Two articles on other blogs caught my eye today.
The first is at Sic Semper Tyrannis, where the author tells an interesting (and amusing) tale of espionage and skullduggery during the last days of the Cold War. Here's an excerpt.
I was hunched over my scarred desk in a building that bore the architectural signature of Albert Speer. Spread out before me was the Berliner Morgenpost—they didn’t understand Gorbachev either. I had started to re-read a particularly arcane and badly written article when a Army major with Ranger tabs and “Rogers” inscribed on his nametag tapped at my door.
“Got a minute, Sir?
“Come on in.” I recognized him vaguely as one of the members of a very buttoned-up operation down at the end of one of the halls of our sprawling headquarters.
Do you know what ‘unter Vier Augen’ means? It’s German.” He had a guileless face and innocent blue eyes.
“Uh, yeah, I know.” Young whippersnapper, I thought. I made my bones as an agent handler before I rose to the exalted position as Chief of Staff. All the Agents I had recruited were German.
I looked down on the guys who ran Russians. They relied mostly on the drunks and the guys who stole Party funds or slept with the wrong person’s wife. Recruiting Russians was like shooting injured fish in a barrel, all you needed was patience and luck. Recruitment of Germans, on the other hand, was all artistry. I trolled for the ones that hated to be bossed around by the Untermenschen Russians, and for the ones who felt the crushing weight of Nazi guilt. Recruiting Germans was all about history and politics, and occasionally Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen or the Horst Wessel Lied.
“Well, what’s it mean?” Rogers still stood there with his head cocked a little to one side.
“Unter Vier Augen? It means something like ‘eyes only,’ well, no, that’s too strong, more like ‘strictly between us’ I guess; it’s literally ‘under four eyes.’ Why are you asking? I thought you guys strictly worked the Russian problem.”
“Yeah, that’s right, but we just saw that phrase right in the middle of something special. Everything else is in Russian, encrypted in ‘Commander’s key.’ That phrase was in German, and in the clear.”
“What was the rest of the message about?”
“We don’t know. We can’t read that stuff. Maybe somewhere higher up, I’m not sure,” he shrugged. “We’ve got a guy at the Kommendatura who photographs message blanks for us. It’s all between army commanders and up.”
“Yeah, so which commanders? Do you know that?
“Yeah, Two Guards Tank, and Twenty Guards Army,” he said. “Two Guards Tank is apparently the one doing the inviting.” He spoke in the shorthand of the order of battle analysts. The Second Guards Tank Army faced NATO across the Inter-German border. The Twentieth Guards Army was in the second echelon lined up behind the other four frontline armies.
“So two army commanders want to have a secret meeting?”
“What?” the young major blinked, “how do you know that?”
“That’s what unter Vier Augen implies, don’t you think?”
“Hmmm,” he looked puzzled. He was probably a section chief, but his team, composed of a few old Department of the Army Civilians and a few bright-as-buttons young enlisted folks, did the mental heavy lifting.
“So, do you have any guesses?”
“I need to go talk to my analysts. If Postnikov wants to do anything in secret, it can’t be good.” The major had a discomforted look on his face.
There's more at the link. Very interesting (and entertaining) reading.
The second is from my blogbuddy and bestselling author Larry Correia, who has a few words about the reality of business and commerce for our esteemed (?) leader.
Ask any businessman, you’ll get the same story. Assuming you can make your way through the paperwork process to actually start your business, the fun begins and never lets up. Heaven help you if your business actually does something that might involve a committee of bureaucrats somewhere, because then you get to waste lots of time begging for permission to exist.
You want employees? Get ready for the DoL. Better get your EEOC reports done on time (one of the only places left where anyone actually gives a damn what color you are). When I opened my first business, I was rather surprised to discover that I had to contact 5 different state and federal entities before I could hire my first employee. You want to actually build something? Get ready for OHSA and the EPA. The approvals alone will eat up an eternity of time you could be productive. And you’d darn well better make sure you do your quarterly filings with the IRS and your state tax commission, or they will eat you.
And every time you turn around, there is a new regulation. Since there are like twenty different agencies that can screw with you on a whim, you’d better keep up on all of them. You need to know every clause! Not that that matters in real life anyway, because I’ve personally witnessed government employees totally ignore their own regulations and jerk a business owner around, usually through laziness or apathy, because it is easier than just doing their stupid job by the book.
Remember, no actual wrong doing on your part is required. Your company pops up on a list and now you get to spend hundreds of man hours kissing butt and playing fetch the report for a bureaucrat, simply to earn the right to stay in business. You can be fined or shut down, all without breaking a law.
Again, more at the link. Unfortunately, it's all true. The burden of regulation is one of the most stifling checks on the US economy right now. I know how to fix it - repeal the damn regulations! - but the bureaucrats and 'ruling class' would have a fit at allowing those of us in the hoi-polloi to do our own unregulated thing.