Thursday, May 31, 2007


I've never been on a cruise before, but I had heard very good things about it. I'm writing this on the fifth day of the cruise, and this is my impressions so far.

1. Food generally excellent, in flavor, and quality of materials (to the extent that I am an adequate judge of such). I had a New York Steak last night that was about what I would expect in a family restaurant in most of the U.S.--and that is the only real disappointment. Everything else has been on a par with the best fancy restaurants at which I have dined.

The portions tend to be a bit smaller than most U.S. restaurants. My theory is that they do this partly for cost, partly because much of the customer base is elderly people, who need to eat smaller portions anyway, and partly because all food is included in the price you pay--so most people will probably order more different dishes. For example, I seldom order appetizers, but in many cases, these are dishes that I never see offered in restaurants, such as Welsh Rarebit. (This may tell you something about how pedestrian my restaurant choices usually are.) Having
somewhat smaller portions is a good idea! (It may take a few weeks to overcome the consequences of this almost sybaritic dining.)

2. Alcohol, of course, is not included in the price, which is probably where they make a lot of money (although not from me!) Surprisingly enough, neither are soft drinks, for which they are also charging a fairly exorbitant fee. There isn't a visible soda dispenser on the entire ship. You want a Coke? It is $1.75 for a can.

3. The staff is extremely international. The officers seem to be almost entirely British and Italian. The housekeeping staff is largely Filipino. The people handling bookkeeping and accounting seem disproportionately Indian and Portugese. Restaurant staff is very broadly drawn: from the Phillipines, Mexico, Romania, Poland, India, Brazil, and even one very, very tall white South African gal. Other than a few entertainers, we have not seen a single American or Canadian working on the ship. I find myself wondering if this is because Americans and Canadians aren't poor enough, or if they have a hard time find either who are prepared to do this type of service work.

4. We decided on an inside stateroom because the theory was that we were not going to spend much time there anyway. In retrospect, I wish that I had spent an extra $100 or whatever it was to at least have a small window to peer out. I'm not claustrophobic, but I know now that a mission to Mars, or submarine duty, aren't for me. I really need a window!

5. The first couple of days, at least when we were in open ocean, had enough motion that I could not read, nor even do much with the computer. I am a bit more used to it now, and I have also learned that being near the center of the ship (where the restaurants and public areas are located) helps.
Our Trip (First Two Days)

We drove to Seattle, and stayed Saturday night with my son-in-law's grandparents. Sunday afternoon we arrived at the Princess Cruises dock, and went through a screening rather similar to that which you might experience getting onto an airliner--perhaps not quite as secure. (A shoebomb won't sink a cruise ship.)

As you leave the docks, you see these cranes that were the model for the big weapons in Star Wars.

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You also get a nice view of Seattle's skyline.

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It has been a long time since I have taken a trip by boat, and never on one this large. The propwash at the stern of the ship is just astonishing.

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The Olympic Peninsula has a pretty impressive mountain range (if my memory serves me correctly, the primary peak is Mt. Olympus) on the south side of the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

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We were making pretty good headway, and then abruptly slowed down as we approached the open ocean--and apparently to allow this Holland America liner to pass us.

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Once we were out in open ocean, the combination of ocean swells and wind put up this marvelously beautiful spray.

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Floating debris--yes, there was plenty of it, such as this piece of Styrofoam, and these two gulls sitting on a piece of driftwood.

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There were lots of seabirds either floating or taking off:

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The second day was entirely at sea--an apparently uninhabited coast line for most of Vancouver Island, and nearly the entire British Columbia mainland coast, seemed to have at most a few villages. What few islands we saw were like this one.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

In Ketchikan Harbor, Alaska

Sorry it has been so quiet here the last few days. I'm on the Sun Princess cruise ship and I have been so busy the last few days that I have not had a chance to get the wireless connection set up. the cost is high--about $0.75 per minute--so this is going to be short and to point. I will probably be blogging pictures over the next couple of days, but don't expect gobs of thoughtful analysis of the day's events (or what I usually blog, either), just because time spent online is expen$ive.

We saw whales--lots of whales--on Sunday as we left the Straits of Juan de Fuca, and yesterday as we went north between Queen Charlotte Island and British Columbia.

We walked around Ketchikan today--very disappointing. It is a picturesque little Alaska fishing village whose primary industry now is catering to the cruise ships, so it seems to have more jewelry stores (high end ones at that) than it has of any other business.

Friday, May 25, 2007

CO2 Production

Well, what do you know! Someone actually reduced their production of carbon dioxide in 2006 from the previous year--and with no official policy on it. Do you want to try and guess which country?

From AP:
WASHINGTON - A mild winter, followed by a cool summer caused U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to decline last year, according to the Energy Department. The results were hailed by the White House as support for its global warming policies.

The department's Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that preliminary data shows a 1.3 percent decline in the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide released in 2006 from energy-related sources, the first decline in 11 years and the biggest decline since 1990.

The White House quickly issued a statement from
President Bush hailing the drop in the principal "greenhouse gas" that scientists have linked to a warming of the earth.

"We are effectively confronting the important challenge of global climate change through regulations, public-private partnerships, incentives and strong economic investments," Bush said in the statement.

The agency, which tracks energy and related statistics, said that its "flash estimate" for 2006 shows power plants, industry, homes, businesses and motor vehicles produced 5,877 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2006 compared to 5,955 million metric tons in 2005.

Whether the decline of 78 million metric tons was an anomaly, or an indicator of something more, was unclear.

The Energy Department report said one reason for the decline was that 2006 had "weather conditions favorable for emission reductions."
Jonathan Adler at Volokh Conspiracy quotes the Guardian (both no link or citation) as saying that the Europeans weren't so fortunate. Hey, maybe we had a good winter, and they didn't. But that would not be the first time that Europe failed to meet its CO2 targets to reduce global warming because they had such a cold winter. Reality check, maybe?
I May Have Trouble Getting Out The Door Because of the Swollen Head

If I keep reading people describing me this way:
The sage of Idaho, Clayton Cramer writes of the fascists who trample freedom of speech to promote their personal views of acceptable sexual behavior....
University Thought Police

I mentioned a couple of days ago this girl who is held without bail on a felony charge for distributing flyers that were negative to homosexuality. Here's one of those reminders why I don't think I could ever be employed by a university, even if I managed to get a Ph.D. It's the story of a professor of economics who expressed doubleplusungood crimethink at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas:
Las Vegas prides itself for its tolerance and so does UNLV, its university. At the university, however, tolerance is selective. You may assert that white heterosexual males are responsible for all of mankind's misery, that Castro's Cuba is a great success story, that capitalism means exploitation, or that most university professors are liberals because conservatives are too stupid to teach. If anyone should complain about this, such complaint will be dismissed outright.

And rightly so. After all, the university is committed to academic freedom. Its faculty has the "freedom and an obligation … (to) discuss and pursue the faculty member's subject with candor and integrity, even when the subject requires consideration of topics which may be politically, socially or scientifically controversial. … (a) faculty member…shall not be subjected to censorship or discipline by the University ... on grounds that the faculty member has expressed opinions or views which are controversial, unpopular or contrary to the attitudes of the University…or the community."

None of this applies to professors who dissent from socialist, statist, or culturally left-wing view, however, as I would find out.

In March of 2004, during a 75-minute lecture in my Money and Banking class on time preference, interest, and capital, I presented numerous examples designed to illustrate the concept of time preference (or in the terminology of the sociologist Edward Banfield of "present- and future-orientation"). As one brief example, I referred to homosexuals as a group which, because they typically do not have children, tend to have a higher degree of time preference and are more present-oriented. I also noted – as have many other scholars – that J.M Keynes, whose economic theories were the subject of some upcoming lectures, had been a homosexual and that this might be useful to know when considering his short-run economic policy recommendation and his famous dictum "in the long run we are all dead."

During my lecture no question was raised. (You can hear the same lecture, given some time later, on the Mises Media server.) However, two days later an informal complaint was filed by a student with the university's affirmative action "commissar." The student claimed that he as a homosexual had been made to "feel bad" by my lecture. Based on this "evidence" the commissar, who, as I would find out only weeks later, was a former clergyman turned "certified" gay activist, called me at home to inform me that he would shut down my class if I continued making such remarks.
Eventually, after a series of hearings and actions, and shockingly enough, with the ACLU of Nevada's assistance, he managed to get his status of unperson reversed. But it is a disturbing reminder of the enormous power that homosexuals wield in universities to suppress dissenting points of view.
Determining Wind Speed From How Far Paper Blows

I know that there's a technique for estimating wind speed from the angle that a piece of paper takes on its way to the ground. If a 90 degree angle, there's no wind! A zero degree angle means the wind is exerting dramatically more force on the paper than gravity (not infinite, but enough that wind turbulence determines altitude more than gravity). I know that one of the scientists at the first atomic bomb test used this approach to make an approximate calculation of the energy release.

I suspect that somewhere there's a formula for doing this computation, based on the weight of the paper, its area, and the angle of fall. Do you know what it is? I have this suspicion that with enough time reading my physics text (Halliday and Resnick) I could probably derive it--but it has been enough time that I might end up deriving a formula that computed the wind speed at several thousands kilometers per second. (It's windy here, but not that windy.)

And yes, I've got the renewable resources bug again. It seldom stops blowing where I am--at least 15 mph right now, and often much higher. The question is how much higher? The wind sock at the airstrip up the hill from me would seem to indicate about 12 mph, because it isn't consistently horizontal. I also think we are getting a high wind here. My wife suspects we may be seeing Bernoulli principle at work, as the wind coming along the floor of the valley speeds up because of the constriction of the valley floor and walls where the valley rises to the pass. (The wind a bit higher up--where the windsock is located--doesn't have to speed up.)

I dropped a postcard from six feet up; it landed ten feet away. That's about a 30 degree angle.
Defining Torture

Waterboarding? Yes, that's pretty unpleasant, and I might be prepared to agree that we should not use it as a technique. Many of the other techniques that get the left in a tizzy--playing Christina Aguilera music, cold rooms, sleep deprivation, female interrogators getting too intimate with a prisoner--well, those are hard for me to define as "torture." If you want to know what torture is, you can see this manual by al-Qaeda recently captured in Iraq, along with torture tools, and some victims. The drawings are crude, and if you read much history, none of it will surprise you. For liberals who think Christina Aguilera music is torture--well, this might cause irreparable psychological harm. Even worse, it might impair their self-righteousness.
The People Just Aren't Smart Enough, I Guess

An astonishing admission that appeared in the May 25, 2007 Idaho Statesman:
Gov. Butch Otter will pick two Idaho Supreme Court justices this summer.

Justice Linda Copple Trout will join Chief Justice Gerald Schroeder in retiring before her term ends so her successor can be appointed by Otter, not chosen by voters.

Trout, 55, said Thursday that she will retire Aug. 31 after more than 25 years as an Idaho judge, 15 on the Supreme Court. She said she decided after her last election that she didn't have the energy for another campaign and she is more comfortable having the Idaho Judicial Council screen possible successors.

"There are a lot of problems with the system, but the biggest problem is people don't know how to make a choice on who would make a good judge," Trout said. "I want to give enough opportunity for my successor to get in there and get some experience and let people see them and their work product before they run for the seat."
Maybe she should have revised the state constitution while she was at it to abolish election of legislators, too. The people probably don't know how to make a choice on good legislators, either.

Now, if we were starting from scratch on writing a state constitution, I could see an argument for debating the merits of appointing judges vs. popular election. The U.S. Constitution provides for appointment of judges who enjoy lifetime tenure (with a few exceptions). If judges were occupying the rather limited role envisioned by the Framers, there might be a strong argument that elitism would be a counterbalance to the risks of runaway democracy. But Justice Trout isn't debating this before a state constitutional convention. She is engaged in a sleight of hand maneuver to subvert the clear intent of the Idaho Constitution--that the voters pick justices. See Art. V, sec. 6 of the Idaho Constitution:
The justices of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the electors of the state at large.
It is highly inappropriate for the Idaho Chief Justice to intentionally subvert the language of the Idaho Constitution so as to prevent the voters from selecting a new justice.

As I said, if judges engaged in the limited role that the Framers apparently intended, it might not matter so much if they were an appointed elite. But increasingly, judges have become superlegislators, breathing life into the "dead hand of the past" like Frankenstein's monster, to impose their values on the majority with little or no basis in the Constitution and sometimes, as in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), contrary to it. It is therefore all the more important that the people should have a direct voice in selecting someone who may choose to overrule the other elected representatives of the people. After all, as Idaho Constitution, Art. I, sec. 2 points out:
All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter, reform or abolish the same whenever they may deem it necessary; and no special privileges or immunities shall ever be granted that may not be altered, revoked, or repealed by the legislature.

Thanks to Bryan Fischer at Idaho Values Alliance for bringing this astonishingly open statement of judicial elitism to my attention.
This is a Twofer!

It turns out that the open borders crowd (funded by a George Soros associated group) decided to make it really easy for their side to contact their U.S. Senators, by setting up two 800 numbers (one in Spanish 1-800-882-2005, one in English 1-800-417-7666). It use Automatic Number Identification to figure out what state you are in, and therefore, who your two U.S. Senators are. Then it gives you the pitch to use--and then you can press either 1 or 2 to get either your senior or junior senator. Then you press 1 to be connected to his office. I just used it to let both Senators Craig and Crapo know that there is no acceptable amnesty for illegal aliens, and we need to build a wall.

Now, why is this a twofer? And why did I tell you exactly what buttons to push? If you call either number, you are potentially making it difficult for the open borders crowd to dial in--and you still get your message to your U.S. Senators without having to actually look up their office numbers. (And being 800 numbers, it is free--or rather, the call is being paid for by the open borders billionaires.) If you call the Spanish number, and remember to put 1 then 1 the first time, and 2 then 1 the second time you call, you are also blocking people whose English isn't good enough to call the English 800 number. This is America. Learn English!

Okay, I've made it easy for you. Do it. Now. Melt their phones!

I found this over at Michelle Malkin's blog.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Distribute a Flyer; Get Charged With a Felony; No Bail

What repressive Third World country is that? Illinois. Professor Volokh points to this astonishing news story:
A 16-year-old Crystal Lake girl facing a felony hate crime charge alleging she and a friend distributed anti-homosexual fliers at her high school must remain locked up until her case goes to trial, a McHenry County judge ruled Tuesday.

Citing concerns over the girl’s home environment and her already lengthy juvenile record, Judge Michael Chmiel denied the girl’s request for home detention. Instead Chmiel ordered her held in the Kane County Juvenile Justice Center while the case is pending.

The girl’s record, Chmiel said, features 13 contacts with police, including an arrest for marijuana possession in August. McHenry County court records show that within the past year the girl also has been charged for driving without a license, consumption of alcohol by a minor, possession of tobacco by a minor, trespassing and three curfew violations.

“I’m concerned about you having some potentially negative influences around you,” Chmiel told her. “I think the environment is ripe for failure.”

The girl’s mother said her daughter had gone through some “rough spots” but had not been a problem in the home for at least a year. She later declined comment on the judge’s decision or the charges.

In part because of Chmiel’s ruling Tuesday, the girl appears to be heading quickly toward a trial, which now is scheduled to begin Tuesday.

She and her 16-year-old friend each face charges of hate crime, disorderly conduct and resisting a peace officer stemming from their arrest May 11 outside Crystal Lake South High School. The charges allege the girls were distributing fliers showing two men kissing and containing inflammatory language toward homosexuals.

Authorities say the fliers were directed specifically toward a male classmate — and neighbor of one of the girls — with whom they had been feuding. Both girls are suspended from school as a result, authorities said Tuesday, and likely will not be allowed back until at least the next school year.
Did you ever think you would see the day when distributing a flyer disapproving of homosexuality--even in an offensive and cruel way--would be a felony? And that bail would be refused? I thought only capital crimes were non-bailable. But what I know? I just read the Constitution:
Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required
, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I wish it were not so, but increasingly, it appears to be: Freedom of speech. Homosexuality widely accepted. Pick one.

Back in 1960, homosexuals argued that they had a right to do in private what they wished, without fear of being arrested. Most people didn't agree with them, but we were a tolerant enough society that you could at least advocate for that position without fear of arrest. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and those who advocate (sometimes not very politely) that homosexuality is not a good thing do not get to enjoy that same freedom.
Liberalism...Fascism...What's the Difference?

Watch the video clip from channel 5 next to this news story in San Francisco about Mayor Gavin Newsom's push for more gun control laws--especially District Attorney Kamala Harris's explanation of how the city is going to go into your home and make sure that you are doing what you are supposed. It appears that little details such as search warramts, probable cause, you know, all that Bill of Rights stuff, doesn't apply in Babylon by the Sea.
The Joy of Milling

There's one particular part that I make for the ScopeRoller set that goes on the ATS tripods that is basically a rectangular block of Delrin with a threaded hole and a recess in it. I've made these in the past with a chop saw, a drill press, and a belt sander. The chop saw gives me three blocks that are within perhaps 1/10" of each other in dimensions, and about that close to being square. The drill press drills the hole and the recess. The belt sander smooths the otherwise over sharp edges.

Anyway, since I discovered that I have two of the right size casters (I have no idea where the third one went), I couldn't really put together a set for shipping--but I thought, now that I have the vise on the vertical mill holding everything in place correctly, why not try to mill these blocks?

I'm not sure that I can quite justify the extra time, but oh, they are so beautiful! I put four blocks in the vise at once, and after running the fly cutter over all four sides, they were within .002" of each other in dimensions, and they were absolutely square. Then I ran the fly cutter over the top and bottom faces, where the surface sometimes has markings or scratches, and now all six faces of these blocks had that perfect milled appearance! Excellent!

I tried to break the edges of the blocks by putting them at a 45 degree angle in the tilt table, but this turned to be a surprisingly slow process. I finally decided just to lightly tap them on the belt sander to break the edges.

There's enough set up time moving the vertical column to position (because the mechanism is very stiff--I'm going to get it replaced) that I should probably only do this when I have going to make five or six sets at a time.
Get Out the Magnifying Glass! Someone Might Be Offended!

Adam Graham points to this demand that the incredibly tiny cross on a church on the Canyon County, Idaho seal must be removed:
Now, if you squint, you'll notice that a church with a cross on top depicted on the seal of one of Idaho's most religious counties. If you can't see the cross, get out a magnifying glass.
The Idaho Press-Tribune has the story of someone with too much time on his hands:
CANYON COUNTY — Canyon County’s official seal depicts a Christian cross on top of a church and steeple. And the religious symbol has drawn criticism from a Caldwell man and others who say it excludes people of other religious faiths and non-believers.

The county’s spokeswoman said the seal reflects the county’s values and that no one complained about the seal when officials presented it to the public and later adopted it in 2005.

County commissioners approved the new seal in November of that year, hoping it would represent modern-day Canyon County. The cross is too small to be visible in many uses of the seal, such as on county letterhead. But it is plainly visible on several larger seals displayed in the County Courthouse.

The seal depicts a scene with a river, hills, livestock, buildings and other items.

“To bring up religion at all is a violation of the Constitution,” Caldwell resident Randy Hooban said. “It’s the wrong mindset for government.”


Hooban noticed the Canyon County seal earlier this year at a Canyon County Democratic Central Committee meeting. He said he contacted the ACLU of Idaho in Boise about the seal and brought the issue up with Canyon County Commissioner Steve Rule.

Now, county attorneys are making sure they have their “ducks in a row,” spokeswoman Angie Sillonis said, in case they have to defend the seal. But she said the county has not heard from the ACLU.
Yes, count on a Democrat to make a mountain out of a molehill. I guess there's no other issues that might be a better use of his time.

If there was a naked woman on the seal, this idiot would be demanding that it stay there.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Story From Moscow Gets More Bizarre By The Moment

I spent some time talking to John Wiley of Associated Press in Spokane, and he tells me that there is a lot of head scratching going on right now in Moscow. Contrary to the initial news reports of a broken gun safe, and that Hamilton used an M1A and an SKS, it now appears that he used an M1A and a legal, class III full auto AK-47. He purchased both of those before his domestic violence conviction a couple of years ago. Probation officers did not search his home to take them away, because a domestic violence misdemeanor isn't a disqualifier under Idaho law, only federal law--and probation is a state agency, not a federal one.

This makes me scratch my head--and I let the reporter know that he needs to looki into this. To transfer a class III weapon requires the signature of a police chief, sheriff, or some other Chief Law Enforcement Officer stating that your purchase of a full auto weapon does not violate any state or local law. I would think that having signed such a letter, when Hamilton ended up with this series of problems--domestic violence conviction; hospitalized for suicide attempt; threats to kill lots of other people--that they would have made some attempt to inform BATF that someone prohibited under federal law didn't just have some guns, but a full auto weapon.

The reporter tells me that the bullet holes in some of the cars were evenly spaced, straight lines--consistent with a full auto, but not a semiauto.

UPDATE: What is making less and less sense is that this guy Hamilton worked as a janitor--and somehow he bought a full auto AK-47 (somewhere between $5000 and $10,000, based on these these Idaho class III dealers here and here).

UPDATE 2: This story gets weirder. See here for an update that suggests that Hamilton's AK-47 was not a legal full auto.
Is Planned Parenthood Trying To Make The Pro-Life Argument?

That's the only possible explanation for this amazing letter on their website:
Your Question:

Dear Experts,

I had an abortion a little over a month ago and now I'm pregnant again. What are the risks of having a second abortion?

Leann7123, 03.30.07

The Answer:

Dear Leann7123,

Abortion is a very safe procedure. It's about twice as safe as having tonsils removed, and is much safer than giving birth.

The risks for the second abortion are generally the same as for the first, if they are both performed at the same stage of pregnancy. There is no evidence that having more than one abortion causes any health problems.

However, the risks increase the longer a pregnancy goes on. That's why the most important thing is not to delay the abortion procedure. Generally, the earlier the abortion, the safer it is.

The need for abortion can be prevented by proper use of birth control. Call 1-800-230-PLAN for information about birth control and abortion services at your nearest Planned Parenthood.
The pro-choice crowd argues that women don't lightly choose to have an abortion; that it is a serious and difficult decision, and that every woman should be free to make that decision for herself. But they publish letters like this, and they demonstrate that there are some people who clearly aren't responsible enough to run around without a chastity belt.

I found this link over at The Corner.
Fasteners vs. Adhesives

I'm looking at how to fasten six pieces of aluminum together to form a hexagon for the mirror cell. The rectangular sections have a 60 degree cut on each end. Ideally, these will be made from 1/8" thick aluminum (which is stiff enough to support the weight of the mirror without bending). Here's the problem: how do you fasten them together?

I had thought of drilling and tapping two small holes through adjoining sections, and then using two small screws to lock them together. The problem is that you need very small screws to do this. A 1/8" thick section cut at a 60 degree angle gives you approximately a .1975" face. A number 6 screw has a major diameter of .138"--not leaving much material on either side of the screw. (And yes, I would be locating and drilling these holes with a vertical mill.) A number 4 screw (about as small I want to go) has a .1150" major diameter--still not a lot of material on either side.

Two alternative strategies:

1. Use 1/4" Delrin instead. It will be about the same weight as 1/8" aluminum, actually slightly stiffer (because of the extra thickness). This way I have a .395" face, so a number six screw has lots of material on either side. I also don't have to blacken the Delrin (it is already black)--just sand it a bit to make it non-reflective.

2. Use an adhesive to bond the sections together. A friend tells me about a new miracle adhesive from Loctite that Ford is now using to hold its cars together not only because it ways less than bolts, but adds vibration absorption as well.

Can anyone suggest some other approaches that give great stiffness without adding weight or complexity?

UPDATE: A reader suggests making 120 degree angle brackets that would go on either the outside or inside of the hexagon. I could make these out of 1/8" aluminum, and because I am not using the inside corners of the hexagon (a round mirror goes in there), I could put them on the inside. This has two advantages:

1. I would have a total of 1/4" of aluminum that I could drill and tap. Since this isn't carrying much of a load, a number 6 screw would work fine.

2. I would not need to have thousandths of an inch accuracy on the holes. This speeds up the process, since I could use the drill press instead of the vertical mill.

On the other hand, putting the brackets on the outside puts clamping force in a direction that would help hold everything together more tightly, I think.
Why Was He Released? Part 3

I mentioned yesterday
my dismay that Hamilton, in spite of a suicide attempt, previous convictions for domestic violence, and a statement that his next suicide attempt would involve killing lots of other people--was not committed.

I've been talking to a counselor in Moscow who, like many other mental health professionals here in Idaho, thinks the current law makes it too difficult to lock up the dangerously mentally ill. To my surprise, when I went to examine Idaho law on this, it doesn't seem to be the problem. From Idaho Code 66-322:
(c) Any such petition shall be accompanied by a certificate of a licensed physician or licensed clinical psychologist stating that the physician or
psychologist has personally examined the proposed patient within the last fourteen (14) days and is of the opinion: (i) that the proposed patient is mentally ill, (ii) that in the absence of treatment the immediate prognosis is for major distress of the proposed patient which will result in serious mental or physical deterioration of the proposed patient, (iii) that treatment is available which is likely to avoid serious mental or physical deterioration of the proposed patient, and (iv) that the proposed patient lacks capacity to make informed decisions about treatment; or by a written statement by the physician or psychologist that the proposed patient has refused to submit to an examination.

(d) Upon receipt of a petition, the court shall within forty-eight (48) hours appoint another licensed physician or licensed clinical psychologist to make a personal examination of the proposed patient, or if the proposed patient has not been examined, the court shall appoint two (2) licensed physicians or licensed clinical psychologists to make individual personal examinations of the proposed patient and may order the proposed patient to submit to an immediate examination. Within seventy-two (72) hours, the physician or psychologist shall file with the court certificates described in subparagraph (c) above, if necessary.
You might want to argue about what constitutes "serious mental or physical deterioration," but when someone says that their next suicide attempt will involve killing lots of people--I think that qualifies, don't you?

I am wondering if the problem here might not be the statute, but an unwillingness of judges to use the authority granted under this statute. I had occasion to talk to a couple of psychiatrists who worked for Sonoma County's mental health department some years ago, and they told me that the problem they confronted was that too many California judges thought One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was a documentary, and were reluctant to commit anyone, no matter how severely mentally ill they were.

I don't have enough information to suggest a particular course of action on this, but it does seem as though the Idaho Legislature should examine whether judges are using their authority to commit, and if so, what needs to be done. Hamilton is one example where it seems that someone didn't commit a person who was clearly dangerous; I've mentioned a co-worker whose wife has attempted to kill him twice, and is now about to be released after six months in a mental hospital. Maybe these two cases are really unusual, and Idaho judges are committing mentally ill people as the law allows them to do so. But I would like the legislature to look at this question seriously, and find out how widespread this failure to commit might be.
Just An Excuse to Link to My Friend Norman Heath's Blog

An article
about the dormant commerce clause and its parallels to the Second Amendment. Norman makes the point that if the crowd that believes that the Second Amendment protects a "right of the states" to organize a militia really believed that, they would be able to show all sorts of evidence that the courts have taken that position. But as this University of Detroit-Mercy Law Review article by Norman points out, the courts have quite emphatically not taken that position.

And don't let the picture on his blog fool you. He's really not a scary person at all!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

If You Think Judges Stink Now...

Trust me: there's some real diaper judge (they need changing often, and for the same reason) back in the 1970s. I'm reading Lessard v. Schmidt (E.D.Wisc. 1972). This is a landmark decision that struck down Wisconsin's commitment law, and apparently played a big role in starting us down the path we are on now. What a steaming pile this decision is.

There are aspects of this that I do not understand. Even though this was a federal district court decision--there was a three judge panel hearing it. It apparently never made it to Court of Appeals--but it was appealed (apparently directly) to the U.S. Supreme Court, which never rendered an opinion itself, but "vacated and remanded" (essentially, this decision is bad, but we're not going to make a decision ourselves) the case back to the trial court twice.

I agree that the Wisconsin commitment law (like most of the time) was a bit vague, and I don't doubt that it could be, and probably was occasionally abused. But the reasoning of this decision is judicial activism at its worst.

The traditional argument for why mental illness commitment was a civil matter was the patient wasn't considered a criminal, or at least wasn't competent to stand trial. There were two reasons for commitment: because the person was an actual or potential threat to society, or because they were a danger to themselves (either suicidal or neglecting themselves).

The patient, Alberta Lessard, was taken into custody after a suicide attempt. Significantly, while her attorney (from Wisconsin Legal Services, so the taxpayers paid some radical lawyer to create this mess) claimed that she had a right to an independent psychiatric examination, when the judge at the commitment hearing said, "No problem," the lawyer declined it. (I suspect that the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia was correct.)

Concerning the possibility that commitment was for the benefit of the patient, they decided that this wasn't a good enough reason, either, because while there was a legal right to be treated if you were committed, most mental illnesses weren't treatable. (By which they really meant, cure rates for paranoid schizophrenia were low, which isn't quite the same as "not treatable.")

Next, they argued that long-term treatment in mental hospitals made the mentally ill worse. (In this case, Lessard was committed for 145 days.) There was a burst of nonsense from sociologists in the early 1960s that claimed that mental hospitals caused mental illness because they were fundamentally denying the individual's self-reliance. As critics later pointed out, if this were really the case--that institutionalization made mentally ill people what they are--why didn't prison inmates, who suffered from many of the same denials of individualism--start to behave like mental patients after a few years?

They also insisted that because death rates in mental hospitals were about ten times higher than in the general population, that obviously, being in a mental hospital wasn't in a mental patient's best interest. They admitted that mental hospital populations were older than average, but would not admit that there might be other differences that might explain these much higher death rates. For example, until the 1960s, much of the population of mental hospitals were senile elderly people, and the syphilitic insane. Neither group ever recovered; both were destined to die in the hospital. It's depressing--but it also explains the high death rates, without being evidence that mental hospitals were dangerous for the mentally ill.

The complete lack of critical thinking shows in some of the quotes these idiots used, such as this one, explaining why even seven days for observation was a bad thing:
The effects may not be limited to those resulting from prejudice. Consider the testimony of Arthur Cohen, National Capital Area Civil Liberties Union and American Civil Liberties Union, 1970 Hearings, at 210:

“Although 7 days may not appear to some to be a very long time, experience has indicated that any kind of forcible detention of a person in an alien environment may seriously affect him in the first few days of detention, leading to all sorts of acute traumatic and iatrogenic symptoms and troubles. By ‘iatrogenic’ I mean things that are caused by the very act of hospitalization which is supposed to be therapeutic; in other words, the hospitalization process itself causes the disturbance rather than the disturbance requiring hospitalization.”
This is a remarkable statement. Hospitalization conceivably could aggravate a patient's problems. Whether it did so, and how often, would be a legitimate basis for inquiry. Phrasing this claim as “the hospitalization process itself causes the disturbance rather than the disturbance requiring hospitalization” would imply that a patient was not disturbed before being hospitalized—but only became that way after the fact. Lessard was hospitalized because of a suicide attempt. While there were almost certainly some patients who were improperly hospitalized, to suggest that hospitalization caused mental illness rather than mental illness causing hospitalization would mean that most people committed for observation were well when taken into custody. Remarkable claims require remarkable evidence--not facile phrase reversals that show a complete unawareness that times moves forward and thus if event B follows event A, A can cause B, but B can't cause A.

There are times it seems as though picking judges at random from the jury pool--or from a box of turnips--wouldn't have done any worse.
Another Scientific Paper About Solar Cycle Impact on Temperatures

N. Scafetta and B.J. West, "Phenomenological solar signature in 400 years of reconstructed Northern Hemisphere temperature record." Geophysical Research Letters (2006)
. This paper examines how well various Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) measures map to temperature records for the Northern Hemisphere. Not surprisingly, the TSI and temperature data are really only good data for a short period, but there are a number of proxies for both. I am not surprised to find that one of the proofs of a decline in solar output in the Little Ice Age is by looking at carbon-14 production. Carbon-14 production is caused by cosmic ray flux--and as solar output increases, cosmic rays have a harder time reaching the Earth's atmosphere.

Anyway, the paper points out what a lot of people know: temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere during the medieval maximum (about 1000-1100 AD) were roughly the same as temperatures in the period 1961-1990. They were about 0.7 degrees Kelvin (the same as Celsius for those of us who think that oxygen is a gas, not a solid) lower during the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715) (when sunspot activity effectively ceased) and about 0.6 degrees lower during the Dalton Minimum (1795-1825). And guess what? The TSI proxies match very well with these temperature changes.

The authors don't claim that all of the current global warming is solar:
Since the 17th century minimum the sun has induced a warming of [approximately] 0.7K. This warming is of the same magnitude of the cooling of [delta]T [approx.] 0.7K from the medieval maximum to the 17th century minimum. Because anthropogenic
contributions to climate change are unlikely before 1800-1900 AD, this finding suggests the presence of a millenarian solar cycle, with two medieval and contemporary maxima, driving the climate of the last millennium [Eddy, 1976].
They do make the claim that TSI proxies suggest that about 50% of the current global warming can be explained as direct and indirect consequences of solar output changes.

What is really fascinating about reading papers like this is the gap between the AGW fanatics and their claims that the science is settled, and actually reading scientific papers on the subject. The environmentalists have to lie about this, of course, because the alternative is to admit that there's a lot of evidence that we are only part of this--and we don't even know how much. The paper points out that there are a lot of other natural feedbacks involving carbon dioxide--and these aren't well understood.
Did This Gal Read This Article After She Wrote It?

It's from the student newspaper of the University of West Florida. She describes (in rather more graphic language than I will quote here) sex in a public restroom at a bar with a guy that she doesn't know all that well, and then gets upset at how others regard her behavior:
Yet that day, while attending a wedding, I joked with a friend, whom I view as a big sister in many ways, about the night before; however, she seemed rather disturbed upon hearing about my exhausting night.

At the reception, and in front of another girl who sat eavesdropping on the conversation while all of the other wedding guests were otherwise entertained, my friend surprised me with her reaction to my talking about the event. She asked me this, "What are you going to tell the guy you want to marry about your choices?"
To speak plainly, an argument ensued. She proceeded in an almost scolding manner to speak against what she termed promiscuity as I spoke in defense of myself, arguing that one night of impulsiveness was hardly promiscuous.
Oh heavens no!

Does this gal know that even if she used a condom, she's playing Russian roulette? Admittedly, instead of five empty chambers and one loaded, it's more like a hundred empty chambers--and instead of sudden death, it may be a slow, painful process with years of suffering--but the analogy still fits.

Thanks to the Bitch Girls for pointing me to this example of rationalization.

It might as well be winter. We had a rainstorm come in last night--and there was fresh snow on the mountains around us. My wife went out for a walk today--and when it started hailing, I went out to retrieve her. Then the rain turned to sleet. It is almost June. Is Al Gore visiting Boise?
Senator Crapo (R-ID) Gets It

Unlike Senator Craig, Senator Crapo has heard the message. This email from him says it all:
Rarely does an issue evoke more interest from so many Idahoans and people across the nation than the issue of immigration reform and border security. Like my colleagues, I have received thousands of calls, letters, and emails on this issue, and I value the input from all viewpoints.

Substantial progress has been made in the negotiations to craft legislation that provides an effective national response to the issue of immigration reform. The system we have needs to be fixed, and I was encouraged by initial reports of the border security and immigration reform agreement (announced late last week) that includes a number of positive steps.

However, the proposed solution is flawed. The proposal does not apply some of the potential solutions in the plan to the millions of people who have entered the country illegally. Rather than creating an opportunity for those who have entered this country to participate in a provisional temporary guest worker program, the legislation would create a separate category providing permanent legal residency for the millions of individuals who have entered the country illegally. I continue to believe a person should not gain an advantage or benefit toward citizenship or legal permanent resident status as a result of illegal entry into the U.S. This only encourages further illegal immigration.

Until this issue is properly addressed, this proposal should not be moved through the Senate. Having so little time to review the legislation before voting this evening and with considerable concerns with what I have reviewed, I could not vote in support of proceeding to debate this legislation this week.

I remain committed to finding a solution to this issue - a solution that commits the necessary resources to securing the borders, does not reward illegal entry, provides for an efficient and workable guest worker program, and assures that American citizens have the first right to access available jobs.
Why Was He Released? Part 2

I mentioned yesterday that the killer in Moscow, Idaho over the weekend should not have been released. Here's some more data:
Three months ago, Jason Hamilton told a doctor during a mental health evaluation that he would never try to commit suicide by overdose.

If he were going to kill himself, he said, he’d use guns or bombs, and take “a whole bunch of people with him,” police said.

That’s apparently what Hamilton did over the weekend, killing his wife, a Moscow police officer, a church sexton and then himself, in the deadliest shooting in the town’s history.

As more information about Hamilton’s past emerged Monday from police and other sources, it became clear he was a troubled man whose violent tendencies were known to authorities for years.

He served a jail sentence for choking a girlfriend in 2005, was cited for a bar fight in 2006, violated a probation agreement this spring and attempted suicide by overdose in mid-February, when he reportedly made the remark about taking other people with him.

So why wasn’t Hamilton civilly committed to a mental hospital?

“The commitment laws just don’t allow people to be committed easily in Idaho,” said Diana Pals, the president of the Idaho Mental Health Counselors Association and a Moscow counselor.

A threat “has to be very specific and very imminent for a judge to say, ’Yes, this person’s a danger to the community,’ ” she said.

Another key question — how Hamilton had access to guns, despite being prohibited from owning them as a condition of his probation — remained unanswered Monday as police tried to determine the legal ownership of the firearms involved.

The two hospitals involved in evaluating Hamilton in February either wouldn’t comment on the case or couldn’t be reached Monday. But in a news conference Monday morning, Moscow’s assistant police chief, David Duke, related the details of the Feb. 16 incident.

Moscow police officers placed Hamilton on an involuntary hold after he attempted to commit suicide by an overdose of prescription drugs and had him evaluated for possible civil commitment. Idaho law requires two evaluations, after which evaluators make a recommendation to a court for commitment, if warranted.

“Based on doctors’ statements given to us, he stated that if he wanted to commit suicide, he wouldn’t do it this way, but he would take a whole bunch of people with him, either by shooting or by a bomb,” Duke said.

But Hamilton later backed off that comment, and after a full evaluation, he wasn’t recommended for commitment. It’s unclear whether he was diagnosed with any mental illness, but a court hearing on his probation violation was rescheduled recently so he could attend counseling sessions in Pullman, police said.

Randy Davis, program director of mental health services at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, said he couldn’t comment on the Hamilton case, but that a single comment expressing violent wishes would be only one part of an overall evaluation that would include medical and mental health history, the context and attitude of the patient, and a host of other factors.

“It’s much more involved” than evaluating a single comment, he said. “It’s a very complex process.” A message seeking comment from Gritman Medical Center in Moscow — where Hamilton was first evaluated in February — was not returned Monday.

Under Idaho law, people can be hospitalized against their will if they’re found likely to hurt themselves or others, but the standard requires that there be a “substantial” risk shown in the patients’ past behaviors, or that a specific person has reason to feel threatened by a patient.
A co-worker has relayed a horrifying story to me. His now ex-wife suffered some sort of psychotic breakdown--and then made two attempts on his life, once with a knife, once with a rifle. (Fortunately, their daughter stopped the mother from completing either attempt.) The now ex-wife was hospitalized for six months--but is now about to be released. My co-worker is, as you might expect, quite afraid.

It is time to reconsider Idaho's involuntary commitment laws. Wisconsin did so a few years back, and the new statute survived court challenge--and it did not even involve cases as obvious as Hamilton, or the ex-wife of my co-worker. I'm doing my best to bring together people on this subject to lobby our legislature. Public safety is too important to let the ACLU have its way.

UPDATE: My co-worker informs me that part of why his wife was only hospitalized, and not prosecuted for attempted murder was that the police didn't feel that they would be able to get a conviction: all they had was a weapon and a confession. Since she was mentally ill, I can see how a defense attorney would have shredded their case.

By the way, I know that I get a few weird looks for saying this: but this is one of the reasons why I support background checks for all firearms transfers, as long as we can figure out some safeguards to prevent it from being firearms registration. His wife was unable to buy a rifle at Cabela's, the big sporting goods store. He doesn't know if she failed the background check or what--but she was able to acquire a rifle privately.
A National Leader Prepared to Say "No" To Amnesty For Illegals

Unfortunately, he's not our national leader:
France's minister of immigration and national identity, a new ministry created by President Nicolas Sarkozy, has ruled out legalizing undocumented immigrants en masse.

The new ministry said today that government policy would be dictated by firmness and pragmatism.

"We have to put aside massive legalization. It doesn't work and it penalizes, even immigrants," Brice Hortefeux said on Europe 1 radio.


He also said he planned to adhere to the policy of deporting illegal immigrants from France. The number of deportees was expected to reach some 25,000 this year, and Hortefeux said he would ensure that figure is reached.

Hortefeux, a longtime confidant of Sarkozy, was among those named to the new government on Friday.
What's the world coming to, when France has more courageous politicians than the United States?
John Edwards Asks Students to Do Something About Poverty...

Like write him a $55,000 check

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who recently proposed an educational policy that urged "every financial barrier" be removed for American kids who want to go to college, has been going to college himself -- as a high paid speaker, his financial records show.

The candidate charged a whopping $55,000 to speak at to a crowd of 1,787 the taxpayer-funded University of California at Davis on Jan. 9, 2006 last year, Joe Martin, the public relations officer for the campus' Mondavi Center confirmed Monday.

That amount -- which comes to about $31 a person in the audience -- included Edwards' travel and airfare, and was the highest speaking fee in the nine appearances he made before colleges and universities last year, according to his financial records.

The earnings -- though made before Edwards was a declared Democratic presidential candidate -- could hand ammunition to his competition for the Democratic presidential nomination. The candidate -- who was then the head of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina -- chose to speak on "Poverty, the great moral issue facing America," as his $55,000 topic at UC Davis.

If they covered his travel expenses, okay, I can understand that. If he wasn't a multimillionaire, I can understand wanting to be paid for his time. But Edwards is obscenely rich from his work as an ambulance chaser. It isn't like he needs the money.

Greed is an awful thing. But there is something worse. And that's a Democrat who talks about "two Americas," one rich, one poor, who thinks he should be paid $55,000 to come and speak for an hour.
Government Doing Its Best to Shut Down Homeless Shelters

I mentioned a while back
the efforts of the trendy, liberal North Enders of Boise to shut down the Salvation Army's shelter for homeless families. What do you know? This isn't the only place where this is going on:
City officials in Elgin, Illinois, who chose to close a shelter for the homeless during an icy winter, are being sued by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a pro-family, civil liberties defense organization.

The Hope, Encouragement, Love, Prayer, and Salvation ministry (H.E.L.P.S.) was forced by city officials to leave its location recently inside the Family Life Church. Lack of permits and code violations were cited as the reasons for making the ministry move. H.E.L.P.S. provides food, counseling, and other means of support for the local homeless.

The ministry was inspected in 2005. Elgin officials told H.E.L.P.S.'s founder, Pastor Angelo Valdes that the ministry didn't have the necessary permits and zoning permission to operate. Although the city manager told Valdes that he could apply for a conditional use permit, the chance of getting one was a "million to one."

H.E.L.P.S, according to ADF, tried to pay an application fee for the conditional use permit, and the application fee had originally been quoted at $750. According to ADF, H.E.L.P.S was, at the time of the attempted application, told the fee would be $1,320. Valdes claims he was told the ministry could continue to occupy the building until the application process was complete.

On September 26, however, the shelter for the homeless was forced to leave its location after city officials allegedly found violations that had not been found earlier. The city required the violations to be fixed in three days, so in essence, the ministry had to leave. The city also refused to hold a hearing on the matter, so the ministry did not have a location to help the homeless immediately.

"It is truly shameful that a ministry whose sole purpose is to help the less fortunate, is being forced out on the street....particularly during the winter," commented John Mauck, an ADF-allied attorney of the firm, Mauck and Baker LLC in a press release on the ADF website. He called the actions of the city officials, "the cruelest form of bullying," and said the actions "cannot be permitted to continue."
Global Warming

Is Al Gore visiting South Africa?
Passengers on board the train that left Johannesburg for Cape Town on Monday will want to wrap up warmly, especially those in third class.

When it passes through the Karoo railway junction town of De Aar in the small hours at about 11pm, the mercury will be on its way to plummeting down to minus eight degrees Celsius.

According to the South African Weather Service, isolated De Aar is expected to suffer the lowest temperatures in South Africa on Tuesday, brought about the current big chill.


South African Weather Service forecaster Stella Nake said Cape Town can expect another cold front on Thursday.

A strong south-westerly wind is expected to pick up on Thursday afternoon followed by rain until the early hours of Friday morning, she said.

Further east, near George, long-time resident Claude Pretorius, who is adviser to a women-owned project that involves building a cableway up the Outeniqua mountains, said he had never seen snow as far below the peaks.

"It's 600m from the peaks. It's normally only 100m or 150m," he said.

"I have never seen snow that low down on the mountain -- and I was at school here before [World war II]."

The Weather Bureau reported snowfalls on other Eastern Cape and Western Cape mountains: Hogsback; Tsitsikamma; Winterberg; the Penhoek Pass and the Baboesberge.
Draft Fred Thompson

You will notice a new item on the blogroll on the left side of the screen--Draft Fred Thompson! If you want to know why I am so thrilled with the idea--see this series of columns by him.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Not Too Sharp?

A reader complains about the pictures from Armed Forces Appreciation Day not being very sharp. Ah, sharp pictures are a premium members extra feature. :-) I've gone through and sharpened them up--is this a common problem of pictures that I post, or was it just this batch? I tend not to get carried away with sharpening, because too much can produce serious graininess.
And Why Was He Released?

Details about the shooter in Moscow, Idaho:
The gunman in a weekend shooting has been identified as Jason Hamilton, a man with a history of violence and arrests. Assistant Moscow Police Chief David Duke said that Hamilton's wife, Crystal Hamilton, also has been found dead in her Moscow home, killed with a single gunshot to the head.


Duke said Hamilton has a history of domestic violence and had been charged in 2005 with felony strangulation of a girlfriend. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sent to jail for 180 days and then given probation.

After attempting suicide by overdose in February, Hamilton was placed in protective custody. He was given two psychiatric evaluations and then released.

"He stated that if he wanted to commit suicide he wouldn't do it this way," said Duke, adding that Hamilton threatened to take others with him. Despite those threats, Hamilton was not placed in custody.

Hamilton was arrested in April for a probation violation related to the 2005 misdemeanor conviction and appeared in court last Tuesday at which time he was ordered into counseling.
Suicide attempts. Violent misdemeanor convictions. Threats to kill others. Two psychiatric evaluations suggests to me that there was some uncertainty about his stability. Ordered to go into counseling. And why was he released?

In 1960, this guy would likely have been hospitalized after the suicide attempt and threats of violence against others, because of his previous history of violence.

UPDATE: Another news story gives a bit more detail about Hamilton's evaluation:
Duke said Hamilton had a history of violence and in February underwent a court-ordered mental evaluation at a Lewiston hospital for attempting suicide. During the evaluation, he told a psychiatrist that if he were to commit suicide, he would do so in a way that would kill a large number of people, Duke said.
There Are Some Advantages to Being as Obscenely Rich as a Democrat

Like this 10" f/9 apochromat, available for only $40,000. Drool, drool.
Blood Diamonds

No, not the movie, but a documentary that History International Channel ran recently. It was about two hours long, and not for the squeamish (and perhaps the rest of this posting isn't for the squeamish--but you probably need to know about what is going on there). You are probably aware of the concern that trade in diamonds from war zones fuels civil wars in Africa. These stones are called "blood diamonds" or "conflict diamonds" because rebel factions use these stones (sometimes mined with slave labor) to buy weapons with which to attack the central governments. (I am not going to call them "legitimate governments" because few African nations have anything but a bunch of criminals running them, with only the vaguest semblance of human rights or democracy.)

Avoiding "blood diamonds" has never been difficult for me. When I bought my wife's engagement ring, she didn't want a diamond; she wanted a garnet. Since then, although I could afford to buy her something extravagant, fancy jewelry isn't her style. For her, the song could be rewritten, "Books Are A Girl's Best Friend."

What I was not prepared for was the barbarism of some of these wars. I knew about Liberian warlord General Butt Naked, whose troops went into combat naked, and played soccer with the heads of their enemies. Rape is, unfortunately, common in many wars where officers fail to impose order on their subordinates. What I did not know about was the widespread hacking off of hands and legs as punishment. They interviewed a lot of men and women who have no hands or feet. One of these factions reasoned that anyone that had voted in the recent election had made an inappropriate use of their hands--and would not be allowed to do so again. There were other atrocities discussed in the documentary that are far too dreadful for me to mention here.

You may be aware that when the Belgian Congo was the personal property of the King of Belgium, at the close of the nineteenth century, workers who failed to meet their ivory quotas would have their hands or feet cut off by their supervisors. (And you think your boss treats you bad.) White missionaries took photographs of the horrifying results, and as a result, the King of Belgium was shamed into turning over his personal possession to the Belgian government, partly because late Victorian/Edwardian sensibilities were horrified by this. Leander A. Bigger, Around the World: An Illustrated Trip for Education and Pleasure (New York: Lyceum Travel Bureau, 1915) recounts Bigger's 1904-05 travels. When he reached Monaco, he had this to say about the Belgian King's winter home there:
A short distance away on another point, extending far into the sea, the King of Belgium has a magnificent residence, while across the Mediterranean beyond the burning desert in the rubber forests of Africa a hundred thousand black skeletons toil under the cruel lash to enable their heartless boss to cut a swell in the over-fashionable Riviera. History will probably brand Leopold as the monster without a peer in the twentieth century.
Oh the innocence of such a statement; the twentieth century was just getting started on the making of monsters.

The King of Belgium's defenders argued that this hacking off of limbs wasn't official policy, but that native foremen were doing this on their own. I never knew whether to believe such a transparently self-serving excuse before, but I guess that I can believe it now. It has been two generations since the colonial powers left these Africans--and the barbarism keeps getting worse, not better.
Another Reason to Not Change Sex Partners As Often As Your Socks

This paper from the May 10, 2007 New England Journal of Medicine won't make some people happy, of course, because it suggests that monogamy and fidelity aren't just old fashioned ideas:

Background Substantial molecular evidence suggests a role for human papillomavirus (HPV) in the pathogenesis of oropharyngeal squamous-cell carcinoma, but epidemiologic data have been inconsistent.

Methods We performed a hospital-based, case–control study of 100 patients with newly diagnosed oropharyngeal cancer and 200 control patients without cancer to evaluate associations between HPV infection and oropharyngeal cancer. Multivariate logistic-regression models were used for case–control comparisons.

Results A high lifetime number of vaginal-sex partners (26 or more) was associated with oropharyngeal cancer (odds ratio, 3.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.5 to 6.5), as was a high lifetime number of oral-sex partners (6 or more) (odds ratio, 3.4; 95% CI, 1.3 to 8.8). The degree of association increased with the number of vaginal-sex and oral-sex partners (P values for trend, 0.002 and 0.009, respectively). Oropharyngeal cancer was significantly associated with oral HPV type 16 (HPV-16) infection (odds ratio, 14.6; 95% CI, 6.3 to 36.6), oral infection with any of 37 types of HPV (odds ratio, 12.3; 95% CI, 5.4 to 26.4), and seropositivity for the HPV-16 L1 capsid protein (odds ratio, 32.2; 95% CI, 14.6 to 71.3). HPV-16 DNA was detected in 72% (95% CI, 62 to 81) of 100 paraffin-embedded tumor specimens, and 64% of patients with cancer were seropositive for the HPV-16 oncoprotein E6, E7, or both. HPV-16 L1 seropositivity was highly associated with oropharyngeal cancer among subjects with a history of heavy tobacco and alcohol use (odds ratio, 19.4; 95% CI, 3.3 to 113.9) and among those without such a history (odds ratio, 33.6; 95% CI, 13.3 to 84.8). The association was similarly increased among subjects with oral HPV-16 infection, regardless of their tobacco and alcohol use. By contrast, tobacco and alcohol use increased the association with oropharyngeal cancer primarily among subjects without exposure to HPV-16.

Conclusions Oral HPV infection is strongly associated with oropharyngeal cancer among subjects with or without the established risk factors of tobacco and alcohol use.
Wouldn't it be cool if the entertainment industry found some subtle way to work into movies, music, and television shows the idea that promiscuity is dangerous? Or would that force some introspection from America's most depraved industry?
Signs of Desperation By Religious Fanatics

From Canada's National Post of May 19, 2007:
First it was his world history class. Then he saw it in his economics class. And his world issues class. And his environment class. In total, 18-year-old McKenzie, a Northern Ontario high schooler, says he has had the film An Inconvenient Truth shown to him by four different teachers this year.

"I really don't understand why they keep showing it," says McKenzie (his parents asked that his last name not be used). "I've spoken to the principal about it, and he said that teachers are instructed to present it as a debate. But every time we've seen it, well, one teacher said this is basically a two-sided debate, but this movie really gives you the best idea of what's going on."

McKenzie says he has educated himself enough about both sides of the climate- change controversy to know that the Al Gore movie is too one-sided to be taught as fact. Even scientists who back Mr. Gore's message admit they're uncomfortable with liberties the politician takes with "science" in the film. But, McKenzie says most of his classmates are credulous. His teachers are not much more discerning. "They don't know there's another side to the argument," he says. McKenzie's mother was outraged to find out that Mr. Gore's film was being presented as fact in her son's classroom. "This is just being poured into kids' brains instead of letting them know there's a debate going on," she says. "An educational system falls down when they start taking one side."
It is kind of a scary thought--a nation where school teachers are consistently harder left than in the United States. Instapundit suggests that all this not very subtle propagandizing is going to have the opposite result:
At this rate, the next generation will all be driving hemis just to rebel.
That assumes our masters allow it.

What's also interesting is the series of articles that the National Post has run about the scientists who are disputing the AGW claims, such as this one from January 26, 2007:
NASA's findings in space come as no surprise to Dr. Habibullo Abdussamatov at Saint Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory. Pulkovo -- at the pinnacle of Russia's space-oriented scientific establishment -- is one of the world's best equipped observatories and has been since its founding in 1839. Heading Pulkovo's space research laboratory is Dr. Abdussamatov, one of the world's chief critics of the theory that man-made carbon dioxide emissions create a greenhouse effect, leading to global warming.

"Mars has global warming, but without a greenhouse and without the participation of Martians," he told me. "These parallel global warmings -- observed simultaneously on Mars and on Earth -- can only be a straightline consequence of the effect of the one same factor: a long-time change in solar irradiance."

The sun's increased irradiance over the last century, not C02 emissions, is responsible for the global warming we're seeing, says the celebrated scientist, and this solar irradiance also explains the great volume of C02 emissions.

"It is no secret that increased solar irradiance warms Earth's oceans, which then triggers the emission of large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So the common view that man's industrial activity is a deciding factor in global warming has emerged from a misinterpretation of cause and effect relations."

Dr. Abdussamatov goes further, debunking the very notion of a greenhouse effect. "Ascribing 'greenhouse' effect properties to the Earth's atmosphere is not scientifically substantiated," he maintains. "Heated greenhouse gases, which become lighter as a result of expansion, ascend to the atmosphere only to give the absorbed heat away."

The real news from Saint Petersburg -- demonstrated by cooling that is occurring on the upper layers of the world's oceans -- is that Earth has hit its temperature ceiling. Solar irradiance has begun to fall, ushering in a protracted cooling period beginning in 2012 to 2015. The depth of the decline in solar irradiance reaching Earth will occur around 2040, and "will inevitably lead to a deep freeze around 2055-60" lasting some 50 years, after which temperatures will go up again.

Because of the scientific significance of this period of global cooling that we're about to enter, the Russian and Ukrainian space agencies, under Dr. Abdussamatov's leadership, have launched a joint project to determine the time and extent of the global cooling at mid-century. The project, dubbed Astrometry and given priority space-experiment status on the Russian portion of the International Space Station, will marshal the resources of spacecraft manufacturer Energia, several Russian research and production centers, and the main observatory of Ukraine's Academy of Sciences. By late next year, scientific equipment will have been installed in a space-station module and by early 2009, Dr. Abdussamatov's space team will be conducting a regular survey of the sun.
I mentioned here NASA's work examining solar output that suggests that we are about to hit a sudden end to the solar output increases that have been driving the warming.
Powerful Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post

And you thought your job was tough:
Regarding the District's gun laws and D.C. Assistant Police Chief Winston Robinson Jr.'s reference to Virginia Tech and "guns in the hands of people who shouldn't have them" ["Full Court Will Not Review Ruling," Metro, May 9]:

What the D.C. appellate court does could ultimately affect me and others across the country, if the case involving the District's 30-year-old ban on handgun ownership goes to the Supreme Court.

I work the graveyard shift at a convenience store in Alaska, where I have been robbed seven times. I have also been sexually assaulted twice. I was unarmed. Therefore I think more in terms of guns in the hands of people who desperately need them. I'm glad Mr. Robinson is permitted to carry a gun anywhere he goes. However, he wasn't there, nor was any other police officer, when I was raped. He wasn't there when one robber (carrying a knife, actually) came tearing around the counter at me, and I knew with religious certainty I was going to die. The only ones who were ever there were the robber or rapist and me.

So unless and until the courts can take the weapon out of their hands, don't take the gun out of mine.



Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Full Immigration Bill Is Now Available, With a Table of Contents

Here. Much of the bill is stuff like this, which requires an enormous amount of searching of the current U.S. Code to really figure out what it means:

Section 922 of title 18, United States Code, is amended--
(a) in subsection (d)(5)--
in subparagraph (B), by striking `(y)(2)' and all that follows and inserting `(y), is in the United States not as an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence';
Huh? Well, if you go to 18 USC 922(d)(5), and do the striking and insertion this:
(d) It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person -
(5) who, being an alien -
(A) is illegally or unlawfully in the United States; or
(B) except as provided in subsection (y)(2), has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa (as that term is defined in section 101(a)(26) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(26)));
(d) It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or otherwise
dispose of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person -
(5) who, being an alien -
(A) is illegally or unlawfully in the United States; or
(B) except as provided in subsection (y), is in the United States not as an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence;
I'm still not exactly sure if this makes any real difference or not. It appears to be a housecleaning measure because 8 USC 101(a)(26) has changed, but that would require tracking down what those changes were. At first glance, it does not appear to have made any real change--but I really can't be sure without spending a lot of time analyzing it--and who has time to do this for hundreds of pages of changes like this?

Here's a concept: Congress passes a bill that says this:

1. Build a wall.

2. Aggressively prosecute the existing laws against unlawful entry.

3. Aggressively prosecute the existing laws against employing illegal aliens.

It would be about three or four pages long (if that), and would do what the majority of Americans want.
Anonymous Law Review Articles?

I'm reading Isaac and Armat's Madness in the Streets, about mental illness deinstitutionalization. They refer to a Yale Law Journal article described as written by an anonymous state legislator. I found this a bit bizarre--but sure enough, there are a number of references to it, and none of them list an author's name. "Mental Illness: A Suspect Classification?" Yale Law Journal, Vol. 83, 1974, pp. 1237-70.

Isn't this a little bizarre? Have you ever seen a law review article published without the author's name?
Advantages of Industry Standard Interfaces

I bought a stereo back in the Dark Ages (about 1978, I think). It had a Kenwood receiver; Acoustic Research speakers; a BIC turntable (for these black platters that you have perhaps seen in movies and museums). It was, for its time, a pretty decent, not absurdly expensive system.

Time passes. Eventually, the technology passes it by. It has been sitting in the garage for some time--and my wife wanted me to get rid of it. It still works fine (except the turntable has been replaced a couple of times). I hate to throw away something that works, and it isn't like there's a market for antique stereo equipment.

Bose has a television ad for their home stereo system that emphasizes that you really aren't experiencing movies the way that you should because you don't have the full rich stereo sound that the director intended--and they intend to help you out on this!

So I pulled the Acoustic Research speakers and the Kenwood receiver out of the garage, and hooked them up to the TV. There's an "OUT" set of RCA phono jacks on the back of the TV, and with a couple of cables, they are now connected to the AUX input jacks, on the receiver. And my, what a difference it makes on the quality of the sound!

The joys of non-proprietary interfaces!
Why We Send Conservatives to DC And They Come Back Almost Liberal

Over at Daily Pundit there's a discussion of how surprised our masters were that the serfs were rebelling:
Hannity was telling some caller to his talker today that his contacts in Washington were “astounded” and “shocked” by the firestorm backlash they’re getting over the supposedly “done deal” immigration bill. Hannity said even Harry Kari Reed was suddenly feeling nervous.

I wondered: Could this possibly be true? And if it is, how unbelievably out of touch with America are those legislators for life who are purported to be “representing” us?
A very significant comment by someone using the nomme de blog of Old Grouch:
Isolation. With an 11-months-a-year Congress, they spend all their time in D.C. The whole time they’re there, they get their news from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the four TV networks. And the only people they talk to are their staffers, other congress-critters, bureaucrats, and lobbyists.

Back before air conditioning, Congress used to take August (and most of July) off. Everybody went back to their districts, and had to live with (and answer to) their constituents for a month or so. Now they only get home for fund-raising, which by its nature limits their contacts to people who already agree with them.

And there’s another factor. Today nearly all Senators and many House members can be described as “very wealthy.” The high percentage of rich people (some very rich) is a significant change from 50 years ago. When “very wealthy” people return home, it’s to the country clubs and gated communities. Even in the red states, the circles Congresspeople move in tend to be internationalist and fuzzy-liberal. And the only “average citizens” they’re likely to encounter are the illegal aliens who do the lawn mowing.
This Shooting in Moscow, Idaho

There have not been any details released about the shooter yet--but the sequence of events--opening fire on a courthouse, followed by suicide--suggests a person with severe mental illness problems that were not addressed.
Leftist Humor

A friend tells me about a bumper sticker he saw on a car in Berkeley:

Dear President Bush: I am sorry.
Forgive me, I was so very wrong.
Please bring back John Ashcroft.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

More Signs of the Vigorous Racism of the Mainstream Media

I had heard about this case a couple of years ago, floating around the blogosphere, but of course, it received no mainstream media attention. Read the description of this case, and ask yourself: if victims had been black, and the rapists/torturers/murderers had been white, do you think you would have heard for weeks on end about the Wichita Massacre?
The Carr brothers, 22-year-old Reginald and 20-year-old Jonathan, already had serious criminal records when they began their spree. On December 8, 2000, having recently arrived in Wichita, they committed armed robbery against 23-year-old assistant baseball coach Andrew Schreiber. Three days later, they shot and mortally wounded 55-year-old cellist and librarian Ann Walenta as she tried to escape from them in her car.

Their crime spree culminated on December 14, when they invaded a home and subjected five young men and women to robbery, sexual abuse, and murder. The brothers broke into a house chosen nearly at random where Brad Heyka, Heather Muller, Aaron Sander, Jason Befort and a young woman identified as "H.G.", all in their twenties, were spending the night. Initially scouring the house for valuables, they forced their hostages to strip naked, bound and detained them, and subjected them to various forms of sexual humiliation, including rape and sodomy. They also forced the men to engage in sexual acts with the women, and the women with each other. They then drove the victims to ATMs to empty their bank accounts, before finally bringing them to a snowy deserted football field and shooting them execution-style in the backs of their heads, leaving them for dead. The Carr brothers then drove Befort's truck over the bodies.

They returned to the house to ransack it for more valuables. It was then they claimed their final victim, Nikki, H.G.'s muzzled dog who was beaten and stabbed to death.

Only H.G. survived (thanks to her metal hairpin having deflected the bullet), after running naked for more than a mile in freezing weather to report the attack and seek medical attention. In a much-remarked point of tragedy, she had seen her boyfriend Befort shot, after having learned of his intention to propose marriage when the Carrs, by chance, discovered the engagement ring hidden in a can of coffee beans.

The Carr brothers, who took few precautions, were captured by the police the next day, and Reginald was identified by Schreiber and the dying Walenta. Law enforcement officials ultimately decided that the Carrs' motive was robbery, despite the other aspects of the crime.
At trial, the Carrs' attorney argued that they had tough childhoods. Apparently, not tough enough to kill them, and not tough enough to put even a tiny bit of empathy with the suffering of others.

The national news media in America serve no useful function. They make no serious effort to portray the complexity of questions such as global warming; focus on sensational crimes of relatively little importance--unless the killers are black, in which case the crimes are generally ignored or excused.

If they covered no sensational crimes of little national importance only at a very low level--for example, giving coverage on the day the Duke rape case was first reported, and perhaps coverage when the case was dropped--it would not much matter if they were selective about reporting black on white crime. But to spend the time covering the Duke case--an allegation of rape--while ignoring the Wichita Massacre and these horrifying murders in Knoxville--well, just imagine if the national news media reported in lurid detail, for days on end, every rape committed by a black man against a white woman, and ignored all other rapes. You would correctly recognize that the objective was to demonize black men and foment lynching.

There's a quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson which sounds just a bit too modern to me:
Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.
I rather doubt that the quote is accurate, but if it is, Jefferson must have said it before the "flowering" of partisan newspapers in the early Republic. (Flowers grow well in manure, and a lot of the early Republic's newspapers aren't even as polite as manure.) I'm afraid that this other quote attributed to Jefferson--which may also be incorrect--is more accurate:
The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.
UPDATE: To my surprise, both quotes are accurate. See here. The first quote is from 1787, and the second from 1807. A lot of experience in that period with a free press seems to have lowered his estimation of them.