Friday, November 30, 2007

Huckabee Must Be Doing Well in the Polls

A Fred Thompson supporter encouraged me to link to this collection of video clips of Huckabee supporting higher taxes, SCHIP, more immigration, and a national ban on smoking inside any business.

Smoking is a really vile habit, one that I hope will some day disappear. But with most private businesses, you don't have to go inside if you don't want to put up with smoking. If you want a non-smoking alternative, you can usually find one. I am not comfortable with states passing these kinds of bans (as Huckabee got passed in Arkansas), and it is an extraordinary reach to propose a national ban.

Huckabee is trying to portray himself as a social conservative, with whom the smoking bans will probably go over well. But federalism is an important principle, one that Huckabee doesn't seem to understand.

Time to Sue?

A couple of days back, I mentioned the Alaska Airlines special discount for gay people. WorldNetDaily reports on one straight person who expressed his disapproval about being discriminated against--and the email response from Alaska Airlines was a vulgar expression that I won't repeat here.

A reader asks: "Isn't this discrimination based on sexual orientation a basis for suit?" Well, to my knowledge, there is no federal law banning discrimination by private companies in the provision of services based on sexual orientation. But there are some state and local bans on it, such as the Seattle measure that the ACLU used to sue a print job owner because she refused to print same-sex wedding invitations. I don't know all the details on how a city ordinance applies to a national firm offering discriminatory pricing on a web site, but it would be amusing to see some straight people who live in Seattle file suit against Alaska Airlines demanding that they stop.

You understand, I have very little sympathy for laws that tell private firms with whom they have to transact business--but full application of stupid laws sometimes gets the message across to the stupid people that advocate them. Such public accommodations laws are certainly constitutional, and part of a long English common law tradition. I just consider these a very questionably necessary governmental action that imposes unnecessarily on private property rights. I really don't think that the government should be telling consenting adults what they should be doing on private property, and it shouldn't matter if that's employment or sodomy.

I make one exception on this: blacks were the victims of widespread state imposed private business discrimination for many decades. If you find this surprising--that the government actually ordered private businesses to discriminate, read Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) for details. Similar discrimination was imposed on interstate bus companies as well into the 20th century. In 1964, you could make a good case that the Civil Rights Act was necessary to break a pattern that had been imposed by state laws, and aggravated what was a widespread, popular, and natural discriminatory practice. (Yes, "natural," in the same sense that Granola, cholera, and death in childbirth are "natural." Natural doesn't make it good.) I'm not sure that the argument for this is all that strong today--and I've never found the argument for all the other groups that are now protected by these public accommodation laws all that persuasive.

More About Deformation of Plates

More About Deformation of Plates
That question I asked yesterday about calculating deformation caused by load generated a lot of useful leads! A reader pointed me to this calculation website that appears to be about as closely matched to my needs as I can imagine. It calculates deformation for a circle that is supported by a ring at various radii of the circle. All you have to do is enter the force (which should include that generated by the plate itself), the radius of the circle, the radius of the support, the Young's modulus in gigapascals, and thickness of the plate, and it calculates the displacement in millimeters.

Now, three screws supporting this isn't quite the same as a uniform ring, but I suspect that it will be close enough for my purposes. I'm going to go a little thicker than absolutely required, just for that reason, but even for .09" thick aluminum, the displacement is in the hundredths of a millimeter area--or about .002". That's fine.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Humor: Mad Moose Incident

Humor: Mad Moose Incident

Do I believe the attached story and picture sent by a friend? Not for a second. But it brought a smile to me, and I figured you might enjoy it too.

MAD MOOSE INCIDENT, Fairbanks, Alaska. Power cables were being strung on the ground for miles. Moose were rutting then and were very agitated. This one was thrashing the brush and got his antlers tangled in the cables.

When the men (miles away) began pulling the lines up with their heavy equipment, the moose went up with them. They noticed excess tension in the lines and went looking for the problem.

He was still alive when they lowered him to the ground. He's a huge 60 inch bull and was rather annoyed!
UPDATE: Snopes tracked it down and says that it is true!

Political Correctness and Hip-Hop Mug Santa

Someone please tell me that isn't serious. Because if it is, this is very serious. From one of the South Africa news services:
Sydney - Santas in Australia's largest city have been told not to use Father Christmas's traditional "ho ho ho" greeting because it may be offensive to women, it was reported on Thursday.

Sydney's Santa Clauses have instead been instructed to say "ha ha ha" instead, the Daily Telegraph reported.

One disgruntled Santa told the newspaper a recruitment firm warned him not to use "ho ho ho" because it could frighten children and was too close to "ho", an American slang term for a prostitute.

Question For Black Powder Shooters

I am seeing ads from the 1730s in South Carolina that are offering pistol-powder. Am I correct that black powder intended for pistols was finer grained so that it would burn more rapidly, to accelerate the bullet more quickly out of the short barrel?

Arkansas Attorney-General Signs On

Nice to see another state attorney-general agreeing to take our side on the DC suit:
Nov 27, 2007 -- LITTLE ROCK— Today, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced his intent to support the Second Amendment as a “right to bear arms” for individuals, not just militia members, by joining a brief to be filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. Last week, the high court agreed to hear District of Columbia v. Heller, a lawsuit challenging gun laws enacted by the District of Colombia. The case is expected to be heard next spring.
The fundamental issue in Heller is whether the 2nd amendment confers a right to bear arms on individuals, as opposed to only state militias.
“I believe the Second Amendment confers a Constitutional right to bear arms on individuals, not just on militia members,” McDaniel said. “It is a right that belongs to law-abiding Americans and it cannot be taken away by state, federal, or local laws.”
Thanks to Arms and the Law for the link.

Today's Mechanical Engineering Question

Today's Mechanical Engineering Question

I found this page that tells me that the deformation of a member is equal to the force times the length divided by the Young's modulus, and again divided by the cross section of the member. The application is I am trying to figure out how much deformation a sheet of metal (probably aluminum) of a particular thickness will suffer when a particular weight is placed on it, said weight being evenly distributed across the entire surface. When the surface if parallel to gravity would seem like the most severe strain, so I can use this as my worst case.

I suspect that the equation looks something like:

F = pressure in newtons (kg * 9.8)
L = width of the sheet in meters
X = thickness of the sheet in meters
Y = Young's modulus for the material in newtons/square meter

D = FL/Y/X

If the force were exerted over only a small part of the sheet, the equation would be more complicated (and I suspect the deformation would be more severe).

Any hints would be appreciated. I'm trying to get the minimum thickness of aluminum sheet for the mirror cell to reduce cost, weight, and the difficulty of cutting the parts.

UPDATE: A reader points me to this explanation of determining deflection intended for those building model railways. It's still a linear situation where I am looking at a circular situation, but I suspect that treating the diameter of the circle the same as a rectangular beam is probably pretty close.

David E. Young's New Book Is Almost Out

David T. Hardy discusses it here. I ran into Mr. Young at the Gun Rights Policy Conference--and he warned me that the 1757 Pennsylvania militia act that I had on my web site was never signed into law. I found this implausible, since it appeared in Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania From 1682 to 1801, which should mean that everything contained therein was at one time a law of Pennsylvania. Young was right. There are a number of measures contained in that set that were never passed into law.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Understanding Bush Derangement Syndrome

Understanding Bush Derangement Syndrome

It has been among the great curiosities of the last several years is the extent to which otherwise relatively sane people (and the left, also) have gone completely and utterly bananas in their ascribing to George Bush all kinds of demonic intentions and plans. I could understand and disagree with the non-interventionist critique of invading Afghanistan, and even the pragmatic objections to the Iraq War (which would have been much stronger if anyone had realized how badly Bush would screw it up). But when you here otherwise non-tinfoil hat sorts talking about Bush is going to cancel the 2008 elections, for example, or the entire cult that has developed around theories that Bush either actively caused or passively allowed the 9/11 attacks to take place--well, you have to start wondering what's in the water that these people are drinking.

A person I know who spends a lot of time teaching college students suggested an interesting explanation for this recently which just happens to collide with a book that I am currently reading: Mary Beth Norton's In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692. I'm not done reading it, but she has a new twist on what provoked the Salem Witch Trials.

Many of those who were participants, either as "victims" of the witches, or the witches themselves, were refugees from the Maine frontier, driven back into Massachusetts by a series of ferocious Indian wars. Norton argues that unlike other witchcraft trials of the period, where judges were a lot less willing to accept "spectral evidence," and a lot more willing to give accused witches the benefit of the doubt, many of the participants were dealing with traumatic consequences of the loss of community, and of enormous fear of attack. That the Indians were regarded as Satan worshippers throughout this period made it very easy to see the loss of the Maine frontier as having Satanic overtones.

Anyway, it strikes me that perhaps what we are seeing with the more bizarre theories that are floating about is a modern version of this same problem. George Bush, as much as the left hates him, isn't going to drag any feminists off in the dead of night to be beheaded. He isn't going to be imposing sharia law. Even those with the most liberal politics have to admit, if rational, that if George Bush got his way without restraint, America would still be a far nicer place to be a feminist, homosexual, or atheist, than any Muslim nation. Social conservatives just aren't that scary compared to even "moderate" Islam. Any rational liberal or leftist would look at the enemies that we are fighting, and be scared to death of them.

For those Maine frontier refugees, the enemy "out there" was far more ferocious, far more dangerous, than anyone within their own society. Especially among those who started the Salem hysteria (a bunch of teenaged and younger girls), the enemy that they really feared, and with good reason, was not an enemy that they could do anything about. They were powerless, and they were not warriors. They could do something about people closer at hand, and who were not going to kill and mutilate them--people like Rev. George Burroughs.

I think we are seeing something similar today: liberals have always regarded our military as a necessary evil, and the left hasn't even admitted "necessary." The only tools to fight the Islamofascist enemy are those that the left end of America has never identified with in any way. Like those terrified girls, it is easier for the left to redirect its fear onto a target that is closer, and less dangerous--and most importantly, that they can do something about. George Bush doesn't require an unrelenting battle to unseat--just an election.

Time For Idaho Attorney-General Wasden To Take Action

I mentioned a couple of days ago that Michigan's Attorney-General wrote a opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal about the D.C. gun control suit before the U.S. Supreme Court. It turns out that a number of state attorneys-general are preparing amicus curiae briefs in support of the individual rights understanding of the Second Amendment. Red's Trading Post wants Idaho's Attorney-General Wasden to do likewise. It seems appropriate to me, especially when you look at the nonsense that Red's is having to go through just to stay in business. Idaho residents, this is your chance to do your part: contact Wasden, and tell him to join the parade.

Making Big Circles

Making Big Circles

I need to make some big circles--20" and 17.5" in diameter, out of 1/4" aluminum plate. But that's too big for a lathe that I have. It turns out that there are several ways to do this, both using a router, and using a table saw. Here's one of the better examples of how do this with a table saw (probably the best choice for me in the size that I am going to need).

I've been experimenting with what was laying around the garage, and I have some confidence that I can do this, perhaps even pretty well, and most importantly, while leaving all my fingers firmly attached to my hands. Three tricks to this:

1. The board that holds the workpiece needs to be big enough that you can clamp it very securely to the table. You won't be able to hold the board tightly enough when cutting anything as tough as Delrin or aluminum.

2. The thickness of the board that holds the workpiece, plus the thickness of the workpiece, needs to be less than the height of the blade on your table saw. In this case, I have a somewhat smaller than normal carbide blade in the table saw, so I may need to get the standard diameter blade to get the height up a bit.

3. The example above uses 1/4" holes in the board into which the bolt that acts as an axis of rotation. I've decided that for my purposes, I'm going to use a tapped 3/8"-16 hole in the board (which will be aluminum or steel, depending on what I can find most available). The axis hole in the workpiece is a through hole so that it can turn freely, but using a threaded bolt to hold the workpiece in position to the board prevents the torque of the blade from ripping the workpiece free and sending it flying. You have to make sure that you don't use too long a bolt, of course, because the board has to clamp to the table.

I would not recommend using this approach to cut very small circles, because then your fingers are dangerously close to the blade. Since I'm planning to cut 17.5" and 20" circles (for the mirror cell), my fingers never have to get closer to the blade than a bit less than half the radius.

I'm looking at making a mirror cell rather than buying it because:

1. There aren't many vendors of 17.5" mirror cells intended to put into a tube. Many of the commercial sources are Dobsonian-targeted (which means a big square frame). Discovery Telescopes apparently makes one, but review comments like this one aren't confidence inspiring, especially since Discovery Telescopes webpage seems to have disappeared.

2. AstroSystems makes a 17.5" mirror cell which is probably quite good, since Company 7 sells it, but the weight of 16.6 pounds seems excessive. I believe that I can fabricate my own for a fraction of the cost, and about half the weight. (And weight reduction is the whole reason that I am rebuilding Big Bertha.)

A reflector mirror cell consists of the following parts:

1. A base plate that attaches to the tube. Typically, there are three screws (sometimes more) that pass through the tube into a flange on the base plate. Both for ventilation, and to reduce the weight, I'll will put in some lightening holes.

2. A mirror plate with a ring in which the mirror sits. At the top of the ring are usually three clips that prevent the mirror from falling forward out of the ring. The mirror plate usually has a series of 9 or 18 points that support the mirror arranged in a pattern that provide air flow around the base of the mirror, to speed up cooling. My experience has been, however, that a heavy ventilated solid mirror plate works well, too, and saves a bit of weight.

3. Three big screws that attach the mirror plate to the base plate, with springs in between the mirror plate and the base plate. Some designs have the screws coming off the mirror plate actually part of the stamping, but I have discovered that tapped holes let you use standard bolts. There are through holes in the base plate, and wing nuts on the screws, which provide a secure method of adjusting the collimation. I have used 1/4"-20 bolts in the past for this for big Big Bertha's current primitive mirror cell, but because of the weight involved, it would be tempting to switch to 3/8"-16 bolts. I think the springs that I am currently using for this will still fit over 3/8" diameter bolts.

UPDATE: It turns out that I can get the circles cut out of 1/4" aluminum for $220--which suddenly makes the cost of buying a mirror cell not seem so extravagant. Hmmm. Maybe using 1/8" steel starts to make more sense. My guess is that even 1/8" aluminum would still be more sufficiently stiff, easier for me to cut into circles, and it would take some more weight off the complete telescope--especially at the tail end, where there's the most deflection caused by weight.

UPDATE 2: A reader suggests that trying to use the technique above should be restricted to small cuts--that it would be safest to trim the square to a rough circle first. I may in fact go to hexagons instead.

A Special Discount, Just For Them!

If I couldn't click over to the website and see it for myself, I wouldn't have believed it! Alaska Airlines is offering a 10% discount on some fares for their gay customers:
Gay Travel

Gay Travel

Feature Destination: Save 10% off your Holiday travel to Newark/New York City. Purchase your tickets today. This Feature Destination runs through January 6, 2008.
Whether it's your first flight with us or your 400th, we are thrilled to have you join us. In "Our World", diversity abounds. From the land of the Midnight Sun to the beaches of Mexico and Miami, from historic Boston to the desert of Palm Springs and Tucson. is a welcoming resource for our LGBT travelers.

Look, when corporations tell homosexuals, "Hey, you're welcome to do business with us! We love having you fly with us," I find it slightly annoying, but when they go out of their way to favor homosexuals with discounts that are apparently not available to us straight folks--where's the justice in that? Do gay people use 10% less fuel to fly? Are they 10% less difficult to serve beverages and salted peanuts to? This is absurd. Imagine the uproar if Alaska Airlines were offering a 10% discount to white people, or a 10% discount to men.

I suppose that you could just pretend to be gay to take advantage of the discount.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Product Review

Product Review

I submitted this a couple of days ago to It's a review of the Orion Dynamo power pack for telescope mounts.

Bad Head Cold

That's why there's not much happening here at the moment. I spend almost all my time drinking NyQuil, and trying to sleep.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Michigan's Attorney-General on the D.C. Suit

In the November 23, 2007 Wall Street Journal:

To analyze what "the right of the people" means, look elsewhere within the Bill of Rights for guidance. The First Amendment speaks of "the right of the people peaceably to assemble . . ." No one seriously argues that the right to assemble or associate with your fellow citizens is predicated on the number of citizens or the assent of a government. It is an individual right.
The Fourth Amendment says, "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . ." The "people" here does not refer to a collectivity, either.
The rights guaranteed in the Bill of Right are individual. The Third and Fifth Amendments protect individual property owners; the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments protect potential individual criminal defendants from unreasonable searches, involuntary incrimination, appearing in court without an attorney, excessive bail, and cruel and unusual punishments.
The Ninth Amendment protects individual rights not otherwise enumerated in the Bill of Rights. The 10th Amendment states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." Here, "the people" are separate from "the states"; thus, the Second Amendment must be about more than simply a "state" militia when it uses the term "the people."
Consider the grammar. The Second Amendment is about the right to "keep and bear arms." Before the conjunction "and" there is a right to "keep," meaning to possess. This word would be superfluous if the Second Amendment were only about bearing arms as part of the state militia. Reading these words to restrict the right to possess arms strains common rules of composition.
Colonial history and politics are also instructive. James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights to provide a political compromise between the Federalists, who favored a strong central government, and the Anti-Federalists, who feared a strong central government as an inherent danger to individual rights. In June 1789, then-Rep. Madison introduced 12 amendments, a "bill of rights," to the Constitution to convince the remaining two of the original 13 colonies to ratify the document.
Madison's draft borrowed liberally from the English Bill of Rights of 1689 and Virginia's Declaration of Rights. Both granted individual rights, not collective rights. As a result, Madison proposed a bill of rights that reflected, as Stanford University historian Jack Rakove notes, his belief that the "greatest dangers to liberty would continue to arise within the states, rather than from a reconstituted national government." Accordingly, Mr. Rakove writes that "Madison justified all of these proposals (Bill of Rights) in terms of the protection they would extend to individual and minority rights."
One of the earliest scholars of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Justice Joseph Story, confirmed this focus on individuals in his famous "Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States" in 1833. "The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms," Story wrote, "has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of republics, since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers . . ."

Except for using Jack Rakove's own words against his position (which is surprisingly easy to do, since Rakove's position about the Second Amendment is contrary to much of his published work about the rest of the Bill of Rights), there's nothing here that is really new. But it is still welcome.

Fred Thompson: If This Is Fake, At Least He's Doing It Well

And at least he knows to which side to pander. From November 24, 2007 CNN:

LADSON, S.C. (AP) — White House hopeful Fred Thompson called his trip down aisle of rifles, shotguns and pistols at a gun show "a day in paradise," and said he wished he could come back to spend more time and money.
It was the former Tennessee senator and "Law and Order" actor's second trip to a gun show since launching his late bid for the GOP nomination in September.
He reached out and picked up an old M-1 Garand rifle and raised an over-and-under Winchester shotgun suitable for the skeet shooting he's been known to do as he made his way through the 200 vendors at The Land of the Sky Gun Show at a fairgrounds just outside of North Charleston, S.C.
"It's a beautiful day in paradise," Thompson said when greeted by one of the people packing the show's aisles.
Thompson was a hit with James Hill, 65, from Summerville. "It's absolutely important to come to gun shows," Hill said. Thompson, he said, wins his support because he's strong on Second Amendment gun ownership rights. "He's right where our strength is."
Anthony DiPaolo, 22, said he wasn't ready to settle on a presidential candidate yet, but said he'd narrowed his field to three Republicans — Thompson, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. "I like Fred Thompson's stance on firearms," he said. "I don't want to see anymore assaults on my Second Amendment rights."

More Fun With Fiberglass

More Fun With Fiberglass

I made another try, wrapping the fiberglass glass radially around the cardboard tube, instead of applying it to the exterior face. I can't say that it made any better of a surface, but it means that the interior of the tube is now too small for the 20" OD mirror cell that I was planning to use.

The good news is that the fiberglass does definitely stiffen these tubes substantially with only a small increase in weight. The bare tube weighed 2.5 pounds; after applying the fiberglass cloth radially, it is now 3.5 pounds--and is obviously much stiffer. I'm not sure that it is quite stiff enough for a telescope tube, but perhaps one more layer (on the outside) would do the job, and only get the weight up to 4.5 pounds per section.

I do think it might be worthwhile to try and buy the thicker Sonotube from the operation in Bozeman, Montana, even with the shipping charges, just to get the extra stiffness. Perhaps I won't need to use fiberglass cloth with the thicker Sonotube--maybe just applying the resin inside and outside will be enough. Since the thicker Sonotube weights 3.3 pounds/foot for the 20" ID form, the tube will be 2.2 pounds per section. With the resin applied, even in two layers on the outside, this should still be less than 4 pounds section.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Myths & Truths About Thanksgiving

As with any holiday, there are a great many stories about Thanksgiving and its origins, not all of which are correct. I like a lot of what John Stossel does, but this story--which I have seen repeated over the years in substantially similar form--is just wrong:

Every year around this time, schoolchildren are taught about that wonderful day when Pilgrims and Native Americans shared the fruits of the harvest. "Isn't sharing wonderful?" say the teachers.
They miss the point.
Because of sharing, the first Thanksgiving in 1623 almost didn't happen.
The failure of Soviet communism is only the latest demonstration that freedom and property rights, not sharing, are essential to prosperity. The earliest European settlers in America had a dramatic demonstration of that lesson, but few people today know it.
When the Pilgrims first settled the Plymouth Colony, they organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share everything equally, work and produce.
They nearly all starved.
Why? When people can get the same return with a small amount of effort as with a large amount, most people will make little effort. Plymouth settlers faked illness rather than working the common property. Some even stole, despite their Puritan convictions. Total production was too meager to support the population, and famine resulted. Some ate rats, dogs, horses and cats. This went on for two years.
There are so many problems with this. What is generally considered the first Thanksgiving took place in the fall of 1621--not 1623, when the division of lands took place. There are two accounts of that first harvest feast (the Pilgrims would not have called it a Thanksgiving), one in Bradford's book Of Plimouth Plantation, and in Mourt's Relation. This gives the text of both.

The claim about common versus individual property is incorrect. The lands were divided in 1623, but the common cattle were not divided until 1627.

The implication in Stossel's article that all the settlers at Plymouth were Puritans of some sort is also wrong. Most were, but there were a number of what Bradford called "strangers," who were there for non-religious reasons. (The company that bankrolled Plymouth Colony did so for strictly commercial reasons.)

Part of why the 1621 feast took place was that much of their population died over the 1620-1 winter, and they enjoyed the bounty that came from being taught appropriate agricultural techniques in the New World by friendly Indians.

There are strong arguments for individual property ownership, but this isn't one of them.

There is a desire in some circles to secularize Thanksgiving. Now, I agree that the harvest feast that the Pilgrims enjoyed in 1621 was part of a tradition of English agricultural celebrations, but this hardly renders it secular. The notion of thankfulness to God was deeply ingrained in the culture.

Have a nice Thanksgiving. I don't expect to be posting much for the next day or two; I'm hoping that you are together with family and friends, enjoying the holiday, and not reading my blog!

UPDATE: Taxprof has a collection of Thanksgiving proclamations over the centuries.

The Corvette's Defroster Problem

The Corvette's Defroster Problem

I alluded to this yesterday. Nothing is wrong with the blower motor. The problem (which the extended warranty will not cover) is that a mouse built a nest, filling the entire channel through which the air flows with paper. I'm guessing that having the windows open meant that a mouse crawled in and under the dash, and decided, "Here's a spot that ferocious cat of theirs can't get me!"

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Your Chance To Help Us Win The Supreme Court Case

The following comes from Professor Joe Olson:

Academics for the Second Amendment ("A2A") will be filing an amicus brief in the US Supreme Court in support of Mr. Heller (and urging the Supreme Court to affirm the Court of Appeals decision that the DC gun laws are unconstitutional). Our brief will be written by attorneys David Hardy and Joseph Olson with historical assistance from Clayton Cramer. As one of the several pro-gun amici, we'll be taking an approach that focuses on the ratification process in 1791 and the meaning and usage of terms found in the Second Amendment. We will show that no one in America, at that time, could have understood the amendment to preserve a state or government organization's "right" and that everyone who did speak out did so in the context of a meaningful individual right to keep and bear arms.

District of Columbia v. Heller will decide whether or not the Second Amendment protects any American from gun bans and confiscations.

Preparing and filing the amicus brief will take thousands of additional dollars. A2A will be facing attorney fees, printing expenses, filing fees, travel and lodging expenses, etc. We have some money but not enough.
A2A is a tax-exempt educational organization recognized under IRC §501(c)(3) [that makes your contributions tax-deductible]. Our primary goal is to give the “right to keep and bear arms” enshrined in the Bill of Rights its proper, prominent place in Constitutional discourse and analysis.

A2A was formed in 1992 by a number of present and former law school teachers, joined by historians, political scientists, and philosophers of government, who believe it is time to stand and be counted in support of a complete Bill of Rights which includes an individual right under the Second Amendment. The organization seeks to foster intellectually honest discourse on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and, of course, the environment in which academics, judges, politicians, and the public place the rights preserved by the Second Amendment.

A2A has filed friend-of-the-court briefs (A2A was an amicus in the U.S. Supreme Court in Lopez and the U.S. Court of Appeals in Emerson), sponsored academic symposia, encouraged media commentary, supported research and publication, and challenged the legal profession and the public to appreciate the place of the individual right to keep and bear arms in the American constitutional scheme. A major endeavor has been a series of “Open Letter” advertisements signed by groups of University and College professors. The signers cannot be dismissed by the media as “gun nuts” nor can their statements be ignored as without foundation. Their academic records and reputations are too strong for that to occur. The message is simple – the Second Amendment is there, it does preserve a meaningful individual right for responsible persons, and it cannot, without duplicity, be overlooked or interpreted into meaninglessness.

We need your help. If you believe in full and fair discourse on the Bill of Rights, A2A should receive your support. A2A is open to all. You don’t have to be “academic” in order to join. Your contributions are tax deductible. Please don’t ignore this request --- copy this post for a friend, forward it on, and send in your check.

Very truly yours,
Joseph Olson
Professor of Law
Academics for the Second Amendment
Post Office Box 131254
St. Paul, Minn. 55113

When the New York Times Runs An Article Like This...

You know that the evidence is becoming overwhelming. From the November 18, 2007 New York Times:
For the first time in a generation, the question of whether the death penalty deters murders has captured the attention of scholars in law and economics, setting off an intense new debate about one of the central justifications for capital punishment.
According to roughly a dozen recent studies, executions save lives. For each inmate put to death, the studies say, 3 to 18 murders are prevented.
The effect is most pronounced, according to some studies, in Texas and other states that execute condemned inmates relatively often and relatively quickly.
The studies, performed by economists in the past decade, compare the number of executions in different jurisdictions with homicide rates over time — while trying to eliminate the effects of crime rates, conviction rates and other factors — and say that murder rates tend to fall as executions rise. One influential study looked at 3,054 counties over two decades.

“I personally am opposed to the death penalty,” said H. Naci Mocan, an economist at Louisiana State University and an author of a study finding that each execution saves five lives. “But my research shows that there is a deterrent effect.”

“The evidence on whether it has a significant deterrent effect seems sufficiently plausible that the moral issue becomes a difficult one,” said Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago who has frequently taken liberal positions. “I did shift from being against the death penalty to thinking that if it has a significant deterrent effect it’s probably justified.”
Professor Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, a law professor at Harvard, wrote in their own Stanford Law Review article that “the recent evidence of a deterrent effect from capital punishment seems impressive, especially in light of its ‘apparent power and unanimity,’ ” quoting a conclusion of a separate overview of the evidence in 2005 by Robert Weisberg, a law professor at Stanford, in the Annual Review of Law and Social Science.
“Capital punishment may well save lives,” the two professors continued. “Those who object to capital punishment, and who do so in the name of protecting life, must come to terms with the possibility that the failure to inflict capital punishment will fail to protect life.”
As I have pointed out before, I am not comfortable with the death penalty. I'm not sure how certain we can be that it actually works as a deterrent. It is very expensive (at least partly because death penalty opponents have made it so). But it does seem that if it deters, then the occasional execution, done 15-20 years after the crime, is going to be far less effective than executions that are highly publicized, and happen often enough that a person considering murder will see them as at least a small possibility. One or two executions a year in an entire country are so remote a threat that a person considering murder has far more to be afraid of from his victim shooting back.

First Dusting of Snow Last Night

At least, at our elevation. The sun came out, however, and melted it all away. The Corvette's heater blower motor seems to have given up the ghost--which really matters, because that's what makes the front defroster work. It's in the shop.

Supreme Court Grants Cert

The Court has granted writ of certiorari on the Heller case. This means that they are going to hear the District of Columbia's appeal. The question that everyone has to file briefs about is this:
Whether the following provisions, D.C. Code §§ 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02, violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?
Let's not get too arrogant, but I think we're going to win.

Monday, November 19, 2007

MTV Suddenly Concerned About Earning Respect

Wow! MTV is suddenly concerned about making sure that they earn the respect of their viewers, and they are going to be sensitive to the morals of their audience. Just not in America. From the November 19, 2007 Seattle Times:
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — MTV is hoping hip-hop and reality television tailored and sanitized for a more conservative Middle East will draw young Arabs away from dozens of locally produced music video channels that already dominate the market.
MTV Arabia, which launched over the weekend, will feature 60 percent international music and 40 percent Arabic music, along with local adaptations of the channel's popular nonmusic shows.
But MTV, which is known for airing provocative videos featuring scantily clad women, says the Arab version of the pop-culture channel will show less bare skin and profanity.
"When we come to people's homes, we want to earn their respect," said Abdullatif al-Sayegh, chief executive of Arab Media Group, which along with Viacom's MTV Networks International owns MTV Arabia. He explained that there will be "culturally sensitive editors going through content of the programming."
It's unfortunate that they didn't share that same concern when they started running hip-hop videos that degraded women in this country. Oh yeah, Pimp My Ride is so out. Perhaps it will be Pimp My Camel instead. (And no, I won't tell the joke about what camels and Arab submarines have in common.)

And to think that one of the first videos that put MTV on the map was The Clash's Rock the Casbah. I wonder if they'll be showing that! :-)

Thanks to Michelle Malkin for pointing this out.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fun With Fiberglass

Fun With Fiberglass

I mentioned Saturday's non-fun with fiberglass
. My attempts to sand it smooth were less than successfull--the surface was just too uneven, especially with wads of fiber mat sticking up and out at all angles. Fortunately, I'm only out about $30 for materials--a small price to learn the importance of keeping the temperature warm enough for the resin to flow well.

It turns out that the makers of Sonotube have introduced something called Sonotube Commercial that uses a plastic coating on the paper tube to make it more water resistant, and stronger. I have emailed the manufacturer to find out how much stiffer it is--and if there is a Boise distributor. My thought is that the standard Sonotube is so flexible that even fiberglassing it may not be sufficient. Perhaps starting with Sonotube Commercial (even if it is a bit heavier) might well be worth it. Perhaps it will be rigid enough that it doesn't need anything but a single layer of resin and some paint to meet my needs.

UPDATE: I spoke to the technical sorts at the maker of Sonotube this morning. It turns out that the Sonotube that I grew up with--and that was widely used for making telescopes--is just about gone. What they now make is much thinner, and much flexible. It uses a coating called Rainguard to make it adequate for concrete pouring---but not so much for telescopes. I am not the first call that they have received.

It turns out that the old style Sonotube (which only weighs 3.11 lbs./foot in the 20" diameter) is still made at the Lewiston, Idaho plant, largely because they don't have the paper and adhesives to make the new form. But no one closer than Bozeman, Montana, actually has it. It seems that it may make more sense to use the standard, not terribly stiff form of Sonotube, and fiberglass it--and do it correctly this time, at the right temperature!

Murder and Madness

I recently read Donald T. Lunde's Murder and Madness (San Francisco: San Francisco Book Co., 1976). Lunde at the time was a professor at Stanford--I'm guessing at the medical school. He seems to be in practice as a psychiatrist in Palm Springs now. The picture of him on his web site is a heck of a lot better than the one they used on the dust jacket of Murder and Madness! That picture makes him look too young to drive, much less be a professor--and he looked remarkably goofy. (I think he was just trying to look happy. I've had much worse pictures taken of me--although fortunately, never for a dust jacket!)

Anyway, Murder and Madness seems to have been intended as a popular, mass market book. It is regrettably short of footnotes. However, for what I was using it for, it is just fine. Lunde ended up being called as an expert witness in three major mass murder cases in Santa Cruz--just after California's Lanterman-Petris-Short Act went into effect.

In all three cases, the murders were tragedies that could have been prevented.
John Linley Frazier was one of the first examples of how California’s emerging concern for civil liberties of the mentally ill led to disaster. Like many other schizophrenics, the first clear evidence appeared when he was in his early 20s. He fixated on ecology, and after a traffic accident, became convinced that God had told him that he would die if he drove again—and gave him a mission to rid the Earth of those who were altering the natural environment. Frazier’s mother and wife recognized how seriously ill he was, and tried to obtain treatment for him, but he refused it.
Frazier’s behavior became increasingly disturbed, and he warned that “some materialists might have to die” in the coming ecological revolution. The following Monday, Frazier climbed the hill from the cowshed where he was living near Santa Cruz, and murdered “Dr. Victor M. Ohta, his wife, their two young sons, and the doctor’s secretary.” He blindfolded them, tied them up, shot each of them, and threw them into the pool. Then he set fires throughout the house to return it back to the environment. Frazier’s bizarre behavior and statements to family and friends soon led to his arrest. He was found legally sane, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison.[1]
In other cases, there was not simply concern that the sufferer might be dangerous. Edmund Emil Kemper III was a sexual sadist who killed his paternal grandparents at age 15, in an attempt to punish his mother, who was having increasing difficulties handling him. California hospitalized him until he was 21, and then released him on parole in 1969. Over a bit less than a year, starting in May of 1972, Kemper shot, stab, and strangled eight women, including his mother. He dismembered his victims, had sex with their dead bodies, and engaged in cannibalism. After repeated phone calls to the police to persuade them that he was the killer, he was arrested, found legally sane, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison.[2]
Herbert William Mullin was another of the schizophrenics whose illness arrived just as California was moving towards a more humane and less restrictive approach to mental illness. In high school, Mullin showed some odd behaviors—more obviously frightening in retrospect—but until 1969, just before Mullin’s 22nd birthday, it was not obvious that he was mentally ill. Mullin were persuaded to voluntarily enter Mendocino State Hospital, on California’s north coast on March 30. Six weeks later, having refused to participate in treatment programs—and under no legal obligation to remain—he left.
Mullin had trouble holding jobs. He would, as many schizophrenics do, refer to “hearing voices,” which understandably frightened employers, even at the menial jobs that Mullin was able to hold. In October of 1969, Mullin was again hospitalized, but this time against his will, to San Luis Obispo County’s psychiatric ward. A few weeks later, he was discharged “on the condition that [he] would continue to receive treatment at the Santa Cruz Community Mental Health Outpatient Clinic.” He did so—but then moved to Hawaii, where he again asked for mental illness treatment.
Back he went to California, where his parents picked him up at San Francisco Airport. His behavior so scared them that within thirty miles of the airport, his parents stopped to call the Mountain View police department. Mullin was again hospitalized against his will at Santa Cruz General Hospital for a few weeks, and again discharged “less noisy and belligerent” than when he entered—but not well. Like many of the severely mentally ill, he lived in cheap hotel rooms in San Francisco, before moving back home with his parents in Santa Cruz in 1972.
Mullin’s parents tried to find long-term hospitalization for their son, who was clearly dangerous to others. But California’s hospitals were busily emptying out—not looking to take new patients. In light of Mullin’s history of voluntarily entering, then leaving mental hospitals, it might not have mattered, without involuntary commitment. In four months of late 1972 and early 1973, Mullin murdered thirteen people in the Santa Cruz area. Why? To prevent the San Andreas fault from rupturing, and causing a catastrophic earthquake. Mullin had created an entire theology built around his belief that murder decreased natural disasters. Mullin was found legally sane (although both prosecution and defense agreed that he was seriously mentally ill), and guilty of ten murders.[3]
Lunde blames Mullin's failure to receive treatment on Governor Reagan, with no apparent awareness that there were larger forces at work. This is not surprising; when this book was written, the full extent of the problem was not entirely understood. Lunde also argues that murder rates among the psychotic are comparable to the general population--an easy position to take when this book was written, since much of the published work on the subject was still being researched at the time.

The first couple of chapters of Lunde's book provide a detailed examination of the realities of murder in the U.S., distinguishing it from the fictional portrayals. Lunde also seems inclined to blame murder on gun availability, which in light of the state of the research available at the time is an understandable position to have taken. To Lunde's credit, he points out that much of the very high rates of murder among young black men (a situation which has not substantially changed in the intervening three decades) is also related to the honor culture, primarily Southern in origin, so dominant in black ghetto culture then--and now. He certainly does a better job of recognizing the complexity of separating out the different factors than the average newspaper columnist today.

Reading Lunde's book is something like opening a time capsule of 1970s thought. There's a lot here that is still accurate (regrettably so), and a lot where new research has let us move on. It is still interesting to see what a well-educated and well-intentioned person of that period could see--and that the idiots that run our governments today still can't see.

[1] Donald T. Lunde, Murder and Madness (San Francisco: San Francisco Book Co., 1976), 49-52.
[2] Lunde, Murder and Madness, 53-56.
[3] Lunde, Murder and Madness, 63-81.

Beowulf (2007)

The new movie has something of the same relationship to the Anglo-Saxon poem that 300 had to classical history. The title is the same; most of the same characters are present--but let's just say that I would never have imagined Grendel's mother to look like this!

Someone was clearly enamored of how 300, with its digitally created backdrops for live actors looked, and figured, what the heck, we have to create Grendel and other assorted non-existent critters digitally, why not do that with the people, too? My wife's reaction (after she got over the travesty that they made of the plot) was that the effect was too much like Shrek or Toy Story.

The humans were better (technology marches on), but I'm not persuaded that it did anything for the movie. At least Shrek and Toy Story were comedies. This cartoonish effect for what is a combination of a horror story and a morality play just doesn't work.

Another irritant to my wife (whose MA is in English Literature) is that the poem was apparently a pagan folktale that, because of the recent Christianization of the pagans, had been recast into a morality play of good and evil. What few references there are to Christianity in the movie are mild little snipes. But then again, you might argue that there's some merit to it. Beowulf was written on the cusp of the Christianization of pagan Scandinavia; this movie was written on the cusp of the de-Christianization of the West, so perhaps it all kind of fits.

Why did they digitize all the people, and not just the monsters that needed special effects? Because had we seen Angelina Jolie truly as naked in film as she is in digital effects, it would not have been PG-13 (for violence), but R (for violence and frontal female nudity).

I'm a bit disappointed. As an action adventure kind of tale, it wasn't too bad, and some of the special effects are pretty cool. But as my wife observed, on our way home, The Thirteenth Warrior told the story of Beowulf more accurately, and more appropriate to its chronological setting than the movie of Beowulf! And The Thirteenth Warrior was set several centuries later!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Astonishing--Perhaps Fatal Admission

Snowflakes in Hell and Call me Ahab brought to my attention this November 13, 2007 Washington Post article about the DC gun control law, and its current problems. If I thought the editors of the Washington Post were planning that far ahead, I would wonder if they decided to let their liberal readers down slowly about what is going to happen before the Supreme Court.

The article both admits that the DC gun control law did not work--as measured by things like the murder rate--but even quotes members of the DC City Council that it wasn't supposed to solve DC's problems. It was supposed to send a message!
Over the years, gun violence has continued to plague the city, reaching staggering levels at times.
In making by far their boldest public policy decision, the District's first elected officials wanted other jurisdictions, especially neighboring states, to follow the lead of the nation's capital by enacting similar gun restrictions, cutting the flow of firearms into the city from surrounding areas.
"We were trying to send out a message," recalled Sterling Tucker (D), the council chairman at the time.
Nadine Winters (D), also a council member then, said, "My expectation was that this being Washington, it would kind of spread to other places, because these guns, there were so many of them coming from Virginia and Maryland."
It didn't happen. Guns kept coming. And bodies kept falling.
I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to know if this admission constitutes a fatal turn for the District of Criminals or not. In general, the courts are supposed to accept a legislative body's claim, "We were doing this for a legitimate purpose X" unless there is clear evidence that they were not. (For example, when Alabama's legislature passed a law that provided for a minute of silence at the beginning of every school day, and proponents admitted during legislative debate that it was to provide an opportunity for prayer--something that the state denied in court.)

There might still be a conflict with the state or federal constitution, but unless that conflict is obvious, the courts are supposed to give the benefit of the doubt to the legislative body. (Except if it involves homosexuality or one of the other "special" groups that the courts so vigorously protect--then the rules all change.) Still, there's a difference between, "We passed this law effectively banning new handguns in the District because it was necessary for public health and safety" and, "We passed this law because we hoped that other cities might adopt it, and eventually, reduce the supply of guns enough that it might eventually make the District a little safer." One is a law passed for a legitimate public purpose (even if doesn't work), while the other is pretty indirect.

To make an analogy that might be a bit clearer: if the State of Alabama passed a law that prohibited sex between strangers, they could argue that this was a public health measure designed to reduce the spread of STDs. But if they passed a law that taxed single adults $5000 a year as an encouragement for them to get married, in the hopes that it would reduce sex between strangers, and thus reduce the spread of STDs--well, that's a lot more indirect. The first law is nanny-statism at its worst, and has many implementation problems, but it is at least an attempt to use the police powers of the state for what is generally considered a legitimate public health and safety issue. The second law is so indirect that you would have to consider it insane.

If There Is Anything Messier And Less Elegant Than Learning to Lay Up Fiberglass Tubes

If There Is Anything Messier and Less Elegant Than Learning to Lay Up Fiberglass Tubes

It must be appendectomies done with a hatchet. I'm back to working on Big Bertha's weight reduction program. (She's not fat; she just has big bones--too much wood, not enough aluminum.) I decided to use two pieces of Sonotube, each about 12 inches long and a bit more 20" inside diameter. One will hold the mirror cell, and the other will hold the focuser, diagonal, and finder.

This stuff isn't as stiff as I would like (but it was $5.75 per foot), so I decided to try and improvise fiberglassing. I bought a fiberglass repair kit and a big bag of latex gloves (absolutely necessary for this job), and tried to fiberglass these pieces.

I suspended both of them on a piece of wood between two chairs, then painted the exterior surface with the epoxy mix as quick as I could, then put fiberglass matting on the outside, and tried to paint another layer of epoxy mix on top. It is really ugly. I am beginning to wonder if I might be better off spending the money to buy these sections from someone who doesn't mind (for some big bucks) getting his hands messy. Yuck.

UPDATE: A reader pointed me to this account of fiberglassing a cardboard tube which I remember reading. I remember the part about using a stick to hold the tube. I didn't remember the part about the temperature needing to be 60-80 degrees. That may be why the resin was so thick that it kept grabbing the fiberglass mat and pulling it loose--making a really ugly mess. This is a more ambitious effort that doesn't involve starting with a cardboard tube at all!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Odd Little Movie: Possession (2002)

Odd Little Movie: Possession (2002)

No, it's not about demons. I found it an achingly beautiful bittersweet romance story. The framing story involves two modern scholars who are both way too attractive to be real academics (when I tell you that Gynweth Paltrow plays the feminist literature professor, that alone should tell you how far from reality it is). She and an American grad student try to piece together a mystery involving two Victorian poets from letters, diaries, and other clues. And yes, it is far more watchable than that sounds.

This is, in some ways, a profoundly unPC movie. There's one character who leaves her lifelong lesbian relationship because she falls madly in love with a man.

It is also a film in which people feel free to do as they wish--ignoring conventional morality--and the consequences are very Victorian.

If you are familiar with the story of Dante Rossetti and burying a book of his poems with his wife--and then retrieving it six years later--well, you will recognize the odd little reference to that, too.

It may remind you a bit of National Treasure or The Da Vinci Code as our two scholars rush around from archive to decaying English manor house to library--and there is a willingness to abscond with primary sources that I assure you, real scholars would never do. (Of course, I used to think that real scholars wouldn't just make stuff up, either.) There is also a bit less use of white gloves when handling antique papers and items than would really happen. But still, it does capture something of the excitement of scholarly investigation, and adds a dollop of romance on top of it all.

Okay, maybe I'm partial to this movie because I'm married to someone whose specialty in grad school was Victorian literature. One aspect of the film that really, really grabbed me at a very visceral level was how the actors managed to convey with subtlety and surprising economy of words and gestures the excitement of two people falling in love. You don't really realize, until you see a film this deftly made, that most films manage to only give you the impression of animal lust. There is a bit of that involved as well, of course, but this film makes me remember the magnetism that comes from two similar minds that are attracted to each other.

This film brought back an enormously powerful set of memories of when I met my wife, and for the first time, I found not just someone that I enjoyed being around, but another soul that rang in perfect harmony--and the rush of that first kiss.

Is This Too Much Like The Memory Hole in 1984?

Early this year, the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog reported a news story about a man who was shot by his father. Now, the man who was shot tells me that he was found innocent on all criminal charges related to the incident, and his father is now being prosecuted for bribing a government official--presumably in relation to the incident. He wants not just a correction or an update (although I can't find any news accounts of his being cleared)--but for the posting to disappear.

Now, he has some good reasons that I won't go into for why he would like all references to this unfortunate situation to go away. But since there are no news accounts that show that he was cleared--and I have received no official documents showing that he was cleared--and even all accounts of the original shooting have disappeared--this is beginning to feel a bit like the memory hole in 1984.

Any thoughts?

SUVs and Terrorism

Environmentalists sometimes like to claim that SUVs fund terrorism, because of the amount of gas that they consume, putting money into nations where some of the population has its turbans wound too tight. There's some truth to that, but when environmentalists retire their private jets, or in John Travolta's case, his fleet of private jets, and as Instapundit pointed out a while ago:
I'll buy it when they stop jetting off for global-warming conferences in Bali. As I've said before, I'll believe it's a crisis when the people who keep telling me it's a crisis start acting as if it's a crisis.
Well, let's just call me a bit skeptical. However, here's a connection between SUVs and terrorism that completely surprised me, in a posting by Eric over at Classical Values. This started out as a posting about a carjacking victim who took the gun away from the bad guys, and as often happens, ended in tragedy--for the bad guys, who are African immigrants. Eric links to articles in the November 16, 2007 Philadelphia Daily News and October 2, 2005 Boston Globe that indicate there is a significant amount of SUV theft going on in America for export--and that terrorists in the Middle East are some of the customers:
WASHINGTON -- The FBI's counterterrorism unit has launched a broad investigation of US-based theft rings after discovering that some of the vehicles used in deadly car bombings in Iraq, including attacks that killed US troops and Iraqi civilians, were probably stolen in the United States, according to senior government officials.

Inspector John E. Lewis, deputy assistant director of the FBI for counterterrorism, told the Globe that the investigation hasn't yielded any evidence that the vehicles were stolen specifically for car bombings. But there is evidence, he said, that the cars were smuggled from the United States as part of a widespread criminal network that includes terrorists and insurgents.
Cracking the car theft rings and tracing the cars could help identify the leaders of insurgent forces in Iraq and shut down at least one of the means they use to attack the US-led coalition and the Iraqi government, the officials said.
The inquiry began after coalition troops raided a bomb-making factory in Fallujah last November and found a sport utility vehicle registered in Texas that was being prepared for a bombing mission.
Investigators said they are comparing several other cases where vehicles evidently stolen in the United States wound up in Syria or other Middle East countries and ultimately into the hands of Iraqi insurgent groups -- including Al Qaeda in Iraq, led by Jordanian-born Abu Musab Al Zarqawi.

Terrorism specialists think Iraqi insurgents prefer American stolen cars because they tend to be larger, blend in more easily with the convoys of US government and private contractors, and are harder to identify as stolen.
The new disclosures are part of a pattern, according to government officials. US law enforcement and intelligence agencies are increasingly finding links between violent Islamic extremists groups and vast criminal enterprises such as drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, and car theft.
So the next time that you read of a carjacking victim shooting a carjacker--like all of these carjacking incidents on the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog--you are perhaps reading of another vict0ry in the Global War on Terrorism.

For Those Who Think There's No Overlap

For Those Who Think There's No Overlap

In some circles, I am considered a "homophobe" for pointing out that there are homosexual activists who are pedophiles--and don't see these two categories as disjoint sets. For a very long time, homosexual activists were reluctant to separate themselves from groups like the North American Man-Boy Love Association.

There are still a number of pedophiles out there who apparently didn't get the memo, and are still loudly homosexual and loudly pedophiles, like this guy, who runs the NGblog. Here he is whining that ENDA (the sexual orientation non-discrimination bill working its way through Congress) doesn't go far enough in protecting the "transgendered." Here he is complaining that sex offender laws and laws against child pornography are a bad thing. Here he is organizing a boycott of a particular business because they contribute to what he calls the "homophobic Boy Scouts."

Oh, and according to this website, it is the NGblog because "NG" is "Nelson Garcia," a level one sex offender in New York State, and a member of NAMBLA. Unfortunately, the New York State Sex Offender Registry doesn't let you look up level one sex offenders online. It sounds like the ACLU has been busy:
You can access the Subdirectory on this web site by clicking on the "Search Subdirectory " button. You can search for level 2 and level 3 offenders by name, county or zip code. Please note that a federal court injunction currently prohibits the release of information on this web site concerning sex offenders who committed their crime prior to January 21, 1996 and were assigned a risk level prior to January 1, 2000, unless they have had an opportunity for a due process hearing.
Of course, to be a sex offender you have to have been convicted of a crime, which should qualify as due process, but I am guessing that someone argued that being listed as a sex offender requires a separate due process hearing.

There is this Bronx District Attorney's office report (on p. 26) that discusses a "Nelson Garcia" who was convicted of mailing a DVD of child pornography to what he thought was a 14 year old. (Actually a cop.) There are a number of other items that make it likely that NGblog is that of Nelson Garcia, the convicted sex offender.

This pretense that pedophiles are fundamentally different from homosexuals--that a person who identifies himself as a homosexual can't be a pedophile and vice versa--is simply false. There are pedophiles who identify themselves as heterosexual, as homosexual, and bisexual. The media have done a really good job of pretending that there's no overlap--and yet the NGblog is one of those reminders that this is simply not true.

If pedophilia is truly a "sexual orientation," will ENDA protect pedophiles who want a job at the day care center? And on what basis will you reject such person, if ENDA passes?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pennsylvania Gun Owners

Your urgent attention is needed. See this alert from the Pennsylvania Firearms Owners Association. Governor Rendell is apparently intent on damaging the rights of Pennsylvania gun owners because Philadelphia is unwilling to lock up violent criminals.

Two Different Laws Need Nuking

This case from California is a reminder that both the California assault weapons law needs to be repealed, and the provision of the Gun Control Act of 1968 that prohibits interstate purchases of firearms (with a few limited exceptions) needs to be repealed. From the November 14, 2007 San Diego Union-Tribune:
SAN DIEGO – An El Cajon businessman who purchased 10 guns in Arizona for a wealthy La Jolla man was sentenced Wednesday to two months in federal prison and six months of home confinement.
Jason Carl Bornholdt, who earlier pleaded guilty to a single charge of transporting firearms without a license, was also fined $37,500 by federal Judge Roger T. Benitez.
Bornholdt admitted buying weapons for Harry Rady, the son of La Jolla billionaire Ernest Rady, at a Yuma, Ariz., gun shop on three separate occasions earlier this year. The younger Rady wanted the guns to protect his family after a violent home-invasion robbery at the home of his parents that remains unsolved.
Federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found 69 weapons at Bornholdt's office and home during the investigation of the case. Many of those were also transported illegally.
During Wednesday's hearing, Bornholdt was contrite. He said he was simply trying to help Rady, a friend, during a difficult time.
A lifelong gun enthusiast, Bornholdt said many of the weapons he had were used for shooting competitions and other recreational activities. He has had to forfeit a truck and sell his gun collection as a result of his plea.
Government prosecutors sought a sentence of 24 months, but Benitez said that did not fit the facts of the case.
While saying Bornholdt clearly knew what he was doing was wrong, the judge noted Bornholdt's clean criminal record and the fact that he was not using the guns for drug deals or other unlawful means. Benitez said a two-year sentence would be about the same as he gives people accused of smuggling drugs across the border. But he said some prison time was required.
Home invasion? Well, I can understand why someone might have felt a need for better weapons. Yes, you can buy pretty respectable home defense weapons in California--still--but I confess after reading this other story about the home invasion, I can see why someone was tempted to break both federal and California law. From the October 20, 2007 San Diego Union-Tribune:

The home invasion of billionaire La Jolla philanthropist Ernest Rady was more violent and sophisticated than initially reported and could involve people in other states or countries, according to court documents.

During the attack in February, Rady was not only stung with a Taser but also cut; the weapon was not specified. The assailant told Rady, a financial services and real estate magnate, that he had companions outside, including snipers.
That information, as well as excerpts from reports by private security consultants hired by the family after the still-unsolved attack, are contained in documents prepared for the sentencing of Harry Rady, one of Ernest's sons.
Harry Rady pleaded guilty July 31 to illegally receiving firearms without a license. Rady admitted buying 10 guns, including three Romanian AK-47 rifles from an El Cajon man. His lawyer said he bought the guns on the advice of a security consultant to protect his wife and two young daughters from possible kidnap attempts.
A preliminary police report said the home invasion began about 4 p.m. Feb. 6 when a man rang the doorbell of the Rady home and said he had a letter that he needed Ernest Rady's wife, Evelyn, to sign. When she opened the door, he pulled out a handgun and forced his way inside.
He stunned Evelyn Rady and a housekeeper with a Taser and bound them with duct tape. Ernest Rady arrived home after 6 p.m. and also was shocked with the Taser. The assailant turned down offers of jewelry and, according to the initial report, ended up with $43 in cash.
The man apparently napped, and when he left about 10 p.m. he told the family he was taking a taxi.
Police have released no other details. But Paul Cooper, the legal counsel to police Chief William Lansdowne, said in an Oct. 10 letter to the Rady family lawyer that the investigation is “open and active.” The letter was included in the court filings.
Cooper also wrote it was “a very complicated investigation that has both interstate as well as international aspects to it.”
The court papers contain parts of a report from a security expert the family hired in March. The name of the security firm was not included in the filings.
The expert concluded that the attack was planned; the assailant was looking for something specific; and “advanced technology” was used, including a wireless headset to communicate with someone on the outside.
The expert also said kidnapping and ransom were the biggest dangers confronting the family.
The consultant told an alarmed Harry Rady that he needed “more aggressive firepower” than he already had in his La Jolla home. Harry Rady contacted Jason Bornholdt, an El Cajon construction contractor who once worked for him, and arranged to buy weapons.
This is what upsets me so much about gun control laws that are not narrowly aimed at criminals, but are intended to prohibit the law-abiding as well.

If I were a billionaire, instead of breaking California and federal law, I would say goodbye to California, and move somewhere that I am allowed to defend myself. And maybe spend some of that enormous wealth helping to elect people to California's legislature who are more concerned about locking up criminals than making criminals of their victims.

As much as it may be a surprise to you, there are a lot of people who live in California who are not independently wealthy, and can't just afford to pick up and move to a state with more sensible gun control laws after something traumatic like a home invasion. These are the people who get the full tragedy of California's idiocy: laws that reduce the access of victims to the most effective home defense weapons. For some odd reason, these laws don't seem to discourage those planning robbery, rape, and murder, from being adequately armed for their tasks.

I'm not sure of the exact motivation for GCA68's ban on interstate gun sales. I suspect that it was because there was no national background check system (we have one now), and to make it easier for states that did have background check or licensing systems to enforce those rules. The granddaddy of this is the 1927 federal law that bans mailing of handguns. While there were a lot of reasons for this, I do recall seeing some Congressional speeches that involved a member of Congress from Tennessee complaining that otherwise there was no way to keep black people from getting pistols.

How To ENDA Free Speech

No, this isn't a joke with Italian accent. Hans Bader over at points out that the sexual orientation non-discrimination bill, even while not directly a suppression of free speech bill, has that potential because of the mixed and confused state of current jurisprudence:
While well-intended, it could lead to very costly lawsuits against employers for things their employees say, even if the employer itself has no discriminatory bias.
The bill would have little impact on most firms’ hiring decisions, since companies typically do not hire based on sexual orientation (although the military and churches, which are exempt from ENDA, sometimes do).

It would have a much larger impact on employees and workplace speech, however, since the bill regulates not just hiring and firing, but also “terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.” In Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson (1986), the Supreme Court interpreted the same vague language in another statute, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as requiring employers to prohibit employee speech or conduct that creates a “hostile or offensive work environment” for women, blacks, or religious minorities. The employer becomes liable for damages and attorneys fees if a court decides that it was negligent in failing to detect, prevent, or punish such speech or conduct. ENDA could thus lead to employers being sued for “sexual orientation harassment” over employee speech, even speech they disagreed with.
Some supporters of ENDA hope to use it to squelch viewpoints that offend them. For example, a detractor of the New York Post, who dislikes its coverage of gay celebrities and public figures, hopes that the Post’s gay employees will sue the newspaper if ENDA passes, under the theory that its content creates a hostile work environment for gay employees. In Seattle, a city human rights commission official suggested that complainant John Dill might have had a valid sexual-orientation harassment claim based on allegations that a co-worker listened to conservative talk radio shows and posted a letter from a Congresswoman skeptical of repealing the military’s ban on gays.
Look: if there are already people talking about using ENDA or similar state laws to shut up other employees, this should worry you. While Bader points out that many of these secondhand bias claims don't survive in the courts, some of them do:
But First Amendment defenses over non-job-related speech are usually rejected, and some court decisions, such as Stair v. Lehigh Valley Carpenters, have ruled that a harassing work environment can be created solely by speech not even aimed at the complainant, such as swimsuit calendars, and that speech that creates a hostile work environment automatically loses its protection under the First Amendment.
How these cases would apply to a Christian bookstore (which is apparently not exempt from ENDA) is unclear. Working in a fire-and-brimstone conservative Christian bookstore might be said to be a “hostile or offensive environment” for a gay or lesbian employee, but the contents of the bookstore ought nonetheless to be protected by the First Amendment. The entire purpose of the First Amendment is to protect speech that is so offensive that it risks being suppressed.
It is entirely possible that the courts will reject attempts to use ENDA as a tool of censorship. But the prospect of such suits is likely to make employers increasingly willing to tell employees to shut up (even over lunch) or to mandate sensitivity training programs that should make you worried. Especially because a previous post by Bader points to this worrisome issue:
Moreover, ENDA may lead to employers settling even weak or dubious discrimination claims, especially those alleging wrongful termination or harassment, since ENDA incorporates the Christiansburg Garment standard for awarding attorneys fees — a sort of “heads I win, tails you lose” scheme under which the plaintiff gets his attorneys fees paid for by the other side if he wins, but the employer has to pay its own attorneys fees even if it wins (a win at trial typically costs an employer at least $250,000).
If you know that you are going to have to pay your legal costs even if you win, the incentive to either settle out of court for less than the likely legal fees--or worse, create a code of employee conduct designed to shut people up--is very strong. Think about it for a minute or two, and you will realize that a code of employee conduct that says that you may not ever express disapproval of homosexuality, even away from work, provides a basis for firing someone--and on what basis can they file suit?

Another Review of Armed America

In the November-December 2007 Mensa Bulletin.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gideon to Trojan

I mentioned several months back a modest counterrevolution in Sweden, when one of the hotel chains decided to remove Gideon's Bibles from their hotel rooms--and even those very liberal Swedes, as a nation, responded with upset. Religion was making a modest comeback in Europe. (Admittedly, starting from near-zero, almost anything is a step up.)

Now I see this rather astonishing article in Newsweek. Yes, I found out about this from the American Family Association, and as with most such amazing claims that I receive, I make some effort to verify it before going forward. From November 8, 2007 Newsweek:
In the rooms of Manhattan's trendy Soho Grand Hotel guests can enjoy an eclectic selection of underground music, iPod docking stations, flat-screen TVs and even the living company of a complimentary goldfish. But, alas, the word of God is nowhere to be found. Unlike traditional hotels, the 10-year-old boutique has never put Bibles in its guest rooms, because "society evolves," says hotel spokeswoman Lori DeBlois. Providing Bibles would mean the hotel "would have to take care of every guest's belief."
What might be surprising to many Americans is that the Bible-free room isn't a development just in hip New York City hotels. Across the country upscale accommodations are doing away with the Bible as a standard room amenity. And in its stead have arrived a slew of "lifestyle" products that cater to a younger, hipper (and presumably less religious) clientele. Since 2001 the number of luxury hotels with religious materials in the rooms has dropped by 18 percent, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association. The Nashville-based Gideons International, which has distributed copies of the Christian scripture to hotels since 1908, declined to comment on this trend.
Edgier chains like the W provide "intimacy kits" with condoms in the minibar, while New York's Mercer Hotel supplies a free condom in each bathroom. Neither has Bibles. Since its recent renovation, the Sofitel L.A. offers a tantalizing lovers' dice game: roll one die for the action to be performed (for example, "kiss," "lick") and the other for the associated body part. The hotel's "mile high" kit, sold in the revamped gift shop, includes a condom, a mini vibrator, a feather tickler and lubricant. The new Indigo hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., a "branded boutique" launched by InterContinental, also has no Bibles, but it does offer a "One Night Stand" package for guests seeking VIP treatment at local nightclubs and late checkout for the hazy morning after.
Now, it doesn't particularly bother me that hotels might be aiming at encouraging some wild times by their guests. Let's face it: much of the upscale "bed and breakfast" market is romantic getaways. (Although the "One Night Stand" package is pretty clearly aiming at actions that aren't "romantic getaways" at all.) It does somewhat concern me that hotels think:

1. Bible, or "intimacy kits"--as though the two are mutually exclusive. I am always astonished at how secular Americans so completely misunderstand Christianity and its view of sexuality. Christianity teaches that sex outside of marriage is wrong, but it strongly encourages sex inside of marriage. The secularists should be aware that the infamous "lie back and think of England" statement attributed to Alice, Lady Hillingdon (1857-1940) has never been properly attributed, and even if she did write it, it may be more a statement of her relationship to her husband than a widely held Victorian belief.

2. That there's some need to scrap Bibles for fear of offending what? Muslims? Dhimmitude is coming, and the same corporate interests that have bent over forwards to make the homosexual community happy are going to put our collective heads on the block to make Islam happy. Heaven forbid that U.S. corporations not take steps that offend the majority of Americans!

48mm Camera Filter Tap & Die

48mm Camera Filter Tap & Die

There is a very common camera filter thread that I believe is M48x0.75. I am having trouble finding a source for tap and die for cutting threads for this size. I've tried the obvious places, like McMaster-Carr and MSC Direct, and I've searched the web. Any suggestions of who might have such a tap and die set?

UPDATE: I received a number of good suggestions, and amazingly enough, it does not appear that anyone has such a tap available off the shelf at less than $150.

The reason that I need this ability is that my 5" refractor uses an astonishing piece of optics called an Aries Chromacor, which is made by one of those Ukrainian optical wizards who I gather used to work for the Soviet military--and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, put his expertise to work on peace dividend stuff.

In this case, the Aries Chromacor is a piece of rather specialized glass that does two things, simultaneously:

1. It corrects the chromatic aberration that is common to all but apochromatic refractors.

2. It also corrects for whatever spherical aberration your refractor has. If you have a 1/6th wave undercorrected achromatic refractor, you buy an Aries Chromacor that has a 1/6th wave overcorrection built in.

Anyway, it works very well--turning what would otherwise be a so-so cheap refractor into something that is perhaps 85-90% of an apochromat for about 30% of the price. A detailed review that I wrote several years ago is here.

As with all clever compromises, there are couple of irritations about the Chromacor. Because it goes inside the telescope tube, at the eyepiece focuser end, something has to hold it place. The Chromacor has a male, 48mm filter thread on it. Refractor diagonals (at least some refractor diagonals) have the end that goes into the focuser tube threaded to accept 48mm filters, so the Chromacor just screws onto the end.

This works fine, except that the diagonal adds enough length to the optical path that you can't attach a camera at prime focus--the focal point won't be at the focal plane of the camera. To take prime focus photographs requires removing the diagonal--and thus the Chromacor. What is needed to solve this problem is something that goes inside the focuser tube, and has 48mm filter threads on one end. That's why I was looking for a way to tap M48x0.75 threads.

Well, it turns out that others have had this problem, and one solution is this Televue 2" eyepiece barrel extension. I'm told that it has 48mm threads (probably at both ends) so that you can attach it to a 2" diameter eyepiece barrel, and lengthen the eyepiece. I think what I will do (once I have verified the thread details) is buy one (or perhaps two), and then machine a piece of aluminum that will slide into the focuser tube. On one end, it will be wide enough that it doesn't slide all the way into the tube. On the other end, it will be small enough that the threads on the barrel extension will slide in, and I can use some epoxy to hold everything together. Then I can screw the Chromacor into the other end of the barrel extension.