You Ain’t Seen Nothing Like Us Yet A Blast From the Past, October 2013

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Like Us Yet A Blast From the Past, October 2013


It is a truism from psychology classes that you can’t stand at the window and watch yourself go by.  You also can’t grow up in a country and see it as outsiders see it.  And outsiders can’t see it as insiders see it.

If you ever see me standing somewhere and shaking my head and saying “Americans!” it’s not that I suddenly see myself as separate from you.  Or rather, it is, but it’s more that I see myself from separate and part of, which means I don’t fit anywhere.  The part of me that feels separate from the rest of you, though, is the girl who grew up overseas with an idea of America that you don’t see and probably can’t share.  The part that then came here, and adapted her notions, and figured out how you guys see yourselves.

In metaphorical terms, I’m the American that stands at the window and watches America go by. The caveat is that I grew up in a very particular time and place, and though I did see a lot of Europe and had a lot of European and anglosphere friends, I know next to nothing about Asia (though I had Japanese friends too.)  Still as far as I know though we share one or two traits with other nations, we’re the only ones who have all of them.

And I don’t mean some individuals in other nations don’t have these traits, or that some here don’t lack them (boy, I could tell you!) but that in general our culture has these traits and theirs doesn’t.  And that makes all the difference.

So I thought I’d hold the mirror up to you, because you guys keep trying to fit yourselves into roles that just aren’t there. “We’re Rome!”  or “We’re Carthage” or even “We’re the British Empire!”  (Which – Francis is right – is the closest and yet not a perfect fit.  In nation terms, the British take their laws as seriously as we do, but they’re more flexible.  In schoolroom terms, the British might be “in the spectrum” but they’re not full on Aspergers.)

No, we’re none of those.  By the Grace of G-d or the amazing concatenation of chance and self-selection, we’re something quite new in the history of the world.  And if there was something like us before – pre-history perhaps? – it is long since vanished from memory.

I’m going to list in no particular order the things that still strike the me-that-grew-up-elsewhere as amazing and wonderful about our country.  And yet I’m sure I’ll forget a dozen or so of them.  Maybe perhaps just enough of this will explain my view that while I think collapse is inevitable, I don’t think we can predict how it will turn out or what comes next.  The future is unwritten and being the special nation we are, it’s up to us to write it.

[BTW, I’m too lazy to look for it right now, but there’s a Facebook meme that encapsulates what I am: I’m an Apocaliptimist.  I believe everything is going to sh*t but I still think we’ll be all right through it all and it might turn out for the best. (The difference between me and the Libertarians who, like communists, expect their system to emerge spontaneously from the chaos, is that I think we’ll need to work like heck through the dark times to make sure we’re all right at the end.)]

So, here it is what I see when I stand at the window and watch America go by:

-We’re playful.  No, I don’t mean just in the sense that we have a sense of humor.  That too – and I was fully appreciative of the British humor before I came here, but the British humor has a back bite and a bit of the dour irony that American humor might have or not – but that’s not all.  We’re playful even when not making an outright joke.  For instance, the first thing that hit me about the High School I attended in the States for 12th grade was that someone had labeled the corridors in hand lettered signs.  For instance, the math/computer area was labeled Nerd Alley.  And the teachers let it stay up.  And no one thought this hurt the dignity of the school/education.  In fact, I’m almost sure they had the school’s unofficial approval.

Then there’s the senior prank I took part in, where we kidnapped the secretary’s stuffed bulldog collection, and asked for $5 in unmarked pennies.  My counselor called me and very seriously counseled me to give up my accomplices and talked about my making this an international incident.

Right now you’re going “Standard kid stuff.”  And shaking your head and going “and?” – And nothing.  Those are perfectly normal pranks.

Yeah, they are, in the states.  Don’t even try to do it anywhere else.

-We spontaneously organize in clubs and associations.  I think we’re losing this now, because everyone is so infernally busy.  (But the structure is still there.  It would take more than a generation to erase.) It’s impossible to have a club in America – even our writers’ group – without rules that everyone takes very seriously indeed.  In other countries – maybe excepting England – this is reserved for associations that are “official” and “important.”  Here, if you form a club to give crumbs to ducklings in the park, within three months it will be run according  to Robert’s rules of order, (Which I’ve told the older kid should be the name of his blog) with motions and chairs and who knows what.

This is absolutely needed because

-We don’t take orders well.  Any of us, really.  When I came to the US I kept seeing this sign in every work place “The problem in this place is all chiefs no Indians.”  I suppose it is politically incorrect now, so you no longer see it.  BUT it baffled me.  It wasn’t just that these people were saying that their workplace was unorganized, or that they had issues taking orders, but that they were BRAGGING about it in posters and cross stitch pictures. … and that they were right.

Portugal is famously unorganized.  My kids have various colorful expressions for the way things are done in Portugal.  Let’s just say they’re convinced that most people drive with a part of their anatomy no one should use. But it’s different.  The average Portuguese recognizes his “betters” and assumes that someone else has the right to lead them.  They just exhibit a sullen “make me” attitude.

In the States, we just don’t see why anyone else should be in charge.  We don’t recognize social superiors, and we barely recognize technical superiors.  The forlorn cries for us to respect “the office” of this and that when we can’t respect the current *sshat are a measure of how little inclined we are to do that.  In other countries the President or the Premier or whatever is “Important” and you DO respect the office and it rubs off on the person, no matter how much you hate the current clown.

The flip side of this is that we’re all of us forever looking at what we can do.  (There are exceptions, of course.  I’m not talking individuals, I’m talking the American character as opposed to other nations.)  If you face a mess, you don’t sit around waiting for orders to fix it.  You don’t even wait for other people to “buy in.”  You roll up your sleeves and start fixing what you can reach.

This is why that sign in the seventies was a brag.  It was was “We’re all trying to do the best we can, and we’re so good at that we can barely coordinate with which other.”  There is no other country where I can visualize “An army of one” making sense.

-This “We fix it” thing is why Americans open their purses and their hearts to help the less fortunate, whether it’s the person with too many kittens to feed down the block, or the victims of the tsunami across the world, in numbers the rest of the world doesn’t even come close to matching.

It’s not just that we’re well off or generous.  Yeah, we’re that, but we also feel that it’s our duty, dang it.  We don’t wait for the organization or the go-varmint or someone else to do.  We’re an army of one, moving in our own uncoordinated way, and moving mountains without even noticing.

And that’s also because most of us at some time were in need and got help, and know better than to wait for officialdom.

I was never more proud than when science fiction forgot its petty inanities and closed ranks to help Dave Wolverton’s kid.  Because that’s what we do.  We’re Americans.  We fix, we help, we move on, and we don’t keep score of who helped whom, and who didn’t.  You need help we’re there, a mob with a purpose.

– We are flexible.  No, this is important.  We change, and the society allows us to change.  The sense of humor, the organization, the initiative, all of it adds up to us saying “just because I’ve always been like that, doesn’t mean I’ll be like that tomorrow.  And society doesn’t try to keep us in our appointed pigeon hole.

And this is probably why you can become an American.  Most other nationalities, while you can naturalize, you’ll never “really” be whatever they are.

Here?  Despite the idiots running around hyphenating themselves, you can be an American no matter how funny you look or how strange you sound.  (Trust me.  I know whence I speak.)

And people will be offended at the idea that you wouldn’t be able to become a real American.

Part of the unappreciated thing by all – PARTICULARLY progressives – is that for all its flaws America is the least racist, homophobic, sexist and any other discriminatory thing you can think of.  If you’re an American you are an American, no questions asked.  (And all the Americans who think otherwise only think so because they’ve only seen the rest of the world on their best behavior.  Listen to them in unguarded moments, in their native language, and the picture is quite different.  I wish we could get our oikophobic co-citizens to understand that they really shouldn’t take what people say of their own country at face value.  This is why they think we are the worst in the world – because we engage in self-critique, even more than the Europeans.)

-And this is why we have a positive craze for self-improvement.  This can get outright silly with New Age stuff and cleansing your aura, but it also means that most of us aspire to being life long learners, even those who aren’t.

Yes, in other countries people go for adult education or learning this or that, but it’s usually very focused, very serious.  Here, it’s not unusual to find that someone is taking some very serious subject on the side, in their spare time, just for fun.

For years I belonged to the History Book Club, where my royalty checks should just be made over every month.  (My husband said.)  I don’t now, because I can poke around Amazon till I find things.  But that sort of thing, the History Book Club and the Science Book Club, and the Mathematics Book Club, and heaven knows what flourishes in America more than anywhere else in the world.

I remember when my brother rather condescendingly told me about a book on Chinese History he’d just discovered and offered to send it to me “since you won’t have that in America.”  Ah.  I’d read it five years before, through the History Book Club.

This is why despite the fact that our secondary education (and primary too, for that matter) suck rotten eggs, we continue to have an educated populace.  It’s also why finding out someone “only” has a high school education means nothing.  My plumber is an expert on the civil war and its weapons. One of my friends who has “only” a high school education and from a part of the country not known for the excellence of its teaching could give lessons to most of my literature professors.

In the same way that there are second acts in American lives, there are second and third and fourth careers, and a continuing education, and structures to support that, and the fact that no one finds it weird that a computer programmer is “really” a medieval sword expert and a weekend blacksmith.

This makes us uniquely adapted to this world of fast-changing technology, because none of us (okay, again, I’m talking the culture not individuals.  We won’t discuss Wisconsin teachers) regards a job as a sinecure or the education as the hoops to jump through for the sinecure.  No, we regard jobs as things you do for a while, and learning as the way to get another/different job.

Which is good, because

– The future comes from America.  Yes, yes, I know Verne, Wells and all that “invented” science fiction, but the only nation in which it was popularized as a genre, and not an entertainment of intellectuals bent on social critique – the only place it could be so – is America.

Some countries – most countries – are shackled to the past, either in embrace or in denial, and sometimes in both.

Portugal is a tiny country trying to swim through time against the pull of the huge cement sack of history tied to its middle.  They can’t do this and that because it’s never been done, or they have to do this because they did that before.  I get the same sense about all the other countries I know well enough.

But not America.  Oh, no.  Not us.

Americans seem to have come here to make things better, and therefore, the future is always better than the past (Yes I realize this makes the glitterati not really American.  What you thought they were?)

Americans are mad in love with the future.  We’re adult enough to know sometimes there are (d*mnably) rough patches, but by and large “every day, in every way, we’re getting better and better.”  And just wait till we finish tinkering and cajoling and inventing tomorrow.

Come and give me a hand.  We’ll come out of this collapse thing better than ever, stronger than ever.  The future?  Man, is it going to be snazzy, and new, and completely unexpected.

Boy, are you going to love it!

You ain’t seen nothing like us yet!

274 thoughts on “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Like Us Yet A Blast From the Past, October 2013

  1. I see people on Quora repeatedly asking some variation of “What if Obama refused to step down at the end of his term?” This is a case where “Him and what army?” is actually an apposite response.

    1. Some people were saying the same thing 8 years ago, that Bush was going to suspend elections and refuse to leave office.

        1. “They say, ‘If you want a friend when you’re in DC, get a dog.’ so we got two.” GWB on why they got the dogs while they lived in the Whitehouse.
          And of course they misread his character, they lack it so have no reference to compare it to.

      1. They said the same about Clinton. I knew people who actually wanted Clinton to do just that.
        For 0bama to actually try to do it he’d have to have the full support of the military, and Congress, let alone the populace.
        I think 0bama is going to concentrate on displacing Carter as our worst Former President to complete the sweep.

        1. He wants to be queen of England (maybe), or the head of the UN (far more likely). He gets all the perks, all the bennies, all the fawning, and none of the responsibilities. OTOH his spouse may have other plans.

          1. Anyone who has managed to blow $70M in seven years on vacations using other people’s money is waaaaay past the queen stage and falling off the edge of Emperor. What, you say you hadn’t heard that? gee, I wonder why…

          1. yeah, but unfortunately for us, he, A: still has time, and B: Isn’t a Former president. still being in office to do damage. If he does just go away, Carter can retain the Worst Living Former title.
            Or Carter might croak and 0bama wins it by default.

            1. Sadly, he has a year with no fear of impeachment. We’ve already seen how he acts in the absence of a need to win reelection. Sanders’ activating of the party’s Leftest Wing reduces pressure holding Obama toward the Center, as a political Bernoulli’s Principal takes effect

                    1. I don’t see why He wouldn’t. I’m fairly sure He at least is under no illusion you guys don’t exist. 🙂 (I’m picturing the rolling of REALLY large eyes at my typing this.)

        2. “For 0bama to actually try to do it he’d have to have the full support of the military, and Congress, let alone the populace.” He won’t get the military, nor enough of the Congress.

        3. I know this wasn’t what you were getting at, but President Carter has been a far better former President than he ever was President. I don’t really have hopes that the same will be said in the future about the present resident of that office.

          1. once he was elected the best thing about Carter is he is now a Former President and only for a single term were we ‘blessed’ with his ‘gifts’.
            The current idjit still has damage to do, and may well be far worse as “Former”, but then there is a reason many of us said Carter was a best case scenario when dealing with the red diaper twit.

          2. Ponders Habitat for Humanity.

            Ponders the effects of the deregulation begun under Carter.

            Contemplates Carter’s role in enthroning Chavez …

            Contemplates the continuing festering international sore that has replaced the Shah of Iran …

            Okay, I will concede that, but it isn’t a very high a hurdle. For that matter, Nixon, LBJ and JFK were all better former presidents than they were presidents.

            1. It is always interesting to speculate what would have happened if JFK had been a former (rather than deceased) President…

              My take is that the race riots and insanity of the late 60s would still have happened, and they would have still lost in ’68. (The successor would probably have still been Nixon, meh.)

              1. I remember the JFK president. His post presidency, lacking in accomplishment as it was, still was better than his presidency. Nothing he achieved in office so ennobled him as his leaving office.

                1. Certainly the manner of his leaving had a lot to do with the legacy.
                  He did show strength during the Cuban missile crisis, but a serious lack of judgement over Bay of Pigs. Rumor has it that he was every bit as much of a skirt chaser as Willie Jeff, if with a bit more class. It can be argued that he started us on the path to the Vietnam war, though I lay most of that on LBJ.
                  Of course by today’s yardstick he would have been considered a hard core conservative, a traitor to the Democratic party.

                  1. You could argue that RES is correct, and that Kennedy’s greatest legacy occurred nearly six years after his death.

                    1. When I worked my first Shuttle mission, JSC was still using the same Mission Control room they used for the Apollo missions. I clearly remember the first time I entered it. It was smaller than it looks on TV, because of the optical illusion produced by the camera optics, but there was no mistaking it. And I was there on BUSINESS. I BELONGED in there. It quite literally took my breath away, and my colleague kindly allowed me to spend a few minutes in silence — I couldn’t have spoken anyway — to just look around me and absorb the moment.

                2. I remember the JFK presidency, also. His biggest achievement was in slashing taxes and the Cuban missile crisis. His worst mistake was in picking LBJ as his running mate. A large number of the domestic problems we’re having today originated with LBJ’s “War on Poverty”. LBJ turned Vietnam from a mess to a disaster. The 1964 civil rights legislation was the right thing at the time, but some of the unintended consequences are hard to live with.

                  Hindsight is always 20/20.

          3. Highly debatable. Undercutting Clinton’s diplomacy on North Korean nukes, asking the UN to vote against GHW Bush’s policy on Gulf War I, support for the Palestinians regardless of what they do, support for tin-pot Marxist dictators (eg: Venezuela). An idiot endlessly meddling in order to massage his ego.

          4. Well… if you’re incompetent enough as President, “far better as former Pres. ” isn’t a high hurdle.

            Just so long as we’re clear that “far better” doesn’t fit anywhere on the spectrum of “good.”

            1. Bit like when I get odd looks telling people Ray Nagin was the best Mayor N.O. has had for a very long time. Not that he was really very good, but the others were just that bad.

        4. “support of the military, and Congress, let alone the populace” AND the SCOTUS; imagine you were Obama, trying this, and the Supreme Court came out and unanimously said “you can try, but we’re going to give expedited hearing to reversing any and everything you try to do, because as of right now you are in total violation of the Constitution by any and all measures.”

          How many civil servants in our YUUGE administration would bet their careers on enforcing the Obama-dictats if such were all publicly and unanimously declared illegal?

          Not gonna happen.

  2. Oh the WEA nonsense with the Governor a couple years back? And a recall attempt – that failed. But recall the the rural teachers I had who still had this crazy idea of actually teaching. I am sure some of the things my 6th grade teacher did would be impossible now – and might have been then, in Madison or Milwaukee. And I am grateful to a 4th grade teacher who figured I was in too low a reading group (three groups, and we all knew what they really were, despite ‘polite’ names for them) and made sure I got the ‘wrong’ test – twice.

    As for the rest, oh yes. I love the bit in Princess Bride

    “That’s impossible!”
    “You just say that because nobody has done it before.”

  3. It’s amazing how the people who say “Show Respect For The Office” showed no respect for George W Bush (or any Republican President). [Frown]

      1. Hey, I’m from the South; you can be polite and mean at the same time just by saying “Bless your heart.” Or if you prefer the straight dope there’s Jude 1:9 (NRSV), “But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!””

    1. They usually see it as being tolerant of everything but intolerance.

      Me, I know I’m tolerant of difference as long as it’s not deviating from the important matters– for a silly example, I tolerate folks choosing to go vegan, but not cannibal, even if neither is doing harm to anyone including themselves. I may find it annoying, and I’ll gladly argue about it, but I will TOLERATE it if it doesn’t trespass on principle.

        1. Same here *except* for the ones who put their cats on a vegan diet. [Frown]

  4. I enjoyed this column, although I think we’re loosing our sense of humor about minor stuff too much. For example, a college friend of mine made nitrogen tri-iodine in his room just for giggles from a solution. It’s insensitive when wet, but extremely sensitive when dry. He stuffed some paste in people’s door locks, and then he did his own just to see what would happen. When the explosion shot his key across the hall, he went and set off his booby traps himself. A filter paper’s worth sounds like a shot gun going off. (Okay, maybe this isn’t the best example of minor stuff, but still.) The resident advisor was upset. Nowadays my friend would probably have gotten tossed out of school and maybe tossed in jail instead of working for the state with an master’s degree from an ivy league school.

      1. Either that, or the bureaucrats have already won the war – which is what it looks like from my vantage point. They are redoubling their efforts because they need to be at war to justify their continued existence.

        1. Once the common folk realize that no matter what they do they will be found guilty of something things should start to get very interesting.
          For certain specific values of “interesting.”
          As well be hung for a sheep as a lamb is one phrase that comes to mind.
          Tis time to hoist the jolly roger and start slitting throats is another.

          1. Yeah, things will get interesting. The common folk will rise up spontaneously in scattered groups. The State will respond by sending in gangs of heavily armed urkas who have military equipment and military tactical discipline, but no military honour and no loyalty to constitutional government. A lot of those common folk will die, and I doubt whether they will have the stomach, the staying-power, or the organization to accomplish anything by it.

            1. Interesting. Where will the State get such urkas?

              I can think of several states in which the state National Guard will be likely to oppose such intrusion.

              1. They’ve already got them. There are some rather interesting tales going around about federal agencies acquiring their own paramilitary capabilities. And the military itself, all through the Obama administration, has been systematically cashiering sound career officers and NCOs and replacing them with Persons of the Correct Politics.

                As for the National Guard, that’s nice. Who’s going to give the orders to call them out? Stupid Party politicians?

                1. Those reports are merely that — vaporware. No actual operational capacity has as yet been demonstrated. Further, I greatly doubt there are sufficient numbers of “Persons of the Correct Politics” in the military to achieve such corruption as you imagine, and you’ve no evidence to support your fever dreams.

                  As for state National Guard, I can identify several governors who would actively oppose such Federal aggressions as you describe. So yeah, Stupid Party politicians will call out the NG when their own power is directly threatened.

                    1. It is easier to stomp off in high dudgeon than to support your allegations, isn’t it?

                      “Fever Dreams” — conspiracy theories; often involving factually incorrect information* — does not constitute “personal abuse” so much as accurate dismissal of unsubstantiated claims.

                      My horse, he says “neigh” to your proposition.

                      *Urban Dictionary

                    2. It is easier to stomp off in high dudgeon than to support your allegations, isn’t it?

                      I don’t support shit to people who resort to personal insults. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. ‘Fever dreams’ means delusions; it means hallucinations brought on by the effects of disease on the brain. Urban Dictionary means jack shit. Now apologize for calling me mentally deranged, or I am done with you permanently.

                    3. I find the eloquence of your argument insufficient to convince me I would be missing out on anything of value.

                      Especially as you have yet to proffer anything of <Isubstance in your support, a failure which somewhat undermines your outraged posture.

                    4. Sigh.

                      Especially as you have yet to proffer anything of substance in your support, a failure which somewhat undermines your outraged posture.

                      Stupid HTML coding.

                    5. Especially as you have yet to proffer anything of substance in your support, a failure which somewhat undermines your outraged posture.

                      The argument is not at issue. Your appallingly bad manners and personal insults are at issue. If you want substance, apologize for calling me mentally diseased. Otherwise, fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

                    6. I owe no apology as I did not call you “mentally diseased” except in your own strictly literal interpretation of my remark. Absent support for your claims they remain the fantasies I termed them.

                      Your overheated reaction does little to enhance your rhetorical ethos, just as the absence of factual support undermines your logos.

                    7. My ‘strictly literal interpretation’ is the most straightforward and obvious one. The fact that you refuse to retract or apologize suggests that it is the one you meant.

                      Look, this is not the first time you’ve resorted to personal insults in lieu of argument. I’m sick to death of you because of it, and I dread seeing your name in the combox here. Since you’re a fixture here and I am not, it is obviously time for me to leave.

                      As for ‘overheated reaction’: That is not for you to judge. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. Again.

                    8. [T]he most straightforward and obvious [interpretation]“???

                      Hardly. A fever results from a physical disease, not a mental one. The dreams accompanying such a physical condition are typically long, tedious and confusing.

                      The fact that I refuse to retract or apologize suggests that it is not the one I meant.

                      Your personal dislike for me is your own cross to bear; I would suggest that instead of abandoning this forum you simply ignore any comment under my name — except, of course, this one.

                    9. Everyone cool a bit, okay. I haven’t been following this, as we’re having issues with extended family.
                      Tom, I’m sorry but you have a history of blowing things up and RES has a history of being impolitic. I don’t have time to get closer than that, but if you think I’m monitoring what EVERYONE says and how it can be interpreted on these threads … I’d never do anything else. Just cool it.
                      Also I’ve used “fever dreams” to a good friend (used to be) who told me Bush was going to put all gay people in jail. I didn’t mean she was insane, just that she’d forgotten her reality check. That’s all.

                    10. Tom, Cool Down Yourself. We don’t want to get The Sarah involved.

                      If The Sarah approves of RES calling people mentally diseased as a substitute for argument, then there’s no point in my being here in the first place.

                    11. First, I didn’t hear RES insulting you.

                      Second, most of the people here are libertarian to one degree or the other so Sarah may see your fight with RES as a “blue on blue” fight.

                      Third, I’m fighting my annoyance toward you as I see you attempting to “picking fights”.

                    12. The Sarah does not have to approve of “RES calling people mentally diseased” to support RES’s right to do so. Free Speech entails support for the right of people to speak freely; it is not an endorsement of the content of such speech.

                      Moreover, contra your overheated complaints, I did not call you “mentally diseased” — that is your own idiosyncratic interpretation of the term I used, contrary to the expressed intent I provided. Your disdain of Urban Dictionary* as a source does not negate my intent in using the phrase to describe your conspiracy theories as overheated and absent substance. It undeniably supports my contention that such usage is not referential to mental disease.

                      You have taken insult where none was intended, and by doing so you have raised the temperature of this discussion.

                      *Example of usage:
                      This information, taken out of context, feeds what has been a fever dream of anti-government conspiracy theorists for years.

                    13. Sorry, but I find your comment copied verbatim below to be both highly ironic and hypocrisy of the rankest sort. Fever dream may be a bit extreme, though I’ve been accused of much worse myself and shrugged it off, but by responding with such a crude and ill mannered fashion utterly destroys whatever valid points you may have been trying to make.

                      “I don’t support shit to people who resort to personal insults. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. “

                    14. I responded after RES had resorted to personal abuse for the umpteenth time. He started it, and I see no need to fight by Marquess of Queensberry rules thereafter.

                      If you want to accuse me of hypocrisy, do so to my face instead of hiding behind pseudonymity and distance.

                    15. Mr. Simon, you’re Canadian. You don’t have the same degree of Freedom of Information laws that the “we have a constitutional right to free speech” that Americans do. So for those like RES who can and will make the time to go digging, he knows whereof he speaks viz our all-volunteer military. Based in U.S. culture, as well, the kind of folks who are in the Nat’l guard are the least likely to go full cossack on their fellow citizens.

                      But, RES, Mr. Simon might be referring to the SWAT teams that have been formed within various U.S. Federfal agencies. Every Federal department now has them. Is it that much of a stretch to imagine what kind of oerson gets a job as the enforcement arm of the Department of Agriculture, or the Patent Office?

                    16. I have read plenty of articles about the DoE SWAT teams (and am angry as heck about my tax dollars being spent thusly), but I have yet to see a single story about their deployment — suggesting that while existent they are not a material threat … unlike the various sheriffs and DAs actively pursuing “John Doe” investigations in Wisconsin.

                      Throughout American history there have been incidents of the abuse of power under colour of government authority, but those (even during the Wilson Administration) have been small in scale, short-lived and quickly repudiated. Frankly, the only long-term such abuses that come to mind are those perpetrated by the Democrats’ militia in the South … which, come to think on it, can also be laid at Wilson’s feet.

                    17. The SWAT teams are what I was referring to precisely; and the disturbing habit (it has spread to Canada as well) of local police forces wanting to act tough and turn themselves into paramilitaries.

                    18. Such SWAT Teams are neither as prevalent nor as unrestrained as the media would have you think. Just so, in spite of what #BLM says, Police Shootings in 2015 numbered (980) nationally, barely double the shooting deaths in a single city, Chicago, IL (442)*.

                      While the Police Shootings are undoubtedly too many, the vast majority of them occurred during attacks in progress (approx. 75%) and even the “unarmed” incidents often involved physical assault on an officer. The reporting strives mightily to misrepresent the police’s actions and still reveals widespread reasonable basis for use of deadly force, e.g., the unarmed 21-year-old who was shot when he “tried to grab the deputy’s gun and fought officers.”

                      Police Shootings figure from washingtonpost[DOT]com/graphics/national/police-shootings/

                  1. Plus the National Guards might “call themselves up” if their State masters go too far. IE their State Masters might find themselves facing “their own” National Guard units. [Evil Grin]

                    1. I would observe that anyone who relies on their local MSM for their facts has no business kicking up a fuss at ATH. I ascribe most heartily to Jim Baen’s number one rule in Baen’s Bar: Don’t Be A Butthead!
                      Besides, ATH is not the greater interweb, it’s Sarah’s home away from home, so company manners you blithering idjits.

                  2. Hold hard RES, Mr. Simon is Canadian.

                    You’re talking at cross purposes viz what the various Feds can and will do. In Mr. Simon’s country there are no 1st OR 2nd ammendments, and a guy nearly went to jail for disagreeing with a rad fem SJW on twitter.

                    Please. The both of you grace the com boxes of any blog you show up on. Will you not find a way to cry peace?

                    1. Whether or not he is Canadian, his remarks about urkas were in the context of a blog post about what makes Americans unique. If he had wanted to discuss the abuses imposed by his own tyrannical polity, might it not have been polite, even prudent, to have been more specific?

                      As for their lack of a First Amendment, I followed with keen interest the travails of Ezra Levant & Mark Steyn by the British Columbia Human Rights Commission for the hate crime of accurately quoting a Muslim cleric. But the abusive power of the State is not new in Canada and introducing it here is as logical as declaiming about the State’s oppressive power in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik.

                    2. From another viewpoint…Mr. Simon has been engaged in a troll infestation over at Brad’s for the last day or so. The usual suspects, twisting facts, re-writing history and ‘demanding’ this and ‘requiring’ that. Although he is not a Sad or Rabid Puppy, Mr. Simon has been steady in refuting their lies, challenging their version of logic and enduring their childish snark. I do not speak for Mr. Simon, but I think his normal equanimity might be…worn raw. I do ask, for myself, that Sarah and the regulars in this community step back and take a moment before anyone feels too alienated to continue. to RES and Tom Simon, I join with the Hobbit in asking, will you please find a way to cry peace?

                    3. Well, yes, I do understand nerves frayed. Today we got hit with not one, not two but three extended family emergencies. We also had a personal reverse too mundane to mention.
                      So my nerves to are on edge. Which is why I stayed away so much.
                      Sorry if I gave the impression of being on the verge of an explosion.

                    4. No, no, you didn’t give that impression at all. I’m sorry my phrasing was maladroit. I’ll include all of your family in prayers tonight – including your family on this blog.

                2. And the military itself, all through the Obama administration, has been systematically cashiering sound career officers and NCOs and replacing them with Persons of the Correct Politics.

                  True, but thankfully it’s way too big of a job for them to do it on a case-by-case, so they’ve instead been playing the odds– it’s just AMAZING how many cheezy tricks to get rid of guys who went through the academies and replace them with people who went through normal college.

                  Thing is, while that does have a higher CHANCE of being liberal, it’s still not likely for the psycho-level progressive that they’d need to choose that path, and the American military isn’t like they seem to think. Our enlisted guys aren’t followers– heck, we’re kinda infamous for not even following our own military doctrine. 😀

                  1. Our enlisted guys aren’t followers– heck, we’re kinda infamous for not even following our own military doctrine.

                    And even to the point where the military are followers, the primary oath is to the Constitution, and the Constitution says once a President’s term is up, he’s no longer CinC.

                    1. Even before that, our only loyalty to the President is if he’s inside of the constitution.

                      It’s got a lot of freedom, which means he can screw up a lot, but not THAT much.

                3. Higher brass becoming political is… the reality of forever. It always happens in every administration every year after every war in every service. Probably in every country, too. It’s not a *good* thing, just an inevitable thing. It’s so inevitable it’s practically military-culture lore.

              2. Send your urkas to TX, where most every vet owns a hi-power rifle and most of the younger ones have years of experience fighting an insurrection. Your urns have to get out of the MRAPs sometime.

                1. And the bureaucrats sending the urkas have homes, families, etc., and they won’t have enough guards for them all.

                  1. and the urkas have homes and families, too — who won’t be thrilled at their being sent into illegal suppression duty against their own neighbors.

                    Not to mention: the poorest-regulated urkas (i.e. over-funded SWAT teams within non-LEO departments, like EPA etc.) are unlikely to have much practical urban combat training or experience.

                    1. 2nd reading: my implication on this is – if things came down to where govt urkas were actually killing civilian groups, I suspect a few patrols’ worth of actual experienced combat vets who love America would find the motivation (remember “let’s roll”?) to take the urkas’ high-powered military grade weaponry away from them and terminate both them and their local command structure. The aftermath would be messy, but the message to all other urkas and potential users of same would be reasonably clear, in a 4th-gen-war kind of way.

                      As for the issue of doing this in a way that gets popular support, i.e. strategic considerations, remember those competent officers the admin has forced out of the services are now civilians, but still have the knowledge and connections.

                      Things would have to cross a line to get to this point; but BHO isn’t good at understanding the setting and crossing of lines, could easily do so without understanding he has.

                2. A bolt action .270 trumps a full-auto M4 when you’re engaging from a distance. And then you get a free M4 for hunting rabbits with…

                  1. Way too much tissue damage for rabbits. Great tool to have though comes the zombie poodle apocalypse.

                    1. nah, you can get varmit loads for .223 and solids from the mil just punch right through them when you miss the head. In fact. you’d best have the highly frangible varmit bullets if you are going after Jack Rabbits. a body shot with solids just allows it to find a borrow to hide in to die.

                    1. If you are looking to embed an image in WP it is best to use a jpg file, although I have found WP will often accept a png file.

                      One isolated example of a surgical strike which did not redound to the government’s credit.

                    2. Well, for one thing, that wasn’t a soldier, I don’t care what the file name says. More to the point, though, is that there is a large difference between one raid here and there, and a pattern. Especially since at the time (90s) the pattern wasn’t established.

            2. The trend in militia groups these days seems to be toward 4th generation warfare: i.e. you don’t fight the enemy forces, rather the battle ground is the mind of the decision maker(s). The Statists would fight to the last soldier and Dept. of Agriculture SWAT team to hold the reins of power… but how many cabinet members, congresspersons, community organizers, and newsanchors would they fight to?

              Here is a good primer on what you’d see if the cold civil war ever turns hot:
              “This definition is made obsolete by 4GW because “direct military operations” are precisely what the 4GW insurgent seeks to avoid. His target is the mind and the will of the political leadership of his enemy — to be specific, the few inches between their ears which are filled with brains to be influenced or, if not, popped like a grape with an unanswerable rifle shot from distance as an example to the others.
              Early in the war, the following incidents occur:
              Benjamin Franklin arranges a coordinated attack by David Bushnell in his submersible and John Paul Jones in the Ranger on English commercial shipping in the Thames estuary — right at the King‘s doorstep in full view of horrified Englishmen who never thought the war would come there. Bushnell has greater success against the commercial shipping because their wooden hulls are not copper-sheathed as are British military hulls. This “infernal device” which strikes without warning or even apparent effective countermeasure frightens British shippers. Bushnell, John Paul Jones and his surviving crew are taken prisoner, but the very destructive raid, which also sets a large portion of the London docks ablaze, is just as stunning, if not more so, than the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in 1942.
              Meanwhile, Franklin dispatches a trio of riflemen by way of a neutral port into London. One fine day, when Lord North emerges from his country estate, he is killed by an aimed shot from 300 yards away. His wife, standing next to him, is unharmed. (NOTE: Lord North is targeted, but not the King. Under 4GW rules the King would be sacrosanct, just as an American President in the 21st Century would be. Anyone around them, however, would be fair 4GW targets if involved in the decisions or operations which oppress their own people. Remember, the point of 4GW is to destroy the will of the enemy elite to proceed with the war, not give them motivation to win, or provide them a propaganda coup to use with the people.) After North is replaced, the replacement King‘s minister is shot as well in identical circumstances.
              Simultaneously, Franklin activates a third group already living quietly in England to attack by arson the buildings of the British East India Company, Lloyds of London and the Company of the Bank of England. They do this at night so there are no civilian casualties, although several adjoining structures are inevitably destroyed as well.
              The attacks by John Paul Jones & Bushnell are (barely) within the rules of war and Franklin takes credit for them. The others are plausibly deniable. British merchants and politicians get the point, however. This war against the American revolutionaries is going to cost them far more than they ever dreamed. How long would they have supported the King’s North American obsession when they were cumulatively losing hundreds of thousands of English pounds daily?
              In addition, any federal government of the United States which wishes to make war on its own people must overcome a few statistics unrelated to the Three Percent or 4GW. The United States is made up of 3.79 MILLION square miles with somewhere around 315 million people living there. This makes it the third largest nation in the world by both land area and population. There are, not unimportantly, something on the order of 100 million firearm owners scattered across our vast country and about 200 to 300 million firearms.
              By comparison, Iraq is only 168,754 square miles in area (about the size of the state of California) with only 31 million in population. Afghanistan is a bit bigger with 250,000 square miles in area and a population also of around 30 million. What kind of bloody-minded fool would deliberately ignite an insurgency in a country — especially his own — 9 times larger than both of those combined and containing 5 times the population, many of them armed and skilled at the use of those arms?”

              Let us make an example of the difference by briefly war-gaming the American Revolution using present-day 4GW tactics.

              for more a scholarly review of the concept:

        2. I was amused two years ago to learn that the Austrians have resuscitated the position of Hofrat (royal advisor) for certain bureaucratic ranks even though the Hof disappeared in 1919. The empire is almost a century gone but the bureaucracy creaks along . . .

      1. And relieves you of the task of cleaning up the bodies. Even the purple stain evaporates after a few days.

    1. N3I3 oh, yeah, after it dries that stuff will go off just sliding down the news paper it was drying on – as one attempts to safely dispose of it.(Don’t ask me how I found out). And don’t forget the lovely, indelible, purple stain it leaves after the “BOOM!!!!!”.

      1. As for a rogue fed group I give you the BATFEIEIO. Running guns, killing kids, what would you like? ‘Course the perps there would probably heve very short life expectancies if push ever came/comes to shove(I give you the “Enemies” Trilogy by Braken).

  5. In the banner at the top, why is the barbarian princess holding what looks like, from its narrow hilt and thin blade, a katana?

    1. Same reason Highlander carried one.
      For all their cultural weirdness and oddities the metal smiths of Nippon do know their steel.

      1. Eh – debatable. Hun commenter Angus Trim knows his steel. The Japanese swordsmiths knew how to make the best of the crap steel they had access to.

      2. There’s some debate on the quality of Japanese swords.

        IIRC there were European swords just as good as Japanese swords as Japan had poor quality steel/iron to work with so the Japanese sword-smiths had to work extra hard to create good swords.

        Personally, I think the use of Japanese swords in movies/television falls under the “Rule Of Cool” more than about how great their swords were. [Smile]

        Oh, sometime ago there was an internet article on “who would win” between a Japanese swordsman and a European swordsman.

        The biggest problem was “which European swordsman”. That is there were in a given timeframe several different styles of swords used in Europe and generally there was only one main style of sword used in Japan.

        Obviously its hard to be sure but my guess would be that the European would win as an experience European swordsman would have faced several different styles of swords and swordsmanship.

        He could have adapted to fighting the Japanese swordsman’s style more easier than the Japanese swordsman could adapted to the European’s style. [Smile]

        1. I read, 20-30 years ago, that the Japanese never lunged because they had short legs–so it didn’t work for them. Some time later, I read in my local paper that a nearby surplus store had gotten in a bunch of Japanese Army pants–and they’d only fit short legged people.

          1. Given the diet up until recent times, I don’t have a problem believing that; I’ve got a military surplus coat that I love.

            It’s a men’s “large”… that fits my short, round little Irish self just great, just a little long in the arms the way I like it.

        2. It is important to note that Japanese sword design became fixed very early on, which led to the resulting edge driven slash-centric fighting style, while over the same time span European sword design evolved from what could be argued was as similar edge-oriented design and resulting style towards a point-oriented design and style(s) in response to things like the evolution and widespread availability of steel armor (mail and plate). As cool as the non-steel armor of the Samurai was, it was no match for steel plate and the reason the japanese stayed with composite non-steel armor while the Europeans went to steel mail and then plate armor was again due to the Europeans having access to more and better steel than did the Japanese.

          So the Japanese got a highly developed and eventually ritualistic fighting style based on a static design of edge-centric swords, which eventually ossified along with the rest of the Samurai culture, while the Europeans got continuous ongoing warfare-driven metalurgical, weapon and armor design, and practical fighting style evolution.

          Yeah, I think a top European duelist would win, but the greater point is that the whole frigging European crazy-quilt combat-driven technological culture won.

          But the Japanese swords do look cool.

          1. A few years ago, I read a mystery story set in Japan during the early European contact (before Japan went isolationist).

            One Ronin saw an European wearing an “edgeless” point only sword and wondered how you fought with it.

            Toward the end of the book, his curiosity was satisfied when he witnessed one European used his sword to “make a lethal point” on the Bad Guy. [Evil Grin]

          2. The Japanese have the advantage of a far more highly developed Cinema du Sword, which features all sorts of dramatic and exciting action. Most Western Cinema du Sword is rapier-work, and what broadsword technique that is displayed is pathetically staged trash.

            It makes a difference; what people see on screen they tend to believe real.

        3. The biggest problem was “which European swordsman”. That is there were in a given timeframe several different styles of swords used in Europe and generally there was only one main style of sword used in Japan.

          There’s also that Europe could afford to equip not-so-good fighters with swords, while Japan couldn’t.

            1. Sigh, yes. Ah well, bookmarked it for when I’m banging the head on the keyboard some day, unable to squeeze a word onto the page.

              1. I thought “Well, Download that and watch it later, then it just kept playing …and I paused it to make herb tea, and then it was late for bedtime … but hey, if I ever want to watch it again, I got it downloaded.

        4. Personally, I think the use of Japanese swords in movies/television falls under the “Rule Of Cool” more than about how great their swords were.

          Part of it is that the Japanese sword schools (at least, a number of them) have been in continuous business, so there is a reservoir of skill available. I’ve read that those European schools/clubs of martial arts that were still around when World War I started mostly went out of business afterward, because the number of young men who died in that war left too few potential students to keep them viable.

  6. From another immigrant, come to America fleeing Germany’s Nazis and eschewing, unlike his erstwhile partner, Russia’s Soviets:

    Kurt Weill-Maxwell Anderson — Knickerbocker Holiday, Weill’s first Broadway production after arriving in his new home.

    From a Playbill write-up:
    Anderson defines an American as “a person with a really fantastic and inexcusable aversion to taking orders, coupled with a complete abhorrence for governmental corruption — and an utter incapacity to do anything about it.”

  7. I think that “You’re not the boss of me.” attitude that permeates the American people is what’s going to save us in the end. It gives me the most hope.

    Everyone, from rock ribbed rightist to the most hyphenated leftist, doesn’t imagine themselves as a servant, a subject, or a cog in the machine. (Honestly, what makes the leftists obnoxious is they happily place others in that role, but never themselves.)

    It’s been demonstrated that the truly oppressive systems from history require a lot of buy in from their oppressees. Would the U.S.S.R. have even gotten started if it wasn’t set up on a substrate of people used from ancient times to being serfs? We’re all just too irregularly shaped to fit neatly into that kinda box.

    And as frustrating as that is for folks who want everything to fall into whatever pattern they want to impose, it’s what makes the US great and it’s gonna make it greater, despite the bumps and bruises.

    1. “Would the U.S.S.R. have even gotten started if it wasn’t set up on a substrate of people used from ancient times to being serfs? We’re all just too irregularly shaped to fit neatly into that kinda box.”

      Oh, I hope so – I most dearly and sincerely hope so!

    2. “I think that “You’re not the boss of me.” attitude that permeates the American people is what’s going to save us in the end. ”

      Only up to a point. One of the biggest reasons we are over lawed and overregulated is that people, mostly leftists, have been saying “You’re not the boss of me” when asked to refrain from being jerks, and then using the legal system to shield themselves from the informal sanctions, such as shunning, refusal of service, or a punch in the nose, that kept things more or less civil.

      1. That’s more them trying to say “I’m the boss of you.” to everyone around them. Just because nobody here will accept being a slave doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of people still trying to set themselves up as masters.

        It’s the former that gives me hope, the latter makes me need it.

        The legal system is a finite and human thing, and just like anything else requires buy in from the people taking part in it.

        Rigged games don’t go on forever. Americans still generally feel they’re entitled to a fair shake (even if some of them want it fairer for them than for others). The day we’re in trouble is when we see the extra cards up the dealer’s sleeve and all just keep playing along.

      2. That’s the reason I say the biggest failure in the 20th Century was we didn’t hang enough congresscritters. Unless there’s a price to pay for doing evil, there’s no restraint on doing evil.

  8. Thanks for this optimism, Sarah. It’s just what I needed on this cold morning.

    Happy New Year. May everything shine brightly for you this time ’round the sun.

    1. The holdup? It’s just a really really bad idea, that’s all. Condominiums are bad enough. How do you make anything work when the condo board is City Hall?

      1. Ah Tom– but it is the next step… We can’t seem to make a working space station yet… We need a reason … We always need a reason to expand. BTW the people who go first will be the independents… I think we’ll see the Wild West for a few years. I’m not impressed with City Hall– having seen it from the work side btw (family and late-hubby)

        1. Ah Tom– but it is the next step…

          The next step towards what? A domed habitat with self-contained life-support systems, yeah, that’s useful for research. A domed city means a city in which the basic function of shelter is performed exclusively by the State, and the roof over your head is something that the Bosses can, well, hold over your head. No free human being could wish to live in such an environment.

          1. I don’t think you understand what I am saying … you are picking on one portion of it. i.e. the government system. I personally think if we don’t expand that we will as a species become extinct. I know others don’t see it as I do. If we are independent and self-sufficient, even with independent and self-sufficient riff-raff, we will go to the stars… We will see many government type systems. I have the hope of Heinlein in my mind and heart.

            1. I’m picking on the one portion of it because it doesn’t matter how good the technology is if it is so easily controlled by would-be totalitarians.

              Riff-raff may go to the stars, but they ain’t building domed cities to do it. It takes a city full of people to have a city – and the rulers of that city will have a power in their hands that no Earth-based tyrant could ever dream of. Joe Stalin himself did not have the power to prevent his opponents from breathing.

              1. I see your point– but, if people have the technology… to either build dome cities, or even go in space ships to distant stars, a lot of them will do it anyway… The tyrants are ALWAYS with us.

                  1. One reason why we invented trials and due process is that it can be really hard to tell who is the tyrant. Some tyrannical demagogues have made great hay out of getting less socially ept opponents thrown out the airlock.

                    1. Threatening to kill any part of the population who doesn’t toe the line by cutting off their air is a pretty cut-and-dried indication of a tyrant, and revolutions don’t have courts (the French showed us what a mistake that is).

                    2. Even in just apartment buildings, people do things that destroy the air system for those around them– and I know on ship there were some things that just might, so they weren’t allowed. (Some repair work, etc.)

                      Every case I can think of in apartment buildings, the people who caused the problem (smoking, stuff in the vents, just being so nasty that their place was infested and the pests went through the air system) would insist they were being picked on, it wasn’t fair, etc.

                    3. Really? Would you say it was tyranny to forbid, say, food being allowed into an inner city neighborhood that had exploded into riots and destruction?

                      There are some lines that, if not toed, will bring down civilization. The Gods of the Copybook Headings are good at explaining them.

          2. Plus it is harder for a government system to micro-govern if it is hard to communicate, capture, etc the populace if it is scattered. We saw that when Europeans discovered and explored America. It was hard to govern people in the West and mountains. It is still hard to govern people who live isolated. And the solution is not simple or one dimensional or even two dimensional. I still want to go to space… It will be hard, wonderful, horrible, etc, etc… just like life.

            1. Put a city full of people under a dome with hard vacuum outside, and the populace is not scattered. All you have to do to micro-govern them is threaten their oxygen supply.

              1. Well a lot depends on how that populace responds to being threatened. Will they meekly acquiesce or go all Flight 93 on the bastard with his hand on the air valve? If you’re gonna die anyway…

                I doubt the life support systems on that sort of outpost would be controlled remotely, or even be that centralized to begin with. So it’s very much like the bus driver threatening to crash the bus if the passengers don’t do as he says.

                1. It seems likely that the rebels would find a way to hack the system to prevent such deprivation. Nor do I think they would not find methods of extracting their own oxygen supplies.

                  1. Shouldn’t be too hard, really. The MIT analysis of the Mars One plan indicated that if you merely grow enough plants to feed everyone, there is going to be an excess of Oxygen, so enough potted plants and some fans should prevent that issue.

                    1. The other thing is that in any space habitat, personnel will need to have spacesuits and air supply immediately available in case some form of space rock causes a problem. Doesn’t matter if said rock is from outside or attached to a bureaucrat’s neck.

                    2. There’s also the theory that a domed city will likely be a collection of domes, added as population grew to need them. Constant awareness of the nearness of no-air would tend to make designers keep air supplies of the domes interactive but easily isolated.
                      Your tyrant with his handle on the air valve is going to need a lot of faithful technicians and 100% loyalty – possible, but not easily achieved in practice.

                    3. Now I’m struggling to remember the classic SF short story about a technician holding out to deny a would-be dictator access to master control… Dang, I’m pretty sure I read it on a Hun’s recommendation, too.

                    4. Could you be thinking of The Long Watch (Heinlein)? Would-be world conqueror on the moon is denied access to the nukes by a lone officer who, in disabling them takes a fatal dose of radiation.

                2. The whole point of having a domed city is to centralize life-support. If you’re not going to centralize it, then you can have scattered individual habitats with their own independent facilities.

                  And no, it wouldn’t work by the Powers That Be shutting off oxygen to the whole city. It would be the threat of exile (which means certain death) that kept the populace in line. ‘You want to breathe our air? Then pay your taxes and do as we tell you.’ The potential for corruption is so enormous and so obvious that it would be unnatural if such corruption did not occur.

                  Give any institution the power of life or death over human beings, and you give murderous psychopaths an irresistible incentive to try to take it over. Wanna bet they don’t succeed? I’m not wagering my life on such a proposition.

                  1. Tom, IMO you’re going too far into conspiracy thinking about the evil “statists”.

                    I’m not an engineer but I can imagine plenty of ways to prevent such actions by the “City Government” even if the “City Government” wanted to try it.

                    IMO there will be large “cities” in space and the designers would be smart enough to prevent such arbitrary actions.

                    Of course, we’re not talking about moronic workers in these cities.

                    They’ll be smart people who understand the technologies around them and they’ll be smart enough to prevent such attempts at tyranny.

                    1. I seem to recall several Golden Age sci-fi stories around the theme of “don’t p-ss off the engineer” and “don’t tick off the guys who make the tech work.” 🙂

                    2. Nod.

                      Even if the designers were not worried about the Authorities using the environment systems to control the population, they’d be concerned about “terrorists” gaining control of the systems.

                      I suspect that there might be a “central control center” with several environment units located in several places within the city.

                      If the “Bad Guys” captured the “central control center”, the technicians in the local units could “cut out” the control circuits.

                      The “Central Control Center” could “give orders” but nothing would happen. [Very Big Evil Grin]

                    3. Yeah. I’m not an engineer at all, but I do know that safety in space requires both redundancy and dispersion of vital systems. There’d be no “He caught space madness and smashed our only radio.”

                      If the colony decides it needs a large dome as a central location, that large dome’s life support is gonna be spread all around, making it less likely that a small group or an unlucky meteor strike or a case of legionella could shut the whole works down.

                      That redundancy and dispersion is going to necessarily extend to the people as well. Establishing a community off-planet is going to require everybody to have a certain level of skill and to be more dependent on each other than a stratified, class divided society would allow. If it’s a hard vacuum outside, you want everybody to be able (and willing) to play Hans Brinker when they find a whistling hole in the wall instead of shrugging and saying “That’s the state’s problem to fix.”

                    4. Of course, we’re not talking about moronic workers in these cities.

                      They’ll be smart people who understand the technologies around them and they’ll be smart enough to prevent such attempts at tyranny.

                      I seem to recall there were a bunch of smart folks who designed a failsafe separation of powers system for their experimental colony. Best the world has ever seen, and IIRC it didn’t in involve anyone in control of life or death for everybody running the whole shebang. Not sure I’d trust even those chaps with control of my air supply. Worse, just look around at the world. Name some societies. Shoot, name one society that would fit that bill of goods.

                      Not to mention the engineering types who number among the Islamic suicide-mass murderers. Or all the intelligencia – even among the engineers – who embrace some stripe of Marxism.

                      “Smart” is not a synonym for “wise.” Or even “well-informed.” From what I’ve seen over the years, they’re barely even overlapping sets.

                      This side of gengineering, human nature being what it is, domed cities are best off in fiction.

                  2. “The whole point of having a domed city is to centralize life-support. If you’re not going to centralize it, then you can have scattered individual habitats with their own independent facilities.”

                    I don’t think so. Look, we (most of us) design space habitats in our heads for fun. I can only say how I design mine. The open spaces aren’t to centralize life-support because that would be building in frailties that are entirely unnecessary. One disastrous failure of any portion would mean death for everyone. The open spaces, the room under the dome, is for psychological reasons first and foremost. So people can go outside and maybe see the sun a bit. Safety in an environment that was that marginal, simple survival minimums, means that each “building” would certainly have emergency shutters and at least an airlock or two. Just as big buildings in cities *now* here on earth have back-up generators for electricity even though there is a huge centralized grid.

                    1. I trust engineers to build me a well-designed domed city.

                      I don’t trust them to design me one that’s federal-gummint proof.

                      How many engineers do you know in government? State? Federal?

                    2. The claim was that the *point* of a dome was to centralize life support. What happens over decades of safety and sloth is a separate issue.

                  3. Something to consider also: the Communist dictator in Romania (Ceaucescu) had the brilliant idea to control his populace by building the “Hunger Domes”, ie, centralized locations where everyone would *have* to go to get their food, on threat of starvation.

                    It was at that point that the Romanians–who had put up with an amazing amount of oppressive s**t to that point–decided they’d had enough. While their ‘enough is enough’ did coincide with the rest of the USSR crumbling, theirs was remarkably violent by comparison to many others, culminating in them riddling Ceacescu and wife with bullets.

                    So even people who have a historical predisposition to serfdom had their breaking point, and it was the “we’re gonna control your means of actual survival.” Not oxygen, but something as vital. And the attempt to do so resulted in violent rebellion. So…yeah. Imagine trying to do that with a bunch of USAians, and it would go even *less* well, I expect.

              2. Tom Simon: That works until enough of the people get pissed off enough to do something about it. That “something” could be anything from an underground air supply, armed rebellion, or simply S. l. o. w. i. n. g. things down to a crawl. Life can get pretty inconvenient for those at the top if the rest of society gets angry enough.

      1. I think underwater would be a great start. Find a rock (above water) somewhere that nobody claims, and work down from there.

        My ancestors were pioneers, generation after generation. They depended on themselves and on their neighbors. If things didn’t work out where they were, they moved farther west (or farther north, in the case of my grandparents and parents, who homesteaded in Alaska in the 1950’s and 1960’s). I think that’s an American thing, too, and one of the driving forces behind the space program, and behind science fiction, for that matter. Don’t like things where you are, find someplace empty and move there and try again. Try to do it better this time.

      1. To hell with the flying cars, where are the lunar habitats and regular commercial space travel?

            1. I ride a motorcycle in Texas, I have already dodged that which you refer.
              Remember. never follow a livestock trailer closely and only the daft draft.

            2. You can see some of that in a city WHEN: a drop-top car comes to a stop at a red light, next to a steer taxi.

            1. tis a bad spot of road for me.
              On my way to work, years ago, when all I had for transpo was my old XL250s, with its 6 volt light barely falling on the ground in front of the bike when it was at speed (out-run the lights? out-WALK the lights is more like it), I was dealing with rain and 4:30 am darkness when I saw some eyes look at me in the ditch. I thought it was one of several dogs from a farm house or the trailer next door. The dogs would often lay in the road soaking the heat from the day still radiating from the blacktop. As it was raining I thought to myself “What the hell are those dogs doing laying in the road in rain like this?” so I slowed down a bit.
              Then, suddenly there were more eyes looking at me from the middle of the road.
              Whoa Dragon (drums don’t stop well)
              it was a Black Angus cow standing in the road, and the eyes in the ditch were its calf. I weaved around Momma, and one other cow behind her, and got to work. If the calf had not looked at me I likely would not have been going slow enough to stop for Momma.
              The Bull was at the same spot, but it was 3:45 pm and I was heading home. There is a corner right there, and when I came around it the Bull was in my lane and waved his horns at me when I went by blowing my bike’s (very loud Stebel) horn. I asked the Temp at work if he saw the bull out and he said “No, but a girl was checking the mailbox when I went by” seems she left the gate open. two horses were heading for the gate as I trundled past as well. Next day, all the critters were back in the fence, and the girl was trying to shoo them back so she could pull in with her Lexus SUV.

              Now, livestock trailers is just common sense and the only stories there from me are once stopping in a construction zone so others could pass and get between me and a pig hauler, and at 4:30am there are often cattle haulers (18 wheeler sized like the pig hauleron I35W that I have to dodge. When I worked at night coming home they once caused me to hang way back as one passed another. A car passed me and pulled right on the ass of the passing truck, then hit the brakes and dropped back almost to me, so either they got a gift or got a whiff and decided there was a reason I had blasted past them and then slowed way up.

                1. the African “grab a switch and slap its ass” method works sometimes.
                  Sometimes it gets a chase and a dent in the car … especially if it is not a Cow, but a Bull.

      2. Since I have a fear of falling, I just suspect I would change the fear to a fear of falling out of the car. lol Anyway, I agree. My late-hubby got me a book of what the people in the 50s thought we would have in 2000. None of it is close… 😉

  9. I was never more proud than when science fiction forgot its petty inanities and closed ranks to help Dave Wolverton’s kid. Because that’s what we do. We’re Americans. We fix, we help, we move on, and we don’t keep score of who helped whom, and who didn’t. You need help we’re there, a mob with a purpose.

    There’s a meme going around of a bunch of folks dressed up for Star Wars, says something like “imagine what these people could do if they actually cared about something that really matters.”

    Because, as a friend put it, dressing up in costume means you don’t care about anything else….

    We’re impressive when we’re all heading the same way, and thank God that isn’t very often. Too much awesome, it might break something.

    1. Imagine what these people could do if they actually cared about something that really matters — rather than mocking Star Wars cos-players..

    2. That sounds like a good candidate for one of those nested meme pictures, where you take the original one and shrink it a little so you can memify the response. I would put “Imagine what technologies you wouldn’t have today if it weren’t for people like these.” on it.

    3. “mob with a purpose” … that’s the only thing missing from Sarah’s list of American characteristics, that I’ve noticed: yeah, we’re mostly self-starters at fixing what needs it, and it tends to result in swarm-attacking larger problems. I.e. everybody present who’s motivated finds a piece of the problem, solves it (with someone else if needed), then goes after another piece, until there aren’t any more pieces they can help with. Think barn-raising. It’s a behavior that results from the specific characteristics listed, put together our way. Not sure whether other cultures do swarm-attacks of problems, or just protest mobs.

  10. A week ago, we had a blizzard (Sat-Sun). On Monday, the first vehicle on the road past Redquarters was a pick-up with a snowblower and jerry cans in the back. Someone off to help family? To earn funds to pay the spring semester tuition bill? Who knows. But at the same time, guys with pick-ups and tow chains and straps were helping people get un-stuck, excavating cars, and what have you just because they could and they enjoyed doing it. I suspect they got some gas money as well, but hey, why not. Neighbors helped older or ill neighbors dig out, cleared walks, what have you. Very much American – no one waited for anyone else to say “OK, you go check on so-and-so, you go over here, everyone with trucks meet here.” Just like happens after tornadoes, floods, fires. I suspect there are not many places outside the English-speaking world where that sort of community rally kicks in so hard so fast.

    1. We were driving west on I-90 two days before Christmas. The heavy snow load from several days of constant snow brought a tree down across the highway about five minutes before we got to the point. Cars had stopped, the men had got out to look at the problem.

      Normally one would expect people to wait for the official people to clear things up, but this is North Idaho. The driver of our car contacted one for his tow-truck buddies to let the state patrol know, then went out to see what could be done, one of the other men went back to ask the log truck driver if he had a chainsaw (he didn’t), and and all of the men out looking at the tree just ended up grabbing it and muscling it onto the side of the road.

      Total time of road closure due to fallen tree? less than 15 minutes.

      Welcome to America.

      1. Probably worked because enough of those men looking at the tree had the experience to judge the group there could probably shift it, and the rest trusted the ad-hoc peer leaders.

        1. That and the fact that 20 or so people can pull a heckuva lot.

          I’ve stopped the car and pulled trees out of the road by hand before. You’d be surprised how how large a tree you can move when you’re dragging it across pavement. And even if you didn’t clear it ALL the way off, it still helps.

          1. Groups can move amazing things. As a teenager, I helped move a minivan at a music festival once. Seems some #$%^ of a director had left his vehicle parked right in the middle of the area for the large group pictures… and was in the middle of an adjudicated performance (interrupt and die). So ten or twelve of us guys standing around laid hold of the thing, lifted it, and carried it 20-30 feet until it was out of the way of the picture. Not even that hard, as I remember it. ‘Course, I was younger and fitter then.

            1. Most modern cars (car-cars, don’t know about pickups) can be picked up by a reasonably organized, reasonably fit group of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder around them.

              Kias and the old Neons are notable for being fairly easy to do so.

              1. The little Japanese Honda Minis (basically, a tiny car body, either sedan or station-wagon form dropped onto a 2-stroke lawnmower engine) could be picked up by four reasonably strong men. Much was the hilarity at Misawa AB, back in the day, when such Minis were picked up and carried to a loading dock, or left upside down in a snow-bank.

                This often happened around in back of the NCO Club; usually there was alcohol involved.

                1. Four Marines can pack a Neon on to the golf course, into the (gator infested) water trap, and on to one of the little islands there in Mississippi…..

                  Or so I’ve heard rumored.

                  1. I’ve heard five high school football players can pick up a vw bug and turn it sideways in a parking space.

                    1. Or carry it down stairs into the lower dining hall of a women’s college, if someone with a screwdriver un-does the center-post of the doors.

                      So I’ve heard. I personally know as much about that as I do about trying to get a cow off the roof of a high school and (back) down the stairs.

                    2. I’ve heard that too… and also that they can pick one up and put it with the tires on top of cinder blocks. Having a coach who’d run a few plays too many without a helmet try to drive it off the blocks is just icing.

  11. Off topic a bit (sort of on though) Sarah have you ever thought of publishing these columns in a book? I’m thinking of something like Thomas Sowell’s Random Thoughts (which are more pertinent and informative than most PhD dissertations I’ve ever had the misfortune to have to read). Anyhow, I would like to see your columns reach an even wider audience. These are often enjoyable to read and re-read. And I do love the comments which are informative, fun, infuriating sometimes, but almost always well-written and well-thought-out. Thanks to all of you. It’s so good to know that their are brains out there giving consideration to matters that matter (that’s kind of poorly expressed but hope you know what I mean).

  12. I always appreciate your optimism about America. It always pains me to see some in our country trying to extinguish that flame, and those who are in charge of stoking it slacking of on the job. Communities self-select and self reinforce. And a thread asking “What does it mean to you to be an American?” would get radically different responses on Tumblr vs. Free Republic (is that still a thing?).

      1. Another near miss. I don’t recall if I ever actually posted there, but I did read it for a while. Not regularly, but often enough. (I still can’t recall which blogs led me to which first back around 9/11).

  13. Thanks for the optimism. One of our beloved dogs died today so this is a nice reminder that all will be well.
    Happy New Year!

  14. Just wanted to add something to the “Things you see in America but no where else”: Care packages for deployed service members. NAVCENT Bahrain is home not only to the U.S. Navy presence. In my shop, we work very closely with the UK MCC, and there is a Royal Canadian Navy liaison officer in my (secure) workspace, as well as RAN and RN officers on the watchfloor. Every morning, in the War Room, the Combined Maritime Forces brief is held in the warroom with French, Dutch, Japanese, Korean, Saudi, Kuwaiti, Pakistani, Turkish, Spanish, Italian, Malaysian, Singaporean, Seychellan, and Emirati officers. Plus a guy from Brazil and assorted other places, such as Denmark and Germany. It’s very multi-national. When the extra three or four loads of packages and boxes were coming in daily from various organizations addressed “Any Sailor/Soldier”, it really astounded our British co-workers. And it was just really nice to see, too. So to those of you who have ever contributed to such a thing, thank you. It’s appreciated.

    1. I’m proud of the years I worked with Operation Gratitude (, which has sent over 1,300,000 packages to deployed service members to date. In a unique touch, each one is dedicated to a particular service member by name, and whole units are gifted at once, to leave no man or woman standing empty-handed at mail call.

      If you have a loved one in the service, deployed or even domestically now, have them use their chain of command and ask their top kick or CO to contact Operation Gratitude.

      1. This would seem to be an instance where Heinlein got it wrong. I remember from Time Enough for Love where Lazarus was thinking that the letters to soldiers who weren’t receiving any mail were a pointless thing, because most of that group probably didn’t care whether they got any mail or not.

    1. Well done, .gov. They’ve managed to get both the “more government, more goodies, now!” crowd and the “leave us the heck alone!” crowds ticked off at the same time.

        1. The Left certainly does produce a lot of Astroturf and False Flag operations, don’t they? Sure glad we have an on-their-toes mainstream media to expose their schemes.

    2. Calling setting the backfires “terrorism” is something of an overreach…. but Bundy’s kids (apparently the leaders) are pulling this with absolutely no local backing. It’s almost like they want to accomplish nothing while providing talking points for Obama.

      1. Leave us hope this turns out better than prior such exercises.

        Call me a purist, I’ve long favored the original lyric.

  15. Moved down from above:

    I trust engineers to build me a well-designed domed city.

    I don’t trust them to design me one that’s federal-gummint proof.

    How many engineers do you know in government? State? Federal?


    How does a government keep from having too much power up top? It’s got compartments– and each layer is sealed from the above unless effort is put to pop it, and you’ve got to keep working to get down to the bottom through all the bubbles. THen you have to move over to get the next line….

    So, why not that as a design?

    Not one huge dome, but bunches.

  16. Obviously, having been born and raised American, I don’t have the “from the outside” perspective. There are things, however, I’ve worked backwards from, looking at other countries and seeing, well, a commonality in lack that’s different here.

    The big one is America, in a way that no place else I’ve seen is, is the “land of second chances” (and third, and fourth, and morth). For various reasons I didn’t go to college right out of high school. Went into the military during the era where the “GI Bill” was a contributory program (and do to poor money management the result was that I didn’t have anything on getting out). I then spent several years quite poor before, at the age of 30, finally going to school. And when I graduated, I got a job that became open because my predecessor liked working on the patent application so he went back to school to get his law degree and become a patent attorney.

    I haven’t seen any place else where you can do that. Miss that “window” and your stuck. She who would become my wife came to the US specifically to go to school, which she couldn’t (in a “meaningful” way) do in Japan.

    1. Ok, I’m easily amused today. “Morth” is still making me chuckle, even after reading it four times.

  17. I’ve been thinking about the possibility (and dread) of another American Revolution or Civil War. I would certainly agree on one thing: revolution is completely unpredictable. Once one starts, no one has control over where it will end up. And the worst part of it, is that no one really has control over whether it will even start!

    But there’s one way that I suspect makes America really odd: in the aftermath, there’s a real possibility that the Constitution will be reinstated after the revolution or civil war, and that it’s even possible that the revolution will be over throwing out the current government and replacing it with one that will better observe the Constitution!

    (Que the joke, “Constitutional government may not be perfect, but it is certainly better than what we have right now!”)

    The funny thing is, we already have precedent for this. When the South decided to secede from the Union, they adopted the Constitution as theirs, with minor changes (one six-year term for President, for example, or a requirement that slavery had to be legal in every State, for another…).

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