Saturday, April 30, 2016

Progressivism and the New Frontier

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If today's mentality and "truths" had prevailed in the 1850's, people who tried to go west on the Oregon Trail would have been arrested for child endangerment and trespassing on government-owned land. Wagon train organizers would have been thrown in prison as human traffickers. Heck, if today's mentality had prevailed 500 years ago, The New World would never even have been settled.


I just hope we can start settling space before we create a "smarter planet" where every human behavior is continuously monitored and controlled. 

If we don't get off the planet before this happens, space travel will be banned as an unsustainable waste of resources dreamed up by "evil billionaires just trying to make money".

I see a great dark age coming, with a world-governing bureaucracy forcing equality, controlling resources, and defining and mandating cultural norms. The end result will be zero individual freedom, and, finally, universal poverty and dependency.

As Robert Zubrin has said, the vigor of the human race requires a frontier that encourages individualism with individual risk-taking resulting in great individual reward.  There is no universal health care or safety net on the frontier. No OSHA. No EPA. No guarantees.

That is the environment where humanity excels and progresses.  Without a frontier, freedom cannot endure. To quote Zubrin, "The cops are too close."

If you are currently fighting for large social causes to be managed and enforced by governments (instead of just helping people yourself), you have already lost your true human vigor, and have become effete. You are part of the problem.

"Progressivism," aka socialism, is exactly the same as slavery. It ends in a populace beholden to rulers, totally dependent on "free" handouts, and never able to achieve anything close to its true potential. In a "progressive" society, the government provides, and therefore owns, your food, your medical care, your housing -- everything that is important to life.  They can make you dance -- and vote -- anyway they want.  There is no incentive to do anything really.

Hopefully the citizen ownership of guns in the US will act as a deterrent to buy us a few more decades of freedom, and allow us to build the new frontier (if we can keep people like Hillary Clinton from gaining power over us).

But the rest of the civilized world is pretty much doomed by their unsustainable "progressive" socialist cultures.

It is a race between progressivism and freedom.  Can we reach the new worlds of the new frontier before the cops shut us down?

I have my doubts. We really need to be able to hold off the forces of progressivism for around 50 to 100 years as the technologies advance.  During that time, we have to make sure that the billionaires of the space age become trillionaires without governments taking their money away. And the rest of us need to be able to get rich off of it too. 

By then the human race will have spread to the moon, Mars, and the asteroids, and will be beyond any control by the degenerate "progressive" residuum on Earth.

If you haven't seen Zubrin's exposition on space settlement and the role of the frontier in the development of American individual freedom, you probably ought to read through it here:

http://www.nss.org/settlement/mars/zubrin-frontier.html

It may be the most inspiring thing I have ever read.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Encryption, Apple, Tim Cook, the American Revolution, George Orwell, and a Smarter Planet

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The whole idea of individual liberty that took hold in the American colonies in the late 1700's was the result not of advancements in philosophy, but was rather due to a radical change in the physical balance of power between kings and their subjects -- a change that was driven by a new technology. 

Over the previous century, manufacturing and design innovations had reduced the cost and improved the performance of firearms. Everyone became able to own one, thus providing the citizenry with more power than the king. That radical and persistent change in the balance of power doomed the ruler-ruled paradigm -- which had been the hallmark of civilization since the development of agriculture. The old aristocracy of blood and divine right didn't see it coming until it was too late.

In the last century, government-controlled military technology such as tanks, aircraft, and missiles have shifted the balance of power back to governments. We should not be surprised that the ruler-ruled paradigm was reasserted, and governments have once again become large and intrusive -- perhaps more so than at any other time in history. (Even Rome only had a 10% tax, and they never told their citizens what they could and couldn't eat.)

But in the last 20 years new technologies have arisen that could change the balance of power back to individuals -- in a manner very similar to what happened in the 1700's.

Strong encryption and decentralized crypto-currencies, combined with powerful handheld devices -- and the Internet itself -- are giving people the ability to communicate, transact business, access a library of all human knowledge (even "prohibited" knowledge), and basically do anything they want, all without government visibility.

But this time the aristocracy is fully aware of the danger and is fighting back to keep their power.

Like the British in 1775, who sent an elite SWAT team to confiscate military assault weapons from the colonists at Lexington and Concord, governments are fighting on multiple fronts to keep the new privacy technologies weak, while continually working to increase their authority to see everything we do.

But I hope and believe that, like guns in the 1700's, the proliferation of such pervasive and inexpensive technologies will not be able to be stopped over the long-term. 

So imagine a world where the government has no insight at all into your personal business. Things we accept now, like income tax and search warrants, would not be able to exist.  Laws against such things as money laundering and the vague crime of "conspiracy" could no longer be enforced.  What is now called the "black market" would become simply the entire market.

Government would become tiny. Perhaps a more organic and decentralized voluntary organization would evolve.  Today's vast governmental powers would be seen as  belonging to an archaic dark age.

Of course people worry about what would happen without a government. After the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson wrote quite a few letters to friends in England and Europe trying to convince them that the US had not become a lawless hell. They viewed the revolution against the king as children killing their father, and that without the king's noble and godlike direction, there would be no order or safety in the country.

But we did just fine without the king.  The aristocracy had outlived its usefulness. Perhaps vast invasive centralized government has too.

I worry however that there is no Second Amendment-like clause protecting the right to have and use these new technologies.  If the governments wins, this powerful tech will be twisted to serve only the purpose of their new aristocracy.

Such comprehensive surveillance in the name of safety would cause the death of individual liberty.  A 1984-like dystopia would ensue:


Every step, every facial expression, every word you say, and everything you read or view is recorded and analyzed by autonomous systems for any trace of "trouble". Access to your home, your car, mass transportation, your money, and your phone is controlled in real time. Your freedom to travel is limited to certain areas at certain times. What you are allowed to purchase is tailored to what the system says you need. Your use of energy and other resources is monitored and actively controlled. Interactions with other people are monitored or blocked at will -- even for face to face meetings since your location is tracked and actively controlled. And you are never out of the reach of autonomous non-lethal weapon systems which can be deployed against you at any time and any place. All of this is for the safety and sustainability of our new society of limits. 


Note that this level of surveillance and control is what is meant when they talk about "building a smarter planet".

As George Orwell himself said, "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever."

The technology already exists that will enable either the Orwellian future or the Liberty future. Which future we get will be determined by whether or not we allow the government to dig its hooks in. 
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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thomas Jefferson, the Commerce Clause, and Unlimited Governmental Power

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This is a fascinating quote from Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William Branch Giles, describing the exact point in time when the government first began to grow beyond the Constitution. Ah, if they would have stopped it back then, perhaps a precedent would have been laid in stone, and we wouldn't be in the situation where the government has expanded its power into almost every aspect of our lives.
"I see, as you do, and with the deepest affliction, the rapid strides with which the federal branch of our government is advancing towards the usurpation of all the rights reserved to the States, and the consolidation in itself of all powers, foreign and domestic; and that, too, by constructions which, if legitimate, leave no limits to their power.
"Take together the decisions of the federal court, the doctrines of the President, and the misconstructions of the constitutional compact acted on by the legislature of the federal branch, and it is but too evident, that the three ruling branches of that department are in combination to strip their colleagues, the State authorities, of the powers reserved by them, and to exercise themselves all functions foreign and domestic.
"Under the power to regulate commerce, they assume indefinitely that also over agriculture and manufactures.... Under the authority to establish post roads, they claim that of cutting down mountains for the construction of roads, of digging canals, and aided by a little sophistry on the words "general welfare," a right to do, not only the acts to effect that, which are specifically enumerated and permitted, but whatsoever they shall think, or pretend will be for the general welfare.
"And what is our resource for the preservation of the constitution?  Reason and argument?  You might as well reason and argue with the marble columns encircling them.  The representatives chosen by ourselves?  They are joined in the combination, some from incorrect views of government, some from corrupt ones, sufficient voting together to out-number the sound parts; and with majorities only of one, two, or three, bold enough to go forward in defiance.
"Are we then to stand to our arms, with the hot-headed Georgian?*   No. That must be the last resource, not to be thought of until much longer and greater sufferings.  If every infraction of a compact of so many parties is to be resisted at once, as a dissolution of it, none can ever be formed which would last one year.   We must have patience and longer endurance then with our brethren while under delusion; give them time for reflection and experience of consequences; keep ourselves in a situation to profit by the chapter of accidents; and separate from our companions only when the sole alternatives left, are the dissolution of our Union with them, or submission to a government without limitation of powers. Between these two evils, when we must make a choice, there can be no hesitation."
- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Branch Giles, December 26, 1825
*This was Georgia Governor George M. Troup, who had famously called on the people to "stand to their arms" when US forces were sent to Georgia to prevent the state from removing Creek Indians from their lands.
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Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Right of the People

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I have been watching the political haranguing regarding the various massacres committed by crazy people that seem to occur on a regular basis in the gun-free zones of our country -- places where self-defense is not allowed.

I see politicians posturing for assault weapon bans, and magazine capacity bans. They say things like "no one needs a gun like this for hunting," and "no one should have these weapons of war in their home," and "we need to get these mass-murdering guns off our streets."

Their perennial push for new "reasonable" restrictions on gun ownership show that these politicians, and indeed most of our citizens, have no understanding of our history, and no concept of the principles that our country was founded on.

The Second Amendment has never been about the right to hunt. The Founders didn't care about hunting. They cared about Liberty. They wanted to make sure that the power of the gun resided not in the government, but in the people. They wanted to make sure that if the government were to grow large and oppressive, the people would have the power to overthrow it.

They wanted the government to be small and weak, and the people strong.


Thus the Second Amendment is purely about our right to own and carry military arms; the kind of arms that an individual soldier would carry; the kind that gives the people the power to change the government by force, if necessary.

Note that the Second Amendment doesn't grant this right. Like the rest of the Bill of Rights, it affirms the pre-existing, inherent right that we have simply by being human. The Founders believed that all men were "endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable Rights..." Thus no government has any power whatsoever to take our rights away. We have our rights forever, regardless of what kings, or presidents, or government agencies, or Congress says. Our rights are forever beyond even the power of democratic majorities.

This means that even if the Second Amendment were to be removed from the Constitution, we would still have our inherent unalienable right to own military guns.


It is important to remember that gun confiscations and gun restrictions were the match that lit the American Revolutionary War. The "Shot Heard Round the World" on April 19th, 1775, was the response of the citizens of Concord, Massachusetts to what was in essence a British SWAT team coming to get their military guns, ammunition, and cannons.

The core of the Second Amendment is about the right of free people to respond to exactly that kind of oppressive government action.

Based on the writings of Jefferson, Adams, Paine, Washington, and many other Founders, it is clear that they would have considered any ban on citizen ownership of the soldier's standard military arm to be a point of no return. The right to keep and bear military arms is the foundational right that protects all other rights. By abrogating that right, the government eliminates the only true physical check on its power.

Military arms in the hands of the people form the greatest barrier to the kinds of utopian changes to our culture that some of our servants in Washington want to make. And that is why they take every opportunity to attempt to ban such guns.

Here are more quotes from the Founders regarding Liberty and Guns.
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Friday, October 9, 2015

The American Century of Liberty Initiative

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I have a proposal for every American. It is a way for you to personally help ensure that the American principle of individual liberty is propagated deeply into the future of our nation.

I call it the American Century of Liberty Initiative -- and it is simple.

In 1788, 12 years after the American Revolution, Patrick Henry said, "The great object is, that every man be armed." He and the other Founders knew that the power of the gun should rest forever in the hands of the people. They wanted the people strong, and the government small and weak.

So let's make sure everyone is armed.


First, in accordance with your own financial circumstances, buy a military-type rifle and a good handgun. An AR-15 can be had for less than $800. You can even build your own. A handgun is less than half that.

Shooting is not hard to learn; it comes very naturally. But if you were not weaned on guns, take a class to make sure you are safe.

Now here is the important part: 

Next, buy a military-type rifle and a good handgun for each of your children too, and train them in shooting -- and in the principles of individual liberty. Then, if your circumstances allow, start collecting for your future children's children, and then for your future children's children's children. And their spouses. Take it as far as your finances will permit.
"...to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them..." - Richard Henry Lee, Additional Letters from the Federal Farmer No. 53, published in The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.

The goal is to reach out over the next 100 years; to affect the future of American Liberty well into the twenty-second century.


Very few opportunities come along for one person to change the world 100 years from now. This is your chance to leave a powerful legacy indeed: a future of freedom for your descendants.

The Founders of our country gave us the blueprint of liberty. Go read what they and others have said about guns and how necessary an armed populace is to the preservation of Liberty.
"Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again; poor fools. And their grand-children are once more slaves." - D. H. Lawrence
Break that historical cycle of liberty and slavery. Fight against any more laws that restrict your guns.  Recognize that universal background checks are not about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.  By prohibiting private transfers, and requiring background checks, the government will quickly build an accurate database of where all the guns are, so they can confiscate them easily later.


Over the last 240 years, generations of American patriots have fought and died for your freedom. It is threatened once again.  I encourage all of you to accept this duty to preserve the blessings of liberty for your children into the next century.
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Sunday, October 12, 2014

There is No Global Warming

I keep reading articles about how various disasters have been caused by global warming. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, deaths of birds, migration of vegetation poleward, etc. are all constantly blamed on global warming -- or climate change.  But what if there is no global warming?  What if the climate is basically stable?

Well, it is.

There has been no warming of the planet for the last 18 years and 1 month.  So anyone blaming anything on climate change, needs to be told that there is no climate change.


And that is even using the warmists own data, which is constantly being fiddled upward in a desperate attempt to prove their thesis.  In reality, the world has been cooling as the Atlantic enters the cold phase of its usual decades-long cycle.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is either in the pay of Big Green (such as various grant-dependent scientists), or they are simply ignorant.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Why Russia Needs Ukraine


Why is Russia so intent on taking over Ukraine? To most Americans, it simply doesn't make any sense.  If I ask people at work, the answer is, "Maybe Putin is trying to rebuild the old Soviet Union." If I ask why, they say, "He just wants power."

But that is rather vague, and it doesn't seem to justify why he is apparently willing to sacrifice so much.  He is destroying relationships with the entire western world, and causing sanctions to be imposed that are seriously degrading the Russian economy.  Even so, Putin and his Ukrainian adventure are very popular in Russia.



Irredentism as an excuse

On the surface, there is their stated desire to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine. This is known as "irredentism", which is defined by wikipedia as,
...any position of a state advocating annexation of territories administered by another state on the grounds of common ethnicity or prior historical possession, actual or alleged.
Irredentism has been the prima facie cause of many major wars, including the Mexican-American war (US citizens in Texas), WWI (Serbs in Austria-Hungary), and WWII (Germans in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Austria).

While it is interesting (and rather concerning) that the largest wars in the history of the world have been apparently caused by the same thing Russia is claiming in attacking Ukraine, in most instances irredentism has been an excuse, not the real reason for war.  There is usually a larger compelling national interest.  This is also the case in Ukraine.

The compelling national interest

While Russia's desire to develop regional economic hegemony as a way to ensure security and power is well known, I don't think it can explain the intensity and sacrifice inherent in their Ukraine invasion.

As I show below, it has been apparent for some time that their real reason is to maintain political and military power.  Without Ukraine, Russia would have great difficulty remaining a world superpower to be reckoned with.  And most importantly, without Ukraine, Russia would be highly vulnerable in any future world war.  The recapture of Ukraine therefore becomes an existential imperative to Russia.

Crimea and the Sea of Azov

Clearly, Russia annexed Crimea to ensure their access to and control of the Black Sea.  Their ports at Sevastopol in Crimea, and Novorossiysk, also on the Black Sea, are particularly important since their only other year-round port is at Vladivostok, which is pretty much on the other side of the world.

To let another country (particularly a country now aligned with Europe and NATO) take over Sevastopol, would put the Black Sea in dispute, which would threaten Russia's entire naval force-projection capability, worldwide.

Russia could not remain a great power without Crimea.  After the overthrow of the pro-Russian government in Kiev, the annexation was a certainty.

So Crimea is now a part of Russia again, but it is cut off by Ukrainian territory to the north around the Sea of Azov. The Russian invasion of that area, starting last week, was probably a result of military analyses/simulations showing that Crimea would be indefensible without controlling the entire perimeter of the Sea of Azov.  So the invasion through Donetsk was also a certainty.

What of the rest of Ukraine?

The German Invasion of Russia in WWII
Back when all of this started a few months ago, I mentioned to some friends that Russia needs the Ukraine as a buffer to help prevent an invasion from Europe. They were totally dismissive, stating that such a thought was ludicrous. (One constant since about 1918 is a popular belief that a big war can never happen again, because we are all so progressive now...) But every past invasion of Russia has come across the steppes of Ukraine and Belarus. During the last such invasion, 20 million Russians were killed.

Yes, the last time it happened was indeed over 70 years ago, and a lot has changed since then.  But do we really think that Russia is going to allow NATO to have missiles, artillery, and troops in Ukraine, right on their border -- a 6-hour drive from Moscow? With Ukraine aligning more and more with the West, that was a likely end result.

Road Trip from Ukraine to Moscow
Back in the Cold War era, there would have been nukes falling long before NATO had gotten that far through Ukraine.

A natural barrier to separate an "east" and "west" Ukraine would be the Dnieper River.  But Kiev straddles it.  And really Russia would prefer all of Ukraine as a buffer.

Ukraine as Texas

Consider this scenario: Imagine if Texas were to break away from the US and declare itself a separate country, coincident with other states breaking away during a time of national crisis.  Suppose that as time goes on many of the Anglo residents move out of Texas back to the US, and the Hispanic ethnic group becomes a majority. After 10-15 years, with the US back on its feet, Texas begins to align itself with Mexico.

Even though Mexico has never invaded the US, wouldn't we want to secure the oil ports and production facilities along the Gulf coast, to provide for our strategic defense and global reach?  And wouldn't it be likely that we would invade Texas using the excuse that we were doing it "to protect the historically American people still living there"?  Wouldn't we have an even greater imperative to do so if there had been a past history of invasions across the Rio Grande that had resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of Americans?

Note that I am not trying to justify Russia's position, merely trying to understand how this situation will progress.

The bottom line

Russia has a clear strategic imperative to own Crimea, and all approaches to it.  They will secure Crimea and the area around the Azov Sea up to the Dnieper.  It is needed for them to remain a global power. They will be willing to sacrifice much for this, including relations with other countries, and they will absorb any economic sanctions that are imposed.  Russian control of these areas is non-negotiable.

Russia will work to have all of the Ukraine under their dominion.  They need a buffer between them and Europe/NATO.  They will not allow even the possibility of NATO forces 6 hours from Moscow.  They will likely conquer slowly, a piece at a time, in order to keep the West on a slow simmer.  They may stop at the Dnieper for now, but I suspect that long term they want all of it.

About the only thing that would stop Russia would be for Ukraine to rescind their ties with NATO, and go back to the Russian fold as an independent but Russia-aligned nation. Hard to see how this could happen at this point, even if Russia provides assurances about sovereignty.

A worst case scenario?

An important point was made by Putin at a youth camp today:

"Russia is far from being involved in any large-scale conflicts," he said at the camp on the banks of Lake Seliger. "We don't want that and don't plan on it. But naturally, we should always be ready to repel any aggression towards Russia.

"Russia's partners...should understand it's best not to mess with us," said Putin, dressed casually in a grey sweater and light blue jeans.

"Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers."
He then compared Ukraine's military operations to the Nazi siege of Leningrad in World War Two:
"Small villages and large cities surrounded by the Ukrainian army which is directly hitting residential areas with the aim of destroying the infrastructure... It sadly reminds me of the events of the Second World War, when German fascist... occupiers surrounded our cities."
Putin indeed has the invasion of WWII in his thoughts, and directly links the current situation to it.  Russia wants all of Ukraine, and probably Belarus too.

A final thought

It is odd to think that during the Cold War, it was the stated policy of the United States to use nuclear weapons to stop any invasion of Europe by the Soviet Union.  The allied conventional forces in Europe were no match for the Soviet conventional forces, so nukes were the only solution, and everyone knew that explicitly. This policy kept the Soviets in check, because it was clear that any incursion would quickly escalate beyond anyone's control.

Now, with the decline of the United States as a world power, the huge draw-down in our nuclear weapon stockpile, and the lack of any resolve whatsoever at our highest levels of power (yes, I am talking about Obama), Russia can pretty much do anything they want, including invading other countries.  And now they are threatening the use of nukes if anyone tries to stop them.

It's like a bad Russian reversal joke:

"In 1960s, if Russia invades, you nuke Russia.  Now, if Russia invades, Russia nukes you!"

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ethical Thought

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I am an employee of a very large company. It is surprising to me that we seem to require ethics officers, ethics training courses, and Code of Conduct agreements to keep us all ethical. For the first 20 years of my career, there were no such things.   I don't understand why it is necessary; I think we were all pretty ethical back then even without all this hoopla.

So what has changed? Have we become so craven and degenerate that we constantly need to be told what is right and wrong -- on an almost case-by-case basis?

Well, maybe. A civilization is based on shared but individually-held beliefs. I am not sure that "anything goes" can be considered a belief to build a civilization on.

Thinking back to the '70s and '80's, the whole concept of right and wrong seems like it was simpler then. And indeed it was. In the past, ethics was based on the concept of malum in se -- things that are inherently wrong or immoral in and of themselves.

But "ethics" today encompasses all of malum prohibitum -- things that are not inherently wrong, but are simply prohibited by rule or statute. And this latter category has grown by leaps and bounds since the 1970's, to the point where no one except an expert can navigate its torturous passages.

We have been told at work that if we don't follow proper procedures, it is an ethics violation, punishable by termination and by being banned from ever working in the industry.  And you can never know all the rules -- they are written in literally hundreds of thousands of pages of online processes and procedures, constantly being updated by an army of writers.

It is probably no coincidence that the number of malum prohibitum items is exploding at the same time that the very existence of malum in se is being questioned in our society. In the absence of malum in se, or without a distinction between the two, malum prohibitum takes on the full self-righteous power of malum in se, and punishments for what used to be small violations of rules or laws escalate accordingly.

I see people at work who used to be motivated to think up creative and efficient ways to get the job done, now saying, "Why bother?  I did my job. The widget may not work properly, but I followed the process, and I don't want to get into trouble."

I am reminded of Spanish explorers in the New World, who were subject to so many arcane and contradictory edicts that nearly all of them were eventually sent back to Spain in chains.

In the larger societal sense too, the explosion of new governmental laws and regulations is at least partially driven by the changes in individual behavior caused by the decline in internally-held malum in se beliefs.  And that is likely driven by a decline in religious beliefs.

Without an internal sense of right and wrong, people simply can't be trusted.   The response of governments and employers is to attempt to define exactly what we can and cannot do.  Everything becomes either prescribed or proscribed.  Motivation goes away.  Creativity goes away.  Freedom goes away.

And then there is this homily:

If the people are good, only a few laws are needed.  If they are bad, no number of laws will be enough.

Good luck out there.
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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Then and Now - A "Minute Particular"

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This could also be seen as one of William Blake's "Minute Particulars".
What does it tell you?

 Policeman 1960

Policeman 2014

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The Freedom Generation Gap, and William Blake

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Today, I was walking across a quiet parking area that included a small circular driveway/roundabout.  A mother and her high-school-age daughter were in front of me.  The daughter was proceeding to walk along the circumferential sidewalk when the mother boldly stepped out to make a shortcut across the circle.  Eventually, the daughter course-corrected to meet her.

I was struck by this.  Back when I was in my teens, I would have been the one to freely step off the sidewalk, and the older folks would have been more likely to stay on it.

It reminded me of many other similar occurrences with my own children and their friends.  From prudishness in fitness clubs, to acceptance of searches of their belongings, the younger middle-class generation is very happily rule-bound.  They don't ever seem to think of breaking a rule or law, written or unwritten.

When I describe things that I and my generation used to do, the younger folks are typically aghast, saying things like, "Well that was a long time ago, and it is certainly not acceptable in modern times."  I suppose that many of the things that my generation did would put us in various offender registries, if done now.  Of course, ha ha, I didn't do any of that myself.  Sigh, we had some fun... 

Even tiny things like the fact that I used to go up skiing wearing blue jeans, are cause for the tut-tut-ing of youngsters.  "You just can't do that nowadays, Dad."


Looking further back, I am convinced that if Thomas Edison had been born in modern times, he would have been put in federal prison for terrorism, arson, and trespassing long before he could have invented anything.

When he was in his early teens, he appropriated a train car for use as a rolling laboratory.  Phosphorus, along with other now-disapproved substances, burned it to the ground.  And even before that, his involvement with fire, explosives, electric arcs, and chemicals would have brought him immediately to the attention of the authorities today.


The poet, artist, and engraver William Blake (1757-1827) believed that by observing the small things, you could understand the larger things.  He called these insights "Minute Particulars".

In "Auguries of Innocence" he wrote,
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

And, more importantly to this discussion,

A dog starvd at his Masters Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State




By looking at small behaviors, such as how a man treats his dog, or how a teenager prefers to stay rooted to the sidewalk, you can chart the future course of the world.
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To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19362#sthash.Wy6tGE6M.dpuf

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Government Owns Most of the Land in the Western US

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Back when our country was founded, government ownership of land was considered a bad thing.

When new lands became available west of the original 13 colonies in the 1800's, the Homestead Act was passed to provide an orderly transition to private ownership and development.  But somehow, during the first half of the 20th century, the government decided to transfer all remaining land to various agencies to hold in perpetuity.

Note that the Constitution does not grant the government the power to own land at all.

The magnitude of the problem is shown by this map.

Click image for larger version

I note that the Indian reservations are shown, but although they are officially government land, recent case law and other rulings have made them sovereign -- at least to an extent.

So why does the government own most of the land in the western states?  Why should they impoverish the western states (and not the eastern, mid-western, and southern states) by holding nearly all of their mineral and grazing rights?

No wonder land costs so much in the west and southwest where I want to retire.  The government owns nearly all of it west of the front range of the Rocky Mountains except for cities, strips along roads, and agricultural areas that were settled before the feds started grabbing.

They could sell it all off over the next 10 years, and easily pay off the national debt.
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Busy Day at the Cruise Port on St. Maarten



Quite the lineup of ships, including one of the two largest cruise ships in the world at the St. Maarten cruise port on January 27th, 2011.
  • At the left back is the MSC Fantasia Poesia-- 137936 GT/3900 passengers
  • To its right is P&O Oceana -- 77499 GT/2272 passengers
  • At the left front is Aida Luna --  69203 GT/2100 passengers
  • To its right is the P&O Azura -- 115055 GT/3096 passengers
  • The huge one is Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas -- 225282 GT/6296 passengers
  • To its right is Celebrity Solstice -- 122000 GT/2850 passengers
 Click image for huge version.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Federal Budget Chart Showing the Sequester Savings

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Using data from the Congressional Budget Office, (Summary Table 1 and Table 1-7), anyone can easily create the following chart showing how the Sequester affects the Federal budget this year and for future years.

Federal Budget Chart Showing the Sequester Savings

Hmmm…. Somehow it doesn't look like a significant cut.

Why isn't this chart the lead story on every news site with the headline, "Sequester Has Nearly Zero Effect"?

One of the rules of politics is that when forced to make budget cuts, you should always cut the most vital things first -- thus punishing the populace and their representatives for even suggesting it.

Mr. O is very good at this; he was trained in Chicago by the best political machine the world has ever known. So he immediately stated that the "choices of Republicans in Congress" will force massive cuts in Social Security and Medicare, as well as police, education, and defense.

But of course there will be no cuts for the $250 million in payments to our "friends" in Egypt, or thousands of new uniforms for the TSA, or uncountable other areas of pure waste and cronyism.

Other Democrats echo the new party line that the Sequester shows the Republicans are "intent on dismantling the government of the United States". (See Robert Reich's blog, and around 60 separate Huffington Post pieces of propaganda articles.)

Ah, if only it were true.

But government spending in 2013 will still be more than 2012 even with the sequester, and is projected to grow out of control as far as we can see into the future.

The sequester "reduction" is absolutely meaningless.
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Friday, December 28, 2012

Where are the Carriers Now? December 26, 2012 Map of US Naval Forces (Open Source Data)

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Update 2012-12-26

Here is the 26 December 2012 report on US Aircraft Carrier and Naval Force Deployments from Stratfor.  Note that most naval groups are in home port for Christmas.

 
  click image for a larger version

Click here for a description at Stratfor. While Stratfor is a subscription service, they will provide a free article if you give them your email address. 

"The Naval Update Map shows an approximation of the current locations of U.S. Carrier Strike Groups and Amphibious Ready Groups, based on available open-source information. No classified or operationally sensitive information is included in this weekly update."

 I strongly recommend Stratfor as a news source for in-depth analysis of geopolitical events.

Censored History: "Jefferson's Pockets"

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Thomas Jefferson believed strongly that everyone should carry a gun.  He always had his pocket gun with him, even when he was President.  When I was at Monticello a few years ago, they had a "Jefferson's Pockets" display at the visitor's center that among other things included his pocket pistol.  They have since removed the gun due to complaints.

Thomas Jefferson's Pockets Display at Monticello, with his gun removed
(click on image for larger version)
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The Second Amendment and the Coming Gun Ban

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I have been watching the political haranguing about the various massacres committed by crazy people that seem to occur on a regular basis in the gun-free zones of our country -- places where self-defense is not allowed.

I see politicians posturing for assault weapon bans, and magazine capacity bans. They say things like "no one needs a gun like this for hunting," and, "no one should have these weapons of war in their home," and, "we need to get these mass-murdering guns off our streets."

A ban is likely coming. Soon.

(click image for very large version)

On December 22, 2012, at a gun show, I saw huge prices for AR-15's, ammunition, and large-capacity magazines -- between two and five times what the same items cost only a few weeks ago -- and even with those prices, everything available was sold out in a few hours. It is being reported that a gun retailer (Brownell's) sold a typical three years' worth of AR-15 magazines in the last week. Background checks that usually take less than an hour, are taking up to two weeks because of the backlog caused by so many guns being purchased.

The push for bans and restrictions show that these politicians, and indeed most of our citizens, have no understanding of our history, and no concept of the principles that our country was founded on.

The Second Amendment has never been about the right to hunt. The Founders didn't care about hunting. They cared about Liberty. They wanted to make sure that the power of the gun resided not in the government, but in the people. They wanted to make sure that if the government were to grow large and oppressive, the people would have the power to overthrow it.

They wanted the government to be small and weak, and the people strong.


Thus the Second Amendment is purely about our right to own and carry military arms; the kind of arms that an individual soldier would carry; the kind that gives the people the power to change the government by force, if necessary.

Note that the Second Amendment doesn't grant this right.  Like the rest of the Bill of Rights, it affirms the pre-existing, inherent right that we have simply by being human. The Founders believed that all men were "endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable Rights..." Thus no government has any power whatsoever to take our rights away. We have our rights forever, regardless of what kings, or presidents, or government agencies, or Congress says. Our rights are forever beyond even the power of democratic majorities.

This means that even if the Second Amendment were to be removed from the Constitution, we would still have our inherent unalienable right to own military guns.

It is important to remember that gun confiscations and gun restrictions were the match that lit the American Revolutionary War. The "Shot Heard Round the World" on April 19th, 1775, was the response of the citizens of Concord, Massachusetts to what was in essence a British SWAT team coming to get their military guns, ammunition, and cannons.

The core of the Second Amendment is about the right of free people to respond to exactly that kind of oppressive government action.

Based on the writings of Jefferson, Adams, Paine, Washington, and many other Founders, it is clear that they would have considered any ban on citizen ownership of the soldier's standard military arm to be a point of no return. The right to keep and bear military arms is the foundational right that protects all other rights. By abrogating that right, the government eliminates the only true physical check on its power.

Military arms in the hands of the people form the greatest barrier to the kinds of utopian changes to our culture that some of our servants in Washington want to make.

And that is why they take every opportunity to attempt to ban such guns.

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Some supporting quotes:

"The whole of the Bill [of Rights] is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals... It establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of." -- Albert Gallatin, Oct 7, 1789

"This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember it or overthrow it." -- Abraham Lincoln, April 4, 1861

"A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves ... and include all men capable of bearing arms." -- Senator Richard Henry Lee, 1788, on the meaning of "militia" in the Second Amendment

"False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes." -- Cesare Beccaria, as quoted by Thomas Jefferson in his Commonplace Book

"To disarm the people... was the best and most effectual way to enslave them." -- George Mason, speech of June 14, 1788

"Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms. [...] the right of the citizens to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government and one more safeguard against a tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible." -- Hubert H. Humphrey, 1960

" What country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms... What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure. -- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William S. Smith (November 13, 1787)

"Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better-- This is a most valuable, -- a most sacred right -- a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world..."
     -- Abraham Lincoln, 1848

"One of the ordinary modes, by which tyrants accomplish their purposes without resistance, is, by disarming the people, and making it an offense to keep arms."-- Constitutional scholar Joseph Story, 1840

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined." -- Patrick Henry, speech of June 5, 1788

"The great object is, that every man be armed. [...] Every one who is able may have a gun." -- Patrick Henry, speech of June 14, 1788

"The conclusion is thus inescapable that the history, concept, and wording of the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States, as well as its interpretation by every major commentator and court in the first half-century after its ratification, indicates that what is protected is an individual right of a private citizen to own and carry firearms in a peaceful manner." -- Report of the Subcommittee On The Constitution of the Committee On The Judiciary, United States Senate, 97th Congress, second session (February, 1982), SuDoc# Y4.J 89/2: Ar 5/5

"As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives [only] moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprize, and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun, therefore, be the constant companion to your walks." -- Thomas Jefferson to his 15-year-old nephew Peter Carr, 1785.  Boyd, Julian P., Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, et al, eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950-. 33 vols.

Citizens Repel the British SWAT team at Concord, 1775
click for wallpaper-sized version

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Where are the Carriers Now? October 31, 2012 Map of US Naval Forces (Open Source Data)

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Update 2012-10-31

Here is the 31 October 2012 report on US Aircraft Carrier and Naval Force Deployments from Stratfor:

 click image for a larger version

Click here for a description at Stratfor. While Stratfor is a subscription service, they will provide a free article if you give them your email address. 

"The Naval Update Map shows an approximation of the current locations of U.S. Carrier Strike Groups and Amphibious Ready Groups, based on available open-source information. No classified or operationally sensitive information is included in this weekly update."

 I strongly recommend Stratfor as a news source for in-depth analysis of geopolitical events.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Without the Global Warming Religious Dogma

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I am getting very tired of politicians trying to use hurricanes to justify more taxes and higher energy costs to combat "climate change".

There is no global warming.  There is nothing wrong with the air.

Hurricane Sandy came ashore in New Jersey as a Category 1 storm.  Since it spent a long time over the Gulf Stream, it became physically large for its type.  Indeed, if it hadn't had to contend with significant wind shear and dry air entrainment, it probably would have had winds at a Cat 3 level.  It also received some baroclinic energy from a cold front that merged with it.

New England storms like this have happened numerous times in the past.  About the only thing unusual about this one was that it made landfall almost exactly at high tide.  This caused historically unprecedented flooding and wave erosion in places that have seen a large amount of construction and development in the last 50 years.  For reference see the Snow Hurricane of 1804, the Long Island Express of 1938 (which was a Cat 3 at landfall), and the long list of powerful New England hurricanes on Wikipedia.

It is important to recognize that:

1.  There has been no global warming in the last 16 years or more.  And that is even using the biased, adjusted figures of "The Global Warming Team".  If you use rural unadjusted (i.e. non-fraudulent) data there has been very little statistically significant global warming, and we are cooling now.

 
From UK Met Office data quoted by The Daily Mail.

2.  Every measureable attribute of hurricanes -- energy, number of large storms, intensity of storms etc., has been trending downward since the 1990s.  These things go in cycles, with a large random component.  For example here is the accumulated cyclone energy chart:



3.  Most everything in the weather is driven by ocean cycles and the sun.  Atlantic hurricanes tend to follow the Atlantic Meridional Oscillation, which has a 60-70 year periodicity.  (They are also influenced by the El Nino Southern Oscillation, which swaps every year or three, but is currently neutral.)   We are kind of close to an AMO peak right now:


4. Since we are actually seeing LESS hurricanes and WEAKER hurricanes than would normally be expected for the current AMO state, I think Atlantic hurricanes are being moderated by a lack of solar activity which is driving true cooling.  According to Livingston and Penn of the National Solar Observatory in Tucson, the sun may be heading into a deep sleep mode not seen since the Maunder Minimum/Little Ice Age.  This chart shows that sunspots are fading both visually and magnetically independent of the 11-year solar cycle.  We are already losing sunspots:

Chart from solar physicist Dr. Leif Svalgaard

Henrik Svensmark (physicist and professor at the Danish National Space Institute in Copenhagen) believes that solar activity modulates cosmic ray flux causing more clouds to form during times of less solar activity.  The data seem to bear him out:


Global Cooling has already started.  Get ready for the next Little Ice Age!

Thomas Wyke, Frost Fair on the Thames in London, Winter of 1683-1684

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Falcon-9 Engine Explodes During Launch

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Yesterday 7 October 2012, the SpaceX Falcon-9 launch vehicle sustained an explosion in one of its nine first-stage engines during launch.  The remaining engines were apparently undamaged and the vehicle was able to continue on to orbit.

The Falcon-9 is designed with Kevlar shields surrounding each engine, so that in the event of an explosion, damage to neighboring engines is mitigated.

The video below shows an apparent hot spot on the engine bell, which gets brighter and brighter prior to the explosion.  Afterwards, you can see portions of the damaged external fairing falling away.

I do not believe that any previous launch vehicle has ever been able to sustain an engine explosion and then carry on with the mission.  The SpaceX system design is surprisingly robust.



Here are some reference photos of the engine configuration:




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