Category Archives: DanCarlin

A Gordian Knot of Information

Fuzz

I believe. I believe. To hell with learning anything. To hell with putting five goddamned minutes into it. No, I believe. Like we haven’t learned anything in 20,000 years of history. Like a caveman staring fearfully at the approaching storm.

“Grog believe thunder is giant farts of god mammoth who live in sky!”

A whole worldview, science, history, meteorology, summed up in one line.

Though … given human nature, there was probably another caveman who responded with, “Bro, you lost me after ‘thunder,'” – StonekettleStation on Facebook

There is a discernible shortening of attention spans as the information age progresses. It seems some people just can’t keep up with all the information that is constantly being thrown at them. The pundits call this “information overload”. Everyone will experience this if they haven’t already. Too many messages. Too many podcasts. Too many news feeds. Too many opinions that all make interesting, if not actually valid points.

This reminds me of a frequent trope of Dan Carlin‘s on his various podcasts, the historical story of the Gordian knot in which the ruler of all Asia would be the man who could untie the knot. Alexander the Great, as legend has it, drew his sword and cut the knot, thereby convincing those in attendance that he would be the next ruler of all Asia. Modern man, faced with information overload, foolishly believes that he can cut the knot of too much information by simply declaring what he believes, devoid of any truth.

What the slicers in this allegory fail to understand is that Alexander the Great did not conquer all of Asia after cutting the knot, but was instead laid low by disease or poison and died with no clear heir to rule after him, his accumulated lands and treasure divided among his generals. There is no quick way to become informed, to solve the Gordian knot. Either you are informed or you must rely on the judgement of others who are, people trained in the areas that you lack proficiency, the oft-derided *elites* in the Trump world. If you don’t do this then you are a fool marching into battle with no estimation of the force you will face, no idea of the terrain you must traverse, no assurance that your force will even survive to take up arms when battle calls.

Your fate is written in the texts you don’t read, the advice you don’t even take time to hear. You are already laid low and dying, and you simply don’t know it yet.

Revolution Already in Progress; Now Go Vote!

I have a confession to make; several of them actually, and not all of them will occur here.  I used to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging out on the forums of Dan Carlin’s website (newly renovated) largely because I tended to agree with his political arguments and loved his history show. Since I first signed on those forums I’ve abandoned them several times because of various hostile posters, only to be drawn back again because of some inane argument presented in of his Common Sense podcasts.

The latest Common Sense (titled Kickstarting the Revolution) is a nice illustration of why I have stopped spending time arguing with devotees of Carlin’s on his website, and why I contemplate abandoning his political podcast altogether.  Starting from the false attribution to Churchill which he repeats and is debunked on Churchill’s website like so;

“If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart.  If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” There is no record of anyone hearing Churchill say this. Paul Addison of Edinburgh University makes this comment: “Surely Churchill can’t have used the words attributed to him. He’d been a Conservative at 15 and a Liberal at 35!  And would he have talked so disrespectfully of Clemmie, who is generally thought to have been a lifelong Liberal?”

Never mind that I personally can disassemble the assertion by simply observing that I have never been an ideologue, and it is not solely the realm of the young as he insists when he brings up that misquote (ideologues making up the bulk of liberalism in his argument) since there are any number of hidebound hoary old ideologues out there insisting that their ideology must be followed, and that make up the bulk of the Conservative wing of the Republican party. 
But that’s just where he starts to go off the rails.

I don’t think a lot of you have perhaps considered that we are a month away from the 2016 election kickoff, and I know what you are thinking because I always think the same thing; already?!?  Yeah, the midterm elections are a month away.  If you’ve got some fancy-schmancy wise interesting outside the box idea for impacting the 2016 Presidential elections for all our good, you need to start it now.

No Dan, that isn’t what I’m thinking. What I’m thinking is that you (and the vast majority of the electorate apparently) are once again mistaking authority for ability.  Attributing to the President more power than he actually has, and holding him accountable for actions beyond the powers of his office (on the one hand) and expecting the next President will be able to exercise powers he doesn’t have in order to fix things which aren’t under his control in the office of President (on the other) What this podcast represents, at the end of another long and winding hour and a half, is one more episode chalked up in support of the dictator theme; the false dream that electing the one right person will fix things, skipping over the very obvious fact that what is important right here and right now is that people go vote in the midterms.

The lackadaisical way that US Americans approach the obligation to participate in government both highlights the need for a requirement that people participate in their government; while at the same time reinforcing the observation that we get the government we deserve.

This reliance on the President, this common belief that this one person can fix the ills of an increasingly complex system inhabited by hundreds of millions of people who are all going about their merry way living their own lives, is the worst kind of naivete.  Couple that with the blind insistence that the calcifying remnants of the two party system are no different from each other, in the face of the popular takeover of the Republican party by the Religious Right in the form of the Tea Party, evidence that the revolution that you agitate for is already occurring, has been occurring since 2008…

…Well, it boggles the mind, the lack of understanding of the system itself that these views now represent.  I’m more than a little mortified.  The reference link for this podcast points toward Lawrence Lessig’s site. I agitated for Dan to interview Prof. Lessig for ages on the show, and now that he’s done that and promotes him, he links the Prof. to the completely dysfunctional idea that 2016 is somehow more important than the day to day operations of party machinery, or the impending disaster that will be handing the Senate over to the hidebound Republicans if only their Ebola-fearing voter base goes out and votes this month.

That isn’t how the world really works. Yes, the individual can matter, does matter.  Yes, authority grants a certain amount of power, but that power is limited by design and by the reality of there only being so much one person can do.

The fallacy here, as I so often come up against, is the externalizing of purpose. The false idea that your purpose in life can be satisfied by some external agent, can be defined by someone else than yourself.  That voting actually does something aside from (as I’ve alluded to many times) seal the deal that you make when you set out to support a candidate or a position and then work to see the goal come to pass.

You have to decide what is important, you have to do the work to see it successful.  You cannot simply go vote and expect others to carry your goals forward with them while you deal with things you deem are more important.  They will do what they think is important.  Either you accept that their goals are at variance with yours, or you don’t and are never (and will never be) satisfied with any outcome no matter how much better it may make your actual conditions in life.

…in that vein, the Democratic party and the Republican party are simply tools to be used, just like any other social structure.  They are no more and no less good or evil (or monolithic) than the individuals who work in those groups to advance the goals they set for themselves.

So go vote this month! But not just vote, go scope out your local party, see how the sausage is made in the hands of the people who currently hold power; and if you want wild ideas about how the internet can fix the problems of aging structures in or government, maybe you should take a look at this;

Pia Mancini and her colleagues want to upgrade democracy in Argentina and beyond. Through their open-source mobile platform they want to bring citizens inside the legislative process, and run candidates who will listen to what they say.

If we want to get away from the kind of world that Noam Chomsky outlined in Manufacturing Consentor the kind of world where the wealthy buy the votes of or representatives as described by Professor Lessig in Republic, Lost; How Money Corrupts Congress – and a Plan to Stop It then we should listen to people like Pia Mancini, or dedicate ourselves to one of the many groups who are working daily to modify the system so that is is more responsive to the voting population of the US.

The Wolf-pac – We must reverse Citizens United, Restore our Democracy, and Save the Republic. Join the Fight for Free and Fair Elections in America! That has had success in at least one state house.

Move to Amend – which has been trying to get legislation through congress; and not having much luck at it.

Lessig’s own Rootstrikers.org – which is the third iteration of his groups attempts to form a movement behind the ideas he has put forward again and again.

Or maybe even a group like Represent.us that is facing pushback on the local level in Tallahassee right now while trying to make inroads on the problem of corruption in or governments.

Governments.  Plural.  More than one.  Local, County, State & Federal; not just the President. So go vote, because that’s all that is left to do right now with one short month left in this election cycle.  But don’t allow yourself to sit back after voting and expect the problems to be solved, or (even worse) wait for a President to be elected who will fix the problems we face, that will do so in a way that you approve of (which is a pipe dream) go out and change the system by participating in it.  At least then you will have earned the right to bitch about how things turned out, rather than just pretending you have that right because you have a right to free speech.

Much Ado About NSA

Dan Carlin chose to make his latest Common Sense episode all about the historic outrage that is the NSA spying on us, likening it to the kind of outrage that Lawrence O’Donnell pokes holes in during the attached video segment.

Approaching this idea from the perspective of ‘Vampiric Memories’ (memories of several centuries) as Dan does, what would be most striking was not that governments do what governments have always done; but that the people who run this government are more varied in race and sex than at any time previously in history.

Now, this observation can lead to other insights such as how white men aren’t nearly as bad as we’ve been lead to believe since we don’t run everything anymore and it all still sucks, or that inclusiveness in government hasn’t gone far enough because the suckage of government hasn’t been alleviated yet.

But what you cannot say is that this is an outrage as has never been seen before, and it’s only our relative blindness to change (for various reasons) that allow this outrage to continue.  Should the NSA programs be brought down?  Certainly, and it appears that they will be.  But can we tone down the histrionics, please?


Edited to add the following;

Seriously Dan?  Another podcast on the same subject? Only this time to attack the false premise that NSA spying isn’t a big deal?  I’ve been trying to tell people that privacy was dead for a decade or more.  I use my real name on the internet and yell from the rooftops repeatedly that there is no such thing on the internet as privacy, precisely because I suspected the NSA was doing exactly what it’s been shown to be doing over the last year.

Just because I’m ready for a new subject to discuss, has nothing at all to do with the assumed importance of the NSA spying problem.  The real problem is, most people who object to the spying aren’t willing to fight the hard fight it’s going to take to get the laws changed to forbid the government from engaging in this kind of data collection; largely because most of them think like you and don’t want to dirty themselves by getting into political fights, joining parties, and changing the system.

When you’re ready to seriously get involved, let me know.  I have some pointers on that score.

Texas SBOE Destroys Education

Just got done listening to Common Sense 172. I generally agree with Dan on a lot of things. This is one time I think there’s more threat here than he’s willing to admit to.

As an example, here’s a quote from show Number 8:

“I’m not an intelligent design guy, I’m just an open-minded guy. I don’t mind a whole bunch of theories being thrown out there. I think we’ve really forgotten in this whole evolution thing is that the name of this whole name evolution thing is the theory of evolution.

I’m not suggesting that Dan is a creationist, or even a christian. What I am suggesting is that the arguments of the Religious Reich (and I’ve heard this exact phrase come out of ID defenders mouths before) have seeped into the common arguments presented by average people who don’t necessarily understand what scientists mean when they use the word theory. Gravitational theory is only a theory too. But I wouldn’t suggest you jump off a building and expect to float. There is every bit as much science backing evolution as there is gravitation. Perhaps more. Dan has gone on the attack against science in the past (episode 5 for those with the DVD) albeit attacking pop science. And yet the scientific method is the only method that has been shown to be capable of determining what truth is.

Science is under attack here in Texas, more than history is. The SBOE has specifically gone on the attack against the scientific method itself, attempting to undercut the basis for our technological society. The stories coming out about the history textbooks just highlight what kind of mental neanderthals are serving on the SBOE, and what their real goals are.

Here’s a quote from the story in the NY Times:

In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a bloc of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles, and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state.
Since January, Republicans on the board have passed more than 100 amendments to the 120-page curriculum standards affecting history, sociology and economics courses from elementary to high school. The standards were proposed by a panel of teachers.
“We are adding balance,” said Dr. Don McLeroy, the leader of the conservative faction on the board, after the vote. “History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left.”

Excuse me if I don’t buy McLeroy’s arguments on the subject of the skewing of academia. His past support for inclusion of the teaching of creationism in science classrooms (which is distinctly NOT science) and his boards attempts to manipulate the definition of the scientific method so that Intelligent Design would meet the criteria, have shown that he is no friend of education, or our technologically based society either (which only exists because of the scientific method) which makes me question the justification for his chairing the board that dictates what Texas children will be taught in coming years.

The one thing I do agree with Dan on, on this subject, is the legitimacy of the existence of these types of boards in the first place. There isn’t any. They should all be disbanded, and the controls for what is taught should be handed back to the teachers and parents. The people directly involved in educating the children.

Because, trust me, education begins at home. No matter what the government schools set out to teach my children, they get an education in critical thinking from me.


I seem to have started an interesting thread over at the Common Sense forum. Still think Dan didn’t hit the SBOE hard enough. Jon Stewart did.

I’d like to put this in perspective. The rest of the nation is buying textbooks that meet standards set by a state whose students are not even close to the best performers in the nation.

Bureaucracy in action.


For those who might think I exaggerate the threat, here’s a list of the worst of the current changes proposed by the SBOE to the Social Studies curriculum, from the TFN website;

  • Religious conservatives on the board killed a proposed standard that would have required high school government students to “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.” That means the board rejected teaching students about the most fundamental constitutional protection for religious freedom in America. (3/11/10)
  • Even as board members continued to demand that students learn about “American exceptionalism,” they stripped Thomas Jefferson from a world history standard about the influence of Enlightenment thinkers on political revolutions from the 1700s to today. In Jefferson’s place, the board’s religious conservatives inserted Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. They also removed the reference to “Enlightenment ideas” from the standard, requiring that students simply learn about the “writings” of various thinkers (including Calvin and Aquinas). (3/11/10)
  • Board conservatives succeeded in censoring the word “capitalism” in the standards, requiring that the term for that economic system be called “free enterprise” throughout all social studies courses. Board members such as Terri Leo and Ken Mercer charged that “capitalism” is a negative term used by “liberal professors in academia.” (3/11/10)
  • The board removed the concepts of “justice” and “responsibility for the common good” from a list of characteristics of good citizenship for Grades 1-3. (The proposal to remove “equality” failed.) (1/14/10)

  • Social conservatives on the board removed Santa Barraza from a Grade 7 Texas history standard on Texans who have made contributions to the arts because they objected to one of her (many) paintings — one including a depiction of a woman’s exposed breasts. Yet some of Barraza’s works had been displayed in the Texas Governor’s Mansion during the gubernatorial administration of George W. Bush in the 1990s. (3/11/10)
  • The board stripped Dolores Huerta, cofounder of United Farm Workers of America, from a Grade 3 list of “historical and contemporary figures who have exemplified good citizenship.” Conservative board members said Huerta is not a good role model for third-graders because she’s a socialist. But they did not remove Hellen Keller from the same standard even though Keller was a staunch socialist. Don McLeroy, a conservative board member who voted to remove Huerta, had earlier added W.E.B. DuBois so the Grade 2 standards. McLeroy apparently didn’t know that DuBois had joined the Communist Party in the year before he died. (1/14/10)
  • In an absurd attempt to excuse Joseph McCarthy’s outrageous witchhunts in the 1950s, far-right board members succeeded in adding a requirement that students learn about “communist infiltration in U.S. government” during the Cold War. (Board member Don McLeroy has even claimed outright that Joseph McCarthy has been “vindicated,” a contention not supported by mainstream scholarship.) (1/15/10)
  • The board voted in January to remove children’s book author Bill Martin Jr. from a Grade 3 standard about significant writers and artists because members confused the author of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? with another Bill Martin who had written a book about Marxism. An embarrassed board reinserted Martin into the Grade 3 standards in March. (3/11/10)
  • Board members added Friedrich von Hayek to a standard in the high school economics course even though some board members acknowledged that they had no idea who the Austrian-born economist even was. (3/11/10)
  • The board added a requirement that American history students learn about conservative heroes and icons such as Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority. The board included no similar standard requiring students to learn about individuals and organizations simply because they are liberal. (1/15/10)
  • Board conservatives passed a standard for the eighth-grade U.S. history class requiring students to learn about the ideas in Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address as president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. (1/14/10)
  • In a high school government standard about “the importance of the expression of different points of view in a democratic republic,” the board added a requirement that students learn about the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. (3/11/10)
  • The board’s bloc of social conservatives tried to water down instruction on the history of the civil rights movement. One board amendment, for example, would have required students to learn that the civil rights movement created “unreasonable expectations for equal outcomes.” That failed to pass. Other amendments passed in January minimized the decades of struggle by women and ethnic minorities to gain equal and civil rights. (Board member Don McLeroy even claimed that women and minorities owed thanks to men and “the majority” for their rights. Earlier in the revision process, a conservative appointed by McLeroy to a curriculum team had complained about an “over-representation of minorities” in the standards.) Under pressure from civil rights groups, the board partially reversed those earlier amendments. (3/11/10)
  • The board’s right-wing faction removed references to “democratic” (or “representative democracy”) when discussing the U.S. form of government. The board’s majority Republicans changed those references to “constitutional republic.” Board member Cynthia Dunbar also won approval for changing references to “democratic societies” to “societies with representative government.” (3/11/10)
  • Religious conservatives stripped from the high school sociology course a standard having students “differentiate between sex and gender as social constructs and determine how gender and socialization interact.” Board member Barbara Cargill argued that the standard would lead students to learn about “transexuals, transvestites and who knows what else.” She told board members she had conducted a “Google search” to support her argument. Board member Ken Mercer complained that the amendment was about “sex.” The board consulted no sociologists during the debate. (3/11/10)
  • Board member Barbara Cargill proposed a standard to the high school economics course requiring students to “analyze the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar since the inception of the Federal Reserve System since 1913.” After debate, the board passed a revised standard that requires students to “analyze the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar, including the abandonment of the gold standard.” References to 1913 and the Federal Reserve System were dropped. The board consulted no economists during the debate. (3/11/10)
  • The board approved a standard requiring students to learn about “any unintended consequences” of the Great Society, affirmative action and Title IX. (3/11/10)
  • In a high school U.S. history standard on musical genres that have been popular over time, the board’s bloc of social conservatives removed “hip hop,” equating this broad genre with “gangsta rap.” (3/11/10)
  • The board voted to use “BC” and “AD” rather than “BCE” and “CE” in references to dates in the history classes. That means students going off to college won’t be familiar with what has become an increasingly common standard for dates. (3/10/10)
  • The board removed Oscar Romero, a prominent Roman Catholic archbishop who was assassinated in 1980 (as he was celebrating Mass) by rightists in El Salvador, from a world history standard about leaders who led resistance to political oppression. Romero, they argued, wasn’t of the same stature as others listed in the standards: Nelson Mandela and Mohandas Gandhi. One board member argued that “he didn’t have his own movie like the others.” He quickly reversed himself — the film Romero, based on the archbishop’s life, was released in 1989 and starred actor Raul Julia in the title role. (3/10/10)
  • The board’s right-wing faction removed a reference to propaganda as a factor in U.S. entry into World War I. (The role of propaganda on behalf of both the Allies and Central Powers in swaying public opinion in the United States is well-documented. Republican Pat Hardy noted that her fellow board members were “rewriting history” with that and similar changes.) (1/15/10)
  • The board changed a “imperialism” to “expansionism” in a U.S. history course standard about American acquisition of overseas territories in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Board conservatives argued that what the United States did at the time was not the same as European imperialism. (1/15/10)

(source Texas Freedom Network TFN Insider: The List of Shame in Texas)

Some additional articles in the local paper.

College readiness overlooked in social studies fight
TEA posts latest version of social studies standards
Now’s the time to educate State Board of Education
McLeroy, Miller upset in SBOE elections

A compilation of my thoughts on the topic of the SBOE and the conversation with Dan Carlin’s forum community about this episode, cribbed from this and other threads preserved at The Wayback Machine: Archive.org

Poetry vs. Philosophy

Historical musings from the hey I’ll hit publish later” archive. The comments were a response to Dan Carlin’s Common Sense episode #127 but they had almost nothing to do with the episode.


The song Dan is thinking of, unless I am mistaken, is a Don Henley song from his first solo album. Not the Eagles.





Although, as the video above shows, the Eagles are not above cashing in on Don Henley’s solo efforts, any more than they are above cashing in on Joe Walsh’s or any other band members work that will gain them a few more bucks. Kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down. Pretty much covers the rise and fall of any candidate, including Barack Obama.

The problem is there isn’t a single person who can fix the problems this country faces. Everyone wants to vote and be done with it. Doesn’t work that way. You have to roll up your sleeves and get to work yourself if you want to see change.

As a general rule I hate music videos. I link them only because there isn’t an easy way to share a song without video attached. The greatest music video is the one running in my head when I’m listening to my favorite music. Having someone else interpret what the sound means ruins the entire concept of ‘music’.

Take it Easy has a specific meaning for me, related to the time and place in my life where the poetry spoke to me. Supplanting that with surfed up images is faking real meaning.

Develop an appreciation for classical music, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. There’s a world of difference between a poet and philosopher. Ayn Rand was a philosopher. John Lennon was a poet. Immanuel Kant was a philosopher (just not a good one) Ludwig van Beethoven was a poet (one of the best ever) There is no question what a philosopher means when he attempts to define reality. A poet’s every word is open to interpretation, and yet the emotion should ring clearly through the words and/or music.

Mistaking poetry for philosophy highlights a key reason why society is still mired in prehistoric superstition and saddled with problems that can’t be solved on anything other than a personal level. Rational legal structures cannot satisfy emotional needs. Wanting to feel safe is not a reason to enslave the medical profession and force me to contribute. Needing to feel cared for is not a reason to steal my retirement savings.

Wanting to save the earth has no bearing on whether your actions will actually improve the environment, or simply destroy property rights; and through their destruction, the fabric of western society itself. If it can be objectively proven that humans are destroying the planet, then either we can be counted upon to act rationally and alter our behaviors for our own good, or the hard-core environmentalists will get their fondest wish. Destroying property rights just improves the hand of the power seeker, who has no more of a clue than you do what will improve the environment.

Wanting to save another’s soul from eternal damnation by outlawing questionable behaviors like prostitution and recreational drug use has proven to go farther towards creating hell on earth than doing nothing at all might have. Allowing individuals the freedom to live their own lives, whether you approve of their choices or not, underscores the value of liberty. Poor choices serve as their own correction mechanism; there is no need for further punishment, it just clouds the issue bringing in a layer of paternalism when none is warranted.

Poetry appeals to your emotion, comforting or crying out for redress. Philosophy informs your mind, and outlines the possibilities in life. Clarifying whether someone is being philosophical or poetical is the first step in understanding whether they are trying to avoid reason, or attempting to motivate with emotion. And the difference is crucial.

Common Sense 121: Beware the Military Industrial Complex

Dan Carlin having bowed to the inevitable and deleting his forums and the archives (as far as an outsider can tell) I am glad that I saved so many of the arguments that I engaged in there. Here is another one of those I’ve published retroactively on the date I saved it to the blog for republishing.   

Dan has stated on occasion that he is not a historian, and I freely admit that I know less about history than he does. This is especially true about military history, which I have not actively studied since I was in high school (other than research into specific events) making me that much more removed from the ranks of historians than Dan is. Even lacking Historian credentials, I think I can say that there is a difference between what something is intended to do, and what gets done.

The Army isn’t supposed to exist in peacetime. On the other hand, there’s been very little true peace in American history. If there wasn’t natives to fight, there has always been some foreign dragon to slay. Those who profit from providing war materials to the government have always found excuses to get us involved in another conflict.

However, the military looks significantly different today than it did prior to WWI. The existence of the Air Force alone, much less the impact of other mechanized forces on the other services proves this. The war department was an ongoing temporary affair until 1943 when the Pentagon was finished (which was strangely about the same time as the creation of the Joint Chiefs) creating the permanent military structure we have now.

Prior to WWI (in spite of Lincoln’s unprecedented conscription service during the Civil War) you have a military that understood the truly temporary nature of its mandate. After WWII, the military sees itself as justifying its own existence; that taking the people’s money to pay for weapons we don’t really need and forces we can’t really use somehow makes sense in the scheme of things.

And so we engage in ever more frequent bouts of military adventurism in order to justify the expense of maintaining the military; creating enemies to fight (Saddam, Osama; perhaps even funding the USSR depending on whose tin foil hat views you want to give credence to) when we couldn’t find a home grown bad guy to flex military muscle on.

Given where we are now, I’ll take the temporary military that we had prior to WWI, whether it was really temporary or not. How many times are we going to fall for this type of subterfuge? The Maine and the Spanish American War? the Lusitania and WWI? Pearl Harbor and WWII? Gulf of Tonkin? 9/11 and our new permanent War on Terror? Hear the bell and salivate. Good dog.

Logic dictates that if you keep paying for a large military, a standing army will be used to do what armies do, kill people and blow things up. If that isn’t acceptable, killing people as a justification for the existence of the military alone, then what is being proposed is a welfare program that we must contribute to because not letting our military go adventuring is going to hurt our economy. Burning women, kids, houses and villages because our boys need some paying work to do. I have never seen soldiers as being some part of a welfare program. “We don’t really need you to serve, but we know you need the money?” I doubt that most of them would be honored to serve, willing to serve, under those conditions.

Is it going to be a radical change in government policy to take this action, to end the existence of a standing US army? Not as much as it would have been 10 years ago. The debt keeps piling up, and we have to pay it down eventually; slashing military spending would go a long way towards correcting the problem. The cure will not be as bad as the disease.

Apache Tears – Hardcore History 20

Dan Carlin in his latest Hardcore History talks at length about the Apache Indians. I don’t want to be too critical here, but if the Apache were acting like your average highwayman (OK, super average highwayman) I’m not surprised they were nearly wiped out. You be the judge, go by the site and have a listen. Or pick up a copy of the reference works he cites, listed here. He had high praise for the works of Eve Ball, you might want to start there.

For myself, I have a passing interest in the subject. I’ve read Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee,

[skip the HBO film of the same name, it’s a lame adaptation that tries to tell a linear story, from essentially one natives point of view. There were several scenes imposed on the storyline that were meant to assuage the guilt of the white eyes, but just end up sticking out like sore thumbs.]

and I’ve read several accounts of Custer’s Last Stand, one or two from the native perspective.

I have more of an interest in the architecture that the natives left behind (as you might imagine from my profile) consequently I’m more interested in Pueblo Indians than I am in nomads like the Apache. Still, a line from a podcast I listened to recently keeps echoing in my head; lamenting that we had the misfortune to stumble across the last vestiges of a stone age culture, at a time when Western society was ill equipped to do anything other than destroy it. So much insight into our shared history could have been gained if we had only taken the time to study the American natives, instead of pursuing the ill-advised goal of converting or killing them.

Mukasey’s Paradox is Just a Sign of the Times

A dose of Common Sense (120) via Jonathan Turley and the LA Times, and Dan Carlin:

The problem for Mukasey was that if he admitted waterboarding was a crime, then it was a crime that had been authorized by the president of the United States — an admission that would trigger calls for both a criminal investigation and impeachment. Mukasey’s confirmation was facing imminent defeat over his refusal to answer the question when Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) suddenly rescued him, guaranteeing that he would not have to answer it.

Once in office, Mukasey still had the nasty problem of a secret torture program that was now hiding in plain view. Asked to order a criminal investigation of the program, Mukasey refused. His rationale left many lawyers gasping: Any torture that occurred was done on the advice of counsel and therefore, while they may have been wrong, it could not have been a crime for CIA interrogators or, presumably, the president. If this sounds ludicrous, it is. Under that logic, any president can simply surround himself with extremist or collusive lawyers and instantly decriminalize any crime.

However, this is only half of Mukasey’s Paradox. The other half occurred last week when Mukasey refused to allow contempt charges against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers to be given to a grand jury. Bolten and Miers stand accused of contempt in refusing to testify before Congress in its investigation of the firings of several U.S. attorneys in 2006. Mukasey wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that their refusal to testify could not be a crime because the president ordered them not to testify under executive privilege.

read more | digg story

Dan laments the failure of the balance of powers to fix the problems apparent in the Democrat leadership (Schumer and Feinstein) confirming Mukasey to the Attorney General position, even though Mukasey’s answers to the waterboarding question should have been a red flag to anyone interested in seeing justice done within the current lame duck administration. But the failure of the balance of powers happened long before the confirmation hearing, long before the current administration even.

We have an imperial President. We’ve had one since Lincoln forced the Southern states to return to the Union. With secession removed as the ultimate threat to union, there is no real threat that can be used to bring the federal government to heel in events such as we are facing today. Illegal wars, illegal use of police power, etc, etc, ad nauseam.

But it’s not just the lack of real power from the states. There also isn’t any real voice for the states at the federal level. The senate was intended to be the representatives of the several states in Washington; but that representation went away when the Senators became just another set of beauty pageant winners, like the President himself. The seventeenth amendment to the Constitution makes them just another popularly elected office, subject to the same forces as the President, and aspirants for that office.

As presidential hopefuls they will bend over backwards to shield the president from criticism (so that they will one day be shielded in turn) as popularly elected officials they will pander to the media and to special interests so as to insure their reelectability. This is a theory advanced by more knowledgeable people than myself. Stumbled across this tidbit while researching this post:

the primary purpose of having state legislatures elect senators was to give the states a constituent part in the federal government, thereby appeasing the anti-federalists, protecting the states from federal encroachment, and creating and preserving the structure of federalism. Senators were seen as, and acted as, the states’ “ambassadors” to the federal government, representing the states and their interests.

and

[The Seventeenth Amendment] was primarily a rebellion of emerging special interests against federalism and bicameralism, which restrained the ability of the federal government to produce legislation favorable to those interests. Changing the method of electing senators changed the rules of the game for seeking favorable legislation from the federal government, fostering the massive expansion of the federal government in the twentieth century.

(from the Independent Institute)

So, the separation of powers has been subverted by the popular vote and those seeking favor from the federal government.

This yields things like what we are seeing today. Presidents that declare war without legislative approval. Presidents that write the treaties that they want without consulting the Congress. And Congress remains silent because Congress doesn’t want the responsibility; Congress isn’t profited by being responsible, elections frequently hinge on their being able to claim that they were not responsible.

Thusly, irresponsibility becomes something to champion, and decadence becomes something you pay extra for. Apparently, irony and paradox aren’t far apart.

Even if there is no exception to the president ordering crimes, there is no crime because the president ordered it. Perfection.

So, once again, this comes down to the structure being broken on purpose, and those who profit from the current broken system not being willing to fix it. How many different ways can you say “not sustainable“?

Common Sense 120 – the Environment again.

Common Sense 120 get’s two posts. Mukasey’s Paradox deals with the first half of the show. This one is about the second half. Dan Carlin continues to talk about global warming, even though polls have shown that Global Warming now world’s most boring topic.

Seriously, I’ve gotten back into my forum addiction of late, and they’ve been beatin’ the dead horse of environmentalism over at Dan Carlin’s forum for quite awhile now.

The news article that inspired show 120’s second half (the source of which Dan won’t reveal) sounds like it was written by the average socialist turned environmentalist. Anyone who can use the phrase culture of growth as a negative is someone whose opinions can be discarded. Sorry, that’s how I feel.

In Dan’s defense, he doesn’t buy into this article either. In fact, the tough question is really about global warming supplanting the real environmental concerns of the average citizen. Cleaner water, cleaner air. Out of control consumption. Let’s deal with the problems we can handle, hope that we won’t have to give up our freedom in order to save the planet. Which is what the promoters of combating global warming are really asking for.


Some examples of the arguments I’ve been in lately.

Quote:
Anyway, just becasue all of these things are true, I don’t understand why this means we shouldn’t begin changes in our society to lower GHG emmissions. Not only do these contribute to climate change, but they also affect health, air quality, and visibility.


Because there isn’t any way to do it with current technologies without top down command and control type scenarios. If you take all the cars off the roadway and force everybody onto buses, the impact on pollution would not be that significant. Studies have show (in Austin, anyway) that it’s not vehicle exhaust that causes the majority of pollution these days, it’s businesses (that gets back to the EPA and the disconnection that was put in place to keep people from being able to sue polluters directly) which are given license to do so. These studies don’t stop the EPA from requiring expensive vehicle inspections, all the same. There is already too much command and control, and it’s not working.

If new technologies emerge (and if gas prices continue to climb, they will) that produce cleaner burning fuels, or transportation options that are superior (read as more convenient) for the individual, then the GHG problem becomes a moot issue. Any attempt to reduce GHG (as the study shows) with current technologies will not yield a net benefit. The developing nations are always excluded from these plans, and the majority of new emissions are going to come from those countries.

We are at a crossroads, just as civilization was at a crossroads in the late 1800’s, when whale oil drove industry, and consumption projections showed that there weren’t enough whales to provide the oil to sustain growth. Some people ran around screaming about the end of the world, proposing scenarios of doom and gloom for the world’s future. Other people went out and developed crude oil as a replacement.

Put me in the latter camp this time around as well.
http://ranthonysteele.blogspot.com/2005/11/peak-oil.html



One of the threads dealt with a news piece over at Fox News. I would have disregarded it, but it’s by an author that I respect that I first ran across at CATO.

And then you get these sorts of responses:

Quote:
Scientific American has an excellent article entitled ‘The Physics of Climate Change” published about a year ago.

One way of viewing the AGW debate is to treat the problem of cost like buying insurance. If we’re incorrect about AGW and all the carbon we are dumping into the atmosphere doesn’t act as a blanket the way the laws of physics have demonstrated it does, we’ve bought insurance we haven’t used. If however, CO2 and other greenhouse gases block reflected infrared light, as is almost certainly happening, we’ll be very relieved to have stated mitigation earlier. Ounces and prevention, you know.

…except that we can never afford the cost of the insurance required. That is the point Lott is actually echoing (rather than the title of the thread) which is the main argument in Goklany’s paper. That even if global warming is occurring (which isn’t proven) and even if humans are causing AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming, which also isn’t proven) that we can’t know for certain that a fractional rise in temperature isn’t a good thing (and we don’t) and that we can’t make the kind of impact that the laymen thinks we can simply by passing laws and sacrificing comfort. That negating human impact on the climate is a pipe dream.

No one is talking about stopping innovation and not having cleaner air, water, whatever. There are too many armchair environmentalists out there who are willing to pay extra for the knowledge that they aren’t hurting the environment. Innovation in these areas will occur anyway. What Lott and Goklany are saying (and I agree with) is that let’s get the best return on investment, let’s only pay for the insurance we need, rather than bankrupt society trying to return the world to a natural state that never existed in the first place, which is the goal of the hardcore environmentalists.

Lott at CATO: http://www.cato.org/event.php?eventid=3996
Indur Goklany’s policy paper What to Do about Climate Change: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9125

These are the pieces that need to be argued against, if you are going to argue.

…and businesses are innovating all the time trying to catch that elusive environmentalist dollar.

REI, anybody? How about Whole Foods? What about the fact that you can’t find a carpet, flooring or paint manufacturer these days who doesn’t push their recycled low-VOC minimal environmental impact products?

Businesses follow the dollar, and the average dollar is green.


Quote:
Plants indeed use carbon dioxide, but the flaw to your point is deforestation.


From Brown University:

Demand for wood may lead to forest growth, not decline, study says

Increased demand for forest products was a cause of increased forest cover in India during the last three decades, according to a joint study by researchers at Brown and Harvard University in the May 2003 Quarterly Journal of Economics. The finding contradicts the idea that economic development inevitably leads to deforestation.

Not buying the doom and gloom. Not even vaguely.

When I was growing up, we burned our garbage in an ash can in the back yard. The city would come by once a month to collect the ashes and metal, and dump it in a big hole just outside of town. We would go out there with our .22 rifles on occasion and shoot rats. No one ever checked their gas mileage (other than to guess when they’d need to fill up again) and emission controls were unheard of, as were seat belts.

I was a poster child of environmentalism not long after that. Recycling cans and bottles, recycling paper (which has largely proven to be a wasted effort. Paper recycling has a negative impact on the environment) I was chewed out by more than one person at my first office for being too militant about recycling.

Then the government got involved, and the socialists (or statists if you prefer) saw an ‘in’ for their recently discredited political movement, and shifted their focus to pushing for environmental concerns, needing more government to fix the environmental problems.

Global Warming is a socialist’s wet dream, because there is no way to fix it without handing all control over to the state, and relying on the elite to tell us what we can and can’t do. Carbon footprints and consumption monitoring. I’ve refused to call myself an environmentalist since then.

If the only choice I have is between my choice and no choice, I’ll take my choice and the possible end of the world as we know it, for a thousand, Alex.

Common Sense 119 – A Delegate Conspiracy and the Establishment Clause

Podcast link.

Excellent first half of the show, Exposing the Super Delegates. How many Democrat voters realize how their party is structured?

I’ve talked to dozens of people over the years who have whined (yes, I mean you, whiner) about the theft of the 2000 elections by George W. Bush, because the popular vote wasn’t for Bush, it went to Gore.

[Never mind that the election was a statistical tie (as was the 2004 election) in most locations around the country. Never mind that the legislatures of most states (including Florida) are empowered to choose who their electors should vote for in the event of no clear victor in a national election. Never mind that the method of selection for national representatives (other than the Senate) is left up to the states to determine, and that includes the President. I’m no friend of election in the first place, so maybe I’m biased. Still, one has to wonder what limitations on majority rule can be maintained when everything becomes a popularity contest, a beauty pageant, first and foremost]

Several people have made a point to tell me that the thing that most needs fixing in our government is the electoral college, because of this outrage. How outraged will they be when their own party takes the popular vote and renders it meaningless by using the super delegates to select Hillary Clinton to compete against John McCain instead of Barack Obama?

Think it can’t happen? Then you don’t understand your own party. From the Wikipedia:

Superdelegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention include all Democratic members of the United States Congress, Democratic governors, various additional elected officials, members of the Democratic National Committee, as well as “all former Democratic Presidents, all former Democratic Vice Presidents, all former Democratic Leaders of the U.S. Senate, all former Democratic Speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic Minority Leaders, as applicable, and all former Chairs of the Democratic National Committee.”

The 2008 Democratic National Convention will have approximately 796 superdelegates. Delegates from state caucuses and primaries will number 3,253, resulting in a total number of delegate votes of 4,049. A candidate needs a majority of that total, or 2,025, to win the nomination. Superdelegates account for approximately one fifth (19.6%) of all votes at the convention.

This has been done before, as Dan pointed out. The truly pointless candidacy of Walter Mondale can be wholly laid at the feet of the super delegates.

What I want to know is how will Bill spin it afterwards? After he uses party muscle (and bribery; er, contributions to super delegates) to get what he wants?

I don’t think it will happen, though (sorry Dan) The representative for the district I reside in, Lloyd Doggett, is a long time leader of the Texas Democrat party, and he announced Texas’ intention to throw the Clintons under the bus by publicly declaring his support for Barack Obama before the recent ‘debates’ here in Austin.

So I guess I’ll have to revise my prediction of a Clinton victory.


The second half of the show dealt with smaller government. Smaller government as in most government power being in the hands of local and state governments (as the founders intended) rather than in the hands of large federal bureaucracies (as the US government is currently structured) This is a trend that is occurring now, with California and several other states being willing to go head to head with the feds over things like pollution controls and the drug war.

What we are seeing is not new, this is the way that an out of control Washington D.C. is reigned in. The states simply ignore what the federal government tells them to do, or actively thwarts it (as in the case of Medical Marijuana) It was known as the Principles of ’98 (1898, to be exact) the first time it was tried, and Jefferson was it’s architect. My only question is, why this has taken so long to take root?

In a general sense I have no problem with this. I fly the Gadsden flag for a reason. It hearkens back to the times before the Constitution, when individual land owners within the several states decided to act to secure their rights as free men. Individual freedom first and foremost. State power should be subservient to this. Which is where I draw the line.

The bill of rights for the US Constitution should continue to (and currently do) apply to all governments constituted within the federal boundaries of the United States. Which means there will be no establishment of religion (as Dan calls it, a “god-abama”) or various other governmental permutations that would violate the basic rights of the individuals who reside in those areas. If different states really want to secede (like Vermont for example) more power to them. If they want to stay members of the United States, they need to conform to the requirements of the constitution.

I’ve often wondered why we don’t invite other countries into the US as states, rather than drafting these ridiculously convoluted trade treaties. I can understand why other countries might decline, considering the vampiric nature of our current government; but if we could get back to the kind of government we started with, before the cause of individual rights was lost in the political subterfuge of states rights and slavery, what population wouldn’t want to join?


March 2nd addition – I completely missed the solution to Dan’s God-abama conundrum. The solution goes like this:

If you’re homeschooling, teach whatever you like. I’m betting parents that home school aren’t going to teach ID. Even if they do, the percentage will be so low as to be insignificant.

Private schools will not teach ID, because they survive on the prestige of their alumni. If the alumni are flipping burgers because they can’t fathom critical thinking (all that is required to understand the evolution vs. ID argument) chances are the school won’t be in business too long.

Government schools are the only chance for ID to take hold, and that is why it must be resisted without compromise in that arena. If there were no government schools, there would be no widespread issue concerning what science is or isn’t, because the blindly religious would maintain their own failing schools or home school, and the rest of the population would rally around verifiable results.

I’ve often thought that the way to get what we want out of the schools, if we have to pay for them with taxes, is to issue vouchers to the parents directly and let them hire the teachers and maintain the schools. We hand the job of crafting tests and developing standards that verify real educational results to the businesses that demand an educated workforce. And then let the market determine the outcome.

But that wasn’t the question asked at the beginning of this thread. The question was about ID in relation to Dan’s assertion that we could let the religious have segments of the US as their own playgrounds so that they would leave the rest of us alone.

And in that framework the answer is NO to ID.

A market solution is the only counter to Dan’s original conundrum. And it only occurred to me today, even though I’ve frequented http://www.schoolandstate.org for a few years now.

Separating school and state is the only workable solution short of standing on the establishment clause and allowing the states to secede, because schooling is the major point of contention between the religious and the secular.