Monday, July 21, 2014

How Ya'll Are? Annoyed at the Spelling, Probably

Occasionally I riff on word spellings and definitions (I'm especially fond of obvious, having tripped over it enough times) it's been a long time, but today this image appeared in my newsfeed.

This one resonated with me. I can't tell you the number of times I've typed something into a computer interface and had it not recognize the word or phrasing I knew was correct, or hoped it was.  

Back when I was writing specifications, tech manuals and notes for architectural drawings, it used to drive me nuts having to check and then tell the computer to ignore (Passive voice! Arrrg! Everything in a specification is written in passive voice!) or to add the more common ones to my personal dictionary. A lot of good that did on company computers that I would be forced to abandon every other year.  

Don't get me started on latin legal phrases or attempting to point out fallacious argument with well-known short hand.  Or slang. Really, don't get me started on slang, or as I said on Facebook;
I find it amusing when someone outside of the South tries to tell me how to spell ya'll. As if there is proper spelling for slang.
Another friend of mine linked to a blog article on just that subject.
Some writers put the apostrophe AFTER the 'a', as in: ya'll. *shudders* Now tell me, does that make ANY sense given the law of contractions? No. It does not. The proper way to contract 'you all' is by using the apostrophe to replace the 'ou' in you and the space between the words, as in: y'all
It's beautiful in its simplicity, don't you think? Boy, do I feel better, maybe even up to tackling a semi-colon or two. Thanks for letting me get that out of my system
Now if I was trying to impart colloquialism, trying to drag you kicking and screaming into the South of the United States, where ya'll is a word you will hear regularly, I might quip something like them's fightin' words or something to that effect.  But since ya'll wouldn't know the perfect frame in which to place my attempts to communicate southernisms, most likely my attempts to draw you into the picture will fail. 

Put simply; the error is in believing it's a contraction to start with. As if ya'll was ever two words compressed into one. That slang is capable of being defined or set down into anything permanent like written language. 

I have had people accost me before (carpetbaggers, mostly) insisting that ya'll is properly spelled y'all; that it is a contraction of you and all and so duh...

...but as I say to them, it's a connector between ya and ll that hanging bit in the middle; it represents any number of syllables and words I don't feel I need to take the time to pronounce.  If you actually attempted to write the word phonetically, it would have at least two a's in it, something more akin to ya'all or ya-all.

I don't go around pretending to know how to spell any number of words that they might say in New Jersey (youse? use? Who knows?) it's slang.  I'd really prefer people didn't try to tell me how to spell my slang.  But I do thank you for the time it took to read this.  If ya'll are ever in the neighborhood, come by and sit a spell.

Here, I'll give you an example.
"ya'll be round later" 
Is it a question? Is it a statement? A demand? What words and/or punctuation will complete that sentence coherently? Is "you" or "all" in it?  Well, it depends on the speaker.

A question "ya'll be round later?"  would probably be completed "Will all of you be present when I need you later?" As a statement "ya'll be round later."  would render out something like "Come by the house later, I'll be here." or maybe "Go (wherever I'm going) and we'll meet up later." The demand "ya'll be round later."  would come out something like "You will be here later." and if dad (or pop maybe) says that, you'd better be where he wanted you to be when he was expecting it, or there would be hell to pay later.

So tell me again how ya'll is you all.  Go ahead, explain it again. I'm from here, got plenty of time.

Propaganda, Spin & Shooting Down Civilian Aircraft

I posted a link to a segment from the Rachel Maddow show on Facebook a few days back.

I've spent a good portion of today writing responses to accusations that the segment is biased and not based on facts.

I get it, it's popular these days to insist that television news is biased.  If it isn't FOX news' conservatives incessantly whining about liberal bias (liberal meaning "anything not Conservative" i.e. mindlessly jingoist with a heavy helping of Jesus on top) it's the blatant bias of FOX news itself making up stories that they think their viewers will ascribe to (#Benghazi, anyone?) as detailed on any number of channels including MSNBC which the clip above comes from.

The "why" of the location of the plane, it's status right before it fell out of the sky, will only be answered by the fight recorders if they are ever found. Flight recorders that the separatists claim to have already found.

 Conspiracies are already spinning on the subject.  Ukraine shot the plane down. Ukraine thought they were targeting Vladimir Putin's plane (the story from Russian news sources that Rachel Maddow relates) the plane was loaded with corpses and crashed on purpose to frame the Russians.  I'm sure there will be more.

Ukraine hasn't been shooting down planes in the area; Ukraine would have known (since they control their own airspace) that the plane was a commercial airliner. The separatists have been, and shot down a plane at the same altitude and similar heading earlier in the week (not to be confused with a shootdown from more than a decade ago)  So they clearly had the capability to do it again, and the motivation to continue hampering Ukrainian efforts to put down the separatists.

The separatists exist largely because Russia funds them. There is a conspiracy theory (which theorists like Dan Carlin deny is one) that suggests that the unrest in the Ukraine is due to US intervention in the region, that we're trying to pull the former soviet state into the NATO alliance. That that is why Russia acted to claim the Crimea through the use of the separatists.

The truth is that Kiev wants to get closer to the EU, to be considered part of the EU rather than a satellite of Russia. If I understand the political structure of the country, the governors of the various regions are appointed not elected. That has lead to unrest in the outlier areas away from Kiev and its direct control, parts of the country that want to elect their own leaders directly. There is also a history of distrust between the Eastern and Western sections of what we call 'Ukraine' today (bad blood from WWII during the occupation by Germany) That is why the separatists accuse the government of Kiev of being under the influence of fascists.

Russia would of course like its territory back. Kiev has been historically in and out of Russian control for centuries, and was actually the first city to be called Russia (Kievan Rus) and would probably be the capital of the country of Russia if the Mongols hadn't taken it and occupied it. But none of this means that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin should be handed the keys to Kiev just because he wants it under his control.

Putin & Russia are as accountable for MH17 deaths as the US is for funding and equipping terrorists in other regions; as in, completely accountable if you are living anywhere outside of Russia or the US. As the saying goes "live by the sword, die by the sword." The trick is to not be the one living by the sword. Vladimir Putin is the last of the KGB. When he dies, that era dies with him. If we can just stop funding the MIC in the US, the other half of the equation will also close.

It really isn't propaganda or fallacy to say Russia is to blame for downing the plane. The separatists exist as a military force because Russia has encouraged them. Whether the equipment came from Russia recently, or was soviet equipment left in Ukraine at the end of the USSR, it exists because of Russian expansionism and empire that goes back centuries in time.

Putting the shoe on the other foot (to turn another phrase) I saw the same kinds of denial surrounding the downing of Iran Air Flight 655, the Iranian commercial airliner destroyed during the Iran/Iraq war, a conflict we heavily funded and supported. Everything from the excuse that Reagan gave and the US government still sticks to (an accident) all the way to full blown conspiratory "plane full of corpses flown at the Vincennes on purpose" insanity.

But we shot that plane down in cold blood and killed all those people because we were there and ready to kill. The same is true for the groups fighting in Ukraine right now, and the group in question gets its backing from Russia and is equipped with weapons made in Russia. They are the ones ready to kill. They get the blame. As much of the blame as the US got for that downing of an Iranian airliner.

Does that mean war?  No. Not even vaguely (I'm sure John McCain is already strapping on his sword, if he ever takes it off anymore) that does mean that Russia and their proxy separatists should answer in international court and pay restitution at the very least. If someone can be found that actually gave the order to shoot that plane down, that person should be put on trial.  But I think we've had enough killing in the world of late.  How about we not call for more, just right now?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

LinkedIn; How Many Different Ways Can You Spell Scam?

I remember the day she told me.
"I signed up for LinkedIn Pro.  I need it to apply for jobs. It's cheap, less than $10 a month.  Don't worry about it."
Truthfully, I didn't give it a second thought much less worry about it. In hindsight I wish I had.

A few months ago, I was trying to reassure her that we weren't doing so bad, that her sideline work was bringing in some cash.  So I got her to start depositing her money directly into her business account.  The one her LinkedIn Pro draws off off.

I'll bet you can guess where I'm going with this.

I needed to pay some bills, so that day came when I asked her (just like I said I would) for money from the business account. So I got access to the account. I do most of the money juggling, but I hadn't ever needed access to her business account before.  I transferred the amount I needed.  While I was doing that, I noticed a $34 dollar charge from LinkedIn listed as having just posted a few days earlier.

Well, that's odd.  It's certainly more than the 9 plus change I was assured it would be; more than the amount that she had read it would be. In reading the webpage trumpeting the merits of LinkedIn Pro she noticed that the charge amount varies from refresh to refresh. Seems kind of peculiar, don't you think?

What I find more than peculiar, downright infuriating even, is that LinkedIn charges jobseekers right up front; money that the poor, unemployed person really can't afford to part with.  Charges them in a way that the vast majority of headhunting services don't do.  Charges them when a good portion of assistance agencies are either forbidden to, or choose not to because what is being offered is a charitable service.

Now, I have run into these kinds of profiteers before.  Every person who has looked for a job over the years probably has. "You can make thousands of dollars a week if you just invest a few hundred right now and take our free training courses that show you how to make money using our system" They've even gotten clever over the years, disguising themselves as MLM or direct marketing, duping people into giving them money they don't really have on the promise that they'll win big in the end.  Some of them disguise themselves as headhunting services, they just need a few dollars up front, but they promise to find you a job eventually.

Where I come from we call that a confidence game, a scam.  Well, this scam that LinkedIn is running netted them over $400 from an account I wasn't monitoring, but will be monitoring from now on.  I will be talking to authorities as well, because I remain convinced that what they are engaged in is usurious at best, fraudulent at worst.  

I'm onto you LinkedIn. I have canceled my account with you.  You clearly cannot be trusted with information in any way.  I encourage anyone currently using that service to remove themselves from it immediately, before you become a victim of their fraudulent behavior.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

...and Now for the Rest of the Story, the 9-11 Version

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
-- Hanlon's Razor
Paul Harvey dominated the radio waves when I was growing up.  It seems fitting to title a corrections post after his iconic radio narration; the hallmark of which was telling you teasing parts of the story in advance, then pitching you on whatever his advertisers told him to pitch that week, and finally getting to the truth of the story in the final segment.  Well, I don't know that this is the final segment of the story or not, but I do have some corrections to offer on a particular subject which is bugging me at the moment, and it has something to do with truth.

Steven Novella is currently in a debate on his blog NeuroLogica with a 9-11 truther; and while I find myself completely unable to even bring myself to read the articles from the 9-11 truth side of the argument, I felt the desire to offer a comment for Dr. Novella's excellent rebuttal of the truther argument.  So I wandered back over here to my blog, looking for the well-reasoned arguments that I've presented in the past, only to find that none of the reasoned arguments I remember on the subject have ever been posted to this blog. Every Single Thing I've EVER written on the subject of 9-11 on this blog is bullshit, up to this point.  No seriously, go look, I'll wait. See what I mean?  I was (I might still be) completely clueless on the subject, far too gullible even still.  The entries are a blatant example of the malleability of the moment and one's experiences in it.  When I wrote that crap, I believed it (well, the plagiarism-level cut and paste on the subject of the 9-11 mosque isn't too bad, but then I didn't write 9/10's of that) and it's only been my experience online in various threads and sites that have refined my thinking on the subject of conspiracy theories in general and the attacks on 9-11 in particular.  

If I had to point to a specific moment in time or a piece of literature in particular that affected my thinking on this subject, it was Deadly Decisions: How False Knowledge Sank the Titanic, Blew Up the Shuttle, and Led America into War suggested by Buck Field just as a passing side-comment while we were discussing the failings of the first Abramanation.  I've often marveled at how the apparently insignificant contents of conversational banter can have immense ramifications on the thinking of an individual (probably why I'm so fond of Connections and other works by James Burke) reading Deadly Decisions did that for me.  Suddenly all the conspiratorial thinking that fogged up my reason lifted, and I could just glimpse the million monkeys banging on keyboards producing, if not Shakespeare, then at least all the catastrophes of history that seemed to defy explanation. Humans as a group are not too bright, prone to make decisions that lead to very, very bad outcomes.

Case in point, the attacks on 9-11.  Paraphrasing the chapters in the book detailing the failings that lead up to the attacks, the attacks were ultimately successful because that is how human systems fail.  The CIA was tracking the terrorists until they arrived in the US.  Once they were on US soil, the FBI claimed jurisdiction and promptly flushed the investigation. Not once but three times President Bush and his cabinet were advised that attacks on targets in the US using commercial airliners were being planned. None of the signals were acted upon, and nothing more is needed to explain the inaction beyond the observation that human systems fail in this fashion.  The only way to end these kinds of failures is to alter the way we think about the systems we create.

Ultimately no one is to blame for the attacks on 9-11 beyond the 11 men who successfully hijacked the planes and flew them into the buildings, because they were the ones who took those actions.

Some of the content I've posted other places follows, starting with proper reference links;

The first debunking site I remember going to;
There were a lot of firsts for the WTC. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been hit with a plane traveling 500 miles an hour and had its fire proofing removed from its trusses. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever had its steel columns which hold lateral load sheared off by a 767. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been a building which had its vertical load bearing columns in its core removed by an airliner. For Building 7, in all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been left for 6-7 hours with its bottom floors on fire with structural damage from another building collapse. Not the Madrid/Windsor tower did not have almost 40 stories of load on its supports after being hit by another building which left a 20 story gash. The Madrid tower lost portions of its steel frame from the fire. Windsor's central core was steel reinforced concrete. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been without some fire fighters fighting the fires.
I find it amusing, reading the thread I pulled this reference quote from. So much crap in my head at that time; but I was starting to work through it, call it into question, laugh at it, then discard it. I wish there was something worthy of posting from that period that I wrote. There isn't. Just more of what is already on the blog that I don't need more of.  Well, maybe this bit;
I love the way they say "collapsed in their footprint" as if that's even the case. Watch the full video of the collapse, and you will see the outside skin peeling away OUTWARD as the upper floors collapse through them. One can duplicate this effect with a couple of cardboard paper towel rolls. The upper floors landed in the footprint, because the perimeter structure guided those floors down onto it, as it sheared away and impacted the structures around it. Those 'explosive' puffs of smoke? Smoke and Air escaping through the fracture points as the upper floor forced the compressed air beneath them out (also replicatable with some basic home items) This is a pretty straightforward structural failure, and the engineer who designed it was devastated by it. Watch the video of him discussing it, if you don't believe me. 
When the US shot down a civilian airliner, back around gulf war one, I first noticed this unwillingness of Americans to accept facts related to tragedies. There were all these theories about the plane being loaded with corpses and flown into restricted airspace, that it wasn't the US that fired on it, etc. Silly complexifying theories that just got in the way of understanding what really happened. This 9/11 truth stuff is nothing but more of the same. Got no time for it.
That bit and the bit where I laugh at Alex Jones for claiming that he predicted 9-11.
Alex Jones lives in Austin. The syndicated radio show comes from the local AM station that I listened to (3 to 6 pm weekdays. Jeff Ward, best radio show in Austin) A couple of my friends from my time at the local LP were part of his blue windbreaker truth squad (or whatever they called themselves) They all believed what he said implicitly, but to me it's a lot like professional wrestling. It's real to them, but that doesn't make it true. Has anything that he's promoted breathlessly in the last 20 years come true? The secret prisons? Any of it? He's playing to his market, and he's pretty good at it. Like Coast to Coast, there's just enough truth buried in the exaggerations to make you pause. But in the end it's entertainment, not science. If he predicted 9/11, I predicted 9/11. 
It was a common argument in LP circles that an attack on the US was inevitable, because of our military adventurism. Hell, it was a rare day that went by where we DIDN'T talk about what form of attack might occur, and how that would be the end of freedom in this country, because the average American was completely unprepared to understand the costs of our military adventurism, and wouldn't realize that our foreign policy lead us to this place.
The last debunking article I've read;
At a certain point, though, debating science and theory and ideas is an exercise in futility, because the hypotheses of conspiracy theorists are not grounded in any kind of a larger understanding of the real world. "This sounds really mean," says Erik Sofge, a reporter on the original Popular Mechanics piece and an occasional contributor to Slate. "But really, it's like arguing over the marching speed of hobbits."
The NIST reports; 

The Commission report;

The final report from the NIST concerning building 7 including the modeling parameters (something I've been wanting to see)

AIA signs off on NIST reports, distances itself from Richard Gage, the man behind AE911Truth;
All of Gage’s so-called evidence has been rebutted in peer-reviewed papers, by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, by the National Institute for Standards and Technology, by the American Society of Civil Engineers, by the 9/11 Commission Report, and, perhaps most memorably, by the 110-year-old engineering journal Popular Mechanics.
What is more interesting than these bizarre and debunked conspiracy theories is the way that Gage places his AIA membership front and center in his presentations. He seems to be attempting to cloak his organization in the officialdom of the venerable 155-year-old professional institution, even as AIA wants nothing to do with his organization.
Chris Mohr (this guy) is convinced that he has rebutted (not debunked but Rebutted, disproven, shown to be invalid, answered satisfactorily, etc.) Richard Gage, and was even featured onstage in a video with Gage that Gage's own people refused to release, as he details in the opening seconds of the video playlist here.  The videos are as riveting as watching paint dry.  I don't recommend them.

The Popular Mechanics article on the subject;
Healthy skepticism, it seems, has curdled into paranoia. Wild conspiracy tales are peddled daily on the Internet, talk radio and in other media. Blurry photos, quotes taken out of context and sketchy eyewitness accounts have inspired a slew of elaborate theories: The Pentagon was struck by a missile; the World Trade Center was razed by demolition-style bombs; Flight 93 was shot down by a mysterious white jet. As outlandish as these claims may sound, they are increasingly accepted abroad and among extremists here in the United States. 
To investigate 16 of the most prevalent claims made by conspiracy theorists, POPULAR MECHANICS assembled a team of nine researchers and reporters who, together with PM editors, consulted more than 70 professionals in fields that form the core content of this magazine, including aviation, engineering and the military. 
In the end, we were able to debunk each of these assertions with hard evidence and a healthy dose of common sense. We learned that a few theories are based on something as innocent as a reporting error on that chaotic day. Others are the byproducts of cynical imaginations that aim to inject suspicion and animosity into public debate. Only by confronting such poisonous claims with irrefutable facts can we understand what really happened on a day that is forever seared into world history. 
...and I need to mention, which started the last conversation I had on the subject of 9-11 truth with the episode The Pentagon and the Missle.

The rabbit hole of 9-11 conspiracies these days begins and ends with Building 7.   Because of the positioning of the building on the site, it's odd construction, et cetera, proponents of conspiracy theories always seem to point to building 7 as the most inexplicable part of the catastrophe.

However, it really is explainable, and the explanation isn't implosion; the buildings didn't disintegrate into dust, nor did they fall completely in their own footprints. Building 7 did not collapse at free fall velocities. 18 seconds per seismic monitoring; twice as long in duration than 'free fall'.  I've toured ground zero, more than once. As a former architect I've studied the damage around that area numerous times. If you understand the structures, then you will understand why they failed the way they did. There's nothing mysterious or inexplicable about that day and it's events, not even the fact that W. ignored warnings in advance of the attacks. That is also completely normal human behavior.

Thirteen years and still no defectors from the group that set the bombs? Not one shred of documentation from the (and as a former architect, I know what documentation is required) thousands of pages of diagrams necessary to pull off a job of this magnitude? No significant amount of explosive residue (I have to say significant, because there was all kinds of materials in the buildings including trace amounts of explosives. Not enough to bring down the buildings) that leads to the culprits who made it? Nothing? Whereas (in that book I've already linked) you can find references to the CIA program that tracked the hijackers. Documentation for the meetings at which W. was warned of plans to attack with planes. In the NIST reports you can find explanations of how the structures failed the way they did. Etc. Etc. Etc. Mountains of evidence that support the explanation that planes struck the buildings just like we all saw, and the resultant damage and fires caused them to collapse, and to bring other buildings down with them. And against that mountain of evidence you have...?

("The NIST report has been altered!" I hear you saying. "It is full of errors")

Anomaly hunting does not prove a counter argument; it simply points out anomalies in the data presented. In Other Words, because the government falsifies data, it doesn't prove that the buildings were imploded, or the planes remote controlled, or whatever fanciful tale you prefer over the hard reality that occurred that day. In order for the data to be 'falsified' you have to prove intent to deceive, rather than simple error involved in a complex determination of structural failure.  Discounting all of the documentation accumulated on this subject because of errors in certain parts of the data is engaging in fallacious reasoning.

Anomalies in the data occur. That is reality not human nature. Seven fell the way it did because that's the way it's particular frame failed with the damage it received. The side facing the twin towers fell first because of the damage it sustained, and it pulled the visible portions of the building back and down with it, making the collapse look "odd" from the perspective of the street (the only perspectives available) but is quite well explained by the NIST reports if you care to actually read them.

We knew about Watergate within the year. MKultra within a decade of it's ending. The NSA programs currently running stayed secret for less than a few years. The timeframes whereby secret operations remain unknown is getting shorter and shorter, and the more complex the operation, the less likely it will be able to remain secret for any amount of time.

The Manhattan project is another example of "open secrets"; like the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in it's own way. Anyone involved could have (and did) relate the incident when they felt they were clear of reprisal. Where are the confessions for the people involved in the implosion of building 7?

There is no magical waiver for illegal operations documentation, coordination and manpower. Complex operations must be documented and coordinated. The more complex, the more documentation and manpower. People talk, and documents will be found. That is what happens. The claim that this doesn't happen in this special instance is completely irrational.

(But Thermite!)

The possibility of using thermite to cut steel does not equate to thermite being used to cut steel in this instance. I can cut steel with a cutting torch, it does not mean they used a cutting torch to bring down the WTC. Even if it were possible, there has not been enough residue found on the debris to conclude that it was used in this fashion. Once again, anomaly hunting is not evidence. Paraphrasing another skeptic; Making selective choices amongst competing evidence, so as to emphasize the results that support a given position, while ignoring or dismissing any findings that do not support it, is a practice known as “cherry picking” and is a hallmark of poor science or pseudo-science.

I love this wikipedia page; heavily edited by truthers, it brings up and then dismisses with evidence every objection to the NIST report.  Truly, all of these arguments have been had before, by people more informed than either side of an imaginary argument between me and whoever is reading this.

The desperation in truther mentality is quite amusing. Conspiracy theorists in general go through the years convinced that there is some nefarious plot afoot that will destroy civilization as we know it if it isn't revealed to the world.

...however, these same conspiracies have been floated for decades. The builderburgers, the Rothschilds, The JFK assasination, 911 truth, etc, etc, etc. Weirdly, the world just keeps on turning, never noticing that the plots go unchallenged by the vast majority of the population. How is it that these conspiracies have failed to take over the world? When these groups have been actively conspiring now since before the First World War?

(Column 79 held up the building?)

79 being the first to fail (as suggested by the NIST report) makes perfect sense, since the penthouse which is seen to drop before the facade of the building does, has a corner on column 79. Had any other column been suggested to fail first, you would have to explain the kink in the facade (which is visible) and the premature disappearance of roof structures in that area.

Anyone who thinks therefore only 79 held up the building doesn't understand structure or the phrase "progressive failure" (which, contrary to the internet meme, has nothing to do with Obama) wherein the tall buildings we occupy are carefully crafted latticeworks of interlocking support members, the loss of any one of which can lead to the entire structure collapsing. Any first year engineering student understands this theory.

...and if you have other questions, you might want to peruse this link for answers before postulating anything else that makes you look like an idiot.

Progressive Failure is the exact mechanism of crafted structures that implosion methods exploit in order to bring down buildings. All of the building collapses on 9-11 represented sobering problems for future engineers, because engineers specifically attempt to design buildings to not do what those buildings did anyway.

Anyone in the AEC community who clings to the implosion theory for the WTC structures is engaging in a well known psychological evasion technique, probably do to an emotional need to prove someone else is to blame aside from the engineering community. Consequently it's actually surprising that so few architects and engineers are truthers. This speaks to the strength of the evidence, rather than the weakness of the individuals involved.

Hindsight is always 20/20. Conspiracy theorists rely on this while spinning their theories. There's no room for the knowledge that things were different and seen differently before the incident; so the idea that you might not conclude that what we after the fact would see as a threat, would not be seen as a threat at the time. That there were vested interests denying that America could be attacked directly, and that attempts to investigate the conspirators before the attack were actively discouraged by these interests. That the government was warned multiple times prior to the attack, but then modified the narrative to remove these references after the fact, and that this is simply the way human systems have been shown to operate.

Third times a charm for this link; Deadly Decisions: How False Knowledge Sank the Titanic, Blew Up the Shuttle, and Led America into War I cannot recommend the book highly enough for sorting through the noise related to the 9-11 attacks. It is not an either/or question concerning the attacks. It is a question of just how severely our government failed us.

...and as far as what brought down the buildings; waiting for proof that it wasn't planes, fire and construction techniques that lead to their collapse, is waiting on someone to manufacture evidence. Because nothing of any credible significance has ever been found that says otherwise.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ideally There Would Be No Idealists; the Sovereign Version

Crazy shit of the moment I stumbled across on a BBS I frequent;
Jim Sanders, 45 of Mulberry, Indiana says that he is a “sovereign man,” who is not subject to the laws of Indiana and or his local governments, That’s why — after amassing over $900 dollars in fines for traffic violations and refusing to pay – his driver’s license got suspended. With no license, he says that his “only legal mode of travel is walking,” apparently making an exception for the law that requires a driver’s license.
Apparently he never talked to one of them, or he'd know (well, think. Believe. Something) that you don't carry a drivers license, don't buy a car with a title, don't put tags on your car, etc. You just continue to drive without all that and when the cop stops you, you talk his ears off about all this kooky stuff until he lets you go before he breaks and shoots you.

This is one of those wacky but true stories. The kind of thing I only share when I'm enjoying my preferred spirits.

This whole "Sovereign Citizen" thing was making the rounds right about the time I bailed on the LP (at least  one prominent leader of the Texas LP, at the time, was into this) You never could nail down exactly what the system was, but it was purportedly to do with admiralty law, and yellow fringed flags, and your name in all caps on legal documents. You had the right to drive common vehicles without a license, because you didn't have to have a license to ride a horse or drive a wagon; consequently all those laws didn't really apply and so you could just ignore them PROVIDED your car wasn't titled by and purchased from the state. So you had to buy a car from outside the country, essentially. Then what you get is a transfer deed (or some such) not the official title. You can drive that car without a license. So they claim.

Weirdly the cops never had heard of any of this when they stopped you, and these guys were always having to recover their vehicles from impound.

The tax- and fine-free driving was just one of the perks. You also could skip out on property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, etc. If you aren't a subject of the federal government, then none of that stuff applies to you. Just as weirdly, the counties will still repossess your property for not paying taxes, no matter how many different ways you try to explain your exemption to them.

The article jogged my memory about the Sovereign Citizen movement, something I'd heard recently on a podcast or news show. Something to the effect that Sovereign Citizen is a known White Supremacist tactic/ideology (ah, the wonders of the internet) Low and behold, when I look on the SPLC website, I find this;
The strange subculture of the sovereign citizens movement, whose adherents hold truly bizarre, complex antigovernment beliefs, has been growing at a fast pace since the late 2000s. Sovereigns believe that they — not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials — get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and they don't think they should have to pay taxes. Sovereigns are clogging up the courts with indecipherable filings and when cornered, many of them lash out in rage, frustration and, in the most extreme cases, acts of deadly violence, usually directed against government officials. In May 2010, for example, a father-son team of sovereigns murdered two police officers with an assault rifle when they were pulled over on the interstate while traveling through West Memphis, Ark. 
The movement is rooted in racism and anti-Semitism, though most sovereigns, many of whom are African American, are unaware of their beliefs' origins. In the early 1980s, the sovereign citizens movement mostly attracted white supremacists and anti-Semites, mainly because sovereign theories originated in groups that saw Jews as working behind the scenes to manipulate financial institutions and control the government. Most early sovereigns, and some of those who are still on the scene, believed that being white was a prerequisite to becoming a sovereign citizen. They argued that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed citizenship to African Americans and everyone else born on U.S. soil, also made black Americans permanently subject to federal and state governments, unlike themselves. 
The Sovereign Belief System
The contemporary sovereign belief system is based on a decades-old conspiracy theory. At some point in history, sovereigns believe, the American government set up by the founding fathers — with a legal system the sovereigns refer to as "common law" — was secretly replaced by a new government system based on admiralty law, the law of the sea and international commerce. Under common law, or so they believe, the sovereigns would be free men. Under admiralty law, they are slaves, and secret government forces have a vested interest in keeping them that way. Some sovereigns believe this perfidious change occurred during the Civil War, while others blame the events of 1933, when the U.S. abandoned the gold standard. Either way, they stake their lives and livelihoods on the idea that judges around the country know all about this hidden government takeover but are denying the sovereigns' motions and filings out of treasonous loyalty to hidden and malevolent government forces
I have never, NEVER been happier to be divorced of the LP than I am right as this minute. I think I'll have another glass.

I also found this tidbit;

I don't want to appear flippant, because the interviewer references a police shooting incident (actually, it's the one before last, because the last one was the two crazies kicked out of the Bundy Ranch group) but I swear I've listened to about 10 guys ramble on like that for hours on the subject.

A small "l" libertarian acquaintance of mine took me to task for the observation of "many leaders" of the Texas LP following this ideology.  I had to admit that I could name only one, so I revised the blog entry.  Still, it bears mentioning that the LP (like the Republicans, and the Democrats) is informed by an even larger group of hangers on, like-minded individuals who won't join the party per se, but feel that the party can benefit from their insight on the ideology; consequently there were many others who felt that the LP was on a fool's errand, attempting to alter government.  That the true purpose of anarchists was to end government and assert the rights of sovereign individuals. 

The idea that anyone can be sovereign or should expect to be considered sovereign is laughable; this is entirely aside from having the ultimate authority on what you personally will do or not do, will continue to exist or not. Sovereign is a completely different approach to the subject of authority.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Godwin's law, the Rand Version

"Do you know that my personal crusade in life (in the philosophical sense) is not merely to fight collectivism, nor to fight altruism? These are only consequences, effects, not causes. I am out after the real cause, the real root of evil on earth — the irrational." -Ayn Rand
So this image showed up on my Facebook feed today,

    What followed the image in the comments was the predictable feeding frenzy that you witness when your throw bloody meat to sharks. Today's cleaner, nicer internet breed of human doesn't seem to understand the dirty nature of real life as it was before the internet made it possible to live and never leave your house.

    For the record, she said these words, at least according to Wikiquote (couldn't find it in the Lexicon, but I remember reading them) although I prefer the quote that follows it, the one I started this post with.  There you have it, Rand gives us all permission to steal from native peoples. That is, if you just blindly do what someone who lived before you and wrote influential works tells you to do. 

    Blaming Ayn Rand for the plight of native peoples around the world is no different than ending every observation of fascistic tendencies with the phrase "like Hitler".  In reading her works it's easy to see how her ideas can be turned to evil, how they could be seen as evil when they are brought up out of context in an image like this.  It's no mystery why people like Paul Ryan and others cite her writings when they want to punish the poor and reward the rich. I myself, as someone who still (provisionally) self-identifies as objectivist, cringe at the words above, and wondered at Rand's blindness to the fascistic applications her ideas could give credence to.

    But then we've moved a very long way along the knowledge curve since Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum
     immigrated to the US in 1926.  Rand herself didn't even understand what it meant to be "objective", or rather, the barriers to objectivity that stand in the way of even the most clear-headed observer, something we've discovered and proven in the last score of years or so. Motivated numeracy alone can lead one to deny proven science if it conflicts with your political views, so consequently most of the people who adhere to Ayn Rand's labels and words have even less of a clue about the pitfalls of thinking oneself perfectly objective on a subject.

    What she was trying to express about primitives and their rights to continue the nomadic lives they had lead, can't be illustrated simplistically with concepts like property and profit; it makes her look mean and cheap, which may or may not be an accurate description of Rand the person. You certainly can't explain the process of national expansion to people who accept the natural fallacy without question, even if you really, really try.

    It pays to reflect that the followers of the dominant philosophical ideal of the time, state socialists, had no problem taking life and land from anybody for any reason that they deemed suited the cause of the people (which in state socialist terms meant the body politic) the defense that Rand is offering is at least logical, if bereft of emotion.

    Better to ask the people encroaching on tribal lands without negotiating in good faith with the natives what their goals were beyond profiting themselves. Too bad none of them are around to ask anymore.

    You might well ask well how should I interpret those words, then? As I've done previously when people ask about Ayn Rand (unlike other Objectivists) I point them towards The Passion of Ayn Rand; Book or The Passion of Ayn Rand; Movie (Helen Mirren is great in the latter) because that is what someone who knew her but was kicked out of the inner circle really thought about her and her life.  If you want to see what the most negative parts of her life look like from outside, there is no starker image than these. 

    On The Other Hand, if you really want to understand what she was trying for with her work, I recommend the documentary Sense of Life rather than her fictional works themselves. You can't get an overview from them. You certainly can't get a feel for her at all, from either the detractors who have always hated her, or the mindless randroids who take her name in vain these days.

It is worth observing (hindsight being 20/20) that without people like Rand, people willing to state that it was OK to not sacrifice yourself for the good of the many, that you could lead a worthy life without being poverty stricken and suffering, that we wouldn't be living in a world that is rapidly seeing the decline of dictatorships as vehicles of social change; that dictatorship is now almost a quaint historical artifact, like feudalism. Social change is once again in the hands of the people.  Right or wrong, where it belongs; with individuals willing to work for change.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

My Shambala

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a link to a version of Shambala a bit ago.  I can (and do) appreciate his posts, but for me there is only one version of Shambala.

I say sorry Jim, because Three Dog Night's Shambala was part of an 8track of hits that they played at the Wichita County swimming pool (Leoti, KS) in 1973 or 4, and I had just learned to swim a few summers previously.  Swimming was my first love, and I say that as someone who just celebrated his 25th year of marriage, to someone I'm still deeply in love with; but even so, swimming remains my first love, a communion with nature itself for me.

Spending a carefree afternoon at the pool, eating icees and listening to music that wasn't played anywhere else, as far as I could tell, was as close to pure joy that child me ever experienced. We waited for the pool to open, and for the weather to get warm enough that you didn't freeze, and then every single day that I could get away, I'd ride my spyder down to the pool (got a ten speed later. Bicycling was my second love) and stay all day if I could get away with it.

In rural Kansas the only radio stations you could pick up reliably were country stations.  I can listen to just about any kind of music, so Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Merl Haggard and of course Johnny Cash (who was a 'bad boy' in my mother's eyes if I remember correctly) figured highly in rotations for the stations that my parents tuned when I was a child, and I didn't mind.

But the pool was supervised by high school students (with maybe a school coach checking in now and again) so the sound system they rigged up only played their music. The intro riff to Shambala plays, and I can smell the steam coming off the concrete decking, taste the ice cream, remember what it was like to be carefree.

It's a weird coincidence that I remember the song at all.  The other song that I remember them playing I rediscovered long ago; it had a catchy refrain about a shaker of salt, and while I couldn't ever figure out what he wanted salt for (I was pretty sure at the time I was hearing it wrong, water in the ears or something) I did eventually discover the song was Margaritaville, and I have been a parrothead ever since.

The weird coincidence? I was watching LOST with my wife. She had got me interested in the show, and it became a bit of a weekly ritual to catch each episode as it aired. It was a pretty good episode involving two of my favorite characters in the show, Charlie and Hurley.  Hurley was certain he was cursed, that the numbers he used to win the lottery, that were on the hatch, had been a curse.  This was the crucial scene of the episode;

The song comes up, and the memory hits me like a blow to the head.  THAT SONG! I remember that song! It was like a trip to the past, so powerful it brought tears to my eyes (it still can) mom and dad were still happy together, Gramma & Grampa still breathing and living just a few blocks away to save me if I needed saving. The world was bright and full of promise...

...That was my Shambala. That time when everything was perfect (even though it never could have been as perfect as you remember it) all of the people you knew caught like insects in amber and preserved to be revisited.

Except you really can't go back there, because it never really existed in the first place. The rot was already present, present from even before I was born, just waiting to tear everything apart. Now that I've started loosing my hearing, even the song itself is a memory that I replay.  I can't really hear it like I did then, echoing off the hot concrete I would rest my head on to make my barely functioning sinuses open up and drain.

But the memory of the song is like a siren...
"Everyone is lucky, everyone is so kind, on the road to Shambala"