31 December 2011

A New Year

Tonight is New Years Eve.  It is a day of hope for many.  It is a day to set goals, and make promises.  The tradition of a "New Years Resolution" is part of my culture.  I guess my resolution for last year was to "live fearlessly, no regrets."

It doesn't mean that regrets didn't come along.  But I resolved to live with the consequences of my choices, and knew that I simply can't have it all.  Wanna be a Soldier?  Good for you, it just means that a rewarding family life will be twice as hard.  Want to avoid a midlife crisis?  It means having to work to make your dreams a reality before they become a ball and chain of "might have beens" that drag you down into bitterness.

There is a campaign for gay/lesbian/transgender teens called "It Gets Better" that has some pretty powerful messages for surviving the High School years.  My HS years kinda sucked, being an outsider to a rural school doesn't win you many friends, especially when you are as socially awkward as I am.  But my life did get better, my 20's rocked, and while my 30's got off to a rocky start things are looking up.  My life did get better.  Better hasn't always been easy, and it hasn't always been fun, but having some control over the helm of my soul in the storm of life has given me no one to blame for my state of affairs but myself.

In High School much of my misery was simply from trying to not be awkward, not be an outsider.  As an adult I found that I can live with who I am.  I found a wife who manages to love me for who and what I am.  I have two sons who I will hopefully get to see grow into men and take control of their own lives. 

So I don't know what to change that would make my life better.  I do know that I have already made some changes that I am not sure were made out of cunning or cowardice.  When I was picked up for a functional area job it took me out of the running for taking over a company.  There are a lot of great things about company command, training men and building a team are two things I excell at. 

However there are things that will break your heart too.  Dealing with a soldier who beats his wife and children, fishing kids out of the drunk tank, watching a good soldier throw his career away during a divorce, watching young privates piss hot on a urine test.  Dealing with it all, counseling, chaptering, taking pay away, rendering honors as a casket is lowered into the dirt.  I've done all of that and I don't want to do it again.  Somehow I'm not as tough as I thought I would be at this point in my life.

I wish that I were a better leader, and so I resolve to become one.  I'm at the point in my career where I know that I'm not a bad leader, but I am no Matthew B. Ridgeway or "Terrible" Terry Allen.  You want to read about a leader who "rose to the occaision", read about Captain Robert Prince.  The book "Ghost Soldiers" and the movie "The Great Raid" go into length about his leadership style.  But the truth is that you don't rise to the occaision, you sink to your lowest level of competence.  So becoming more competent means I will become a better leader when it is hardest, when it is toughest, and when it counts.

28 December 2011

Wouldn't it be nice if there were one set of rules that applied equally?

Senator Bacon felt the hood coming off of his head, and a single bare lightbulb, not CFL he noted airily, swung overhead.

The idea that a sitting US Senator would be kidnapped by terrorists was something that they all had to prepare for, but Senator Bacon wasn't prepared for the reality, his bodyguards going down with the muffled flashes of sub-machine guns, the black masked bad guys kicking him down and flex cuffing his hands behind his back.  The hood over his head was the part where he knew that it had to be terrorists.

"Do you know who I am?"  Senator Bacon demanded, sensing a presence behind him.

"Yes, we do."  A cold voice said.  A folder slapped down on the table in front of the Senator and pages of correspondence and photos of meetings with Saudi princes came out.  "You are a terrorism supporter.  There is no use denying it."

But Senator Bacon couldn't NOT deny it, his meetings with a Prince of the house of Saud was purely business! "I met with Prince Saud as part of official business!  I was part of the envoy to Saudi Arabia for the last energy deal!"  The Senator's voice held plenty of righteous indignation.  "What are you? Some sort of fringe homeland group?  Let me go now and I won't press charges."

There was nothing but laughter from multiple voices now.

"So you admit to having correspondence with a known terrorism support, you admit that the correspondence in front of you is actually yours?"  The voice held a hint of bitter humor.

"Of course it is, I was doing my job!  Let me go and I promise you immunity."  Senator Bacon began to feel that something wasn't right.  The desk in front of him was a simple field desk painted olive drab.  The bare light above him was powered by a faint generator noise he heard in the distance.  The room he was in wasn't a room at all, but a field tent.  The sound of helicopters in the distance told him he was close to an airport.

"We can't do that Senator, you've made yourself an enemy of the state and will be held without counsel until we decide what to do with you."  The voice was calm.

"Screw You, I AM the state!" Senator Bacon yelled, angry beyond reason.  "Nothing gets done in this town without my hand in it, NOTHING!"

"No one is above the law" The voice replied.  Silence followed.  Minutes ticked by.

"What do you want?"  Senator Bacon realized that bargaining and anger didn't affect his captors.

"Simply to do the job that you gave us to do."  The voice said.

"What job did I give you to do?"  The Senator asked, bewildered.  He may have known the Prince wasn't entirely a savory character, but that is just the cost of doing business in the Middle East right?  The Senator couldn't recall hiring the services of a terrorist cell or mercenary group to do anything....

Footsteps came slowly around until a man in uniform, three stars on his chest came into the light of the single bulb.

"We are to detain all who are suspected of terrorism and supporting terrorism."  The Lieutenant General smiled a weary smile.  "And you have already admitted to supporting terrorism.  Unfortunately I cannot let you have a phone call or access to a lawyer since it would tip of your terrorist buddies.  The good news is that this is all perfectly legal.  You made it so."

"I demand to see an attorney."  Senator Bacon felt dead calm.

"That is impossible Mr. Bacon."  The 3 Star replied.  "You will be held until we feel we have a case strong enough to go to trial."

"But that could take YEARS!" the Senator wailed.

"It took us years to get Jose Padilla, but we got him." 

"But I'm up for re-election in 18 months!"  The senator couldn't imagine what was happening to him.  The law was supposed to PROTECT people from bad guys who wanted to blow them up, not a crooked politician who threw some business to a Saudi Prince who had arranged for several boys to entertain him on his last trip to Riyad...

"You are a terrorist supporter, not a sitting US Senator."  The 3 Star walked back into the shadows behind the former Senator Bacon. 

"Stop Tape" The 3 Star said.  "Seriously Ben, what the heck did you think would happen when you turned the military into your personal attack dogs?  I told you it was a bad idea two years ago.  I'll let Melinda and the kids know you are all right but will be incommunicado for a while.  It is the best I can do.  Start Tape"

The 3 Star walked out.  Ben Bacon knew where he was now, in a field outside Fort Lee, in an impromptu detainee camp where thousands of others had already been processed.  Taken into custody and whisked away to Gitmo or some foreign country for interrogation.  Ben Bacon knew for the first time in his life true powerlessness.

The truth of the matter stunned Senator Bacon into silence.  The light went out, and Senator Bacon was thankful for the darkness so he could weep unobserved.  Unobserved save for the IR camera recording his every tear.

27 December 2011

2 minutes of precision

Recently ArcticPatriot did a post on "the whites of their eyes" and explained why that is a very poor tactic for a freedom fighter (or terrorist if they lose) to adopt.  The practice of holding your shot until you knew it would count is fine when the enemy is on par with you.  When the enemy has an advantage in numbers, equipment, armor, and logistics support you need to adopt better tactics.  A little fish can eat a big fish, but only by taking many bites.

For an insurgent to "take many bites" he needs to out range the oppressor, or adopt a technique like an IED that negates some of the advantages of having armored vehicles.  But in the vein of "taking many bites" I'd like to talk about historic sniper rifles.

The old British L42A1 sniper rifle was topped with the Mk32 scope.  This scope had very "crude" 1 and 2 MOA adjustments compared to the 1/8 moa, 1/4 moa, and .1 mil (right around 1/3 moa) adjustments found on current scopes.  The 1903A4 sniper variant was aimed using the "holdover method" by many GIs.  The M91/30 PU sniper variant still remains the most produced sniper rifle ever fielded, all with a 3.5 power scope with no ranging capabilities built into the reticle, and the accuracy standard was 5 shots of 147 gr Light Ball ammunition into a group around 1.2 MOA at 100 meters.

But what does this tell you about the art and science of sniping?  First off that repeatability is more important than fine adjustment.  In practical terms 2 MOA is fine for chest shots out to about 600 yards.  The human chest is a plenty big target, and it isn't difficult to disrupt something that makes the blood go round and round or the air go in and out in that area.  Defeating body armor makes that a different story, so shots either need ammo capable of defeating body armor, or aim for something that isn't covered by Kevlar or ceramic.  Trust me, no one wears body armor all the time.

Second, huge magnification isn't required to place effective fire on target. A good rule of thumb is 1x magnification for every 100 meters that you would like to shoot, but you can get by just fine with .5x magnification for every 100 meters.  A 10x scope is overkill for most shots under 400 meters, but it is a pretty good compromise for a weapon system designed for shooting between 400 and 800.  Most European nations issued a fixed 6x scope for snipers until the recent rash of high power variables made everyone want to go all high speed low drag modern.  However, most of those variables hover around the 6x to 10x average power (Schmidt & Bender 3-12x, or any of the 4-16x scopes on the market).

What you want is good glass with repeatable adjustments.  If your optic is off 1/4 MOA when you return to zero don't let some snob tell you that you need to go out and buy a Nightforce or Leupold Mk4.  Practically anything under 1 MOA is insignificant to the target on the receiving end.  Don't let the quest for "one ragged hole" interfere with "first shot on steel" at any given range.  

Now, I'm not going to say that long range marksmanship is easy.  I will say that it isn't impossible.  It is something that you can get started doing by reading books freely available from your local library.  Most snipers I know have a really hard time keeping below 1 moa without an artificial rest.  Most high power shooters when fully slung up are good for 1 to 2 MOA, I don't know many who can stay sub MOA even fully slung up every trigger pull.  There are some masters out there who can clean the X ring standing unsupported, but that comes from years of practice.

Practice is still largely unregulated and there are no laws against dry firing.  And I'd rather someone have a 1,000 extra trigger pulls with their match load behind a 300 dollar optic than a 1,300 dollar scope with no trigger time.

It doesn't take benchrest level accuracy to put a bullet where it needs to go.  This is why Grandpa's Rem700 in 30-06 with a 3-9 power scope on top is considered a "dangerous long range murder weapon" by those who want to ban guns.  They understand that the capabilities of a 2 moa rifle off the shelf that can kill a deer at 500 meters can do the same to a jack booted thug.

Now, as far as ultra long sniper shots, yes they happen.  It also takes a dang long time and a little bit of luck to get good enough to pull them off.  The Brits teach their snipers that the "sweet spot" for sniping is between 400 and 800 meters, and there are good reasons for this.  Most jack booted thugs don't shoot well past 200 meters so return fire is largely ineffective, and a longer distance raises the detection threshold so you might stay concealed longer and have more time to leave unmolested.

None of this is "secret" data, folks can get this from watching the History channel and reading books in the library.  But put it all together and you can turn knowledge into skills.  And skills can save your life.  Train with what you've got, get to know your limitations in terms of range and weather conditions, and above all, fight smart.

25 December 2011

The Christmas Post

I have a list of names in my head.  Everyone on that list is someone who I would die for, suffer permanent maiming to my body, and even kill for.  Those are the people that are America to me, those are the people whom I serve to the best of my ability.  There are some people who will never make it on to my list because I truly believe that the world would be better off without them.  Jesus had such love that his list contained everyone.  I'm not that guy, I don't have that kind of love in my heart.  On occasion I have a lot of anger in my heart, but not the all encompassing self sacrificing love of Jesus.

While the origins of Christmas are a mixture of paganism and Christianity the story of a Savior who came to die for the sins of everyone so that they could live is a powerful story.  If you don't believe in Christ I'm not going to judge you, a persons faith is personal.  But this is my faith, and today is a holiday that can often bring out the best in people.  Being a Christian doesn't mean you are perfect, only that you believe in perfection and that we humans cannot attain it.

Last night I gathered with other soldiers in a candle light Christmas Eve service.  Most of us were middle aged men, gray peppered a lot of hair.  And we were all armed save the Chaplain.  But it calmed my soul to remember that even though my list is very small, that the one I worship is limitless.

I've been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, I've lost friends.  Sometimes I feel guilty that I survive when kids not old enough to buy beer end up in the grave.  One of the ways I deal with that guilt is to remind myself that while my mission to Uncle Sam may be over, God still has work for me to do.  I'll get to die when that work is done, and I pray that I'm up to whatever challenge that it may be.  In the end Christ's birth was a moment that we celebrate, and his death and subsequent resurrection were moments that we celebrate.  But it is how he lived his life that made both his birth and death important.  The lesson is that if you want to have a meaningful death you need to have a meaningful life.

I may not add any more names to my list any time soon.  I know me, and I've become very familiar with my personal limitations over the decades.  However, the Bible is a long book about flawed people who were put to a task that they could only accomplish through the Grace of God.  So the next time a 1000 pound VBIED goes off at the gate and puts the guy next to me in the TBI clinic for a month and I come out without a scratch I need to remind myself that God has a plan for me and I need not feel guilty that he is saving me for whatever it is.  He gave his Son a sheltered life up until the point where it really sucked, and Jesus withstood the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil to the end. 

20 December 2011

Careers...

If you don't like what you are doing, do something else.  That was career advice given to Private AM during basic combat training in the winter of '98.  So next year I'll take on my third career change for Uncle Sam while still in uniform.  Some folks go their entire career without changing an MOS.  Now I've loved every MOS I've held, but not every job I've been given to do in that MOS.

On the flip side, I'm getting a little long in the tooth for the Infantry, and I was already turned down for a job as a network engineer.  So onward and upward into a different field.  Can't talk about it it, all hush hush and whatnot.  Actually I'm not going to count my chickens until I graduate the school next year, I've signed the contract but ain't nothing over until it's over.

Which reminds me of a rather good quote from the movie "Killer Elite" which is "A war isn't over until both sides say it is over."  Profound wisdom in that statement.  We roll from Iraq and the first thing they do is start rounding up Sunni politicians, which is not a good sign in my opinion.  I wonder if the Sunni and Shia ever sat down and decided it was over.  Doesn't matter much to me now, I don't have a dog in that fight. 

Here in Afghanistan things aren't as bad or as good as the media makes it out to be, but the future is very uncertain and I am doubtful of getting an outcome favorable to America. 

Although the world doesn't look like it will have a spontaneous outbreak of peace anytime soon.  Peace is bad for business, at least mine.  Although now that AFRICOM has stood up the odds of deployment to third world hell holes only continues to increase.  I guess you have to stay in the game a long time before they send you to invade Fiji the Bahamas.

How contractors save money

Contractors save the .gov money in a few ways.

1.  Training, contractors require no training time.
2.  Benefits, contractors don't get any. 
3.  Flexibility.  The maximum end strength of the US Army is dictated by Congress, there is not limit on contracting.

So there you have it, the bottom line why it is cheaper to pay a contractor 100,000 dollars a year to do what you could have a buck private making 23,000 a year do.  The math is simple, 400,000 over 4 years for a one time contract verses a 20 year career plus a 30 year retirement, in the long run it saves over a million dollars.

Now, in the short term contractors are expensive, they cost more than the equivalent .gov employee (whether in the military or on the GS side of the house) but in the long run you don't pay a contractor a retirement pension.

Now a lot of current contractors are former or retired .mil personnel, so the .gov has already sunk the cost of training in most cases, and in the case of the retired contractors is already paying benefits.  Still, the current spate of "contracting" will continue because it defies the Congressional end strength limitations, and Congress won't authorize an Army big enough to do what it wants to do. 

So either Congress authorizes a bigger Army to provide both depth of personnel and strategic flexibility (not going to happen in this day in age) or Contractors will continue to sign on the dotted line and provide the "mercenary" force needed to augment the normal .mil forces.  I expect that contractors will remain a growing force in future conflicts.  When it gets to the point that our government is contracting out the traditional services of the combat arms (Infantry, Armor, Field Artillery) then we will have gone full spectrum.  Executive Outcomes proved that a small amount of professionals could deliver you a country, and Blackwater/Xe/Academi proves that no matter how dirty you get you can stay in the game.  We are in for interesting times, unless a spontaneous outbreak of peace occurs and puts us all out of a job.

17 December 2011

Britain, circa 1955

They say history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes...

So I'd like to think that at the sunset of an Empire the United States will follow the same pattern as other declining empires.  Particularly if we look to (formerly) Great Britain we can see some interesting parallels.

After WWII ended war rationing continued in Britain through the mid 1950's.  Britain paid back the last of its "war debt" to the US not too long ago, more than five decades past the end of hostilities.

Today the American Empire has spent a decade fighting and largely funding (through NATO) two wars, and there is no telling how long it will take to pay off the "war debt" from these excursions.  However, unlike Britain, the overall "war debt" is but a small portion of our overall debt. 

But if history does indeed rhyme, we will see our land forces decrease to a very small, very competent fighting corps which will be used in a series of "police actions" throughout the world for the next few decades.  We will see our Air and Naval forces continue to be "world class" but reduced in size and focused more on deterrence than any sort of force parity with potential rivals.

I can't predict the future, but I can see the past.  And as Empire's fade into the sunset they have awesome might, like an old heavyweight boxer who still has a few rounds in him.  However, like we found in Libya, there is not a whole lot of endurance behind those take down punches. 

So as our ability to outfight opponents decreases, our focus will shift towards defeating opponents before they have the power to fight in any sort of parity.  Smart policy would dictate more human intelligence collectors, more "Special Forces" working in conjunction with intelligence agencies, and a decreased conventional force.  I think that we will see the US leave South Korea before I retire simply because the token forces we have on the peninsula wouldn't do any more good than an extra bomber wing stationed out of Japan.  Our four remaining combat brigades in Europe offer no advantage in deployment time to those brigades housed at Fort Hood, or Fort Bragg. 

So, for better or worse, the decline of conventional forces stationed overseas will continue.  In the early 1990's we had 18 active Army Divisions.  By the year 2000 we had 10.  If you reconstitute our "modular brigades" back into Divisions then we could still field 10 Divisions worth of combat power.  That each Brigade is around 5,000 people and there are 4 brigades in each Division, simple math tells us that 200,000 Soldiers are part of the Army's "combat power."

What that doesn't tell us is what the jobs are of the other 280,000 Soldiers.  Obviously some are part of combat formations such as Fires Brigades (bringing the big guns and rocket artillery) or Engineer Brigades (providing mobility, counter-mobility, and survivability services) or whether they are part of something like a Theater Sustainment Command.  You can look it up if you like. 

But my point is that for the size of the Army there is a lot of "tooth to tail" going on (hence the need for so many contractors to free up "fighting power" that would be otherwise sucked into logistics).  So expect the Army to get downsized but have more "fighters" and fewer "fuelers" and many more "contractors" to fill in for the lost logistic support.

In short, America's Army will get leaner, meaner, and much more "mercenary" in terms of how business is conducted.  However I could be completely wrong and we could go to the "strategic" Army of the 1930's where an active duty cadre provided the "skeleton" of a unit to be filled out by draftees, although in this case the draftees would come from an enlarged Reserve and National Guard.  We didn't get into too many "brushfire wars" in the 30's, discounting some actions by the Marine Corps.  However, the threat of a 12 million man Army wasn't enough to keep the peace with Germany and Japan. 

We truly do live in interesting times.

14 December 2011

The system is broken

What do the movies "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", "The Next Three Days" and "Law Abiding Citizen" have in common?

They are all about how the system is broken, and the only way to come to a moral conclusion at the end of the story is to break the rules.  Lisbeth Salander had to hack into computers to expose the truth.  Russel Crowe's character had to bust his innocent wife out of jail and flee to Venezuela.  Gerard Butler's character had to kill off person after person in order to get those who are supposed to make the system work actually make it work, and even then Jamie Fox had to break the law to get results.

So whether you are on the side of angels or the side of demons, the agreement is that the system is broken.  The problem with "the system", particularly a "justice system" is that it is inherently flawed by human activity.  There is no way to introduce an all seeing, all knowing, arbiter of justice that produces a morally justified outcome each and every time.

So why do we keep reading books and watching movies about people who break the rules?  Harry Potter has been described as "seven books about a boy who breaks all the rules and gets away with it."  Why?

The answer is hope.  That deep down we recognize that "the system" is broken, but still chugging along like the mindless machine that it is.  We hope that when our time comes to face the beast that we will have the courage and wisdom to know when to obey the rules, and when to break them.

I do not believe that our legal system could be replaced by something better than what we have now, and that steals some of my hope for the future.  I do believe that the 360,000 pages of Federal regulations that choke the opportunities out of our future can be simplified.  But governments do not exist to simplify and assist.

11 December 2011

Why Trolls are funny

Trolls are funny because of "impotent rage."  "crankyyankee" who inserted an "i" into his handle recently has told me "you've already lost" and "your time is short" and other impotent threats from the addled mind of a burger flipping nobody.  I mean, how stupid is it to misspell your own screen name?

I logged on with glee today hoping that we would have been showered by the brilliance of someone who wrote that he was "ten times smarter" than yours truly.  Unfortunately all I got was fragmented sentences, improper capitalization, and punctuation errors.  How badly do you suck at life when you suck at being an internet troll?  If "crankyyankee" keeps this up he is going to suck all the fun out of this and this is going to end up like a telethon for Jerry's Kids with folks chipping in to pay for remedial English classes for dear little "cranky."

Come on "crankyyankee", I'm giving you your big shot to show us all your hidden talents and worth (note the proper use of the word "your" for future reference).  So are you going to just sit back and stew in your own juices?  Hating the world and all the Jews in it?  Or are you going to step up and explain how my "time is short" and how I have "already lost" and dazzle me with your keen intellect and cutting insight?  The world is waiting, bring your A game.  Please for God's sake don't be as pitiful as you were yesterday, that was just embarrassing for everybody.

10 December 2011

They see me Trollin' and Hatin, they try to catch me ridin' dirty

There are a couple of ways to deal with internet trolls.  One is to get into a pissing match with them (which is stupid, never argue with idiots, they will only drag you down to their level and beat you with experience) and another is to enjoy the show in all it's Jerry Springer glory.  You could just delete the comments but where is the fun in that?  So we are going full on Jerry here at randomthoughtsandguns.

Trolls put their insecurities out there for the world.  Anything that challenges their worldview must be struck down with all the pent up fury that a pimply faced burger flipping nobody living in his mother's basement can generate.  See what I did there? I painted a mental picture for the reader to enjoy, take notes "crankyyankee", cause I managed to insult you without ever resorting to the words "coward" "fuck" "douche" "prick" or made any sort of reference to Judaism.

"crankyyankee" has been fun, I appealed to his narcissism with a post about him and he responded to the bait like a bear to a garbage can. Each of his responses was an insult to my intelligence, or the intelligence of others, and yet he wrote, and I quote,
Thanks AM, Just proves the point...  Thank you for the validation.  Must have hit a nerve, Wow, and your upset, guess what, I'm ten times smarter than you, pardon the following pejorative, Asshole, But your time is short, I revel in that fact. But inclusively, Thanks for making me a household word, usually that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, made me an Icon, on the cheap, I'm great-full, Jackass.................... And your still a Fucking Coward...............
Remember kids, if you want to impress people with your rapier wit, understanding the difference between "your" and "you're" is important.  Using "your" and "you're" correctly makes you sound at least educated enough to avoid the fate of living in your mother's basement and writing out hate filled screeds to people who find them mildly amusing.  Later on if "crankyyankee" decides he needs more lessons in grammar by continuing to amuse me we will cover the proper use of commas.

So far "crankyyankee" has hinted that I am "IDF" which I think he thinks is an insult (to a professional soldier being called IDF or Israeli Defense Force is like being called a Ranger when you happen to be a Paratrooper).  He has also said "your yellow star is showing" which makes me think that he thinks being called Jewish is some sort of insult.  I'm actually quite fond of Jews having worked with a few and worshiped with those of the Messianic variety.  Of all the things he could have called me which would have been true, such as "Jew Lover", he didn't, instead tried to insult me by implying I was Jewish.

Now, since my "time is short" I can only assume that the Great Noodly One has touched our special boy and gifted him with special knowledge of the future.  Or maybe it was Uncle Badtouch in the bathroom who gave him special powers as long as he promised not to tell.  Either way I'm not sure that "crankyyankee" can put any more "names on his list" to make people's "time short."

So there you have it folks, another post about a troll.  Grab some popcorn and enjoy the show, we are watching the birth of a star as "crankyyankee" showers us with his brilliance, right before going back to his day job.  I hear next week they'll trust him to make the fries on his own.

08 December 2011

CrankyYankee, put down the bottle...

Every once in a while I'll write something that doesn't jive with someones worldview, and they will take it upon themselves to "educate" me.

Some chick said she told a Green Beret on me because I didn't see things her way about a journalist.  Nothing came of that.  So far the super secret world of Special Forces hasn't come down on me for not thinking that Michael Yon is the devil.  Heck, the last few times I spoke with long tabbers they had no clue who MY was, or why he was supposed to be such a scourge of written words.

Some guy with the handle of "CrankyYankee" thinks that if "Operation Barbarossa were successful we wouldn't have our current troubles" to paraphrase the drunken ravings of a madman.   If history were different then history would be different, unfortunately arguing about alternate history is about as useful as tits on a boar hog. Then again, arguing over fiction seems to be largely what the internet allows to happen, along with the convenience of the most massive repository of pornography in human history.

So, here is some hints about how to engage in discussions on the internet.

1.  If your sentences look like the drunken ravings of a semi literate high school dropout (such as the number of punctuation symbols rivals the number of actual letter characters) you should probably just save the world the trouble of having to listen to your genius.

2.  If the extent of your insults comes down to "knucklehead", "cunt", or "douche bag" you are obviously not rubbing both brain cells together.  Do the world a favor and suck start a pistol.

3.  If you think that going to someones blog and calling them a coward as a taunt and challenge to post your thoughtless and abusive comments is a good idea you might want to try rethinking that little gem of wisdom. Dale Carnegie wrote a book, and I am sure that it is still available in dead tree format from your local public library.

4.  If you routinely get into pissing matches on the internet, a place where everyone has a voice, the problem just might be you. I don't think having two opinionated folks comment on my blog over multiple years of blogging makes me the problem. 

5.  If you can't find someone else to publish your thoughtless and abusive comments, make your own blog and show the world your genius.  If you end up with three to nine hits in six months from your Mother then maybe you should tailor your blog to that particular demographic.

6.  Don't drink and post.

06 December 2011

Wizard's First Rule

SciFi and Fantasy aren't genres that get much respect from the "intellectual elite" but they sure are fun to read.

Case in point is Terry Goodkind's "Sword of Truth" series which puts human emotions and motivations to Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy.  One point that the series makes without ever saying it is that a person who wants freedom for other people will always be acting in a moral manner, and that someone who wants to rule other people will always be acting in an immoral manner.

The basic premise is that freedom is good, and that it is better to be free and miserable than a well cared for servant.  I tend to agree with this, however the Bible is another great book that spells out the human condition and we know that some people who are slaves love their master.  The difference between being force into slavery and choosing to serve a master is all in the choice. 

As a soldier I have chosen my position, chosen to serve, and understand that I entered into a contract of my own free will.  Back to "Wizard's First Rule" and that the first rule is "People are stupid.  They will believe a lie because they want it to be true, or because they are afraid it is true."

In the series, Richard is able to make people face the truth.  In human history, the great leaders lead with falsehoods.  More people know of Hitler than of Churchill.  Churchill was reviled because he spoke the truth, and Chamberlain proclaimed "Peace in our time" because he wanted it to be true.  Politicians need to give people something to believe in, and it is easier to believe a palatable lie than a bitter truth.

Great leaders have lead through charisma, greed, leadership, terror, hope, desperation, and even a few who were loved.  But how many of them lead by offering the truth, unvarnished and whole?  Leadership is the art of getting people to do something they don't want to do, and I don't think you can do that for most people with the truth. 

I'm not sure how we can draw the line between "afraid" and "informed" in today's age.  I don't want to believe a lie because I am afraid it is true, I want to believe the truth because it is the truth.  Joe Huffman has a pretty good method for determining truth from falsity, and my background in Chemistry has left me very familiar with the scientific process.  It is the dimension of human interaction, where someone is leading by lie or being shunned for the truth, where I think I need a little work.