Sunday, June 29, 2008
My wife was a little nervous about me mentioning my part in the Heller decision to her cousins at the family reunion--one of them is an attorney, another is a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy. But one of the other cousins, when finding out we were now living in Idaho said, "Idaho: where good people carry guns." So I figured it was safe to talk about getting cited in Heller--and what an outpouring of gratitude from all! There are certainly many Californians who want restrictive gun control--but I sure didn't find any yesterday!
Friday, June 27, 2008
It was very nice of Professor Randy Barnett (with whom I have clashed more than once) to include me in this June 27, 2008 Wall Street Journal article:
Due to the political orthodoxy among most constitutional law professors, some of the most important and earliest of this scholarship was produced by nonacademics like Don Kates, Stephen Halbrook, David Kopel, Clayton Cramer and others. Believe it or not, Heller was a case of nearly first impression, uninhibited by any prior decisions misinterpreting the Second Amendment.Instapundit brought to my attention this amazing example of antigunners seeing the light, from June 27, 2008 WMAQ channel 5:
WILMETTE, Ill. -- Wilmette has suspended enforcement of its 19-year-old ordinance banning handgun possession in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that appears to invalidate such bans.What is amazing is that Heller only applied to the federal government--not to the state or local governments. But I have high confidence that we are going to be successful. If anything, the historical evidence is much richer to show that the 14th Amendment was intended to impose the Second Amendment onto the states--and boy, do I have a collection of stuff from the 14th Amendment period! I found so much of it while doing research for the Heller case that it was something of a nuisance, because it got in the way of finding stuff from the period that I needed.
Still, it is important not to get too overconfident. To quote Han Solo in Star Wars: "Don't get cocky, kid!"
And accurately, too! See June 27, 2008 Idaho Statesman:
But no one was more pleased than Horseshoe Bend resident Clayton E. Cramer, a software engineer who has written three books on gun history.
Cramer was thrilled to learn that a paper he co-authored - "What Did 'Bear Arms' Mean in the Second Amendment?" - was cited in Justice Antonin Scalia's 64-page majority opinion. (Check out page 15).
"It's a wonderful thing. I wrote my second book with a day like this in mind," said Cramer, who worked with Academics for the Second Amendment attorneys on their friend-of-the-court brief supporting Dick Heller, a D.C. security guard who wanted to keep a handgun in his home for protection.
"I wanted to put together information to provide support to the Supreme Court to make a decision like this."
The title of Cramer's second book is "For the Defense of Themselves and the State." It is a history of how the courts have interpreted the right to keep and bear arms.
Cramer expects the ruling will lead to gun ban challenges in other cities, such as Chicago and Morton Grove, Ill. Restrictive licensing statutes may be targeted as well.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
1. The decision is narrow; Scalia was careful not to go much beyond the actual question of this case: did D.C.'s ban on handgun ownership at home exceed the Second Amendment? That's why he made a point of saying that any standard of review would find that this law was unconstitutional.
2. By focusing on the question of handguns (which is what the D.C. law banned), Scalia avoided the question of what sort of arms are protected. This is probably wise, since there are a number of categories of guns that are clearly protected under any revolutionary theory of the Second Amendment, but which would cause even some gun owners to start making exceptions (assault weapons and machine guns, for example).
3. The dissents are astonishingly bad--rather like Saul Cornell and Nathan Kozuskanich had written them. They pick and choose facts that they want, ignoring what doesn't fit their model. You would never know from reading the dissents that overwhelmingly, the courts in the 19th century recognized the Second Amendment as protecting an individual right to arms. Arms and the Law points to some embarrassingly gross factual errors in Stevens' dissent.
4. The discussion of the 14th Amendment is clearly an encouragement for us to file a suit challenging a state or local law. You should have heard Chicago Mayor Daley this afternoon--he sounded like he was about to pop a gasket over this. How horrifying: they might have to allow law-abiding Chicagoans to defend themselves!
5. Because our side didn't challenge the constitutionality of licensing or registration--only that such can't be arbitrary or restrictive--I expect that D.C. will create some system of licensing of handguns. Okay, I'm not happy about that, but as long as it is comparable to a driver's license in how hard it is to get, that's an improvement--and in time, the absurdity of this will become apparent to every person of normal intelligence. In even more time, it will even become apparent to the subnormals that make up D.C. government.
Justice Scalia wrote the decision in Heller. It was a 5-4 decision, but they ruled:
1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right, not tied to or limited to militia duty.
2. It protects handguns and other weapons "in common use."
I will be reading through the decision in more detail over the next few hours, and updating this as I go along.
UPDATE: With respect to the meaning of "bear arms," footnotes 7 and 9 use a number of items that appear in the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy paper by Joe Olson and myself that, to my knowledge, no one else had found.
At p. 15, they cite our paper! Yahoo!
UPDATE 2: On p. 38 Scalia cites Johnson v. Tompkins (CC Pa. 1833), a case that, to my knowledge, our paper first brought into the RKBA discussion.
On pp. 43-44 Scalia discusses the Second Amendment and its connection to passage of the 14th Amendment!
On pp. 59-60, they use the evidence concerning the fire protection purpose of the 1783 Massachusetts statute concerning loaded firearms.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
From the June 25, 2008 Canadian Financial Post:
Hmmm. Here's a source of oil right next door, where the money won't be funding dictators, religious fanatics, or people that like to blow themselves up--and Obama wants to shut it off. And you were saying that the nasty rumors about Obama being a closet Muslim are just vicious lies? What, exactly, would you expect a closet Muslim to do, if not for this guarantee that we will be even more dependent on oil from places where they have their turbans wound too tight?
Big-city U. S. mayors and presidential hopeful Barack Obama, who joined the parade this week of ill-informed, U. S. anti-oil sands policies, should be careful what they wish for.
While the aim is undoubtedly to pander to the electorate in an election year charged with oil and climate-change debate, what they are stoking is an increasingly angry Canadian energy industry that is seriously looking at non-U. S. markets for its oil.
Here's what Rick George, chief executive of Suncor Energy Inc., Canada's largest single oil sands producer, said this week, reflecting rising frustration with the wave of American anti-oil sands policies:
"We are down to very limited amounts of spare capacity," he said. "Mexico is in very steep decline. The North Sea is in decline. Venezuela is likely to slip from here. There are problems in Nigeria, Russia. The world will absorb this oil one way or the other. If the U. S. doesn't take it, then we will develop other markets."
Borrowing heavily from the rhetoric of the environmental movement, right down to using the pejorative "tar sands" to describe Canada's reserves, mayors from the United States' largest cities adopted a resolution at a meeting in Miami on Monday singling out Western Canada's oil-sands sector as part of a crackdown on fuels that cause global warming.
Yesterday, Mr. Obama vowed to break America's addiction to "dirty, dwindling and dangerously expensive" oil if elected U. S. president -- and he said one of his first targets may well be imports from Canada's oil sands. A senior advisor to Obama's campaign said it's an "open question" whether Alberta's oil sands fit with Obama's vision for shifting the U. S. dramatically away from carbon-intensive fuels.
Let's try this, Barack Hussein Obama: Pakistan is an ally (not a very strong one, I admit). We don't invade allies. Iran is our enemy--and has been in a state of undeclared war with us since 1979. We don't roll over and engage in submissive urination for an enemy. Canada is our ally--the closest ally that we have. We don't go out of way to insult an ally.
Foreign policy is complex--but Obama seems to be failing even the kindergarten level of it.
My respect for Justice Kennedy--which has never been real high--continues to decline. Regular readers will know that I am a mild opponent of the death penalty. It lacks an Undo button, and that's a very serious deficiency. Advocates of social justice (at least in the Soviet, Chinese, and National Socialist sections) have a long history of indiscriminately using the death penalty against their political opponents.
Still, the death penalty is clearly Constitutional. The Constitution explicitly makes provision for it. That the Constitution provides for it--and at the same time, prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment," shows that the Framers didn't have a problem with the death penalty.
There was a bit of a movement away from the death penalty at the time, because of the influence of Cesare Beccaria and his book On Crimes and Punishments (1764). (Here's a 1775 translation into English erroneously attributed to Voltaire.) English law had something like 168 capital crimes when we declared independence. The list of crimes that were capital in Pennsylvania (one of the more liberal colonies because of the Quaker influence) before the Revolution is quite extraordinary, including burglary, rape, sodomy, bestiality, malicious maiming, and arson. This wasn't just theoretically the punishment. I've read many newspaper accounts of Pennsylvania hanging people for burglary before the Revolution. After the Revolution, Pennsylvania reduced the number of capital crimes substantially: some sources say to four crimes, others indicate to two (treason and murder), this book claims only murder was capital after 1794. Delaware had fourteen capital crimes.
Still, capital punishment was accepted as a necessary part of the criminal justice system. It enjoys widespread support in America today--and from what I have read, it enjoys widespread support in Europe as well. (The European elites are even less tolerant of majority will than our elites.) And it is abundantly clear that not just treason and murder were legitimate reasons for capital punishment--so was rape.
In Furman v. Georgia (1972), the Supreme Court decided that capital punishment was excessive punishment for rape of an adult victim. I've known a lot of rape victims (being from California); as much as capital punishment runs a cold chill down my spine, to call it "excessive punishment" just shows how liberal the Court was in 1972, completely and utterly unconcerned about the trauma that rape inflicts.
Because Furman was quite explicit that rape of an adult could not be punished with death, a few states passed laws that made rape of a child a capital crime. Louisiana made rape of a child under twelve years of age into a capital crime. In this particular case, the accused was convicted of brutally raping his eight year old stepdaughter. How brutal? He called up a cleaning service to help clean up the blood splattered everywhere. The language that he used when requesting their help, even if it were not evidence that he was the rapist, suggests that insensitivity at a level that I find incomprehensible.
Professor Kerr over at Volokh Conspiracy has a pretty good discussion of what's wrong with the majority opinion. There is a pragmatic argument that one could make for why child rape shouldn't be a capital crime: that it creates an incentive for the rapist to murder the victim. I've mentioned my concern about capital punishment in general. But the reasoning that Justice Kennedy uses to justify why the death penalty is unconstitutional for the rape of a child is utterly specious.
UPDATE: A commenter over here points out the inconsistency between: "The death penalty doesn't deter criminals because they don't think that far ahead" and "If we make it a capital offense, criminals will decide to murder their victims to eliminate a witness." Which is it? Are child rapists so present oriented that they can't be deterred by the prospect of death, or will they kill their victim because they can reason far enough ahead to see the risk of leaving a witness? You can't have it both ways.
UPDATE 2: It struck me that yet another reason why liberals may want to keep the death penalty off the table for child rape is the danger that too much of the elite of American society might be at risk. For example, Charles Rust-Tierney, past president of the ACLU of Virginia, who pled guilty to purchasing videos of little girls being raped last year. Or CBS producer Daniel Barron, arrested last year after attempting to swap football game tickets for the use of a man's 11 year old daughter. "I will be very gentle with her," he promised.
One of the events that ended up putting the Taliban in charge of Afghanistan many years ago was that two warlords, in the civil war after the Soviets withdrew, got into a rather public fight about two twin boys who had been taken captive. What were they fighting about? Who got the right to rape them. The Taliban--and especially Mullah Omar--ended up in power because this level of immorality was unacceptable to the population. Boy, did the Afghanis regret that, a few years later!
One of the factors that helped to put the Nazis in power was that much of the German population was repulsed by the degraded morality that had become widespread in places like Berlin in the Weimar Republic. Of course, behind the facade of decency, the Nazis were pretty morally depraved. Ernst Roehm, the head of the Sturmabteilung, and most of the top leadership, were homosexual. Goering collected obscene art (including some really bizarre furniture). Genocide also isn't quite what traditionalist Germans expected when they voted National Socialist.
In the 1920s, the KKK rode to enormous influence in many parts of the U.S. by focusing on traditional morality, as distinguished from the increasingly "sophisticated" sorts in big cities. A fair number of Americans bought into the KKK's program at least partly in reaction to what was going on in places like Chicago and New York City. As it turned out, the leadership of the 1920s KKK was personally immoral. The secretary of one of them committed suicide after her boss raped and mutilated her. When this became public knowledge, it severely impaired the moral authority of the movement, and played a major part in demolishing the Klan.
Much of the elite of this country is utterly contemptuous of traditional morality, not just with respect to sexuality, but concerning personal honesty, financial improprieties, etc. Traditional Christianity in America doesn't have any charismatic leaders that could successfully rise against the depravity that is now in charge. That's both unfortunate and fortunate. The unfortunate part is that we aren't likely to stop what is going on anytime soon. The fortunate part is that the charismatic leaders tend to be like the examples above, who lead the masses to action, but are personally immoral monsters.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
With one exception. We've noticed a few small snakes around the house--and one actually inside it last night. Our cat was fascinated by the snake it found in the family room, but seems to have the good sense to merely stare at it--not attack it.
This afternoon, my wife was around the east end of the house, on the concrete, and she saw another small snake with a distinctive pattern--and sure enough, tiny little rattles at the end! We used a snow shovel with a long handle to pick it up and move it well away from the house.
Professor Volokh engages in "wild speculation" about the significance of some remarks in Justice Scalia's dissent in Indiana v. Edwards, handed down a few days ago, and what it may mean about the forthcoming Heller decision.
Indiana v. Edwards is itself an interesting decision (at least to me), because of how it shows the weaknesses of the judicial process and the changing situation with respect to mental illness between 1791 (when the Bill of Rights was ratified) and today.
The case involves a man who was charged with attempted murder and several other serious crimes after he was stopped trying to shoplift some shoes. Edwards is paranoid schizophrenic, and after considerable back and forth, Indiana courts decided that while he was mentally ill, he was at least well enough to stand trial. Edwards, however, decided that he wanted to defend himself, instead of using a public defender. Indiana law apparently did not allow that, because Edwards, being mentally ill, was regarded as competent to stand trial, but not to defend himself.
The majority ended up ruling in favor of Indiana, requiring him to use an attorney. The dissent, by Justices Scalia and Thomas, argues that the Indiana law violates Edwards' right to defend himself, apparently because of the Sixth Amendment's guarantee "to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence," the Fourteenth Amendment's imposition of that onto the states, and subsequent decisions by the federal courts that one may, with a few limited exceptions, chose to defend oneself.
This is a very interesting and troubling decision. From a pure original intent standpoint, Scalia and Thomas may well be right about this. From my reading, it seems that relatively few persons who were seriously mentally ill went to trial in 1791. My understanding is that for many crimes, people regularly defended themselves. Did the courts allow these mentally ill defendants to represent themselves? I really don't know. This would be an interesting historical question to research. I can't see that either side of this dispute actually did so. Scalia's argument is based on existing precedent, which grants considerable freedom to defendants to represent themselves. (And Scalia is clear that representing yourself--even if you aren't mentally ill--is usually a bad decision.)
The majority opinion might well be wrong, from an original intent standpoint. But it is probably also a very, very bad idea for states to allow mentally ill defendants to represent themselves, not only for the potential for a miscarriage of justice, but because a screwed up trial opens up opportunities for appeal.
I would suggest that what we may be seeing here is another consequence of the dramatic transformation of the legal status of the mentally ill since the 1960s. Until that point, states regularly intervened under the doctrine of parens patriae (the government is effectively "father of the people") to care for those unable to care for themselves. In 1791--or even 1941--situations like this came up far less often, simply because so many of the mentally ill were institutionalized, and unable to commit crimes such as Edwards is charged with, or were institutionalized instead of proceeding to trial.
Crime, Guns, and Videotape points out that the Brinks Home Security ads are a little misleading because of how long it takes for Brinks to get through to the police--and has a very funny television ad that shows an alternative solution.
You think Los Angeles is bad? Someone gave me a pointer to Surviving in Argentina, a blog that describes current survival problems there. This account of a very organized criminal kidnapping attempt makes me glad that I don't live there.
Monday, June 23, 2008
I've mentioned before the threat to put on trial for "war crimes" those who denied that global warming was a threat, or was actually happening, or was entirely man-made. Now, an employee of the federal government is saying to start those trials now. From the June 23, 2008 Guardian:
James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.Environmentalism is a form of totalitarianism. It seeks to criminalize free speech about important issues of public policy. It seeks to punish people for something that was not a crime when they did it, and which is still not a crime. And remind me: why does a guy who is proposing trying people for something that is not just legal, but protected by the First Amendment still have a job?
Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking speech (pdf) to the US Congress - in which he was among the first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming - to argue that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the "perfect storm" of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable.
Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.
In an interview with the Guardian he said: "When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that's a crime."
About a month ago, I explained why if the government is going to do something about energy, it should work on encouraging innovation with a prize, not with subsidies for ongoing production. I guess Senator McCain has been listening to me. (Yeah, right.) From June 23, 2008 AP:
Okay, I'm not happy about the $5,000 tax credits. But the $300 million prize for a better battery sounds like something that could really motivate the venture capitalists to pony up some money for research.
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Monday that the search for alternatives to the country's dependence on foreign oil is so urgent that he's willing to throw money at it.
The Arizona senator proposed a $300 million prize for whoever can develop a better automobile battery, and $5,000 tax credits for consumers who buy new zero-emission vehicles. The latest proposal is in addition to his support for overturning the federal ban on offshore oil drilling.
"In the quest for alternatives to oil, our government has thrown around enough money subsidizing special interests and excusing failure. From now on, we will encourage heroic efforts in engineering, and we will reward the greatest success," McCain said in a speech at Fresno State University.
I mentioned that the optics seem to be behaving themselves. A friend came over for dinner last night, and we rolled Big Bertha 2.0 out. Unfortunately, Saturn was low in the west, and Jupiter was low in the east, so turbulence impaired image quality pretty seriously. But for objects closer to the zenith, the results were awesome!
I was able to find M13 (the globular cluster in Hercules) without too much of a struggle--and at 111x, it didn't look radically different from this image. It has been often compared to a loose collection of tiny diamonds on black velvet; but remember that this is actually about 100,000 stars, 20,000 light years away.
M57, the Ring Nebula, was not quite as large as this at 111x, but again, it wasn't dramatically worse. And it actually had some color through Big Bertha. (The larger the mirror, the more light there is, and the more light means the more opportunity for the cones of your eye to respond--which is why you see color. Rods show black and white; cones show color.)
I still have to resolve some balance problems to get the clock drive to keep everything moving correctly. I am not quite balanced, so if I turn the balance clamps tight enough to prevent the scope from moving on its own, they are too tight for the clock drive to move everything. But I should get that resolved in the next few days, and be able to start do astrophotography of these deep sky wonders.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
This AP report is astonishingly negative:
WASHINGTON (AP) - Is everything spinning out of control? Midwestern levees are bursting. Polar bears are adrift. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Home values are abysmal. Air fares, college tuition and health care border on unaffordable. Wars without end rage in Iraq, Afghanistan and against terrorism.And it really doesn't get any better.
Horatio Alger, twist in your grave.
The can-do, bootstrap approach embedded in the American psyche is under assault. Eroding it is a dour powerlessness that is chipping away at the country's sturdy conviction that destiny can be commanded with sheer courage and perseverance.
The sense of helplessness is even reflected in this year's presidential election. Each contender offers a sense of order—and hope. Republican John McCain promises an experienced hand in a frightening time. Democrat Barack Obama promises bright and shiny change, and his large crowds believe his exhortation, "Yes, we can."
Even so, a battered public seems discouraged by the onslaught of dispiriting things. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll says a barrel-scraping 17 percent of people surveyed believe the country is moving in the right direction. That is the lowest reading since the survey began in 2003.
An ABC News-Washington Post survey put that figure at 14 percent, tying the low in more than three decades of taking soundings on the national mood.
"It is pretty scary," said Charles Truxal, 64, a retired corporate manager in Rochester, Minn. "People are thinking things are going to get better, and they haven't been. And then you go hide in your basement because tornadoes are coming through. If you think about things, you have very little power to make it change."
Look, we have doom and gloom over unemployment figures that, for most my lifetime, would have been cause for celebration.
Gasoline prices are bad--but Friday afternoon, I stopped at a gas station to buy a Coke, and I was glad that I wasn't buying gas--because there were long lines of SUVs, motor homes, and, best of all, motor homes towing power boats, filling up. Gasoline is above $4 per gallon and it isn't stopping completely discretionary recreational purchases. This is hardly a sign that Americans are suffering--or at least, there are plenty that aren't.
Look, even the one part of the last few years which has definitely been very bad--Iraq--is beginning to turn around--as even the New York Times admits in this June 21, 2008 article:
BAGHDAD — What’s going right? And can it last?Are these two reporters really this discouraged? Or are they just trying to get everyone depressed so that they will vote for Obamessiah?
Violence in all of Iraq is the lowest since March 2004. The two largest cities, Baghdad and Basra, are calmer than they have been for years. The third largest, Mosul, is in the midst of a major security operation. On Thursday, Iraqi forces swept unopposed through the southern city of Amara, which has been controlled by Shiite militias. There is a sense that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government has more political traction than any of its predecessors.
For Hatem al-Bachary, a Basra businessman, the turnabout has been “a miracle,” the first tentative signs of a normal life.
“I don’t think the militias have disappeared, and maybe there are sleeper cells which will try to revive themselves again,” he said. “But the first time they try to come back they will have to show themselves, and the government, army and police are doing very well.”
While the increase in American troops and their support behind the scenes in the recent operations has helped tamp down the violence, there are signs that both the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi government are making strides. There are simply more Iraqi troops for the government to deploy, partly because fewer are needed to fight the Sunni insurgents, who have defected to the Sunni Awakening movement. They are paid to keep the peace.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Imagine if the Republican nominee for President:
1. Attended a church for twenty years whose pastor preached that the U.S. government was involved a massive conspiracy to kill its own citizens because it hated them so much (think of someone like Rev. Fred Phelps);
2. Was good friends with, and had sizable personal and political financial entanglements with a convicted felon and claimed to be surprised by the conviction;
3. Went to someone for political support who had set off bombs back in the 1960s and was unrepentant about it (think of some of the Klansmen that blew up churches back then);
4. Suddenly announced that he was going to skip public financing of his campaign because he had so much money compared to his opponent;
5. Had served not even one term in the U.S. Senate--and now proposed to be President.
Would anyone take this guy seriously? As either a Republican or a Democrat? If Obama wasn't black, would anyone regard this guy as a serious candidate?
There was a time when a black man who gave a good speech would often be called "articulate"--and there were blacks who winced at this, because the implication was a black man who would speak clearly and convincingly was somehow an exception. To use the expression of the time, such a man was "a credit to his race." Yet the only aspects that makes Barack Obama stand out right now are that he is half-black, and he gives very polished speeches that say very little. Think of Senator John Edwards--who didn't have the baggage of corruption and radical alliances, and comparable experience. And you will notice how little headway Edwards made with similar ambitions, and GQ looks.
I wish that I could say that Senator McCain was an impressive alternative. He really isn't. McCain acknowledges that he knows nothing about economics; some of his gasoline proposals of late suggest that “knows nothing” may be too charitable a description of his understanding of this subject. Still, McCain's experience in Congress, and in intelligence and foreign policy matters, makes him look like a superstar compared to Obama.
Friday, June 20, 2008
There are two reports here about oil. One is a warning from Cybercast News Service that something call the Bakken formation isn't the 400 billion barrel oil field that has been passed around; the other gives a more realistic estimate:
(CNSNews.com) - Reports circulating on the Internet tell of an oil field spanning parts of western North Dakota and eastern Montana where 400 billion barrels of oil supposedly are just waiting to be tapped. However, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) tells Cybercast News Service that those huge estimates are "a myth."The second is the April 2008 report from the USGS mentioned above:
A USGS report issued in April estimates that there are between 3 billion to 4.3 billion barrels of oil in what is referred to as "the Bakken Formation" -- well below the 400 billion barrels discussed on the Web, but up from the previous estimate of 151 million barrels made in 1995.
Richard Pollastro, Bakken Formation task leader at the USGS, said the myth stems from a 1999 draft report -- never published -- by a now-deceased USGS employee, Leigh Price. Price estimated that the Bakken Formation holds up to 400 billion barrels of oil. To put that in perspective, Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, has about 260 billion barrels of known oil reserves.
Price, however, died in 2000, before his study could be peer-reviewed and published, and the Bakken Formation became the fool's gold of the oil industry.
Reston, VA - North Dakota and Montana have an estimated 3.0 to 4.3 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil in an area known as the Bakken Formation.Unlike the oil shale deposits and offshore tracts that the Democrats have prevented from being leased, there doesn't seem to be anything preventing the Bakken field from being exploited. I blogged back in 2005 about how rising oil prices have caused a lot of what are called "stripper wells" (wells that produce only a few barrels a day) to be drilled in places like Kentucky. I would expect that at current oil prices, anyone with access to the Bakken field, and the equipment to drill for oil, is probably doing so.
A U.S. Geological Survey assessment, released April 10, shows a 25-fold increase in the amount of oil that can be recovered compared to the agency's 1995 estimate of 151 million barrels of oil.
Technically recoverable oil resources are those producible using currently available technology and industry practices. USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources.
New geologic models applied to the Bakken Formation, advances in drilling and production technologies, and recent oil discoveries have resulted in these substantially larger technically recoverable oil volumes. About 105 million barrels of oil were produced from the Bakken Formation by the end of 2007.
The USGS Bakken study was undertaken as part of a nationwide project assessing domestic petroleum basins using standardized methodology and protocol as required by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 2000.
The Bakken Formation estimate is larger than all other current USGS oil assessments of the lower 48 states and is the largest "continuous" oil accumulation ever assessed by the USGS. A "continuous" oil accumulation means that the oil resource is dispersed throughout a geologic formation rather than existing as discrete, localized occurrences. The next largest "continuous" oil accumulation in the U.S. is in the Austin Chalk of Texas and Louisiana, with an undiscovered estimate of 1.0 billions of barrels of technically recoverable oil.
"It is clear that the Bakken formation contains a significant amount of oil - the question is how much of that oil is recoverable using today's technology?" said Senator Byron Dorgan, of North Dakota. "To get an answer to this important question, I requested that the U.S. Geological Survey complete this study, which will provide an up-to-date estimate on the amount of technically recoverable oil resources in the Bakken Shale formation."
The USGS estimate of 3.0 to 4.3 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil has a mean value of 3.65 billion barrels. Scientists conducted detailed studies in stratigraphy and structural geology and the modeling of petroleum geochemistry. They also combined their findings with historical exploration and production analyses to determine the undiscovered, technically recoverable oil estimates.
Right Wing Techno Pagan quotes extensively from a recent article in The New Scientist that acknowledges what I have maintained for some time--that there are some serious questions with evolution that Intelligent Design advocates raise, and which are legitimate questions--even for evolutionists. Unfortunately, the original article has now apparently gone behind some for pay firewall, but the quotes are still worth reading--especially if you are one of those who thinks the Intelligent Design critique is just a sham or a scam:
First, I have to agree with the ID crowd that there are some very big (and frankly exciting) questions that should keep evolutionists humble. While there is important work going on in the area of biogenesis, for instance, I think it's fair to say that science is still in the dark about this fundamental question. It's hard to draw conclusions about the significance of what we don't know. Still, I think it is disingenuous to argue that the origin of life is irrelevant to evolution. It is no less relevant than the Big Bang is to physics or cosmology. Evolution should be able to explain, in theory at least, all the way back to the very first organism that could replicate itself through biological or chemical processes. And to understand that organism fully, we would simply have to know what came before it. And right now we are nowhere close. I believe a material explanation will be found, but that confidence comes from my faith that science is up to the task of explaining, in purely material or naturalistic terms, the whole history of life. My faith is well founded, but it is still faith.These are the reasons that I argue that even those who believe that all of life can be explained through evolutionary thought would be wise to listen to the Intelligent Design critique. There are aspects of evolutionary biology that do not yet fully and adequately explain all the details. Those scientists that raise some of these questions are helping to keep evolutionary biology honest and self-critical--even they turn out wrong in the end. Too much self-congratulation and unwillingness to hear other questions is always a mistake.
Second, IDers also argue that the cell is far more complex than Darwin could have imagined 149 years ago when he published On the Origin of Species. There is much more explaining to do than those who came before us could have predicted. Sure, we also know a lot more about natural selection and evolution, including the horizontal transfer of portions of genomes from one species to another. But scientists still have much to learn about the process of evolution if they are to fully explain the phenomenon. Again, I have faith that science will complete that picture, but I suspect there will be some big surprises. Will one of them be that an intelligent being designed life? I doubt it. Even if someone found compelling evidence for a designer, for us materialists, it would just push the ultimate question down the road a bit. If a Smart One designed life, what is the material explanation for its existence?
I spent some time today checking collimation, and I am finally happy with the results. There is still a little bit of miscollimation as I move the telescope from horizontal to vertical, but it isn't ferocious. If I collimate with the telescope at about a 30 degree angle, moving it to vertical produces very little change, and horizontal isn't really one of the more useful directions for an astronomical telescope. If I could identify the source of the bending, it might be worth trying to get this a bit better--but with the inherent limitations of this turned edge mirror, it may be polishing a cinder.
I also experimented with the light shroud. The purpose of a light shroud is to keep straight light from hitting either the main mirror or the diagonal mirror. Under night conditions, there is usually almost no stray light anyway; light that hits the main mirror from any direction from straight on will be reflected off to the side, anyway. The place where a light shroud is of greatest value is when you are using the telescope at twilight, and there is still a bit of skyglow.
Well, I had the telescope in the garage at lunchtime, with the north facing door open. I was using the telescope to examine hillsides several miles away. I couldn't see that the light shroud made any difference--and this is daytime! I won't bother with a light shroud.
I mentioned yesterday a newspaper report in the Telegraph in which Barack Hussein Obama's likely national security adviser was quoted in a way that made him sound unserious. I have since updated that blog posting with a link a transcript of what Danzig actually said. It is a serious speech that I would say that the Telegraph report mischaracterized.
What mystifies me is why someone as serious as Danzig would have any connection with Obama, who has worked aggressively to sound like a member of the Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party--someone that is on the edge of the group hug approach to foreign policy, and whose knowledge of history is clearly deficient.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
This was the first time in more than two years, because I'm not in the building at work most of the time that they are having a blood drive. But I was in today, and I went to do my duty. Maybe it is a coincidence, but I can't recall being so exhausted before from doing so.
The vampire told me that it would take about 3500 calories out of me. Wow, did I feel it. I came home and went to sleep for two hours--something that I almost never do.
I have a lot of things I was planning to do this evening, including write my monthly Shotgun News article. An evening lost.
Well, for something, I'm sure. But national security? I couldn't make this one up--because it is so utterly silly that it shows either a lack of seriousness, or a lack of intelligence in how it will be perceived. From the June 17, 2008 Telegraph:
Richard Danzig, who served as Navy Secretary under President Clinton and is tipped to become National Security Adviser in an Obama White House, told a major foreign policy conference in Washington that the future of US strategy in the war on terrorism should follow a lesson from the pages of Winnie the Pooh, which can be shortened to: if it is causing you too much pain, try something else.I believe that there was a real important and serious point that Danzig was trying to make, but talk about failing to understand the importance of the subject with the choice of who to quote! As Michelle Malkin points out:
Mr Danzig told the Centre for New American Security: “Winnie the Pooh seems to me to be a fundamental text on national security.”
Mr Danzig spelt out the need to change by reading a paragraph from chapter one of the children’s classic, which says: “Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump on the back of his head behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming down stairs. But sometimes he thinks there really is another way if only he could stop bumping a minute and think about it.”
Michelle Obama proudly told the women on The View yesterday that “kids are drawn to Barack.” With a platform of cartoon diplomacy stuck in a world of make-believe, Obama’s got the preschool-level voting bloc all locked up. Woo-hoo. Fist bumps!UPDATE: Here's the transcript of what Dr. Danzig actually said. It is a thoughtful and intelligent discussion of approaches to national security. I can't imagine what connection this guy could have to Obama and the Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party.
I strikes me that I should get one of these for access to the eyepiece on the telescope. A conventional step ladder has no rails, and it is easy for someone (not myself, of course!) to become disoriented in the dark and fall sideway or forward into the telescope. You can see an example of what these ladders look like here.
They are just expensive enough that I find myself wondering where I might be able to find one used. I suspect that after 15 years of use, these are still fully functional, but sufficiently beat and ugly that I might get a deal on one--if I knew where.
Look, there's a lot of claims out there about global warming that are at least vaguely, slightly, plausibly connected. But this is fast moving into the realm of "She turned me into a newt!" in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This June 18, 2008 CBS News story claims:
(AP) New research compiled by Australian scientist Dr. Tom Chalko shows that global seismic activity on Earth is now five times more energetic than it was just 20 years ago.Come on. We're talking about a temperature so far measured in fractions of a degree--and this guy is claiming that this substantially increased earthquakes?
The research proves that destructive ability of earthquakes on Earth increases alarmingly fast and that this trend is set to continue, unless the problem of "global warming" is comprehensively and urgently addressed.
The analysis of more than 386,000 earthquakes between 1973 and 2007 recorded on the US Geological Survey database proved that the global annual energy of earthquakes on Earth began increasing very fast since 1990.
Dr. Chalko said that global seismic activity was increasing faster than any other global warming indicator on Earth and that this increase is extremely alarming.
UPDATE: Apparently CBS came it its senses and pulled the story. Here's one of several refutations. And another.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I think I mentioned that the bottom end of the scope was too low to reach the zenith. Since I had to struggle mightily to get this piece of 6" OD tube bored to fit the CI-700 mount head into it, I was not happy about the prospect of doing this again. But it turned out that I had a 12" Losmandy extension sitting around that fit in the middle just fine.
Click to enlarge
Okay, I was 2" too low before; now I'm 10" higher than I need to be. At least it clears the ground board!
A couple of additional annoyances:
1. Before, I was only occasionally in awkward positions. Now, I am a little reluctant to stand on the stepstool required to get into some positions (such as the Ring Nebula this evening). This is a downside of an equatorially mounted Newtonian reflector this massively large. (And not the only downside.) The only real alternative is a rotating tube, either in full, or at the eyepiece end. This may be more work than it is worth.
2. We are coming up on the summer solstice in a few nights--and we are so far north that you still don't have much in the way of stars out until 10:30 PM.
3. There is still some sort of problem with not having quite enough movement in the mirror cell to get perfectly collimated. It's not bad, but it's not perfect, either.
4. Something is still flexing a bit as I move the scope across the sky. I wondered if the diagonal spider (the part in the upper assembly that holds the diagonal mirror in place) was too flexible, and this was causing my problems. So I machined an adapter that let me put my laser collimator tool into the diagonal assembly, and then watch the laser beam's position on the main mirror as I moved the scope around. Dead solid--no motion. So perhaps the problem is flex in the main mirror cell.
Want to guess where? Not where the turbans are wound too tight. Not in ANWR. Not off the coast. From the Bureau of Land Management's recent press release about oil shale deposits in the American West:
The United States holds significant oil shale resources underlying a total area of 16,000 square miles. This represents the largest known concentration of oil shale in the world and holds an estimated 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil – enough to meet U.S. demand for oil at current levels for 110 years. More than 70 percent of American oil shale is on Federal land, primarily in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.How much is 800 billion barrels of oil? According to this posting at National Review Online, three times the Saudi proven oil reserves. And unfortunately, the Democrats, according to President Bush, have prevented any of these oil shale deposits on federal lands from being leased.
I'm not expecting the oil shale deposits to make enough of a difference for this summer's vacation. But if we don't get started, we're not going to get there.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the left's dominance over popular culture is that most people just assume that Republicans are the party of Big Business, while Democrats represent the little guys. This has never been the case (at least in such black and white terms), and now we see why the Democrats have been so concerned about bailing out those big mortgage lenders that got in over their heads. From the June 18, 2008 New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut said Tuesday that he was aware that Countrywide Financial Corporation had assigned him to a V.I.P. program in 2003 when he refinanced mortgages on his homes in Connecticut and Washington but that he and his wife “assumed” that “it was more of a courtesy thing.”Just in case you think that perhaps lots of people--not just Democratic senators--received special treatment:
Mr. Dodd insisted that they did not get favorable pricing.
As the Senate prepared to take up legislation intended to rescue homeowners at the brink of foreclosure, Mr. Dodd, a Democrat and chairman of the banking committee, defended himself against suggestions that he had received preferential treatment from Countrywide. At a tense news conference, he flatly denied seeking or receiving any discount from the lender.
But his concession that he never inquired or even wondered whether his special status with Countrywide might be related to his position as a senator prompted a barrage of new questions about the terms of his mortgages and about exactly what he knew and when he knew it.
“Somebody told you you were in a V.I.P. program,” a reporter said, “And you didn’t think you were getting ... ”
Mr. Dodd cut off the reporter and finished the question himself. “A special deal on a loan?” the senator asked. “No.”
Another Democrat, Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, has admitted receiving preferential treatment from Countrywide on mortgages for a vacation house in Bethany Beach, Del., and an apartment building in Bismarck, N.D., but he said he was unaware of favoritism until a report last week on Portfolio.com questioned the terms of the loan.
Mr. Conrad announced that he had made a donation of $10,700 to Habitat for Humanity — the amount he saved by getting a one-point discount on fees related to a $1.07 million loan for the beach house.
Mr. Conrad had said he would refinance the apartment building loan and on Tuesday said the loan had been paid off.
Mr. Dodd said he had no intention of taking similar steps. “Well, I don’t know we did anything wrong here,” he said. “I negotiated a mortgage at a prevailing rate, a competitive rate. If anyone had said to me, ‘We’re giving you some special treatment here,’ I would have rejected it. So no, I don’t feel at this point that I have any obligation. I did what I was supposed to do. I did what millions of other people did.”
Portfolio.com cited internal Countrywide e-mail messages indicating that the lender had reduced the interest rate on both of Mr. Dodd’s loans by half a percentage point, a discount that potentially could save him tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loans.
In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Conrad said that when he bought his beach house in 2002, he was determined not to be treated unfairly as he believed he had been while getting a loan for a different property years earlier.Oh yeah, when I need a house mortgage, I talk to the CEO of one of America's largest lenders. Don't you?
He said he called a close friend, James A. Johnson, who had recently stepped down as the chairman and chief executive of Fannie Mae. Mr. Johnson was forced to give up an advisory role with the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama following suggestions that he got special treatment from Countrywide.
When Mr. Conrad called, Mr. Johnson was with Angelo Mozilo, chief executive of Countrywide. Mr. Conrad said Mr. Johnson handed the phone to Mr. Mozilo, who gave him the name of a loan officer. Mr. Conrad said he never talked to Mr. Mozilo again.
He said he did not find it unusual to be talking to a chief executive of a lending company about a mortgage because he did that even before he was in the Senate.
“Ten of the 12 mortgages I got were in North Dakota and in every one of those instances I talked with the No. 1 or No. 2 person,” he said. “I don’t know what I would’ve done differently.”
So we're cutting your pay. If your employer used that as a strategy, do you think it would work? Dr. John Lott's op-ed piece at Fox News today points out that many politicians are making essentially that argument:
If a product is in short supply and if you really wanted more to be produced quickly, would you want companies to think that they could earn a lot of money making it?If you really want oil companies to increase production, create more competition, and drive down prices, then you want them to think that they are going to make a pile of money at it. Or perhaps you think that telling them that they aren't making a pile of money at it is a strong incentive to work harder.
You would think that the answer is pretty obvious: No profits, no oil. To encourage more production, companies need to think that there are more profits to be made. With all the anger over high oil prices, more production to lower prices would seem to be a high priority.
Lott also points out that the "obscene" profits of the oil companies are, relatively to other corporations, nothing special:
While the energy companies during the first quarter of this year had an average profit margin of 7,4 percent, the average Dow Jones Industrial Average company earned 8.5 percent. For example, ExxonMobil, which Obama has singled out for particular criticism, made an “obscene” $40 billion in profit, but that is on $404 billion in sales.Look, I hate paying these gasoline prices too. I would prefer gasoline be cheap again. But I would also like to see our fuel coming from somewhere where the locals don't have their turbans wound too tight. Pick one.
Much of the discussion concerning record high profits is misleading as it focuses on the dollar amount of the profits not the profit rate. As sales have also gone up over time, of course total profits have gone up, too. Nor are looking at just a couple of years particularly useful.
I'm always impressed how many major news stories just don't get any coverage. For example, one of the Muslims arrested with a trunk full of explosives--near a Navy base--has pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges. From Michelle Malkin:
Former University of South Florida student Ahmed Mohamed has agreed to plead guilty to providing material support to terrorists, according to a signed 12-page plea agreement entered onto the docket in U.S. District Court.And these recent convictions for terrorism:
Mohamed, an Egyptian citizen, was arrested, along with another student, Youssef Megahed, in North Carolina in August after deputies said they found explosive materials in their trunk.
Authorities charged Mohamed with trying to help terrorists in connection with a video they said he made and posted to the Web site YouTube. On the video, authorities said, he showed how to use a remote-controlled toy to detonate a bomb.
A federal jury on Friday convicted three Toledo-area men of Middle Eastern descent of plotting attacks against U.S. troops overseas and other terror-related acts.As Michelle Malkin asks:
Mohammad Amawi, Marwan El-Hindi, and Wassim Mazloum, all of whom are Muslim, were convicted on all counts of conspiring to kill or injure people outside the United States and face sentences of life in prison.
Which will get more media attention:And this early June guilty plea from an al-Qaeda sympathizer in Columbus, Ohio.
A) R&B singer R. Kelly’s acquittal on child pornography charges; or
B) The conviction of three Muslim jihadis in Toledo, Ohio on charges of plotting to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq?
You might almost think we have a terrorism problem here or something.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
This June 17, 2008 Washington Post article is one of those reasons that I prefer to read news, not watch it, because I get to go back and re-read it several times, and look for the distortions and manipulations. My first read of this article was very disturbing: it seemed to be saying that Administration officials lied about when and why they decided to start using the interrogation techniques at Gitmo, and then tied it to the abuses at Abu Ghraib--as if to say that both were authorized. But a more careful reading reveals a considerably more muddy picture:
A Senate investigation has concluded that top Pentagon officials began assembling lists of harsh interrogation techniques in the summer of 2002 for use on detainees at Guantanamo Bay and that those officials later cited memos from field commanders to suggest that the proposals originated far down the chain of command, according to congressional sources briefed on the findings.Hmmm. The word is "suggested." Perhaps "top Pentagon officials" were the first to propose these techniques; perhaps they were independently considering their options, and the requests really did come from down the chain of command. This isn't terribly clear writing--perhaps intentionally.
The sources said that memos and other evidence obtained during the inquiry show that officials in the office of then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld started to research the use of waterboarding, stress positions, sensory deprivation and other practices in July 2002, months before memos from commanders at the detention facility in Cuba requested permission to use those measures on suspected terrorists.
"Some have suggested that detainee abuses committed by U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and at Guantanamo were the result of a 'few bad apples' acting on their own. It would be a lot easier to accept if that were true," Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in a statement for delivery at a committee hearing this morning. "Senior officials in the United States government sought out information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees."Senator Levin does a nice job of conflating two completely separate questions: abuses committed at Abu Ghraib which had no authorization with waterboarding and other unpleasant interrogation techniques which were authorized.
What really angers me about this is that the Democrats are now holding Bush officials responsible for stuff that Democrats supported, just a few years ago. This December 9, 2007 Washington Post article tells us:
In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.Members of Congress are no longer comfortable with these practices. That's fine. They aren't worried about a repeat of 9/11 anymore. But this pretense that all of these horrible things took place without Congressional oversight and at least acquiescence is just dishonest. This is pure politics at its worst.
Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.
"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.
Yet long before "waterboarding" entered the public discourse, the CIA gave key legislative overseers about 30 private briefings, some of which included descriptions of that technique and other harsh interrogation methods, according to interviews with multiple U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge.
With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).
Individual lawmakers' recollections of the early briefings varied dramatically, but officials present during the meetings described the reaction as mostly quiet acquiescence, if not outright support. "Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing," said Goss, who chaired the House intelligence committee from 1997 to 2004 and then served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006. "And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement."
Congressional officials say the groups' ability to challenge the practices was hampered by strict rules of secrecy that prohibited them from being able to take notes or consult legal experts or members of their own staffs. And while various officials have described the briefings as detailed and graphic, it is unclear precisely what members were told about waterboarding and how it is conducted. Several officials familiar with the briefings also recalled that the meetings were marked by an atmosphere of deep concern about the possibility of an imminent terrorist attack.
"In fairness, the environment was different then because we were closer to Sept. 11 and people were still in a panic," said one U.S. official present during the early briefings. "But there was no objecting, no hand-wringing. The attitude was, 'We don't care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people.' "
This June 16, 2008 Rasmussen Reports survey tells us that 60% of Americans "believe Supreme Court Justices have their own political agendas, while just 23% believe they remain impartial...."
It is kind of gratifying to realize that 23% of Americans are so trusting. If only I could identify these people reliably; I could make a lot of money selling them a bridge in New York City. Or perhaps selling them the Easter Bunny.
before Democrats in Congress start listening? The June 17, 2008 Rasmussen Reports tells us the results of a recent survey of Americans:
Most voters favor the resumption of offshore drilling in the United States and expect it to lower prices at the pump, even as John McCain has announced his support for states that want to explore for oil and gas off their coasts.Of course, the minority gets its way on this, because the millionaires and billionaires don't want their nice views obstructed, and that's who the Democrats represent.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey—conducted before McCain announced his intentions on the issue--finds that 67% of voters believe that drilling should be allowed off the coasts of California, Florida and other states. Only 18% disagree and 15% are undecided. Conservative and moderate voters strongly support this approach, while liberals are more evenly divided (46% of liberals favor drilling, 37% oppose).
Monday, June 16, 2008
A very nice collection of video of various Democrats with access to intelligence reports, explaining why the Iraq War was necessary.
Argue that the Bush Administration (and many foreign governments) were too prepared to believe untrustworthy sources with their own agendas (such as the Iraqi National Congress). Argue that the Bush Administration did a lousy job with the occupation. Argue that they used the precautionary principle (the one that supposedly justifies destroying the global economy because maybe global warming is anthropogenic). But this continual "Bush Lied, People Died" that Democrats are pushing is dishonest.
There's a new book out claiming that the Afghanistan and Iraq wars will cost the United States about $3 trillion. Dr. John Lott has a June 16, 2008 piece at Fox News pointing out that this appears to be a substantial exaggeration:
What is the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? To many, the answer, at least from 2001 through 2007, is $473 billion — about a quarter of total defense expenditures over those years. It has averaged less than 1 percent of GDP.Lott points out that a great many experts in the field--and significantly, many who opposed the Iraq War--find the methodology atypical and incorrect, with examples of double counting of costs, highly arguable assumptions about future interest rates, and what is to me the most devastating sign that the authors were more concerned with politics than facts:
$473 billion is probably an underestimate simply because the fighting has already lasted past 2007 and some wounded veterans will require long-term care. But how much more is it?
In a new book, The Three Trillion Dollar War, Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes argue that this emphasis on what the government has already spent dramatically understates the true cost of the war. At roughly six times the defense department’s numbers, their $3 trillion estimate has generated much news coverage and controversy.
Stiglitz, the former chairman of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors and Nobel Prize winner, told FOX News by telephone from Spain that his message has been getting a “very positive reaction” in Europe. Many are angry over how the Bush administration “misrepresented the facts that got us into the war.” Other countries that stayed out of the war are “very relieved that they hadn’t gotten involved” when they hear how large the costs of the war have been. He claims, “the British are very sorry for their complicity in selling the war.”
Possibly the most controversial claim in the book involves their estimate that well over one million Iraqis will have died from the US invasion by the year 2010. Without any caution or hesitation, they rely on an extremely controversial study published in the medical journal, Lancet. Stiglitz and Bilmes took Lancet’s estimated 654,965 deaths from the American involvement in Iraq from March 2003 to July 2006 and assumed that Iraqis would continue dying at that the same yearly rate through March 2010. The Lancet number is over 10 times the number of Iraqi deaths claimed by the Iraqi and US governments.As I have pointed out here and here, the Lancet study is pretty clearly an example of garbage in, garbage out--and even opponents of the war have had the good sense to recognize it for what it is:
Concerns have been raised about whether Iraqis surveyed were honest and provided accurate information or whether they may have given politically motivated answers to exaggerate “’crimes’ committed by the Americans.” Some survey experts have attacked the survey for not doing the most basic things to “prevent fabrication” of the data. For instance, there was no effort to trace death certificates to confirm claimed deaths. The survey was conducted and overseen by Riyadh Lafta, a child-health official in Saddam Hussein's ministry of health, whom some claim was biased. Others have questioned why the original surveyors' reports and the raw data have never been released to other researchers.
A new study has been released by the Lancet medical journal estimating over 650,000 excess deaths in Iraq. The Iraqi mortality estimates published in the Lancet in October 2006 imply, among other things, that:What I find most interesting is that Stiglitz and Bilmes are now lumping both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars together. Even most opponents of the Iraq War accepted the necessity of the Afghanistan War. While I am sure that Iraq has been the more expensive operation, lumping these together certainly bumps up the price tag.
If these assertions are true, they further imply:
- On average, a thousand Iraqis have been violently killed every single day in the first half of 2006, with less than a tenth of them being noticed by any public surveillance mechanisms;
- Some 800,000 or more Iraqis suffered blast wounds and other serious conflict-related injuries in the past two years, but less than a tenth of them received any kind of hospital treatment;
- Over 7% of the entire adult male population of Iraq has already been killed in violence, with no less than 10% in the worst affected areas covering most of central Iraq;
- Half a million death certificates were received by families which were never officially recorded as having been issued;
- The Coalition has killed far more Iraqis in the last year than in earlier years containing the initial massive "Shock and Awe" invasion and the major assaults on Falluja.
In the light of such extreme and improbable implications, a rational alternative conclusion to be considered is that the authors have drawn conclusions from unrepresentative data. In addition, totals of the magnitude generated by this study are unnecessary to brand the invasion and occupation of Iraq a human and strategic tragedy.
- incompetence and/or fraud on a truly massive scale by Iraqi officials in hospitals and ministries, on a local, regional and national level, perfectly coordinated from the moment the occupation began
- bizarre and self-destructive behaviour on the part of all but a small minority of 800,000 injured, mostly non-combatant, Iraqis;
- the utter failure of local or external agencies to notice and respond to a decimation of the adult male population in key urban areas;
- an abject failure of the media, Iraqi as well as international, to observe that Coalition-caused events of the scale they reported during the three-week invasion in 2003 have been occurring every month for over a year.
I'm sure that liberals everywhere will dismiss this guy's concerns, once again, about the broken state of the black family. This troublemaker--obviously some sort of conservative, probably closeted racist--pointed out:
CHICAGO (AP) - Barack Obama celebrated Father's Day by calling on black fathers, who he said are "missing from too many lives and too many homes," to become active in raising their children.
"They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it," the Democratic presidential candidate said Sunday at a largely black church in his hometown.
Reminding the congregation of his firsthand experience growing up without a father, Obama said he was lucky to have loving grandparents who helped his mother. He got support, second chances and scholarships that helped him get an education. Obama's father left when he was 2.I agree with Obama that past injustices certainly played some part in creating some very destructive family patterns for the black family. But the more distant those past injustices get, the less and less excuse there is for black men to leave a trail of pregnant girls (often not even women).
"A lot of children don't get those chances. There is no margin for error in their lives," said Obama, an Illinois senator.
We can't simply write these problems off to past injustices," Obama said Sunday. "Those injustices are real. There's a reason our families are in disrepair ... but we can't keep using that as an excuse."
Obama urged black parents to demand the best from themselves and their children.
When I was in Washington, D.C. a couple of years ago, I heard one of the local progressive talk radio stations going on and on about how monogamy was invented by white people to oppress black men. All I could think was that one of the nastiest racist stereotypes--black men as uncontrolled sexuality--was now being openly promoted by blacks who fancy themselves as progressives.
From the June 15, 2008 Telegraph:
Two male priests exchanged vows and rings in a ceremony that was conducted using one of the church's most traditional wedding rites – a decision seen as blasphemous by conservatives.Yes, that's right, two Anglican priests got married in a traditional Anglican ceremony:
The ceremony broke Church of England guidelines and was carried out last month in defiance of the Bishop of London, in whose diocese it took place. News of the "wedding" emerged days before a crucial summit of the Anglican Church's conservative bishops and archbishops, who are threatening to split the worldwide Church over the issue of homosexual clergy.One of the comments on the Telegraph's site captures it:
Although some liberal clergy have carried out "blessing ceremonies" for homosexual couples in the past, this is the first time a vicar has performed a "wedding ceremony", using a traditional marriage liturgy, with readings, hymns and a Eucharist.
Both the conservative and liberal wings of the Anglican communion expressed shock last night.
The Most Rev Henry Orombi, the Archbishop of Uganda, said that the ceremony was "blasphemous." He called on Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to take decisive action if the Anglican Church were not to "disintegrate". Archbishop Orombi added: "What really shocks me is that this is happening in the Church of England that first brought the Gospel to us.
"The leadership tried to deny that this would happen, but now the truth is out. Our respect for the Church of England will erode unless we see a return to traditional teaching."
Bishops moan the pews are empty, any wonder when you see who is in the pulpit.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
I tried to add the last two stiffening components to Big Bertha this afternoon. Because I didn't measure the length of the cable quite right, I decided to solve the problem by cutting some of the excess metal out of the bolts that turn into the turnbuckle. The first try worked great. On the second turnbuckle, I chewed up the threads on the bolt.
So the simple solution was to re-thread the bolt. But I forgot that the threads in the turnbuckle are the opposite direction of the standard thread direction--so if I turn the turnbuckle, it doesn't tighten the cable at all.
Oh well, at least the turnbuckles are cheap. I'll buy another one tomorrow and replace the chewed up part, and the cable that is attached to it.
It won't stay that way much longer. We are finally getting what seem like proper late spring days. It was 72 degrees this evening when my wife and I ate dinner on the rear porch. And the hills were so beautiful that I had to share them with you.
Click to enlarge