Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Further thoughts on the Military

I was bored, and I mean really bored this evening. I went and updated a couple drafts for this blog, read some, watched some mindless entertainment, about all I could stand, 23 seconds. Then I started to read on the web, and after posting those last two missives, I looked at my stats. Interestingly enough, the article which is read most is my thoughts on refusing to enlist in the military.

Now, the circumstances leading to that have been changed. The VA is again providing the bare minimum medical care for our wounded vets. The Government isn't charging private insurance for their care, yet. So how do I feel, what do I think about the advice? Have I changed my opinion of late?

Yes. I am now advising kids whenever asked not to enlist in the military. Seriously, I do it all the time. Before you label me an anti-patriotic racist who advises the kids of this only because we have a black President and I wouldn't give this advice if it was a white guy or girl in office let me explain.

In 1988, I first swore an oath to defend the Constitution, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Now, it took a couple years of me thinking about it, but in time I came to understand the true depth of that oath. I wasn't fighting, risking life and limb, for a man, a President. I wasn't fighting for Generals, or Captains. I was fighting for an ideal, the ideal that we are a nation of laws, and nobody gets trampled in my country. I guess some of that thinking came from the propaganda we were being taught, and here is the thing. There are two types of Propaganda. Lies, and truth. Lies like were used by Hitler are the worst kind of propaganda. Truth is useful because it motivates people to want to do the right thing, it teaches them.

The truth I was being taught was that the KGB and the Soviets were trampling people left and right. I'd learned about the millions slaughtered by Stalin. Not the millions of Germans. OK, not just the millions of Germans, but the millions of the Soviet Citizens that were slaughtered, starved, and rounded up to be sent to the Gulag's all for this brutal dictator. The KGB could pick you up, torture you into confessing, and then either execute you, or send you to the gulags in Siberia. What a horrible image that creates. What an awful country, and thank God they were not in charge of me or my family. Those were truths. The truth was those things really happened. And here is the thing, they were still happening up to the fall of the Soviet Union. Right up to the very end, the brutalities continued.

So the thing I was fighting against, was defined for me, it was the brutalities, the violations of the individual rights, the God Given rights I was defending. So why would I advise kids to avoid doing the same thing? Because now we are that which I fought against. There are a couple ways of looking at your country. My country right or wrong. That is asinine. If my country is wrong, doing the wrong thing, no matter what the excuse is, I should not support that action. I should not as a moral conservative man, fight for it. The other way is my country is always right. That is juvinile. We have done lots of things wrong, and I can forgive those things, mostly. We learned not to do them again. Or so I believed.

Then the PATRIOT ACT came around. Goodbye civil rights. At the discression of a Federal Agent you can be held without charges, without trial, without access to your attorney, indefinately. No judge need sign off on it, forget your rights, they're gone. All at the discression of the Federal Government's agents. I was uncomfortable with the Patriot Act when it passed. As I learned more, I saw more danger. Now, I see darkness where I once saw light. So when kids ask me if they should join the military, I tell them about the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment. I tell them about why they should not join. Because they would be living a lie, one that would taint their souls, and one that would harm their psyche.

They want to defend this nation from it's enemies, but in what form I ask. If my nation is wrong, must I fight to defend it? My nation is absolutely wrong where the Patriot Act comes in.

Time for a little honesty. I was foolish enough to jump on the bandwagon of the Patriot Act when it started up. Then as I said, I learned, and considered. What I learned made me question my previous positions. In time, I came to loath the Patriot Act. By 2008, I loathed it. I honestly hoped that President Obama would follow through on his campaign promise and get rid of it. But I guess like his opinions as a Constitutional Scholar on other subjects, it changed when it was HIS secret police.

It is more about the PATRIOT ACT than what party is in charge. It is more about the Constitution I swore to protect and defend, and which I have seen shredded by both parties. So I advise children who seek my council and tell them to skip the military, and try and find a trade. If they have no chance, and are determined to join, then join the Air Force or the Navy. Something where they have a chance to learn something they can use when they get out, and get out after their terms are up. Get gone as fast as you can.

I believed and still believe I was fighting to keep the Soviet abuses from entering my country. It seems I lost that war. I told the last person I talked to about this the truth. If I had a chance to do it all over again, the same choice, with the knowledge I have no, I would not join. I know how the story ends, and the sacrafice is not worth it.

Vigilante Lawmaker in Hawaii

State Representative Tom Brower a Democrat, has decided that the best way to address Hawaii's Homeless problem is to personally go out and destroy the shopping carts the Homeless use to move their meager belongings around with a sledgehammer. Yes you read that right, the Democratic Representative to the State House of Hawaii is attacking Homeless with a sledgehammer. As if the Homeless didn't have enough problems, now they have a Democrat attacking them with a sledgehammer.

CNN Reports here.

Local news report from Hawaii here.

Unapologetic, and asinine to boot.

Of course, the affiliation is not mentioned in the news story, you have to go to his State House Membership page to find out he's a Democrat. If he was a Republican, the news would start with "Republican lunatic vigilante attacks homeless" but such hyperbole is avoided when a Democrat attacks the homeless with a sledgehammer.

Democrats fritter advantages away

After the shutdown, Democrats danced with glee that they had won the House in 2014. Democrats do that, they take a small victory, and promptly decide the war is over. It would be as if a football team scored a touchdown and declared the game over and walked off the field. They would lose because the game is still going on. Well, they're trying hard to lose, and the Republicans can win if they smarten up a bit.

The poll numbers show that the Democrats are nearly as unpopular as the Republicans.

So what can the Republicans do? They can take the gun that the Democrats shot themselves in the foot with over Obamacare, and point it at their own heads and demand that Obamacare must be repealed. Stupid, but you should never bet against stupid.

What the Republicans can and should do is what I highlighted in this post. Start to focus on issues that the people think matter most. This will help the Republicans pick up seats in the Senate. This will help Republicans save their majority in the House, and it will resonate with the public.

When the talking heads ask about Obamacare, shrug and announce that it's the law, and there is no chance of repealing it this session of Congress, since it would have to pass the Senate and probably override the Presidential Veto. So the issue as much as it's needed is essentially dead. Then point out how many people could end up with employer based health coverage if your employment plan is passed.

Obamacare is going to die, there is little chance of it succeeding now. Because the outrage is only going to grow. When people get their new mandated coverage and can't go to the doctor because the covered doctors are not taking new patients, the outrage is going to be obvious. Smile and announce that President Obama has said that Obamacare is the law, and that he will never sign a repeal of it. So unless there is enough votes to override the veto, there is nothing that can be done.

Focus on the economy. Focus on the economy. Focus on jobs. Republicans can win in a year, but they have to get started now.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ethanol hits a wall.

I didn't see much about this on the American news sites. I guess they consider it trivia, and not newsworthy. However, the EPA has reduced the mandated amount of Ethanol that must be used in our gasoline next year. Now, predictably the environmentalists are hopping up and down shouting that the Obama administration has sold out to big oil. While they seem to have sold out to big Corn, but that is irrelevant to them.

I have posted many times about my opposition to ethanol, a program that would not exist if the Iowa Caucus' were not the first damn thing we do in the primary series. You can't win in Iowa without ethanol support, that is a proven fact. And if you don't win Iowa, it puts you behind the curve in securing your parties nomination, and that my friends means you don't get to be President.

So what is this wall? Is it that the Ethanol damages the engines? There is probably some of that, but the biggest thing is this, competing requirements. As has been posted on many other sites, but is worth reposting, the BTU equivalent of Ethanol is not the same as Gasoline.

OK, I hate using terms that people don't understand, or that mean nothing to them. So we're going to have to explain something here. BTU is a British Thermal Unit. In other words, how much potential energy is contained in the gallon of gasoline and ethanol.

So the BTU rating of straight gasoline is roughly speaking 114,000. With ten percent ethanol it drops to below 112,000. So you see that there is less energy in the ethanol blend than there is in the straight gasoline right? So what does that mean to you? It means you have to burn MORE gasoline/ethanol mix to get the same energy. You have to burn 1.019 gallons of gasoline/ethanol mix to get the same energy as a gallon of gasoline. Now, I've never figured out how you lower carbon dioxide emissions by burning more of one thing, than another, but we'll get to that later.

Pure ethanol has just about 76,000 BTU's of energy in a gallon. So you would have to burn a gallon and a half to get the same energy as a gallon of gasoline. Again, burning more helps reduce the production of CO2? It seems sort of counter intuitive at the minimum.

So where is the real problem? We have mandated higher mileages for cars called the CAFE standards. These standards say that you must make an average of all the vehicles your company makes, and it must be over a certain number. So how do you hit that higher number when you are reducing the available energy in the gasoline? You obviously can't, not with existing technology.

That is another thing that always makes me laugh. The CAFE standards are raised arbitrarily, and then the car makers ask how, and the Government says invent the technology to make it happen, but also add in a lot of safety equipment that is very heavy. Airbags weight a few pounds, crumple zones mean you have to change the way the metal is set up, and it takes more metal to do it. Side impact resistance, also mandated, and tested, means even more metal. So you have to have a lot of metal, but you aren't allowed as much energy to make the metal move.

Then there is the obvious issue. A bigger car is just safer. It has more metal, which means more mass to absorb the impact of a crash.
It is such obvious common sense, I have to wonder how the hell the EPA stumbled onto it.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Simple plan for Republican Victory

The Republicans lost last night, which is no surprise considering how poorly they ran the campaigns.

First, get the candidates aside, and explain to them how not to make asinine statements. As it is painfully obvious that the reporters will ask asinine questions searching for a statement to run with prepare for it and have your answers if not canned, then prepared generally.

Second. Republicans, right now get busy. House Republicans should shift to the issues that matter to most voters. Benghazi is a disgrace, but it isn't an issue that resonates with the population in general. Nearly half of the people polled always say that the economy is the biggest issue. That hardly ever goes below 40%, and has been as high as 80% over the last few years. So care and take action based upon what the voters think is important.

Put a bill together tonight, put it up in front of the House, and be talking about it on Sunday. Call it the Great Opportunities for People act of 2013 or 2014 if you think it is better to wait a couple months.

Offer tax credits for employers to hire new employees. Point out that the tax credit will be paid for by the income taxes of the employee. Talk it up and pass it in a big flashy vote in time for the weekend talk shows to make that the issue, say a Thursday.

The Democrats will never vote for it, and the Senate almost certainly won't pass it, and President Obama would never sign it, he is not a pro business guy. His Liberal Base will freak if they do give tax credits to Business.

Then pass a bill in the House to punish mis-use of NSA data. I'm not insane enough to think I'll get the GOP onboard of the privacy issue, but we can agree that abuses of the information is a problem. So let's make it a crime punishable by five years in prison for mis-use of the information. If a person searches the databases and does not have a warrant/authorization to do so then that person is subject to five years in prison for violating the privacy of the people. If ordered to do so by the supervisor, the supervisor is also liable.

Now, I am not going to criminalize mistakes. If the name you are searching for is John Johnson and you accidentally type Johnstone, that is a typo, and must be reported to the NSA's version of internal affairs as an honest mistake, a typo. But if you are supposed to be searching for John Johnson and you search Carrie Stevens, your Girlfriend, to jail you go.

This will also fail to pass the Senate, and the President won't sign it. But it puts the Republicans on the side of Privacy, while continuing their erroneous (IMO) policy of defending the NSA. The talking point on that one is easy. We believe that the NSA data collection is vital to national security, but we agree that it is very troubling that people are abusing these databases. We want to defend the nation, while at the same time protecting the people's fourth amendment rights.

In a few months, after the President veto's or the Senate fails to act, pass other bills and keep talking about it, keep the pressure on the Democrats and Obama. Make them come down on the wrong side of the issues, the unpopular side of the issues.

People want jobs, and they want the NSA out of their everyday life. You won't do the second, at least make it a crime to access the data without a warrant or authorization. Hold the NSA accountable, the section chiefs are responsible for oversight, and must report to congress every year on unauthorized access of information by their employees. If it is greater than 3% of the searches, then the supervisor is fired by making it statutory that their Top Secret Clearance is revoked by Congressional action.

You can call that the Responsibility of Government Act.

Republicans, you can win, but only if you take note of the polls that say what is important, and start to give the people actions on those issues.

Monday, November 04, 2013

But I have nothing to hide

The NSA has had many of their activities exposed to the light of day over the last several months thanks to the actions of Edward Snowden. I have been following the developments, and while each one is interesting viewed on it's own, it is the overview that I would like to examine at this time.

The defenders of the NSA started out claiming that it wasn't doing anything wrong, and it was only whatever was exposed that week and it was perfectly legal and proper. No spying was taking place on citizens, no spying was taking place at all. That line has vanished from the news stories now, and the defenders are either giving no comment, or vague we didn't know excuses.

But what does it all mean? Foreign Policy has a long write up that I won't even bother to excerpt, as I couldn't do it justice.

What it all means is that we have allowed what we consider to be our right to privacy to be eroded. Some of that is a misplaced idea that we have nothing to hide, some of it has eroded from court cases where the seizure of things that would appear to violate the Constitutional proscriptions is allowed in this case, and that one, and if we're going to allow that, why not this? That's the problem, when you find one exception, you lay the ground work for dozens more.

The founders when they wrote and agreed to the Constitution never imagined that documents or the papers mentioned in the 4th Amendment would one day be made up of electronic ones and zeros. Such an ideal was so beyond the imaginings of the thinkers of the era that while we take it for granted now, it was an inconceivable fantasy then.

What was "science fiction" at the time? Benjamin Franklin was the Ambassador to France when he viewed the drawings of Michelangelo. Franklin wrote after seeing a drawing of a parachute full of wonder. Imagine how much mischief could be caused by a group of men who were parachuted behind the enemy lines until a sufficient force was raised to stop them. That is a paraphrase, but the foundation of the Paratroopers who made such an impact in World War II, nearly a century and a half after those words were written, and several centuries after the pictures were drawn.

Science Fiction was the idea that men could fly in heavier than air craft, balloons were only just starting to be created. Science Fiction was a ship that sailed not by the whim of the wind, but by some mechanical contrivance.

So it is impossible that the idea of electronic information being a personal document was so far beyond where the Founders were mentally, that it was not even worth considering. So where does that leave us? Your emails left on the server are not your electronic documents after 180 days, they are not protected by even minimal restrictions. Your cell phone has a GPS which is required to protect you, and is also handy in tracking you. The Supreme Court has decided that if you share information with an institution, say a bank, that you no longer have the expectation of Privacy. Then the Government requires that the bank have far more information than they did have, for your protection, and to catch tax cheats and drug dealers.

In the end, our expectation of Privacy is much lower, and even that lower standard is violated by the NSA. But is that a good thing? Many of us think it isn't a good thing. A friend asked if I wanted to see the hands of police tied. My answer was no, not tied, hog tied where my privacy is concerned.

The police should not be allowed to go into my phone without a warrant. They should not be allowed to see anything that is not plainly visible without a warrant. They should not be able to track me with my phone, and they should not be allowed to lie to get a search warrant. If they do lie to get such a warrant, they should be prosecuted and jailed without mercy.

The Government is supposed to be of, by, and for the people. We are not here to help the government, it is here to serve us. We pay the salaries, and the funds that make the Government work, and they should answer to us. Instead, the entire thing has flipped and now we answer to the people we are paying.

In time, we'll see where these NSA revelations take us. Perhaps the people are now outraged enough to demand more privacy from their Government. But too many of us are still operating on the flawed idea. I have nothing to hide is not the way you run the policy of a nation, not unless you want Big Brother in reality. It doesn't matter if you feel you have nothing to hide, they shouldn't be looking is the point.

If a Plane crashes at the airport and nobody notices, did it make a sound?

When you go to an airport, from the time you pull into the garage to the time you exit the airport at the other end of your trip, you are constantly being observed, and screened by security. They run your name through computers, and they monitor your behavior to make sure that nothing happens.

If you see something, say something. The advice from Homeland inSecurity. The airport workers can't be everywhere and see everything, so you traveler, have to help out.

So answer me this. How in the name of God did a small plane crash at the airport and nobody noticed. I don't mean crashed next to the airport, or crash close to the airport. I mean crashed, burned, and there is a corpse inside the wreckage AT THE AIRPORT near the bloody runway.

Seriously, nobody heard anything, the roar of the flames, the crackling of the fire. Nobody noticed the brightly lit section of the airport. The report says there was fog. Wow, so there was fog, and it was so thick that nobody could see the brightly lit section of the runway. Then the fog cleared, and operations resumed, and eventually the sun rose and another pilot glanced over and said. "Hey tower, there looks to be a crashed airplane over here."

Tell me again how air travel is safer, because I just don't see it. From where I sit, it looks like blind luck seems to be the biggest factor getting you to the destination in one piece.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

But we're at war aren't we?

I haven't been posting much of anything in a long time. The reason is that as far as I am able to tell, I am not conservative enough for the nation.

OK, let's get started with Drone Strikes. To be fair, the technology, and the techniques were worked out under George W. Bush. They were started there, and should have been eliminated there, and certainly not carried over. The reasons are patently obvious, it being difficult to carry out a "targeted" assassination with a missile when the operator is firing from half way around the world.

The technology and technique should never have carried over, but they were, and they were embraced. This way the Democratic Party gang gets to be tough on Defense, which is always an Achilles heel with the Democrats, and they don't risk American Service Members to kill those who are on the death list from the government Death Panel. I call it a death panel since it identifies people we as a nation would apparently much prefer to be dead.

One such individual was a Taliban leader living in Pakistan. His name was Hakimullah Mehsud and he was zapped by a Predator carrying missiles. As far as I can guess, it looks like the NSA tagged him through intercepts, and we had a good idea where to find him, he was coming out of hiding, and we fired the missile and then it was high fives all the way around, a Taliban Leader is dead in Pakistan.

One problem, the reason he was coming out of hiding was to start peace negotiations with the Pakistani Government. Peace negotiations that almost certainly took years to arrange, and to get the requisite trust and willingness to talk stoked up through careful and patient diplomatic means.

Those Peace Negotiations, they're dead now, no chance, no hope of starting them up again according to the Pakistani Government. So our dear allies whom we count on providing us intelligence about the Taliban and other radicalized organizations, are pretty upset. Years of work destroyed by one missile fired by some guy in a booth half way around the world.

How angry is Pakistan? Well, from the news story we see this.

"This is not just the killing of one person, it's the death of all peace efforts," Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said.

Pakistan summoned the US ambassador to protest over Friday's drone strike that killed Mehsud.

It came a day before a Pakistani delegation had been due to fly to North Waziristan to meet Mehsud.

Sounds like they're pretty angry. There are some who said this gets rid of a more radical element and allows more moderate elements to step forward and start a true peace initiative.

Sure, those more moderate elements will call in, and arrange a meeting with the Pakistani Government, step outside of their house, and get a missile through the ear because now we got them too. Eventually, the even more "moderate" elements don't answer their phones and refuse to speak to anyone outside of their little group, and to hell with the peace ideal. Anyone who agrees to talk gets a missile for their trouble.

That's the problem with this kind of psudo warfare. You scour the airwaves and internet for any sign of one of your tens of thousands of targets, and as soon as you have a hit, you launch a missile to get the bastard before he goes back into obscurity. You aren't working with the local governments who may be trying to find a less offensive solution, something more longterm than a missile in anyone who shouts Death to America. We aren't changing any minds, we aren't making a long term solution, we are just killing anyone we think may be a problem in the future.

That isn't a conservative solution in my book. That is a self perpetuating continuation of the war that is unwinnable. It is the byproduct of the PATRIOT ACT which I have long detested. We have the intelligence we spent billions of dollars getting, so let's fire a few thousand dollars worth of missile from million dollar drone and get the bastard.

This doesn't even qualify as short sighted, it's just more stupidity that is all too evident from both political parties.

Hit Counter