Next time, let the ingrates rot.

Why on earth would we risk the blood of good British and American soldiers to rescue these “peace activist” ingrates?

Here’s their press release.
Yep. Not one word of thanks to the “occupiers” who liberated them.

This is the morally-superior left. Who would tell us that liberating Iraq was a waste of time, and actually evil, and who would instead have us invade North Waziristan.

Wrestle the bear, wheee!

Just in case today’s previous post is a little too heavy for y’all, how about getting your aerobics with Caesar the 650-lb bear?

Oh, and, yes, PETA has formally come out against bears having fun. Or, I guess that’d be PABHF. Or PETABHF. Do you pronounce with a cheek waggle, or by flapping your lips?

Anyway, as long as the bear’s having fun, and the people are having fun, sounds good to me. Because it’s not like you could miss the existence of a problem, wrestling an unmuzzled hungry abused animal that can fold and spindle you like a pretzel…

Blogger’s weird.

Took the system five hours to load that last post… and a couple weeks before that I got an email asking why I’d denied somebody access.

A.k.a., bear with me if the page does funny stuff.

Orwellian Double-Speak from the USDA

Well, guess what popped into my mailbox last night from the USDA?
—————————–
The following is a response to your inquiry regarding the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

As a *consumer* I would like to go on record stating that there is much good within the NAIS idea, but that the program’s insistence on uniformity is poorly-considered. A commercial farm is *not* the same as a homesteader keeping chickens or rabbits on his back 20.

Or, if there’s to be uniformity, let it be REAL uniformity, and let the 4H kids and the homesteaders share in the possibility of using premise tags, rather than having to buy an i.d. tag for every rabbit in the hutch.

If something is not done to allow for the disease-tracking of commercial animals (which I agree is overdue) without providing a regulatory hammer to beat upon small niche producers, then there will be little choice except to organize widespread opposition to NAIS’ implementation standards on the state level, as has already begun here in Texas.

Play ball with us, and we’re willing to see a lot your way. Write us off, and you’re in for a fight. It’s that simple.

Thank you for your interest in the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The development and implementation of NAIS has been and continues to be an evolutionary process. The USDA is committed to developing NAIS policy in an open manner that invites feedback (like yours) and input from producers and stakeholders large and small.

[ed.-- Boilerplate, but so far, so good.]

NAIS is currently a voluntary program. The program is now voluntary so that producers of every size and makeup and other stakeholdrs can participate in the design, development and testing of the system. Obviously, the effectiveness of the NAIS will be directly related to the level of participation by all producers and stakeholders to include mid, small and hobby farmers. We are not taking a one size fits all approach to development of the program.

[ed. -- Uh-oh. Doublespeak: NAIS' own site indicates that it is currently voluntary, with the intention of becoming mandatory asap. "....voluntary so that producers of every size....can participate in the design...." a.k.a., if you exercise your freedom not to participate, we will not permit you any voice in how the program develops.]

[ed2. -- Flat-out lie: "We are not taking a one size fits all approach..." This is flatly contradicted by NAIS' own website (link further below in post), which touts program uniformity as one of its primary goals.]

How the NAIS will be applied will vary somewhat among the various species and producer groups. Species working groups have been and continue to work very hard to address the specific issues related to applying NAIS to specific groups of animals. They are working on and forwarding their recommendations to USDA on the types of identifications devices to be used, possible exemptions and what constitutes a reportable animal movement event in the NAIS. We encourage you to get involved with these groups. You can find additional information about species working groups at USDA’s NAIS Web site at http://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/.

NAIS is not intended to track, capture and report every time an animal leaves its premises. Trail rides, a fence break through, and 4-H shows, for example, may not necessarily always be considered a reportable event.

[Ed.-- I have not altered this text in any way. This is Orwelllian "Newspeak" at its finest. "May not necessarily always?" In other words, it's already been decided that, not only must you register your house with the feds if you own a horse or a sheep, but you're going to have to tell them every time you take a trail ride.]

We appreciate and are encouraged by your “willing” spirit. We recognize that a system of this size and complexity needs to be developed with the opportunity for input by those affected. Thank you for taking time to share your concerns regarding this important animal health issue. We will keep concerns such as those you expressed in mind as we continue to work with you and all stakeholders to develop NAIS.

Regards,
NAIS Program staff

[ed.-- Translated from bureaucratese, thanks for writing in, sucker, but we're going to go ahead and do what we want no matter what you think.]

So, is there anybody here who doesn’t think that this constitutes a massive power-grab by the USDA? I don’t know what Glenn Reynolds thinks, but right now, the “Army of Davids” is getting its ass kicked. The State of Texas is dragging its feet a bit, but so far as I have been able to determine, the rest of the state governments have rolled over and stuck their butts up in the air. If you’re uncomfortable with this, the time to start inundating your state officials and gutless Congresscritters with mail and email is NOW.

State of the Russ Address, March 16

Okay, a general-purpose personal update:

1. Felt-making continues to progress. I am trying to figure out how to keep the felt as dense as it is when fully wet, and short of building a large press, have resorted to taking the bamboo mat when wet-rolled and sticking it in front of a fan in the garage. Kind of like storing my own Pod People, only likely to be fluffier.

2. All materials are on-hand to start making a vest and skirt for the Bunny out of horsehide. Don’t recall whether she prefers the Burgundy, or the Oxblood. But, on the other hand, I’ve finally figured out how collars work(tm). It’s once again something that’s very simple once you can bridge the divide between seeing something in three dimensions, and arriving at a two-dimensional pattern for it.

3. I have a dilemma. No, I’m not a rabbi, with the pork loin on sale this Friday. Rather, it’s supposed to rain this weekend. That’s good, and with the peach and plum trees in bloom, we’re glad to have anything to relieve the drought. On the other hand, I have purchased an Arrow “yard-saver” shed I’d like to assemble on the concrete slab in my side yard, so I can get the yard tools out of my garage and put that into some semblance of order. I intend to thoroughly re-organize that sucker, get the power tools set up, and still be able to pull the Jeep into the garage at night.

4. Last weekend, on the other hand, we set up a fantatic, Party-Party scene.. but I forgot a previous promise I made, and had to leave the party early, including stranding The Bunny with only hope of a ride home (it’s close, so that was more a guilt thing than a real prospect of stranded-ness), so I could go up to Oklahoma and be a fighter’s second in a cage match. THAT was weird: if I get off my ass, you’ll see it soon on Sciolist. Said fighter owes me a big one.

5. The job is still untenable, as it is now officially Bank of America’s policy that administrative assistants are not entitled to performance reviews. Yes, folks, we’re now officially second-class employees. Rather galling, considering that I’ve re-engineered this job to the extent that I could now literally replace myself with a part-timer without inconveniencing the unit. So, I will either put up with it for a while while re-enrolling in feldenkrais training (contingent on finding crash space in Colorado, which should be do-able), or else getting a teaching gig. There’s a job open nearby in Dallas, but I can’t get their HR to return any calls, or the actual school’s switchboard to even pick up the phone. This score is fairly frustrating.

6. On the other hand, my article on Crecy is not only accepted, but got me back an enthusiastic review, from a pair of guys whose publishing career has revolved around putting out work on the Hundred Years War. My work is mentioned in an equal place with the pros, as “Crecy finally makes sense.” Actually, that’s not what they said… they said “finally, the events at the Battle of Crecy seem to be rationally explicable.” Because, well, they’re professional medieval-nerds. Be that as it may, this is the second paper I’ve kicked out in the past couple of years, and my emphasis on using experimental archaeology to create a “worm’s-eye view” approach to medieval milhist seems to be a starter. Now all I have to do is the destructive testing with The Machine, and start paper number three, in which I will make obscenely far-reaching comments on the role of medieval armor.

7. The credit card is paid off. Foundation payments left to go, and then we are almost out of non-mortgage consumer debt. Which is good, because one of the doors has started sticking, and if that keeps up, it may be time for more foundation work. Oh well, eventually the whole house will be done…

8. The yard is looking fantastic, and we’re waiting for the grapes that I put in to wake up. I’m paranoid about grapes: I always think they’ve died on me… and the Fig hasn’t woken up at all yet… but it may just be too early. If it’s croaked, we’ll just put in more Rose Monsters.

9. No bun in the oven, but we’re working on it.

10. Was asked whether I wanted to be in the NCAA office pool, and realized that I don’t have the foggiest clue how March Madness actually works, and who’s got a prayer of winning… all my sports experience tends to be on the playing side, rather than spectating. (Though don’t ask me about my lay-up, it’s been years and years — and my chances at “horse” are no better than even.)

I’m sure there’s something I’ve forgotten, but I couldn’t tell you what it is… since I’ve forgotten it…

Syria’s out, Iran is in, troop levels…

are going UP for Ashura, and in the face of the Iranians being publicly mentioned as the problem.

Heh.

For those of you who don’t get it, let me spell it out.

1. We never found an unproblematic successor candidate in Syria, and the ground for a democratic “colored revolution” needs serious watering before somebody reasonable could conceivably come to power. So we haven’t toppled them, but we’ve made sure that Hezbollah and the Palestinians can no longer rely upon them.
2. Therefore, the latter two groups shift the purse strings upon which their survival depends (since their leadership is too corrupt and stupid to “grow the pie” and enact the reforms that would be needed to create something beyond a 1700s-level economy on their own) to Iran.

Now, I hear the rebuttal coming: “but now Iran runs the whole show!”
And my answer to that is, GREAT!

Because once we put the kabosh on the Iranian regime, which has much greater prospects for satisfactory regime change than Syria does… the gig’s up. All that will be left are a bunch of Pakistani madrassas and the local “Al-Qaieda (sp) in (fill in franchise name here)” chapters. And we are actually very, very good at rolling up these little groups when they try to take over and piss on the locals, as recent events in Yemen and Somalia show.

3. And we’re publicly moving extra troops in b/c of Iran’s agents sneaking across the border. What signal does that send? Well, signal numero uno is that we’re NOT stretched to our limits already, and that the Iranian political calculus has been made with a couple of incorrect values on our side of their equation.

If I were a mid-level Iranian officer without exceptionally-good ties to Ahmadinejad’s new “even more loyal than my other superloyalbestestBasijbuddies” units, I’d be a very worried man.

The Fire Celebration is coming… and in spite of their best efforts, the regime is a laughing-stock, and powerless to prevent the Iranian people from celebrating their heritage.

Zahak will fall.

Wait, wait: the Canadian Army has guns?

And they’re planning to use them?

I thought they mostly stood by while people who aren’t Canadians get shot and mortared and hacked up with machetes…

Well, um, good for Canada!!

Pardon me, while I stroll off into cognitive-dissonance-land…

Liquid Water near Saturn

Woohoo! Liquid Water, in view of Saturn’s bee-yooo-tiful rings…

Now, all we have to do is:

Launch an Orion ship (Yes, I’m obsessive on this one. Got a better idea?)
Spool down the incredible amount of material required to cement a Space Elevator.
Set up a nuke plant on top of the elevator to produce clean power.
(Profit, w/ sales of energy, elevator, and use of half-tethered “whippy end” for inertial launches)
Send said ship, with spare cargo holds now available, to do some serious asteroid prospecting.
(Profit by “ultimate strip mining”)

There. A plan fit for a supervillain. Or, for the bright boy who wants to sell incredibly exclusive vacation trips to the Hanging Gardens of Enceladus.

Body Mechanics Geekery

Just a quick note… I think the body angle to use is to work off Feldenkrais' observation that large muscles drive large movement, and that the small muscles' work should be reserved for small refinements of movement. You see this all over, but it's very tough to retrain consciously. (Seriously, try letting your forearms be mostly passive while using a mouse, or try signing your checks like a Chinese calligrapher, with the motions coming out of the shoulder. For most folks, including lil' ol' moi, we're talking order-of-magnitude refinement in how one is able to move.)

For the record…

I’m not a very big computer gamer. I play them, unapologetically: you get a lot of bang for your dollar, especially if you tend to pick up just a couple titles and play them forever (I have very specific tastes).

Particularly, in my case, I like to do this for a few hours whenever I need to recharge, and to percolate on ideas that aren’t going anywhere. Like taking a hella-long bath, only quite a bit more social. And the percolation works: I’ve pulled some fairly interesting research ideas out of playing Medieval:Total War and it’s successor titles. (For instance: “mechanical artillery was a largely mature technology in the high-medieval world. So why did not a single European medieval power make notable use of field artillery except in relation to siegecraft? Or, put another way, why was it such a shock to the late-medieval world that the Taborites did make use of it, when the wagon-laager had been around as a tactical element in Central and Eastern Europe for centuries?”)

And late last night I once again proved to myself that I am a total nerd by looking at Galactic Civilizations 2 and thinking “oh, no wonder I can never seem to get anywhere economically. The economic engine isn’t built upon a capitalist model, but a mercantilist one. Duh….” This realization should have reached out and slapped my forebrain around like the former was a 1930s gangbuster, and my brain a sleazy pimp running wood alcohol. “Of course it’s mercantilist, you idiot, it’s a colonization game…”

And in the course of that, I think I solved a serious issue I’d been having with felt-making. Because that’s, um, relevant to far future space opera, yeah, that’s the ticket… if I’m right, I have to figure out now how to make a hat-maker’s press large enough to produce that kind of felt in large pieces. Once that’s achieved, I’ll be able to replicate the kind of felt used for cavalry coats in Hungary, and which is largely never seen even in the online felt-making communities outside of people making extremely expensive hats for rodeo folks.

But, anyway, back to video games. If it’s quite clear that at the beginning level of development, a mercantilist system is as good as one is likely to get (whether the power receiving raw materials is a government or a corporation), does it not behoove anybody who’s serious about strip-mining the asteroids to chunk this silly notion of getting into space with lightweight materials, and instead develop the political will to build an Orion Drive? Forgiveness is easier than permission, and when the world sees a four-hundred-thousand-ton spaceship bigger than the Starship-freaking Enterprise loft into orbit, complete with huge water banks for eating up radiation and giant spherical rotating sections for artificial gravity, nobody will give a crap how it’s launched. You want to motivate kids to do well in math and science? Watch those imaginations catch fire, when you tell them that if they work hard, one day they can grow up and work on THAT….

Molly Ivins takes a swing for the “progressives”

Hey now, you think it’s hard to be a moderate, centrist Democrat? Try surviving this during your primary season:

I don’t know about you, but I have had it with the D.C. Democrats, had it with
the DLC Democrats, had it with every calculating, equivocating, triangulating,
straddling, hair-splitting son of a bitch up there, and that includes Hillary
Rodham Clinton.

This kind of thing is good news for Democrats and Republicans both.

For Donkeys: you’re either leftist, or you’re not. Molly Ivins is a standard Democratic Progressive. Aka, typical Austin-style leftist. There are a lot of leftists in the Democratic Party, and the Dems have a serious identity crisis that is not going to be papered over without a serious party struggle. Any Democrat who tries to sail between the Scylla of the DNC and the Charybdis of Harold Ickes’ new database is going to suffer the slings and arrows of “Flip Flop!” But this time, it’s going to be from a very loud, very vocal, and thanks to leftist softies with deep pockets and an atrocious taste in ties like George Soros, probably well-financed. The Dems, if they are going to survive as a party, need to decide whether they are the 1930s torchbearers of Progressive Socialism, or whether they are going to reinvent themselves as something else.

For Elephants: short term, anything that divides the Dems is good news. Medium-term, if the Progressives win, the Republicans are likely to wipe the walls with them electorally, forcing the emergence of a new party as the tension between the ideological and the “country club” wings of the party finally can no longer be contained.

Either way, it’s a plus for voters, because all of this potential for conflict is predicated on politicians actually paying a slightly higher percentage of lip service to what their constituents want. Rove has the Republicans play to the base for a reason, and had Bush not consistently governed as the Country-Club semi-moderate that he is, he’d have higher approval ratings. Senator Clinton’s crowd would govern as socialists… but don’t dare actually say that in public… and their constituents who are honest-to-goodness ’68ers have finally decided to truly call them on it.

Should be interesting.

Geekery: Body Mechanics

It's nobody's secret, unless you're one of the poor schmucks who has bought into the JKD mythology, that different martial arts use the body in different ways, and that a punch isn't a punch isn't a punch. Some martial arts styles move from the feet, some from the hips, some from the spine, some from the shoulders. Some transfer their power on a circle, some in a line, some in a combination of the two. An aikidoka rolls by turning his body into a sphere… I learned to roll by turning my body into a ribbon…

(more…)

The “unconference.” Or, “a blogger falls prey to hype.”

David Winer presents a little notion called the unconference, based upon the following premise:

The sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum
of expertise of the people on stage.

A laudable observation: I can see why Glenn on Instapundit linked it. However, “Army of Davids” material, this ain’t, because the following premise is used to support a terrible conclusion:

Okay, now you have a room full of people, what exactly are they supposed to do?
Choose a reporter, someone who knows something about the topic of discussion (yes, there is a topic, it’s not free-form) and knows how to ask questions and knit a story together.

Oh, dear. So, we’re reducing conference sessions to Oprah, only with the Discussion Leader calling on random participants as if they were students at school? What does it mean, to “weave a story?” Well, I can tell you what it doesn’t mean:

  1. You cannot hear and form effective, rational judgments based on somebody’s research findings.
  2. You cannot visit any session about which you are a neophyte in the hopes of learning from an expert.
  3. You have no means by which to differentiate who possesses specialized knowledge, and who does not.
  4. You cannot present meaningful visual materials, because the topic at hand, given a population of sixty-some active participants, will never remain sufficiently focused.

But what we’re really dealing with, is a disastrous assumption, which the author seems to assert as a given good:

I walked into the room and said Time Out, and told the panelists to take their seats in the otherwise packed classroom. I saw Jarvis’s eyes light up — he “got it” right then and there. No crutches. No droning. We’re all equals in this room. No one’s ideas are presumed to be better.

This is the sort of egalitarian promise that fascinates reporters in general — it plays into their overarching mythology. Sadly, however, it’s just not true except in the squishiest conference sessions. We do presume that some people have more and better ideas, or else we wouldn’t bother to go to conferences in order to hear them.

We have words to describe what is advertised: for “unconference,” substitute discussion. And for “unconferences” involving sufficiently unfalsifiable discussions that everybody’s opinion is as good as everybody else’s, substitute roundtable session. Yes, roundtables. Aka, ugh. There’s a good reason that roundtable sessions are usually poorly attended, and they’re precisely the reasons why Mr. Winer seems to be advocating them.

This whole blogging and “Army of Davids” deal rests on a premise: technology is allowing more voices to kick into the public debates. But that is only a virtue because of the generally-untapped reservoir of expert voices who can increase the quality of the general discussion. Simply because there are hundreds of thousands of experts out there, does not imply that all bloggers’ opinions are equal. Would I dare to debate Joe Katzman of Winds of Change on defense issues? Nuh-uh. Or how about Michael Yon regarding small-unit fighting in Iraq? Nuh-uh again.

Blogs are nice, and expanding technology has the potential to do us a lot of good. But falling prey to hype isn’t going to get us anywhere.

“Dear Mom and Dad. I am going to be executed by the Baath.”

… I need to drop some funds in Totten’s tip jar tonight…

First Epistle to Saint James the Apostate

Why might a person who is theoretically hostile to religion argue that religion is still necessary?

The article has its ideological blinders, to be sure.

The author might have shelved some bitterness at the “patriarchy” by noting the serious burdens that said system places upon men. Men may theoretically become more powerful under such a system, but in reality, they are also drastically more controlled — and an emphasis on male self-control is a consistent hallmark of traditional patriarchies. There are good reasons why those seemingly bizarre homemakers’ tracts of the 1950s seemed to make sense at the time… Technology has changed quite a lot. Even in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it took somebody performing hard work (in the 19th century, back-breaking work) in order to keep a home a fit place to live. Ever done a few loads of laundry without mechanical assistance? In the winter?

It seems to me that most of what the author decribes can readily be described as the results of societies that have become fundamentally out of balance. Modern secular dogmas become ideologically myopic to the point of solipsism… and why make a life-altering, permanent investment in the heavy duties of parenthood, if one has no concrete notion of any good but one’s own? (For instance, the supposed “activist” who never actually goes out to engage in charitable work, but only critiques others’ attempts to do so on ideological grounds. Said activist may remain ideologically pure by his standards, and thus avoid creating harm, but he generally does little to no good, either). Religion tends to become the counterweight by default, since no purely philosophical — atheistic, agnostic, or even simply apathetic — system of thought has ever been devised that sufficiently orients large members of societies away from themselves and towards other people the way that healthy religion does. Some of the unhealthily individualistic (and I’m speaking here as a publicly-avowed “small-l” libertarian) ideologies of the 20th century are already becoming known as profoundly solipsistic failures in this respect.

If Mr. Longman wants an antidote to “Patriarchy” as he sees it, he should seriously work to devise a philosophical system that will allow for individualism without the demographically crushing solipsism that often attends it, and which therefore will square the circle, and use a secular argument to preach satisfaction in providing for others. I could devise a philosophy like this off the top of my head in about twenty minutes. Whether such a philosophy would be acceptable to Longman is a bad bet: it would be explicitly futurist and consistently expansionist. Whether it would be accepted, and prove, over time, to be more *effective* than religion, is another bet entirely, and one I wouldn’t put much money on. However hostile Longman may be to religion, it is quite clear that, society can measure religion according to secular standards, and discover secular arguments in favor for it.

Religion *works.*

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