Octavo Dia

Monday, January 30, 2006

Happiness is a warm gun.

My state, one of the four not to have concealed-carry laws, is about to pass concealed carry legislation. This has had the predictable result of producing endless letters to the various editors. One letter to the editor said that most accidents happen when children discover guns in the home, and that this was a good reason to ban concealed carry laws. Disregarding the odd disconnect (if they're carrying them, then the guns are not in the house when the kids come home), it made me think of a possible answer to the question of gun control.

Pass one law concerning guns: the owner of the gun is responsible for whatever happens with that gun. If that gun is stolen and used to commit a crime, the owner of the gun is guilty of aiding and abeting that crime, as he did not secure the firearm properly. If a kid finds it and blows his head off, the owner is guilty of manslaughter, as he did not (a) secure the firearm, and (b) put safety locks on it. If it goes off accidentally and injures someone, he is guilty of assault and battery, due to negligence in maintaining the safety of the weapon or ensuring its safety prior to purchase.

Such laws would have a profound hushing effect on casual gun ownership. People would no longer buy a gun just to have a gun, for "protection", or some other such vague reason. When one purchased a gun, one would make oneself liable to all sorts of criminal charges. Only serious gun users would take that risk.

Furthermore, such an arrangement would avoid the Constitutional question of restricting gun ownership, as this law would place no restrictions on who could or couldn't own what types of firearms. That decision would be left to the individual citizens who wished to own a firearm.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

All Volunteer Force

An article from a Swedish Newspaper contained this quotation: "Voluntarism is predicated on the openness and honesty of those doing the recruiting. Conscription compels youth into joining the military." That quotation started me thinking about the proper way to man a military organization, after I had all but settled on the benefits of an all-volunteer force.

John Locke argued that, to be free, one could not choose to be a slave, for such a choice eliminates all future choice based on the consequences of ones current decisions. This position is ethically troubling, as every choice limits the alternatives available, since decisions form chain reactions. If one eliminates the freedom to enslave oneself based on the choice-eliminating consequences of that choice, then one should be able to limit the freedom to do other things based on their adverse consequences.

Regardless of the philosophical conundrums, military life necessitates the compulsion to do things one would rather not do. Even if, in the heat of battle, one fights merely to save oneself and one's friends, the decision to fight would not have happened had one not joined the military. Referring to the quotation above, military personnel are not fully informed of the consequences of their decision prior to joining--they have to act on trust that their nation will not make them do that which they would not do (massacre whole villages, for example).

It seems, then, that the proper solution is not to hide the compulsion of the military under the "specious mask" of voluntarism. At the very least, boot camp should be compulsory, after which the decision to join the regular or reserve forces could be made voluntary.

On the other hand, all-volunteer forces perform much differently from conscript troops; so much so that conscripts in a counter-insurgency are worse than useless. Perhaps there's something in voluntarism after all.

Party of Me: Power

The Party of Me seeks never to become a majority party or the majority member of a coalition. It will remain forever a minority party. To become a majority, one must compromise one's principles internally. To become a minority member of a coalition, one must still compromise one's principles, but the compromise is an external, expedient, ad hoc compromise. Thus, the Party of Me surrenders power to maintain its ideological purity.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Drop the bomb.

I have been thinking about America's nuclear arsenal, and I have concluded that America does not need nuclear weapons. We do not need them because we won't use them and there is nothing that we would use them for.

First, I doubt that the United States, so long as it remains democratic, will ever use nuclear weapons again. I also highly doubt that any other nation that cares at all about the opinions of its populace or its neighbors would use nuclear weapons. The first person to drop the bomb in a war will lose all credibility. It would instantly make itself the aggressor, and the other side the victim. People would rally around the nuked country, no matter how evil they otherwise were.

Second, there is nothing a nuke can do that the United States cannot do with conventional weaponry. If we want to knock out an electrical grid, we have Electro-Magnetic Pulse bombs. If we want to hit a command post, we have bunker busters. If we want to hit deeply entrenched forces, there's napalm. If we want to smash a whole area, we have MOAB (Massive Ordinance Aerial Blast or Mother Of All Bombs). We have cluster bombs to take out troop concentrations. About the only thing we can do with nukes that we can't do with conventional technology is flatten entire cities. Historically, strategic bombing of this type has straddled the fine line between ineffective and counter-productive. In short, all we cannot do is that we do not wish to do.

In short, the U.S. should disband its nuclear arsenal (which would earn it major international brownie points), and transfer the budget and personnel to other, more useful, military ventures.


A law proposed in Missouri would make it illegal for grocery stores, gas stations, and convenience stores to sell pre-chilled beer. All beer would have to be sold warm. The idea is that, since most Americans do not like drinking warm beer, it would decrease the amount of drunk driving, since people would have to go home first to get a cold beer.

Whether or not it will work, that's the kind of law that I like. It makes people want to obey the law, rather than punishing them for breaking it.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Baaaaa humbug.

The local paper today had yet another review of Brokeback Mountain. For all of those people who may consider writing yet another inane review, I have one thing to say: If they herd cows, they are cowboys. If they herd sheep, they are SHEPHERDS! Is that really too much to ask?

Friday, January 06, 2006


This idea isn't original to me, but I've adopted it as part of my thinking, and combined it with an idea of my own to make things even better.

Point one: to fight an insurgency, one needs boatloads of volunteer infantry, preferably with a variety of language skills.

Point two: America is exceedingly bad at producing boatloads of infantry (particularly volunteers during an insurgency) and is even worse at producing langauge skills.

Point three: America, as the world's foremost military power, will be drawn into insurgencies.

Therefore, what the United States needs to do is take a page from Imperial Britain's playbook. (And Imperial France, but the less we use Imperial France as a role model, the better off we'll be.) The British empire was held together by very few British troops. Outside of Britain's navy, the forces that held the empire together were almost entirely locally recruited. The officers, and essential specialists, were British, but the great majority of the troops were colonials.

Since the United States does not have colonies, we can't recruit directly from them, but we can recruit internationally. Create a military force on the model of the British colonial forces, but with recruits drawn from all over the world, with particular attention to recruiting indigenous peoples and others who speak less common languages. These peacekeeping troops would be trained specifically for peacekeeping/counter-insurgency. They would be armed, equipped, and trained by the United States, and receive all of the benefits that U.S. military personnel receive. On being honorably discharged, they would receive citizenship of the United States and the right to bring their families with them. One could even give them a furlough at the end of their tour, so they would have a month or two, with pay, to get themselves established in the U.S.

This idea would be further improved by adding the baseless deployment I wrote about here. This arrangement is idea for a peacekeeping force, as they need to be able to move wherever the crisis strikes. (Odds are that we won't have a military base established right where we need it.) The floating warehouses could, furthermore, be stocked with relief supplies, such as MRE's, tents, water purifiers, etc., with which we could also deal with the refugee crises that plague such circumstances.

So what we need is an American Foreign Legion with mobile bases stocked for both counter-insurgency and disaster relief.

Nuclear Winter

I looked up nuclear winter, just because it had always sounded vaguely terrifying. It turns out its not. One could create nuclear winter by firebombing lots of cities. It has nothing to do with the nuclear nature of the weapon, but is a result of soot in the atmosphere blocking sunlight. For a name like nuclear winter, I wanted its consequences to be much more chilling.

Let me out, let me out!

If you've been following WatchingAmerica.com for any length of time, you'ld have run across a half dozen articles like this one, which compares the fence going up on the Mexican border with the Berlin wall. I hate to point out the obvious, but THE BERLIN WALL WAS NOT MEANT TO KEEP PEOPLE OUT!!! IT WAS MEANT TO KEEP PEOPLE IN!!! If you must compare the Berlin wall to something, compare it the Great Wall of China, or Hadrian's wall. Or the Maginot line, for a more modern example. None of them were terribly effective, but none of them were symbols of tyranny either.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Military Aid

The British have always struck me as being terribly sensible when it comes to international relations. The British philosophy of international relations is that they have no permanent friends, or permanent enemies, just permanent interests. I was reading Confronting Leviathan: Mozambique Since Independence, and read that the British covertly supported the Mozambiquan communists (during the Cold War, of all times), because they deeply wanted to rid themselves of the albatross that was Rhodesia, and the Mozambiquans were sponsoring the Rhodesian guerillas. Thus, despite being technically allied to Rhodesia, and technically opposed to the Mozambiqueans, it was in their interests to use their "enemies" to rid themselves of "friends". Unlike the United States, which provides military hardware, and then instructors to train them in the use of the military hardware, and then security personnel to protect the instructors, and then air support to protect the security personnel, and then ground forces to protect the air force, and then naval support to supply the ground forces, the British provided the Frelimo government with... uniforms, rations, boots, etc. All necessary for a military organization, but none of which required troops to be pulled in, none of which could be turned into propaganda for the other side, none of which could one day be turned on British troops, should they have to intervene. I think it is actions like this that make me view the British as so very sensible.