“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Sunday, December 29, 2013

During my three minutes in office, after which I would have been forcibly removed...

As approached by many throughout the years, here is my little "things that I'd fix if it was up to me" list for Congress - inspired by Daddybear's recent version, Tam, and P.J. O'Rourke amongst others.

No, not all ideas are my own. And they're posted in the meticulous order of "as I thought of them while typing." Not an all inclusive list, but bound to spin a few heads.
Of course they're not all logical or easily done. Welcome to my soapbox, deal!

- #1, absolutely - term limits. Whether it's your local sheriff or Washington "insiders," the career politician has done more damage to this country in the past two centuries than anything else. So - 3 terms in public, elected office maximum in your life - whether dogcatcher, state governor, or president. Once you had your bite at the apple move on. This solves the issue of people camping out in office for one, and returns politics to a duty spread amongst a wide majority of citizens over time.
- Just to piss off Chicago and New York, we'll deal with nepotism too. Once you've held an office no member of your immediate family (parents/children/siblings/spouses) can hold the same office, ever. Get the Daley's and the like out of politics and back to running junkyards or something.
- Congress/The President/etc will be paid a stipend set at the median wage for D.C. during the time of their office. No sitting up there soaking up money from the taxpayer. Oh, and no retirement or other benefits - serving in office is a privilege, not a ticket to entitlement.
- After leaving office no working as a lobbyist, or you (or family members) benefiting from ANY federal contract for a minimum of five years. We'll go ahead and include military retirees in that as well, to cut down on the problems with flag officers padding their retirement portfolios with pet projects.

- There are about 4400 words in the U.S. Constitution. No law, statute, regulation or other guiding legislation is allowed to be longer than this. If you can't explain it in the same or fewer words than how to run a country start trimming.
- No law, regulation, etc will be passed that does not apply equally to every member of the legislature, administration, judiciary, their families, staffs etc - if it's good enough for us it's good enough for them.
- Similarly, any new legislation must be able to specifically cite the article of the Constitution giving the Federales such authority - if not, it's kicked back down to the States.
- No more Congress policing itself - we need oversight on the system as a whole, and not some appointed body or fact finding commission. Whether the so-called "House Ethics Committee" of recent years, or the laughable farce of attempting to hold the current head of Justice accountable for anything beyond his name, if the people can't trust that wrongdoing at every level will be punished than faith in the system is absent.

- Budget, budget, budget - always room for some fun here. #1, no more deficit spending. Make the books balance, if you can't then start cutting programs. In fact, we'll start with an immediate 10% budget cut across the board - actual budget, not shuffling numbers, and no exceptions for pet programs, benefits, entitlements or whatever.
- Flat income tax and corporate tax. No deductions or breaks, no loopholes. This addresses both the fact of half the nation not paying taxes, as well as ensuring everyone "pays their share" - since it's equal across the board. Plus, it doesn't remove incentives for success - make more, keep more.

- If we can start putting caps and cuts on military benefits we can do the same for Social Security, welfare, and the like.
- Speaking of - a radical welfare reform. No more long-term unemployment without job seeking or retraining, no multi-generation welfare families and the like.
- Similarly, let's cut down on benefit abuse. Found selling your benefits, letting 47 people live in your subsidized housing, or otherwise gaming the system (oh, that goes for disability too) - you're off the program forever.
- Drugs. Always a touchy subject. While I personally don't approve of them and have seen the damage, the Drug War has done more damage to the rights and safety of our citizens than drugs ever did. So - I guess we can treat them like alcohol or other adult behaviors. But we can also include the same kinds of penalties - you commit crimes on/because of dope, you get harsher sentences. You want to work in certain jobs or get your public benefits, then drug testing is on your agenda too. You want to get clean then we'll help as a nation, but if you want to abuse then you deal with the consequences.

- While we're on crime let's return to real prison sentences for real crimes. No more slaps on the wrist and then everyone wonders why this went so bad eventually... but also no more of this life sentence for a pound of weed crap that is clogging our jails. Repeat offenders? Hammer em.
- Let's not leave the police out of this. Return to ideals like the 4th amendment. Corrupt cops? Throw the book at them. SWAT entries on all these warrants? Film them all, subject to review at any time by the citizenry. If we can't defend what we're doing in the light of day than we need to rethink our actions. And let's return to worrying about actual crimes, not an EPA SWAT team investigating the possible overwork of a gold mine by two hours on the third Friday in spring during a glacial runoff...

- Immigration - while this country was built on immigrants it was built on legal immigration mostly. And there are far too many talented people worldwide working their butts off to get here the right way. So, here's the Captain's amnesty program. You have sixty days, we'll even help you get to the border. Once you leave all your immigration related offenses are forgiven and you get a clean slate in that department (though not any other criminal acts). Following that you can enter legally like everyone else. Heck, we'll encourage your entry - to become a member of this country, to learn the language, and to partake of our society. I'm all for respecting your heritage, but if your goal isn't to become an American first before any other identity than find someplace else.
- I like Heinlein's idea, but think we can make it even more workable for "citizenship."  From age 18-20 EVERYONE does national service, whether it be the military, peace corps type work (domestically we need it for the infrastructure and inner cities desperately), or just helping clean your city. This will help get an even playing field back for those of the privileged who have forgotten what the real world is like, as well as at least some discipline and training for everyone. Plus, let's face it, most kids that age aren't ready for college beyond as a party time anyway, and this gives them some focus. THEN, if you want the privilege of citizenship and voting or running for office, you do an extra two years in national service, to show at least some modicum of public responsibility.
- Restructure the military. Get rid of our top-heavy officer corps and too gorram many flag officers. We have the most professional military in history possibly, but it is led by the most panty-waisted, self-promoting, risk-adverse leadership possible. Fix it.
- Speaking of, we're done being the world's policeman for free. Strict isolationism is unrealistic in this global age, but if we have to step in then someone is helping foot the bill - be it multinational, the aggressor nation, or the ones asking for help. No, this doesn't make us mercenaries - this means we're not spending trillions of dollars to protect nations like Saudi Arabia from their neighbors while they rape us in oil costs.
- While we're on foreign policy, a ten year cap on foreign aid to any nation. If you can't get your crap together by then it's beyond our problem. Free trade and help that way? Absolutely - but we're done giving handouts when we can't pay our own bills.
- Attack the nation and there won't be any of this "Oh, we'll declare war on a noun" crap. Immediate, overwhelming response is what defeats bullies. We won't pick on anyone, but don't mistake that for weakness.

- I most heartily approve of DB's example regarding no more subsidies for industry. There is no business "too big to fail" - if you can't make it work than find a new plan or call it quits. This also ties in with above issues of political/military cronyism in industry, and corruption as a whole.
- Social issues are fun too. Guess what - marriage is a civil/religious deal between consenting adults - no business of the government. Similarly, that means you don't get benefits, tax breaks, or the like just for being married. Want to marry three women and two guys, and your church approves it? Knock yourself out & have fun figuring out those living arrangements.

- Similarly for your lifestyle choices. As long as all involved are consenting adults and you're not harming anyone else, whatever. But that also means you don't get to flaunt it in the faces of everyone anymore than anyone else does. Live and let live people.
- Finally, and probably equally important with the first - secession. You know what - this country was founded on freedom and such the ability to separate when needed from a government you don't agree with. Why don't we return to that? You don't like my ideas (New York and California, I'm talking to you) - feel free. Declare your independence, we won't fight it, and we'll open diplomatic relations as soon as you're willing. Hack it as a nation under your own rules and it's not our place to judge.

I could probably come up with twenty others easily. But I'll start with that bit just for laughs and commentary.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Don't be fooled

Venturing into one of my rare political commentaries here. Brought on by the latest little change to veteran/disability payments, but can be reflected in a number of other events over the past few years.

If you're under any illusion that you have "representatives" in Washington D.C. these days you are sadly mistaken. Whether it be healthcare, international relations, the budget, banking, military action, or the role of the town dog catcher those days are long gone.

It is far too apparent that every one of them feels their role is to rule over the masses, because they "know better" - and that our opinions, desires, and entreaties do little to nothing to influence how they vote or legislate.

And - whatever your party flavor, don't think there is a significant difference between how either has acted over the past decade + - or that the opposition won't gladly turn around and pull the same crap.

Where this leaves us I don't even want to ponder, but I feel safe (if sad) saying that our days as a representative republic are gone.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

An new, old thing

   Many of the young'un's in the "tactical" arena may not remember the dark days of the 80's and 90's - when there weren't three thousand dealers of various nylon bags, pouches, accessories and the like, in everything from black to the latest Unobtanium-Camouflage shades, all at the click of a web button. Yes, at one time your choices were straightforward issued gear, or doing some work with a needle and thread on your own - or if you were super lucky, paying the local Asian laundry seamstress or the nearest parachute rigger to modify something just a bit.

   Yes, some of you may not know it, but many of the designs you take for granted today such as the "three day/assault pack," the "dump pouch" or "modified chest rigs" were born out of a guy somewhere going "I like this but damn I wish it had X... what can I do?"

   And then came the dual scourge/blessing of the internet and a prolonged military conflict. Now anyone with a heavy duty sewing machine and a few ideas could sell his varied wares to folks world-wide; and the consumer had not just one or two gear choices, but a plethora which would make anyone dizzy to truly comprehend. Packs in this and that color. Belts with or without accessories. Clips and straps and dangles and dongles and the latest in technology because you know that unit is using it, I read it on a web forum from a guy who's cousin knows another guy...

   I was just as guilty. You can ask my wife how many packs I've gone through over the years, or how many different little pouches I ordered because "this one is just a bit different and does something better." The standing joke in my old community of "900 pounds of lightweight gear" certainly applied - I had packs, pouches, bags, attachment points, rails, do-dads, thingamajigs and the like pouring out of bins. Because, by God, if I was going downrange on a live device, or making entry on a really bad situation I wanted everything to not only solve the problem at hand, but to also rebuild a civilization, construct a space program, and style my hair while doing so. Anything less would be a waste of all the work that was put into developing the "high speed low drag" kit that was out there.

   But over the past few years, something subtly changed. I got tired of having so. much. crap.  Having to haul it in my truck, carry it on my body, and deal with it when working. Part of it being getting older, not in the condition I was twenty years ago, and physically not the same man. But most of it being a slow mental realization. I don't NEED every available tool right on my body. I can often accomplish the same stuff going old-fashioned with some simpler tools. And I can't say I don't like it. I think the kit I wear on bad calls now is probably half the weight of five years ago, and yet I feel I am probably 200% more effective.

   Which leads to this. Again, I have been victim of pack/rig/nylon of the week fetish as much as any other. But - in so many cases, things would be just "not right." Missing one accessory I wanted. Or overburdened with something. So I'd make do, and just wait for the next big thing to come out and solve the problem.

    But it never did. And with the prices of the quote "specialized" items I often need, that kind of adds up.

   And somehow, about a month ago, something happened. I was looking at one piece of my bomb gear that I "liked" but I didn't "love" - thinking out loud that if it just had "this" it would be much more effective. And, instead of writing them, or Googling and finding someone who might come just that fraction closer, I did something different.

   I picked up a set of scissors, a needle and thread, and some nylon, and I made the changes myself.

   It wasn't the prettiest work in the world - but I used it on a call the very next week and was so much more pleased with the results.

   And it got me thinking. And working. Because, despite what my house looks like, I am slowly working to simplify. So, in the time since, I've tweaked my daily pack to be just that bit better and have what I need. A few more pieces of work stuff. And I'm trying to think through my other things in terms of what needs to go or stay, or to be modified by me instead of someone getting to charge tons of money for the right outsourcing. And it's kind of nice.

   Don't get me wrong. My work certainly isn't lovely enough to sell. And I'm still willing to buy someone else's project should they build the better mousetrap. But, I think it was important for me to remember that I'm capable of my own fixes - and that sometimes, instead of relying on others to "build the perfect tool" it might be better to just head on to the workshop myself.