The Gamble of Gun Control: A Blast from the Past.

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I don’t usually do back to back “blasts from the past” like this, but, well, I just saw an article on one of the Chinese “news” agencies talking about how private gun ownership in the US was a problem and should be ended.

The true irony in the article is this line:

Massacres and shootings should be deemed a serious violation of human rights.

Ironic because China slaughtered more than 45 million of its own people, whether “persecuted to death” or outright executed, in the 20th century for daring to speak out against the government.  It’s China that brutally put down the Tiannamen Square protests.  And it’s China that just got through massacring protesters in Hong King.  For China to talk about human rights violations is truly risible.

And these human rights violations, real human rights violations, are exactly why an armed population is so important.  As Mao said, “Every Communist must grasp the truth, ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.’ Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.”

That, of course, is why they do not want anyone but those controlled by the Communist Party to have guns.

So, on to the blast from the past:


It has been said that if you permit the citizenry to be armed, you will have tragedies, but if you don’t you will have genocides.

In the US, out of a population of over 300 million, there are about 13,286 homicides by gun per year (2015 figures).  Some will tell you that’s an appalling figure, but you know what else is an appalling figure?  In the 20th century more than 100 million people were killed by their own governments.

Even assuming you could make all the homicides that are committed using guns go away by removing guns from private hands (you can’t, but let’s assume it for argument’s sake) it would take over 7500 years for the US gun homicide figures to add up to the number of people killed by their own governments in the 20th century alone.  Let’s take a look at what that means.  7500 years.

7500 years ago we had the Samarra culture in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq).  They were just beginning to use farming and irrigation.  In Europe we had the Danubian culture, also just starting to learn farming.  Likewise in China with the Xinle culture.  The earliest known writing is still 2000 years in the future.

During that time the longest any government has maintained any kind of continuity is possibly the Roman Empire (although an argument can be made for ancient Egypt), giving every benefit of every doubt, it stretches from it’s founding in the 8th century BC to the fall of Constantinople (the Byzantine Empire being simply the name given by historians to the Eastern Roman Empire) in the 15th AD.  That’s about a 2200 year existence.  But even with that “continuity” the remnants of the Roman Empire in the 15th century bore little resemblance to the Rome of Cicero, let alone that of Brave Horatius (of “at the gate” fame).  And even so, Rome is an exceptional case (as is Egypt).  Most governments have only lasted a few centuries at best without being overthrown, conquered, or otherwise replaced.

Going forward, how many changes can one expect over the next 7500 years?  How certain are you that at no time will it be necessary for the citizenry to resist a government turned malignant?  If you strip from the people the ability to resist, and that means having personal arms that are at least in the same ballpark as those issued to military troops then you are gambling that the lives “saved” by said restriction (which itself I dispute, but will allow for sake of argument here) will not be outweighed by the lives lost because an unresisted government turned malignant.

Now, I have so far only looked at the number of homicides in the US.  What about in the world?  Well, even though most of the world has more severe restrictions on owning firearms than does the US, the total number of homicides annually worldwide (2015 numbers) is estimated at about 160,000.  That’s more than 10 times as many as the US numbers.  But even so, we’re talking 625 years of criminal homicides to match the number of people killed by their own governments in the 20th century.  For comparison, that’s a period that stretches from 1394 to the present day.  In 1394, the vestiges of the Roman Empire (i.e. the Byzantine Empire) still existed.  There were still Viking settlements in Greenland.  The English Civil War, the Glorious Revolution, and other upheavals were still to come.  The Hundred Years War was merrily percolating along.  Martin Luther and the Protestant movement were more than a century in the future.  Monarchy was the government of the day, with the Dutch Republic still almost two centuries in the future.  And so on.

Can you even gamble a mere 625 years that there will be no need for a citizenry to forcibly resist a government turned malignant?

I can’t.

Where Have All the Heroes Gone: A Blast from the Past.

superheroesSome years back, I watched the deCappuccino version of The Man in the Iron Mask.  The movie was okay, but one line caught me.  It’s near the end, the second in command of the palace guard points to a dying d’Artagnon (it’s not a spoiler at this late date, is it?) and says, “All my life, all I wanted to be . . . was him.”

Damn . . . that moment.

You see, I grew up with heroes. I grew up with comics during the late Silver Age, Superman was the Big Blue Boyscout, when Batman wasn’t the cowled psychopath, when Robin was starting solo adventures with Batgirl (and while I knew I could never be Batman, I thought maybe Robin was achievable). I wanted to be the hero, dammit, or if not the hero, at least a competent sidekick.

Then I grew up and got “respectable”. But a part of me never quite grew out of that.

And so I like to write about heroes that are really heroes because I figure that there are other people out there, like me, who want to read about them.

I gave up on comic books, not because I outgrew them but because they “outgrew” (if you can call it that) me. In the interests of being “real” and “relevant” and “real” they wanted their heroes to be “flawed” by which they meant “scarcely better than the villains”.

I saw it in prose fiction as well. Bleah people living bleah lives with not a hero to be found.

When I saw the movie, I wrote out an anguished essay on the usenet group “rec.arts.comics” titled “Where have all the heroes gone.” The one line just struck so deeply to the core of my being.

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I will never be that hero. I like to think that the dream, however, might make me a better person than I would have been.

And that’s why I love the idea of Human Wave.

And so I leave you with this musical interlude:

(Yes, the production values are cheesy but I love it for the pure unvarnished emotion.)

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And pity Within Temptation doesn’t have an official video for this one.

Coping with Chaos, a Musical Interlude

There’s movie “Deathgasm” which I haven’t seen (but maybe I should) but which has been the source of more than one “meme.” One in particular has the metalhead guy (as in every pic I’ve seen him in has him all in black and heavily made up) explaining to his very non-metal girlfriend that when he feels sad he listens to metal music and it’s better because someone else knows the pain.

Whether someone else knows the pain or not is an open question.  The performers could simply be crafting the illusion that they actually “know the pain”. On the other hand, the illusion can be enough.

So when life seems too overwhelming.  When I can’t seem to cope.  I listen to metal (and I’ll add Goth to that too) and, yeah, it’s better because I’m not alone.  Even if that particular artist is just crafting an illusion and their own life is all sweetness and light, the fact that they’re able to craft that illusion shows that they’re drawing on sources that do share the pain.  And so I’m able to move on and, somehow, find the way to cope.

So here are some examples:

Evanescence has a number of songs that fit this theme–I could do this whole interlude just using their music, but I’ll try to limit myself to provide some variety today. 😉

Okay, I’ll do another Evanescence song here.  When I heard this one I thought it was about a love gone sour and it still works that way, but the video adds a whole new dimension to it which I very much like.  Both views work and both suit a mood.

My Life, Part 4, The Teacher Bitch and One Small Step.

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The title hints at a “worst of times, best of times” situation.  There is some truth to that.

Midway through my first year of public school, when my family moved, not far, just a mile or two up the street to a white single story house with a driveway and a covered porch on the side.  Thanks to the wonders of Google Maps and “Street View” I do believe that house in the picture is the very house.  If so, it has been modified since then, with the attic finished (as evidenced by the upper floor in front) and a raised section added in the back).

The tree in the middle of the front yard and the one visible to the right in back may well be the same trees I remember climbing as a kid.  Although, if so, the one in front had some lower limbs removed.

One of the first things Bruce did when we bought the house was have a garage built in the back yard.  It wasn’t for cars.  Oh, no.  There was no access to it at the time for a car (although you can see a second driveway to the left of the house here–other views show it leads to a garage in the back yard, right where Bruce had the one built–which I suspect was added sometime after we left).  The garage was Bruce’s ham radio station and lab.  It’s where he built his radios, some from Heathkit kits (the company “Heathkit” remains but is a pale shadow of its former self), and some from scratch.

While I was in First Grade I walked from this house down to the old school, a distance of about one and a half miles.  To school in the morning, from school in the afternoon.

I actually enjoyed that time.  The only real “downside” was that Bruce was a strict disciplinarian.  A very strict disciplinarian.  He believed in corporal punishment with a heavy hand.  While I’m not opposed to a moderate ration of corporal punishment where needed, looking back I do think that Bruce’s use of it rose to the level of abuse–particularly given things I learned about him later–but, at least at first, it wasn’t considered so at the time.

So, I finished first grade and moved on to second.  This was at the school that was much closer to our new house, and, indeed, I’d walked right past it every day going to and from the old school.  The new school was Highland Biltmore Elementary School.  The school at that location now is called Victory Elementary School.

At Highland Biltmore I had a teacher that I hated–and the feeling was apparently mutual–Mrs. Faircloth.  About this time I was having trouble with math.  It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that I had a perceptual problem–not “dyslexia” but akin.  I’d see letters and numbers reversed and I’d sometimes see a “-” as a “+”.  In reading, context and the fact that I read avidly anything I could get my hands on allowed me to develop coping and compensating skills completely unconsciously.  Math, however, proved to be a different challenge.

This was also the time that I became aware of the space program and things related to outer space.  One of those things was a children’s book by Mae and Ira Freeman “You Will Go to the Moon”, which was based on illustrations for von Braun’s articles for Collier’s magazine (a later edition was based on the actual Apollo hardware).  It is literally nearly if not the very first book I can remember reading (Dr. Seuss’s “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish” is the other candidate).

My parents had friends who lived in a house in what today would be a fairly nice neighborhood (and so was downright palatial back then) and they would, from time to time “watch” my sister and I while my parents were off doing other things.  However, it turned out that they weren’t particularly nice people.  One day my mother came home and found that my sister and I were playing outside while the other people’s children were all inside.  When asked why the other children were inside the other family’s mother said “It’s too hot for them to be outside.”

My mother threw a fit.  Too hot for her children but not too hot for us? (Later when it was “too hot” my sister and I were relegated to the garage which, I suppose, was a modest improvement–we got some bleed over from the house air conditioning, which was a major luxury back then, and an indicator of just how well-to-do these folk were.)

However one time when we were actually in the house, the TV was showing the reentry and landing of the Apollo 9 mission.  I was captivated although I didn’t really understand it at that time.  However, I got the Freeman book soon after that and the things connected.  My parents followed the Apollo 10 mission and so, therefore, did I.

I was hooked.

The rocket in “You Will Go to the Moon” was black.  Therefore, I declared, my favorite color was black.  This caused some sneering from Mrs. Faircloth.  In class we were to draw an underwater scene and I colored all the fish black.  When she commented on it one of the other kids said “his favorite color is black” which led to her saying “he must see everything in a black light.”

Another factor was that in that school second grade science was taught via a television broadcast.  They’d set up a television at the front of the class and we’d watch while the person on the screen went over various elementary science concepts.  When they got to the section on the planets, the gimmick they used was that the instructor went around to the different planets in a spaceship (okay, it was a cardboard cutout of a flying saucer propped up in front of her but it worked for eight year old me).

Oh, I was so done.  Space was what I wanted.   Space was what I lived and breathed for.

Bruce, it turned out, was a Star Trek fan.  And that was it.  I wanted, with every fiber of my being, to go into space.  It was all I could think about. (Okay, I also wanted to be a superhero thanks to comic books and the Superman and Batman TV shows then in syndication but even there–Green Lantern and Superman went into space a lot so I could do both, right?)

It was then that the bullying started.  My interest in science (wanting to go into space) made me stand out from other kids.  I also tended to be smaller and weaker (which would plague me through most of my youth) which made me an inviting target.  I got beat up with some regularity.

Then there was Mrs. Faircloth, the “Bitch” of the title.  She was the “he sees things through a black light” teacher.  One day for some reason or other she had us all put our heads down on our desks (a common punishment for minor classroom infractions back then–usually, I think, for the class being overly noisy).  I yawned.  Apparently this displeased her and I was told to go out and stand in the hall (another common punishment).

The part about that that I hated most was that I missed the science lesson for the day which…well, see above.  I loved those lessons.

At one point she sent home a “paddling” permission slip to be signed by my parents and returned.  The schools used corporal punishment back then but at least in that district they required specific parental permission.  I, not really understanding what that was about, forged signatures (only I had a problem with “George Bruce Savage, III” so I just wrote “GBS” in the space–I could read fine; writing, however, was a whole other ballgame–still is when it comes to handwriting).  Very bad idea on my part anyway but they caught me at it and contacted my parents directly.  My mother was basically “not only ‘no’, but ‘hell no.'” Nobody was going to paddle my behind, should I need it, but my parents.

Another time she called me up in front of the class and asked me why I wasn’t wearing a belt.  For some reason I just didn’t bother to put on belts in the morning back then.  I have no idea why, I just didn’t.  However, this was Mrs. Faircloth and I knew she hated me and the feeling was mutual, so I had to come up with some excuse so I told her I didn’t have any.  A few days later she had several of the other students bring in extra belts they had and called me up in front of the class once more to hand them to me so now I didn’t have an excuse.

Yes, it was as humiliating as it sounds.  Okay, partly my own fault for lying about it in the first place but still I really think that could have been handled better.

My mother told a version of the story some years later to her friends that I overheard.  She said that the teacher had come to her about the belt issue asking why I didn’t have any belts.  She told her that I did have belts but just wouldn’t wear them.  It seemed that the teacher and my mother had a conflict of personalities and at least part of what I encountered in school was blowback from that.

Those incidents were typical of my first time through second grade.  And the reason it was “first time through” was that at the end of the year I had failed math and English.  My mother was certain that most of that was the teacher getting back at her over the belt incident.   Maybe.  The math may have been entirely legit given my undiagnosed perceptual disorder, but English?  Which was mostly reading?  Again, whole. other. ball. game.

First makeup opportunity was “summer school.” This was an intensive period where I spent the first half of the day in “English” and the second in “Math.” I don’t remember much about the English except that we were reading a story that was somewhat interesting (far better than stupid Dick and his insipid sister Jane). Math, however, was basically just sitting at your desk solving arithmetic problems in a workbook.  Hundreds and hundreds of problems one after the other.

Now, something particularly special happened during Summer School.

Sunday, July 20, 1969.

Yep.  Apollo 11 landed on the Moon.

From about 3 in the Afternoon, I was glued to the TV set, waiting, watching as Lunar Excursion Module landed on the Moon and then Armstrong and Aldrin spent the next several hours securing the LEM and preparing to make their exit onto the lunar surface.

At one point the commentator (Cronkite, I believe, may he rot in…Why no, I do not like the so-called “most trusted man in America”, but that’s for other things, not this) said “They are on the moon” and I jumped up and ran to tell my mother thinking this meant that they had finally gotten out of the LEM and were walking on the surface.  My mother simply said “They have been for some time now” with which I knew he meant the space ship was on the moon, not that the astronauts were walking on it yet.

There were a lot of “simulations” (pictures of models to illustrate what was going on) and those were confusing to eight-year-old me since I didn’t have a good grasp on that idea at the time.

During the preparations one of the equipment bays in the LEM was opened letting a TV camera, which they also activated remotely basically fall out.  This provided the images of Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the moon.

Watching all this kept me up well past my bedtime on a school night but my mother allowed it given the historic nature of this literally once ever event.  This will never be another “first time men from planet Earth walked on another world”.  And I got to watch it via live broadcast.

The following Thursday, the Apollo astronauts re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, splashed down, and were recovered.  To give you some idea of how rapt I was with the whole thing, I actually stayed. after. summer. school to  watch on the school TV and not risk missing any of it.

I ended up failing summer school too.  I don’t remember whether it was just the math portion or whether I failed both (possibly as a result of penmanship in English). But whichever was the case that meant I had to repeat second grade.

The second time through went much better but we’ll pick that up next time.

 

Free Promo: Oruk Means Hard Work

Now through Thursday (Pacific Time because that’s what Amazon is using), the first story in the Elara of the Elves series, Oruk Means Hard Work, will be available free, free, free.


Elara, at eight years of age the heir apparent to the throne of the elves of Talen, had just finished reciting the names of the trees of the Greenwood when the alarm bell began to clamor. She jumped from the bench and began to look around.

Dorian put a hand on her shoulder, “Patience, Princess. Let us see what the trouble is first.”

The door to the garden burst open and Corinbar dashed in. “Dorian, they need you on the wall. Princess, come with me.”

“Trouble then?” Dorian picked up his sword and buckled it about his waist.

“Orc war party. They hit several farmsteads and are heading this way.”

Dorian nodded. “Taking the Princess to the keep?”

“That was her father’s charge to me.”

“Then I’ll accompany you as far as the wall,” Dorian said.

“I have told the King,” Corinbar snapped as he scooped Elara up to his hip, something only one of her bodyguards would dare, “that this garden needs to be inside the walls but he insisted on keeping it out in the forest…tradition.”

Once through the garden gate and out of the garden’s walls, Elara saw people streaming up the road toward the keep.

“This way!” Corinbar turned away from the road to dash through the woods.

“Where are we going?” Elara asked, her head pressed against Coninbar’s shoulder.

“The main gate’s too crowded and I need to get you inside now,” Corinbar said. “They’ll open a sally port for us.”

“I smell smoke,” Dorian said from behind them. “Elm, Ash, and Oak!  They have fired the forest.”

“They are close then,” Corinbar said as he sped up, far faster than Elara’s young legs could have propelled her.

Elara buried her face in Corinbar’s neck. Why did the orcs have to attack now, while her father was away?  Why did they…she suppressed a shout as Corinbar stumbled, then stumbled again. She looked up to see his face twisted in agony.

“Forgive me…Princess,” he said as he sank to his knees. “Dorian!” His arms went slack and Elara tumbled to the ground.

“Come, Princess,” Dorian grasped her arm roughly in his left hand and hauled her to her feet. In his right, he held his drawn sword, which blazed with the elf-light.

Elara stared at Corinbar as he fell forward onto his face. Two ugly black arrows protruded from his back.

Before Elara could begin to run with Dorian, a dozen orcs appeared from the trees. Two, armed with bows, let fly at Dorian. Dorian’s sword flicked out and both arrows fell broken to the Earth. In that moment, the other orcs were upon them. They piled on Dorian while one of their number fell on Elara. For a time she could see only hair and muscle, and then the orc climbed off of her and pulled her roughly to her feet.

The fight was over. Dorian lay bleeding on the ground, as did several of the orcs. The remaining orcs bound her; tight ropes cut into her wrists, then a bag covered her head and she was roughly lifted across an orc shoulder.

“Why?” She cried softly to herself. “Why are they doing this?”

#

And endless time of running later, the orc dumped Elara on the ground. Someone pulled the bag off her head. She struggled to a sitting position.

She saw that they were in a narrow ravine. Her woods-trained eyes spotted orcs at the top of the ravine, peering outward. Guards, she supposed. Another orc dug a small pit while others gathered wood, inspecting each piece before selecting or rejecting it.

Still other orcs stretched ropes between trees and pulled. They removed cloths from their packs and staked them over the ropes, forming low, wide tents.

While one of the orcs started a smokeless fire in the pit, the others spread forest litter over the low tents. Elara drew a surprised breath. From the ridges above, those tents would be invisible against the forest floor.

One of the orcs squatting at the fire stood and turned toward her. As he waddled in her direction, Elara could not take her gaze from the knife and bowl in his hands.

The orc squatted next to her as Elara sat, eyes transfixed on the knife. The orc raised the knife point first between them, then twisted it, giving Elara a clear view of the gleaming brightness of its tip from all sides.

The orc turned the knifepoint downward and stabbed into the bowl, coming up a moment later with a chunk of meat. He held the meat out to Elara. “Kurok.”

Although she was very hungry, Elara turned her face away.

“Kurok!” the orc repeated.

Elara shook her head ‘no’.

The orc set the bowl on the ground, then his hand darted toward Elara’s face and grasped her by the nose, pinching off her breath. Elara struggled for a moment, but the orc would not relinquish its hold. It drew her in closer and shoved the meat toward her mouth.

Elara kept her mouth closed as long as she could but with her nose pinched closed, she soon had to open it to breathe. The moment she did, the orc shoved the meat into her mouth and released the hold on her nose.

She spat the meat out at him.

Pain exploded against her right cheek as the orc slapped her. He dipped another piece of meat out of the bowl and held it out to her. “Kurok. Kurok olf.”

She ate. The meat was dry and tasteless, but filling. When she had eaten all the meat in the bowl, the orc poured water from a skin into the bowl and held it out to her. She drank.

Once Elara had finished with the crude meal, the orc rapidly undid the knots binding her legs and pulled her to her feet. The rope that had bound her legs was converted to a tether. A slip loop in the end went around her neck and the rope ran down her back and under her tied wrists, before leading back to the orc. The one time she tried to struggle, the orc gave a quick jerk on the rope caused it to close painfully around her throat, then release. She did not repeat the attempt.

The orc half circled Elara. The rope he held ran from his hand, around her waist and to her back. A slight tug showed that even from this direction, the rope could cut off her air if she resisted. The orc started to walk and Elara, having no choice, followed him out of the camp, down the valley of the ravine. Once out of sight of the camp, the orc stopped. Elara looked up at him but he just waited.

With a start Elara realized what he was waiting for. She couldn’t, not in front of an orc. But if she didn’t, she would soon foul her clothes.

After a short inward struggle, she did what was necessary. It seemed to take a long time.

#

That night they put her in one of the tents, still tied, where she drifted between fitful sleep and groggy waking. In the morning they fed her again, more meat and some kind of spongy bread, took her out to relieve herself and left her under the guard of one of the shorter orcs while they struck the camp.

Finally, they packed the tents and ropes away and extinguished the last coals of the fire.

“Azg!” the orc guarding Elara said.

“Azg, yourself,” she said, looking up at the orc.

The orc grasped her shoulder and pushed. “Azg.” He pulled at rope that poked from his pack. “Azg shek tak gorug shet.”

“I don’t understand you!  I don’t speak orc!”

The orc stared at her for a moment, then walked a few steps. “Azg.” He pointed at her. “Azg.”

Tears welled up in Elara’s eyes. “I don’t want to ‘azg.’ I want to go home. Can’t you let me go home?”

The orc waited while she cried, terrible in his patience, then pointed at her once more. “Azg.”

Sniffling, the last of her hope dying within her, Elara walked.

For three days they walked, each night’s stop being a repeat of the first one. On the fourth day, before the sun had reached its zenith, they reached a narrow sinkhole. At the rim of the sinkhole, iron spikes protruded from the rock. To these the orcs tied ropes, the free ends of which they dropped into the dark.

Elara barely had time to scream as one of the orcs wrapped a hairy arm her around her waist, grabbed one of the ropes, and leapt into the darkness. Her breath caught in her throat as they fell, stifling her scream. The rope hissed and smoked as it slipped through the orc’s hand. She kept expecting him to let go of the rope and the two of them to plunge to their deaths but, instead, their descent slowed. By the light of the dwindling circle of sky above them, Elara could see the other orcs descending other ropes.

A yelp burst from Elara’s throat when the orc carrying her hit bottom with a painful thump. He released her and she sat on the damp stone floor and moaned. It was dark. The only light came from the sinkhole far above them. She could see that they were in a cavern, but its size was lost in the murk.

“Why are you doing this?” she asked. “Are you going to kill me?”

The orc bared his teeth and pointed. “Azg.”

Tears running down her cheeks, Elara got up and tried to walk in the direction the orc had indicated. She had not gone three steps before her foot caught on a rock unseen in the gloom and she fell, bruising her cheek painfully since her hands were still tied.

The orc grunted and grabbed her arm with a calloused hand, a hand still hot from the descent down the rope, and pulled her to her feet. She could then feel his hands working at her wrists. Shortly, the ropes around them fell free. The orc stood back and pointed again, “Azg.”

Untied now, Elara could possibly run, but where could she go?  “Azg,” she said and walked in the direction the orc had pointed.

#

A tunnel led from the large entrance cavern. Elara stumbled along in the dark, guided by the orc’s hand on her shoulder.

As she walked, she began to see deeper shadows in the gloom, then more detail. There was light in the cave, not much, but enough to see. Streaks of soft light glowed from the walls and ceiling of the cave.

The orc removed his hand and simply pointed the way. When the cave branched, the orc said nothing, simply grunted and pointed. Mutely, Elara followed his directions.

A brighter light marked an opening ahead of them. As they approached, Elara could see that the light came from fires in a larger cavern. Many small tents dotted the cavern floor, each with a small fire before it.

The orc directed Elara to the center of the cavern where a smooth area formed the floor. A larger fire burned in a pit in the center of the cavern.

When they reached the fire, the orc took Elara’s wrist and lifted her hand high over her head. “Arnak te gimbtul!” he shouted.

Other orcs, tending cooking fires and other tasks looked up at that.

“Arnak te gimbtul!”

The other orcs started to gather around the fire. “Arnak te gimbtul.”

From somewhere, several orcs produced drums and began to beat a complicated rhythm.

Numb with fear, Elara followed as the orc led her to the fire. She screamed when the orc drew a long dagger from his belt and held it, point up, in front of her face.

“Arnak te gimbtul” he said then, in a quick stroke, drew the point of the dagger across her palm. Her hand burned as the dagger carved a bloody furrow across it.

Still holding her firmly by the wrist, the orc pulled her hand and held it over the fire so that blood from her hand dripped onto the burning wood. He held her there for a few seconds, then released her hand.

Elara stared at her hand, transfixed. Blood continued to well from the cut and ran down her arm. Her hand hurt. It throbbed. But she was still alive. They had not killed her, not yet.

The orc knelt in front of her. He reached out with one finger and almost gently tapped her in the chest. “Bak te gimtul gem.” He said more then, but Elara scarcely heard him. She did not understand anything that had happened since being taken from her home. She stared numbly at her captor as another orc placed a folded piece of wet cloth against her hand — a cloth that burned as it touched the cut — and bound it in place with a leather strap.

The orc led her from the fire to one of the larger tents and pointed at a thin blanket and a small pillow. Nodding, she rolled herself in the blanket. Lying there, she cried herself to sleep.

Read more.

 

No Standing Army!

And no foreign entanglements.  In another forum in response to my “The Draft” post of the other day someone made the argument regarding the point about needing training cadre and they would have to be drawn from other uses if we brought them home we wouldn’t need so large an army.  Another respondent then went on about the dangers of a standing army and how the Founding Fathers warned about it.

First off, yes, some of the Founding Fathers objected to having a standing army, believing the citizen militia (all adult males capable of bearing arms) could handle the defensive needs of the country.  There are just two problems with that argument:  one was that even if it were true (which I’ll get to in a moment) that was then, when the ocean on one side and the wilderness on the there were mighty fortifications provided by Mother Nature herself.  The second problem with that argument is that, it was far from a universal view.  The anti-Federalists who held that view lost in the debates at the Constitutional Convention.  Madison, in The Federalist Papers (written to “sell” the Constitution that was being proposed–and, yes, the Anti-Federalists had their own objections to it, but it was the Constitution that ended up being adopted), pointed out that there were needs that could not be well, served by only a citizen militia.  The example he gave was manning forts in the frontier.

None of this eliminates the dangers they foresaw of a standing army, but the goal was to limit that danger and provide safeguards against it.  By restricting military appropriations for an army (the Navy was separate) to two years and requiring appropriations to start in the House (with its two-year terms being more “beholden” to the people) the army could be kept on a short leash as it were.  The other edge of the sword was that citizen militia.  Madison pointed out that there was a limit on how large a standing army a society could maintain (as a function of population about three times the size of our own) and if it were used to override State and Individual rights it would be met by a citizen militia several times its size, thus the necessity for a militia to secure a free state.

Indeed, strong anti-Federalists like Jefferson soon found that they did need a military with “power projection” overseas.  Granted, he used the Navy, Marine Corps, and hired mercenaries rather than the army but the same principle still applies. Previously, Washington and Hamilton argued for an army for the quasi-war with France but they were Federalists (although Washington never accepted the label, his positions were pretty strongly Federalist).  On the other hand, Adams, another Federalist, was less inclined to wanting that army.

The problem is, if we interact at all with people outside our borders, then we will run into people willing to use force of arms to interfere with that interaction.  We might like to be allowed to engage in peaceable trade around the globe but what to do when others are unwilling?  When others are willing to use force of arms to interfere with that trade (as did the Barbary Pirates)?

One approach would be to simply tell those seeking to engage in trade that they were on their own.  If they end up getting captured by pirates, sold into slavery, robbed (foreign government or private sector), the US government will do nothing for them.  Oh, the government might “negotiate” for them, but without the willingness to use force (requiring a military once again), all they can do is say “pretty please, with cream and sugar on top.”

Maybe folk are willing to do accept that for private businesses (and accept the havoc that would play on our economy–higher prices, fewer goods and services available, and basically a poorer country), but how about our diplomatic people?  Do we bring them home too?  Go full isolationist where we don’t even talk to other nations?  Or do we accept that things like the Iran Hostage Crisis of 79-80 will be perfectly acceptable, without even a failed attempt at rescue (let alone sending in a force of Marines to secure the embassy when it comes under attack)?

Now maybe we’re doing too much with our military, things that we could afford to reduce it in scope.  I can even agree with that.  However, the idea that many have that if we just brought our troops home all would be sweetness and light is patently ridiculous.  There are people, people with power in various nations as well as in “non-state actors”, who mean us (by “us” I mean the United States of American and her people) harm.  They’re willing to suffer harm themselves so long as they can hurt us.  Some will claim that this is “blowback” from our own actions in the past.  Maybe so, but we can’t change the past and have to deal with the situation as it is now.  And, frankly, it’s foolish in the extreme to think that the hostility to America is only due to “blowback.” We encountered hostile powers when the only thing we were doing was trying sail through the area to engage in peaceful trade (those Barbary Pirates).

So long as there are people out there hostile to the United States and her people, we need to deal with that reality.  And no longer can we rely on the oceans as a barrier.  It was little enough of one before–as the War of 1812 and the Mexican War demonstrated–but it’s far less of one now, particularly when it comes to asymmetric warfare and terrorism.  Too a large extent, an armed populace is a useful deterrent but there are some things where it’s just not that useful.  Being armed is little defense against suicide bombers or the guys who drive trucks through crowds.

So the question becomes how to deal with those hostile interests.  We can retreat before them.  We can listen to our modern day Neville Chamberlain’s and give them what they want in exchange for “peace.” We can pay the modern version of the Danegeld.  After all, even Jefferson and Adams paid tribute to the Barbary States to get them to leave our shipping alone–at that time we did not have a navy and so lacked the “power projection” to do anything else.

That is the equivalent of attempting to turn a tiger into a vegetarian by feeding it steaks.  See how well that works.  Adams and Jefferson, at least, only agreed to buy time to build up the force necessary to fight back–as Jefferson did when he was President.

In the end, sooner or later, when it comes to powers inimical to the United States, we have to say “no” and back that up with force.  Even if we play “pay the Danegeld” the demands will just increase.  And sooner or later it will become more than we as a people are willing to pay.  And when that happens we’ll end up in an armed confrontation.  They won’t back down.  Why should they?  Past history will have shown them that we would.  So we’ll need to actually fight it out.

The thing is, the longer we keep appeasing in the interest of “preserving peace” the more violent and bloody the eventual confrontation will be because of the certainty the other side will have that we will give in if they just remain strong.

So if there’s going to be a confrontation, then sooner is better than later.  And, to be honest, I’d rather fight it over there than over here.

The trick is in knowing when the confrontation is inevitable, in knowing when you can ignore the yapping dog (yapping safely from the security of a fenced yard) as harmless, and knowing when the yapping indicates an actual threat which must be dealt with.  It’s in knowing when the other side is negotiating in good faith for a fair exchange or when they’re demanding “tribute” in exchange for “peace.”

I admit that I am far from qualified to make that judgment in most cases.  I simply do not have the information necessary, or the understanding of the various cultures involved.

So, are we involved in more military adventures than are truly necessary?  Probably.  Is the US “meddling” in more places than it should?  Almost certainly.  Which places?  Um, that I do not know.

The thing is, though, if we want to continue to have a strong, growing, vibrant economy.  If we want our people to be able to have the benefits of free society.  And if we don’t want to be the target of every tin-pot dictator seeking to make a name for himself by poking the lion, we must be involved in world affairs.

And that requires an army maybe not quite as big as we have now, but big enough.

Oh, No! World War III is coming!

1024px-Operation_Upshot-Knothole_-_Badger_001
Photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office

Yesterday I dismissed the idea that there would be a draft.  Today, let’s talk about the fighting by and with Iran is going to lead to World War III.

So let’s review the bidding:

  1. Iran orchestrates an attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad, with their terrorist-in-chief Qassem Soleimani in charge based in an airport in Iraq (where, by UN resolution, he’s not supposed to be).
  2. US launches a strike at the field command post (in Iraq, this cannot be emphasized enough–we did not attack into Iran) killing Soleimani.
  3. Iran threatens dire consequences. “Death to America” (which they’ve been chanting since 1979, so in reality no change there).
  4. US and Western media goes nuts, bemoans death of Iran’s terrorist-in-chief.
  5. Iran launches missile attack against military base in Iraq where US personnel are stationed. (Hey, at least this is an actual military target.  So….progress, I guess.)
  6. US launches mass fighter test of the new F35 fighter in Utah.  “Coincidence” of timing with missile attack against US forces in Iraq.

Based on this we’re supposed to be facing imminent World War III?

Have any of the people claiming that actually cracked open a history book? (Or perhaps they know better and are being deliberately disingenuous in order to score some kind of political points.)

Some might think that a singular random act, the Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, sparked World War I (“The Great War” and “The War to End War” as it was fatuously known at the time) however that required a specific set of circumstances to become an actual global war rather than a modest regional conflict.  Having major powers of the time backing opposite sides in the local conflict and then their allies feeling the need to support them.  In particular, Germany (allied with the Empire of Austria-Hungary) felt compelled to take down France (allied with Russia–who supported the opposite side of the Balkan states from Austria-Hungary) before going to Austria-Hugary’s aid.  But in so doing they went through supposedly neutral Belgium, which brought in the English and the navy most capable of bottling up the German High Seas fleet and denying it the high seas, which led to the extended use of submarine warfare by the Germans which already put the US on edge and then when they tried to get Mexico to attack the US, well that brought the US in and, behold, global conflict.

In World War II we had the first the Japanese invading Mancuria, then Reichstag Fire used by the Germans as an excuse to attack Poland.  This brought in the UK and France (allied with Poland).  Japanese atrocities in Asia and the Pacific led to a US embargo on trade with them, which led to the Pearl Harbor attack bringing the US in against the Japanese.  Then the Germans in support of their nominal ally, Japan, declared war on the US, bringing us in to the European theater as well.  And then Germany had to go an attack Russia and…

None of that complicated system of alliances exists.  While there might be some public breast beating and lots of speeches, nobody’s going to send an army to support Iran.  Nobody’s going to make an overt military attack against the US.  There isn’t the set of interlocking obligations that national leaders will actually follow drawing more and more nations into the conflict.  They will no more go to war on Iran’s side then they did on Iraq’s in 2003.

So, no, this isn’t the beginning of World War III.  The idea is laughable.

So stop saying it is.