Thursday, March 27, 2014

An Amazing Book - Out of the Mountains

I'm just finishing up one of the best books I've read, Out of the Mountains by David Kilcullen.  If you have any interest in terrorism, organized crime or what keeps communities together, I highly recommend it.  It's the sort of book that made me thoughtful, offered a new perspective on many subjects and has inspired me to do some additional research.  It comes with my highest recommendation. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

All Hail the Police State, Part 18

I've written before about various government agencies that have firearms and SWAT teams, like the Department of Education.  Today I noticed that the newest SWAT team that's come to my attention is operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife department.  You know, game wardens and park rangers.  Because the new futuristic super-poacher needs a militarized game warden to stop him.  Part of the  arsenal?  Gunboats mounted with .30 caliber machine guns including a 65 foot gulf patrol boat.  65' is almost superyacht status, a big freaking boat that cost millions of dollars.  To make sure people have their proper fishing permits, I guess.

That is crazy.

Almost as crazy as the Missouri Water Patrol, that has a SWAT team.  That trains on land.  Because, you know, they need a SWAT team to combat frat boys getting drunk and girls without their tops on in party cove at Lake of the Ozarks.

Stay safe out there!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

All Hail the Police State, Michael Bane Edition

I'm a fan of the Michael Bane Podcast and today's episode was particular topical.  He discusses the increasing prevalence of using SWAT teams in a dynamic entry (kicking in doors and using concussion grenades) for mundane warrants is putting officers at risk.  I agree.

Peace officers should be focused on deescalation and resolving conflict peacefully.  When they arm up with machine guns and grenades and break windows and kick in doors they are bringing violence to a peaceful situation.  They are choosing to escalate the violence rather than pacify it.  Any instructor will tell you that as the violence level escalates, officers are at risk.  It certainly puts civilians at risk.

I've had an intruder in my home.  I was able to resolve the situation without violence.  However, if that intruder has burst into my home in a violent manner instead of coming in quietly, my response would have been quite different.  I would have responded with force.  Instead, I was awoken by my dog and had a moment to gather my thoughts and investigate.  If I was startled awake by violence, it increases the chance I will respond with violence.  It's human nature, hard-wired in us.

I hope police re-evaluate their focus on militarization.  We are all citizens here.  We aren't enemies.  Treating us that way increases the chance we will adapt to be enemies- in that scenario everyone loses.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Day We Fight Back

These folks are doing good work and worth checking out.  If you don't approve of the police state, it's a great day to let your representatives know.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Effect of Tarifs

If you read this blog much, you already realize I'm a motorcycle enthusiast.  I currently own two motorcycles, a Kawasaki dual sport and a Harley.  I bought my first bike at 18 and have owned one continuously for 15 years.  I'm a brand agnostic, lots of companies make good bikes, it all depends on what you are after.

Because of my interest I follow motorcycle news and over the last few years I've noticed a trend in the industry.  Manufacturers are building factories in India.  There are a number of reasons for this, a big one being tariffs.

India, and some other Asian countries like Vietnam, impose very high tariffs on imported motorcycles and scooters.  India is a becoming a huge market for two wheeled transportation, but bikes from Europe, Japan and even China are prohibitively expensive.  So what do manufacturers do?  If they want to sell products in a country where it's not feasible to import, they build a plant.

Honda is up to 4.  KTM is not only building new bikes in India, they are designing new models specifically for that market.  The old British brand Triumph has built bikes in India for some time and are even planning on building a bike in India they export to the UK.  The other British marque, Royal Enfield, is made in India.  Even Harley Davidson makes motorcycles in India.  Their latest offering, the Street 500 and 750, were even designed with members of the engineering team in India. 

It's a changing world out there!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Making a Difference

I'm glad that people getting degrees in Art History, French and Creative Writing notice there is injustice in the world.  I'm glad they are outraged about it.  I'm often dismayed how shocked they are about injustice that has existed for hundreds of years, but we all become aware of the world at different times.  I do however, have a hard reality to share.

An English major at some fancy university is quite unlikely to make any headway against that injustice.

Why?  They are going to enter the world after university with some great tools, but not tools or skills that will enable them to really make a difference.  Sure, they can use perfect grammar when expressing their outrage on Facebook or at Starbucks, but they don't have the tools to gain the power, influence or money to change the world in any substantial way. 

The people who change the world need the influence to do so.  They need to be a charismatic and powerful speaker in a position of importance.  They need to have money behind them to get their message out.  They need to be politicians or lobbyists.  They need to start non-profits.  They need to be able to influence and write legislation.

If you want to change the world, you need to be a lawyer.  Or a politician.  Or have an understanding of business, community organization.  Be a politically connected cultural leader, like clergy.  Have money to put into your causes.  You need to be a traditionally successful person to change the system.  It's great we have people who are passionate about a degree in Women's Studies and have a desire to change the world in a substantial way.  But it's highly unlikely they will.  It takes power, money or influence to change the world.  If fighting injustice is really your goal, then you need to follow a path that gives you that power, money or influence.

Good luck! 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sturdy Shoes

Over the weekend I went to a fundraiser for the local burner group and hackerspace.  It's an annual event and my wife and I have attended a the last few years.  We have friends that run in both the hackerspace and burner communities and the money raised supports art grants.  While at the event I realized something about the people I generally socialize with.

They all wear boots.

I've mentioned before I've volunteered with Zombie Squad for a number of years.  When I first discovered ZS I realized I had a lot in common with them.  These were people who wanted to be prepared, wore sturdy shoes but weren't religious nutjobs or wanna be militia men. 

One of the core holdings of the burn community is radical self reliance.  Sure, a lot of them run around in very little clothing at burns, but they are more likely to be wearing boots whether out and about or partying in the playa.

The bars I frequent tend to be dives- biker bars, industrial and goth bars- again, you see most of the people wearing sturdy boots.  At gun ranges and in the outdoors people are more likely to wear boots.  On motorcycles, people wear boots.  In fact, other than the people at work and the people I play hockey with, most people I choose to associate with are more likely to wear boots than not.  I find that interesting.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Another Reason Gun "Buy-Backs" are a Bad Idea

I've written before about all the reasons gun "buy-backs" (which is a misnomer) end up hurting the communities in which they are executed.  Today I saw another reason why- because sometimes the administrator steals 62% of the $800,000 in tax money used to fund the buy back. 

By the way, that $479,183 that wasn't used for the program didn't include the administrators salary of $287,565.  Seriously, a bureaucrat is getting paid almost three hundred thousand dollars to run this scam of a program and that isn't enough, he steals more than half the money, the tax money, devoted for the program.  Do you think the citizens of Philly could have better benefited from the $1.2 million spent on that program in 2 years?

And people call out business as greedy!  Look anywhere in government and you'll find greed.  It's a part of the human condition found everywhere, not just in private enterprise.  Pundits moan about how the sequester means teachers and firemen have to be fired while more than a million is blown on a program like this with no results except for a bureaucrat living a lush lifestyle. 

Stay frosty, folks.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Misplaced Faith

I was listening to NPR this morning, as I often do.  (you'd think I would learn...)  One of the subjects discussed on the Diane Rehm show was the chemical contamination in the drinking water in North Carolina.  A few hundred thousand people were involved and it has been getting a lot of media attention.

I'm not going to comment on the industrial accident itself or the response from the government.  What does interest me is people's expectations.  The show's host, Diane Rehm, was indignant that the government allowed this to happen.  She was indignant that the slow government response.  She was outraged that the government hadn't provided a new solution to provide water in case this happened again.  Why?

Diane Rehm has faith in the government.  It's a belief system.  It's not based on research or facts.  She has faith and that faith is unsubstantiated.  This isn't the first time she's been shocked on her radio show by incompetent bureaucrats, nor the first time I've posted about misplaced faith in governments

I'll reiterate- putting your faith in government is a terrible idea.  Anyone who does a modicum of research will see it's almost always an organization that isn't worthy of trust or respect, but less faith.  Governments are full of people, just like companies.  People afflicted with sloth, greed, self-importance and who use deception to take advantage of others.  Why would you put your faith in an organization like that?  I have never understood that.

Even by government's own gauge, the government programs aren't successful.   Governments are necessary for civil society and if we understand their true purpose and how they implement laws and set our expectations accordingly, then we won't be disappointed when they continuously fail to meet them.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Problem With a Police State

One of the problems with a police state is that people lose faith in the police and government in general.  They stop engaging police in a friendly fashion.  They don't take matters to court assuming they will get justice.  They become closed communities that move out of the reach of social services.  Just think of how poor communities think of talking to the cops- it's "snitching" and its' highly discouraged.

Most of the cops in this country are good people, but as they start responding to every call with a SWAT team, people are going to stop wanting to use the police.  Responding with a SWAT team escalates the level of violence, it's the opposite of keeping the peace.  Hardly a week goes by where we don't hear about overzealous cops that get called to keep the peace and end up shooting someone.  Just last week we saw an instance of a cop shooting a teen that was restrained and tased because he "didn't have time for this.".  The numbers continue to add up.

If when you call the police it increases the chance someone will be seriously injured or die, then people lose all faith in the police.  When people lose faith in police, the police lose the ability to do their jobs effectively.  It's counter productive to it's goals.

As well as being counter productive to the goals of keeping the peace, it's actually harmful to public safety.  People begin seeing cops as a greater threat than criminals.  In some cases, that belief certainly has merit.  The number of people shot by police in the US is much greater in this country than most other first world nations.

Lastly, the methods used by the police state aren't effective at achieving their stated goals.  After 25 years of dropping crime rates, we are again trending upwards.  Very restrictive gun laws in big cities like Chicago and Baltimore aren't stopping murders.  Collection of all of our phone and credit card data isn't stopping terror plots.  Deploying battle-ready vehicles in hundreds of US cities isn't stopping crime.  It's alienating the populace from the government.

Stay safe out there!