27 March 2010

What you don't know, and neither does your Congresscritter

Yes the vim, vigor and vituperation surrounding the Health Care Bill has been astounding!  Well, mostly on the against side of things, on the for side it has been the usual platitudes of 'how much this needs to be done' and 'how good it is' and 'you will find out what is in it after it is passed'.  Unfortunately that latter is paraphrased from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and if that had been spoken by, say, some Fifth Earl West San Francisco it would sound like an aristocrat explaining that the workings of government are just too complex for the 'little people' to understand.

Companies are pretty fast off the mark in 'understanding' things as their bottom line is something they care about, so they adjust the fastest to try and absorb the hits from changes in the tax code so as to properly structure their companies as to make a profit.  Any profit.  Thus the following are now taking charges to their bottom line this year to try and stay ahead of the curve:

1) Caterpillar Inc. - $100 million (Source: WSJ 25 MAR 2010)

2) Deere (of John Deere) - $150 million (Source: CNBC 25 MAR 2010)

3) AT&T - $1 billion (Source: Yahoo News 26 MAR 2010 article by Barbara Ortutay)

4) AK Steel (mentioned in the Yahoo News article above)

5) Valero Energy (ibid.)

6) 3M Co. - $85 - $90 million (ibid.)

That Yahoo News article is just full of fun stuff like this passage:

Under the 2003 Medicare prescription drug program, companies that provide prescription drug benefits for retirees have been able to receive subsidies covering 28 percent of eligible costs. But they could deduct the entire amount they spent on these drug benefits — including the subsidies — from their taxable income.

The new law allows companies to only deduct the 72 percent they spent.

AT&T also said Friday that it is looking into changing the health care benefits it offers because of the new law. Analysts say retirees could lose the prescription drug coverage provided by their former employers as a result of the overhaul.

Changes to benefits are unlikely to take effect immediately. Rather, the issue would most likely come up as part of contract negotiations between the company and unions representing its employees and retirees. AT&T is the largest private employer of union workers in the U.S.

Hey!  I thought the 2003 Medicare Bill was too big for a Nation at war, that we couldn't afford it, and that the shift to private plans, being something the government could allow also means the government could fool with it in the future.

Which it has done.

And if you like your health care plan and are getting it from an employer?  Its either changing, benefits are being reduced or just going away... so forget about keeping it.  That promise was a lie as anyone who looks at the system could tell you when you start doing wholesale changes to mandates and such.

Now a bit more for the above on folks losing benefits due to this bill from AP via Google 26 MAR 2010 in an article by John Funk:

The health care law signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday prohibits companies from writing off the subsidies starting in 2011, meaning they will no longer be able to deduct them from their taxable income.

For example, if a company spent $100 on benefits, including a $28 government subsidy, it could write off the full $100 on its taxes under the old rules. The new rules would allow the same company to write off only $72.

The follow-up health care bill to reshape parts of the overhaul would delay the changes until 2013.

As many as 1.5 million to 2 million retirees could lose the drug benefits provided by their former employer because of the tax changes, according to a study by the Moran Company, a health care consulting firm.

James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, said between 6 million and 7 million retirees currently get the benefits. But the number of companies offering them has been dwindling for years.

Generally, retirees would prefer to stay with prescription drug coverage provided by their companies as opposed to enrolling in a Medicare Part D plan, said Marilyn Moon, a health care economist with the nonpartisan American Institutes for Research.

She said most of the company-sponsored plans are more generous and almost none have the coverage gap that comes with Part D plans.

Private plans more generous than what the government can do?  And they keep the retired better cared for without having to spend US taxpayers money?  And the benefits are more generous than what the US government can do under Medicare?

Say, why is Medicare such a great system for retirees if it is stingy, can't fully reimburse medications, costly and, oh, going broke with the approaching retirement of the 'Baby Boom' generation? Because it is what people will be falling back to, once the bite of this stuff fully takes place.  Notice that most of that starts to disappear just before an election year and then fully in place after it?

But the kicker is what those companies that DON'T change their benefits will do, and its a real kicker:

Consumers Energy, a Michigan gas and electric company with 2.9 million customers, said it will not take a big first-quarter charge because, like most utility companies, it can try to recover the added costs from its customers through rate hikes.

It has got to suck to be in MI with such bad tax codes and businesses fleeing Detroit that the city wants to turn some of the abandoned lots back into farmland (Source: AP via Washington Times 09 MAR 2010) .  Costs too much to turn the Motor City into the Farm City, however, so get used to vacant lots and abandoned buildings in Detroit for the foreseeable future.  Just watch RoboCop and you will get the idea, there.  So if you live in Detroit you will pay for the unsubsidized health benefits of Consumers Energy via rate hikes in gas and electric bills.  And through increased federal taxes, too.

Ed Morrisey at Hot Air (25 MAR 2010) hosted a video clip of Bill O'Reilly trying to get a straight answer on who collects the penalties if you don't enroll in Obamacare and he also put up the bill so you could search it yourself.  He came up with the IRS on p. 345 of the bill under its Section 5000A powers given to it by Congress in 1986.  Dutifully I looked that up:

From Title 26 (26 USC 5000) which is under Subtitle D – Miscellaneous Excise Taxes – Chapter 47 Certain group health plans, which has this as its taxing provision:

Sec. 5000. Certain group health plans

(a) Imposition of tax

There is hereby imposed on any employer (including a self-employed person) or employee organization that contributes to a nonconforming group health plan a tax equal to 25 percent of the employer’s or employee organization’s expenses incurred during the calendar year for each group health plan to which the employer or employee organization contributes.

There you go, Section 5000A of Title 26!  So if you get income that isn't employment income, say you get unemployment benefits or are rich and live on the earnings of off-shore accounts, you don't have to comply.  You have just gotta love how the very poor and very rich are BOTH able to get away from this junk, but the middle class gets screwed.  But don't worry, we Daniel Foster on 26 MAR 2010 at NRO (h/t: Morgen Richmond at BigGovernment)has found out that whatever the bill may say in one place, it might just contradict in another as found in the Joint Committee on Taxation on 21 MAR 2010 on p. 33 :

The penalty applies to any period the individual does not maintain minimum essential coverage and is determined monthly. The penalty is assessed through the Code and accounted for as an additional amount of Federal tax owed. However, it is not subject to the enforcement provisions of subtitle F of the Code.68 The use of liens and seizures otherwise authorized for collection of taxes does not apply to the collection of this penalty. Non-compliance with the personal responsibility requirement to have health coverage is not subject to criminal or civil penalties under the Code and interest does not accrue for failure to pay such assessments in a timely manner.

Yes, that's right, there is no penalty for not getting a health care plan that can be assessed against you.  Basically its 'pretty please sign up or if you want to pay a fine you can but if you don't that is a-ok, too'.  Thus we will get 16,500 brandy-new IRS agents to... send you imploring letters to please, please, pretty please get health care and, if you could, send some cash to the IRS for your trouble, would ya?

Oh, joy!

Oh, rapture!

Then at the CampaignSpot at NRO on 24 MAR 2010 Jim Geraghty found the tampon tax:

b) TAXABLE MEDICAL DEVICE.—For purposes of this section— (1) IN GENERAL.—The term "taxable medical device" means any device (as defined in section 201(h) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act) intended for humans. (2) EXEMPTIONS.—Such term shall not include— (A) eyeglasses, (B) contact lenses, (C) hearing aids, and (D) any other medical device determined by the Secretary to be of a type which is generally purchased by the general public at retail for individual use.

Yes and in that latter category is: tampons.  That sort of thing was brought up months ago... last year around this time if memory serves, but Harry Reid decided to keep such language in the bill.  Say, you can get a pacemaker, but if you need special lenses to see your way around the house, you gotta shell out for those through the nose. PLUS 2.3%  Good job!

From AP via Hot Air on 24 MAR 2010:

Hours after President Barack Obama signed historic health care legislation, a potential problem emerged. Administration officials are now scrambling to fix a gap in highly touted benefits for children.

Obama made better coverage for children a centerpiece of his health care remake, but it turns out the letter of the law provided a less-than-complete guarantee that kids with health problems would not be shut out of coverage.

Under the new law, insurance companies still would be able to refuse new coverage to children because of a pre-existing medical problem, said Karen Lightfoot, spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the main congressional panels that wrote the bill Obama signed into law Tuesday.

Yes the 'For The Children' folks who pushed this from Congress were lying.  Young adults are under that too, so sorry.

It was such an important thing to do, they forgot to do it.

I am sure, very, very sure, that the Harry Reid Bill to bring us Obamacare will be chock-a-block with goodies like this because this landmark legislation was so important, so damned necessary, and had to do so very much that no one in Congress could bother to read it.

Just like the 'stimulus' which hasn't stimulated a damn thing save the pocketbooks of Congressional cronies.

I really do think that such behemoth bills should be read out on both floors of the Chambers of Congress.

So that it goes completely on record as having been read out so there are no excuses, no blathering, NOTHING that can be used to defend the passage of such bills.

It is one thing to have a bleeding heart.

It is quite another to slit one's wrists to prove just how much you care.

19 March 2010

Hitting the target, but missing the mark

Or: Something President Obama is doing right, but not fully.

From Hot Air came a post on Leon Panetta talking about how Predator strikes are damaging al Qaeda and that al Qaeda may have to go to a 'lone gunman' form of terrorism.  Part of the  problem with al Qaeda is that it is not a highly centralized system for terror attacks: Hambali, as an example, didn't need bin Laden or Zawahiri to approve his operations which have killed many in Indonesia.  The highly integrated, top-down directed attacks are a hallmark of al Qaeda, but so are car bomb factories set up by purely local operatives in Iraq.  For every Red Mosque in Pakistan you get a no-name, small mosque in the Caribbean or South America generating small amounts of income and recruits.  al Qaeda went from core group systems, in the early 1990's, that had to work with other groups to stage attacks (like the 1993 WTC bombing) and then took a page from Aum Shin Rikyo's Sarin Gas Attack in Tokyo to plan and execute tighter and nastier plans.  Yet their small scale capability inside Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir demonstrate purely local terrorism and their branching out to Hambali and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines shows the affiliate/franchise type of operation, with the attacks in Madrid being of that type and hard to directly trace to anyone.

Keeping that in mind, I responded at HA thusly, all spelling and syntax errors kept intact for the amusement of the audience:

It is damned good that the Predator strikes are happening in coordination with the Pakistani take-downs. These are not unrelated as someone realizes that you cannot win a ground war from the air: you need ground forces for clean-up and to take advantage of a disorganized foe.

That is a strategy, the Predator strikes are tactics for the Af-Pak theater.

Of greater worry in Af-Pak is the non-al Qaeda, non-Taliban, cross-functional ‘Shadow Army’ that is becoming a cross-terrorist organization able to garner support from local groups and regional operators, like Gulbudden Hekmatyar. In targeting aQ/Talibe we are letting this new cross-group go unmolested as it has diverse means of support beyond the external. It is good that some of the most capable of the aQ/Talibe/Mehsud organizations are being taken down and out. I have heard nothing on Hekmatyar’s organization that stretches from China to London.

In Yemen we also have some on-the-ground support from the government, but it has proven to be an incompetent government willing to let known terrorists go either officially or unofficially through not following up prison escapes. Like the leader of the USS Cole attack. Again that is trying to use the air assets to enable the ground assets, but the coordination is not so hot there.

Then there is the slow return of al Qaeda to Somalia via the Islamic Courts Union. They seem to have gotten help from terrorists coming from… the US, Minnesota in particular. When we worked with the Ethiopians on getting the ICU chased out by utilizing air and naval assets, we unfortunately left open the quick jaunt to KSA where many ICU members fled to. Too bad we couldn’t get KSA’s cooperation on doing anything about that. Additionally the Somali minority in places like Northern Kenya have proven to have good hiding places and recruiting agents for the ICU/al Qaeda.

The ‘lone gunman’ strategy is not new to al Qaeda, either. Part of my looking at low-level activities when many low-level operatives were caught before doing anything is seeing why these who are not ‘professional’ can be quite dangerous with a minimal amount of help. And not via high value items or training, either. President Bush did a good job going after some of the most noxious enablers and helping others to do so, like Victor Bout and Monzer al Kassar, both extremely able supporters for the right cash or cause. They are just examples of the big ticket traffickers, and for each of those there are ten or so at the next rung who might not be able to get you SAMs but can get you Chinese attack helicopters.

After that things get dicey in the Caribbean as al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood (often working together), KSA radical clerics, Iranian clerics and some splinter groups have targeted that area for recruitment and new ‘lone gunman’ style operations in the past. While they may seem more comical than effective, stopping a small splinter group planning on hijacking a LNG carrier and detonating it in Hartford or possibly Boston is not only chilling but a typical ’small unit’ operation of under 5 people with only a few weapons and modicum of explosives necessary to rupture the containment of the LNG. Be a nasty thing to wake up to, a few square blocks of waterfront Hartford or Boston gone flat.

‘Lone gunman’ does not mean low casualty and does mean much more inventive, if less well skilled. They don’t have to be ‘Professionals’, just able and effective… once. It is not al Qaeda’s preferred mode of operations, but they have done with it in the past to ‘lie low’. They really do mean to wage war upon us, and all of civilization so as to get their way. They declare themselves enemy of mankind and want to be its rulers. Never forget these things.

al Qaeda does not operate alone and while it contributes some functionality to the terror organizations in Pakistan, it is not their leader.  The 'Shadow Army' has stood up from components of the Taliban, al Qaeda, Mehsud family fighters (or Lashkars), Lashkar e Toiba (or whatever their current name is), plus parts of Gulbudden Hekmatyar's Hizbi-i-Islami being run out of a refugee camp in Pakistan.  Together they offer cross-functional cooperation for operations, training, personnel and funding.  Saudi funds that used to go directly to al Qaeda now see a number of other, smaller groups, getting funding as well as that heading to al Qaeda (usually in the form of supplies, not direct cash).  When any group can offer 'suicide bombers for hire', which the 'Shadow Army' can do, for commercial venues (such as attacking the guy who owns a competing business across town) you are no longer in the great and lovely world of top-down, leader led terrorism.  You are now in local, retail terrorism.

You can go after the chain, but the links reassemble into different chains when the main one is attacked.  It doesn't matter if it is cocaine smuggling from S. America, Heroin smuggling from China, emeralds from Kashmir, murder for hire in Pakistan, car bombs to go in Iraq, radical Mosques in London, or sending supplies to Mexican Syndicates and Gangs to get favor and entrance to the US: these are not indicative of a large-scale, big operation organization but one that can capably shift from wholesale to retail warfare.  What's worse is that you can't dry up their supply houses as it is 'Just In Time' production.

Who said these guys couldn't learn anything from the West?

Stopping terrorism is a local affair, done through Counter Insurgency (COIN), and that has been successfully applied in Iraq, Colombia, Philippines, and Sri Lanka.  Although terror operations are not kaput in ANY of those Nations, the forces of the nation states involved have the upper hand.  Pakistan is starting its bloody attacks on terror groups, but the question is: from what angle?  Is it the 'end all this terrorism' angle or the 'lets get rid of groups we can't control to empower those we can'?  For the past 50+ years it has always been the latter, and nothing going on contradicts that view today.  The attacks on Kashmir and India have not stopped nor have their Pakistani support bases been attacked, and since many of those groups operate in BOTH Afghanistan and Kashmir/India, the idea of stopping some near border facilities close to Afghanistan and not addressing those in the rest of the Nation puts the question in doubt. 

Afghanistan is starting to realize that the US may just 'cut and run' and hang everyone in the region out to dry, which will be the case until a long-term accommodation with the Pashtuns can be done.  That will require the generally ungovernable border provinces of Pakistan plus some of the family/clan lineages in Afghanistan to finally come to an agreement on either having the Pashtuns:  a) settle as a Pakistani Province, b) settle as an Afghan province, or, c) become their own mini-state.  This is as full provinces or a Nation State, no more of this 'tribal lands' deal and being able to foster and get away with murder whenever you please.  That border is not written in stone, but in an old British document that put a 100 year timeframe on solving the problems of the Pashtuns.  The Pashtuns ran out the clock on the British Empire.

Predator attacks are all well and good: I applaud them as one of the very few laudable things that President Obama has done.  It is, unfortunately, minimum compared to his campaign rhetoric.  You cannot win a ground war from the air, and we are not intent on breaking up the entire terror complex of which al Qaeda is one section and not even the largest section nor even the largest section involved in Afghanistan.  The most virulent, yes, the largest, no.

And the further away you get from semi-competent ground support, going from Pakistan to Yemen, the further away you get from effectiveness.  In case it has been missed, drone attacks and missile attacks without ground forces is seen as weakness by terrorists as you are unwilling to get your hands dirty to stop them.  Friends and allies can be a great help in that, doing some of the dirty work that needs to be done... and it would be a damned good idea to stop talking them down in Europe and elsewhere and implore them to get in the fight a bit more.  Say, by removing our bases in Nations with overly restrictive ROEs or ones with the population unhappy that the US wants to go after these international war criminals.

As a side-light, when did war crimes get trumped by mere civil criminality?

That didn't work up to 2001 and the only thing that has worked since then is pulling terrorists out of the general human population.  KSM even dared us to do our duty under the Geneva Conventions, which is not to get him a nice life-time cell, but to execute him for waging war and being part of no army and accountable to no nation state.  When these beasts can taunt us to do our duty as they are not afraid of it, and we are afraid of doing our duty, we are no longer civilized but decadent.

Using Hellfire missiles to wipe out a few terrorists, here and there, is great retail COIN, semi-functional on the strategic scale and pretty damned useless on the global scale given how these operations morph when attacked.  So far we don't have a global COIN strategy.  Bush didn't have one and Obama is clueless on what the concept means.  Breaking al Qaeda is necessary but not sufficient to the job we are getting handed, as al Qaeda as it was is no longer the way it is.  Its next structure to replace the current one is already in-place... and working very well at the retail level and ready to go wholesale in a different form.  Losing top-level effectiveness will not help when low-level diversity, spread and ability to cross-work shows up.

Its already done that in the 'Shadow Army'.

It can easily do that for groups with joint aims, if different goals.

The aim of al Qaeda has always been on the United States.

And the shadow of the US falls stronger the closer you get to home... look for conflict nearby and you just may see a new 'Shadow Army' arise of different form but with the same virulence and aims, which is to bring war and disorder to the US so as to bring it down, not in a Statist grip, but in the fullness of blood from our bodies.  They seek not to crush our souls, but our very lives from this Earth.

And Predator strikes aren't stopping that any time soon.

15 March 2010

Survival - Pack Concepts - 1

When examining emergency preparedness and if you are pre-planning JIC (Just In Case) you have to 'bug out' (leave home with whatever you can carry) I have found one of the most contentious areas to be that of the backpack/rucksack area as it has numerous supporters of different ideas of what to have, but also why you want it. This is, however, one of the more personal decisions as it depends on your ability to carry much of anything. And the variables in that will, naturally, lead to different final end-goals and what can and will fit those end goals. I have hiked with various types of packs, depending on situations, but most of that was pre-1990 and I needed to update my views and expectations in the packing realm.

That realm started with a mammoth sized Duluth pack, that included a forehead strap to help you 'lean into' the load. I've hiked with one of those fully loaded in my younger days and, at one point, had that and a medium ALICE pack plus canoe on my shoulders. Really, as the ALICE pack went in front and the canoe was up top, I had a reasonable center of mass, and I have no estimation as to final weight of all that, save the canoe was 50 lbs. all on its lonesome.

What did I learn from that experience?

Pack sparingly.

At that point I was carrying the load for myself (a young teen) and five children aged 9-12. For a week's outing I brought all of two changes of clothes: one for the camp and one to hike back in if I couldn't get my first day's set dry. Which I couldn't. Out of the 10 miles, I would estimate that 7 of them were with that large load, and I did take breaks and sucked down water at a phenomenal rate. Mind you getting to the camping site was then a few miles of canoe trip, a portage and then a mile or so hike in from the disembarking point.

So, pack sparingly.


As a geologist and recreational packer I used a Kelty pack that was lightweight and had decent cargo space, and an internal frame. At Field Camp the base camp would handle food and cooking, so all I had to do was handle myself, tent, sleeping bag, ground cloth, clothing, medical supplies and miscellaneous supplies necessary for highland desert camping. A 1 Gal. canteen also found its way into the kit during a 'clean yourself and your clothes' break at a small town. Add in good Swiss hiking boots and I was set. For personal hiking, that would only be for a day or two, and for those it was usually a smaller pack that was actually just a 'day pack' that I could wedge my tent and stuff into. The Kelty was more an Alpine pack (long and less than shoulder width) which suited the few places I actually did have to rock climb with the thing.

Thus my experience has been with commercial 1970-80's and 1970's vintage military packs.

Today, the updating of my expectation and knowledge has taken some time and the design idea of 'modular pack loading' has come into being. That is not just the concept of similar sizing and mass for certain loads, but an entirely new system to allow the easy placement of pouches and other equipment on to packs or less than packs. I will start with the older system and work to the newer one on the military side.

ALICE - All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment

ALICE, from what I can read on it, is an outgrowth of the Viet Nam war experience, and the problems faced with the older Model series of packs (M.1956, M.1944, M.1936, M.1922). I have, actually, picked up an M-1936 pack/haversack and it is an unfolding affair that, if you have all the interior equipment, then allows for the nestling of said equipment compactly into the pack once you wrap it all up. Plus it has a strap arrangement for a bedroll, and an internal ammo belt for storing extra rounds for your rifle. That series also had a backboard added to it in WWII so that bulkier containers (gasoline, ammo, etc) in cans could be lashed to it. The board, itself, was normally plywood and used the canvas strap arrangement of whatever the pack system was at the time. Unfortunately those were designed with a series of supply depots in mind, and moving supplies constantly forward so that one was never far away from a depot. At Bastogne that would see major problems when US forces were cut off from their supply lines during the Battle of the Bulge. Similarly, in Korea, when the front line collapsed, the entire supply system then became a 'use it or lose it' affair as the amount of troops from China could not be handled by then modern mechanized warfare until their supply lines were cut.

Airpower was making a difference in how we fought on the ground and Viet Nam would be the first conflict to see many older ideas of supply lines had to be re-thought. Additionally the older weapons systems for soldiers (M-1, M-14, M-1A1) were getting replaced by more modern weapons (M-16) that were more lightweight. Finally, jungle warfare is not open ground, flatland warfare and while there was still a 'front line' the fighting often took place where there was no 'front', no overland supply routes and where jungle conditions often made air-resupply problematical. Air Cavalry meant that a new way of approaching the entire system of what you took and how you took it had to move from an essential design dating back to the first armies and reformulate them for the modern age. If you have no supply lines, then you are stuck with what you have with you and the type of mission then drives what you have to carry. Even though ammo in magazines had been around for a long time, Viet Nam was the first war of lightweight, fully automatic weapons with selective fire and they ate up ammo at a fast rate. No longer was it possible to sit down and unpack some loose ammo or from belt loop ammo in your pack into a clip or magazine... especially when you were waist deep in water. What came out of that, starting in the early 1960's, was the idea of a 'sustainment pack' and a 'patrol pack'. If you were going out on a day or two patrol, you needed one set of equipment for a given time in the field between drop-off and pick-up, and if you were moving from one forward base to another or being put on a long mission of a week or more, you needed to carry everything you needed with you for that time period.

How you fought also required a change in the idea of how you carried things. This meant that larger magazine/clip storage containers needed to be 'handy'. 'Handy' being right at your hand where you could easily reach it without digging into your pack. Clothes and cooking supplies don't need to be handy, ammo, medical supplies, water, entrenching tool (e-tool) and things like bug spray did need to be handy, and so must migrate from inside the pack to outside the pack to an easy to reach position. As the pack load, itself, would increase, the entire system required an external frame that was lightweight yet sturdy, and that would be aluminum. Packs would come in a variety of materials, but nylon would slowly replace canvas. Finally light patrols, long patrols, and sustainment based missions would each gather their own pack size (small, medium, large) but only after the Viet Nam conflict had ended. The Medium Pack was one that could do without the frame, in a pinch, if you packed it well, and the Small Pack (mostly civilian use) was likewise so endowed. In theory you could do that with the Large Pack... in theory.

ALICE modularized things to an extent and the place to attach 'handy' materials was on to your belt. Thus the ALICE belt clip became the fasten-all way of adapting anything (military or civilian) to the ALICE pack/belt/load bearing system. Georgia Outfitters has a nice scan of the 1973 year of issue manual for the ALICE equipment system and I will use here:

ALICE 1011

The belt clips are spring metal clips, normally in a three piece affair, that slide one piece up and down into a hole for the tab of the piece being slid up and down. And a load carrier looks like this:

ALICE 0607

Even better is that the ALICE packs come with nylon strap webbing sewn at a few places on the outside that allow you to put equipment on the outside of the pack, along with grommets in case you need to do some lashing with paracord or carabiners. Additionally the ALICE frame can have two shelves for those bulky items (like ammo cans or gas cans) and still have room for a small pack or you can just haul a lot of ammo or other bulky goods on base:

ALICE 2425

The lower shelf, all on its own, helps get the ALICE pack out of its primordial state by giving it a foundation: it is no longer without shape nor without form. That last is the truth as ALICE has one, central, huge compartment. How big? I've seen other 'large' packs from the Swiss, Swedes and even Germans that can fit INSIDE a large ALICE pack. The thing is huge.

Large ALICE Pk & Frame
Photo: J and A Discount Military, LLC

So, an integrated load-bearing system with huge pack (at the Large size, at least) and a number of outside pockets plus a handy-dandy way to keep handy goods at hand! What could go wrong?

If you need to carry a lot on a budget, it is the way to go, but there are some things that need serious updating on the pack.

First the outer pockets of the pack, itself, are not easy to get at when you are wearing them, which is why all the really handy stuff needs to be on your belt or side panels of the pack. The pack has no side panel pockets.

Second, the webbing system is straight out of the early days of packing, without an easy buckle or quiet zipper to be seen, and noisy velcro for the map pocket at the top (which lacks a clear plastic window to see the map without opening the pocket.

Third, those small pockets are small and really too small to carry all but bare essentials.

Fourth, the frame is not adjustable, which is a popular aftermarket DIY thing to do if you like drilling out rivets and putting in bolts and then getting the frame anodized.

Fifth, the pack lacks side-to-side stability that a couple of easy straps could have solved at the start, but become an aftermarket thing for you to do.

Sixth, ALICE clips work can work free with the rubbing of the metal tab on fabric as you hike, thus making re-adjustment necessary.

There are, actually, a lot of quibbling problems with what is, essentially, a low cost pack. That rig from J&A up there is $25, and you can't go wrong for that if all you want is to haul a lot of stuff around. And if you don't have a tailor that can do modifications locally, there is always Tactical Tailor who can do a number of modifications for you that are standard and are able to do some non-standard ones as well. Once I found them, I knew that there really were a number of things that needed to be done to make the ALICE concept 'user friendly'.

I will skip ahead a couple of decades to the next pack system.

MOLLE - MOdular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment

MOLLE is all about keeping the handy stuff handy and doing so in an extremely modularized way. The MOLLE system, like the ALICE system, has its own way of integrating equipment, and the MOLLE way is via webbing of set size and spacing with a strap/clip that then weaves between the webbing of the equipment you wear and the equipment you carry. There are also ALICE to MOLLE (and vice-versa) adapters so that the two equipment systems cross-integrate with each other. The MOLLE frame is polycarbonate with set spacing openings so that MOLLE and even ALICE packs can be secured to it, and that system eliminates precious weight from the frame. MOLLE starts out with coated ripstop nylon (aka. cordura) as its preferred cloth both for its rain shedding capacity and tear resistance, which tends to add some weight back to the system. A number of MOLLE packs don't need the frame, however, and civilian versions will use aluminum stays inside packs to form an internal frame while keeping MOLLE attachment loops all over the outside of the pack to add on to it.

For me trying out the MOLLE system was an experience and I went with a milsurp MOLLE II Rifleman's Pack:

Riflemans Pack Load Up
Photo courtesy: LoadUp.com

I will give you the idea of scaling and sizing in a bit, but the main point of the MOLLE system are those horizontal lines of webbing that are evenly stitched onto the back of the pack, and the sides which have sustainment pouches on them. to give a better idea of this, here is a High Speed Gear Inc. T.R.A.S.H. Bag Pack that is nearly all MOLLE loops:

Photo courtesy: HSGI

Yes that is a MOLLE pack attached to an ALICE frame. And the HSGI TRASH Bag pack starts to hit into the ALICE realm of hauling...

The milsurp Rifleman's set is about $60, tax and shipping not included, and the HSGI one is $220, tax and shipping not included.

Now there are newer military MOLLE packs, most notably if you can get your hands on the ones the 10MD orders, you will get a truly awesome pack that holds a ton of stuff right into the ALICE range of things. But I don't have that sort of cash for either the HSGI or newer 10MD milsurp if you can find it.

I have bulky materials for two, plus standard survival equipment and need weapons carrying capability with a pack... but hauling is first and foremost, and I may still spring for the HSGI TRASH Bag at some future point in time for its true adaptability. Hauling is the key, and that means cubic inches of space which can, actually, be somewhat divided and apportioned out. That led me to a little item on the cheap which is the Mounted Crewman Compartmented Equipment Bag (MCCEB):

MCCEB Gunnys
Photo courtesy: Gunnys Surplus

That is actually a huge pack, clocking in at over 6,000 ci (if you count the pockets you are well and away over 6,000 ci), and available suplus used from Gunnys for $25 in the Bag section. This bag was designed for the tankers of the M1 Abrams and falls between the ALICE and MOLLE period.

Its features are many: reinforced lower compartment good for tools or (as intended) for your sleep carrier system, a good sized central compartment that would easily fit a daypack into it, and a drawstring top compartment just a bit smaller than the central compartment. The top main pocket is large, I've packed 6 MRE entrees along with some emergency supplies in it, and the smaller pockets on the central compartment are hefty affairs for those smaller things you may need in the way of tools or ammo carrying. It has the standard velcro map pocket on top. The added feature is the reinforced bottom compartment has outside tool pockets for your wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers or pistol of choice.

Its lacks are killer: miniscule carrying harness, not fit for a day pack, no MOLLE or ALICE loop rigging, no waist pad. Its not made for hauling a rifle or shotgun and the internal compartment dividers are permanent: if you take them out they are out forever.

One weirdness is that the truly huge zippers go all the way to the back so you can easily set the thing on its side, open each compartment and pull back on top and bottom to get at all compartments simultaneously. Also it is trapezoidal so your largest compartment is at the bottom, the smallest at the top though only by a few inches... its 16" wide at the middle, 19" wide at the bottom and about 14" wide at the top. If there were a $200 MOLLE version of this to go with the frame, I would buy it at a shot: put fully MOLLE webbing along the sides, attachment points for a frame along the front, put a hydration system on the inside and sacrifice half the size of the top pocket and it would be awesome.

Instead I sent it to Tactical Tailors, paid more but it was worth it to get something adaptable to the modern era.

Its a beast, but a primitive one.

So what do the packs look like with my stuff in them? The first batch of ALICE and MOLLE ones are from my old camera, so you will suffer with poor quality images, but should be able to get the idea. First is the ALICE pack with MOLLE sleep system carrier which I found to be necessary for what I wanted to carry:

ALICE with carrier front
Front/frame side.
ALICE with carrier rear

Chock-a-block loaded to the gills, including the sleep carrier (MSSC). That is one loaded pack.

The problems with it are that it needed lashing every which way to keep things secure. A 1.5" cotton webbing strap goes around the entire pack between the top and bottom pockets to give it lateral stability and to get a better attachment to the frame (which is that big strap draped over the back of the pack). The MSSC needed lashing straps on the sides to pull it up and give it lateral stability, as it bounced up and down and from side-to-side. Not pictured is the ALICE shelf between the main pack and the MSSC to allow for lashing of the main pack and MSSC to the shelf and, thusly, the frame. At this point there were three additional pouches/pockets/waist pack added to the pack: a long ACU pocket, an olive drab pouch, plus a woodlands camo MOLLE waist pack done vertically along the side of the pack. With those extras I was able to get some excess cargo space for small items which was a first in my pack journeys. ALICE Large packs are for pure haulage and it shows.

Note the upgraded waist belt, that is damned necessary as the standard one is not padded enough to be worth anything. It added some nice MOLLE tabs on the waist, but not enough to actually make a difference. I was also seriously thinking of upgraded shoulder straps but the lack of weapons capability finally dissuaded me from further investment in the ALICE system.

ALICE systems lack any easy attachment system for weapons carriers, and lashing straps with your creativity is the order of the day. No matter how I tried it I could never integrate an Eberlestock Tactical Weapon Scabbard with the ALICE pack:

Tactical Weapon Scabbard
Photo courtesy: Eberlestock

To be seen in a bit in ACU.

That is meant to be a centerline part of a pack system, inboard of the pack. ALICE with shelf doesn't like that. ALICE without shelf has too much stuff flopping around. I did try a verticle lashing down the back of the pack, but it left a lot to be desired and shifted the center of balance back when two guns were put in the scabbard and nothing would actually get the top of the scabbard to where I could grab anything and still have the scabbard be secure.

What is really needed is a carbon fiber rod frame to attach to either a MOLLE or ALICE frame to leave room for the scabbard and impede the area of the pack a bit, if you are doing a buy a piece here and there deal. I do not have the time or skill necessary to make one.

Thus for all the cargo hauling ability I love for ALICE packs, if you have to do an add-on for it for weapon hauling, it had better be just for hauling and not ready access. I do not have short long guns that really permit the use of the smaller scabbards.

So on to a MOLLE II Rifleman's pack:

MOLLE Rifleman front
Front/frame side
MOLLE Rifleman rear

Yes these are sitting on a large trash can!

By this point I had unpacked the the Rifleman's pack as it was just too damned small, even without the scabbard inboard of the pack and MSSC. If I was going solo, then this would be the pack I want... then the scabbard and the rest do a good job working together. But packing for two means that no matter how lovely the pack is, it just isn't up to the job. It now has a nice home with a family member. I had added the MOLLE waistpack and was barely able to fit the majority of equipment, and with lashing straps it held together. It could be made about as stable as the ALICE pack, but it was meant as a one person general base change pack not a full haul everything pack. It is interesting that the 5 quart water bladder I picked up fit easily into the MOLLE radio pouch but only with difficulty into the ALICE top flap pouch.

All original straps. This one was just close enough that it convinced me the Tanker's Pack was worth getting MOLLEfied by Tactical Tailors.

I needed a new frame and pads so I went to ArmyGear.net for those in Desert camo/tan. They proved to be even cheaper than an Ebay buy, which amazed me no end. So what you will see is woodland camo on desert camo/tan, and the slow disappearance of that as more and more stuff is put on it.

As I had to do a bit of re-packing I decided to take pictures so you could get an idea of how it all fits together. I took out a rifle case with the Mosin-Nagant opposite the scabbard, but they both do fit and balance relatively well. With that said here is the first set:

Frame side top right.
Frame side, left.

Now that's a pack!

The folks at Tactical Tailors did a great job on the attachment points, as well as you can do for a pack never made to be on a frame, at least. I utilized the existing pads and straps from the pack and attached them around and through the frame, itself, which is critical for dampening side-to-side sway. Most of the frame has disappeared under all the straps and the additional couple of pads I've made for it to help distribute the weight a bit better on my hips and back. Note the Eberlestock scabbard on the pack. Still not perfectly situated but it is adjustable via lashing straps so that it can be shifted forward for easier access. Note that I've removed one lashing strap normally used to keep it in place so as to look more closely at other work

Back right.
Back, center.
Back, left.

Here you get a good back view of the modified pack. Note the three MOLLE panels, one per side and one over the top pocket flap. The garish green camo is a Czech e-tool which needs a better pouch. Inside the scabbard is a Browning Auto-5 that comes in about 48" long, and it goes a bit into the top cover area.

When I noted previously that those pockets on the pack were large, I meant it. When you consider I can get at least 6 MREs plus extras into the top pocket and could put 2-3 e-tools per pocket in the bottom ones, you have a lot of capacity on the outside of the pack beyond just the internal areas. The top cover also has a zipper to replace the velcro that was there on the original.

I am particularly pleased that from the direct back and low angle sides you cannot see the desert camo and tan of the frame: a MOLLE frame and its straps disappear completely from view. I do need to make a woodland camo shroud for the scabbard, but that is minor compared to the benefits of actually being able to carry it. I have had it centerline, inboard of the pack, but then it is nearly impossible to get anything out of it, and there is no how, no way, that it fits between the frame and the straps.

Now a close-up or two fo the Tactical Tailor work:

MOLLE panel, left.
Top pocket, MOLLE half panel.
Top compartment, rain cover.

Excellent work!

For the rifle case, I just slip it between the sustainment pouch and the pack on the right side and use a lashing strap between the frame and the MOLLE loops. That makes it fixed position, but it balances out the A-5 nearly perfectly.

Beyond the MOLLE panels the rain cover allows for even more material to be stuffed into the upper compartment. I pulled it up a bit to expose it, normally it sits under the map flap.

Some final close-ups:

Back, lower pockets.
Side tool pocket, with scabbard.
Bottom compartment unzipped.
Bottom with unit marking.

So is this a Bug Out Bag?

If you use the traditional sense of 'Dear God I only have 10 minutes to get everything I need to survive and high tail it out of here' sort of Bug Out Bag... well, yes, but a damned heavy one. This is not a grab'n'go bag.. it is a get your boots on with a decent shirt and heft the bag to the car and rush back to get any other important items sort of bag. If it came to no transportation available beyond feet, then this is the 5 mile bag: with a good morning start I can get 5 miles to somewhere to think about what to do next. If I can get a car journey in, then that widens many options as to destination, plus the car has its own emergency supplies.

This is the 'Staged Regrouping Bag'. By geography and climate there are very, very few things that will make a Bug Out necessary where I live... yes I can think of what they are, and those that could make it necessary also remove the infrastructure of the region. A slower, longer term set of problems, however, are more likely and this is the sort of thing that is necessary to prepare for that. For that you must prepare seasonal adjustments which require a second bag per major season, save Summer which you pack for to have some clothes in the bag.

As a pack, however, its wonderful. And if we can get past the major problems ahead of us, then this is the sort of pack well suited to carrying a full camping suite for 3 or 4 people, while they carry their own clothes and food.

From this experience I can say that the modular concept of equipment and how one packs is a far, far change from my early packing and hiking days. The hard work done by the military to regularize and adjust equipment types to fit in with carrying systems has brought great benefits to civilian life, if not civilian packs. While a sleek alpine pack is perfect for alpine conditions, most people aren't packing into such conditions and require a somewhat more varied pack load and system to allow them to adjust to different climate regimes over multiple trips. Polyurethane coated cordura is not a modernistic, lightweight fabric, but a rugged one made to resist rips, tears and weather simultaneously. MOLLE webbing is extra weight, but it adds versatility and makes equipment secure and handy at the same time, which means you don't carry the sleekest of outlines but do have a wide array of options of what you can do with the pack still on your back. That trade-off between weight and versatility will be with us for awhile yet as carbon nanotube technology hasn't gotten into the fabric industry to offer low weight, weather durability and tear resistance.

When it comes to internal vs. external frame, I'm an agnostic. I will say that if you are to have an external frame, then it really should be able to do more than just support a pack. The MOLLE frame is perfect for that as it allows a wide array of attachment options for more than just packs. What it isn't good for, and what the ALICE frame is good for, is changing regimes from pack to heavy gear hauling: without a shelf the MOLLE system does less well with gas cans or ammo cans than the ALICE frame. Thus while the MOLLE frame is good for things made to be packed and lashed, the ALICE frame is adaptable to those that aren't made that way and are bulky and oblong without web attachment points. MOLLE is more rugged and ergonomic, ALICE is more suited to the really heavy stuff and just getting it there, don't mind some chafing along the way. Internal frame packs are excellent for low visibility and not having a frame to catch on things as you hike, while offering lightweight stability and lateral mass control. Internal frames don't give you great external options if you have to go from a pack to hauling 5 gallon fuel cans around.

Thus what you choose is based on what you expect to need and designing your equipment type around your needs. The benefits of one way of doing things at the start then determine the types, kinds and amount of choices you have to deal with later. Yet the concepts of economizing your load and packing efficiently are as important as the style and type of pack you get, and what you expect to need and the types of events you expect to encounter then starts to point out which way you should go. Economics then limits your purchase decisions, and those are prioritized by your expected needs.

For myself, at some point, I will probably end up constructing a pack to suit my needs. But that will be awhile.

13 March 2010

The things I do waste time on

Another of those rare postings on what I am doing to take away from my time seated in front of the computer glazing my eyes out looking at historical documents.

Or... how I make sure I can still feel my feet!

One of the things that I've been doing is getting a lovely Thompson rig together.  Really if one is to have a Tommy Gun the least you can do is get a few things for it so it doesn't feel so lonely.  Thus my dissatisfaction with the first digital camera came to the forefront as it took awful pictures close-up in what should be a macro-mode.  They didn't have that when I first bought a camera, so I did the best possible I could with what I had.  So when one of the first major acquisitions for the Thompson came through I was less than satisfied with the pictures, but they did serve the purpose.  Luckily the folks at storeplay.net took a few of the first shots:

Thompson Violin Case 1
Thompson Violin Case 2

You see to me a violin case is... well... a violin case.  Here it is to an era toy gun, at least I assume that, which was made, in that era, full-size.

How do I know it was made full size?

Well its obvious:

Thompson TA-5 with Violin Case

This and the rest of the pics courtesy your host.

A full size Thompson fits in it, plus if it was one with a stock there is more than enough room for that, too.  Plus a drum magazine and a few stick magazines.  Now mine is a M1927 not an M1921, but a good case is a good case, and if I need to go somewhere and not take the big, hulking modern padded plastic case, I can take this one and go in style.  Still, I'm not much for a Zoot Suit.

Now my ill time spent doing other things has included sewing, on a lovely White 565:


Its a real champ!  I have had problems with it going through rigger's webbing and coated cordura at the same time and will take it into the shop to have it looked at and, if necessary, worked on.  Still its gone through a few projects, chowing down MOLLE webbing and structural webbing, cordura, fleece and all sorts of material that would choke a lesser machine.  At this rate I will need something a bit sturdier at the industrial level, but the amount I've learned from the White 565 is worth the money I paid for it.  The equipment I've made certainly paid for the cost of it and the raw materials involved.

So on to more of the time wasting stuff I've done using that, and I'll put the major project up next.

That is the main case with the barrel portion, the top part is a separate MOLLE magazine carrier for the 30 round stick magazines.  All things done in digital tigerstripe cordura are prototypes and leave a lot to be desired on fit and finish, but are functional.  I could not find, anywhere, a Thompson MOLLE case and I've looked.  Now I could find MOLLE stick magazine carriers but for something like what I have it would cost what the sewing machine cost.  Plus I made an extra singleton you can see in each of the pics as it swaps out top to bottom.  I still have to make the drum magazine carriers, but have found the 2 qt. carriers for water bottles to fit them quite nicely.  When I get the 565 back up and going I need to make those into full MOLLE carriers to attach next to the barrel and square out the case, as I would much rather have them on the outside of the case than the inside.

Now for what I pack in that case:

What you have there is the Thompson plus two 50 round drum mags, three 30 round stick mags and five 20 round stick mags.  That last is in a WWII original magazine carrier.  Also included are two Thompson spare part bags from WWII, a WWII brass cleaning rod, plus oiler and pull-through.  Basically the only thing missing would be a 100 round magazine, but that isn't in the cards until the economy improves.  I have more 30 round stick mags... those I can find on the cheap still.

Loose ammo is Federal Blazer and Aguila.  I've had some issues with Aguila ammo both in 45 ACP and 22 lr in the FTF arena.  It seems that there is just something a little off on the specs... either that or the guns are damned finicky.

I'm pretty happy with the rig to-date!  I got the mag catch modified at a local gunsmith's so I can use the original USGI magazines and not have to go drilling into historical pieces to get them to meet the minor mag catch change done in the '70s to the design when Numrich had it.

My other great time eater has been scrounging parts for the Vz.61 Skorpion build which is now complete, but not test fired.

I've put snap-caps through it and am not impressed with the tiny indentation being made, but it could be that the snap-caps aren't behaving like actual rounds for recording the impact of the firing pin.  So a test-fire is in order.  No one seems to make a testing rig so this means yet another DIY project.  Something simple would be best, and its looking like the articulated arm with clamp and piece of string will be in order.  Even though its only 32 ACP, I will not be holding it for a test fire or even the first magazine's worth of firing.  Fire and inspect thoroughly is the order of the day with this.

Its been a great time-waster, getting the parts for it.  Its part kit and a large number of parts from Czech-Point USA, like the SA frame and trigger group.  Had to get rid of a few parts from the kit to make it compliant, and I couldn't pass up a deal on the full SA trigger from CPUSA.  Still some of the stuff, like decent priced 20 round mags and a carrier for them, just couldn't be found easily.  Getting the barrel in was a real PITA and finally took some dremel work to make sure it got a snug fit.  Its a fascinating piece, and the only screw parts on it are for the handle.  The rest is all springs, plates, ends on springs, indentations and the barrel pin.  I finally used a small screw for the trigger guard, but that is due to me not being able to figure out how to get the tiny rivet put in.

There you have just a couple of the things I've been putting time into.  I won't even start on the emergency supplies, but should have a post on backpacks up soon.  Really!  They can be a great time waster...

11 March 2010

Health Assurance, not Health Insurance

This is a dovetail piece to Culture of Ineptitude.

We have, as a Nation, favored big business and large unions via restricting Nation-wide coverage to those businesses that have facilities and workers in all 50 States.  Rep. Paul Ryan went over this and described how professional and industry associations with National membership (things like the American Restaurant Association or National Association of Barber Boards of America) could offer industry level pricing due to the membership being National in scope.  This would allow small businesses to band together or use pre-existing industry organs to supply members with business health insurance that is standardized and accepts all entrants, just like Big Business.

The government mandate is stepping in-between small businesses getting treatment for their associations at a National level, and removing that mandate is a repeal of it by Congress to allow this to happen.

With that mandate gone the second set of groups with Nation-wide membership will also have the opportunity to do the same thing.  Who are these groups?

In the blather we hear for reasons on Nationalizing or National control over health insurance the term 'pre-existing conditions' arises very, very often as a bugaboo.  'Denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions!' is how the howls go.  Yet pre-existing conditions are defined risk pools with known ailments that have expected and normal courses throughout one's life.  Here 'insurance' doesn't do so well, but a coordinated treatment plan system so that those WITH pre-existing conditions and KNOWN requirements for medications and procedures should be able to get price BREAKS because they can negotiate at a National level.

How would they do that?

Through the current voluntary patient advocacy organizations.

You know those: American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, Lupus Foundation...

Heard of those?

Their voluntary membership is:

1) Nation-wide,

2) Targets pre-existing conditions,

3) Covers the demographic risk pool of an entire disease.

Health 'insurance' doesn't really cover this, but known treatment types combined with risk analysis then garners known and expected outcomes and needs for future goods and services.  These organizations have the power of their pre-existing conditions behind them and can negotiate the lowest possible cost for medications used by their members for their diseases and even give a good idea of how the overall course of medications is going, over time.  This becomes not only a patient treatment system (where the patient cost for the coverage may be higher than normal, but the cost for medication and treatments far lower due to the shared, known risk pool) but an industrial feedback system to let the industry know how its work in new medications, devices and treatments is actually doing.  Statistical demographic data is a gold mine that can be held by the PATIENTS to get the best PRICING from industry so as to get a lower COST due to KNOWN NEEDS.

Any set of laws that prevents American Citizens from banding together via voluntary medical organizations from getting tailor-made coverage for their conditions is nuts.  Yet that is exactly what we have.

Even better is that these organizations can work with their patient community via donations or special fees so as to EXPAND this coverage to the poor.  Make that a tax-deductible donation and you will see the sufferers of conditions helping the poor to get good treatment because they know exactly, and particularly, what it means to have that disease.

Further than that is these groups could easily cooperate between themselves to offer co-coverage for people with multiple pre-existing conditions so that they get the best coverage, treatment plans and price breaks possible for their multiple conditions.

No one can be excluded from pre-existing condition pools for having a pre-existing condition.  They are set up to address those, in particular, and may even do things like offer price break incentives to those secondary complications that can be put off by living healthier lives and managing your condition better than you have.  That is because these organizations are currently health information and teaching organizations who have a purpose in letting their members know of the best way to treat conditions, what you get by doing so and who to contact to GET such help in forming a healthier set of living conditions for your condition.

At this point the piecemeal removal of regulations that restrict competition gains far, far more rewards than does new regulations further restricting competition.  Even if only a few million, say 3 or 4 get covered by small businesses, that is 3-4 million FEWER of the 'uninsured' to worry about.  And if those who band together on a Nation-wide basis with pre-existing conditions can start to pick up those generally able to afford any insurance but have been refused general health insurance, then that is more millions to stop worrying about and a charitable system can help to address the poor with those conditions via known organizations designed to offer the best medical coverage and help for that condition.

The final thing the patient run associations can get, and it is the one place where there is absolute interest that cannot be gotten with today's system or any future government run system:  spontaneous remissions of diseases for known pre-existing conditions.

These are the rarest of the rare, and hard to find in the general population for health care but extremely easy for those with such conditions as they are the ones who will have signed up for those plans.  An agreement whereby if you have a spontaneous remission you get health care coverage FOR FREE so that you can be studied to find out HOW your body did this would begin to offer keys to unlock the most persistent and difficult to understand conditions on the planet.  After 20 years there is a small chance of actual remission for Type I diabetes, as an example, and there have been reported cases of AIDS not only going into remission but individuals having no evidence of it after suffering from it for many years.  How the immune system can stop attacking the body (as is the case with Type I diabetes and possibly MS and Lupus) or suddenly find the way to get rid of one of the most pernicious and adaptable of viruses (AIDS) may hold valuable keys to the entire understanding of our immune systems as a whole.  Yet we currently scatter those keys and cover them up, because there is no concerted effort by PATIENTS to have these people agree to step forward in case their body contains the lottery winner of genetics for that disease.

Any government that could do that, on that basis, I would not want to live under as it would be so omnipresent as to stifle liberty and it would be controlling my life.

I would gladly do it for my fellow sufferers if my body pulled up the lucky winner.  I've been through a medical trial for one of my conditions and came out far worse for wear, though not because of the test medications, strangely enough.  I am far more interested in assuring the long-term health of my fellow citizens than in 'insuring' it.

Insurance means that, sooner or later, you come up with snake eyes.

Assurance means you get the best fighting chance to lead a healthy, long lasting life that is full of capability and attempts to put the secondary problems of a condition further and further into the future via better care and treatment.

And don't forget price breaks for good personal care of your disease!

Seeing long term test results that demonstrate good personal management and understanding of your own pre-existing conditions should be rewarded.

06 March 2010

That shift in the winds

Amazing what the suitable application of antibiotics does for ones mind... when fighting off disease, and with all other conditions still operable, here is the sort of drivel I can generate.


Not necessarily.

If you have any argument with what follows, do understand I am a sick man doing his best to stay awake.

And if you find any of it lucid and coherent, it is by pure accident.

You have been warned.

* * *

Throughout my life I have had the fascination with warfare that, to some degree, all boys have.  To me it wasn't the violence, gruesome and repulsive beyond all doubt, nor the equipment, which is fascinating in its own right, but neither of those were the entry point to understanding what war.  When our Nation State systems come into conflict that cannot be solved by diplomacy or, even worse, are caused by diplomacy, what happens at that scale is what happens at the personal scale: indifference, hostility, conflict.  The first is the most rare, and Nations rarely become indifferent to other Nations and that is because it is the lack of caring or wanting to be involved, thus it is an emotional divestment.  On a personal scale I know this best, and when I am indifferent to something it is just that, not a lie or deceit or feigning indifference.  That tends to get people who want emotional investment in a relationship a very bad feeling, yet the balm for the fiery passion is the cold ice of nothing.

Of the second, hatred, I know little.  Hatred, true hatred not mere dislike, is an investment of emotion equal to love, but not diametrically opposed.  Indifference is the opposite to either, which is why it is the hardest to handle.  Love and hate require one to invest time, energy, and a part of oneself into those feelings, thus from a center point of indifference they both fall along an axis away from it, although and minor angles.  That is why love can flip to hate, it is but the slight shift sideways of love and carries all the emotional strength of former love.  Hate, much more rarely, can flip to love but love requires trust and hatred abjures all trust.  To me trust is the coin of the emotional realm, and it is of high value all on its own, without other emotions invested into it.  Trust with admiration and fidelity is friendship, and I have had few friends in life: that is because trust comes hard and the amount for a friendship requires building, while one can create their own false trust to get love to well up inside one's soul.  There are those who think that trust has been established and feel love, while no trust has been built and that leads to misunderstanding, problems and either the hard work of building trust or the decay of love to hatred, which requires none, and that creates the grounds for hostility.

Of this third I can say I have no enemies.  I like to keep it that way.  There have been rare instances of confrontation or conflict, but for those indifference serves quite well.  The instances where actual fighting takes place have been rare with me, and I do agree that the greatest of all fighters are those that can win without fighting.  I do not trust the heat and passion of conflict as it is the wild part of man that resides within us all, the untamed beast willing to expend any energy, use any justification, do anything to expend itself in wild abandon.  I do not trust that part of myself and keep it in check because its use must be rare for me to be civilized, and I must be fully justified in the few times I actually need to let that beast out.

War is not just conflict, not just the wild beast let out: we have codified and adjusted ourselves to understand that we must have limits within war so as to have civilization after war.  Those who do not do that are true savage man returned for a visit of chaos and horror that knows no bounds upon us.  The difference between civilized man and savage man is chaining the passions of the beast within us.  So to is the difference between pure savage war, red of tooth and claw, and that war between Nations that recognize that war is not an end in and of itself, but only a means to an end.  To ensure our own safety we must adhere to those laws of war we have created when in conflict with others who enjoin same.  To those who cannot constrain themselves and take to war wantonly, savagely and recognize no limits, they are a threat to all mankind and must be ended as the rabid dog must be killed.

* * *

When I asked my father about the weapons of war he stated clearly: they are tools, they can be used correctly or incorrectly, they can be used to intimidate, to threaten, to kill or to protect, but in the end they are but tools that must be understood and cared for.  I have had no fear of weapons in my life for they are tools, no better nor worse than a radial arm saw or screwdriver or paring knife.  Nor is a weapon power, in and of itself, save for its propellants and the physics behind them, but they do not kill on their own, nor act on their own, nor walk around and take to being alive.  Like any tool it requires respect, though no less so than a motor vehicle which is by far more deadly and in far more hands than weapons.  Nor is there a magic to them, a great and secret unlocking of the soul that suddenly turns one from civilized man to ravaging beast.  Weapons cannot do that.

You can.

My trust in the control of that beast has been one that has left me in grave doubt that it would remain in check throughout my life.  Self-control is paramount and I must exercise it each and every day of my life to remain civilized.  That means I must remain civil to my fellow man, know matter how much they yell, scream, utter profanities, and seek to demean me.  I know those are the routes that children take and when done by adults it shows lack of understanding of the world and great desire to revert to childhood.  I return such emotional hatred expressed towards me with indifference.  I am a civilized adult, for all the fact the barbaric beast inside me is ever present.  I can control that beast within me.  I find it very strange that others give it a venue to escape through their passionate hatred that goes into unreason.

When vitriol is spread my way I see the mask of civilization falling away and savage man appear.  It is as plain as day is from night.

For many years I ensured that my control of the beast was given no easy venue, no quick path to violence and I ensured that my life remained apart from my fellow man's passion to control those around him.  Without reason we are lost, and I am willing to listen to other points of view, but when all is said and done my reason prevails for myself.  Emotional arguments give me no thrill, no fulfillment, no deeper vestment in what I see, think and believe.  In my understanding of myself I placed trust in understanding what went on around me and for that I have learned the few great truths of mankind.

The first is that we need each other.  The true savage, no matter how much it seeks to rampage, dares not go full out on its own for in destroying all around it, then it destroys itself.  Thus we need each other and in that clasping of need to need we create the first great reasoned construct we call friendship, love, marriage.  It is invariant across all mankind.  From that comes that first great set of Laws that are not the Laws of Nature, but the created laws of man and that is: Law of Nations.

The second is that all of our rights and liberty, positive and negative, are vested in each and every one of us and cannot be divorced from us.  Thusly man is not perfect nor even perfectible as we must keep our savage nature in check via reason and no Angel need do that... and even they have their faults depending on who you talk to.  Thus with the Law of Nations with us in pairs we now create culture, society and the first things that begin to give us shape and form to our lives.  We can and do come to common agreement with our fellow man in understanding, but that is limited without means to invest our understanding amongst ourselves.  A primitive village size reaches 120 to 150 before internecine conflict that normally arises amongst mankind takes hold and splinters part of that village off.  To grow larger we must create organs for society that we can invest some of our negative liberties to, and agree not to practice those liberties on our own.

The third thing we create is governance from those organs officially recognized by our society, and that we call government.  Thus government does not come first, for that is our clasping to each other and creating the Law of Nations.  Nor does it come second as the first fulfillment of the Law of Nations is society.  It is only with society that wishes to grow and keep a larger circle of people with it that we get government, to go beyond our natural inability to deal with larger groups of people over 150 in number.

From that our trust is placed, firstly, in each other as people who form a society.  Without that basic trust we can have nothing greater that we can work towards so as to supply those who come after us with a better life and chance to achieve more than we can.  The die is cast with this, and anything that goes contrary to this seeks to destroy society and our contact with each other.

Our second trust we have is in ourselves, to use our liberty and rights wisely and to agree that some we may not practice lest they endanger our first trust.  If any man could declare war for all of society, then we would be lost as a society and people, both, due to the chaos that would follow this.  We agree, then, to wage no Private War without Public consent via the organs of society we create.  Those organs are created to ensure that I do not endanger you, by resuming my full liberty and rights, and that you do not endanger me via your resumption of all that you are born with.  Nature gives us those things, those rights and liberties, but it is we who control them through our powers of reason and self-restraint.  Any who praise those who wage such savage war wish ill upon society and his fellow humans in that society including himself.

The Third trust is that we create government to safeguard us so we do not overstep our rights and liberties without agreed-upon means to do so from our society which are enacted by government.  As such government becomes the vessel for our negative rights and liberties, which are the most dangerous things we have as humans.  We agree to lay savagery aside, via self-restraint, and then further agree that there are individuals who cannot see right from wrong, who cannot practice self-restraint and who would become a danger to us all if we did not have some means to exercise our negative liberties with accountability to all of society.

These are the basic truths I know and see around me.

* * *

The positive liberty of self-defense is a boon to each man and woman as it allows us to protect ourselves when government cannot do so.  As government is a mere structure to which we abide for common agreement, it has the limits of that structure which are those of the individuals within government to ensure that their jobs are done.  As mortals and humans they cannot be at all places, at all times, ever-ready with the scales of justice to protect each and every one of us.  When we create society protected by government, our fellow man become citizens of Nations and each Nation may have its own way of doing things but any that seek to deprive man of his positive liberties, particularly self-defense, has a word associated with it: Tyrannical.

Any government that seeks to subsume positive liberties that citizens retain so as to build a stronger society missteps and becomes a villain able to use our trusted negative liberties against us.  Intentions matter not in this realm, and it is often the sweetest, most gentle of reasons to 'help' our fellow man through government that has the clenching hand of the Tyranny behind it.  There need not be on single Tyrant, any group or association or even like-minded individuals who may wish nothing but the best for their fellow man, can be the form of such Tyranny.  Such governments that seek to do more must, then, take more not just in funds or physical goods, but in our dearest liberty that allows us to build our society and ourselves.  Ones health, when directly administered to by the individual involved, has the greatest oversight and wherewithal behind it.  Even if poor, any individual is better off than having government minister to you, as government then takes control of your health.

The order we create is inverted in doing that, and we become mere objects of government, not even subjects to it.

Back before the last Presidential Election I felt the need to write of what I felt more than reasoned was approaching: a storm.  Not a physical one, but one set to rip into our society and seek to rend it asunder.  Once felt at the emotional level I applied reason to see what the pathways were that were leading to this end, and I was displeased to find very many of them.  The hand of Tyranny and Despotism was stirring and it took the form of my fellow citizens who were starting to break with our common agreement and the Law of Nations.  Savage man was returning, not in the form of terrorists so easy to identify, but in the form of the vitriol spilled by fellow citizens over things purely political.  With politics being further down the list than even government, it is a long, long way from primary truths, and yet is the way we manage our governmental affairs on the societal level.

I had witnessed passion before, even misplaced, but this was different in tone, tenor and kind.

It has always been understood that battlefield decisions taken by leaders are binding, more than any treaty.  Yet this was ignored during the 1990's and when President Bush (43) sought to hold a treaty-breaker accountable there was a howl of outrage.  No leader who breaks his pledge under combat is worth anything and is the most vile of people for nothing he will say can ever be trusted.  A Nation's leader is at the highest point of this, and any who would risk going back to war by breaking their word has ill-intent for his countrymen, and does not care if they live or die, just that his personal ends are met.  A cease-fire does not end a war, a peace agreement does.  Some few of my fellow citizens in my country, and citizens of other Nations have forgotten this and protested that a Nation's leader should not be held to his word to gain a cease-fire while at war.

This is not greater civilization that is supported, it is just the opposite.

Savage man returns not wanting any one to be held accountable for their actions, and for such savagery to manifest it must find ways to spread itself, and it has.  The beast inside wants out, and will betray anyone, any belief, any system and even go so far as to endanger all mankind to be free of fetters and restraint.  If a genocidal world leader cannot be held to his word given under fire to gain a mere cease-fire, then who, exactly, will ever be held accountable for anything?  The beast has asked us to set aside our self-control and condone the actions of a genocidal tyrant.

I did not and do not.


I will not let the beast inside me free.

Yet I see some few of my fellow citizens doing just that, and that path only leads to blood for that is the price of savagery, red of tooth and claw.  Without accountability from the Law of Nations, no matter how hard and how many lives it takes to sustain, to NOT do so risks everything we have.  To me that simple truth is clear.  I cannot give my fellow man self-restraint, only he can take that up as his burden, and when it is shucked to the ground I know we are all in grave danger.

* * *

The manifestations of the beast clawing to get out is reflected by those who have disdained our normal course of affairs in politics and society.  This is not limited to any 'side', and those wishing to remove the barriers of Nation State for things like citizenship can be found amongst groups that define themselves by race, for that is what La Raza means, to those wishing to forgiven any and all violations of the order of Nations as being mere 'civil' criminals, while ignoring that it is the laws of two Nations and between Nations that is being ripped apart, to such lovely folks as the Libertarians who cannot conceive of why liberty comes from the protection of Nation States and the offices of the Wall Street Journal who would love to dissolve National boundaries to form a giant, and very low cost, labor market.

Notice that these groups span 'left' and 'right'?

Those wishing to tear down the Nation State have a minor problem in that there is nothing to replace it for securing the rights and liberties of individuals in civil societies that are different.  You cannot be BOTH multiculti AND wishing to grant amnesty to those violating the Law of Nations which ensures that cultures can have their own sovereignty in civil society and protection from other societies.  To do otherwise is to exalt culture while wishing to homogenize it, remove it, and make mankind bland.  You can have rich cultural diversity by the protection offered by Nation States OR the blandness of a global Empire.  Yet this simple bit of logic, that cultures need to be able to define and protect themselves so you can actually HAVE multiculturalism is lost upon the elitists.  This was one of the things Woodrow Wilson actually got correct, amongst all the errors and horrific ideas he had.  This was why he did nothing about the Armenian Genocide... it was the problems of another society in a sovereign Nation State.  Not our affair at all.  And we wouldn't want to endanger those contracts Singer had over there.

Then comes the lovely labor market folks of the Libertarian and WSJ persuasion who seek to 'free' labor markets, thusly making them sink to the lowest common denominator between Nations.  It is with Nations that we protect our society and when you want to remove borders you remove the rationale of society being able to enforce labor standards.  We may get sweet words about 'regularization' but we see no effort nor funds put towards such things and establishing an orderly labor brokerage system that allows Nations to ensure that their labor standards can be protected by NOT having illegal labor available.  Truly the 'left' should detest this concept of illegal labor undercutting labor unions and standardized work rules... but just the opposite is seen as they want to 'regularize' that there is no system to ensure such standards and then grant 'amnesty' thus diluting a culture they should be supporting.  And on the 'right' the upholding of economic principles going back to Adam Smith has the preconditions of the Law of Nations upon it, which give Nations sovereignty over their own workforce that cannot be granted to any other peoples or society or culture save by losing a war to them.

These dangers of Transnationalism have been present for some time, but had generally been sidelined until the late 1980's and throughout the 1990's.  This force is like that of National Socialism save that it is Transnational, not International, in nature.  And like all forms of socialism it seeks to put man at mercy of the State.  It is unfortunate that in dissolving the basic concepts of having Nations to defend cultures, societies and individuals, that the very thing that is sought will not end in greater liberty and freedom in a civil society, but an erosion of all societies and cultures when none of them can be defended.  When those waging Private War are gaining support to be 'legitimized' and the order of Nations being eroded to allow 'free movement' of people without any oversight or due process, that ends not with utopia but chaos.  Whenever a civilized order falls into decay and then collapses the thing that follows gains the name 'Dark Age' with attendant 'Iron Times'.

How facile are the arguments that no one should be punished or restricted for anything, save those you don't like politically.

How horrific the final end of that path when all are threatened and we have nothing to fall back to as our culture, society and Nation have been eroded so it can only be tyrannical, oppressive and ineffectual all at the same time.

Being civilized is not about being nice.

It is about being civil, but upholding that there is an order of man that is man created and comes from our need to ensure our trust of each other via society.  That requires that we do those things necessary to nurture, sustain and protect our culture, society and Nation States.  That means doing the right thing, even if it comes to blood as that is the final determinant of civilization.  If you are unwilling to fight for anything and castigate those who do fight to protect you, then you are not enlightened but ready to be enslaved by the first willing to do violence upon you to make you comply with their wishes. 

When your fear, hatred and dread of violence drive you to pacifism and defeatism, then you are not being 'civilized' but seeking a utopian world and none of the efforts to that have ever ended well and most have a high body count in the millions to tens of millions.  It is the logic of utopia that first you try reason, then persuasion, then insults, then threats, then brutality and then killing your way to the golden land.  You start out being a pacifist.  You end up with blood around your feet as others do not want your utopia, yet you will make them do so as you are so wise, smart and able that you know they could just see reason if you threaten them enough.  Then the violence to ensure that you will make your vision of a peaceful world, don't mind the corpses of your causing about you.

Do note that Woodrow Wilson started as an Isolationist and found that trying to avoid war got him war, and that by not fighting all the allies of Germany we were left out of the final division of spoils by Britain and France.  By being elite, by being picky, and by being unable to to endanger US business interests abroad, he got us such a lovely mess in the Middle East that there are still groups there fighting over the problems caused by the Treaties after the war.  Heaven forbid that anyone point out that by not fighting hard enough and wide enough that the very elitism being touted today caused much of the worlds ills.

Can't do that!

Its not nice.

* * *

An interesting thing about growing up in a socialist sympathizing household: I got to hear all the critiques of the USSR and Fascism and why they weren't, really and for true, socialist efforts.  Its fascinating.  I'll try to give the basic overview that I got when growing up.

If you follow Marx, and if you can get through his thick texts and skewed viewpoints, you come down to the final state of mankind requiring a relatively long era of robust capitalism.  By Marx capitalism does, by necessity, exploit the working classes, but there are strong positive points to capitalism that have been forgotten by the modern 'left', globally.  Yes, I know, its hard to conceive of it, isn't it?  Yet there was Karl Marx writing in support of the North during the US Civil war because it was on the road to a capitalist system while the South was seen as backwards, even retrograde.  Progress requires capitalism to do its good works first and robustly to usher in that golden transition to socialism then communism.

But what are these good works?

First is literacy.  Earlier systems of economics did not require highly skilled labor beyond what could be taught for a craft.  An industrialized age worked with machines that multiplied the power of man to build and create and to run those machines took an understanding of them.  Thus literacy was necessary for a capitalist society to thrive.

Second is raising the wealth of mankind.  Even after being exploited, the industrial worker was far, far better off than his agrarian counter-part, not only in financial terms but in terms of increased life-span and material wealth.  To support that diffuse wealth and increased life span required an improvement in infrastructure so that an expanding population can be sustained and wide-spread modernization enacted.

Third is that capitalism, as a highly exploitative economic order, is very aggressive in seeking the greatest marginal wealth for the owners of the means of production.  This forces capitalists to ever be seeking new resources, new labor markets and new means and methods of production to increase efficiency and bottom-line profit margin.  Capitalism excels in this and is the greatest power it has.

Fourth is that in its expansiveness, capitalism is an international order by definition.  By expanding between Nations and raising living standards and educational standards, it brings the first awareness across all mankind and begins the unification of the working class.  It is this last which is a necessary pre-condition for socialism, then communism, and you cannot get to this pre-condition without the good works of capitalism to do them.

Taking these as the given understanding of how you get to the Marxian end-state utopia, the critiques of the Soviet system and Fascism are obvious.

The Red revolution in Russia could not bring in socialism as none of the pre-conditions for it existed.  There was no industrialization to speak of in Russia in 1917, save for a few factories here and there run by cronies of the Czar, a few local industrialists and some foreign ones.  Russia was, by and large, a peasant state, not even up to Mercantilism.   Thus what you got was a form of State capitalism, not socialism or communism, and that system was run to the benefit of the elite class.

Fascism, or Socialism in one country, was seen as premature, at best as the pre-conditions, even in Germany, had not been met for a socialist revolution (either Brown or Red).  For all of its industrial might, Nazi Germany would field armies that were, at best, 60% mechanized, as compared the US forces that were 100% mechanized.  As a regional power Germany was a major player in Europe, but it was not able to support a highly mechanized system.  Further, by brokering with the capitalists, the fascists (both in Italy and Germany) created State capitalism, not a road to socialism.

State capitalism is a system in which the State has co-opted private ownership of capital and then utilizes the remains for its own purposes.  Nation States do not have interests in increasing literacy, wealth, or improvement of marginal production standards, but in pure, raw power of industry.  It is not, of necessity, aggressively expansive as privately owned capitalism is.  In point of fact State capitalism tends to remove both the aggressiveness and benefits of capitalist systems when it is in control so as to safeguard State power.  Thus these are highly political, corrupt and retrograde systems that are not improving the lot of the working class but, instead, using the power of the State to ensure that the working class cannot come to power.

As such the 'evolutionary' path of socialism, known as Progressivism in the US and by social democracy in Europe, seeks to entwine the State deeply with private capitalism so as to gain power to help reduce the ills of capitalism.  And yet these ills are the strengths of capitalism: exploitation of the working class, aggressively expansive in both resource use and production capability, and being able to innovate and create so as to increase marginal production and worker efficiency.  Any work to soften capitalism or otherwise make it a 'fair' system actually slows the coming of socialism and lengthens the agony of the working class.  And when the State becomes so entwined with private capital as to direct it, you then have State capitalism and you will NEVER get to socialism.

Thus it is the job of a good socialist to work hard for the capitalist system to hasten the speed of its rise and its eventual transformation into its end state.  You cannot make that end state arrive faster by trying to thwart the ills capitalism causes in the way of warfare, strife and exploitation, but, instead, seek to shorten the time of each by more robustly supporting the pace of change.   Wars should be short, hard and gotten to a basic end so as to bring stability back to the capitalist system by working out which capitalist endeavors work better than others.  Strife is ameliorated by the work you do in utilizing your wealth to help others on the road to a productive working life.  And exploitation is to be made omni-present so people are made aware of it and the consciousness of the working class raised by the other works of capitalism so that exploitation can be clearly seen.

You just gotta love socialist critique of socialist movements:  in its own logic domain it can be nastily steel-trap.

Wrong, yes, as it is an end-state system and presupposes a number of items that cannot be had by mortal man.  That comes with any belief in utopia: that man will, somehow, stop being man.  Unfortunately man is of Nature and being creatures of Nature we are doomed to Natures vagaries.  Those come with anything that consists of energy and matter, so even some lovely nanocarbon intelligence system is still restricted by the laws of physics, chemistry and entropy.  Socialism by requiring that we get to a point where all work is equal, misses the point that all work is not equal and to get to that equality of work then any task must be equally learnable.  Even with that and application of equal effort, one man's end works will be different from another's and that is the basis of liberty and prosperity: unequal works gaining different appreciation and value.

You cannot live long and prosper if you do not have the basis for prosperity which is differences in results and appreciation of results.  When all results are absolutely equal, then nothing is worth the effort of doing.  Equality of results is the grave, where all men are equal once more.  Between the cradle and the grave, if you do not have differences then the life of man is no different than in the cradle OR the grave.  That is not utopia.

That is Hell on Earth.

* * *

So when I see the order of society beginning to crumble and those waging war against all mankind being pardoned and even exulted, there comes a basic question: can this society actually respect me and my liberty if it is so willing to throw away the meanings of them and the support of them?

Add that to the movement to a system that sees government do more and more to ensure that the few are taxed to death so the many need pay none, and you have the majority no longer invested in the Nation as a whole.  The order of bureaucracy is inefficient paperwork, and when done with government or government oversight, you gain layers of inefficiency added in to 'help'.  When the State can order children's books destroyed because they have lead based ink, and not one case, EVER, of lead poisoning from children gobbling down such books can be cited ANYWHERE, then you are no longer in a free state.

We have been treating our children worse and worse by adding money and 'oversight' to the public schools, politicizing those schools, reducing the topics involved in those schools and turning such schools from places of basic education into equal results warehouses.

If that is what we do for our children, then the adult community is no longer to be trusted.

For all the money and 'help' of governments, for decades, the reading rate has been dead flat from when Poor Johnny couldn't read.  It hasn't changed enough to justify all the extra bureaucracy, cash and layers of paperwork put on in the name of 'fairness'.

The iron law of bureaucracy is that when you add on a layer for 'oversight' or 'efficiency' the entire system loses accountability AND efficiency.

I was a federal bureaucrat involved in systems procurement and justification and I know those numbers all too well.

The adult community has been lulled by the siren's song  of government competence for ever more government to do 'good' which means layer upon layer of it intruding into life, work, school, and even our pleasure time.  To do that means that those areas it touches become less accountable to YOU and that accountability via the government is made harder as it is spread out amongst multiple bureaucracies.  When that happens, you can no longer have directly accountable government and find, instead, that government is now seeking to tell you what to do, how to live, and take control of the very basis of your freedom and liberty.

The trust issue between my own inner barbarian and a society gladly marching into barbarism is a no-brainer: I trust myself far more than the swell hearted bozos giving us the siren's song of government competence.  As government adds in layers of bureaucracy, oversight and authoritarian rules, it becomes more brittle, less efficient and far less competent.  It is the perversion of our negative rights to be used to destroy children's books.  It is impossible to protect everyone at all times from everything, and POSSIBLE lead exposure due to some child eating a book a day for a decade really does not have me all too worried, but it does the bureaucrats given control of this at the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

They will probably outlaw hammers, next, as they are patently unsafe when compared to children's books with a bit of lead ink in them.  I can show you injuries and even deaths caused by hammers.  Lead in children's books?  Lotsa luck there, I tellya.

So when trust breaks down between man and society, man must look to his own self-protection.

I am a much, much better steward of my negative liberties than government shall ever be: I can ensure that, today, I will not be a barbarian and renew that afresh each and every single day.  That is a civil commitment I take up so as to protect myself, those I love and society as a whole... although that latter seems to have an ill-eye towards me and many others given how much killers and rapists are excused because, really, it was 'conditions' that 'drove them to it' and not their own idea at all.  They couldn't stop the movement of their limbs, I'm sure, and have become simple robots in need of reprogramming...

What do you mean they haven't?  That is how our justice system is treating them.

When you try to make automatons out of thinking, living human beings and excuse actions done on the basis of exterior ills, you are then indicting society and not holding the actual actor accountable.  I am accountable for my actions and I expect equality of justice to hold that we are each accountable for our actions as members of society.  Even negligent ones.  Its bad enough that we push so much insanity on our children and disrespect them by not wanting them to experience life, save some bland equal outcome rendition of it, but then we give pedophiles lean treatment because of 'circumstances'?

That is a description of a society losing control of itself and no longer willing to stand for any societal norms.

When all outcomes are equal, then there are no differences between saint and sinner, good works and evil ones... all are seen as equal and our lives become equally meaningless.

Thus I seek out the means to protect myself, learn their responsibilities and exercise my freedom of self-protection.

And ensuring that tyranny cannot be established.

By use of the former I seek to get the latter.

I can, do and must rule myself.

That protects you.

That protects me.

And if I can control my life, then you can do so with yours.

That is where accountability starts.

Stop trying to give it to government for us both.

To do so is asking for a Dark Age with Iron Times.