Browncoat party

For Those New Here

A brief index to my major posts:

I'm an advocate of taking the offensive in the Global War On Terror, the official name for our war against the Islamofascists. I've done a Venn Diagram showing how different current conflicts relate to the war as a whole, and a state diagram showing the different strategies available to us and their possible outcomes. I think there's a limited amount of time to win before a catastrophe is inevitable.

Other war posts: Abu Ghraib, Torture, Iran, putting the Army on a war footing, mistakes made in Iraq, Wars of Choice, Law, Interrogation, and Torture, Reforming the Defense Acquisition System,

I've looked at better ways to categorize views than the "left-right" axis, why our political system forces everyone into two parties, and how we could modify the system to better express everyone's views. I also discuss how our political divide comes from different visions of how families should be organized and why the "War on Drugs" is the real threat to our freedoms.

Other politics posts: Gay Marriage/Polygamy, Global Warming and who to believe about it, War on Drugs (more here), Trinity River Vision, civil war, political quizzes, Iron Man vs. ITAR, Health Care Deformed (other Obamacare links), Nullification and a follow-up, the Tree Ring Circus, The Bill of Federalism, Gaiacrats versus Theocrats, and How I pick presidential candidates.

My Beliefs
Things I believe in, and the books which most influenced me. I want to lay out the assumptions behind my beliefs clearly. If one of those principles is disproved I'll have to rethink my stands.

Sometimes I'll toss out a wild idea to provoke debate:
Anglosphere Civilization (and merging states), Auctionocracy, and An Exercise in Alternate History

My other writings can be found at my main livejournal page.
  • Current Mood
    calm calm
Abundantly clear


Scot Peterson, the SRO at Stoneman Douglas High School, is being prosecuted for not trying to to stop the shooter. Various people are objecting, saying "Cowardice may be fireable, but it's not a crime."

Oh? What's the military's attitude toward cowardice?

Any person subject to this chapter who before or in the presence of the enemy--
(1) runs away;
(2) shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place, or military property which it is his duty to defend;
shall be punished by death or such punishment as a court- martial may direct.

Cops have been demanding more respect, wanting all the privileges of soldiers while still staying home in their own beds each night. Fine. If they want the perks of being soldiers, they can be held to the standards. Scot Peterson had soft duty, hanging out with teenagers and swaggering around with his weapon in a 'gun free zone.' All so he could be there if it hit the fan. He failed. He should pay the penalty.

(Not that 'neglect of a child' or 'negligence' carry the death penalty . . . but he should pay some price.)
Abundantly clear

Calling the Legions Home

So, we're pulling troops out of Syria. And maybe Afghanistan. I wasn't thrilled about going into Syria. So I can't be upset about pulling out. Either way I want us to have a strategy rather than fumbling about.

The fumbling about is produced by different people in the US government wanting different strategies, or sometimes wanting an objective for reasons unrelated to strategy (for example, the State Department types who want the US to keep enough forces in the MidEast to be able to veto Israel's actions).

There's several strategies we could have followed in response to the 9/11 attacks. Strategic moves aren't always intuitive. The US response to Pearl Harbor was to invade Morocco, a place even more removed from the Imperial Japanese Navy than Iraq was from the terrorists who organized 9/11. It made sense as a way to keep the Allies in the fight, expecting them to defeat Japan's cohorts and then Japan in turn.

Invading Iraq made sense as part of a strategy of transforming the Arab world into a series of democracies, or at least autocracies leaving people enough freedom that they had better things to do than strap bombs to themselves (Dubya did mention this as our strategy a few times, but didn't put much work into creating a national consensus for us).

Alternate strategies existed--simple punitive expeditions, imperialism, isolationism--each with their own ideal outcomes. I wrote about the choices here.

I didn't think pushing for democracy was the safest or cheapest strategy. I certainly wasn't sure it would work, though there were moments of hope. Instead I was worried about the worst case. Terrorists are being empowered by technology to cause more damage

Eliezer Yudkowsky expressed this as "Moore's Law of Mad Scientists: Every 18 months the IQ required to destroy the world goes down by one point." The same minimum IQ reduction applies to each smaller act of terror.

So someday in the future, if we haven't eliminated the forces driving terrorism, there will be an attack on the USA that causes over a million dead. And Americans, seized with rage and fear, will launch a counterattack with a hundred or a thousand times as many dead.

I wanted us to pursue the strategy of democracy to avert that. Because I don't want that much blood on our hands. At the very least I felt an obligation to try.

Now Americans born after 9/11 are enlisting and going off to fight in Syria and Afghanistan. Dubya's successors haven't stuck with his strategy. The guiding principle of our actions in the Middle East this decade seems to be "Do the minimum to keep people from complaining on the news."

I'm not shocked. Americans aren't much for generations-long commitments, certainly not if no one's taking the responsibility for asking them to. So that strategy is abandoned. We don't have a new strategy. There's not much point to deploying troops if we don't have a strategy for them to execute.

So, yes, as someone who advocated going into Iraq and still thinks it was a good idea, I think it's time to pull out of the Middle East. Playing whack-a-mole is not a strategy.

When the great atrocity happens, and a half-billion are killed in retaliation, a grandchild will come to me asking "How could everyone let this happen?" I'll point to the Americans dead in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Syria, Niger, etc.) and say, "We tried to prevent it."
  • Current Mood

Half Staff

Flag ceremony by Junior ROTC cadets. That's my boy in the back row.

Children born the day of the 9/11 attacks are now old enough to enlist in the military with parental permission.

Flag ceremony
Abundantly clear

More Rules on Guns?

March 24th I walked in the March for Our Lives protest against guns, keeping company with my two teenage children. I completely sympathize with being afraid of some spree shooter attacking. I was there because someone shot up another DFW protest a couple of years ago and I wanted to help the kids escape if it happened again.

It's not the first time I've woried about spree shooters attacking me or mine. I was working at the Hughes Aircraft plant in El Segundo in 1996 when a gunman shot three people and took hostages. It gives a sense of immediacy to the annual workplace violence online training my employer puts me through.

Fort Worth had a good turnout for the rally, several thousand people. There were speeches at the old courthouse and then a march from there to the convention center and back again. There were more speeches, but we didn't stay for them.

I wasn't impressed by the speeches. No substantive proposals other than background checks for private sales, which would require a gun and owner registry to implement and is therefore fircely opposed by many including me. Lots of ad hominem attacks on Republican politicians and the NRA. Lots of exclamations over school shootings as if they were common and increasing, when they're rare and fewer.

The signs were worse. Lots of blatant misinformation. "I wish my uterus has as many rights as a gun." There's someone who can freely bring her uterus everywhere and didn't have a background check before getting it. More ad hominems. Claims that sudafed is harder to buy than a gun. Bullshit. I've done both. Demands to ban AR-15s, semi-automatics, or all guns.

The last amused me because the first speaker made an emphatic point of "We're not trying to take your guns away". If she'd read the signs in front of her she'd know lots of the crowd did want to try that. I'm pretty sure she did know that. It's not unique to that crowd. A few days later prominent liberal John Paul Stevens demanded the 2nd Amendment be repealed so guns could be taken. Lots of people cheered him. (Given all the attacks on the NRA, some seem to want the 1st Amendment repealed as well.)

But gun control activists have been trained to say "We don't want to take your guns" to reassure neutral listeners. And I do mean trained. The high school students were out in front of this protest, but they weren't doing it by themselves. There was a network of organizations supporting them and raising money. That's the connections needed to get city permits (with police and medical support), t-shirts, good graphic templates for signs, reporters doing stories, announcements made on social media, etc. etc. "March for Our Lives" handled all that stuff very smoothly. Newbies figuring this out for themselves aren't smooth.

I did see one bobble. The local march organizer put together a sign-making event so people would have hand made signs for the march. The Facebook event for it was screwed up because it showed a California address and a wrong time--it included an offset for Pacific time.

How'd that happen? The organizer posted that she was in California and announced the correct time and place. Here's what I think happened. She was spending her spring break at a workshop for march organizers. One item on the checklist was "sign making party." Emails went back to Texas requesting help setting that up. Experienced activists in Fort Worth ("Grandparents Against Violence" were the t-shirts I saw at the event) found someone with an industrial space that could be used, arranged donations of sign supplies and snacks, and sent the info to the high schooler on her spring break. She created the event on Facebook. FB, being FB, checked her location from her phone and set the time to Pacific and grabbed the nearest street of that name in Los Angeles County.

Ten years from now she'll tell that as a lesson learned when teaching workshops for the next generation of high school activists.

Not that it'd necessarily be a gun control workshop. Various liberal groups were showing their flags at the march. Civil rights groups. The local Cesar Chavez committee. Beto O'Rourke's campaign. Other Democratic candidates.

We gave a bottle of water to a guy who was leading chants on the march. He'd been doing protests his whole life, and looked closer to my age than my kids. His chants weren't about guns, much more civil rights focused. So he was representative of all the folks who weren't there to talk gun policy but leftist politics in general.

I did want to talk gun policy. Though the only ones I talked about it with were a couple of ladies who asked what my sign meant:
Middle aged guy at protest march.
(Pro tip: don't skip breakfast before going for a long walk in warm sun. I was wilting a bit.)

"IMPRISON STRAW BUYERS" is poking at a wide hole in the enforcement of current gun laws. Someone with a clean record who buys a gun for someone prohibited from owning one (the "straw buyer") is committing a felony. But the Feds rarely prosecute them, and offer easy plea bargains when they do.

That holds with many of the gun laws we have. Putting down false information on the background check form is a crime, and is often caught when NICS checks are made. Prosecuted? Hardly ever.

This is part of what makes 2nd Amendment fans suspicious of suggestions for "reasonable" "common sense" gun laws. If the laws aren't being enforced against the criminals, why are more restrictions being put on the law-abiding?

Part of that is a worry about the "slippery slope" problem. If guns are banned, and murders continue, what will be banned next? The Brits are answering that as they put active efforts into trying to ban knives as weapons.

Even a knife ban won't stop criminals. They'll throw acid in people's faces or run people over with trucks.

Describing a new gun control rule as a "compromise" just makes 2nd Amendment people wary at this point. A hundred years ago citizens could have automatic weapons, short barreled rifles, silencers, and carry pistols without a permit. Now there's so many rules it's a full time job to figure out what's legal in a jurisdiction. Collectors are forced to get dealer licenses to protect themselves from prosecution for owning too many guns.

There's already been many restrictions on guns. Too many people are open about wanting to confiscate all guns. Why they want to live in a country where all rifles are carried by people under Trump's orders I don't know, but that's what they're asking for.

At this point the gun control fans can't keep track of the laws. I keep seeing suggestions for rules that are already in place.

I did see one set of suggestions that intrigue me. (backup link) It's a real compromise, in that both sides would be getting something they want.

Swiss-style universal background checks

Opening up the NICS to private sellers so they can check if their buyer is allowed to own guns. I'm good with that. It doesn't have a registry of guns that could be used for future confiscation attempts. Still vulnerable to straw buyers and other evasions, but we have laws for that now.

This may also have an unintended consequence by making the database available for non-gun purposes. Any guy at a singles bar better have a recent background check code if he wants someone to go home with him.

Extreme risk protection orders

Another name for the GVROs I talked about in my last post. If someone is presenting a danger, show a judge and get a restraining order.

EDIT: see edit to previous post. This is being implemented badly and I no longer think it's a good idea.

Classify bump stocks as machine guns

Bump stocks trade accuracy for firing speed. Their effect can be duplicated with a belt and rubber band. But I won't miss them. The main argument against banning them is the slippery slope. 2nd Amendment supporters who've had many miles taken don't want to give up another inch. Doing it as part of a big compromise package would answer that.

Put silencers in the same legal category as handguns, not grenade launchers

Oh, yes, please. Then my local range can mandate them for the guys with the big pistols that hurt my ears through the hearing protection. For anyone wondering if this will make murder too easy, Hollywood has been lying about the effectiveness of silencers. It's still a loud bang. It just causes less ear damage.

Repeal Depression-era barrel length laws

Yep. They're dumb. Mostly enforced on people too dumb to check the rules, or someone the ATF is trying to entrap.

Concealed carry permit reciprocity

I'm all for this. Self defense is a right for all Americans.

Mass shootings are a media contagion. The press can help stop it with the same anti-copycat guidelines they already use for suicides.

Yes. Reporters are flogging the hell out stories to get clicks and ratings. They're convincing kids that shootings are a major danger when they're well below traffic accidents. And if they can't carry out the copycat guidelines, could they at least not fucking tell potential copycats that shooting up their school will make girls send them sexy pictures?

Penalize agencies that fail to update the NICS background check system

This is already happening.

Those suggestions are useful, and as a package should be able to gather widespread support. Will they? Well, that depends on whether activists want to make useful changes in the law . . . or just try to enrage their supporters to get them to donate funds and vote for preferred candidates.
Abundantly clear

Schools, Guns, and Laws

Some asshole shot up a high school and killed 17 people, most of them students. How could this have been prevented?

First off, he could have been arrested and convicted when he committed previous felonies. Threatening to kill someone is a crime. When cops decide not to arrest someone they're missing a chance to stop him before he commits a greater crime. We wouldn't want cops arresting everyone they see breaking every possible law (especially considering how many stupid laws are out there) but we need them to make good judgement calls. It doesn't help when the chief is saying, "Don't arrest high school kids, that makes us look bad."

A few states have implemented an idea that would have helped in this situation. Domestic violence restraining orders are a way for a battered wife to go to a court and have her ex restricted from possessing guns, etc. A "Gun Violence Restraining Order" expands this for someone who's threatening strangers. If the cops or FBI blow off reports of dangerous behavior the GVRO is another tool for targeting potential murderers.

Either a felony conviction or a GVRO would keep the shooter from passing the background check needed to buy guns*.

One way criminals avoid background checks is getting someone with a clean record to buy the guns for them. This is called a "straw buyer" and is a felony. But straw buyers are rarely prosecuted. When prosecutors do press charges the penalty is usually probation instead of prison time. To draw a stiff penalty straw buyers have to supply weapons to the Columbine shooters. Enforcing that law would be an effective way to deter people from providing guns to criminals or the underage.

If someone has a gun and has decided to attack a school there's not many good options. Having a police officer present might deter an attack, but would more likely divert the maniac to a less well guarded target. There's also the downside that when the school isn't being attacked having a police officer present can turn petty misconduct into a criminal offense.

One option people are talking about is letting teachers with concealed carry permits carry their weapons in school. Many states already allow this. This strikes me as just common sense. Nobody supporting this wants teachers trying to hunt down an attacker. But when the attack is going on and a teacher is stuck in a classroom with a bunch of students . . . what's the best option for that teacher? Trust the lock on the door? Grab the scissors off the craft table**? Or use a weapon they know how to defend themselves with? Yeah, someone with a pistol can stop someone with a rifle, such as the terrorists who attacked the cartoon show in Garland or the guy who tried to assassinate Republican Congressmen.

For those afraid an armed teacher would be a danger to students, I'll point out people with concealed carry licenses are one of the most law abiding demographics in the nation, committing noticeably fewer crimes than police officers do. The Georgia teacher who fired a gun in school a few weeks back did not have a license . . . and the one in California was a cop.

The good news about school shootings is that they're becoming less common. This is part of the general fall in murder rates in the USA over the last 25 years. There's more privately owned guns but they're not causing as many deaths. The AR-15 is responsible for fewer murders than bare hands.

So why do we have all these horrible school shootings? I don't know. There's theories out there: Multi-thousand student high schools drive people crazy***. Not having father figures present drives boy crazy. Boys are crazy. Crazy people are entranced by the thought of becoming famous for shooting up their school.

But guns have always been around. Go back fifty years and high school students would have deer rifles in the cars so they could go hunting after school. Those rifles did much more damage than AR-15s--a .223 bullet isn't considered powerful for deer, it would just wound them instead of killing. But the students rarely committed mass shootings.

Some people want to outlaw private ownership of guns. They want to "have a conversation" about it. The USA has had this conversation every 12-18 months and it comes out the same every time. The current laws exist because that's the consensus of the voters. Yes, a minority wants to get rid of all those guns. They're outvoted. They're going to keep getting outvoted. If someone wants me to discuss the ins and outs of current firearms laws I will. But there's a lot of laws so that's going to be tedious. Federal laws, state laws, local laws, BATFE regulations, ITAR regulations, and more. Guns are heavily regulated. Suffice it to say that if I cut the barrel off a rifle I'd go to jail, if I bought a Glock and sold it to someone I'd go to jail, if I modified a weapon to have automatic fire I'd go to jail. Most of what people are demanding for gun control is already on the lawbooks.

Owning more guns didn't create school shootings. Trying to outlaw the guns won't stop them.

* Assuming the responsible agency enters the information into the database. The Sutherland Springs shooter could buy his weapons because the Air Force fell down on entering court martial convictions into the database.

** The available option I have in case of workplace violence. Which doesn't thrill me because someone once shot up a building I was working in.

*** My high school had 2400 students. Make your own call.

EDIT: I've changed my mind about GVROs (aka "Red Flag laws"). They're being implemented without due process and used as weapons against people for personal or political reasons. So it was a useful idea in theory, but can't be successfully implemented in today's USA.

Shooting, Kneeling, and What To Do About It

In all the fuss over athletes kneeling the original cause of the protest is being drowned out. Cops shooting too many people, specifically black people.

The Black Lives Matter movement put forward a set of solutions called Campaign Zero. It's a list of ten actions they want taken, exactly the format I love analyzing on this blog. Let's take a look. Note that the site I'm linking to has a much more detailed discussion of each item, with supporting links. If you're not sure what something I mention here means please consult the source.

End Broken Windows Policing
  • End Policing of Minor "Broken Windows" Offenses

  • End Profiling and "Stop-and-Frisk"

  • Establish Alternative Approaches to Mental Health Crises

This one is a trade-off. Loosening the low-level policing that keeps thugs from being able to commit minor crimes will lead to more of those crimes. Faced with a choice of fewer deaths and fewer burglaries, I'm going to choose few deaths. The detailed list included drug possession, which is something I want to reduce enforcement of in general. (Legalizing drugs would be more of a benefit than most of this list, but I guess the organizers didn't want to pick that fight.)

The mental health training is also necessary. Cops are prone to dealing with anyone noncompliant as a criminal defying their authority instead of someone who just doesn't understand the instructions their being given (or didn't hear them).

Community Oversight
  • Establish an all-civilian oversight structure with discipline power that includes a Police Commission and Civilian Complaints Office

  • Remove barriers to reporting police misconduct

Many of the egregious shootings have been committed by cops who'd misbehaved many times but were kept on the force. Enforcing standards would get rid of the few bad cops committing most of the offenses.

Limit Use of Force
  • Establish standards and reporting of police use of deadly force

  • Revise and strengthen local police department use of force policies

  • End traffic-related police killings and dangerous high-speed police chases

  • Monitor how police use force and proactively hold officers accountable for excessive force

Rapid escalation to lethal force is a key part of the problem. Nonlethal weapons and being willing to let minor criminals escape and be caught later would spare lives.

Independent Investigations and Prosecutions
  • Lower the standard of proof for Department of Justice civil rights investigations of police officers

  • Use federal funds to encourage independent investigations and prosecutions

  • Establish a permanent Special Prosecutor's Office at the State level for cases of police violence

  • Require independent investigations of all cases where police kill or seriously injure civilians

"Lowering standard of proof" is a phrase that normally sets my hackles up. In this case I'm okay with it, given that the existing standard is that the prosecution has to prove the mindset of the cop rather than the actions.

Community Representation
  • Increase the number of police officers who reflect the communities they serve

  • Use community feedback to inform police department policies and practices

I don't think this would provide the benefits BLM is hoping for. Half the officers in the Freddie Gray case were black. And Minneapolis' attempt to bring representation to the Somali community didn't work out well. We need to bring in more cops without giving up on high standards for people authorized to use lethal force.

Body Cams/ Film The Police
  • Body cameras and dashboard cameras

  • The Right to Record Police

Oh, hell, yes. Cops confiscating a bystander's camera or disabling their own should be kicked off the force. Accountability is essential.

  • Invest in Rigorous and Sustained Training

  • Intentionally consider 'unconscious' or 'implicit' racial bias

For all the talk of "militarizing" the police, cops don't get the thorough training soldiers do. Combat units are regularly trained in how to handle various scenarios. Police are frequently not given preparation to handle situations out of their normal routine. A cop with twelve years on the force may not have twelve years of experience, just one year's experience twelve times.

End For-Profit Policing
  • End police department quotas for tickets and arrests

  • Limit fines and fees for low-income people

  • Prevent police from taking the money or property of innocent people

  • Require police departments to bear the cost of misconduct

This was a large part of the pressure feeding into the Ferguson riots: towns balancing their budgets by extracting money from those least able to pay it. Add in police incentivized to go after the most profitable targets instead of the most dangerous and we get the legalized robbery of civil forfeiture.

  • End the Federal Government's 1033 Program Providing Military Weaponry to Local Police Departments

  • Establish Local Restrictions to Prevent Police Departments from Purchasing or Using Military Weaponry

  • Don't use SWAT teams or no-knock raids unless there is an emergency situation or imminent threat to life

Too many shootings happen because the police chief doesn't want the SWAT team sitting around and sends them out to serve warrants on non-violent suspects. But when you train someone to treat going around every corner as a life-or-death situation they're going to have the wrong reflexes for dealing with an innocent woken up in the middle of the night. Given them more powerful weapons just makes the damage worse.

Fair Police Contracts
  • Remove barriers to effective misconduct investigations and civilian oversight

  • Keep officers' disciplinary history accessible to police departments and the public

  • Ensure financial accountability for officers and police departments that kill or seriously injure civilians

If I had to pick one item from this list to make law, it would be this one. A big part of that is because it could become law instead of being bogged down in negotiations and court battles. Setting a rule that a cop isn't entitled to a different legal process from what civilians go through would be a huge step forward. Right now a cop pulling the trigger is balancing the decision between the risk of whatever threat he perceives and probably no consquence if he kills someone he shouldn't have. Taking away the special privileges of delayed interrogations, union intervention, and sealed records will improve the balance.

Standing Against Nazis and Other Fascists

On August 19th I attended the "Dallas Against White-Supremacy" rally. I was pissed off enough by the Nazis who'd paraded and murdered in Charlottesville that I wanted to take a public stand. I went by myself. A couple of friends considered going with me but between the weather (typical August in Texas) and memories of the murders at last year's BLM march in Dallas they bailed. Perfectly understandable.

After a bit of confusion with my map app I found parking half a mile from the rally site and walked. There were lots of cops from multiple departments. I saw city, county, and state cops. Also cops on bicycles and horses. The helicopter arrived later. Dallas PD did not want to let things get out of control and they wanted everyone to know that.

I followed the crowd to the plaza in front of City Hall. There were counter-protestors at a confederate memorial by the Pioneer Park Cemetery, too far away for me to see them. The crowd was peaceful. The organizers requested that no one wear masks and I only saw a couple of black-bandanna types.

A couple of friends found me there, which made standing around more pleasant. The organizers had a series of speakers, but the sound system could barely project over the packed solid crowd at the stage. Neither my friends nor I wanted to LARP sardines so we hung on the outskirts and watched people's signs. (The Baptist preacher could project well, but I couldn't hear well enough to follow him.)

The signs fell into several categories:
1. Nazis, fascists, and white supremicists are bad. I agree.
2. Peace, love, and other things are good. Also agree.
3. I hate Trump. I didn't vote for Trump, but I'm not panicking over him either.
4. Revolution now! (In socialist, communist, and possibly a few other flavors.) Nope. I swore an oath to the US Constitution.
5. Speech is violence. I disagree.

One of my friends had a sign saying "White Silence Is Violence." I didn't argue with him about it. I was there to support the rally, not split it, and if I insist on only grouping with people I agree 100% with I'll always be standing alone.

Nitpicking arguments is what this blog is for.

Insisting that speech is never violence is more than a nitpick though. No matter how horrifying someone's speech is, and advocating genocide is as horrifying as it can get, it's not justification for initiating force against them. We have rules defining incitement and harrassment. Waving a flag in a park doesn't count as either.

Declaring speech is violence serves a specific purpose: granting permission to attack people engaging in speech.

We've had plenty of precedents of people engaging in hateful speech. The Nazis had to go to the Supreme Court to get permission to march in Skokie. Did that get them the white supremacy they wanted? No. It got them mocked as homosexuals in the Blues Brothers.

The previous month Charlottesville had a KKK rally. It was handled firmly by the police. What did they get out of it? Nothing. Not even national publicity. I didn't hear of it until the Nazis did their rally and the cops let it turn into a brawl. (Why am I blaming the cops? Well, when the ACLU thinks the police are being too retiring there's some bad police work going on.) Countering the Klan with speech and ostracism worked.

I see a lot of people looking at the brawlers and saying "this bunch is on my side." I don't. To me they're both on the same side, the Violence Party. The brawls are their primary election. Democratic primaries are usually contests between the unions and the liberals. Republicans ones are between country clubbers and Christians. The Violence Party is competing to see which form of total control they want to impose on the country. The thugs can be counted on to rally behind the winner. There's already switching going on between the groups. The Portland knife murderer used to support Bernie Sanders, and one of the Nazi organizers in Charlottesville was an Obama supporter.

I'm a member of the Voting Party. I want our arguments settled with speech and votes, not force. Because once we let force make the decisions it'll displace speech everywhere. Giving a mayor the power to suppress speech by withdrawing police protection to enable a heckler's veto will mean giving Trump the power to use the same tactic. That's not anyplace we want to be.

A digression, since someone will probably ask. The government removing statues from government property I’m fine with. That’s democracy. Vandalism is a crime. Removing the marker from POWs' graves is a dick move.

Back to the issue of violence. The black bloc rioters have been scaring me for months with the attacks they've made to suppress speakers. I’m all in favor of being opposed to fascism. But when someone uses violence to shut down a speech, breaks windows, assaults journalists, and advocates a totalitarian form of government . . . that’s a fascist, even if you put an “anti” label on him. They even shut down the rally I was at. As the organizer posted on FB:
Now, many of you may not know this, but there was an altercation between members of Anti-fa and officers of DPD. There were threats made on the part of Anti-fa towards police, the threat of escalation was real, and that is why the ending of the event probably felt so abrupt. We were unable to do the vigil portion, and we are truly sorry for that, but getting everyone out of the plaza and home safely was paramount and a top priority. Obviously, nothing ever came of the conflict between Anti-fa and DPD, but it's better to be safe than sorry, always.
I didn't see that confrontation. One of my friends had a seizure and I was busy cushioning their head from the concrete. When I looked up there were a dozen riot-geared cops surrounding us. Seemed ridiculous overkill at the time, but now that I know what happened I presume they were making a show of force to make sure the black-masked types didn't try anything more.
Browncoat party

What To Expect From the Unexpected, Part Two

Continuing my comments on Trump's promised to do list. Yesterday's discussion of the first half is here.

The last section is a list of proposed legislation.

1. Middle Class Tax Relief And Simplification Act. An economic plan designed to grow the economy 4% per year and create at least 25 million new jobs through massive tax reduction and simplification, in combination with trade reform, regulatory relief, and lifting the restrictions on American energy. The largest tax reductions are for the middle class. A middle-class family with 2 children will get a 35% tax cut. The current number of brackets will be reduced from 7 to 3, and tax forms will likewise be greatly simplified. The business rate will be lowered from 35 to 15 percent, and the trillions of dollars of American corporate money overseas can now be brought back at a 10 percent rate.
Gah. A national economy is too big to plan. It's organic and the unintended consequences always dwarf the intended results of government action. The Nazi Four Year Plan didn't work, the Soviet Five Year Plans didn't work, and this won't work to get the results promised.

As for the content: I'm a middle class guy with two kids, and I'd be happy to take a tax cut. Apple will be happy to have its income tax bill cut. How the heck is he going to pay for all this? Possibly he's not. The national debt will hit twenty trillion dollars about the time Trump's Treasury Secretary is approved. If he's planning a bankruptcy he might as well hand out some candy beforehand. Trump is one politician I could see attempting to do the Big Haircut.

2. End The Offshoring Act Establishes tariffs to discourage companies from laying off their workers in order to relocate in other countries and ship their products back to the U.S. tax-free.
No, not more tariffs. That makes everybody in both countries poorer. If you want to help laid off workers, give them a voucher for a U-Haul trip and three month's rent anywhere in the country so they can move to where the jobs are.

3. American Energy & Infrastructure Act. Leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years. It is revenue neutral.
Now he wants to be revenue neutral? I have my doubts about that anyway. Most analyses of that kind of project make the business case close by projecting rosy revenue benefits from the infrastructure in the outyears. By the time it's built the politicians have retired and the consultants have moved on to new projects.

4. School Choice And Education Opportunity Act. Redirects education dollars to gives parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. Ends common core, brings education supervision to local communities. It expands vocational and technical education, and make 2 and 4-year college more affordable.
School choice is great and I'm all for it. Given that school are mostly paid for by local property taxes and state revenue sharing I'm wondering where the Feds come into this. Of course, they are in local education with Common Core, so I'm good with getting them out of that. Vo-tech education is undersupported, more of that would be good (Mike Rowe for Secretary of Education?).

The part I don't like is the last. Making "2 and 4-year college more affordable" has resulted in tuition increases in the amount of whatever subsidy was given to students. That's why my entire Ivy-level education in the 80s cost less than one year at a no-name private school now.

5. Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act. Fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and lets states manage Medicaid funds. Reforms will also include cutting the red tape at the FDA: there are over 4,000 drugs awaiting approval, and we especially want to speed the approval of life-saving medications.
"Replace" is certainly needed. Just repealing would be a disaster. The health insurance plans that existed in 2009 are mostly gone, replaced by ones shaped to fit the ACA's requirements ("If you like your plan . . ."). I like HSAs, I've been using the one sponsored by my company to the maximum extent. Purchasing across state lines will be good for the people whose exchange providers have pulled out. Medicaid is the "public option" last resort. We may wind up with a suggestion I made back during the ACA debate--being denied coverage for a pre-existing condition is a qualifier for Medicaid coverage. If not, there has to be some way of handling people who fall through the cracks. Possibly a temporary bridge coverage program ("There's nothing as permanent as a temporary government program"). I'd want something more innovative.

Reforming the FDA is very overdue. The agency is too incentivized to reject drugs even if they'd be a net benefit. The dying should be allowed to gamble on new treatments.

6. Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act. Allows Americans to deduct childcare and elder care from their taxes, incentivizes employers to provide on-side childcare services, and creates tax-free Dependent Care Savings Accounts for both young and elderly dependents, with matching contributions for low-income families.
I'm fine with that. How we pay for it ties back to #1.

7. End Illegal Immigration Act. Fully-funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall; establishes a 2-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally re-entering the U.S. after a previous deportation, and a 5-year mandatory minimum for illegally re-entering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations; also reforms visa rules to enhance penalties for overstaying and to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.
Ah, he's going to ask Congress to pay for the Wall. Because Mexico will not contribute a peso to the project. I'm okay with the wall itself, though I'm more motivated by wanting to keep out terrorists than workers. Punishing repeat illegal immigrants will reduce the labor competition for low-end American workers. Ensuring "open jobs are offered to American workers first" could get very messy, I suspect Silicon Valley will be extremely unhappy with that.

8. Restoring Community Safety Act. Reduces surging crime, drugs and violence by creating a Task Force On Violent Crime and increasing funding for programs that train and assist local police; increases resources for federal law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors to dismantle criminal gangs and put violent offenders behind bars.
Federal interference in local law enforcement is a bad idea. Ad hoc support for locals who request assistance, sure. Permanent task forces will attract empire builders and stormtrooper wannabees.

9. Restoring National Security Act. Rebuilds our military by eliminating the defense sequester and expanding military investment; provides Veterans with the ability to receive public VA treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice; protects our vital infrastructure from cyber-attack; establishes new screening procedures for immigration to ensure those who are admitted to our country support our people and our values.
AKA the Preserve Karl's Job Act. The military is run ragged. They need more troops to cover the missions they're assigned, not a bunch of fancy new gadgets. I fear Trump will be way too fond of huge, second to none systems and less interested in recruiting. Offering choices to vets for medical treatment I'm for; this could work out like doc stamps.

Immigration screening procedures. Yeah, this should be in a different bill. It's a big can of worms unrelated to the Defense Department. Testing people to see if they "support our values" requires a specific set of values to be agreed on. We don't have that agreement, which is why we argue so furiously over politics. We do have broad agreement on some basic principles which get discussed in the citizenship test. But that's a wide enough net to let in anyone short of Communists wanting to overthrow the government. I suspect this is a euphemism for keeping out Muslims who want to enforce Sharia law over civil law. I'll confess a little sympathy for that but putting a religious test on immigration is a step on a very nasty slippery slope and I don't want to go there.

If I was asked to set up a screening procedure I'd offer a multiple choice question: "The mayor needs to arrange for trash pick up for his town. Which should he choose?"
A. The company with the lowest bid.
B. His brother-in-law's company.
C. A company handling a neighboring town's trash well.
D. Hire new town employees to do it.
And then keep out everyone who picked B or D.

10. Clean up Corruption in Washington Act. Enacts new ethics reforms to Drain the Swamp and reduce the corrupting influence of special interests on our politics.
This would be the codification of the ethics rules discussed in the previous post. None of which will solve corruption. Look, the federal government is spending $3,800,000,000,000 a year. That's trillions. A petty bribe or favor that directs a tiny part of that stream to another channel will be cost-effective at almost any level of personal bribery. You can change which people get bribed, but the incentive will be there as long as politicians have so much power. If you don't want people buying them, make them worth less by reducing their power.

What To Expect From the Unexpected

I certainly didn't expect Trump to win, and I'm not happy about it. Then again, I wouldn't have been happy with a Clinton win. Libertarians don't lay in supplies for election night celebrations. I did have a nice beer--a stout from Shannon, a local microbrewery.

A frequent electoral gambit is to lay out a ten point plan for what the candidate will do first, often called a Contract. Trump, being Trump, has a Contract With the American Voter with four lists of 6, 7, 5, and 10 items each. I doubt that he'll consider them contractually binding, but it's the best clue we have of how he's going to start off his time in office. Here they are, with my comments:

Cleaning up Corruption:
● FIRST, propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress;
I doubt term limits will have as much benefit as the advocates hope, but turnover is good. Everyone can think of one president they've lived through that they're glad couldn't have a third term.
● SECOND, a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health);
This will result in an amazing number of agencies being redefined as safety and health functions. But it'll probably cut back on the growth of the federal payroll.
● THIRD, a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated;
And this one will see two simple regulations replaced by one very complex one. The search for sacrificial regulations will slow down the production of new ones.
● FOURTH, a 5 year-ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service;
Doesn't bother me, but the root of the problem is the total power of the Federal government. As long as government officials are worth buying, people will buy them. Diverting the stream of money into a new channel won't affect the corruption.
● FIFTH, a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government;
As above.
● SIXTH, a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.
As above.

Protecting Workers
● FIRST, I will announce my intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205
Hell, no. Free trade is one of the best anti-poverty programs there has ever been. We get more wealth for everyone. Yes, it's not evenly distributed, but that's always the case with capitalism's creative destruction.
● SECOND, I will announce our withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership
The TPP is free trade mixed with a bunch of trade restrictions but we come out ahead on net. Bad idea.
● THIRD, I will direct my Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator
Digging around I haven't been able to find the real significance of this. If we're just calling China names, it's posturing. If we impose punitive tariffs because China is fiddling with exchange rates, very bad idea. That's a harsh tax on everyone who buys stuff made in China, which is to say all Americans except the richest.
● FOURTH, I will direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately
See above.
● FIFTH, I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.
I'm generally in favor, though not wanting the feds to override state safety and environmental provisions.
● SIXTH, lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward
I approve.
● SEVENTH, cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure
Giving money to the United Nations is almost always a bad idea. Flint can certainly use it to fix their water system.

Security and Rule of Law
● FIRST, cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama
Cancelling executive orders is a routine start-of-administration exercise. I don't expect Trump will be checking if they're unconstitutional.
● SECOND, begin the process of selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia from one of the 20 judges on my list, who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States
Yep, something the President is required to do. Given that many of the judges on that list favor restricting Presidental authority I wonder if Trump will actually nominate them after he realizes they may tell him no?
● THIRD, cancel all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities
Given that Congress makes the budget I'm not sure the President has the authority to cut that funding. Money that comes through executive branch grants probably can be cut. I'm fine with providing negative incentives for encouraging lawbreaking.
● FOURTH, begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back
Assuming he's referring to people who've been convicted of a crime other than entering the country illegally I'm fine with deporting them. The legality of blocking entrance from countries that won't take their citizens back is something I'd have to research.
● FIFTH, suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.
This is the ugliest one. "Terror-prone regions" is a euphemism for Syria. ISIS was spawned when the US pulled out our troops and created a power vacuum. Then we intervened in the Syrian civil war enough to prolong the bloody stalemate. That gives us some moral responsibility for the refugees fleeing the chaos. The problem is any terrorist would also be happy to use a refugee program to enter the US. And with the Syrian government effectively an enemy of the US they're not going to cooperate in background checks, so "extreme vetting" is just a euphemism for not letting in anyone from there. I'd favor supporting refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan, which is probably more cost-effective than bringing a handful of them to the US.

This is quite long enough for one post so I'll leave the ten proposed laws for another day.