Saturday, July 21, 2018

Kriegspiel




Reflecting on something I heard about Hillsborough County (Tampa, FL, mostly) diverting kids from after-school mischief via a chess club, I remembered a chess variation from my own youth called 'Kriegspiel'.  Kriegspiel is a German word meaning "war games", and it's unlike any other form of chess you've ever seen.

Whereas ordinary chess (and even Wizard's chess) is played by two players, one board, and one set of pieces, Kriegspiel needs three boards, two sets of pieces, and a referee.

The players sit with their backs to the center board (which has a full set of pieces), each with a board containing only the pieces of their own color.  As each player makes a move, the referee replicates that move on the center board.  Usually the referee merely announces "white/black has moved".  Occasionally, this is followed by "capturing" or "giving check".  Sometimes the referee announces "illegal move" because that move cannot be made on the center board, as when an attempted move passes through an occupied square or moving the piece exposes a check.

When a player captures an opposing piece, that piece is removed from the opponent's board.  "White has moved, capturing."  White knows that a capture has taken place but not which piece.  Black knows which piece was captured, but not which piece did the deed or where it came from.  Should I recapture?  Is it worth risking that Knight since it might also be immediately recaptured?

As with standard chess, the game ends when checkmate or stalemate occurs, but with Kriegspiel the game also ends when any player leaves their board or sees the center board.  Of course, the audience, if there is one, must be silent for fairness.  No groans or laughs may be allowed to give away bad moves or good.

Some referees will be more specific with their comments, e.g.: "Black has moved giving check on the long diagonal".  Such announcements may be made for a lower-ranked player but not her higher-ranked opponent.  That's local custom and agreed before the match.

While it sounds terribly odd, most games of Kriegspiel are hilarious to watch, and it's a real chore for the audience not to give away valuable information.  The games are also fairly educational because we often do not understand how much value information has until we don't have it.  Because of this, it's a good idea to have someone transcribing the game so that it can be re-played for the essentially-in-the-dark participants after the game concludes.

Try it; you'll like it.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Israel




I'm not expounding; I'm just 'noodling'...

There's a lot of talk about how Jewish Democrats are going to deal with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who just won the Dem primary in NY's 14th CD.  The problem with AO-C is that she's anti-Israel and Jewish Dems are now faced with a dilemma: support the Dem nominee or support Israel.  It got me to thinking.

Before the 20th century, the part of the world we now call 'Israel' was dominated by the Ottoman Empire.  In WW-I, the Ottomans sided with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, lost, and had all their territory seized by the victors.  Had the Ottomans sided with Britain and France, there probably wouldn't be an 'Israel' and I wouldn't be noodling about it, but that's not how it played out.  For a long time, 'Palestine' was Britain's to govern if not own, and after WW-II, displaced Jewish populations demanded and got a 'homeland' carved out of the British Mandate.

Lest there be any confusion, 'Palestine' is derived from 'Philistine', but it has never been a nation with a distinct government, a distinct culture, or a distinct language, at least since the Philistines got overrun.  It has been, at most, an administrative district, a convenient shorthand to designate a particular geographic region.

The first Jewish settlers arrived while the Ottomans were still in charge.  When they got there, the area was barely fit for raising goats, and had been in that condition for millennia.  Today, Israel is a productive greenspace that is in stark contrast to the millions of square miles of wasteland that surround it.  Having seen what the Jews did with their patch of desert, the envious 'Palestinians' want it back.  They didn't do anything but raise goats on it for 2,000 years, but now it's their homeland.

Don't get me wrong: I don't support the U.S. giving Israel millions of dollars per day, but I think the Israelis have established ownership via sweat-equity.  What the Israelis did the Palestinians could have done... but didn't.  There are vast uninhabited tracts of land indistinguishable from pre-Israeli Palestine within a day's journey from Israel.  Any nearby country could acquire a huge population of formerly-Palestinian homesteaders for free and have them improve that country's economy.  That is not an acceptable solution, because Israel would still exist.  The only acceptable solution is one that eliminates Israel.  Besides, those formerly-Palestinian homesteaders would likely be as useless on their new land as they were on the old.

The fact that other nearby nations could (for almost no cost) solve 'the Palestinian problem' -- and don't -- invites speculation that they don't actually want that problem solved.

Yes, there should be a two-state solution for Palestine.  The other 'state' should be east of Jordan.  Any nation in the local group that isn't interested in having Palestinian settlers on their desert needs to STFU -- permanently.

Jewish Dems still have a problem in AO-C, and they're going to have a come-to-Jesus (sorry...) moment in the very near future.

Okay, I was expounding.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Justice Anthony Kennedy




Once upon a time, the New York Daily News was a reliably conservative outlet, the NY Daily Mirror was considered 'liberal', and the NY Post was a daily version of The Enquirer.  Somewhere along the way, the Mirror folded, the Daily News went hard left, and the Post became conservative.  I wasn't living there at the time so I didn't pay attention and can't tell you 'when' or 'why'.

The Post yesterday printed a story, "The real meaning of Democrats’ Supreme Court panic", about the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy noting:

This is why Democrats celebrate obviously superlegal decisions like Roe v. Wade: There is no right to abortion in the Constitution, but they would prefer not to battle that issue out at the electoral level.  The Supreme Court allows them to hand down their policy from the mountaintop without having to subject those policies to public scrutiny...  And that means that any reversal of such policy by a Supreme Court that actually reads the Constitution as it was written is a threat to Democratic hegemony.

(They're correct, but for the wrong reason.)

Also once upon a time, Justice Antonin Scalia remarked (possibly in his dissent to Roe v Wade) that he couldn't find a right to privacy in the Constitution.  It appears that Scalia hadn't read the Constitution as far as the Ninth Amendment.  It's possible Scalia wouldn't have said that had he a better appreciation for the 9th.  If he also appreciated the 10th, he might have voted to kick Roe back to the state where it originated.

For the benefit of those who aren't able to recite the Constitution verbatim, I quote it here for you (commatosis in the original):

AMENDMENT IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

In modern American English, this means "just because we only listed a few rights here doesn't mean that's an exhaustive list. We just didn't want to waste the ink and parchment on something any idiot could figure out."  That is: there is a right to privacy in the Constitution, right there in the 9th; there is a right to travel freely, a right to smoke marijuana, a right to marry whomsoever you please, right there in the 9th; there are all sorts of rights in the Constitution, right there in the 9th.

And the 10th:

AMENDMENT X:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

In modern English:  "if we didn't give some particular power to Congress, Congress doesn't have that power; it's a 'state thing' or a 'person thing', but it's not a 'Congress thing'".

An originalist Justice who "actually reads the Constitution as it was written" is exactly what we need.  In fact, we need eight of them since only Clarence Thomas currently fits the description.  More originalists?  Yes, please, and hurry!  A mere half-dozen originalists would already have struck down the National Firearms Act, NAFTA, NDAA, the War Powers Act, and hundreds of similar Congressional and Executive usurpations.

As to Roe v Wade, this clearly is a topic within the purview of the 10th amendment.  It should never have been heard at the Supreme Court.  Alas, Robert Bork said exactly that in his confirmation hearings and paid a dear price for having too much knowledge of the Constitution, too much honesty, and too much naïveté.

As to Kennedy being a 'swing vote', Democrat angst over his imminent departure is misplaced.  Kennedy voted with the majority in Janus, NIFLA v Becerra, Trump v Hawaii, Ohio v AMEX, and dozens of other cases that cause Democratic wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Why are they so upset at him retiring?  Do they think his replacement will be worse?  No, they fear his replacement will be an originalist.





Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Are We Headed For Another Civil War?




Some years back, I wrote a book, 'Tipping Point', that laid out a possible scenario in which The United States suffered a second civil war.  I deliberately made it very 'not pretty' with atrocities being committed by both sides, because civil wars are like that — recall Sherman's March To The Sea that needlessly destroyed civilian croplands and, in the fullness of time, the civilians who relied upon them.  'Tipping Point' hypothesized an assault on the Second Amendment, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, as the casus belli, but near the end of the book I had one of the characters recall that "...guns were merely a convenient symbol...".  That is, I think, important to keep in mind going forward.  If we are lurching toward a second civil war, it may not be 'guns' that gets us there.

Little more than a year ago, a group of Republican congressmen was ambushed while playing softball — by a disgruntled supporter of Bernie Sanders.  Many of the comments attached to news reports of the incident expressed disappointment that so few deaths resulted.  Within the month, two officials of the Trump administration have been the targets of mobs demanding they not be served at public restaurants.  Within the week, a Democrat congresswoman, Maxine Waters, has publicly issued a call for more of the same.  Whether you call them 'Democrats' or 'the left' or 'progressives' (all of which are marginally inaccurate), there is one segment of society that seems to be actively soliciting our next civil war, and their targets, whether you call them 'Republicans' or 'the right' or 'conservatives' (all of which are marginally inaccurate), are meekly suffering the slings and arrows.

Meanwhile, it's becoming increasingly clear that the FBI and the Department of Justice have, together, badly perverted what's left of our system of justice, and Congress seems reluctant to actually throw somebody into prison, perhaps because they fear turnabout should the next election place them in an exposed position.  This is not a good situation to be in.  This is not a safe place from which to watch somebody else get involved in a civil war.

One hundred million (maybe 120 million) Americans own 350 million (or more) guns and 200 billion rounds of ammunition.  If you look at the map showing electoral districts won by Trump and Clinton in the last Presidential election, it's a startling sight: the blue (Clinton) districts are all relatively tiny (high population density; big cities and metro areas; serious electoral clout) while the red (Trump) districts defines the vast bulk of the country's land area (low population density; rural areas; thin electoral power).  It goes without saying, I suppose, that almost all of those guns and gun-owners are in red districts.  What in heaven's name are those Democrats thinking?  They're deliberately trying to anger a population that's better-armed than any WW-II maquis unit, possibly under the assumption that they're so law-abiding they would never turn violent.  What if they're wrong?

If there is another civil war, this one between the Reds and the Blues, the outcome is easy to predict:

  1. the Reds are going win.  It's not even theoretically possible for small enclaved cities to overwhelm the heartland, but it is possible for the heartland to cut the cities off from food, water, and electricity.  Game over.
  2. the heartland is going to want to secede.  They'll cut the blue districts loose because conquering them is counter-productive.
  3. Blue America will turn into a third-world country.  Red America will strictly control its border with Blue America.  There will not be an 'illegal immigrant problem'.
  4. Within a few years at most, those blue areas will bid to be annexed simply because the government model they use is unsustainable without inexpensive supplies coming in from red areas.  The blue model requires the red model far more than the red requires the blue.

In short, what the Democrats are doing is so severely against their self-interest it's fair to wonder whether they have thought this problem through to its logical conclusion.  This might be an opportune time for them to correct that lest they accidentally turn 'Tipping Point' from 'fiction' to 'documentary'.


Monday, June 18, 2018

Just call 9-1-1.




Andrew Pollack, father of Meadow Pollack who was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has filed suit against former deputy Scot Peterson for failing to do his duty, presumably his duty to protect Meadow Pollack from getting killed.  The lawyer for Peterson is seeking a dismissal on the grounds that Peterson had no duty to any individual person, only a duty to the community at large.  Mr. Pollack is going to lose this one.  It is a 'matter of settled law' that the police do not have a duty to protect any particular person.

This complaint-and-rebuttal presents a serious problem for those who say we don't need our guns because we can always call 9-1-1 and the police will send help.  It's an even more serious problem for those who argue that teachers shouldn't be armed because the school has an SRO or two.  If the police have no duty to protect, the presence of SROs at the school is irrelevant;  they can ignore the screams and the shots with impunity.  The only people with motivation to confront the shooter are those who are themselves in peril, i.e.: teachers, and if they're going to confront a shooter, they had better be equipped to do so, i.e.: armed.

When the scene shifts to 'college', another dynamic complicates the issue.  College students may be adults and may have concealed weapon permits and, in case of a shooting incident, may similarly be motivated to confront the shooter except that most college campuses are 'gun-free zones' (victim disarmament zones) where they may not be armed and are therefore at a severe disadvantage in that situation.  Again, police may respond when called or they may not.

What to do...  What to do...



Saturday, May 12, 2018

How To End The Collusionpalooza Circus




Well, Trump has been President for over a year, now, and Robert Mueller has been investigating alleged collusion with various Russians for longer than that, and so far all he has is a handful of 1001 indictments (making a materially false statement to a federal investigator, the charge that sent Martha Stewart up the river).  To make matters worse, one of the indictees has decided to slug it out in court, and they are demanding 'discovery', the process where the accused gets to review all the evidence the prosecutor(s) have indicating wrongdoing, and they are demanding a speedy trial as guaranteed to them by the Constitution.  Mueller and his team are resisting, claiming that it just might be possible that this indictee may not have been served properly.  They reallyreally don't want anyone peeking under their skirts.  The judge, by the way, laughed Mueller out of court on the entirely reasonable grounds that if they weren't ready to go to trial, they shouldn't have issued an indictment.  Just this alone might put an end to Mueller's fishing trip, but if not...

Congress is at war with the FBI, it seems.  They issue subpoenas for files that will tell them whether Andrew McCabe or James Comey (or both) committed perjury, and the FBI stonewalls on grounds of 'national security'.  One might think that President Trump might want to let Congress do some digging inside an organization that, very probably, is conspiring against him and his administration.  I think I would.  And here's how President Clarke would get that to happen:

I would have a U.S. Marshal called to the Oval Office in stand-by mode.  I would summon Rod Rosenstein to the OO for a quick conference where I would ask him how long it would take to comply with those Congressional subpoenas, and then order him to do so.  If Rosenstein refused, I would have the Marshal arrest him on the spot for obstruction of justice, seize his phone, confiscate his passport, and hustle him off to a secure lock-up, then repeat the exercise going down the chain of command.  If Rosenstein accepted the order, I would place him on 'unpaid status' until compliance was achieved as a way of ensuring compliance happens with all deliberate speed.

I would also have Robert Mueller's passport picked up, along with John Brennan's, James Comey's, and Andrew McCabe's.  Just as a precaution.

How long do you think Collusionpalooza would continue after that?


Monday, May 7, 2018

Save The Children




We've all seen those ads on TV urging us to call right now to pledge just pennies-a-day to save abandoned animals, wounded warriors, children with cancer, abused women, and a seemingly endless array of others, each more deserving of our charity than the last.  The one that strikes me as most inappropriate is the ad (you almost certainly have seen it) showing emaciated African or South American children living in squalor and badly needing a meal or even just a simple glass of milk.  You can save this child with a donation of only nineteen cents a day.  How can anyone be so cruel as to withhold such a pittance?

As I watched one of these ads, I had to wonder why, with all the foreign aid money we splash across the globe, none of it seems to get to these starving youngsters.  Where is all that foreign aid money going?

It helps to understand, first, that we don't do 'foreign aid' today the way we used to do it, say, a hundred years ago.

A hunded years ago, Mrs. Jenkins' 5th grade class would adopt Armenian refugees or Chinese orphans or the victims of the war in West Wheresoever.  At the beginning of the term, all the children would receive a small cardboard coin bank.  During the year, they would put spare change into the box until the day finally arrived to pool all the contents.  On that day, usually with great fanfare and ceremony, the children would pop the box-ends and pour the contents into a fishbowl or pickle jar, sometimes as part of a field trip to the local bank.  The coins would be counted and sorted, perhaps by the semi-magical machine the bank used that collected the coins sorted and ready to be slipped into coin sleeves.  The bank manager would then announce that the class had collected $37.89 and the coins would be converted to a check payable to, most likely, The American Red Cross.  There would be a representative from the intended charity ready to accept the check and to give a short speech congratulating the children for their generosity toward those less fortunate.

The $252,319.23 collected from several thousand schoolrooms across the country would then be used to buy wheat, rice, potatoes, milk, tea, flour, salt, goats, and water pumps for villages where such things were not simply nice-to-have, but vital for survival.  The people who got those things knew that American schoolchildren and American charities had made it possible for them to see another Spring.  Everybody loved us and thought we were, as Alexis deTocqueville once suggested, the most uniformly generous people on Earth.

Foreign aid today is an entirely different story.

Today, the government taxes everyone to support the General Fund that covers all the government functions we have come to expect and including foreign aid.  Foreign governments (not the people) get vouchers good for purchases from American companies.  Foreign governments don't want wheat and rice; they just have to redistribute stuff like that and it's a big pain in the butt to do that.  They'd rather have the money.  But if we just give them money, there's no guarantee they won't spend it in places we disapprove of, so we give them vouchers that can only be redeemed on purchases from American companies.  The American companies can turn the vouchers in to the Treasury Department for real cash.  That way, the money stays here where it belongs.

Alas, the companies that usually redeem those vouchers are generally in the business of supplying guns, tanks, warships, and warplanes, and the ammunition all those things use.  Very little, if any, of that 'foreign aid' actually gets to the people who need milk, tea, coffee, scrambled eggs, toast, cereal, or a new water pump for the village.

Most of it, in fact, goes toward bombing, maiming, and killing the people who need food and water and clothing for themselves and their families.

And everybody hates us.

And that's why your nineteen cents a day is so badly needed.