Wednesday, September 10, 2014

All Hail the Police State, Part 19

I've been slacking at keeping up with my blogging, but news I say today couldn't be ignored.  I've often commented on the militarization of police in this country and I always back that up with hard numbers and examples.  Today we have an article in USA Today showing just how much money the federal government is putting into militarizing local police departments.

It's more than 1 billion dollars.  Every year.

Take a moment and marvel at that.  Think of all the times some politician says there isn't enough money to fund highway repair or social programs or education endeavors.  How many school lunches could we provide with a billion dollars?  How many miles of highway could be poured for that?  How many potholes fixed?

Of course, that number pales in comparison to the 1 trillion dollars spent on the NSA this year.  Take this to heart, when you stamp a D or R on your ballot, you are supporting politicians that spend your tax money oppressing you, rather than supporting you.  There are a few exceptions, but 95% of the Democrats and Republicans are supporting programs like this, while telling you there isn't any money to support programs and infrastructure in your local community. 

There is an election coming up, please be thoughtful about who you give your vote to.

Monday, August 18, 2014

What I Saw in Ferguson

I live in St Louis, on the edge of what is considered north county.  Ferguson is about 5 miles north of my little burg.  I grew up close to that area and know the area of Ferguson, Dellwood, Jennings and Florissant quite well.  In fact, my two childhood homes are quite close to streets that have been mentioned in the news a lot- Chambers and West Florissant.  If you take those roads towards the edge of St Louis County from Ferguson you'd pass through the neighborhoods where I spent most of my years until I was 19 and got my own place.  I know that area well.

I'm not surprised by the racial tension, that's an area that has been in transition my whole life.  Section by section black people have moved in and white people have moved out to either west St Louis County or adjacent St Charles county.  Hell, my family was one of those- we moved from Bellefountaine Neighbors to lily white (at the time) Florissant when my dad noticed the first black family on our street.  When my mom moved from that house in Florissant a couple years ago that neighborhood was occupied by black folks in majority numbers.  Anytime you get one demographic displacing another there is going to be more tension.  I've heard it mentioned that St Louis is one of the most segregated urban areas in the nation.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

"Not All Men"

There is a feminist meme referred to as Not All Men.  It mocks men who don't want to be demonized and associated with rapists.  The idea is that when people are chastising all men as a demographic and calling them out as the source of almost all that is wrong in the world, "it's not helpful" for a man to suggest that not all men are evil.  In fact, it's asserted that such a defense is counter productive to the discussion.

That's exactly what it is- a defense.  A defense is needed because men are being attacked.  Whether a particular male involved in the discussion is part of the problem or not doesn't matter, all males are at fault.  Men are collectively called out as evil, as rapists, as misogynists, as being at fault for women making less, and a variety of other issues.  For sure, there are many men who are evil, rapists, misogynists and so on.  But lumping all men into a single category so they are easier to hate, rather than treating people like individuals, isn't helpful to advancing women's rights.  It puts men on the defensive.  It gives men the option of either being self-loathing or anti-feminism.  That's a terrible choice.

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!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Basic Firearms for Individuals

I've written my thoughts on what sort of firearms a household should have before, and covered my ideas about good choices at different price points in a defensive firearm.  After a range visit with an experienced shooter and a relatively new shooter today, I wanted to offer suggestions about ideal firearm options each person should have.

Rather than dive right in to the firearms, I'll first talk about capability.  What capability should people have?  If we first identify the capability it will be easier to select good choices.  In my mind, each able bodied person should have:
- A firearm suitable for concealed carry
- A firearm suitable for frequent practice
- A firearm suitable for home defense against multiple attackers

That's the basics.  Depending on your situation there may be other capability you want to include.  If you live on some acreage you may also want to include a precision rifle in that list.  If you live in an area where you can open carry then a service pistol would be a good choice in place of or in addition to a concealed carry firearm.  Notice I didn't list a hunting firearm.  Hunting is a hobby, and in a pinch other firearms can be used for effective hunting of small and large game.  So what sort of guns will meet the above capability?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Follow the Money

It's a changing world out there.  The internet is rife with sites suggesting the US is in decline and it's possible that we are.  I've found however to discern real truth in any political assertion we have to follow the money.  Recently I'm seeing annecdotes that support the assertion of a US that is no longer a growing world power, manufacturers of high end goods focusing on markets other than the US and Europe.  Today I am making note of the automotive market.

China is becoming the largest market for cars in the world.  Let that sink in for a moment.  30 years ago China was a bit player in the automotive market, they didn't manufacture any automobiles worth owning no matter how cheap they were.  Lots of automotive brands didn't even have operations in China. 

The other emerging market for high end cars, the middle east, while in constant turmoil, also has a lion's share of the worlds billionaires.  There are stories of wealthy men buying a $100k SUV and using it to jump dunes, leaving it behind when it becomes stuck or breaks down.  The wealthy in the society are becoming the worlds premier consumers.  They are already the place to go for high end hotels and resorts.

We now have brands like Porsche and Audi introducing new models specifically designed for the middle east and China where the roads are not up to par with the first world standard.  In fact, Porsche even debuted their new off-road 911 in Bejing rather than Europe, Japan or the US.  We are going to start seeing sports cars with all wheel drive and heavy duty suspension that sits the car higher to sustain potholes and roadless areas.  Heck, even VW is getting in on the action.

If you want to be in a fast growing industry, look to the ones that serve China or the middle east, because that's where the money is increasingly going.