fiction elements. The truth is that Whedon is making good use of what in practice would be inevitable. Any time a society expands rapidly, the technology available to a settlement will decrease in direct relation to the distance they travel. In effect, the frontiers of the expansion will move backwards to a level of technology that their population and energy systems will support. Consider for example our own westward expansion. Conditions on the frontier were always behind those back east. Why? Because a frontier society does not have the infrastructure to support a higher level of technology.

Now, why is this? Well, let's look at what is required to support a high level of technology.
  1. First, you need a surplus of labor. If the workforce is fully engaged in surviving, there will be no time left to develop or support a higher technology. Now then, in order to achieve this surplus of labor, you need a surplus of food so that the society can afford to support non productive labor in the short term.
  2. Next, you need people in the group with technological competence. Without people who know how to create and run the technology, it doesn't matter how much food you have, you'll still be stuck in the Stone Age.
  3. Next, you need an abundant source of cheap energy. Labor saving devices are actually misnamed. The same amount of work gets done whether it's done by hand or machine. The difference is the source of energy that does the work. For example, plowing a field takes a given amount of energy, whether it's done by a man, a mule, or a tractor. And of the three, the tractor is the least efficient, requiring scads of energy to do what a single horse could do. Technology reduces human energy input into the system, but that energy must be replaced with something else, and since mechanical systems are always less energy efficient than biological ones, you'd better have energy to burn.

You must have all three of these to maintain a high tech society, lack of any one will automatically reduce the society to a lower technological level.

Ok, so we have the requirements to maintain a high tech society. Now, let's look at the pioneering process and see whether there is any way we can meet these requirements.

First, we have to deal with transport costs. Expansion is expensive, and shipping enough machinery out to the frontier to allow a high tech society will be prohibitively expense. Imagine for instance trying to pack up the entire city of Knoxville and moving it, say, a couple of thousand miles away.

Next, we have to deal with support costs. Shipping food and fuel to a colony is just as expensive as machinery. It is the job of the colony to achieve self sufficiency as quickly as possible, and it is far easier to achieve with a low tech colony than a high tech one.

Now, some folks might want to argue this point, so let's take a minute or two to look more closely at it.

Let's compare a high tech and low tech solution to the same problem and see which is easier to support. We'll go with transportation and compare a car to a horse. Both will get you around, but which will be easier to support in a colony?

A car needs fuel. A horse eats grass.
If a car breaks, it must be repaired, requiring spare parts and specialized knowledge. If a horse gets hurt, it heals.
If you need another car, you have to manufacture one or have one shipped. If you need another horse, find a mare and wait.
A car requires specialized roads. A horse goes anywhere.
A car requires extensive modifications to be used for another purpose, say, plowing a field. A horse just needs to be harnessed.
A car requires constant attention to perform properly. The horse always knows the way to the barn.

OK, point made. The low tech solution is also most likely the low maintenance solution. For those unconvinced, consider a blacksmith's shop vs. a steel factory.

When you stop and think about things like this, it begins to make sense that the best chance for a colony to survive is to move a maximum number of people along with the bare minimum of equipment they will need to survive. And that measn a lower tech society, at least for awhile.

Now then, there will be exceptions, certainly. If the technology is light, and easily maintained, it will spread just as rapidly as the pioneers. But in the main, low tech will rule the day.

So, why am I thinking about things like this? I'll give you one reason.

Katrina.

And another.

Al Qaida.

Remember one of the keys to maintaining a high tech society is an abundant supply of cheap energy. What happens if we lose that? The effect would be the same as if we'd moved towards the frontier. Our technology would degrade to the point where our new energy supply could support it. And then our society would adjust accordingly.

That doesn't sound too bad when put like that, but what does that mean in real terms?

Riots. Starvation. War. Famine. Pestilence.

In general lots of nastiness.

You see, that surplus of labor thing that allows us to develop technology is a double edged sword. Yes, it means that we can make all kinds of wonderful gadgets, and watch Lost on TV, and take long vacations, and retire when we're 65. It also means that most of us would starve if we had to provide our own food. And even if we could farm, hunt, or gather enough to support ourselves, the vast majority of our neighbors couldn't. And they would starve.

And if you don't think your starving next door neighbor would hurt you and take your food, then you've never been really hungry. Stop and think just for a minute. What if your kids were starving, and you knew that Joe down the block had a pantry filled with food, but refused to give you any.

What would you do?

We've come a long way from talking about a simple science fiction movie, haven't we? I guess thoughts like these are why I'm usually still up at 2:30AM.

Aren't you glad I decided to share?

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

We Can All Relax Now; All Is Well.

The problems are solved and now we can all rest securely in the knowledge that, if another disaster hits New Orleans, the response will be swift, sure, and effective, all because Mike Brown, head of FEMA, has resigned. In one swift move, we know longer have to worry about things like:
  • Mayor Ray "Potty Mouth" Nagin failing to follow his own evacuation plan by utilizing city and school busses to transport folks out of the city.
  • Governor Kathleen "CryBaby" Blanco failing to call out the National Guard and refusing assistence from other State Guard units, and the Red Cross.
  • Thugs breaking into gun stores, stealing every weapon they could get their hands on, then using them to shoot at helicopters bringing in aid, contractors trying to restore power, and anybody that seemed to be trying to help.
  • Cops walking off the job, turning in their badges, or worse, joining in with the looters, making sure they got their share of the spoils.
  • The local government refusing to allow food and water to be staged at the Superdome because they didn't want people there anyway.
  • The local government failing to call for an evacuation until about 20 hours before the storm hit.
  • The local government failing in fact to follow virtually any part of its emergency response plan

No, we don't have to worry about any of that anymore because Mike Brown has resigned. Forget about the fact that he had no input into any of these colossal blunders. Forget about the fact that FEMA is not designed as a primary response agency. Forget about the fact that this was the biggest natural disaster ever to occur in the US, totally decimating the infrastructure which a national response would require. Forget all of these facts, because we as a nation are not interested in facts anymore; we want somebody to blame and Mike Brown is taking the fall.

It turns my stomach to see America the Proud turn into "The CryBaby Nation" but that's where we are going. And don't think I'm just nailing the liberals on this one because the Republicans have been equally at fault. President Bush stood up and accepted responsibility for the fqilures of last week, a noble gesture that will help the Republicans in the next election and is completely counterproductive when trying to asses what really went wrong and how to correct it.

But we don't want that, do we? We want Daddy to say he'll fix it so we can get back to our lives and not have to worry things. Do you realize that virtually 99.9% of the blowhards pontificating about what went wrong here, or how we failed there haven't got the faintest clue about the logistics involved in a rescue operation this size? They're blissfully spouting off from a position of utter ignorance, which of course frees them to say pretty much whatever they damn well please. And so now we get mainstream editorials suggesting that the response in Florida last year was better because the President's brother is governor there. Never mind the fact that none of the storms were as big as Katrina, and more importantly, Florida sits above sea level. Never mind the fact that FEMA reacted somewhat slower in Florida, but nobody noticed because the state and local governments had a plan and actually followed it (Are you paying attention, Mayor Nagin?)

By the way, as an exercise for the class, compare and contrast the actions of Rudy Giuliani on 9/11 with those of Ray Nagin during his September calamity. That's the difference between a leader and a parasitic politician.

But you know what? It really doesn't matter anymore, not because Mike Brown resigned, but because of what that signals. The crybabies have won. We're going to let Daddy fix it for us. Of course, the tradeoff is that we'll be treated like children instead of free adults, but that's a small price to pay, right?

The Bush Administration has sent the message that they now consider disaster management primarily a Federal responsibility. Until last week, FEMA was a support agency, designed to come in and assist the local government in recovering from a disaster. After all the investigations and hearings that will take months and cost millions, the decision will be that FEMA will be the primary response agency, and state and local governments will provide assistance. That's right ladies and gentlemen, the lovely people who run your post office will now be in charge of responding to every disaster.

May God help us all.

When the cost of housing doubles because of new federal construction codes, thank the crybabies.

When your property taxes double to pay for federally mandated insurance, as well as the new layer of bureacrasy required to prepare for an manage emergencies, thank the crybabies.

When you can't build on your new property because some bureacrat in Washington has decided that average wind velocities in that vicinity indicate a possibility of tornado damage, thank the crybabies.

When you are evicted from your home because some faceless twerp in Washington declares that it is in a flood prone zone, making it non cost effective to protect, thank the crybabies.

When environmentalists get wise to the awesome new power of FEMA, and private ownership of cars becomes restricted because air pollution is "an emergency!", thank the crybabies.

Look, even if you think I'm going way off the deep end and you're expecting me to start ranting about black helicopters any minute now, surely you can see that the very mindset behind this basic change is terrible. What we are collectively sayig is that we are no longer capable of taking care of ourselves when things go wrong, and we have to have the federal government to come in and rescue us. Worse, we're saying we can't even take care of ourselves for a couple of days while the feds get their act together to come help us?

Have we really sunk that low? Are we children that need to be taken care of or are we adults capable of caring for ourselves, even, or better, especially when things get tough?

I don't know about y'all, but these crybabies don't speak for me. Taking care of myself and my family is my job, not some idiot in Washington's. If the shit hits the fan, and things really get rough, then sure, a helping hand is a great thing to have around, but we're not talking about that anymore. We're talking about a government that will tuck us into bed at night and turn on a nightlight to keep the boogie man away.

It's grotesque.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, September 02, 2005

A Few Questions for the Monday Morning Quarterbacks

  • Do you have a "go bag" or "bug out kit?"

  • Do you have enough drinking water stowed away to last your family for a week?

  • Do you have an alternative source of power, batteries or a generator?

  • Do you have a battery powered or dynamo powered radio so you can get information?

  • Do you have several flashlights, all with good batteries and extra bulbs?

  • Do you have a basic first aid kit stocked and ready to go?

  • Do you have spare prescription eyeglasses?

  • Do you have a place to bug out to, in the event that you have to evacuate?

  • Do you routinely keep your car topped off with gas and serviced regularly?

  • Do you have a firearm and are you competent in its use?


If the answers to these questions are "No," you just might want to take a few moments to assess your own preparedness before blasting the federal government for their response to Katrina.

The federal government cannot ever meet the needs of everyone affected in a widescale disaster like this one. Any organization big enough to respond rapidly to a crisis of this magnitude would be exceptionally unweildy and inefficient, not to mention budget bustingly expensive, particualrly when tragedies of this scope only happen once in a lifetime.

The only way to be able to effectively respond to catastrophe is if every citizen, even those affected, are willing and able to do their part.

The Bug Out Kit
Let's start with the big out kit. The first and most important item is a place to go. Talk to friends, neighbors and relatives. Put together a list of places to go to, both locally and remote. Make sure they know that, in the event of an emergency, you are coming, because it's highly likely that you will not be able to get in touch with them after the deal goes down.

Next, pack the bug out kit with everything you might need for a 3-4 day trip. Travel conditions are likely to be horrendous, and what might usually take 3-4 hours may take as many days. Pack some extra seasonally appropriate clothing. (Yes, this means you'll have to re-pack your kit twice a year. Isn't your family's safety worth a couple of hours every six months?) Add several gallons of drinking water, at least one gallon per family member. Add non-perishable food items that need no preparation. Trail foods like beef jerky and trail mixes sealed in airtight containers will do just fine. The idea is not to pack food to live on, but to survive on. Presumably, your bugout destination will have a ready supply of food when you get there.

Next, add in all the items you may need to survive for 4-5 days on the road. Blankets, flashlights, pocket knives, portable radios, gas cans, a siphon, a first aid kit, any prescription medicines your family needs, matches, lighters, water purification pumps or tablets, books and/or games, and anything else you might need to survive 4-5 days on the road.

The kit should be sized to fit easily in the trunk of your car, and should be kept there. This prevents you from giving in to the temptation to raid items from it as you need them around the house.

The Car
Now that we've mentioned it, let's examine what we need to do to keep it ready. This is very simple and requires only two steps. First, keep it serviced. Change the oil, align the steering, rotat the tires, and so on. Performing routine maintenance will amke sure that when you most need your car, it will be there for you. Second, keep the tank full. When the shit hits the fan, there will be no gas, and you won't want to wait in the lines to get it, so keep it full.

Standing Your Ground
Either you're too stubborn to run (me), or you can't for some reason. What measures do you need to take to ensure your survival while the disaster runs its course? Well, let's start with the basic components of the bug out kit, and expand on them.

I live out in the sticks and get my water from a well. I've got alternative means to power my well pump to keep water flowing should the power go out for an extended period of time. Folks on city water don't have that luxery, so it would be a good idea for them to either install a water storage tank (50-100 gal.) or lay in a good supply of bottled water. Increase your food stores. You don't have to go nuts, but make sure you always have a pantry full of canned foods and other non-perishables. Have an alternate means of cooking. A coleman stove will run for a long time on a 20lb cylinder of propane. Samre goes for lighting. Kerosene lanterns and Coleman lanterns give off plenty of light and are cheap to run. Just make sure you have several cylinders of propane/kerosene.

Expand the medical kit to include anything you might need. Add suture needles and thread. Ask a vet friend for antibiotics to treat infections. Keep a good supply of aspirin, Tylenol or the pain reliever of your choice on hand. Children's chewables come in very handy as well. Keep several tubes of antibiotic ointments on hand as well. Get a good first aid handbook. Take a course in first aid and CPR. You may have to be your own doctor for awhile, so learn as much as you can.

Be Prepared
Get in shape. Learn to start a fire without matches. Take stock of your family and the skills you have. Decide which skills you would need to survive for a few weeks if necessary, and get family members to learn them. I can't tell you everything you need to know, because it depends a great deal on where you live, and the nature of the emergency.

Defend Yourself
This one will really piss off some folks. If you follow the advice given here, you will be better off than 99% of the people around you and they will hate you for it. We don't want to think that our friends and neighbors will turn oon us, and most times they won't, but your neighbors will surely take me out and mine will do the same for you. If you don't believe me, look at New Orleans and what's going down there. Some people will do anything when they're hungry; other need no justification, just opportunity. You will be a target, and unless you are prepared to defend yourself and your family, you will pay a steep price.

Buy a gun. Learn to shoot it. Buy another one. Keep one loaded and available at all times once the bottom drops out. Have one in your bug out kit. Have plenty of ammunition on hand for each of your guns. As for what guns to buy, on that, I'll defer to others with more expertise, as it will depend greatly on your situation.

*******

Now, let's take stock of where you are. If disaster strikes, you are prepared. You have a way to evacuate, and if you decide to ride it out, you have food and water for a couple of weeks, enough to last until help arrives. You will have heat, and light, and hot meals. You will be able to defend yourself. In short, you are taking are of yourself to the best of your ability, while waiting for help to come from outside. You're not a victim; you're a survivor.

And all for the cost of a few hours planning and training, and a few hundred dollars in equipment and supplies.

It's a bargain at any price.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, August 26, 2005

Cindy Sheehan:  Poster Child for the Anti War America Left.

Yesterday, I asked a simple question: Did Cindy Sheehan really say that America was not worth dying for?

The answer is yes, she did.

You can find the complete transcript of her remarks here. (Thanks to Michael Silence)

This is the relevant passage:
I take responsibility partly for my son’s death, too. I was raised in a country by a public school system that taught us that America was good, that America was just. America has been killing people, like my sister over here says, since we first stepped on this continent, we have been responsible for death and destruction. I passed on that bullshit to my son and my son enlisted. I’m going all over the country telling moms: “This country is not worth dying for. If we’re attacked, we would all go out. We’d all take whatever we had. I’d take my rolling pin and I’d beat the attackers over the head with it. But we were not attacked by Iraq. {applause} We might not even have been attacked by Osama bin Laden if {applause}. 9/11 was their Pearl Harbor to get their neo-con agenda through and, if I would have known that before my son was killed, I would have taken him to Canada. I would never have let him go and try and defend this morally repugnant system we have. The people are good, the system is morally repugnant.


It's very clear when reading the entire passage that she was referring to America and not Iraq when saying "this country."

So this is how the darling of the anti-war left thinks of her own country; a morally repugnant system responsible for death and destruction ever since it began.

But no, she doesn't hate America.

Our public schools are nothing but propaganda mills teaching blind faith and obedience to authority.

But no, she doesn't hate America.

The attacks of 9/11 were somehow our own fault, based on some misdeeds that were blanked out by the applause (I'll bet you $20 the missing statement had something to do with our support of Israel. Any takers?)

But no, she doesn't hate America.

And it only gets worse. As Cindy gets rolling, she becomes even more vitriolic and hateful:
If he thinks that it’s so important for Iraq to have a U.S.-imposed sense of freedom and democracy, then he needs to sign up his two little party-animal girls. They need to go this war. They need to fight because a just war, the definition of a just war, and maybe you people here who still think this is a just war, the definition of a just war is one that you would send your own children to die in.

Yeah, nothing gives you credibility like insulting your opponents children. Besides, last time I checked, we didn't send anybody's children to die. Our armed forces are all adults and all volunteers. Casey Sheehan volunteered for the army, re-enlisted, and volunteered for the rescue mission where he died, even though his assigned billet was a non-combat billet. Nobody "sent" him anywhere.

What they’re saying, too, is like, it’s okay for Israel to have nuclear weapons. But Iran or Syria better not get nuclear weapons.


Sweetheart, Israel is not known for hijacking planes, blowing up restaurants and school busses, or other rather uncivilized acts of random violence. Nor do they show a pronounced tendancy to indulge in random takeovers of their neighbors. In short, it appears that Israel is a country run by adults, instead of spoiled children.

We are waging a nuclear war in Iraq right now. That country is contaminated. It will be contaminated for practically eternity now.


????? We dropped nukes on Iraq? What alternate dimension (dementia) is this woman living in?

It’s okay for Israel to occupy Palestine, but it’s – yeah – and it’s okay for Iraq to occupy – I mean, for the United States to occupy Iraq, but it’s not okay for Syria to be in Lebanon. They’re a bunch of fucking hypocrites!


Anti-Semitism is ugly to see, isn't it? Israel doesn't occupy Palestine because Palestine is not a country and never has been one. It's a label applied by the British to describe the section of the Ottoman empire they controlled following WW1 that includes most of the Middle East. The British portioned out the territory, creating countries to best take advantage of the natural resources.

And finally, in her conclusion, she loses all semblence of rationality
And we need to, we just need to rise up. We need a revolution and make it be peaceful and make it be loving and let’s just show them all the love we have for humanity because we want to stop the inhumane slaughter.


A peaceful and loving revolution? Show me one in the history books. Anywhere. And if you want to stop inhumane slaughter, overthrowing a dictator who murdered and tortured his own people at a higher rate than even the suicide bombers have been able to achieve might be a good start. Instead, Cindy wants us to pull out, thereby guaranteeing more "inhumane slaughter on an unprecedented scale."

And this is the leading spokesperson for the anti-war movement. If you want to kow whether someone is antiwar or anti-american, just show them the speech and ask them if they agree with Cindy, or are embarrased by her.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

To Spank or Not to Spank?

That is the question.

I've got many friends who are aghast at the fact that I believe that corporal punishment is an appropriate form of discipline for a child.

"You can't hit a child," they say, "All you're teaching them is that violence is an acceptible way of enforcing your will on somebody who is weaker than you. You have to find methods of correction that don't involve physical aggression, like Time Out."

Yeah, that's just the message I want to send to my kids. "If you don't behave, I'll be very disappointed in you and send you away from me for awhile." Like a 5 year old has any concept of time whatsoever. It's obviously less cruel to substitute life long fears of abandonment for a few minutes of mild physical discomfort, isn't it.

"OK, maybe Time Outs are a bit harsh, but grounding is OK, right?"

Oh sure, grounding is great. Except there probably aren't many 4 year old kids who would even realize they're being grounded. It's not like they're going to be hitting the malls anytime soon anyway.

"OK, grounding a toddler may be a bit ineffective; what about limiting TV or video game time, or taking away a favorite toy?"

Ah, sensory deprivation, the classic behavior modification technique.

In fact, let's do a quick review here; physical isolation, sensory deprivation, removal of cherished objects, and fear of abandonment by the world. Why does this list sound so familiar?

Oh yeah, it's how we tortured prisoners at Gitmo.

Imagine that.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, August 22, 2005

More Anti-War Nonsense

Katie Allison Granju links to former "soldier" who has a burning question he'd like to ask:

A young man (or his parents) needs to ask himself: Would I kill a kid to preserve my country? That question should be asked of all soldiers who enter the military. Just as important is the second question: How does killing a kid preserve my country?

Would I kill a kid - each soldier should ask himself - would I shoot a woman? Would I ruin a house with machine gun fire? Would I burn a row of shops? How about an entire town? Would I level a town if my commander ordered? Would I napalm a town? (Fallujah was napalmed but US officals[sic] deny it). Would I fire into an unruly mob of civilians? Would I fire into an approaching car without knowing who is inside?


First off, let's check into Mr. Herman's right to call himself a "soldier." According to him, he joined the Air Force as his best option to avoid the draft and Viet Nam.

Good thing he didn't choose the TANG, or liberal Democrats would want nothing to do with him, right?

Then, when assigned as a military policeman, whose job most likely would have been to sit on a Vietnamese airstrip guarding a plane, he stole a car and took off for Canada. Only he got too cold on the trip, ran out of gas and money, and went back, where he was arrested, placed in the stockade, got out, and was assigned as a driver stateside.

Not exactly compelling credentials, but on to his argument.

It’s full of crap.

Let's rephrase his questions just a bit.

Are we willing to allow people to be enslaved to avoid war? Are we willing to allow innocent men, women, and children to be slaughtered in order to avoid war? Are we willing to allow men to be fed into paper shredders, women to be raped, tortured, and mutilated, children to be orphaned and imprisoned, just to avoid war?

Are we really that cowardly?

Let me make it a bit more personal. If you had to allow a child to die to prevent a war, would you? If so, would you kill the child to prevent a war? If allowing your neighbor's house to be firebombed would prevent a war, would you let it happen? Would you light the bombs yourself? What if the only reason for the firebombing was his religion? Would you still light the torch?

Now these are the true questions. This war was never just about WMD's no matter how much liberals like to spin it that way. Hell, I remember SKB making fun of the Bush administration over how many different reasons they used to justify the war. This war was in no small part a war of liberation for the Iraqi people.

Let's cut even closer to home. How many 9/11's are you willing to accept before war becomes necessary? Obviously one isn't enough because there are many who want us out of Afghanistan as well as Iraq. So how many does it take? 2? 5? One every 5 years? Or do you believe the question is irrelevant because we are to blame, that it is our corrupt foreign policy that provokes attacks and if we would just give the terrorists what they want, they'd leave us alone? If the latter is your answer, then you believe that we need to drop our support of Israel, and let that nation be wiped from the face of the earth.

Again.

I guess your hatred of violence depends on who is suffering it.

Let's get even more personal, shall we?

If you are attacked, do you have the right to fight back? Say you're an upper middle class person, raised in comfort and privilege. You've got a good life and you've never really had to struggle at all. And now you're being attacked by a couple of thugs who want what you have because they have nothing.

Do you have the right to defend yourself, using violence against their violence to protect what you have, or should you meekly surrender your watch, wedding ring, wallet, and keys because these poor fellows mugging you have had it so much worse than you? Suppose you go the latter route, and they decide to kick the living hell out of you for being "the man" or maybe just because they have a mean streak. Do you fight back then, or do you sit back and take the beating?

OK, y'all think I'm being ridiculous and exaggerating unduly, I know. Just about all of us would fight back to defend our property, and most of those who wouldn't would fight back to protect our lives, and the remainder are evolutionary nulls, dead enders who will cull themselves from the herd. But there is a point to this exercise.

Same scenario as above with one change; you are no longer the victim, but a bystander. Do you have a right to interfere, to stop the robbery and the beating? More importantly, do you have a duty to do so, whether by physically intervening, or calling on somebody else to do so? Our morals, ethics, and in many cases our laws say yes, you not only have that right, but you have a duty to intervene and to use violence as needed to protect another person.

But would you?

If not, and you're the next victim of these thugs, should you expect help from anybody else? Should you expect somebody else to risk their neck to save yours?

Here's the point. We're in Iraq right now stopping a brutal mugging that's been going on for decades. We let it slide in the past because "it wasn't any of our business." On 9/11 it became our business, not because Saddam was directly linked to those attacks but because we suddenly found out that we could indeed be the next victims. The threats coming from the Middle East were no longer empty ones. War rhetoric from Hussein could no longer be dismissed as the venting of a lunatic blowhard.

We were to be the next victim.

Fighting to protect yourself represents the most basic level of ethical behavior. You are stopping unethical behavior because it threatens you directly. The next level is when you stop unethical behavior because it threatens somebody you know, i.e. defending your family/friends. The ultimate level of ethical behavior is when you fight unethical behavior on the behalf of folks you don't even know.

Unfortunately, here in America, we fall very short of that level. On a personal level, we usually make the second level of ethics, but as a nation, it's the basic level all the way. We stick our necks out for nobody. After the Holocaust, we said never again. Tell that to the folks in Rwanda, the Balkans, and Darfur just to name a few.

We refused to deal with Saddam until the threat became personal. The scary thing is that so many of us still do not take the threat personally. Some of us believe that you can co-exist with evil, that the animals masquerading as men can be tamed if we just throw them enough meat. But like the idiot tourists who insist on feeding the bears in the Smokies learn, usually very painfully, eventually you run out of treats and bears don’t understand “All gone.”

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Cindy Sheehan

She claims that all she wants is to talk to President Bush and ask him why her son had to die.

Every day, I listen as our media tells me how noble she is, this grieving mother, and how callus and cruel, and dare I say it, cowardly President Bush is for refusing to meet with her.

Except they never tell me the truth, that he already met with her.

Now why is that, do you think? Isn't that a pertinent fact? I mean, how often does your average citizen actually get face time with the President. And having done so, how often do they get a second chance? In the article linked, while she expresses reservations about the war and how it is being handled, she speaks of the President in a complimentary manner, praising his faith and sincerity.

So why is she camping out on his doorstep like some celebrity stalker? And why are we supposd to take her seriously? And why did it take Matt Drudge to tell us that she met with the President before?

After all, our media is fond of linking other items, items whose link can charitably described as tenuous. For example, every time you hear of US casualties, it is immediately followed by the statement "But President Bush still insists that there will be no early troop withdrawals.

What has one got to do with the other?

Nothing! Nothing at all! In a war, soldiers die. You don't quit because of it.

Now if we were losing hundreds of troops per day, and seeing no signs of any success, then that would be another story. Then, you're not talking casualties, you're talking losing battles.

We're winning everywhere except in the hearts and minds of the liberals who didn't want us to be there in the first place. Apparently, their best idea is for us to leave Iraq and Afghanistan immediately, let those two countries fall back into the terror and repression they came from, blame the whole mess on Bush, and whistle merrily as America gets obliterated.

You think I'm exaggerating?

I have a friend who sincerely and utterly believes that not only shouldn't we be in Iraq, we never should have gone after Osama in Afghanistan, and that we need to pull all of our troops out of both countries immediately.

They are convinced that neither country is worth the expenditure of a single American life.

And this from a well educated, reasonably intelligent, open minded person.

Just for a moment, picture what would happen in Afghanistan if US forces pulled out tomorrow. The remnants of the Taliban and their Al Qaida allies would be able to come out of hiding. Musharref's government would last a matter of weeks before being toppled. Afghanistan would fracture as warlords again took over large areas. The burkhas would return. It would soon be as if we had never gone in.

Iraq would be even worse. The nascant democracy would splinter under the twin forces of the Sunni insurgency combined with Syrian guerillas seeking to dismantle everything that has been accomplished. The streets would run red with blood as Baathists try to force their way back into power, fought tooth and nail by Sunnis and Shias alike. The best outcome would be a long and bloody civil war, followed by a few decades of recovery before Iraq would be strong enough to again threaten its neighbors. The more likely outcome would be a short bloody struggle as Iran and Syria fight over the country.

The Kurds would be decimated, and it wouldn't be surprising if Turkey joined in, attempting to add a little territory.

Of course liberals would find all the bloodshed horrifying, condemn President Bush to the darkest pits of hell, then go about their business, safe in the knowledge that no Americans were dying.

Until the next 9/11. And the one after that. And the one after that.

Until people start freezing to death in winters because the unrest in the Middle East has dried the flow of oil to a trickle.

Until the terrorists start setting off car bombs in school parking lots, and IEDs begin exploding in shopping malls, and hundreds of other nasty surprises the terrorists will bring with them.

Americans will be dying then, but they'll appeal to the UN for help, and the UN of course will come right to our rescue, just like they did in Rwanda, Darfur, the Balkans, etc.

It's not a pretty picture, but it's what will happen, not might happen, if we pull all of our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan immediately.

So why would Cindy Sheehan and folks like her demand that very thing?

Some are blinded by partisanship; some by grief or compassion for the families of soldiers who've died.
Some simply don't understand or refuse to accept that there are very real consequences to these actions.
Some feel that even if things do go very badly, it's not too bad because they can blame it all on President Bush and his cowboy diplomacy.
And some simply can't or won't take the time to examine the situation and ascertain what the consequences will be. Like a spoiled child, they want what they want and they want it now, and to hell with the price that somebody else will have to pay.

There is simply no way a sane and sober person can look at the facts and conclude that an immediate and complete withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan is the best possible course at this time. Yet this is what Cindy Sheehan wants. This is what many in the media appear to want. This is what all the anti-war protesters want. This is what my friend wants.

As much as I hate the idea of American soldiers dying in the desert, I know that pulling out now will only guarantee one thing; thousands more Amricans will die here.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Choice and a Voice

SayUncle links to Vanderleun about fears that the blogosphere is becoming the mainstream media by being held hostage to "gatekeepers” like Instapundit and DailyKos.

From Uncle:
Do a select few of the blog elite (never thought I’d hear that phrase) control the dissemination of information? You betcha.


From Vanderleun:
It was once thought that one of the best things about this medium was that it routed around the gatekeepers in the mainstream media. And it did. It did it so well that it evolved gatekeepers of its own. Human, all too human. It would seem that we are not, in the final analysis, prisoners of our media, but prisoners of ourselves. And, as usual, we hand the keys over to someone else.


Where both of these fine folks go wrong is to neglect what makes the blogosphere so powerful and unique in the history of media.

Choice.

Unlike the MSM, Kos does not control the dissemination of information, nor does Professor Reynolds. If anything, they broaden the discussion by pointing out not only new information but new sources as well. Back in the bad old days, news was passive; we didn't have a choice what stories we read or watched on the TV. We ate whatever Brokaw, Rather, Cronkite, or the New York Times saw fit to serve us. Given the revelations of the past few years of bias, distortion, plagiarism and outright falsification, we have to wonder whether what they served us had even a vague resemblance to reality.

Today, we don't have to wonder. Thanks largely to blogs, we know when we're being fed a line of crap. We have a choice of news sources wider than ever before. When a major story breaks, not only do we get the MSM take on it, we also get local first hand information from bloggers on the scene. For example, during the tsunami, bloggers had first hand information from folks on the scene, faster, more complete, and many times more accurate than that given by the MSM. I can also point to the many Iraqi blogs that provided accounts of the events leading up to and during the war, accounts that were quite often at variance with those provided by the MSM.

Although Vanderleun dismisses cases like Rathergate as the exception rather than the rule, that's missing the point. The exception would not exist without the rule. Without the aggregate of the blogosphere, the Rathergate story would have sunken without a trace. Charles Johnson may have noted that the format of the memo was identical to an MS Word document. Donald Sensing would have known that the terminology used in the memo did not conform with standard military usage. Typographers and other experts would have known that the typeface used and the formatting of the document could not have been produced on any typewriter found in common use in the TANG at the time. All of these people would have known all of this, but their individual knowledge never would have been brought together without the blogosphere, not because the knowledge wasn't out there, but because those with the knowledge did not have a voice.

While the penetration of the blogosphere might not be anything like that of television or the rest of the mainstream media, by its nature it doesn't have to be. Bloggers cut across all former demographic lines, cutting six degrees of separation down to two or three. This means that information from blogs cuts those lines as well. In short, while penetration might not be deep, like multi-level marketing or your standard pyramid scheme, it doesn't have to be.

In a real way, every one of us now has a voice. We can provide our unique combination of knowledge, information, and expertise to a truly global forum, and if our information is relevant, it will be heard. As a small example, after the big blackout a while back, I wrote a post explaining how a power generating network worked, and why an overload in one place could cascade throughout a network. I later found out through my logs that that post had been linked by a radio station somewhere in the Pacific Northwest so their listeners could understand what had happened.

Without the blogosphere, that never would have happened.

The bottom line is this: Reynolds and Kos do not create a bottleneck of information, as does the MSM. Rather, they provide links to alternative sources of news and analysis, by definition expanding the flow of information. While some folks may choose to use them as a filter, I suspect that many others do as I do, and read them as one small part of my efforts to be fully informed.

Posted by Rich
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