Tuesday, April 26, 2011



Quote source

Image source

Back in a week.  Or so.  Keep an eye on things for me.

Posted by John Venlet on 04/26 at 08:25 AM
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Can The Revolution Be Modeled?

In my post earlier today, I stated that I had not read the Brookings.edu paper Modeling Civil Violence: An Agent-Based Computational Approach (linked in that post and this one), but that I would before the end of the day.

Well, I’ve read the paper, and it is rather interesting.  Though the title to the paper indicates that its focus is producing a model for predicting civil violence (one of two variants it can be utilized for), the model, as the paper itself disclaims, could be utilized in modeling revolutionary fervor, what the paper refers to as “A Ripeness Index” (see pg. 18 of paper), and comes complete with the formulas utilized in the modeling scenarios.  For this reason alone the paper is of interest.

In regards to the world of daily blogging the failings of government, I found this snippet from the paper (see pg. 23) also of interest.

...important implications for the tactics of revolutionary leadership.  Rather than chip away at the regime’s legitimacy over a long period with daily exposes of petty corruption, it is far more effective to be silent for long periods, and accumulate one punchy expose.  Indeed, the single punch need not be as “weighty,” if you will, as the “sum” of the daily particulars…

Though the paper is 46 pdf pages in total, it includes many graphs representing modeling results which make for interesting viewing, so it will not take as long to read the paper as one may surmise.

Posted by John Venlet on 04/25 at 06:27 PM
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Courtesy or Conditioning for Implementation of Martial Law?

Just stopped by Drudge and note the link to this article headline out of Georgia, Military patrols start Friday night in downtown Columbus, wherein one reads this.

Starting at 10 o’clock Friday, two senior non-commissioned officers from Fort Benning will be on courtesy patrol.  The soldiers will be wearing arm bands that read, “Courtesy Patrol.”

Fort Benning Commanding General Robert Brown and Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson made the announcement earlier this week.

Is this really a “courtesy” measure, or, a conditioning measure for future implementation of martial law?

Posted by John Venlet on 04/25 at 10:15 AM
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Only Three Percent or Falsified Preferences?

Mike Vanderboegh provides one of the more concisely written descriptions of what is known as a Three Percenter.  It is titled What is a “Three Percenter”?  Vanderboegh’s description of a Three Percenter opens as follows.

During the American Revolution, the active forces in the field against the King’s tyranny never amounted to more than 3% of the colonists. They were in turn actively supported by perhaps 10% of the population. In addition to these revolutionaries were perhaps another 20% who favored their cause but did little or nothing to support it. Another one-third of the population sided with the King (by the end of the war there were actually more Americans fighting FOR the King than there were in the field against him) and the final third took no side, blew with the wind and took what came.

Note, in that description, the cumulative percentages of individuals who supported the American Revolution.  This seemingly small percentage of individuals were expressing a preference, a preference for liberty, unfalsified.

Now, consider these words, taken from an essay written by Glenn Reynolds in 2002, titled Patriotism and Preferences, wherein Glenn reflects on the rise in the number of Americans willing to express patriotism for American after 9/11, and, collapses of totalitarian regimes.  Pay particular attention to the words in bold.

This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. (Click here for a more complex analysis of this and related issues). Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don’t realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it – but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

This works until something breaks the spell, and the discontented realize that their feelings are widely shared, at which point the collapse of the regime may seem very sudden to outside observers – or even to the citizens themselves. Claims after the fact that many people who seemed like loyal apparatchiks really loathed the regime are often self-serving, of course. But they’re also often true: Even if one loathes the regime, few people have the force of will to stage one-man revolutions, and when preferences are sufficiently falsified, each dissident may feel that he or she is the only one, or at least part of a minority too small to make any difference. (bold by ed.)

Though Glenn is speaking, here, in large part, about regime collapse in dictorial Arab countries, and the percentage of citizen support or approval of regime collapse in those countries, there is both a lesson, and encouragement, for Americans desiring a return to the revolutionary American ideals upon which this country was founded.

That lesson, and encouragement, is, quite possibly many Americans have falsified their preferences for liberty and freedom, and these “falsified preferences” can be explained this way (from that link).

...social pressures can make people say that they want and believe something that they really don’t want or believe…

The most powerful pressures can come from government, which may take your life or your property; but government is hardly the only source of preference falsification. The perceived opinions of others very much determine what people say and do, even in the most democratic of democracies.

Reynolds ends his Patriotism and Preferences essay this way.

One interesting question is whether a lot of the hardline Arab states are like this. Places like Iraq, Syria, or Saudi Arabia spend a lot of time telling their citizens that everyone feels a particular way, and punishing those who dare to differ, which has the effect of encouraging people to falsify their preferences. But who knows? Given the right trigger, those brittle authoritarian regimes might collapse overnight, with most of the population swearing - with all apparent sincerity - that it had never supported them, or their anti-Western policies, at all.

Perhaps we should think about how to make it so.

Perhaps we should be asking the above question about America, rather than the Arab states, additionally asking what is the “right trigger” to return America to its 1770s revolutionary ideals, as to make it so right here.  There may be more Americans in support of this than we actually are aware of due to falsified preferences.  What do you honestly prefer?

Link to Reynolds’ 2002 essay via Reynolds, in response to a reader’s email.

Additional reading, linked in Reynolds essay also, a Brookings paper titled Modeling Civil Violence: An Agent-Based Computational Approach.  Link takes you to the abstract and overview of the paper which can be downloaded and/or read in a pdf format.  The complete paper is 46 pages.  I have not read this paper, yet, but I will before the end of the the day.

Posted by John Venlet on 04/25 at 08:48 AM
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Comprehending The Incorrect Wrong

Children can say mean things, especially to other children or individuals who do not fit into what is considered the societal norm.  Most individuals are aware of this.  Good parenting can ameliorate a child’s tendency to say mean things, but, unfortunately, some children never grow up, just as some parents never parent.

This past week, there was a big to do over a child saying mean things in regards to Trig Palin.  That child goes by the name of Jack Stuef, and the editors at Wonkette evidently allowed little Jack to use his crayons to write mean things about Trig Palin, who just happens to be a Down Syndrome child.

I’ve read many blog posts and other commentaries about little Jack Stuef, justifiably excoriating little Jack for saying mean things, but I’ve only read one blog post which correctly noted the even larger wrong being perpetrated by Wonkette, and that wrong is being perpetrated by Wonkette editor Ken Layne.  Layne even admits to this ongoing wrong with some pride, possibly inadvertently, in an email exchange with Tommy Christopher, which Christopher shares with readers in a post at Mediaite.com titled Wonkette Editor Comments on Reprehensible Birthday Greeting to Trig Palin, and that wrong can be comprehended in reading the following from an email sent to Christopher by Layne.

I have been editing and writing for political satire websites for 15 years, including on AOL where not a single AOL subscriber ever had *any idea* what I was doing and the whole point was to drum up as many insane comments as possible. People are going to act outraged about things on the internet.

Billy Beck comprehended Layne’s wrong upon reading the above, clearly noting it in the title to his post documenting the wrong, In Which Ken Layne Admits He’s A Master Troll.  As Billy states in his post, “At least we know what were dealing with.”  Yeah, a fraud, who employs children.

Posted by John Venlet on 04/24 at 12:13 PM
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“Prayer for America”

Via The Gunslinger, Prayer for America, in its entirety.

God, give us men! A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands
Men whom the lust of office does not kill
Men whom the spoils of office can not buy
Men who have honor; men who will not lie
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog in public duty, and in private thinking.
It ends, Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land and waiting, justice sleeps.

-Josiah Gilbert Holland

Posted by John Venlet on 04/24 at 10:38 AM
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Faith and Belief - There Is A Difference

From Og’s post faith.

Belief is widespread, and therefore common- common not in the “Widespread” use of the word, but common in this use oif (sic) the word:

6: hackneyed; trite.

7: of mediocre or inferior quality; mean; low: a rough-textured suit of the most common fabric.

8: coarse; vulgar: common manners.

Faith is rare, and therefore not common, in those same senses of the word.

Posted by John Venlet on 04/24 at 10:31 AM
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Friday, April 22, 2011

On the Ethics of Money

The phrase, “Money is the root of all evil,” is claimed to have originated in the Bible.  Specifically the passage, I Timothy 6:10.

The phrase, to this day, is brandished as a weapon of guilt against all individuals.  Whether rich, or poor, a miser, or philanthropist, blue collar worker, or white collar worker, the phrase “money is the root of all evil,” can be whipped out quick as a bunny and righteously brandished against all no matter their personal financial circumstances.  It’s a real equal opportunity phrase, so it is no wonder that this phrase, in its many poetic license variations, is so relished by the government

Tell that to the kid who is selling lemonade, or what have you, from a homemade stand because he wants to purchase some toy his parents cannot afford, or a gift for his Mom for Mother’s Day, and is striving to do just that.  “Money is the root of all evil,” kid, sorry, you shouldn’t be trying to earn a buck and pay your own way, it can only lead to your perdition.

The Ludwing von Mises Institute has an interesting piece on the subject of money, and the true debaser of money, available to read titled The Morals Issues of Money, the impetus for which was a sermon recently heard on the words of James 5:1-6, which makes some excellent points, points which do not require a slavish reverence for the words contained within the Bible, but do require a reverence for men (individuals).  From the post.

Money is the most generally accepted medium of exchange in a society. Simply put, it is that which nearly every person in society will accept in exchange for something else. In the past, commodities like tobacco, shells, cotton, and even whiskey have had their moments as money, but gold and silver have proven — over thousands of years — to be the predominant forms of money. Note, however, that money was neither invented by government nor created by social contract. It resulted from the spontaneous convergence of many individuals voluntarily choosing to peacefully transact with each other. Gold and silver was their common language (Hülsmann, p. 23).

And the conclusion.

Why are we not talking about the ethics — the right or the wrong — of money production in America? If James condemned the business owner that debased the wages of workers, why are we not condemning a government that exploits the money of its citizens? And which violation is greater? At least the cheated worker can move onto a new employer to preserve his/her wealth and dignity. How is the citizen ever able to escape the injustice of his or her government? Such a thing is almost impossible.

Isn’t this something my pastor should have talked about? Isn’t it something we should all be talking about?

Worth reading.

Posted by John Venlet on 04/22 at 12:11 PM
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Matt Drudge - Poet or Artist?

So is Matt Drudge a Drudgeku poet, or an artist?

Posted by John Venlet on 04/22 at 09:21 AM
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Quote from Auberon Herbert

The State is created by the individuals. It is fashioned and re-fashioned by them at their own will and pleasure ... for their use and service, and when it does not satisfy their requirements, they pull it to pieces and reconstruct it. Men throughout their lives are included in many wholes…. Schools, colleges, clubs, associations, joint stock companies, co-operative companies, political parties, village or town organisations, and then lastly comes national organisation or the State; but in all these cases, the organisation is created by the individuals themselves…. [How] is it possible for any constructed and reconstructed things to be greater than those who construct it and reconstruct it? To indulge in any such imagination is to imitate the carver of idols, who, when with his own hands he has fashioned the log of wood, falls on his knees before it and calls it his god. (Free Life, July 1898)

Quote obtained from a Wendy McElroy piece titled Auberon Herbert by Wendy McElroy.

If you have the time, and desire liberty for all individuals, read Wendy’s entire essay regarding Herbert,  and then explore the Funadmentals of Voluntaryism.

UPDATE:  An animated video (4:05) which compliments the ideas of Herbert, posted by Perry de Havilland at Samizdata under the heading Asking people a very basic question….  The video is titled George Ought to Help.

Posted by John Venlet on 04/21 at 06:53 PM
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Do Machetes Qualify as Medical Equipment?

Why is President Obama authorizing sending so called Libyan rebels $25 million dollars of Americans’ money?  According to a Washington Times piece titled Libya rebels will receive $25M from U.S., this $25 million dollars is for “non-lethal” aid.

“The president’s proposed actions would provide urgently needed nonlethal assistance to support efforts to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack in Libya,” said Joseph E. Macmanus, acting assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, in an April 15 letter. A copy of the letter, sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was obtained by The Washington Times.

The new authorization for assistance would cover “vehicles, fuel trucks and fuel bladders, ambulances, medical equipment, protective vests, binoculars, and non-secure radios,” according to a memorandum attached to the letter.

I’m wondering, based on reading the above quote from the Washington Times, and after reading a Pajamas Media piece titled Mounting Evidence of Rebel Atrocities in Libya, wherein one can read this,

While the International Criminal Court has announced that it is investigating charges of war crimes against Muammar al-Gaddafi and other members of the Libyan regime, harrowing video evidence has emerged that appears to show atrocities committed by anti-Gaddafi rebels. Among other things, the footage depicts summary executions, a prisoner being lynched, the desecration of corpses, and even a beheading. The targets of the most serious abuse are frequently black African prisoners. The ultimate source of the footage appears to be rebel forces or sympathizers themselves.

What is probably the most harrowing of the clips depicts a public beheading. A man with a long knife can be seen alternately sawing and hacking at the neck of a man who has been suspended upside-down. The victim’s inert body is soaked in blood. The beheading takes place in front of a burnt-out building in what appears to be a public square. The Dutch public broadcaster NOS has identified the location as the main square of the rebel capital of Benghazi.

do machetes qualify as medical equipment?

Via small dead animals, via The Corner.

Posted by John Venlet on 04/21 at 03:50 PM
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Universal Forensic Extraction Device - UPDATE

In my post regarding the Michigan State Police’s possession and use of universal forensic extraction devices, yesterday, I noted that the Michigan State Police were attempting to highway rob the ACLU to the tune of $544,680.00 in response to their Michigan Freedom of Information Act request for records detailing the Michigan State Police’s use of said devices.

Two news stories shed some additional light on the egregiousness of this $544,680.00 price tag.

First, this information from a FOX17 News story titled State Police in West Michigan Say They Rarely Gather Cell Phone Data (as if the headline itself does not already cast a bright light on the egregiousness of the requested $544,680.00).

“It’s a forensic tool that I’ve used twice in the last five years,” said Schmitz, and MSP has five devices across the state.

If, indeed, the device(s) are so little utilized by the Michigan State Police, there is no justification whatsoever for setting so high a ransom for the data which the ACLU has requested.  Not to mention that in today’s digitized information age one can, with a few clicks of a mouse, and a link here and there, deliver vast amounts of information without leaving a chair.

The second news story I draw your attention is titled State Police want big bucks for public documents, which not only mentions the highway robbery being attempted by the Michigan State Police in regards to the release of ACLU requested data documenting the use of universal forensic extraction devices, but indicates that the Michigan State Police appear to have a history of attempting to highway rob requesters of documents detailing their activities.

So, maybe this ACLU request about these cell phone information-grabbing devices is an isolated incident (the charge of $544,680.00 - ed.).

Well, the Michigan State Police have charged more.

In 2009 the Mackinac Center for Public Policy was looking into how some tax money was being spent.  Kathy Hoekstra with the Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

“Well, what I was looking for was information related to Michigan State Police’s handling of Homeland Security money, federal money, $129-million in federal grant money.”

Basically, she wanted to make sure there was no fraud, waste or abuse.

Hoekstra received some audits for what she considered a reasonable fee, but she wanted more detail.  The Michigan State Police response was more than Hoekstra expected.

“Yes, more than two-million pages and the final tally of $6.8-million.”

LG:  Now, by my calculations, that’s about 13-percent of the State Police annual budget. (bold by ed.)

Neither of these reports lead me to conclude that the Michigan State Police, or any other government entity for that matter, desires for the truth to be known regarding the scope of their activities.

Posted by John Venlet on 04/21 at 12:18 PM
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Is It Pointless? - Another Lesson from the Documentary “Shoah”

I completed my viewing and study of Claude Lanzmann’s documentary Shoah this morning.  I’ve taken a good number of notes while absorbing this work, though in fact this note taking was not absolutely necessary, because the lesson(s) contained within Lanzmann’s contribution to the historical record of the Holocaust have been indelibly seered into my mind.

Though it may seem morbid to draw lessons for today from these horrible events, or seem a deprecation of them, it is not.  In actuality, there is an authoritative and dismaying indication contained within what follows which may very well explain, and most definitely illlustrates, why most individuals will not accept facts, even when they are staring them openly in the face.

The facts we Americans have to face in regards to our country are assuredly not imminent physical death, such as the Jewish people had to face, but we Americans must face the facts that the powers which control America and American individuals, both political and business, consider Americans not as sovereign individuals any longer, but as mere fodder, feeding not the machinery of death, but the machinery of the ever growing State.

So, is it pointless to attempt to inform and enlighten my fellow Americans to the dangers facing American individuals today as the federal government continues on its reckless course?  Is it an exercise in futility?  Is it pointless to tell the truth?  I confess that I think it is pointless to point out the danger America is in, more often than I care to admit.

I point you to a dismayingly illustrative example of the seeming pointlessness of not only telling the truth, but of the adamant unwillingness to accept the truth, even when it is staring individuals in the face and can be physically touched.

Shoah (film) Part 36/59  Total video length 6:37 - begin viewing at 6:00.

Shoah (film) Part 37/59 Total video length 9:55 - view from beginning to 5:45 mark.

Posted by John Venlet on 04/21 at 08:56 AM
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

License, Registration, Plus Cellphone Equals Fourth Amendment Rights Violation

When pulled over for a traffic violation, the first words typically heard uttered by police to drivers are “Do you know why I pulled you over?”  Thought I attempt to not be pulled over while driving, and for the most part am polite to the police if I am pulled over, I often think I would like to reply to such a ridiculously posed question, “Uh, because you’re having a bad day,” or some other flip remark, but I do not.

After these initial pleasantries have been exchanged at the beginning of a traffic stop, police will invariably ask for your license and registration, and then mosey back to their cruiser to mine the data mountain which has been compiled by the State to date in regards to your life.

Here in the State of Michigan, the Michigan State Police appear to be adding a new wrinkle to traffic violation stops, that being a deliberate violation of drivers’ Fourth Amendment rights.

The Michigan State Police have a high-tech mobile forensics device that can be used to extract information from cell phones belonging to motorists stopped for minor traffic violations.

Just as disturbing as this information is the fact that the device utilized to violate drivers’ Fourth Amendment rights, a Cellbrite UFED (Universal Forensic Extraction Device), which is manufactured by the company Cellbrite, in addition to being marketed as tool for the “war on terrorism” being conducted in the Middle East, the device is being marketed as tool to be applied against ordinary Americans.  P.S. In visiting Cellbrite’s website, I noted their use of a couple of heavily armed silhouettes as part of their marketing strategy for the Cellbrite UFED.  Nice touch.

Another interesting detail in the news article reporting this development; Michigan: Police Search Cell Phones During Traffic Stops; notes that when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is very selective of which amendments it will defend,  requested information from the Michigan State Police in regards to this device and its unlawful use against Americans, received this response.

The state police responded by saying they would provide the information only in return for a payment of $544,680.

That’s a steep price to pay in order for the Michigan State Police to keep their unlawful actions secret from the American people, and indicates to me that the Michigan State Police are well aware that they are operating outside the laws meant to keep them in check and Americans free.

Linked via both jb at Hit Shappenings, and GunRights4US.

Posted by John Venlet on 04/20 at 09:50 AM
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Umbrella Mass Hysteria - More Minute Details

Glenn Reynolds links to one version of the umbrella mass hysteria story, which emptied a Burlington, Massachusetts mall, quipping “Now that’s just sad,” and it is.

Matt Drudge links to another version of the umbrella mass hysteria story, with a quote from Burlington Massachusetts Police Chief Michael Kent praising the rise of an American rat fink culture with these words.

“We are always telling people to be vigilant. This is what we want.”

Here are a couple of more minute details I found disturbing.

First, this statement, also from the mouth of Burlington Massachusetts Police Chief Michael Kent.

“It (the umbrella - ed.) was interpreted to be a gun by five different people,”...

When I read that statement all I could think is that these five different people have been watching too many James Bond movies.  Are these five individuals living in such inculcated fear that any long black object being carried is now going to be assumed to be a gun?

Secondly, we have this statement regarding the “unidentified individual,” an employee of the Lahey Clinic, who first called the police.

“The Lahey employee is pleased he took appropriate action and contacted the police. However, he feels terrible about the situation. He asks that people in the media please respect his privacy at this time.” (bold by ed.)

Need I say that respecting privacy works both ways?  Why should the Lahey Clinic employee’s identity be held sacrosant?

UPDATE/CORRECTION/RE-EMPHASIS OF POINTS MADE:  Commenters Nathan A and Miles point out to me that I have misunderstood, and thus incorrectly identified, some of the indivdiuals involved in this news story.  I appreciate their pointing this out.  From Nathan A’s comment which corrects my error.

The “man with a gun” is a Lahey employee, as well as the same employee referenced in your final quote.  The “pleased he took appropriate action and called the police” line is not about the initial reporters of a “man with a gun” but about the Lahey employee calling the police to tell them it was just an umbrella, upon realizing that *he* was the “man with a gun” he was hearing about.

This correction does not negate the two main points I made in this post.  Re, the hallucinatory, as Billy Beck points out in comments, identification of an umbrella as a gun and the possible reason for this hallucinatory identification, nor, my point that when it comes to respecting the privacy rights of individuals it is a two way street.

Posted by John Venlet on 04/20 at 08:09 AM
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