Sunday, June 30, 2013

Prudence v. Chicken Little

So, apparently, I am "over the top".

On any number of things, certainly, but not least of which on the suggestion that the decision in the Zimmerman trial may not comport with the sensibilities of a goodly number of indigent, unemployed, and overly entitled urban yutes, who have a rather elastic concept of the definition of personal property and one's civic propriety responsibilities.

Quick, get me my smelling salts.

I watched helmeted OD-clad National Guardsmen riding city buses each morning to go downtown to the riots in Watts as a child.
I loaded bandoleers and was prepared to hand out weapons to neighbors who'd asked for the loan after the verdict in the trial of multiple LAPD officers last seen beating Rodney King to a pulp in the course and scope of their employment.
I watched the fires first-hand, and saw the miasma of smoke columns from thousands of fires, while snipers shot at firemen, and the police cowered helplessly for three days while the city burned.
I have watched on TV as any number of miscreants celebrated the Lakers' championship(s) by burning local cars and businesses and stealing their wares.

So I beg some indulgence for having the temerity and unmitigated gall to suggest that it's a fatal confluence to have:
- the most race baiting president of the US, ever
- said president lacking any wits whatsoever, or the internal filters to censor the ramblings of his un-American rants and musings to the public
- record minority unemployment, by any standard but the Great Depression
- an unseasonably hot summer, and everyone out of school
- the most speciously expressed case for a hate crime in recent history
- a criminal murder case so thin you could read through it, likely if not certain to produce an acquittal on all charges for the man who is guilty only of being innocent, and having had the foresight to bring a handgun to a fistfight, with a side bonus of saving the Florida taxpayers from a lifetime's worth of room and board costs for future thug Trayvon Martin.

So I therefore suggest that the result, when it comes to pass, highly favors the formation of an excuse mob, not outraged over racial injustice, but rather, enamored of the opportunity to pick up two free armfuls of the most expensive Nike tennis shoes, and unburdened by any sense that it being illegal somehow makes the looting of such merchandise actually wrong, in any practical application sense.

Personally, I plan to have suitable weaponry and contingency plans to repel boarders, both in transit, and at home. Given recent history, that doesn't seem the height of insanity.

If exactly nothing happens, I will happily go on about my business undismayed, let alone feel in any way disappointed.

But it seems to me that doing nothing to prepare, and trusting to the innate law-abiding nature and bon homme of the race-baiters and their minions, as one's best defense, is liable to get one killed, or at least risk a severe jacking -up.

Your mileage may vary.

But if your response to my prudence is, like Kevin Bacon in Animal House, to hold your palm up, and advise me to "Remain calm! All is in order!", be advised I'm trampling you, just on general principles. And if an actual riot occurs, I'm picking your pockets, and doing a flamenco on your junk before I move along. Over the top - of you.

Friday, June 14, 2013

This Week's Got-My-Goat Moment

First of all, my it's-all-about-me disclaimer.
I'm a (mostly) grown-up class clown and practical joker, and I generally go through my days in an emotional range from calm and even-tempered to laughing. If nothing else, because it makes my food digest easier. I am not Glum from the cartoon Gulliver's Travels ("We're doomed!").

But any number of passing items, and most especially from The Powers That Be, look to me, and always will, like the antics of kids standing in a wading pool of gasoline and trying to light a road flare: hilarious on YouTube, but not so funny when they're set up on my front porch.

So this week's moment was while trying to glean any nuggets of wisdom from someone talking about their foreign relief trip to uplift the world's downtrodden. Specifically, when, having stayed once at a Holiday Inn Express once, they opined about when antibiotics were appropriate, or not.

And proceeded to name as bacterial infections two things which are anything but, and for which the proper antibiotic is frequently best delivered from a bar of Lifebouy, followed by a warm shower and a clean bath towel, followed by topical application of OTC medications.

Folks, doctors spend around 6-8 years, after college, learning the best ways and times to use antibiotics. And bear in mind, they miss diagnoses (a nice way of saying "Screw up royally") too, despite it being their job, and proceeding from the best intentions and scrupulous attention to the best information available.

So please, for the love of facts, medicine, common sense, and the Holy Flying Spaghetti Monster, if you don't know what you're talking about with regard to antibiotics (or aerodynamics, or thermodynamics, or any other deeply technical subject), either learn enough to speak about what you do know with a modicum of actual knowledge, that you got the hard way - by learning it - rather than winging it, or else simply and succinctly adopt Will Roger's advice, to "never pass up a good opportunity to shut up".

What we don't need, when discussing home medical care, or survival situations, or expertise on anything else, at the counter, the coffee table, the street corner, or the intarwebz, is another conga line of the blind leading the blind. Unless someone knows how I can send them all tour bus tickets to the nearest cliff. (I promise to upload that video to YouTube.)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Things Not To Do

Okay, I admit, I could give you easy ones.

Things like:
Don't buttrape the Bill of Rights.

But we've had two probably at least fourteen presidents who say otherwise, so I'm taking a different tack.
Sailing across the wind, rather than into it, is exactly what tacking is, after all.

Let's note, for the record, that the NSA isn't collecting telephone cell records under a court order.

They're collecting them under a large farm of antennae in Maryland, connected to enough raw computing power to crush diamonds, and use Chinese calculus as your log on password. Which they've done since pretty much the day after Marconi invented their stuff.

So rather than get all unpatriotically down on their activities, or throw some hysterical histrionic fit, I'd rather make a few carefully chosen observations.

I note, purely for informational purposes, that you can log on to Google Translate, type in any words, for instance, either a meaningless string of terrorism "alert" words or actual fully-formed sentences laden with those little DHS/NSA sphincter-puckering Easter Eggs. You can also use Translate's player to read the results back to you out loud, record the Siri-like voice(s) as an mp3 that wouldn't match your own voiceprint, get a couple of "burner" phones bought and maintained with cash, and send the resulting canned conversations back and forth at will from, say, Phone A live to Phone B voicemail, and vice versa.
If you're an even sneakier little $#!^, you can use the power of Google translate to convert your English (or whatever) words into Arabic, Pashto, and any number of other high-interest dialects, play those live conversations around, and for nothing invested beyond boredom and keystrokes, invent an entire fictional terror cell, complete with dialog.

Of course, purely for research into your unpublished Clancy-esque novel.

You'd want to take the batteries out of the phones except when you were actually sending yourself a message, and drive somewhere far away from your house or office when you send. *I* can't help it if you drove over to the cell tower nearest the local federal building, or international airport, and I'm certainly not responsible if you sent such a conversation to, for example, a US Embassy where the odds it's being tape-recorded in real time are about 100%.

But I will remind you that making discernible terrorist threats is a crime, and that security cameras record facial features and license plates, which a halloween wig and sunglasses, public transportation, and half an hour reading spy-biz tradecraft from a Barnes and Noble book generally thwarts.

And don't, under any circumstances, send Arabic conversations containing key phrases to voicemail accounts at places like the Southern Poverty Propaganda Center, See B.S. Nudes, Handgun Disarmament International, or the American Criminal Liberties Union, on the weekends, or at 3AM, when no one's going to be there to answer their phones in person. Because sending the dung beetles to investigate terror cells among those groups would be...baaaaaaaad.

Don't do it! Never ever ever.

And while we're on the subject, don't Google half a dozen truly awesome German Enigma emulation websites, translate similar alert-word laden conversations from English into actual Enigma alphanumeric cipher groups in spy-approved blocks of 5 letters/numbers, and then text those coded messages back and forth between the burner phones either. Because you wouldn't want the NSA and DHS goons to waste their precious time cracking obsolete WWII-era encryption, and find a bunch of coded tweets revealing a massive imaginary conspiracy to do nothing but waste their time. So please, I'm begging you, don't do that.

The Reichsicherheitshauptamt told me, if I see something, say something.
But they didn't tell me what to say, so this is what I chose.

April Fools is too precious to only celebrate once a year. So don't do that.

Chaos, panic, disorder. Don't do that either. My work here is done.

They can't stop the signal. So let's absolutely not do that.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Capabilities & Intentions

Whether I'm talking about delivering medical care to you or the whole nation, sizing up a policy initiative for a city council member, talking to a detective or the U.S. Attorney about a criminal conspiracy, or the CIA or the DoD planning a strategic geopolitical campaign, it all comes down to those two words: capabilities and intentions. Mine, and the opposition's.

What do I want to do?
What can I do?

What does my opponent want?
What can he/they do about that?

(What you don't or can't know is the area covered by the Fog Of War.)

The way to success starts and ends there. Or failure, if it's ignored.
You have to know yourself, know what you want to do, and what you're capable of.
And either influence what someone else wants, or what they do, along a range from gentle persuasion to global thermonuclear war.

Like tic-tac-toe, the results never vary, but unlike that game, there aren't any draws.
You either succeed, or you fail.

All efforts on your part should thus be geared towards improving what you can do, which improves the range of capabilities you possess; or of bringing others' intentions or capabilities into line with your goals, or thwarting them when that can't be accomplished.

If you're a young single guy, you want to persuade the hot chick to perceive you as desirable, and display the capabilities she thinks are important, whether that's supplying a lobster dinner, dancing, and tickets to the hot rock band, or graduating medical school and buying a mansion on the cliffs by the shore, and sending your offspring to college. (It helps if you actually have all that going on, and share a lot of perceptions in common, but lacking everything isn't an absolute handicap to ultimate success, as any visit to the tabloids or the mall will attest. No wedding in history has failed to provide at least one dubious father in law, one shocked mother in law, or at least one astonished onlooker.)

If you're trying to reach a deal, you want to gather as much support as possible, until you've won your position, and/or convince the other side that you're the side to come to, or prevent them from getting their way until you can either convince them, or steamroll them.

A chief of police, ideally, doesn't want to catch all the crooks. First of all, he wants as many people as possible not to become crooks in the first place. So he sets out to make his side look formidable, and the penalties for crossing the law certain, swift, and unappealing. He knows there will always be those who'll either be too stupid to listen, or determined enough to cross him. Those are the ones who get more specialized attention. But he knows resources aren't limitless, because he knows his own capabilities, and does what he can. This is why city-wide riots succeed, but crime families don't.

On a much larger level, people who play the game undid communism. They knew that the intention was total subjugation of everyone to the organs of the state (and I mean that any way you care to understand "organs"; what the state planned to do to people is little different than what rapists want, practically.) But people who paid attention to what is, instead of what they wished, knew that the communists weren't capable of running everything and everyone, and that they didn't know what they didn't know. Wanting to rule the world isn't a matter of ambition, or even force of arms, but the reality that none of us is able to outsmart all of us. And so, the jacktards failed, despite desperately struggling against reality for most of two generations, and great was the fall thereof.

You can even take this to the realm of forces of nature, because for "intentions", you can substitute the laws of nature and physical tendencies. Tornadoes, for instance, can happen anywhere, and do; but they're lot more likely to move from southwest to northeast in Tornado Alley. Hurricanes are far more likely on the east coast from June through November than any likelihood that a Cat V will come storming across Lake Superior in February and lay waste to Green Bay.

But you have to know what you know, what you want, and what you can do about it, and you have to know what the other side wants, knows how to do, and can actually accomplish.
And then you have to improve your position, and persuade, undermine, or thwart theirs, and you win.

It doesn't matter if you're trying to grow carrots and keep the rabbits out, or grow a civilization by stopping the Mongolian hordes from invading China by building the Great Wall. Capabilities and Intentions is the blueprint for success. Learn it, love it, and live it.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


It's inevitable in humans, and especially among tech-savvy Westerners, to want a piece of Magic Gear that will solve the catastrophe du jour, and folds down to wallet-size. (There was one of those once, but it was made of Unobtanium, and it sank with Atlantis.)

Everybody who knows what they're talking about, and anybody who's heard the questions or seen the results, let alone seen the elephant, gives the following advice more times than probably any other:

Resist that urge.

There is, in fact cool gear. In a given situation, for a specific task, there is always one particular piece of gear that is the most superior, the most excellent; and there are, doubtless, any number of alternatives that would serve admirably, and some aficionado who can even demonstrate how they could/would/should survive with their particular piece of kit. Most of them are like child-proof caps: when you have one, there's never a convenient 8-year old there to get it open for you.

But the only way gear solves problems - pay attention, this is the important fact - is by you getting into a problem in the first place. Yes, a parachute is a great substitute for a flyable airplane. But it would've been far simpler to do proper maintenance and service in the first place, and maybe not trying to fly through that weather over those mountains. A liferaft beats drowning, but it's not a substitute for paying attention to the chart, and not sailing into the rocks, or skipping any of the other ten things you coulda/shoulda/woulda done that got you to where you need to get into the raft just now. Some as simple as keeping a mallet and a supply of wooden pegs in various sizes.

Accidents do happen, and unicorns appear that make the things go sideways. That's what parachutes, liferafts, and survival kits are for. Life isn't certain.

But asking about the best stuff to sock away in a bugout bag for every catastrophe is as dumb as asking for the best gun to use to shoot burglars.

In the latter, the best question to ask was "How do I make it highly unlikely to ever need to shoot burglars?" Like putting up a fence, getting a dog, trimming away brush that allows concealed access, planting thorny species, beefing up your glass, locks, windows, and doors, installing bright lights, household timers, and maybe an alarm system, should all come ahead of which gun to buy, which question comes ahead of only the decision of whether or not to install barbed wire, a walled palisade, and a moat with drawbridge. Do the first things first.

I've been in and through a fair number of disasters, emergencies, and crises. In 99% of them, the Number One gear solution was
"Go home and lock your door. Stay there until situation resolves."
That was it. Problem solved.

The Number Two gear solution was
"Get in car. Drive away. Far, far, away. Stay there until situation resolves."
Which solution necessitated only three things: a reliable car, a current AAA road map, and a handy envelope of ready and abundant cash. Once again, Problem solved.
(Note the above modifiers: "reliable", "current", and "ready" and "abundant". They aren't accidental. Plastic isn't cash. An ATM isn't cash. In some situations far from unlikely, a bag of $20s or $100s may not be cash either. Plan ahead, and plan appropriately.)

Knowing which one to revert to, and when to use each, is the result of rather unsophisticated planning. I will share with you that Top Secret decision algorithm:
"Is _________ liable to affect me inside my house?
No: Stay Yes: Next question
"Is _________ liable to prevent me from departing in my car?
No: Go Yes: Stay

That's the magic. Either you're safe somewhere near, safer far away, or not safe anywhere. In which last case, do whatever you want. If it helps, sing the Clash's "Should I Stay Or Should I Go".

What you'll need in any case are the basic necessities for providing yourself (and anyone you're responsible for) with shelter, water, food, medical care, and personal protection.
By all means, make those provisions, both in situ and in transit.

But there's no gear that's going to save you infallibly, every time, from everything, that fits inside your pocket, or bugout bag, or car trunk, or closet. You'd have to tow the Home Depot, and bury the local Mall under your house, and unless you're Donald Trump, that ain't happening.

But what you can do is to evaluate where you live, from your skin to the house structure itself, to the neighborhood, to the locale, to the region, to the nation, and make a serious study of the most likely problems and events, the most serious problems and events, and make a list of fixes and workarounds for each, to include when it's time to stay, time to go, and what you'll need for each.

A parachute/liferaft/bugout bag/survival retreat/Blofeld's secret underground lair is okay per se, but not as a substitute for a functioning brain, time spent using it planning for emergencies, and staying aware daily of where you are along a continuum between "everything's roses" to "I was already screwed yesterday before I got out of bed".
And ready emergency funds, whether an envelope or a small sack.

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance