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.