On Steering, or ‘Who’s Doing the Driving?”

The word “cybernetics” comes from the Greek root “kybernetes” which means one skilled in steering or governing. It’s the same root used in the word “cyborg,” a portmanteau of “cyber” and “organism,” and the difference between a cyborg and a robot, is that a cyborg is a human, augmented or aided by mechanical or technological devices, which the popular mind usually envisions as being onboard or built in, so to speak, with the robot being purely technological. Cyber Security, then is literally protecting or assuring the ability of the designated, appropriate helmsman; defending the proper governing authority over our augmentive and assistive technologies. But even here there is an insider threat; with the dichotomy between human and technology, which is the one doing the steering?

I argue that we have reached a point in development where we have very nearly completed the development of the ability to offload the governing responsibility to the technology. I also argue that this is a mistake. This isn’t news, though, and you don’t have to take my word for it; science-fiction has been warning of this since the end of World War II. Yet we continue to ignore the parables and illustrations.

Cyber Security, properly conceived and exercised, is a human activity and not a technological one. Automation of security processes is a tool, but human gatekeepers must forever, be a part of the architecture. And we resist this necessity, because it is hard to do. It is hard to control other human beings. It is hard to make them do the right things: don’t open emails from people you don’t know, digitally sign your communications, don’t log on with administrative credentials….

The pursuit of centralization and standardization in IT, in the name of security, is an attempt to address this problem; to control risk by controlling means, which means controlling behavior. It also relies on false premises.

First, there is the idea that control is equivalent to security. Control is rigid. Control lacks resilience. Standardization reduces an organization’s flexibility, and thus its agility. These things come with having options and a variety of tools and resources. The very concept of networking is about resilience-it is the reason that ARPA began researching the Internet-a decentralized network that would be survivable because it was resilient. And now the effort is to reign it in? Control, standardization, and centralization have their place, but they require balance and consideration, otherwise they degrade security. Just as the wise commander knows he cannot be strong everywhere and to try makes him strong nowhere, the concepts of mass and maneuver still apply, but even the military minds engaged in this effort are missing it. The concepts to consider are separation of responsibilities and the avoidance of single points of failure, yet we are heedlessly barreling down the road to a day when a single breach has the potential to compromise everything. Decentralization limits risk. A single breach may devastate one node, but the rest are able to continue on, including being able to provide relief to the distressed node.

The second false premise is the way security is pursued. We do so without heed to the need for utility and also by eschewing the human as insecure, seeking only security through technology. It is, or should be, axiomatic that the utility of a system is inversely proportional to its security. I can produce for you a completely secure system. It will also be completely unusable. A computer, with all its ports filled with epoxy, cabled to nothing, and neither connected to power nor powered in any way. Naturally this is defeating of the purpose. Any system which is useful is inherently vulnerable, and there is only one way to address that essential vulnerability, that is by imposing sufficiently aware, trained, and educated humans as gateways. Had at any time, Chelsea/Bradley Manning been challenged on need to know, the Wikileaks breach that followed would have been limited or prevented. The system had no way to accomplish that, but a first line supervisor could have. Humans are flawed, but, and the endless stream of vulnerability patching on all systems of whatever origin should attest, so are the technologies that they create. There is no perfection to be found here, and we should give up acting as though there were. Emmanuel Kant said, “From the crooked timber of humanity, nothing straight was ever made,” and technology comes from us.

Consider the, human, attempts to deliberately compromise or exploit security through viruses. When Dr. Fred Cohen coined the word “virus” for malware in his 1986 Ph.D. thesis he may have been far more right than he may have known. Not only does the infection behave in many striking ways like a virus, but proper Cyber Security habits among a workforce and the general population works much like immunization, to include the concept of “herd immunity.” The immunized population defends not only themselves individually, but all those with whom they commune electronically as… well.

To give it a more martial analogy, most everyone has seen the movie 300. Recall the conversation between Ephialtes, who would later betray the Greeks, and the Spartan king, Leonidas, as the king explains in utilitarian terms why the crippled exile cannot fight with them on the battlefield; his physical limitations keep him from properly raising his shield to defend himself, and in being so disabled, cannot, therefore, also defend his fellow warriors. Ephialtes was unable. Most of the users in our formations simply choose not to. A very few may not know better, but that’s extremely unlikely in this day and age with good information a near constant drumbeat. Like the Soldier who falls asleep on guard duty, regardless of the reason, they not only endanger other lives, but will likely be the first to fall in any attack that comes their way. It takes humans, policing humans, to achieve Cyber Security. The failure to correctly prioritize the human over technology is pervasive. It is also far older than the information age. The Army would far rather invest in laser range finders, programmable grenade launchers, and rifles with brochures that assure leadership that qualification rates will improve than in the time to actively train and develop real marksmen, and so, they will rather prioritize training time to the far easier, and far less capable FM radio systems than to train on high-frequency radios that overcome every terrain obstacle. So it’s no wonder that they will gladly spend millions on racks full of blinky lights rather than to educate their formations not to open suspicious email attachments….

We have to decide, will we steer the technology, or will we be steered by it?


On Achieving Near-Universal National Service


The article claims that the goal is to foster universal national service without mandating it. Which is good –any mandated service will have my undying enmity– as far as it goes.

As far as it goes? Well, how does one achieve universal anything, if it’s not a mandate? I’ve got an answer that, I think, is better than any other for getting as close as possible. More on that later though.

General McChrystal seems to think that this could be a solution to the perceived “civil military divide.” I think this divide is pretty overblown. It comes down to the freedom of association and you can’t make free people associate with veterans or service members any more than you can make them serve, unless you remove their freedom. Anyone who wants to associate with a vet or service member, can–there is no access barrier. Any divide that exists is self-imposed. And the same solution to near-universal service is the key.

Speaking of access. That’s another phrase in the general’s article that bothers me. There is no bar to access to national service today. No one is being turned away from the Peace Corps or any other service opportunity. People simply have to want to and then have sufficient motivation to follow through.

General McChrystal also is worried about the lack of trust in government. If you ask me, a lack of trust is a good thing. We should be wary of government. We should understand that every time the individual comes into contact with the government the individual loses some amount of freedom. The thing is, that loss of freedom has to be seen in a value context–is what I gain made up, or exceeded in value, by my choice to make that contact. I chose to give up some of my freedoms in order to serve in the military. I’ve given up more in order to work as a federal employee. I came to the conclusion that what I gained outweighed what I was losing. This is the biggest part of why any service must be voluntary.
And again, the solution will address this as well.

The general also thinks that service will foster bipartisanship. I don’t agree. I also don’t find bipartisanship to be any kind of virtue. Non-partisanship, yes, but, I think bipartisanship is just being squishy.

His last point is the building of “national resilience and patience.” Here I think he’s misidentified the benefit and got the cart before the horse. The resilience and patience are a side effect of the real virtue and what’s more, that virtue must come before there will be any near-universal service.

That virtue was what the founders referred to a “public virtue.” Simply put, public virtue is participation and engagement in public life, in civil society. It is public virtue that is the solution I’ve been referring to.

How do we foster public virtue? We return to the principles of how a republic run and perpetuated as explained by the Baron de Montesquieu. Principally, we must teach our children to love our country and our laws and its form. Our educational system today is destructive of this end than that must be reformed. If not, how will you persuade anyone to give up a portion of their lives and some of their freedom to serve a state that they have been taught is corrupt and racist?

They have to have the love of the republic *first* before they will make the decision to become a part of that something bigger than themselves. Any call to serve without this precondition is doomed to fail.

You only think you’re serious.

A recent Rasmussen poll says that 49% of Americans want to go to war with ISIS.  The thing is that they don’t really.  They don’t really know what they are asking for.The same poll says, for example, that 25% didn’t think the US should take the lead in the fighting.

Then there’s stuff like this in the half-assed efforts we are currently making–go read it and then come back: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/u.s.-ran-out-of-ammo-in-attack-on-isis-trucks/article/2576958

“It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.”
        –Robert E. Lee
The problem, as I see it, is that war isn’t terrible anymore.  And we have become too fond of it.  We’ve domesticated it and welcomed it into our homes so long as it stays small and only takes a small corner of the living room–usually co-located with the television.  We expect more, though, even from those who adopt shelter dogs.
Before anyone gets the idea that I am anti-war, or that I don’t want to fight ISIS, or any other terrorist outfit for that matter, get over that now.  I’m even comfortable with being called pro-war.  Really though, I am pro-Warrior.
I will gladly go to Syria tomorrow.  But if you want us to fight in this cartoon manner where we will take the chance of letting a terrorist live because we can’t completely identify him as a terrorist, where we take such pains to avoid civilian casualties that we would allow terrorists to live another day, who, not coincidentally, will go on to kill far more civilians than we might, you are out of your mind.  You are not serious when you say you want us to go to war.
War is messy.  People get hurt who should not have got hurt.  There is no way to avoid that.  If you want a small clean war that won’t poop in your shoes, you do not want war.
If you want what I want, though, to have the military turned loose to pursue the bad guys wherever they are, to bring overwhelming force to bear in every encounter, and where we only offer the bare minimum to the enemy more in humanity and consideration then they would show to us, then you want war.
What these 49% really want, though, is a vent for their anger and frustration.  They have come to a decision about war based an emotional response and not a rational consideration.  Every emotional decision is automatically suspect because emotion clouds the perceptions.  And when the consequences include ending the lives of others, you’d better be making a thoughtful choice.
By the way, all wars are wars of choice; that atrocious trope needs to be retired.  There are no accidental Warriors or wars.  Some choices, to wage war or not, simply come with greater and lesser consequences–that’s the true consideration in whether to choose war or not.

I want to go in and win.  I want to inflict orders of magnitude more in pain and suffering on the enemy that he will or can on us.  I want to grind his ability to wage war into the dust in order to break his will to continue to fight.  I believe that fighting this way keeps wars, relatively, short, and that brevity will do more to keep innocents, as well as our own Warriors, from getting hurt, than any amount of pie-in-the-sky Rules of Engagement ever will.

Winning, by the way, also helps ensure that the war ends and stays ended.
There is more honor in savagery, when savagery is needed, than there is in all of our misguided attempts to make wars more civilized.  Get serious.


“Free market” does not mean unregulated

“Free market” does not mean unregulated.

The extent of a free market is in the freedom of the participants to participate in it.  No one who knows what they are talking about uses this term to mean a market free from oversight at some or any level.

A free market is one in which one person offers a good or service for exchange and anyone who wishes to may make that exchange with them.  That’s all there is to it.

There are implications for what proper regulation is in a free market.  A truly free market doesn’t have regulations that exclude or restrict participation in the market, absent a truly compelling public interest.  Restricting the sale of alcohol to minors is one that most persons not between 18 and 21 seem to agree on, for example.

Adam Smith is frequently derided, usually by those who don’t understand it, for his idea of the invisible hand, and then those people chuck out the rest of what he had to say because that one bit didn’t make sense to them.  One of the things he said, though, that is subsequently lost, is that a free market cannot be an unregulated market.  He warned that markets with no controls would tend toward the rise of monopolies, which is a symptom, then, of an unfree market.  What’s more, in a properly functioning free market, neither party is coerced into an exchange–you need enforcement to prevent that–and there can be no fraud involved–again a need for enforcement, and for investigation.

Free markets require regulation.

A Generational Analysis of the Potential 2016 Presidential Candidates

Several years ago, William Strauss and Neil Howe presented a theory on generational cycles in American history. Without going into that theory in depth, suffice to say I have done an analysis of the current crop of suspected candidates for President of the United States.

Strauss and Howe have identified 15 generational “cohorts” in the history of the US. A cohort is one generation which spans, roughly, 20 years, and is comprised of members who share certain characteristics that either mold the times are or molded by them. Those cohorts are:

Awakening 1701–1723
Liberty 1724–1741
Republican 1742–1766
Compromise 1767–1791
Transcendental 1792–1821
Gilded 1822–1842
Progressive 1843–1859
Missionary 1860–1882
Lost 1883–1900
G.I. 1901–1924
Silent 1925–1942
Boom 1943–1960
Generation X 1961–1981
Millennial 1982–2004
Homeland 2005-Present

By identifying each US President with his cohort, an interesting pattern emerges.













Of 43 individuals who have been President, with the title changing hands 43 times (remember Cleveland’s terms were nonconsecutive), only twice has the new president not been of the same or the succeeding generation. That is to say, presidential succession in the US has been generationally progressive with younger generation taking over from older ones, except twice.

The first was Zachary Taylor, an older Compromise generation member who was elected after James K. Polk, a member of the Transcendental cohort. But Polk was forced to accept an agreement to only serve one term in order to secure nomination and was the country’s first “Dark Horse” presidential candidate. Taylor was not late, Polk was early.

The other also involved the Transcendentals and the Compromise generations. Franklin Pierce, Transcendental, was followed by Compromise member, James Buchanan. Buchanan’s successors were Abraham Lincoln, and the crisis that he did little to prevent.

My thesis then, is that the next President is most likely to be a member of the Generation X cohort. Some chance exists that Barack Obama was “early” like Polk, but as he was elected, I think less likely. Also possible that the next President could be a Millennial, the oldest members of which are just old enough to be eligible, but there are no Millennial in the list of probable candidates, at least not yet.

Looking at all 57 US Presidential elections, there are somethings we need to be clear on.

First, it is not at all certain that a candidate from a younger cohort will beat an older one. The older generational candidate has prevailed in 14 elections or just over 50% of generational challenges and preserved the older Generation’s place in every case but the two mentioned where they managed to push the younger generation out.

The difference has been that the younger generation prevails, except for those one election, Buchanan (Taylor died in office and was replaced by his Transcendental VP, Millard Fillmore, what’s more he ran against another Compromise cohort Candidate, Lewis Cass), once they have had a member attain the Presidency. The younger generation has successfully defended the White House from a bid by the older generation in 13 other generationally contested elections–slightly less than 50%. One of those to restore Transcendentals when Lincoln succeeded Buchanan (he defeated the Compromise cohort member Breckenridge).

In addition, two Presidents defeated challengers that were two generations different than themselves. First the Missionary FDR defeated the G.I. Thomas Dewey in 1944 (same Dewey that lost to Lost President Truman in 1948). And then Barack Obama, the first Gen X President, took office against Silent cohort member John McCain in 2008.

The Silent generation is the only cohort that has not had an occupant of the White House, though they have lost three contests, Reagan v. Mondale (1984) and Bush v. Dukakis (1988) were the other two.PresGen2

The figures:

Number of US Presidential elections to date: 57
Number of US Presidential elections between candidates of the same generation: 30
Number of Presidential elections won by an older generation candidate: 14 *
Number of Presidential elections won by the younger generation candidate: 13 **

Adams v. Jefferson (1796)
Buchanan v. Fremont (1856)
McKinley v. Bryan (1896, 1900) –First Progressive
Taft v. Bryan (1908)
Wilson v. Hughes (1916)
Harding v. Cox (1920)
Roosevelt v. Landon (1936)
Roosevelt v. Willkie (1940)
Roosevelt v. Dewey (1944)
Truman v. Dewey (1948)
Reagan v. Mondale (1984)
Bush v. Dukakis (1988)

Jefferson v. Adams (1800) –First Republican
Jefferson v. Pinckney (1804)
Madison v. Pinckney (1808)
Monroe v. J. Q. Adams (1820)
Polk v. Clay (1844) –First Transcendental
Pierce v. Scott (1852)
Lincoln v. McClellan (1864)
Grant v.Seymour (1868) –First Gilded
Grant v. Greeley (1872) –Greeley died during the election.
Hayes v. Tilden (1876)
Clinton v. Bush (1992) –First Boom
Clinton v. Dole (1996)
Obama v. McCain (2008) –First Gen X
Obama v. Romney (2012)

Extra: Presidents who inherited office and never stood for election:
John Tyler -1841
Andrew Johnson -1865
Chester Arthur -1881
Gerald R. Ford -1974 (was not on the ticket as Vice President–appointed after the resignation of Spiro Agnew)

The list of current possible Democrat candidates:

Bernie Sanders b. 1941
Joe Biden b. 1942
Ed Rendell b. 1944
Jim Webb b. 1946
Hillary Rodham Clinton b. 1947
Jeanne Shaheen b. 1947
Al Franken b. 1951
Luis Gutiérrez b. 1953
Mark Warner b. 1954
Brian Schweitzer b. 1955
Jay Nixon b. 1956
Andrew Cuomo b. 1957
Janet Napolitano b. 1957
Maggie Hassan b. 1958
Tim Kaine b. 1958
Rahm Emanuel b. 1959
Amy Klobuchar b. 1960
George Clooney b. 1961
Tammy Baldwin b. 1962
Martin O’Malley b. 1963
Steve Bullock b. 1966

Eliminating all but the Gen Xers, we get (D):

George Clooney–Actor
Tammy Baldwin–US Senator (WI)
Martin O’Malley–Gov. Maryland
Steve Bullock–Gov Montana

The list of current possible Republican candidates:

Peter King b. 1944
George Pataki b. 1945
Herman Cain b. 1945
Donald Trump b. 1946
John R. Bolton b. 1948
Jim Gilmore b. 1949
Mitch Daniels b. 1949
Rick Perry b. 1950
Ben Carson b. 1951
John Kasich b. 1952
Rick Scott b. 1952
Jeb Bush b. 1953
Carly Fiorina b. 1954
Lindsey Graham b. 1955
Mike Huckabee b. 1955
Michele Bachmann b. 1956
Bob Ehrlich b. 1957
Rick Santorum b. 1958
Rick Snyder b. 1958
Mike Pence b. 1959
Susana Martinez b. 1959
Chris Christie b. 1962
Rand Paul b. 1963
Sarah Palin b. 1964
Scott Walker b. 1967
Ted Cruz b. 1970
Bobby Jindal b. 1971
Marco Rubio b. 1971

The Gen Xers (R):

Chris Christie–Gov. New jersey
Rand Paul–US Senator (KY)
Sarah Palin–Former Gov. Alaska
Scott Walker–Gov. Wisconsin
Ted Cruz–US Senator (TX)
Bobby Jindal–Gov. Louisiana
Marco Rubio–US Senator (FL)

This is not to say that either party would not nominate anyone from the list, but historically speaking, the ones identified are the ones with the best chance.

On not torture…

I think most people have no idea what torture is. Congress is at fault. As Congress has refused to define torture, as a reasonable person I will continue to point out that no one was tortured by the US.

I understand that defining it is a difficult proposition. So a null hypothesis can be used–define what it is not, or more directly, define what proper interrogation is.

As I would define it, proper interrogation would requires proper intent, improper intent, then constituting torture, as well as an analysis of the techniques.

Waterboarding, for example, is not torture in and of itself. If it is used, though in the pursuit of anything but actionable intelligence or it’s confirmation, it could be. It is certainly torture, though, if the intent is to cause pain or discomfort for any other purpose–that’s sadism.

Also, any such technique that is used in the usual Hollywood scenario: I’m going to hurt you until you talk, is torture, and that’s not how interrogations are done. Done right, proper coercive techniques speed up the time it takes for an interrogator to establish a rapport with the subject in a good cop/bad cop routine.

Fully articulated, proper intent, as I see it, requires reason to think that the subject is in possession of the information, reason to think that there is a set of circumstances under which they will divulge it, and that the information be itself actionable or confirmation of other intelligence that lacks that confirmation to be actionable. If any of these elements fail, the interrogator does not have proper intent and their actions may then rise to the level of torture. Those actions also have to be scrutinized before and during, by those authorities conducting the interrogations, and escalating intensity should require higher and higher prior approval. After the fact, all levels of oversight from immediate supervisors, IG, and ultimately Congress, even if that last is the usual lost cause.

Congress did ratify the UN Convention on Torture in 1994. But that’s also no help. It does not meaningfully define torture. The UN is just as negligent in this matter as the Congress.

“Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or
mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as
obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession,
punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is
suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a
third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind,
when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or
with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person
acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering
arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”
— Convention Against Torture, Article 1.1

Just as a starting point, what constitutes “severe”? More broadly, this could be applied in such a way as to prevent all interrogation.

A number of pundits, some who have said so all along, and some emboldened by the recent Senate Democrat report, have been making the assertion that the US tortured detainees. But the fact is, this assertion is completely unsupportable.

Judge Andrew Napolitano, for example, has been steadfast in this assertion. In response to the why both the Bush and Obama administrations have not pursued prosecutions, he claims that this is a political determination. He’s probably not used to the accusation I’m going to level against him, but he has failed to think this all the way through.

Indeed, he is right that both administrations have made political determinations as opposed to legal ones, but he doesn’t address why that should be the case. The reason is that Congress, in writing the legislation that might have applied, crafted the law, deliberately, to leave it a political determination.

The laws of the United States that “outlaw” torture, in fact, do no such thing, because, as discussed, they fail, utterly, to define what constitutes torture. Unconstitutionally vague is an understatement. Prosecution should be impossible in this circumstance and if achieved, would be unjust. The Bush and Obama administrations have made the only just determination that they can–not to try to prosecute. And that presumes, without evidence, that anyone did anything worthy of prosecution.

The US has tortured no one.

(Here is the US Code attempt at a definition: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2340)

FOXNEWS: West Point report describes Islamic State threat as crisis 4 years in the making

A new report from the West Point counterterrorism center challenges the notion that the Islamic State only recently became a major terror threat, describing the network’s gains in Iraq as a crisis four years in the making.

Meanwhile, Fox News has learned that top aides to President Obama expect the threat from the organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL, to outlast Obama’s time in office.

The details underscore the challenge facing the U.S. government and its allies as the president and military advisers weigh how — and where — to confront the Islamist militant forces.

“ISIL did not suddenly become effective in early June 2014: it had been steadily strengthening and actively shaping the future operating environment for four years,” the report from the West Point center said.

Sure, 4 years in the making, but the choice, if anyone was thinking about it to make a choice, I think was just which four years.

I’m not sure it wasn’t inevitable, no matter who was President; just a matter of sooner or later. The only solution is to raise our game to a level of ruthlessness that our modern sensibilities will not countenance. We don’t have to go full Mongol and kill them all. We don’t even have to go biblical and kill all the men and take the women and children as our own. But we do have to decide that Total War can be an imperative, that we must engage in it.

As for our sensibilities, the—well “reasons” gives too much credit for thinking it through, but I don’t know a better word—the reasons that we lack the mettle to be ruthless is our cultural sensitivity.  If there is a population out there that is so near the edge, that they can be radicalized by how we fight the war, then by all means, push them past that edge and let them die on our pikes as they charge. Let them become enraged by our actions. Enraged opponents may be fierce, but emotional people make mistakes that we should be happy to seek out and exploit.

And we have to remain unemotional doing it.  We can neither afford to love it or hate it and warriors that find themselves doing either must be sidelined.  We have to be cold and dispassionate about the business even while being energetic and passionate in executing it.

We have to shake off the traditional American lack of fervor in the fourth phase of warfare, which is pursuit.  We must pursue—hunt them down and kill them where we find them with whatever means we have available for doing it.

“Economic Patriotism” — oxymoron.


So the President has been making noises about a few businesses that have decided not to be “American” for tax purposes. Then Mark Cuban steps in and says he won’t do business with those that do that.

And all that’s fine. But both are suffering from a fundamental misunderstanding of how all this rally works and their resulting misplaced expectations.

The correct expectation would be that people act in their best interests. For example, if it costs more in taxes to do business here than anywhere else, then yes, we should expect some number to go elsewhere. Patriotism doesn’t enter into the equation.

That said, if enough people, like Cuban, were to decide that they won’t do business with them because of such a decision, that also has to factor into best interest–its unlikely to ever generate enough participation–boycotts are historically ineffective. But if it were, it still has nothing to do with patriotism.

So the only effective coercive measure is law, which is what the President is talking about. Usually only totalitarian governments have to use force to keep their population from leaving the borders. Taking such action would seem to me to reduce patriotic feeling generally. And if force must be employed, then the subjects of that force are still not behaving patriotically.

The entire concept of “economic patriotism,” then, is only a pleasant sounding oxymoron not unlike trying to equate social programs with charity.

Some say that none of this “self interest” should matter. Businesses should be about giving back through paying taxes… Taxes are not “giving back.” Giving back is public service and community involvement–things that most businesses already engage in. Those activities also have the virtue of being voluntary–voluntary being the defining element of “giving back.”

Taxes are not voluntary. They are taken by threat of violence. Some level of taxation is appropriate but every individual decides what that level is for themselves. When it gets higher than they like, they take some action, from ramping up charitable giving, seeking out missed deductions, to refusing promotions or raises, to cheating on their filing or not filing at all. Or even moving somewhere else with a lower tax rate.

Personally, moving to Texas was a great move for me on taxes. Having done so doesn’t make me less Oklahoman. Oklahoma remains the community to whom I “give back” the most by time and talent in the National Guard.

The thing is, legislation has one constant effect–it changes the locus of decision making from the person to the legislature. It is a substitution of judgement–lawmakers know better how things should be then, well, everybody else. Every one of these laws, collectively, reduces the liberty–the ability to make one’s own choices– of the population. In a country like our, predicated on maximum liberty–when that is the foundation of patriotic feeling–how can an abundance of coercive legislation fail to erode patriotic feeling?

The difference between the voluntary “giving back’ and the coerced taking by taxation. If I give $1000 to a guy on a street corner–that’s me being charitable and the act is attributable to me–he had nothing to do with it. If the guy on the street corner takes $1000 from me, that’s theft and the act is attributable to him–I had nothing to do with it. Even if he provides me something in return, say an assurance that no one else will steal from me, its still theft.

ISIS Vulnerable?


ISIS was once an insurgent guerrilla force.  But no longer.  ISIS is a conventional force. They have tanks, APCs, howitzers….  They can’t hide that aspect and remain a conventional force–they can move some small assets around, but not in numbers, and certainly not their heavier elements.

Seems to me that ISIS has left itself vulnerable to the same kinds of attacks that were used on Coalition forces–guerrilla style hit-and-run attacks, roadside ambushes. There is no deep security. Opposition would need only the ability to withdraw to the countryside and blend in, or, if unable to blend in, move far enough away with an ability to navigate the countryside (GPS?).

Look at the map above.  There are a number of choke points that could be used to make a nightmare of their need to support themselves, tactically and logistically.  Especially if a conventional force were to harass those “control zones” by way of distraction and harassment.

Left Behind: Americans in Captivity

“We don’t leave people behind.”
–US President, Barack Obama.

On 31 Mar, Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi was driving with his friends to go to a Mexican restaurant and accidentally missed the last exit before the Mexican border. Without the ability to turn around before he crossed the border, he proceeded to the Mexican customs post, where he explained that he missed the exit before the crossing, and volunteered that he had three US legal guns in the vehicle. After that, Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi was arrested and charged with gun smuggling into Mexico.

Amir Hekmati, a 29-year-old Iranian-American who was born in Arizona and grew up in Michigan, said in a letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that he has been held for more than two years on false charges of being a spy for the CIA. He said a televised “confession” he made in December 2011 was “obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions, and prolonged periods of solitary confinement.”

Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent from Coral Springs, Fla., went missing during a business trip to Iran’s Kish Island on March 9, 2007. He was working on behalf of several large corporations as a private investigator researching a cigarette smuggling case. Initially, the U.S. suspected that a terrorist group was behind the kidnapping. U.S. intelligence officials have indicated they now believe Iran is behind Levinson’s captivity.

Saeed Abedini, 33, an American Christian pastor from Boise, Idaho, was arrested during a trip to Iran in the summer of 2012. He was sentenced earlier this year to eight years in prison on charges of attempting to undermine state security. His supporters say his “crime” was attempting to share his Christian faith.

Alan Gross, 64, is a U.S. government contractor serving a 15-year sentence for bringing banned communications equipment to Cuba. He was detained in 2009 while distributing computer equipment as part of a program by the U.S. Agency for International Development to increase Internet access on the island.

Kevin Sutay, a 26-year-old U.S. military veteran and New York native was taken captive on June 20 in Colombia’s volatile southeast by FARC rebels two days after arriving as a tourist. The group said Sutay’s capture was evidence of “the active participation on the ground of American military and mercenaries in counter-insurgency operations in which they appear under the euphemism of contractors.”

Kenneth Bae, a 45-year-old naturalized American citizen with family living in Washington state, was arrested by North Korea in November 2012 while leading a group of tourists in the northeastern port city of Rason. Bae, described by relatives and friends as a devout Christian, was sentenced earlier this year to 15 years of hard labor for unspecified “hostile acts” against the state.

Caitlin Coleman, an American citizen who, along with her Canadian-born husband Josh, disappeared in Afghanistan in October 2012. Coleman was pregnant and would have had a child by the following January; if the infant survived, he or she would be considered an American citizen. The third missing citizen is Warren Weinstein, 72, a government contractor who was doing work in Pakistan when he was kidnapped in August 2011. It was unclear from government officials this week what the status of these Americans was or if active discussions were taking place to secure their release.

Yahia Ibrahim, 27, is a graduate of the school of medicine at Khartoum University and a lifelong Christian. Meriam met and married her naturalized American husband in Khartoum in 2012, and they have a 20-month old toddler son. Currently pregnant with their second child, Meriam was sentenced to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery by the Public Order Court in El Haj Yousif, Khartoum, Sudan on May 11, 2014.

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