Sunday, August 1, 2010

Heal Our Land

Michael W. Card wrote this song for the National Day of Prayer some years ago.  My wife was practicing it in preparation for church this morning, and it brought back to me how powerful a song this is.

A nation devoted to nothing deeper than the unbridled pursuit of wealth is doomed to disaster.

Friday, July 30, 2010

I Think I Saw A Horror Film Like This Once

The late rains and cool weather created a bumper crop of grasshopper food--and a bumper crop of grasshoppers, many of which are covering our windows and screens, often in the process of making more little grasshoppers.  I would take pictures, but the Grasshopper Family Values Council would object.

This Just Gets Better

Champerty was prohibited at common law:
Champerty, campi-partitio, is a species of maintenance, and punished in the same manner being a bargain with a plaintiff or defendant campum partire, to divide the land or other matter sued for between them, if they prevail at law ; whereupon the champertor is to carry on the party's suit at his own expencea. Thus champart, in the French law, signifies a similar division of profits, being a part of the crop annually due to the landlord by bargain or custom. In our sense of the word, it signifies the purchasing of a suit, or right of suing: a practice so much abhorred by our law, that it is one main reason why a chose in action, thing of which one hath the right but not the possession, is not assignable at common law ; because no man should purchase any pretence to sue in another's right. These pests of civil society, that are perpetually endeavouring to disturb the repose of their neighbours, and officiously interfering in other men's quarrels, even at the hazard of their own fortunes, were severely animadverted on by the Roman law... [Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England (1795), 4:135 ]
Federal courts seem to follow the laws of the state in which they are located with respect to champerty questions:
To prove champerty, it must be shown that the "foundational intent to sue on the claim must at least have been the primary purpose for, if not the sole motivation behind, entering into the transaction." Id., 94 N.Y.2d at 736, 709 N.Y.S.2d 865, 731 N.E.2d 581. [In re Lynn, 285 BR 858, 863, 864 - Bankruptcy Court, SD New York 2002]
Nevada Supreme Court decisions as late as 1997 are still treating questions of champerty as serious matters, such as in Schwartz v. Eliades, 939 P. 2d 1034 (Nev. 1997), and this one:
At common law, an assignment of the right to a personal injury action was prohibited. See Karp v. Speizer, 132 Ariz. 599, 600-01, 647 P.2d 1197, 1198-99 (App.1982). Many jurisdictions continue to adhere to the common law view. See 6 Am.Jur.2D Assignments § 37 (1963). However, in most states an attorney is allowed by statute to receive an assignment of a portion of the proceeds of a tort action through a contingency fee agreement with a client. SCR 155; Cal.Bus. & Prof.Code § 6146 (West 1990); N.Y.Jud. Law § 474 (McKinney 1983). ...

We conclude that the district court was correct in ruling that a meaningful legal distinction exists between assigning the rights to a tort action and assigning the proceeds from such an action. See In re Musser, 24 B.R. at 920-21. When the proceeds of a settlement are assigned, the injured party retains control of their lawsuit and the assignee cannot pursue the action independently. See Charlotte Hosp. Auth., 455 S.E.2d at 657. Also, the ability to assign portions of the proceeds of the suit allows an injured plaintiff to obtain an attorney through a contingency fee arrangement and allows the plaintiff to pursue the action without being burdened by medical bills associated with the accident.

In this case, Shawn and Marcia retained control of their lawsuit against the school district without any interference from Expressway. Thus, we conclude that the public policy against assigning tort actions was not present in this case. Accordingly, we affirm the district court's ruling that Expressway's assignment was not void as against public policy. [Achrem v. Expressway Plaza Ltd., 917 P. 2d 447, 448, 449 (Nev. 1996)]
Righthaven clearly purchased the copyrights for the purpose of suing. They aren't representing the R-J. This is an assignment of a tort action, not of the proceeds. I see why one of the Motions wanted to know the details of the relationship.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater Revival & Copyright Law

Yup.  An article from The Marquette Lawyer discusses Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc. (1994), in which the Supreme Court upheld the authority of the courts to require Fantasy Records to pay Fogerty's attorneys' fees for a copyright suit in which Fantasy sued Fogerty, and lost.  Thanks to Blog Law Blog for the pointer--they pointedly encourage Righthaven defendants to look at it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I Think The Focus Of My Blog & Life Are About To Change

To legal reform.  For obvious reasons.

At Least, Therre's Someone Else To Blame

The July 27, 2010 Las Vegas Sun reports that RightHaven's newest suit has been filed against "Former mob enforcer turned government witness Anthony Fiato," also known as "Tony the Animal."  Isn't it lovely that Steve Gibson thinks so highly of Mr. Fiato's moral reformation that he feels safe filing a suit against him?  At least, if Mr. Gibson has an unfortunate incident, we know who is at the top of the suspect list.


I talked to a very well-known attorney who does copyright law--and he agreed, we have a strong case that what The Armed Citizen was doing was Fair Use, because of the noncommercial, scholarly purpose of it.  But we should settle, because that would be cheaper than hiring anyone to defend us.  The system is set up to make sure that the plaintiffs in copyright cases win.

Short of finding some organization that cares enough about gun rights or freedom of expression to fund such a defense (and I doubt that such an organization exists anywhere in this country), it looks like these creeps are going to get a settlement.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Scandalous System

I've talked to several different attorneys today: the attorney for my homeowner's insurance (no, they won't cover this); several attorneys active in the gun rights movement--and all agree that this is a case that we could probably win, especially because it is so blatantly obvious what is going on with RightHaven LLC.  But there are problems:

1. You have to have an attorney to fight something like this.  Even if we were fight this pro se (meaning, in legal mumbo-jumbo, representing ourselves), which is a risky and foolish thing, we would still have to appear in person in Las Vegas to fight it.  The cost of flying to Vegas to fight it would be a big chunk of the cost of hiring a Vegas IP attorney.

2. There is a small possibility that if we won a complete victory in court, we might be able to get the court to award us our attorney fees for malicious prosecution--but by no means certain.

3. This is going to be an expensive case, unless a court rules in our favor concerning jurisdiction--even if we win.  If we could find a copyright lawyer in Las Vegas admitted to the federal bar who was on our side willing to work either pro bono or at some discounted rate, then it makes sense to fight.  As it is, we may have to pick one out of the book--not exactly the strategy I would prefer.

4. RightHaven relies upon this.  They don't have to be legally right.  The system is set up to force us to decide whether to give them money, or give some lawyers money to fight them.  There are no other choices.  This is something that desperately needs fixing, with either "loser pays" or at least some obligation to at least contact the defendant before you file.

We have received a couple hundred dollars in contributions since this started.  I suspect that unless we can find some organization that cares about gun rights enough to put a lawyer on this, we have no choice but to give RightHaven their pound of flesh.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fair Use

Don't redistribute the content here.  I'm playing this pretty close to the chest nonetheless, but please don't put any of this information in this posting anywhere else.

Wikipedia has a pretty interesting discussion of the ever changing boundaries of Fair Use with respect to copyright under American law.  The case that seems closest to the situation The Armed Citizen is confronting is Los Angeles Times v. Free Republic LLC (C.D.Cal. 2000)  -- and even here, there are substantial differences that would seem to benefit us, especially that the Los Angeles Times was actually selling the articles that Free Republic was posting in full.  That is not the case with the articles in dispute from the Review-Journal.  That Free Republic was essentially a commercial operation, not a scholarly function.  I think there is at least a plausible claim that where there is uncertainty, it is most logical to err on the side of leniency.

If I am to believe the claims in the Wikipedia article, Justice Story's decision sitting as a circuit judge in Folsom v. Marsh (1841) determined that a major factor in determining whether someone was injured by copying is:
The entirety of the copyright is the property of the author; and it is no defence, that another person has appropriated a part, and not the whole, of any property. Neither does it necessarily depend upon the quantity taken, whether it is an infringement of the copyright or not. It is often affected by other considerations, the value of the materials taken, and the importance of it to the sale of the original work.
Indeed, that seems to be what sank Free Republic--their actions clearly impaired the marketability of the articles that the Los Angeles Times was selling.  There might be a good case that loss of advertising revenue connected to the Times website was substantial--but that's not likely even close to 1% of the $75,000 RightHaven is demanding.

Starve The Beast!

No Lawyers--Only Guns and Money has a list of all the newspapers owned by the Stephens Group, who own the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and who are apparently going to be the next set of newspapers going after bloggers who screw up and copy too much (or some cases, only link to an article).

Make sure your friends and favorite bloggers know that these are people that need no traffic.


I am surprised at how many websites out there reproduced material from The Armed Citizen.  (Not that I'm going to sue them for copyright infringement.)  However: it is very important for every such blog or website to scrub those articles, both to protect themselves from RightHaven, and to protect The Armed Citizen.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Checking With Attorney About Doing A Scrub on Armed Citizen

I'm checking to see if it would be safe to bring back The Armed Citizen by having part of my army go through, and edit every news account down to three paragraphs, then republish.  This is a completely simpler task than going through my personal blog, that's for sure.

Rational Ignorance of Government

Ilya Somin over at Volokh Conspiracy often blogs about how the average American is rationally ignorant of government.  They don't know much about it, they don't particularly care what it does--and this is rational.  It's not worth spending a lot of time voting, because your vote doesn't change much.

I cringe when I read stuff like that.  Yet now that I am teaching State & Local Government again, it is clear that this accurately describes the 1/3 of the American adult population that never votes.  Some of these are 20somethings, but even many of the adults in their 40s aren't clear on the difference between a state legislature and Congress.  Why?  They never much cared what government does, and so didn't pay attention.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Wonders of Law

I am assisting my attorney on this matter.  The things that I learn along the way make me wonder how smart the RightHaven attorneys are.  They have filed all these 79 suits so far demanding $75,000 each--and there's a reason for this. 

The section of U.S. law that regulates civil suits in federal court between citizens of different states (28 USC 1332) requires that the "amount in controversy" must be at least $75,000.  In short, claim $75,000 at least, or the federal courts aren't interested in hearing a dispute between citizens of different states.  However, 28 USC 1332(b) provides that if the final judgment is less than $75,000, the district court "may deny costs to the plaintiff, and, in addition, may impose costs on the plaintiff." 

In the suit against Dave Burnett and myself, there's only one claim for copyright infringement involving a registered copyrighted news story, and therefore only one that allows them request a fixed penalty (the statutory civil penalty), instead of the actual losses the Review-Journal suffered, and the actual profits we made.  The range of allowed civil penalties is $750 to $30,000 per infringement (and that is a substitute for the actual damages, which are trivial for all of these stories).  Unless RightHaven is going to demonstrate that actual damages from the other supposed six violations with no statutory penalty available add up to $45,000, they aren't going to make the $75,000 amount in controversy--not even close.   (There is a $150,000 civil penalty available, but that requires intentional, knowing copyright violation, as evidenced by hiding your name on domain registration.)

I was a little unclear whether what is called Federal Question Jurisdiction takes precedence over Diversity Jurisdiction's "amount in controversy" question.  Federal district courts can hear cases involving violations of federal law, and 28 USC 1332(b) does say that "when express provision therefor is otherwise made in a statute of the United States" the amount in controversy does not apply.  So does this mean that copyright law violates do not require the $75,000 minimum?  This discussion at and would seem to indicate that the amount in controversy minimum applies to copyright violations as well--hence the request from professional photographers for Congress to create small claims copyright court.  They can't go to federal court to pursue copyright infringements for unregistered copyrights, because the damages are usually hundreds or thousands of dollars at most--and even registered copyrights would require at least three separate infringements to get up to the $75,000 amount in controversy level.

The more I try to understand this, the more anarchy, and returning to a state of nature, sounds good.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The End

I've decided that the costs of liablity insurance are too high to make this continue to make sense, especially in light of sleazy garbage such as the Las Vegas Review-Journal lawsuit.  (And ironically, we are supposedly on the same side.)  America is enthusiastically headed into a cesspool, I'm not doing anything that is likely to even slow the downslope speed of destruction.  Tonight I will download everything from the blog, and delete everything but this explanation.

Thanks to all the readers who have provided encouragement over the years.  America is in a death spiral.

UPDATE: I think the solution is to make this blog only visible to a few.  There's a way to make this blog require a login.  I think I am going to try it.  It's disappointing, because it limits it to those who I trust not to be agents of evil.  You will probably have to email me to get permission, and agree not to redistribute anything that contains any quoted material--even one word. But I hate to lose this vast body of useful information, and the friendships of those who read.

By the way: I am not planning to give in. I'm planning to fight. Thank you all for the contributions towards the cause. I can't imagine any jury that won't look at this behavior and ask the judge's permission to slap the plaintiffs for their behavior.

Does anyone know a way with Blogger to make every posting except a few go into Draft mode, so that I can see them, but they aren't visible?

UPDATE 2: Change of plans. I'm moving my almost 10,000 old postings somewhere that I can see, but no one else can see. This will be starting over.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

ScopeRoller Going Forward

I have two orders waiting to mail tomorrow, one order completed and paid for--but the customer neglected to give me a shipping address, and an order to make for shipment to Australia after I make it tomorrow evening.  Let's see, if I could average 1 1/2 orders a day, I could quit the day job!

Sure Glad We're in Post-Racial America

From the July 21, 2010 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Madison — State elections officials Wednesday narrowly rejected a Milwaukee Assembly candidate's attempt to run with the slogan "NOT the 'whiteman's bitch' " under her name on the ballot.

Ieshuh Griffin, an independent candidate with a history of feuds with local officials, said in response she would sue the state Government Accountability Board for infringing on her freedom of speech.
One board member, Thomas Barland, insisted that there wasn't a problem, saying that he didn't "interpret it as racial."  Not racial?  Wow.  There are days that I despair of this country ever getting past race--but increasingly, it's not Klansmen.  It's black people like Ieshuh Griffin, intent on keeping racial hatred stirred up.

There Are Days It Just Isn't Worth It

I've spent quite a bit of the last twenty years trying to make a difference in the political system.  Garbage like this below makes me wonder if it is too late to solve this country's problems, and maybe I should stop trying to make it better.  It's just not worth it.

Outrageous Lawsuit

Today, The Armed Citizen received informal notice in the form of a media inquiry about a lawsuit against this website and its owners, David Burnett and Clayton Cramer. The lawsuit, reportedly filed in US District Court on July 20th, alleges that The Armed Citizen and its owners "willfully copied" original source content from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

According to news reports, Righthaven LLC has reportedly filed lawsuits against 75 other political websites and/or blogs without prior contact or attempt at resolution. The sites include, the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

The "offending" entries consist of six stories, some of which were short enough to qualify under the Fair Use Rule, out of nearly 4,700 entries.  The six stories are still publicly available on the Las Vegas Review-Journal's website, to which we linked.

The Armed Citizen has been excerpting articles from newspaper, TV station, and radio station websites for a number of years. If any copyright holders decided that The Armed Citizen had exceeded fair use, they only needed to send us an email. Instead, in a bid to target and intimidate small websites, they have chosen to pursue legal action.

At this time, the future of The Armed Citizen is uncertain, and possibly in jeopardy, thanks to Righthaven LLC and the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Their contact information is listed below.

Las Vegas Review-Journal
1111 W. Bonanza Road
P.O. Box 70
Las Vegas, NV 89125

Main phone number:

Newspaper office number:

Copy of Lawsuit (As forwarded by a reporter...The Armed Citizen has received no official notice of pending litigation.)

To e-mail David and Clayton, write to

Further information:
Las Vegas newspaper sues websites over use of content
Conservative website among 3 sued over R-J copyrights
LV Review-Journal may be violating law with selective copyright suits

UPDATE: It turns out that the minimum amount of a controversy filed in federal court involving citizens of multiple states is $75,000 (which is something that I already knew).  The lawyers are relying on us to "settle" because they know darn well that their actual damages aren't even close to $75,000.  They might have trouble proving $75 worth of actual damages.  This is perilously close to extortion.  Interesting discussion of this over here.

UPDATE 2: These lawyers have filed dozens of such suits, always demanding $75,000 (the federal controversy minimum)--and it looks like some people are starting to fight back.   I wonder how many people like me showing up and demanding proof of $75,000 in damages before some federal judge tells these crooks to go chase ambulances, like other shysters.

UPDATE 3: I have taken down the entire Armed Citizen blog.  It's just too dangerous.  And this blog may go away tomorrow as well.  It's just too dangerous.  There are criminal enterprises out there prepared to use the law in ways that it was not intended.

Machining Aluminum, Getting Experience

I discovered that the beautiful parts that I made a couple of days ago are just a bit short for the tripod in question.  (Fortunately, I discovered this before shipping.)  I discovered that what had been the franchisee for Metal Supermarkets in Boise has moved to Garden City, and become Gem State Metals, and I went there to get some 2" OD, .125" wall aluminum tubing.  Instead of boring from 1.47" to 1.73", I just bought tubing that was already 1.74", and made one quick pass with the emery cloth on the inside to make it pretty.

But I also suddenly found that the easy time I had three nights ago squaring the 1/4" wall aluminum tubing didn't work with .125" wall tubing.  Why?  Same alloy: 6061 T6.  It turns out that:

1. Getting very precisely centered in the lathe is far more important with aluminum than acetal--probably because the aluminum isn't self-lubricating.

2. Boring the inside of the tube requires a relatively low speed, but a heavier cut, to avoid "chattering," which often leads to the part being pulled from the chuck.  But squaring the tubing requires a medium to medium-high speed, and at least until you get an even end, very light cuts, typically .005"-.010".  I wasted a solid hour figuring this out.

Experience, unfortunately, is among the most expensive things to get.  I just hope that this experience turns into something economically useful, unlike most everything else with which I have developed an expertise.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Voyager Mission: Fond Memories

There's been a bit of discussion of the Voyager mission of late, since these space probes are still operational, almost thirty years after launch.  My first full-time job, when I ran out of money and had to drop out of college, was writing Voyager telemetry software at Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena.  I even received this cool certificate in the mail, some years later: a "Group Achievement Award," which simply means that I was part of a big group that did our jobs really well. 

I wish I could say that I did my job really well, but I was a not terribly mature 18 year old, and in retrospect, some of the telemetry filtering software I wrote in Univac 1530 assembly language wasn't very good.  Of course, if you knew much about Univac 1530 assembly language, you would wonder if anyone could write it well.

It was a fascinating experience.  I was an amateur astronomer, so working on a space mission was so cool.  I was just a kid (I turned 19 while I was working there), and in retrospect, as neat as the job was, it was about as miserable a time as I think I have ever experienced.  Friday nights, I would buy a pizza at Straw Hat in La Crescenta, drive up to an overlook on the Angeles Crest Higway, and have myself a good cry.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Manufacturing in Aluminum

I am beginning to switch over from manufacturing my casters assemblies entirely in acetal to primarily aluminum, for a variety of reasons that I have discussed previously.  I was a little unsure if I was going to get a pretty finish on the aluminum or not--but here's the first article for one of the round sleeve models.

It is gorgeous--and all I had to do was to hold some 150 emery cloth to it while it was turning it on the lathe!

The first happy customer for the aluminum version for the new Losmandy Lightweight tripod sent me these pictures.

This picture emphasizes how well the Deluxe wheels work in high grass.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Threats To Freedom

A new book edited by Adam Bellow just arrived on my doorstep.  I have not had a chance to read the book yet--just cracked open the introduction by Adam Bellow, and it left a pretty decent taste in my mouth.  While many of the essays are by people who are libertarian, not conservative (Bruce Bawer and Glenn Reynolds, for example), Bellow's opening essay emphasizes some of the important themes of Solzhenitsyn's 1978 address at Harvard: that individualism and materialism carried to extremes has its own set of problems.  There is considerable common ground between classical liberalism/conservativism and libertarianism, as long as you stay away from the extreme ends of social conservatives and libertarians.  (If you want to know where that middle ground is: if libertarians don't insist that the government must recognize gay marriage, social conservatives don't have to insist on making homosexuality a crime.)

Anyway, the publishers of New Threats To Freedom has an essay contest over here.  You might want to consider entering your efforts.

The Importance of Having a Mechanic You Can Trust

The Corvette has been intermittently turning on three different complaints: "SERVICE ABS" "SERVICE ACTIVE HNDLG" and "SERVICE TRACTION" for a year or so--but the problem always went away when I restarted the car.  This set of complaints came on solidly a few days ago, so I took it into All Things Automotive in Meridian.  One of the error codes involves the sensor on the steering column, which feeds data into the ABS, active handling, and traction control systems.  As I suspected it might be, my mechanic found that the wires from that sensor had been damaged by a rock (probably because of the crummy road between our driveway and the old highway).  He is seeing about armoring the replacement wires.

I'm still waiting on the other error code, which is a complaint about low voltage from the ABS pump, but I am hoping this also turns out to be something as simple as a broken wire caused by bad roads.

UPDATE: No such luck.  I'm afraid that my good and faithful companion is about to leave.  The ABS pump electronics part is $1700 alone--and there's another part needed to get that operational.  There comes a point where you have to own your possessions, not the other way around.  I'm going to miss it, but unless the mechanic finds evidence that the rock collision that knocked out the steering sensor caused this other failure, I'm not getting it fixed.  Without ABS, it is still safe to drive.  I'm sure the Chevy dealer will be able to repair at a reasonable price and resell it.

I'm going to miss this car, but it was a hangover from the days when I worked in the private sector, and could afford silly luxuries like this.

UPDATE 2: I just put it up on Boise Craig's List for $15,500.  If no one bites in a week, I'll probably let the dealer take it.  They will detail it, fix the ABS system a lot cheaper than I can, and probably offer it for more like $17,000.

UPDATE 3: Praise God!  I paid $147.10 this morning--and all the complaints are gone!  The ABS system and Traction Control System idiot lights?  Gone.  As near as I can tell, whatever is throwing codes C1217 and C1243 was intermittent, and once my mechanic repaired the problem with the wires to the steering column sensor, the other problems stopped complaining.  How will I know if there is still a real problem there?  I've had this car 55,000 miles so far, and I have yet to feel the ABS system pulsing back at me through the brakes--because I don't tend to get myself into situations that require extreme braking, and let's face it, the Corvette's brakes and tires create an entirely new definition of "extreme braking."  In any case, it's happy, I'm happy, and I'm glad that I didn't have to put out any real money to get this fixed.

UPDATE 4: No, it's intermittent because the relay in the EBTCM is intermittently failing--and I should expect continued decline until it gives out altogether.  Oh well.  When I worked at HP, I would get together at lunch with some fellow Christians.  Tom reminded me, shortly after I bought the Corvette, "It's all going to burn."  Yet another reason why we own possessions--but don't let them own us--and above all, we don't let things don't precedence over stuff that matters.

The Only Good News From My Sinus Infection

I went into the doctor yesterday for my twice yearly sinus infection.  When the nurse checked my blood pressure yesterday, it was 130/70.  That's pretty good for someone my age, and carrying more weight than I should.  The treadmill is helping.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Another Reminder Homosexuality & Freedom of Speech Are Incompatible

An adjunct is teaching a class about Catholicism at the University of Illinois, Urbana.  As part of that class, he discusses what the Catholic Church believes about natural law and homosexuality.  So he's fired.  From the July 9, 2010 Urbana News-Gazette:

Kenneth Howell was told after the spring semester ended that he would no longer be teaching in the UI's Department of Religion. The decision came after a student complained about a discussion of homosexuality in the class in which Howell taught that the Catholic Church believes homosexual acts are morally wrong.

Howell has been an adjunct lecturer in the department for nine years, during which he taught two courses, Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought. He was also director of the Institute of Catholic Thought, part of St. John's Catholic Newman Center on campus and the Catholic Diocese of Peoria. Funding for his salary came from the Institute of Catholic Thought.
One of the students complained about this email--supposedly for a "friend" who was also a student in the class, calling Howell's statements about homosexuality (which are definitely Catholic doctrine, whether you agree with it or not) "hate speech."

You've signed up for a class about Catholicism. Inevitably, this will mean learning what Catholicism teaches--and Catholicism teaches that homosexuality is wrong. It sounds like the adjunct was doing his job: teaching students what Catholicism teaches.

I taught first semester Western Civ this last semester.  Inevitably, I presented a warts and all history of the Catholic Church, of Islam, and of Protestantism.  They all did good things at times; they all did evil as well, sometimes even at the same time.  I am sure that somewhere, there's a Catholic, a Muslim, or a Protestant, who probably found it unpleasant to hear about the bad stuff.  But you can't understand where we are today as a civilization without understanding what happened--and a forthright statement of Catholic doctrine about homosexuality is no more "hate speech" than a forthright discussion of the ideology of Communism, or National Socialism, or Social Darwinism.

Homosexuality is fast becoming the new fascism.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


We went over to have dinner with some friends from church who live somewhere that makes our place look Big City, Bright Lights.  They had hummingbird feeders--and gobs of hummingbirds.  My wife was enchanted--and they are pretty amazing creatures.  So we bought some hummingbird feeders--and in a day or two, we have Hummingbird Wars, as two or three of them will challenge each other for the right to feed.

Here's one picture that turned out rather well (reduced a bit for downloading).

Click to enlarge

This was with my Pentax K10D, 1/750th second, f/9.5, ISO 800 speed.You can see her wings, which are ordinarily invisible in flight because of how fast they are fluttering, actually stopped--and you can see her cute little feet.

Of Happy Meals & Obese Children

Friday morning I saw that the Center for Science in the Public Interest was threatening a lawsuit against McDonald's if they didn't stop including a toy in the Happy Meal--and really shockingly, McDonald's, instead of rolling over and begging not to be hurt, told them where to put their threat

My reaction?  I don't normally go out to eat where I work now, but not finding anything worthwhile in the leftover containers in the fridge at home Friday morning, I decided to walk down to the McDonald's half a mile from my office for lunch.  If McDonald's is going to show a level of courage in responding to the left that American corporations seldom do, I might as well reward them.

Obesity is a real problem.  Child obesity is a tragedy.  But let's stop pretending that this is because McDonald's has a toy in the Happy Meal.  It's not like kids for whom the Happy Meal is intended are getting there on their own.  Mom and Dad are taking them there, and buying it.  If there's a problem, it is a parental problem.  Leftists insist on blaming corporations and free markets because the alternative is admitting that the same idiots that elected Obama lack the sense or the strength of will to say "No" to a five year old.

Once I reached McDonald's, I ordered the McDouble Mini Meal.  It cost $3.17 with sales tax--and a McDouble is about what a cheeseburger used to be before the Big Mac Attack started.  Is a Big Mac excessive?  Absolutely!  Unless, perhaps, you are a teenager who is burning 3000 calories a day, as many teenaged skateboarders seem to do.  Even a McDouble is a bit much to eat every day: 390 calories for the sandwich, 19 grams of fat.  But let's not confuse the symptom with the cause.  Freedom is not the cause of the problem: a lack of self-discipline is the problem.

State Immigration Laws & Original Intent

I mentioned in my PajamasMedia article some weeks back that there was considerable evidence of original intent that supported Arizona's immigration law.  I was thinking about it this morning before church, and I suddenly remembered a bunch more examples that support such an original intent argument--enough from which to construct a law review article.  It's unfortunate that work that pays has to take precedence over work that really matters--but I have to prepare for next week's class.  It's unfortunate that I can't devote myself to public policy problems--but I have to make a living.

New PajamasMedia Article Up

"Mandatory Training For Gun Owners: Constitutional?  Useful?"

LED Projectors

I need an inexpensive projector for my computer.  There are a number of LED projectors that have come out that are small, light, and quite durable (because of LEDs, instead of conventional light sources), like this one.  Of course, the tradeoff is that they are less bright--but in this case, I need something that projects on a wall in a small room for a church, so it doesn't have to be something that you would use for hundreds of people.

I went to Best Buy to actually look at these LED projectors--and unfortunately, they only had one actually connected, it was the $500 one, and no, it was too much work for anyone to pull another one out of a box and plug it in.  The only reason to go to a store to buy something like this, instead of doing it online, is to be able to see it in action.  But Best Buy in Boise apparently doesn't understand that concept.

Anyway: does anyone have experience with the <$300 LED projectors that they want to share?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I Have Something Good To Say About Carly Fiorina

I'm pretty sure that this is a battlefield conversion on Fiorina's part, and may not stick, but Senator Boxer has made it very clear where she stands.  From the June 29, 2010 San Jose Mercury-News:
Republican Senate Candidate Carly Fiorina said Tuesday that she opposes a ban on assault weapons and supports a U.S. Supreme Court decision this week affirming a Constitutional Right to Bear Arms. In a 45-minute question-and-answer session with reporters here, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO also repeated her backing of Arizona's Controversial Immigration law and said she would support efforts to Repeal the Federal Health Care reform measure.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Manufacturing Lessons

The new design that I am using for square/rectangular tripod leg casters has a number of advantages compared to what I was doing before.  Instead of making an adapter to convert from caster to tripod leg out of a single piece of acetal, I now use an aluminum tube and a piece of acetal that I thread for the caster.  This has a number of advantages:

1. Much faster manufacture time.  The aluminum tube already has a hole in it!

2. If you machine a single piece of acetal, and somewhere along the way, you screw up, you now have an unusable piece of material.  I made a mistake yesterday while making a set for a new Losmandy tripod--I drilled the locking screw hole on the wrong side.  No problem: I only had to replace the tube part, not the acetal that is drilled and tapped for the casters.  And the part that I have to throw away, at least, can be recycled, because it is aluminum.

3. When I start to make the technology switch for the round tripod legs, the same two part strategy means that I can make lots and lots of identical adapters of acetal to fit into one end of round aluminum tubing--while I can machine the other end specific to particular tripod legs.  The more you can mass produce at least one part of your product, the cheaper that part gets.  I've never seriously considered having these gadgets stamped, cast, or injection molding because you have to have so many of them made at once to be cost effective.  But perhaps the threaded acetal adapter--this will be made in sufficient quantity to consider it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Amusing Comment About the Boxer-Fiorina Race in California

As much as I detest Empress Carly, almost anything is a step up from Senator Boxer.  An article about how close the race now is (within 3 points) included this entertaining comment:
This November the American people will bury their collective boot so
deep into Pelosi’s and Reid’s backside they will need the Jaws of
Life to extract it.
I want to believe that so badly!

Declaration Entertainment

An interesting concept: they get individuals to kick in $9.99 a month to help fund development of movies:
Declaration Entertainment is a grass-roots film-financing movement that turns you, the audience, into Citizen Producers to reclaim American values and put them back on the screen. Declaration Entertainment is dedicated to making the kinds of movies Hollywood used to make - Movies about Freedom and Sacrifice, Hard-Work and Self-Reliance, Faith and Family.
An interesting concept.  Perhaps I will try and peddle my screenplay to them.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fun With Machining

I spent a bit of time resisting the urge to use inappropriate language while working on a caster set for the Stellarvue Walnut Tripod used on a number of their mounts.  I have a customer in Peru who runs a telescope store there, and he has apparently sold quite a number of mounts with this tripod--and wants a rolling solution.

Anyway, after a lot of experimentation, I produced a fascinating and infuriating prototype out of acetal that some lucky customer will get at a bargain price:

I have since come up with something that does the same thing, but that is dramatically simpler to make, and uses mostly off-the-shelf parts:

That piece of wood is a just a chunk of pine that I have planed to the dimensions of the Stellarvue tripod leg, plus or minus a few thousandths of an inch.  The hole in the underside is threaded for a 3/8"-16 thumbscrew.  It turns out that the tripod leg will be held in just by friction for the vast majority of customers, but a thumbscrew provides a way to secure it.  I put the hole in the underside so that any marring that the thumbscrew makes on the leg won't be particularly visible--and using a 3/8" diameter bolt means that the pressure will be applied over a large area, allowing the same force to be applied to be applied at a lower pressure, causing less damage to the tripod leg.  Using a thumbscrew also discourages the customer from using a wrench, which would certainly mark the tripod leg.

This is considerably simpler and faster to make than the prototype, and without any temptation to curse!  I think it also looks better, and unlike the acetal that I have previously used, any shavings or leftover parts from this are aluminum scrap that can be recycled, to protect Mother Earth, and ScopeRoller's botttom line, which is the more important definition of being Green.  There are several new tripods that I now have to support, such as the new Losmandy GM-8 tripod--and this is definitely the direction of the future for ScopeRoller.

Bellesiles Again

Disgraced Professor Michael Bellesiles wrote an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education that is everything that the hard left that dominates the profession wants: long on pathos; long on implicit criticism of the United States.  But guess what?  Bellesiles' credibility has been somewhat tarnished, and a lot of people are looking carefully at his claims--and they are expressing great criticism.  Like Dutton Peabody, at Big Journalism:
A friend who used to be in the Army is also a mite suspicious about the account of Javier’s service. The Hartford Courant keeps careful track of Connecticut casualties: three Connecticut men died from battle during the autumn semester when Bellesiles was teaching the course: one was a sergeant, which Javier, a recent enlistee, was not; one was a captain, which Javier was even less. The third was not Army, but a Marine, and, like the other two men, died (from an IED, not a sniper round like Javier) in Afghanistan, not Iraq. He did, though, have an infant son back in Connecticut named Javier.

Just for the sake of argument, and positing that “this past semester” is the recently ended spring semester, there has been only one fatality so far this year, reported on April 4th as recently killed. Lance Corporal Tyler Griffin was a Marine, not Army. And killed by an IED, not a shot to the head. And in Afghanistan, not Iraq. Nor was he an immigrant, as Javier is described. (“We discussed [his] reasons for enlisting, which mostly focused on a sense of gratitude to a country that had given their family refuge.”) And there is no sign of a brother in the Courant obituary.
Professor Lindgren over at Volokh Conspiracy, whose questions about Bellesiles' research made it acceptable for historians to look at my evidence of Bellesiles' fraud, also points to some problems:

In my review of several sites, but chiefly ICasualties, I find no Connecticut military killed in Iraq in 2009 or 2010 (and only one in 2008, a Marine who died from a non-hostile cause). If one expands the search to all US military deaths in Iraq from all US states and territories from the beginning of the Fall 2009 semester through the end of classes in the May 2010 semester, I could find no deaths from any state that fit Bellesiles’s account (Iraq War, recent Army enlistee, hostile fire from a rifle or similar weapon, lingering death). Nor did my quick review of all US military deaths in Afghanistan (if one changed the theater from Iraq to Afghanistan) during the last two CCSU semesters turn up any likely prospects (though I would need a closer review to be certain).

Thus it appears that Bellesiles’s account is false in at least some trivial respect–probably in the term he taught the course and in the circumstances of “Javier’s” service or death.

Further, without personal knowledge of Army procedures, I found it strange that a critically injured US soldier would not be brought to Germany for treatment over a period of several weeks. Further, while not suspicious in itself, at this stage of the Iraqi War almost all US deaths occur on the same day as the attack or on the following day. Indeed, this detail alone can be used to exclude most deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last year.

If I had to guess, I would suspect that the story Bellesiles told in the Chronicle is mostly true; after all, it would be too easy for the Chronicle or Bellesiles’s department chair to check the facts with “Ernesto” and with Joe, Bellesiles’s teaching assistant. Yet some things reported by Bellesiles in the Chronicle appear to be false: the term he says he taught Military History is inconsistent with CCSU’s website, and the facts of “Javier’s” Army service and death in Iraq do not match any deaths reported by the Department of Defense for soldiers from any US state or territory.
I confess that I am quite mystified. If Bellesiles has "improved" the story to tug the heartstrings, it might explain the discrepancies.  But you would think after effectively losing a tenured position for academic fraud--and knowing that a lot of people are going to be checking his subsequent claims because of it--that he would not do anything even slightly questionable.

I don't know for sure that Bellesiles's heart-rending tale is false.  There are just lots of little problems that are beginning to show up that don't make sense, unless either Bellesiles was told a pack of lies by "Javier," or Bellesiles decided to improve the story for that highly gullible audience of leftist faculty that dominate the top tier universities in this country.

One of the reasons that a lot of people who commit murder get caught is that they tell others that they did it.  It may be expressed as boasting--but considering the consequences, it is more plausible that what drives these admissions is guilt.  That's probably why some serial killers who are smart enough to not make mistakes, start to make really obvious ones that get them caught.  I sometimes wonder if Bellesiles may be suffering from some similar self-sabotaging motivation: what can I do to destroy myself?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Hope You Are Having A Wonderful Fourth of July

I won't be blogging; my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter are coming up to watch the fireworks in Horseshoe Bend; we'll be able to see the fireworks from above, again.

Chicago Wants To Tax Handgun Owners

Like $15 per firearm registered, and $100 every three years for a Chicago Firearms Permit.  Well, we used to have poll taxes in this country, which you had to pay to vote (and at least partly aimed at the same group that Chicago's law is aimed at: black people).  While it took an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to abolish poll taxes as a condition of voting in national elections, in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections (1966) the U.S. Supreme Court struck down poll taxes in state elections as violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment--and uses "fundamental right" to describe the right to vote. 

I think there's an argument here that the right to keep and bear arms is even more fundamental than the right to vote.  Voting is limited to citizens, while "right of the people" is considerably broader.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


As much as I find the notion of high tax rates offensive, there is considerable merit to what Ben Franklin wrote--and note what he has to say here about the advantages of there not being great fortunes in America:
The almost general mediocrity of fortune that prevails in America, obliging its people to follow some business for subsistence, those vices that arise usually from idleness are in a great measure prevented. Industry and constant employment are great preservatives of the morals and virtue of a nation. Hence bad examples to youth are more rare in America, which must be a comfortable consideration to parents. To this may be truly added, that serious religion, under its various denominations, is not only tolerated but respected and practised. Atheism is unknown there; and infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an atheist or an infidel. And the Divine Being seems to have manifested his approbation of the mutual forbearance and kindness with which the different sects treat each other, by the remarkable prosperity with which He has been pleased to favor the whole country.
I have blogged in the last couple of days about repulsive examples of what happens where there is too much wealth in a society--the most horrendous behaviors become tolerated.

Updated Dr. Seuss

Although I know that Dr. Seuss was actually a pretty left-wing guy, and would probably love Obama:
I do not like this Uncle Sam, 
I do not like his health care scam.
I do not like these dirty crooks,
or how they lie and cook the books.
I do not like when Congress steals,
I do not like their secret deals.
I do not like this speaker, Nan , 
I do not like this 'YES WE CAN.'
I do not like this spending spree,
I'm smart, I know that nothing's free.
I do not like your smug replies,
when I complain about your lies.
I do not like this kind of hope.
I do not like it, nope, nope, nope!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Never Mill What You Can Buy

The more time I spent trying to mill what I needed (a square hole with a 30 degree angle at the bottom), the more I realized that I needed to find something off the shelf.  And sure enough: I found some square and rectangular aluminum tubing the dimensions required for this project.  I can plug the bottom of the tubing with a piece of acetal tapped to accept casters, and use machine screws to lock the plug into the tubing.

A few rules for machining stuff:

1. Machine the last .050" inches; use coarser tools to get closer.  A chop saw gets you to 1/16" of an inch.  I have a planer that lets me get down to .1", easily.

2. Never try to machine something from scratch if there is a part available off the shelf that is close to what you need.  The time that you spend trying to machine a block into any shape except a square, rectangle, or a circle, is going to be significant.  If you can find that shape off the shelf, whatever you spend on the part will be worth it in time savings and frustration reduction.

3. Always look for a way to machine the part while it is still simple enough to easily clamp to the table (usually because it still has a flat surface).  This often means doing something out of the logical sequence.

Want To Be Disturbed?

Professor Kenneth Anderson over at Volokh Conspiracy said something that ten years ago would have been so common sense that no one, except perhaps a devout fundamentalist Muslim, would have disputed it:

Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued perhaps the single most appalling statement of official multiculturalism I have read with regard to the United States in many years.  It called for de-criminalizing what might be called a softer, gentler form of clitoral mutilation — allowing for a “ritual nick” of a girl’s clitoris instead.  The fundamental argument was that if the US did not relax its criminal laws against  “any non-medical procedure performed on the genitals” of a girl, families committed to the practice would take them elsewhere for a much more thorough mutilation.

This ritual drawing of a drop of blood from a girl’s clitoris — and that is on the generous assumption that, over a decade or so, that’s all it turns out to be, rather than the stalking horse of the very thing that led to the change in policy — performed in a doctor’s office by, presumably, a pediatrician or nurse following the American Academy of Pediatrics’ advice, would therefore save American girls from a worse mutilation elsewhere.  So.   The laws of the United States and the norms of American society in a deeply fundamental matter are to be held hostage against the possibility of what might happen to an American girl taken to Somalia or elsewhere.  Nowhere in the Academy’s logic did anyone discuss the possibility that relaxing a norm under the threat of its worse violation might count as, well, reward behavior and you’ll get more it.  If you give a mouse a cookie, if you give a moose a muffin, and if you give the American Academy of Pediatrics a girl’s clitoris to nick ...

The Academy, under intense pressure from advocates against female genital mutilation, has withdrawn its statement.  The advice, of course, is important, because among other things it offers a “best practices” defense against claims of malpractice or abuse or what have you.  One of the striking things about the Academy is that it has offered controversial counsel to pediatricians before — such as its advice several years ago about pediatricians interviewing their young female patients alone to solicit the possibility of sexual abuse.  Generally its views have trended toward “helping profession” interventions into the family.  What therefore makes the Academy’s now-withdrawn view particularly striking is how it essentially opts for “multiculturalism” over conventional feminism.  Nor would I assume that this proposal is gone for good.  It would be better understood as the Academy and its ideological supporters floating a trial balloon, with an long term advocacy goal of accustoming the public to the idea.  Rust never sleeps.
What is disturbing are the comments, many of them from lawyers and law students, essentially arguing that Anderson is being narrow-minded, stuck in traditional Judeo-Christian views, etc. And yet me emphasize: many of those making these arguments are people whose comments I have followed for a long time in other threads, and who have repeatedly made clear their positions. They are progressives, liberals, and homosexuals. Yes: because a cultural practice that is associated with Islam (although not required by it) is under threat, they must defend it--even though it is the worst form of barbarism.

A few of the attacks on Professor Anderson's concerns:
People make this sort of deal all of the time. Parents allow their kids to drink, as long as they do it in their presence. Nevada allows prostitution, as long as the brothels follow certain rules that make the practice more safe. Etc. Etc.

Of course, whether this sort of trade off makes sense in this case is a separate question. But the mere fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics is considering it shouldn’t be abhorent to you, unless you always object to this sort of trade off. (Do you?)
Is there any evidence that the ritual “nick” has any negative impacts? Or more negative impacts than, say, ear piercing or tatooing?

The right grounds for legalization is that drawing a drop of blood is a reasonable religious accommodation that does not deliver any lasting harm to the children involved. The wrong reason is that we want to make a less-evil but still evil substitute for terrible practices elsewhere.
And this is the one that really gets to the heart of why progressives are defending this:
I’ve read through this whole thread, and I haven’t seen anything to convince me that you can oppose this while supporting ritual (NOT medical, which can be done later in life and with consent) male circumcision on any other ground than “our invisible man in the sky is better than theirs”.

That said, I think it’s perfectly fine to make a slippery slope argument here– there really is a danger that once you start compromising medical ethics for procedures that are “culturally” supported, you start on a road that ends in a very bad place. But I would argue that’s true of Judeo-Christian male circumcision too– indeed, if that were illegal, we wouldn’t even be arguing as to whether a mild form of female circumcision should be legalized.
 Got that?  Because male circumcision (which has been demonstrated to have significant health advantages from the standpoint of infections and STD transmission) is part of the Judeo-Christian Western tradition, therefore any practice performed in Muslim countries that can be compared to it by false analogy is therefore okay.  And at the core, what drives the progressive and liberal love of not just Islam, but a barbarous practice like female genital mutilation, is fury that Christianity has refused to roll over and play dead on the homosexuality issue.

Reading comments like the ones in that thread is part of why I am becoming increasingly convinced that homosexuality--at least, open, widely accepted homosexuality--is incompatible with civilization.  Progressives are turning into apologists for female genital mutilation because it makes homosexuals feel better about themselves.  And Volokh Conspiracy commenters are so thick in lawyers, law professors, and law students (the people that will, as they advance their careers, tell legislators what they are allowed to pass) like these monsters.

Change The Details of This Case...

and ask if this would have received round the clock coverage.  Imagine if the three "roommates" were, say, Mormon missionaries, and a gay man had been stabbed to death.  Richard Fernandez mentions a case that I had not even heard of:
Like the recently concluded Robert Wone case — in which three gay men were acquitted of the murder of a man in their apartment — the New Black Panther incident pits a politically powerful minority against ordinary victims. The public is asked to understand the situation from the perspective of the underdog. What does it matter if men in New Black Party uniforms paced across a voting precinct? They’re just evening the score. Or so we are told. But in situations where the world’s largest midget fights the world’s smallest giant the “correct narrative” is no longer so obvious; just who is bigger is no longer clear and the system by rights should fall back on the law itself  and ask itself “who really violated the law.”

But the habits of political correctness are so ingrained that even this logical parachute fails to open. In the Wone case, even when the judge is inclined to find the stories of the three defendants preposterous, the word “guilty” can hardly be pronounced. The Washington Post reports that Judge “Leibovitz said she believed that the three defendants know who killed Wone, but that the prosecution failed to prove that they did. It came down to the reasonable doubt standard, she said.” The Wone case is singular for the questions that were not asked and the media coverage that never materialized.
 Professor Volokh raises a different angle on it--and again, there is so much here that is profoundly disturbing--and yet it is clear that because this gay "triple" (a long-term relationship of three men, at least one of who is into sadomasochism) is at the heart of it--it's getting no coverage.  There's a Wikipedia page about it--and the more I read, the more concerned that I am that because of the sexual orientation of the three men who either likely committed the murder, or at least covered up who did it--it is taboo for national news coverage.  There's kinky sex, apparently, probably rape, murder, half of Mr. Wone's blood is missing--and suspicious puncture marks, a covered up crime--all the aspects of what would ordinarily be a major news story, just for the prurient aspects alone.  But we can't actually look too carefully at this, because it might remind everyone that there are some aspects of some of the gay subcultures that are really, really evil.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

McDonald v. Chicago Wasn't The Only Case Sent Back For Retrial

Snowflakes in Hell noticed that the nunchaku possession case from New York was ordered retried in light of the McDonald decision.  Now, I don't much care about nunchakus, but they are certainly "arms," within the meaning of the Second Amendment.  Yes, I wouldn't want criminals carrying them around--but I don't see any strong case for why banning nunchakus makes any great sense for the law-abiding.  A co-worker in California mentioned to me one that her husband often carried them when out running, to defend himself from dogs--and she was shocked to find out that possessing them (even in your home) there was a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail or prison.  There's an exemption for martial arts studios, but for the average person?  It's more serious than carrying a gun without a permit.

Need GM Mechanic Recommendation in Portland Area

My son's Pontiac has an electrical problem--probably the turn signal stalk shorting out some of the exterior lights.  The Pontiac dealer can do it, I know, but the dealers up there are extremely expensive.  If you can recommend an honest independent car mechanic in the Portland area, please let me know by email or in the comments.

Monday, June 28, 2010

McDonald v. Chicago

I had hoped to comment in more detail on the decision this evening, but I have a Peruvian astronomy store that needs a rush order filled--and it may lead to a lot more orders, if this satisfies the customers for the Stellarvue TSL6. Things that pay have to take precedence over things that are important.

There is a strong chance that I will be on KION AM 1460, Salinas, tomorrow at 9:15 AM to discuss the McDonald decision.

Victory! And Justice Alito Cited One Of My Law Reviews

The Supreme Court has handed down its decision, McDonald v. Chicago (2010).  As expected, the Court ruled that the Second Amendment is incorporated through the "due process" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment against state and local governments, because the Second Amendment is a fundamental human right.  Justice Thomas's concurrence argues that "privileges or immunities" is the more correct approach.

I am glad to see the law review paper by myself, Nicholas Johnson, and George Mocsary, "'This Right is Not Allowed by Governments That Are Afraid of The People': The Public Meaning of the Second Amendment When the Fourteenth Amendment was Ratified" cited by Justice Alito, in several places--and there are primary sources cited elsewhere in Alito's opinion that I am quite sure come out of that same law review.

I was amused to see even Justice Breyer's dissent citing my book Concealed Weapon Laws of the Early Republic.

Those of you who live in California, New York, Massachusetts, and some of the other gun-hostile states owe me one!  You can expect to see the most outrageous of the gun control laws in those states under fierce attack.  Once something is elevated to the status of a fundamental human right, it is not enough for the legislature to say, "We think this law is a good idea," or "We think this law will save lives."  Fundamental human right implies that at least intermediate scrutiny, and more likely, strict scrutiny, will be applied to such laws.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Hint About Open Carry In Cities

Either be dressed like you are going to or from a hunting trip, or be dressed well enough that someone wouldn't mistake you for a ne'er-do-well.  Someone I know was in an Albertson's supermarket in Nampa the other night about 10:45 PM, and a guy walked in dressed rather shabbily--but with a large holstered handgun.   The manager of the store approached him and told him to leave, which he did.

I know that some people really think that everyone else should just "get over it" and not react negatively to openly displayed guns.  Yes, just like people need to just "get over it" when they react poorly to guys French kissing in public, or people urinating in public on the sidewalk.  Think about the consequences of what you do--and ask yourself if you are doing more good or harm.

There are situations where it may make perfect sense to carry openly in a city.  Perhaps you didn't have the foresight to get a concealed handgun permit, and you have good reason to believe that you are at risk.  Perhaps you are between 18 and 21, and can't get a concealed handgun permit.  Perhaps you live in one of those benighted states that (for a few months longer) either don't issue permits, or make it so hard to get a permit that they are effectively not available.  But if so, dress in a manner such that no one is going to wonder if you are a meth freak suffering a paranoia outbreak.  You might still be asked to leave the store--but there is at least a chance that you will leave a more positive impression of gun owners than if you look like you are about to clear out the entire pseudoephedrine HCl section of the store.

What Chicago Fears When McDonald v. Chicago Comes Down (Another Unsellable Article)

Why does Chicago city government continue to defend its handgun freeze law? What are they afraid is going to happen if they allow law-abiding adults in Chicago to own a handgun? They are terrified of headlines like this: “54 shot in latest violence; 1-year-old girl is youngest victim.” Unfortunately, that’s not what might be the headlines if Chicago has to dismantle its handgun ban; that’s what the headlines are now—even with the handgun freeze in effect.

For the last forty years or so, gun control has been at the forefront of efforts by big city politicians to deal with violent crime—even though it is at best, utterly ineffective, and likely contributes to the code of silence in many ghetto neighborhoods. The law-abiding population is reluctant to testify against gang members for fear of retribution. I am sure that a few of these cowed witnesses might, if they could legally buy a handgun and get a concealed weapon permit, have the courage to testify in open court. But let’s not kid ourselves; if gang members are intent on taking revenge, they are going to kill you, or your children, or your grandchildren. Making guns available to the decent people in ghettos is only going to make a marginal difference with this problem.

No, the real problem is the one that urban politicians refuse to confront: the victimology of ghetto subculture. They refuse to confront it because for all the blame that urban politicians want to put on “the Man,” racism, and capitalism, the biggest problem in most ghettos today is the values of the population. For at least a generation, black students who have done well in school have been accused of “acting white.” This problem hasn’t gone away. What are your job prospects if you have done your best to not do well in school?

This victimology shows up in myriad ways. My son is in college at the moment. In his English composition class, the instructor—an African-American woman—told them that AIDS was invented by the U.S. government to kill off black people. (I guess killing off homosexuals, prostitutes, and hemophiliacs was just a fringe benefit.) Steve Cokely, an aide to Chicago’s mayor some years back, claimed that Jewish doctors were injecting AIDS into black babies. Anything, rather than admit that one of the scourges of the black community was the result of poor lifestyle choices in the black community.

A few years back, I watched a documentary about Watts in which various “community activists” claimed that the handguns that are such a large part of Los Angeles’ violence problem were dropped by police helicopters so that blacks would kill each other. These activists were so intent on portraying all black people as victims that they simply refused to consider the most plausible explanation: there were criminals in their midst who were intentionally going out and buying or stealing guns to use for murder.

Once Chicago’s handgun freeze goes away, the city will pass various registration and licensing measures to discourage handgun ownership—much like Washington, D.C. has done in the aftermath of D.C. v. Heller (2008). Eventually, after enough money has been wasted in court, Chicago will allow its law-abiding citizens to own handguns again. I’m not expecting a dramatic change in the level of violence.

Chicago, however, will be forced to admit that guns are only a symptom—and that they need to start confronting the cultural forces that make parts of the city into war zones. Will urban officials have the courage to admit that the biggest problem that the black ghetto faces today isn’t Klansmen, or institutionalized racism, but a subculture that refuses to look itself in the mirror?

What An Astonishing Collection of Readers I Have!

I don't have a lot of readers, but I'm always impressed how smart they are--and how diverse they are in their knowledge. I mentioned a few weeks ago that there was something about listening to the Carpenters that still astonishes me. What makes her voice so amazing? My wife says it was because she was an alto, and there aren't many altos in popular music--and it was an extraordinarily rich alto voice at that. One of my readers sent this more technical explanation to me:

Dear Clayton:

Like you, I've always loved the Carpenters. I'm a professional, classically trained singer, and perhaps I can provide some insight into Karen's voice and their success.

At a time when most popular music was exclusively in the strophic form (verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break, chorus, finis) and consisted of primarily three chords with an occasional minor 6th throw in, the Carpenters were virtually symphonic music by comparison. Their music is longer (rather than 2.5 minute radio play blandness) far more harmonically and melodically complex than most pop music, even today. What was also unusual about them is that they were actual, sight reading, musicians. Most popular musicians, even today, are musically illiterate. While most have good "ears" (they can sing on pitch and/or improvise well), they have little or no formal music training and cannot read and write music. Harmony, in their music, tends to be rudimentary, formulaic and two dimensional. In Karen and Richard, complete musicality was present, not only sharp technical ability, but virtuoso improvisational ability.

The Carpenters were real musicians and they actually rehearsed and demanded perfection at a time when most pop musicians were happy with "good enough." In the studio, they were known as "one hit wonders," for their ability to get a track just right with only one run through. Of course, a large part of this was their own innate talent and ability backed by intensive rehearsal before they ever walked into a studio. They were also known for always striving for excellence in live performance and for demanding the same from their accompanying musicians.

And Karen's voice! What beauty was lost to the world there. She had a resonant, warm and fluid alto combined with perfect pitch. Her vowels were always round and full, and her consonants present and precise, but not overpowering. Because of their musicianship, Richard, and the rest of their band, could transpose any piece to any key necessary to put the music in Karen's tessitura, the heart of her range where her voice was most warm and expressive. Much of pop music, particularly back then, was in sharp keys such as E, A, D or G in deference to the guitar, which sounds most pleasing, and is easiest for musically illiterate guitarists to play, in sharp keys. The guitar is one of the easiest instruments to learn to play (particularly self-taught as most guitarists continue to be), but one of the most difficult to play well. As a result, most guitarists were and are musically illiterate, and knowing a limited number of chords, can play effectively in sharp keys only. The piano, and most other instruments, however, are most comfortable in flat keys. But beyond these technical issues, Karen obviously believed in each song, understood the emotional depth of each piece and of the possibility of infusing beauty into each moment, each note. She was an example of the kind of musicality and beauty that are seldom found in human beings.

Her legacy still provides beauty even now, and I often find myself listening to her and remembering those days of youth, of passion and struggle, and I weep for a world diminished by her absence.


Mike McDaniel

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Square Hole Drill

Yes, there is such a thing--it's not a prank you play on apprentice machinists. "Mike, could you go retrieve the square hole drill?" It turns out that a combination of a triangular cutter turning on an offset will actually cut a square. There's a demonstration here of how this works--apparently a practical application of pure math. This company sells a variant that produces a variety of polygonal shapes using this approach.

I have a request for a new ScopeRoller variant that requires me to cut a rectangular blind hole in acetal--and the more direct approach (using a small diameter end mill to square a round hole) doesn't produce a particularly attractive finish. I'm still mulling over some other way to accomplish the same ends.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Greetings From Horseshoe Bend

It's finally beginning to feel like spring--almost summer!  From the rear deck.

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Rhonda thinks this is a grosbeak pair, dining at the bird feeders we built a few weeks ago.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

They've Got The Eco-Redneck Niche Taken Care Of

The Consumerist reports on a business giving away guns if you buy a solar power system. 

It really isn't as weird as it sounds.  I'm afraid that solar power still only makes sense in most of the country as a method of getting off-grid.  For survivalists, and those who think there is a real danger of complete social collapse, these work together real well.

I confess: the complete social collapse theory is looking more plausible today than it has in a very long time.  Unfortunately, our soil here isn't well suited to growing food, and I'm afraid social collapse would likely turn my wife and I vegetarian.  I'm not sure how long either of us would eat meat if we had to kill and slaughter Bambi's mother on a regular basis.

Finally! Clear Skies!

We had clear skies last night, so I rolled out Big Bertha.  I need to work on rebalancing the telescope and mount.  A German equatorial mount relies on a very nearly perfect balance so that a relatively small motor can make it track across the sky--and if you aren't properly balanced, you either have to clamp down the clutch locks, or it doesn't track well.

Nonetheless, I was able to get the optical system reasonably well collimated.  Still, I think the structure is still not quite stiff enough, and collimated in one position meant that it wasn't so well collimated in another position.  Unfortunately, stiffer would mean heavier, and it is already pushing the upper limits of the CI-700 mount.  This expensive beast is about what it needs to properly support it.

Short (f/4.5) focal ratio mirrors tend to not do so well at high power compared to longer focal length mirrors, and it does show.  There wasn't much point in going up above 160x on the Moon (although some of this was the burbling of the atmosphere).  Still, the resolution is pretty amazing, even at 160x.  (Telescope resolution improves inversely with diameter of the objective, so a 17.5" telescope at the same magnification will show at least twice the detail of an optically comparable 8" telescope.)

Saturn was a bit disappointing--and at least partly because of the collimation issues.  Where Big Bertha really shines is on faint, deep sky objects, where magnification is far less important than the amount of light it gathers.  I could not quite get the telescope pointed at M51, partly because of the odd angle required from my ladder.  The Ring Nebula, however, was quite satisfying.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jon Stewart on Obama's Resemblance to Frodo

Perhaps it's because I was so nauseated by the hypocrisy of the Democrats pretending to be so much more moral than Bush, but I find this Daily Show segment hilarious.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Respect My Authoritah
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

A lot of the things that Obama is doing--and Jon Stewart is upset about--actually make sense, in a realpolitik sort of way. But I'm sick of the liberal hypocrisy in attacking Bush for actions that have turned out to be necessary--and some of what Bush did is actually pretty mild by comparison, as Stewart points out.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Preparing For Classes Again

State & Local Government class starts Saturday. This is something of an interesting experience, since the last time I taught this class I came in part-way through the term as a replacement. This time I have 23 students signed.

Intrinsically, this isn't an exciting class, and teaching it in a 3 1/2 hour format one day a week aggravates that. But understanding how your government works (and why it sometimes doesn't work) is like knowing how to keep your car running: you darn well better understand it, or the consequences will be at least expensive, and at worst, lethal.

Gone Too Soon

I purchased a collection of The Carpenters greatest hits a couple of nights ago, and I've been listening to it on my way back and forth to work.  For those of you who are under 40, you may not have heard enough of their work to realize what a truly amazing voice Karen Carpenter had, before her death at 32 from complications of anorexia nervosa, the eating disorder.

Now, you may find the style of production a bit too lush for modern tastes. Doubtless, the songs The Carpenters did seem hopelessly romantic and innocent in an age both when seem to be gone forever.  (I confess: I was the sort of guy that could be reduced to tears listening to songs of romance--and I still can be.)  But listen to that voice!  And please, someone explain to me what makes her voice stand out so astonishingly!  There are many really excellent female singers--but there's something about that voice that grabs hold of me in a way that no other voice does.

UPDATE: And this song I had never heard until yesterday--and my, the video is more weird than I thought The Carpenters would ever do.

Storms, Planets, Satellites

We had a pretty impressive storm pass through last night.  While it blew out any hopes of doing any serious astrophotography, it was very atmospheric.  Here's a picture of one of the enormous clouds that was making north Boise County and south Valley County very exciting for a while.

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During a break in the clouds, we did manage to snap a picture of the Moon and Venus--but you can see from the motion that I didn't have the camera on anything motorized to track it.  This was a six second exposure.

It would not have tolerate any larger of a size.

And here's a picture that I took the night before just as the Moon was hitting the horizon.  You can see some Earthshine on it.

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Here's a picture I took at prime focus through Big Bertha--but I didn't have my battery charged up to operate the clock drive, so there's no detail on the crescent.

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I'm hoping to do better if the storms ever stop!

Gee, Do You Think?

A reader sent a tip to The Armed Citizen concerning a news story that did not explicitly call this self-defense--but you read the story, and tell me what you think.  From the June 15, 2010 Virginian-Pilot:

Police are investigating a triple shooting that left two men dead and wounded a teenager.

The shooting occurred late Monday night in the 400 block of Chapel St., according to Cpl. Paula Scheck, a spokeswoman for Hampton police. Investigators have learned that a resident of the home and two acquaintances were sitting inside a detached garage about 10:30 p.m. when three men wearing masks walked up with handguns.

Gunfire erupted and two of the masked men were shot. One of them suffered several gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead inside the garage, police said this morning. The other was pronounced dead about 12:30 a.m. at a hospital.
Three men wearing masks approach me carrying handguns, and my first assumption is not: "Fellas, did you get bum directions to the Lone Ranger Lookalike Competition?  And where's Tonto?"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Not So Clear Skies

I shouldn't have said anything about it.  A storm blew in, producing some lovely rainbows, but rolling out a telescope in between bursts of rain would be pretty silly.  Note the double rainbow.

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Corvette Check Engine Light

This blog posting is for the benefit of other Corvette owners who may be reading this in the future, and search for the phrase "Check Engine Light."  This dreaded light came on Friday afternoon on my way home--and the engine definitely felt a bit short of breath.  I've noticed this shortness of breath a couple of times in the last few weeks, but it was never very long.

Anyway, when I reached home, I searched for information on this, and several references indicated that the MAF (Mass Air Flow) sensors can cause this problem if the air filter is clogged or otherwise is preventing the engine from getting enough oxygen.  Since we live on a dirt road, I pulled the filter out--and the filter wasn't just dirty--several ounces of dirt fell out when I opened it up.

I bought a replacement filter on Saturday afternoon--but the Check Engine light stayed on.  Monday morning, on my way to All Things Automotive in Meridian, after about a mile and a half of driving--the light went out.  And guess what?  The engine now runs much more smoothly and feels like it wants to go zoom.  I suspect that it takes a while for the sensors to reset all the appropriate inputs.

Clear Skies

We've had about four clear nights since winter began, and yesterday was perfect!  Warm and clear all day, and in the evening, we had a couple day old New Moon on the western horizon, so I dragged Big Bertha 2.0 out of the garage.  The Moon was too low to get a decent picture, but it was still pretty amazing to look at, and Venus was in the gibbous phase--one of the proofs that Galileo's telescope showed that both Earth and Venus circle the Sun.  Tonight the Moon will be a little more illuminated, and a little higher in the sky.  I'm beginning to feel like an amateur astronomer again.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Stock Markets Usually Fall When Wars Start

I expect that we are going to see some real stock buying opportunities, frightfully soon.  From the June 12, 2010 Times of London:

Saudi Arabia has conducted tests to stand down its air defences to enable Israeli jets to make a bombing raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities, The Times can reveal.

In the week that the UN Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Tehran, defence sources in the Gulf say that Riyadh has agreed to allow Israel to use a narrow corridor of its airspace in the north of the country to shorten the distance for a bombing run on Iran.

To ensure the Israeli bombers pass unmolested, Riyadh has carried out tests to make certain its own jets are not scrambled and missile defence systems not activated. Once the Israelis are through, the kingdom’s air defences will return to full alert.

Theoretically, Israel and Saudi Arabia are enemies.  But the Saudis know Iran is the real threat, and operate accordingly.

I'm Glad That I Made These Expensive

Generally, the caster assemblies that I make for telescopes are in one of three categories: round ones that go inside the tripod leg, round ones that lock onto the outside of the tripod leg, and square ones that go inside the tripod leg.  One of the weird exceptions are the casters for the Vixen HAL-110 and HAL-130 tripods

These tripods have such oddly shaped legs that none of those strategies seemed to make sense, so I decided to make a replacement for the "foot" that would replace it.  The "feet" on these tripods are held in by four M4 screws, so I machine an insert that replaces the foot and its insert--and the standard screws go into holes that I tap in the insert.  It looks a bit odd once installed, but it works well.

The most annoying part of making this rather complex part has been my continuing learning experience with the vertical mill.  Previous postings have discussed the problem of not using the right type of end mill, and trying to work around insufficient capacity in the standard mill vise that comes with the Sherline vertical mill.

Today was one of those days where I put quite a few hours into getting a set made up for a customer--and I'm glad that I charge a bit of a premium for these, because of it.  Past difficulties have made me very wary of trying to use the Sherline mill vise for this--but today I managed to make everything work.  Today's lessons learned:

1. There is a socket head 10-32 screw that does the clamping on the Sherline mill vise.  As the socket head wears out, it gets harder and harder to really lock down the workpiece.  Fortunately, I keep a spare or two lying around.  It's time to replenish my spare collection.

2. I now use the roughing end mill for all operations on this part.  Yes, this one is only 3/8" diameter, so it takes two passes to cut the 0.50" slot through the insert that I make.  But it does not catch the workpiece and throw it, as happens with some of the two and four flute end mills.

3. I noticed that some people make what are called vise stops for the Sherline mill vise.  A vise stop is something that attaches to the mill vise and provides a place for a workpiece to stop (as you might guess from the name).  The advantage of this is that if you are making a number of pieces that are identical, you can get away with using an edge finder only on the first piece, which is located against the vise stop.  Then, your handwheels are correctly zeroed for all subsequent workpieces that go up against the vise stop. 

I haven't made a vise stop--but because all of these workpieces start out as a rectangular solid, and I machine them within a few thousandths of inch of each other, I can use the edge of the mill vise as a rudimentary mill stop.  I can rub my finger along the transition between the workpiece and the mill vise and feel a discrepancy of .005" pretty effectively.  For these parts, that's quite sufficient accuracy.

4. One of the slowest parts of machining is cutting away excess material.  These workpieces needed to be machined down to blocks that are 3.42" x 2.62" x 0.75".  I asked Interstate Plastics to cut me a piece that was 2 5/8" wide by 3/4" by 11".  The 2 5/8" actually came out about 2.68", so there was only about .060" to remove--and just squaring that dimension was .020" of the cutting.  The sheet they cut this from was actually 0.752", and was close enough that it was a waste of time trying to improve on that.

The first piece that I cut from the 11" long stock was 3.50"--and while .080" doesn't sound like much, trust me, my fly cutter really doesn't like taking off more than .010" at a time--maybe .020" if I move the fly cutter slowly across the end.  The closer to you get to the desired length, the better.  After I had trimmed that first one down to 3.42", I used it on the chop saw to set the length for the next two workpieces.  Both came out at about 3.45".  The act of squaring the ends took off most of the .030" that needed to go away.  In machining, time is money, and material that you throw away in the trash can is time and money wasted.

5. I have been making the 0.5" slot through the middle of this piece by using the bandsaw to make two 1 1/2" long cuts, then using a .4375" drill bill on the drill press to knock out holes between the cuts.  This means that I am only having to clean up the slot--not cut it from scratch, which is very slow.  The bandsaw, unfortunately, doesn't really cut acetal all that well, because it is so much harder than wood.  As a result, unless I go very slowly, the blade starts to bend to the side.  I have concluded that it is simpler and faster to just skip the bandsaw part of the operation.  I can use the .4375" drill bit to make several holes in a row, and the results are just about the same.