Ungovernable – a blast from the past from December 2012

I’ve said before that I became an American by reading Heinlein books.  This is true at least to an extent, though I’d be at a loss to explain the process to you.  I mean, if you knew how to do that, book by book, chipping away, so someone starts out wondering what’s wrong with all those Americans who don’t like taxes (don’t they know taxes are civilization?  And have always existed) and ends up thinking getting a Don’t Tread On Me tattoo is a brilliant idea, even while immersed in a socialist, communism-admiring system, we’d have no problems.  We’d just use “the process.”

Mind, you, it is likely that the er… Heinleinizing (totally a word.  Don’t worry your pretty head) of my opinions came from watching socialism up close and personal.  Heinlein had help.  But all the same, and even so, by the time I came to the States as an exchange student I had been, so to put it, primed to react to the US as “home.”

Even so, things about the US surprised me – things that Americans thought were completely logical.  For instance, the fact that classes are – objectively – a zoo.  No, we’re not talking about a war-zone type school.  Stow High School had good teachers, by and large, enthusiastic about teaching and their subjects.

I’m just talking about classroom behavior.  People just TALKED.  In Portugal, once the teacher entered, absolute silence reigned, unless he asked a question.  More conducive to learning?  Sure.  Maybe.  But in the US it just didn’t happen.  There wasn’t that built in respect for the “master” who got up front and spoke, and therefore all must fall silent.

There were other things – a distinct lack of respect based solely on someone’s age and position (respect for real accomplishments was granted, of course.) – a wicked sense of humor that showed up in signs on hallways and doors of classes, the fact that people could talk back or joke with teachers.

But possibly the most surprising thing in the US was … how people interacted.  You could have ornaments and decorated trees in your front yard and no one stole them.  This made my jaw drop, particularly since my host family’s house didn’t even have a nominal fence.  (This  might be gone in certain areas.  At least someone stole both a cement giraffe and – months later – a cheap composite fountain from our front yard.)

And when something went wrong, say a massive snowfall, people grabbed shovels and went to the street, to shovel not just their driveway, but as much of the sidewalk as they could, and to make their area as functional as possible, before official rescue/help arrived.

This would be unheard of most other places in the world.

This image/these ideas gelled for me as I read P.J. O’Rourke’s comment about a restaurant somewhere – the Soviet Union – and said “An American would grab a bottle of windex and solve most of the problem.”  Or something like that.

Every time I go back to Portugal, now, I find myself thinking about that type of thing or wanting to do that type of thing about ten times a day.  Most of the time I don’t, because there’s a crab bucket thing over there, you know, the crabs pull the others down, i.e. if I – say – grabbed a bottle of cleaner to save a sanitation problem, I’d get asked “Who do you think you are?”   And my parents live there.  (If they didn’t, and didn’t have to live with the consequences of my actions, I’d probably do it anyway.)

Yeah, Americans talk back, and make classrooms noisy, and can sometimes be counterproductive.  On the other hand, Americans, faced with a gadawful mess don’t look around and wait for “the proper person” to fix it.  They roll up their sleeves and each of them goes “Well, I’ll do this.”

It’s hard to explain how different that makes us.  To most Americans it seems logical behavior (it is) and I only get the difference because I remember being brand new here and how ALIEN it was.  And I remember living in Portugal without the constant “oh, for heavens’ sake, just do it” moments I have when I go back now.  (I should possibly point out that most Europeans find most middle aged American women bossy, interfering and a bit terrifying.)

Yes, I know some of you are going to tell me that spirit is now lost.

It’s not.  It is, of course, in certain areas – but certain areas always had issues – and for certain people.  And it is more muted than it used to be.

Part of the thing with Europe is the worship of the “experts.”  “We’ll take it to the expert” or “We’ll have the expert do it.”  There is now some do it yourself (and my mom was always one of nature’s do-it-yourselvers.  I think given time to acculture, and if she’d come here early enough mom would have made a great American) but it’s nothing like in the US and it would never have started without the US.

They’ve – by which I mean the cultural establishment – tried to bring the same here.  I’ve railed here before about how cozies were – in effect – blacklisted by the publishing establishment because “amateurs can’t be better than the professionals.”  And how my books couldn’t have funny policemen because “Policemen are professionals and must be respected.”  And I’ve talked about how shocked I was when a bunch of high school kids came to beat me on my blog because I’d criticized their teacher (I actually hadn’t.  I’d criticized the curriculum which is is not teacher set, but they lacked the semantic ability to distinguish these) and how dare I?  She’s a TEACHER.  I’m supposed to respect her.  (She also was considerably less educated than I, much younger and I have reason to believe she sent the kids over to harass me – the harassment stopped when I threatened to scan in some of her (outrageous) grading handiwork and post it. – which leaves me in doubt of her moral character.)

While these things annoy me and shock me, as does anyone preventing my questioning him by saying “I’m the expert” – it is still new here.

The people on top are trying to do it, but I wonder how much of it will stick.

No, listen.  We’re still… Us.  Still likely to roll up our sleeves and do it.

Look at blogs.  Sure, there are blogs abroad.  I hear Portugal is one of the most connected countries in the world.  But are there newsblogs?  Big enough to rival, say instapundit?  Drudge? (There might be something like DU or the others – because, well, they’re funded and organized by organizations.  But, you know, I have problems enough without tampering with my blood pressure.)

Oh, please.  News have to be reported by experts.  It’s not the individual’s job.  And besides, why undertake that mass of work if no one will pay you?

There are tons of interesting recipe blogs, etc, but I have yet to find something with the scope that Americans cheerfully undertake.

The same could be said for ebooks and indie publishing.  They have access to the same facilities we do (though more regulations in the way) but do you see a flood of books in foreign languages appearing?  Some, sure (there are displaced and unaware Americans everywhere, in the sense that being American is to an extent a place in the heart) there are some.  But nothing like you’d expect.

This is to an extent why  – to quote Bill Whittle – the future comes from America.  We are willing to go ahead and try it, and see how it plays.

The spirit is still there.  Diminished, perhaps, but still much stronger than in the rest of the world.

And this is why I say we also don’t know what the result of what the people on the top – publishing, politics, news, etc – are doing to us.  We know how it works in other countries, but I don’t think they realize how different we are.

When people’s lives are made impossible, they find ways to live.  This was true, even in Portugal in the seventies, with a  flourishing black market and most regulations ignored.  How much more true will it be here, at the first signs of true pinching?

And then there’s the fact that in the rest of the world, if things get unbearable, you can always go to America.  But we don’t have an America to go to.  Which will only make us more determined to “ignore the order, buck the directive, roll up our sleeves and do for ourselves.”

This is why statists of any stripe so often throw their hands up and call us ungovernable.  Not that this gives them the idea they shouldn’t try.  No.  Instead, they try to devise more cunning ways of governing us.  You have them to give credit for dreaming the impossible dream.  It’s the one proof we have that the sons of beetles are Americans.

So…  after sixty years of creeping statism, they’ve now “captured the flag” – they have actually got all of the important systems sewn up: news, entertainment, education, government.

They think – can you blame them? – that they won.

I won’t say they can’t hurt us.  They can.  The mechanisms they’ve seized hold of are important and they are – natch – misusing them.

I’m not saying that this will be easy.  It won’t.  Our economy is likely to be an incredible shambles, and I’ve said before I think we’ll lose at least one city.

But, listen, the problem with these sons of… Babel is that they might be American, but they’re not American ENOUGH.  If they were, they’d understand “ungovernable” and this willingness for each of us to go it alone (often for common benefit, but on own recognizance, nonetheless) is not a bug.  It’s a feature.  And that it’s baked in the cake of a people who came here to escape the top-down spirit of other places.  Some of the black sheep (or as one friend of mine calls it, the plaid sheep) attitude is genetic, hereditary, inborn.  And enough of us have it.

Push harder and we escape harder, through crevices they don’t even know are there.  Forbid us from making a living, and we’ll find a way to go around you.  Make it impossible to defend ourselves, and I shudder to think what some of my friends and neighbors will come up with.  Make the economy impossible, and we’ll create another one you can’t reach.  Make regulations too binding and we’ll either ignore them or – more likely – creatively subvert them.

They captured the flag, and they think they captured the nation.  It’s the type of mistake that the bureaucratic mind makes.

Poor rats.  Try not to laugh at them too hard, as you go about the business of undermining them.

We have them surrounded.


  1. Something I’ve had to stress to both Americans and foreigners, who usually still didn’t get it – America is not a monoculture. There are are least five major subcultures, all overlapping to some degree… but all still distinct. The media chooses to emphasize some and ignore or denigrate others, but the media is almost entirely part of only *one* of those cultures.

    1. And they are thoroughly mixed…while there is some geographic distribution they generally are seated side by side (at least three are on regular display in my office despite it being a realm of college educated professionals).

    2. I remember a review, probably thirty years ago now, of a book discussing the two strains of American social governance at the time of the Founding, contrasting Boston Puritanism with Philadelphia Quakerism.

      And a quick search of the engine turns up Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia: Two Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Class Authority and Leadership., by E. Digby Baltzell. Published 1980.

      From a review in Commentary:
      Baltzell’s present volume is an attempt to shed light on the origins of this malaise through a comparison of the cultural styles prevailing in the two heartlands of the Protestant establishment: Boston and Philadelphia. His view is that different models of leadership took shape in each of these communities, the one grounded in “pious Puritanism,” the other in Quakerism. Both these legacies, he argues, have continued to cast their shadows on the upper classes of the two cities, on the new groups that came under their influence, and ultimately on America itself.

      In general, Boston comes off better in this analysis. Though Puritan doctrine contained no objections to making money—indeed, to do so was a sign of belonging to God’s elect—simply getting rich was frowned upon in Boston unless wealth, leisure, and social position were placed at the service of broader community goals.


      Where class authority is strong, as in Massachusetts, the people tend to trust their men in authority as signified by the Massachusetts principle of judicial appointment and tenure for life during good behavior. Class authority, then, is a two-way street: where members of a class assume authority over a long period of time, the people will assume their right to authority too and political and judicial mores will in turn reflect upper-class values and gentlemen will be appointed and elected to high office.

      Though sprung from the same Protestant root, the Philadelphia Quaker style, Baltzell maintains, has been more equalitarian and pragmatic than that of Boston, allowing the community to go its own way while guarding its class or group authority. If the Boston style has been communal and organic, the Philadelphia style has tended to extreme individualism leading to anarchy. Baltzell quotes approvingly de Tocqueville’s comment that both anarchy and despotism proceed from the same cause, the “general apathy which is the consequence of individualism,” and he suggests that this syndrome, which he connects with the Philadelphia model of Protestantism, has won out in America today:

      The Quaker-Episcopal gentry of Philadelphia have really never wanted the responsibilities of power and authority, and if the members of a privileged class decline to serve their communities over a long period of time, eventually those who want authority will be unable to obtain it. . . .

      John Adams put it another way: “When authority and social cohesion decline, money alone talks.”

      One of Baltzell’s main points is that despite Boston’s unabashed social hierarchy, the democratic ideal has been more consistently favored there than in Philadelphia. This is because “gentlemen of authority inspired by values of service and excellence are likely to recognize new men of ability outside their ranks.” Outsiders, including Jews like Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter, were welcomed by the Boston elite and made Cambridge and Boston their home. As early as 1884, Boston elected its first Irish mayor while Philadelphia did not get around to doing so until 1963.


      But if Baltzell is right in declaring that cultural styles in these two important cities have helped to define our character and institutions, he also suffers somewhat from the “scholar’s disease” of claiming too much for his thesis. Virginia, for example, which produced four out of the first five Presidents, contributed as much as Boston did to our national institutions, and one could easily argue that the anti-leadership model that seems to have triumphed in American life owes more to California and the Far West than to Quaker Philadelphia. Moreover, the erosion of Britain’s leadership elite, as evidenced in recent spy scandals, suggests that the problem Baltzell is addressing goes beyond our shores.

      More disturbing, however, is the note of patrician aloofness that characterizes Baltzell’s work here, as it has done in the past. Only the old-style New England Protestant elite and the occasional outsider closely assimilated to its cultural norms seem capable, in his view, of providing authoritative leadership, Baltzell overlooks the fact that in absorbing men of talent in their ranks, the old Puritan oligarchy and its descendants have not been entirely disinterested. Whatever their loftier goals, they have also been conscious of the need both to reinvigorate the leadership class—which at crucial times could only be done by calling upon outsiders—and to coopt potential rivals to their authority.

      In the emergence of SJWs, for example, we are seeing a transformation of the Puritanism which dominated Boston, albeit with a focus on less prurient matters but nonetheless apparent in the authoritarian assertions of proper behaviour. Unlike the Boston Brahmins of old, these new scolds have not earned their authority but assumed it, making their constant scolding both more necessary (making up in vigor what is lacking in authority) and more irritating.

      And, of course, Walter Russell Mead has done very well with his quartering of the strains — Jeffersonian, Hamiltonian, Jacksonian and Wilsonian — influencing American Foreign policy.

  2. If they were, they’d understand “ungovernable” and this willingness for each of us to go it alone (often for common benefit, but on own recognizance, nonetheless) is not a bug. It’s a feature. And that it’s baked in the cake of a people who came here to escape the top-down spirit of other places. Some of the black sheep (or as one friend of mine calls it, the plaid sheep) attitude is genetic, hereditary, inborn. And enough of us have it.

    I dunno. I tend to think it *is* cultural, in which case it can fail to be transmitted to another generation.

    If you posit that a love of freedom and agency is an inborn trait, then we’re stuck with the dismal world where there is just no hope for certain people. And one where we’ll eventually and inevitably lose because we’ll be ‘outbred’ by the rest of the world. Basically, this is the world that the racists believe in, and it seems an attitude more typical of the small racial European countries than the US.

    If you posit that a love of freedom is cultural, then the fact that the communists control just about every single cultural artifact and institution of our current nation is a danger. (Seriously, all our art, all our literature, all our architecture since the 40s, our schools, our universities (95% theirs, used to be less than 50% 30 years ago), our movies.) It is only mitigated by their complete woodenness, and the fact that they come across pretty plainly as the fascists they are.

    If you believe in world 1, then the only way to ‘win’ is to clump together in some enclave of liberty-types and keep the riff-raff out.

    If you believe in world 2, then the only way to win is to outproduce the communists in terms of culture (hard to do with a day-job and a lack of burning obsession with what other people think), and to somehow win other people over to a love of freedom.

    1. I think it’s a mix. I have talked to Dave about this. In any population (he’s a biologist, you know?) there’s a percentage of goats. The US for various reasons self-selected for goats (outliers, Odds, whatever you want to call it.) That means our percentage is higher. It will never be the majority (just won’t. It’s the measure of “odd”) but it is enough to move the dial on “normal” which in turn moves the culture.
      Easy, no?

      1. “The timid never left, and the weak died along the way.”
        Our country was built by those who survived that filtering process, and what they built is the richest and safest country ever to exist. And thus they did away with that very filter that created us. Now a days a significant number, perhaps a majority, of citizens never developed a sense of independence. They want all the care and benefits of mommy and daddy with none of the rules, so they look to some idealized government that never was and never will be to provide for them. And like small children they do not ever question where the parents got the money to provide, they simply rant and rave because they are being denied what they want by right of simple existence.

      2. It all goes back to the frontier, and the way that it shaped our American culture. The end of the frontier two or three generations ago has seen the pioneering spirit stagnate and our society slip into statism. When Elon Musk drops the price of a Mars ticket to less than $500,000, I suspect that the Mars colonies will become the cultural equivalent of the USA.

        1. Agree. I have been saying for decades that our problem is the lack of a actual, physical frontier. Without it we become like rats trapped in a pit with strikingly similar results.

          We must get off of this planet.

          1. The movie interstate 60 has a great statement on the purpose of a frontier. It lets the more adventurous, fringe, and odd a place to go and push boundaries.

          2. There are regions in this country where the population density is below the rule that was “frontier.”

        2. I would be happy enough if Elon Musk would build Ark Ship B and sell tickets at a steep discount.

    2. A bit of both, I think. America has long drawn to itself those with an innate love of liberty (or, perhaps, rather a resistance to authority.) And our cultural structures are reinforcing of that. The infiltration of communal thought into our schools and institutions is less influential and more moderated by contrary strains than your suggestion recognizes.

    3. Here’s the thing, the American culture is predominant – and America itself powerful – because that culture best comports with reality. Thanks to Progressive control of the education system 18-25 year olds have been reliable Democrat voters for decades. But generation after generation has seen those same teenagers become rather conservative adults, even with the Progressive control of the entertainment complex. That is because the real world doesn’t work the way Progressives think it does and Americans choose to believe their own lying eyes over what their freshman social studies teacher told them. Until that preference for evidence over theory is broken down the Progressive control will never be total.

      However, unlike most conservative positions, the primacy of evidence cannot be attacked directly. Everybody laughs at the character who rejects evidence that flies in the face of his pet theory. So the fundamental character of America is going to last longer than the Progressive control over education and culture.

        1. Except for those who think it only right that they were mugged by someone who just doesn’t know any better on account of his deprived upbringing.

          1. Someone at the fringe of our acquaintance was driven around at gun point to remove money from atm. Idiot then talked about how grateful he was so as not to be so disadvantaged as to NEED to take up crime. I haven’t talked to him since.

            1. I’m surprised you ever could talk to him. He doesn’t sound intelligent enough to comprehend spoken language.

      1. Until that preference for evidence over theory is broken down the Progressive control will never be total.
        Speaking with someone who grew up in a democrat household shows me this can be subverted, sadly. In her case, she simply rejects evidence from non-approved sources and accepts without question what the thought leaders / D pols say. And since much of our evidence is obtained secondhand the chinks in her armor of ignorance are few.

    4. The thing that is not touched on here is that after taking over an institution, the progressives rapidly destroy it as their beliefs are so far from reality that no institution implementing them can survive. This gives us another path to victory: build new institutions as they are destroying the ones that they control and this time keep them out.

        1. Since they are super-smart lovers of sciency stuff, if they can’t figure it out nobody can. Remember, Carter was a nuclear scientist and he couldn’t make the government work, so what chance was there an amiable dunce like Reagan could?

          If a chimp like W can be president, think how great a super-genius constitutional law professor would be?

          1. Carter started his college career in 1941 in a civilian college who eventually got into the US Naval Academy and graduated in 1946 with a degree in engineering. He was subsequently part of the early nuclear submarine program, but for less than two years. Upon the death of his father, he resigned his commission and dropped out of the nuclear power school before completion. I think “nuclear scientist” is incorrect and even “nuclear engineer” is stretching it. And clearly he was no rocket scientist!

            1. Anyone who’s passed high school physics knows rocket science. It’s rocket engineering that’s fun.

            2. Sorry — I was channeling the super-smart lovers of sciency stuff who think the sun shines out their buttholes John Effing Kerry was a certified he-row. You know, the type who think training to fly an F-102 Delta was ducking dangerous duty.

              Back a while I had an online pal who was USNA class of ’57 and got the distinct impression that Carter’s fellow service members/officers did not have fond recollections of him.

      1. A point: One of the skills we need to deliberately study and teach and share is how to build new, parallel institutions. You get a lot just by being fed up with status quo and trying, but more if you do it by design.

        1. “One of the skills we need to deliberately study and teach and share is how to build new, parallel institutions”

          That sounds nice, but it’s not entirely obvious how to do it. Thus I bet there’s more bang for the buck in proceeding with something that’s obvious: rediscovering the classic observations about how entrenched elites strongly tend to attack sources of legitimacy, opportunity, prestige, safety, and other things which are outside their control, even (or particularly…) when they are objectively good things (like capable people, honest people, or organizational arrangements that increase safety). Then when our entrenched elites use the power of the institutions they control in this way, giving explanations that sound innocent but which also make no sense, people will be less inclined to politely give them the benefit of the doubt.

          (This is not entirely without cost, because not all of the organizations that grow up in the absence of stompage by the elites are 100% helpful. E.g., the Catholic Church stomped out cousin-marriage-based clans and even some of the consequences that they understood and intended possibly turned out OK in the long run, plus they definitely got a rather significant benefit from genetic effects that couldn’t be properly understood until after Darwin and Mendel. But by and large, a strong cultural norm that a legitimate government tolerates independent productive organizations (and influential individuals, and other things) even though they are rival power centers paid off spectacularly well for the West in general and the Anglosphere in particular. It think it’s a seriously bad thing that that norm has been weakened so much, with some direct bad consequences and other bad consequences that are more like loading more bullets into the cylinder before risking Russian Roulette.)

          E.g. I specifically remember Jerry Pournelle bringing up tall poppies, but there is no exactly a shortage either of such general observations or specific examples.

          Consider the Chinese rulers stomping out their subjects’ near approach to the Industrial Revolution centuries before the Europeans got there, or Stalin stomping out basic competence in his military and relying (successfully, in the event) on enemies invading with machines that needed to be substantially rebuilt, in facilities that weren’t there, before rolling far enough to conquer the capital or to completely dismantle warmaking economic power.

          And the general observations aren’t limited to the West. Consider Ibn Khaldun:

          The fifth stage is one of waste and squandering. In this stage, the
          ruler wastes on pleasures and amusements (the treasures) accumulated
          by his ancestors, through (excessive) generosity to his inner circle
          and at their parties. Also, he acquires bad, low-class followers to
          whom he entrusts the most important matters (of state), which they are
          not quali fied to handle by themselves, not knowing which of them they
          should tackle and which they should leave alone. (In addition,) the
          ruler seeks to destroy the great clients of his people and followers
          of his predecessors. Thus, they come to hate him and conspire to
          refuse support to him. (Furthermore) he loses a number of soldiers by
          spending their allowances on his pleasures (instead of paying them)
          and by refusing them access to his person and not supervising them
          (properly). Thus, he ruins the foundations his ancestors had laid and
          tears down what they had built up. In this stage, the dynasty is
          seized by senility and the chronic disease from which it can hardly
          ever rid itself, for which it can find no cure, and, eventually, it is
          destroyed. We shall explain that in connection with conditions to be
          discussed later on.

    5. …the only way to win is to outproduce the communists in terms of culture (hard to do with a day-job and a lack of burning obsession with what other people think), and to somehow win other people over to a love of freedom.

      And yet, hard doesn’t stop us. The trick is to convince folks that it Needs Doin’ and is not mere self-indulgence, and that successful execution yields pretty well to hard work and just learning how-to.

  3. Well, Iran released the sailors, amd I can already hear the spin: “Dear Leader’s wisdom has enabled us to resolvve a situation that 8 years ago would have led to war.”

    I guarandamntee you this was staged,

      1. Oh, it just got light-years better.

        The equipment that wasn’t returned from the boats? Only their GPS navigation gear.

        GPS navigation gear routinely keeps track of the routes you have traveled for months. Check the one in your car. By taking that specific gear, there will be no way to tell what courses the boats were set to follow, which ones they actually DID follow, and whether or not they were altered by whoever.

        How Conveeeenient. Nothing to see here.

        1. It is also quite possible that the sailors destroyed or dumped the GPS units when they realized they were going to be captured.

            1. Milspec GPS receivers are sensitive tech – probably Top Secret – they should have been destroyed before the boats were boarded. I’m betting the reporters haven’t the foggiest clue what they’re talking about.

              Of course, the Iranians could have taken the receivers after they were sanitized in an attempt to reverse engineer the bit that allows the military to compensate for the fudge factor inserted to throw off the accuracy of civilian sets.

              Or the crew screwed up and didn’t destroy them. Not likely – sailors are always looking for an excuse to hit things with an axe – but they’re also not supposed to drift into hostile waters.

              1. I’m betting the reporters haven’t the foggiest clue what they’re talking about.

                But – they’re professional journalists! They’re graduates of the very best J-Schools in the nation, trained in the dark arts of gathering and reporting facts!

                Who you think’s gonna cover a bet like that?

              2. I didn’t think about the milspec GPS units; I was hoping that they had at least cleared the codes out of the radios (on the SINGAIRs you just turned a knob).

              3. sailors are always looking for an excuse to hit things with an axe

                Or mallets or hammers…

                One time we were flushing something out of the piping and there was a team whose only job was to run up to the necessary piping if there was a clog stopping flow and beat it with rubber mallets to get flow restarted. I specifically requested to be on said team despite the risks 🙂

                1. Hammers. Always hammers. When I was on the sub, that was what we had. Crescent hammers, screwhammers ,,, you name it, it was a hammer.

    1. Staged, but by who? The fact that it happened during the State of the Union shows that they were trying to undermine Our Glorious Leader in Chief, not prop him up. It also undermines the president in the way that the soldiers were humiliated and used for Iranian propaganda purposes. As for the GPS, that can be explained simply as a cover-up for the Revolutionary Guard faction that captured them in the first place, to keep the rest of us from learning that the soldiers hadn’t strayed into Iranian waters at all.

      There are extremist factions in Iran who are just as opposed to the nuclear deal as the conservatives here in the US. The reporting that I saw said that the US ships were in the vicinity of a Revolutionary Guard base that is controlled by these extremists. Occam’s razor suggests it’s far more likely that they were trying to undermine US power in the region, rather than doing it for domestic US politics.

      1. It was mentioned as a possibility that the Rev. Guard spoofed the boats’ GPS. Not that hard to do, and was the probable means of their getting our stealthy drone to study, so very plausible.

        1. Spoofing GPS… Not so easy to do, especially with the encrypted military channels available to the guys in the military. I’m honestly not even sure that it’s technically practical.

          Or, at least, it wasn’t for us, the last time I looked into this circa 2005. I doubt the state of the art has improved that much, in ten years, so that the Iranians can do it for something like this.

          My bet is that the explanation is a lot more prosaic, like they were in international waters, one boat lost its engine, and then when the other went to render assistance, the Iranians dropped on them. Likely, this is because of the ROE that nobody’s talking about, and the guys were under orders not to shoot to defend themselves. My best guess is that they weren’t in Iranian waters, and were instructed to surrender by their higher command. Otherwise, they should have been able to defend themselves, given what they had on hand.

          1. Hopefully some Congressional staffers have been on the phone with Fifth Fleet letting him know that people are eagerly awaiting the results of the investigation into this incident.

      2. Just because they can use it for that purpose wouldn’t stop that snake in the White House from going along with it for his own ends. Besides, the hardliners wouldn’t have any motive to let them go this soon or easily.

        1. I stopped reading MGC because it seemed to be mostly technical writer stuff. I’m not a writer. In fact I have a phobia about writing.

          1. I know you meant “technical things for writers” rather than the title ‘Technical Writer’ but it did remind me that I was bit annoyed with one at a former job at $WE_BUILD_SCALES. I’d been told to deal with rewriting the software of a simple display. There were a bunch of fiddly options added that made life easier for pretty much everyone. The one thing that bugged me was that the ‘manual’ the Tech Writer made was really just my notes in a prettier format. That should not have happened. Yes, my notes had the needed information, but they weren’t written for the ‘end-user’ – or even our own field techs. They were notes from me to me (and the tech writer). And as most people are probably painfully aware, those sort of notes do not a good manual make.

            1. I wonder at the “technical writers” that basically can only reformat stuff – I’ve had nearly the same experience as you did, wherein my “Use the technical write ups from the developer, but make sure you hit these bulleted points for the user” notes (I was technical marketing at that point) ended up as verbatim bulleted lists in the documentation draft returned to me, albeit in prettier format and using the corporate documentation template.

              Further revision inputs were also hampered by the time difference (said “writer” was in India), and in the end I just wrote the damn thing myself.

              He did do a rickety-tick job of formatting, though.

              1. “He did do a rickety-tick job of formatting, though.”

                The one I deal with doesn’t. When he gives me a document to review, there are margins all over the place. Some indents are done by changing the paragraph format, others by punching tab or adding spaces until it gets about where he wanted it. Drives me nuts.

                He does, however, spiff up my little Microsoft Paint drawings using some fancier drawing software.

                1. Good grief, screwing up the formatting like that…would take some actual effort. Or at least, you’d think it would. I suppose someone who doesn’t actually know how to use a word processor properly could manage it and not realize.

                  Which would explain some of the *amazing* formatting errors I see turn up on stuff at my work…(though a lot of that also stems from copy+paste from documents that may be ten to fifteen years old, too–and the people doing the copy+paste fail to realize that the very old software the document was originally done in is not likely to play nice with the newer stuff…)

            2. Hey, even bad documentation is *something*. I usually wind up trying to drive software that has no documentation at all, or some kind of hypertext help that just delivers random factoids unrelated to what I’m searching for.

              “Our software is intuitively obvious, and therefore needs no written documentation.”

              I am the user with GUI aphasia, to whom most “intuitive” user interfaces have no inherent meaning, and who has vowed to adjust their documentation practices by thorough application of the Louisville Slugger should we ever meet up in meatspace…

              A lot of “intuitive” seems to mean “works near-enough like some famous product.” That often seems to be “Microsoft Office” and anything made by Apple. Apple software drives me half-mad with frustration.

              1. I have long maintained that one of the most dangerous concepts around is the idea that “obviousness” exists. Obvious ain’t, especially when you just naturally look at the world even slightly askew from the alleged norm.

                  1. “Common” Sense is easily learned — if only the students are not protected from the consequences of failing to use it.

                    Because Leftists often find it antithetical to their agenda they generally act to prevent its acquisition.

                1. Oh, obviousness indeed exists! It happens all the time in mathematics.

                  Indeed, there’s the story of a mathematician who said, in the course of a proof in front of a classroom, “Clearly, this is true”, and a student raised his hand and said “Are you sure it’s obvious?” The mathematician sat there thinking for fifteen minutes, and then declared, “Yes! It is indeed obvious!” and then continued with the proof…

                  Having said that, while obviousness exists, too many people take too many things for granted, and then assume it’s obvious. This is very well true in computing.

                  (On the other hand, I remember Apple bragging that their iOS is so intuitive even a 2-year-old can learn it! I remember hearing that shortly after reading about how one person introduced his two-year-old to the Linux Command Line, and he was quite comfortable with it. Intuition or no, 2-year-olds can be full of surprises when it comes to learning interesting things!)

                  1. Given two year olds are full-throttle in learning an entire language (or two, or three) from scratch, as well as exploring a world built for giants, I’d say they’re pretty darned bright. Not too aware of consequences, but really clever at figuring out stuff.

              2. I hate the term “intuitive.” It’s corporate buzzspeak, nothing more–and usually when someone is telling me a piece of software is “intuitive” it’s a warning flag to me that I’d damn well better google some tutorials/youtube videos, because it’s gonna be anything *but*!

                1. “Intuitive” means, “It works the way I learned using other things.”

                  Several years ago, I moved from using Windows XP at home to using Macs (I forget if OS X was Jaguar or Leopard at the time), mostly because I got sick of having to reinstall hardware device drivers. I’m still learning how to do things on OS X that I know how to do on Windows, because it isn’t intuitive.

                  That’s not to say I don’t usually prefer it, though.

              3. Apple software drives me half-mad with frustration.

                I had one Apple fan accuse me of trolling when I vented my frustration with OS X by listing the ways that OS X was “Not ready for the desktop” some time back. I was using $HOUSEMATE’s old MacBook as a laptop and the experience was enough to have me at least attempt Gentoo. As I recall, it was one of the few options at the time for PPC that I figured I’d have any chance at. It proved more than I was willing to deal with.

            3. Okay, sorry to geek out here but holy crap! Someone else in the scale industry? Ever? Not alone!

              1. Aye. If you recall the RD4000 and RD6000, those were what I was fiddling with. As well as special variants of the WI-125, WI-127. Those were in Forth. The WI-130 had a Basic interpreter that was suppose to make it easy for distributors or even end users to program. Supposed to.

                1. I’m afraid I know the names but they aren’t equipment I’m terribly familiar with. Programming issues, of course, remain a standard problem.

                2. Ah, Forth. One of my favorite languages. I used to use it a lot, even professionally. Then the company dropped support for it, because a prospective customer told us he’d decided against using our products because we offered Forth as an option for programming our boards.

          2. You might look at Kate P’s weekly Hugo Category discussions. Even if you don’t plan to vote, it’s fascinating to see what’s out there in categories I’d never heard of until I saw them on the category list.

  4. It isn’t terribly new, but the idea that we are the ideological sons and daughters of people that refused to play well with others seems reasonably accurate to me.

    1. Yup. My ancestors got tossed out of the best neighborhoods in the British Isles and Europe. Ungovernable and stubborn (“Change my religion and serve in your army? After 2000 years? [Rude Alsatian and Hebrew-ish] Ferget it. I’m outta here.”)

    2. 🙂 PA Dutchman here. We were always called (this was the most pleasant version) “stubborn Dutchmen.” The saying was, “I’ve made up my mind. You can kill me or leave me alone; those are your choices. You can’t make me change my mind.”

        1. If you let us install a cranial screw top, ala “The Man With Two Brains”, we could change your mind every day and twice on Sunday.

          1. First step in the mind change is to remove the spinal tap in order to drain the existing brain. 😛

  5. Make it impossible to defend ourselves, and I shudder to think what some of my friends and neighbors will come up with.

    Truly effective ‘gun control’ would result in the most astonishing weapons program-set in history. Yes, even overshadowing that one, eventually. They say, “Thou shalt not…” and we hear, “We dare you to…”

    1. “I don’t understand it, Boss. How can you make a hole that big using baked goods and sugar?”

      “D-mned if I know, but I think we’ll come back later. Like next year. Or after the next total eclipse on the summer solstice.”

        1. Hang on, was it me, or was it the Most Capable Cat with her snippet of something? I want to hear [radio voice] The rest of the story. [/radio voice] myself.

        2. Two classic treatments of that anticipated war, set in worlds that might have been and possibly still could be.
          Unintended Consequences by John Ross.
          Absolved by Mike Vanderboegh.
          Mike is the pro gun blogger who blew the lid on the ATF Fast and Furious transfer of firearms to the Mexican cartels. His book has not yet been published, but he has individual chapters available for free on his web site,
          Peter Grant thinks quite highly of him as do I.

          1. That’s a good man right there, imo. Also, I wanna read about baked goods+sugar=bombs! I was giggling in schadenfreude with just those couple sentences! *sad puppy eyes* 😛 Awesome blast from the past post!

              1. Maybe. She didn’t learn to cook till after she left the OSS. I always thought the flour bombs were hers till I learned that.

      1. The BATF and the amateur rocket community have butted heads a number of times. The ATF has outright banned the making of some types of solid rocket motors, then backed off after the hobbyists have pointed out that their rocket propellants were made out of common food products, and were technically still edible…

        1. I…I’m weeping tears of joy right now. How did I not know about this? Any day the buristocrats (it’s a word. Shaddup.) are revealed for the bumbling, tyrannical fools that they really are is a good, good day! *happy sigh*

        2. The BATFEs managed to burn down their own rental van trying to prove model rockets could take down a commercial aircraft.

          1. Proving that no matter how many letters they add to their name, F-troop is still F-troop.

        3. They also went after the model rocket hobby. It took 10 years and several thousand dollars, but the National Association of Rocketry and the Tripoli Rocket Association beat ’em. I’m waiting for them to try it again.

          One BATF idiot tried to make a video showing how a terrorist could shoot down a plane with a high power model rocket, and ended up burning up a government van.

    2. Indeed. The most astonishingly common household items can make for some truly terrifying weapons.

      I mean, have you *looked* at the average garden tool lately? Sure, it ain’t a gun, but…

      And let’s not get started on power tools. 😉

      1. In Nora Roberts (as J D Robb) Eve Dallas books, Eve Dallas reflects that “we’ve outlawed guns but we still have murders” as she’s looking at a man killed by an electric hand drill. [Very Very Big Evil Grin]

        1. I am still amazed to meet adults who have neither heard the phrase or understand its content.

          A co-worker and I were discussing weapon of choice from our desk when we heard from another cube, “remind me never to piss either of you off”. I was somewhat dumb founded by the idea that another adult hadn’t considered this and optimal use of various items.

          1. Former boss, upon hearing that I had inherited a couple small weapons, “You’re not going $USE_THEM_HERE, are you?” “Oh no. Totally unsuitable for such a thing. If I wanted to do real damage, I’d open a gas valve and walk away.[1] There’s always a spark.” “Alright, NOW you’re scaring me.”

            [1] Yes, I know it’s not that simple. But the town I grew up in/near had a building gas-explode – twice – in a way that revealed how to bypass the inherent flaw you just thought of.

            1. ‘You’re not going $USE_THEM_HERE, are you?’

              If I were, do you think I would tell you?

              Trust me, you’ll be first to know.

              Why would I ever want to do that?

            2. I once had a supervisor comment that I scared the shit out of her, with my interest in weapons and proficiency with them, and that she had concerns about my stability in certain circumstances.

              I just smiled happily at her, and assured her that I’d never use a gun to commit an act of violence like that… Self-defence, sure, but if I wanted to get away with murder…? Hell, no. Too obvious.

              Instead, I pointed out all the myriad ways a large-scale industrial accident could be staged, leaving nobody the wiser that it was deliberate, and that if I reeeeeeaaaaalllly wanted to eliminate a co-worker or boss, well, gee, there’s this great, big book of industrial safety stuff I keep on my desk. Sure, it’s a safety handbook, but if you read it right… It’s a recipe book. Can you say “BLEVE”?

              For some reason, I gather that didn’t have quite the calming effect I wanted it to…

              1. Can you say “BLEVE”

                I might be able to say it, but I do not want to see it. I figure if I can see it (or what is about to be such) I am way too darn close.

                1. Oh, you’re no fun. Until you’re close enough to feel the blast wave punch down on you, and have the debris falling around your position, you’ve missed out on one of the great experiences of life. There’s nothing quite like looking up in the sky at something that weighed a few thousand tons, and being able to think “I did that… And, I can do it again…“.

                  It’s quite… liberating…

                  Large-scale vandalism and the wholesale destruction of public property… Don’t, I say again, don’t engage the interests of your local Combat Engineer, whether retired or still on active duty. You probably won’t like the results, and will never again feel quite as… safe as you once did, before your house/barn/car suffered that freak accident it did…

                  1. Neither spooks nor Combat Engineers ever really retire. Although I still think one of the most dangerous things is a retired contractor-now-farmer with an explosives permit. “I can bring that silo down for you.” Run. Then run some more.

                    1. Oh, you ain’t ever lying, with that one…

                      The first question you need to be asking, upon finding yourself in that situation is “OK, I get the down part, just fine… What I want to know, though, is just how high you intend for it to go, before we get to that “down” part, and how widely scattered the pieces are going to be, afterwards…”.

                      And, it’s funny you use that example, because I’ve got a buddy that did something like that, for his dad. While home on leave. I believe that the blast may have registered on the local college’s seismometer, and dropped debris on the local interstate. Passers-by supposedly reported that someone had fired off a Saturn rocket out in a farmer’s field, and the fire department was called with reports that “So-and-so’s whole farm blew up!! Send help!”.

                      This was performed, I might point out, in the absence of a key presence, namely Mom. She was in the big city, doing school shopping for the younger sisters…

                      The after-blast picture were absolutely epic. Craters surrounded by striations that were a couple of hundred feet long…

                    2. “Troep! Where are you going with those explosives?”
                      “To blow up the bridge, sir.”
                      “That’s not enough! Double it!”

                      As Peter sometime about the dangerous mix of NCO and officiorial opinion, and combat engineers, and explosives… And he just might recall some interesting times!

                    3. Dorothy, a few years back, I was involved in testing the deployed version of a USMC supply system out at Camp Pendleton. One fine morning we’re sitting in the field trailers meant to house this thing when the shockwave hit and dust started sifting down.

                      Turned out that another unit a half a mile down the trail was learning about field bridge demolition and someone misunderestimated his Factor P on demo material. 😎

                      OTOH, after we crawled out from under the workstations, we were able to document that the system stayed up under that level of explosion, which hadn’t been on the testing schedule…..

                    4. The line I used to get from a former boss of mine was that the commissioned officer’s primary role in the Army Corps of Engineers in regards to the combat engineering side of things was to serve as a restraint on the more, ah… Creative, yeah, that’s a good word for it, creative… Impulses of the junior enlisted and Non-Commissioned Officer types.

                      Good story I’ve got about that is the time they told us, as part of an exercise, that we’d be doing the demolition reconnaissance/planning for a major highway bridge over the Rhein, in Germany. They were going to grant points for the evaluations we were doing, based on how few explosives you could do it with. The idea was, less explosives, less collateral damage, and a more elegant, refined solution.

                      I actually had the winning demo plan, but… It didn’t do so well, when I turned it in. The Officer-in-charge of that part of the training looked at the bill of materials, and laughed his ass off: “How are you going to take down a four-lane highway bridge with a case of C-4 and seven thousand feet of det cord?”. I just grinned, and told him to a.) turn over the page to the demo recon form for my charge sketch, and to b.) take a look around us, on the eastern end of the bridge…

                      I got a weird look, he did what I asked, and he turned three different shades of white. My basic plan was to initiate with the C-4, and use the adjacent industrial plant, with its multiple LNG tanks, which were in the thirty-meter size range, as the primary explosive charge. By my calculations, the bridge, the abutment, and a goodly chunk of the surrounding area would be gone, gone, gone…

                      See, they hadn’t mentioned any desire to limit collateral damage, soooo… I didn’t. Mid-flight, rule was added, and we redid the plan to come up with another path forward. Later on, that Major called me in, and wanted to know if I realized I had probably just started the nuclear phase of the war we were exercising for, because that blast would have been indistinguishable from a tactical nuke, and did I realize the import of it all…?

                      I’m looking at him like “Soooo… What you’re telling me, sir, is that I’m supposed to limit any explosions I might cause to something short of… How many tons of TNT, again?”.

                      After that, it was “Don’t do anything over a ton, without getting the approval of the battalion commander….”.

                    5. Soooo, Schlock Mercenary is pretty accurate about the explosives specialist?

                      Also, why can I “reply” to you but not Kirk whose story of starting WWIII (in practice) was what I actually wanted to reply to?

                    6. @ Polliwog the ‘Ette…

                      It’s because we’ve hit the limits on poor Sarah’s blog. You can only do a thread reply so many layers deep, and you bottom out. Which we’ve done.

                      What was it you were wanting to comment on? Schlock Mercenary? Just add on to the tail, here, and I’ll try to remember to check in for it.

                    7. In the webcomic Schlock Mercenary the explosives expert has to be told *very* carefully what the plan is or he will just make the biggest “boom!” possible with the materials at hand.

                    8. @Polliwog

                      Yeah, that’s definitely a true trope. The saying goes “P for plenty”, because all the equations for calculating quantities of explosives use the variable “P” for pounds of TNT, which everything is calced for. You apply an “RE Factor”, or Relative Effectiveness Factor, for converting to other stuff like C4, which has a different set of characteristics…

                      The really dangerous guys are like me, who do extensive reading in industrial safety handbooks, and pay attention to all the techniques that are usually mentioned only in passing by the real nut jobs, who are in the SF community. Those guys get to do all sorts of applied experimentation, and it shows. Use of explosives in demolition requires an open mind, curiosity, and a clear disregard for the value of your own life as you work through your apprenticeship.

                      Sadly, some of my best work never came to fruition, mainly because we never went to war in Western Europe. Had we done so, my advice for someone planning on investing in anything prior to the war would have been “Buy up concrete plants…”, mainly because they were going to be needed. German infrastructure was pretty much going to be a huge target for us, as we withdrew, and I am pretty sure that anything major left standing would have been only as a result of someone’s oversight.

                      There are long-standing traditions in the US Army Engineer branch about leaving nothing behind that’s usable, which is why Joachim Peiper was left pounding on the edge of his tank hatch and cursing us, after the rear-area second-echelon 291st Engineer Battalion under LTC David Pergrin got done with him. The last straw was that last bridge we blew up in front of him, which was the limit of their advance during the Battle of the Bulge. God alone knows what would have happened, had they been dealing with one of the divisional Engineer battalions that really knew what they were doing. Peiper probably would have had a nervous breakdown. As it was, he and his men wound up walking back to Germany, after their tanks all got trapped behind blown bridges and minefields.

                    9. “Don’t do anything over a ton, without getting the approval of the battalion commander….”

                      So what you are saying is that “Skippy isn’t allowed to…” Heh. I didn’t think there were any new ones left.

                    10. After that, it was “Don’t do anything over a ton, without getting the approval of the battalion commander….”.


                  2. One of the great injustices of my life is that the United States of America has set off over 1,100 atomic bombs, and I didn’t get to see any of them.

                    Even though I’ve already paid for them through my tax dollars, I’d pay the equivalent of a major concert ticket to see the light of ten thousand suns brighten the sky.

          1. Weapons I’ve used with near lethal effect: a chair, a shoe, three dictionaries. That “have a plan to kill everyone in the room?” I come from hard times. It’s impossible to ignore.

            1. I don’t remember when–or why–I learned to look at everything as a potential weapon. But it just seems like good sense to me. I mean, even if an item isn’t likely to cause major damage in and of itself, it likely doesn’t matter to most potential assailants if it’s being chucked at their heads. (Distraction, until you can get your hands on something that WILL cause damage.)

              Certainly, it’s a viewpoint my former sensei encouraged, especially for women. His attitude was: if you’re being attacked, you use whatever you’ve got to make them stop. Add in a creative viewpoint, and…

            2. were the dictionaries used on separate occasions, or as some sort of Webster’s Cluster Munition?

              1. No. Some idiot decided the day I returned from four language exams, carrying four dictionaries was a GOOD time to attempt to rape me. In his defense, I was so out of it, that I took the route I normally took during the day: i.e. used the subterranean pedestrian passage under the busiest part of the city, to the train station. You NEVER took it at night, even as a guy, if you weren’t armed. I did have a knife. But when I noticed a clear and present threat, I hit him with the bag containing the dictionaries, then kicked him in the privates, repeatedly, then ground my stilleto into them while he was down.
                I left him sitting there, crying I was so mean and all he wanted was some love. the guys who hadn’t helped me just laughed at him.

          2. “Okay, where does one obtain those patches.”

            The “Every Tool Is A Weapon If You Hold It Right” one? Those were a limited run following Paul-E-Palooza 3 ( I think they made two hundred? Maybe they’ll make more next year.

    3. my sons once designed functional military grade flame throwers from discarded stuff. I wouldn’t let them use them with gasoline (I know, mean) or ignite stuff, but from specs and assembly they would WORK.

      1. I learned you can make a bomb, more or less, from flour. From a novel. (No, I haven’t tried it, because flour is better used for cookies. But still!)

        The people screeching to have the guns all taken away really have no concept of what ‘weapon’ really means.

          1. My “Machinery’s Handbook” has a lengthy section about dust explosions.

            Divide it finely enough, and all sorts of unlikely things burn real good – wheat, aluminum, even iron.

            1. “Divide it finely enough, and all sorts of unlikely things burn real good – wheat, aluminum, even iron.”

              That is a special case of a more general rule: mix it with a good oxidizer, and even a safe-sounding marginal fuel can become surprisingly dangerous. High pressure oxygen and liquid oxygen can turn things like carbon residue into explosion risks. Various of the truck bomb sorts of incidents I have heard of in the last few decades have reportedy been intentionally dangerous mixtures of solid oxidizers with mundane fuel. And solid rocket engines tend to be mixtures of relatively boring materials (stuff like rubber) with oxidizers. They are optimized to be useful engines, not dangerous infernal devices, but without careful design and quality control they can easily become unintentionally uncontrollably dangerous. Similarly you can very carefully make a useful or you can carelessly make something unpredictably dangerous.

          2. lol, yeah, I have heard that. Fine particulates in the air = potential BOOM.

            If no boom today, then boom tomorrow.

          3. Most of us locals around where I live have been expecting the oil refinery to explode at any given time over the last, oh, five decades or so. I’m fairly certain it’s one of the reasons the number of people who actually *live* in the little town around it is so very small.

        1. Grain elevators and flour mills have really good air circulation systems with filters that are always well maintained for extremely good and sufficient reasons.
          As for guns, when you cannot legally own a firearm there are two classic options.
          1) build something cheap and easy and use it to kill an occupying soldier and take his weapons. I can build a functioning shotgun out of two pieces of pipe, a block of wood, and a nail.
          2) if all guns are illegal set up a clandestine machine shop and make tons of nasty submachine guns. During WWII the Brits were making Sten guns in bicycle repair shops for the equivalent of $16 bucks a piece.

          1. I discovered while working a fixed asset job at a furniture company that there is a tremendous investment in sawdust collectors.

            Gee, can’t imagine why.

        2. Before you take advice on building weapons from novels, bear in mind many authors fudge the details to prevent just that.

          When I was a literary agent waaaaaay back when I was asked to design a bomb for one of our clients’ novels. The bomb part worked fine. The detonator worked fine too…just not as a timer, if you know what I mean.

          Don’t build explosive and incendiary devices from novels without other experience and training.

          1. Don’t build explosive and incendiary devices from novels …

            For one thing, modern printing technologies tend to eliminate the more explosive aspects of the paper used in novels.

            Although … using the right ingredients in paper and ink … with detonator cord in the binding …

            1. Ya know, that sounds like something Rada and Yori would have come up with in their misspent youth. And that Rada would be able to recreate, just to make Rahoul cry. (There’s a lot of mutual respect and cooperation, but some days he really, really wonders who he p-ssed off to have her as his xenologist.)

          2. I seem to remember that one 1970’s manual for “making bombs” (Anarchist’s Guide?) had major flaws that would have killed anybody who followed the directions in the manual. [Evil Grin]

            1. It was made by some idiot highschooler that cribbed notes from the library. He didn’t even have my training for evaluating processes, reliability and safety. I do not have and never will have the lab technique for real chemistry, much less safe energetic chemistry, much more less something as touchy as explosives. I’m not competent to do what he was attempting, and he was less competent than I.

              1. In all fairness to the idiot, he wishes that he never wrote it (for reasons other than he got the explosives wrong).

              2. The story I heard is that the original edition of the Anarchist’s Cookbook was written by the CIA. And that all the recipes, all of them, had the proportions mixed up just enough that if you tried them out, the mix would detonate while mixing. There are versions out now with correct ingredients. I’m not sure how to tell you whether you’ve got a good edition or not without trying it out…which I wouldn’t do based on the books history

                1. That sounds like the kind of story that someone passes around just to make themselves smarter. It’s not possible for all of the explosive recipes to do that, because some ingredients simply will not react that way (unless they ONLY put in recipes which CAN prematurely explode that way).

                  Now, for those which would never explode prematurely simply because of a proportion modification, it’s possible that someone could alter the ingredient proportions to reduce the effective explosive power significantly, but I would think that anyone with any chemistry experience could run the equations to figure that out.

        3. The US Army has your back. Look for Technical Manual TM 31-210, “Improvised Munitions Handbook.” It’s online. Everything you’d like to know about making bombs, booby traps, ad-hoc firearms, etc.

        4. It’s hard to get the right mixture of flour-to-air, but yes, it can be done. But if you point it in the right direction, the fireball generator that they did on Mythbusters would leave an impression on someone, and if done indoors (with remote ignition) could raise the air pressure in a small building fast enough to take out a wall.

          1. Read a story in which two girls tried to use flour to simulate snow in a video. Yes, explosion, but they were conscious when admitted and allowed out in short order. (And cleared even faster — video, after all.)

        5. Passing thought: firearms are the great equalizer between the sexes, as violence goes. In the absence of firearms, there are avenues of violence where upper body strength is not a factor, but they are much more prone to collateral damage and wrong targets. Explosives and poison come to mind. I’d rather not live in a world where a woman has to turn to strychnine or shaped charges to defend herself; too many innocents (like me!) are likely to be “down range”.

          1. This. I’m not heavy enough to incapacitate an attacker by falling on them and to slow and weak to do much else. Thus, firearms.

      2. You are the coolest mom . . . ever. My mother got worried if I used anything other than safety scissors to cut paper – she would have flipped if she found out a quarter of the things I got up to. 😉

        1. Mothers of boys mostly keep them from killing themselves or others, but SHOULDN’T castrate them by not letting them dream of killing people in batch lots. It’s the testosterone. They largely grow out of it. Older son now wants to HEAL people in batch lots. … his brother… (worried shrug of shoulders.) Did you read Podkayne of Mars? My younger might be Clark. HOPEFULLY with more conscience.

          1. They largely grow out of it.

            They do? I’m pretty large, and I haven’t grown out of it…

              1. ‘Protect your brains, wear your helmet. Worse case you end up like Stephan Hawking.’

                So far they all have all original issue parts still.

              2. Had another parent ask me once. “Your son wants to make bombs when he grow up. Doesn’t that worry you?” Stopped talking to me after I answered, “Bomb making is an old and honorable profession.”

                1. My mother, as a chemistry teacher, got her students to pay attention on 9/11 by telling them that redox equations are necessary for bombs.

          2. Aside from what I’ve read in books and online, I have only one day of Chemistry class. I really wanted to take AP Chemistry, and it was my senior year in high school, but to do so, I would have had to take Early Morning Seminary…when I was told that the purpose of Early Morning Seminary (in Utah, at least) wasn’t to get academically ahead, but to catch up when you’ve failed a class, I chose to drop chemistry.

            Probably a good thing, too. That year I had AP Calculus, English and Biology, and I tried to take AP World History as a release-time study class (which became the hour I studied for Biology, since it was just before my Biology class), and I participated in Debate at the same time…I probably didn’t have time for another AP class.

            I have also often wondered if it was G-d stepping in to reduce the probability of me, or a house, or a major city becoming a crater of some sort…

          3. I have 3 girls – middle one (younger then 10) told me yesterday that “she wanted to make potions to blow things up” – I said okay – study your math and we will start on chemistry soon. 🙂 Oh, and you know that place we pass on the road with “Arsenal” in its name? They experiment with things that go “boom” all the time.


        2. I suspect my subconscious might have done a strange bit of protection on me during my adolescence. Got me interested in and reading about nuclear explosives and some related things, which occupied enough time to keep me away from conventional explosives. Well, mostly.

      3. I remember when the first “Alien” movie came out. My friends and I were really taken by the flamethowers they came up with. So we built our own that were powered by propane. If I remember correctly we were able to get them to throw 10 or 15 feet or so. We had to dismantle them after scorching portions of the backyard. So we went back to making explosives and napalm, boys will be boys after all. 😀

      4. Oh, that’s right. Your younger son is doing the Engineer thing. I might have to talk with him about how to make a propane-powered repeating rifle…

            1. Speaking of sci-fi channels, I just found out MTV is adapting The Shannara Chronicles.

              I am about as likely to watch something on MTV as to trim my toenails with an industrial laser, but if anybody here liked Shannara …

              1. Oops – forgot to mention, it is produced by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, of Smallville achievement.

                1. Well … damn. And no one, not even Peter Jackson wants to pick up and do a move of Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain? Even after that Disney butchery known as The Black Cauldren?
                  I suppose Disney still owns the rights … but I contemplate what Peter Jackson might have made of it, and weep buckets.

                  1. Sigh. The listing of classic SF/F which might be well adapted, especially now that Lame of Thrones has shown how it can be done, is appallingly long.

                    Right now, looking at the current election, I wonder how high a production of Williamson’s The Humanoids would fly. We cannot even dream of an adaptation of The Weapon Shops of Isher, can we? (Imagine the ‘splodey heads just the title of that would cause!)

                    1. About the only way Williamson’s The Humanoids would fly is if the “Humanoids” were part of an Evil Corporation’s plot to enslave people.

                      Of course, that would destroy Williamson’s warning. [Sad Smile]

                2. And John Rhys-Davies is one of the main supporting characters.

                  It actually appears to be based on “Elfstones of Shannara” rather than “Sword of Shannara”.

          1. That’s cool and all, but with a simple propane tank you can buy at the hardware store for a torch (or even the ones you can get in the camping section for camping stoves), you could load up 30-round mags and run through a couple dozen of those before running out of fuel.

    4. I like to point out to those who think banning guns is an achievable, much less laudable, goal that a semi-automatic weapon represents the state of the art in manufacturing technology. For 1890. A modern machine shop has the capability to daily crank out dozens of guns just as lethal as the ones you can buy today. The only reason they don’t is because there are factories that produce dozens of guns an hour. Put the factories out of business and someone – and every town larger than a wide spot in the road has at least one machine shop, there are a lot of potential someones – will expand to fill the demand.

      Ammunition is probably the hardest part. But while manufacturing rounds requires specialized equipment, it isn’t difficult equipment. And the chemicals involved are easier and safer to manufacture than meth.

      1. And said machine shop can be constructed with a lot of scrap aluminum, a fee good pieces of steel plate, a variety of common Home Depot items, and four washing machine motors. All the tools required are common ones found at Walmart (don’t even have to go to Home Depot there).

        It would take time but it could be done.

        1. Absolutely true.
          Improvised tool and machines was a hobby of mine in my younger days. Lately I’ve been feeling the desire to get back into those old hobbies again.

            1. I think I have a couple of his books still buried in boxes somewhere. There was one about building machines from scrap and building charcoal forges.

              1. God you folks would be the *coolest* neighbors. Full stop. A neighborhood of hoydens and huns, and MGC-ers…I suspect that HOA would be less irritating, and the fire department would have the route perfectly memorized. *happy, wistful sigh* 😀

                  1. HOA = “Home Owners Association” = “A bunch of busy-bodies telling people what they can or can’t do with their homes”.

                    HOA aren’t that big of problem because they generally aren’t armed. [Very Big Evil Grin]

                    1. I know what an HOA is…I was more implying what form it might take in a neighborhood of hoydens and huns. Less busy-bodies, more militia.

                    2. This assumes a normal HOA, frankly if we all moved together to a development and voted in our own HOA it would probably be more the organizing group. Disseminating interesting information on what everyone has created. “Okay, thanks to Jeff this month for refining the ratios of flour to air in a grain elevator – and for the wonderful cookies. Kirk, we need to replace the bridge on the far road – could you remove the old one for us? Minimal damage to the road bed, and we would like all the debris on the far bank. Sarah – please tell your boys to keep the flamethrowers in the west field – they are scaring the cows in the east field. For the July 4th fireworks, the safe distance has been determined by the local FBI field office to be 1.5 miles from central point. Herb, please remember to disconnect from the grid before testing your nuclear pile. Last time you got the voltage wrong and all of our clocks ran too fast overnight – I lost an hour of sleep.”

                      That would be some interesting HOA meetings!

                      ‘Who brings the cookies for the next meeting? And who will bring the ammo and demo?”


                  2. The HunOA would be a roughly company sized unit, but would be unique among units of its size in having both an organic air element and tube artillery. Rumors of nuclear armament are vehemently denied.

                1. That’s probably WHY we don’t all live in the same neighborhood. We’d exceed the universe’s maximum fun capacity for the acreage.

                    1. That would probably be the first community where the private libraries in every home had more volumes than the public library.

                  1. It also limits collateral damage in the event of an explosion of fun, and reduces fishy smells from all the carp flying around. 🙂

                  1. “Hey, this is a new map. Why is this section marked ‘Here be dragons’?”
                    “Well, partly from the dragons there.”
                    “Dragons? Wait.. ‘partly’?”
                    “Yes. Let’s just say that if a dragon suggests you seek cover or move a distance away, it’s not a threat, but a warning. And if you see a bright flash anyway… duck and cover. No, it’s not one of those. Probably.”
                    “I think I’ll stay elsewhere. Somewhere very elsewhere.”
                    “Very wise.”

                1. i am immediately concerned about how they overestimate their 3D printer. for some reason, they think their printer is the equivalent of a $4500 retail printer that comes with commercial CAD software, and not the equivalent of the $500 open frame printer that it looks like. Their 3d scanner, likewise… that will their model have that makes it the equivalent of the $14k Artec instead of the $400 Sense?

                  1. Well, until they actually firm up their goals with hardware I think you have to take those thoughts as just enthusiasm. 🙂

            2. Let us know how you do on the lathe bed casting. I got greedy and tried to make it with a longer bed. Haven’t gotten a good part yet. Charcoal works fine for heat, but if you really want to melt some stuff, use waste oil. (see avatar) ( with a shop vac for air, it sounds like a jet engine)

              1. I’m going to stick with the stock design first time out. I figure if I get to the end and want a longer bed that’s the time to do it.

                What problems have you been having with your casting?

                1. Mainly getting the empty spaces on the underside. First I did it like the book, but had trouble with separating the mold to remove the pattern without destroying the mold. Then I tried cores, but they moved and gave me a thin wall on one side. Haven’t tried for a while. My brother-in-law has a nice lathe, so anything my Taig can’t handle I farm out to him.

      2. Last time I saw the numbers American ammunition makers were producing nine billion assorted rounds a year, and that was several years ago before the recent increase in demand that encouraged their factories to go to multiple shifts.
        Add to that number all the hobbyist reloaders who probably on average have the components on hand to turn out ten thousand or more rounds of perfectly functional ammunition, better in fact that what comes from the factory in many cases.
        Eventually ammo becomes a problem, but not any time soon.

        1. And all those bullets the government bought? That just turns a government goon into a one stop shop for weapon and ammo.

          1. Gov’t goon? No, the gov’t offices just become convenient dumps for citizens to ammo up when needed. It’s not as though they could hold out for long against the American people. 🙂

        2. I have heard leftists musing that while gun sales are through the roof, the number of households that surveys find have guns is shrinking. Their speculation?

          Arsenals, of course. Not lying.

            1. Ah, so the Huns and Hoydens also have terrible luck with water and firearms? Good to see that it’s widespread.

          1. Hello, sir or madam we are conducting a totally anonymous survey on gun ownership in your area. About how many guns does your household have.
            I’m sure all the answers are completely reliable and honest.
            Did I mention that I was both proud and saddened to discover that both of my grand babies, now just into their teens, have been carefully instructed to lie to anyone who asks about guns or just about anything else in their home. This specifically includes both doctors and teachers.

            1. Yep. Same with my sons. From babyhood. It will interest you even more they had “social sessions” with the boys in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. Where they were asked things like “does your mom ever slap you?” They are smart boys and figured there was no good telling the truth. They also figured out for themselves “fake a minor infraction/worry to cover a bigger one.” So if they were worried about something (for a while Robert worried intensely about tariffs on imported goods. Don’t even ask me why) they’d make up something the social worker would buy. And thank heavens they had watched enough sitcoms to figure it out. That one was “My family has got a new kitten, and I’m worried I won’t get as much attention”

          2. And it never, ever occurs to them that a good percentage of those ‘gun-free’ households might just be lying, because they don’t WANT the gun-grabbers to know they’ve got ’em…?

        1. The marketplace spoke.
          Four years ago an entry level AR was going for upwards of $1k when you could find one. Right now due to supply rising to meet demand you can pick one up for right around $500.

            1. Okay, I give. What does Average White Band have to do with price trends approaching elections?

              Does anybody even remember one of their hits, anymore?

              1. I remember both of their hits (strange the kind of useless crap that gets caught in one’s neural nets). And thanks a lot for making me feel old 😦

                1. “What was the first concert you went to?” is occasionally asked and I stun the asker with my true answer: “The Glenn Miller Orchestra.” (Now, alright, it was long, long after Glenn disappeared. Still, the reactions are great to see.)

    5. In addition to all the discussion above, given current tech and available components, rail guns, masers, and laser weaponry are all not really that difficult to put together, and the ammo is basically electricity (and chunks of ferrous metal for the rail guns). Give us a few more years to get widespread 3D printing of electronic components and that cat will be so far out of the bag it won’t even be in the same state anymore.

      On a particularly nasty note re laser weapons, you don’t really need that much laser energy to be really very problematic: I doubt that the conventions on blinding lasers would be honored in such an eventuality, and a blinded soldier is just as easy to disarm as a sufficiently perforated one.

      1. Yeah – the problem with rail guns & lasers, for example, seems to be battery capacity; they drain too readily and take too long to recharge.

        Gee, suddenly I see a reason for developing an electric car.

        1. Ask and ye shall receive:

          “And at just two cubic meters in volume, you should have no trouble mounting it on the roof rack of your Volvo.”

          ” You don’t even need to connect the module to an outside power source; it’s packed with enough lithium-ion batteries to give you some number of shots (although, as with almost every question we asked, General Atomics won’t give us specific numbers, because it’s, well, classified).”


          1. Oh, and the best part:
            “What we were able to find out about this thing is that it’s a laser weapon with output energies (that’s output, not total power in the system) ranging from 75 kilowatts all the way up to 300 kilowatts. To put that in perspective, about a year ago we wrote about how Lockheed was using a portable fiber laser to shoot down rockets at a range of 1.5 kilometers using just 10 kilowatts of power. “

            1. I may be drooling. I can’t be sure because I’ve lost feeling in my face from grinning so broadly. Oh.dear…

              1. Put in bed of pickup – US version of the ubiquitous 3rd world gun-truck.

                “What’s that in the back of your truck?”
                “Batteries, sir. This is a hybrid. Concept test vehicle.”

                1. “That other bit sticking out the top is just a steerable telescope and camera. For bird watching.”

                2. A friend and I went to Knob Creek back in ’96 or so. Walking through the parking lot, I looked in the back of a pickup truck and saw a pair of ,30 Brownings bolted to a fold-down mount in the bed.

                  When I pointed it out to Jay, he pointed me over to another truck with a quad mount, complete with hydraulics to lift it up into position.

                  Both just sitting out in the parking lot, unattended.

                  Sure, they may have been dummies, but just the parts were worth a substantial sum even back then…

                  Those Kentucky guys must really HATE tailgaters…

                  1. My first car was a 92 Ford Taurus station wagon. After getting in a few traffic jams, at one point I contemplated rigging it for a rocket rack that would rise out of the back, and basically be a home-brewed MLRS to use on drivers who just didn’t get that whole “rules of the road” concept.

                    Ultimately, financial limitations were more of a show-stopper than regulatory restrictions. But as with everything else, it’s the thought that counts.

                    1. Ever read “Why Johnny Can’t Speed” by Alan Dean Foster?

                      Quote from

                      Why Johnny Can’t Speed

                      A father could teach his son a lot of important things, but combat on the freeways wasn’t one of them…not when the kid was eighteen and too full of himself to survive. But revenge did have its compensations!

                      End Quote

                      [Very Big Evil Grin]

                    2. I don’t think I’ve ever read any ADF. I know who he is, but when I looked at the blurbs on the backs (or inside covers, where appropriate) for some of his books (forget which ones, offhand) nothing really caught my attention.

                    3. Foster’s “Icerigger” is excellent.

                      The rest of his work is more or less YA and movie novelizations; readable but unmemorable IMHO, but he’s managed to sell an awful lot of it, so MHO might not be worth much…

                    4. The most memorable of the movie novelizations is the one that got suppressed: He wrote a Star Wars tie-in called “Splinter of The Mind’s Eye”. It came out between New Hope and Empire, and before George decided that Luke and Leia were brother and sister, so a main subplot was Luke chasing Leia…. and Leia apparently happy to be chased if not caught.

                    5. That book was published before Lucas knew for sure that there would be a second movie and before he knew Harrison Ford would return for the second movie (if it happened).

                      Which is why Han Solo was only briefly mentioned in the book.

                      But yes, Splinter has some scenes that make you go “WTF” when you know that Luke & Leia are brother & sister. [Smile]

        2. As FlyingMike pointed out, to be effective against humans, lasers don’t need much power. Should even be able to take out non-hardened vehicles with a kilowatt or two, by punching holes in their tires and radiators.

      2. Ferrous not requirfed, just conductive. The round shorts out the capacitor bank crossways against the rails. The magnetic fields of the rail current === and the round current | interact to push the round. No ferromagnetism involved.

  6. I’ve railed here before about how cozies were – in effect – blacklisted by the publishing establishment because “amateurs can’t be better than the professionals.”

    I have noticed that Barnes & Noble now split their mysteries into two (2) sections of about equal size, one labeled “Mysteries” (and containing more than a few “Thrillers”, which are not proper mysteries at all) and the other labeled … wait for it … yep, Cozies.

    I don’t think Agatha Christie was in amongst the cozies, which should be about a shelf and a half taken from Mysteries and added to Cozies. For that matter, the Nero Wolfe and several other mystery series featuring professional detectives might more properly be moved to Cozie-dom because they aren’t proper police (and in Nero Wolfe’s house the police are not much respected.)

    1. Not to mention Sherlock Holmes…

      (Honestly, my only complaint about some of the cozy series out there was that after a certain point I had a hard time believing that this teeny little town had a murder rate higher than Chicago’s…)

        1. Okay, you’ve really got me puzzled now. The only thing I can think of that called a cozy is an insulating cover for teapots. Clearly, this isn’t what you mean. Please elucidate.

          1. cozy mysteries. The main example is Agatha Christie. Private investigators, often not professional at all, crime not shown in great detail. Police incompetent or for some reason out of the picture.

            1. Classic television example being Murder, She Wrote. Castle manages to straddle the line, being police procedural in form but starring an amateur sleuth.

              As Sarah noted, for whatever reason publishers decreed them out of fashion and un-salable. The public, contrary as ever, decreed otherwise.

              In defense of publishers, it is likely that cozies went out of fashion because their quality suffered from excessive production with low quality control. When sales dropped publishers thought the problem was the form, not their mismanagement.

              1. Watching Murder, She Wrote when I was a kid, I wondered how Cabot Cove had any citizens left what with the attrition rate.

                1. You’re not the only one. My mother was an avid watcher of that series when I was a child. Not all the murders happened in Cabot Cove, and when they did the victim seemed to be a visitor to town about a third of the time. Which actually makes it even worse, when you think about. That small town in Maine with a homicide rate worse than Detroit or Camden at their worst, somehow still has a steady supply of residents and visitors. WTF?

                    1. It’s a small-Maine-town thing. If they’d vacationed somewhere else, it would have been angry spirits living under an Indian mound or killer clowns living in the sewers.

                    1. Nice. Best part, IMHO:

                      POLICE IDIOT:
                      Her chain of evidence is always hopelessly weak, so we just have to hope you’ll either kill her or confess.

        2. This is true. I especially loved it when genre-savvy characters lampshaded the fact–which should happen more often, in my opinion. “You do realize that our little town got named ‘murder capital of the USA’ three years running, right? Right?”

        1. If the police really had a clue they’d start suspecting the kindly old Ms. Fletcher of all the murders and using them as research for her books.

          1. Especially when there’s a murder everyplace she visits. [Evil Grin]

          2. Ah, but how does she get all those people to confess? That’s where things could get sinister.

            1. Nasu is behind a Japanese set of media properties that don’t have a strict continuity. I think there’s a version of a character who is titled ‘the brainwashing detective’. The wiki quotes an extremely explicit statement about getting confessions after being left alone with the suspect in a sealed room.

        2. I can’t find it on line, but there was a fabulous Far Side comic sometime in the late 80s or early 90s that showed a party with a dead body outlined in the middle. The hostess is thinking, “Damn it, I knew I shouldn’t have invited that Fletcher woman…”

      1. The Cat Who series was particularly bad in this regard, and they never learned. No matter how many murders they had, crime was always something that happened “Down Below.”

        1. It was also, always, some “capitalist” (entrepeneur, capitalist, wealthy person) who did it. My older son ADORED these between three and six, but it was a relief when he noticed that pattern and moved on.

          1. It isn’t a pattern that’s a problem. It’s a pattern where you have no interest in seeing how they did it this time. . . .

          2. Hmmm. Makes me glad I never could get into those…

            There was a series about a caterer that was all right for the first few books, but then it fell down the black hole all the craft mysteries seem to. (And frankly, ‘craft mysteries’ has got to be the *weirdest* thing ever…)

            1. It’s where people went to escape the ban on cozies. When one was requested of me, the Furniture Refinishing mysteries under Elise Hyatt were born. I will continue them once rights revert. Meanwhile I’ll probably do the Orphan kittens mysteries, once the great move that started in 15 is finished.

              1. Ugh…I know it isn’t your doing Sarah but WTF is Berkley thinking with those prices. I was primed to buy and, like happens so often with non-indie eBooks, I balked at the price. Guess I’ll just wait until they revert.

                1. Good Lord. DO NOT BUY THEM FROM THEM. I’m trying to starve them out. I’ll send you mobis if you don’t mind uneditted. I practically chew my fingers off every time I buy Butcher.

                  1. No, I can wait for legit from you. I am making a big effort to understand the buying on the books sides as much as I do with music. I used to think publishers were saints compared to record labels and now that I’m disabused of that notion treating them similarly.

                    1. Publishers are saints compared to record labels — but that is such a low bar that there is ample space for sin.

                    2. Point…at least rights in theory reverse. I have yet to understand “label owns the masters” but you have to earn out your advance.

                      Either the advance is a work for hire contract and they keep the masters and you pay nothing back or the masters revert when you pay back the loan. Either is a valid statement but the whole “we’re loaning you the money to make something we keep and you’d better pay it back” makes no sense.

            2. Serietis. The disease of being a series. . . .

              In the last week, I have quit two series in the middle of book 4 because I just wasn’t interested any more.

      1. Last Saturday I saw 2 copies of William Shakespeare’s STAR WARS “Verily, A New Hope” on a B&N remainder table @ $5.95.

          1. Since 1999, we’ve known that the best parts of Star Wars were in spite of George Lucas, not because of him. Until those books, though, we never knew it was Shakespeare whom we had to thank. 😉

  7. Those who complain about Americans being ungovernable have the issue exactly backwards. Here in America the citizens are supposed to govern ourselves.

    We also expect to govern the bureaucrats and that, I will admit, is a job we’ve gotten slack about. I blame this on the widespread adoption of automobiles, which has led to a shortage of horsewhips.

    1. I forget where I saw it some years back, but they were asking people whether or not they “trusted the government.” The attitude of the people doing the asking was that “yes” was supposed to be the correct answer. I was personally terrified by the people who answered “yes” and cheered at the ones that gave the asker a “You’re joking, right?” look.

      Not Trusting Government is, I feel, a requirement to be a proper American. Not Trusting Government was/is sort of the whole point of the exercise.

      I work (for the moment) for the government, I most emphatically do NOT trust them. (And it’s not even a case–at least where I am–of “powermongering conspiracies” but rather “people are stupid and lazy and governmental hiring practices make firing the incompetent pretty much impossible, so what they do is promote them somewhere else so they’re someone else’s problem.” Of course, the big flaw here is that then the scum *really* floats to the top. I mean, someone I work with was told–flat out–that they didn’t want to make him an assistant field office manager because he would “be too hard on people and make them work too hard.” ::facepalm::

      1. Obama truly cannot understand why we don’t TRUST government. He thinks someone convinced us not to trust government. I don’t care where he was born or that he’s technically a citizen. That man just AIN’T AMERICAN.

        1. And yet, observe how much Obama and his allies distrusted government when Reagan, Bush or Bush was president. The problem is that they only trust themselves, which makes them the most untrustworthy of folk.

          Our system is based on the concept of institutional trust, with concomitant office-holder responsibility to respect and defend those institutions.

          Some folk, in a borrowed dress or tux, are extra-careful to not spill anything on it; others … less so.

          1. The big thing I’ve noticed is that conservatives and libertarians don’t trust government no matter who is running the show. Progs trust government when their people are in charge. Despite all evidence that they are as corrupt (if not blatantly more so) than the other side. Not sure if it’s because they only get info from msnbc and don’t look at other sources or if they are just idiots (both?)

            1. Not sure if it’s because they only get info from msnbc and don’t look at other sources or if they are just idiots (both?)

              You would have to be an idiot to only get info from MSNBC.

            2. It is kind of fun watching the Left shift gears to and from “Question Authority/Dissent Is The Highest Form Of Patriotism” to Mewling Myrmidon every 8 years or so.

              1. In fact, I would argue that this frequent shift in perspective has the effect of shorting out a culture of basic faith in government/authority needed for a proper dictatorship.
                The smart, Machiavellian way to go would be to preach acceptance of going along with the Republicans.

        2. I’ve seen Europeans talking about the same thing, how crazy it is that Americans automatically assume their government is either wrong or hostile.

      2. “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”
        And a close cousin to absolute power is authority without consequence.
        Abuse of authority over the citizenry with no reasonable recourse is in my opinion why the American people have such low regard for our elected officials. It’s also why law enforcement is fast falling into the same category. Unfortunately it takes precious few bad apples to spoil a barrel.
        With the cops I do believe it is a very small number, but I have no such belief when it comes to our politicians.

        1. “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”

          Its worth noting that that quote isn’t about the tendency of those in power to act like they’re above the rules–it’s about the tendency of everyone else to refuse to hold those with power to the same standards they would hold everyone else, even when looking back from a “safe” distance. You can understand why someone living in the Soviet Union in the 30s wouldn’t want to criticize Stalin’s unfortunate habit of mass murder; someone living in 2000s Russia, however, has no such excuse. And yet even before Putin started his current course, the Stalinist nostalgia was growing.

          That thought seems to fit well with a post about how we refuse to respect a teacher just because she’s a teacher or an elder just because she’s old. Maybe Americans are just a bit less inclined to be corrupted in that sense.

          1. It also addresses the fact that holding power tends to limit available information. Nobody wants to be the one to tell Adolf that the plan isn’t working. [Insert link to “Hitler Learns … video] The further up the power pyramid you are, the more information gets filtered before reaching you.

            See also: Undercover Boss, although the “king going disguised as a commoner” was old when Twain’s Arthur tried it.

            1. The thing with Hitler in particular was not that he was poorly informed as his Ideology would not allow him to process Reality as it is. His generals would try really, really hard to convey information about the true state of the Russian front, only for Hitler to lecture at length on how they were wrong.

              And when your Ideology isn’t properly processing Reality, anyone who says different must be a Defeatist and a Wrecker, and should be removed or killed.

              1. In the first stages of WWII, the war had gone according to his predictions and against theirs. Why would he believe them?

                1. That’s one of the rhings I got from a Bonhoeffer biography. The generals were terrified because Hitler’s early gambles had paid off so well (they’d expected reality to slap him down and make him more manageable but the reverse had happened) and there was no way that success could continue.

      3. I’ve gotten some of the strangest looks (and a few truly mischievous grins) when I point out that the local hardware store’s pet supply section includes whips.

        1. Nonsense. I’ll just hold your coat while you tie on to that pointy thing in the front.

      1. Do you mean for training rhinos or rhino hide? The first I have a couple of sources without thinking. The second I’d need to make a call.

            1. um… long ago and far away. Probably don’t have the arm strength/speed for it anymore. And before you ask, it was a weird infatuation with Indiana Jones, no kinky stuff. (Sheesh.)

              1. Okay…just a lot of first timers I see tend to not realize for a while they’re going to hit themselves more than the target and that the target get feel left out by that so they need to take some time to learn.

                Then again, targets shouldn’t say stupid things like, “Where did you hit yourself this time,” either.

                1. Broke up a relationship due to a complete lack of interest in that particular kind of fun and game. Seemed like to too much effort, and brought up too much stuff better buried. But your description made me giggle.

                    1. Get with the program. The right rumor, disseminated by Dave Drake, was that I dated Dave Freer. I’ve also at various times been accused of sleeping with Dave Drake, Steve Forbes and other guys too numerous to mention. But John Ringo is a new one on me.

                    2. Leslie Fish did that “professionally” for a short time. She wrote a song about it (of course) and when the madam heard it she promptly bought it for either an ad campaign or hold music.

                      “I beat bottoms for a living….”

                      Google The Dominatrix Song for the rest of the lyrics.

    2. As has been mentioned a bunch lately in the various “no, he’s natural born and you are an idiot” discussions around Ted Cruz birth in the Great White North, as US citizens we are this nation’s sovereign.

      As any sovereign throughout history whether they actually trust the government that works for them, and I suspect those not insane would answer “of course not!”

      The issue is that many of those asking are thinking of it the other way around, and instead of “Do you trust your employees?” in fact are asking “Do you trust your rulers?”

  8. I’ve objected to the term “first responder” for some time now. The police, fire department, paramedics are all second responders; I’m the first responder.

    Some years ago my (then) teen-aged son called me from his mother’s house (he was alone at the time) to tell me that the house was filling with smoke. I told him to hang up and call 911, and I’d be there in about 5 minutes. When I got there the fire department still hadn’t arrived. I sent him outside and determined that the smoke was coming from the garage (directly under the formal dining room). I ran down the stairs into the smoke (completely unable to see even with the lights turned on) and found the switch for the garage door by feel, then opened that door. After running out myself we found that a dehumidifier my ex-wife had left running in the garage had caught fire but was pretty much consumed. My son and I dragged it outside after unplugging it. By then the firemen were arriving. They hosed down the interior of the garage to make sure there wasn’t any further fire, then lectured us about waiting for them to arrive rather than trying to fight the fire ourselves. I told them that that was a load of crap (I might have used a stronger term…) and that it was my house and I’d do what needed doing, and that we’d pretty much extinguished the fire by the time they arrived anyway. They weren’t happy, but so what?

    1. The Navy breaks down firefighting response into three phases:

      First is incipient response. This is the guy who actually finds the fire. His first priority is to report the fire. After that he grabs whatever is immediately available – the exact words are “with little to no breathing protection” – and starts fighting the fire. The goal here isn’t to put out the fire, but to limit how much it spreads. To be a speed bump.

      Next is the rapid response. This is everyone in the area, such as the watch team in an engineering space. They will put on breathing protection and run out the fire hoses to start fighting the fire in earnest.

      Finally there’s the full response. These are the Damage Control teams. They have the full firefighting suits and can get close to the fire. They’re also the last to arrive since they’re normally scattered around the ship and have to dress out.

      With some obvious changes this basic structure applies to any Bad Day type event. The professionals are the full responders, but for the several minutes it takes for them to show up, we are the response.

  9. This explains why homeschooling is a Thing that has caught on in America and not nearly as much in the rest of the world (though I am on a forum with homeschoolers in other countries). It’s very American to say “No, the ‘experts’ are doing such a terrible job that I can and will do a better job in my basement with $80 worth of books cobbled together from twenty sources and my kid will end up getting a doctorate”. And then doing it. There’s at least 2 million of us in this country now. Enough to change where we’re heading? Maybe not. Call us the “seed corn” for when it’s time to replant.

    1. My parents were appalled the year I home schooled. “how do you know you’re teaching him the right things?” “What right things? I’m teaching him everything he can get his hands on. He’s a sponge.”

      1. Teaching him the right things? I’m teaching him to self-educate. That’s the only thing that is really important.

      2. My parents weren’t happy the first year we started homeschooling either, but year 2 they are taking to it nicely. They are enjoying the flexibility it adds to our schedule. Can’t wait to build a Chemistry lab this summer to start the REAL science classes…


    2. Homeschooling offers some very American adages.

      An expert is merely somebody who has mastered the conventional wisdom.

      Scope and Sequence? We’re homeschoolers — we spend as much time on a topic as necessary to get it — them we move on.

      1. “we spend as much time on a topic as necessary to get it — them we move on.”

        Philosophically there are greater advantages, but this was the one I appreciated most keenly after enrolling elsewhere!

    3. I fully intend that if/when I have children, they will be home-schooled.

      My standard response to the usual arguments (“But how will your children be socialized?!?!”) when I bring it up is: “You socialize *dogs*, not people. And explain to me how placing children into a social environment based entirely on age and–in some places–where you are in the alphabet is ‘natural human interaction’?”

      Most homeschooled kids I’ve known–including my youngest sib–are comfortable carrying on conversations with anyone of any age. Because they weren’t limited in their interactions if their parents were homeschooling right.

      1. And at least around here (TX Panhandle and adjacent) there are a gazillion sports clubs, 4-H, church clubs and activity groups, scouting groups and other opportunities for kids outside of the school districts.

        1. Not to mention that many school districts will let your child participate in band, choir, sports teams, etc. even if he’s being homeschooled for the academic subjects.

            1. Not in CO. As soon as democrats seized state legislature they revoked this: ultimately the reason younger son went back to school. Otherwise I’d have sent him back for Math and Physics and Robotics club and kept him home for everything else.

              1. “Sorry, we can’t send him back to school; he has a communicable disease.”

                “What disease?”

                “Contempt for incompetent authority.”

              2. Oh, they are playing a risky game there especially if there is an educational guarantee in the state constitution or the child in question has a disability.

                1. Which younger son did/does. Besides being somewhere North of 165 IQ (estimated 184, but I know how imprecise it is in the upper reaches) which make him “twice exceptional.” D*MN. You mean I could have made the rat weasels lump it? Ah well. He went into a high school with a dual college program, a year early and was very happy. His friend group still hails mostly from that time.

                  1. Only if you had the money for lawyers or could get backing from one of the support groups. I guarantee it would have taken a lawsuit without a specific statute to charge them under.

          1. And some states require that by law, just in case a particular teachers union administrator gives you grief.

      2. Yeah I just point out that my husband and I were both homeschooled and came out no more badly adjusted than anyone else in our respective engineering programs…

      3. Thank you – I will be borrowing this argument. My husband and I will probably never have children, but if we do, I want to homeschool. My husband is truly concerned about the socialization aspect and all my arguments have been met with resistance because he is stuck on the idea that only schools can socialize kids.

        I love the man, but I can assure you that school did not help socialize my Aspie self; martial arts, soccer, hanging out with neighborhood kids, are what socialized me. In fact, I would argue that outside of speech and debate class, school caused more harm in my socialization, in part for the reasons that you mention.

        1. Socialization is accomplished by providing good models of proper, responsible, adult behaviour.

        2. I’m sure this is twice covered territory, but:
          Does he want your children to be socialized by a peer group (think “Lord of the Flies”), or by adults – such as yourselves.
          To get the public school socialization experience, you could hire someone to beat them up and steal their lunch money???

          1. He worries that the hypothetical children won’t learn how to work in groups or to develop coping skills. He considers getting rolled for lunch money to be a part of life and something that teaches kids about the real world. I like to point out that my public school had knife fights and bomb threats and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want our kids dealing with that, even though it will definitely prepare them for the real world. My husband has never been in a fistfight – I have and I don’t want my children to need to experience that.

            I will say in his defense he doesn’t view it as being socialized exclusively by peers, but by peers under the guidance of a responsible teacher. I can assure you that he and I had very different experiences regarding teachers and what they considered an appropriate level of responsibility. I am really having trouble convincing him that public schools are more detrimental than homeschooling because his experience was overwhelmingly positive and he’s a very outgoing, well-adjusted person.

            1. Some variations in socialization are driven by mental health issues, and cannot be fairly blamed on schooling.

              Going with public school means you have an earlier deadline to train them to have the psychological strength and toughness needed to deter pedophiles.

              It isn’t impossible that your kids might end up in special ed.

              Special ed has a lot of kids who are vulnerable, or who behave oddly.

              I’m pretty sure there was a pedophile with one of the special ed programs I was in. I’d developed counter-predation strategies from first principles, and practiced them out of general paranoia. I had one conversation in particular with the alleged pedophile that might have gotten evaluated as a poor victim. I later heard that he had been molesting students. Apparently, students had been reporting him for years, and the principal had ignored him.

              If they get all of their primary and secondary education in public schools, they may have over a hundred direct teachers, plus administrators, coaches, and teachers of other classes. Adults have a lot of advantages over children, and the school environment gives more. A kid needs a very solid foundation if they are going to mitigate those risks to the greatest extent possible.

              Not everyone spontaneously develops that on their own, so you would have to do it. If you do public school, you would have to establish it past where teachers could sabotage it by the age of five or younger.

              1. There’s something I’ve noticed about criticism with home schooling, though. If a home-schooled child fails to learn, or fails to socialize, or is otherwise odd and quirky, it’s always “The parents should have sent the child to public school” and never “the child may just have been odd and unable to learn”. Granted, the parents might not have been good teachers, too, but this would have been just as detrimental in a public school setting as it would have been in a home-schooled one.

                On the other hand, children in public schools could fail to socialize, or fail to do their homework, or fail in any other number of ways, and no one ever raises an eyebrow beyond looking at the statistics and say “If a foreign country would have done this to our school system, we would have considered it an act of war”.

                It’s an odd standard where home-schooled children have to be perfect, but all manner of imperfections are overlooked for public schools.

                1. You are overlooking the all-purpose, get-out-of-jail-free card never fail excuse used by the teachers’ unions, school administrators and apologists for the public schools: the school cannot make up for the deficiencies of the home environment.

                  Failure is always the fault of the parents, especially in the public schools that do their best to render parents impotent in the education of their children.

                  I suspect the only reason some of those people have for defending the role of parents is so they may have somebody to blame for the failure of their [DELETED] educational schemes.

                  1. No, no, no — failure is the fault of lacking funding. As long as budget is being discussed. It’s only when their money is not on the line that the parents are brought up. After all, if it were the parents’ fault, we would, reasonably, not throw money at it.

        3. Oh John and I got “socialized” in public school all right. That’s where I learned to fear and avoid other humans and he was on the verge of becoming a sociopath (it was only him *truly* giving his life to Christ that kept him from becoming a monster).

          Socialization during homeschool is entirely possible with only reasonable parental effort (although *wildly* extroverted Middlest Kidlet does find it difficult without the chance to meet many new people every week) and the flexibility of schedule and chance for many different experiences cannot be found n public school.

        4. Socialization? Hm. Yeah, getting mentally/physically abused by bullies really helped my social skills. *eyeroll*

      4. By “socialize” I think they really mean “turn into good little socialists.”

  10. I think in some areas (mostly urban and along the coasts) the spirit has become muted. When you look at what happened in New Orleans during Katrina, it looks like _way_ too many folks just hung out expecting someone to ‘so something’ to save them (there were and still are other problems with that city as well). But you saw a lot of passing the buck and people blaming everyone else for their predicament.

    Fargo has dealt with a series of ‘historic’ floods over the last couple of decades. Back in ’09 (I think, can’t remember exactly now) FEMA was absolutely shocked that the mayor not only didn’t evacuate the city in the face of a never before seen flood height when they told him to, but that none of the people in the city seemed all that interested in leaving. It wasn’t that we were sitting around waiting for someone to save us, but that we were too busy doing it ourselves already. Thousands of people filled sand bags. General contractors dropped everything they were doing and signed on to haul clay and build dikes, again. Sure, the police gave escorts to the trucks so they wouldn’t have to stop at the lights, but no one minded and no one even thought of getting in the way.

    In ’11 when Minot flooded FEMA opened two shelters before the trailers could arrive. 11K people were displaced, but only a couple dozen ended up in the shelters. Their friends and neighbors simply opened their doors and put them up for weeks, sometimes months.

    Hopefully the strong independent spirit and ethos of being American can take hold again in some of these areas. We sorely need it after this Obama fiasco.

    1. With New Orleans during Katrina, it may be a matter of News reporting.

      John Ringo, in Last Centurion, talked about an apparently real event (after Katrina) where one person was seen by a reporter (& interviewed) busy helping other people and the reporter also interviewed another person who was complaining about the “government” not doing anything.

      Apparently, the first person wasn’t shown on national TV but the second person was shown on national TV.

      Note, Ringo made it clear that the reporter wanted both people featured but “Higher Ups” didn’t want to show the first person.

      1. Special as in – short bus and special needs special.
        I will never forget the stories in the local newspaper – the San Antonio Express News, regarding the New Orleans evacuees after Katrina. They were being sheltered on one of the military bases … and their elementary-aged children were being sent to the nearby Edgewood ISD schools. It had been noted locally for years (or at least, since I came to live in San Antonio in 1994 that Edgewood was the most awful, hapless, worst and lowest-rated schools in town … and the stories in the SA-Express News were all about the evacuees going all enthusiastic about Edgewood … how the schools and classrooms were so wonderful, and cheery, and modern and good! Their children were so happy and reassured, and they were so happy with their new schools …
        I came away from these stories wondering just exactly how awful were the New Orleans public schools, that the worst-rated schools in town should appear to be an improvement.

        1. Louisiana has a $75k homestead exemption, while in Texas it is $25k.
          This eliminates a huge fraction of Louisiana’s residential tax base, hence the poor school funding. Related: when Katrina refugees were relocated to Dallas, we heard many comments about how surprised they were to find lots of jobs available here. I guess everyone just assumes there local situation (schools, jobs) is the same nationwide.

            1. An educated populace is a public good. Remember who is going to be staffing your nursing home.

              1. Third-world immigrants that they can hire cheaper than US natives, then deport whenever without so much as a fare-thee-well?

              2. That would be my kids. Which I am home schooling. Just as we are currently doing for my parents.

          1. Then there were the stories out of Houston, both the official ones where the Houston PD was mind-boggled about “these refugees are just out in the open dealing drugs and guns and when we rollup on them and arrest them they act so surprised we have an issue” and the unofficial ones where people described how there was a spike in justifiable homicides until N.O. criminals learned that kicking in the front door on a Texas granny for her Social Security check was a whole different proposition: Texas grannies shoot back.

  11. ” if I… grabbed a bottle of cleaner to save a sanitation problem, I’d get asked “Who do you think you are?”… Yeah, Americans talk back, ”
    – These two things are related. I.e. an American who wasn’t intimidated by being thought an “ugly American” would be very tempted to respond “Someone who knows how to clean a window. Here, you want a bottle of Windex and a rag, too?”

  12. That “do it” attitude shows up in the oddest places, too. In the worst neighborhood in our nation’s capital, as you drive around (I still don’t recommend walking unless you really know the area), you see trash bags tied to the fences. Some of the older people in the neighborhood walk around, grab litter and bag it up.

  13. I just watched on Netflix the movie “Night Train to Lisbon,” about events leading to the 1974 revolution in Portugal. Have you seen it? Thoughts? I enjoyed it; a different kind of love story.

    1. No. I haven’t seen it. And I would put hands in the fire it’s more or less full of sh*t. There is a mythology that grew up around the revolution, including that it was done from the highest principles (it wasn’t. Yes, the regime was bad, but the people who toppled it were also and were doing it mostly for power and money) and that it was bloodless (it wasn’t. In the early years tons of people disappeared. People said they’d run to Brazil, etc. Until the mass graves showed up, about ten years ago. Now I understand why mom was worried when I mouthed off. Ah well.) The Times reports on the revolution and particularly on the couple of years after are part of what I say I know for a fact bore no resemblance to reality. I thought that I was going crazy when I read stuff about it in the press here. It was a relief to make friends with Charlie Martin, who by reason of employment at the time, reassured me that yes, the abuses and horrors were known here. I didn’t dream them up. It’s just that the American press never reported on them. Think of their reportage of the Arab spring, without the blogs about assaults, etc. So, no, I haven’t seen the movie. I don’t think I could watch it without screaming and throwing things at the TV.

      1. Never look for accuracy in a movie. Movie makers are out to twist everything into the shape they want and are not constrained by facts, or good judgement.

        1. I think my favorite of his roles was the ghost in Truly, Madly, Deeply.

          Although some liked his Obadiah Slope in The Barchester Chronicles best.

          By Grabthar’s hammer, by the suns of Worvan, he shall be avenged.

    1. NOOOOOOOO!!!

      Although in a bleak way, I’m rather amused by that headline in the Washington Post: “Alan Rickman, star of stage and ‘Harry Potter.’ ” Die Hard? Galaxy Quest? Robin Hood? Never heard of ’em.

  14. *sniff* My favorite role for him was in Galaxy Quest. Absolutely and ultimately roll-on-the-floor funny.

    One of my facebook friends posted to sad news on her own feed with the comment, “Save the 69-year old Brits!”

  15. A few years ago a street sign on our corner had fallen off the pole, ya know, the one that states Lovely St and Wonderful Blvd. I went out, saw that it only needed to be reset and then have the allen screws retightened. I got my ladder, my allen wrench and went to work. Someone drove up and asked what I was doing. “Repairing this sign.”

    They said that it was against the law for me to fix the sign, it was the job of the city. I stood there atop my ladder and looked down at them. “Do you think it’s a good use of your tax money for them to send a truck and three workers thirty miles up here from downtown and have two of them watch the third one try for an hour how to fix this?”

    They muttered something about me being a crazy old man and drove off. I was around 35 at the time. I WAS a crazy old man, crazy like my dad, trying to take care of the stuff that we all need and enjoy.

    That was twenty years ago. I’m crazier, older, and I find great joy in running into crazy old men in their 70’s and 80’s who are willing to roll up their sleeves and fix something just because it needs fixing.

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