Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chrysler Bankruptcy

Chrysler Bankruptcy

Chrysler decided to go bankrupt! Excellent! I just wish that the government hadn't kicked out all this taxpayer money into Chrysler to avoid this. Avoiding bankruptcy was just a scheme for protecting the UAW from having to suffer on an equitable basis with every other creditor.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Latent Inhibition, Processing Power, & Schizophrenia

Latent Inhibition, Processing Power, & Schizophrenia

About a year and a half ago, I linked to an article in Science Daily about how it appears that creative people have less "latent inhibition" than the normal person. This enables creative sorts to continually re-evaluate new data for patterns and information. It also appears that schizophrenics (who are disproportionately intelligent and creative) completely lose latent inhibition as the schizophrenic breakdown happens. No surprise: the senses turn traitor for a schizophrenic.

I'm reading J. Allan Hobson and Jonathan A. Leonard, Out Of Its Mind: Psychiatry in Crisis (Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Publishing Group, 2001) at the moment. It's a call to refound psychiatry based on the emerging biochemical brain research, away from the failure of psychoanalysis. They make an interesting point that fits into the latent inhibition issue, and that is that our senses are rather more narrow than we sometimes assume. For example, while your eyes see a very wide angle, there's really only good detail in a pretty narrow range of a few degrees. Try to read the sentences of a book anywhere but immediately where your eyes are pointed, and you will see this.

A likely reason for most of these limitations is that the brain had to evolve with its receiving capacity and processing capacity more or less in step. If the brain received more information that it could use, this would have no immediate survival value and might prove detrimental. Put it more strongly, many of the severe restrictions on what the human brain receives may well have survival value, because instead of prompting the brain treat lots of incoming information superficially, they position to perform incredibly elaborate analyses on a relatively small incoming flow of data.
If you think about this for a few seconds, you can see why a person of normal intelligence needs filters (such as latent inhibition) to keep their miserable little 386-like processors from being overwhelmed, while very intelligent people, who have brains more like an Intel Duo Core processor, can handle more data without crashing. But while there's a difference between having the equivalent of a 100 megabit Ethernet connection into your brain, and a gigabit Ethernet connection--a terabit connection might crash even the smartest of brains.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had visited the little coastal village where my mother and brother now live. It's a small town, and from going out walking with my brother, I think it's a good place for him, for the same reason that small towns are generally good places for those suffering from mental illness. Watching his interactions with townspeople, it was apparent that many of them could tell that something isn't quite right with Ron--but they know him well enough that they didn't seem to be afraid. I also saw a lot of kindness, of the sort that you would expect in a small town, where people can see that someone has something not quite right.

In a big city, you don't get to know someone well enough to figure this out. Once you have identified a stranger as mentally ill, you have just enough information to be concerned, but you are unlikely to have enough interactions with that person to develop confidence that you know whether this person is likely a threat or not.

At least some of the people I saw interacting with Ron, because of some of the odd things he says, acted like they were assuming that he was retarded. But he notices things that I don't. We were walking down the street, and he pointed to an oddly shaped metal plate in the sidewalk, at the corner. He asked me if I knew what they were. I wasn't sure, and guessed that they were some sort of manhole cover of an unusual design. He grinned and said they were for blind people, to tell them when they had reached the street. Sure enough: "Braille for the feet."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Obama's Approval Rating

Obama's Approval Rating

4-Block World and History News Network report on Obama's approval ratings after 100 days compared to other recent presidents. I am surprised to see Obama actually trailing George W. Bush at 100 days into the first term for each--especially when you consider that Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, and there was enormous (as it turns out unjustified) belief that Bush had stolen the election. Obama won the popular vote by a considerable margin in an undisputed election. (Obama didn't steal the election; his billionaire and multimillionaire friends bought it.)

Obama Is Indeed Gun Salesman Of The Year

Obama Is Indeed Gun Salesman Of The Year

Maybe of the century. This report from the April 22, 2009 Ammoland (a gun industry newsletter) is startling:

Law abiding US citizens bought on average 3,177,256 guns every 3 months in 2008.
In just 3 months Americans bought enough guns to outfit the entire Chinese and Indian army’s combined.
You also bought 1,529,635,000 rounds of ammunition in just the month of December 2008. Yeah that is right, that is Billion with a “B”.
This is an evaluation of overall firearms and ammunition purchases based on low end numbers per Federal NIC instacheck data base. The numbers presented are only PART of the overall numbers of arms and ammunition that have been sold. The actual numbers are much higher.
I think what they mean that is that Americans bought more than three million guns in the last quarter of 2008. (And of course, those are guns being sold through licensed dealers. I would expect that there were some private party sales going on as well.) And more than 1.5 billion rounds of ammo in a single month? Impressive.

I wasn't clear on the source of those numbers, so I found the FBI's National Instant Background Check system statistics by state for the first quarter of 2009. They total by state, but not for all combined. Assuming that I didn't make any typing mistakes when entering them in the calculator, the total for the first three months of the year is 3,812,546.

Now, this is the total of background checks performed. It includes those who were denied purchases--but over a little more than ten years, there have been a bit more than 700,000 denials--out of about 99 million checks run. That's about 0.7% of the checks have led to denials. Assuming a similar denial rate in the first quarter of 2009, that still means about 3.79 million approved purchases--or more than one gun purchased for every hundred Americans in three months alone.

Some of those are unquestionably used gun purchases, and some are redemption of pawned guns, but still, it seems likely that most are new guns. Americans are arming themselves to the teeth. It isn't because the economy is doing so well that Americans feel like buying recreational toys.

UPDATE: A reader points out that if you are buying more than gun at a time, that's a single background check. I'm sure that the majority (perhaps even vast majority) of these background checks are for a single firearm purchase--but there are certainly people who bought more than firearm at a time. Consider this number the absolute minimum number of firearms purchased.

It also occurred to me while I was out for a walk that the percentage of transactions involving used guns may be higher than normal. Guns are among the most liquid of assets when you lose your job--and a lot of people are in that boat recently.

My First Wasp Sting

My First Wasp Sting

I had never been stung by a bee or a wasp. Perhaps for that reason, I'm very afraid of them. Many, many years ago, when I was quite young, I was at a picnic north of Los Angeles, eating apple pie. A bee landed on my lip, and walked around for what seemed like five minutes, but was probably only a few seconds, before it flew away.

Anyway, Friday I reached into the mailbox, to grab the mail. As I grabbed onto the collection of mostly junk mail, I felt something like a cross between electric shock and fire in my finger--and then I saw the wasp in between the envelopes.

Our mail carrier often puts dryer sheets (the things that are supposed to make your clothes soft and fluffy) in our mailbox, I think because they discourage wasps from hanging out there. Over winter, there wasn't much need. I think we'll put the dryer sheets in ourselves.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

First Amendment Being Ignored In Idaho

First Amendment Being Ignored In Idaho

I mentioned last year the weird case of Chris Pentico, who was charged with trespassing at the state capitol. I tried to get to his trial on these charges earlier in the week, but an email telling about the trial "tomorrow" turned out to be a day late. I'm still gathering data about this, but in brief, Chris (who is the Republican Party chair for the 22nd district, and a really nice person), brought some evidence of at least questionable legal practices involving Boise State University to the attention of the governor, in the form of a written complaint. (It may be worse than just questionable, perhaps rising to the level of illegal, but I'm still waiting on some documents before I commit myself.)

After Chris left the building where the governor's office is located (while the capitol building is renovated), an Idaho State Police officer told him that he was making some legislators "uncomfortable" and he was not to return to the state office buildings. There was no allegation that he was a threat, or had broken any laws. He just made some legislators "uncomfortable."

Chris contacted his representative, Pete Nielsen, who made some inquiries, and couldn't find any evidence that Chris had been banned from the capitol. So Chris returned with some more papers related to his concerns, and dropped them off. A block or two from the state office buildings, he was arrested and handcuffed for violating Idaho Code 18-7011. (You can see the ticket here.)

So what does that section prohibit?
18-7011. CRIMINAL TRESPASS -- DEFINITION AND PUNISHMENT. (1) Any person who, without consent of the owner or person in charge of any lands which are inclosed by fences of any description sufficient to show the boundaries of the land inclosed, shall go upon such lands and shall leave open any gates on or about said premises, or who shall tear down or lay down any fencing, or who shall willfully remove, mutilate, damage or destroy any "No Trespassing" signs or markers, or who shall go through cultivated crops that have not been harvested, or who shall damage any property thereon, or who without permission of the owner or the owner's agent enters the real property of another person where such real property is posted with "No Trespassing" signs or other notices of like meaning spaced at intervals of not less than one (1) notice per six hundred sixty (660) feet along such real property, is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six (6) months or by a fine of not less than twenty-five dollars ($25.00) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by both such fine and imprisonment. Where the geographical configuration of the real property is such that entry can reasonably be made only at certain points of access, such property is posted sufficiently for all purposes of this section if said signs or notices are posted at such points of access.
There are no "No Trespassing" signs at the state office building. And indeed, it was so obviously wrong, that I understand that they had to refile the case against Chris three times, trying to find a section that would fit. Chris was convicted this week under Idaho Code 18-7008:

A. Every person who willfully commits any trespass, by either:...

8. Every person, except under landlord-tenant relationship, who, being first notified in writing, or verbally by the owner or authorized agent of the owner of real property, to immediately depart from the same and who refuses to so depart, or who, without permission or invitation, returns and enters said property within a year, after being so notified; ...

Is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Chris' attorney attempted to argue before Judge Swain that there were First Amendment problems with this charge. (I can see both free speech and right to petition for redress of grievances issues.)

I do not dispute that there might be circumstances under which a person could be ordered to not return to a government office--perhaps if there were threats of violence, or actions that constituted harassment. However, prohibiting a person from entering a state office building to complain about improper or illegal behavior by the government requires something more than legislators feeling "uncomfortable." For many years, there was a kook wandering around inside the California capitol holding signs with rather rude language, and the state lacked authority to remove him. A capitol tour guide (who sounded so much like Father Guido Sarducci that I had to resist laughing the whole time) made a point to warn about this, before starting our tour.

This seems at least a clear constitutional question that a judge should not arbitrarily refuse to allow a lawyer to raise: can a peaceable citizen be prohibited from entering a state office building to file a complaint? And what sort of conduct would justify such a prohibition? Chris tells me that Judge Swain would not allow Chris' attorney to even raise this clear First Amendment question.

Nor would Judge Swain allow Chris' attorney to call Rep. Pete Nielsen to testify that Nielsen had informed Chris that he could not find any evidence that Chris was prohibited from entering the state office building. This, at least, would have established that Chris had a good faith basis for believing that he was not prohibited from entering.

Nor would Judge Swain require the prosecution to say who, exactly, prohibited Chris from entering a state office building. The building didn't make this decision; someone who works for the state made this decision--and gets to hide behind the anonymity of "the people."

Now, you may be wondering: Where's the ACLU? Chris contacted the ACLU last year when this first started. You know, First Amendment question: freedom of speech; redress of grievances. But the Idaho chapter wasn't interested in it. (I guess that Chris should have been trying to perform an abortion in the governor's outer office, or demanding a right to marry another man.)

Anyway, it's an interesting problem. I wish that I had been present for the trial. Chris, who is a college student, is really not a position to pay an attorney to appeal this, and the ACLU, at least in Idaho, doesn't do free speech civil rights questions anymore. (At least, they don't do cases like this.) The sentencing date is currently scheduled for May 11, and Chris could get as much as $1000 fine and six months in jail for exercising the right to petition for redress of grievances.

At the Pachyderm Club meeting last night, this miscarriage of justice was brought to the attention of three members of the legislature, who promised to look into this. One member of the lower house and I spoke for a few minutes about this, and about whether Judge Swain's actions might rise to the level of an impeachable offense--but such actions are so rare here that he didn't know if the legislature had the authority to do that. Idaho Const., Art. V, sec. 3, seems to do so.

Interesting Evening Last Night

Interesting Evening Last Night

I attended a meeting of the Treasure Valley Pachyderms, a conservative Republican organization. (And for you Idaho Democrats who think all Republicans are conservative--no, there's a lot of them like State Senator Corder, who might as well be Democrats.)

Anyway, we had three members of the lower house of the state legislature with us last night. Rep. Joe Palmer, who was just elected from district 20, told us about the events that caused him to run for office, and win in what he described as a "landslide" victory, with a 45 vote margin. Rep. Palmer is either a very decent and humble person who got fed up with insane government control (in this case, involving the EPA and some World War II barracks that he demolished for a building project), or does one of the better jobs of simulating a decent and humble person.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I've Joined The Pajamas Media Stable of Writers!

I've Joined The Pajamas Media Stable of Writers!

Here's a piece that they just published by me about mass murder, mass media, and the failure of deinstitutionalization. And they pay me, too!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Got Some Broken, Unrepairable Guns?

Got Some Broken, Unrepairable Guns?

Here's your chance! Crime, Guns, and Videotape is reporting that there's a chance to turn those into grocery gift cards:
Los Angeles and the already financially distressed TV stations, CBS 2/ KCAL 9 have teamed up to buy handguns for $100.00 and so called assault weapons for $200.00. Instead of cash they will be handing out Ralph’s grocery store gift certificates or Visa gift cards. I see no difficulty with their form of payment. As usual the nitwits have promised that no questions will be asked.

Now is the time to gather your non-collectable, cheap, rusty junk and use the financial reward to offset the cost of better guns and ammunition.

If you have a nice gun and know for sure it’s not stolen any gun dealer in the country will pay you cash so why bring anything valuable or nice to the dopes running the buy-back program.

If the taxpayers of Los Angeles want the politicians to pay premium prices for rusty scrap they deserve that city’s bankruptcy.
I don't know where he got that picture he has, but I suspect that the idiots that run these "gun buy-back" programs are probably stupid enough to take junk like this. I can remember some years ago when I was a gun dealer, and I could buy some of the really crummy little handguns for $39 each (in quantity)--when handgun buy-backs were often paying $100 each. I have read of more than a few gun owners who took advantage of such stupidity to get better guns. (Unfortunately, most of the buy-back programs now are smart enough to limit you to two guns that they will buy.)

I'm A Bit Stumped By This

I'm A Bit Stumped By This

The Idaho legislature recently passed a bill
that, at least in Idaho, would be right up there Mom and apple pie:
Adds to and amends existing law relating to sport shooting activities to provide for a limitation of liability on certain sport shooting activities and to provide exceptions; and to provide an exception to governmental liability relating to certain sport shooting ranges.
Essentially, it protects the operator of a shooting range from being sued except if the operator:
(i) Commits an act or omission that constitutes gross negligence or willful and wanton disregard for the safety of the participant and that act or omission caused the injury; or
(ii) Intentionally injures the participant.
The reason should be obvious: shooting is intrinsically somewhat hazardous. You accept certain risks if you are firing a deadly weapon, or going somewhere that deadly weapons are being fired. (Sort of like skydiving.) The net effect is that if the operator of a shooting range is making a reasonable effort to keep it safe, you can't sue him. It also seems to protect the operator if he has taken reasonable efforts, and another customer does something stupid, irrational, or criminal, that causes injury to another customer.

I believe that if the operator saw customer X do something obviously dangerous (like handling a gun on the firing line while customers were downrange), and didn't tell customer X to knock it off, and this lead to customer Y being injured, this would qualify as "gross negligence" or "willlful and wanton disregard."

Such a bill prevents ambulance chasing antigun lawyers from using a a trivial error by an operator, or the actions of another customer, from being used to bankrupt a shooting range. You can see why those who look out for ambulance chasers and antigun activists would oppose such a bill.

Well, the bill passed the legislature, but State Senator Tim Corder (who represents me up there), was one of only five state senators to vote against it! The other four who voted against it? All Democrats? All representing Boise. (The ambulance chaser, antigun part of Idaho.)

I know that this vote won't go down well with the voters of Corder's district. But my experience in the last election when I ran against Corder in the Republican primary was that a lot of Republicans I talked to disagreed with Corder's votes and bill sponsorships, often at the level of complete bewilderment. It wasn't that there were angry, but they found how he voted and the bills he sponsored so bizarre that they seemed to have trouble holding Corder responsible for his actions. Yet they still planned to vote for him, because...well, they went to church with him (and a church that can't possibly be happy with that sexual orientation bill he sponsored), and he was from Elmore County. (Our district includes Elmore and Boise Counties, and Elmore is the majority of the votes.)

I'm really hoping that someone from Elmore County runs against Corder in the Republican primary next time around. As near as I can tell, that's the only way to unseat someone who votes more like a Democrat than a Republican.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thank God The Blunderer-In-Chief Hired A Few Honest People

Thank God The Blunderer-In-Chief Hired A Few Honest People

This article that originally came from the New York Times
shows that someone understands that crises cause judgment errors--and without the self-righteousness of the left:
WASHINGTON - President Obama’s national intelligence director told colleagues in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists.
“High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country,” Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote in a memo to his staff last Thursday.
Admiral Blair sent his memo on the same day the administration publicly released secret Bush administration legal memos authorizing the use of interrogation methods that the Obama White House has deemed to be illegal torture. Among other things, the Bush administration memos revealed that two captured Qaeda operatives were subjected to a form of near-drowning known as waterboarding a total of 266 times.
Admiral Blair’s assessment that the interrogation methods did produce important information was deleted from a condensed version of his memo released to the media last Thursday. Also deleted was a line in which he empathized with his predecessors who originally approved some of the harsh tactics after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past,” he wrote, “but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.”

Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency under Mr. Bush, said on Fox News Sunday last weekend that “the use of these techniques against these terrorists made us safer. It really did work.” Former Vice President Dick Cheney, in a separate interview with Fox, endorsed that conclusion and said he has asked the C.I.A. to declassify memos detailing the gains from the harsh interrogations.
Several news accounts, including one in the New York Times last week, have quoted former intelligence officials saying the harsh interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, a Qaeda operative who was waterboarded 83 times, did not produce information that foiled terror plots. The Bush administration has long argued that harsh questioning of Qaeda operatives like Zubaydah helped prevent a planned attack on Los Angeles and cited passages in the memos released last week to bolster that conclusion.
The four memos that the ACLU sought, and that the Obama Administration released, are available here, and are worth reading. While I would certainly describe the interrogation techniques as unpleasant, they are (with the exception of waterboarding) more psychologically manipulation than torture in a physical sense. And the first of these memos, from August of 2002, when we were still waiting for another shoe to drop (or have its fuse lit on an airliner), discusses one of three waterboarded al-Qaeda leader, Zubaydah, who had shown considerable resistance to less harsh interrogation techniques.

Having exposed these techniques, such as locking Zubaydah in a box with a "stinging insect" (actually a caterpillar) because he was freaked out by bugs, many of them are no longer likely to be very effective in the future. And you know what, even if the U.S. never ever used waterboarding again, leaving al-Qaeda in the dark about what might happen in interrogation is something of a good thing. Sometimes the fear of what might be waiting for you is the scariest thing of all.

I am sure that may Democrats are saying, "Well, how would you like to be treated this way?" I wouldn't. But then again, I don't run around hijacking airliners and crashing them into buildings, nor do I execute people by beheading them. Don't do things like that, and it makes it far less likely that you have to worry about it. And I also know that if I fell into the hands of al-Qaeda (which is about as likely as ending up in Angelina Jolie's male harem), that regardless of the interrogation techniques used by the CIA, I would be subject to severe abuse. It's part of what al-Qaeda does--gouging out eyes, using power tools, etc.

One of the most interesting aspects of the series 24 is that it gives you something of a clue of the sort of circumstances that cause good people to engage in repugnant interrogation practices--because the results of not getting that information will be far more ugly. And it is apparent that there was more torture, in the real sense of the world, in many single episodes of 24 than there was used against high ranking al-Qaeda operatives.

Another point: there were a lot of people held at Gitmo who were taken not by U.S. or Coalition forces on the battlefield, but supposedly taken on the battlefield by various Afghan warlords. There is some serious question as to whether many of them were even enemy combatants. That I understand. There is no allegation that these people were subject to these "enhanced" interrogation techniques. From what I read, a total of three high ranking al-Qaeda operatives were waterboarded--and that's the only one of the techniques revealed in these memos that I would call torture.

The Obama Administration keeps going back and forth about prosecuting Bush Administration officials for these memos. I actually hope that they do--starting with President Bush. This will force them to stop playing politics with this issue, because at trial, Bush will demand release of the documents concerning the intelligence obtained, and force a frank and open discussion of the dangers that our country was exposed to at the time. By the time it is done, the Obama Administration will look like the opportunistic crooks that they are, and all but the left will be marveling at the restraint used. More importantly, a lot of Democratic leadership will be called to testify that they were informed of this stuff, and in some cases, saw demonstrations of waterboarding. This will expose them for the lying and opportunistic creeps that they are.

Milwaukee Invites Lawsuits

Milwaukee Invites Lawsuits

A wonderful thing about the Internet is that when someone makes an utterly unbelievable statement (such as the one at Snowflakes in Hell from where I got this), you can just click over and see that, sure enough, the Milwaukee police chief clearly wants to see how many civil rights lawsuits he can get filed against his employer and himself.

The Wisconsin Attorney-General recently issued an opinion that because of the Wisconsin Constitution's bear arms clause, the open carrying of a firearm is constitutionally protected, and by itself, does not qualify as disorderly conduct. So the response of the Milwaukee police chief, as quoted in the April 21, 2009 Oshkosh, Wisc. Northwestern?
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Milwaukee’s police chief said Tuesday he’ll go on telling his officers to take down anyone with a firearm despite Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s finding that people can carry guns openly if they do it peacefully.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said he’ll continue to tell officers they can’t assume people are carrying guns legally in a city that has seen nearly 200 homicides in the past two years.

"My message to my troops is if you see anybody carrying a gun on the streets of Milwaukee, we’ll put them on the ground, take the gun away and then decide whether you have a right to carry it," Flynn said. "Maybe I’ll end up with a protest of cowboys. In the meantime, I’ve got serious offenders with access to handguns. It’s irresponsible to send a message to them that if they just carry it openly no one can bother them."

State Justice Department spokesman Kevin St. John declined to comment.

Wisconsin is one of 29 states that allow people to openly carry a firearm without a permit. It’s one of two states that ban concealed weapons.
Look, I think open carry is a bit rude, like fat people wearing spandex, or farting loudly, but since concealed carry is unlawful in Wisconsin, and Milwaukee has a serious murder problem--what's the alternative? Oh yes, being knocked to the ground by police so that you can file a sec. 1983 federal civil rights lawsuit against them for violating your constitutional rights. As Snowflakes in Hell points out:
If the City of Milwaukee wants to deal with multiple federal civil rights suits, under Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code, they’re welcome. In fact, I dare him to do what he’s suggesting. I would remind Cheif Ed Flynn that Section 1983 allows a plantiff to sue you personally, not just you in your official capacity, for violation of civil rights. So if you want to end up paying for a gun rights activist’s ammo supply for the rest of his life, I’d urge the City to get Flynn on a leash now, while this can still be handled cheaply. Once faces start hitting concrete, all bets are off.
I do wish liberals would get past their enthusiasm for shoving people onto the ground for exercising their constitutionally protected rights. But then they wouldn't be liberals, would they?

UPDATE: here's the lawsuit that I think led to the Attorney-General's opinion for events last year.

Bush's Cabinet Looks Better And Better

Bush's Cabinet Looks Better And Better

At least compared to the tax cheats and idiots that Obama seems to be hiring. The Canadians are now hopping made at Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano. From April 22, 2009 CTV.CA:

The U.S. Homeland Security chief has clarified earlier remarks that suggested the 9-11 terrorists entered the U.S. through Canada.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made the comments during a media interview earlier this week, much to the chagrin of Canadians on both sides of the border.

In a release Tuesday night following the interview, she called Canada a "close ally and an important partner" and said she was simply misunderstood.

"I know that the September 11th hijackers did not come through Canada to the United States," she said in the statement.

The comments on that article show a lot of very upset Canadians--and I can't blame them, particularly. It is apparently difficult for many of them to understand that Obama's idiots do not typify the United States, only the Democratic Party.

If Bush's Cabinet members were this sleazy and incompetent, the screeching from the news media would have been deafening.

G. Gordon Liddy's Show This Morning

G. Gordon Liddy's Show This Morning

I'll be on G. Gordon Liddy's radio show a little after 11:00 AM Eastern time today to discuss the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog's 4000th entry.

A Use For Old Computer Equipment

A Use For Old Computer Equipment

If you are old enough to remember Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, you might appreciate an engineer's use of old equipment to redo the song.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Comment Experiment

Comment Experiment

I'm turning on comments on my blog for a day or two as an experiment. I have been reluctant to do so because of:

1. Spammers putting web page addresses in comments.
2. Vulgar comments that I don't want to have to moderate or police.
3. Nasty arguments.

My reason for turning it on is that I get a lot of really thoughtful and useful emails from readers with additional information or an interesting take on what I have to say. It's easier to let you have your say.

Think of these comments as a dinner party. You wouldn't call your host names, and accuse him of being a narrow-minded bigot, or start using foul language in front of the other guests, for fear of not being invited back--or told to leave. If you really want to call me names, do so on your own blog. Genuine disagreements are fine, but I expect civility. If this turns into too big of a hassle, or too many people refuse to follow the rules, I'll turn it off again.

UPDATE: This assumes that I can beat into turning comments on. I would ask you for comments explaining how to do this....

A Business That's Booming!

A Business That's Booming!

Obama can be so proud! From The Shooting Wire:
Glock Announces 2009 Growth Of 36%

SMYRNA, GEORGIA -- With the 2009 fiscal year in the books, handgun manufacturer GLOCK, Inc. has announced a 36% increase in pistol sales over 2008 sales. Coming off of five consecutive years of sustained growth, the company that focuses exclusively on semi-automatic handguns for Commercial, Law Enforcement and Federal/Military sales is preparing for another strong year in FY 2010.
Look, I'm as pro-gun as they come. But guns intended primarily for the killing of people are a necessary tragedy. They are necessary, because we live in a world with private criminals and public criminals who are prepared to do things so horrible that killing another person, under some circumstances, is the lesser evil.

I respect Glock for filling a legitimate need. But it is rather like a country having a military, or buying security cameras, or car alarms, or training rape counselors. They're all necessary. But they are all sad reminders that we live in a fallen world.

Crazy Revolutionary Talk

Crazy Revolutionary Talk

Over at The Stupid Shall Be Punished, Joel Kennedy discusses that Town Hall meeting with Rep. Walt Minnick (D-ID):
Until yesterday, I thought I was a pretty strong 2nd Amendment stalwart, in that I knew that the right to keep and bear arms was a personal right, and I couldn't imagine voting for someone who I thought would actually take away the guns that someone owned (other than those who had committed a felony). Yesterday, however, my wife and I went to a Town Hall Meeting with my Congressman, Rep. Walt Minnick, where our 2nd Amendment rights were discussed -- and I learned that there are a lot of people whose interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is a lot more radical than I would have thought likely outside an actual militia headquarters.


Most of the rest of the attendees held forth on their belief that the real purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to (paraphrasing here) allow them to shoot military and/or law enforcement personnel if they feel the need to rebel against the government. Based on this reasoning, I'm assuming that they also believe that all laws against sedition should be unconstitutional.


[O]nly Clayton Cramer seemed honest enough to at least imply that, yes, he would regretfully attempt to gun down my old shipmates and my sons (if they join the military) if he felt the need to rise up against "tyranny".
I'm disappointed to see that this is what Joel took out of what I said. I kept my remarks short and to the point for several reasons, and one of them was to make sure that no one was distracted by a long-winded discussion from the core point. As I pointed out afterwards,
I took a minute or two to emphasize to Rep. Minnick that the Second Amendment wasn't about hunting or recreational use of guns, and I told the story of the woman I used to get my ice cream cones from, with an unstylish tattoo on her forearm: a letter and a series of digits. Everyone knew what that meant. I emphasized that revolution is the last and most dangerous step against tyranny--but that this is the reason for the Second Amendment, and that means that assault weapons are among the most clearly protected category of arms.
Perhaps Joel doesn't understand what a serial number tattoo means, or perhaps he would prefer not to understand it. The fact that he put scare quotes around "tyranny" suggests that he either doesn't consider the Holocaust to be real tyranny, or just finds the idea that this could ever happen in America absurd.

Fortunately, there are a lot of crazy people like me that talk in these terms; some of them are Clinton appointees to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. As Professor Volokh points, out Judge Gould's concurrence in the Nordyke decision yesterday is quite strong as to the purpose of the Second Amendment:
First, as Judge O’Scannlain has aptly explained, the rights secured by the Second Amendment are “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition,” and “necessary to the Anglo-American regime of ordered liberty.” ...
Second, the right to bear arms is a protection against the possibility that even our own government could degenerate into tyranny, and though this may seem unlikely, this possibility should be guarded against with individual diligence.
Now, if Joel Kennedy thinks that this is crazy talk, he might want to take it up with Judge Gould. He also might want to take it up with the Framers, who frequently discussed the right to keep and bear arms in relation to the danger of government tyranny--and that the an armed population was the last resort against such tyranny. If Joel thinks that armed revolution is always and necessarily wrong, as he seems to imply, no wonder he's a Democrat. As a liberal co-worker once put it, "Interfering with a democratically elected government's concentration camps would be fascist!"

Corvette In The Shop

Corvette In The Shop

It is going to be about $500 to replace that oil pressure sending unit, mostly because of the time required to remove the intake manifold, and then replace the gaskets. I'm pretty irritated that they didn't do a better job designing this to be repaired.

I can't recall the last time that I spent any real money on a car repair, and I haven't had car payments on the Corvette since last August, so I guess that I shouldn't cry too loudly about paying for a repair like this. If my little piece of automotive fluff starts to need repairs this expensive more than once or twice a year, however, the temptation will be very strong to find someone that wants a toy like this, and sell it.

A Milestone: The 4000th Entry on the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog

A Milestone: The 4000th Entry on the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog

The Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog just crossed a rather significant milestone: the 4000th entry. Since I started this project in 2003, Dave Burnett and myself (and Pete Drum, before he went on to other activities) have been posting every news story that we could find in which civilians in the U.S. used a gun in self-defense. By "civilian" we mean persons who are not active or retired police officers (who have a special status in the law when it comes to carrying and using weapons).

These entries are (with one or two exceptions, such as when my neighbor chased an intruder out of his daughter's room) all derived from published news sources. Of necessity, this means that these were incidents sufficiently high profile to receive the attention of both police and news media.

The 4000th incident isn't necessarily typical, but it isn't all that atypical, either. No shots were fired. The mere display of a gun by a concealed weapon permit holder stopped a nasty road rage confrontation from escalating to violence. And contrary to the claims that many opponents of shall issue made in state after state of what would happen if shall issue laws were passed, the person with the gun wasn't the aggressor; he was the victim of a person who clearly lacked sufficient self-control to cool off.

Regular readers know that the reason that I started the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog was an email exchange between myself and anti-gun Professor John J. Donohue back in 2003, in which he claimed that legitimate defensive uses of guns by civilians were extremely rare. Thanks, Professor Donohue, for making me do this!

Along the way, we started adding labels by state and interesting characteristics of the incidents. Some interesting statistics from these 4000 incidents:

By state: Alaska (31); Alabama (143); Arkansas (63); Arizona (98); California (265); Colorado (48); Connecticut (18); D.C. (2); Delaware (16); Florida (368); Georgia (161); Hawaii (3); Iowa (14); Idaho (19); Illinois (61); Indiana (117); Kansas (37); Kentucky (69); Louisiana (102); Massachusetts (22); Maryland (30); Maine (15); Michigan (118); Minnesota (29); Missouri (89); Mississippi (79); Montana (19); North Carolina (184); North Dakota (6); Nebraska (14); New Hampshire (22); New Jersey (13); New Mexico (29); Nevada (45); New York (87); Ohio (184); Oklahoma (102); Oregon (44); Pennsylvania (146); South Carolina (109); South Dakota (8); Tennessee (181); Texas (506); Utah (39); Virginia (83); Virgin Islands (1); Vermont (7); Washington (76); Wisconsin (33); West Virginia (22); Wyoming (9). (To find all incidents involving a particular state, use this URL with the post office two letter abbreviation substituted for AK.)

There were 212 incidents involving concealed carry permit holders.

Not every outcome was happy. There were 30 incidents in which the defender was killed (although often saving the life of another, or preventing the attacker from escaping). There were 191 incidents in which the defender was shot (although not necessarily killed).

For all the talk by gun control advocates that "a criminal will just take away your gun and use against you" there were only six incidents in which the defender's gun was taken away and used against the defender. By comparison, there were 183 incidents in which the criminal's gun was taken away and used against the criminal! More startling is that many of these involved victims that were unarmed at the start of the crime.

There were 67 female defenders, and 15 defenders under the age of 18.

Sobering numbers: there were 90 criminals identified as being under 18, and 1009 of these incidents were home invasions--where the criminals intentionally broke into a dwelling that they knew was occupied.

For all the talk of inadequately trained civilians, we have one incident involving mistaken identity.

As I have previously mentioned, while there were some pretty scummy characters engaged in self-defense that have popped up over these last 5 1/2 years, and a few incidents that were technically legal but poorly advised, I have been impressed how many of these have been perfectly reasonable people doing perfectly reasonable things--until they were attacked by a criminal.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ninth Circuit Incorporates Second Amendment Against The States!

Ninth Circuit Incorporates Second Amendment Against The States!

This is major news. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the 14th Amendment's due process clause incorporates the Second Amendment against the states! The decision is Nordyke v. King (9th Cir. 2009). I am work right now, so I won't have time to analyze this until later, but this just about guarantees a Supreme Court hearing on this in the near future--before the Obamination has a chance to appoint a replacement justice.

This doesn't mean that every state or local gun control law will go down in defeat. (This particular county ordinance survives as "reasonable regulation.") But it does mean that state laws adopted with explicitly racial purposes, such as California's discretionary concealed weapon permit law, are in serious danger.

UPDATE: A day late for Patriot's Day (the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington), but still a good decision. Let me emphasize: the decision did not directly address the question of what standard of review should be used. In the case before them, Alameda County prohibited a gun show on country property. The decision essentially said that the Heller case had found a fundamental right, but that involved possession of a gun in your home for self-defense. The Heller case did not find a fundamental right to have a gun, anywhere, anytime, or on county property. As Professor Volokh points out, this is similar to

Webster v. Reproductive Health Servs. (1989), which upheld a state law banning "the use of public employees and facilities [including any public institution, public facility, public equipment, or any physical asset owned, leased, or controlled by this state or any agency or political subdivisions thereof] for the performance or assistance of nontherapeutic abortions."
Government as landlord has considerably more authority than it does on public streets or on private property. That landlord authority is not unlimited, but even abortion, which the Supreme Court has (in my view, incorrectly) defined as a constitutional right does not prohibit the government as landlord from regulating or restricting exercise of that right in their facilities.

Remember: the Heller decision upheld the right to have a handgun in your own home for self-defense. Imposing that same view onto the states will create a pile of trouble for California's Assault Weapons Control Act, to the extent that it prohibits possession and transfer of firearms to law-abiding adults. It also opens up the door to challenging California's abusive concealed weapon permit process, which as I mention above, has a racist history, and an elitist and corrupt present.

An interesting aspect to the decision is that apparently because Alameda County "won" they can't appeal to the Supreme Court. (According to Professor Volokh, they can request an en banc rehearing by the Ninth Circuit, but that's not very likely to happen.) Only the "loser" on this can appeal to the Supreme Court--and we have some reason to do so. In addition, other circuits are considering this same question at the moment--and having the notoriously liberal Ninth Circuit decide for incorporation may help with the other circuits. The worst that happens is we get a circuit split, and another chance for the Supreme Court to make a ruling while the five justices that formed the majority in Heller are still on the bench. The best that happens is that other circuits decide this decision was correct, and follow along.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Al-Qaeda, Prostitution, & Baghdad

Al-Qaeda, Prostitution, & Baghdad

This April 18, 2009 New York Times article discusses how the relative peace and calm of Baghdad is allowing traditional vice problems, such as gambling, alcohol, and prostitution, to return. An interesting point:
One police detective said he would not dream of enforcing the law against prostitutes. “They’re the best sources we have,” said the detective, whose name is being withheld for his safety. “They know everything about JAM and Al Qaeda members,” he said, using the acronym for Jaish al-Mahdi or Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia.
It is an article of faith among liberals that every person who disapproves of homosexuality is actually a closeted homosexual, or one who is fighting those urges. There are certainly enough really embarrassing examples of this, such as Ted Haggard. Can we be surprised that members of two zealous Islamist groups, JAM and Al-Qaeda, would be frequenting prostitutes? Is it surprising that Democrats, the party of raising taxes, and calling the paying of taxes a patriotic duty, seem to have some trouble actually following through? What about gun control advocates breaking lots of gun control laws?

I think there's actual a bit more than just hypocrites screaming about vices to distract attention from their own failings. There are people who genuinely consider action X to be sinful--but are so deeply attracted to it that they can't stop themselves. When they preach against X, it isn't because they don't consider X a sin, but because they are trying to prevent others from going down the same destructive path that they are traveling.

In other cases, such persons may be decrying X in the hope that they will receive absolution for their own actions. "Maybe God will forgive me a little for what I did, because I tried to prevent others from doing this."

Some of the 9/11 terrorists spent the night before in strip joints. I suspect that since they were headed off a martyrs' death, that whatever sin they were involved in, would be straightened out by their part in causing thousands of innocent deaths. (My, that's twisted logic.)

Of course, opposition to X sometimes just means...opposition to X. We don't assume that every person who advocates for the environment is secretly running a strip mine in the Appalachians, or even that they have that desire.

What A Beautiful Day

What A Beautiful Day

When I was back in D.C. last year for the Heller case, a rather prominent attorney looked at my wife and me over lunch and said, "Why do you live in Idaho?" Here's the answer: the view from my back patio, where I spent part of the afternoon reading Vanity Fair, drinking Limeade.

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No Longer Faded

No Longer Faded

I mentioned that I had acquired a used but functional Louisville Ladder for climbing to the top of Big Bertha. The paint was faded--and having a high visibility ladder in the dark is somewhat important. Problem solved!


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The joys of fluorescent orange spray paint!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sign of the Times

Sign of the Times

I was at Lowe's today buying some 3/8"-16 bolts, and when I used my credit card to pay for them, I was asked for ID--which has become depressingly common in the last or two here in Boise. But what surprised me was how the clerk asked for ID, after I swiped the credit card through the reader: "Could I see your credit card and your driver's license or gun permit?" An Idaho carry permit looks almost identical to a driver's license, and from what the clerk told me, among their customers, both are about equally accessible.

Why Overfilling Your Car With Oil Is A Bad Idea

Why Overfilling Your Car With Oil Is A Bad Idea

You've doubtless seen the warning in your owner's manual (you have read the owner's manual, cover to cover, right?) about overfilling your engine with oil. I've never had a problem with that before--except that shortly before I shut the Corvette down for the winter (perhaps a couple of weeks before), I checked the dipstick in the garage, which isn't spectacularly well illuminated. It looks like I was a quart low (which is quite unusual), so I added a quart of Mobil 1.

When I brought it out from hibernation, I noticed that the oil gauge was pegged at 80 psi. I didn't think much of it, because I hadn't driven it in a while, and I couldn't remember what it was normally running. Then yesterday, I turned to the digital display for that, it showed 130 psi. So I called the dealer, and the shop foreman indicated that it was probably the oil pressure sending unit (which does fail on Corvettes now and then).

This morning, I did a little reading online. It appears that when the oil pressure sending unit fails, it goes open circuit, and 130 psi is the open circuit reading. Then I noticed that while the pressure hit 130 psi quite rapidly, it didn't start there. So it was probably not a complete failure of the sending unit.

My thought was: "Hmmm. If I take it to the dealer, and they spend several hundred dollars replacing the sending unit--and it was just that the oil had thickened over winter, when I wasn't driving it, I'm going to feel very stupid." So I took it Wal-Mart for an oil change--and they told me that the engine with overfilled with oil.

I think what happened was that Mobil 1, because it is a synthetic oil, and quite clear, is very easy to miss on the dipstick in less than blazing sunlight--and I overfilled the engine. Unfortunately, I believe that the extra pressure damaged the oil pressure sending unit--because after the oil change, the pressure is still 130 psi nearly all the time.

Or maybe the sending unit was about to fail anyway--I have 69,000 miles on the car. That's my rationalization, and I'm sticking to it! Anyway, I guess I'll take it to the dealer on Tuesday. The shop foreman when I talked to him on the phone Friday indicated that it was a couple hundred dollars to replace. The sending unit itself isn't all that expensive, but the factory method of getting to it involving removing the intake manifold--and once they do that, they replace the manifold gaskets as well.

I could probably do this myself. But the last time I tried anything even close to this ambitious on car repair, I saved not a penny; injured myself slightly; and threw away an entire afternoon. The dealership charges a bit more for a mechanic's time than I charge for my time as a software engineer; why look for frustration and suffering when I can pay someone else to be frustrated and suffer instead?

"Sheep: & "LED" Don't Usually Belong In The Same Sentence

"Sheep" & "LED" Don't Usually Belong In The Same Sentence

Have you ever wanted to explain to a technically challenged sort how a computer screen can display pictures? Here's a video that puts sheep and LEDs to a remarkable purpose. Imagine each LED as a pixel on the screen...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Walt Minnick Wants To Hear From Us (Part 2)

Walt Minnick Wants To Hear From Us (Part 2)

I mentioned earlier today that Rep. Walt Minnick (D-ID) had called a Town Meeting to discuss the Second Amendment this afternoon. Essentially, it was a chance for him to emphasize that he is one of the 60 or so Democrats who told Obama to knock it off about the assault weapon ban talk--and it appears to have borne fruit today.

He also was attempting to explain to us (I think) that when he filled in the NRA questionnaire that got him a poor rating last year, that he did not fully comprehend the "no recreational or sporting use" phrase that he used. I get the distinct impression that he was snookered into believing that "assault weapons" referred to full automatics--an easy mistake to make for someone who grew up firmly in the sportsman side of Idaho (bird hunter).

I confess that my natural inclination is not to trust him too much--he is a Democrat--but I also confess that some of Minnick's votes and actions so far in Congress make me joke that maybe Bill Sali (who Minnick knocked out in the general election) just changed his name! I'm prepared to give Minnick to benefit of the doubt for the moment, until he gives me reason to think otherwise.

There were about 50 people there, I would guess (I'm a lousy judge of crowd size), and I was surprised and pleased at how many people responded positively when I identified myself. I took a minute or two to emphasize to Rep. Minnick that the Second Amendment wasn't about hunting or recreational use of guns, and I told the story of the woman I used to get my ice cream cones from, with an unstylish tattoo on her forearm: a letter and a series of digits. Everyone knew what that meant. I emphasized that revolution is the last and most dangerous step against tyranny--but that this is the reason for the Second Amendment, and that means that assault weapons are among the most clearly protected category of arms.

The Devil Made Me Do It

The Devil Made Me Do It

Look, you don't have to work very hard to get me prepared to blame all sorts of evil on the mainstream news media. But talk about projecting blame!
A new Harris Poll reports that most Americans believe the media is in some part responsible for the current economic crisis by causing people to buy things they couldn't afford. Over half of Americans (54%) even point the finger at talk shows on TV or radio as having some responsibility. Getting off the hook are friends and family which over half of the respondents says do not have much or any responsibility.

Ad agencies took the brunt of the blame with 66% of people saying they believe the agencies are somewhat responsible while 33% attribute complete or a great deal of responsibility.
Oh yes: the ad agencies used their hypnosis beams to make people go out and buy stuff that they couldn't afford! And in another couple of years, much of that 33% is going to blaming the media for making them vote for Obama!

There's no question that the promotion of consumerism is a bad thing. But come on! Take some responsibility for your own decisions.

Montana & Intrastate Commerce

Some people are saying that this is a "sovereignty" issue. From the April 16, 2009 Helena (Mont.) Independent Record:
Gov. Brian Schweitzer has signed into law a bill that aims to exempt Montana-made guns from federal regulation, adding firepower to a battery of legislative efforts to assert states’ rights across the nation.

“It’s a gun bill, but it’s another way of demonstrating the sovereignty of the state of Montana,” Democrat Schweitzer said.

Since the law applies only to those guns that are made and kept in Montana, its impact is limited. The state is home to just a handful of specialty gun makers, known for recreating rifles used to settle the West, and most of their customers are out-of-state.

But supporters of the new law hope it triggers a court case testing the legal basis for federal rules governing gun sales.

“What we need here is for Montana to be able to handle Montana’s business and affairs,” bill sponsor Rep. Joel Boniek, a Republican and wilderness guide from Livingston, told fellow lawmakers during the bill’s House debate.

The measure is one of many introduced by state lawmakers across the nation seeking to confront what some see as a federal overreach into state matters that will be extended with the national stimulus plan.
I would say that Montana is just asserting its authority over intrastate commerce. Of course, that's a form of sovereignty--or just following the Constitution, which grants federal authority to regulate interstate commerce--but leaves regulation of other commerce to the states.

Count on the lunatic left of the Democratic Party to raise the race card, rather than admit that the objections to the Obamination have nothing to do with race, and everything to do with overreaching federal power:
Opponents of the state sovereignty bids, however, warn they could give legitimacy to the kind of anti-government ideas that fueled the militia movement in Montana and elsewhere.

“When you really actually get in and look at it there is a lot of what we feel is very dangerous, very anti-government language that reads very similar to posters for the militia movement in the 1990s,” said Travis McAdam, the interim director of the Montana Human Rights Network, a group formed to oppose racism and extremism.

One of the few state Senators who voted against the gun bill — Sen. Christine Kaufmann, D-Helena — is that group’s director when the Legislature is not in session. She ties the bills’ proliferation to fears about the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama and stimulus spending.

“I do think that there is a kind of renewed vehemence to this kind of right-wing rhetoric being spewed by conservative talk show hosts to rile the troops and they are using the fact that we have a Democratic, black president as one of their rallying calls,” Kaufmann said.
This isn't "anti-government" but an attempt to return power to the states that has been usurped by the federal government. You can make the case that states aren't free of the same problems as the federal government when it comes to abuse of power; there's plenty of historical precedent for this. But in most of America, the state government is considerably more responsive to popular sentiment than the federal government, simply because state legislators come from districts that are measured in the thousands to tens of thousands--instead of the roughly 400,000 that each member of the U.S. House of Representatives now misrepresents.

Walt Minnick Wants To Hear From Us

Walt Minnick Wants To Hear From Us

Well, maybe not. But he will!
NRA-ILA encourages you to attend
Congressman Walt Minnick's
Town Hall Meeting on the Second Amendment
Friday, April 17th
2:30 P.M.
Council Chambers, Meridian City Hall (First Floor)
33 East Broadway
Meridian, Idaho 83642
Remember: polite, calm words. Minnick is a sportsman, and needs reminding that the Second Amendment wasn't passed to protect the right to hunt, but so that the people retained the authority to overthrow a tyrannical government if it ever came to that. I'll be there.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Too Good To Be True?

Too Good To Be True?

If someone sent me an email making this claim, I would say, "Really? That's too good to be true." But I found it in something by Dr. John Lott, with a link to this June 29, 1999 New York Times article:
The father of one of the boys was asked some years ago to jot down his life's goals in the memory book for his 20th high school reunion. His answer was succinct, straightforward, and, it seemed, not unrealistically ambitious: ''Raise two good sons.''
The other father prided himself on being his son's soul mate. They had just spent five days visiting the Arizona campus where the teenager planned to enroll in the fall, and recently discussed their shared opposition to a bill in the state legislature that would have made it easier to carry concealed weapons.
So, on April 20, when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold stormed into Columbine High School in this Denver suburb and killed 12 classmates and a teacher, then themselves, these men and their wives suffered more than the loss of a child. The boys' bombs and bullets shattered their parents' very view of the world, undermining what had seemed to them and others to be 18 years of responsible child-rearing. [emphasis added]
I really feel for the parents of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. From what I have read, both parents had done their best to raise their kids well, by liberal definitions of such. Both are devastated not just but the loss of their sons, but that their sons died committing an infamous crime. But you do have to wonder how much of this monstrous end was something of an act of rebellion against growing up in gun control advocacy homes.

There's a bumper sticker that says, "Dictators preferred unarmed peasants." Mass murderers, it seems, also prefer unarmed victims.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Boise Tea Party, April 15: Decent Turnout!

Boise Tea Party, April 15: Decent Turnout!

I won't claim to any great expertise in estimating crowds, but there was clearly in the high hundreds present. If you told me that there was more than 1000 people present, I wouldn't argue the point. It was less than 2000, however, I am quite sure. And I was wrong. The April 15, 2009 Idaho Statesman says:
A buoyant Boise crowd police estimated at 2,500 people braved drizzle, temperatures in the 40s and the temporary absence of a sound system Wednesday to signal their opposition to a growing government.
Considering that this was in the middle of the workday, that's pretty decent in a city that only has about 200,000 people. It didn't hurt that Dan Popkey, a very liberal political columnist for the Idaho Statesman, mentioned that this was going to happen in yesterday's paper.

There was a variety of signs, from serious to humorous:

This sign was actually pretty thoughtful. Remember when leftists used to have "Kill Your Television" bumper stickers on their cars?

I wasn't clear whether this was set up by the organizers, or just entrepreneurship at work, but either way, a good idea!

I wish I had a better picture, but I took it because I was pleased to see someone who correctly recognized that what Obama and the Democrats are foisting upon us isn't socialism, but fascism (all the worst excesses of socialism combined with the worst excesses of capitalism--and none of the benefits of free markets).

Being as we were in front of the statehouse, a few sympathetic members of the legislature showed up, such as Rep. Barrett.

She gave a pretty strong speech to the crowd, to wild applause.

By comparison, I'm a wimpy liberal.

Rev. Bryan Fischer of the Idaho Values Alliance was another speaker. I've never heard him address a large crowd before, and I was very impressed. A very effective extemporaneous speaker.

I had to leave before all the politicians had a chance to speak (I have work to do, so even this report is a bit abbreviated), but one my representatives in the Idaho lower house, Rep. Pete Nielsen, was there, and we said hello.

There were gobs of Boise and Idaho State police officers present, I guess in the event of rioting Republicans (which happens so often, you know). Perhaps they were afraid of this guy running amok with his pitchfork:

I didn't feel even slightly intimidated by the police. At one point, about a dozen of them drove by on motorcycles, and at least one expressed his enthusiasm for what we were doing.

Imagine If Pro-Life Protesters Had Done This

Imagine If Pro-Life Protesters Had Done This

From the April 15, 2009 North Carolina News & Observer:
CHAPEL HILL -- UNC-CH police released pepper spray and threatened to use a Taser on student protesters Tuesday evening when a crowd disrupted a speech by former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo opposing in-state tuition benefits to unauthorized immigrants.
Hundreds of protesters converged on Bingham Hall, shouting profanities and accusations of racism while Tancredo and the student who introduced him tried to speak. Minutes into the speech, a protester pounded a window of the classroom until the glass shattered, prompting Tancredo to flee and campus police to shut down the event.
Tancredo was brought to campus by a UNC chapter of Youth for Western Civilization, a national organization of students who oppose mass immigration, multiculturalism and affirmative action.
Before the event, campus security removed two women who delayed Tancredo's speech by stretching a 12-foot banner across the front of the classroom. It read, "No dialogue with hate."
Police escorted the women into the hallway, amid more than 30 protesters who clashed with the officers trying to keep them out of the overcrowded classroom. After police released pepper spray and threatened the crowd with a Taser, the protesters gathered outside Bingham Hall.
Police spokesman Randy Young said the pepper spray was "broadcast" to clear the hallway. He said officers' use of force was under investigation by the department.
Inside the classroom, several student protesters screamed curses at Tancredo and Riley Matheson, president of the UNC-Chapel Hill chapter of Youth for Western Civilization.
"This is the free speech crowd, right?" Tancredo joked.
UNC-CH geography professor Alpha Cravey joined protesters in chanting the names of Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus.
I hear a lot of criticism by liberals of the fanaticism and emotionalism of the Religious Right, or of pro-life groups. But events like this--and they happen pretty darn often--are a reminder that when it comes to out of control emotionalism and fanaticism, the left is by far the biggest sufferers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Corvette Is Out Of Winter Storage

The Corvette Is Out Of Winter Storage

I turned on the collision insurance, checked the vital fluids, charged it up, and took it out for a spin. I am so glad that I didn't sell it.

The Jaguar is sophisticated, genteel, elegant, and quiet.

The Corvette is raw, loud (both visually and auditorially), and brassy.

The Jaguar is easy to control at the limits of its cornering, with mild understeer.

The Corvette jumps up and down and begs to taken to the cornering limits--where you can pick between barely detectable understeer and oversteer that reminds you that you need to know what you are doing.

The Jaguar is sensible and respectable, but not exactly stirring.

The Corvette is, as my wife calls it, the tart: not sensible, not respectable, but incredibly exciting to take for a drive.

I suppose when the economy fully recovers, and demand for cars like this is again strong, I might come to my senses and find a buyer for it. Or I might decide: it's paid for. It works great. Even the insurance isn't too bad on it. And at my age, I'll never have another job good enough to let me buy something like this new.

Dr. John Lott On Gun Bans

Dr. John Lott On Gun Bans

For those people who can't be bothered to read, here's Dr. John Lott being interviewed on C-SPAN. He does a good job, while the reporter who is interviewing him is utterly over her head in trying to ask a question.

UPDATE: The link was wrong, fixed.

Idaho House Passes Gun Parking Lot Bill

Idaho House Passes Gun Parking Lot Bill

When I ran for state senate last year, I argued that instead of completely prohibiting employers from adopting bans on guns in locked cars in the parking lot (as some states have done), it would make more sense to use a carrot and stick approach: a clear statement that they were not liable for any criminal misuse, and liability for injuries suffered by a person with a concealed carry permit who was unable to defend themselves to or from work because a company rule had disarmed them.

I am glad to see that at least the carrot part is being proposed. From the April 14, 2009 Idaho Statesman:

Thompson's bill encourages them to reconsider, by promising to shield them and other companies from civil liability in state court should such a weapon be used in a crime. "This affects hunters and more importantly, people who carry firearms for self-defense," he said.

In debate, some contended keeping a gun at work is critical to the vigilance necessary to prevent America from being attacked.

The article also identifies three large employers with parking lot gun bans right now: HP (which I knew about, and loathed when I worked there); Home Depot (no surprise); and the shocker: Cabela's. It's almost like Playboy Enterprises having a ban on condoms.

Why Solar Power Isn't Taking Over

Why Solar Power Isn't Taking Over

Of all the alternative power sources available, I confess that I am most thrilled with solar power. It's enviromentally pretty clean (unlike geothermal power). There aren't any moving parts to wear out (unlike wind turbines). It provides at least the potential for not just national energy independence, but even individual energy independence, if you have a big enough battery backup. This is a good thing, if you have unreliable power (like we do), or if you are concerned about the social disruptions that seem increasingly likely in the post-War on Terror nation. (Or at least, a nation that pretends to be post-War on Terror.)

But the harsh reality is that until the purchase price of solar panels gets down below $2 per watt produced, they just don't make any sense--even with the new, quite stupendous federal tax credit. Sun Power Corp. has a calculator here for figuring how what that "free" power is going to cost you.

Even if I make assumptions that are unlikely (8% annual inflation in the price of electricity) and optimistic (4% annual financing cost), with a very small system (1000 watts), it will take fifteen years for the net tax credit cost of solar power to get down to the cost of not doing so. I also notice that while 10-15 years out (depending on the size of the system you buy) you will be saving money--they don't seem to have a calculator for figuring out the net cost of the system, probably because they know that no one really knows how much power today's solar panels will be producing in twenty or thirty years. It might be 90% of current power; it might be 70%.

I was working on a project for a while that should increase solar panel output by about 60% annualized yield, and I still think there's some merit to it. But there's no capital available to fund stuff that doesn't have anything patentable to it, and for a variety of reasons, even though some of the ideas are new, they are close enough in form (although not function) to existing patents that there's nothing that can be done there. And even a 60% increase in annualized yield just doesn't make solar power make sense in most of the U.S.

If the environmentalists who run our government really want America to "go green," they would push for a program where the government pays for all the solar panels put on people's homes, and call it an entitlement. Yeah, that's the ticket! We have a human right to green electric power! I'm sure that they could justify by it by saying that we wouldn't need to worry about the Middle East anymore, and spend money fighting al-Qaeda. The problem with this is that the U.S. was fighting Islamic piracy and terrorism back when we relied on whale oil (a renewable resource!)

Obama Administration And Its Enemies

Obama Administration And Its Enemies

I received a copy of this supposed Department of Homeland Security report, and I found myself wondering, "Is this really a government report?" I found the characterization of "right-wing extremists" seemed a bit too political, a bit too oriented towards demonizing anyone who disagrees with Obama's policies--but at the same time, it wasn't quite enough over the top to completely discount.

Michelle Malkin, who apparently had the same reaction to it that I did, reports that sources in DHS confirm that it is real.

I keep hoping that the Weather Underground craziness of Obama's friends, like William Ayers, is all just ancient history. But it sure doesn't look that way.

This Is Repellent

This Is Repellent

Yes, I know that there are plenty of married people out there who are fooling around behind their spouse's back. But that there is a firm that specializes in encouraging it is repulsive. I saw their ad on cable television recently, and like many of these commercials, I found myself wondering at first, "Is this satire?"

There was the "Smilin' Bob" commercials for Enzyte, which didn't quite ever promise that it was going to cause enlargement of certain body parts--and was so sleazy that at first I thought it was a Saturday Night Live commercial parody. And sure enough, it wasn't parody, but fraud. From the February 22, 2008 San Francisco Chronicle:
A federal court jury on Friday found the owner of a company that sells "male enhancement" tablets and other herbal supplements guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.

Steve Warshak, whose conviction was reported Friday by The Cincinnati Enquirer, is founder and president of Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, which distributes Enzyte and a number of products alleged to boost energy, manage weight, reduce memory loss and aid restful sleep.
In answer to the question: "Would you want your mother to see this commercial? Would you want your mother to know that you were in this business?"
Prosecutors claimed customers were bilked out of $100 million through a series of deceptive ads, manipulated credit card transactions and the company's refusal to accept returns or cancel orders. They said unauthorized credit card charges generated thousands of complaints over unordered products.

Warshak's mother, Harriett Warshak, also was convicted of conspiracy, bank fraud and money laundering.

The government also alleged the defendants obstructed investigations by two federal agencies.

Some former employees, including relatives of Warshak, pleaded guilty to other charges and cooperated with prosecutors. They testified that the company created fictitious doctors to endorse the pills, fabricated a customer-satisfaction survey and made up numbers to back claims about Enzyte's effectiveness.

I'm now seeing other commercials that are so similar to Enzyte that I have to assume that these are frauds who haven't been convicted yet.

A whole society built around immoral behavior. What a charming future we have ahead of us.

Swordfights: They're Not Just For The Renaissance Faire

Swordfights: They're Not Just For The Renaissance Faire

I'm trying not to make too light of this--someone died--but there's something positively medieval about a fight that escalates to swords. From April 13, 2009 Indianapolis channel 6:
A man died Monday, days after he was involved in a swordfight with the grandson of a woman who was killed when she tried to intervene in the fight, police said.

Adolf Stegbauer, 69, died from complications of a stab wound. Charges pending against Chris Rondeau, 39, were expected to be upgraded. Police said he stabbed Stegbauer.

Franziska Stegbauer, 77, also died as a result of stab wounds after the fight early Thursday morning, but police were not initially sure which of the men had stabbed her.

Rondeau and Adolf Stegbauer got into an argument at a home in the 5200 block of Raceway Road that escalated when one of the men grabbed a sword, prompting the other man to also brandish a sword.
Someone clearly did not understand the importance of responding appropriately to a sword. Swords have enormous romance to them; but they are also still incredibly deadly weapons. They never run out of ammunition; they do not jam, or misfire. If someone draws a sword on you, you respond the way that any proper fedora-wearing archaeologist does.

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Maine Law Review Article Is Out

My Maine Law Review Article Is Out

Professor Joseph Olson of Hamline University law school and I have a new paper out: "Gun Control: Political Fears Trump Crime Control," Maine Law Review, 61:1[2009] 57-81.

This started out as a paper that I wrote for a British history class when I was in grad school about the objectives of the British Firearms Act of 1920. As the abstract says:
As the debate over the 1976 District of Columbia gun ban demonstrates, "gun control" often covers for a hidden agenda. British Cabinet papers declassified in 1969-70 demonstrate that contrary to claims made in Parliamentary debates, the intent of the Firearms Act 1920 was not to reduce or prevent crime, but to prevent a feared Bolshevik revolution in Britain. Direct statements by members of the Cabinet demonstrate an intent to mislead the public about their objectives.
The final version is slightly different than the version that you can download at the abstract. As you may be aware, when a law review does final citation check, they insist that every statement of fact (even some that might be considered up there with "water is wet") must be cited to a verifiable source. It's irritating, but it generally makes the final paper stronger--and in a number of cases, when a couple of sources that I had no longer had copies of could not be found, I found even better sources to cite for those same facts.

Climbing To The Top of Big Bertha

Climbing To The Top of Big Bertha

Last July
I mentioned that I was looking at Louisville Ladder's products for solving the problem of getting to the eyepiece of Big Bertha. (American made, by the way. We still make serious stuff in America, not just broken financial instruments.) In a number of positions, Big Bertha's eyepiece is either too high, or awkwardly placed (or both) to get to while standing on the ground--and the stepladder that I was using was a bit too scary to use in the dark.

While trying to decide whether to splurge on the more expensive but taller version of this rolling warehouse ladder, the layoff at HP happened, and I decided that I had more important places to spend my money.

I was looking through Craig's List recently, and I found a Louisville GSX2407 for sale, used, for $200. This is the really big version that I had not considered buying. New, they cost $920. Way too much money! But $200? A bargain.

So I went over to the shop of the guy who was selling it. He has a machine shop that would make my Sherline lathe and vertical mill feel like they had landed in Land of the Giants. This shop has two vertical mills that can easily turn five foot long, 24 inch diameter objects. It has at least one of the really big Bridgeport mills. Machine tool lust!

Anyway, the ladder was made in 1997, and the paint has faded, but everything works fine.

Click to enlarge

There's a brake at the bottom. You press a lever at the first step, and it lowers it down so that the wheels no longer turn. You press another lever to raise it. The wheels are squealing a little--probably in need of Break-Free--and I'll probably give it a fresh coat of safety orange paint to make it look better and protect it--but it works great. I can climb into positions with Big Bertha that would otherwise be difficult, or scary, and the railings mean that even in darkness, there's no real danger of falling off.

Oh yes: at the top landing, I can look into the roof gutters, and it is far more stable and safe than a ladder.