31 January 2006

Comments, comments, wherefore art thou?

A quick note - I will engage in respectful coversation with individuals that accord respect, even in disagreement. My life is short and time is precious to me, so moderating commentary would in and of itself, wear me down. I have seen where comments sections often trend among both visible and minor forums, and truthfully if I could enforce civility and respect I would allow commentary.

As it is, the tools are not up to the job of the unkindness found in the human spirit when it is left to its own resources. Adults become 3 year olds, losing all manners and eloquence. Yet these same people, if invited to a private house or public bar and performed much the same, would be led away or simply decked-out as their mouth moved before their minds thought.

If invited elsewhere, I will see and respond as I can, which may often be nought. While I do have opinions on *many* things and some wide ranging experience and knowledge, I understand that some views are not shared widely or respectfully by all communities I visit. I keep my peace and retain my silence. Others, however, seem to have forgotten their manners or, even worse, have none to start.

Civility is the heart and soul of Civilization. Without it, we are little more than skilled barbarians. While one *can* treat with barbarians, it is best to do so with sword and spear in hand... or in latter days a peacemaker and equalizer. I will not encourage barbarism, be it in activity or in mere speech. So the commenting remains silent here.

As I can filter my email, I do so. Luckily people realize that when they speak to an individual, it is best to keep a civil tongue as this is no mere strawman, no stick figure, no two dimensional casting of beliefs. And to any who do, the message will be simple:

"I have found your spirit to be ill, your manners to be slight, or your thought processes twisted beyond all logic. I would like to speak with your mother, if she still be living, so that she may be informed of your truculent manner and set you straight on how to be nice to strangers. As that may be impossible, and you see yourself in the whole and right on all things, I then ask to see your angelic stature among mankind so that your halo may glow in front of the cameras and recorders so that the annointed shall be recognized. Until such time, I accord you the same right of any who lack basic courtesy and respect: Silence. Good day."

After that, the emailer gets marked as SPAM, to join the viagra/cialis/make money fast/hot anime/get a date tonight/overseas pharmacy/XXX porn and the rest. A waste of space and electron storage.

That is it... my only other point is that my mind will fail or my body do so at some point, and I do not want my works cluttered by other chatter. Trackbacks are enabled... get noticed by linking and we can discuss as needs be, if both are agreeable.

I wish you well in your life and hope some few things I have written will stir your thoughts,

A Jacksonian

To sleep... perchance...

My day ends in troubles, in wakeless time to be ended -
My night begins with sleep, in wakeless time begun -
I walk into the dreamland, that place East of Eden -
That land of Nod remembered, where we fitfully roam.

My time there is trackless, a rootless wanderer, I -
Encountering you others, and seeing what you see -
For you this misty land, offers refuge and respite -
For me it is another land, different yet the same.

As such dreams may come, I experience in wanderings -
Vision clouded, both ahead and behind -
For me this land offers no rest, nor compassion in my sleep -
For you to sleep that sleep, that only the Just may have.

Soon that time ends, and the mists of dreams do fade -
But never to be gone, in my daily waking times -
For dream haunts me still, at the edges of my sight -
A land of promise gone, forbidden to my soul.

And in my days I try, to keep coherence bare -
To keep a point to thoughts, that slip like waters fare -
I drink quickly, and lick my fingers clean -
For the water moves from me, though I do not wish it.

I no longer walk far, in this land of waking -
My life's energy taken, by so few steps -
Often times a difficulty, to stand and hold my place -
As the mists of dream do haunt me, no matter where I face.

A past a firm foundation, my future no longer bright -
The thoughts and plans I made, I work through in my life -
The days are trackless wanderings, though I do not venture far -
My certitude is fading, as the mists of dreams enfold.

I struggle on with this willful soul, and keep the good fight whole -
Each victory is hard won, each defeat a dagger's strike -
As my wake and thoughts and energy, each move to their own time -
I track my life with shallow certainty, the day to have its mark.

Each mark dims as time moves on, and night slips up on me -
As my time for struggle in the day, now moves into the night -
I sleep not whole nor wake fully, yet keep my spirit whole -
My struggle to remain myself, my only certainty.

To you who walk in daylight, look up and bask in warmth -
To those who track the night, and gain surcease from struggle -
Do not look down into the mists, to see my wandering soul -
For the mists shift and move, seeking their fair share.

Time enough for mists, when your time is done -
Time enough for blankness, when the needs for thought is gone -
Live life in joy, no matter how wretched you be -
For you do sleep and dream, and hope for dreams come true.

I live now in the hinterlands, not claimed by either land -
Look equally upon both sleep and dream and sand -
Dreams and nightmares both, hold no power on me -
Save the wakeful dreaming, of those things to come.

Save your pity for those, that enter willingly-
I came by cirucmstance, and fight to make things clear -
Spare me questions of light, and darkness as both I know -
Shift in my dreaming time, which is my life in whole.

I fare you well in your luck, to have mind and body whole -
We both make do, as is our right -
To give meaning, and light -
While you walk in waking, and I am East of Eden.

Forevermore without rest, even while I sleep -
And my troubled day will end, with night to bring an end -
And I will walk in night as in day, seeking meaning and the right -
And smile upon you who sleep, gentle into this good night.

My apologies to all - it doesn't scan, but it is from the heart... written as my hands willed it.

30 January 2006

... and nothing but the...

"Why, thank you, Mr. Stenson." He shook hands with the old master instrument maker. "If you could make me a pocket veridicator, to use on some of these people who claim they saw them, it would be a big help."

"Well, I do make rather small portable veridicators for the constabulary, but I think what you need is an instrument for the detection of psychopaths, and that's slightly beyond science at present..."

-Jack Holloway talking to Mr. Stenson in Little Fuzzy, the first mention of the veridicator, to my knowledge, by the late H. Beam Piper.

Yes, this was science fiction. Until you see this little number (HT: Instapundit).

The veridicator, as seen by Mr. Piper, was a device with electrodes that would measure electrical activity in the brain and display the truthfulness of statements as they were being related. This device was one that would change colors between blue and red to indicate level of truthfulness. If something was told that was completely true, it stayed a cold blue... falseness would go bright red. If one shaded the truth or forgot some small piece that would indicate it was not the ENTIRE truth, a bit of red would swirl into the blue. Long forgotten minor misdeeds would show up, so that overall truthful statements would go blue, but the infraction, remembered by the sub-conscious, would still be indicated. The device itself was simple, non-invasive and reliable except in cases of mental dysfunction.

Mr. Piper looked into a future where physics and psychology would advance, but computer science and other sciences would not. The end result is a universe that had to incorporate the veridicator into criminal trials and other areas of life as a matter of course. People still did lie about things, but in things of consequence society would not tolerate that. Trials would still involve juries and peers to help put a social fabric and understanding into actions. This was not a cut and dried universe, but one that adapted to changes and understood them.

As Jerry Pournelle has indicated: One of the problems with writing science fiction today is that it is overtaken by reality too quickly.

In this day and age of the accelerating rate of change, we can speculate of capabilities expected in 10 years or less via normal engineering work that would seem like science fiction just 20 years ago. When I was reading a story (and I do forget which one it was) about being in a cyberworld with someone and walking down a hallway, looking for a place to be together and talk, it seemed like a natural extension of chat rooms. Little did I think that such things as Massive Multiperson Onlinle Role Playing Games or virtual worlds, would soon come into existence. While still not fully immersive... the proviso that must be offered is "YET". That is appearing, more and more, to be an engineering challenge, not a basic technological challenge.

Similarly work done with the MRI and other scanning functions for brain activity may be the first step towards a useful and portable veridicator system. Save that it would end up being totally non-invasive and work at some slight distance. When we look at science fiction and its related genres, we get a feel for how it would be like to live in a world where such things are possible and even available now.

What is the Tricorder but a palm computer with audio, video, non-perceptual sensors such as IR or weather detectors (humidity, wind), and other capabilities? As a bonus you can make phone calls, store shopping lists, do your taxes, browse the web and play games on it. Ruggedized versions exist for the military, but the basic capability is available at low cost to the citizenry. When made for a television program, the form factor had to be simple, handy, useful and seem like an everyday thing to use. And that is *exactly* what we demand for everyday use from an item: simple, handy, reliable, capable and easy to use.

As for the Veridicator, it is not here.


29 January 2006

It was outlawed, wasn't it?

One of the very funnest of things reading the Constitution is finding the little bits and pieces that other people really do tend to neglect. I have posted a couple of minor items which led to some insights on Roe v. Wade and Citizenship and the right to keep and arm bears... ummmm... keep and bear arms and the other language regarding regularization of Militias. And even the fact that the concept of a House of Repesentatives able to make its own size and definition of what is allowable representation seems a bit on the dubious side in the modern era. By contrast this one is a quickie!

Slavery is outlawed completely within the United States, right?

Check out Amendment XIII:

"Section 1.Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2.Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

Note the exception. That is still, to this very day, available under the US Constitution and was *not* amended by later language.

I guess there IS something harsher than a life sentence in prison...

NOW can we talk about victim's rights?


The Constitution: simple, clean and full of little nuggets to think about.

28 January 2006

"Guns don't kill people..."

"... bullets do."

Truer words were never spoken. Keeping and bearing arms is a right that goes back to the dawn of tools for mankind and all of our extinct kin. A rock is a weapon, of that there is no doubt, but it can be fashioned into other tools, too. Knives, scrapers, picks, awls and their weapons equivalents knives, hatchets and spears, all are tools with definitive uses and capabilities. Some are more specialized than others, but all serve multiple purposes, depending upon circumstances. In modern times, however, armaments have moved away from the more personal and direct of actually having to chop, mince, slice and dice human flesh, to those effective at a distance. The rationale, and it is an excellent one, is that if you kill or disable an opponent at a distance, they have a harder time getting close to you to do the same. Until, of course, they use the same weapons you do... and that early arms race that started with the simple throwing spear moved up to the atlatl and thenceforth through the ages to MIRV capable ICBMs that could do to goodly sized geographic regions in a few seconds what it would take an ancient Roman army a year to do. Such a time saver!

When attacked, however, the right to respond or counter-attack is inalienable. Similarly, when threatened with deadly force, one has an inalienable right to respond vigorously to stop such threats. Be it a man on man encounter or a state to state conflict, the right to protect when threatened may not be violated. The US Constitution mentions military areas in only a few places, the most famous of which is the Amendment II:

  • A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Such brevity! The soul of wit and the object of clarity is to briefly state the obvious. This Amendment, however, must be taken with the other mentions of similar in the Constitution itself. Article I, Section 8, enumerating the powers of Congress, in part:
  • To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

  • To provide and maintain a Navy;

  • To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

  • To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

  • To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
I am sure many scholars have been over this ground, but it is interesting that the Army and Navy are defined separately, and Militia is something that is something that can be under Federal control, but the States have a large role in this. This Militia is specifically stated for the use within the Union to execute its Laws, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions. So, State run and trained, but to the guidelines set by Congress. The States, then, are to have a separate control authority when these Militias are not required by the Union, but are to be trained according to rules and standards set by Congress. When taken in context with the "raise and support Armies", one begins to feel that the Militias and Armies are two differently oriented ideas. Militias can be collected together into Armies, but separate Armies may also be trained and equipped, presumably, for use outside the Union.

Article I, Section 10, holds the last mention of military forces in the Congress section of the Constitution:
  • No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
In modern parlance, the States may not keep standing Military forces, except those Militias directed by Congress. Further, such States may not keep full or part time Military forces, save in need of rapid reaction forces that would respond faster than the Armies and Militias. And where, pray-tell, will these speedy troops come from?

The Executive has the following power, Article II, Section 2:
  • The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;
This is the CinC language, simple and yet very broad. The President is the Commander of the Army, Navy and States' Militia. Note here, that nothing is said about the speedy forces the States may have that can act without delay.

The Judicial has the following, Article III, Section 2 [bolding mine]:
  • The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;--to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;--to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;--to Controversies between two or more States;-- between a State and Citizens of another State;--between Citizens of different States;--between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.
And Section 3:
  • Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

  • The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
Elsewhere in the Constitution we get some further mentions. Amendment V:
  • No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In time of War or public danger... you get martial law as normal procedures are not available and military justice is the expected norm, via military courts and trials. Battlefield justice is a harsh thing, but such is life. So if you are part of the forces under Federal control during wartime, you are answerable to military courts. Fair enough, and people caught up in such things are *also* answerable to military justice.

And that is *it*.

Very well, so where does that put the public's right to arms or personal weapons? In the case of Armies, Navy and Militias that is Federally regulated by the Congress. Do note that the States have the right to organize forces in case of invasion or dire circumstances in which the regularized forces cannot respond quickly enough. As these would be purely local forces, the States would have purview to their organization. Remember that all non-enumerated rights are held by the States and the People. As this is a mentioned right of the States, the States actually *do* have this authority. But it is damn hard to get a military force together without a regularized procedure for doing so.

Welcome to the Second Amendment!

As seen the Constitution requires a due process of law and sets of procedures when things get mentioned in it, and the Second Amendment is no different. Indeed the people do have the right to bear arms, and the States have the right to regularize this procedure *and* use these armed citizens as a rapid reaction force! The Constitution is a wonderful document, if only people would not excerpt portions of it to try and prove points, but take the underlying themes it represents and apply them to the cases involved.

So, lets get down to what the States are required to do with arms.

First and foremost, they may not deny arms to the people. That is basic. That said, such individuals who have arms are *required* to serve on notice of the State during times of trouble or Invasion. Further, as the Constitution has set up methodology for other forces, these armed citizens will be required to have discipline, training and order to their use of arms.

You *can* have weapons, but the State makes you responsible for having them *and* enforces regularization of their use. This is *more* than just hunting season folks. The Constitution expects regular forces to be under Federal control and guidelines, and any force fielded by the States to respond to emergencies or Invasion would be expected to behave likewise. Thus there is the need for regularization, command, control, and a system of justice for such forces.

So, what would the States actually *do* to enforce this? I would expect the Founders, coming through the Minutemen and other ad-hoc forces expected something like the following:
  1. Training in the proper use of the arms involved. A citizen would be expected to actually *know* how to properly use such arms as they owned, and have a regular certification procedure and recheck on their capabilities at regular intervals. This includes arms maintenance and upkeep, which would be the responsibility of the owner.

  2. Regularization of forces. Each citizen would be given a place in an established framework to respond under the State authorities in times of crises where Federal response is lacking. As an arms owning citizen you would be answerable to this command and control authority *first* during a crisis. A system of checks and balances for serving would expected. Until regular Federal troops arrived, armed citizens would be expected to form an adjunct military to other local forces, but would be under State control.

  3. System of rules and regulations. This would go not only for the citizen, their arms and their certification of capability, but would also be a uniform justice system set up for emergencies. This would be a State separate law system for these forces until proper Federal Martial Law and its enforcement troops arrived.
With the right to bear arms, comes the responsibility to the rest of the people to serve in times of danger and need. These individuals would *not* be police forces, but a separate military force called on an as-needed basis available only to the State and to stand-down when Federally appointed forces arrived. This citizen force would most likely be expected to cooperate with law enforcement, protect vital services, enforce order and in all ways be answerable to a State defined code of justice for interim periods when normal law is not applicable.

This, most imperatively, is NOT a standing army. It IS a State authorized and Constitutionally allowed way of regulating the use of arms within a State. Yes, you can have that rifle for hunting season... and if a flood washes away 90% of your local police, you will be called upon to enforce State law as you were trained and refreshed to do. If an earthquake happens, you would be expected to help out and guard vital infrastructure, protect workers going out to save lives, and in all other ways serve as a form of law and order until the real thing returns. As an armed citizen that is your *responsibility* under this concept.

The State may NOT infringe upon the people's right to bear arms, but the State may regularize that ownership under codified set of obligations, laws, rules, and enforcement procedures. Actually, if the States had any forethought, this is something they would actively *want* to do. This would mean registration of all arms and DUTY to use them when the people are in time of need as the State directs. If that duty is not followed, the State will have a code of justice set up for such individuals and trials will not be civil trials, but take place under the justice system of such forces. The last line of law and order is an orderly and armed citizenry operating under a State code of justice that is agreed to by all who seek to have arms.

This is *not* vigilante justice. Vigilantes would be tried in such times as this force is called out under the rules governing that force. In times of need it would be expected that the group would operate under its own cognizance, but seek to re-establish its lines of command and control until such time as order is restored, either via the calming of the crisis or the arrival of Federal troops. At all other times, the individuals in this force are considered to be civilians.

I think that the above would, first and foremost, pass Constitutional muster. Rights are maintained, as laid out in the Constitution, but this one is a regularized right that the State has a great say in. Secondly, for those worried about proliferation of weapons, this puts an obligation of competence and responsibility to those actually owning weapons. Third, and finally, I expect that the State would grant exceptions to those not fit for duty, but in need of personal protection with arms. These individuals, however, would *still* need to show competence and have a place and role when things go bad, even if that is just local organization of a nursing home or other place where they live.

Owning a weapon is a right.

Owning a weapon is a responsibility.

Owning a weapon incurs an obligation upon the owner to prove they can responsibly use and maintain that weapon and serve when in times of crisis.

How many of us would have liked to see such groups of organized citizens in the disasters of the last few decades?

These are our friends.

Our neighbors.

Our fellow citizens.

Rights. Responsibilities. Duty.


In the era of asymmetrical warfare, citizens are an asymmetrical response. And then some!

27 January 2006

A Note to Presidente Fox

Dear Presidente Fox,

It has been noted that your Federal Military has been present on American soil without being invited, and not in hot pursuit of criminals or wrongdoers. Now you are claiming that these are 'impostors', so I presume that you will find them and extradite them to the US for illegal entry and inciting a Casus Belli? And perhaps, just perhaps, this was all caught on videotape, and you will have a *very* good explanation for this if the forces seen are *not* impostors.

Your Federal Military has actually been aiding and abetting criminal entry into the United States through map distribution.

Also note that criminals have been making tunnels into United States territory with little help from your side in actually stopping them. Some would characterize this as turning a 'blind-eye' to the situation.

I am sure you have *very* good excuses and reasons for all of this! However if this list is looked at as a whole with foreign forces causing a Casus Belli, aiding and abetting criminal behavior against a Sovereign State that you have Diplomatic relations with and having Mexican Federal Forces not policing the border and stopping tunneling... this is not good, Mr. Fox.

Not good at all.

One would think you were asking for a conflict with the United States.

An *armed* conflict.

Be so good as to exercise your diplomatic corps, keep some order on your side of the borders and generally act as a good neighbor. I am quite sure that a fence or two may be going up from the US side to help you in this. Similar has done wonders in Israel.

And you may want to look at latest US activity in Pakistan. Targeting areas with weapons. At night. We have *manned* aircraft that do much better in the Air Reserve. They have not been deployed to halt these activities.


Sincerely, I hope for continued good relations between our two States in the northern hemisphere of the Western world.

A Jacksonian

Addendum - 03 MAR 2006 - And a really, really good explanation for Mexican Federal Agents landing in Texas would also be appreciated, Mr. Fox. As these are Federal Agents, I can only assume that you sent them or are responsible for sending them. In another era this would be a Casus Belli, and, in fact, we do live in that same era.

Hello Dr. Demarche!

From Austin Bay, I see that you are still alive and in the thick of things at State.

I remember reading you in my better days and The Diplomad is missed. And your exploits ring as true today as the accounts of Keith Laumer's Retief stories.

I hope your life has treated you well and that your TSP account is getting the max you can give it.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights with the world!

A Jacksonian

A Note to Hamas

To The Leaders of Hamas,

Congratulations on your victory in Palestine!

You actually may not have expected this, but now you actually have to Govern. As in lead a Government. I am *sure* you will appreciate the role that your new, loyal opposition, Fatah, will give you. As you gave *them* such loyal opposition by sniping at them both in words and bullets over the years. I am sure they will do the exact same with you, if not moreso.

Do note that the new shirts handed you as the leaders of Palestine feature large bulls-eye targets painted front and back in day-glo colors. Wear them proudly as Fatah did so that you could more accurately aim at them.

Also note the keys of state come with strings attached. As most Western aid is predicated on peaceful negotiations with your neighbors, including Israel, you will need to amend your party documents to account for that. Otherwise you will get zero aid from the US, Japan, UK, Australia and even possibly such stalwarts as France, Germany and Russia. Or you can keep your prized concept of a one-state Palestine and forego foreign aid. And govern without it.

I am sure the vaunted industrial sector of Palestine will soon...... you may want to look into this as I don't believe that Palestine *has* an industrial sector, beyond terrorism and bomb-making, and there is not much Return on Investment in those areas, save as targets for Israeli bombs and munitions.

As you start to assess the situation you may have patted yourselves on the back, collectively, for thinking that you had pulled the wool over *everyone's* eyes in Palestine. I mean you must think the electorate there is as dumb as doorknobs to elect Hamas to try and Govern them!

Unfortunately they may be a bit brighter than that as you have been handed the booby-trapped prize of actually leading Palestine. It is a ticking bomb that you cannot, however much you may want to, explode inside Israel. Notice the few seconds that are left on the clock.

You have very little time.

Your charitable works you have always vaunted as actually *doing* something for the Palestinian people, and might have been enough to convince people you might be worth having around. You may find it is easier to run a few hospitals and many terrorist cells than it is to Govern a State, even a wretched excuse of one as Palestine is at present.

Also note that all of those wonderful handbooks on AK-47's and Kyatusha Rockets contain very little information on Public Diplomacy. Somehow most states fall out of the range of those weapons, and yet those very same states can reach out and touch *you* most vigorously.

Also note that decades of Arafat and Fatah rule have left the State of Palestine and the elements of what government there is riddled with cronyism, nepotism and petty thieves and crooks masquerading as public servants. Please do try and clean house as many of those same officials are looking eagerly at the aforementioned shirts you have been given. But not covetously. They have a glint in their eyes that you may remember from your time in the opposition. And they do want to protect what little graft they can now get, and siphon yet more money away from the State... The State you are now in charge of. So give it a go... clean house... try and *discharge* as many of these individuals as you can finger... ummmm... find... and ask them to peacefully evacuate their posts. Many of them have, doubtlessly, done so already, and cleaned out their desks, filing cabinets, lockers, arms caches, training manuals, and numbers to their Swiss bank accounts.

And, finally, once you figure out which is more important to you... One State in the Lands that may or may not have been Palestine, but were certainly run by the British and held by the Ottomans (wherefore are thou Palestine?) or trying go govern an unruly set of people that have been lied to, threaten, beat up, tortured, killed, abused and generally maltreated by your predecessors for decades. If you try to address the first one first, your life expectancy will be counted in days, if not hours. If you vigorously decide that trying to bring some order to Palestine just *might* be important, then you will have to figure out how to do so without triggering a civil war. One that you had been preparing for, oh these many years, and expected to start... as the opposition. But you are in charge now. And if it starts while you are in charge... well... it is usually the ruling group that gets it the hardest in these things. Check your history books for details. (You folks do *have* history books beyond recounting the injustices inflicted on the Palestinian people, right?)

So in closing, let me wish you Good Luck with your new found majority status. And Good Luck in dealing with your newfound Loyal Opposition. And Extreme Good Luck in cleaning the House of State of all of the Corruption that has infested it over the years. And Plentiful and Bountiful luck in figuring out if you really stand *for* anything in Palestine. And Especial Good Luck in trying to do all of this while trying to square the circle of your political beliefs, your neighbors and foreign donations to your little plot of land on the Planet Earth.

Good Luck.

You will need it!

A Jacksonian

25 January 2006

Fighting the Wizard Wars

Arthur C. Clarke has said it best with his Three Laws:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
I remember watching a Special Forces soldier working in Afghanistan during the opening of that conflict against the Taliban. He was there with just one other soldier and had met up with a Northern Alliance member that led him into a town (and I do forget which one) where the Taliban was going to make a stand. Together they found a local sympathizer who would lead them to the top of a house so that he could point out Taliban strongholds and buildings. He would point to one and say 'That is an armory that they use'... one soldier would nod looking out with his binoculars, while the other was using a transmitter.

As the local finished pointing, a puff of smoke arose from the building. The man looked at the soldier, amazed. He pointed to a schoolhouse that the Taliban had taken over.

It, too, saw a puff of smoke within a minute.

The man started pointing... here... and there... there... the governates house... that barricaded street...

Again and again and again and again explosions and puffs of smoke arose...

The man stopped pointing. The soldier asked what was wrong. The man responded, 'Those are all the places they WERE'.

The soldiers packed up, went off with their Northern Alliance compatriots to the next man that knew where some Taliban might be...

To the Afghani who was doing the pointing, it was magic. He was directing fire against those that had oppressed him. He did not care about laser rangefinders, automated coordinate uploads, small diameter bombs, Global Positioning System... the effect was...


The war against terrorism is a war of Wizards. Terrorists of all stripes believe that they can hide amongst civilians by cowing them into submission through terror. By killing and torturing and raping and living off of the fruits of their labor, they believe that they are safe. That civilized countries cannot find them, will not harm them amidst civilian populations. That through using the crafty means of cryptography, anonymous networked systems and other such things that they will be hard to find and target.

They think that they can use modern devices and technology against the very people who made and designed them. These terrorists will use any subterfuge, any ruse, any tactic, to gain their ends, because they believe they are safe.

They are wrong.

The United States is developing and fielding newer means of tracking and locating these people. The Shadow Warriors work in front of monitors, use advanced software... they listen... they watch... they piece together small bits of information to make a coherent whole. China attempts to do this with thousands upon thousands of listeners and analysts, but that method is slow and cumbersome and not flexible to the modern rate of change. No one else attempts to do what the US does.

Who else thinks that most bombs are too BIG for safe use amongst civilians.

From our friends in the UK comes the JDAM concrete bomb. We happily use good ideas that our friends make available. Tanks under bridges are no longer safe from 500lbs of concrete at terminal velocity gliding in to miss the bridge... and hit the tank.

Together we design new weapons to do the impossible: take out one story of a high rise and not damage the structural integrity of the building, bombs so small they will only do damage in a small room.

And we still have big bombs when they are needed, of all sorts and shapes and sizes... and all are pinpoint accurate.

From the forces on the ground comes the demand for airpower... not bombers... not close assault aircraft (although the A-10 is loved dearly and damn congress of that era for not building more of them)... no.... none of those... UAVs are what they want... from the entire theater to the brigade, as damn close the squad level as you can get them. So they can see the enemy. And target them.

Other countries make some things just as good... but are not noted for the American capacity to integrate and exploit capabilities across the entire spectrum. Seeing through walls via thermal emissions, then fire a grenade that will only burst once it has gone through that wall and will not arm a millisecond before that.


An Iraqi soldier from the old Iraqi Army gave a litany of things wrong with the old Army: no boots! no water while being trained! one uniform! only ammunition if it was to test fire a weapon! And on and on and on and on...

Then asked about fighting the Americans: they hit us when we can't see! night goggles didn't work! and then in daylight doing the *exact* same thing! where were those Americans that were killing us??? No one could find them....

And then asked about the New Iraqi Army: you Americans train us, to aim and expect us to actually *hit* what we aim at over and over and over again! then from further away! and even further! in the old Army it was 'Inshallah!' standing up long enough to fire and fire and fire not seeing what you fired at and not caring... we have boots now! and uniforms! and plenty of water! and good food! and our pay isn't stolen!

If you want to read and read and read about Iraq and US Forces and the bravery and courage and determination of the New Iraqi Army, visit Michael Yon's site. These are volunteers, not dragooned nor conscripted. Young men and older stepping forward into the line of fire from all walks of life in Iraq. They stepped forward for the same reason the founders and forefather's of the United States stepped forward: to protect family and country and *home*.

They are being trained by Wizards.

Wizards that are men and women out to save a people and protect their home. Letting terrorists know that the people that we save can absolutely see the difference between a "strong horse and a weak one".

Does a strong horse need to swim amongst a sea of fish to disappear?

Does a strong horse *target* children to kill?

Does a strong horse run and hide and threaten and bully when they are faced with opposition?

Terrorism has no 'end game'. No way to victory. Guerrilla forces that establish a government and a place to call *home* is a known and respected way to victory or defeat. It takes a brave and daring group to found a place to call home and protect it with their lives. To not only be willing to *die* for it... but to LIVE for it. That is the honorable way to fight.

The right way to fight.

The only way that is respected internationally, by all concerned.

Show courage.

Raise a flag.

Adhere to laws, no matter how warped, and give your enemy respect when you fight.

Show mercy in victory.

Show who you are and be willing to die for your beliefs and daring enough to want to live them out to the end of a fruitful life.

If you strike from shadows, strike without flag, strike without honor, only put yourself to death so that others may die with you. Be warned.

There are Warriors in the Shadows. Those that watch. Those that learn. Those that target.

And then the Wizards strike again.

"Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger."

24 January 2006

Freedoms, Rights and the People

If you are going to talk about the US Constitution and what it does and does not allow, the first thing that must be realized is that it is *not* a system where the Federal Government grants rights. It is a *negative* document, saying that some few rights are given to Government on the Legislative side in Article I, Section 8 through 10, the Executive Article II, Section 2 and 3 (and is *that* list short, sweet and to the point!), and the Judicial in Article III, Section 2 and three (again, very short and sweet). These are the things that Government is *allowed* to do. That is *it*, with some modifications from the Amendments.

Now as to the people we get in Article IV, Section 2: "The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States."

And of extreme interest is the last paragraph in Article I, Section 8: "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."

Now as The Bill of Rights (or first 10 amendments) and the other Amendments are also applicable, lets see how they look at the rights of individuals and the states with respect to the Federal Government.

Amendment IV:

  • "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

    [Quite a few are hitting on this with some of the recent NSA goings-on. Let me say that the question about communications over regulated communication systems is pretty well established law, within the United States. However, when communicating outside the United States, those portions going in that direction then fall under the purview of the Executive and Treaties. These are the mechanisms set up to deal with the outside world inside the Constitution. Presidential power is short and sweet, and definitely *includes* this("The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;"). And as the Judicial branch only is to intervene between other Countries and the United States for *legal* matters, and the Executive is the *only* branch mentioned for establishing Embassies, the foreign outlook of the US Federal Government is vested in the Executive branch. The Legislative may set commerce and immigration limits and Declare War, but have no other mentioned powers for interacting with the outside world. So, for prosecution of illegal activities involving foreign communications the Executive *must* have a Warrant for the United States side of the activity. If it is for non-legal proceedings or military affairs, the Executive is given wide leeway. And the Legislative branch would have a *very* difficult time hemming that in as it is specifically *not* granted powers over foreign communications for anything other than *legality* of such communications with regards to cases that will be going to trial. The FISA courts, set up as an inferior federal court under Congress, fits that bill. Any attempts by Congress to regulate more than *that* is, IMHO, outside of their scope of powers *granted* by the people through the Constitution to them.]

  • Amendment V: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
The Federal Government cannot step into States matters, save to point out lack of due process in the laws of the States. This is an important precept as it only conveys limited power to the Federal Government to ensure that the rights of the people are not abridged and that they are fairly ensured by the States. Do note that there may be *differences* amongst the States, but so long as there is understood due process and those differences do not impinge upon those crossing state lines unfairly, the Federal Government may *not* step in. There does not need to be uniformity in the laws of the States, just understood regularity and differences that are accepted by the citizens of that State as representing due process not out of line with the rights of the citizens as ensured by the Federal Government.

  • Amendment IX: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
When there is a conflict between the inherent rights of the people and the Federal Government's granted rights to govern, those granted rights take secondary precedence to the rights of the people. The people are sovereign in the United States, and the Federal Government is allowed such rights to help govern, but not control its people.

  • Amendment X: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
And to re-inforce this revolutionary idea, this Amendment clearly states it. The people or States of the United States are considered to have all rights not granted to the Federal Government as stated within the Constitution.

So, where does Roe v Wade stand in all of this? Needless to say the right to an abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution, nor is a right to privacy. However, rights not enumerated to the Federal Government are retained by the States and the people (Amendments IX and X). The Supreme Court by ruling out a complete ban on abortion implicitly allows partial bans on abortion based on a trimester system. The Court did not intend to legislate but to offer guidance in what was and was not Constitutional when given the rights involved. The Constitution is flexible over time and amenable to some changes, and in all cases there must be a balancing of rights and responsibilities between the people and its various governments. What the Supreme Court attempted to do was establish the type of due process outline that would satisfy the Constitution. The States, and the people, were expected to work out the shades of grey.

Instead, a polarization of sides happened, with abortion becoming a black and white issue of all or nothing. The States, especially in the post-World War II, have lost some of their power that they had previously, because the people saw what, exactly, a Federal Government can do. What the people have forgotten as that the rights belong to them and the States, not the Federal Government. In Article 2, Section 4 it clearly lets the Federal Government know that the States determine who is a citizen of that state. As the States cannot set immigration policy, this can only mean that it pertains to actual, real accounting of living individuals with that State. Further, Roe v Wade as an attempt to point out that there is no clear precedent beyond the biological birth, points out that the States should really do something in this area!

Has a court reading ever been so misread in history? In this era of technological wonders, the concept that an unborn but viable life form can be declared to be a citizen (albeit a Minor) seems to be one that is hard to get across. And there should be a system of due process involved in the determination. And the States are allowed leeway in making such laws as long as they are regular between the States, but they need not be uniform. Like all things Constitutional this answer will *not* satisfy everyone completely, but will bring order to the lives of the citizenry. So, here is something like what the Supreme Court meant, way back in 1973.

  1. The right to a mother or host to have an abortion before a fetus is viable shall not be abridged.
  2. The status of a fetus as a citizen shall be determined within the second trimester or at a time appropriate given the ability of the State to ensure viability of the fetus outside the mother or host.
  3. The State shall gather evidence and record information on each fetus, including gender and genetic information and duly record such information for tracking of that fetus when it becomes a citizen.
  4. When a fetus is granted citizenship, this is a condition in which, should the mother or other host have difficulties, the State is to ensure that all efforts to continue the life of both citizens is respected. If that cannot be done, the existing citizen is given preference in continued existence, save if that citizen allows their life to be ended for the new one to begin.
  5. If it is legally determined that a fetus, as citizen, is endangering the life of the mother or other host, it shall be removed for nurturement at State cost. Parents, guardians or other interested parties may share or take over this burden through normalized procedures.
  6. If a mother or other host determines that it cannot continue a pregnancy to completion, and the fetus is granted citizenship, that mother or other host may then apply to the State for care and compensation. During such time no employer is allowed to discontinue employment due to such circumstances. Upon delivery or other emergence of the new citizen, that citizen shall become a ward of the State and that mother or host will not have any rights nor oversight over the new citizen.
  7. When determined a new citizen has all rights of a Minor in their State, and all actions taken against that citizen shall be determined as a non-competent Minor within that State.
  8. The State is to be appraised of conditions of the new citizen at intervals accepted by the medical community, the individuals involved and circumstances. If regular medical visits cannot be done due to poverty, then the State shall provide regular services as determined by that State.
This framework provides for all the major problems on both sides of the abortion question, establishes regularized procedures and otherwise allows for the settling of who exactly is and is not entitled to what rights. Note that over time this system will move the time *downwards* as medical science advances. This removes the trimester system which is known as a 'hack' and replaces it with a flexible system that changes with time and circumstances of society *within* the State. Secondly, and more importantly, it lays out how to treat the new citizen so that no *new* laws need be passed in the legal system. Murder of a mother or host carrying a citizen based on viability is a *double* offense as two citizens are killed.

What this will *not* do is satisfy the philosophical argument of when life begins. It is not *meant* to do that. It is *meant* to determine viable life and citizenship. I have living cells in my body that are not my genetic material, and so does anyone born via normal biological processes. Sometimes they clump together. Are these to be considered a separate life? I do not think so, and it would be hard to argue that they should be taken from me, cultured, grown, implanted and brought to full term elsewhere. Life may begin at conception, but citizenship is not conferred at such time, although at some point technology may have a say on even when it is possible to host life outside of biology and bring it to sustainment without a biological mother or host. We are not there yet.

Do *not* look to the Federal Government for any but the most basic safeguards. That is not how the system of Governments was set up in the United States. The rights are vested in the people, the States they create and *protected* by the Federal Government.

Not the other way around.

[UPDATE: 17 FEB 2006] Some further thoughts on this proposed solution. It would do two things one, immediate, the other long term.

First, it would effectively remove the need for NARAL. With the guarantees in place, NARAL would lose its reason for being as the citizens of each state would have their say. Yes, those believing that life begins and conception will still be around, but they gain one *extremely* important thing.

Second, the life begins at conception groups now have a *goal* that is achievable via technology. If they are positively and absolutely serious about wanting a single, fertilized cell to survive, they *must* fund technology to do so! In other words they must move from a *thou shall not* sort of movement to one in which *we want to know everything about the beginning of life so that it may be preserved and protected* group. This means scientific reasearch and lots of it, in the field of human reproductive technology and biomedicine. By doing this they will help the entire citizenry and, perforce, all of humankind in expanding the bounds of what is known in this area. By putting their money where their mouth is and working *damn* hard to push sustainment of life outside of an original human host and via technological means only, then life effectively begins wherever it can be pushed to be sustained. The 'right to life' is *not* the same as being a citizen. Once citizenship is established, then the push (via the viability language) to make sustainable life as early as possible becomes the *goal*.

That is if either *side* in this question actually believe in what they are saying and not just getting intemperate because their vision of what *should be* is overriding what *can be* done. Half a loaf now gives time for another loaf to be baked, in full. It is not a question of 'now and forever', it is a question of understanding biology, reproduction, life and building a platform for early intervention and sustainment, if need be. As a bonus we may *finally* understand fully about miscarriages, about many deformities that happen due to physical and chemical problems, about a whole host of things that will spring from this.

BUT this can only happen if we change our perspective and outlook. Being an absolutist tends to blind one as to what is achievable *now* that will help bring about the end result eventually and for good and all.

The right to life people could take up this position tomorrow, defang NARAL, be seen as supporters of life and not deniers of rights, be a socially positive force to understand something that helps the entire populace around the world and be seen to be offering the olive branch of peace to end the debate in a way that lets the other side *win* immediately, but still lets the right to life people *win* in the long run. Yes, atrocities will still go on... *but* every day, every week, every month that sustainability outside of human host or with an alternative host or via purely technical means is pushed further towards that initial fertilization will mean saving many, many, many more lives and improve the understanding of life for *everyone*.

Is that the goal of the right to life movement? To be seen as liberators and protectors of life as early as possible. And to do the necessary *hard work* to achieve those ends without having to protest, be disobedient, violate laws and other such.

And, as someone not impressed by either side at this point, I would wholeheartedly agree to this, just so that some of the venom can be drained from the circulatory system of our society.

19 January 2006

A note to Osama

Dear Osama,

On behalf of myself and many other people, I would like to deliver a response to your recent truce proposal.

It is a famous response that you may even be familiar with. However, you still may need a translator.

With my entire heart I give you this response:


Don't be looking overhead too often now!


A Jacksonian
-We didn't start this fight, but we sure as hell will end it!

18 January 2006

A look at global warming

So just what is global warming? Is it that terrible trend since the beginning of the Industrial age, lo these last 200 years? Is mankind set to wipe out life on this planet? Lets take a look at what has happened recently.Courtesy of our friends at NASA.

The big deal 12,000 years ago was a mile thick (in some places) ice sheet extending from the polar regions out across the continents southward in the northern hemisphere and to the southern areas of South America and Africa. Sea levels were way down and the climate was very frigid. What changed that? Yes, global warming. Without global warming we would still be eking out a living in temperate to arctic conditions fighting to try and keep a toehold against the megafauna and *maybe* getting lucky enough to discover agriculture. Homo Neanderthalis and Homo Sapiens (Cromagnon) would still, most likely, be living side-by-side as the Neanderthals were a bit better adapted to the harsher northern climes of southern Europe and the sub-arctic middle East. Cromagnon traveled extensively, however, and would have populated the globe, but the question of a viable agricultural revolution in eras when getting out of winter was problematical would have been difficult. Global warming changed climate conditions, made them more temperate and diminished the specialized climates that Neanderthals had been suited to. Without global warming there most likely would have been no mankind as we know it today, no social revolutions due to agriculture and the higher caloric diet that went with it, and no real worries beyond trying to live out the normal life span and maybe survive to the mid-30s.

And to the worrywarts, busybodies and people spelling gloom and doom do note that since the last ice age it has actually been far *warmer* than it is today. In fact the periodicities of ice ages are a damn worrying thing as they tend to work off of global climactic changes and unknown triggering events.
Again from the folks at NASA.

The trick is that we should really, really want to get out of the trough cycle that the globe is in and steady the climate! Global warming? Survival of mankind? If we *don't* keep global temperatures up then we are unlikely to enjoy the trend of the last several million years.

Courtesy of Chatham College.

Yes, look at that scary trend line for the modern age! And see *exactly* what happens when you squash a graph down, too. Still, these folks are proving the point that the trend of the entire global climate since the end of the Cretaceous is downwards. The expanded near-term global temperatures puts the present day within the normal range for this post-glacial period, far below the inter-glacial highs that normally happen and barely within the normal range for standard temperature highs within the last 2MY. Notice that such distorted graphs as those used by Chatham are an example of how to lie with numbers and graphs. They intend to make one point, however, while their graph, taken in context, shows exactly the opposite.

And the squealing begins with the 'look at the scary upward slope due to levels of carbon dioxide!' That is called an "extrapolation" and it is based on shakey science at best and political science at worst. The answer of current volcanic and hot spot based emissions against past history and climate change is a difficult one, but the evidence is that volcanic emissions do tend to cause global cooling and may be trigger events for glacial periods. Weather data is spurious as records beyond tree rings, varves and ice cores is sparse. What we *do* know is that the global oceanic currents tend to change in a cycle that is not well understood, suddenly shifting large masses of warm and cool water across hemispheres. And while the undersea current movement below South Africa links the worlds oceans, their interactions based on that slow current are also not well understood. So what is that extrapolation based on? Well if you take a mere 100 year trend and extrapolate outwards.... why, yes, mathematically you can do that. Now what is the actual *science* behind that?

There is one final graph to be considered in all of this and that is the global climate change since life appeared on this planet of ours:

Courtesy of Geocraft.com.

And the absolutely lovely thing about this is it also gives carbon dioxide levels against global temperatures! This is the exact thing that everyone is so extremely worried about. Everyone points to it and forecasts gloom, doom and bad hair days. So please, please look at the graph and tell me *exactly* what human-kind's impact will be on global climate. I will give you a minute. Take two.

Take a coffee break.

Need to study some courses? You might try some on vulcanology, paleontology and plate tectonics so you can put how high the continents are riding against time on that graph.


So, you have now taken exactly two aspirin, one cup of coffee and decided it is too difficult to understand. Welcome to the world of chaos theory. You *did* skim that subject as it came up in paleontology and climactic conditions, didn't you? And the best answer for what will happen due to increased carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels is....?

The answer is: Unknown, but minor.

Now, mind you, we live in a meta-stable world for climactic conditions, so minor changes can have a large influence in the short run. But (and it is a big BUT) taken as a whole, the very worst that can happen is a minor extinction event, like those seen after the big K-T extinction. And *that* is the worst we can do.

Except, of course, we are one species. And for each extinction event each species will take a weighted set of dice and throw them. They don't know how the dice are weighted. They don't know what the magic number of species survival is for their species. They just roll them and see what the results are. At the very, very worst we are taking a gamble on the order of a minor asteroid impact.

Much, much, much more worrying is a caldera event in Yellowstone National Park. That sucker will be huge.

And it is overdue.

And the ground is moving there... slowly...

Carbon dioxide? Not a big worry.

See that big dip at 600,000 [amended, much thanks to ABF! 160,000 years ago was a *different* caldera event from Mt. Toba[22 JUN 06] ] years ago? THAT is Yellowstone.[or another caldera maker, there are a few of them 22 JUN 06]

Sleep well!

17 January 2006

A modest proposal on education reform

Why does Johnny have such problems out there? UNICEF is, perhaps, a bit suspect with its UN involvement, but people have been complaining about this for... decades now? And yet Johnny still can get to some of the best colleges in the world, with 62 of 200 of the top ranked colleges and universities being in the US. So what gives? Why is it that in K-12 children in the US underperform, but as soon as they hit college they become world beaters?

First off, the US does not place the emphasis on K-12 schooling that many other countries do. The summer break dating back to agrarian times eats into about a third of the available time for schooling during the year.

Second, the public schools have no incentive to perform. And because of the problem funding private schools with public funds, that will always remain a problem. Especially with religious institutions running some private schools.

Third, many other countries cram in much of what would be considered freshman college courses into the last year or so education, so those not heading to universities have a somewhat broader background and have to push the entire academic curricula down accordingly. Thus they score better having an earlier mastery of the material.

I remember reading (and I cannot remember where) of a Japanese man who recounted the deathlike struggle to get good grades in school. He worked day and night, very hard, sweating bullets and barely getting into the bottom rankings for decent higher education. And when he got there, the students basically treated school as a HOLIDAY for the next four years, the tough work being done already. When he came to the US so that he could actually *LEARN* and master his subject, he was appalled at how hard everyone had to work to get a decent grade. And he saw that the fresh US students quickly stepped up and not only did the work, but excelled at it. They were more complete as individuals, more assured of their abilities *to learn* than he was with constant drilling and repetition. And he was doubly shocked that so many students just blithely questioned instructors on absolutely everything, taking *nothing* for granted and granting no respect due to age or position. That is the *magic* of the higher educational system in the US. Question everything as you never know when something that is obvious can also be dead wrong.

Spending on the Dept of Education by the Federal government will be in the range of $68B for FY 06, a little down from last year's $71B and on par with $67B for FY 04. So when given numbers and the ability to calculate constant dollars, I end up with something like this for the budget profile in appropriated dollars and FY2005 constant dollars:

It looks that for FY 2005 constant dollar comparisons there has been a very steep increase in funding for the Dept of Education, probably associated with NCLB. And since the Department was started in 1979, this basically covers its entire history, although it does not show total Federal spending on education as other Agencies have directed programs for *specific* needs. All of that said there is a basic problem with this: Johnny still can't read! Now Jerry Pournelle posted this little graphic at his web site a few years ago and it is still a telling graphic today:
And while it is using inflated dollars and only covers the K-12 age range, that is the one that *everyone* keeps on pointing at. The rest of the Dept of Education's budget goes towards post-secondary education, access and financial assistance... that portion not eaten up by the bureaucracy, that is. So here we are in the 21st century still worrying about Johnny, and Jane, and Jose, and Juanita, and Jules, and Jennifer, and just about every child. And pushing this problem up to the Federal level has not done a thing about it, except to institutionalize it...

One of my mother's quotes is: "Marriage is a great institution, but who wants to live in an institution?" a wonderful misquote of Mae West! But the point is that when things get institutionalized they tend to become static in nature. When jobs revolve around 'Why Johnny Can't Read' and those jobs are institutional jobs, the one thing you can bet is that Johnny will have a very hard time getting off the dime and actually reading. There are very few bureaucratic institutions that actually work, and the Dept of Education is not one of them. It becomes a sinkhole for money, a place for politicians to stand up and point to them actually 'doing something' to help the children. It is a prop.

Another of Jerry Pournelle's great Cold War quotes is: "If a foreign nation had imposed this system of education on the United States we would rightly consider it an act of war." And it is such and it is the shame of our society that we have allowed it to go on like this for so long. Foisting children into the public school system without oversight, without participation and without caring by parents is a major problem. That does not explain, however, why this problem originated in the raptuous 1950's when everything was soooo much better. Unless it wasn't that much better and the Blackboard Jungle was more the rule than the exception. No matter how you slice it (yes its still bologna) and the problem still exists. The wonderful, forward thinking and very Socialist concept is to make it a concern of the State. Unfortunately that is what Americans chose to do and very much to our sorrow as we are not a socialist country. What is need is an American solution, not one well thought out, not one brimming with bureaucrats and paperwork, and, most particularly, not one that a Congressman can stand in front of to prove that he or she is actually *doing something* for YOU.

And what is the American solution to such a thing?

Let the states handle it! Oh, but that means you can't call your congressman about it... and how very true it is. And how very lucky for you that an inept, uncaring and really quite overburdened politician, who would leave it up to 'experts' would not be in the loop on this. That is, of course, part of the *problem*. Thanks to busybodies pushing this *up* to where it could get visibility and get Federal attention, it got the worst attention anyone could give it. And because parents did not want to get involved in local politics, school boards and actually teaching their children *anything*, more dispassionate experts got called in... and things did *not* improve. Every expert called in has an agenda and a reason to keep the problem going so that they can have a lifelong job at being an expert in this problem.

If you want reading, writing, mathematical and other basic abilities to improve, you must *not* hand off responsibility to the Federal government for it. That is an abdication of your responsibility to exercise your rights as a citizen in the US. You, the voter, have signed it over to them by not asking for accountability, clear and precise objectives, a rewards system for actually achieving the goals of teaching children to learn *how* to learn. And then the *expert* educational people come in and tell you that they can do so much *more*... if you would just pay them... continually... and not hold them accountable... ever.

To anyone who reads this, and who thinks that the Federal government is the place to put the responsibility for teaching children, go look in the mirror and you will see the source of the problem. For nearly three generations the responsibility for the right of education has been handed over to *experts*, *qualified professionals*, politicians, bureaucrats and the ever loving school board you never voted for because you couldn't get *involved*. Three generations of parents have abdicated their responsibilities for exercising their rights and being held accountable. And then have the temerity to whine... 'But Johnny Can't Read!' Well, that is what you got: a set of institutions devoted to keeping illiteracy alive and at a steady rate.

There *is* an American answer. It is the *only* answer that will work in the long run. Not in one year. Not in five years. But certainly in time. And it will cost you time, precious time of your life... to learn about your children... to shoulder the true responsibilities of raising a child... and to *not* letting the 'Village' do it for you! And for those that feel that there is some collective need to help children from the highest level, I offer you this humble methodology.

  1. Eliminate the Department of Education at the Federal level

  2. Establish the goal of meeting the top academic scores in the world and set that as the 100% mark.

  3. Take 2/3 of the money given to the Department of Education and Block Grant it out to the states. The states may not use this for anything other than education of children for those things being tested.

  4. Each state will get funds based on that State's overall percentage score to the 100% mark for all of their students.

  5. No school that refuses children based on race, gender, religion or other otherwise means tests children will be eligible for this money.

  6. Children may not be instructed in religion with this money and all instruction related to Federal funds must be clearly separated from religious instruction and enrollment may not be held as contingent upon religious instruction.

  7. Homeschoolers get paid directly the portion allotted to their child based on performance in standardized tests.
What this does is very simple: it removes the question of supporting religion with Federal funds from the equation. If Catholic Schools have a better methodology of teaching those basics needed for excellence in education, they may not require a student attend religious courses to get such schooling. Similarly, if a group of Satanists find a wonderful way to up test scores via teaching methodology, they are not to be barred from it. And at for those that perform *over* the 100% mark, they will get additional Federal funds as that would prove a sound investment for society, no matter how the teaching was done. And the public schools will be forced to *compete* and start to rely upon and lobby those people who can most *help* them: Parents.

It is far too easy to say to a Congressman: 'We are doing so poorly because we do not have enough money'... it is far harder to tell a parent living near that school the exact same thing, and keep that parent's children at your school. You have to offer *solutions* to parents or ask them to *help* in solving the problems. And if a school is falling apart, has students with failing grades, disinterested parents, sky-high property taxes and an apathetic school board... well... why exactly *should* they get more money?

Education cannot be the right of everyone and the responsibility of bureaucrats.

The American solution is to let Americans shoulder the burden and find the *best* way to handle it and then pass that on to other Americans. Not the *easiest* way... the *best* way. If you say you can not be bothered to get involved, can not be bothered to vote, can not be bothered to learn what is going on at school... then do not bother *ME* by whining about Johnny. By avoiding your responsability, you have lost the right to whine to me. Whine at someone who will *really* care... your Congressman perhaps... so they can stand in front of the Dept of Education to say how much they are doing for 'the children'?

Trust in your neighbor.

Trust in your children.

Trust in yourself.

Your parents took the *easy* way out.

Will you?

15 January 2006

No Statute of Limitations

One of the interesting things that people tend to forget are some of the niceties that came from diplomacy in the times of the Great Powers during the late 19th and early 20th century. Many forms and means were devised to help these Powers avoid war, and, in the end, got them the first of two horrific World Wars. One of the better concepts that still lingers on is that of a Casus Belli, or actions that put one at risk for war as part of a schema known as Jus ad bellum. States knew and remained circumspect of such things and did their best to skirt them lest they invite a small war that would trigger off a larger war. In the end, this concept work contrarily as expected for the circumstances, triggering off something no one wanted but everyone prepared for, or so they thought.

But this concept, along with that of a 'Just War' still live on and have been batted about by all sides of the political spectrum, but no one really wants to address the messy details. So, lets get into some details! These are some of the things that can rightly be considered to be a Casus Belli.

1) Invasion - Invading another country's territory or sovereign lands. Usually through force of arms, but other things have been considered under this term. But, technically, it is by the military or designated forces of a sovereign power used against another sovereign power to invade territory and occupy it, even if only briefly. In modern times guerrilla fighters have caused many problems by using the pourousness of borders and ethnic affinities to cause problems between states at peace with each other to have heightened tensions. This can slide into a rootless form of warfare known as terrorism. While terrorists usually have a set credo or belief, they often do not belong to any state and are thus considered non-state actors, not existing under the flag of any lawful state. This can often degenerate down into the terrorist group being used as a proxy by state powers to do unlawful things. This is not to be confused with Proxy War, which was an outgrowth of the Cold War and involves states as actors representing Superpowers (or other governments in a more generalized way). Proxy War has definitive backers that are, themselves, unwilling to come to arms against each other directly. Proxy attacks using terrorism is Asymmetric Warfare, using non-state actors difficult to connect to a specific state for attacking another state, territory, ethnic group or political faction, or an independent non-state actor doing the same.

2) Territory - In the case of states this is considered to be both the areas in direct control of a sovereign power (ex. a homeland or set of distributed confederate states) or that come under indirect control such as a colony or vassal state. Note that territory need not be contiguous or geographically continuous. Territories that come under a power as a Protectorates, which are either minor states falling under the protection of a sovereign power or unincorporated territory being developed by a sovereign power. Attacks upon territories under a sovereign power are considered a Casus Belli.

3) Diplomatic Missions - These are registered representatives of a foreign government occupying a mission in a foreign country so as to represent their home sovereign power. Under International Law such missions are considered to have extraterritorial status. An Embassy housing a diplomatic mission in a foreign country is given space to rule as sovereign within the grounds of that Embassy. These are pre-arranged via diplomacy and agreed to through normal diplomatic means. Expelling a Diplomatic Mission and terminating the Embassy and giving the foreign power a set date to leave is known as cutting off diplomatic relations. Even during changes in government, the previous rules and regulations over that Diplomatic Mission remain until a new, lawful government changes them and gives official notice of the termination of that Diplomatic Mission.

Following me so far?

So, for those worrying about a Casus Belli it can be as simple as an invasion of Embassy grounds and occupation without a lawful government giving orders for the termination of that Diplomatic Mission. Doing so gives cause for 'Just War' under Jus ad bellum via a Casus Belli.

Still following?

Case in point: the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the occupation of the American Embassy and holding the diplomatic staff prisoner on those grounds. This can be considered an Invasion under the terminology of International Law. This Invasion is a Casus Belli, which allows the United States to respond in any manner it wants to at any time it wants to. Similarly the US may act against the Beirut Embassy Bombings of the American compound in 1983 and 1984. While official definitive evidence has yet to be presented, it is commonly thought and not repudiated by Hezbollah. Commonly Syria is thought to be supporting and funding Hezbollah to perform activities it does not want to be connected with directly. Hezbollah also espouses the expansion of the Iranian Revolution, because it was founded by Iran. So, if Hezbollah is found to be the group that carried out these attacks, there is a clear and definitive link via its founding to Iran, indicating that a Casus Belli has happened with Invasion of US Territory for the sole purpose of occupying space enough to detonate a bomb. If Syria is indicated to have any part in the arming, equipping, manning, supervision or providing cover for either bombing, a Casus Belli will also exist between Syria and the United States.

So to sum things up: Iran has given the United States definitively 3 Casus Belli, and Syria a possible 2.

As to the title of this post, there is *NO* statute of limitations on a Casus Belli under International Law.

The United States may respond as it sees fit whenever and wherever it prefers and under any lawful means of war.

Are we clear on that?

13 January 2006

Running with numbers, and other thoughts on Iraq

One of the great problems I have been having is the fact that many individuals seem to be wanting to replicate Steve Jobs's Reality Distortion Field with regards to the history of Iraq, the United States and a few other topics on terrorism and the Global War on Terror.

Who Created Saddam?
The first of these things that badly needs addressing is the often used argument that the US bought and paid for Saddam Hussein and Iraq, supported his regime and generally gave him a boost up in the world. The numbers on this are pretty clear on Conventional Arms sales to Iraq from 1973-1990:
(all $ = US$ Million)


USSR/Warsaw Pact


China (PRC)





%Total by US












































































































































































Granted, the US did supply Saddam's regime with 0.45% of its Conventional Arms, and I think the apology for doing so was taken care of in the First Gulf War. Now there are further claims that the US supplied Iraq with bio-weapons know-how. And indeed the US did supply Iraq with samples of Anthrax, West Nile Virus and Botulinin toxin. These were all conducted above-board via the Centers for Disease Control for public health research. What seems to be missing from this criticism is that the US did *not* transmit the know-how of how to breed virulent strains, mass produce them, put them into a long-term storage form suitable for weapons, weaponize them and provide equipment and knowledge to actually do anything in a bioweapons program. I have yet to see one shred of proof that the United States actively and cooperatively worked with Iraq in the development of biological or chemical weapons. No US scientist has stepped forward with a guilty conscience to claim that. No documents in Iraq or Iraqi scientists that actually *worked* on these things has named names and dates and techniques and places where the US has done so.

Up until the end of the Soviet Union, Iraq was a client state of the USSR for technology and trade. To those of you who have forgotten the 46 year Cold War, let me refresh your memory: being a client state of one of the two superpowers usually meant that you did very little work with the other superpower or its client states, unless you were planning to change sides. As for Iraq, the US saw it as a nice counter-weight to Iran, especially as Iraq started a war with Iran. Iran, by becoming a theocratic Islamic state that did not hew to any western standards (be they democratic or communist) cast itself adrift by invading the US Embassy, taking hostages and generally finding a way to cut itself off from the outside world. In so doing Saddam Hussein saw easy pickings and thought that Iran would be his for the taking and really did not like the line being taken by Iran to try and foster revolution in the Shia's of the south of Iraq. The US *did* play superpower politics in the Iran-Iraq war, but the general feeling of that era was:

  • 'In fact, "American intelligence agencies provided Iran and Iraq with deliberately distorted or inaccurate intelligence data in recent years," the Times reported (1/12/87). The motive, captured in the Times headline: "Keeping Either Side From Winning." Or, as Henry Kissinger coldly put it, "too bad they can't both lose." ' - www.zmag.org article.
The funny thing is that I noticed no one (liberal or conservative) weeping and wailing over the human slaughter going on between Iran and Iraq. To do so today is entirely hypocritical for those of voting age at that time and highly misguided by those trying to apply post-Cold War standards to the Cold War era. To say that the United States 'created' and 'nurtured' Saddam Hussein and gave him the technology for working on WMDs is pure fantasy. Saddam Hussein found his very own scientists, traded for dual-use equipment and generally tried to play both Superpowers against each other for his own advantage. He is a self-made scoundrel.

But it was ALL about WMDs!!
A quick look at the actual congressional language on the Joint Congressional Resolution of the Use of Force on Iraq in 2002. Yes, WMDs are at the top of the list, but do consider what Saddam was actively trying to keep *something* from various inspection teams, actively intimidating them and delaying them, trying to put more and more sites off limits and skimming money off the Oil for Food program while starving his own population. Hostilities did not end after the First Gulf War, and the cease fire required that Saddam destroy and verify the destruction and disarmament of his WMD *programs*. Note, this is not just a weapon's requirement, but, as the second paragraph in the Authorization clearly states:

  • "Whereas after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Iraq entered into a United Nations sponsored cease-fire agreement pursuant to which Iraq unequivocally agreed, among other things, to eliminate its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs and the means to deliver and develop them, and to end its support for international terrorism;
The role of the UN was to verify that the programs had been eliminated. Lock, stock and barrel. As in ALL OF IT. To those of you not used to the world of international diplomacy, this may come as a surprise, but 99% is not 100% and Saddam was playing in the single digits of verification. No intelligence agency in the world said that he had totally disarmed and dismantled the Iraqi WMD programs. As in, ZERO. In an era where a little known group had staged a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subways, couple that with the 9/11 attacks and the known fact that terrorist organizations of all stripes shared information and methodologies, having a state actor that was not coming clean on total dismantlement of his CBN programs was and *is* unacceptable. A nice roundup of some things can be found here.

Some other wonderful bits for the edification of the reader:

  • Whereas in Public Law 105-235 (August 14, 1998), Congress concluded that Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be in ``material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations'' and urged the President ``to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations''; [paragraph 5 of the Authorization]
  • Whereas Iraq persists in violating resolution of the United Nations Security Council by continuing to engage in brutal repression of its civilian population thereby threatening international peace and security in the region, by refusing to release, repatriate, or account for non-Iraqi citizens wrongfully detained by Iraq, including an American serviceman, and by failing to return property wrongfully seized by Iraq from Kuwait; [paragraph 7 of the Authorization]
  • Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people;[paragraph 8 of the Authorization]
  • Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States, including by attempting in 1993 to assassinate former President Bush and by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council;[paragraph 9 of the Authorization]
  • Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;[paragraph 10 of the Authorization]
  • Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens;[paragraph 11 of the Authorization]
  • Whereas in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1), Congress has authorized the President ``to use United States Armed Forces pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 (1990) in order to achieve implementation of Security Council Resolution 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674, and 677'';[paragraph 15 of the Authorization]
  • Whereas the United States is determined to prosecute the war on terrorism and Iraq's ongoing support for international terrorist groups combined with its development of weapons of mass destruction in direct violation of its obligations under the 1991 cease-fire and other United Nations Security Council resolutions make clear that it is in the national security interests of the United States and in furtherance of the war on terrorism that all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions be enforced, including through the use of force if necessary;[paragraph 19 of the Authorization]
Paragraph 5 and Operation Desert Fox clearly demonstrate that the President did *not* need congressional approval to deliver military reprimands to Iraq. In this case, it was President Clinton. And that this is cited to let the American people know that this problem had been back-burnered for too long and that the global balance of threat assessment had now made this an intolerable situation (also see paragraphs 16-17 on the Authorization for congressional approval for regime change in Iraq during the Clinton Administration).

Paragraphs 7-8 indicate that the attitude towards the Saddam regime was that he had the infrastructure to build and the will to use chemical weapons against military and civilian targets, including his own population. This was clearly an individual that had no compunctions against using horrible means to gain his ends. He had done so in the past, he was evading in the present and it was fully expected that without a full cleansing of the Iraqi regime, he would do so in the future.

Paragraph 11 only needs a few words on it. World Trade Center Bombing in 1993; Ramzi Yousef. Salman Pak. Saddam's terrorist bonus. Abu Nidal. Iraq as terrorist haven. People's Mujahedin of Iran. Najmedeen of BCCI. Fatah-RC. Abu Abbas. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi at hospital run by Uday Hussein. al-Qaeda.

Paragraph 15 (and previous) had indicated that there was a world-wide acknowledgement that Saddam had to abide by his promises, destroy his weapons programs and stop looking for advanced long-range delivery systems technology. Congress felt, and rightly so, that the UN had provided a world forum that had come to the distinct conclusion that Saddam should be held to his word on stopping WMD programs and be held accountable for his activities. After more than a decade he had not done so.

And paragraph 19 basically says that Congress believes that the US has the right to go after Iraq on the fact that it had not kept to its agreements, had not dismantled its WMD programs, had flouted international resolutions, and had proven itself to be a haven for terrorists that had threatened the US and stability in the Middle East. I find it absolutely incredible that anyone would disagree with that.

Pre-Iraq invasion predictions
From Australia, you get numbers ranging all over the place but the lowest range seems to be 48,000 to 260,000 by Medical Association for the Prevention of War. Of course, that was from *just* the war, another 200,000 post-war could be expected, with maybe another 20,000 on top of that if there was a civil war in Iraq. Greens leader Bob Brown and the Australian Sociological Association both expected about 100,000 civilians to be killed.

Confidential UN document says over 1.2M Iraqi children at risk for malnutrition in case of war. Main link broken, but header sentences here. That same site has Iranian President saying that Iran could not support all the refugees from Iraq in case of war. And the previous page has the UNHCR put the refugees from Iraq at 600,000, but it is granted they were prepared to handle about 60,000 when things started. (what *did* happen to all of those supplies?)

Then the Coalition Against Sanctions in Iraq has the actual UN document for perusal. 16M Iraqis highly dependent upon food supplies likely to be in need of help, 10's of Millions of liters of kerosene, gasoline and diesel needed, 5.4M people in the south in need of intervention, 2M internally displaced persons, 500,000 wounded due to the conflict, epidemic if not pandemic likely, and some 900,000 Iraqi refugees in need of assistance! Wowzer!

And finally a round-up of MSM predictions here. Is it any wonder that the same organization that had cut a deal with Saddam was giving the gloomiest predictions? CNN: all the truth we will never tell you about so we can get 'access'... to whatever. And believe it or not, these are just the MODERATE predictions!

A few other numbers to dwell upon
From HRW:
The number of 'disappeared' in the 1970's in Iraq: 290,000
The number of Kurds dead in 1988 genocide campaign: 100,000 (182,000 by another estimate)
Unaccounted for Marsh Arabs in 1980's in Iraq: 50,000 - 70,000
Barzani males taken from resettlement camps in 1983: 8,000
Feyli Kurdish males deported to Iran in the 1980's: 10,000 or more
Estimated number of Kurds killed from chemical weapons attacks: 5,000
Kuwaitis disappeared and missing after invasion: 600

Mass grave sites found: 53
Number of dead in mass grave sites: 400,000

Estimated Iraqi dead in Iran-Iraq war: 450,000-950,000 (the lowest estimate is 200,000, and no one knows for sure)

From a Frontpagemag article:
Shia's deported to Iran in 1980: 60,000
Number of Iraqi's deported to Iran, total: 200,000 with 50,000 in squalid refugee camps
Shia's killed in Gulf War uprising: 300,000

No one has a guess on the number of Iraqis disappeared for political or personal reasons. At one point Abu-Ghraib held 48,500 in the 1980's. Most never came back.

No one can even begin to guess the numbers tortured, mutilated, terrorized, raped and robbed by the Saddam Hussein regime and its followers.

Death toll of Iraqis by Saddam Hussein's regime: quick low end guesstimate 1.2M, with the highend reaching about three times that. Say he had real power as de facto ruler in 1977 so call in 9,500 days, that gives you 126 Iraqis dead per day due to Saddam Hussein.

On the low side.

[UPDATE] And not to be missed, Gateway Pundit on the predictions in Iraq topic.