December 24, 2010

Christmas 2010




There is a lot going on right now. Crisis after crisis rocks through the globe threatening the sanity and stability of each and every one of us. The Christian world withdraws for this one day to celebrate the birth of Christ, most of Asia will skip over Christmas and celebrate New Year's Day instead. Atheists ignore the day, Wiccans celebrate some form of Samhain, and agnostics do as they please. Outside my house the snow still falls. My first real white Christmas. It's not as magical as I had hoped, but I'm a lot older than I was the first time I understood the magic of Christmas.

I reflect, as I have for the past decade, on the men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan who would much rather be back home any day, but most especially on this day. Friends who spend the day missing loved ones that passed from this life to the hereafter are also on my mind, and in my heart. I have a few losses of my own, naturally. No one arrives at this point in life without some loss. I read Luke and Matthew, skim through Isaiah, and pray for everyone I know as well as everyone I do not know. Christmas, for me, has become a holy day of reflection more than anything else. Perhaps I am getting old.

I am closing this blog out at the end of the month. Next year, I will start something new. I haven't decided yet what it will be, but the time has come to move on to something different. Once I have the new blog set up, I'll post a link here, and that will the last post I will ever make in Brian's Meandering Mind. My mind does not wander as much as it used to, and although it has yet to settle on any one thing the range has dramatically narrowed over the past year or two.

Christmas is here, in a few hours it will have passed. Christ, his mission, his life, and his victory will remain, but all of us will be a year older and a year further away from the manger where his mother laid him. After two thousand years one thing is perfectly clear, when Jesus proclaimed, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away," he was only being honest.






December 18, 2010

BATFE Requests Emergency Powers




A little over a year ago, in February 2009, I wrote this blog post: Why is Mexico Burning?

Less than a month later, the L.A. Times published this article: Mexico's Arms Race

The vast majority of firearms used by Mexican drug cartels in their ongoing war for territory, routes into the United States, and control over the border region are smuggled in through Mexico's southern border with Guatemala. A generations old civil war being waged by native tribes against the Mexican government along with the mountainous, jungle-filled terrain make this an ideal corridor for smuggling firearms into Mexico. These firearms are sold to gun-runners by corrupt officials in various South American governments, stolen from arsenals in both South America and places as far away as South Korea, or in some cases provided by governments like Iran, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and Syria. The amount of firearms coming from American gun shops through "straw purchases" or bought at border region American gun shows from private individuals is not small, but it is far less than the "90%" figure that the current administration and the media are so fond of throwing around.

Yes, many of these firearms are American-made. They are coming from shipments we have supplied to friendly governments. Those shipments are either stolen by drug cartels themselves or bought from corrupt officials in those governments. Fully automatic AK-series rifles are either bought on the open market direct from suppliers in Eastern Europe, bought from other drug gangs in South America, or provided by Iran, Syria, and other Middle Eastern governments. In terms of raw percentages Hamas and Hezobollah provide as many weapons as American gun shops and gun shows, but the media almost never bothers to report this. Now why do you suppose that is?

Now the BATFE is seeking emergency powers to force American gun dealers along the Mexican border to report bulk sales of semi-automatic weapons larger than .22 caliber. (Washington Post: Proposal Calls for Dealers to Report Bulk Sales) The part the request overlooks and the media fails to report is that any dealer who wishes to keep their FFL is already required to report suspicious purchases. The BATFE can walk into their gun shops without a warrant on any day for any reason or even for no reason at all and demand to review their sales records. If a specific purchase is demanded for review, they must provide it regardless of whether a warrant has been issued. Gun dealers, in order to stay in business, must completely surrender their Fourth Amendment rights to the Federal government. The BATFE does not need any sort of emergency powers to review those sales, so why are they suddenly demanding them?

This request for emergency powers is subject to public review. This .pdf contains the phone number of the contact at ATF coordinating the public review: Request for Public Review

Give'em a call and let them know how you feel. Remember, they work for you. You are the boss. That's why they must hold a public review when requesting this expansion of their already vast powers of search and seizure. So call'em up and let'em know your mind. If you support it, if you oppose it, if you're neutral on it, none of that matters. The important part is to let them know.

Factcheck.org has an interesting, although inaccurate analysis of the facts: Counting Mexican Crime Guns

Note that Factcheck.org both completely overlooks AK-series weapons and fails to take into consideration firearms known to be provided by Hamas, Hezobollah, Iran and Syria.

The drug cartels and terrorists are working together with the backing of our enemies, but our government and it's puppet media continue to blame American citizens!






December 05, 2010

Some Thoughts on Net Neutrality




First, please read these:
Denver Post: Battle for America's TVs
Lubbock Online: Streaming Video May Compromise Internet Capacity
CNet: Level 3 Claims Comcast is "Strong-arming" them

I first encountered this weird idea of "net neutrality" a couple of years ago in this video: "Hot Girl and Crew Spreading Net Neutrality Message". Like any heterosexual man I do enjoy watching "hot girls" romping on beaches or hiking mountain trails, but they are not generally my first media of choice for political debate or scholastic research. "Hot" and "profound" don't generally coincide, although there are a few very rare exceptions. Somebody had recommended the video to me so I watched it and almost immediately forgot about it. After all, it was vague, lacked any kind of facts, and was clearly intended to play on the emotions of its viewers in order to advance a political agenda of some kind.

For the life of me I could not figure out why the FCC would ever want to get involved in internet regulation. What possible need could there be for the United States federal government to concern itself with World of Warcraft, YouTube, Yahoo and Google? None whatsoever. Therefore, it seemed to me to be a very simple proposition: the FCC should be told to take a hike and keep their grubby little paws off the internet. After all, the FBI and Interpol are already doing a fine job of hunting down and collapsing child predator networks while every intelligence agency in the world monitors terrorists. In a very real sense, keeping the criminals online and active is a good thing because it makes it much easier for law enforcement to monitor their communications, gather evidence, and get convictions. It is the lack of regulation that is helping law enforcement do their job. To my mind, that is a good thing.

Today I finally learned what the real issue is. I suppose I should have assumed as much from the beginning, but I hadn't realized how powerful some internet service providers had become. Apparently, the real issue is who is going to collect the fees for maintaining and expanding the hardware and software that keep the internet up and running. Already we are seeing the formation of commercial monopolies that have captured regional markets. Instead of investing in new technologies some of them are using their financial resources to push through legislation which they can use to force competitors out of business.

Now that is a problem. This kind of idiocy is how we wound up with plastic car bumpers and failure-prone smoke detectors. I am not really an old man just yet, but I am no longer young. Over the past three decades of adulthood I have watched stupid ideas with no commercial value whatsoever get forced down our throats by people who use emotional appeals and fearmongering to convince society that their pretty little technomarvel is just the thing to bring about utopia. Their logic seems to be if we as consumers are unwilling to believe their hype then by golly the government ought to force us to make them rich.

Enough is enough. If your idea won't sell, or if your competitor won't let you into their market, that's just how the cookie crumbles. Go back to the drawing board and come up with a better idea, one that will give the competition's customers every reason in the world to give you their money instead of the big guy who's been around longer and already has an efficient operation in place. Instead of expanding the scope and reach of government we need to start trimming back this leviathan. It is time to force the beast back into its cage and lock it down once and for all.

Level 3 needs to renegotiate their contract with Comcast in the quiet boardrooms of the two companies and keep their business out of the public sphere. If Level 3 doesn't like the deal Comcast is offering, then they need to trim their costs, expand their own infrastructure, and give consumers a real reason to shift their spending away from Comcast. Don't go crying to the government just because you don't like the competition. The world of business is not a schoolyard, Comcast is not a playground bully. Give consumers a better deal and you'll fix the problem. If Comcast's customers don't like the service they receive or the prices Comcast charges, then offer them something better! If you are dependent on Comcast to carry your product to the enduser, then you have to pay the fees Comcast charges. It does not matter if those fees are specifically designed to make your product less attractive than their inhouse product. In professional circles people call that kind of scheme "a good business plan" and that is exactly what it is. If you don't like it, come up with a better plan and then steal their customers away by offering a better value.

Remember Prodigy? Remember Compuserve? Remember AOL? The internet is a business and like any business, some companies will succeed, some will fail, new companies will come along, old companies will vanish. The beauty of the business world is that as long as the government does not get involved, it truly is self-regulating. Consumers, the people, make their buying decisions for their own reasons. Businesses that anticipate those reasons and meet the needs of consumers will rise, business that fail to anticipate those reasons or fail to meet the needs of consumers will fall. If you're one of the failures, then yes, it hurts deep and it feels personal, but it's not. Being a lifelong failure myself I empathize deeply, but that does not mean the government needs to step in every time some company misses a beat and vanishes from the landscape.

We don't need the FCC or anyone else to regulate the internet. I already have to put up with smoke detectors going off for no reason, plastic bumpers that scratch and tear every time I look at them funny, and government inspectors that can walk onto my land without a warrant to check my house, check my septic, check my plumbing, check my electric, check my gas lines, and then order me to spend money fixing things that aren't even broken. We don't need more government in the internet or anywhere else. We need the government to go back to doing what it does best: provide for the common defense, preserve interstate commerce, and negotiate peace treaties with stupidly aggressive nations. Rather than FCC bureaucrats determining which companies rise and fall, we need someone with the courage to blast Pyonyang and Tehran back into the stone age before they start throwing around nuclear warheads. The federal government of the United States needs to spend less time worrying about the free citizens of this great nation and more time worrying about the enemies of free enterprise and free thinking. Comcast is not the enemy, neither is Level 3. Netflix might stress the internet, but that will only inspire someone to come up with a better, faster internet than the one we already have. Hopefully they'll make a fortune doing it.

The enemy of the modern world is Marxism and religious fascism. Our enemies are fanatics of any stripe or color who believe that their personal values are the key to bringing utopia and the willingness to kill or maim anyone who has a different vision. Drug cartels, child porn networks, terrorists, violent activists, and petty criminals are the only enemies the government needs to concern itself with. It is not the government's job to relieve poverty, cure climate change, and make sure my house doesn't burn down in my sleep. Those are value-based choices that each of make as individuals. We make the choices. Whether we live or die based on the consequences of those choices is not the responsibility of government. It is the sole responsibility of the person who makes the choice. It only becomes the government's responsibility when that choice violates someone else's freedom, or brings about someone else's death through clear neglect or outright sadism. Mistakes will be made, naturally, and some of those mistakes will be fatal, but that is not the realm of government control either.

There is no utopia this side of heaven. Bigger, more powerful governments with the freedom to dictate every detail of our lives will not bring us happiness. Did Mao bring happiness to the Chinese people? Did Hitler bring happiness to Germany? Did Stalin bring happiness to Russia and the countries controlled by the former Soviet Union? Have the Ayatollahs brought happiness to Iran? How many North Korean citizens are happy?

People are only happy when they have the freedom to prosper. In order to have the freedom to prosper, they must also have the freedom to fail. The geater the safety net the government provides, the lower the potential ceiling a person can aspire to. If the FCC gets involved in regulating internet content then I can guarantee you the results will be the opposite of what net neutrality's supporters are promising. It's the nature of the beast. Government regulations don't bring freedom, they can only inhibit freedom. Every time you inhibit freedom, you also inhibit diversity and free discourse. The surest way to bring about the dystopian internet the proponents of net neutrality are predicting is to get the FCC involved in regulating internet traffic flow. The cyberspace landscape they are seeing is indeed a potential nightmare and if we pursue a government-imposed net neutrality that is exactly where we will find ourselves.






December 04, 2010

2012 is fast approaching




I'm looking around at today's diverse political landscape and to my own surprise, I am delighted at what I see. Despite the fact that we are heading into a complete and total collapse of the global economy (or maybe because of it) I find I am truly privileged to be witnessing the growth of what could become the most critical presidential race in over a century.

In the days and weeks ahead there will be thousands of "experts" cheering for their favorites and working hard to convince you and I who should be the next president. To be honest, up until this morning I couldn't care less what the experts were saying. However, all that changed when I read this:

Big Journalism: WikiLeaks Useful Idiots

Very, very interesting. Hands down the most interesting response to the WikiLeaks fiasco I have yet encountered. Inspiring, really.

I've decided.

For the Democratic ticket I want to see Hilary Clinton and starting today I will do everything in my limited power to make it happen.

For the Republican ticket I want to see Sarah Palin and starting today I will do everything in my limited power to make it happen.

The Tigeress and the Mama Grizzly. Now that would an epic face-off!

I have chosen my preferred candidates. Now comes the hard part.

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As a footnote, watch this video. It demonstrates clearly why finding a way out of this mess is so important. Capitalism and free markets have brought us the healthiest, longest-living, wealthiest world in history and even though inequalities exist, they are the exception to the rule.