Monday, July 27, 2020

Point of Order, Ms X

In an overall quite unobjectionable post at The Adventures of Roberta X, I do feel it necessary to point out her oversimplification of the concept of "press".

Specifically, this:
When I wrote about law enforcement apparently targeting journalists, in reports a Federal judge found so credible he grated a temporary restraining order, I received a few comments.  They were...heated.  Vitriolic.  The people who wrote them are free to hold such ideas, of course.  I'm not obliged to post them on my blog, but I will quote from them in order to address the significant concerns they raise.
Followed later in the post by this:
 As for "lefty so-called journalists," there's nothing in the Bill of Rights that limits press freedom to one political leaning or another: John Stossel, Glenn Greenwald, Sean Hannity, Rachael Maddow and some nitwit with a blog are all protected from government interference, even when they're offering up nothing but opinion. " It is generally understood that the government is expected to not shoot them, especially when they have taken pains to make themselves identifiable as "press.
My thanks to Roberta X for including me in her list of protected examples.  :)

All of which to frame my question; what is the practical distinction between "press" and "activist", and does the one necessarily preclude being the other? If so, by what degree, and by what discernible measure available to the average onlooker?

As justification for my questions, I submit the documented actions of Canadian journalist/activist Lauren Southern. A paid (and therefore professional) journalist for online media companies, Southern nonetheless actively participated in the activities she was reporting on as a clearly identified member of the "press", an activity she continued to various degree in her subsequent professional iteration as a documentarian.

As Ms. Southern's past actions make clear, there is a very real distinction that needs to be made between those who "report" from within the ranks of those committing a "political action", and those who clearly, physically delineate the separation between themselves and those they are reporting on, regardless of whether, or by what means, they mark themselves and/or their apparel.

Unless and to the degree the effort is undertaken to make that distinction between press (those observing and commentating on others visible, or at least demonstrably known to them, but of which they are discernibly not a part) and activists (those who participate in the activities which they may or may not be also reporting on - regardless of any 1st Amendment-begging disguise they may affect while doing so), there can never be any practical means for police (who are by design the action arm(s) of government's enforcement efforts) to make any reliable distinction between them. Are we as a society to accept that any random seditionist or scofflaw is to be permitted carte blanche because of a questionable mastery of a Sharpie pen? Taking the opposite tack, where in the 1st Amendment is delineated the means and mechanisms by which "press" must be identified to qualify for the stipulated freedoms therein?

As should be clear by now, the concept of "freedom of speech" and "freedom of the press" are not at all simple in their instantiation, nor are they amenable to simplistic applications of theory or principle by any of the involved parties. Those who choose to take active part in reporting on events of the day, especially those who do so in the moment, necessarily must also assume an elevated degree of personal responsibility for what befalls them as a result of their immediate presence to events. Similarly, we citizens should make a regular practice of joggling the elbows of our state and national legislators to craft legislation that assists government (and citizens more generally) making spontaneous distinction between bystander observers, and those involved more directly, a greater degree of likelihood.

It truly is essential that a self-governing people have ready access to knowledge of events effecting the function of their society. Reliably being able to discern who said what to whom, and within which topic or activity that all took place, really has to be the minimum necessary knowledge base that any society needs to develop the means for its citizens to obtain in a clearly discernibly biased fashion. Unless and until we do that, we are going to continue to suffer examples of police applying the tactic(s) of the day (more commonly night) to all and sundry they come in contact with "in the heat of the moment", and the content of the news of the day to be opaque and misleading at best. I think we can all agree that the status quo is far less than desirable, but the currently available alternatives seem at best less than satisfactory either.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Oklahoma, the Sooner AND Later state.

Granted that nobody really knows what the Supreme Court ruling issued today regarding tribal reservation land within the Oklahoma state boundaries, at this point in time (hours after the SC ruling was published) the only change in the legal status quo appears to involve tribal members being charged and prosecuted for state law violations committed within tribal reservation territory as established when Oklahoma was made a US state. As with all tribal reservations recognized by the US government, federal law enforcement has the primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting crimes committed by tribal members on tribal reservation lands.

Of course, the interwebs are going  ... what's the clinical term? Batshit Crazy, that's it!

This is certainly going to make the rest of 2020 much more interesting, but I don't think anything substantive will happen in the next several months. What needs to happen is that the Secretary of the Interior needs to immediately establish a commission to address the consequences of this latest SC ruling between the involved parties (the US .gov, Oklahoma state .gov, the various tribal interests involved, at the least - and hopefully most) to determine what they regard as an equitable resolution available under existing legal agreements. Only if that fails of an acceptable resolution should Congress be invited to finally complete Oklahoma's acceptance to statehood by declaring the resolution to the tribal reservation question that Congress failed to resolve at the time.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Building Our Soup Bowl*

Recently, Elon Musk announced that SpaceX will begin building "floating superheavy-class spaceports" for its launch and recovery of spacecraft; IOW VTOL aircraft carriers. One presumes these vessels will include repair and re-condition capabilities for Falcon and Starship vehicles as an initial minimum standard, with all that that includes engineering-wise.

It probably shouldn't go without saying that the usual run of blue-water vessel crewing requirements will also be necessary; Captain, bridge watchstanders, communications and radar operators and maintenance workers, both ship and flight deck engineering and maintenance personnel, culinary and other human support crew ... it's a long list of ship handling and maintenance specialties whose tasks have to be provided for both in personnel and in logistic support, along with all of the financial commitments doing that entails. I presume Mr. Musk will operate these ships under Texas registration and regulations; if so he might want to strongly consider creating a Texas-based security company which employs Level III licensed guards trained to function in a nautical environment (trained EMT's/Paramedics and maybe rescue swimmers combines several potential requirements), particularly in light of the threat potential such a complex investment seems almost certain to attract. (See: Update below)

There is plenty of existing commercial experience to draw upon to develop a shore support effort (all those oil well platforms in the Gulf and elsewhere); and let's face it, aircraft carriers have been in existence for a century now, as has replenishing them logistically underway - hardly cutting edge science there. A lot of additional features to develop of course; making sure your boat doesn't catch fire and explode every landing and launch understandably being high on that list. Mr. Musk and his team will be fully occupied for some years getting all of this underweigh.

A technology I think Mr. Musk should look into is Life Proof Boats (I don't have any connection to the company, I'm just impressed with what I've seen so far) . They don't heavily advertise them, but they do offer a 48' version that at first look seems a useful platform to economically provide logistic support to a vessel operating within a few hundred miles of harbor, as well as fire fighting support and crew escape (one of these could easily tow one or two standard 20 person life rafts) while the carrier is on station. Hanging some Oxe Diesel Outboard Engines off the stern would permit an economy of performance hard to beat, I think (no connection to this company either, but one fuel for all vessels just seems a better option to me). Additionally, I can't help believing that Star Link provides a platform by which much of the work involved with one or a fleet of space launch and recovery ships can be equally well performed remotely by operators on shore.

Additionally, I find myself attracted to the idea that, much like commercial yachts hiring their Captain and Chief Engineer to be involved in the vessel build process, potentially being able to watch the development of the procedures and technologies used to achieve the SpaceX fleet logistics requirements during their development strongly attracts me. In part because I served on a USN carrier back at the tail end of the Vietnam war, in part because I like the challenge of small boat handling (on and off the boat), and in part because I worked 15+ years in some aspect of logistics that didn't involve a desk.

We'll see ... and that's the best part of all.  :)

*Jerry Pournelle famously coined the phrase, "It's raining soup in space, we just need to build a bowl and go get some."

Update 6/21/2020: A security force - importantly, one that works for you - that is trained in repelling, investigating, and documenting (to appropriate legal standard) criminal acts both on and off the high seas isn't a needless cost; see:

Thursday, June 11, 2020

He said, He said.

Kim du Toit posts an argument on the practical necessity to occasionally modify the rights Americans are recognized to possess by our national Constitution, which I have linked to below. It's a well-written argument, as is his usual fashion, which I urge you to read in full, as otherwise what follows won't make a lot of sense. Below is my comment to Kim's post in full (and you probably ought to go read his post first):

File this comment under: Bone; picking thereof.

Your post is quite well argued, Kim, as is your usual. However, in this case, I think you overlook a necessary distinction.
Numerous US courts have ruled that rights cannot be restricted or denied, even temporarily, so your basic premise is flawed as both a practical matter and as a point of law. It is further well established that the mutual exercise of immutable rights can, and routinely are, subject to lawful constraint, so as to provide the maximum opportunity for all citizens to exercise their rights without violating other’s exercise of their rights.
The distinction between possessing rights and exercising rights is not just a pedantic one, I submit, as your post makes clear.
There already is a substantial body of law regulating the exercise of rights by US citizens and residents. Whether, how, and to what extent those laws should be modified (or removed) ought to be a routinely ongoing topic of discussion at all levels of social and political discourse in our country (and any reader of this blog knows that to be the actual case). Framing discussion about emergent or transitory circumstances threatening human existence (or even only general welfare) in terms of specifically limited exercise of rights, which would necessarily include return to the status quo, avoids the question of infringement upon, or denial of, rights entirely.
How you frame an argument is often more than half the battle of winning it, and I suggest you’ve framed this particular argument poorly. Preempt the concept of denying rights by confining the discussion to ways and means of temporarily adapting existing regulations on the mutual exercise of rights between citizens.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

2nd Amendment anyone?

Famously, the M-16 battle rifle is a development of the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. The fully automatic/semi-automatic difference seems to be the dividing distinction between military rifle and civilian rifle. At the link below a fully automatic turret-style heavy machine gun system is (deliberately) generically described, along with a brief history of its development.

Question: since Gatling type guns are covered by the 2nd amendment as not requiring a special license for a citizen to own, how soon can we expect a privately developed civilian version of the weapon system described in the linked article? Bonus question: what relevance does such a development have regarding civil unrest, or even military invasion, here in the US?

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Given: There WILL be cops ...

... and by cops, I mean organized efforts to impose legal restraint upon everybody.

The inescapable failure inherent to this whole "defund the cops" idea is that it completely reverses the problem. Cops enforce the laws of the legal jurisdiction that employs them. If you want cops to enforce laws differently, change the laws cops are required to enforce. Change the training cops receive so as to change the ways and means they are trained to use to enforce the laws. Change the courts so as to remove the unlawful separation of responsibility from actions taken ("qualified immunity" has no basis in written law, but is instead the intended result of the US Supreme Court ruling in  Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982)  ,and is generally defined as follows:

"Specifically, qualified immunity protects a government official from lawsuits alleging that the official violated a plaintiff's rights, only allowing suits where officials violated a “clearly established” statutory or constitutional right. When determining whether or not a right was “clearly established,” courts consider whether a hypothetical reasonable official would have known that the defendant’s conduct violated the plaintiff’s rights. Courts conducting this analysis apply the law that was in force at the time of the alleged violation, not the law in effect when the court considers the case.

Qualified immunity is not immunity from having to pay money damages, but rather immunity from having to go through the costs of a trial at all. Accordingly, courts must resolve qualified immunity issues as early in a case as possible, preferably before discovery.

Qualified immunity only applies to suits against government officials as individuals, not suits against the government for damages caused by the officials’ actions. Although qualified immunity frequently appears in cases involving police officers, it also applies to most other executive branch officials. While judges, prosecutors, legislators, and some other government officials do not receive qualified immunity, most are protected by other immunity doctrines."  See:
 IANAL but "qualified immunity" seems to be an obvious extension of "judicial immunity" by the Supreme Court which itself is a matter of written law (see:

Is this a desirable condition of American jurisprudence? Call or write your state's Attorney General's office, call or write your state's Governor's office, call or write your Member of Congress and your state's Senator's offices, register your opinion and legislative desires with them. Make your voice heard, agitate with those who have the ability to make the needed change(s). But do so from an inescapable minimum condition of existence; there will be cops, because we need cops - preferably one's determinedly working from a clearly delineated position of neutrality between the generally conflicting interests of members of US society.

The assertion that "the law is what it is" is probably made only slightly less frequently than is "the law is an ass", but equally inescapably, the law is ... and in some form or another will continue to be. That being so, it is desirable and necessary to frequently review the law, and those who are employed to enforce it. Not just cops, prosecutors, and judges either; there is a serious argument being made that the US (at all levels of governance, not just federally) has too many laws, too many of which are already part of previously existing legislation (which is how a law is legally made - executive orders that do not specifically reference an enabling act of legislation do not have force of law no matter how hard or often a Governor or President says otherwise).

Changing the laws of the US (again, at all levels of governance) would be the most certain means of reforming police interactions with the general public. Changing police training to reflect the enforcement requirements of the law would complete the reform process. Doing all of that at the federal level would almost certainly be necessary to achieve at least some degree of national uniformity of enforcement (and achieving that degree of uniformity would itself be a drawn out process, if only due to the complexity of competing interests inherent to the multi-level nature of US legal and political structure). While a dramatic performance before the House Ways and Means Committee demonstrating the sheer volume of federal legislation (and how much less is actually required to achieve the same - arguably better - levels of public protection) would certainly be entertaining, the reality is this will be a long and contentious effort requiring multiple iterations of change.

Personal note: I lived in S. California during 1991 and '92. I'm quite familiar with the events surrounding the arrest of Rodney King and the prosecution of his arresting police officers (I lived roughly a mile away from the arrest scene). I fully expect that the essentially identical legal process will play out in Minnesota, probably during the 2020/21 winter months (for what I regard as obvious reasons). The officers will be found "not guilty" by reason of qualified immunity in state court, and in very short order thereafter found "guilty" in federal court of violating George Floyd's civil rights, for which they will be imprisoned for a number of years. It goes without saying that Floyd's family will receive a financial settlement from Minnesota.

If we are going to achieve this change in US laws and how they are enforced, and I agree that we should if we wish to continue as citizens of a recognizably USA, then we must begin to organize the mechanisms necessary to doing all of that.

Or, we can just go ahead and form the national circular firing squad and do it that way.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Smile for the Birdy!

Much has been made in recent days about President Trump's visit to the St. John's Church National Monument on the evening of Monday June 1st following his speech from the White House Rose Garden. Below is a quote from the US Park Police regarding that department's actions that same evening (quoted in full):
"The United States Park Police (USPP) is committed to the peaceful expression of First Amendment rights. However, this past weekend’s demonstrations at Lafayette Park and across the National Mall included activities that were not part of a peaceful protest, which resulted in injuries to USPP officers in the line of duty, the destruction of public property and the defacing of memorials and monuments. During four days of demonstrations, 51 members of the USPP were injured; of those, 11 were transported to the hospital and released and three were admitted.
Multiple agencies assisted the USPP in responding to and quelling the acts of destruction and violence over the course of the weekend in order to protect citizens and property.
On Monday, June 1, the USPP worked with the United States Secret Service to have temporary fencing installed inside Lafayette Park. At approximately 6:33 pm, violent protestors on H Street NW began throwing projectiles including bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids. The protestors also climbed onto a historic building at the north end of Lafayette Park that was destroyed by arson days prior. Intelligence had revealed calls for violence against the police, and officers found caches of glass bottles, baseball bats and metal poles hidden along the street.
To curtail the violence that was underway, the USPP, following established policy, issued three warnings over a loudspeaker to alert demonstrators on H Street to evacuate the area. Horse mounted patrol, Civil Disturbance Units and additional personnel were used to clear the area. As many of the protestors became more combative, continued to throw projectiles, and attempted to grab officers’ weapons, officers then employed the use of smoke canisters and pepper balls. No tear gas was used by USPP officers or other assisting law enforcement partners to close the area at Lafayette Park. Subsequently, the fence was installed.
Throughout the demonstrations, the USPP has not made any arrests. The USPP will always support peaceful assembly but cannot tolerate violence to citizens or officers or damage to our nation’s resources that we are entrusted to protect."
As you can read for yourself, the Park Police discovered a cache of weapons while installing a temporary fence in Lafayette Park, and were subsequently attacked by "protestors". "At approximately 6:33 pm" Park Police began clearing Lafayette Park in response to rioters attacking them.
Was this action by US Park Police unlawful, or only just undesirable? These are questions that US courts are designed to determine answers to. Anyone lying about the events cited above (which would seem to be just about everybody "reporting" or commenting on them heretofore) would do well to stop undermining their efforts at influencing public opinion, and simply do so by reporting on actual events instead of fantasy ravings. Tired of the #fakenews hashtag? There's a simple fix. Simple, not easy* * No, I was never a SEAL, but I can read like one. :).
Statement from United States Park Police acting Chief Gregory T. Monahan about the actions taken over the weekend to protect life and property - United States Park Police (U.S. National Park Service)


Statement from United States Park Police acting Chief Gregory T. Monahan about the actions taken over the weekend to protect life and property - United States Park Police (U.S. National Park Service)

The United States Park Police (USPP) is committed to the peaceful expression of First Amendment rights. However, this past weekend’s demonstrations at Lafayette Park and across the National Mall included activities that were not part of a peaceful protest, which resulted in injuries to USPP office...

Thursday, May 28, 2020

"You go to war with the Army you've got"

Is there an official US .mil award for "casual valor"? Perhaps there ought to be. Yes, I know that Mstr Sgt Royer will be formally recognized in some fashion, possibly the Soldiers Medal. My point is that, there is a none-too-subtle message inherent to this entire incident; this is what US soldiers will do ON THE DRIVE IN TO WORK. Imagine what they will do when all tooled up and organized for action.

Foreign policy isn't just communique's, demarche's, and the like, it's also all of the "little things" that go into empowering the alternative to all of that as well. Highlighting those Immediate Actions like Sgt Royer's speaks to that effort in a way that few on the receiving end of US Foreign Policy can easily fail to extrapolate to their own national (and other) considerations. We would do well to take full advantage of opportunities like this that indirectly strengthen arguments against too vigorously arguing in opposition to, instead of mutual benefit from, cooperation with such policies.

Army Strong is more than just a recruiting slogan, if we make it so.

See here for earlier reporting on this event:

Sunday, May 3, 2020

"All right, Lunger"

Via Instapundit comes this item about tobacco smoker's apparent increased immunity to COVID-19 infection. As is only to be expected, the expert-atti in the comments get all Chemical Wedding about it. From my personal experience smoking cigarettes for 40+ years, I suspect one of the principal causative factors for this statistical result might be much simpler; smoker's cough.

People who regularly inhale burnt tobacco enjoy the mildly euphoric effect tobacco use is well known for (until they eventually don't - ask me how I know). At the same time, smokers are regularly irritating the tissue of their throat and lungs which causes them to cough. A lot. Certainly a lot more frequently than non-smokers, and a lot more deeply too. There is an associated phrase to describe the phenomenon; coughing up a lurgy. Tobacco smokers commonly have more mucus in their lungs as a response to the increased levels of lung tissue irritation the smoke causes.

Because tobacco users who inhale the smoke much more frequently cough on a regular basis, and cough up some of the mucus from their lungs more frequently than do non-smokers, my suspicion is that this is at least as likely a source for the apparently slight difference in infection rates between smokers and non. If you more frequently energetically expel the air from your lungs, as well as more frequently expel the mucus that coats lung tissue, any viral material has a more difficult time reaching the capillary network the lung tissue interacts with to oxygenate the human body, and spends less time inside the lungs due to the mucus being coughed out of the lungs more frequently than might be considered a "normal" rate.

A product I found helpful in recovering my lung capacity (less so in recent years - I quit smoking 13 years ago) is the Expand-A-Lung (this Adurance model appears to be functionally identical, and you can buy a singleton for cheaper) which allows you to vary the degree of resistance you experience filling and emptying your lungs. 8 to 12 inhale/exhale cycles between sips of that first cup of coffee while leaning against the kitchen sink is a useful way to get your reps in while you fully wake up. When I'm finished, I rinse the device off and put it back in the dish drainer beside the sink, and make sure all that I coughed up is safely down the drain too (you know how you're supposed to run some dish soap through your disposal regularly? This is a good time for that :)).

Another activity I've found useful once I've finished the restricted breathing is to go sit down at the dinner table with the rest of my coffee and get in some reps of the focused breathing advocated by Wim Hof among others (I'm still working my way up to the whole cold training thing - I'm certain I'll get there any day now).

Between these two activities my "lung sounds" are clear during my regular medical check ups, and I haven't had to resort to my inhaler more than a half a dozen times a year for the past 6 to 8 years. I don't know to what degree, if any, a general feeling of improved well-being contributes to resisting viral lung infections, but I do believe the process I follow to arrive at that feeling does contribute to that.

YMMV and I DO NOT recommend taking up tobacco smoking for its purgative effects.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Chinese Takeout and Delivery

I'm currently re-reading David Hackworth's book About Face (I'm at the part where he is recalling his reaction to the lack of Lessons Learned by the US Army regarding counter-insurgency and anti-guerrilla operational requirements in Vietnam circa early-1966 while assigned as escort officer to S. L. A. Marshall). I'm wondering if we in the US aren't going through something similar right now as regards PRC offensive actions against us (not to mention the rest of the world).

It seems not unreasonable to assume that the PLA (along with its subordinate Naval and Air Force components - everyone in the People's Republic of China military is a soldier, whether assigned to an army, navy or air force position) is willing to regard the current coronavirus pandemic as a useful model for determining the various responses to be expected to future, deliberate offensive actions against the US and other countries. It is also well known, if not often commented upon in the US media, that the PRC is active throughout the North and Central American region, whether via the PLA, PLAN, PLAAF, or other PRC agencies.

It occurs to me that now, during the current largely shut down status of so much of US national activity (industrial, commercial, governmental), that an effort by the PLA to develop a guerrilla organizational structure from within the ranks of the existing Mexican smuggling gangs shouldn't be all that out of the question.

The PLA has disrupted Nicaraguan government and societal stability to further the PRC's construction of a canal through that country to rival the Panama Canal, the resulting violence having effect on human migration patterns out of Nicaragua (from there into Guatemala, from there into Mexico, from there …). The PRC is well known to have established relationships with Mexican drug cartels to supply them with drug or drug precursor materials. Mexican "drug cartels" are in actual fact drug and anything else smugglers, so how outlandish an idea is it to suppose the PLA isn't working right now to supply Mexican smuggling gangs with the means to also smuggle a ready-made-to-order guerilla insurgency into the US as well?

The PRC is demonstrably willing to actively work to permit the wide-spread dispersal of this latest coronavirus around the world; why wouldn't they equally be willing to inflict a plausibly deniable physical attack on the US by "Mexican bandits"?

I can offer no evidence for this guerilla warfare scenario other than my willingness to not presume my enemies stupidity. Is that sufficient to justify investigating the current reality on the Mexican ground, before it "just appears out of nowhere" here on US ground?