04 March 2008

Our Story Thus Far...

As promised, a Kevlar Primer:

Comedy Hour - Oh, the humor.
The Dish - You gotta be in it to win it.
Pass the Rum - It doesn't matter what race or gender your captain is when the ship is going down.
An Alternative - Part One in the Humbug Series.
Rats Invade Sweden! - Socialism breeds rats.
Federalism Kills Zombies - Let's get that on some t-shirts...
A Disconnect - Why taxation by fiat is the bane of democracy.
Slippery Slope - A step by step guide to evil.
Box of Rocks - Unconsciousness begets more of the same.

Please stay tuned...

03 March 2008

Pain and Plunder

Dear Constant Reader,

I was recently asked on a local forum if I didn’t have something better to do with my life. I believe the question was in regards to this blog, although the questioner’s lack of eloquence left much up in the air. Let us assume that he was indeed wondering about the importance of my microcosmic writing here, relative to the life-sized chunks that make up… well, life. And the answer to that question is… a tricky one.

It is incredibly discouraging to see the world as we know it crashing in upon itself, with not many people around to shore it up. The foundations aren’t there – or perhaps they are, but just are not adequate to support the burgeoning mass of post-modernity that teeters like a tumor on stilts above our heads.

I believe firmly in the concepts of Liberty and Democracy, as seen through the lens of our Constitution. And I have a few things to say about these topics, in a voice gradually becoming that which it will be. I enjoy this process. It is vitally important that we encourage an active dialog about the ways we are all failing in our basic responsibilities as citizens of a great Republic. Yes, that includes me, too.

However, this has not been my only goal. I set out to create a habit in myself –the habit of writing daily. Granted, not every post involved writing. But the process was engaged every day, and it really isn’t so much about daily writing as it is a daily effort to create in general. And so, Mission Accomplished, in a factual and non-Bush sense. But in the pursuit of this goal, I have found two things happening concurrently:

1.) I have wanted to write more, and quote less. I look back on these thirty-some-odd posts and see a lot of indented blocks of things that are not my own. And this is all fine and good, because my intent was to evoke a sense of context in which these various items may not normally be rendered. But the daily posting schedule leaves a lot of what I would like to say out in the cold. Which leads me to point # 2.

2.) The universe sees fit to gift me with little dribs and drabs of time here and there… And of course, these little morsels burn away just as easily as the rest. We all have to burn our time at the altar of life – and it is one’s hope that the sacrifice is worth it. (That “the pain is worth the plunder,” as a very good band has put it.) And as a question of the time/worth ratio, I believe I can do better with this blog and my life in general by changing the schedule of posting to one of more weekly dimensions.

All right, enough already. What does this mean? Expect a few changes over the next week or two. My next post will only be a summary of the Kevlar Essentials, for anyone who is going to pick up reading this thing in the future and says, Keanu-style, “Whoa.” After that, there will be no posts for several days. But have no fear, Constant Reader, I will not be forsaking this good habit of creating daily. Posts will be fewer, but the things that make this blog unique will be more potent, more plentiful, and just more gosh darn warm and fuzzy. With the occasional pointy stick thrown in for good measure. And maybe a stone or two. And some broken glass. Ok, warm and fuzzy will probably be mutually exclusive. You might get warm, you might get fuzzy, but don’t count on both at the same time.

In any event, to answer the Inquisitor’s question from paragraph one: “Yes, I do have something better to do. Thanks for pushing me in that direction. Now bugger off. All this better stuff sure as hell isn’t going to do itself.”

As for the rest of you… I think you’re all pretty cool. And if you wanted to maybe forward a link to this blog on to all of your cool friends, I certainly wouldn’t stand in your way. There’s plenty more Ideas to come.

Yours sincerely,
ll REVO ll

02 March 2008

Box of Rocks

At the risk of repeating myself, I am about to repeat myself.

In a previous post, I quoted our President Bush:

"I think actually the spending on the war might help with jobs, because we're buying equipment and people are working. I think this economy is down because we built too many houses."

I resisted the urge to start pontificating on this again. (For a good explanation of what's called The Broken Window Fallacy, take a look here or here.) That is, until I just couldn't take it any more.

Here's what tipped the cart, or broke the camel's back, or perhaps broke the cart and tipped the camel, I'm not sure which. A Reuters article appeared this fine second day of March, telling the story of one Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-winning economist, and his book "The Three Trillion Dollar War."

"It used to be thought that wars are good for the economy. No economist really believes that anymore," Stiglitz said in an interview. Asked if the war has contributed to the U.S. slowdown, Stiglitz said, "Very much so. To offset that depressing effect, the Fed has flooded the economy with liquidity and the regulators looked the other way when very imprudent lending was going up," Stiglitz said. "We were living on borrowed money and borrowed time and eventually a day of reckoning had to come, and it has now come."

And while we're talking about Reuters articles, take a look at this one:

The dollar's sharp slide deepened on Monday when it fell to a record low against a basket of major currencies as expectations for more aggressive Federal Reserve interest rate cuts ignited selling of the U.S. currency.

When you really start to look at all of this, you can't help but wonder what on earth the people we trust to make these decisions are thinking. It starts to raise questions in my mind about the efficacy of a representative democracy to address the needs of the People. Of course, the main alternative is a pure democracy, which is akin to mob rule. So here, perhaps, is the Achilles Heel of the representative system: water cannot rise above its source. In other words, if the People are about as conscious as a box of rocks, we're probably going to end up with leaders of the same calibre. But, if we unplug ourselves from the social morphine delivered to us via all our little distractions, then who knows what we might become aware of.

"Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day." --Thomas Jefferson

01 March 2008

Socialist Crows

This is absolutely brilliant. Absolutely bloody brilliant. This is the best get-rich-quick scheme I have ever seen. Imagine: putting crows to work. That's right, crows a la Hitchcock. Evidently, these birds really are super-smart, but instead of going mad and pecking my eyes out, they're going to make me lots and lots of cash. I'm telling you, I am going to make millions. Until they unionize, and then I'm in trouble. But until then folks, watch your spare change, because the Crows are coming to redistribute your wealth. Kind of like another dark and shady bunch I know of...

Here it is. Cha-ching!

29 February 2008

Step One Redux

Interesting, the debate in which I found myself today, in light of yesterday's post. Or more specifically, in light of Item Number One in Philip Zimbardo's Seven Social Processes: "Mindlessly Taking the First Small Step".

The Pocono Record, our local Newspaper, reported today on the progress of a Pennsylvania bill that would require colleges and universities to report any incidence of underage drinking to the parents of the guilty party. My point in the debate: the State just doesn't have any business making such demands of a private institution. Not to mention it is inconsistent. What about other crimes? What about 18 to 20 year olds who don't go to college? Who's going to call their Mommy and Daddy?

It was said in the State's defence that requiring additional parental involvment wasn't the end of the world, and that 18 year olds aren't as mature as they used to be because they're insulated from the world.

So let's insulate them even more by treating them like... kids? I don't get it. And I also don't get how it is ok to allow the State to legislate in this area. As I said:

So again, we come back to the idea of deterrent. How much are we going to allow the State to take away in the name of keeping us safe? You see this blatantly inconsistent law as a good way to stop kids from drinking. It very well may be, although I do have my doubts. But what's next? Because the State really, REALLY wants to keep you safe. Safe from the risks associated with the personal responsibility of true freedom, that is.

(Is it pretentious to quote myself? Yes. Yes, it is.)

In any event, it appears to me to be another case of letting the State do what it wants because they're Just Keeping Us Safe. And that, my cherished and wonderful readers, is Taking the First Small Step. Again.

28 February 2008

Slippery Slope

According to Philip Zimbardo, who speaks with some authority on the matter (and has written a book on it), these are the "Seven Social Processes That Grease the Slippery Slope of Evil":

1. Mindlessly Taking the First Small Step
2. Dehumanization of Others
3. De-individuation of Self
4. Diffusion of Personal Responsibility
5. Blind Obedience to Authority
6. Uncritical Conformity to Group Norms
7. Passive Tolerance of Evil Through Inaction, or Indifference
How many of these have we already taken as individuals... and thus, as a nation? And what do we need to do in order to take a few steps back?

27 February 2008

Deep Breaths

Ok, you're right. My posts have gotten a little... oh, I don't know... shall we say, Michael-Douglas-In-Falling-Down. It's time for a little breather. (In case you forgot my previous breather, please take a look. In with the good, out with the bad.)

Without further delay, Kevlar Ideas is proud to bring you Stefan G. Bucher's Daily Monster...

26 February 2008

Dollar Karma

From The Washington Post:

"'Euros Only' reads a handmade sign in Billy's Antiques & Props on East Houston Street in Manhattan. But that's really just an attention grabber. Actually, owner Billy Leroy explains, the store will accept Canadian dollars and British pounds, and U.S. dollars, too."
[Thanks to J.D. Tuccille over at Disloyal Opposition for bringing this one to my attention.]

Now I'm no economist, but humor me for just a little while. This so-called stimulus package - you know, the thing that is going to save the day - is meant to inject dollars into the nation's economic bloodstream. And then what? Well, let's watch the paper trail: we print money to give to consumers. Consumers spend their money on imported goods (because next to nothing is made here anymore). Those dollars float across the pond (or North into the lands of the Maple Tree People), and if those stimulating dollars come back to us, they are reincarnated... as Euros? And Pounds? And... Canadian Dollars!!?? Hey, wait a minute! Where did all that stimulus money go?

Oh, never mind - it doesn't matter! What the shopkeepers won't accept in foreign currency, we'll create from absolutely nothing anyway. So go out and spend, Mr. and Mrs. American! It's what keeps the wheels turning! And if you think about it just a little too much, hey... that's what television is for. Shhhhhh! Go back to sleep.

25 February 2008

A Brave New Virtual World

And in "I Can't Believe It's Not April Fools Day" news, the Federal Government is now officially grasping at straws. According to a report from the Director of National Intelligence (a misnomer of mind-numbing proportions), those slippery terrorists aren't going to be able to hide anywhere - and neither are you.

Via Wired:

"Having eliminated all terrorism in the real world, the U.S. intelligence community is working to develop software that will detect violent extremists infiltrating World of Warcraft and other massive multiplayer games... The Reynard project will begin by profiling online gaming behavior, then potentially move on to its ultimate goal of 'automatically detecting suspicious behavior and actions in the virtual world.'"

I couldn't believe this myself, but sure enough, it checks out. Of special hilarity, at least to me, is the part where the report talks about identifying "social, behavioral and cultural norms in virtual worlds and gaming environments." These people really don't have a clue, do they?

So what do you think? Spooks in cyberspace are going to be profiling 13 year olds and their online "norms", all in the name of Homeland Security. Is this even remotely rational?

24 February 2008

Degrading Society

In his book Spook Country, William Gibson uses an unlikely character to give us the following truth:

"A nation consists of its laws. A nation does not consist of its situation at a given time. If an individual's morals are situational, that individual is without morals. If a nation's laws are situational, that nation has no laws, and soon isn't a nation. Are you really so scared of terrorists that you'll dismantle the structures that made America what it is? If you are, you let the terroist win. Because that is exactly, specifically, his goal, his only goal: to frighten you into surrendering the rule of law. That's why they call him 'terrorist.' He uses terrifying threats to induce you to degrade your own society." (italics mine)
Ah yes, the Rule of Law. The glue by which the pieces of civilization are held together. When that unifying force is tampered with (and in today's case, ignored), the structure falls apart.

"...the rule of law is the principle that governmental authority is legitimately exercised only in accordance with written, publicly disclosed laws adopted and enforced in accordance with established procedural steps that are referred to as due process. The principle is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary governance, whether by a totalitarian leader or by mob rule. Thus, the rule of law is hostile both to dictatorship and to anarchy." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_law
So if we see someone "evincing a design" to diminish the rule of law, can we not conclude that there is a good chance they or the people they represent are interested in one of these two things, dictatorship or anarchy?

Let me know what you think.

23 February 2008

A Disconnect

Today's breath of fresh air comes to us from Jacob Halbrooks over at lewrockwell.com:

"In a system where government activities are only funded voluntarily and at direct cost to those contributing, we would find the true mandate of the people for financing specific policies of the government. Likely, we would find an end to the welfare/warfare state and an army of bureaucrats seeking other employment."

I've been looking for a way out of really hating my fellow American. I'm not a hateful person - in fact, I'm pretty sure I don't hate anyone. And yet, when I look at the mounds of incredibly undeniable evidence that the Average Joe is not only just plain dim, but also seems to be proactively seeking the demise of our Republic... my non-hate starts to go into the red zone. (You are obviously not one of the aforementioned Dims, since you have the good sense to use a few minutes of your day and park yourself in front of this wondrous blog of mine. You, in fact, are among the Anti-Dim. Congratulations, and good luck.)

Needless to say, I was much relieved when I read Mr. Halbrooks' article, because it allows me to regain trust in my buddy, Mr. Joe, and instead point the condemning finger at something more discernibly Bad. I speak, of course, of The System.

When there is a complete disconnect between Government policy and the American pocketbook, how in the world can I get mad at any of my poor comrade schleps? If we were able to vote with our money, how different would this country be! As I see it, the source of this disconnect takes two primary forms: the IRS, and the Federal Reserve. We are compelled to pay for whatever the Government says we should pay for. And hot-off-the-presses "assets" make up whatever the difference is between the total bill and what couldn't be stolen from us.

Along these same lines is the sidestepping done by the Executive Branch (and the ignorance of Congress for allowing it) when Congress's Constitutionally-granted power to declare war was diluted, and the President given the ability to authorize "Military Force". The Founders knew that War and The People were inexorably linked. Congress is meant to be the voice of the People in our government. How much would we be debating this so-called "War In Iraq" if the President needed to ask us to fund it? Can you imagine a Fundraising Drive to pay for Mr. Bush's "War"? (The Government could hire the Girl Scouts, but they'd probably charge $40 per box. Oh, and a box would consist of three and a half cookies. They might allow a discount - to stimulate the economy - but you'd need to fill out a 28 page form first.) But none of this is of any concern, because we each pay our taxes, and the Fed prints up the rest.

"Good people can vote for evil because the political process spreads the cost of evil to everyone... As long as people recognize the authority of government to fund itself on their behalf, the regime will continue."

So rest easy tonight, Mr. and Mrs. American. I do not hate you - yet. Just open your eyes, or else.

22 February 2008


As if we don't have enough to worry about...(Link)

Wait, are terrorists behind this? I think someone should call DHS and find out. Maybe we need a new threat level indexing system...?

21 February 2008

Drip Drip

Originally uploaded by Con Mis Ojos Photography

Why do so few hear the water running? And who left it on in the first place?

20 February 2008

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: 1000 pcs.

Is anyone watching this puzzle come together? The more pieces that get set into place, the more the picture becomes discernable. I'm hoping that some klutz will come by and knock the table over, or spill a gallon or two of coffee on it. Something, anything, other than what's taking shape.

Planes (Link)

According to a US document being circulated for signature in European capitals, EU states would also need to supply personal data on all air passengers overflying but not landing in the US in order to gain or retain visa-free travel to America, senior EU officials said.

And within months the US department of homeland security is to impose a new permit system for Europeans flying to the US, compelling all travellers to apply online for permission to enter the country before booking or buying a ticket, a procedure that will take several days.

Washington is also asking European airlines to provide personal data on non-travellers - for example family members - who are allowed beyond departure barriers to help elderly, young or ill passengers to board aircraft flying to America, a demand the airlines reject as "absurd".

Trains (Link)

Amtrak will start randomly screening passengers' carry-on bags this week in a new security push that includes officers with automatic weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolling platforms and trains.

Amtrak plans to roll out the new "mobile security teams" first on the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston, the railroad's most heavily used route, before expanding them to the rest of the country.

The teams will show up unannounced at stations and set up baggage screening areas in front of boarding gates. Officers will randomly pull people out of line and wipe their bags with a special swab that is then put through a machine that detects explosives. If the machine detects anything, officers will open the bag for visual inspection. Anybody who is selected for screening and refuses will not be allowed to board and their ticket will be refunded.

Automobiles (Link)
(Ok, this heading was a bit of a stretch, but not by too much. It's about the so-called Real ID, which does have to do with automobiles. So my clever title is still intact. I know you were worried.)

Residents of the five states--Maine, South Carolina, Montana, Oklahoma, and New Hampshire--that have firmly rejected Real ID [will have trouble flying or entering federal buildings starting May 11]. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have not decided yet, meaning they could fall into this category too.

The text of the law says that, starting May 11, "a federal agency may not accept, for any official purpose, a driver's license or identification card issued by a state to any person unless the state is meeting the requirements of this section." Official purpose is defined to include "any other purposes" that Homeland Security thinks is wise.

[Regarding the possibility of a wider application of the law, Homeland Security had this to say.] "DHS will continue to consider additional ways in which a Real ID license can or should be used and will implement any changes to the definition of 'official purpose' or determinations regarding additional uses for Real ID consistent with applicable laws and regulatory requirements. DHS does not agree that it must seek the approval of Congress as a prerequisite to changing the definition in the future." [italics mine]

The scary thing here is that it doesn't even matter if the pieces don't fit. Anything can be made to fit, under the right circumstances. Like a complete lack of checks and balances, for example.

19 February 2008

A Modest Proposal

I wish I had one of those cartoon-handed "Return to Sender" stamps, preferably in red ink, so when my Federal Tupperware comes in the mail (you know, the one that contains my Piece of the Pie), I could cartoonishly rubber stamp it and zing it right back the way it came. But who am I kidding, I'll never have a stamp like that. I can't afford one.

The whole "stimulus" idea is a diversion, of course. As is explained here (albeit in slightly different words), all good diversions are based on misunderstanding (a.k.a. "deception"):

It seems that Washington wants us to believe that they have some magic machine that can turn up $150 billion in new assets without anyone having to do anything to make these assets appear. One wonders, then, why we need to wait until a recession to stimulate the economy. Why not magically create hundreds of billions every day, and not just for this country but for the entire world? Why are we holding back?
Indeed. Let's allow this logic to continue for a bit, because it gets better. Along these same lines, our Mr. President offered us the following wisdom (as archived here on MSNBC, about four minutes in):

"I think actually the spending on the war might help with jobs, because we're buying equipment and people are working. I think this economy is down because we built too many houses."
If you're asking yourself to believe that these are his words... Look, I can't make this stuff up. Following this simple logic to its sublime conclusion, we should not only attempt to really stimulate the economy by blowing up as many countries as we can, we should also start dropping bombs on our own houses. No, really, this is a good idea. Think of all the jobs the rebuilding would create! Those pesky houses are like rabbits anyway - first you have two, then before you know it there's an entire development.

But I digress, and painfully so.