28 February 2015

The new net neutrality rules...

The actual push to regulate ISP backbones as public utilities dates back to the Bush administration.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/02/huge-win-open-internet-fcc-officially-embraces-title-ii

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140701/06584527742/eff-changes-position-net-neutrality-recognizes-fcc-must-act-narrowly.shtml

The question remains whether or not the changes will be used to enforce network neutrality, or be used to expand the crony capitalist and censorship policies of the government.

Now I would like to point out that government regulations are generally the result of perverse actions on the part of private industry. The Food and Drug Administration has a real purpose. The FCC is an interesting regulatory agency because it has been used to both prop up and break down monopolies as the political winds shifted about.

The elephant in the room that most people aren't talking about is Verizon. If the Obama Administration is the evil power grabbing meanie, then Verizon is the snot nosed brat who refuses to act in a respectable manner. Brief summary of that here: http://arstechnica.com/business/2015/02/verizon-is-mad-that-its-huge-net-neutrality-gamble-backfired/

It isn't a stretch that there has been a legal battle between Verizon and the FCC stretching back a long time to see over who gets to write the rules of the internet. Verizon made the legal case that the FCC can't regulate them as a common carrier and won in court. The same court system that said any reasonable interpretation of the law by a regulatory agency then has the force of law. So you could say that the FCC was legally backed into a corner where either it used that power or let Verizon continue to require Netflix to pay ransom. After all, what good is a regulatory agency that doesn't act on behalf of the citizen consumer?

What is more disturbing is that just like the ATF changing its mind on SS109/M855 surplus bullets (we said it wasn't, but now we say it is) is that the current rule change by the FCC was made without a single change in actual law.

Law that can mean one thing one day, and a different thing the next, without an actual change in law but at the whim of a non-elected official should be a troubling concept for anyone.

I think it is high time that a political party, I honestly don't care which one, puts forth "Congressional Non Delegation" as part of their platform to stop this sort of chicanery. After all, if you and I did this as part of our business it would be rightly called "contract violation."


25 February 2015

The Power of Truth and Fiction

I read a lot of science fiction as an escapist form of entertainment. When I'm deployed and get the chance to visit some sort of library, anything with "Baen" on the cover gets priority for my reading queue.

Because you can't work 24/7, and you can't only read non-fiction. Fun is important. Recuperation is important.

When the International Lord of Hate (Larry really needs to copyright that title) says that Louis L'Amour saved his life, I connect with that statement. When he takes the time to fisk social justice warrior idiocy like this: http://monsterhunternation.com/2015/02/23/the-social-justice-warrior-racist-reading-challenge-a-fisking/ well I just can't stop reading.

I rode with the Sacketts. I worked on a tramp steamer in the South China Sea. I blazed trails, fought with and alongside indians. I tasted the hot and dry dusty trails, and stumbled into huts on a trapline in the bitter cold of an early autumn blizzard.

Later on I picked up the hunting tales of Capstick, not fiction, but good stories. I learned to enjoy hunting before I ever woke up before dawn to go forth into the field.

I learned about chivalry from Sir Walter Scott. I learned about logic from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is about high time I started reading the "Just So" stories of Kipling to my sons again. From Frank Herbert I learned that sometimes your destiny is just going to suck, but there is nothing to do but meet it head on.

What do all those authors have in common other than being heterosexual white men? They are good authors and storytellers. They are the old white men who spoke to a young white man and told him deep secrets about life, pain, sacrifice and honor. The are the ones who whispered in my ear that adventure could be had just over the horizon.

Along the way there were female authors. Madeline L'Engle, Ursula Le Guin, Lois McMaster Bujold, Jacqueline Carey, Catherine Asaro, and even Patricia Briggs because she wrote about an area I am familiar with. Female authors are entertaining, and from them I learned that what women want, and what women say they want, aren't always the same thing. Maybe that was the wrong lesson to learn, but so far no one has stepped forward to straighten me out.

But, getting back to the International Lord of Hate's point, that read who you like, I'd like to make the further observation: Anyone who tells you to stop reading what you like is telling you that you suck as a human being. And the only proper response to that is, "piss off, no one asked you."

I'm never going to be a LGBT minority. I'm not going to discourage anyone from writing a book, and I'm certainly going to tell everyone who wants to write to make their dreams come true. But I'm not going to feel guilty for reading escapist fiction.

Read what you like. Drink what you like. Enjoy your down time without feeling guilty about it. If your next favorite book ends up being written by a LGBT minority author, so what? Either the story speaks to you or it doesn't.

24 February 2015

Ebola update: You can't Fix Stupid

One of the very real dangers of Africa is dealing with Africans. The medical workers from various agencies are running into this problem because Africans see how other Africans with ebola are treated, and don't want to be treated that way by their peers. So they go to great lengths to not get put on any monitoring lists.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/21/world/africa/leaders-of-ebola-fight-at-un-express-worry-about-eradication.html?_r=0

What this means is that just like we were six months ago, we are only three weeks away from the end of the outbreak, but we are actually no closer to that because Africans are not complying with the necessary actions to isolate the disease from spreading.

"Africa wins again" as Kim Du Toit would say.

Now, 120 to 150 new cases every week is a lot, but it is a manageable level if the international community keeps paying, keeps sending aid, and the status quo stays the way it is.

I expect I'll be working a monthly Ebola Update for a few months yet as eradication of the current outbreak is going to be very very very hard because of the culture.

On the flip side of that, all those experimental and revolutionary cures that were in the works are now making it through to the "front lines" in the fight against ebola, so drugs that would have spent years in review are getting their trials in a bit early. Every silver lining has a dark cloud, or something like that.

22 February 2015

Hell freezes over, a Soldier comes ot the defense of a State Department spokesperson....

Should I put a trigger warning on this post? After all it isn't normal when someone from the DOD camp starts defending someone from the State Department. But, that is what I'm going to do here.

When State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said, "We cannot kill our way out of this war." She was correct. Entirely correct.

However, she should have stopped right there as a jobs program is not the answer. Unemployment among men of "jihadi age" in the middle east is only one of many factors that make fundamental Islam such a threat. In terms of importance it is about the equivalence of the third lugnut on the passenger side rear wheel of on a sedan. You can get a fully functioning Carolla without that lugnut.

The key part of Ms. Harf's statement wasn't the "kill" part, it was the "we" part.

Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, and Egypt CAN kill their way out of this war. Why? Because they are Muslim countries and we are not.

When American bombs drop and kill an ISIS member or even a bunch of them, it just fuels the fire that the "Great Satan" deserves whatever nasty terrorist surprise they can cook up.

When other Muslims are killing ISIS members, then ISIS has to confront the fact that maybe they aren't Mohammed's gift to the Levant.

Now I dislike the "tactical patience" wording. But the reality is that stability in the middle east has to be a home grown solution. Notice that ISIS is threatening Europe with 500,000 refugees. Considering how many refugees have moved into Lebanon in the last two years I'm surprised ISIS could round up that many to put on boats towards Europe.

But as long as ISIS can make this about "ISIS verses the West" then they will maintain some sort of twisted legitimacy in the Islamic world. When it becomes Muslims verses ISIS, then the human rights abuses of ISIS can be put into their proper context and they will start losing the propaganda war for the hearts and minds of Muslims. Even those Muslims who dream of a restored Caliphate.

There is a lot of killing that needs to be done, and we can definitely help our allies get around to doing it. But we aren't the ones who need to be in the lead on the offensive against ISIS.

19 February 2015

Honesty, Deception, and Ethics

If you are in the Army, and you don't find yourself nodding along at various points through this monologue, I'd really question what actual experience you had in the Army:

Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?pubID=1250

One of the first Officer Professional Development (OPD) sessions I had with my Commander contained his "rules for staff."  There were five rules, four of which were covered.

Rules for staff:
"If you have to make up a number, make it odd and not divisible by five." Colonel, US Army.
The Commander then went on to explain that other commanders are immediately distrustful of neat, even numbers. I remember when a CW3 told the LTC that the cost of a part ended in double zeroes, and the LTC stopped the "Command and Staff" meeting to comment that a price ending in double zeros never happened, and the CW3 responded that he was flabbergasted too, and he triple checked just to make sure.

My Commander told the story of the monthly patrol tracker for one of his previous units, and for the month it just happened to add up to 100. So they double checked, yup, still 100. So they reported 97 patrols so the report would be believed.

There are many reasons for lying, but the most common is that it maintains "social harmony" within the group. In the Officer Corps, we lie about the crap we recognize as capricious, unnecessary, and ultimately a distraction from what is really a priority.

"Tell the truth about what you see and what you do. There is an army depending on us for correct information. You can lie all you please when you tell other folks about the Rangers, but don't never lie to a Ranger or officer." Robert's Rangers Standing Order #4
I'd like to point out that you can lie all you want about the size of your penis, or your prowess as a marksman, but be completely honest and truthful about your unit's ability to go forth and kill people. But, being honest when it matters really doesn't make you an honest person, just a person who chooses not to lie when it is for the betterment of the group, and conversely chooses too lie when it is for the betterment of the group.

Does Private Snuffy who never deployed need another afternoon of sexual harassment prevention? Or a week long combat lifesaver class? Just so you know, the sexual harassment class is mandatory, but the week long combat lifesaver class is also mandatory. Can't do both, which one do you lie about?

In my case I simply signed my name on the roster for the sexual harassment training, then I reviewed the steps to stabilize a casualty with the senior medic on staff to satisfy both requirements. Yes both were lies when you look at whether or not I should have been qualified as "trained."

So there you have it, the crux of a 53 page monologue about why we lie. Yup, we lie. Given the reality of the situation, where compliance with the truth is an impossibility, what else do you expect?

Men in barracks don't grow in to plaster saints.

But the real question is how in the world do we live with ourselves? Especially with all the lying we do?

Well, the Army has a solution for that. Whenever you have an ethical dilemma, you go through the ethical dilemma resolution process. Since an ethical dilemma is the result of two deeply held beliefs colliding step one is where you identify the beliefs.

1. Identify the deeply held beliefs in conflict.
2. Brainstorm options that satisfy each belief.
3. Compare options.
4. Choose the option that best serves the Army.

Sometimes the most ethical thing we can do is lie. Sometimes we have to make the call that Private Snuffy learning how to save a life is more important than teaching Private Snuffy that making a woman feel uncomfortable is sexual harassment. If Private Snuffy takes the first aid training, we can save a life, if Private Snuffy takes the sexual harassment training, somebody might die because he doesn't know what to do. I'm sure right now there is some feminist who will try to tell me that a woman working in a "hostile environment" is every bit as serious as a sucking chest wound. I'd like to give her the opportunity to experience both to see if the experience changes her mind or not.

But, the danger of lying to prioritize training is that you get comfortable with it. When lying just becomes a matter of habit, what you always do, then your ethical compass is no longer a source of guidance and balance against the need to lie.

Centuries ago Diogenes took his lantern in his quest to find the honest man. I'd let him know that while he will find ethical and moral men and women in the Army, odds are he won't find an honest one.

16 February 2015

M855 and SS109 bullets, a deliberate message to the shooting community

Taking away the exemption for the M855/SS109 bullets from civilian sale strikes me more as a "fuck you, we are doing this just to piss you off" move more than anything else.

After all, the biggest source of income for surplus M855 bullets is the American public. An American public that shoots the heck out of them for purely recreational purposes every year in everything from High Power (reduced distance) to 3 Gun matches.

But, the way I understand Federal law as upheld by the courts since FDR, the Obama Administration and BATFE can do this without any Congressional involvement or review. That doesn't mean I like it at all.

That doesn't mean that there isn't a strategy for a legal challenge....

To review the applicable definition: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/921

(B) The term “armor piercing ammunition” means—
(i) a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium; or
(ii) a full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the projectile.
If we apply the definition from section one, "composed entirely (excluding the presense of traces of other substance)" definition, then the M855/SS109 projectile not meet the definition because the majority of the projectile is lead, Pb for chemists. The presence of the steel tip means that the projectile has three alloys, but fails the "composed entirely" definition.

If we apply the definition of section two, "larger than 22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun" we can clearly show that 5.56 is 22 caliber and that the SS109 bullet was designed for service rifles.

The argument from the administration all hinges on the "may be used in a handgun" part of definition one. We've seen the ATF really stretch this definition to ban the importation of steel core 7.62x39 ammunition because a company created the AK pistol variant for the American public. Of course the ATF ignored the one word that I've bolded, the "and" portion of definition one. To be "armor piercing" it must be both able to be used in a handgun and meet the composition requirements which M855/SS109 fails.

So there is the legal challenge from a logical perspective. The fact that they got away with it in the 7.62x39 case doesn't give me good hope since the courts generally know less about firearms technology than even a noob H&K fanboi.

Now, even if there redress through the courts fails, there is always the opportunity to elect a more gun friendly President who would appoint a more gun friendly Attorney General who can issue a sporting exemption.
(C) The term “armor piercing ammunition” does not include shotgun shot required by Federal or State environmental or game regulations for hunting purposes, a frangible projectile designed for target shooting, a projectile which the Attorney General finds is primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes, or any other projectile or projectile core which the Attorney General finds is intended to be used for industrial purposes, including a charge used in an oil and gas well perforating device.
So there you have it, the ballot box and jury box will more than likely be necessary to keep a full bullet box in the future. I find it interesting that the law allows the AG to exempt a bullet from the armor piercing definition, but it doesn't not give the AG the ability to identify a bullet as armor piercing.

15 February 2015

Always check your argument before you make it....

Contrast and compare:
But historically the antivaccination crowds are idiots whose agenda poses a very real danger to the health and well being of other people.
Should vaccines me legally mandated? That depends.
If they are not then society has every right legally, morally and ethically to segregate, quarantine and imprison BY FORCE those who refuse them and thus pose a risk to the health of others. People have the right to make choices....but choices have consequences. And if that choice means that you could harm another then your choice is dangerous and the rest of
society has a right to mitigate that danger.
With this:
But historically the pro-gun rights crowds are idiots whose agenda poses a very real danger to the health and well being of other people.
Should disarming be legally mandated? That depends.
If they are not willing to disarm then society has every right legally, morally and ethically to segregate, quarantine and imprison BY FORCE those who refuse to disarm and thus pose a risk to the health of others. People have the right to make choices....but choices have consequences. And if that choice means that you could harm another then your choice is dangerous and the rest of society has a right to mitigate that danger.
Whenever someone advocates restricting freedom of choice for individuals, it is a damn scary thing and not to be taken lightly.

Daniel Barger claimed that the second statement was a "straw man" argument made by me. Since all I did was ask him to substitute one freedom we currently enjoy that is under attack (gun rights) with another freedom we currently enjoy that is under attack (individual choice on vaccinations) and see how he felt about it, I don't think it is a straw man argument in the slightest, unless Daniel is a hypocrite who only cares about freedoms that he agrees with, not those icky freedoms that other people have that he doesn't agree with.

Perhaps the coat on my Wookie suit is particularly lush, but I believe that if someone else isn't vaccinated, then the way I mitigate the risk to me is to be vaccinated. Yes I know that they can still spread diseases to other people, and that vaccines aren't 100% effective. But, my body is my responsibility. And as the US Supreme Court has ruled time and time again, YOU are responsible for your own safety, not the police or any government agency UNLESS they prevent you from protecting yourself in their official capacity.

But when you take away individual freedom in the name of "public safety" then you can't call yourself pro-freedom, now can you?

Or is it just like Communism, ideas so good they must be mandatory?

I don't know how Daniel Barger really feels about being an advocate for tyranny (and yes, taking away individual freedom in the name of the State knows best is tyranny).

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
― C.S. Lewis
I've noticed that this temptation to take away the freedoms of others on specific issues is pretty common, even amongst the so called pro-freedom crowd. Sean Sorrentino would normally be considered a pro freedom voice happens to be a huge supporter of laws that prevent people from feeding the homeless, as he feels he shouldn't have to deal with homeless people eating in public parks and that the only appropriate place for anyone to feed anyone else is in their own homes.

The problem with freedom is that other people will use it to make decisions that you don't agree with, for reasons you find idiotic, but they will do that all the same. If someone elses action that doesn't directly affect you except in some existential manner causes you to be so passionate that you are willing to restrict their freedom, then you have no leg to stand on when they come for your freedoms.

Which is why so many anti-gun groups have been trying to remake the gun control debate into a public health debate. Because of people like Daniel Barger who will give up freedoms in the name of "public health" that they never would in terms of "civil rights."