Sunday, December 01, 2013

Morals and Ethics, Health Care and Government

The disaster that is Obamacare continues to point to the ever widening problems of having a government attempt to impose its own idealistic ideas of what the process is of providing health care, which is not the same as 'health insurance', runs into obstacles where simple ideology driven bureaucratic rules and regulations run up against the common man and his enterprises.  Of the most concerning is the attempt to impose regulations mandating coverage of abortion and 'birth control' upon diverse groups who have religious teachings that make those immoral practices.  They are not just immoral for oneself but, to hold true to their religious teachings, it is immoral to support these services in any real way.  Thus the first of many suits, and truly it should be a class action suit, is one by Hobby Lobby that refuses to obey the power of government over religious principles in their common enterprise Hobby Lobby.  I'll use a Hot Air article as it is where I left some commentary and I will give that to you in an unvarnished way:

Religion is the observation of holding oneself to account to set of beliefs that have real world practice attached to them. Corporeal individuals may not have that transgressed by mere human law as the observance and practice is to a higher moral authority than any government can ever hope to be. The corporate entity is a voluntary association of individuals under a set of agreements and, as such, may have religion as their basis in practice and observation which includes a moral code and doctrine behind it.

No one is forcing employees to work at a such a concern that has such requirements and performs such practices. Even if you disagree with them and sign up to the corporation, you are not allowed to enforce your belief system upon the others in the voluntary cooperation out of respect for their beliefs. If you want to be employed by a place that offers you services that don’t have such restrictions then go find them, you are not forced to work at a concern that does not share your practices nor your beliefs.

I have my own problem with corporate entities, but they tend to dwell in the realm of duration and lack of finality of them when they allow, abet and encourage criminal activities amongst its members to the benefit of the corporate entity. Three Strikes and you’re out would be a start to ending such abuse, but that is a far different thing than the internal practices that are not criminal in nature and adhere to a known set of moral standards that the company upholds for those voluntarily associating with it.

Where does the government get off telling a corporate or corporeal entity that they must support practices that are considered immoral by their belief system? Those who abjure such practices are not in any way, shape or form utilizing them and if others wish to do so then let them PAY FOR IT based on some other agreements but do not force those who hold a higher standard to paying for something which they consider to be immoral in the extreme.

This doesn’t stop at the corporate level and paying for abortion and contraceptive access is that camel’s nose under the tent sort of deal. What if some fine grandee of a bureaucrat gets through required euthanasia of the old, the sick or the mentally ill? Not just paying for ‘access’ to it, which in and of itself has extreme moral problems attached to it due to the way that bureaucrats are stretching ‘voluntary’ to become involuntary… if government becomes the arbiter of morality, then we have truly lost our way as it is only fit to punish things that are immoral that physically effect individuals and STOP THEM and PUNISH those who commit such acts. When you force individuals to support things they consider immoral, then where can it draw the line on ANY OTHER act? I have seen governments of men, not of law, and I want nothing, whatsoever, to do with them. And that is coming into sharp focus today more so than at any other time in our history.

ajacksonian on November 29, 2013 at 10:18 AM

All of Obamacare is about substituting the good sense of individuals in procuring methods of health care with that of government regulation, bureaucracy and punishment.  In the past century we have been witness to medical experimentation upon blacks without fully informing them of what they were signing up for, forced sterilization of the mentally ill at government institutions, and we currently have States that have regulations for euthanasia.  These are not questions of speculation but ones of fact done under government auspices, Federal and State, and at the behest of political doctrines and adherents who pushed for such things as eugenics, population control via abortion and sterilization, and having medical personnel 'assist' in suicide.  These are, one and all, moral wrongs in so many religions held by so many believers that it is not funny.  Yet that these things happened is a fact of our history in this Nation and demonstrates the evils of government willing to take expedient means towards ideological ends to the detriment of its citizens.

The Hobby Lobby case is not just about this one corporation, a collection of private citizens chartering a company to do certain legal activities in a voluntarily cooperative manner run by owners who have a belief system that requires their moral adherence to laws that come from a source other than Nature or mere civil government.  To have freedom of expression is not just in expressing oneself verbally but through activities and actions that follow in a given line of conscience that comes from no source under government or Nature's control.  Forming a company to serve the public in certain venues by believers and then running it in accordance with their belief system is freedom of expression and religion, both.

When government seeks to impose its power over the individual and begin to dictate practices that one holds as immoral, then ethics require that those mere civil laws not be followed so as to be true to eternal moral laws handed down from the highest power of God.  It matters not if God is the singular, the plural or a vague understanding of the morality behind the universe and life itself, that one believes in it and is true to it in their daily lives which hinders none, harms none and is widely understood puts this case into a full Amendment I application: freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and freedom of free association amongst one's fellow citizens.

Civil Government is without wisdom and has problems even finding out what it did last week or last year, not to speak of what it has done decades ago.  It is not a thinking being but a freely made construct amongst the people of a Nation or State to do common activities for the defense and protection of all and, in the case of the US, to stay away from all matters of morals and ethics in following moral practices.  Government itself is a Punisher and necessary evil and not granted power to do good, but to punish the wicked and those who would disrupt society.  The good of society is from its citizens figuring out how to lead good, moral and ethical lives within mortal boundaries of income, savings, sustaining life, creating families, and creating communities in which we all seek to help each other and prosper in that doing. 

It is not immoral to seek to make a profit to sustain a company after paying one's workforce and providing them with agreed upon benefits.  It is not the icon of payment, not the coin or bill or credit exchange pieces, that are evil but only in the pursuit of same without thought to ensuring that it is gained via properly provisioned service or goods under payment contract.  In pursuit of money as its own end, there is no real good, but in pursuit of wealth which is accumulated by providing the best value at the lowest cost to one's fellow man and making a profit to expand such provisioning is true wealth beyond any dollar or penny hoarded.

Providing goods and services by individuals who hold a strict moral code and ethically abide by it is no sin and is not illegal.

Forcing such individuals to support immoral practices with forced payment into a system which requires such support: that is pure evil as it substitutes the power of government for the teachings of God.

And only death, destruction and chaos ever come from that.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Ideology to Eschatology


Source: WordNet (r) 1.7

     n 1: an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or nation [syn: political orientation, political theory]
     2: imaginary or visionary theorization


Source: WordNet (r) 1.7

     n : the branch of theology that is concerned with such final things as death and judgment; heaven and hell; the end of the world

The modern day Left started with an ideological framework that arose out of the works of Karl Marx and then added to via the International meetings on Marxism and then put through the lenses of Progressivism, Soviet Communism, socialists like Friedrich Engels who had impact on US Socialism via his works with Marx, European Anarcho-Syndicalist movements, the works of Antonio Gramsci and cultural hegemony as seen in the Frankfort School of cultural Marxism, then onto National Socialism and Nazi Fascism.  Taken as a whole, starting with Marx, the ideology derived from this school of thought is one that is based on an end of economic systems and the final removal of the capitalist or owning class of society and the rule of the Proletariat.  As an ideology it has its roots in the post-Classical period coming after John Locke, Adam Smith, and Immanuel Kant, and as a form of response to Utilitarianism.

I have gone over the ground of Marxism multiple times, most recently in What is the value of... anything? and review some of the highlights and problems of Marxism from the time of Marx.  Economically Marxism's problems with defining value, exactly who is being exploited, explaining what alienation of labor is and why its abolition is seen as a historical imperative does not address a part of Marxism that keeps it alive, and that is its sociology.  Within the Old Left (Communists, National Socialists, Anarcho-Syndicalists, American Progressivists) there was a requirement of scholarship for those on the 'inside' of the movements.  You had to know Marx and Engels, at the very least, be able to go through the rhetoric of Marxism via Hegel's Dialectical Materialism and then continue on with how bad those owning businesses were in their exploitation of labor.  Even given misplaced basis for arguments, there had to be a rational structure of argumentation on those points and defense of the critical starting points to assert the end points of the ideology.

This formed a sociological structure within Marxists circles that I got to witness first hand growing up in a family of socialist sympathizers.  It was an old First International sort of adherence, however, and had nothing to do with the Second or Third Congresses dominated by the (so-called as they put it) Communists.  Thus the first divisions were International Congress divisions and they would break out to the 'true believers, the rest of you are wrong' First Congress types and then those seen as corrupt: Communists (Soviet sort), National Socialists (all stripes), Progressives, social hegemonists... basically anyone save the strongly influenced Anarch-Syndicalists who cribbed a lot from US First International followers who themselves cribbed from Engels.  As you can tell by the long list of Marxist derivatives, there was a lot of in-fighting, factionalism and otherwise fierce boundary disputes within Marxists circles based on who you followed and what their form of argumentation was.  This could get broken down inside factions via different argument strains and who followed which form of their own particular brand of Marxism.

What this strongly looks like is a religious movement, and that is due to the fact that human nature (which Marx criticized the Utilitarians for not understanding) is seen as something that will go through a sudden, global transformation amongst the Proletariat.  Basically from nowhere, although the Marxists will point to the evils of capitalist exploitation, etc. but the actual gripes that the actual proletarians had (versus the idealized ones of the Marxists) had more to do with banal things like pay, working conditions, bad bosses and then, lo and behold, abusive Union bosses.  Labor Unions, seen as a first step towards Socialism and this grand uplifting of proletarian thought, turned out to be just another human made and manned system with all the faults of all such systems that man makes.  Instead of uplifting worker education they served to line the pockets of Union Bosses with worker funds and then walk away richer for it and cut deals with the very people they were supposed to protect the workers from.  The First Congress types saw Trade Unions as just another corrupt system and lumped them in the 'everybody else' category of 'not true socialists' right next to the National Socialists.

A strange thing happened from the days of the Old Marxist Left (roughly up to the mid-1970's encompassing the 'New Left' which was just warmed-over Old Left) and today: the grandiose vision of Marx was retained but the rhetoric, the internal logic, the ability to argue based on it all disappeared.  Lock, stock and barrel the current Authoritarian Left no longer has intellectual roots in Marx, Marxism or even logic.  Meet up with a Leftists today and they couldn't even attempt to give a good description of the Labor Theory of Value or to even explain what Alienation of Labor is.  Handwave as much as you like at the Frankfurt School, but they sought a domination through culture and have, instead, reinvented nihilism.


Source: WordNet (r) 1.7

     n 1: a revolutionary doctrine that advocates destruction of the social system for its own sake
     2: the delusion that things (or everything, including the self) do not exist; a sense that everything is unreal [syn: nihilistic delusion]
     3: complete denial of all established authority and institutions

Given that Marx gave us an Eschatology of end-times, it is little wonder that those seeking a cultural domination would come up with nihilism.  Trying to unmoor past and present, seek to remove objective reasoning and, instead, personalize all political and economic points of view and then enforce those on everyone from some intellectual elite that doesn't have rational thinking as its basis, is it any wonder that you come to nihilism?

The feel-good and warm-fuzzies of Marxism are retained, that workers paradise and everyone getting goodies for nothing and their chicks for free remains to this day the heart of the Left and, in fact, dominates it.  If the Frankfurt School is to blame for its institutional marching to the point where politicians no longer believe in balancing a check book for THEMSELVES not to speak of the governments they seek to run, is it any wonder the rest of us are left scratching our heads asking: just how the hell is THIS supposed to work?

If there is no inherent difference between work and non-work, then why work?

If you hand out a dole to everyone for just existing, then who grows the food and why?  To what end?

Being generous with tax revenue and then some, means that you are taking economic vitality and encouraging non-vitality and asking our children to pay for it.  And if you don't teach them the value of actually earning a living, and they don't repay the debts, then who is going to grow the food?

Mao had the lovely idea of whipping the intellectuals into line, even a good amount of his supporters, by putting them to grow food for others and starve as they did so.  Radical material simplification, as one professor puts it about the Dark Ages: you are poor, hungry and have a short life deprived of the benefits of a civilization that once flourished.

Marxism has always had an eschatological view of the human race: it was always an end time religion because it never got the basics of human nature right and assumed a massive change intellectually that would free the working class and remove alienation of labor.  That's right, everyone would get to do the entire job for themselves!  You would be a fisher, raise wheat and corn, have chickens, read and print books, go hunting, and have the satisfaction of knowing that your labor was no longer alienated!

Unfortunately fishing is not catching.

Unfortunately hunting is not always successful.

Unfortunately chickens get sick, as do pigs, cattle, and you have to care for them as well as yourself.

To keep warm you must chop your own wood, mine your own coal or make your own nuclear reactor.

And then you would have to find the time to write about how grand your life was and how good it was to have unalienated labor.

Because all of it, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, you are going to do it all and even when you do it with your fellow liberated proletarians, you dare NOT divide up labor into different parts because that will alienate your labor from the entire affair.

To support unalienated labor is impossible, but the Left has decided to support the unemployed who should be seeking a job but now get supported for nearly two years and are taught how to live off the money taken by government for them.  Their labor is lacking.  Your labor's wages are stolen via government and given to those who have decided that living on what government gives them from you is better than working for a living and supporting themselves.  This isn't labor that is no longer alienated as their labor is no longer done: that which is not done cannot be alienated as it is never present.

What drives this is no longer an ideology but the belief in the end state of an ideology: the ideology, itself, is no longer discussed or thought about as a thing in and of itself.  At this point there is a belief in Marx that is no longer intellectual and not even rooted in his texts or the body of work of those closely associated with him.  Leftists are atheists because they want to be in the belief that Marx is right, not through reading Marx and understanding Marx, but just believing in him.  Their attacks on those who read religious texts is thus an anti-intellectual attack, no matter how dressed up and how many degrees are held by those going after religion, their own belief structure is based on unread texts and only on assumptions.

The devolution of Marxism from rhetorical premise and argumentative structure that requires thought has been slow, but has become greatly accelerated as the 'March through the institutions' is no longer based on something that has definition, but on the belief that the end result is 'good'.  Yet what is 'good' is never defined in a hard, fast and discernable way: good has no end state to it of limits to how much good any bureaucratic organization can do.  In fact the growth of bureaucracy is an in-bred 'good' in the belief that more of it and more power to it will get 'good' results.  And because human nature is no longer studied, nor the very impacts of it upon prior Marxist ideology and its factionation, it is not understood that a bureaucracy has no intellect, has no fast goal, cannot become an 'expert' no matter how many it hires, and that the Iron Law of bureaucracy is that those that further the ends of the bureaucracy get rewarded as the bureaucracy expands.  Thus the end goal a bureaucracy, any bureaucracy, is the expansion of bureaucracy by the bureaucracy for the bureaucracy.  Other goals become secondary to that quest for greater power.

Marxist ideology is not, of necessity, nihilistic and was, in fact, seen as something a bit more humanized than Utilitarianism.  Yet the very problems of Utilitarianism are seen in Marxism in its later stages of demeaning the individual, of not understanding the human nature of the individual and not addressing that there is more to the individual than, in the case of Marx, labor not utility.  Yet the very way labor is posited makes it utilitarian, thus the premise of Marx is eschatology within an ideology based on a belief and criticism that is has scant difference from the ones Marx leveled at Utilitarianism.

This cannot be argued to those who follow only the nihilistic eschatology of modern Marxism/Leftism because those inside the belief system don't bother to read and grapple with Marx.  It is always about doing 'good' through government, growing government and never asking if this is good for all the individuals in society.  Yet they speak of the 'collective' but then only want to do better for parts of it, not the whole thing, and thus they even miscomprehend what collectivism is and sacrifice it on the alter of special preferences. 

I never thought I would wish for the day of actual, intellectual Marxists arguing the rhetoric of Marx for policy, but they are not to be found.  The Marxism in the halls of power today, under a Progressivist/Liberal/Left guise is one that is rudely divorced from the ideology of Marx and connected to the end state eschatology of Marx.  Even that doesn't follow Marx as they screw up the Marxist notion of collectivism and replace it with special privileges for a few.  That is a National Socialist conception from Fascism as gone through the form of its German descendent, and this one isn't the one at Frankfurt but the one that got tried at Nuremburg.  It, too, had an end state eschatology that it elevated above ideology, and it was hard to find parsers of Marx amongst the National Socialists who started out as off-shoots of the International Socialist schools.  Gramsci would have his ideas picked up the the West but his body would be killed by Italian Fascists, which demonstrates the allure of special privilege nihilistic eschatology based roughly on Marx.

Too bad those followers of this anti-human form of Marxism don't bother to read history, either, because it is littered with such examples and death tolls attributable to it.  Better to go on pushing 'forward' never looking at where the path gets you and never asking 'just where in the hell are we going?'  The moment you do that you are decried as being against this or that special privileged group, or as someone who is an anarchist, which is strange because that is just another nihilistic eschatology.  Thus point out the bad ends of the road and you are said to be using a nihilistic eschatology by those who are using a nihilistic eschatology and don't want it mentioned that this is what they are doing.  And if you ask where they get these ideas from they just say its because it 'feels good' to do these things and have government do it for them with other people's money.

Lately, though, they are finding out they have to pay for their good ideas by finding out that their health insurance policy has been canceled and that they will have to get a much more costly one that does less for them.  Only once they start to get mugged by their own creation do they realize that there is pain involved to the many for the few with their 'good feeling' policies.  Better that it be a lot of pain, swiftly and deep today, so that more will see this is not good at all so that we can start requiring that people think and work for themselves and help the collective to get out of the mess the privileged got us into with their strange religion based only on good feelings and an nihilistic eschatology.  Ideologues you can at least argue with on the basis of something.  Those with a worldview religion based on someone they never read have belief in nothing and no idea what they are actually arguing about, just that they are always right.  Religious zealots who are unlearned and don't bother to ever think about what they say, you only can argue with and never, ever get anywhere.  I'll take the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, or any other religious sect that at least honestly reads about itself than this strange sect on the Left that just believes it is right because it said so.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Congressional software design

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was a piece of legislation that did far more than just try to transform the medical care and delivery sector of the economy and also brought in such things as Student Loans under its heading in a separate section of the bill.  Be that as it may the bulk of the bill dealt with a series of mandates and payments to government (taxes and penalties), and within those the requirement of health insurance companies to provide certain types of care for 'free', plus hand out individual 'subsidies' meant that there had to be a large-scale interplay between private insurers and the public purse.  To facilitate that a series of 'exchanges' were to be set up either by the State governments or, if they opted out of Obamacare, the federal government.  Thus there are a whole list of exceptions, exemptions, requirements and so forth that differ per State that the entire system must provide for, and these vary from State to State, as well.

In the previous part of my life before ill-health befell me, I worked for the federal government on the DoD civil side for an Agency that had some actual things to produce for the military.  As I was technically astute and able to deal with large scale bureaucracies (my prior university experience gave me that) I was able to shift from production work, which I enjoyed, to process improvement (or one of its synonymous variations over time) and then to new system procurement.  Thus I got to learn the government side of contracting, specifications and requirements: the whole series of hoops to go through to show that what you wanted would work, it had a set cost and it would have a series of set functions while interacting with previous work systems.  This required a whole set of understanding from the system level architecture to data file types and their metadata, library storage of digital work, shifting work from physical media to digital media and back all the network architecture for a closed system, software specifications to do particular types of work, and the equipment that would be required to proof and make press ready printing plates.  I became a one-man band of specialists and held a number of specialist hats for the agency as well as the Contracting Officer Technical Representative (COTR) hat for the project.

In that era of the late 1990's the federal government was shifting from the old procurement systems of detailed specifications and looking to utilize Commercial Off The Shelf technology (COTS) and go from a 'low bidder always wins' to 'best value can win' paradigm.  That last meant that if a contractor actually exceeded minimum specifications and offered more value for the dollar than the lowest bidder, it was possible to seek a change in funding levels with a justification for it.  I got to experience that and a firm from the old 'sole source' days trying to leverage its contacts to win with a lowball and then up the price through a series of Request For Changes (RFCs).  In contracting parlance the RFC can start to add to the cost of the contract if accepted by both sides, although either side can propose one.  The US Navy is infamous for their massive cost over-runs due to the number of RFCs on ship construction... luckily I was working on a simple IT project, but knew the RFC dance from my time in the agency.

For a contract Request For Proposal I had a tight set of specifications, workstation requirements, networking requirements, library storage system requirements, software requirements... an entire system specified for with minimal performance levels to it.  That went about 20% over on final award, but we got way more for that money in the way of reliability and software backing than the lowball bidder could ever provide.  I had spent years working with everyone from every system that would be impacted by this project not just the output groups but those on the input and library storage realm, as well as making the system Continuation Of Operations Plan compliant in case any single site were totally destroyed, so that we could at least get data to a printer with digital systems and get product.

Because I had been through the process improvement dances by attending seminars and inter-governmental meetings and just reading a lot on the subject, I was fluent on things like the Mythical Man-Month and the concept of a Death March development project.  In prior times my agency had a large scale project that suffered from the mythical man-month problem of program management, and it was a Death March as well: it was an IT system specified for in the 1980's, getting first deliverables in the mid-1990's and had a Y2K bug that would kill it.  Some items were delivered mere weeks before Y2K.

When you are specifying for how many people you need to do a project you do it in man hours or man months (or man years depending on the scale of it).  It is a generalized way of estimating how many people you need to do tasks on a project and useful for scaling personnel for a project or program.  So many people to work so many hours on X task gets you so man man hours.  Burden that by 20% and you get a realistic ballpark figure of how many actual people you need.  The burdening is to add in such things as sick time, unexpected delays, bureaucracy, etc.  Unfortunately when you have a project that has had only a few people on it and it is behind on its schedule, you start to try and throw more people at the problem.  These people are not up to speed on the project, may not know all the work that has gone on, and may or may not have the necessary skill sets to do the work.  As a program manager you need those man hours or man months of work in, however, and when you are late you do throw people at the project to burn those man hours up.  What happens, however, is that the delays get longer as the new people do take time to get familiarized with the system and when they make mistakes they have to be caught and then work re-done.  The less familiar people are with the project the more likely they are to commit mistakes which actually begins to set meeting the deadline further back.  Of course to avoid that you add more people to the project!

Ed Yourdon who wrote the Death March book (I read it in 1st edition back in the day) followed through on this mentality to see how modern program managers dealt with the problems of the mythical man-month.  Mostly they hadn't.  But a new phenomena had cropped up and it wasn't just in the Info. Tech. world, either, and that was the problem of changing customer specifications and unrealistic milestone schedules.  A death march project suffers from poor specifications for a system from the start and I read books to try and deal with just that problem as part of my job, too.  With poor specifications and milestone schedules what happens is that a project gets started with one set of specifications that then get changed in whole or in part, and prior work which was accepted now no longer advances the program to its milestones and must be abandoned.  On the IT side, however, some of that is in software code modules which may still have absolutely valid functions to help meet the schedule, so that software is kept for those functions.  New software is build around it for other functions but, when debugging must occur, problems can crop up between that older module and newer work if all the data structures haven't been well defined: old code may start to work on other parts of data passed to it due to the way it was sent to the module.  Even worse there may be dependencies in the module for information from other modules which weren't developed and that will hang up the entire development for that function to de-conflict these problems.  This eats up time.  It can invite the mythical man-month problem, and does, but also has feedback to the customer as the code structure may now need to be changed based on the newer specifications so as to avoid older software.  In theory you want to just rebuild modules from scratch, but as they have already been accepted you are stuck with them as a developer. Plus de novo work costs more, which wasn't budgeted for.

In a death march a project has a moving set of specification goal posts and the mythical man-month personnel problem plays into the problem as individuals begin to identify the project as one that actually can't reach its goals.  Yet because the customer wants results and money is available the project continues and begins a process of cycling through people within it, so that the people who started the death march project may be gone within a few months as the first set of changes come in and they see either a program manager unable to get the idea of hard set specifications or a customer unwilling to provide them.  Because money flows the project continues, and the personnel begin to flow as well so that the second group have not just the mythical man-month problem of not knowing the project fully, but also have already completed code that may not be well documented to deal with.  Without impeccable program documentation both outside and inside the computer code, new personnel face the daunting task of having to deal with changed functions and not fully understanding what has been done before them.  Of course the first set of changes brings problems and may break prior functions, thus requiring code rework... fine and dandy if it ended there, but a death march will see requirements and functions change yet again due to changes in management, possibly, or changes in customer specifications and requirements as they process through what the prior set of changes actually are.  The morale of a death march project is abysmal, and yet it happens often enough to have its own set of criteria adorning it and its own category of failure.

Obamacare came in with Congress setting some pretty broad but ill-conceived specifications for what would be a software project.  Plus there are hard legal deadlines set by Congress that met political realities but have no real parallel for a large scale software project.  In other words the federal customer shopped around a project with ill-defined goals and expectations and an unknown number of variables for which organizations and systems it would have to interact with.  Each State that didn't want to do an 'exchange' then changed the federal system as it must cover that State with all of its legal requirements, as well, which generate up new system requirements and interactions with previously designed code.  The number of States that refused was high, when it was expected to be only a couple of States, and that meant more had to be picked up by the federal system.  Yet that system now had to interact with insurance groups in different States each having their own data requirements.

The SCOTUS decision also gave States leeway on other parts of the law which also affected the 'exchanges' and because States took different routes on that, each of them that went away from the original template then brought with it changes to the system.

What Congress created was an ever changing set of functional variables within the system that would not allow the overall interaction to be a known quantity until a date perhaps as little as six months and no more than a year before the deliverable was required, by statute, to be in place.  In the modern age such laws that have so many parts to them become, effectively, IT projects.  They are designed by a committee.  They are carried out by an entirely different branch of government that must deal with its complexities, and yet the activation date is set to political realities not actual realities of software design and roll-out.  This latter problem is one that is well known: large scale systems fail more often than they succeed in all realms of business and government.

By not taking these realities into account the law is bad law, and is worse as a software design and integration project.  Any complex system requiring interactions between a set of knowns (federal agencies) has problems within the federal government.  The FBI tried twice in the 1990's to create a single sign on system for its agents to get access to all the databases the agency held.  It failed both times because the systems each had their own data standards, hardware and software, and some had human interaction requirements because they were never dreamt of being fully automated in the first place.  DoD attempted to revamp its pay system in the '90s, as well, and failed to replace multiple separate pay and leave systems with a single, unified one.  Another part of the DoD attempted a large scale system roll out for gathering map data and the RFC database became nearly as large as the project, itself.  And any ship the Navy has built for it will have a huge file behind it of changes done with a frequency that is mindboggling.  The federal government has problems within each of its departments and agencies, and working across them in an automated way is problematical due to the complexity of existing IT infrastructure.  When the States, private insurance companies and all the individuals in the US are added to this, along with federal and State laws that are at variance for each State, is it any wonder that this system is failing like we see it failing today?

Each of the three branches of the federal government has changed the specifications for the system: the legislative by the law itself, the executive in trying to prioritize functions, and the judicial by changing the interpretation of the law in a way unknown from all prior rulings.  Each of these entities can change the parameters, functions and deliverables of the system in an instant.  And yet the already accepted code is just that: accepted.  It is there be it functional, semi-functional or zombie waiting for some errant function to bring it back to life once more.  It is the far-reaching scope of the law that is a failure because no federal entity can deal with so much complexity.  The software is on a death march because of the inability of any of the three branches of the federal government to grasp that they are writing deliverable code requirements with variable function parameters.  Yet even if this was done by hand on paper it wouldn't work because of the rate of change to parameters of each part of the system: State, three branches of federal, insurance systems and advances in medical technology shifting the entire basis for treatments and medications.

That last is at peril with Obamacare as it puts a high price on new treatments and attempts to create a static system to deal with what already exists in the way of medicine.  Yet, with the entire genome now available for study, we are getting some of the first treatments to long-standing diseases which have the opportunity to alter what we see as medicine and health care.  You and I can adapt to that quite readily.  A large, hide-bound bureaucracy with hard coded imperatives and functions in its software will not.  Our freedom and liberty make it possible to change the entire idea of what health care actually is, and the idea of 'insurance' may get replaced by other systems of delivering health care that have little to do with doctors or pharmacies, and yet costs less and is more widely  distributed.  We are heading into an era of miniaturized labs on a chip that can do more complete work than an actual lab employing tens or hundreds of people per lab.  Similarly with stem cells that can come from each individual and be differentiated to organ based cells, these cells can be printed into a 3D matrix to be put into the body without fears of rejection factors.  Telemedicine and automated systems for analysis aren't just on the horizon with the former being here for nearly a decade and the latter now available interactively via web sites.  Incorporate these with labs on a chip and miniaturized sensors and you have something very close to Larry Niven's Autodoc: a machine capable of doing a complete bio-analysis of an individual to find systemic problems and even treat certain conditions, as well as do simple things like set bones, and call on specialized individuals or emergency personnel. 

Just take a look at the last century of medicine and compress the number of changes coming down to half or one-quarter of that time.  What sort of fit is a One Size Fits All Fits None Well system of paying for health care for what is coming?

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Government furlough

So the US government is down to essential personnel only, today.

Note the sky has not fallen.

Note, also, that the Earth continues to spin on its axis and revolve around the sun.

The Nation has not fallen into chaos.

I've been through this in the Clinton ear and was considered 'essential personnel' back in the day.  Which meant I had to go to work for warfighter support.

Who else had to go to work?

Guards, you need guards and the security people.

The people in the boiler room and HVAC, yeah you needed them, too.

Our office manager, although without secretary, which is the first time I actually got to see anyone in management actually have to do, you know, work.  Type their own letters. Get the office mail (what there was of it). Track secure packages.  Sign off on work product.  That sort of thing.

There was someone at the mail room but that is because the loading dock had to be open, and their boss covered the mail room, as well.  The mail room staff, you know the people who package and sort stuff, they weren't there and you had to DIY packaging for any outgoing packages.

Who wasn't there?  Whole cadres of mid-level and upper-level managers, the GS-13 through GS-15 types, save for one GS-15 per Directorate.  The rest?  Gone.  Lights off.

Cafeteria workers were not there.

Nor was the EEO staff.

Or any of the Human Resources staff, except their boss.

Janitorial crew was skeleton, enough to clean the washrooms and any other messes that showed up.

Grounds people were missing.

And anyone who didn't have work product headed to the warfighter, they were not there.

Basically the building I was in was mostly empty save for the rooms dedicated to actually getting stuff made to go out the door, and people to take it out the door to couriers.

I have a suggestion for a CR.

Make it an 'essential staff only' CR and put it in for a few months until everyone can get settled down to trying to figure out what is and isn't needed any more.

The debt will get maintenance payments.

The military will be on duty.

SSA and M&M checks will get processed.

As the Interstates are actually a military requirement during the Cold War, they can get to do repair work on it... give the USACE something to do beyond pork spending.

The border will have people manning it.

USPTO will be open.

USPS too, come to that, as well as USGS, or at least those parts actually making maps and charts.

A few other select places covered by the US Constitution would be open.

It's interesting that while Ambassadors are mentioned in the Constitution, a State Dept. isn't.  Maybe we can get the military to run the rest of it?

Everything else?

Do that for long enough and it becomes the 'new normal'.

Six to eight months ought to do it, and then the GAO which will be open on skeletal staff, can start to shut down buildings and auction off equipment... and then the buildings themselves...

And if President Obama wants to do it his way or the highway on the debt ceiling, then he should be thanked for wanting to run a government on $2.5 trillion/year and not on $4 trillion a year!  Tell him that he will be admired for his fiscal astuteness that the government should only spend what it takes in and that a skeleton 'essential personnel only' government is a good start on that process.

Always give an enemy what they want in a way they will not like and will look duplicitous in refusing.

Works every time.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Thin Red Line

This week we have been witness to an alleged Chemical Weapons (CW) attack in Syria, probably the second or third such attack since President Obama put his 'red line' to work during the last election campaign to make himself sound good and strong on National Defense.  This was after Libya, which crossed no lines of using CW, and which the US and Europeans supported with arms and logistical supplies.  Of the things we delivered to Libyan rebels were US made MANPADs that have gone missing and appear to have been transferred to the Syrian 'rebels', mostly al Qaeda organization types either from AQ itself or AQ in the Magreb.  Added on to that is that the Syrian 'rebels' from AQ have also gotten their hands on CW stores of the regime at outlying bases and you now have two sides armed with CW capability.

A final part of this mix is Hezbollah which tested out Surface to Surface Missiles (SSM) and Iranian copies of the anti-ship Silkworm Missile, the latter used against an civilian cargo freighter and an Israeli Destroyer.  Thus there is a whole panoply of weapons available amongst all the parties involved, not to speak of the improved SCUDs that Syria has and the rumored Bio Weapon program that got kicked off when dual-use equipment was delivered to Syria in the '90s to help it make a pharmaceuticals industry which then shut down after the equipment was delivered.  Syria has a long line of backers going back decades which include: USSR/Russia, China, North Korea and its main backer, Iran.

Thus we are left with a specter of both sides having access to CWs and the entire Syrian conflict devolving into an artillery battle (with some SSM components also held by both sides because the regime had such weapons at outlying bases as well), and one in which one side has no air wing and the other side has one but is faced with an array of US and Libyan made MANPADs which threaten to neutralize not just fixed wing assets but rotary wing assets, as well.

Back in 2006 I did a review of the known Syrian weapons sites and what they looked like from Open Source INTEL to get a handle on just what it was that Syria had in-place at the time.  I've since looked at other imagery near al-Baida and seen what looks to be the rumored site of where Saddam's WMD programs ended up in Syria and it is typical of its other sites: some military surface emplacements and then indications of a larger underground structure , in the case of al-Baida, inside a mountain.  This is not only not unusual for Syria, but with its associations with NoKo and its expertise with having one of the most heavily dug in military systems on the planet, Syria most likely has put in defenses to thwart, divert or otherwise try to minimize the threat of 'bunker buster' bombs.  And as they had a good, close look at US capability in Iraq plus some INTEL coming via Iran from Af-Pak, Syria most likely has a good idea of the modern US capacity with such weapons.

Now comes President Obama's 'red line' being crossed and there are some essential questions to be asked, just on the military side of things.

1) Who has been using CWs in Syria?  Whenever you see photos of men with pails of chemicals to pour into an artillery shell, do realize that those are the oldest of the old shells in Syria.  They updated their CW capacity during the '70s by purchasing Spin Mix In Flight shell technology from Egypt which was supplied to them from the USSR.  So anyone using the old 'mix in pail and load' deal are most likely the lowest of the low end troops with old technology that was most likely at outlying bases, since you wouldn't want the modern shells to be used against you in a civil war... which this is, BTW, with outsiders trying take over, as well, in the form of AQ/AQIM.  It is easy enough to fake an artillery CW attack: just wait for an enemy artillery barrage and then mix some pails of chemicals, add some C-4 and blow them up in the craters or nearby.  This is a vital question as intervening against EITHER side means that the US is taking a PARTISAN SIDE in a civil war.  By damaging one side you help the other, which is the logic of old-style warfare like we are being handed in Syria.

2) If the point is to warn against using CW's, then why state just that [or even as what the President suggested in his proposed authorization document, all WMDs – added after initial post] ?  President George W. Bush gave the somewhat broad idea that getting rid of Saddam was to keep the world's worst weapons from the world's worst people.  That project is now a failure in Syria as that is precisely what is going on.  At this point AQ/AQIM must be assumed to have at least CW in its inventory to distribute to agents.  That is backed by the pre-OIF word from the Kurds that Saddam had trained AQ in CWs, and from our own CIA in Afghanistan where they found a site where AQ was using the Iraqi documents to create and test out CWs on animals and living human beings who were not volunteers.  Thus AQ has demonstrated knowledge, background and willingness to dabble in CWs and now have CWs in their inventory of available arms.  If President Obama's goal is to warn any Nation or organization (the much harder of the two to convince) that using CWs is off-limits, then why limit the attack to just CWs [or WMDs]?  Indeed, why use a conventional attack, at all?  The only way to make sure that the CW complexes, chemical facilities and actual source mines of phosphate are interdicted is not through conventional attacks, but with nuclear attacks.  That, of course, would just up the ante in the WMD game, but its still a hard chip to get access to even with nuclear proliferation... as long as Pakistan remains semi-stable, that is.  Or until Iran develops its own nuclear capacity.  Anything that leaves any of that infrastructure in place for the 'winner' means that you will have a CW capable State at the end of the conflict which, one would think, is just the opposite goal of what is being sought.

3) Attacking Syria would be easy if we hadn't PO'd the Israeli's, who have a demonstrated knowledge and capacity to take down Syrian (indeed just about anyone's) air defenses.  That still leaves us with the specter of US manned aircraft getting taken down with US made MANPADs that went to Libya and were transferred to the Syrian 'rebels'.  As I mentioned earlier these are not the only threats to be aware of, and SSM and anti-ship missile threats are also available to the Syrian regime and Hezbollah.  The dug-in nature of the Syrian main military sites, situated in regime strongholds, means that we cannot be assured of effectiveness of 'bunker buster' type bombs due to the passive and active defenses the regime has put in place due to Israeli capacity in that arena. 

Even if some of the weapons arrayed against US air and sea assets aren't the most modern, they do not have to be as a good number of them are man-portable or non-fixed site devices, which means that a feint against a ship would draw an air response that can then be met with a numerically high number of attacks.  Even stealth capacity is no proof against simple man-guided missiles and they won't even give you a lock-on warning, either.  Saddam was caught with his pants down because he expected the US to be thwarted for long months by Turkish duplicity and was lazily re-arranging his military to meet what he expected to be a long-way off US threat.  The Syrian regime is now given warnings of a date for decision and that will most likely be one of date of attack, as well.  Thus the chances of getting to and taking out arms that are the target goes down due to dispersal and defensive capabilities used to keep such arms, while other weapons (like SAM and MANPADS) get deployed to dissuade or take down US attacking aircraft.  While Syria is no virtual fortress like NoKo, it is a State with a major coastal mountain range, and mountain warfare is the 'great equalizer' against even the most sophisticated opponents. I looked at that in 2007 and anyone unfamiliar with what Mountain Warfare is might want to think about the topic.  Even though these are not the high mountains of Af-Pak, even the relatively low range in Syria has the same sorts of elements as are seen elsewhere and in other conflicts, and the US must take that to heart when going after any sort of hardened system set in a mountain range: Syria is not Libya, and the likelihood of getting a cruise missile into a cave opening will be much lower now that Syria knows the US has that capacity and has had decades to analyze it and prepare for such attacks.  If you wanted to take out Syria the time was way back when in Iraq when they were actively aiding and abetting the movement of terrorists into Iraq from Syria.  Too bad this President can't draw on that, huh?

4) Sectarian conflict is already going on in Syria between Shia and Sunni populations and, within the Shia population, between your average run of the mill types and the local Alawite sect which has its own teachings from Mohammed.  Consider them to be the LDS of Islam.  Being a minority of a minority (with Shia Islam around 10% of the population and the Alawite sect just 10% of that or 1% of the local population) and the specter of any US attack being cast as an attack against a religious minority raises its ugly head, as well.  The last thing the US needs on a regional basis is to raise sectarian conflicts to a bitter height by attacking one of them.  If we took the more even-handed approach that our allies took in Libya when all combatants took on the same garb and you couldn't tell regime from rebel from terrorist from civilian, then you might be able to make a case.  I dubbed that the 'Kill Them All' doctrine as it meant killing anyone who was fighting that you could set your sights on.  That, of course, would mean going after rebel caches of CWs as well... something we haven't heard about so far.  It's like the President wants to pick sides, pick winners, and not tell anyone that is what he is doing.  Oh, yes, that is because that IS what he is doing.

5) Finally, and this really should be heard out, if our aim is to help the 'defenseless civilian population' then why, oh why, aren't we planning to do that?  Really, if your goal is to preserve lives in a civil war where two sides (regime and 'rebels') are armed but the majority of the population (known as 'victims') aren't then why bother with either the regime or the 'rebels'?  A simple and much cheaper, plan is to buy up every AK from the global black market and air drop them by the pallet load to the civilian population.  Every town, village, farmhouse, collection of huts, places where people are seen living in caves, nomadic Bedouin, basically anyplace where you can find that isn't in control of the regime or 'rebels', should be well armed so that they aren't 'victims' any more.  If the idea is that the right to keep and bear arms is based on the fundamental positive liberty of warfare (self-defense) and the synthetic right to protect your property (gained by your liberty and thusly representative of your life's work), then this natural right is also a positive civil right and those deprived of arms when a war is ongoing (especially a 'respect no sides' civil war) are being offered up for slaughter.  If a well-armed society is a polite society and one likely to kill off hotheads, then isn't the place for this to be tested?  Syria has been a police State under one family for decades.  Civil rights, human rights and natural rights are abridged and abused there by both 'sides'.  And whoever 'wins' the civilian population loses.  If we really mean that we are about human liberty and freedom, and the right to not be abused by anyone, by no government and by no feral humans, then why not do the obvious and arm the civilian population and let THEM start to figure out what THEY WANT in the way of government?  Yes, that will make the conflict bloodier for a time, but a lot of that blood is going to the Tree of Liberty, not the Weed of Tyranny, and the end result will be something that the locals actually WANT.  Hey, it may be something horrific, right?  Yes.  Of course anyone wanting to do that must NOT PO the local population as it is well armed... and that is a much, much better state of affairs than has existed in Syria.  Ever.

Now for a few additional questions, but these are not about the military side of things.

Remember the 'anti-war coalition'?  You know the Leftist/Socialist/Code Pink/International Answer sewer groups?  Where are they?

I haven't heard from them since Obama has been elected.

They claimed to have such high morals and were against international conflicts because they impoverished people and took away from the goodie takings at home.  So where are these people?

You know the types that said we should have learned ever so much more about Iraq before going in?  Remember those people?  I do.

Where are they?

Why are they not organizing marches starting, well, right after Sec. State Kerrey delivered his asinine pabulum, but where were they yesterday?  OK, there might be a few Harley-Davidsons roaming around DC, but that shouldn't keep the stalwart defenders of their own moral certitude from doing anything.  Can't they get their collective heads out of their collective rectums to realize the smell they are getting is their own?

I don't call them the 'duplicitous Left' for nothing, you know.

And where are all those who tout 'international law' for everything going on as the answer?  They should be crying out for the sanctions provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention to be put into force!  OK, they may be stuck in Syria not signing on to that... but where is the outrage on THAT?  Shouldn't they be going to every other signatory State and pointing out that it has a MORAL DUTY TO ACT against a rogue regime using such weapons?  Oh, wait, that is silence I'm hearing from the 'international law' crowd.  So sorry, I thought you were serious about it.  'Duplicitous' doesn't even begin to cover them.

So where are all these high minded types of all stripes that came out of the woodwork for years on this topic?

Where are their morals?  Their courage to 'stand up to da Man'? Where is their rage against the system delivering eternal war?  Can't they even just run a pot luck dinner to get a few attendees anywhere?

Their lack of outrage now is their badge of cowardice, duplicity and lack of morals and ethics.  It is bad news for a 'movement' when the most scrupulous member of it is Cindy Sheehan who at least continued to criticize Obama for the same things she criticized Bush for.  She is yet another of the 50 Shades of Maroon, but she is a consistent shade, I'll give her that, but no less maroon for it.  President Obama and his Administration seem to want to get a corner on the Shades of Maroon market, and it appears to be working.  And 50 Shades of Maroon doesn't even begin to cover it.

A final thought.

Notice the political acumen to get this 'crisis' delayed long enough so that it hits the budget 'crisis' and the installment of Obamacare 'crisis', along with a nearing debt ceiling 'crisis'... and probably three or four more that I can't quickly remember... but isn't that such great timing?

Its like there is a plan behind it, or something.

Yet another of the 50 Shades of Maroon.

Nope, 50 is just not enough, methinks.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Passively implicit

When looking at the US Constitution I take a view of it as a structuralist, that is to say that the form of government is given as a structure that has a number of interlocking parts that are defined, limited and created to serve a purpose.  Structural analysis means that you take the words as they are presented in the context of the English language.  I laid this out in Structural analysis of Amendment II, and that rests on the work that I looked at earlier by Nicholas Rosencranz who laid out how the sentence structure of the English language creates the structure of government in the Subjects and Objects of the Constitution.  The lineage of the US Constitution starts with agreements outlined in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and King Alfred all the way through to Bill of Rights put in place with James II, which I went over in Roots of constitutional government.  For this article I'm going to be building off my article on Taxation via sales.

Taxation was part of the trigger for the US Revolution and it is understood that the Founders and Framers both had a view that taxation is a necessary evil to run the organ of society known as government.  As a necessary evil it must be limited so that it does not over stress the body which is society that requires the functioning of government to do the few and necessary things to allow for the individuals to be free.  With that said taxation takes many forms and the US Congress gets some particular types taxation in Art I, Sec 8, in part:

Section. 8.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

If Congress was getting the complete taxation power with this clause then there would be no need to put in Duties, Imposts and Excises, now, would there?  In fact it took an Amendment for Congress to get the income tax, and even that Amendment has been misused as it nowhere indicates that Congress may levy different taxes on different income levels.  The Progressive Income Tax requires not just the Income Tax part, but a specific exemption of the Privileges and Immunities clause and Amendment V and Due Process of Law which is to be applied equally to all citizens.  Be that as it may, later in Sec 8 is a clause that indicates what the scope of the Taxation power actually is:

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

Duties, Imposts and Excises are generally taxes aimed at the National level and at international trade.  Thus the regulatory or regularizing power of Congress writing law in support of Treaties or, in cases where there are no trade treaties, setting the Nation's tax policy towards importation of goods to sustain trade, thus are complementary to the Duties, Imposts and Excises previously mentioned.  That is to say there is an explicit venue given for the Taxation power that is complete for Congress for international trade modified by Treaties.  Thus even where it is a complete power it is one that has limitations via Treaty.

Next is Sec 9 where one tax power is restricted and then modified by Amendment:

No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

This is the first outright restriction to the Taxation power and now limiting it.  Do note that this is a passive clause and that it does not mention Congress nor does it mention any other branch or any other government.  Thus this applies to all governments and all branches of all governments in the United States.  Remember in Sec 8 there is the language 'The Congress shall have...' is an explicit grant of power and as all of Sec 8 is a single sentence with many semi-colons, all of that is covered under that.  There is no need to repeat it per line as the separate grants are broken up for clarity's sake, for readability, and to let someone catch their breath if they had to read it as a single sentence.

In Section 9 each clause is a single, stand-alone sentence, complete in and of itself.  These sentences are not started by explicit and active restrictions upon, say, Congress, but are passive and general in nature.  The Framers were more than capable of starting a sentence 'Congress shall make no law...' but these clauses do not start with that beginning.  As the Constitution is about the organization of the United States and what the role of the States shall be, when States require separate coverage they are mentioned, as in Sec 10, and I'm coming back to Sec 9, but here is the language on Taxation in 10:

No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.

With 'No State shall...' we are given a definitive subject and then a set of Objects with modifiers.  It is this language that is absent in Sec 9 and without an actual Subject that is defined then the generalized Subject is being addressed to all levels of all governments.

Imposts and Duties on Imports or Exports is a linking of topics in Sec 10 and due to that linkage these powers are addressed to those objects.  That explicit language and linkage then gives proper definition to the prior Congressional power on Imposts and Duties: Imports and Exports.  If a State wants a special exemption it must go to Congress and that only for the necessary execution of inspection laws.  By making those funds go to the US Treasury this is seen as a federal power granted to Congress and is for Imports and Exports.

Now back in Sec 9 there is the final clause and one that clearly de-limits powers and it is this:

No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.

As with the prior prohibition this one is given a passive voice and does not state 'Congress shall make no law...' nor does it start 'No State shall...' but, instead, addresses Taxation as a whole.  This is a restriction on the Taxation power, itself.  By not having either Congress or the States as the subject, as with the previous passive and standalone clause, this clause then addresses all governments in the United States.

This is an implicit restriction on taxation of goods moved from State to State on goods exported from one State to another State.  No government may do this in the United States.

Now lets flip this around into a different arena and ask: what is the form of this restriction on an international scale?

The States of the United States are seen as Sovereign entities and actually have an escape hatch from the US Constitution embedded within it in Sec 10:

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

This language also shows up later in the Constitution in Art IV:

Section. 4.

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.

In Art IV, Sec 4 the guarantee of a Republican Form of Government is to the States, which are signatories to the US Constitution after ratification by the people of that State.  The protections against having this subverted are to protect the States against Invasion and domestic Violence.  In Art I, Sec 10 there are a set of powers that a State recovers if the United States does not support this and it is the ones they agree to set aside outside of these specific causes.  When you examine that list you get the conception of the broad headings that the States recover in full upon invasion, imminent threat of Danger or having their government threatened with being overturned via non-Republican means are broad and sweeping.  These powers are what we call the Foreign Policy power and the Military power, not just the defensive Militia power which is due to all men, but the assertive and external Military power.  Also it regains all the taxation powers and the powers to build new military fortifications and equipment to guard itself.

In International Affairs a State with the full Foreign Policy, Military and Taxation power is known as an independent Nation State: a country.

Thus the States must have these powers to set aside in this agreement known as the US Constitution, as you cannot recover what you did not have to start with.  That is simple logic.

Taking the US Constitution as a TREATY DOCUMENT and examining what the form of Taxation is we then come to a conclusion of the limitation on the Taxation power that is startling due to the understanding that is underlying it.  It is the scope and form of Treaty that many who have argued on the necessity of unburdened trade have used at the International scale and has its full form seen with an organizations of States that agree to this view so as to have a coherent Nation amongst them.

What is a trade agreement that unburdens trade amongst equals and limits the power of an oversight group so that it may not burden such trade via direct taxation?

What is a trade agreement that sets up a system whereby sellers in one State that is signatory to the Treaty cannot have its goods or services taxed by a recipient State and its citizens?

What is the form of trade agreement that abolishes duties, imposts and excises save for necessary inspection and then those funds applied only to those inspections to ensure that agreed-upon legal trade is all that is going on between States?

Why this does have a modern term, doesn't it?

This is known as a FREE TRADE AGREEMENT.

Right there, in the US Constitution, powerfully stated by not being explicit, not a direct power grant, but by restricting all the governments involved, including the agreed-upon oversight body.  It is one of the most subtle and yet powerful statements on the positive value of trade between States to knit a Union together and to allow that free men when trading with other free men in States that all fall under the Treaty shall have NO TAXATION applied to that direct sale from individual to individual, State to State.

And that means no 'Value Added Tax', 'Sales Tax' or any other thing not directly related to quantity, amount or hazard of a given good.  Taxation for tonnage is also removed unless it has safety or verification inspections involved.  The federal government can tax per gallon, per carton of cigarettes, or by any other gross weight and measure so long as it involves upkeep of infrastructure due to those particular items in the way of hazard or safety.

What no government can do is tax by VALUE of the trade involved.

Thus a nickel per gallon on tax is there without regard to the actual cost per galloon.  It is there if it is a penny per gallon and it is there if it is ten thousand dollars per gallon: the quantity is what matters, not the value.  And do note that is for interstate sales, only, so that in-State sales remain the realm of the State government.

Governments will always seek new sources of revenue and tax the hell out of anything they can get their hands on and yet still be unable to balance their budgets.

A free people have an 'out' from onerous taxation: our fellow citizens in the other States under this Free Trade Agreement embedded in the US Constitution.  As a remedy to overburdening of taxes this is one of the most sublime resorts that the ordinary citizen has to escape taxes, become closer with his fellow citizens and support the Union between the States.

Because that is the realm of the Preamble of the US Constitution and note who is invoking it and what we promise to do:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Continuity or something else?

I watched a program last night on Discovery's Military Channel that  focused on the Continuity of Operations Plan or Continuity of Government Plan, which is something I came to know about working on the civilian side of an agency in DoD.  It is pretty serious stuff this trying to safeguard information and stand up some operations if the main sites of the agency get taken out.  This extends across the entire US federal government and all agencies have some variation of the COOP (as I came to know it).  It was an interesting program as it gave a couple of scenarios that would cause the COOP to be put into action and it pointed out that on 9/11 it actually was utilized and actually failed to keep the President informed during a crisis or re-establish communications between secure sites.  If this had been a more serious attack on the US, the COOP would have failed the federal government.

Although there are contingency plans in place for continuing government ever since this became a question and actually caused the creation of Amendment XXV which puts in an order of succession for the job of President in case the person occupying that job is incapacitated or dies.  That was ratified into being in 1967 during the Cold War when the possibility of having the entire top of government vaporized at one stroke was something to be considered.

Do we really need more than that?

The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 (3 USC 19) is the Public Law created by Congress to add depth to the existing schema of President and Vice-President set out in the US Constitution and in Amendments XII and XX to clear up issues on elections and Amendment XXV put in place in 1967.  This ability by Congress to do such work is generated through Art. II,  Sec. 1, Clause 6 which provides for the power of Congress to establish such a succession and amended by Amendment XXV Section 3.  The top four people are the President, Vice-President, Speaker of the House and then President pro tempore of the Senate.  This act has been amended to then start in on the Cabinet with the Secretary of State, Treasury, Defense, Attorney General, Interior, Agriculture,  Commerce, Labor, HHS,  HUD, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veteran's Affairs and then DHS.  Would you consider a government headed up by, say, the Secretary of HUD to be legitimate?  How about Education?  Interior? 

I have problems with the Secretary of State but it is at least a major 'Hat' of the Presidential job requirements – foreign policy.  Actual those hats are Head of State, Head of Government, Commander in Chief of the Armies and the Navies, and Chief Pardoner, and if you went with just the 'Hats' then you would get State, Treasury, Defense and AG which is just about where it should end, as well.  Why?  Any government that has suffered the loss of the President, VP, Speaker and President pro tempore has failed in ways that you cannot even begin to imagine and, really, the actual legitimacy of the government falling into appointed and approved position holders is something that even in the Cold War was questionable.  You might get a 'continuity' of government, yes.  The legitimacy of that government, led by unelected officials is lost because this is a Nation that upholds a representative say in selecting our government.

Then there is the part that the program didn't get into: the States.  Each State has its own form of COOP in place and the actual legitimacy of the US federal government comes from the signatories to the US Constitution: the States.  The States had to get approval from their citizens to sign on to the Constitution, and it is those functional governments that are the actual ones who instituted the federal government to act as an arbiter amongst them.  If that arbiter and protector of all of the States cannot protect all of the States and actually has harm fall on to any State due to negligence, incapacity or inability to adequately supply protective measures to all of the States, then the federal government has failed in its main duty: protection of the States.  Each and every State gets a way out of this via the US Constitution and its something to consider at this point when we look at failure of the federal government to protect the States.  This is covered in Art. I, Sec. 10, Clause 3:

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

The Framers of the Constitution did not create a 'suicide pact' but put in this one vital clause which gives the State back its full Sovereign powers.  The ability to do these things, are indicative not of a State but of a Nation as they are the full foreign policy and military powers necessary for the backing of a Nation.  If the federal government cannot protect a number of States from, say, an EMP attack or, via neglect, allows a State or group of States to be invaded, then that State finds itself with its full powers returned to it.  All of the facets of what it takes to run and independent Nation re-appear for events that are so devastating to a State that any delay in response will mean disaster or that disaster has befallen a State and the federal government has proven and demonstrated its incompetence to the point where it can no longer be considered as the trusted arbiter of the powers granted to it.

With the three days to the return of barbarism seen after Super Storm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina and the general decay of infrastructure, the States and federal government must rely on having a population ready to respond to disasters.  A strong and prepared civil population is the greatest strength to the continuity of government, operations and the legitimacy of government.  Fly the elected and appointed officials around as much as you want, but it is the States that hold the cards in a disaster and the trump card is the return of the powers they granted to the federal government which is so concerned about keeping itself going that it has neglected its duties to protecting the States as entities.

Even the relatively lack-luster scenario of an eastern EMP attack shows that the amount of time it takes to get the COOP running is in the days to weeks category.  Talking about a President trying to impose martial law onto States that he or she has neglected, is no longer an act to restore civil order but an Act of War on those States.  A Governor is put into the foreign policy arena and while accepting help from such a COOP government may call for that, it is no longer in the capacity of a Governor of a State but a Head of State: that military arrangement is a treaty and should be treated as such.  At that point in time the Governor may already have had to call upon a civilian militia, utilize police forces and declare martial law, yes, but those are all internal and normal parts of a sovereign Nation to re-organize after a disaster. 

The reason and rationale for letting States retain this responsibility and the power to address it, is so that the federal government is not overburdened with a function it cannot fulfill in whole, in part or at all.  After no regular natural disaster has the US federal government proven to be prompt, efficient, or even capable of dealing with a catastrophe of wide ranging scope.  With FEMA the federal government insists it has a role.  With FEMA it is widening the scope of possibility for its own failure.  FEMA isn't capable of addressing disasters and may only serve as the nucleus for creating a disaster of federal legitimacy.  While it was created with good intentions during the Cold War, no one addressed the fact that the federal government doesn't have the power or capacity to actually deal with disasters, be they the nuclear one of that era or the wide-ranging problems of natural disasters and under-maintained infrastructure of the modern era along with man-made and natural disasters that can cause infrastructure to fail catastrophically.  That EMP burst has all sorts of protection for the military, President, various cabinet level officials, Congress, SCOTUS... you are left SOL and then are expected to go savage and have to be suppressed under martial law.

See how that works?

That is not a system to enhance liberty and freedom, but one created to maintain power over you, not look to you as the source of power and legitimacy.  The most chilling thing I heard was the director of FEMA saying it had the job of 'protecting our way of life'.  I'm sorry, but that is the job of the citizenry and the citizenry is the creator of a way of life, and when its government fails it then continuing on in the old way of life that led to disaster is a non-starter.  If the old way of life produces disaster, then any government seeking to sustain it is not legitimate and not dealing with realities and not seeking the assent of the people as the legitimizer of that power.  Stepping in after a wide-spread failure of government leading to disaster has one result: Sovereign States.  The legitimacy of government shifts to the more local government and if the State government fails then we are in Hamilton's Federalist No. 26:

Schemes to subvert the liberties of a great community require time to mature them for execution. An army, so large as seriously to menace those liberties, could only be formed by progressive augmentations; which would suppose not merely a temporary combination between the legislature and executive, but a continued conspiracy for a series of time. Is it probable that such a combination would exist at all? Is it probable that it would be persevered in, and transmitted along through all the successive variations in a representative body, which biennial elections would naturally produce in both houses? Is it presumable that every man the instant he took his seat in the national Senate or House of Representatives would commence a traitor to his constituents and to his country? Can it be supposed that there would not be found one man discerning enough to detect so atrocious a conspiracy, or bold or honest enough to apprise his constituents of their danger? If such presumptions can fairly be made, there ought at once to be an end of all delegated authority. The people should resolve to recall all the powers they have heretofore parted with out of their own hands, and to divide themselves into as many States as there are counties in order that they may be able to manage their own concerns in person.

You don't have to be a conspirator to create the conditions of an over-extended military or a government that seeks to impose its will into every facet of daily life.  In this case it is easy to substitute unbridled government in the place of the military and come up with the same formula and result and you don't even need a conspiracy to do it.  Indeed what you need is the belief that laws are forever, that government must continually grow and never recede, and that power devolves downward and is not granted upward.  All of this done out in the open, often with great fan-fare, claiming that government can take care of part of your retirement, or help you in finding that first house to buy, or watch over markets that you should be keeping an eagle's eye upon.   This claim can fairly be made and even demonstrated in our modern times.  Alexander Hamilton proposes that in the event of the disaster of government seeking to impose its will upon the people, that the power to deal with that is not at the State level, but at the county level, the local level.  The US Constitution holds the sweetened condensed version of this in Art. I, Sec. 10, Clause 3, but here Alexander Hamilton points out that if the government failure is wide enough, deep enough and thorough enough, that the only answer is to end the delegation of authority upward and reclaim it at the most local of level possible.

Still, if something like the scenario of an EMP destroying the electronic infrastructure of the eastern US did happen... you have a large number of States involved, at least 23-24 and possibly up to as many as 26-28.  Out of 50.  The federal government, by not helping the States and citizenry to prepare, by not informing the citizenry of what necessary preparations would be and what the likelihood of such an attack would be, would be delinquent in its responsibilities to the States and the citizens.  By not having effective counter-measures, interceptors (and the scenario really does posit something an AEGIS vessel should be able to handle) nor even being able to identify the actor(s) involved, has failed in other, subsidiary duties and directly granted powers to it.

How much has the US government told you about EMP attacks?  How has it helped you to prepare for them? I can name a list of things that can and most likely will happen to North America that the US federal government can't handle and they are just natural disasters.  Yet FEMA isn't prepared for any of them.  It can't handle a good sized large hurricane, yet that is its supposed duty, at which it fails even with small events like tornadoes ruining small towns.  And yet its job is to 'protect our way of life' and that way of life is currently in a dark, dismal failure mode because it refuses to recognize that you are the greatest mover and protector of your own life and that self-government is the most secure and best of all governments as it requires self-restraint.  It has failed on that score and continues to fail on that, continuously.

It isn't the people who are endangering the legitimacy of government at this point, it is the government, itself.  A COOP plan to continue a failure is failure and the promotion of failure as a good thing.  It isn't.  It will kill you if you don't prepare for it.  And failure on such absolute terms delegitimizes the concept: if it was restricted to just protecting the physical US territory then, yes, the President needs to be safeguarded.  The rest?  Elected officials and then appointed officials with an unelected bureaucracy.  The COOP plan for that sort of thing is damned simple: help the States as they request it, ensure that free elections can be held and then find out what the NEW way of life is from people who have gone on a 'back to basics' course across a wide geographic area.  If you can't do that, then you are not backing legitimacy of citizenship and the citizenry to guide their own affairs but seeking to impose a 'way of life' on them that bears little or no relationship to the actual real world circumstances.  Those people in such a disaster-ridden State not only deserve to be free and independent, they have earned it via the lackluster federal system that hasn't supported them and treated them as subjects or slaves and failed in essential duties granted to it.  If we ever got a CONUS EMP or a global CME, then the US just might not be a single Nation any longer but something much closer to a league of confederacies of Free States.

You can have a republic if you can keep it.

Doing that requires paring down the federal government and picking up the slack on your end.  That is non-negotiable to retaining freedom and liberty as well.  Want a United States to be preserved?  Then prepare for disaster and hold government accountable to its misdeeds as no one can do this for you.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Misrule and privacy

Do you have a fundamental right to privacy?

That is to ask: do you have the fundamental right to have freedom and liberty in your movement, your personal information, your associates,  and your transactions without being watched over by government?  In the US there is an exception for being suspected of a crime and requiring a judge to issue a warrant to gather information on you, and that is only for a criminal investigation.  Roe v. Wade ruled that a woman had a right to privacy and that came from the 'emanations' and 'penumbra' of the US Constitution, not solidly rooting it in Amendments IX and X.  Your privacy, which is to say your freedom to conduct lawful business without the scrutiny of government and to have liberty in your own lawful affairs, is rooted in Amendments IX and X, not on the SCOTUS ruling of Roe v. Wade

Today we have two major sections of the US federal government that does not believe in your fundamental right to privacy and feel free to intrude on your affairs, capture data about you and do with it what they please:  DoJ and NSA.  Actually, the IRS has now demonstrated its want for your medical information to run Obamacare and has already seized medical records of millions of US citizens without their knowing about it.  In collecting this information without due process procedures in open court available for public scrutiny, the US government has, in fact, decided that you are subjects and no longer citizens.  Eric Holder's positions as Attorney General of the US is that you have no privacy in your e-mail or online activities, and yet you don't see him ready to put forward the entire DoJ archives of e-mail and traffic records that flow through the Internet from all the parts of DoJ.  Not all of it revolves around criminal investigation and mere administrative e-mails, which is to say procedural and fiduciary e-mails, should be open to the public on demand if AG Holder really means what he says.

Instead you are supposed to be transparent to the government and the government is to be opaque to you, the subject because you have not done the things necessary to remain a citizen.

Now if you think the NSA capture of metadata is benign and can explain why the NSA needs more record space than can hold the entire history of mankind, to date, up to five times over then may I ask: why?  Are you made more or less secure by this activity?  More importantly, if and when government uses such information to malign purposes, say quelling political discontent by some power hungry group or cabal, is your liberty secured or threatened by this data capture?

Do hold that thought for the exact, same question can be asked about the domestic wiretap information garnered by DoJ and your financial and medical records held by the IRS.  Are you safer in your possessions, your effects, your ability to travel, which is to say your freedom and liberty to exercise it as you will with this or without it?  Not just for today, mind you, but in a worst case scenario of malign government deciding to prosecute past crimes that they decree illegal now, because they no longer feel restrained by the US Constitution and are going to be quite able to create ex-post facto laws and then pull up records to see who has to be rounded up.  Data collection is only about today when it is restricted to case work that must start from scratch and the public record.  Yet, in silence, the government has decided that we are all future criminals, and that no one is secure from its scrutiny, ever.

Let us change venue for a moment and go to the Google Glasses and HUD developments of other groups that is starting up in the last six months to a year.  This is Gen Zero of these devices which will augment your reality by offering you a computer display on the inside of glasses to help you better understand the world.  No matter how stylish they become, they are an artifact of on-line use and technology and there are good real world uses to them.  Add in a cell phone connection on-demand and there you have the NSA and DoJ ready to collect your data queries along with your GPS position, and timestamp.  What you want, when you want it and where you want it are now all available metadata to them, and you have decided to write it off.  Isn't that grand?

What would you want out of such a system?

High Definition overlays?  Easily done by installing a camera either at the bridge section over the nose or, if you want 3D object recognition, one each at the base of the arms so you get stereo vision and 3D capability.

Virtual Real World Synthesis?  This is where the cameras on your device begin to automatically filter resolution for re-display either with semi-transparent lenses or meshing up the virtual and real world together for display on the inside of the glasses.

Active object and face recognition?  Boy won't this be handy to call up the publicly shared data on individuals and items, huh?  Never a bad date... and that stalker will be able to figure out if you are armed or not.  Good job, that!  Always easier to target the unarmed than the armed, you know.

Active tracking of finances in real time?  Handy at the store and probably a Version 1 or 2 item to let you find out the UPC code information and maybe look for competitive pricing before you go shopping.  Add in an on-line inventory system and you can even know if you should go to a store or not, based on what you want.  Mind you, they capture that query information and may only make that available to their 'special customers' who agree to give up their shopping habits at that store chain to them.  Which is then sold in bulk to marketers who accumulate all your 'special' purchase information together to more readily target you with ads, on the fly, and to help you 'decided' in favor of certain products and services.  Handy, huh?

Photo and Video Capture?  Full HD resolution photos and video capture, at least locally to start but for those who love streaming this stuff to your FB or other social media account, now your friends will always know where you are, what you are doing, with whom, where you go and how long you stayed there.  Heck, a bit of hacking and they can know how much you spent, too.   Even create a full 3D image of your body, clothed and unclothed!  Just like the TSA!

Cellphone is a given.  Add in a couple of small aural conducting speakers to vibrate your skull so you can hear stuff and maybe wrap the arms a bit around the ears to get microphones close to the mouth with some data augmentation to clear up your voice, and you now have full data capture of what you do.  The cellphone system may become a bit strapped, but there is plenty of spectrum left over from the demise of the old broadcast TV just sitting out there.  I'm sure all of that can be pressed into service in no time at all, legally or otherwise.

Expect all of that in the 5 to 15 year time horizon.

You couldn't live without your cellphone, right?

And as you don't give a flying whoop about government data capture for them, then you certainly won't mind government knowing all of that information I've just outlined, right?

If you want a National Sales Tax, just imagine how easy THAT would be to implement and NOT even require the seller to get it: they can charge you on your purchases DIRECTLY without any of that messy privacy stuff because you signed it away.  Why bother with a middle-man when you can just grab that information DIRECTLY FROM YOU CONSTANTLY.  By giving the government the power to tax individual purchases it is given a reason to collect that data.  And why do it on the bulk side when you can get far more in revue AFTER the mark-up has been put in place?

And finances are not even the start of it.

Messy divorce?  Those details will now never go away because of social media.  Have a lover on the side... and how short a time is it until that is found out?  Paternity test shows that the husband is not the father?  Spend too much?  Spend too much time with friends and neglect your children?  Pregnant?  Every argument that is captured by these devices will be put up for constant reminder to you of your past.  They will not go away.

This will be wonderful for exercise!  Your doctor and the IRS can see just how much of it you do, when you do it, how often and what you do.  Sex, too, of course since that is mere exercise, you know?  What is your favorite position?  How often?  How much?  And if you forgot and kept those glasses where they can see what you are doing, then, really, its your fault, right?

Your private life?  Gone.  And that is if, and only if, you do nothing today to not just celebrate Independence but to BE Independent.

I have a couple of cellphones in the Faraday Cage.  Pay a fee to make sure I can get some connection in the case of a disaster if there are any surviving cell phone towers or at least ones that are powered up and working.  They are a few years old.  I don't use them for non-emergency purposes and I live without them.

Beyond these blogs and a couple of places I sometimes leave commentary, I have no social media connection or contacts.  Period.  No FB, no Twitter, no LI, and that is fully and completely intentional. I keep a public e-mail account by a compromised company, the same one you are reading this from, BTW.  Always glad to use the enemy's tools against them. 

Yes conservatives should be utilizing social media.  I am no conservative.

If you saw the movie Minority Report, you have a sense of how this is going, outside of the putative storyline there are the surroundings of the characters that must be taken into account.  Advertising that is always addressing itself to you as you go through malls, along sidewalks, indeed everywhere there is a camera there is a means to follow and contact you.  Luckily you will be carrying the necessary tracking devices with you in your brand new HUD Mark X!

I cannot live and get the necessary tools for being Independent without making on-line purchases.  You can spin-up real quickly by doing so.  Getting tools, fasteners, raw materials, equipment and the rest of it is done much faster via those channels and doing without them slows up a process that I do not have years to do.  Minimal exposure is about the best I can accomplish.  This isn't the 1970's or 1980's or 1990's, but the 21st century.   This is no longer an era where privacy can be assumed but must be protected actively, by you, against all intrusions no matter how seemingly benign they disguise themselves as for you to agree to them.

And if life extension continues on at its current rate, this sort of thing will not leave you, forever.  No matter if you turn over a new leaf, the moment you do that is recorded.  Your first instance of failure is recorded.  Everything you do, say, purchase, talk to, and every movement you make will be recorded.  At that point you are no longer a citizen nor subject, but a lab rat who is no longer a person, no longer an individual, but just a collection of data to be devoured by companies and government.  Your pluses and minuses as a person all get recorded constantly because you agree to it and actively want it.  You will even pay for it.

Yes, yes indeed you will pay for it.


I will do my best to live to the attitude of The Prisoner:

I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, de-briefed or numbered.

My life is my own.

I am a free man.

Are you?