Daily Archives: April 24, 2020

The Only Two Podcasts You Need To Get Through A Dull Day – Eagle Online

Posted: April 24, 2020 at 3:10 pm

All of you would have had moments where you are in need of a source of laughter to get you out of a depressive phase. You often seek a remedy through a sitcom or a comedy movie or comic strips, perhaps, but how many of you tune in to podcasts? If you havent done it so far, now is a good time to start.

Out of all the comedy or satirical podcasts out there, two of the most popular and best-reviewed podcasts in this genre are Ethan Kleins and Hila Kleins podcast and the podcast hosted by Kevin and Bean. Read on to see what makes these podcasts worth watching.

h3h3Productions is a YouTube channel produced by the husband and wife duo Ethan and Hila Klein. Their YouTube channel started in 2011, and in addition, the duo also runs a vlog channel and a podcast.

The H3 Podcast was started in 2016, and the creator of science fiction sitcom Rick and Morty, Justin Roiland, was the shows first celebrity guest. There is also a separate podcast just for the highlights of various episodes.

The content of the podcast, except for few special episodes called Top of the Week that feature only the hosts, involves Ethan and Hila interviewing YouTubers and celebrities, discussing current events, and satirizing internet culture. Some of the guest celebrities on the show include Swedish YouTuber and comedian PewDiePie, Japanese singer and rapper Joji, American news commentary show host Philip DeFranco and Canadian author and psychologist Jordan Peterson.

The fans of the podcast praise its candid nature (despite some criticism for comedy on sensitive topics) and the comic relief it gives to people when they listen to it on the way to work or before bed. Some viewers have also praised the shows producer, Dan, and Ian, the intern, who also make appearances now and then. On YouTube, the podcast channel has over 2.1 million subscribers and more than 233 million views, and the highlights podcast channel has over 1.5 million subscribers.

Ethan and Hila have over 180 episodes recorded so far, and some episodes have been more popular or unique than the rest. Here is a glimpse of some episodes from the podcast:

Episode #48 (Feb 2, 2018): Jordan Petersons interview covers a discussion about his new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. He also talks about his ethical principles.

Episode #55 How to save a life (March 13, 2018): In this special episode, the guest star, Chris Betancourt, is a man diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia with only one year to live. Chriss attitude and sense of humor, even when being so close to death, making this a valuable watch.

Episode #140 (September 3, 2019): Science writer, skeptical investigator, and retired video game programmer Mick West join the hosts in this episode. The topics they talk about include Bob Lazar, Area 51, and a debate about what really happened to Jeffrey Epstein.

Episode #161 where the hosts discuss Papa Johns interview where he claimed to have consumed 40 pizzas in 30 days, episode #154 a Halloween special where the entire podcast gang go out wearing costumes, and episode #143 featuring podcaster Bill Burr are some of the other famous picks from the show.

Kevin Ryder and Gene Bean Baxter were the hosts of the Kevin and Bean show on KROQ-FM, an alternative rock-format radio station in Los Angeles, California. Baxter left the show in late 2019, and the show went on till January 2, 2020, almost 30 years since its inception in 1990. This was followed by a spin-off, Kevin in the Morning with Allie and Jensen, which lasted till March 2020.

The Kevin and Bean podcast has over 900 episodes starring a variety of guest stars, including Pregame founder RJ Bell, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, American stand-up comedian, and podcast host Nikki Glaser, tabloid talk show host Jerry Springer, and American rock band Green Day.

Some of the notable episodes are:

Beans Final Show (November 7, 2019): An episode that many fans wished never happened, this is was the last episode that Gene Baxter co-hosted before Allie Mac Kay and Jensen Karp stepped in. Radio personality and American Idol host Ryan Searcast makes a guest appearance and interviews Bean. Several other guest stars and former Kevin and Bean members feature or call in including American talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel, podcaster Adam Carolla and host of The Joe Schmo Show Ralph Garman.

Guess stars Bill Burr and Louie Anderson(November 30, 2018): American stand-up comedian and host of Monday Morning Podcast, Bill Burr, along with game show host and author Louie Anderson make appearances in this podcast episode. The hosts, along with recurring member Beer Mug, have a chat on the topic, The most embarrassing thing someone would find after you died.

The exit of Bean was a disappointment for fans, and not many of them were initially enthusiastic about the spin-off. A lot of followers reacted very negatively at the act of KROQ firing the entire podcast crew in early 2020.

However, for most of the shows run when Kevin and Bean were hosts fans considered one of the funniest shows of its times that they regularly listened to every morning. Given that the show ran for three decades, a lot of them associated a sentimental value with this podcast, considering it as something they grew up and matured with.

It is well-known that sometimes all you need is a good laugh to get over so many of your problems mental and emotional. Now, with access to the Ethan and Hila podcast and the Kevin and Bean show on Podchaser, you can tune in and listen to your favorite or latest episodes and get your dose of daily laughter.

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The Shares Of Graco Are Still Overpriced – Seeking Alpha

Posted: at 3:10 pm

Shares of Graco Inc. (GGG) are down about 15%, and this has put this dividend aristocrat on my radar. I thought Id look in on the shares to see if theyre worth buying at the moment. Ill answer this question by reviewing the financial history here, and by looking at the stock itself. For those who have missed the title of this article, and have skipped the bullet points above, Ill jump to the point: this is a great company, and the dividend is safe in my view, but the shares are overpriced. Just because I dont think theres value at current prices doesnt mean that I think theres no value here, obviously. Thankfully, the options market presents investors with the opportunity to generate cash by agreeing to buy this great company at a great price.

The financial performance over the past few years has been impressive in some ways. For instance, sales have grown at a CAGR of about 5% since 2015. In spite of that, though, net income was basically the same in 2019 as it was in 2015. On the other hand, cash from operations has exploded, having grown at a CAGR of ~17%. For their part, management has spent about $484 million on share buybacks over the past five years. In addition, theyve returned just over $418.6 million to owners in the form of ever-growing dividend payments. This has caused those dividends per share to grow at a CAGR of about 10% over the past five years. In my view, the future of the dividend here is of critical importance, and Ill spend the rest of my words trying to work out how sustainable (or not) the dividend actually is.

After looking at it, I think the dividend is sustainable here for a number of reasons. First, the companys traditional payout ratio (i.e. dividends divided by EPS) is quite low, and dividends relative to cash from operations per share is even lower. Second, the company has cash on hand of ~$220.9 million, which is greater than the estimated outflows over the next three years, per the table below. In addition, the company generated ~$418 million from operations over the past year.

Finally, as of December 27, 2019, the company had unused credit lines of ~$546 million. Investors who are either interested in reading more about the debt picture here, or are suffering insomnia, are advised to check out pages 44-45 of the latest 10-K for a more full discussion of debt here. Ive done that work and have concluded that debt will not crowd out dividend payments. In sum, comparing the sources of cash to the obligations laid out in the table below suggests to me that the dividend is reasonably safe here.

Source: Latest 10-K, author compilation

Source: Company filings

Nothing Ive ever written or said will be as well known or impactful as something like the (alarmingly authoritarian sounding) phrase ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country or Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall brought to the world by Raegans great speechwriter, Peter Robinson. Ill never match those or countless other famous turns of phrase that offer interesting insights into the human condition or the politics of a particular time period. What I lack in insight, though, I make up for in repetitiveness. My small circle of friends and associates know me for repeating one phrase: The more you pay for something, the lower will be your subsequent returns.

Although my phrase lacks the depth and timeliness of something like we have nothing to fear but fear itself, it does stick with people because I bludgeon the listener with near-constant repetition. The result is that whenever I pull out this truism in conversation, phrases like drone on and yeah, we know and shut up about it, already soon follow. Its an almost liturgic call and response between my friends and I. Id like to take the opportunity to welcome you, dear reader, to this now virtual community.

In case its not obvious, the point of the phrase is that price paid is the single largest determinant of the returns the investor will enjoy over time. If a company can produce a stream of future cash flows discounted to a value of X, paying more than X will lead to terrible returns, and paying less than X will lead to great returns. For that reason, I think investors need to obsess about not overpaying for a given companys future cash flows.

I judge the risk of overpayment in a few ways. Most simply, I look at the ratio of price to some measure of economic value. If the company is trading at a low price relative to its own history and to the overall market, thats a good sign in my view. On that basis, Graco is hardly cheap, per the following chart.

Interestingly, the valuation has held up relatively well here. In fact, the shares are priced at approximately the same level as they were over the past three years. This is troublesome in my estimation. In addition, I think a PE of 23 times is objectively too expensive for most companies. For that reason, I cant recommend the shares at current levels.

Data by YCharts

Source: YCharts

In addition to looking at the simple ratio of price to economic value, I want to understand what the market is assuming about the long-term growth rate of the underlying company. The more optimistic the market, the more risky the stock. In order to work out what price is telling us about future expectations, I turn to the methodology outlined by Professor Stephen Penman in his book Accounting for Value. In this book, Penman walks an investor through how they can isolate the g (growth) variable in a standard finance formula to work out what the market must be assuming about long-term growth. Applying this methodology to Graco suggests that the market is assuming a growth rate of about 7% for this company. Thats massively optimistic in my view, and is another reason I cant recommend buying the shares at these levels.

Because I dont think theres value at current prices doesnt mean I think theres no value here. I think shares of Graco Inc. are trading above the rate of their discounted future cash flows. That said, I would be willing to buy if shares traded in the mid-30s. This presents me with what I consider to be a fairly easy choice. I can wait for shares to drop in price from here. The problem with this approach is that its deadly dull and the shares may never actually drop to a level that I consider appropriate. Alternatively, I can sell put options, on which I make money by selling to people the right to sell me this company at a price I want to pay for it.

Given that Id be comfortable buying in the mid-30s, my preferred options at the moment are the November puts with a strike price of $35. These are currently bid-asked at $1.40-$3.50. If the investor takes the bid on these puts, and is subsequently exercised, theyll be obliged to buy at a net price about 27% below the current level. Holding all else constant, this corresponds to a PE of about 20, and a dividend yield of about 2%. For my part, Id be happy to own these shares at this level.

Investing, like life in general, involves making choices among a host of imperfect trade-offs. Not to name drop, but when I was interviewing him in his Kitchen, Jordan Peterson reminded me that theres no risk-free option. Theres risk a, and theres risk b. We do our best to navigate the world by exchanging one pair of risk-reward trade-offs for another. For example, holding cash presents the risk of erosion of purchasing power via inflation and the reward of preserving capital at times of extreme volatility. The risk-reward trade-off of buying shares should be pretty self-evident in early 2020. For those who are just emerging from their hibernation, I'd suggest the risk-reward trade-off for stock ownership involves the potential for capital loss weighed against the potential for capital gain.

Put options are no different in this regard. I've described the reward potential of these often, so I'll spend the rest of this section talking about their risks. I think the risks of put options are very similar to those associated with a long stock position. If the shares drop in price, the stockholder loses money and the short put writer may be obliged to buy the stock. Thus, both long stock and short put investors typically want to see higher stock prices.

Puts are distinct from stocks in that some put writers don't want to actually buy the stock; they simply want to collect premia. Such investors care more about maximizing their income, and will therefore be less discriminating about which stock they sell puts on. These people don't want to own the underlying security. For my part, I'll only ever write puts on companies that I'd be happy to own, at strike prices that represent good entry points for me. For that reason, being exercised isn't the trauma for me that is for many other put writers.

In my view, put writers take on risk, but they take on less risk (sometimes significantly less risk) than stock buyers in a critical way. Short put writers generate income simply for taking on the obligation to buy a business that they like at a price that they find attractive. This circumstance is objectively better than simply taking the prevailing market price. This is why I consider the risks of selling puts on a given day to be far lower than the risks associated with simply buying the stock on that day.

Since I've never passed up the opportunity to belabour a point, allow me to drill this into your head even further using Graco as an example. The investor can choose to buy the shares today at a price of ~$45.00. Alternatively, they can generate a credit for their accounts by selling put options that oblige them - under the worst possible circumstance - to buy the shares at a net price 27% below today's level. In my view, that is the definition of lower risk.

Although I think Graco Inc. is a fine company with a great dividend history. More importantly, I think that dividend is safe at the moment, and I think that will go a long way toward supporting share price. The problem is that most of that good news is already priced in. I dont have a problem with the company, and would be happy to own it at the right price. In my view, the problem is that the price is not right at the moment, and investors who buy at current levels face more downside than upside. Thankfully, its possible to generate some money by selling put options at the moment. If the shares remain overpriced, the investor simply pockets the premia, and thats never a hardship. If the shares fall in price, the investor will be obliged to buy a great company at a very good price.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: I will be selling 10 of the puts mentioned in this article.

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A Hate Crimes Bill in Scotland Will Finally Abolish Its Blasphemy Law – Friendly Atheist – Patheos

Posted: at 3:09 pm

Scotland is about to become the latest country to ban the crime of blasphemy.

The law criminalizing blasphemy has been around in Scotland for centuries. An 1825 act said blasphemy was punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both, though no ones been prosecuted for it since 1843. Still, it remained on the books.

But as the saying goes, blasphemy is a victimless crime. Criticizing religion or mocking it should always be welcome in a free society. Religious people cannot be considered immune from challenges to their bad ideas, and they certainly shouldnt be able to use the courts to go after their critics, which was at least theoretically still possible. By allowing it to remain part of the law, theocratic countries could always point to Scotland as a place where criticism of religion could be punished. Its the sort of law primarily used against religious and non-religious minorities.

But after a five-year campaign by the Humanist Society Scotland, thats about to change.

A new Hate Crimes Bill, designed to modernize the law, was introduced in the nations Parliament yesterday. It includes a clause that abolishes blasphemy as a crime.

According to Humanists International, that will make Scotland the ninth country to abolish its blasphemy laws since the End Blasphemy Laws Now Campaign was launched in 2015. (Northern Ireland, which still hasnt decriminalized it, remains mired in the past.)

Fraser Sutherland, Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland, celebrated the news:

We are delighted that the Scottish Government is taking this important step. It is clear that the Cabinet Secretary has listened to the evidence and pleas from humanist campaigners and many others that blasphemy laws are incompatible with human rights. Even though Scotlands law has not been used for some time the message this repeal sends to other leaders around the world is clear and unambiguous blasphemy laws are wrong and have no place in the twenty-first century. Scotland now joins a growing list of countries who have taken this step to put pressure on other states around the world who continue to prosecute blasphemy charges.

This is a really important and welcome move in the global campaign to rid the world of unfair and unjust blasphemy laws that persecute individuals both religious and non-religious around the world. I want to thank our members and supporters who have been writing to politicians, lodging petitions and generally supporting the work of the society which has seen our campaign result in this success.

Even after this bill passes which it almost certainly will there will still be 68 countries where blasphemy is punishable, including with a prison sentence. But as the dominoes topple, the rationale to keep such laws in place becomes much harder to justify.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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Charges and cautions for domestic violence rise by 24% in London – The Guardian

Posted: at 3:09 pm

Police have warned of a looming rise in reported domestic abuse cases with some victims currently suffering in silence fearing if their abuser is arrested and becomes unemployed, they and their children will be plunged into poverty.

The Metropolitan police, which covers London, said its officers are arresting an average of 100 people a day for domestic violence offences during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Commander Sue Williams said charges and cautions were up 24% from 9 March, when people with coronavirus symptoms were asked to self-isolate, compared with last year.

She said domestic incidents, which can include family rows not recorded as crimes, were up 3% year on year and 9% between 9 March and 19 April, although offences were up just 2% in the Covid-19 period.

We are seeing a rise, theres no doubt about that, and we welcome that because we will take positive action against any perpetrators, Williams said. We are arresting about 100 people a day for domestic offences, which I think is pretty amazing, even given all the challenges we have in London.

Charities said reports to them are up by around a quarter and Williams said policing around the country expects a rush of reports of domestic violence once lockdown is lifted, which is what happened in other countries when restrictions were eased.

This gap between the large rise reported to charities compared with the small increase reported to police has caused concern that victims are unable or unwilling to come forward.

Williams said charities the Met works with said some victims can fear police arresting the breadwinner in their household will leave them and the children with no money during a lockdown when jobs are disappearing: There may be a reluctance to arrest someone who brings in the money, adding: In this current climate it becomes a hidden crime.

She said that when other countries relaxed lockdown measures, reports to police of domestic violence and abuse increased, and she expected that would happen in the UK. Williams said: I think we are going to see a rise when we come out of lockdown.

Williams pledged an amnesty for domestic violence victims who may have breached lockdown rules saying the Met viewed stopping abuse as the priority: Were interested in them as a victim of crime and holding the perpetrator to account.

Police were finding it easier to catch perpetrators as they were more likely be at home and less likely to be able to move around.

In one case in east London a woman called police but did not want to support a prosecution. Officers used their body-worn video to record a statement and that was enough to gain a victimless prosecution.

Williams said there were two homicides in London linked to domestic violence but it was not yet known if either was linked to the lockdown.

The Met is working with other agencies and charities to find temporary housing for suspects so women and their children dont have to move home during the lockdown.

Williams said: If we can arrest the perpetrator we give the victim some time to think about what they want to do.

She urged neighbours to listen out for heated arguments or screams and said victims could also send text messages to friends or family and they could call police for help.

Williams said: The main thing we are seeing is what we call domestic incidents. It could be the parties themselves in the household, family, friends phoning us and telling us theyre hearing noise, arguments taking place.

Of course, there are violent offences; it has gone up a little bit but not massively. We have had two domestic-related murders in London during this period.

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The Solutions to the Climate Crisis No One is Talking About – New American Journal

Posted: at 3:09 pm

Big Oil depicted: Walter Simon

By Robert Reich

Both our economy and the environment are in crisis. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few while the majority of Americans struggle to get by. The climate crisis is worsening inequality, as those who are most economically vulnerable bear the brunt of flooding, fires, and disruptions of supplies of food, water, and power.

At the same time, environmental degradation and climate change are themselves byproducts of widening inequality. The political power of wealthy fossil fuel corporations has stymied action on climate change for decades. Focused only on maximizing their short-term interests, those corporations are becoming even richer and more powerful while sidelining workers, limiting green innovation, preventing sustainable development, and blocking direct action on our dire climate crisis.

Make no mistake: the simultaneous crisis of inequality and climate is no fluke. Both are the result of decades of deliberate choices made, and policies enacted, by ultra-wealthy and powerful corporations.

We can address both crises by doing four things:

First, create green jobs. Investing in renewable energy could create millions of family sustaining, union jobs and build the infrastructure we need for marginalized communities to access clean water and air. The transition to a renewable energy-powered economy can add 550,000 jobs each year while saving the US economy $78 billion through 2050. In other words, a Green New Deal could turn the climate crisis into an opportunity one that both addresses the climate emergency and creates a fairer and more equitable society.

Second, stop dirty energy. A massive investment in renewable energy jobs isnt enough to combat the climate crisis. If we are going to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must tackle the problem at its source: Stop digging up and burning more oil, gas, and coal.

The potential carbon emissions from these fossil fuels in the worlds currently developed fields and mines would take us well beyond the 1.5C increased warming that Nobel Prize winning global scientists tell us the planet can afford. Given this, its absurd to allow fossil fuel corporations to start new dirty energy projects.

Even as fossil fuel companies claim to be pivoting toward clean energy, they are planning to invest trillions of dollars in new oil and gas projects that are inconsistent with global commitments to limit climate change. And over half of the industrys expansion is projected to happen in the United States. Allowing these projects means locking ourselves into carbon emissions we cant afford now, let alone in the decades to come.

Even if the U.S. were to transition to 100 percent renewable energy today, continuing to dig fossil fuels out of the ground will lead us further into climate crisis. If the U.S. doesnt stop now, whatever we extract will simply be exported and burned overseas. We will all be affected, but the poorest and most vulnerable among us will bear the brunt of the devastating impacts of climate change.

Third, kick fossil fuel companies out of our politics. For decades, companies like Exxon, Chevron, Shell, and BP have been polluting our democracy by pouring billions of dollars into our politics and bankrolling elected officials to enact policies that protect their profits. The oil and gas industry spent over $103 million on the 2016 federal elections alone. And thats just what they were required to report: that number doesnt include the untold amounts of dark money theyve been using to buy-off politicians and corrupt our democracy. The most conservative estimates still put their spending at 10 times that of environmental groups and the renewable energy industry.

As a result, American taxpayers are shelling out $20 billion a year to bankroll oil and gas projects a huge transfer of wealth to the top. And that doesnt even include hundreds of billions of dollars of indirect subsidies that cost every United States citizen roughly $2,000 a year. This has to stop.

And weve got to stop giving away public lands for oil and gas drilling. In 2018, under Trump, the Interior Department made $1.1 billion selling public land leases to oil and gas companies, an all-time record triple the previous 2008 record, totaling more than 1.5 million acres for drilling alone, threatening multiple cultural sites and countless wildlife. As recently as last September, the Trump administration opened 1.56 million acres of Alaskas Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, threatening Indigenous cultural heritage and hundreds of species that call it home.

Thats not all. The ban on exporting crude oil should be reintroduced and extended to other fossil fuels. The ban, in place for 40 years, was lifted in 2015, just days after the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement. After years of campaigning by oil executives, industry heads, and their army of lobbyists, the fossil fuel industry finally got its way.

We cant wait for these changes to be introduced in 5 or 10 years time we need them now.

Fourth, require the fossil fuel companies that have profited from environmental injustice compensate the communities theyve harmed.

As if buying-off our democracy wasnt enough, these corporations have also deliberately misled the public for years on the amount of damage their products have been causing.

For instance, as early as 1977, Exxons own scientists were warning managers that fossil fuel use would warm the planet and cause irreparable damage. In the 1980s, Exxon shut down its internal climate research program and shifted to funding a network of advocacy groups, lobbying arms, and think tanks whose sole purpose was to cloud public discourse and block action on the climate crisis. The five largest oil companies now spend about $197 million a year on ad campaigns claiming they care about the climate all the while massively increasing their spending on oil and gas extraction.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans, especially poor, Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities, already have to fight to drink clean water and breathe clean air as their communities are devastated by climate-fueled hurricanes, floods, and fires. As of 2015, nearly 21 million people relied on community water systems that violated health-based quality standards.

Going by population, thats essentially 200 Flint, Michigans, happening all at once. If we continue on our current path, many more communities run the risk of becoming sacrifice zones, where citizens are left to survive the toxic aftermath of industrial activity with little, if any, help from the entities responsible for creating it.

Climate denial and rampant pollution are not victimless crimes. Fossil fuel corporations must be held accountable, and be forced to pay for the damage theyve wrought.

If these solutions sound drastic to you, its because they are. They have to be if we have any hope of keeping our planet habitable. The climate crisis is not a far-off apocalyptic nightmare it is our present day.

Australias bushfires wiped out a billion animals, Californias fire season wreaks more havoc every year, and record-setting storms are tearing through our communities like never before.

Scientists tell us we have 10 years left to dramatically reduce emissions. We have no room for meek half-measures wrapped up inside giant handouts to the fossil fuel industry.

We deserve a world without fossil fuels. A world in which workers and communities thrive and our shared climate comes before industry profits. Working together, I know we can make it happen. We have no time to waste.

Robert Reich is Chancellors Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Republished here under a Creative Commons License from RobertReich.org.


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Defence and Freedom

Posted: at 3:08 pm


(This is one of the topics a whole book could be written about, but I will try to shrink it to blog post size.)

Skirmishers are well documented since antiquity. Their contributions were likely overlooked by many contemporary authors because skirmishers had no high social standing. This is similar to how some authors pretended that medieval battles were just a class of a couple hundred or thousand knights each, when typically each knight represented a "lance" (a small group comprised by the knight and his followers).

The Roman Republic divided its citizens by their wealth (income) and the poorest ended up serving in skirmisher units; mostly slingers and javelineers.

I have never found a mathematical way to express the dynamics of skirmishing in the Hellenic periods era in a useful way.

Parthian light (horse archer) cavalry practised a different kind of skirmishing. Their high value shock force (knight-like armoured lance cavalry) was best-used against hostile heavy infantry when it was not in good (closed) order. The light forces (light missile cavalry) thus attacked over and over again mainly to shape the battlefield for the shock forces. They injured, killed and despaired the enemy (Roman legionaries) to shape the battlefield for successful attacks by armoured lance cavalry.

I have not found a similar battlefield-shaping focus of skirmishing in Hellenic or Roman battles, though skirmishers always had the potential to entice an enemy into making an offensive move when it wouldn't prefer it otherwise.

Now fast forward to the 18th century and Napoleonic era. The skirmishers of this era were very different from antiquity. Moreover, the equipment of foot skirmishers of this era wasn't more lightweight than the equipment of line infantry. In fact, the Napoleonic era saw parts of the line infantry getting dispatched to serve as skirmishers. Skirmishing had become a tactic rather than an equipment issue.

The infantry of the era was employed in linear order (usually three ranks deep, but everything from two to six ranks were employed from late 17th century to Napoleonic era with three ranks being typical in the 2nd half of 18th century). This extreme discipline was rooted in an effort to maximise firepower with quick loading and firing when the blackpowder smoke of the previous salvo was gone. Such formations of hundreds of men in essentially 1.70 m by dozens of metres were easy targets even for inaccurate smoothbore muskets provided the shot wasn't from too far away (about 20% hit probability at about 230 m).

The effective firepower (excluding the human factor) of the troops can be described as

effective firepower = qty of men x rate of fire x dispersion factor x target size (shortest edge matters most, so width for a single man but height for a line)

Now let's look at smoothbore musket skirmishers vs. infantry line (a Peloton). For skirmishers, it's like

effective firepower skirmishers = poor x normal x normal x good

Their effectiveness was exclusively from the target size, for they were fewer and the gun technology was identical to their opponents'.

For the infantry line (a Peloton) this reads as

effective firepower Peloton = very good x normal x normal x poor

I suppose it's not really necessary to replace the variables with figures - the abstract level is already informative. It suggests that there was little reason to expect skirmishers to kill more than they would be killed. The fact that the line infantry stood behind each other actually gave them a better ratio of shots fired to target area than the skirmishers had.

There were three important factors in favour of the skirmishers: They could often exploit cover (such as stone walls between fields) better than the line infantry (which had to prefer line order over exploitation of cover) and the line infantry should not react with its full potential munition expenditure for the reasons mentioned before. The third factor was that the line infantry could not sustain its effective firepower as they formed a smoke wall in front of themselves and thus increased their own effective shot dispersion.

Skirmishing on other days than battle days offered additional promise: Such skirmishing would typically be ambush salvoes, then the skirmishers would break contact. This worked in America, but not so much in Europe where the desertion-prone armies of the cabinet wars (prior to French Revolution) had to avoid woodland to keep desertion rates low.**

Rifled guns with their better dispersion (but much slower loading) were an obvious way of giving skirmishers not only an edge against other skirmishers, but also against infantry lines. Rifles had such a combination of "rate of fire x dispersion factor" that they could skirmish from an almost safe (against musket fire) distance and skill be effective. Rifles' accuracy also allowed for picking targets, so the riflemen could aim at high value targets (officers, some NCOs, gun crews and flag bearers), albeit this was frowned upon in Europe.

Mounted skirmishing was similar; its main purpose was to entice the enemy into wasting shots and fouling its guns. Hussars and other mounted skirmishers used carbines (smaller calibre, shorter barrel, mostly to exclusively smoothbore). They offered a larger target (+horse, almost no ability to exploit cover) and less firepower (shorter barrel firearm) than dismounted skirmishers did and their skirmishing was not highly regarded in mid-18th century Europe. The increase of the share of rifled carbines*** in the late 18th century has apparently not changed this much.

Skirmishing isn't much of a component in modern-day tactics field manuals for infantry or mechanised forces, but there is some potential.

One potential is about attrition of the opposing force by using small and stealthy/elusive teams to provide targeting information (and possibly battle damage assessment) for artillery and mortar fires.

Another potential is about delaying actions; small and stealthy/elusive teams might use disproportionate firepower (including calls for indirect fires, but also ATGMs, sniping, organic mortars), mines and other obstacles to force the opposing force into deploying and using combat tactical movements (exploiting terrain features for concealment, making use of smoke and so on rather than simply quickly driving along roads) to mitigate the threat. This leads to some attrition, but possibly more importantly it slows the opposing forces down.****

Finally, there's one element of skirmishing that's actually in at least some modern army doctrines. The U.S. Army with its formalised force-on-force training events at the National Training Centre***** emphasised counterreconnaissance a lot in the 90's and early 2000's. This was in part a lesson from their mock battles******, which had a defined duration of a reconnaissance phase before the main forces were supposed to enter action. This artificial rule elevated reconnaissance and thus counterreconnaissance to prominence. There were no dedicated counterreconnaissance units, so it was in part about reconnaissance forces fighting each other. That's a similar situation to 18th century and Napoleonic skirmishers battling between the two armies' infantry lines, of course.

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*: The fouling of the barrel was the main concern. An infantryman could have carried more than 60 cartridges and flintstones could quickly be exchanged with a screw mechanism after using up their durability of about 50 shots.

**: The more reliable (better pay, more comfortable job, less strict discipline, higher status) heavy cavalry provided security not only against hostiles, but also by guarding the own infantry against desertion as if the own infantry march column was a prisoner march column. They could not really do this in most woodland or swampland areas, of course.

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Defence and Freedom

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Freedom and privacy in the time of coronavirus – Brookings Institution

Posted: at 3:08 pm

Opening up America is about restoring the health of our society, not only about getting people back to work. A contact-tracing app, coupled with wider (though not universal) diagnostic testing, would enable more Americans to prudently go back to work, to school, and to ordinary life far more quickly than is now currently possible.

We argue here that the social benefits of an anonymized contact-tracing system are well worth the temporary privacy costs, but also that tracing must be mandatory in order to have the greatest likelihood of success in achieving the goal of opening up our economy and society. The details are important.

The ravages of the COVID-19 virus have forced nations all over the globe to curtail their citizens freedom of movement. The U.S. and its municipalities have been no exceptions. To combat the virus, people have been required to remain at home, to refrain from going to work or school, and to engage in the new process of social distancing. Never in American history has our freedom been so restricted.

We think most Americans agree that these restrictions on our freedom to move, to interact socially and to work have been necessary.

But now Americans look forward to when people can go back to work, when students can go back to school, and when restaurants, theaters and sports arenas can reopen. Those re-openings are not only necessary for our freedom but also for our economy and psychological well-being.

Unfortunately, winning that freedom and that return to economic vibrancy seems likely to require that as a society we submit to some other, lesser but unusual restrictions on our freedom and our privacy. These limitations will be necessary because in order to permit people to go back to work and mingle more, we need policies and mechanisms that will keep the number of infections at a low level.

At this time, America cannot rely on what is called herd immunity because not enough people have been exposed to the virus to cause that phenomenon, nor is it even certain at this point that people who have recovered from the infection cannot get re-infected.

Whether to submit to the lesser restrictions in favor of more fundamental freedoms is, except at the extreme, not a question of law. (The Fourth Amendment issue that has been raised is, in our view, a red herring.) It is a question of policy: whether we are willing to forego lesser freedoms in the short to medium run in order to regain more quickly and permanently our fundamental freedoms of movement, to earn a living, and to attend events and gatherings.

It is necessary to pose this tradeoff because if we simply assert that we are ready to be free and to go about our business, the virus very likely will return and we fairly quickly will be facing another round of quarantine and social distancing that would again curtail our economic and social activities. As Peggy Noonan opined in the April 18 Wall Street Journal, No opening of America will be sustained until its got right.

Seoul, South Korea is reopening for business. There even are people in the restaurants. Koreans ability to do this reportedly has been made possible through a combination of testing and contact-tracing apps. Kanga Kong has traced this story for Bloomberg.com. But as described in The New Yorker, the Korean system is very invasive, using a mix of smartphone apps, monitoring of credit card records, medical records and detailed, intrusive personal questioning. It is not an approach that we believe a majority of the American people (let alone Congress and the President) would accept.

We believe that a more advanced smartphone contact-tracing app, combined with testing and self-quarantine when necessary, would be less intrusive than the Korean system, at least as effective, and more politically palatable (though we admit not without difficulty).

Fortunately, a number of contact-tracing apps are reportedly in development: One by Apple and Google, another by researchers at MIT, as well as others in Europe. Aaron Carroll has written for the New York Times Upshot page about the joint work of the Center for American Progress and Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuels on contact tracing, while surveying other proposed solutions for tamping down the full-blown return of the virus once we were well on the other side of the current infection curve. Under any circumstances, Carroll concludes that re-opening likely will be very difficult.

David Leonhardt, also of the New York Times, has reported that Singapore, which has adopted many of the steps that experts have prescribed, nonetheless has imposed a new lockdown. That is a caution that the designers of any American program should heed.

In order to send people back to work and, eventually, to reopen restaurants, theaters, sports arenas, and most retail establishments, we are going to need a system that quickly identifies people who come down with the virus and all the people with whom they have had recent contact. Those who come down with the virus then can self-quarantine to prevent infecting others, and those who had been in close proximity can at least be vigilant as to developing any symptoms themselvesand perhaps should be taking even greater steps to protect others.

This kind of program requires a database and a notification system.

A vigorous testing regime to identify new cases also seems needed regardless of what other technology is used to track those who may be at risk. But given Americas needs and capabilities, it does not appear that fully sufficient testing for all Americans, or at least all American adults, will be ready for the foreseeable future.

In fact, to be as effective as some medical professionals have suggested, a massive testing system would have to be frequent, if not every day, then at least two or three times a week. That is because a test may reveal you to healthy on Monday though you could contract the virus a day or two later. Not only is testing capacity in America unlikely to handle such a large volume of tests any time soon if ever, frequent universal testing would be highly intrusive and still not fully effective for reasons we outline shortly.

Scott Gottlieb, former FDA Commissioner who is now back at AEI, has estimated that by fall America should be able to test 3 million per week, but that is months from now. Accordingly, the best that can be done is rigorous and frequent testing of front-line workers, especially our brave health care professionals, and testing designed to get at least a lot more people, currently deemed non-essential but now forced to sit at home, back to work, as Dr. Gottlieb has urged.

The limitations of testing as a silver bullet to the get-back-to-work challenge underscore the need for a supplemental, widespread contact-tracing system, coupled with quarantines of those who test positive.

The most cost-effective way to implement such a system is through a contact-tracing app, which uses individuals smartphones Bluetooth capabilities to detect when they are in the presence of another app-enabled smartphone and to send the identities of the smartphones that it has encountered to the central database. If the system receives a report that someone has contracted the virus, then each of the smartphones that have been in contact with that persons smartphone will be alerted to the possibility that their owners may become contagious in the next brief period of time. The exact mechanism that is used at that point is not the same in every system and is the subject of a great deal of ongoing work. The Apple-Google description of their proposed architecture provides one guide to how a system likely would work. The Financial Times published a good schematic April 20 that is useful as well.

The potential designs that we have read about would shield the identity of the people with whom any single smartphone had come into contact and would keep confidential the identity of the person who has contracted the virus. Individual identities would not be necessary for the system to do its work. According to their website, the proposed Google-Apple system incorporates these safeguards.

Building in anonymization should blunt legitimate privacy concerns about contact tracing. As the website Axios.com reported on April 17:

Consensus seems to be building globally around the idea that Bluetooth-based contact tracing could be a practical use of technology to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Both governments and advocacy groups agree that using Bluetooth to sense the proximity of users phones could be more effective and less of a civil rights problem than tapping location-based data that apps and service providers often collect.

In freedom-loving America, it is likely that not enough people would voluntarily download and use the Google-Apple app or something equivalent, which of course would limit its effectiveness. That would be a tragedy because many more people will be able to regain their freedom of movement and to go back to work and play, secure in their safety, knowing that an effective smart-phone-based contact tracing system is in place.

As Liza Lin and Timothy W. Martin reported in the Wall Street Journal on April 15, Lawmakers are learning that voluntary contact-tracing apps that claim to preserve users privacy, such as the one proposed by Apple and Google, arent effective without high levels of participation.

But this surely will not happen so long as use of a smartphone system is voluntary. Lin and Martin noted that in Singapore, for example, only about one-fifth of the countrys 5. 6 million residents, have downloaded the governments TraceTogether app, even after health officials implored citizens to partake. The tally must rise by millions more to be effective, the government said.

It is clear, therefore, that contact tracing through smartphone apps cannot come anywhere close to being adequately effective unless and until their use is made mandatory. Whenever the danger is past, contact tracing can become voluntaryor even can be put in mothballs.

In the meantime, we favor a Congressional mandate of an app-based contact tracing system, with the app to be chosen by HHS as soon as practicable, meeting objective criteria, including anonymization. The Google-Apple app may be the winner in such a competition, though it is possible one of other systems now in development may come out on top.

We understand that most policy consideration of a contact-tracing regime has focused primarily on getting people back to work. But such a focus, while understandable, does not take account of how society functions. Workers do not go to restaurants, gatherings and sports events alone. They go together with people who do not work.

Moreover, creating a society where people who work are authorized to do things that other people are not authorized to do likely will lead to pushback that will tend to discredit and impede the mechanisms on which reopening relies.

To succeed, we need a system where every American gets a leg up. We need to see ourselves as in the fight and the reopening together, as one nation, with the same liberty and justice for all.

Regardless of whether a smartphone-based system is voluntary or mandatory, every American must have the opportunity to participate. Without that, no matter how good the program will be, it will exacerbate the inequalities that already separate our society.

That means that everyone must have access to a simple smartphone and to the internet. For years, we have seen countless studies and media reports about the digital divide and how it must be bridged if all Americans can fully participate in our economy and society. The divide has been closing but is still too wide. The COVID pandemic fundamentally changes the debate and underscores how not being plugged into the internet not only can deprive kids of their education (as schools have gone to remote learning during this pandemic) but is now actually essential for all of us.

Congress therefore should, as part of the contact-tracing system, adopt a program that guarantees at least basic models of smartphones and basic service plans to all Americans. Many people who have older phones also may need help to get a sufficiently modern phone. In India, that would be a high percentage of people, but in the U.S., it does not appear to be. Overall, approximately 81 percent of U.S. adults owned a smartphone in 2019.

Of course, furnishing phones and internet access to the less affluent will be costly, measured in billions of dollars initially and, to some extent, on an ongoing basis. Compared with what is at stake and huge economic costs of closing much of the U.S. economy, perhaps on an off-and-on basis for some while that cost would be modest and would generate the added benefit of giving less affluent Americans better access to our modern economy.

We recognize that any mandatory system must have an enforcement mechanism, though at the same time not one as intrusive as used by China or even South Korea.

Fortunately, an effective enforcement system need not be punitive in the first instance. One approach is to permit only those who comply with the app-based system to go to work, restaurants, theaters, and sporting events, while the pandemic emergency is in place. People would then be able to choose whether to take the minimal steps necessary to protect other people by adhering to the tracing app in order to qualify for these sorts of freedoms, or to forego the freedoms and not comply with the app.

There should be one exception to this quasi-voluntary system of enforcement. Legal penalties must exist for those who tamper with their smartphones to make them provide false positives to gatekeepers. By analogy, we dont permit people to tamper with smoke detectors in airplane bathrooms because doing so poses real threats to other passengers.

A universal smartphone contact-tracing system, while it is in place until an effective vaccine is developed and widely deployed, would enable periodic monitoring of individuals health. The precise content of that periodic monitoring has yet to be designed, but certainly it should include temperature monitoring and, for those who have been notified that they have been exposed, their pulse oximetry reading each day to signal worsening of their disease. The exact frequency of monitoring, however, should be decided by analyzing available data and might change from time to time based on current information. (Facebook has recently rolled out a county-specific map that tracks their users reported symptoms, but as helpful as this tool is for monitoring county-wide developments, it isnt granular enough for health care systems to alert specific individuals they need more aggressive care interventions).

Health surveys would also identify people who may have an incipient COVID-19 disease and therefore could recommend follow-up testing, which in turn could help to limit the number of tests that have to be conducted. The survey could be more intensive for people who had been identified as in contact with a person who has the virus.

Periodic health surveys during the pandemic emergency also could provide early detection of other diseases as well, which would bring greater efficiency to the healthcare system and, perhaps most importantly, better, more prompt healthcare to the less affluent.

Lost privacy is a serious challenge to a smartphone contact-tracing system even in an era when so many people seem to disclose their most intimate secrets on social media platforms. The ACLU, as one would expect, has expressed serious reservations about a contact-tracing app. Similar reservations have been reported in France, where contact tracing through smartphones is being discussed. Peter Swire of Georgia Tech has written thoughtfully about the privacy threats growing out of our national response to the 9-11 terrorist attack in Lawfare.

The Apple-Google app relies on anonymity for most privacy protections. But anonymity is, in practice, never absolute, and even anonymity will not completely prevent the danger of hackers.

The globally popular Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari has written one of the most compelling essays on the dangers of surveillance. Dr. Hararis excellent essay concretizes the legitimate concerns that many have voiced about using public surveillance system to deal with the Pandemic. Dr. Harari did not have the Apple-Google contact-tracing app specifically in mind (it had not yet been conceived when he published the cited article on March 20), but the dangers he wrote about do apply to that app, as well as to any other technological surveillance mechanism one might think of. Here are a couple of his well-phrased warnings:

Yet if we are not careful, the epidemic might nevertheless mark an important watershed in the history of surveillance. Not only because it might normalise the deployment of mass surveillance tools in countries that have so far rejected them, but even more so because it signifies a dramatic transition from over the skin to under the skin surveillance.

* * *

The downside is, of course, that this would give legitimacy to a terrifying new surveillance system.

* * *

You could, of course, make the case for biometric surveillance as a temporary measure taken during a state of emergency. It would go away once the emergency is over. But temporary measures have a nasty habit of outlasting emergencies, especially as there is always a new emergency lurking on the horizon.

The bottom line of such warnings is that when we use surveillance, we are always on the slippery slope toward Aldous Huxleys dystopian vision of Brave New World in which Big Brother is watching all of us all the time.

Hararis warnings raise serious issues. The line between enforcement and tyranny is a fine one. The line between data collection for the greater good and use of that data to suppress some or all of the population is, likewise, a fine one. Will government use the collected data to suppress, to mold or to alter public behavior in ways not necessary to combat the Pandemic? Will the data collection system become permanent based on some justification, such as better healthcare?

These questions cannot be answered with any certainty today. The questions must be kept in mind as the details of the system are worked out. And safeguards should be built in, though, realistically, such safeguards can never be perfect. The one minimum guardrail that is essential, and that directly responds to Hararis legitimate concern about the permanence of surveillance, is that any mandatory contact tracing system must have an automatic expiration date, such as three months after the FDA certifies at least one effective vaccine.

The fundamental fact is that all solutions to the current pandemic involve trade offs. Comprehensive, frequent testing even on a smaller and lesser scale is invasive, and so is contact tracing. The critical question is which combination of mechanisms will be the most effective in dealing with the present crisis with the minimum threat to our freedoms and privacy.

For the foreseeable future, we face a very deadly and hugely costly pandemic. We can elevate privacy or any other value to an absolute, but at our immediate peril. We believe that a time limited risk of privacy loss is a risk that most Americans will accept in order to avoid the very losses we will suffer if an effective system of mandatory contact tracing is not soon adopted

As former FDA Commissioner David Kessler wrote in the New York Times on April 20, we need a new social contract in order to deal with this pandemic. No man [read person] is an island, John Donne wrote in 1623. Americans need to digest the fact that people do not fight a pandemic individually; they fight it together; as a unit; as a society. And having digested that idea, we need to act accordingly.

Our modern society is lucky to have technologies and abilities that previous societies did not have to fight the diseases and plagues that afflicted them. We need to harness the innovation of tech perhaps even big tech to halt the spread of the disease so we can get the economy off the debt ventilator. If we want to have a modern world at all, we must use the power of technology to help to get us there.

The authors did not receive financial support from any firm or person for this article or from any firm or person with a financial or political interest in this article. Neither of the authors are currently an officer, director, or board member of any organization with a financial or political interest in this article.

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Freedom and privacy in the time of coronavirus - Brookings Institution

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Letter: Sometimes you have to restrain your freedom – Concord Monitor

Posted: at 3:08 pm

Published: 4/24/2020 12:01:33 AM

Modified: 4/24/2020 12:01:23 AM

To everything there is a season; this is the season to fight the virus. Are so many people really lacking in restraint and control that they cant help with stopping the spread?

This great county is founded on freedom and bravery. There are times when being brave and strong means restraining your freedom until the battle is over. Soldiers sacrifice their freedoms to train for battle and to fight for our freedom. We need to do the same. Soldier on and sacrifice a little. It will go a long way. Too many extremists: Far right, far left, absolute freedom or death, love them, hate them. Too many specialists: Good at buying and selling real estate, what else? Good at medicine, what else? Good at being a politician, what else?

Im looking forward to putting COVID-19 behind us or at least getting it under control. To quote Robert Heinlein: A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.



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Letter: Sometimes you have to restrain your freedom - Concord Monitor

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From The Editor: Barriers to Freedom – America’s 1st Freedom

Posted: at 3:08 pm

Our 50 states can experiment with policy, as long as they stay within the constraints of the U.S. Constitution, their state constitutions and so on. This federalism allows state governments to find new solutions to emerging problems. Depending on the results, other states can then emulate, avoid or try a different version of a policy. This freedom to innovate creates healthy competition among the states for businesses and taxpayers. All of this state-by-state policy diversity is mostly a healthy thing as long as local governments dont infringe on a right thats specifically protected in the U.S. Bill of Rights.

The trouble is some states have behaved as if the Second Amendment is not even in the U.S. Constitution. The District of Columbia (D.C.) was so blatant about taking away this right that residents of D.C. decided to sue the District for violating their rights.That case, a dozen years ago, made it to the U.S. Supreme Court asDistrict of Columbia v. Heller. The high court ruled that the Second Amendment does indeed protect an individual right.This threw out D.C.s most-egregious restrictions, but it was hardly the end of the struggle for freedom in D.C., as the District continued to use other means to prevent people from utilizing their rights.

Soon after theHellerdecision, inMcDonald v. Chicago(2010), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment also restricts state and local governments. Still, though this helped, it didnt end many local infringements on this basic constitutional right.

As this was being written, the U.S. Supreme Court was considering another case (NYSRPA v.NYC) that could have a big impact on how the Second Amendment is treated by the state and local governments. Well let you know at A1F.com and in these pages what the Court decides. Potentially, this is a big deal, because for the past decade, the U.S. Supreme Court has turned down cases that would have allowed it to rein in the states and municipalities that continue to treat this constitutional right as if it can be regulated away into being a right in name only.

One problem with this is that an American citizen who wants to travel to a shooting competition, to a hunt, or just to bring a gun along for self-defense purposes has to wade through a lot of legal language to make certain they wont break any local restrictions. Thanks to lobbying from the NRA, there is federal protection in place for those who travel from one state or jurisdiction with a legally owned firearm to another place where they can legally have the firearm; nevertheless, a few states and cities have still arrested or detained law-abiding citizens as they traveled with firearms.

Americas complex legal patchwork of laws places an immense burden on individual gun owners. Making a mistake can lead to a felony conviction, lengthy jail time and a lifetime loss of a persons gun rights; as a result, we must know every law and be aware of the discretion local authorities have and how they use that discretion before we travel.

It shouldnt be this complicated. We should be able to carry firearms for personal protection around this great nation. The Second Amendment should be enough of a legal remedy to protect us as we do. One way to resolve this legalistic gauntlet is for Congress to pass, and for a president to sign, federal reciprocity legislation. To protect gun owners and allow people to universally exercise their fundamental rights, the NRA continues to lobby for such legislation.

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From The Editor: Barriers to Freedom - America's 1st Freedom

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Yielding our freedom to the government is risky – Des Moines Register

Posted: at 3:08 pm

Erin Kokemiller, Iowa View contributor Published 9:47 a.m. CT April 24, 2020

Carlene Nelson, co-owner of Retreat Spa and Salon in Georgia demonstrated what safety measures she put in place as her business prepares to reopen. Augusta Chronicle

The government does not exist to save you and it cannot save you. It exists to ensure that we maintain our natural rights, but it cant shelter us from risks. If weve come to find comfort and safety in the governments regulation of liberty during this pandemic, we are headed for some unintended and very unpleasant consequences.

When we force businesses to close and people to stay home, we encounter two problems. First, we promote government as a saving power. The longer the shutdown, the more dependent we become on the government. The government becomes the provider of all our essential needs because we are not able to provide for ourselves.

Maybe youre someone who doesnt necessarily see a problem with that, but look at it this way: The more we depend on government, the more it has control over us. Do you really want the same government thatcant balance itsown budget to be in charge of yours?

The second problem of a government-mandated shutdown is that we easily forget the long-term consequences of our short-term behavior and policy. Weve all made rash and regretful decisions when we were panicking. Overwhelming emotion tends to make us shortsighted, but it doesnt mean our actions wont have unintended, long-term consequences. In times of panic, it is important to act quickly, yet mindfully. This pandemic will not be the only trial we face this year (as individuals or as a country). We shouldnt let our response to one threat make our citizens and nation so weak that we could not overcome another problem.

This is not to say that the U.S. should have continued business as usual. It makes sense that businesses who can be just as productive by having their employees work from home would do so. This is common sense but you cant legislate common sense. The problem here is that weve thrown personal responsibility and individual freedom out the window.

In a letter to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson used a Latin phrase that has a famous English translation: I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery. Individual freedom means that my employer chooses for himself whether he stays open. It means I choose whether or not I want to take the risk and continue to work. Its easy for celebrities and millionaires to tell everybody to stay home theyre not at risk of losing housing or the ability to buy groceries. But if my employer has taken the risk to stay open and I find the risk of working to be less than the risk of not working, then I should be able to work. Likewise, I can choose if I want to physically go into a business or not. In this situation, no one is forcefully being put at risk and everyone gets to weigh the risks for themselves.

Lets not let the panic of this pandemic strip us of our freedom or cause us to neglect the long-term. Any liberty we give up will be hard to get back. The government cannot and will not save you from all harm thats your job.

Erin Kokemiller(Photo: Special to the Register)

Erin Kokemiller is an undergraduate economics student at Iowa State University from Boone.

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Yielding our freedom to the government is risky - Des Moines Register

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