Category Archives: Uncategorized

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:

“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.

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:

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.

A Tale of Two Wrong Presidents

There’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what is meant by American Exceptionalism.  The concept as alluded to by both our President and by the president of Russia recently are both incorrect, the former a confusion of cause and effect, and the latter a result of Marxist infighting of the 40’s and 50’s.

President Obama referred to the exceptionalism of the US in that only the US can project the kind of military force at Syria that the situation may require.  That ability, though, is the result of US exceptionalism, the product over time of a nation that is unique in its offerings of liberty, opportunity, and diversity that have lead then to prosperity and innovation that have developed, among other things, military might and the capacity to project it.  I’d also add that it is my opinion that President Obama only included such reference in an attempt to borrow opposing vernacular in an attempt to persuade those who really believe in American Exceptionalism, as well as properly understand it, to support his plans.  I believe that he doesn’t believe in it, in part because he doesn’t understand it.

President Putin, on the other hand offers the more usual warning of the dangers of a belief in exceptionalsim, a warning that we have heard at least alluded to by President Obama when he is not trying to pander to US conservatives.  This warning is based on a false understanding of American Exceptionalism, borne of a schism between post WWII international Communists, non-US, and especially Russian, Communists, criticized US Communists as still holding to an idea that the US was exceptional in the world.  Criticism predicated on the mistaken notion that that exception is born of superiority.

This isn’t unique to those Soviet critics.  It’s an effective tactic to demean to point out how someone thinks that they are superior.  It’s a staple of 50’s and 60’s US comedy to portray Russian characters as holding to a similar notion—if asked, all great innovations came from Russia and all other ideas are western propaganda.  Even Mr. Chechov on the original Star Trek was portrayed this way.  True American Exceptionalism, however, has nothing to do with innovations, inventions, or even prosperity.  It’s also not patriotism, or pride in one’s home or origin, though it can enhance those feelings.  Real American Exceptionalism can be summed up in Lincoln’s word from the Gettysburg Address, “a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  However imperfectly we’ve implemented that conception and proposition, these are still the basis of our republic; liberty—freedom to pursue one’s own course and without onerous restrictions—and equality before the law, and that unique founding has resulted in further unique wealth, power, and influence.  But it takes someone who understands this to wield it properly.  Both presidents have disqualified themselves from this.

REBLOG: Michael Mann says climate models cannot explain the Medieval Warming Period – I say they can’t even explain the present

New climate change article from WUWT.

Watts Up With That?

Ice core data shows CO2 levels changed less than 10 parts per million from 1600-1800 during the MWP.

From the Hockey Schtick:  A new paper from Schurer et al (with Mann as co-author) finds that climate “models cannot explain the warm conditions around 1000 [years before the present, during the Medieval Warming Period] seen in some [temperature] reconstructions.”

According to Schurer et al, “We find variations in solar output and explosive volcanism to be the main drivers of climate change from 1400-1900.” They also claim, “but for the first time we are also able to detect a significant contribution from greenhouse gas variations to the cold conditions during 1600-1800.” This claim is highly unlikely given that ice cores show CO2 levels only changed by less than 10 ppm from 1600-1800, and the effect of 10 ppm CO2 on the climate today remains undetectable even with modern instrumentation.

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Minimum Wage and Rent in the US

Slate had an article today:  The Rent Is Too Damn High for Minimum-Wage Workers which featured this nifty graphic:






The one that is least likely to get me labeled as a Social Darwinist, which not incoincidentally, is the one that also seems to bolster the argument that this graphic would seem to make (That is, that minimum wages are too low.) is that housing, ideally should not exceed 1/3 of income.  A full time worker (40 hours/week), assuming a 4 week month as standard, has 160 hours in a month.  So a minimum wage worker should not be paying more than 53 hours worth of wages for housing.  North Dakota’s is the lowest at 67 hours.  But, here’s where I get my Social Darwinist badge, this also assumes that the minimum wage worker is the primary and sole bread winner–not an intended proposition.  Also, “full-time” and “minimum-wage” are two compounds that almost never compound.

The scenario that generated the graphic plays into that as well.  The cost calculated against is for a two-bedroom apartment, implying single-mothers, families of three or more, and a host of other conditions that the minimum-wage job is not sufficient to, and was never intended for.

But here’s the real story, under the story.  The problem isn’t the low wages, or the high rent.  The problem is the factor that drives the rent.  The largest single cost that a landlord faces aside from the purchase of the property is the property taxes.  If we were to make a new map showing property tax rates, how well do you think this would correlate?  It won’t be perfect, Florida and Texas, for example, make up for not having state income taxes by higher property taxes.  But this is, once a gain, a problem of taxing too much.

Tasty Seasoning Mix

Had some tasty bread, described as “Everything French Bread.”


So I determined that “everything” means poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower kernels, caraway seeds, and french fried onion.

  • 1 bottle (1.8 oz) caraway seeds
  • 1 bottle (2.4 oz) poppy seeds
  • 1 bottle (2 oz) sesame seeds
  • 1/2 package (3.75 oz) sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup of ground French fried onion

Got a bottle each of the seeds, mixed in a half bag of sunflower kernels, and about 3/4 cup (after passing through the blender) of French fried onion.


Spread it out on a cookie sheet and toasted it in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Filled one of the seed bottles after it cooled and put the rest in a sealed container in the freezer.  If you wonder why the freezer, it seemed to me that the consistency of the mix is about like that of fresh ground coffee, mildly oily, and this is the right way to store that.

059 061

I had used the leavings from the loaf that were still in the bad on some chicken thighs to great effect, so now I have a bottle of this stuff with a shaker top.  Gonna have some leftover tuna kebab tonight with a few dashes….