26 April 2011

Revenue creation and Social Security.

FreedomYankee brought up an alternate viewpoint to my view that Social Security needs to go.  Since it would not be rigorous to just state my viewpoint and ignore others (especially when they are well articulated and polite) I will do my best to respond in an equally polite manner.

Your suggestion in "ditching" the S.S system to deal with our current monetary crisis is analogous to dealing with Cancer by offering pain pills rather than surgical removal.
This Junkie (.gov) needs an intervention, not another fix.
This country needs revenue generation, AKA Jobs, which provides, Social security funding, the stability which employment brings, non governmental inspired health care plans through am employer and funds needed to keep a nation from crumbling.

Hauser's Law says that no matter the income tax rate Federal Tax Revenue will hover right at 19% of GDP.  This means that even as the upper income brackets pay more (and lower income brackets pay less to nothing at all) the total revenue taken in essentially remains the same.  So the idea that "tax cuts for the rich" only benefit the rich is simply a soundbite.  When everyone gets a tax break it doesn't affect revenue.  When you raise taxes it doesn't raise revenue (and if you are like California it drives off your highest income earners).

So FreedomYankee's idea is that by creating MORE jobs there will be MORE TAX REVENUE from a larger TAX BASE.  This is a good idea, unfortunately it won't work as the numbers are just too large.

Assuming that Hauser's Law will not be violated, how much of an increase would we need in terms of GDP to make up the 1 Trillion dollar deficit for this last year?  (19% of our GDP was 2.5 trillion which gives a GDP of around 13.5 trillion give or take (which is also the current debt of the US, when countries owe more than their GDP historically they go bankrupt).  So in order to create another 1 Trillion dollars we have to grow the GDP 0.19X = 1 Trillion (X equals 5.26 Trillion).  That means (1/0.19= 5.26) we would have to grow, (5.26/13.5) 39% overnight.  Note, official numbers for our GDP just over 14.6 Trillion, but since GDP is largely an imaginary number used solely to describe the volume of an economy it doesn't really matter as long as the change in GDP reflects either a growth or shrinkage of that economy.

Since economies do not grow 39% overnight, REVENUE GENERATION is NOT an option.

Do you really believe the same government that caused this problem will take all the new found revenue, at your suggestion and use it wisely ?

Hell no.  I expect this nation to crumble like Rome.  At best we would simply fade into insignificance with the grace and dignity of (former) Great Britain.

Look the math simply doesn't add up.  Our GDP has risen no matter how many "Free Trade" agreements gave manufacturing an option out of the Union monopoly on manufacturing.  So NAFTA hasn't killed revenue for the .gov.  We have never had a REVENUE problem, it is only a SPENDING problem. 

To cut spending rather than a plan to return this to a robust economy is to admit this country is defeated, to beg for crumbs rather than acquire the bakery.
A wealhty ecomomy is a healthy economy, period.

I completely agree.  Like Rome we won't be conquered from without until we have looted the public treasury on a Welfare State, intentionally devalued our currency, and become involved in large scale frontier wars far from the center of our nation. History may not repeat itself but it rhymes.

In terms of numbers we have a wealthy economy.  Number one in the world.  About three times larger than the next biggest GDP by country.  It takes the Eurozone combining the economy of the rest of the Western Free World to even compare to the US.  And 19% (Hauser's Law will not be denied) of the largest economy in the world is by no means a small budget, technically it is the largest government budget in the world.  And our nation can't manage to not spend more than the largest tax revenue in the world.

My point is that we have to cut spending.  We simply can't grow the economy out of this mess (the Stimulus Bill tried exactly that, and simply saddled us with more debt with nothing to show for it).  We can't continue to "spend ourselves to prosperity" because our credit rating is already being downgraded (a long overdue move in my opinion).

Rome fell.  The worlds sole superpower fell.  Right now the US is the legacy superpower from the WWII era.  And we will fall.  The numbers don't lie.  The question is whether the fall is hard and brutal like Zimbabwe or if it will be faced head on with austerity like our brothers across the pond.

25 April 2011

Why Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are not "low hanging fruit"

FreedomYankee (correct, my apologies) called Social Security "low hanging fruit" and recommended that we look elsewhere for cuts since it is morally wrong to pull the benefits from those who have "paid in" their entire lives.  Yankee Patriot is right, it is morally wrong and the politicians who refused to make the hard choices are as much to blame as an infantile public that kept putting the con men into office.  But Social Security isn't "low hanging fruit" by any stretch of reality.

Bottom line is that the Federal government has been bankrupt for years.

Sixty percent of the US Federal Budget goes to "non-discretionary" spending.  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, mandatory interest payments on the debt.

Sixty percent of the US Federal Budget accounts for 100% of Federal Revenue.  Did you get that?  Before even a dime is spent on all the alphabet soup agencies (CIA, DIA, DOD, FBI, IRS, TSA, DHS, USM, etc) all the tax money gathered for the entire year has already been spent.

So where does that "discretionary spending" funding come from?  Debt.  This is why the "debt ceiling" has been continuously raised every year over the last decade.  Unless the fedgov can FUNDAMENTALLY CHANGE NON-DISCRETIONARY SPENDING there is no way to stop borrowing money.  When ALL discretionary spending is borrowed money you have to borrow money.

And discretionary spending is low hanging fruit.  This is the funding that the Republicans threatened a government shutdown over.  This is the 80 billion in "cuts" that cut nothing.  These are the cuts that only require a simple majority in Congress.  Things that are "non-discretionary" require a SUPER MAJORITY.

Until Federal Revenue is larger than the Federal Budget the only way to fund the .gov is by increasing the public debt.  Since you could get rid of ALL discretionary spending and still barely break even, there is no real "low hanging" fruit to solve this problem.

There are only two types of cuts, significant and insignificant.  So far EVERYTHING from BOTH SIDES of the aisle has been INSIGNIFICANT.

Simply by getting rid of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (and CHIP) and slicing the DOD budget in half the Federal Budget would be fixed.  Why? Because that accounts for 50% of the budget right there.

That would allow the fedgov to reduce our public debt to ZERO in a grand total of... (drumroll please lets see 2.2 trillion (revenue) minus 1.75 trillion (half the current budget) equals 0.45 Trillion, 0.45 goes in to 14.3 trillion (the current debt) how many times?) 32 years not factoring in the interest on that debt.  So imagine, 32 years just to cover the PRINCIPLE of what we owe, so tack on another 12 years to cover the interest on that principle and we are looking at 44 years....

Look, the numbers don't lie.  We have borrowed more money, more quickly, than any nation over the history of all humanity.  We are in uncharted territory as far as the shear size of this fiscal crisis.

The Republicans don't have a supermajority and the Dems won't touch SS, Medicare or Medicaid.  I was hoping for a Government Shutdown because it would be the only thing that would actually save any money.

So it is morally right for those of us under 50 to DEMAND that Social Security be stopped even while we have to keep paying payroll taxes (the numbers won't allow a balanced budget any other way).  We are so far up shit creek that this is our only feasible option to get back to solvency.

24 April 2011

Killing Social Security

If Social Security benefits were to evaporate tomorrow the social security payroll tax would not.  The FedGov is too addicted to that income stream.

But my generation knows that Social Security is done.  Either it will go bankrupt like all Ponzi schemes, or inflation will make benefits worthless.  I don't see any logical or feasible method for maintaining Social Security as a sort of safety net or retirement supplement.

So Tea Partiers, the first order of business is to kill Social Security.  I don't care if you phase it out over ten years, but Social Security HAS TO GO.  And Medicare and Medicaid need to follow.  We can't afford those "rights" that the Socialists want us to want.

So, if you are under 50 years old right now, you know that killing Social Security is the right thing to do.  So in order to avoid the AARP socialist voting landslide we leave their benefits alone as they progress into their golden years (if the Dems can buy votes with promises of funds from the tax coffers, Conservatives can too I guess).

And here is the really sad part Tea Partiers... we have to keep the Social Security Payroll tax.  Because the FedGov is too addicted to that revenue stream.  But we all know that the Social Security tax has been paying for everything BUT social security for decades now.  Just rebrand it "payroll tax" and be done with it.

Medicare and Medicaid...we have to cut it.  We also have to cut Defense like there is no tomorrow.

Cuts need to hurt.

Once the debt is taken care of, then we can talk about cutting taxes.  But we have to cut spending first.


ArcticPatriot wrote a very good post on the moral high ground.

All morality is relative, and all ethics are situational. 

When someone says the have an, "absolute, black and white" morality, the question becomes, "as compared to what exactly?" and relativism is introduced.  But it boils down to whether or not a moral system can accurately recognize evil.  If you can recognize evil so that you know to fight against it to protect that which is good I cannot ask for more than that.

And ethics, those values that guide us are always relative.  Remember that survival trumps all and you really only have three choices, fight, flee, or submit.  That is it.  There are no more choices when faced with opposition.

Having the moral high ground in conflict can be summed up with this, "did you kill someone that needed killing?"

Tim McVeigh?  He killed babies.  They didn't need killing. He lost the moral high ground.  The picture of a fireman carrying a baby from the rubble of the Federal building became iconic.

Randy Weaver?  Had his wife shot in the back of the head by Lon Horiuchi.  I think that someone could shoot Lon Horiuchi and if I were on the jury I believe that "he needed killing" would be an acceptable defense.

So if you want to keep the moral high ground, kill those that need killing.

Heck, nobody like Kadaffi, but when the reports came out that he was narrowly targeting rebels the west completely lost the "moral high ground" because their whole justification for war was nullified.

Systems engineering, cost accounting, and biofuels

Systems engineering is a discipline that looks at everything that happens from feedstock to finished product and how to make it robust, efficient, and profitable.  Cost accounting is a discipline where the cost of each step in a products life is measured and tallied.  These two disciplines are exactly why biofuels are not yet economically viable (at least without wasteful subsidies).  And I believe it is a safe assumption that getting funding for a corporation to set up a business model (as opposed to getting funding for R&D) someone needs to have done the math to show that the it is a viable model.

The problem with biofuels is that they are currently a leftists wet pipe dream because leftists are incapable of doing math.  Just look at the national budget under a Democrat controlled congress. 

Engineering takes SCIENCE and turns it into REALITY.  That is why there is a huge difference between a nuclear physicist an a nuclear engineer.  This is why there is a big difference between a biochemist, and a chemical engineer.  When someone says "we have the science" that may be true, but we don't always have the engineering to turn the science into a profitable reality.

Does anyone remember "Golden Rice"?  The first generation of "golden rice" (biofortified with Vitamin A) had such a small amount of Vitamin A that it was essentially worthless, and critics latched on to this fact with a vengeance.  But what the critics didn't recognize was that once the science had shown it could be done it became an engineering project to adjust the vitamin content to a useful level.  Within two generations this was accomplished.  Now the only obstacle to ending childhood blindness in the developing world is the various legal hurdles from the developed world.

So when I say that biofuels aren't a viable option, it isn't because the science isn't there, it is because the engineering hasn't worked out a way to make it profitable and efficient.  Yet.

23 April 2011

I love biofuels, BUT...

There is currently no marketable alternative to fossil fuels.  There may be next year.  There may be in five or ten years.  But at the gas pump today, and tomorrow, fossil fuels are your only option.

So when the Glorious Leader explains that the key to solving the current high gas price problem is to "invest in alternative energy" he is saying that he has no damn clue what he is talking about.  Investing TODAY does nothing for the prices today or tomorrow.  But when the media is in your corner I guess anything makes a good soundbite.

And I am a HUGE fan of biofuels, especially from algae and farm waste.  Cellulitic ethanol is a great way to create energy from farm waste.  Algae is a great way to make fuel from the CO2 put out by coal or oil electric generating plants.  These are great potential solutions.  The current high prices are brought on by several forces.  Falling dollar value, greater international demand for petroleum products, and an uncertain commodities market because of "civil unrest" across many of the oil producing nations (the best thing that can happen to lower prices is war between two oil producing countries that cause them to crank up production to fund the war efforts).

Unfortunately investing in technologies NOW will do nothing tomorrow.  Even investing in proven Coal To Liquid (CTL) technologies today will not affect the pump prices tomorrow (but in a few years probably).  For the record, corn ethanol as a fuel is a waste of corn, taxpayer dollars, and good moonshine.

I know my history, the first internal combustion engines weren't running on gasoline and diesel.  They were running on alcohol blends and plant oils.  If that was the case back then, why did we switch to fossil fuels?  Simply because fossil fuels are cheaper than crop fuels.  And now the Glorious Leader wants more crops to go to fuel...it is as if someone is ignorant of history.

Crop fuels compete in two markets, both fuel and food.  This raises the price for both.  In order to keep the streams separate you need to give up on things like corn based ethanol, wind power, and go with some stuff that works.  Nuclear energy, CTL, and then invest in things like algae based biofuels and wave power generators.


When I came to Fort Benning I bought a brand new wireless router.  Halfway through my course I upgraded my iPhone to a Samsung Galaxy (running Android).

And it turns out that the moment I connected my brand new Android phone to my brand new wireless router Google used the GPS feature on my phone to log the physical location of my router.

You can head here http://samy.pl/androidmap/ to see if your location has been compromised.

I guess it is a sad day in the tech world when Microsoft has more respect for user privacy than any other option on the market.

Bottom line, smartphones may be convenient, but you are probably better off with a burner phone.

22 April 2011


I have heard some serious talk from professionals and pundits that the next big series of war will be over access to water.

I really don't see that happening.  The technology to supply water is well known and cheaper than a war with new technologies emerging.


When wars cost less than water it makes sense to have a war over water.  However, as the cost of water goes down then obviously it makes less sense to go to war over it.

Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait because oil is expensive.  Saddam didn't invade Saudi Arabia to acquire large stocks of high grade silicon.  In order for water to hit 140 bucks a barrel either the dollar has to massively devalue (likely) or there needs to be a severe shortage of water (unlikely).
Stories never change...

Disney's "The Lion King" is just an updated "Hamlet."  Speaking of "Hamlet" it is also the basis for "Sons of Anachy" (expect the letters that the Little Prince picked up this last season to take the place of the Ghost of Hamlet's Father next season).

Pretty in Pink is just an updated "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."  If you don't get it, Ducky is Quasimodo and Molly Ringwald played Esmeralda.

Most entertaining post in a while.

Over at TheFiringLine a pretty reasonable question came up, asking for a quality 3 to 4x scope in the 300 dollar range...

And this was, I kid you not, one of the responses...

Never fall into the Tactical Trap also known as the 3 gun shoot trap
If you ever have to use your gun(s) to protect your home/family I can gaurantee 3 things
#1 the bad guys will not care that you have a $500 sight on your rifle. They may even be trained to overwhelm your system by scattering across the yard as they advance. (yea, retarded unless thier object is to die for Allah) OOPS anti PC? MY BAD!
If you live in a surburban development your shooting ranges are "about" @250 max. Get used to the idea that you will have less than 1 second to engage a target at that range. There are no fools out there, they are smarter you (or your wife)
SWARMS; 30 and larger, it's the old KamiKazie or Banzie charge.
Honestly prep for that, pre loaded large cap mags, lots of them, be ready to lay down fire into a beaten zone that might have a house/home as a back stop.
The baddies learned thier rules of engagment from the VC in the 1960's TET Offensive and tried it out in Algeriers and won, again in France and "lost" (could have fooled me)
The NEW RULES are whats learned via Hezboall?ah
EXPECT mad rushes as well as mortar and rockets.
Tunnels, Bridges, Overpasses, Underpasses. Freeway interchanges. Choke Points
It's all old warfare, all over again, city warfare, The collage students are so happy to destroy what thier LIBERAL PARENTS CREATED FOR THEM
OBTW,, They target children, to undercut our reproduction, genocide?//

Since I couldn't make this up if I tried, let us examine why you shouldn't drink and post after skipping your meds for schizophrenia.

The original poster wanted references for a scope, not some deranged monologue about fighting off Muslims in your neighborhood.

Spelling counts.  Don't drink and post...

I still don't know what this guy meant by "overwhelm your system" but then again I'm not an elite team fighter...

Seriously, the crazy, it hurts.

21 April 2011

Command Economy Failures

The idea of a Command Economy, centrally planned by the finest minds of a nation, regulated by impartial and ethical regulators and inspectors, has been a hallmark of good Socialists everywhere.  These are the most regulated markets in the world.

And everywhere it has been tried it has been an utter failure.  And the defense of good Socialists everywhere is, "It hasn't worked because the right people aren't in charge."

Which is complete and utter BS.  There is no one smart enough, clever enough, and wise enough to plan something as complex as a national economy.  The only way to get enough brain power together is to involve EVERYONE in the marketplace.  And once everyone has their piece of the planning pie, you have in essence a "free market" economy.

Why don't people buy Russian Sports cars?  Because there is really no such thing.  If you want a sports car you have to get it from a country that lacks a command economy.  No bureaucrat worth their salt would allow something as "frivolous" as a Corvette or Lamborghini to be manufactured over twenty or thirty craptastic commuter cars.

Now the failures of the free market (human nature) are also completely evident in the Command Economy.  In Russia there were several markets.  The "Public Market", "Black Market", "Political Privileged Market", and the "Military Market" which had various degrees of both quality and availability.

Let us compare the "military market."
Who made better tanks, the Free world or commie world?  Free World.
Who grew more wheat?  Free world.
Who made better jet fighters?  (it was neck and neck for a while) but it was the Free World.

We don't need to compare the "public market" do we?  In the free world the supermarket won't go without toilet paper on the shelves for six months.  In Soviet Russia, it happened.

The Free Market is the same mechanism of action that allows Open Source Software to succeed, many eyes looking at problems connected to many brains thinking about problems.  In a Command Economy you have many fewer eyes and many fewer brains.

In the end the Command Economy lacks innovation and is constantly playing catch up to the free markets of the world.  China saw explosive economic growth by backing away from the command economy model.  This is not rocket surgery.

But as I wrote previously, a truly free market is a very dangerous place.  Here in these United States we have neither a command economy or free market system.  We have a very meddlesome government that is almost constantly rewriting the rules or stepping in to stop "too big to fail" companies from succumbing to consequences of their own immoral behavior.

19 April 2011

Free Market Morality

ArcticPatriot brought up a good point about how Enron and Worldcom could not have been the fault of a free market simply because they didn't exist in a free market.  This is true, however by the definition of "free" as in "unhindered" there is no such thing as a truly free market.

Back deep into the history of humanity the oldest written records are those of agricultural contracts.  You can't have contracts without trusting someone at their word.  If you trust someone at their word and they break their word, what do you do?  Well if you are anything like the ancient Hebrews you plead your case in front of a judge and get a judgement.  Ever wonder why large parts of the the Old Testament read like obscure case law?  Because it largely is just that.

A market cannot exist without two people.  And whenever two people try to do anything financial a lawyer will eventually show up.  Enough lawyers and judges and eventually you have an established contract law system.  Eventually markets are necessarily "bounded" by law, specifically contract law.  In essence the original Judges were the Regulators, and both providers and consumers were the marketplace watchdog agencies.  Human nature hasn't changed since humanity began, and we still have judges, consumers, providers and watchdogs...

Now in a market we have "short term" and "long term" strategies.  A short term gain can kill your long term prospects, and a long term plan can cause a short term loss.  Some strategies are short term gain and long term gain (such as selling seeds then switching to selling fertilizer then switching to selling weed killer).  Or selling software, hardware, and upgrades through service packages.

Morality in the marketplace is simply being a man of your word, that you fulfill your contracts.  A short term gain can be had by being immoral, either through intentionally not fulfilling a contract (taking the money and running essentially) or trying to deliver a substandard product and hope you win your case in front of the judge.

The point is that both moral and immoral behavior are viable strategies for the short term.  For the continuing long term only moral behavior is rewarded by the market, but immoral is a definite choice for the short term.

That Enron and Worldcom were able to act in an immoral manner for their own short term gain is a failure of the market to identify and punish immoral behavior.  We know that it wasn't a failure of the bounds of the market (after all, the legal boundaries were effective in sending executives to jail) but a failure of players in the market to choose moral behavior.

And that is what the Free Market cannot do, it cannot impart a morality into humanity.  Alan Greenspan said "What collectivists refuse to recognize is that it is in the self-interest of every businessman to have a reputation for honest dealings and a quality product." But that is very different from actually being an honest dealer with a quality product.  And as Greenspan concluded, the financial markets can not effectively regulate themselves because the short term gains brought on by immoral behaviors are too tempting to pass up.

If we take a look at the housing crisis and things like "liar's loans" or "No Income, No Asset" loans we see the financial sector following a case of "everybody else is doing it, and if I don't I will be left behind."  And so big banks like Bear Sterns went under, while small town banks that kept high loan standards and didn't try to pass off the debt did well.  The whole model was flawed, but everyone was doing it because it was so profitable in the short term.

This is why the free market fails, because a mortgage outfit in Podunk sold a "NINA loan" to a Wall Street Firm who then mish mashed and hashed a bunch of different loans into a "Mortgage Backed Security" and got a triple A credit rating on it to sell to retirement fund managers.  Everybody made money in the short term, from the mortgage outfit all the way through to the retirement fund manager.

Now, do I want a centrally planned Marxist economy?  Hell no.  But I don't want a complete lack of regulation either.  A simple law preventing the buying and selling of debt on a secondary market would have prevented the Housing Bubble in the first place.  Because if the mortgage outfit had to hold on to that "NINA" loan there is no way they would sign the contract.  Unfortunately our "free" market allowed people to pass risk and fraud down the line to eventually collapse the whole system.

I've read it vs. I've done it...

Knowledge is gained mainly through two mediums.

First is your own experience.  You go and do something whether it be a chemistry experiment or enlist in the Army.

Second is you rely on someone's experience other than your own.  This is where history makes its money.  You can't obviously go and live the 18th Century, but you can sure read a whole damn lot about it.

With the exception of some of the "hard sciences" the bulk of "Edumacation" here in these United States is based on second hand experience.  This is obviously the cheapest way to do it, but it is also the easiest way to indoctrinate a large quantity of youth with wrongheaded ideas.

Here are two things that I was taught in school based solely on secondhand knowledge.
The landfills are filling up.
The earth is warming and it is all the fault of SUV drivers.

In Fifth Grade I had to read about the "barge that no one wanted", the Mobro, which was used as anecdotal proof that landfills were dangerously overfull.  Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth, landfill capacity was actually increasing and has been since.  Yes there are fewer overall landfills, but the ones now operating are larger and more efficient.  Just like the meat packing industry, we went from thousands a few decades ago to a handful today.

So the "landfills are filling up" myth was easier to debunk than the "earth is warming because of SUVs" myth.

And it is a myth, because there are no well designed experiments that can show the mechanism of action proposed by the AGW crowd is in fact viable.  As "greenhouse gasses" were explained to my Fifth Grade brain, "greenhouse gasses trap and reflect IR radiation back down to Earth instead of letting it escape into space."  Which is a horrible mangling of an extreme over simplification.  What "global warming" as proposed by those who subscribe to this theory, is that increasing CO2 content in the atmosphere will change the heat carrying capacity of the atmosphere to the point where it will get warmer, the same way that a thicker blanket on top of you in the winter will keep you warmer.

This has some problems.  First is the "short wave in, long wave trapped" model hasn't been demonstrated.  Imagine trying to boil a pot of water with a blowtorch, if you heat the bottom of the pot you can achieve a boil fairly quickly as the heat naturally wants to move upwards.  Now imagine trying to boil that same pot of water with the same blowtorch, but instead from the top down.  You have the same amount of energy going into the system, but you will have fantastically different results in terms of whether or not you can achieve a boil (the engineer in me says with a big enough torch most anything is possible).

Now the sun is the blowtorch, and the water is the atmosphere, and the pot is the surface of the earth.  So how does the sun heat our atmosphere?  This is a good question because understanding the mechanics is key.  The atmosphere is largely transparent to solar radiation, but the surface of the planet is not.  The surface is warmed by the solar radiation, and CONVECTION warms the air.  Cool air drops and comes into contact with the surface where is warms and then rises to be replaced by cooler air.  Changing the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere does not change this cycle of convection cooling.

If CO2 were to absorb more long wave IR, then it would simply go higher into the atmosphere before releasing that energy.  Which is why the AGW crowd is looking very hard at weather balloon data, because if the atmosphere is warming, it should be warming at high altitudes long before the surface data.  But I hear about surface data all the time from AGW supporters.  I bet you do too.

And to get back to the "I've read it vs. I've done it" go ahead and get a pot, blowtorch, and water and see for yourself if there is a difference.  It is a gross oversimplification of the planetary system, but the principle is the same.  And anyone who says "it's too complicated to explain" is full of BS. 

And finally, I do believe the Earth is in a mild warming trend, but due solely to solar forcing.

17 April 2011

Atlas Shrugged...

I didn't see it.  Not in my viewing area, but had a conversation with a fellow ociffer who also expressed a desire to see it.

You see, having read the book, once, a long time ago, I appreciate Ayn Rand's objectivist philosophy as the perfect counterpoint to Marx. 

But just as I know from history that following Marx leads to suffering.  I also know that following Rand leads to large scale economic growth and inevitable corruption (humans are corrupt, Rand never dealt with this and simply washed the criminal element into the parasites).  Unfortunately we can see that the free market without effective restrictions on immoral behavior leads to Enron, Worldcom, etc.

Because the fly in the ointment of Rand's philosophy is her stance that all effort or labor is in essence moral.  As any criminal can tell you, morality has nothing to do with their efforts.

I think Cage The Elephant's "Ain't no rest for the Wicked" is an appropriate soundtrack for this post...

Done gone and done it.

The debt ceiling has been raised ten times in the last decade.  Republicans have already promised to raise it again.  This is because EVERYONE knows what is necessary to NOT raise the debt ceiling and there is a complete lack of spine to do the right thing.

Guess what that means?

If you answered? "It will likely get raised again next year" you are more than likely right.

You know what I want to scream at my congresscritters?


You could cut DEFENSE completely and no one in the bean counter section would notice.  YOU HAVE TO CUT ENTITLEMENT SPENDING, Social Security, Medicare, Medicade.

There is NO OTHER OPTION.  The numbers don't add up.  Grow a spine and do the right thing for once in your career."

The federal government doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.

14 April 2011

Terrain Analysis

The acronym OAKOC stands for "Observation and fields of fire", "Avenues of Approach", "Key Terrain", "Obstacles" and "Civil considerations".  This is a tool used to analyze the military aspects of terrain.

Take your map, and put acetate over it.  

Observation and Fields of Fire means you should ask these questions.  Where can I see, where can I shoot (hint, vegetation doesn't stop bullets very well), where can't I see, and where can't I shoot?  Trace any terrain that is severely restricted in green (the color of obstacles) and put hashmarks through it.

Avenues of Approach include, dismounted, vehicular (not just roads, but things like dirt bikes or 4x4s, boats, and airborne assets).  This means both friendly and enemy.  How they come and go, how do you come and go?  Trace enemy routes in red, friendly in blue. 

Key Terrain.  This is any piece of ground that provides anyone any sort of advantage.  Circle key terrain in purple.

Obstacles.  These can be walls, ditches, rivers, forests, swamps, etc.  Any severely restricted terrain put hashmarks going the other way, or fill in solid green.

Civil considerations.  If you are a huge monstrosity of an unstoppable Army, beating up on the civilians is a surefire way to stoke the insurgency.  If you are an insurgent, you need to swim as a fish among the sea of civilians.  For culturally sensitive landmarks like churches or libraries, outline in Red or Purple.

In the end, your overlay should look like a bunch of colors that make avenues of approach and key terrain pop out at you.  This makes planning an offense or defense much easier.

Hand to Hand

Today I tested out of Modern Army Combatives Program Level 2.  This means that I am one four week class away from being an instructor.  It doesn't mean anything else.

Cause no matter how badass of a McNinja you think you happen to be, any idiot with a shotgun can end you.

Be vigilant.  Trust your instincts to keep you out of situations that would require you to trust your training. 

13 April 2011

The Debt Ceiling

If someone asked me what is the biggest threat to American security right now, it would be the Democrats call to raise the debt ceiling.  If the debt ceiling is raised there are two likely extreme outcomes.

1. Life goes on as we know it.
2. Our money collapses.

Notice that "life goes on" is an extreme option, this is the 100% best case scenario and it is highly unlikely.  Right now real inflation is heading towards double digits http://www.shadowstats.com/ while Government Approved inflation numbers are around 2% http://www.inflationdata.com/inflation/.  This is typical of a government with its head in the sand and a populace that is unprepared to deal with real issues.

Anyone remember Stagflation?  Well the cycle STARTED around 1972 with OPEC market manipulation and didn't END until the mid 1980s.  Well boys and girls, this time the cycle STARTED with the dotcom burst, was exasperated by 9/11, dropped into a deeper cycle by the housing bubble, and that is the "stagnant" part of the economy.

The "inflation" portion started in 2006 with the election of a Democrat controlled Congress.  Money is being spent, but any financial adviser will tell you that simply spending money is a poor indicator of economic health.  Keynesian economics have never worked to pull a country back from a recession.  The sole successful Keynesian policy in history was the rearming of Germany under Hitler.

So here we are, in debt up to our eyeballs.  We have to borrow money to pay for discretionary spending, ALL discretionary spending.  Why? because we have no money left after the mandatory spending social programs that eat up 100% of all Federal Revenues.

Let me put it this way.  The FBI, ATF, DOD, DOJ, FAA, ICE, USM, DOEngy, DOEd, EPA, IRS, CIA, and the rest of the alphabet soup agencies, all their budgets are on borrowed dimes that adds to future MANDATORY SPENDING in the form of interest payments.

As anyone who has ever run into trouble with interest payments on credit cards will tell you, you might be able to swap your debt around for a little while, but unless you STOP SPENDING and start PAYING DOWN the debt eventually you will go BANKRUPT.

And when a nation goes bankrupt their currency becomes worthless.

So, the Current Administrations call to "Raise the Debt Ceiling" is a call to destroy currency.  The US Dollar can lose its status as a "reserve currency" overnight and become worthless internationally as well as domestically.  It happened to the German Mark, it happened to the Russian Ruble.  It happened to the Mexican Peso.  It will happen to the Dollar.

We can't raise taxes out of this mess (see Hauser's Law and the Laffer Curve) so either the Government is trying to make our money worthless to break China's financial hold on us (unlikely, that would require cunning genius instead of proven idiocy) or like the Wiemar republic, simply printing money willy nilly until the debt is paid.  Either way, we the people lose.

Got a lot going on right now...

So posting will vary between "sporadic" and "inconsistent" for a while.

Getting ready to graduate from the course I'm in, close down the apartment, move to Kentucky, and then get ready for Afghanistan. All the while trying to spend as much time with my family as I can.

So, if things are a bit random here are randomthoughtsandguns, well just bear with me. Regularly scheduled rants will probably pick back up soon enough.

11 April 2011

Why the Republican Party needs to Fracture

Because no matter how many spin Doctors they get the Republicans will not be able to shake their reputation as the "Party of the Rich" no matter that the Democrats are the party of the "Limousine Liberals."

But the Tea Party has no "party of the rich" stigma attached.  The Log Cabin Republicans have no stigma as "the party of the rich."

The more fractured the Conservative end of the spectrum becomes the better off it will be IF they can really agree on Big Tent Politics.  I guess as long as the fractured Right can agree on fiscal issues they would be better off than the liberals...

Cause the Democrats are all about the "Big Tent Politics" but couldn't even agree on a bloated budget when they had complete control of the Legislature and Presidency.

The Roth IRA, not exactly a "fiscal Frankenstein"

In what universe could the following possibly be true?

Roths drive up the federal deficit and cause other pain.

According to liberal tax happy Gerald E. Scorse the US Government is trading temporary revenue gains now for "100 Billion" a year in lost revenues down the line...  How something can be contributing to tax revenue NOW but also driving up the Federal Deficit NOW is beyond me.  I guess the mark of a good Leftist is how many contradictory ideas they can fit in their head at a single moment (or in a single Op-Ed piece for the LATimes).  Either Gerrie doesn't understand the concept of "tense" (as in past, present, or future as opposed to being tight or wound up).

He also claims that "Roth IRAs are tax shelters for the mega-wealthy."  (No really, I couldn't make this shit up if I tried, seriously) I almost hate to tell him that the amount of money you can put into an IRA doesn't even ping on the "Mega-Wealthy Radar of Greed" (patent pending) that every mega-wealthy tax shelter seeking plutocrat has as an accessory this season.

What Gerrie boy fails to fully articulate is exactly how 5,000 dollars (up to 12,000 a year for couples over 50) a year into a tax free account is such a bad thing.  Look Georgie, the money isn't "sitting idle" when it is in an account, it is "invested."  Setting that money aside, and if it really does grow over the course of SOMEONE'S LIFE to be maybe 1.2 million dollars, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  A good investment pays off.

What, not familiar with the term?  Ok, investing is where you take some money X, and let someone else use it for a while and maybe they make some money and pay you back with interest (your initial money X plus some added to it) or they go broke and you lose it all.  The difference between "investing" and "gambling" is really the amount of fun involved and comp'd drinks (/joke).

Gerrie then laments that someone could turn 70 years old and "not withdraw" money from their Roth IRA.  Here is a hint George, when someone dies, all accounts become part of an estate and someone else gets to deal with the crap of paying the death tax and then if the money doesn't go to someone designated, Uncle Sam happily steps in and takes the cash.  Death and taxes are like Rule 34, you can't escape them even if you try.

Short of withdrawing all the money from an IRA and then literally burning it, there is no way to keep Uncle Sam from getting some of it back.  People withdraw from their IRA to pay for things like property taxes, presents for the grandkids (sin tax on candy and sales tax on toys), food, services (lap dances are a service!) and even internet access.

So could there be a large sum of wealth that the Uncle Sam can't (for now) tax?  Yes, and that is the purpose of a Roth IRA.  Because Uncle Sam knows that the money it can't touch (for now) is still circulating in the system, being invested, and eventually it will find its way back into a taxable state (through sales tax or death tax).  And because the money going IN to a Roth is taxed at someones CURRENT tax rate it increases revenue NOW.  It may not get taxed on WITHDRAWAL, but it will be taxed once it is SPENT on those previously mentioned lap dances (single mom working her way through college, tragic really but we all have to do our part, for the children's sake).

10 April 2011

List of Primary Stability Tasks....

Enforce Cessation of Hostilities, Peace Agreements, and Other Arrangements, 
Determine Disposition and Constitution of National Armed and Intelligence Services, 
Conduct Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration, 
Conduct Border Control, Boundary Security, and Freedom of Movement, 
Support Identification, 
Protect Key Personnel and Facilities, 
Clear Explosive and CBRN Hazards,  

Establish Public Order and Safety, 
Establish Interim Criminal Justice System, 
Support Law Enforcement and Police Reform, 
Support Judicial Reform, 
Support Property Dispute Resolution Processes, 
Support Justice System Reform, 
Support Corrections Reform, 
Support War Crimes Courts and Tribunals, 
Support Public Outreach and Community Rebuilding Programs, 

 Provide Essential Civil Services, 
Tasks Related to Civilian Dislocation, 
Support Famine Prevention and Emergency Food Relief Programs, 
Support Nonfood Relief Programs, 
Support Humanitarian Demining, 
Support Human Rights Initiatives, 
Support Public Health Programs, 
Support Education Programs,  

 Support Transitional Administrations, 
Support Development of Local Governance, 
Support Anticorruption Initiatives, 
Support Elections, 

Support Economic Generation and Enterprise Creation, 
Support Monetary Institutions and Programs, 
Support National Treasury Operations, 
Support Public Sector Investment Programs, 
Support Private Sector Development,  
Protect Natural Resources and Environment, 
Support Agricultural Development Programs, 
Restore Transportation Infrastructure, 
Restore Telecommunications Infrastructure, 
Support General Infrastructure Reconstruction Program

Anybody else think that's a lot to be asking of a unit for "non Mission Essential Task" training?

This may be in poor taste....

But when a Dutch crazy person opens fire with an "automatic rifle" and kills six I think that just goes to show that US nutjobs are even more effective than European nutjobs, cause Jared Loughner killed six with just a handgun.

The bottom line, some people are crazy.  Some crazy people have access to guns.  And as any Mensa member will tell you, the following statement should be "It is impossible to determine if someone is crazy based on whether or not they have access to guns."

So Joan, about those "effective common sense" laws that prevent this kind of thing?  Laws don't prevent shit.  Laws give you a legal mechanism to prosecute people who do a certain type of action, you genocidal twit.

Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield

Step 1, Define the Battlefield.  This is critical because you cannot prepare everywhere for everything.  Determining the area in which you will fight will allow you to adequately determine later on resources required to effectively execute a course of action.  Choose something too big for your organization and you will spread yourself too thin, choose something too small and you will be blindsided when the enemy comes at you from somewhere you didn't plan for.  A good bet is to choose a small area for a specific operation then look at everything surrounding it within a reasonable distance (such as rocket fire range or range of enemy aircraft).

This can be a geographic area like a County, City, or neighborhood.  It can also be used to define information ops, such as talk radio, internet blogs, cable news, local print media, international news organizations, etc.  The more specific you make your limits the better your later planning will be.  (Do you really think that the astro-turf campaigns of the Leftists don't hire people to call radio shows to discuss specific talking points?)

Important in this step is the terrain analysis of your entire Area of Operations.  The acronym OAKOC will help you do this.  For modern conflicts I recommend identifying Key Terrain first, and then identifying Key Terrain again after having looked at; observation and fields of fire; avenues of approach, key terrain, obstacles, cover and concealment.  That will make you look at Key Terrain three times. In an urban environment streets and buildings are likely to be key terrain.

Drawing overlays on a map (for physical geography) or creating network diagrams (for cyberwarfare) or even spheres of information (for information wafare) will allow you to visualize the battlefield much better.

Step 2, Describe Battlefield Effects.  This goes back to the "War Fighting Functions" to accurately describe yourself and the enemy.  The more specific you can get the better.  If the enemies Command and Control node is a specific server at a specific location that gives you more options than simply saying "the enemies main IP address is or what not.  If the enemy has a Movement and Maneuver advantage you need to know exactly where is their motorpool, what is the sustainment plan to support those assets.  List out everything you have and the enemy has in terms of war fighting functions.

Step 3, Evaluate the Threat.  At the start least this should be a list of assets and their capabilities, such as "the enemy has three platoons of four squads each.  They are capable of engaging with direct fires out to 800 meters and can maneuver dismounted at 4 miles per hour over the terrain of our Area of Operations."

Once you have that complete, you need to pull the doctrine for how the enemy uses Platoons and Squads to create your doctrinal templates (how the enemy conducts operations without respect to terrain).

At the end of this you should know that in order for the enemy to be effective with his medium machine guns or heavy sniper rifles he needs to be no closer than X distance and no further than Y distance.  Machine gunners need Fields of Fire and snipers need loopholes.  The more accurately you now the capabilities and requirements of the threat the more likely you are to put them on your map where they will end up in real life in the next step.

Step 4, Determine Threat Courses of Action.  So now that you know the enemies strengths and composition, this step determines the enemies disposition on the battlefield.  The acronym AGADAP will help (analyze relative combat power, generate options, array forces, develop a scheme of maneuver, assign headquarters, prepare a Concept Sketch) to place the enemy on your map where they are most likely to be in real life.

Not listed is the enemy mission, and the more specific you can get about this the more it will help with arraying forces.  If the enemies mission is to "secure the downtown financial district" it means he will array his forces there instead of the docks.  Specificity is key to accuracy.

And that (temporarily) ends IPB

Now, once that is done you can set your recon elements out to CONFIRM or DENY your IPB and give you a clearer tactical picture before you start your plan on how to fight.  Of course once you have new information it updates the IPB process as necessary.  The more intelligence you can gather to confirm or deny the enemy composition, disposition, and strength, the more you are armed to respond in a manner that ensures success.

Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield

09 April 2011

Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness month.  If you see random puzzle pieces displayed, that is why.

Head over to wired.com and take the test see how normal you are.  If you are like me and score in the high 30's you can still live a normal life.  If you know people who "think in pictures" and are unable to process emotions without resorting to logical methods they are probably somewhere on the autism spectrum. 

There is a statistical link between left handedness and autism http://www.dana.org/news/cerebrum/detail.aspx?id=656 which has not been fully explored.

There is also a link between having a Y chromosome and autism that also has not been fully explored.  http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200401/autism-whats-sex-got-do-it

Autism also seems to have more or less random associations with genetics and race.  http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5601a2.htm

Or you could just watch "Rainman" again, cause Dustin Hoffman was really good in that role or watch Claire Danes portray Dr. Grandin in "Temple Grandin".  Trying to understand someone on the autism spectrum is probably as hard for normal people as it is for someone with Aspergers or Autism to understand normal people. 

My wife has told me that if she could fix one thing it would be my "social awkwardness" and while I wish I could for her sake, that may be a bridge too far. 

Planned Parenthood Funding

During the 2008 Election Cycle Planned Parenthood donated over a quarter million dollars to various Democrats.

It is high time for a new campaign finance rule, groups that receive Federal Taxpayer Dollars cannot contribute to any politicians, political parties, or 501/527 type groups.

I dislike abortion, but the law of the land being is what it is I am saving my energy other battles.  But it looks suspicious when the Democrats choose to shutdown the government over Planned Parenthood when PP overwhelmingly contributed to Democrats (and 13,000 to Republicans).

Defense Spending

With budget cuts coming I would like to say that there are some very good reasons for cutting Defense Spending.

First off as politicians of both houses have demonstrated when there is a large military it will get used.  Having fewer military options may make administrations think twice before swinging the military broadsword.

Secondly, this country can no longer afford a large standing military force. 

Lastly I'm not saying that Defense should be the only area with budget cuts, far from it, but Republicans are going to HAVE to compromise and cut defense if they want to get meaningful cuts in wealth redistribution.  Compromise may be a bitch, but if we get a balanced budget and reduced debt it is worth it.

So what what would a smaller military look like, and what would its capabilities be?

Well the Army could shrink to 300,000 active duty and the National Guard and Reserves could expand by 180,000 which would essentially reduce personnel spending by 3/8ths.  This would leave enough combat power on Active Duty to conquer a small country and have enough "expansion power" from the reserve forces to conduct stability ops, nation building, etc.  Gen Franks may have screwed up the "post combat operations" portion of Iraq, but he demonstrated that when Americans use their technical advantage it makes up for a lot of bodies in terms of combat power. This would also make the Active Duty Army look a lot like the current Marine Corps in terms of bodies.

Cancel the next generation of Infantry Carrying Vehicle.  The technology just isn't there to give us something significantly better than either a Bradly or Stryker.  The Marines have already canceled their latest amphibious assault vehicle (which kinda sucks for them because the current generation of amphibious tracked vehicles are getting VERY long in the tooth).

Cancel the Joint Strike Fighter, buy more F22s as F15 fleets wear out to an end strength of about 400 F22s.  The flyaway cost for an F22 is already lower than the projected cost of an F35 and there is no tactical advantage of the F35 over the F22.  It was a pie in the sky idea in the first place to try to get the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps to agree on a common airframe.  There are very good reasons why the different forces fly different aircraft.  The potential cost savings of the F35 program have already been thrown down the contractor black hole.

The Navy needs to not get new ships and focus heavy on maintenance of what they have.  The "War on Terror" probably hurt the Navy more than any other service.  The Navy needs more bodies to properly man the ships that they already have in the inventory. 

And what should Republicans demand in return?  Get rid of the TSA, they are ineffective and a complete waste of resources.  Take away the BATFEs police powers and transfer them to the FBI, a regulatory agency that also has police power is like the fox guarding the henhouse.  Get rid of the Department of Energy, it was created under Carter to ween us off oil and it is a complete failure.

I know this is ambitious, but this is serious business.  If the budget doesn't change then events will change it for us.

08 April 2011

Oh wow, the stupid, it HURTS!

Liberals can't do math.  Must come from believing in rainbow farting unicorns or something.  I found this "soak the rich" hit piece through my family on Facebook, and the numbers just don't add up.

Here is the "money quote"...
If the rich were taxed at the same rates they were half a century ago, they'd be paying in over $350 billion more this year alone, which translates into trillions over the next decade. That's enough to accomplish everything the nation needs while also reducing future deficits.

From Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was secretary of labor during the Clinton administration posted at salon.com here.

As a "professor of public policy" I don't expect Robert Reich to be able to count past ten without removing his footwear or be able to spot a logical fallacy if it slapped him in the face. Because he WROTE a huge glaring logic error into his article...
(During the 1950s, when the top rate was 91 percent, the rich exploited loopholes and deductions that as a practical matter reduced the effective top rate 50 to 60 percent -- still substantial by today's standards.)

Robert, 91 minus 60 equals 31, which is less than 35.  That you consider todays 35% tax rate on the "super rich" and corporations WAY too low then you either can't do math or you don't understand that increasing taxes may not give you that extra 350 Billion in Revenue.  Which wouldn't cover the deficit for even two months of ObamaSpending.

Hauser's Law will not be violated.  If the FedGov spends more than 19% GDP then it is borrowing money.  The Democrats promised to "Eventually get spending down to 21% of GDP" which is the same as saying, "We are committed to increasing the public debt in an unsustainable manner." for all the world to see.


And a government that is shut down is at least a government that isn't spending.

07 April 2011

Third World America

What defines the Third World is a distinct lack of what we consider basic services such as water, sewer, electricity, and telecom.  This does not mean a lack of high technology, you can't hardly go anywhere in the third world without running into someone who knows someone with a cell or satphone.

But America is heading for the third world.

First because energy demand will only increase and not decrease no matter how "energy star efficient" appliances people buy. 

Second because energy production is being set up for unreliable "green" solutions.  Unreliable production equals unreliable service, spikes in prices, and areas with and without access to energy.

Once energy goes tits up, telecom has to adapt to a more "robust" form of communication. 

Energy is the key to keeping things running.  Expertise is key to keeping things running.  It could come quick in the form of a high altitude EMP, it could come slow on the stranglehold plan the current administration seems to be following.  And I haven't even talked about the looming currency crisis that will make people think fondly of the "Great Depression" and "Stagflation" at the same time.

One good gust of wind and the whole house of cards can come down.


Saw a small jar of marmite yeast extract in the grocery store and so I picked one up.  It tastes like jellied soy sauce.

I think I will be able to use it as a substitute for soy sauce for a friend with a soy allergy by watering it down.

06 April 2011

5.56 and 7.62

Recently yet another article Small Caliber Lethality: 5.56MM Performance in Close Quarters Battle was written about how the 5.56 is perfectly adequate for CQB ranges.  A lot of data was hidden which makes the conclusion suspect, but that isn't the point.

The 5.56 is perfectly adequate for CQB ranges, no doubt about it.  Any modern rifle cartridge with a "frangible" projectile between 50 and 200 grains and a velocity over 2700 fps is perfectly adequate for CQB.

But even a 30-30 with a 150 gr soft nose bullet will leave a larger permanent bullet wound than any military small arms bullet save OTMs.

The failings of the 5.56 cartridge are not in CQB, the failing is in lethality over the full engagement range of the weapon systems.  After about 200 meters there just isn't enough velocity/energy to cause 5.56 fmj bullets to fragment (although they will still invert in the first few inches of soft tissue).

This is why Army doctrine as taught at OCS, OBC, and MCCC includes the lessons on Machine Gun Theory frankly states "30 Caliber machine guns remain the most casualty producing weapons as evidenced by after action reports from Mogadishu."  I've had to take that particular machine gun theory class three times now, so it has stuck with me. 

Bottom line, 308 kills things just as dead as 223 and much more consistently out to the maximum effective range of the weapon systems.  Weapons in 5.56 can engage targets at 600 meters, but lethality in terms of getting an enemy out of the fight is lacking.  Hence dusting off the M14s in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To sum up, I will quote Froggy....

Fr. Frog's Rules of Terminal Ballistics
1) There ain't no magic bullets!
 2) Only center hits count
 3) Make the biggest diameter hole you can to let blood out, air in, and destroy as much stuff as you can with each hit
 4) Small bullets may expand, but big bullets never shrink.
 5) Make the deepest hole you can to insure that vital organs and nerve centers can be reached and destroyed from all impact angles.
 6) "Service" your threat until it is no longer a threat.
 7) No small arm can guarantee 100% instant incapacitation of a determined adversary--man or beast.
 8) Don't believe manufacturer's claims.
 9) Inconsequential increments are meaningless.
10) Most gun writers are pathological liars.

Mercenary Ethics

You do the job you are paid to do.  That is the "mercenary ethic" that just happens to be *gasp* the same as Joe the Plumbers "work ethic."  Some people are paid to provide violence.  Either for actual fighting or to be available for actual fighting.  You can call it "security contracting" if you want, but in the end it is paid violence.  This says nothing about whether the cause for violence is noble or altruistic.  The old saying, "Football players and whores are in the same business, ruining their bodies for other peoples benefit" runs true for Soldiers of all stripes (and fortunes).

But this brings us back to the topic of killing.  It takes a certain type of person who can kill for a paycheck.  Someone who can turn off the human empathy that he or she would feel towards the victim and yet not become the psychopath that the Brady Bunch believes all gun owners to be.  Joan Peterson likes to say that all gun owners are people on the edge ready to snap without warning.  This couldn't be further from the truth.  Very few people have the capacity to kill without first being threatened.

Most people have no problem with the use of force for self defense.  What most people are squeamish about is killing for reasons OTHER than self defense.  Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" boiled down the ethics of the jungle, "kill or be killed, eat or be eaten" which sums up generations of Western ethics on violence.  So when it is your job to kill for a paycheck, you are just another jungle predator killing to eat.  It isn't romantic, it isn't honorable, it just is what it is.  And I see little difference between those who sign a contract and wear a uniform and those who just sign a contract.  Serving under color of law is all fine and dandy until some illiterate tribesmen with a handicam beheads you to the sound of stirring music.

I've always tried to not BS myself and tell me that I'm doing things for some noble cause or some such.  I do keep a list of people in my head who are worth dieing for, but lately my service has felt less like service to them and more like work for an administration bent on giving the UN a lease with option to buy on the US Military for a global "peacekeeping" force.  There will always be people worth dieing for and killing for, but noble causes are few and far between.

I've had to take a long navel gaze over the years and ask myself I can kill to earn a paycheck and if I can live with myself afterward.  I'm still here so the answer seems to be yes.  A man I respect told me, "When you wake up three days in a row feeling like you can't make a difference in a fellow Soldiers life it is time to get out."  So far that hasn't happened to me yet and I hope that it never does. But when it does, it will mean that I have somehow disconnected from an organization that I have invested in, and that is a clear sign to let go.

05 April 2011

A man is known by the company he keeps, embracing extremism.

Everyone views themselves as "reasonable" most of the time.  And most of us surround ourselves with like minded individuals in order to feel comfortable in a "cultural norm" of sorts.

Which is how I came to understand that I am viewed by many as an "extremist" and there is nothing inherently wrong with that.  I am not a violent terrorist, nor do I advocate the overthrow of our government by force of arms.  But when I stopped and took a look at all the people that the .gov and media have labeled "extremists" and it resembles my blog roll, I guess I should be included in that group.

But I do wholeheartedly believe that if the people lack the means to resist tyranny that a tyranny becomes inevitable.  The creeping socialism of the European model may be the long slow death march of freedom but there is hope.  Other nations have successfully privatized portions of their social welfare schemes and decentralized their economies.  We can do it too.  We may have to do it.

But I still don't get what is so extreme about knowing some history and pointing out when "new ideas" failed in the past....

04 April 2011

Studying a study, testing a test

When I was in college, the infamous Evergreen State College, I took a class where the book "Studying a Study and Testing a Test" was part of the curriculum.  Say what you will about Evergreen, it is very possible to get a good education there.  It is also possible to slack off for four years and effectively learn nothing.  Although I'm pretty sure that is true for any institute of higher learning.

But getting back to "Studying a study", not all research papers that make it to publishing are created equal.  Some have a very small sample size which means that the only conclusion one can seriously draw is that further research is needed (the "vaccinations cause autism" scare was started by a study of only 7 autistic children IIRC).  Some show correlation but no relationship between the data sets (such as the humorous "Global Warming and Pirates" meme).  Al Gore is very quick to point out that temperature and atmospheric CO2 content are very closely correlated over a very broad time scale, but not so quick to point out that temperature LEADS CO2 instead of the other way around.  So, correlation does not equal causation (except when it does, and good researchers design experiments to precisely measure that relationship).

Sometimes researchers don't start with a hypothesis, and simply do a case controlled study and look at enough variables to see if something comes up.  When things DO come up they draw correlation where none actually exists.  Imagine doing a study of a laundromat and simply observing the patrons for eight hours a day for two months.  You would see patterns, and you would have data, but unless you started with a hypothesis such as "Blond women wash sexy undergarments in public to attract potential mates" then your data is simply too unfocused to answer that question.  Often times when a researcher falls into this trap they will publish anyway for fear of losing funding.  Publish or perish, and publishing bad stuff is better than not publishing at all.

Another trap is "selection bias."  If you were researching the differences between healthy and unhealthy people, how would you set up your experimental and control groups?  Ideally you would match for as many variables as possible such as age, weight, bmi, sex, height, skin color, eye color, family history, exercise habits, social status, income, eating habits, etc.  And even then you would only look for ONE particular ailment such as bunions, foot fungus, or brain cancer.  If you simply took a group of people A with brain cancer and another group B without brain cancer it would be highly unlikely that you didn't get some sort of selection bias leading to all sorts of weird data points.  Such as people with brain cancer spend more time in doctors offices, therefore if you want to avoid brain cancer you should avoid doctors offices.

There are more problems with studies, and while I was specifically studying clinical trials the method of analysis for other areas remains the same.  Gun control groups have been having fun with statistics for years now and crying foul every time someone points out that the data does not support their conclusion.  Racists on both sides of the color divide have done the same thing.  Using statistics as a hammer to beat down your opponent is simply "appeal to (false) authority", one of the classic logical fallacies.

So, if the data doesn't support your conclusion, what do you do?  Well you can do a "case study."  I use "Case Study" in quotes because when it is done properly by a Doctor it is designed to help OTHER DOCTORS deal with patients who may be suffering the same illness.  A case study is basically the story of one person.  When the audience is no longer Doctors, then the "case study" becomes "anecdotes" and ANECDOTES are NOT DATA.  For example Dave Grossman tells the story of a six year old who killed eight people with eight shots, five of them headshots and then he blames it all on video games.  Unfortunately there are others who have done more serious research who found that less than 1 in 8 young murderers routinely played violent video games.  Annie Oakley didn't go psycho, but she sure didn't get her skill from "Gears of War."

If someone is trying to convince you by "anecdotal evidence" you can bet it is pure and unadulterated hogwash.  Burt Rutan said the same thing about theories that require highly complicated models that don't reproduce the results of known history when he talked about global warming.  The truth is that you can feed bupkis into the Global Warming computer simulations and all they will throw back at you is global warming because that is what they have been designed to do.

To sum up, when the news media releases an article that says "Study shows" or "Studies show" I internally cringe because even among researchers not all research is equal.  And even when good research IS conducted it is possible to get random outliers, such as "Vitamin C increases risk of cancer" which was actually a pretty well designed study that happened to bring back weird results.  But with enough research those statistical outliers prove themselves to be just that.  Rule of thumb is that 1 in 20 research papers will show some outlier behavior. 

Whenever possible get your hands on the real research.  See for yourself if the numbers add up, if the experiment was well designed to answer a specific discrete question, if confounding factors were minimized, if the statistical relevance is high enough to warrant serious consideration.

03 April 2011

Anonymous strikes again....

So someone Anonymous left this little nugget of wisdom.  I realize that I am probably spitting in the wind here, people who let other people do their thinking for them will defend vigorously their favorite talking puppets.  Evidently Anonymous has drank Grossman's koolaid hook line and sinker.
The short answer is that video games facilitate the shooting of very well rendered human forms.

DOD uses much the same method. Starting at a simple ring target for form, moving on to a silhouette for placement (center mass and fatal T), and finishing up with lifelike targets (high quality images and/or mannequins).

None of this will lead to a Delta Boot Camp commando. What you do end up with is a person who is desensitized to shooting human forms. You get kids that are intimately familiar with small unit tactics. You get kids that already know the mechanics of sweeping.

I do not see how Grossman's postulations equate gun-grabbing.

Dude, I am in the Army.  I LEAD troops from the Nintendo and XBox generation. And our young soldiers STILL hesitate to shoot other human beings.  And they STILL get PTSD from some of the violence they witness and/or commit.  And our recruits going through Basic Training ARE even worse off than they were when I enlisted.  I went through the Army's 8 week BCT course, then they added a week.  Now BCT is up to ten weeks and they cut bayonet training entirely.
What makes the grass grow?  What makes the grass green?  What is the spirit of the bayonet? (If you don't know the answers to those questions, don't feel bad it is an inside joke to the rest of us)

Telling me how "The DOD trains" is trying to show the Nuclear Physicist exactly how much you know about electron orbitals...

According to the book "Snipers" by Craig Cabell and Richard Brown, "In World War II, the United States and its allies expended 25,000 rounds of ammunition to kill a single enemy soldier. In the Korean War, the ammunition expenditure had increased four fold to 100,00 rounds per soldier. In the Vietnam War, that figure had doubled to 200,000 rounds of ammunition for the death of a single enemy soldier."  The last figure I bothered to check about the War on Terror had a quarter million small arms rounds fired to every enemy killed.

The transition in the 1950's to the E type target to simulate shooting at people did not have a measurable effect on lowering the number of bullets shot to enemy killed.  If somehow it made people less sensitive to pulling the trigger on a fellow human being that is not shown by the numbers.

If people are more willing to pull the trigger on a fellow human being then the rounds expended to enemy killed should be going down, not increasing as they have been since WWI.  The truth is that semi-automatic weapons and the doctrine of "Fire and Maneuver" are the main reasons why our rounds to kill ratio looks bad, and as we continually carry MORE ammo we will continue to fire MORE ammo.

There was a relatively good, if not scientifically rigorous, article about "Natural Killers" and if you haven't read it, you can find it here.

The numbers are clear, we have gotten better at pulling the bangswitch, but we have NOT gotten better at actually killing.  So NO CORRELATION can be linked between using Video Games or Man Shaped Targets and an increase in effectiveness.  The numbers actually say the opposite, that we really should go back to training marksmanship by training people to put bullets at the center of circles as WWI had a pretty impressive rounds expended to enemy killed ratio (but if a quarter million rounds per enemy killed is the cost of avoiding trench warfare it is money well spent).

And if somebody tells me "but the DOD does it therefore it must be the most cutting edge bestest most tactictallist trainingest evah" I will choke a kitten. 

Look Grossman fanboys, those that have done RIGOROUS studies of violence find weak correlation AT BEST and the majority find no correlation.  Anybody can pick a few studies that do show weak correlation, ignore the studies that find no correlation, and then right a book about it (Grossman himself said that it was 8% of the population, barely above the 5% statistical significance threshold).  This is called "Cherry Picking The Data" and it is both offensive and dishonest.  It is what the Brady Bunch, VPC, and the rest do, so Anonymous, there is your tie in to gun control. 

And before some Grossman fanboy gets their panties in a bunch, when "On Killing" was published the data was more convincing.  Time has changed that.  Unfortunately Grossman hasn't changed his tune, making him either foolish at best or dishonest at worst.

01 April 2011

Dave Grossman is sorely mistaken

Dave Grossman would have you believe that playing "Medal of Honor" will somehow turn you into an "Elite Team Fighter" or some such nonsense.  The easiest way to show you that this isn't true is to observe the "XBox Generation" as they go through Basic Training.  Elite fighters they ain't....
The observation that violence in the media is causing violence in our streets is nothing new. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and their equivalents in many other nations have all made unequivocal statements about the link between media violence and violence in our society. The APA, in their 1992 report Big World, Small Screen, concluded that the "scientific debate is over." And in 1993 the APA's commission on violence and youth concluded that "there is absolutely no doubt that higher levels of viewing violence on television are correlated with increased acceptance of aggressive attitudes and increased aggressive behavior." The evidence is, quite simply, overwhelming.From Killology.com, Dave Grossman’s website
Unfortunately the current data set does not support the “debate is ended” statement.  According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting statistics violent crime is on a descending trend.  While The APA and AMA have made “unequivocal statements” 17 years ago the data set gathered since then has shown that the debate is far from over as a causal relationship and mechanism  of action cannot be positively identified.

There are many psychological and sociological processes through which media violence turns into violent crime. From a developmental standpoint we know that around the age of 18 months a child is able to discern what is on television and movies, but the part of their mind that permits them to organize where information came from does not fully develop until they are between ages five and seven. Thus, when a young child sees someone shot, stabbed, beaten, degraded, abused, or murdered on the screen, for them it is as though it were actually happening. They are not capable of discerning the difference, and the effect is as though they were children of a war zone, seeing death and destruction all around them, and accepting violence as a way of life.From killology.com

The work of Dr. James Fallon, a neuropsychologist at USC, shows that psychotic violent individuals require three things.  First a genetic predisposition followed by a pattern of severe childhood abuse, followed by exposure to extreme violence (not fantasy violence such as video games or television).  Dr. Fallon’s research is directly in opposition to the “debate is settled” proclamation by the APA.  Dr. Fallon has done fascinating research into generational violence in the Middle East (specifically Palestinians) and has come to several well thought out conclusions about the genetic component of violence as a survival trait for a violent world.  Also the three requirements for someone to become a killer (genetic, severe childhood abuse, and exposure to extreme violence) discounts any single source cause such as video games or television quite directly. 

The biggest problem for Grossman is that media violence rates are not correlated with violent crime rates. Ultimately the biggest problem for this body of literature is that for his theory to be true, media violence would be well correlated with violent crime (which has been cycling up and down throughout human history). By discussing only the data from the 1950s through the 1990s, media violence researchers create the illusion that there is a correlation, when in fact there is not. Large spikes in violent crime in the United States occurred without associated media violence spikes during the 1880s (when records were first kept) and 1930s. The homicide rate in the United States has never been higher than during the 1930s (reference historical UCR data freely available from the FBI). 

Violent crime rates (including among juveniles) dramatically fell in the mid 1990s and have continued to decline (through 2009, the most current data set available), during a time when media violence has continued to increase, and saw the addition of violent video games (Grand Theft Auto in a whole bunch of versions). Media violence researchers can not explain why many countries with media violence rates similar to or equal to the U.S. (such as Norway, Canada, Japan, etc.) have much lower violent crime rates (or why the UK has a rising violent crime rate despite increases in police spending, nanny cams, and a near total weapons ban). Huesmann & Eron's own cross-national study (which is often cited in support of media violence effects) failed to find a link between television violence and aggressive behavior in most of the countries included in the analysis (including America, and even in studies on American boys), which directly contradicts Grossman's assertion that murder rates will always double 15 years after television is introduced to a society.

Several scholars (e.g. Freedman, 2002; Olson, 2004; Savage, 2004) have pointed out that as media content has increased in violence in the past few decades, violent crimes among youth have declined rapidly. Although most scholars caution that this decline cannot be attributed to a causal effect, they conclude that this observation argues against causal harmful effects for media violence. A recent long-term outcome study of youth found no long-term relationship between playing violent video games or watching violent television and youth violence or bullying (reference "Video Games and Youth Violence: A Prospective Analysis in Adolescents", Christopher J. Ferguson, Journal of Youth and Adolescence)

Dave Grossman also discounts murder rates.
When we talk about violent crime, the first thing you have to realize is, you must ignore the murder rate. Because medical technology saves ever more lives, every year. A wound that, nine out of ten times would have killed you in World War II, in Vietnam you would have survived that same wound, nine out of ten times. This last year, I've written three encyclopedia entries, in the entry to the Oxford Companion to American Military History, and we've laid the scholarly foundation to say this: If we had 1930s-level technology in America--think of the 1930s now: no penicillin, no cars, no telephones, for all practical purposes, in most places--if we had 1930s technology, the murder rate could easily be ten times what it is. You've got to look at the aggravated assault rate, the rate at which people are trying to kill one another off. With that as our measure of crime--we're allowing for population growth--violent crime, per capita, has gone up sevenfold since 1957 to the middle of this decade. It's gone down just a tiny bit, recently, mostly because of a fivefold increase in the incarceration rate, and a good economy, but we're still six times greater per capita in the rate at which we're trying to kill one another off, than we were in 1957. From an interview conducted http://american_almanac.tripod.com/grossint.htm
However when we look at violent crime in general it does not discount the murder rate as the murder rate is closely correlated with the overall violent crime rate.  Violent Crime last peaked in the US in 1992.  The obvious implication is that violent crime is down from 1992 with a population of July 1, 1992, 254,994,517 to 2009 with a population of 305,529,237: U.S. population estimate for Jan. 1, 2009.  An increase of 10 million citizens corresponding to a decrease from 1,932,274 to 1,318,398 in the violent crime rate demonstrates a negative correlation between both population density and prevalence of violent video games with violent crime.

So if Grossman's conclusions don't fit the data, what does?

The data begins to Peak around 1992, which is 19 years after Roe V. Wade (1973).  Since 1992 crime statistics have fallen.  Alternate hypothesis, people who would have been violent criminals were aborted as fetuses instead and this is the casual link between falling crime rates despite an ever increasing number of “violent video games” in the US.  As an alternate hypothesis a diminishing pool of potential violent criminals due to legalized abortion supports the available data better than blaming media violence (remember, when we throw away what cannot be true, what is left is most likely true).

As an alternate we could take a look at the rates of childhood vaccinations and prescriptive medication for those under 25 for the same time period and see a correlative relationship.  As medication rates rise crime lowers, as vaccination rates rise crime lowers...  The problem with this is that the correlation cannot go further to a mechanism of action as with the abortion hypothesis. 

To sum up, media violence does not correlate with actual violence, and without correlation a causal relationship CANNOT be established (and when data sets do correlate a causal relationship cannot be determined without a well defined MECHANISM OF ACTION) which leaves Grossman as just another guy trying to sell something.  Dr Fallon on the other hand, can clearly point to both genetic and environmental factors with high confidence.

If you want to see where I got my numbers, go to http://www.ucrdatatool.gov/