Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Human Action: My latest at The Foundation for Economic Education

ANYTHING PEACEFUL Human Action Is More Than an Idea

I've been watching this documentary about Napster called Downloaded. I am reminded of the most important thing in making a great idea work: work. 
It is not enough to just come up with a good idea, even a brilliant idea—even the best idea in the history of the world. You have to do something with that idea.

I know a little something about failing step two. 
In 1995, just about a year or so before the Napster wizards started creating their system, I had an idea as a captain at the U.S. Total Army Personnel Command (U.S. Army Human Resources). I was called to active duty for a few months to build a database application to keep track of all the reserve components soldiers going to and from the Bosnia theater of operations. You may be thinking the same thing I was at the time: "Aren't we already keeping track of that?" Well, technically, we were, but in a very inefficient manner. I was not called in because I had any stellar reputation as a database builder; I was called in because I was the one person in the command who had demonstrated during his Reserve duty that he knew something about building a database and knew something about Army human resources.
Read the rest:

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Flex-X, 1960s US Army Demolitions Film

This book project is taking me all over the place historically, and I like it.

The latest is the M118 Flex-X plastic explosives system.  Around 1967 or so, when I was a kid in Chicagoland, one of the local television stations ran military films early in the morning.  Could have been later, around '68, all I remember was that I was pretty young and they showed cool stuff.  I cannot remember the station either.  We had a lot of stations to choose from then, and I was that kid who would get up at 5AM, slowly turn the dial, and see what was out there on every channel I knew was broadcasting, as well as seeing if there was anything new on.

One of the films I remember was Soldiers identifying booby traps in the jungle, and springing them or disarming them in other ways.  A few of them can be found in this CBS documentary about the Vietcong:
Below, a US Army video, apparently raw footage with no soundtrack.  It was filmed in 1967, so my guess is the Chicago station that was showing similar reels shortly after they were made and supplied to them by the various Defense branches.
Yet others can be found in the various guides to Vietcong Equipment and Explosive Devices. Nothing here is "secret" or "classified" at all.

The following munitions film is just over 1 1/2 minutes.  The whole thing is maybe 5 or 10 min., not sure since I have not seen the full film since the mid 1960s.  Oh, I was in the US Army (Guard & Reserve mostly, a little active) for 30 years and I never saw this video there, even when I had demolitions training.  The only place I saw the whole thing was on broadcast television from Chicago in the 1960s.
Later in the full video, if I recall correctly, two teams were shown "attacking" posts and covering them with these sticky charges, then blowing the posts up.  I don't remember what the narration was for that segment.

Update: Found what looks like the full video I remember and one reference says its other name is Detasheet B.

Over the years, I asked Army Engineers and Special Forces folks if they ever heard of this stuff.  But one of the problems was my youth.  I did not remember the detonator needing to be attached!  For some reason, my child eyes thought you just ripped off the backing and stuck the block to something, then it blew up some time later, and that is what I was asking fellow service members about.  Well, they did not know of any explosive that is activated when you pull off the backing and expose it to air, and there probably isn't anything in the inventory like that now either.

As with just about everything I find online , this demolition system relates to the Time Bomber book.  The bomber stated in his notes that he would be back later with more powerful bombs, made from better clocks and packed with "compact plastic explosives."  The Flex-X sheets are about 14% stronger than dynamite.  Regular Composition-4 (C-4) is about 30% stronger than dynamite.  Both are more stable and safer to handle than civilian dynamite too.

From the video you can see, if you have this stuff there is nothing to setting it up.  If you know your way around a blasting cap, you don't really need to know much else.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Friday, September 20, 2013

Before there was Balko, there was Royko

Radley Balko and Mike Royko
This article also appears at the Freedom Bunker.

Royko, Mike Royko of the Chicago Daily News that is.  I am a fan of both men and I must admit, my regular reading of Mike Royko did not kick into high gear until the mid 1980s.  However, doing some recent research for a book project, I have been reading a few Royko articles from 1972, articles that predate the birth of Radley Balko by over three years.

I came across Balko's writing in one of his early blog posts years ago on Reason's Hit & Run blog, where he was taking shots at National Review's blog creator, Jonah Goldberg, over something or other that has left my memory.  It did not take long before I was reading Balko on a regular basis, and you cannot read Balko on a regular basis without reading a cop-shoots-dog story or three.  At Hit & Run it might be an exaggeration to say that those stories were a daily feature, but they appeared at least weekly.

Well, before Radley was thought of, Mike Royko was on the cop shoots dog beat in Chicago.  On January 7, 1972 the Chicago Daily News published, "The police get their man" by Mike Royko on his page 3 column.  Sorry no link, the Daily News does not have an online archive.  However, the article is available on microfilm from the Chicago Public Library.

"The police get their man" is a column about Mr. Robert Sheppard of Chicago's Far South Side, and his 90 pound dog Beau.  Mr. Sheppard, a salesman, lived n a modest two-story home.  While he was out for dinner, a prowler visited his home and Beau greeted him by gnawing the burglar's leg.

The burglar fled upstairs and hid behind a door, only to be seen by a neighbor who called the police.  While hiding behind the door, big dog a-growlin',  the burglar made a call too, to his mother and told her he was trapped by an angry dog on the second story of a stranger's house.

Chicago's finest arrived before the trespasser's mom and assessed the situation.  They investigated and discussed things with the neighbor who called earlier, then they rang the doorbell, only to hear big barking, etc.  While they were debating their next move, the prowler called the police with a story that he was hiding in the house from street toughs who had accosted him outside.

After a while, the police entered the house, Beau identified them as strangers, charged, and was felled by two shots from the police.  A third round put Beau out of his suffering.  A faithful dog just doing his job, gunned down in the line of duty.

The cops arrested the burglar and went on their way, leaving Beau in the driveway, where Mr. Sheppard found it.

He could not bear to move the body and he called Chicago's "animal removal service," who gave Mr. Sheppard the runaround, for three days and eventually "told him off," presumably for thinking that anybody in a city office called "animal removal" should bother to remove an animal killed by city cops.  Nobody lifted a finger to help Mr. Sheppard until Mike Royko called about the situation.

As Royko noted in closing, it is doubtful that the crook was going to get away, and the city could have called a team with tranquilizer darts for the tigers that occasionally escaped from the local zoos.  The situation could have been handled without killing Beau.  Yes, all this is true and obvious in hindsight.  Hell, if I were the cop at a door with a 90 pound dog on the other side, I would want to find a solution that avoided opening the door too.

But what about after?  I was just 10 years old when this happened, and maybe I am imagining things.  But, I am pretty darn sure that if almost anywhere in Cook County, and Chicago for sure, if Robert Sheppard shot a dog three times and left it in his driveway, it would not take three days of blowing off the bureaucrats before he was in a jail cell.  Telling them off at day three might result in a "contempt of bureaucrat" beating.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Monday, September 16, 2013

HUD goes Laissez-Faire?

Listening to the radio the other day I could not believe my ears.  The Wall Street Journal was reporting that the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed to eliminate local housing density zoning rules.  The only part that was not that surprising was that Rush Limbaugh, and WSJ writer Robert P. Astorino were staunchly against this measure.

What is going on over at HUD?  The folks who work over there never seemed to be liberty minded at all.  Somehow, some way, came to the realization that zoning regulations impact the housing market adversely.  Well, it is not as simple as that.  It appears that the “conclusion” that they came to is that some zoning laws are racist:
In July, HUD published its long-awaited proposal on “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” in the Federal Register. It is a sweeping set of land-use regulations that has attracted little national attention. The agency wants the power to dismantle local zoning so communities have what it considers the right mix of economic, racial and ethnic diversity. A finding of discriminatory behavior, or allegations of discrimination, would no longer be necessary. HUD will supply “nationally uniform data” of what it thinks 1,200 communities should look like.

Well, racist they might be and just from memory I can think of numerous examples where there is no doubt that this is true.  No doubt at all.  But just because every single zoning law is not racist based or motivated is no reason to defend any of them.  Every one of them is bad in some way, and I knew the HUD action was too good to be true.  But eliminating home occupancy/density regulations is the part that Limbaugh and Astorino were complaining about, maybe with a side complaint that the feds might impose their own version, a version that has a whole different set of people who do not own a parcel of property telling the parcel owner what to do with it.

Before anybody thinks that I’ve forgotten that there is no Constitutional provision for HUD, I have not.  Also, even if there was I don’t see them having the authority to push the locals around.

Now, of some miracle occurred and everyplace in the US adopted a Houston, TX style lack of zoning we might see a marked change in the housing situation, especially in places like San Francisco and New York.  That is, if your view of the housing situation is having enough housing at all given levels of quality for everybody seeking it.

If your view is keeping housing expensive, so the fat cats who own it now can enjoy an artificially high price for their property, just keep on keeping on the way things are now.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Vote Sweetie Lee for Knoxville City Council Second District (Pond Gap)

Vote for Sweetie Lee, write in candidate for the Knoxville City Council, Second District
(Pond Gap)

Now endorsed by Paul Krassner, co-founder of the Youth International Party!

On Sep 16, 2013, at 1:44 PM, Steve Esposito wrote:
In the Pigisis candidate tradition, I am running my wife's cat, Sweetie, for city council.
On Sep 16, 2013, at 4:57 PM, Paul Krassner wrote:
Well, Sweetie sure has my vote...

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Monday, September 9, 2013

Guest Blog by Jack Butturini on Classical Liberalism

I take pleasure in having high school classmate Jack Butturini as my guest on the blog today.  We attended Bearden High School together, and I graduated one year after him, with his insightful and lovely sister Jill.  His post is short, sweet and to the point.

It has been an interesting day with several debates with my liberal friends. In fact I agree with many things that are titled “liberal”; protecting our environment, promoting equal rights for women, improving race relations. But there are many things I can’t agree with. The belief that bigger government is the answer is against my core beliefs. We are a country founded on individualism. The current moves in our government look more and more like socialism and not democracy.

In my life I have been at virtually every aspect of the financial spectrum. I have been poor, bordering on homeless and I have been moderately wealthy. I have lost everything financial more than once. But I never blamed it on anyone else. My mistakes are my mistakes. To think that is the government job to pick me up when I don’t succeed is actually crippling to me.

If you want to help people, help them. Don’t ask the government to take it away from someone else to do the job that individuals can do better. If you want to help the poor with money, make more money and give it away. That is your prerogative. It is not yours or the government’s job to take a person’s hard earned money and give it to someone who may not even have the desire to work.

Of course social programs are needed. But the current system is rewarding complacency.
The bottom line is this; if you want a better life get off your ass and make one. If you want to help other people, get off your ass and help them.

Jack Butturini

Jack Butturini is a 52 years old Graduate of Bearden High School, class of 1979.  He's taught Martial Arts for over 35 years and currently owns a school in Morgan County, Tennessee. His goal in life is not to get people to see his view, but to open their eyes to the challenges in our country.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ