Response to Z

A couple of dear friends commented on my previous post (Is This Reasonable, August 17th) with concerns about ever achieving peace in a world full of weapons and the experience in the United Kingdom with their handgun ban.

The following is a response I wrote and then thought I would include as a new post.

 

Z,

Historically, the UK has been a very non violent country. Starting in 1954, things began to change for the worse as violent crime began to climb. Fast forward to 1997, the year the complete ban of handguns took effect:

  • 1997 to 1999 – Handgun crime rises 40%
  • 1997 – 2001 – Violent crime doubles
  • 2002 – Probability of being mugged in London is six times that of NYC
  • 2002 – 53% of burglaries in UK occur while occupants are home vs. 13% in US (Burglars acknowledge that they are concerned about guns in US homes)

Other numbers:

  • Around 2.5 million incidences occur each year in the US where handguns are used defensively, preventing crime. This is thought to be a conservative number.
  • In only a small percentage of these, around 8%, was a shot fired.

Enough of his numbers, her numbers.

My writing was trying to address the amazingly awful way government deals with gun control. Even the “Assault” weapons ban of the Clinton era was measured by the CDC and FBI to have been completely ineffective if the desired result was less gun crime. Yet, some are clamoring for its reinstatement.

What it seems to come down to is no guns or guns. No guns does not seem to work if we look at the UK example. No guns also, very sadly, calls to mind:

  • In 1911 Turkey established gun control. Subsequently, from 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, deprived of the means to defend themselves, were rounded up and killed.
  • In 1929 the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, approximately 20 million dissidents were arrested and executed.
  • In 1938 Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945 over 13 million Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, mentally ill, union leaders, Catholics and others, unable to fire a shot in protest, were killed by the state.
  • In 1935 China established gun control. Between 1948 and 1952, over 20 million dissidents were rounded up and murdered by the Communists.
  • In 1956 Cambodia enshrined gun control. In just two years (1975-1977) over one million “educated” people (about 1/3 of the entire population!) were executed.
  • In 1964 Guatemala locked in gun control. From 1964 to 1981 over 100,000 Mayan Indians were rounded up and killed, unable to defend themselves.
  • In 1970 the Ugandan dictator decreed gun control. During the next nine years over 300,000 Christians were murdered.
  • Over 56 million people have died, unable to defend themselves, because of gun control in the last century alone.

I believe the founders, when authoring the Bill of Rights and the second amendment wanted to assure that American Citizens would never suffer the above. Wiggling and twisting of those words by contemporary “legal scholars” is just that, wiggling and twisting.

This little series of my writings was intended to place emphasis on how difficult this issue is and how bad government is at fixing it. My position is very simple and it is what I practice. An intense focus on education and training for skills and safety. Treat those who commit gun crimes appropriately not as I described in Reasonable… Again.

My dear friend Don in his comment above writes of Peace and Love. He and you both know that I live that way but that I do it with a 45 on my hip because of all the above.

Peace out,

Peter

 

If the world were filled with Z’s and Don’s, we would not have ANY of the difficulties that are being experienced on so many fronts each and every day. These are people born of love and living with love in all that they do. God bless you both.

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Is This Reasonable?

There is lots of ruckus about gun laws these days. I have written elsewhere in this blog about the type of gun laws no one could object to, the reasonable ones.

Today, I heard about Emily Miller. Emily is a Senior Editor for Opinion at the Washington Times in Washington, DC.

Used to be in Washington, DC, you could not possess a handgun. Then a security guard named Heller pushed the issue and in the Supreme Court’s Heller opinion, they said he was right. Now, you can keep one in the home for self defense.

The opinion puzzled me, since the second amendment says to keep and bear arms. So keeping one at home seems a bit limiting to me. Besides, how dangerous is it inside your home? Oh well, maybe that’s the reasonable part.

Back to Emily. After the Supreme Court decision and after the laws were changed, reasonably in the eyes of some, I suspect, Emily decided to get a gun. I found out about this today through a blog post of hers celebrating her actually getting the gun.

Now she got it February 8, 2012; so, as usual, I am a bit behind the eight ball with this news flash.

Doesn’t she look great? Nice high grip. Finger off the trigger. Support hand high up under the trigger guard. Now, I kinda prefer the barrel be pointed down but there is not universal agreement on that and not a universal set of circumstances.

However, as the middle eastern men shooting their guns in the air in celebration seem not to understand, what goes up must come down.

So let’s catch up with Emily at the police station with her now legal gun… uh… legal in the home. How to get it home?

Well, turns out you are allowed to bring the gun home from the police station. Phew, they reasonably figured that out. One small (reasonable) restriction, the gun must be locked and in a locked case for transport.

Emily being a true city dweller uses public transportation. Should she take the metro home? How else can she get home? Bravely, she jumps on the metro. As soon as she sits down, she realizes that, holy crap, I am sitting here with a gun!

Then a thought that went through my head many times, when I did the same thing in NYC, went through hers. What if I am mugged? Can’t use the gun to protect myself. Well, maybe, reasonably, she could bop the mugger over the head with the locked case.

More likely, the bad guys would just get another gun. Well, we gun folks are at least smart enough to put the darn locked case in a nondescript bag. Then you just pray and keep very vigilant.

I won’t keep you in suspense. Emily made it home. She likes her gun. She practices with it’s mechanical functions, her stance, and grip. Now her left hand looks a little “soft” to my instructor’s eye and I have never been a fan of the locked elbow stance.

But these are easy things to modify. Only Emily has one small problem. She has no ammunition. She has no range where she can practice and increase her skills. Worse yet, she has not yet discovered how she can legally buy ammunition or transport her gun to an outside of Washington, DC range, since there are no ranges in DC. Now, just imagine, crossing state lines has joined the “reasonable” mix.

Emily has written a great story on her blog about this entire saga. Check it out. Have a go at the other chapters. It will give you a whole new appreciation of reasonable.

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Reasonable… Again

Tragedy

The horrific tragedy in Aurora, CO has brought out all of the usual suspects amongst the ban the guns folks. There is Bloomberg in New York City and his pals at the New York Times. One of my past students, knowing I am a gun guy, even wrote me a long, complex piece trying to equate my 45 to a nuclear bomb.

He was using the logic of an old joke, attributed to many different folks including Winston Churchill.

Man: “If I gave you a million dollars would you sleep with me?”

Woman: “Well, you’re not that bad looking and a million dollars is a lot of money, I guess I would.”

Man: “Well, I don’t have a million dollars. Would you sleep with me for $100?”

Woman: “What kind of girl do you think I am?”

Man: “We’ve already established that. We’re just haggling over the price.”

If I can’t have a nuclear bomb, proving some kind of limit has been established, what else should I not be able to have? Following the Colorado tragedy, I suspect the list would include: 100 round magazines, body armor, Internet ammunition buying, AR-15‘s, pistols, shotguns, etc.

To many, I suspect defending easy access to these things makes me kinda strange. Now, I have no use for 100 round magazines (imagine how heavy they are) but some of my friends use them in competition. I have no use for body armor but I suspect it might be convenient for some police units to buy theirs in the more competitive market of the Internet. Ammunition? I buy this on the Internet all of the time because I can get the best prices and it’s very convenient.

Would I be bothered if I had to indicate to the Internet seller that I am appropriately licensed? No. That seems reasonable.

The problem is the old camel’s nose under the tent thing. Soon that old camel will wiggle her way into the tent and that easy requirement for ID will turn into the hoops and roadblocks of the gun laws in NYC or Washington, DC.

Considering how camel like the anti-gun folks are, we gunnies are forced to take what seem to be unreasonable positions. Then out comes the, I’m the enlightened thinker and you’re just a small town, red-necked, bible thumping, gun clinger, to paraphrase our President.

More Tragedy

Recently, a fourteen year old Bronx youth shot a man in the borough of Queens, twice. Then, as he stood over his, still alive, victim about to deliver the coup de grace, something spooked him and he ran, inadvertently sparing his victim.

Is there a back story? Of course.

Three months prior he was questioned by an NYPD officer who watched him hiding a black object by his side which he put in his pocket, when he noticed the officer.

The officer acted on reasonable suspicion with the intent of preventing a crime and performed the stop and frisk maneuver that is now being aggressively attacked by the above mentioned enlightened thinkers.

He had a gun.

He was put in jail.

Under Fourth Amendment case law, constitutional search and seizure may only be done on the basis of Probable Cause. In a 1968 case the Supreme Court ruled that the Forth Amendment’s reasonableness requirement is flexible enough to support actions similar to those the officer took in this situation.

Why was he free to almost kill the person in Queens?

Turns out some of the enlightened on the state Appellate Division Court found a way to release the young man because they felt the stop and frisk was based on no valid grounds. Justices Peter Tom, Karla Moskowitz and Nelson Roman were the brilliant jurists in this case. If the Queens man had been killed, would they have had any liability? Don’t be silly.

Even when there are rules (against illegal guns in NYC) and procedures (stop and frisk) the enlightened screw it up. But, when something awful happens, it’s me, my fellow gun owners, and the NRA who are at fault.

Killing Zones

The Colorado tragedy took place in a privately owned theater that had a “no gun” policy similar to college campus’ and other locations of similar tragedies in the past.

It sounds kind of awful but to a law abiding gun owner, these are killing zones. The perpetrator knows there will be no armed folks in the zone and they are about to do something so grotesque that breaking the no guns rule is not really something that is going to stop them.

One of the worst of these tragedies occurred in Texas many years ago. The Luby’s massacre happened in 1991 when a deranged man drove his pickup truck through the window of Luby’s Diner and proceeded to kill twenty-three people including both parents of Suzanna Hupp. At the time in Texas, restaurants were gun free zones.

Suzanna had a concealed carry permit but had left her gun in the car to comply with the “no guns in restaurants” law. When the gunman started shooting, she instinctively went for her purse where the gun should have been. She then watched her parents be killed while fortunately escaping herself. One of the reasons she was able to escape was that her Dad charged the shooter and was killed while doing so.

After the recent Colorado tragedy, I read some comment about how horrible it would have been had guns been allowed in the theater. Bullets would have been flying everywhere and even more folks would have been killed, the writer surmised. Interestingly, he did not even mention that the shooter was covered from head to toe in body armor even including pieces that police often don’t wear because they encumber movement.

Still, if the shooter was being hit by numerous shots, he might have been disrupted enough to have been jumped by some courageous folks. The folks on flight 93 on September 11th come to mind.

Dependent or Not

The Colorado tragedy has brought out many calls for the government to regulate guns, in spite of the ineffectiveness of existing and sunset (the federal assault weapons ban) gun regulations and of the behaviors of judges like those mentioned above.

Katrina hits to great devastation. Responses vary, but many call for the government to fix things and blame all that went wrong on the government.

Drug trafficking seems to be supporting the rapid rise of gangs and gang violence in our inner cities. Responses vary, but many call for the government to halt the flow of drugs in spite of their years of failure to do just that.

Two thirds of the adults in the United States are overweight or obese. Many say it’s the fault of the food companies and in numerous locations, notably, New York City, the government is banning stuff.

I could go on but it’s annoying.

What ever happened to folks taking responsibility for themselves, their families, and their communities?

Why are we so willing to hand our fates over to the government? In one of his most chilling columns in a while, Chris Hedges discussed folks he called “Careerists”. Read it only if you have a good, positive vibe going. You will need it to keep his great prose from wiping you out.

We have all had our experiences with the government careerists, among them the DMV clerk, the IRS folks, traffic court, and on and on. These are the folks you want to put your trust in?

Getting legislation right is almost impossible. All conditions can not possibly be considered. Lawyers are trained to obfuscate. Lawyers become politicians and legislators. It seems insane to me to depend so heavily on them to get things right.

Their job has become to stay in power vs. helping the folks they were elected to help. They help the constituencies who help get them elected. This is inherently corrupt and depending on it to solve all of our problems is just foolhardy.

Not me... I'm slimmer

When I carry a gun which is pretty much all of the time, except, of course, when visiting in New York, I am intensely aware of my surroundings. I behave very differently than when I don’t have a gun.

I am completely aware of the responsibility that comes with this condition. I understand the laws relating to the use of lethal force, I have gone through many training sessions on how to respond to various bad situations. I know I am not a substitute for the police.

From a skills perspective, I have extensive training. I am certified to teach seven shooting disciplines, hold carry permits in five states yielding, through reciprocity, carry capability in 44 states, I shoot regularly to maintain competence and I shoot in competition. I have been finger printed so often, I can’t imagine that there is any law enforcement database that I am not in.

I take responsibility for my armed condition. I take responsibility for myself and my loved ones. I hope against hope that I never have to use my gun.

Seems reasonable to me.

Posted in Personal | 1 Comment

Cynical

Remember all those papers you wrote in High School and maybe even grade school?

You were writing about something, so your brain and embryonic research abilities led you immediately to the dictionary to find out something about it

The first sentence of your paper read something like:

Cynical

Webster’s Dictionary defines it as:

  1. captious, peevish
  2. having or showing the attitude of temper of a cynic: as
    1. contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives (those cynical men who say that democracy cannot be honest and efficient – F. D. Roosevelt)
    2. based on or reflecting a belief that human conduct is motivated primarily by self interest (a cynical ploy to win votes)

The kid in you got really annoyed when the first word in the definition, captious, sent you further into the dictionary to look IT up. Sort of a death spiral kind of thing, those dictionaries.

So where is this going?

Well, my sweetie has told me that much of my writing is cynical. Recently a friend whom I had not seen in close to fifty years said the same. Based on this, I decided some self reflection was in order.

That very same sweetie encouraged me to blog. She had observed my frustration as I tried to absorb the news of the day and the way it caused dissonance as I moved ever deeper into my research on sustainability.

She suggested writing about what was troubling me (and, unsaid, stop jabbering on and on in conversations with her, I suspect).

Well, it worked! I found great solace in the writing. I found that stopping, contemplating, researching, and writing something helped immensely to calm me down and even to advance my thinking on certain things.

But… Oh boy, here it comes… Maybe what I am reading, primarily business trades and sustainability writings, is at fault. Well, not completely, but at least as a stimulus. Does that make me captious or am I just that way? I think the answer is, as it often is, yes.

Probing ever deeper into the notion of a sustainable world and trying to relate it to common business practices brings me to a couple of places of dissonance in my mind. The business press, see WSJ headline above, is often filled with real crisis information. Sustainability readings often fill me with hope.

Then comes the realization that achieving sustainable businesses will be a huge hill to climb. General awareness of the issues threatening us, our planet, and our businesses seems almost tiny in business and especially in the main business media.

To deal with the dissonance, I, as many do, reflect on my personal experiences.  During my stint in “big” business I personally experienced many, very unsustainable practices. Sadly, these very practices seemed to be the ones that were most highly valued.

Now, a while back, I created a category on this blog called “The Art of the Possible”. Check it out. It won’t take long, there are few entries… To move away from all of this cynicism, sweetie said, try writing about some really positive things. I have obviously failed.

So am I doomed to a cynical death spiral? Well, as I indulge in all of this self reflection I realize that I absolutely am not!

My small life is filled with joy. It comes from my family, my boys and their gals, their mom and her friend Dennis, and that sweetie who keeps suggesting stuff. It is filled with the love of my sister and her great family, lots of wonderful caring friends, my teaching colleagues support and inspiration, my good health, business associates past and present, relationships spanning so many years, my photography, my writing, my work with the city, and much more.

As I go on with my work, though, I fear that I will most often concentrate on things that trouble me. I want to change stuff. I want stuff to be better. I can not just:

Now, to just get some of that joy into these posts…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Winner!

On April 1st of this year, 2012, the United States became the winner. We now have the highest corporate tax rate of all of the developed countries. On April 1st, Japan actually lowered their top rate leaving our 35% rate as the highest.

Well, we are angry at Wall Street and corporate America by implication, so this is OK, right?

But wait, over and over again the press tells us that many large companies do not pay 35% in taxes. A recent study done by the Citizens for Tax Justice, a supposedly left leaning advocacy group, found that 280 of the biggest companies in the US paid less than 18% in taxes, far below the statutory 35%. Fully twenty-five percent of these companies (data used was the companies’ own financials) paid less than 10%. For the reviewed three year period thirty companies paid no federal tax at all… for all three years.

Now, there were a quarter of the companies that did pay the 35%. I can hear the tax planning departments and the lobbyists for the savvier firms laughing and hooting.

How can this be?

Lobbyists

No, you won’t find anything like this Amsterdam red light district on K street in Washington, DC, except in how the lobbying firms that live there operate.

There are a lot of reasons that the number of lobbyists on Capital Hill has increased by more than 100% since 2000. One reason is that these folks work on favorable legislation to reduce their benefactor’s tax liabilities.

Sure, they do a lot of other “influencing” but we are only looking at one wart at a time. Shelters, loopholes, and all kinds of other finagles negotiated by these folks with the government folks, your congresspersons, give the corporation tax lawyers plenty of ways to manipulate their federal tax bill.

Because of these activities, most companies tax rate is not 35% as noted above.  So what is the problem with the 35% and being the developed country with the highest tax rate?

The Problem

Corporate tax “planning” starts with that number. One of the responses is to set loose the hoards from the lobbying companies. Other responses include lots of “planning” on just how the accounting rules apply to their tax liabilities and how they can be structured to lower these liabilities.

All of this activity is not productive (no more widgets out the door) except in the, valid, preservation of capital activity which, admittedly, can produce more widgets later.

I would note that the marginal cost of the planning activity needs to be factored into the widget’s cost.

These activities are complicated for many of these big firms by their international operations and the complex web of tax rules all around the planet. The highest tax rate makes US firms less price competitive in the global marketplace they say. Makes sense, what else to do with that expense except pass it on.

Clearly, lower tax rates in countries other than the US have influenced a considerable amount of job off shoring and facility location outside the US. Just ask folks who used to work in US manufacturing of clothes, shoes, electronics, etc., and a whole lot of Information Technology folks.

Other indicators of shifting international sands include:

  • Today, there is a three times greater investment from the US in foreign firms vs. domestic firms
  • in 1985 ten of the top thirteen international firms were based in the US; today, six.

There are other factors in offshoring decisions, like the fearsome amount of regulation in the US, and the real cost of off shore resources, but, again, those are topics for another day (see elsewhere in this blog).

Lobbyists also do other things to further complicate the situation. They work to influence, even at times create, trade agreements, tariffs, etc.

More shenanigans, more manipulations.

Small Companies

How about the smaller companies? How about what is supposed to be the engine of our economy, the very small companies? Sixty-five percent of new jobs come from these businesses. Because of the vastly complex tax structures, these folks often elect corporate organizational forms that allow them to flow the profits or losses from their companies through to their personal tax returns to pay a lower rate and to preserve capital.

This becomes one of the major fallacies of a “tax the rich” approach. One of these companies having profits of $250,000 now makes its owner look rich, a tax target, when that money is most likely going to be reinvested in the company helping it to grow and employ more folks.

Paul Ryan

We’re in a global economy. Where I come from, when we say “overseas” we mean over Lake Superior — Canada, which just dropped its business tax to 15 percent. How on Earth are our businesses going to be able to compete with the Canadians — or the Irish at 12.5 percent? Since Japan just cut its corporate tax rate, the United States now has the “honor” of having the highest tax rate in the world. If we tax our job-creators at such higher rates than our competitors are taxing their companies — then we lose and they win.

Paul Ryan, From Remarks at the NY Historical Society

Now I can hear the chuckles from some at the mention of Paul Ryan.

What sticks in my mind is the current Secretary of the US Treasury, Timothy Geithner’s comment on Ryan’s work as head of the House Budget Committee, “We’re not suggesting we have a solution to the long-term fiscal problem. What we do know is, we don’t like yours.”

And now…

I was/am a huge Monte Python fan and I believe that it is now time for something completely different.

Many laughed at the expense of Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. My reaction was that while it seemed to need a bit more work, it was bold and courageous to suggest this amount of change.

For years Steve Forbes has been suggesting a flat tax. Some folks have put forth a “fair” tax version with a similar vision for simplicity and fairness.

Incrementalism is not going to work anymore. As we heap regulation on regulation trying to fix one with the next, all we accomplish is job security for all the regulators and mass confusion and cost for the regulated.

In 1986 President Reagan tried to “simplify” the tax code and actually did, a bit. Today, like a chronic dieter, the fat is back and in greater quantities than when Reagan started.

Now is the time for big ideas and the great courage needed to adopt them.

End the gimmicks and loopholes, the crazy subsidies, the amazing interference in commerce, the idea that a government functionary can figure out a hugely complex system and then fix it with a tax code or some other manipulation. Put in place something eminently simple and reasonably consistent for all. I hesitate to say fair. That, I suspect, is a condition that is impossible to reach considering the great variety of perceptions as to just what it means.

Success metrics? When we look on K Street in Washington DC and there are no shingles for lobbying firms, when the tax accountant profession has pretty much disappeared, when the IRS is about one one hundredth of its current size, we will be well on our way.

Can our current system of governance accomplish this?

Posted in The Art of the Possible | Leave a comment

The Developing USSS

The Union of Soviet Socialist States

Say What?

The word soviet, used as a noun, means a council or assembly connected to a socialistic government system. We remember it from the USSR, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The  USSR was a totalitarian state.

A totalitarian state has a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinions and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life.

The United States is a country founded on the tenants of a free, self governing society. Here in NH our state motto is “Live Free or Die”. The motto comes from a quote by John Stark, possibly the most famous NH soldier in the Revolution. When health prevented him from attending a reunion of the Battle of Bennington, he wrote in his RSVP, “Live free or die: death is not the worst of evils.”

From childhood to my current aging state, I have always been filled with wonder at the bravery of the founders and with the power of freedom. Watching the television production of John Adams’ life, I was overwhelmed with the visualized courage exhibited by the signers of the Declaration of Independence. They became documented traitors to England subject to hanging the moment their pens touched the paper.

Because of this background and my strong attachment to the wonder that has been the founding and progression of our country, I have, sadly, only recently become aware of the insidious march in our country towards the USSS. I have felt it. I have listened to the talking heads warn of it.

My strong feelings of being part of what deTocqueville called the great American experiment always overcame, though. It can’t happen here, I felt.

Events

Totalitarian systems disempower an unsuspecting population by gradually making legal what was once illegal. They incrementally corrupt and distort law to exclusively serve the goals of the inner sanctums of power and strip protection from the citizen. Law soon becomes the primary tool to advance the crimes of the elite and punish those who tell the truth. The state saturates the airwaves with official propaganda to replace news. Fear, and finally terror, creates an intellectual and moral void.

Chris Hedges, Truthdig, March 12, 2012

We all kinda knew that, but not here, not in the good old USA. Right?

So what’s been happening? One of the scariest things I ever heard a politician say was when the, at the time, White House Chief of Staff to President Obama, Rham Emanuel, said, “You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste.” Normally, I would say OK, a crisis requires a response. When this Chicago politician said it and referenced “wasting the crisis”, it terrified me.

Was I right to be terrified?

The NDAA

There is something called the National Defense Authorization Act that was signed into law on by President Obama on the last day on 2011. It is a regular funding bill for the military. This time around the act had some extra stuff in it. The stuff is promoted as helping us to defend against terrorists (the crisis). Now I have been reading that:

  1. It permits indefinite detention of an “accused” US Citizen without trial until the cessation of “hostilities”.
  2. The US Military can now carry out domestic anti terror operations on US soil.
  3. It may be possible for the definition of “supporter of terrorism” to include peaceful activists, authors, academics and even journalists interviewing members of radical groups.

As I struggled with the complete lack of outrage from the press on this one, I did some digging to see if it really contained the enumerated things. With so little coverage, I had little luck finding anything. I actually read the darn NDAA many times and completely choked on the twisted language and collection of references that represent the rule of law to which we are all suppose to toe the line.

The language is typically vague leaving the government lawyers lots of wiggle room. If the government is not happy with you for whatever reason, how difficult do you think it would be for you to become the “accused”? Since the war on terror will never be over, the cessation of hostilities will never happen. Say goodbye to daddy kids, he’s off to Guantanamo.

The AUMF

The Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) is one of the things the NDAA references. It was created along with the Department of Homeland Security right after the attacks on September 11, 2001 by George Bush. Thanks George. When all of your agencies fail, create another overarching one, brilliant.

The AUMF authorizes the government to use the US military against those responsible for the attacks on September 11th.

I can see where the AUMF was created to prevent downstream legal trouble but why would that be necessary? We had been attacked. I guess it was a bit icky in lawyer land because the enemy was not an easily identified state as was the historical case.

Imagine what linking the AUMF to the NDAA might bring…

Obama

In early July, 2008, in a campaign speech to a Colorado Springs audience, Obama said, “We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.” When I heard this, I was astounded. What could this be? How would this be accomplished? Why isn’t the media up in arms and asking tons of questions? How can the grinning hope and change folks let this one by?

The Bearcat

Late in 2011, my small New England city, Keene, NH, had a city council meeting where they approved the acquisition of a Bearcat.

It seems that the Department of Homeland Security is providing grants for these kinds of things and Keene had “won” one of the grants.

The police chief dutifully crafted a case for a resource which he could no doubt use in emergencies like last years hurricane or the floods of 2005. He struggled a bit justifying it in tactical situations but indicated that hostage and bad guys holed up events would be safer to approach with this baby.

The city population rose up. Why on earth does a peaceful little New England city need such a thing? What kind of message does this send out? The US government is wasting our tax dollars again (Oh, wait, they don’t have enough of those, they are wasting borrowed money.) Why is our small city police force being militarized? Isn’t this just the government greasing a favored corporation?

The protestations fell on deaf ears and the Bearcat is on its way to Keene.

Guns

If you are a regular reader (a very exclusive club), you will remember my recounting of getting back into the shooting sports while a resident of New York City. I was astounded with the government intrusion into what I thought was clearly set out in the Bill of Rights and what had been such a part of my life growing up.

The continued attempts to oppress my ability to be a competitive shooter (yes, I mean you Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, etc., all of whom clearly know better than me how life should be lived) made me very aware of just how government oppression feels.

Don’t know about you but it seems we ought to be afraid, very afraid.

Posted in Political, sort of... | 3 Comments

Momentum

There is a twister swirling in my brain.

Momentum is scaring the crap out of me.

Sustainability has been on my mind for a number of years. I teach in two wonderful sustainability MBA programs at Antioch University NE and Marlboro College Graduate School. I have had and continue to have wonderful students. They are passionate, invested, knowledgeable, hopeful, and they attack their studies with a dedication that is thrilling to see for an instructor like me.

With these wonderful students, the conversations are many and diverse about the coming “long emergency” as James Kunstler calls it. Their youth brings an exciting, possibility laden angle while I often find myself stuck in a very pessimistic and cynical place, sadly.

Click here to buy.

With up front apologies to James for my inaccuracies, the “long emergency” is a state in the future, not too distant to understand him, when the severe over consumption of the earth’s resources, the abuses of nature’s ecosystems, the perversities of many of our man made systems (financial markets and industrial agriculture for example), the grotesque living environment we have created (suburbia, urban renewal projects), and social ills we have created (demonstrated frighteningly by reality TV) catch up with us forcing a return to a much simpler way of life.

Whenever I have been confronted by anything complex in my life, my brain takes in tons of data about the current state of things and then begins to create a vision of what I think the future state will look like. James’ writings are in that pile of data along with many others in localization movements, re-crafting urban environment movements, general sustainability writings, slow money folks, corporate sustainability writings, and on and on.

This vision then becomes a target future state upon which I bounce all new information so that my future state notion can be understood, adjusted, and, hopefully, continuously improved to move ever closer to what might actually happen.

My early future state vision development left with me with a very Kunstlerian vision of the future. It had less trauma (without the complete loss of electricity and nuclear events) and was focused more on small and local (even in an urban environment).

Check out the video for a peak at James’ vision.

Post oil has to come.

Over the many years of my big company career, I thought little about this and actually played my part as a cog in the big picture decline related to social norms collapsing, the dominance of the automobile, the holy grail of big company efficiency and effectiveness, among other things. The notion of post oil hit me when, while reading the business press about globalization, I realized that the huge populations of China, India, Brazil, and others all wanted to live just like Americans. The implications, considering the American’s consumption rate of the earth’s resources, one being oil, finally caused me to realize that there is no way this can work.

We can look at Cuba to see just what post oil looks like. When the USSR collapsed, there was an almost immediate post oil condition in that country. They survived with lots of hard work and some very different notions of agriculture and other things.

Click here to buy video.

Where was my head before this awareness? I always looked at my information sources and saw hundreds of years of reserves and pushed it out as something that need not be worried about at the moment.

The twister in my head comes from my current readings of the business press and the momentum I see represented there. This momentum is a reflection of the years of my own perspective.

While a pretty small contingent, it seems, talk about post oil, most of what I read is about new discoveries and new technologies that will release more difficult to extract oil with economic efficiency.

I read about surges in renewable energy development, battery technology, nuclear energy, and even some discussion of “energy independence”. All this in the face of the fact that only eight percent of our electricity currently comes from renewable sources.

Reading Forbes, Fortune, Business Week, Fast Company, and others all I see is upbeat articles about how to get back to strong growth, how to invest to get rich, and advertisements for every kind of luxury good imaginable.

Publications like Fast Company go on about the next Facebook or Google (companies that produce nothing and just whirl data/information around. They seem to be trying their damnedest to recreate the Internet bubble and, more specifically, to get rich quick.

I actually read an article about how the growth in global population is just fine because of the brilliance of and continued development in the industrial food system. No mention of how that system is destroying the very land it uses, polluting everything around it, utilizing infertile seeds for market control, and producing essentially toxic, mutant, low nutrient food.

Sure, there are articles about the troubles in Greece and the PIIGS, articles about the fact that there are still a lot of very toxic securities out there but then there is the big explanation of how the IMF and other “interveners” will get the fix done.

There is a lot of momentum here.

As I now live my life in a small city in New Hampshire and go to visit my boys in New York City, I am struck by the evidence in my new home of a very slow economy. New York, on the other hand, always has those millions of folks buying the next $10M apartment, dining in big dollar restaurants, buying clothes strictly based on artificially created fashion whims, worshipping Snookie and Lady Gaga, and doing things that now seem to me to be so end of the empire in nature.

So many folks seem to be operating with the “how can I get mine” approach. Grab it while you can. Get into the one per cent as soon as possible.

So what is the young sustainability student to do? Get involved in local movements? Try to figure out how to make the local farm business model actually viable? Join a non-profit? Work for a Solyndra and grab some government largesse? Go for the Chief Sustainability Officer job in a major corporation and do some good while blowing a lot of smoke?

I believe that it was Michael Lewis years ago in his “Liars Poker” book that talked about the Wall Street folks perspective that every transaction has a winner and a fool.

Is the poor farmer who is getting by, feeding their family, feeding neighbors, and enriching the earth the fool while the cashed out Solyndra executive is the winner?

Seems an easy choice, but is it?

 

Posted in Sustainability | Leave a comment

A Happy Day

Three hundred and fifty-eight days to the seventh decade.

Over the years I have never put much energy into my birthday. It kinda came and went with little impact on me. Sure, there were a few years that had more impact than others. The fiftieth and sixtieth had impact and were celebrated at a couple of terrific parties with great friends.

I remember my thirty-fifth birthday because I was working in television and I changed demographic groups (something TV folks were pretty obsessed about). I went from 18 – 34 to 35 – 54. Fifty-four was what I saw, not thirty-five.

Jordan Looking Like He Wants Something...

Fortunately for our boys, Eileen had a great birthday approach and always did special things for them. One of the downsides of a long commute and breadwinner duties was that I missed a lot of these wonderful events.

These days we all get together and have wonderful, sometimes combined celebrations of birthdays and holidays. I so look forward to these events.

To keep the record straight, my Mom was just as great as Eileen with birthdays, as evidenced in the picture below taken at my, I believe, eighth birthday party, so my complacence did not come from being deprived on the matter.

Check Out the Plaid Shirt and Those Ears!

This year my new, slightly behind the adoption curve, ventures into the social network world brought an interesting result. Lots of folks were aware of my birthday. Not surprisingly, I have never broadcast the date to anyone. Those who know, know and for the rest, I was completely happy to not have them not know.

The social network effect resulted in lots of folks sending me good wishes. Well, here I am a bit late in life loving the attention. Is Facebook worth all those billions? Is it a huge time-waster? I suspect the answers are no and yes, respectively, but they and LinkedIn and my high school reunion website and other connectors, brought me a lot of smiles a few days ago.

My sweetie, Gwen, tells me everyone now knows the date because of the way I set up my profiles on these various systems. So I guess, if I had more social network skills, I could have continued to keep the date quiet. But then, I would have missed all of those smiles…

Thanks everyone.

Posted in Personal | Leave a comment

SOPA? Nope(A)!

Problems? Yup. Well, let’s write some laws and regulations.

Piracy of intellectual property is a bad thing that got worse when the Internet made it a lot easier to do in certain circumstances.

Seemingly ignoring the fact that piracy needs a second party to make it successful, that is, someone has to buy the pirated material, the US Congress set forth to save us from ourselves, yet again. The legislation is the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Actually, there is more called the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) but this already getting complicated.

The other day a number of the Internet biggies like Google and Wikipedia went black as we used to say in the broadcasting business.

No, there was no test pattern on your computer screen. I just wanted to remind the other old folks about the “end of the broadcast day” that we used to experience in the early days of television. This was a time when piracy was still something found on the open seas, if at all.

So why are all of these Internet biggies so fussed? After all, congress is trying to help and protect them from evildoers stealing their stuff.

It seems the legislation is written in such a way that the biggies feel that, in the words of Google, “[it] would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business.”

Whoa! Censorship and harmful regulations! Where were these folks when the over 2,000 pages of heath care legislation was being railroaded through congress?

So what’s going on here?

The congress, both houses, is approximately 40% lawyers. Thomas Jefferson said, “If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour?”

Adding some contemporary societal notions, perhaps cynically, I would say that today’s lawyers seem to be trained to “win”, no matter which side of the argument they live on.

So, if we charge a bunch of lawyers to craft language to prevent piracy and they start their constituent enabling word twisting, we are left with a looseness of language with lots of wiggle room for “unintended consequences”.

Whatever the case, to the Internet folks it looks like, “[it] would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business.” Most likely true.

With all of the agendas in the wind and with the only specific thing on the table being the bad thing of piracy, writing this stuff isn’t easy. I would argue that it is impossible. There will always be unintended consequences.

If we think of the process of writing legislation from the perspective of a closed system, something has to give elsewhere in the system.

I have written before on regulation and on gun control. How do you create “reasonable” gun legislation? It isn’t easy and because of that, much of what is written is feel good legislation. A bad thing happened and we, the legislators, did something. The fact that that “something” causes more trouble than benefit is lost on these folks.

My grand dad used to tell me that, “nothing good ever comes easy”. A great message that was obviously not told to the legislative bodies that surround us.

Let’s go back to going black like the TV stations did in the fifties. I started out saying that  Intellectual Property piracy is a two party deal. What has changed in our society, since those more simple days in the fifties, that makes it possible for these pirates to flourish? Perhaps the answer lies more in societal forces that exist today but did not exist or were not as strong in years past.

I could just be inaccurately reminiscing but I do believe there is a societal component to this problem. Now that’s a tough problem and legislatures don’t do those…

 

Posted in Political, sort of... | Leave a comment

Reasonable

A gun guy. Imagine having that phrase attached to you.

Well, if you are a regular reader, apart from being amazingly unique, you know that I am a gun guy. A good bit of the story is told in the posts, “Guns Not Butter”, “The Amazing BATFE”, and “Nana’s Gun”.

There is a constant paean for “reasonable” gun laws coming from the anti gun folks. Whenever some terrible tragedy involves a gun, out they come with, “We need REASONABLE gun laws.”

How can anyone object to that?

As noted in the other posts, there are over 20,000 gun laws on the books across the country. They are quite different from state to state which make travel between states quite challenging for a gun guy wanting to carry a gun for self defense (I have carry permits for 41 states) or for a competitor wanting to transport a gun across state boundaries for the purpose of traveling to a competition. These laws are also quite ineffective at least at their stated purpose of lowering crime rates. An NYPD officer was recently killed by a fellow with repeat gun offenses on his record (meaning the gun he killed the officer with was illegal) and whom a judge had recently set free without bail.

The story that inspires this post also comes from New York City. A Tennessee woman with a permit to carry in TN (giving her reciprocity in 40 states) was visiting the new World Trade Center memorial. She had driven to NYC to search for a job and was carrying her, legal in TN (and 40 other states), pistol in her purse. She demonstrated a great deal of naiveté to the differences in state laws, when she saw a sign stating that firearms are not allowed in the memorial and asked a NYPD officer where she could check her firearm.

She was immediately arrested.

Reasonable?

A gun guy like myself especially with my experience living in NYC, knows to never bring a gun to New York state and especially to NYC. They have LOTS of gun control laws which I am sure they think are reasonable. The above examples kinda point in a different direction. The gun crime guy goes free on zero bail and the law abiding but naive Tennessean is jailed, has to pay $2,000 bail, and is being ferociously prosecuted.

There is a federal regulation that attempts to make interstate transportation of a firearm possible. The gun must be unloaded and in a locked case in the trunk of the vehicle or in checked airline baggage with appropriate documents. Any ammunition must be in a separate locked case also in the trunk or the checked baggage.

The slight problem is that when passing through states like NY, you can’t stop except for gas and food. Don’t even think about visiting your relatives or staying overnight to rest.

God forbid your airline flight is redirected to NY and you have to stay overnight. Wham, bam to the slammer you go.

In fact, if you are going to a shooting competition in NY, be careful what guns you bring. Even if you drive ceaselessly, shoot in the competition, and leave, exhausted, to rush for the state border, if you bring that high capacity magazine or your favorite tricked out AR-15 you could be in trouble and might be arrested. NY still has a state level assault weapons/high capacity magazine law! The federal law sunset, but undaunted, the NY folks retained their law in the face of substantial evidence of the federal law’s ineffectiveness.

So the high capacity magazines that I routinely use in competition must not be brought into NY. My great AR-15 has all five of the evil characteristics that the assault weapons law uses to protect New Yorkers. It has a pistol grip, a bayonet lug, an adjustable stock, a muzzle brake, and a high capacity magazine. Phew, dangerous!

Let’s see, am I going to slide on a bayonet and go wild? Is anyone? The pistol grip helps control the gun as does the adjustable stock and muzzle brake (a recoil suppressor). The hi-capacity magazine is very helpful in competition as is the one in my pistol.

Reasonable?

There is a great event sponsored by my old gun club on Long Island every year. The range is minutes from my sister’s house. Can I visit her? NO! Can I compete with my best prepared guns? NO! Why go… NY wins and their citizens (subjects?) are safe from me.

I had a license for my handguns and long guns when I lived in NYC. This at least let me transport them to competitions and visit my sister. They cancelled my permit when I moved out of state.

Carry? In NYC? Are you kidding! This “right” was reserved for the privileged likes of Senator Charles Schumer (a rabid anti gun senator and obviously a hypocrite), state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Howard Stern, Don Imus, Donald Trump, Ronald Lauder, Robert De Niro, etc.

Me, carry? According to the language of my permit, I could keep the guns in my apartment. I guess outside my apartment everything was completely safe and inside my apartment was a very dangerous place.

Reasonable?

When I moved, why was I not permitted to switch my NYC permit to a non-resident one? With a non resident permit at least I could visit friends in NY without having to leave my guns home, maybe…

My old NYC permit said I could take my guns to a range (with no stops in between… don’t leave hungry). They had to be locked  and then locked in a case, the ammo locked separately. So if I got mugged on the way to the range, the mugger could take my valuables and the gun! Perhaps even unlock it and shoot me. Amazing.

Reasonable?

Let’s go back to the gal from TN. Now, it is her responsibility to know the laws of the states to which she wants to travel with her gun. She is just a regular gal, though, not a gunny like me. She is most likely properly trained in gun safety and the safe use of her pistol. She is or at least was respectful of posted rules. She merely suffered from an excess of comfort that comes from a state that actually does have reasonably managed gun laws. She did not realize that you do NOT bring a gun to NY or NJ or IL or Washington DC or CA or…

Perhaps a fine, confiscate the gun and mail it back to TN at her expense. That sounds…  reasonable. Three and a half years in jail, not so much.

I suspect the anti gun folks’ “reasonable” will never match mine. It took me a while to realize that they wanted to eliminate guns not “control” them. Sorta like the Palestinians and the Israelis drafting a peace agreement when the Palestinians want the Israelis to disappear from the face of the earth, ain’t gonna happen.

Posted in Political, sort of... | 4 Comments