tvm's blog

It's March...

...can baseball and fishing be far behind?

And it's Saturday night, so...




Mad Max(ine)

Maxine Waters (M-oonbat, CA) on the effect sequestration would have. Hilarity ensues:

Even if you only heard the audio of this on the radio (as I had at first), it was apparent fairly early on that the congresswoman had no idea what she was talking about.

Jay Leno picked up on this, too:

After the opening theme and credits, Leno walked out onto the stage and said, “Welcome sequestration survivors. Yes!”
“As you know, Congress did not reach an agreement,” he continued, “and Congresswoman Maxine Waters said today that 170 million jobs could be lost because of it.”
“Now, there are only 155 million workers in America,” Leno explained, “yet, she says we'll lose 170 million jobs."
"Beginning to understand why we're in this situation in the first place now?" he asked. "Is it starting to become clear why everything isn't quite well?”
Hmmm...what exactly did he mean by that? 
a) Many members of the political class are stupid.
b) Many members of the political class are deceitful.
c) The media does not report the idiocy or mendacity of the political class unless they have "R" after their names.
d) The majority of the American electorate is not paying attention.
e) The majority of the American electorate is functionally innumerate (illiterate, too, but that's a whole 'nother issue).
f) all of the above
Just to get some idea of how things have changed and perhaps gain some insight into Leno's question about  how we've gotten to this point...from a little book called Four Centuries of American Education:
Consider...the basic math content of previous generations. Ray’s Arithmetic was one of the most popular elementary math texts in early American schools; notice some of its questions:


 I insured 2/3 of a shop worth $3600, and 4/5 of a house worth $6000, paying $126: what was the rate of insurance?

 How much money must be given with nine $100 shares at 15% discount, in exchange for eight $100 bonds at 2% discount?

 These were elementary math problems during the 1860s!

Consider also the math problems from an 1877 mental math text (that is, a text in which students solved the problems mentally – no pencil or paper allowed):

 A boat worth $864 – of which 1/8 belonged to A, 1/4 to B, and the rest to C – was lost; what loss did each sustain, it having been insured for $500?

 On a farm, there are 60 animals – horses, cows, and sheep; for each horse there are 3 cows, and for each cow there are 2 sheep: how many animals of each kind?

 If 7 men can do a piece of work in 4 days, in what time can it be done if 3 of the men leave when the work is half completed?

These were mental math problems for elementary students in 1877!

I wonder how Congresswoman Waters—or for that matter any of our elected officials today—would do with these questions.
Noel Sheppard at Newsbusters is not particularly sanguine about our chances:
It therefore seems impossible at this stage of our nation’s history to imagine a well-informed electorate being governed by honest leaders that have their best interests in mind.
h/t Tom

The Man in Black

Yesterday was his birthday.  Enjoy!

Protection racket

Painting of Dryden, NY:

Well, some people consider Dryden the Garden of Eden.  This guest viewpoint appeared in the Ithaca Journal recently:

On a cold and sunny day, I enjoy the peace winter seems to bring. The glistening of sunlight on the new-fallen snow is a welcome sight. As I walk out to feed the goats, I chuckle at the cat as she backtracks to the barn in the same prints she left as she trotted out to meet me. I gaze around at the blue sky, breathe the clean air and exhale a sigh of relief.
My town is abundantly blessed and ever thankful for our ban on fracking. A ban means I will be able to keep good health, finish the home I began building and resume investing in my community. Without a ban, the effects of fracking would have forced me to move. My American dream will remain intact. I won’t be forced to give up my gas rights by compulsory integration, or forced out by eminent domain.
I conducted thousands of hours of independent study and traveled the country to investigate the far-reaching effects of fracking. A process of extreme extractive mining is eating up rural America’s food producing farmlands like Pac-Man. In New York, enormous scale is planned, conquering entire regions of peaceful rural neighborhoods filled with unsuspecting residents, unaware of industrial takeover. Knowing neighboring wells will likely ruin the farm I was raised on leaves me sleepless.
Each phase of extreme extraction brings a certainty of pollution, damage and a measure of high-risk chemical exposure.
I grew up in Greene, in the so-called “sacrifice zone.” Industry cannot restrain toxic air nor confine the damages to only the drill pad. Neighboring dairies and croplands will be exposed to lethal venting causing air pollution. My hometown remains a target without a protective ban and can suffer from drilling upstream, beyond its borders. My friend, biologist Sandra Steingraber, teaches that the known effects of environmental illnesses and cancers produced by fracking pads are unacceptable.
Cornell engineer Tony Ingraffea states that 6 percent of all horizontal gas wells leak initially; all eventually fail. Fracking produces billions of gallons of chemical and radioactive waste stored in injection wells. No monetary fine can cover the incalculable collective toll to health, air, water and farming that fracking produces.
The Marcellus shale is not a viable source of fuel according to the evidence provided by scientists to New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation detailing costs. The DEC’s mission is to ensure a healthy environment and also to exploit natural resources, an inherent conflict.
Americans from Wyoming, Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania are sharing their experiences; New Yorkers are acting. A tenacious Ron Gulla shouted at EPA, “Is Pennsylvania worth fighting for? Yes! Worth dying for? Hell, yes! But not from a glass of water!”
The Community Environmental Defense Counsel of Ithaca helps towns protect their schools, parks and cemeteries from fracking. The people of Greene are unprotected. Coming together can save a town; silence results industry takeover. Action by a small group of residents to proclaim their community be protected by law from industrial takeover is now critical to keep Greene clean. The Trojans should mount up.

But not everyone wants another's world view imposed on them in the guise of protection from threat, real or imagined.  For Henry Kramer, freedom trumps "protection":
In her February 15 guest column, DRAC member Joanne Cipolla-Dennis recites the most extreme claims made by energy development opponents as facts, rather than opinions.  This is the “big lie technique,” if you repeat allegations often enough as fact people believe them.
Regarding the “big lie” see Mein Kampf, “In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily ….  They would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”
Cipolla-Dennis lauds the Town of Dryden for “protecting Dryden” and enforcing the type of town and life style Cipolla-Dennis loves.  But not all of us want or need to be “protected,” nor do we share Cipolla-Dennis’ pessimistic view of development and change.  We prefer to have freedom of choice of action on what we do and how we live, without being “protected” and stripped of our freedoms via Dryden enacting Cipolla-Dennis’ world view into law.
Cipolla-Dennis overlooks individual freedom and individual rights to choose how to live and how to husband one’s own property.  Anti-frackers say they favor “home rule,” yet stop the principle of home rule at the town board level.  Why should a town board make decisions for all residents and landowners?  What special expertise do town boards have?  Why shouldn’t each home owner be free to make individual decisions on issues on which the public in our state is about evenly divided?
Sadly, many of the people who would ban energy development, keep it out of their own back yard, and deplore everything about it, still use its products.  Until they abandon the use of all fossil fuels, including gasoline, and live off the grid, they are morally bound to bear their share of the risks of production.
The Dryden Safe Energy Coalition supports energy development with careful safeguards.  Development is not risk free.  But, development offers a chance for high paying jobs, capital for land rich but cash poor farmers, new tax base to support and improve our schools, and perhaps most critically energy independence for our nation, freeing us from potential wars and being beholden to other countries. Why is it that anti-frackers rarely consider or admit there can be any positives from development?  We at DSEC thinks risks can be safely managed, but DRAC seems to admit no positive values in development.  A sense of balance is needed.
It should not take five years to determine the safety of fracking.  Fracking at vertical wells has been done in NY for decades and at horizontal wells in other states for years.  It is not for more information we delay, but to kill development.  Meanwhile NY residents, among the highest taxed in the nation, lack new sources of revenue to pay for our safety nets.

Freedom is precious.  “Protecting Dryden” is a code phrase covering another transfer of power to government.  Choose freedom over “protection.”

Another history lesson

Tocqueville is spinning in his grave.

If the voice sounds familiar, it's because it's Bill Whittle.  Via Lonely Conservative:

Take this sport and shove it

At Breitbart:

Is it “fair” that illegal immigrants and foreign exchange students are allowed to play high school football on Friday nights and to participate in extra curricular activities at public schools, while many of their peers, who are legal US citizens but who happen to be homeschooled, are being denied “equal” access to the same opportunities in their local communities?
In Virginia last week, seven Democrats and a lone Republican, perhaps unaware or unmoved by such a discrepancy, made the point moot and rejected the so called “Tebow Bill” that sought to “level the playing field”...
...After [Ken] Tilley [Executive Director of the Virginia High School League (VHSL) and a fierce opponent of the bill] put forth several reasons for the opposition such as “participation is a privilege not a right” and “equity and fairness,” [Laura] Ingraham...highlighted how exemptions seemingly are being made for every group except homeschoolers and the country’s big push for inclusiveness doesn't include tax paying parents that choose to homeschool. At one point, Ingraham asked Tilley if undocumented immigrants have to have parents residing in the attendance zones to compete and the response given was “We don’t address that point.” 
...“professionals” love to lecture about the notions of “fairness,” of “equal access,” and of “a commitment to united excellence” in education, yet circle the wagons year after year to deny 14 and 15 year old homeschoolers the opportunity to tryout for the high school basketball or debate team. What exactly are these “professionals” dedicated to? Do they seek to promote a safe and healthy environment to educate and develop every child, or only those students who attend “their” public schools?
...Tilley said “By playing by a different set of rules it's inequitable and unfair to public school students.” He added "the parents of homeschooled students have voluntarily chosen not to participate in the free public school system in order to educate their children at home. That's fine, but in making that choice they have also chosen to forgo the privileges incidental to public education. One of which is the opportunity to play athletics."
Tilley’s notion of “choice” further invalidates his argument. Most likely, illegal immigrants parents did not give their children a choice to stay behind when the decision was made to ignore our nation’s rules and enter the country illegally. American’s, nevertheless, are compassionate and even the most fervent advocates for stricter immigration laws, can both appreciate and understand that a child should not be punished for his parents actions.
Why then do “Tebow Bill” opponents believe it’s “fair” and “equitable” to punish teenage homeschoolers because their law-abiding tax-paying parents made a different choice on how to educate best their children?...
...Currently, the “Tebow bill” stipulates that only home-schoolers who meet specific eligibility, disciplinary, and residency criteria can be eligible to try out for high school extracurricular activities or sports. For example, to comply with academic requisites, homeschoolers must provide standardized test scores or undergo an annual review by the school system....
So in NYS, a "Tebow bill" wouldn't present any particular problems for homeschooled high schoolers who wanted to try out for public school teams since NYS homeschool regs in effect for the last quarter-century already require standardized test scores every year.
That said...I appreciate Laura Ingraham's support.  And for decades, I've paid property taxes for public schools, sent children and stepchildren to both public schools and parochial schools, and had both my oldest daughter and youngest daughter—the one who's never attended any school but our home school—turn out to be pretty decent athletes. I'm sympathetic to homeschoolers who don't have the financial resources or flexibility to be able to support as much participation in individual or team sports for their kids as they would like.
But you know what? There are always quid pro quos.  Beware any offers by the govenment schools to allow your student to participate in anything.  You will be giving up some of your parental rights.  So remember why you chose to homeschool in the first place.
Caveat parentis.

Hellfire, Morality and Strategy



By George Friedman
Founder and Chairman

Airstrikes by unmanned aerial vehicles have become a matter of serious dispute lately. The controversy focuses on the United States, which has the biggest fleet of these weapons and which employs them more frequently than any other country. On one side of this dispute are those who regard them simply as another weapon of war whose virtue is the precision with which they strike targets. On the other side are those who argue that in general, unmanned aerial vehicles are used to kill specific individuals, frequently civilians, thus denying the targeted individuals their basic right to some form of legal due process.

Let's begin with the weapons systems, the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper. The media call them drones, but they are actually remotely piloted aircraft. Rather than being in the cockpit, the pilot is at a ground station, receiving flight data and visual images from the aircraft and sending command signals back to it via a satellite data link. Numerous advanced systems and technologies work together to make this possible, but it is important to remember that most of these technologies have been around in some form for decades, and the U.S. government first integrated them in the 1990s. The Predator carries two Hellfire missiles -- precision-guided munitions that, once locked onto the target by the pilot, guide themselves to the target with a high likelihood of striking it. The larger Reaper carries an even larger payload of ordnance -- up to 14 Hellfire missiles or four Hellfire missiles and two 500-pound bombs. Most airstrikes from these aircraft use Hellfire missiles, which cause less collateral damage.

Unlike a manned aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles can remain in the air for an extended period of time -- an important capability for engaging targets that may only present a very narrow target window. This ability to loiter, and then strike quickly when a target presents itself, is what has made these weapons systems preferable to fixed wing aircraft and cruise missiles.

The Argument Against Airstrikes

What makes unmanned aerial vehicle strikes controversial is that they are used to deliberately target specific individuals -- in other words, people who are known or suspected, frequently by name, of being actively hostile to the United States or allied governments. This distinguishes unmanned aerial vehicles from most weapons that have been used since the age of explosives began. The modern battlefield -- and the ancient as well -- has been marked by anonymity. The enemy was not a distinct individual but an army, and the killing of soldiers in an enemy army did not carry with it any sense of personal culpability. In general, no individual soldier was selected for special attention, and his death was not an act of punishment. He was killed because of his membership in an army and not because of any specific action he might have carried out.

Another facet of the controversy is that it is often not clear whether the individuals targeted by these weapons are members of an enemy force. U.S. military or intelligence services reach that conclusion about a target based on intelligence that convinces them of the individual's membership in a hostile group.

There are those who object to all war and all killing; we are not addressing those issues here. We are addressing the arguments of those who object to this particular sort of killing. The reasoning is that when you are targeting a particular individual based on his relationships, you are introducing the idea of culpability, and that that culpability makes the decision-maker -- whoever he is -- both judge and executioner, without due process. Those who argue this line also believe that the use of these weapons is a process that is not only given to error but also fundamentally violates principles of human rights and gives the state the power of life and death without oversight. Again excluding absolute pacifists from this discussion, the objection is that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles is not so much an act of war as an act of judgment and, as such, violates international law that requires due process for a soldier being judged and executed. To put it simply, the critics regard what they call drone strikes as summary executions, not acts of war.

The Argument for Airstrikes

The counterargument is that the United States is engaged in a unique sort of war. Al Qaeda and the allied groups and sympathetic individuals that comprise the international jihadist movement are global, dispersed and sparse. They are not a hierarchical military organization. Where conventional forces have divisions and battalions, the global jihadist movement consists primarily of individuals who at times group together into distinct regional franchises, small groups and cells, and frequently even these groups are scattered. Their mission is to survive and to carry out acts of violence designed to demoralize the enemy and increase their political influence among the populations they wish to control.

The primary unit is the individual, and the individuals -- particularly the commanders -- isolate themselves and make themselves as difficult to find as possible. Given their political intentions and resources, sparse forces dispersed without regard to national boundaries use their isolation as the equivalent of technological stealth to make them survivable and able to carefully mount military operations against the enemy at unpredictable times and in unpredictable ways.

The argument for using strikes from unmanned aerial vehicles is that it is not an attack on an individual any more than an artillery barrage that kills a hundred is an attack on each individual. Rather, the jihadist movement presents a unique case in which the individual jihadist is the military unit.

In war, the goal is to render the enemy incapable of resisting through the use of force. In all wars and all militaries, imperfect intelligence, carelessness and sometimes malice have caused military action to strike at innocent people. In World War II, not only did bombing raids designed to attack legitimate military targets kill civilians not engaged in activities supporting the military, mission planners knew that in some cases innocents would be killed. This is true in every military conflict and is accepted as one of the consequences of war.

The argument in favor of using unmanned aerial vehicle strikes is, therefore, that the act of killing the individual is a military necessity dictated by the enemy's strategy and that it is carried out with the understanding that both intelligence and precision might fail, no matter how much care is taken. This means not only that civilians might be killed in a particular strike but also that the strike might hit the wrong target. The fact that a specific known individual is being targeted does not change the issue from a military matter to a judicial one.

It would seem to me that these strikes do not violate the rules of war and that they require no more legal overview than was given in thousands of bomber raids in World War II. And we should be cautious in invoking international law. The Hague Convention of 1907 states that:

The laws, rights, and duties of war apply not only to armies, but also to militia and volunteer corps fulfilling the following conditions:
To be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
To have a fixed distinctive emblem recognizable at a distance;
To carry arms openly; and
To conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

The 1949 Geneva Convention states that:

Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfill the following conditions:

(a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
(b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
(c) that of carrying arms openly;
(d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.


Ignoring the question of whether jihadist operations are in accordance with the rules and customs of war, their failure to carry a "fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance" is a violation of both the Hague and Geneva conventions. This means that considerations given to soldiers under the rules of war do not apply to those waging war without insignia.

Open insignia is fundamental to the rules of war. It was instituted after the Franco-Prussian war, when French snipers dressed as civilians fired on Germans. It was viewed that the snipers had endangered civilians because it was a soldier's right to defend himself and that since they were dressed as civilians, the French snipers -- not the Germans -- were responsible for the civilian deaths. It follows from this that, to the extent that jihadist militants provide no sign of who they are, they are responsible under international law when civilians are killed because of uncertainty as to who is a soldier and who is not. Thus the onus on ascertaining the nature of the target rests with the United States, but if there is error, the responsibility for that error rests with jihadists for not distinguishing themselves from civilians.

There is of course a greater complexity to this: attacking targets in countries that are not in a state of war with the United States and that have not consented to these attacks. For better or worse, the declaration of war has not been in fashion since World War II. But the jihadist movement has complicated this problem substantially. The jihadists' strategy is to be dispersed. Part of its strategy is to move from areas where it is under military pressure to places that are more secure. Thus the al Qaeda core group moved its headquarters from Afghanistan to Pakistan. But in truth, jihadists operate wherever military and political advantages take them, from the Maghreb to Mumbai and beyond.

In a method of war where the individual is the prime unit and where lack of identification is a primary defensive method, the conduct of intelligence operations wherever the enemy might be, regardless of borders, follows. So do operations to destroy enemy units -- individuals. If a country harbors such individuals knowingly, it is an enemy. If it is incapable of destroying the enemy units, it forfeits its right to claim sovereignty since part of sovereignty is a responsibility to prevent attacks on other countries.

If we simply follow the logic we laid out here, then the critics of unmanned aerial vehicle strikes have a weak case. It is not illegitimate to target individuals in a military force like the jihadist movement, and international law holds them responsible for collateral damage, not the United States. Moreover, respecting national sovereignty requires that a country's sovereignty be used to halt attacks against countries with which they are not at war. When a country cannot or will not take those steps, and people within their border pose a threat to the United States, the country has no basis for objecting to intelligence operations and airstrikes. The question, of course, is where this ends. Yemen or Mali might be one case, but the logic here does not preclude any country. Indeed, since al Qaeda tried in the past to operate in the United States itself, and its operatives might be in the United States, it logically follows that the United States could use unmanned aerial vehicles domestically as well. Citizenship is likewise no protection from attacks against a force hostile to the United States.

But within the United States, or countries like the United Kingdom, there are many other preferable means to neutralize jihadist threats. When the police or internal security forces can arrest jihadists plotting attacks, there quite simply is no need for airstrikes from unmanned aerial vehicles. They are tools to be used when a government cannot or will not take action to mitigate the threat.

The Strategic Drawback

There are two points I have been driving toward. The first is that the outrage at targeted killing is not, in my view, justified on moral or legal grounds. The second is that in using these techniques, the United States is on a slippery slope because of the basis on which it has chosen to wage war.

The United States has engaged an enemy that is dispersed across the globe. If the strategy is to go wherever the enemy is, then the war is limitless. It is also endless. The power of the jihadist movement is that it is diffuse. It does not need vast armies to be successful. Therefore, the destruction of some of its units will always result in their replacement. Quality might decline for a while but eventually will recover.

The enemy strategy is to draw the United States into an extended conflict that validates its narrative that the United States is permanently at war with Islam. It wants to force the United States to engage in as many countries as possible. From the U.S. point of view, unmanned aerial vehicles are the perfect weapon because they can attack the jihadist command structure without risk to ground forces. From the jihadist point of view as well, unmanned aerial vehicles are the perfect weapon because their efficiency allows the jihadists to lure the United States into other countries and, with sufficient manipulation, can increase the number of innocents who are killed.

In this sort of war, the problem of killing innocents is practical. It undermines the strategic effort. The argument that it is illegal is dubious, and to my mind, so is the argument that it is immoral. The argument that it is ineffective in achieving U.S. strategic goals of eliminating the threat of terrorist actions by jihadists is my point.

Unmanned aerial vehicles provide a highly efficient way to destroy key enemy targets with very little risk to personnel. But they also allow the enemy to draw the United States into additional theaters of operation because the means is so efficient and low cost. However, in the jihadists' estimate, the political cost to the United States is substantial. The broader the engagement, the greater the perception of U.S. hostility to Islam, the easier the recruitment until the jihadist forces reach a size that can't be dealt with by isolated airstrikes.

In warfare, enemies will try to get you to strike at what they least mind losing. The case against strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles is not that they are ineffective against specific targets but that the targets are not as vital as the United States thinks. The United States believes that the destruction of the leadership is the most efficient way to destroy the threat of the jihadist movement. In fact it only mitigates the threat while new leadership emerges. The strength of the jihadist movement is that it is global, sparse and dispersed. It does not provide a target whose destruction weakens the movement. However, the jihadist movement's weakness derives from its strength: It is limited in what it can do and where.     

The problem of unmanned aerial vehicles is that they are so effective from the U.S. point of view that they have become the weapon of first resort. Thus, the United States is being drawn into operations in new areas with what appears to be little cost. In the long run, it is not clear that the cost is so little. A military strategy to defeat the jihadists is impossible. At its root, the real struggle against the jihadists is ideological, and that struggle simply cannot be won with Hellfire missiles. A strategy of mitigation using airstrikes is possible, but such a campaign must not become geographically limitless. Unmanned aerial vehicles lead to geographical limitlessness. That is their charm; that is their danger.

Hellfire, Morality and Strategy is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Santayana's revenge

Those who misquote Jorge Augustin Nicolas de Santayana y Borras are condemned to paraphrase him.

What George Santayana actually wrote was, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

No doubt in view of the fact that the Obama administration has been buying and storing vast amounts of ammunition in recent months, once again the story about how the young Bill Ayers & Company in the Weather Underground had no problem with the idea of murdering millions of recalcitrant Americans in order to birth their brave new world is being reiterated:

Mark Levin has his own ideas about all that ammo-buying by the government, but as far as Ayers is concerned, I think he long ago figured out that he didn't need to murder millions of Americans nor did he have to lock up the survivors in re-education camps...all he had to do is help ensure that public education in the US was entirely—lock, stock, and barrel—in the hands of his fellow Marxists. The public schools would be his "re-education camps."

Think about much American history—never mind world history—do you or your family members actually know?  Now be honest. Would you recognize that history is being repeated if you saw it happening in front of your eyes?

Take a look at this collection of political cartoons from the Great Depression era (and the collection is from 2009, so it's been around awhile itself).  Here's a sample:

That one's from 1931.  There's nothing new under the sun, is there?

Check out the rest of the cartoons here and here.

Since a picture really is worth a thousand words, I'd suggest passing these along to the low-information voters you know.  Just be aware that 1) they will likely be suspicious of the messenger and so not especially receptive to the message, and 2) they will be reluctant to admit that they've been hoodwinked by the left and so will be unwilling to change course.

But we must persist.

At the very least, educate yourself and if you have school-age children at home, homeschool—while you still can.


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