Monday, August 31, 2009

Feminist Naomi Wolf On The Superiority of Islam

Feminist Naomi Wolf On The Superiority of Islam

There are days when it seems like feminists are beyond parody, since they seem intent on parodying themselves. Naomi Wolf's August 30, 2008 Sydney Morning Herald article is championing how much more liberated Islamic women are:

A woman swathed in black to her ankles, wearing a headscarf or a full chador, walks down a European or North American street, surrounded by other women in halter tops, miniskirts and short shorts. She passes under immense billboards on which other women swoon in sexual ecstasy, cavort in lingerie or simply stretch out languorously, almost fully naked. Could this image be any more iconic of the discomfort the West has with the social mores of Islam, and vice versa?

Ideological battles are often waged with women's bodies as their emblems, and Western Islamophobia is no exception. When France banned headscarves in schools, it used the hijab as a proxy for Western values in general, including the appropriate status of women. When Americans were being prepared for the invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban were demonised for denying cosmetics and hair colour to women; when the Taliban were overthrown, Western writers often noted that women had taken off their scarves.

Now I won't dispute that there are aspects to how women have been sexualized--and especially so since the 1970s--that have been very destructive. When young girls are told--as the popular culture has been doing for several decades--that they are only of interest to men if they are sexually attractive and available--it is enormously destructive. The increasing dominance of rap culture has taken women down several steps below where they were before. But let's not pretend, as Naomi Wolf does, from where this degradation comes:
Nor are Muslim women alone. The Western Christian tradition portrays all sexuality, even married sexuality, as sinful. Islam and Judaism never had that same kind of mind-body split. So, in both cultures, sexuality channeled into marriage and family life is seen as a source of great blessing, sanctioned by God.
Huh? I don't recognize this "Western Christian tradition" that she is describing at all. The Western Christian tradition, at least in my lifetime, has recognized married sexuality as a positive. The reason that feminists became so hostile to Christianity was because it would not endorse unmarried sexuality, homosexuality, and the leering depravity that Wolf's political allies on the left have long supported.

It gets better:
Among healthy young men in the West, who grow up on pornography and sexual imagery on every street corner, reduced libido is a growing epidemic, so it is easy to imagine the power that sexuality can carry in a more modest culture. And it is worth understanding the positive experiences that women - and men - can have in cultures where sexuality is more conservatively directed.
And who is responsible for this epidemic of pornography and sexual imagery on every street corner? Wolf's political allies, the ACLU, the Democratic Party, Playboy, and the rest of the crowd that insists that virtual child pornography can have "redeeming social value."

UPDATE: Whoops! That was in 2008, not 2009 that this article appeared.

Job Test Tomorrow

Job Test Tomorrow

A tutoring operation that preps high school kids for the SAT/ACT wants me to come in and take the ACT tomorrow. I would hope that I would do pretty well on it; I did score 97th percentile on the Math part of the SAT, and upper half of the 99th percentile on the Verbal part. And I was 16 at the time. I would like to think that I might do a bit better now.

There's no benefits, and the pay isn't particularly impressive, but it's quite a bit better than unemployment, and who knows? If I do that for 10-15 years, I might have enough experience to teach at a community college.

UPDATE: I'm looking at this list of trigonometry identities, and I must have had all these memorized back when I was young (I think I got an A in trig--which was atypical for me in a math class)--but I can't imagine how! Maybe I better hope that I do better on the science parts. Fortunately, phlogiston theory had been abandoned somewhat before my time; ditto for the ether's role in propagating light.

UPDATE 2: Any suggestions on how to remember the Law of Cosines? Law of Sines is easy; keeping the Law of Cosines in my brain for more than few minutes is going to take some work, or a clever mnemonic.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Tragedies of Obsolescence

The Tragedies of Obsolescence

You think a 386 computer is obsolete? Go to eBay, and look at the number of autofocus 35mm cameras that are being offered for effectively nothing, with zero bids!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Really Gratifying Vote Of Confidence By Obama...

A Really Gratifying Vote Of Confidence By Obama...

in the respect for law of the CIA. When I was younger, the preferred explanation on the left for John Kennedy's assassination was that the CIA, in conjunction with right-wing capitalists, had done it because Kennedy was on the verge of withdrawing from South Vietnam. (The imminent withdrawal from Vietnam is a wonderful fantasy, completely unsupported by anything as troubling as actual facts.) Throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and after 9/11, it was an article of faith in leftist circles that the CIA was at the core of all sorts of horrible shenanigans, both abroad and in the U.S.

Do a search in Google for the string "CIA JFK assassination"--you will get more than two million hits. Now many of those are refuting this craziness--but a lot of them are pretty typical leftist conspiracy theory stuff--right up there with the 9/11 Truthers, and the CFR/Trilateralist/Bilderberger crazies. The possibility that Lee Harvey Oswald, a long-time Communist sympathizer who had renounced U.S. citizenship to move to the Soviet Union, and a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, might have actually been involved (even if he was not alone)--that's just too bizarre for a crowd that has imagined John Kennedy as America's first leftist president.

Now, if the CIA was really this bunch of monsters, prepared to assassinate John Kennedy, overthrow peace-loving "agrarian reformers", and otherwise do horrible things throughout the world for something as abstract as a love of capitalism--what would they do if you started talking about sending some of their interrogators to prison for taking actions that even most Democrats supported at the time?

It's very clear: Obama doesn't buy into the paranoid leftist garbage about those monsters at CIA. How comforting!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Just About Done With My Revision of Personal Tragedies

Just About Done With My Revision of Personal Tragedies

I mentioned some weeks back that a university press had approached me about another book, and expressed a willingness to look at a scholarly history of deinstitutionalization--so I had to rip out the sections of Personal Tragedies that gave the book human interest. In the process, I have been doing a bit more research, and in some cases, significantly improving the book. In a number of cases, I was able to find primary sources where I had been relying on secondary sources before, and fixed a few errors that I would like to think were entirely in the secondary sources, but who knows? I might have contributed my own errors to the process. I also made the same changes and improvements to Personal Tragedies, in case I find a publisher that wants a mass market book instead.

I just finished reading the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health, Action for Mental Health (1961), the report that started Congress down the road to encouraging deinstitutionalization. I'm letting the manuscript cool for a couple of days, then I will give it one more read through before submitting it to the publisher.

UPDATE: I don't want to give the wrong impression that I have been sitting around, doing nothing (which you might think from the lack of blogging the last few days). I've also written a 9000 word introduction to machining (sort of a Machine Tools for Dummies) which I am hoping to sell; found some more eye candy for an article about the transformation of the gun industry 1790-1820; and wrote an 1800 word article about gunmaking as a family business in early America. (If I don't have a job, I can try and make up for the revenue deficit with more articles.)

While writing that last one, I was able to verify something that I have long suspected. There is a Daniel Nash who is mentioned in 1699 court records from western Massachusetts. A stolen gun was found in his blacksmithing shop; Nash was apparently asked to repair the gun, and does not appear to have been criminally involved. I have long suspected that he was probably related to Thomas Nash, the New Haven colonial armor, gunsmith, and one of my ancestors. My suspicions were based on the last name, the proximity of Daniel Nash's shop to Connecticut, and that Daniel Nash was asked to repair a gun--suggesting that Daniel had some involvement in gunsmithing as well as blacksmithing.

I was able to find confirmation that Daniel Nash was the son of Timothy Nash, youngest son of Thomas Nash. All three of Thomas Nash's sons (John, Joseph, and Timothy) were apparently trained as gunsmiths, but at least Timothy and Daniel put their primary focus on blacksmithing, with gunsmithing as more of a sideline activity. (In small towns, getting too specialized would mean that you wouldn't be employed full-time.)

Bug Zappers for Wasps?

Bug Zappers for Wasps?

I'm impressed how many entomologists say that bug zappers don't work for mosquitoes--that they actually attract them closer to what mosquitoes really home in on: carbon dioxide. Has anyone used these for wasps? Do they seem to work? Do you end up with a little pile of electrocuted wasps?

2.5" HDD Adapter

2.5" HDD Adapter

This is the adapter that converts 44 pin notebook hard disk to the 40 pin plus power connector interface used in desktop computers, so you can connect a notebook hard disk to a desktop. This is useful if you have a broken notebook, and want to pull the data off the hard disk, or if you have a spare notebook hard disk that you want to make some use of.

There's gobs of these being offered for effectively nothing on eBay, with few takers, so if I just got the cost of postage for it (about two or three stamps), I would be happy to send it to you. It's sitting on my desk, taking up space, and I hate to throw away something that works.

By the way, the eBay approach to getting rid of stuff that I don't need is working! The spare thumb safety for a Colt Government Model? I got $8.38 plus postage for it. The spare plumbing valves? I got $10 plus shipping costs for them. If I keep hunting, I suspect that I can find a bunch of other odds and ends that I don't need that I can eBay.

Bay Area Homes Selling Below $60,000

Bay Area Homes Selling Below $60,000

This is a quite sobering article when you read the headline--but even when you get a little deeper, it's a reminder that the party's over. From the August 26, 2009 San Francisco Chronicle:
More Bay Area homes sell for less than $60,000

Condos for $20,000? Single-family homes for under $60,000? What is this, Detroit?

It's the topsy-turvy world of Bay Area real estate. Despite studies showing prices slowly rising overall, homes at the low end appear to be playing a game of limbo, flaunting prices comparable to what you'd pay for a car.


David Lear of Sotheby's International Realty in Danville is selling a one-bedroom condo in Pittsburg's Lakeview complex near Los Medanos College for $48,000 as a short sale. The owner purchased it three years ago for $228,000.

"It shows you how dramatically the market has declined," he said. "We're not even the lowest-price unit in there; there's a similar one for $38,000."

Now, some of these places are in bad shape; people being foreclosed sometimes intentionally destroy a place out of frustration or to get revenge on the bank. These are generally not in the nicest neighborhoods--but it is a reminder of how rapidly the insanity of California real estate prices can turn around.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Causality Direction Confusion

Causality Direction Confusion

I'm reading Robert E. Faris and H. W. Dunham's Mental Disorder in Urban Areas (1939) at the moment. This was pioneering work when it was published, demonstrating a very strong correlation between schizophrenia and poverty. The problem is: the authors didn't look at anything but the address at which the patient was living when hospitalized. They seem to have completely missed the possibility that people who are slipping into schizophrenia may lose their job, move into the cheapest housing possible, or end up on Skid Row (or hobohemia, as the book calls it). They seem to be so intent on proving that poverty and social disorganization cause mental illness of those who live in such places, that they don't even consider that the direction of causality is the other direction: that schizophrenics end up in poor sections of town because of their mental illness.

And yet, in the chapter on syphilitic insanity, they acknowledge that the distribution of home addresses of this bunch might be connected:
The possibility, however, must be considered that persons with syphilis eventually lose their earning power, find it impossible to compete successfully with other members of their respective occupational groups, and consequently tend to drift into the low-income groups. [p. 124]
Well, duh! But they seem to have completely missed this possibility involving schizophrenia and alcohol-related psychoses. (To their credit, I understand that their 1965 edition of this book reversed their position.) It does show how strongly the whole 1930s mindset prevented people from seeing anything but, "Poverty causes bad things" rather than, "Bad things cause poverty."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

I mentioned in the past that my major objection to homosexuality in the military is related to the way that certain activists would use it as a method of destroying the military. As I have said, there are doubtless a fair number of homosexuals in the military who are showing their love of country by going into the military--and staying there--even though the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy creates a very difficult situation for them. Those that put service to nation above their understandable personal desire to not have to live a lie deserve praise.

So I look at this news story, and it is so obvious that the intent of DADT has been violated here. From the August 23, 2009 Idaho Statesman is this story of an Air Force pilot who was required to identify himself as gay to deal with a false accusation of rape:
Fehrenbach, stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base, was in a Catch-22. To clear himself of the claim he'd raped a man, Fehrenbach could tell police his side of the story. But admitting he'd had consensual sex could get him kicked out of the Air Force he loved after 18 years.
Fehrenbach asked Detective Mark Vucinich whether his employer had a right to see his statement. Yes, replied Vucinich.
Fehrenbach then told the detective he had sex with Cameron Shaner on May 12, 2008. He'd met Shaner, 30, on a gay Web site and invited him to his southeast Boise home.
Fehrenbach was soon cleared by police and the Ada County prosecutor's office. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations subsequently found no violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. AFOSI concluded that Fehrenbach and Shaner had consensual sex, and that Shaner was an "unreliable source of information."
But the Air Force wasn't done: Fehrenbach's admission he'd had gay sex was a violation of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law.

Now this really upsets me. The purpose of the "Don't Tell" part of DADT was to prevent activists who put their sexual orientation ahead of their military service from destroying unit cohesion by making a loud public statement. In this case, Fehrenbach wasn't trying to go public; he was trying to avoid going public, but needed to do so to protect himself from a false rape accusation. And this guy Shaner, it appears, decided that making a public spectacle of this was really important, accusing Fehrenbach of inviting military men to "HIV parties" to try and infect them.  It appears to have been completely false..

To put it bluntly, Shaner is the sort of homosexual activist who I am concerned that repealing DADT would encourage to enter the military, make a very loud stink about his sexual orientation, and in general, cause enormous problems for both gay and straight service members. Fehrenbach appears to have put his own privacy and the good of the service ahead of his own financial interests. I agree with Fehrenbach: when someone is required to identify themselves as a homosexual to defend themselves from a criminal accusation, this is not what was intended by "Don't Tell."

Ecologically Correct Corvettes

Ecologically Correct Corvettes

A lot of people love making working, scale models of various machines:
My current project is a 1/6th scale Chevrolet 327 cu in V8. Based on a 1964 365 hp Corvette motor, measurements have been taken from an actual engine as to be most accurate. The head and block began as billet aluminum that have been painstakingly machined on a Bridgeport-style mill. The 5-main crank has real babbit bearings, while the cam is a scale 30-30 Duntov.

Dies were developed for stamping out the front cover, oil pan and rockers. The pistons and water pump housing are cast aluminum, and the valve covers are going to be investment cast.

Since this engine is a runner, there is spark ignition, a pressurized oil system and a cooling system just like its big brother.

There's video of the engine running. Because it is 1/6th scale (in linear dimensions), that means that the displacement of the engine is 1/6th x 1/6th x 1/6th, or 1/216th of the original engine, so the power output is going to be...tiny. But I suppose if you were making a 1964 Corvette for the original, incredibly bad 1960s TV series Land of the Giants, this would be the correct motive force for our little heroes to get around in...until one of the dogs decides it would make a fine plaything.

The Nigerian Scamsters Seem To Be Getting Smarter

The Nigerian Scamsters Seem To Be Getting Smarter

I received an email that was actually written in competent English--you could almost think this guy was an American:
Good Day,
My name is Jim White, a member of the U.S. ARMY 3rd Infantry Division in
Iraq. I would like to share some highly classified information about my personal experience and the role which I played in the pursuit of my career serving in the U.S. ARMY. However, I would like to hold back certain information for security reasons until you have the time to visit the BBC website stated below. This will enable you to have insight as to what I'm intending to share with you.
Please get back to me after visiting the above referenced website to enable us to discuss the matter more. I'm uncomfortable sending this message to you without knowing if you are indeed with me or you decide to go public.

That's a nice twist--a link to a legitimate news source, in this case, a BBC story:

Foreign currency worth nearly $200m has been found in a Baghdad neighbourhood, the US military say.

Troops found $100m and 90m euros in 31 containers, US Central Command said.

The money has been flown out of the country to a "secure location" for counting purposes and will eventually be returned to Iraq to help rebuild the country, the US said.

Last week, US troops found more than $650m in the same area of Baghdad.

Soldiers questioned

The latest banknotes were discovered between 23 and 26 April in an area of Baghdad secured by members of the US 3rd Infantry Division, according to a US statement.

The problem, of course, is that the news story is dated April 30, 2003. So my response to "Sgt. Jim White" was:
I think if you waited this long (more than five years ago on that news story), it's probably because you moved to Nigeria.

Women in History

Women in History

One of my readers who graduated from MIT pointed me to this interesting reminder that, in spite of social barriers, women were in the sciences in the 19th century:
Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards (1842-1911) was the first woman admitted to MIT, receiving her S.B. degree in 1873 (the first graduating class of MIT was 1868). She entered in 1871, one of 90 first year students, and had already graduated with the first class of Vassar College (1870). The title of her thesis was "Notes on Some Sulpharsenites and Sulphantimonites from Colorado." In 1875 she appealed to the Women's Education Association of Boston for help in establishing a laboratory at MIT for the instruction of women in chemistry. The Women's Laboratory opened in 1876 with Professor John M. Ordway in charge, assisted by Richards. She held the position of instructor in chemistry and mineralogy in the Women's Laboratory until it closed in 1883. From 1884 to her death in 1911, Richards was instructor in sanitary chemistry at MIT.
Henrietta Swan Leavitt was the astronomer who discovered the relationship between Cepheid variable star period and absolute brightness, which made it possible to determine the distance to galaxies. She died in 1921.

Extraordinary women in American history have managed to transcend sex-based obstacles, just as extraordinary poor Americans have managed to transcend class-based obstacles. (If they were barriers, you couldn't get past them.)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It's Not Like CSI

It's Not Like CSI

Forensic science got a big shot in the arm from the CSI shows, and even shows like NCIS present forensic scientists in a way that doubtless has encouraged a lot of people to go into that line of work. But there are grubby aspects to how the FBI's forensic scientists went about their work detailed in this 1997 report from the Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General, examining the allegations by Frederic Whitehurst, who worked for the FBI. The FBI's analytical work and testimony under oath in a number of high profile cases was at flawed--and in some cases, a bit more than flawed--is detailed in this report. They aren't prepared to admit that it changed the results of any trials--but it creeps me out how many of these cases were capital crimes.

In case you were wondering: I was looking for data on Presidential assassination attempts for a Shotgun News article that I was writing, and ran into this report.

Friday, August 21, 2009

White House Finally Admits $9 Trillion Deficit

White House Finally Admits $9 Trillion Deficit

From August 21, 2009 Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration will raise its 10-year budget deficit projection to approximately $9 trillion from $7.108 trillion in a report next week, a senior administration official told Reuters on Friday.

The higher deficit figure, based on updated economic data, brings the White House budget office into line with outside estimates and gives further fuel to President Barack Obama's opponents, who say his spending plans are too expensive in light of budget shortfalls.

The White House took heat for sticking with its $7.108 trillion forecast earlier this year after the Congressional Budget Office forecast that deficits between 2010 and 2019 would total $9.1 trillion.

"The new forecasts are based on new data that reflect how severe the economic downturn was in the late fall of last year and the winter of this year," said the administration official, who is familiar with the budget mid-session review that is slated to be released next week.

What just amazes me is this, "But he did it too!"
Obama, who has promised to halve the deficit by the end of his four-year term and likes to remind constituents he inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit from former President George W. Bush, says bringing down healthcare costs is critical to long-term deficit reduction.
Wow! The reaction to W. running up a 1.3 trillion deficit--for which Obama rightly criticized Bush--is to run up one that is several times larger?

Fun With Arithmetic

Fun With Arithmetic

I had a long drive today for an event that my wife's band was doing, and I found myself trying to keep my brain amused. I was trying to figure out how far an object falls under gravity in a particular period. The equation you know: x=1/2at^2. But doing the arithmetic in your head (at least, in my head) is a bit of a struggle. An object that takes 5 seconds to fall means 1/2 x 32 x 25.

Well, 16 x 25 is pretty easy: that's the same as 16 x 100 divided by 4, or 400. For any number that you are multiplying by 25, just add two zeroes, and divide by 4. For any number multiplying by 20, add two zeroes, and divide by five.

What about 16 x 36? This isn't as hard as it sounds. Any time that you multiply a number by a power of two, you can just divide the power of two by two, and multiply the other number by two--which almost everyone can do in his or her head. So 16 x 36 is 8 x 72, or 4 x 144, or 2 x 288, or 576.

Since in the equation above, 1/2a is always 16, this sure speeds up doing this type of calculation in your head. For a nine second fall, you now have 16 x 81, which is the same as 8 x 162, or 4 x 324, or 2 x 648, or 1296.

While not quite as simple, you can use this same divide by two approach with other otherwise hard to manipulate numbers: 22 x 23 is the same as 2 x 11 x 23, or 11 x 46. Any two digit number multiplied by 11 is pretty easy to do in your head, since you are only having to remember two different numbers to add up in different columns: 46, and 460, or 506. Try this with something like 44 x 48, which is the same as 2 x 2 x 11 x 48, or 2 x 2 x 528, which is 2 x 1056, or 2112.

As long as you can factor one of the numbers down to 2, even if the other number is three, four, or even five digits, most people can remember enough digits to do this computation without writing anything down.

While not quite as easy, you can use the same approach if you can factor one of the numbers down to something with a 3 in it. For example, 21 x 23 is the same as 3 x 7 x 23. Most people can do 7 x 23 in their head, by remembering that 7 x 3 is 21, and 7 x 20 is 140, so 7 x 23 is 161. Now just multiply by 3: 3 x 1 is 3, and 3 x 160 is 480, so 483.

Of course, never miss the special cases, such as multiplying by 25 or 20 (mentioned earlier), or where both numbers are powers of 2. For example, 16 x 512. Remember that 16 is 2 to the 4th power, and 512 is 2 to the 9th power. You can then reduce 16 x 512 to 2^4 x 2^9, which is 2^13. If you have powers of two memorized, even part way up, this speeds up the process. You know that 2^10 is 1024, so doubling goes to 2^11, or 2048, doubling again is 2^12, or 4096, and doubling again to 2^13 is 8192.

You may think this is a sign of a rather peculiar person to spend time figuring out tricks like this in the age of computers, but I think it is rather cool to not be dependent on these gadgets. I confess that I have long found these sort of tricks intriguing because of reading about Carl Friederich Gauss, the mathematician and scientist after whom the unit of magnetic force measurement is named. When he was quite young, one of his teachers needed to keep the class busy for a while, and told them all to add up all the numbers from 1 to 100. Gauss immediately raised his hand and gave the answer: 5050. How? By noticing that 1 + 100 = 101, as did 2 + 99, and 3 + 98. There were a total of 50 pairs that summed to 101, so 50 * 101 = 5050. Anytime that you can foil a teacher's busywork plans, that's a virtue!

Medical Malpractice Suits

Medical Malpractice Suits

I frequently hear the claim that much of the cost of health care is medical malpractice suit related. What makes these suits expensive is not judgments. The vast majority of medical care does not result in a lawsuit, or even the threat of it. Even hundreds of multimillion dollar judgments are a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars a year we spend on medical care.

From what I have read, most of these suits are unjustified, and the doctors and hospitals usually win. The costs imposed are that doctors practice "defensive medicine," running lots of tests that are probably not required to make sure that, if someone sues them, they can demonstrate that they checked for every possibility--no matter how unlikely. Still: does anyone think that the extra tests are adding tens of billions a year in costs? I'm very skeptical.

Nonetheless, there is an enormous amount of wasted time and resources that such suits bring about. Here's a very well-written account (in 24 parts) by an E/R doctor describing what he went through as a defendant in a malpractice suit that sounds pretty baseless. (Admittedly, it is from his perspective, so perhaps it wasn't quite as baseless as he makes it sound.) His description does capture much of the wasted time and energy that what turned out to be a losing suit caused--and you can imagine the amount of money that the hospital's insurance company spent.

One of the problems is that even when a doctor does everything right--people still die. There are examples of clear malpractice out there, and it is one of the reasons that I can't feel comfortable limiting the right to sue--but so many of the cases that I have read about over the years come down to this:

1. Mr. X dies, and Mrs. X is left penniless, or Little Johnny has surgery, and is left unable to care for himself for life.

2. A doctor or hospital's insurance company has deep pockets.

3. A jury feels sorry for Mrs. X or Little Johnny.

4. A lawyer knows that there is a small chance that a jury who feels sorry for Mrs. X or Little Johnny will award several million dollars--and the lawyer will get a million dollar or more payment contingent on winning. This strongly incentivizes lawyers taking cases that he knows are bogus, and doing his best to make sure that he wins them, no matter what damage has to be done to the truth to get it.

This is part of why I support a "loser pays" system, whereby if you sue someone, it goes to trial, and you lose, you are obligated to pay the legal fees of the defendant. I have once been the target of a completely frivolous lawsuit that should have been grounds for disbarment or worse.

There are some thought-provoking comments by readers that you should consider. I don't know if the facts contained therein are true, incomplete, or false, but they are certainly intriguing:

In the criminal law, the plea bargain rate is 97%, and the verdicts at trial are guilty, in 80% of cases. That is comparable to the success rates of medicine. The criminal prosecution is done by young people out of law school, paid very little, carrying dozens of cases, with a burden of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt (80% certainty, not 51% certainty as in medmal). They have multiple elements to each crime. They must prove it took place, and that each was intentional. So lawyers have the ability to work at high standards, even inexperienced young recent grads.

The torts system is a scam to plunder all productive entities. If a medical group has 4 lawsuits, it screams. A business with the same gross income will have 400 lawsuits all the time, forever. The majority are by greedy, seedy, plaintiffs, real low life parasites. The blame others for their carelessness and demand to be paid to return to their addictions, criminality, and general seediness, subsidized by the rest of us.


We have a partial loser-pays system in my state, and I have obtained judgments of $25,000-$35,000 for trial costs and attorneys’ fees. However, these judgments are almost invariably worthless, because the great majority of losing plaintiffs are uncollectable, having always subsisted on welfare, disability, handouts from relatives or the kindness of strangers. In death cases, the decedent’s estates have no assets. Such people are undeterred by loser-pays.

When early discovery reveals a plaintiff with a steady job, stable family/residence, and no history of substance abuse, criminal convictions or psychiatric hospitalization, it generates considerable discussion among the defense lawyers, because it is so rare, and because it might mean that the plaintiff actually has some skin in the game.

UPDATE: A reader in South Carolina is a medical malpractice lawyer, and says that he disputes that most malpractice suits are without merit. He says that when he takes a case, he often spends $50,000 to $100,000 on experts before it gets near a courtroom, and any lawyer who regularly brought suits without merit would go bankrupt. I'm curious to see hard data on the number of medical malpractice suits brought each here in the U.S., and their disposition.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Every Social Problem Is A Market Opportunity!

Every Social Problem Is A Market Opportunity!

Well, maybe not every social problem is a market opportunity, but many of them are. This article from the August 6, 2009 Philadelphia Daily News is a reminder:

A GUY WALKED into Frank Sciarra's Montgomeryville gun shop a few years ago, looking to unload 20 guns.

For a cool $20,000, Sciarra purchased the weapons - mostly rifles - and sold many of them to customers who frequented his store, Archery and Gun Outfitters, on Route 309.

"Everything was fine until about a month later, when the ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] and Montgomeryville police showed up," Sciarra said.

"Turns out they had arrested the guy who sold me the weapons. They said he had stolen 60 guns from a storage facility, and they wanted 'em back."

Sciarra, 60, was in a pickle, the kind every gun- shop owner dreads.

He had to track down the new owners and persuade them to surrender the firearms they had purchased legitimately.

He lost whatever money he made off the sales and had the added misery of knowing that he had sold stolen weapons.

Disgusted by the experience, Sciarra sold his shop in 2007.

About a year later, he and his business partner, longtime Philadelphia radio personality Don Cannon, launched, a Web site they hope will prevent other gun-shop owners from having the same experience.

The Web site lists serial numbers of lost or stolen firearms that people can access for $19.95 a month, Sciarra said. Police can access the database for free.

The database has collected "several hundred thousand" serial numbers that have been supplied by insurance companies, gun owners and law-enforcement agencies across the country, he said.

I wish these guys well. At $19.95 a month, I suspect that gun stores and pawn shops will be the big customers.

I notice that they have a deal whereby gun owners can provide their serial numbers as a proactive measure. I suspect that even though this is an NRA endorsed business, most gun owners are going to be reluctant to put this information in a place that a oppressive government could access them.

What would make sense would be for them to offer an individual a way to check a single serial number for $3.95 or $2.95. If I were looking to buy a gun at a gun show, or in some other private party transaction, I would feel quite a bit better being able to do so.

Not Hopelessly Out of Date, Yet

Not Hopelessly Out of Date, Yet

I have a 2004 Compaq NC6000 lying around the house that I have used for various experiments over the years. It is a very small full-size notebook--a bit smaller than the notebook that I normally use, but still reasonably fast (1.6 Ghz, 1 GB of RAM). Most recently, I installed Ubuntu Linux on it--forgetting that I didn't have a restore disk for Windows. Anyway, the last time I tried to do a restore from a different version of Windows (for which I do have a license), it messed up pretty well--or so I thought.

However, the hard disk seems to have failed. I was getting disk write/read failures, then it completely disappeared (regarding a power off restart to make it reappear). There was also the joyful clicking noise that usually indicates that a read/write head is making contact with something a bit more solid than gas.

Well, I also have a 20 GB notebook drive that I never got around to using for its intended purpose, and I had been thinking of selling it on eBay, along with some of the other odds and ends that I don't need, such as these valves, and this Colt Government Model thumb safety. (I'm not going to get rich on junk like this, but I'm never going to need these items, someone else gets to use them, and I get enough money for them to justify the effort.)

I was surprised to see how many notebook hard disk drives there are available on eBay, often quite inexpensive--and no one's buying them. So I figured that I should test this 20 GB drive before putting it on eBay--and what better solution than to test it by putting it in this Compaq NC6000?

I used to be a pretty serious computer hobbyist, back in the era when RAM came in DIPs, a 5 MB hard drive for your PC cost $2000, and I was living high on the hog because I had 576K (that's K, not M) of RAM in my IBM PC! But I sort of dropped out, somewhere around the time that DIMMs became common. So I was a little unsure of whether I was up to the task.

It turns out that the Compaq NC6000's hard disk drive uses what is called a "caddy," which combines a pulling strap with a converter that changes from the 44 pin ATA/IDE connector to the internal bus used by the Compaq. This was pretty easy to remove and install on the 20 GB drive--except that two of the screws used a very, very strange Philips head. It looked quite normal--except that there was no almost no recess, so the only way to get a grip on them was to use the end of a knife blade. Yet two of the other screws were quite traditional Philips head.

And indeed, after installing the caddy on the 20 GB drive, it appears that it works just fine. I'm installing an operating system on it now to give it a thorough test; at least, I can sell it with confidence that the drive works. I am still trying to decide whether having a spare notebook that I can use to back up my current work onto--and small enough to easily port on an airliner--makes more sense than trying to sell it.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, I am beginning to see why I have heard some complaints about Compaq's device driver support. There's both a wired and a wireless Ethernet adapter in the hardware, but for some reason, the Windows installation doesn't find have drivers for them. I've tried to load all the likely device drivers, but Windows doesn't seem to find them at reboot.

UPDATE 2: Very interesting. Even though the Ethernet interface doesn't show up anywhere, even for the wired interface--if the cable is plugged in, Windows apparently knows to download updates. Still trying to figure out how to get the wireless drivers installed.

UPDATE 3: It took a while, because there were several different wireless network interfaces offered in the NC6000, but I finally found the one that works. (And I'm using it right now to blog this update.) I'm a little disappointed that it appears the only way to find out the details of the wireless network interface are to either open up the notebook, or keep installing drivers until you accidentally hit the right one. I looked in Control Panel, System, Device Manager, and it would only show me that I didn't have the right driver--not what hardware was actually installed.

Religious Fanatics Imposing Their Morality Through Government?

Religious Fanatics Imposing Their Morality Through Government?

Oh, but it's Democrats doing this, so that makes it okay. From August 19, 2009 MSNBC:
WASHINGTON - A group of religious leaders launches a health care blitz Wednesday that will be highlighted by television ads, sermons and a nationwide “call-in” to the White House that will stress the “moral imperative” to extend affordable coverage to the nation’s uninsured.

The “40 Days for Health Reform” initiative by the interfaith groups will include prayer services in congressional districts, meetings of religious leaders with members of Congress and a “Nationwide Health Care Sermon Weekend” with preaching from the pulpit on the need for a health care overhaul. The leaders say they’re the ones who see up close the problems with the insurance system and the need for change.

The event is being sponsored by denominations and groups such as the National Baptist Convention USA, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, United Methodist Church General Board of Church & Society, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, the Episcopal Church, Unitarian Universalist Association, African Methodist Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ and Islamic Society of North America.

As I pointed out in my PajamasMedia article recently, yes, there is a long history of our government caring for the poor, as part of the tradition of the Christian commonwealth. But if this is our tradition, and Obama and his allies are going to make that argument for passing health care reform, then why ignore that same tradition with respect to abortion, homosexuality, adultery, and a host of other areas where liberals complain that "conservatives are trying to impose their morality on others"?

Another Mental Health System Failure

Another Mental Health System Failure

Seung Hui Cho's mental health records, which had gone AWOL, have finally been released. The August 20, 2009 Washington Post reports that he slipped through the cracks--and 32 people died because of it:

The records indicate that Cho sought help at the university's Cook Counseling Center three times in November and December 2005, twice on the phone and once in person. Each time, he was assessed but not treated.

On Dec. 14, 2005, the day Cho was released from a psychiatric hospital, was declared a danger for threatening to kill himself and was ordered by a judge to receive involuntary outpatient treatment at Cook, the therapist who saw him there did not evaluate his mood. Instead, she drew an "X" through the preprinted triage form.

"Did not assess," therapist Sherry Lynch Conrad wrote. "Student has 2 previous triages in past 2 weeks. Last 2 days ago."

At the psychiatric hospital, just hours before, Cho had been given Ativan for anxiety and was assessed as having a mood disorder, the newly released records show.

"Patient very non-verbal, very quiet, sits in the chair looking down at the floor, does not blink," the records say. "No smile, no laughter, no crying."
This should have immediately raised some flags. This sounds like flat affect, a common symptom of severe depression or schizophrenia.

Carly Fiorina Finally Found a Way For Me To Support Her

Carly Fiorina Finally Found a Way For Me To Support Her

Like nearly all HP employees, I absolutely loathe Carly Fiorina. When it was announced by email that the board of directors had fired her as CEO, it was early morning. I was one of the first engineers in that morning (for some odd reason--I'm not a morning person), but I could tell when people arrived all over the floor by the shouts of exultation and pleasure as fellow employees arrived, and saw the email. Her part in the McCain campaign demonstrated that she is one of those squishy liberal Republicans that are hard to tell from Democrats.

So what does she have to do to have my (passive) support? From August 19, 2009 Politics Daily:
Much like her California corporate counterpart Meg Whitman, eBay's former chief executive who is running for governor, Fiorina hopes to add a political job to her resume -- in her case, U.S. Senator. On Tuesday, Fiorina registered her campaign committee with the IRS, announcing her interest in California's junior seat, held since 1993 by Democrat Barbara Boxer.

Boxer, chairwoman of the powerful Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, will be a pugilistic opponent. Although not as rare as they once were, female Senate chairpersons are even more underrepresented in America than women CEOs. In both venues, regardless of gender, power attracts money. Tough and tireless, "Please call me Senator" Boxer is sure to give 54-year-old Fiorina a run for hers. Right now, the incumbent has plenty of cash, but with the formation of Carly for California, Fiorina intends to raise some of her own.
One of my objections to Carly Fiorina is that she had a rock star view of herself--and unlike her replacement as CEO, Carly couldn't even simulate a caring human being. It was utterly beyond her, perhaps never having spent any time with a caring human being. But as much as I detest Carly Fiorina, she stands head and shoulders above Barbara Boxer.

That doesn't say much for Barbara Boxer, does it?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

But the circumstances under which this little boy disappeared, and then was found floating in a canal some days later, don't look good for the mother and boyfriend. From the August 19, 2009 Idaho Statesman:

Eight-year-old Robert Manwill was killed by Daniel Erhlick Jr., who tortured and beat him to death while Manwill's mother, Melissa Jenkins, hid her son from government authorities who might have helped him.

So says an Ada County grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday morning in 4th District Court.

Ehrlick Jr., 36, inflicted repeated acts of blunt-force trauma to the abdomen and/or the head of Manwill with his hands, knees, fists and/or feet and/or by other means of physical force, physical abuse or emotional abuse, according to the indictment. The beatings caused bruises, abdominal bleeding and injuries and head injuries that prompted Manwill's death on or about July 24.

The indictment alleges that Ehrlick Jr. intentionally tortured Manwill "with the intent to cause suffering, to execute vengeance or to satisfy some sadistic inclination by inflicting on Robert G. Manwill extreme or prolonged acts of brutality with the intent to cause suffering."

Jenkins, 30, a mother of three, had knowledge of the beatings and repeatedly hid her son from authorities and others who might have intervened. She also failed in her duty to seek medical attention for her son's injuries, despite knowing Manwill "was being subjected to escalating physical violence” by Erhlick, according to the indictment.

I've been reading accounts of this little boy's family situation for the last few weeks, and this is someone coming out of a situation that made disaster almost inevitable.

One of the arguments that supporters of abortion often made, way back when, was that unwanted children were more likely to be abused and mistreated. Hence the slogan, "Every child a wanted child." So pretty obviously, child abuse must have gone way down after Roe v. Wade (1973) was handed down. Right?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Importance of Overhauling The National Health Care System

The Importance of Overhauling The National Health Care System

Yup, it's very important. The headline says it all:

Overhauling health-care system tops agenda at annual meeting of ... doctors
But it isn't the AMA meeting. It's the CMA. From the August 16, 2009 Canadian Press:

SASKATOON — The incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association says this country's health-care system is sick and doctors need to develop a plan to cure it.

Dr. Anne Doig says patients are getting less than optimal care and she adds that physicians from across the country - who will gather in Saskatoon on Sunday for their annual meeting - recognize that changes must be made.

"We all agree that the system is imploding, we all agree that things are more precarious than perhaps Canadians realize," Doing said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"We know that there must be change," she said. "We're all running flat out, we're all just trying to stay ahead of the immediate day-to-day demands."

The pitch for change at the conference is to start with a presentation from Dr. Robert Ouellet, the current president of the CMA, who has said there's a critical need to make Canada's health-care system patient-centred. He will present details from his fact-finding trip to Europe in January, where he met with health groups in England, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands and France.

His thoughts on the issue are already clear. Ouellet has been saying since his return that "a health-care revolution has passed us by," that it's possible to make wait lists disappear while maintaining universal coverage and "that competition should be welcomed, not feared."

In other words, Ouellet believes there could be a role for private health-care delivery within the public system.

He has also said the Canadian system could be restructured to focus on patients if hospitals and other health-care institutions received funding based on the patients they treat, instead of an annual, lump-sum budget. This "activity-based funding" would be an incentive to provide more efficient care, he has said.


Doig, who has had a full-time family practice in Saskatoon for 30 years, acknowledges that when physicians have talked about changing the health-care system in the past, they've been accused of wanting an American-style structure. She insists that's not the case.

"It's not about choosing between an American system or a Canadian system," said Doig. "The whole thing is about looking at what other people do."

"That's called looking at the evidence, looking at how care is delivered and how care is paid for all around us (and) then saying 'Well, OK, that's good information. How do we make all of that work in the Canadian context? What do the Canadian people want?' "

Doig says there are some "very good things" about Canada's health-care system, but she points out that many people have stories about times when things didn't go well for them or their family.

"(Canadians) have to understand that the system that we have right now - if it keeps on going without change - is not sustainable," said Doig.

There's a lot that needs fixing in our health care system. But I do wish the single payer crowd would stop worshiping at the idol of Canadian health care.

Yes, The Canadian Health Care Model

Yes, The Canadian Health Care Model

It saves money. But look at how. From the August 18, 2009 Vancouver Sun:

VANCOUVER — Vancouver patients needing neurosurgery, treatment for vascular diseases and other medically necessary procedures can expect to wait longer for care, NDP health critic Adrian Dix said Monday.

Dix said a Vancouver Coastal Health Authority document shows it is considering chopping more than 6,000 surgeries in an effort to make up for a dramatic budgetary shortfall that could reach $200 million.

“This hasn’t been announced by the health authority … but these cuts are coming,” Dix said, citing figures gleaned from a leaked executive summary of “proposed VCH surgical reductions.”

The health authority confirmed the document is genuine, but said it represents ideas only.

“It is a planning document. It has not been approved or implemented,” said spokeswoman Anna Marie D’Angelo.

Dr. Brian Brodie, president of the BC Medical Association, called the proposed surgical cuts “a nightmare.”

“Why would you begin your cost-cutting measures on medically necessary surgery? I just can’t think of a worse place,” Brodie said.

According to the leaked document, Vancouver Coastal — which oversees the budget for Vancouver General and St. Paul’s hospitals, among other health-care facilities — is looking to close nearly a quarter of its operating rooms starting in September and to cut 6,250 surgeries, including 24 per cent of cases scheduled from September to March and 10 per cent of all medically necessary elective procedures this fiscal year.

The plan proposes cutbacks to neurosurgery, ophthalmology, vascular surgery, and 11 other specialized areas.

So How Did Obama Win The Election?

So How Did Obama Win The Election?

A new Gallup survey finds that when asked to identify themselves as conservative, moderate, or liberal:
Conservatives outnumber liberals by statistically significant margins in 47 of the 50 states, with the two groups statistically tied in Hawaii, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

When considered with party identification, these ideology findings highlight the role that political moderates currently play in joining with liberals to give the Democratic Party its numerical advantage.

It appears that large numbers of moderates somehow or another managed to be persuaded that Obama was a moderate--or that McCain was a conservative.

It used to be said in Victorian Britain that "Conservatives were the stupid party." I have to think that the same must be true for American moderates, if they could honestly believe, with all the rather astonishingly hard left things that Obama said during the campaign, that Obama was a moderate. I can't blame moderates for being confused about McCain--who tried hard to pass himself as a conservative, when he was often hard to distinguish from Senator Clinton. But Obama?

A Paramedic's Perspective On Health Care

A Paramedic's Perspective On Health Care

A paramedic who blogs has this observation about the health care reform problem:
First, I don't see that the problem is as acute as the interests I cited above want us to believe. Which is not to say that there are not some problems, but they don't require the drastic overhaul, restructuring, and ceding control to the federal government that Obamacare would require.

Second, lets talk about the uninsured. Most of the patients I see that are uninsured are young, male, working, and don't think they need insurance. I often see them after they've done something stupid and now need emergency care. A few of them have been reluctant to go to the hospital because they don't have insurance. I don't see a lot of them with chronic or even acute (well not related to alcohol) medical problems. Those few that do have medical problems also seem to have health insurance.

Children, elderly, homeless? Maybe it's just my limited experience, but I have yet to see a kid that didn't have some sort of insurance. For the purposes of this post, Medicaid, whatever name your state uses for it, is insurance. In the real world it's welfare, because the beneficiaries don't pay premiums. Same with the elderly, Medicare may not pay well, but it does pay, and many of the elderly I see have supplemental insurance. NO, Medicare is NOT welfare, since most of the beneficiaries have paid taxes over the years. That includes both my mother and my mother in law. Neither is wealthy, but both have insurance. Same for the patients I see. As to the homeless, my experience is limited to this geographic area, but they seem to have access to health care. Whether they use it or not is a different issue. Every homeless shelter I've responded to (which is a lot) has a clinic available to their clients. Some clinics are better than others, but that's how medicine goes. Nor are the homeless ever turned down at emergency departments, even though the hospital knows that it's highly likely they'll never see a penny of reimbursement.
He has a number of thoughtful suggestions for reforms that seem pretty sensible (such as expanding Medicaid to allow those who can afford insurance, but don't currently have it, to buy into it). Worth reading in full.

UPDATE: To clarify: Medicaid provides coverage for the poor, but there is no option for a person who is employed and above the requisite poverty level, to pay for Medicaid coverage. From what I have read, Medicaid coverage isn't spectacularly wonderful, since it uses the same type of payment schedule as Medicare (although not the exact same schedule)--but it would be better than no coverage at all, and probably less expensive than individual health insurance.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Stuck On Stupid

Stuck On Stupid

Don't be stupid

President Obama spoke in Arizona today at the 110th National Convention for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Though the event saw approximately 13,000 in attendance, it was the man outside that drew plenty of attention. A man, wearing a pistol on his hip and carrying an AR-15 assault weapon was seen walking outside the event. The incident was reported by the Arizona Republic

The man chose not to be named, however when asked why he was bearing arms outside the event he replied, “Because I can do it. In Arizona, I still have some freedoms.” The man was telling the truth. In Arizona, it was legal for him to carry the weapons in public. Phoenix Detective J. Oliver stated, “What he is doing is perfectly legal. We are here to keep the peace. If we need to intervene, we will intervene at that time.”

CNN's Ed Henry was in Arizona and saw the man first hand. Here is his account of the incident, " I saw at least a couple weapons, including an AR-15, and it happened just across the street from where I am.

There was a large group of Obama supporters. They were supporting the president on health care. And it was peaceful, and, you know, there were some protesters across the street shouting things like socialism, et cetera, kind of typical stuff you see outside of some of these events these days.

And I happened to wade into the pro-Obama side to take some pictures, still photos, and try to interview some people. And all of a sudden, I saw this gentleman who was anti-Obama. He was shouting something about socialism with an AR-15 on his back.
Yes, this is Arizona. He has the right to be armed in public. But talk about provocation without any useful purpose. This accomplishes nothing but inflame Obama supporters, make opponents to Obama look like idiots, and generally, accomplish nothing.

The Second Amendment protects our right to be armed not to make stupid political points, but in the event that the government becomes tyrannical. This sort of display does nothing useful. Obama and friends know that we have the power to, if not overthrow the government, at least make the country unmanageable, so that his obscenely rich friends can't continue to loot it.

Don't be stupid.

UPDATE: Even more curious: the man with the AR-15 is black.

Those AARP Commercials

Those AARP Commercials

I'm not sure if you have seen them, but AARP is running some very well done ads that show an ambulance moving through heavy city traffic, while a couple of sedans and an SUV try to prevent the ambulance from getting through. All the while, the commercial tells us that there are special interests trying to prevent health care reform.

We all know that the AARP is just a public spirited bunch of old people, concerned about health care, right? It turns out that AARP has a rather peculiar relationship with a major health insurer, United HealthCare. (My insurer, by the way, and I would say that they are a competent and responsible operation in how they handle my coverage.) This article from 2001 mentions that AARP receives tens of millions of dollars a year from United HealthCare—and explains that AARP was attempting to block Blue Cross of Wisconsin's efforts to change from a nonprofit to a stockholder owned health insurer. Conflict of interest?

The louder that Nancy Pelosi screeches how about health insurance companies are "villains" in this debate (as discussed in this July 30, 2009 Roll Call article), the more inclined I am to wonder if some of them have worked out some corrupt deal with the Democrats, like the deal apparently worked out with Big Pharma. Calling insurance companies the villains isn't terribly accurate—but when we see these charges, we should look carefully at what is happening behind the scenes.

Many years ago, I worked for a company whose telephone switches suffered a rather spectacular failure, taking down phone service in several major cities for several hours. It made headlines. What was wrong with the switches was only part of the problem; several of the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) had some problems as well that this problem in our switches revealed. When Congressional committees investigated, my employer took on the chin, taking full responsibility for the problem.

Why did we not expose that we were not alone in causing these service outages? The rumor that spread rapidly through the company was that shortly after taking the blame, RBOCs started ordering more equipment from us. Why? We had deflected blame from them—and they rewarded us for doing so. I wouldn't be surprised if something similar is going on with this blame game.

I agree with AARP: we should not let fearmongering or false claims prevent real reform. But I know that any “reform” that requires 1000 pages to articulate is so full of corrupt deals that we are better off throwing it out, and starting over. Let’s fix the very real problems with our current health system as a series of individual proposals, each of them small enough to boil down to 30-40 pages, and vote up or down on each of them, one at a time. If Congress is so beholden to special interest groups that it needs to fold everything into a single incomprehensible bill to make anything happen, we’ve got something a lot worse wrong in this country than just health care.

Let’s start out by looking at what really needs fixing:

1. The core issue is Americans who are not insured. By some estimates, that’s about 46 million people. About 8-9 million of those are illegal aliens. If Congress were not so incredibly corrupted by identity politics and business interests, they would be working to fix that part of the puzzle first. Close the border. Require all employers to use E-verify; enforce existing laws for all knowing employment of illegal aliens. Employers having to raise wages to deal with the smaller labor pool would increase wages for unskilled and low skilled legal workers—enough that some might actually be able to afford insurance.

2. Everyone in the pool! At least, everyone in some pool. I don’t like the idea of government telling everyone that they have to have insurance, but because the government already requires hospitals to provide emergency room care, we have effectively created a highly inefficient socialized health care system—one that fails to treat many patients until their problems have gone from minor to major. On your Form 1040, if you have an income above say, $18,000 a year per family member, and you don’t have health insurance, we add a $1000 per family member fine—because if you aren’t insured, the odds are excellent that the rest of us are going to get stuck with either your unpaid medical bills, or your bankruptcy.

3. Most of the uninsured aren’t that well off. Let’s face reality: we are already paying for medical care for the uninsured—in an incredibly clumsy and inefficient way (at the emergency room). It makes more sense to create a super pool: all government employees (including Congress and the President); all Medicaid and Medicare recipients; and everyone who can’t afford to buy their own health insurance. Insurance pools work because they include a wide range of ages, health statuses, and occupations. This super pool would have a remarkably normal distribution, from little kids all the way through the elderly.

4. Give everyone a refundable tax credit equal to the cost of the super pool’s unsubsidized premiums to pay for health insurance, and then tax as ordinary income all employer or union provided health insurance premiums above that level.

It’s a proposal. But each part is clear, something that everyone can understand, and it is hard to hide anything corrupt in the 30-40 page bills required to implement each of these parts.

UPDATE: John Lott says that health insurance companies are about to pour a pile of money into getting Obamacare passed. This whole dance about the public option was probably just a little piece of kabuki to make the average leftist think that Obama isn't a tool of corporate interests.

More Women In Important Jobs When You Don't Expect Them

More Women In Important Jobs When You Don't Expect Them

From the January, 1922 issue of Mental Hygiene, a professional journal:


Head Social Worker, Boston State Hospital

Ignorant Journalists & Police

Ignorant Journalists & Police

The headline:
Thompson submachine gun among 1,700 weapons collected in gun buyback
But when you look at the picture: no, it appears to be a Street Sweeper shotgun (or one of the clones). It is definitely not a Thompson, either submachine gun, or semiautomatic version.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lovely Weather

Lovely Weather

I've mentioned that it was a late spring, and I suspected that because of the sunspot decline, it might be an early fall--and a long winter. The last few days we have been having most un-August like weather for this area--in the low 70s in the late afternoon (if that), and 50s during the night. This means no air conditioning, and letting the cool breezes blow through the house at night. Delightful!

My wife has signed up to teach four English classes in the fall, because of the sudden loss of my contract in Bend. This doesn't make up for the loss of such a high paying job, of course, but it certainly makes it less severe than it might otherwise have been. I'm using my newly found leisure time playing secretary, typing up course outlines, syllabi, and assisting her with setting up electronic resources for her class. I'm doing a bit more shopping and housework than before, too. There are worse things, that's for sure. (I won't feel this way if I can't find a job in a few weeks, of course.)

An Interesting Article From 1907 About Abortion, Contraception, and "Race Suicide"

An Interesting Article From 1907 About Abortion, Contraception, and "Race Suicide"

It is a common assumption that laws prohibiting contraception, such as were struck down in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), and abortion prohibitions, were the consequences of religious objections to both practices. But I found a quite interesting article that makes me wonder how many of these laws may have origins in Social Darwinist concerns about the "inferior races" outbreeding the WASPs. Charles H. Low, M.D., "Race Suicide," New York State Journal of Medicine 7:12 [December, 1907] 491-3, discusses his concerns about the reluctance of "typically American" sorts to have children, and their methods of preventing them:

THERE is no class of people so abundantly able to appreciate the blessing of a family of children as that great class who already have them; and yet all these may not readily agree with our strenuous Mr. Roosevelt concerning the danger of race suicide in its effect on the ultimate condition of our body politic.

It is no doubt true that a large percentage of our parentage is more and more made up of a class of people who are the least assimilable in our form of free government, and that their children will, as a result of such parentage, be less likely to appreciate the spirit of our institutions. This is particularly so as the influence of our native stock becomes less and less felt, on account of the decreasing number of children in our typically American families. Nevertheless, these factors may be compensated for by making the quality of our small truly American families make up for the quantity of the larger ones, thus affording leaders of thought and .action to maintain our ideals.

The whole tone of the article is quite interesting--and it is hard to see the author's primary concern as being a traditional religious morality.

The Oppression of Women

The Oppression of Women

As I was growing up, a recurring theme of feminist literature was that throughout history, women have been oppressed, preventing from holding any jobs of importance outside the home. And yet, I keep running into these reminders that if this was really the case, the system of organized oppression wasn't doing its job very well. I was surprised to find a Boston city directory from 1800 that listed Hannah Pope, whose occupation was "cancer doctor." (I have since found this directory online.) And indeed, she seems to have been regarded as such. I was also surprised to find a woman gunsmith in early Philadelphia.

I was reading through an old issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry while looking to verify and enhance research for my next book. While it wasn't germane to my research, I was struck by the name and title of the author of one of these articles: Esther Loring Richards, M.D., Instructor in Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins University. So, do you want to guess what year this article was published? Was it 1970? Or 1960? Maybe, 1950? Nope. This is in the January, 1919 issue.

Now, I won't claim that Dr. Richards was typical. But it does raise serious questions as to how much the status of women was part of some intentional effort to keep them down, and how much was assumptions that were widely held, not only by men, but by women. Certainly, the conspiracy model of organized oppression doesn't much explain Dr. Richards, does it?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Job Hunt

The Job Hunt

Well, I've been busy filling out job apps today. I applied for an adjunct political science instructor slot. And there are a number of computer geek jobs in various parts of the state government bureaucracy that I am not exactly qualified for--but I'm not that away from being qualified for, either. I've even applied for a job with a local government that requires ability to file. It doesn't sound exciting, but having a job with group health insurance becomes increasingly important as I approach the end of COBRA continuation coverage next May. Group health insurance as an employee benefit is worth at least $600-$700 a month relative to COBRA--so for many jobs, that's the equivalent of another $10,000 a year gross. After my COBRA expires, and my wife's COBRA expires, that the equivalent of another $15,000 a year gross.

A Bit Surprising Statement From the AAUP

A Bit Surprising Statement From the AAUP

The August 14, 2009
Inside Higher Education includes this rather gratifying criticism of Yale University Press from, all groups, the American Association of University Professors:
The American Association of University Professors issued a statement Thursday sharply criticizing a decision by the Yale University Press, first reported by The New York Times, to exclude from a book about the controversy over cartoon images of Muhammad the images themselves. The AAUP statement said that Yale's position effectively was: "We do not negotiate with terrorists. We just accede to their anticipated demands."
The last email that I saw from AAUP's head was so PC that I am startled to see such a gutsy statement from them.

Interesting Admission About Civilian Competence With Guns

Interesting Admission About Civilian Competence With Guns

From July 31, 2009 KRGC channel 13 in Missouri:

COLUMBIA -- It was an issue discussed during the legislative session this past spring, and it was a hot topic for discussion Thursday during a panel discussion at conference sponsored by the Missouri School Boards Association. The subject is campus violence.

The issue is whether to allow people to be armed at school for their own protection. School administrators and resource officers face a potential for campus tragedy unheard of just a generation ago.

The Columbine shootings a decade ago changed everything.

When asked if Jefferson City could handle a Columbine? Cole County Sheriff Greg White answered, "I think we're still building a preparedness structure."

A former school resource officer, White was one of five expert panelists in a no-holds-barred discussion of school shootings.

“If a human being desires to damage other people, they're going to do it," said White.


Sheriff White argued that armed civilians on campus have the potential to end the threat quickly. And he stunned the room with this assertion.

"In actual shootings, citizens do far better than law enforcement on hit potential,” said White. “They hit their targets and they don't hit other people. I wish I could say the same for cops. We train more, they do better."

Next Time, Use Spray Paint

Next Time, Use Spray Paint

They won't put so much energy into finding you. From the August 13, 2009 Orlando Sentinel:
CLERMONT - Clermont police have interviewed one suspect who is admitting to putting up the dozens of posters pasted around the city depicting President Obama as the Joker character from the Batman film The Dark Knight, city officials confirmed.

Assistant City Manager Darren Gray said city officials have an individual "admitting to putting up 500" of the posters.

Clermont Police Capt. Eric Jensen said the male individual has admitted to putting up some signs, but investigators suspect others were involved and their investigation is continuing.

"We have talked to an individual," Jensen said. "He only admitted to some of it...We're still tracking down leads and talking to folks. We have not arrested anybody."

At this point officials are not sure how much damage was caused by the signs or the dollar amount associated with the clean-up.

Dozens of the posters were pasted around the city earlier this week. A pair of the posters were pasted to a Clermont Post Office collection box. They prompted the postmaster to contact the Postal Inspector's office, which is looking at potential federal crimes for defacing federal property.

City officials, meanwhile, are trying to determine what local crimes might be associated with the posting of the images on public and private properties. They've also been busy ripping down the sticky signs because they're a violation of city ordinance regarding illegal signs.
Yes, this is illegal. But if they had been spray painting gang tags, instead of a funny, but not terribly thoughtful attack on Obama, would there have been an "investigation"? Of course not. Unless the police actually caught someone in the act, it would have been ignored.

Now, I don't think much of this poster as political commentary. (As humor, it is quite well done.) But you could make a case that putting up these posters is a form of protected free speech--at least as much as burning an American flag. I'm not expecting the ACLU to come to the defense of these jokers putting up these Jokers, however.

Jail Time For Prayer

Jail Time For Prayer

At least, that's the short (too short) version of what happened. The jail time is actually for defying a court order. But some court orders are so obviously unconstitutional that they deserve to be defied. From the August 14, 2009 Washington Times:

An ACLU official said the school district has allowed "flagrant" violations of the First Amendment for years.

"The defendants all admitted wrongdoing," said Daniel Mach, director of litigation for its freedom of religion program. "For example, the Pace High School teachers handbook asks teachers to 'embrace every opportunity to inculcate, by precept and example, the practice of every Christian virtue.' "

The fight involving the ACLU, the school district and several devout Christian employees began last August when the ACLU sued Santa Rosa County Schools on behalf of two students who had complained privately to the group's Florida affiliate, claiming some teachers and administrators were allowing prayers at school events such as graduations, orchestrating separate religiously themed graduation services, and "proselytizing" students during class and after school.

In January, the Santa Rosa County School District settled out of court with the ACLU, agreeing to several things, including a provision to bar all school employees from promoting or sponsoring prayers during school-sponsored events; holding school events at church venues when a secular alternative was available; or promoting their religious beliefs or attempting to convert students in class or during school-sponsored events.

Mr. Staver said the district also agreed to forbid senior class President Mary Allen from speaking at the school's May 30 graduation ceremony on the chance that the young woman, a known Christian, might say something religious.

"She was the first student body president in 33 years not allowed to speak," he said.

There was a time when the ACLU would have challenged prior restraint on speech. But I guess only if it involves dancing naked with chocolate sauce on your body. The specific circumstances of the prayers that got these people in legal trouble seem especially strong evidence that the ACLU is (again) in the wrong:

The criminal charges, which carry up to a $5,000 fine and a six-month jail term, originated with a Jan. 28 incident in which Mr. Lay, a deacon at a local Baptist church, asked Mr. Freeman to offer mealtime prayers at a lunch for school employees and booster-club members who had helped with a school field-house project.

Mr. Staver said no students were present at the event, which was held on school property but after school hours.

"He wasn't thinking he was violating an order," he said. "Neither did the athletic director. He was asked to pray and so he did."

Mr. Mach said the event was during the school day and that Mr. Lay, the school's principal, has said in writing that students were present.

Even if there were students present, this was lunch. (January 28 was during the week.) No student was required to be present. Certainly, if an imam had come in to pray, the ACLU wouldn't have been upset.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What A Shocker! Obama Makes Deal With Big Pharma

What A Shocker! Obama Makes Deal With Big Pharma

The Huffington Post, of all sources, reports about the deal that they made:

A memo obtained by the Huffington Post confirms that the White House and the pharmaceutical lobby secretly agreed to precisely the sort of wide-ranging deal that both parties have been denying over the past week.

The memo, which according to a knowledgeable health care lobbyist was prepared by a person directly involved in the negotiations, lists exactly what the White House gave up, and what it got in return.

It says the White House agreed to oppose any congressional efforts to use the government's leverage to bargain for lower drug prices or import drugs from Canada -- and also agreed not to pursue Medicare rebates or shift some drugs from Medicare Part B to Medicare Part D, which would cost Big Pharma billions in reduced reimbursements.


Critics on Capitol Hill and online responded with outrage at the reports that Obama had gone behind their backs and sold the reform movement short. Furthermore, the deal seemed to be a betrayal of several promises made by then-Sen. Obama during the presidential campaign, among them that he would use the power of government to drive down the costs of drugs to Medicare and that negotiations would be conducted in the open.

What a shocker! Obama can't be trusted!

Looking For Work Again

Looking For Work Again

The contract slot in central Oregon has ended. At least I have 10 months experience in C#, Visual Studio, and SQL now--which I didn't have before. I won't miss the drive.

UPDATE: I guess when I look at the number of people that have worked on this code over the last few years, I should not have been surprised. Oh well, I was thinking a couple of days ago, "Gee, I wish that I had more time to devote to the revision of the next book, but I need to get this database importer working, so that will just have to wait." Now I have time to work on that, blog more, and put more energy into promoting the ScopeRoller business. I would rather teach, but there's no demand for that.

Upcoming Event in Chicago

Upcoming Event in Chicago

The 2009 "Firearms Law & The Second Amendment Symposium" will be held on Saturday, September 12, at Northwestern University Law School, in Chicago, Illinois. This event will be hosted by The NRA Foundation and the Northwestern University chapter of the Federalist Society.

Capitalizing on recent developments in our nation's federal courts regarding the Second Amendment, panelists will discuss and debate current Second Amendment scholarship and related issues. Featured panelists at this year's event will include scholars on the Second Amendment such as Professors Nelson Lund and Michael O'Shea, and other scholars including Clayton Cramer, David Kopel, and others.

Go here for more details and to attend.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is It The Treadmill? Or the AbRoller?

Is It The Treadmill? Or the AbRoller?

I have been using both of these daily (the treadmill was expensive; the AbRoller I found in a secondhand store for $3.95). Today I worked 13 hours, debugging a complex (at least for me) mess of SQL and unit tests. Ordinarily, my neck and back would have taken me down for the count after 10 hours--but I actually got sleepy before my neck and back gave out.

Pajamas Media Published Another Article By Me

Pajamas Media Published Another Article By Me

"Social Conservatives, Liberals Get Each Other Wrong on Welfare"

Talk About Bad Analogies!

Talk About Bad Analogies!

Obama's health care promo in New Hampshire had him explaining the government health insurance option as competition for the private sector--and then compared the situation to UPS and Fedex, which are doing so well, compared to the post office.

Hello? The post office is a government entity, which enjoys a monopoly on first class mail delivery, and the benefit of being a non-profit entity--and the private sector is keeping them honest. A relatively clever person would ask how the government health insurance option is going to be competitive with the private sector without some unfair advantages.

I think it was Von Mises who closed one of his books about socialism by comparing the socialist goal to the post office. "The whole world one giant post office! What an alluring utopia!"

UPDATE: A reader points out that while the post office skims the cream by enjoying a first class mail monopoly, a government public option would do the opposite--insuring people that private insurers really don't want to insure, such as those with serious, pre-existing conditions. This is true. But they would also be insuring large numbers of people are unemployed, self-employed, or working for small businesses that don't have group health insurance. My guess is that the net effect would be a pool consisting of mostly healthy people, many of them young adults--but that some of the unhealthy ways might have pretty serious problems (such as cancer, AIDS, and so on). This is why a public option should include all government employees (including members of Congress), as a way of enlarging the pool with a more normal distribution.

More Really Scary Eugenics Garbage

More Really Scary Eugenics Garbage

I've learned over the years not to trust every claim that someone makes, especially if the claim is outrageous or bizarre. So when I see that someone claims that Obama's health advisor, Ezekiel Emanuel (Rahm Emanuel's brother) supports rationing health care only to those who serve the needs of the government, I wanted to verify this. Yup! Back in 1996, Dr. Emanuel wrote this article in which he says, quite bluntly:
Procedurally, it suggests the need for public forums to deliberate about which health services should be considered basic and should be socially guaranteed. Substantively, it suggests services that promote the continuation of the polity-those that ensure healthy future generations, ensure development of practical reasoning skills, and ensure full and active participation by citizens in public deliberations-are to be socially guaranteed as basic. Conversely, services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia. A less obvious example Is is guaranteeing neuropsychological services to ensure children with learning disabilities can read and learn to reason. [emphasis added]
It's not quite down there with the rationalizations for the T4 program, but it makes my blood run cold. How far do you have to go from there to justify not wasting resources on the retarded?

UPDATE: Just to clarify: Dr. Emanuel wasn't arguing against you being able to spend your own resources or purchase private health insurance if you aren't sufficiently a member of the master race for the government to consider you a worthwhile investment. But the combination of this view with Obama's maybe he's for single payer, maybe he's not, is a bit worrisome.