Friday, October 30, 2009

There Aren't Many Days More Discouraging Than This

There Aren't Many Days More Discouraging Than This

The county commissioners held a hearing this morning at 9:30 to decide who to appoint to the Treasurer's job. Even though I was number three on the recommendation list, I figured that perhaps I could make such a good impression that it just might overcome my deficiencies for the job.

I left before 8:00 AM to drive to the county seat of Idaho City. The road from Horseshoe Bend to Idaho City is only 19 miles long, but much of it is unpaved, so you have to drive very slowly--but I still had plenty of time. About ten miles up, I was informed by someone coming down the road that a trailer had jack-knifed, and the road was completely blocked. There was no certainty about when the road would be cleared. So I turned around, and took the longer road through Boise.

I arrived about 10:15--walking in the door quite literally as the commissioners voted. I explained about the jack-knifed truck, and that, "Bad roads delay more than economic development." But it was too late. One of the commissioners apparently had really hoped to hear from me before voting--so perhaps this was a job that I might have had a small chance at getting if not for that jack-knifed trailer.

At times like this, I try to take some solace in Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of more than hour drive each way to work, but at least there are health insurance benefits--and I am increasingly concerned that when COBRA continuation runs out for me in May, there may be no health insurance available for me, at any price. (Perhaps because of the health care reform bill, it seems that insurers are getting increasingly restrictive about who they will take.)

In some ideal America, my research experience and effective scholarship for gun rights would be of some economic value to someone. If there were a national organization committed to gun rights, they could hire me, even at a very, very tiny salary (as long as there was health insurance), to do the type of research and writing that I have been doing very effectively for a number of years as a part-timer. But alas, there are no such national organizations.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Anyone Have Any Experience With Something Called Medi-Share?

Anyone Have Any Experience With Something Called Medi-Share?

At first glance, it looks like some sort of mutual health insurance company, or a health co-op (I think). But there's an explicitly Christian nature to it:

A. Bringing Believers Together

Medi-Share is a program of Christian Care Ministry, Inc., a Florida not for profit corporation that is recognized as tax exempt under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) (“Christian Care Ministry” or “CCM”). Medi-Share brings believers together to share the blessings God has bestowed on them according to the example of Scripture and the early Christian Church. CCM matches a Member's Eligible Medical Bill(s) (as defined in Section II.) with Members who have volunteered, in faith, to share in the payment of medical bills through the biblical concept of Christian mutual sharing. These Guidelines specify the medical expenses that will be published for sharing to Members and explain how sharing may be accomplished on behalf of a Member in need.

I'm at first hard pressed to see a fundamental difference between what the early Christian Church did (holding everything in common) and this same approach with respect to health care.

I am always a bit suspicious when someone puts a Christian face on fundamentally a business, since it is such an effective way to take advantage of naive and trusting people, so I am curious to hear what anyone with experience with Medi-Share has to say.

UPDATE: Curious. There is some sort of legal squabble going on in Kentucky about Medi-Share not being an insurance company, with the Department of Insurance upset--but this 2008 article in Insurance Journal also reports: "Vicki Glass, spokeswoman for the Kentucky attorney general's office, said her office has investigated no complaints."

A group called Physicians for a National Health Plan is upset because Medi-Share's model is to exclude non-Christians (and Christians with serious pre-existing health conditions)--but they don't seem to have any specific criticisms of whether Medi-Share's uninsurance program actually works.

This October 25, 2005 Washington Post article discusses Medi-Share and two other similar faith-based expense sharing plans, and gives a bit more detail about how they work:

Although church plans differ, their basic premise is simple: Members send a monthly check -- a "share" -- ranging from $200 to $400, either to the plan or directly to those the plan designates with "needs," as medical bills are known. They also agree to send cards and letters or to pray for those in need; in some cases the names and addresses of those in need, along with a brief description of their medical problems, are published in a monthly newsletter.

No Guarantees

While Medi-Share has many of the characteristics of insurance -- including annual deductibles, a medical advisory board, the practice of negotiating discounts from hospitals and a requirement that non-emergency treatment be approved -- Reinhold insists it is not insurance and therefore is exempt from state regulation.

Medi-Share, he said, is a voluntary arrangement between like-minded people to share medical expenses according to rules they devise, in fulfillment of the New Testament exhortation that Christians should bear each other's burdens.

"There are no reserves and there is no guarantee a need will be paid," Reinhold said. Insurance, he added, requires a contractual transfer of risk in exchange for payment.

While one of the other Christian health plans apparently had a problem with management running wild with the money (including hiring a stripper?)--and is now under new management--there seem to have been few complaints against Medi-Share or Samaritan.

They keep costs under control both by excluding those with "Tobacco use, immoderate drinking, homosexuality and extramarital sex" and expelling those found, but also with a not too shocking form of cost control:

One way Medi-Share controls costs is by requiring its members to seek approval by telephone before non-emergency treatment, or pay $250 to the plan. Callers are routed to a medical panel headed by John E. Evans, a retired orthopedic surgeon from Vicksburg, Miss., who also sits on Medi-Share's 55-member board of overseers.

"Members are asked to give us the information we need to determine whether care will be covered, Evans said. The goal, he said, is to steer subscribers to the most appropriate treatments.

In some cases Evans's suggestions, published in Medi-Share newsletters, have been unconventional and do not include medications or surgery.

Recently he suggested that Larry McFall, a middle-aged runner with a torn meniscus, do stretching exercises to avoid surgery recommended by an orthopedic surgeon. McFall wrote that the treatment worked and noted that the advice "saved the $6,000 cost of my surgery and physical therapy" and spared him "possible infection and other side effects of surgery."

This blogger, ChristianPF points out some risks:

One of my biggest concerns was that I would be facing a huge medical bill and that the members would just decide not to “share” with me to cover it. After talking to the Medi-Share representative, it sounds like that isn’t much of a concern if you follow the rules. She explained that in the last 16 years every eligible need has been covered. But “eligible” is the key word here.

For example, she told me a story of a member who was in a bad car accident requiring lots of medical work, but since the person was intoxicated when they got into the accident, the expense was not covered by Medi-Share. On one hand I think you should give the guy a break, but at the same time it is the strict rules and policies that make the program work. The whole point is that by living a Biblical lifestyle you will be healthier, therefore have fewer medical expenses.

It seems like the program is perfect for healthy Christians who are committed to the Biblical lifestyle. If you already have many health conditions or are prone to lapses into substance abuse, it probably wouldn’t be worth it.

I would like to think that someone who was going to sign up for this (which requires your pastor to write a letter about your Christian witness) isn't going to be backsliding. But I also know that there are way, way too many people who are attending church regularly, think of themselves as good Christians--and yet, end up in adulterous affairs which give them STDs, or have substance abuse problems.

This discussion,
which seems to be among insurance agents, points out:
Some conditions, particularly those related to STD, mental illness or substance abuse may not be covered. If a woman is pregnant & her life is in danger the plan will not pay to terminate the pregnancy.
I would worry about the mental illness aspects of this. Unfortunately, there are Christians who are convinced that mental illness really doesn't exist, and you would want to verify with Medi-Share what level of reimbursement they are going to be providing if a family member has some sort of mental illness problem.

I Don't Remember Snow In October Last Year

I Don't Remember Snow in October Last Year

Indeed, you can see the panoramic picture that I took October 26, 2008 here, and there's not a hint of snow. It's not sticking, but we have been getting flurries off and on for a couple of days. I'm expecting a hard winter.

New York Arrogance

New York Arrogance

I saw this story in the October 29, 2009 Idaho Statesman, and I still can't quite get over the arrogance of it:

BOISE, Idaho — A New York City resident plans a long-distance run as a Democrat for the Idaho U.S. Senate seat now held by Mike Crapo, a Republican.

William Bryk, who is 54, hasn't raised a nickel for the May 2010 primary.

The Spokesman-Review reported he also hasn't been to Idaho in his life, but says he was prompted to run because Crapo faced only a write-in challenger in 2004. Bryk says he didn't want to let that happen again in 2010.

Election law requires Idaho candidates to be residents of the state only by the day of the general election; Bryk says he'll move to Idaho if he wins the Democratic nomination.

How kind of him! He can find out that we don't have tails and horns before he lowers himself to being the Democratic nominee!

Probably The Most Dishonest Action Ever Taken By An Elected Government

Probably The Most Dishonest Action Ever Taken By An Elected Government

Berthold Brecht is most noted as the Communist who, when East Germany finally abandoned all pretense of building socialist utopia, observed, "The government is unhappy with the people; then let the government elect a new people." Well, it now appears that the Labour Party in Britain effectively did that. From the October 28, 2009 Daily Mail:
This astonishing revelation surfaced quite casually last weekend in a newspaper article by one Andrew Neather. He turns out to have been a speech writer for Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett.
And it was he who wrote a landmark speech in September 2000 by the then immigration minister, Barbara Roche, that called for a loosening of immigration controls. But the true scope and purpose of this new policy was actively concealed.

In its 1997 election manifesto, Labour promised 'firm control over immigration' and in 2005 it promised a 'crackdown on abuse'. In 2001, its manifesto merely said that the immigration rules needed to reflect changes to the economy to meet skills shortages.
But all this concealed a monumental shift of policy. For Neather wrote that until 'at least February last year', when a new points-based system was introduced to limit foreign workers in response to increasing uproar, the purpose of the policy Roche ushered in was to open up the UK to mass immigration.
This has been achieved. Some 2.3million migrants have been added to the population since 2001. Since 1997, the number of work permits has quadrupled to 120,000 a year.
It's pretty clear that the Democrats (and much of the Republican Party as well) is intent on the same strategy. They aren't happy with the people and culture that lives here--just allow and encourage mass illegal immigration so that they can have a new population.

The real test of whether it is too late for Britain (and the U.S.) is whether a population that overwhelmingly (even among Democrats) wants illegal immigration stopped--can elect a Congress prepared to do so. Right now, I'm skeptical.

Why Is American Health Care So Expensive?

Why Is American Health Care So Expensive?

I've long pointed out that the models that the left wants us to follow--Britain, Canada, etc.--have their own sets of problems. But Dave over at Classical Values points out that by a number of measures of health care outcomes, the reason that our health care system is so expensive is because it works better than many of those fashionable systems elsewhere. A couple of examples that I tracked down to make sure that Dave wasn't misreading his sources.

From the September 25, 2003 Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- When it comes to the chance of surviving cancer in Europe, France and Austria are the best places to be, according to new research that tracks cancer survival patterns across the region.

The analysis, to be presented today at the close of a European Cancer Conference, involved statistics on 42 types of cancer in 1.8 million adults and 24,000 children from 22 countries in Europe.

The largest international cancer survival study to date, it found the chances of surviving for at least five years after being diagnosed with cancer ranged from a low of 25.2 percent for men in Poland to 57.9 percent for women in France. Regionally, Scandinavia came out best and Eastern Europe worst.

That compares with a survival rate of 62 percent for men and 63.5 percent for women in the United States. Comparable statistics for other areas of the world were not immediately available.

Got that? The U.S. had better cancer survival rates than the best European country--and therefore substantially better than the average European country.

Who is doing the most pharmaceutical research to produce more effective medicines? From the April 2007 Nature:
For those hoping that Europe might be redressing the imbalance in R&D innovation compared with the United States, two recent reports make gloomy reading. According to a competitiveness report published in November 2006 by the European Commission's high-level Pharmaceutical Forum, the US has established itself firmly as the key innovator in pharmaceuticals since 2000. "That dominant position continues to expand... a disproportionate share of pharmaceutical R&D is performed in the US," it laments.

The discouraging conclusion for European R&D is backed up by Kenneth Kaitin, Director of the Boston-based Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, which released a study on drug approval times and new drug availability in Europe and the US earlier this year. He says pharmaceutical companies are increasingly submitting their new drug applications in the US long before they apply in Europe — and as a direct result, they are focusing their R&D efforts in the US too.

Of the 71 drugs receiving marketing clearance both in the European Union and the US between 2000 and 2005, 73% (that is, 52 drugs) received approval first from the US FDA (Fig. 1). On average, the FDA approval came 1 year ahead of clearance by the European Medicines Agency (EMEA).


The advantage of the US is almost wholly down to its lack of price controls, says Kaitin. "Investors tend to invest in places where there is less control over prices, and it is always better to do your clinical trials in the countries where you plan to market," he says.

The shift of R&D out of Europe to the US is now "a pretty robust trend," adds Kaitin. "There is no indication that it will flop back unless the US switches to a different regulatory or pricing policy."

This has made life harder for European innovators. "Things are not easy over here and haven't been for a long time," says David Glover, a clinical research expert who advises the UK pharmaceutical industry. Matters weren't helped by the TGN1412 trial disaster last year in London, which Glover suggests has delayed approval for biologics trials and induced companies to look elsewhere to conduct them.

And note that it is lack of price controls here that makes the difference. You might think, "a year's delay in introduction of a medication isn't that big of a deal." I suppose it depends whether you need that medication to survive or not. In the case of some of the antipsychotics, the newer medicines may be the difference between side effects so ugly that mental patients won't stay on them, and side effects mild enough to be tolerable. A year's delay, for some people, might be the difference between spiraling out of control or not.

It is true that Americans have some very poor lifestyle choices that make our general health poor relative to say, Europeans or Japanese. I won't argue that point. (Although the British are catching up to us on bad diet and obesity.) But that's a failure of our government to play Nanny State, telling people what to eat, how much to eat, how much exercise to get, etc.--not a failure of our health care system. If you are a liberal, of course, telling people how to live is second nature (as long as the government doesn't tell anyone how to how sex, and with whom).

It's All Talk

It's All Talk

I had a conversation last night with a bunch of adults in their 30s--and I was startled to hear remarks to the effect that the only real hope for fixing this country is revolution. I've been hearing remarks like this for the last few months; it isn't serious discussion, of course. (If they were seriously enough concerned, and there was more than just a few, we wouldn't have this idiot Congress and President.) But it does capture some of the frustration that a lot of Americans are beginning to have with how corrupt our system has become.

By corrupt, I don't mean, "supporting left-wing policies." I mean the way in which business interests have so completely captured control of Congress--including nearly all Democrats and many Republicans--that the concerns of ordinary Americans no longer matter. The unwillingness to crack down on illegal immigration, both at the border and at hiring time, is perhaps the most blatant example.

If the national Republican Party really wanted to win this next election, they would be paying attention to the rage, and telling the special interests that bought them off about health care reform, about immigration, and about pork barrel spending, to go take a hike. But the national Republican Party has its ears so deep in the trough (next to the Democrats) that there seems to be no way to get their attention, except perhaps by converting both of these pigs into bacon.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Discrimination! Pass A Law!

Discrimination! Pass A Law!

It's a good thing gun owners (unlike certain other groups) don't insist on laws banning discrimination by private businesses. Instead, we take a more polite approach: we tell businesses that don't want our business that we'll go elsewhere. The Smallest Minority has a nice article about politely leaving a note on the subject.

If Idaho had enough businesses to bother with such cards, I would keep them in my wallet. But with the exception of the Edwards Cinemas in Boise, I've never seen any "no concealed weapon" signs on businesses here in Idaho.

Governor Schwarzenegger's Veto Message

Governor Schwarzenegger's Veto Message

I can't decide whether to be disappointed at the vulgarity, or impressed with the subtlety. Governor Schwarzenegger was very disappointed with a bill put on his desk--and he vetoed it. And his veto message, if you read the first letter of each of the seven lines, spells out a message. A message that I am too polite to repeat.

Coincidence, his staff says. Yeah, right. And that's why he picked the phrase, "kicks the can down the alley?"

Another Raffle To Benefit the Boise Rescue Mission

Another Raffle To Benefit the Boise Rescue Mission

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Sexy Chest Tattoos"

"Sexy Chest Tattoos"

I was walking by a computer in a library recently, and I saw a teenage gal doing a image search in Google that, as far as I am concerned, should have returned zero images (except perhaps for satirical pictures)--but maybe that's just me.

There were men. There were women. And of all the adjectives I might attach to "chest tattoo," sexy isn't one of them.

The sad part to all this is that the young lady is probably looking for something that will attract attention to her. She was carrying an extra 40-60 pounds--but without it, she would be a very attractive young lady--and in a way that no "sexy chest tattoo" will ever make her.

Cult of Personality

Cult of Personality

There are some things that are so nauseating, so repulsive, so corrupting to the soul, so completely age inappropriate, that you just shouldn't expose children to them too young. Yes, you know what I mean...politics.

I think all of us expect (or at least hope) that some of our fundamental assumptions about politics will rub off on our children (at least, once they get through the brainwashing system of college), but I would never have thought of reading my children a book like this one: Mama Voted For Obama!

Is it just me, or is this like, weird? If Fred Thompson had won the Republican nomination last year, and then won the election, I would never, ever have thought of bringing small children a book to read equivalent to this. I'm not comparing Obama to Hitler because of this book. I will compare some of Obama's cult of personality followers to Hitler's followers, however.

It Has Been A Busy Day

It Has Been A Busy Day

My wife has been sick with a cold, so I took over (on a rather abbreviated basis) her English Composition classes today--mostly picking up assignments and returning papers--but since one of the handouts for discussion Thursday was Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal," I had a chance to discuss the nature of satire. I was not surprised that no one had heard of Jonathan Swift; I was disappointed at how few students had a clue about Gulliver's Travels. A great cultural loss, indeed. (Although one student not only knew about Gulliver's Travels, and he was even able to articulate the "big-endian, little-endian" satire on the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.)

I have also been finishing up a law review article with Dave Kopel that will be a bit of a bombshell when it comes out. The rather inflammatory nature of it means that I was making sure that everything is perfectly cited and fact checked--and that I had all the primary source pages available, to demonstrate the nature of the fraud in question.

I'm doing some pretty astonishing work in support of McDonald v. Chicago. I just wish that there was a national gun rights organization out there with enough money to offer me a tiny salary and health insurance benefits, so that I could do this full-time. But unfortunately, there are no such organizations.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

PajamasMedia Publishes Another!

PajamasMedia Publishes Another!

"Openly Carrying Guns Can Be Unwise, Even When It’s Legal"
As you might expect, the comments are coming fast and furious from those who can't seem to understand the difference between, "Open carry should be illegal" and "It might not be the most effective way to win friends and influence people."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

An Astonishing Book That I Had Never Read

An Astonishing Book That I Had Never Read

I was sitting over in the Boise Basin Library, in Idaho City last Thursday evening, waiting for a job interview. The Boise County Treasurer has resigned her office a year before her terms ends, and I was interviewing with the screening committee for the job. (I was number three on their recommendation list to the county commissioners--not bad, considering the deputy treasurer, who has years of experience in the post, is ahead of me on the list.)

Anyway, while waiting, I started reading a book the title of which is well known to me--but which I confess that I have never read: Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery. I was only able to get about five chapters before I was called--and I intend to finish reading it.

Here is a guy who was born a slave, remembers receiving his freedom when a Union Army officer came to the plantation, and yet there is no bitterness there. What astonishes me is to read such a generous commentary:
I pity from the bottom of my heart any nation or body of people that is so unfortunate as to get entangled in the net of slavery. I have long since ceased to cherish any spirit of bitterness against the Southern white people on account of the enslavement of my race. No one section of our country was wholly responsible for its introduction, and, besides, it was recognized and protected for years by the General Government. Having once got its tentacles fastened on to the economic and social life of the Republic, it was no easy matter for the country to relieve itself of the institution. Then, when we rid ourselves of prejudice, or racial feeling, and look facts in the face, we must acknowledge that, notwithstanding the cruelty and moral wrong of slavery, the ten million Negroes inhabiting this country, who themselves or whose ancestors went through the school of American slavery, are in a stronger and more hopeful condition, materially, intellectually, morally, and religiously, than is true of an equal number of black people in any other portion of the globe. This is so to such an extent that Negroes in this country, who themselves or whose forefathers went through the school of slavery, are constantly returning to Africa as missionaries to enlighten those who remained in the fatherland. This I say, not to justify slavery—on the other hand, I condemn it as an institution, as we all know that in America it was established for selfish and financial reasons, and not from a missionary motive — but to call attention to a fact, and to show how Providence often uses men and institutions to accomplish a purpose. When persons ask me in these days how, in the midst of what sometimes seem hopelessly discouraging conditions, I can have such faith in the future of my race in this country, I remind them of the wilderness through which and out of which, a good Providence has already led us.
The struggles that Washington went through to learn to read--and from there, become a teacher, and the founder of the Tuskegee Institute--are astonishing reminders of how someone starting with nothing but the ambition to succeed and the character to do the right thing, can overcome enormous obstacles.

Washington has gone out of fashion the last forty years or so because he was in conflict with W.E.B. DuBois concerning the right solution to the problems of blacks in the postbellum South. DuBois believed that nothing short of demanding full legal, social, and political equality, and immediately was acceptable. Washington's belief was that blacks needed to develop as an economic force, by becoming skilled craftsmen, needed to happen first--because Southern whites were simply not prepared to accept or even consider black political equality.

It is easy to see Booker T. Washington as an "Uncle Tom." But I think the better explanation is that Washington understood the ugly realities of the South; he grew up there, and had been a slave. DuBois had attended integrated public schools his entire life in the North; he was the first black Ph.D. in History from Harvard. While DuBois could write, movingly, in The Souls of Black Folk about the intrinsic "twoness" of being black in America--always with two identities--I guess that Washington better knew what was possible then and there. Like John Adams' famous assertion that he must study war, so his sons could study science, so that their sons could study art--Washington understood that as long as blacks were impoverished, because they worked in low skill, low status jobs, there was no realistic hope of achieving anything like political equality in the South.

There's a lesson here today. I know that in many inner cities, getting good grades is regarded as "acting white." And yet that is the only realistic way to break the cycle of poverty and degradation.

An Encouraging Story Of Helping Others

An Encouraging Story Of Helping Others

From a blog called Rented Spaces:
At age 54, Ed Pierce thought his income from rental properties in West Virginia and South Carolina would provide sufficient income to retire in Rock Hill, S.C., and be closer to his adult daughter.

When his tenants told him they couldn't pay their rent, he could have started the eviction process. Instead, he went back to work at a local Walgreens.

"I sat with them and prayed for better times," Peirce told a columnist for The Herald. "These are stand-up guys. Family men. Proud. They paid me before, when they were working. You don't show your faith, your Christianity, in words. You do it in deeds."

While we tend to think of landlords as disgruntled ogres who clamor outside your window for their monthly monthly check, property managers are generally very reasonable and even generous people.One of Pierce's tenants worked in construction and has a wife and two small kids. A second worked in utilities contracting and has a baby in the house. Both tenants got laid off several months ago.
My guess is that when Pierce's tenants resolve their employment problems, they are going to show Pierce that his willingness to go the extra mile for them was well worth it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Good Sign

Good Sign

I had two job interviews yesterday, one with the Idaho Department of Corrections, and the other to replace the retiring Boise County Treasurer. I am third on the recommendation list for the latter job--which is really, all in all, pretty astonishing, considering that I have no experience in public finance.

It's a long, long drive to Idaho City (the county seat), so while it would be nice to have a salary and benefits again, it would be at a very high cost in terms of time and driving costs. Now, if there were a non-profit that would hire me to do what I do best--writing law review articles on the subject of gun rights--that would be ideal. But that doesn't seem to be in the cards.

The good news, however, is that my suit fits noticeably looser than when I when to Chicago on September 11. I'm guessing that the treadmill is slowly doing its job.

Academic Derangement Syndrome

Academic Derangement Syndrome

In much of the academic community, everything is boiled down to the triumvirate of the left: race, gender, and class. (And lately, sexual orientation.) So I read articles like this, and I have to hope that the paper is being quoted out of context:

( A research paper that won a Hebrew University teachers' committee prize finds that the lack of IDF rapes of Palestinian women is designed to serve a political purpose.

The abstract of the paper, authored by doctoral candidate Tal Nitzan, notes that the paper shows that "the lack of organized military rape is an alternate way of realizing [particular] political goals."

The next sentence delineates the particular goals that are realized in this manner: "In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it can be seen that the lack of military rape merely strengthens the ethnic boundaries and clarifies the inter-ethnic differences - just as organized military rape would have done."

The paper further theorizes that Arab women in Judea and Samaria are not raped by IDF soldiers because the women are de-humanized in the soldiers' eyes.

Yes, a lack of rape is because those Israeli soldiers hold Arab women in such utter contempt. But if there was a lot of rape going on--that would also be a sign that Israeli soldiers hold Arab women in contempt. This sounds like one of those papers that started with the result--Israeli soldiers have dehumanized Arabs--and then looked for a way to twist the data to match that result.

I'm sure that if this same author were examining al-Qaeda's use of power tools to torture people to death, that would be a sign of al-Qaeda's fundamental respect for the humanity of the victims--that they were important enough to torture.

Welfare Cellular Phones

Welfare Cellular Phones

Fascinating. Apparently, cellular phone service has joined the category of fundamental human needs.
SafeLink Wireless is a government supported program that provides a free cell phone and airtime each month for income-eligible customers.

The process to qualify for Lifeline Service depends on the State you live in. In general, you may qualify if...

  1. You already participate in other State or Federal assistance program such as Federal Public Housing Assistance, Food Stamps and Medicaid.


  2. Your total household income is at or below 135% of the poverty guidelines set by your State and/or the Federal Government.


  3. No one in your household currently receives Lifeline Service through another phone carrier.
  4. You have a valid United States Postal Address. In order for us to ship you your free phone you must live at a residence that can receive mail from the US Post Office. Sorry, but P.O. Boxes cannot be accepted.

In addition to meeting the guidelines above you will also be required to provide proof of your participation in an assistance program, or proof of your income level.

It appears that this has a limited number of minutes per month--apparently so that it is used primarily for emergency calls. It is rather astonishing how rapidly something that used to be a luxury is now considered such a necessity that the government subsidizes it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Most Curious Statistic

A Most Curious Statistic

I've seen this claim made before, and it was so unbelievable--and so offensive--that I just assumed that those making the claim were playing some sort of dishonest game on this. Perhaps they were picking one year where there was something wrong with the method by which the National Crime Victimization Survey gathers data.

The claim is that in the 2005 single-offender rapes/sexual assaults in the National Crime Victimization Survey data, there is simply no rape of black women by white men. Black women are raped entirely by black men. And sure enough, that is what the 2005 data shows. Now, the number of rapes that make it into the NCVS data is small enough that there's an asterisk next to the 0.0% that says the sample size was so small (less than 10 incidents in the sampled population) as to be statistically not significant.

So I started going back, year by year. The link above shows data back to 1996. In 2004, it is still 0.0% of rapes that were white offender, black victim. And in 2003. In 2002, it is 14.2%. In 2001, it is 13.4%. In 2000, 7.0%. In 1999, 0.0%. In 1998, 7.2%. In 1997, 0.0%. In 1996, 13.5%. And every year, the percentage is statistically not significant, because the number of incidents was based on "about 10 or less" crimes.

I'm really quite curious about this. This isn't the 1950s South, where a white guy could probably get away with raping a black woman, as long as he didn't do it in the middle of town at high noon. And it isn't that there isn't interracial rape. While the bulk of white victims are victimized by white offenders, in every year, there are black offenders/white victims, from a low of 7.0% in 2000 (and not statistically significant, because 10 or fewer crimes), to a high of 33.6% in 2005 (and in that year, statistically significant).

Let me emphasize: this is from the National Crime Victimization Survey, not crimes charged, or the results of police investigations sweeping something under the rug. This is based on crimes reported by victims. There is something terribly, terribly bizarre about this.

Great Article in the Latest America's First Freedom

Great Article in the Latest America's First Freedom

My co-blogger on the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog, Dave Burnett, has a spectacular article (and the cover story) in the latest America's First Freedom. He uses the data from more than 4100 incidents that we have blogged since 2003 to present a very useful statistical model of gun self-defense in the U.S. I'm proud to be associated with a fine young man like Dave Burnett; I'm very glad that I started the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog when I did.

Job Interview Tomorrow

Job Interview Tomorrow

With the Department of Corrections. No, not prison guard--systems analyst. (It has been so long since I applied that I no longer remember whether this is Java or C#.) Non-profits interested in hiring me so that I can continue to produce scholarly works on gun rights need to get moving, or risk losing me--and my free time activities.

I Thought Automatic Weapons Were Available Everywhere

I Thought Automatic Weapons Were Available Everywhere

There's a news story about a guy in Massachusetts who is being charged with terrorism, and the October 21, 2009 WBZ channel 38 article includes this rather interesting statement:


Prosecutors say Mehanna had "multiple conversations about obtaining automatic weapons and randomly shooting people at a shopping mall."

"The conversations went so far as to discuss the logistics of a mall attack including coordination, weapons needed and the possibility of attacking emergency responders," Loucks said.

"They had discussions regarding how to do it, whether to do it from multiple entrances, what to do when emergency responders arrive," he added.

The plan was scrapped because the men could only get handguns and not the automatic weapons they wanted.

"They determined it was not feasible to go forward," Loucks said.

Prosecutors would not say which malls were targeted.


Loucks said Mehanna conspired with two other men: Ahman Abousamra, who authorities say is now in Syria, and an unnamed man, who is cooperating with authorities in the investigation.

Investigators say the men "were inspired by the success of the Washington D.C. area snipers who were successful in terrorizing the public" in 2002.

According to authorities the three did not believe civilians were "innocents because they paid taxes to support the government and because they were non-believers." [emphasis added]
To hear the gun control fanatics tell the story, you can get machine guns, bazookas, etc. at practically every gun show. And yet the government says that Mehanna found that getting machine guns wasn't so easy. Fascinating.

This is one of the reasons that I encourage those who have concealed weapon permits to be armed when going to crowded public places. One of these days (maybe, one of these days again), there is going to be a mass murder in a public place that doesn't involve mental illness, but terrorism. The life you save may not just be your own, orthat of your loved ones, but a complete stranger who some terrorist has decided needs to die for the greater glory of Allah.

Hate Crime Victim Says She Made It Up

Hate Crime Victim Says She Made It Up

What makes this especially weird is that the guys she accused of raping and torturing her--and at least one of them supposedly did these horrible crimes because she was black--pleaded guilty. From the October 20, 2009 Charleston (W.V.) Gazette:
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Seven people pleaded guilty for their part in abusing Megan Williams -- but now Williams says that abuse never happened.

She will hold a press conference Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio, to recant her claims of abuse, attorney Byron L. Potts, who represents Williams, told The Charleston Gazette on Tuesday night.

"She has decided she has been living this lie for approximately two years and she has decided to tell the truth," Potts said. "She fabricated the story and she did this in retaliation because she was having a relationship with one of them."

But former Logan County prosecutor Brian Abraham, who was in charge of the case, said no one ever went to jail because of Williams' statements.

Instead, Abraham said Tuesday night, he decided early in the case not to rely on Williams' statements, but on the physical evidence and the statements of the co-defendants.

My first reaction was, "Well, maybe she made it all up. And these guys decided that since there was no way that they would get justice with Rev. Al Sharpton screaming 'racism,' they should take a plea bargain." It is certainly the case that our justice system has almost gone topsy-turvy--from a society where a white person could get away with horrible crimes against black victims to travesties like the Duke lacrosse rape case--where the prosecutor pursued innocent (although sleazy) white defendants even when he know that the "victim" was lying.

Still, there are aspects of this that don't make sense. Did Williams stab herself in the leg and burn herself with hot wax? Was this some sort of S&M thing? All quite mystifying. As I have pointed out in the past, there are a surprising number of "hate crimes" that turn out to be completely faked by the "victims," and some "hate crimes" that turn out to have no bias component at all--such as Matthew Shepard's murder.

Lies About Limbaugh

Lies About Limbaugh

There are a bunch of "quotes" from Rush Limbaugh floating around. Some of them are believable: offensive, but not spectacularly those. Some are offensive, but perhaps the full context would make them obviously satirical. And some of them are so false, and completely made up, that even the hard left is beginning to back down and admit that they are not true. The Weekly Standard is reporting that Rachel Maddow has now admitted that the quote about giving the Medal of Honor to Martin Luther King's assassin is "apparently" not true. Even leftists trying hard to justify jettisoning Limbaugh from the purchase of a football team are admitting that some of the "quotes" are probably false:

Two of the racist quotes recently attributed to Limbaugh, which praised slavery and Martin Luther King Jr. assassin James Earl Ray, may have been falsified and then magnified in the media echo chamber.

The quotes were published in a 2006 book by Jack Huberman, “101 People Who Are Really Screwing America.” Asked Thursday for the source of the quotes, Huberman said he had no comment. His publisher, Nation Books, also declined to comment.

The originator of two incredibly inflammatory quotes refuses to identify where they came from--and no one has them on audio? And they "may" have been falsified? CNN now admits that they can't source the quotes:
News anchor Rick Sanchez used the purported quote on CNN, but has now issued a retraction.

"Earlier this week we provided quotes attributed to Limbaugh to illustrate why some people and players felt that Rush Limbaugh was too divisive to be an NFL owner. One of these quotes, which was in a column in the St. Louis Post Dispatch and in a book largely about conservatives, was refuted by Limbaugh. We have been unable to independently confirm that quote. We should not have reported it and for that I apologize. I feel it is important to hold folks accountable when they make mistakes, and that should include myself and my team," said Sanchez.
And MSNBC has admitted likewise:
During the 3:00PM ET hour of live coverage on MSNBC Friday, co-host David Shuster admitted that racially charged quotes he and other hosts attributed to Rush Limbaugh had not been verified: “MSNBC attributed that quote to a football player who was opposed to Limbaugh’s NFL bid. However, we have been unable to verify that quote independently. So, just to clarify.” Shuster did not formally retract the quote or apologize.
What just amazes me is how completely and utterly disconnected from honesty the left has become. Of course, if you don't believe in right and wrong, then what's wrong with lying?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Today's Really Weird Question

Today's Really Weird Question

Do you know of an authentic 19th century courtroom in Idaho or an adjoining state? Obviously, if it is in use today as a courtroom, it will have been updated, so I'm looking for something that is almost certainly intended for film production.

Did This Used To Be A Problem, But No One Reported It?

Did This Used To Be A Problem, But No One Reported It?

The October 20, 2009 Idaho Statesman reports on a 37 year old teacher who has pleaded guilty:

Former Meridian Middle School teacher Ashley Beach admitted Tuesday to having sexual contact with a 13-year-old male student earlier this year.

Beach will find out in December if she will have to go to prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to one count of felony lewd conduct.

Two other counts of lewd conduct were dropped as part of a plea agreement with Ada County prosecutors.

The 37-year-old Beach, a former teacher at Meridian Middle School, is accused of having sex with a 13-year-old student between June and September. An Ada County grand jury indicted her on the three charges earlier this month.

I've seen some sad booking photos, but this is perhaps the saddest ever.

When I was young, there were rumors about male teachers who got in trouble for sex with their junior high age students. But of course, these were always "heard it from someone who heard it from someone." Nonetheless, this has always been a little bit of a problem. I'm always sad to hear of it, but I'm not surprised: men are naturally more sexually aggressive than women, and I am not surprised that some men can't resist temptation, and some girls are seeking the validation and approval of the father figure that isn't present.

As a friend once described it, "Girls are looking for emotional intimacy; boys are looking for sex; they end up making up a trade." It's potentially quite hazardous, in both physical and emotional terms, when we're talking about 12, 13, 14, even many 15, 16, and some 17 year olds. But when one of them is an adult? We expect the adult to know better, and look for someone who is at least an adult.

I don't recall ever hearing of women teachers seeking out 13 year old boys for sexual relationships when I was young. Now, you can't seem to get through a month's news coverage without these incidents popping up. Was it happening back in the 1960s, but no one was getting caught? Were such incidents hushed up? Or are women achieving equality with men by sinking to the same low level?

I suppose if these situations involved approximate equals (you know, the 24 year old teacher and the 17 year old student), I could disapprove, but it wouldn't seem so sick. But this 37 year old has children almost the age of her sexual partner. What possible sexual attraction is there to a 13 year old boy for a woman this old? Or is the pursuit of innocence just as appealing to some women as it is to some men?

Same-Sex Marriage in Maine On The Ballot

Same-Sex Marriage in Maine On The Ballot

You may be aware that Maine's legislature voted to recognize same-sex marriage recently; Stand for Marriage Maine has put a referendum on the upcoming ballot, giving voters a chance to override the legislature. If you are in Maine, you know what to do.

Love Dave Hardy's Wit

Love Dave Hardy's Wit

He reports over at Arms and the Law on a new National Institute of Health study, which is supposed to:
"investigate whether adolescents who consume alcohol and/or carry firearms, and/or whose daily activities occur in surroundings rich in alcohol and/or firearms, face a differential risk of being shot with a firearm or injured in a non-gun assault.""

That's something a lot of us have long wondered about. Once we have the study's results, we'll know at last whether it is wise to give guns to drunken teenagers.

What next? Studies to find out if giving alcohol to teenagers increases sexual activity?

The Danger Of Precedents

The Danger Of Precedents

PajamasMedia publishes "The Danger of Precedents." And one of the nastiest of the leftists who tries to stir up trouble in the comments makes the mistake of claiming that the original intent of the Second Amendment was to protect the right of states to maintain militias. I've just posted my response, with links to the appropriate pages in Annals of Congress and Journals of the Senate, which if this guy had any sense, will send him running away with his tail between his legs.

1502 Pages

1502 Pages

The Senate's health care reform bill is here. It is 1502 pages long. The table of contents listing its sections is 13 pages alone. So why is it so long? Because it is trying to do too many things at once. There are sections for "Encouraging Development of New Patient Care Models" and "Linking Payment to Quality Outcomes Under the Medicare Program" and "Improving Payment Accuracy."

Many of these individual sections probably do good things--but why did they have to be bundled with so many other unrelated sections? Were they not strong enough to stand on their own? Could we not have passed a "Linking Payment to Quality Outcomes Under the Medicare Program" bill by itself? Why not? Is there something in there that required a quid pro quo to get it passed?

If these changes are necessary to save enough money to pay for the rest of the program, and they are so clearly going to save money--why didn't Congress vote those measures into law months ago, and start saving money immediately? My guess is that either the cost savings isn't that clear, or there is some special interest group that Congress has to pay off to get some other part of this Frankenstein's monster passed.

I am one of those people that suspects that bogus malpractice lawsuits, while a real problem, are not the major part of our health care costs. Yes, there are some spectacular lawsuits based on bogus science. Yes, those lawsuits encourage defensive medicine--ordering more tests than are really necessary--but my experience from the time when I was briefly uninsured, many years ago, is that the presence of insurance tends to drive extra tests, too. It doesn't cost anything (at least for the doctor or the patient), so you might as well be sure. Still, some restraints are probably necessary--so what does this bill say about the subject of medical malpractice? Pages 1211-12 essentially say, "Yeah, Congress should consider maybe looking into this." There's nothing except empty platitudes and "Congress should consider" on those pages.

There are provisions related to encouraging reduced teen pregnancies starting on page 503. This is a non-controversial idea to just about everyone, and yes, the bill does seem to have provision for "messages that focus on abstinence, responsible behavior and choices, family communication, relationships, and values." (While I can't follow exactly what the strikeouts are doing to the current code sections, section 1804 of this bill seems to restore abstinence education funding.) I would prefer that we reduce teen pregnancies by persuading teens to delay sexual activity, but contraception is still a vast improvement over abortion. But again: why couldn't this be a separate bill? It would allow a straight up and down vote that could have been passed through Congress and signed into law months ago--and this bill would be that much simpler.

Starting on page 508 is a section concerning "Programs of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention." While parts of this are uncontroversial (smoking cessation programs, paying copayments and deductibles for well baby doctor visits, for example), other parts look like they were added in response to some national gym trade group: "A program that reimburses all or part of the cost for memberships in a fitness center." Perhaps this makes sense--but again: why does this all have to be shoved into a single bill? Lack of confidence that it would survive a straight up or down vote?

And the Elder Justice Act? A quick read through it doesn't seem bad. But again: why not pass this separately, and make the rest of the bill that much shorter, simpler, and easier to understand?

The unseemly haste to get all these separate, barely related, and often completely separable provisions passed makes it look like Congress has something to hide.

Idaho Budget Cutting

Idaho Budget Cutting

Sharon Fisher has an article at New West's blog about the painful process of budget cutting for Idaho state government:

If legislators are going to be cutting individual programmatic functions in other agencies, though, it’s going to be interesting to see how they do it. Currently, the Legislative Budget Book used by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee JFAC) uses an “incremental” way of describing the budget for the new fiscal year. In other words, it starts with the amount the agency received the previous year, then makes various adjustments to that figure to produce a “maintenance” figure—which would allow the agency to continue doing what it’s been doing—then adds new programs and requests.

In other words, the programs that have been approved in previous years aren’t listed in detail in the budget book, at least as it currently exists. So it’s not clear how members of JFAC would receive program-specific information in order to cut existing programs. Certainly the budget development manual provided by DFM to the agencies doesn’t look any different.

This is, as I understand it, how the federal government does budgeting as well--start with an assumption that every program is necessary, and at its current level, and then adjust accordingly. Now, if every governmental program was created for good reasons, and those reasons remain just as valid today as they did when it was created, this would be just fine.

But we all know that programs acquire a life of their own, and even when they no longer make sense--or at least, don't justify as big a slice of the pie as they used to--they survive. I gave two examples to my students last week: the strategic helium reserve (originally in support of our warfighting dirigible fleet) that persisted into the 1990s. The last I checked, this program was still consuming money in figuring out how to dispose of the assets and liabilities. The other was the program that required U.S. military bases in Germany to use anthracite coal from the U.S. for power generation, shipped in American bottoms. More than a decade after our bases stopped burning anthracite coal, at the request of the German government, we were still shipping it over--and then burying it on leased land.

It's a big project to sit down and revisit the decisions to create every program. But when a budget crisis arrives, maybe that's what they need to do. They may not get much else done in the meantime, but perhaps that a feature, not a bug.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Suffering Insomnia?

Suffering Insomnia?

This will cure it! “This Right is Not Allowed by Governments that are Afraid of the People”: the Public Meaning of the Second Amendment When the Fourteenth Amendment Was Ratified for the abstract. And click here to download the paper.

We're shopping for a nice home for this wriggly little puppy at various top rated law reviews.

It's kind of cool to be the senior author on an article where my juniors are a law professor, and a clerk to a U.S. appellate court judge.

Everyone whining about how I am not sufficiently PC about open carry can read this, and tell me who loves you!

Deinstitutionalization Sure Was Peachy For This Guy, Wasn't It?

Deinstitutionalization Sure Was Peachy For This Guy, Wasn't It?

From the October 18, 2009 Syracuse Post-Standard:
Schroeppel, NY - When Deanna Candee and her son, Adam, returned from a shopping trip Saturday to their Schroeppel home, they suspected something was wrong when they saw the garage door open.
Candee’s home had been ransacked. An intruder was still inside.
As her 25-year-old son moved toward the cellar to check out a noise, Deanna, 48, started into the house, said Wilson Candee, Deanna’s father-in-law.
The intruder confronted her and grabbed her by the hair, Wilson Candee said. Adam heard his mother scream, went to her aid and pulled the intruder off. He and the stranger began to struggle.
The fight ended, Oswego County Sheriff’s officials said, when Deanna grabbed her pistol and shot the man.
Phoenix police found Timothy Hartigan, 39, dead in a bedroom when they arrived shortly after 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Sunday, Wilson Candee provided details about the struggle based on his conversations with Candee, his grandson, and investigators.
Candee legally owned the gun with which she shot Hartigan, sheriff’s department officials said.
Wilson Candee said the intruder’s motive did not appear to be theft. Money left in a wallet was untouched and no articles appeared to have been gathered for removal, he said.
But he said he was told the house had been thoroughly vandalized with doors broken, glass smashed, and pictures and knick knacks knocked from the walls. Cutlery was strewn along the hallway leading to the bedroom. There also were signs that the intruder had cooked bacon and eggs, he said.
Hartigan had a history of mental illness, according to his former wife, Denise L. Cunningham, and a man answering the phone at Hartigan’s mother’s home who identified himself as Hartigan’s brother-in-law.
When Hartigan was taking his medications he was a great guy, a good father to his two children and a good friend to many, Cunningham said. He was artistic and enjoyed drawing and woodcarving, although he did less after he was diagnosed, she said.
“When he was on his medicine he was a good person,” Cunningham said. “He would never have dreamt of doing this.”
Cunningham said her former husband was diagnosed a decade or so ago and recently had been treated at University Hospital.
“His son and I had just gone to visit him ... we actually saw him a week ago today,” Cunningham said.
The hospital released Hartigan on Tuesday, she said. Hartigan’s illness could not be learned Sunday.
A spokeswoman for the hospital declined to comment, citing privacy regulations.
Hartigan was no longer living at the downtown Syracuse YMCA, where he had resided about eight years, Cunningham said, and she didn’t know where he was living after his discharge.
This is, unfortunately, a recurring situation for many of the mentally ill since deinstitutionalization: in and out, in and out, homelessness, shelter, and back again. The problem is never really solved. For those with schizophrenia, the institutional setting didn't really solve the problem, either, but at least they weren't going to be killed in a tragedy like this. Once Deanna Candee knows why this happened, it is likely that whatever trauma this incident has for her is going to be worse--once she realizes that Hartigan wasn't in his right mind, and this entire disaster could have been prevented.

There are so many of these tragedies--and yet the mainstream media choose to ignore it, because it doesn't suit their agenda.

Open Carry in Banks--Not Smart

Open Carry in Banks--Not Smart

My daughter was in a bank in Nampa recently--and there was another customer there with a holstered gun. She was a little surprised that this is not only legal in Idaho, but constitutionally protected--and it definitely made her uncomfortable.

Look, my daughter's no hoplophobe. We did all the tradition father-daughter things growing up: teaching her to shoot pistol and center-fire rifle, attending submachine gun class together (you've done that with your daughter, haven't you?). Like most Americans, she's generally pro-gun. But open carry in a bank?

There's a time and a place for everything, and like the open carry event at the Boise Zoo last year, this is really not a way to make friends and influence people (at least, to our side). Just because you have the right to do something doesn't mean that you should do so.

UPDATE: I'm impressed--there are people who think that we have pretty much lost the battle over gun rights in America. Perhaps all these "send us money now or the police will finish confiscating the last 1000 guns in America" fundraising letters are making some people unaware of what enormous successes we have had of late.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Interesting Surprise Saturday

Interesting Surprise Saturday

One of my students brought in a copy of my book Armed America and asked me to autograph. The surprise is that it was the paperback edition--which I didn't know existed!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Coming Ice Age

The Coming Ice Age

I mentioned several years ago
the last time the mainstream media were hyping climate change--when they were scared witless of the coming ice age--of which this 1975 Newsweek article is a fine example. Here's another amusing example, from 1977.

In Search Of... was an interesting series narrated by Leonard Nimoy. I often found myself a little uncomfortable with its willingness to listen to kooks--but this episode about the coming ice age is a reminder that not that long ago, all sorts of people who today are screeching about global warming were screeching about the need to "do something" about the coming ice age.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. When the proposed solutions are extraordinarily expensive (in money, in rights, in giving control of people's lives to others), the most prudent action is to wait for these extraordinary claims to be proved.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

PajamasMedia Publishes Another!

PajamasMedia Publishes Another!

"Fourteenth Amendment Shootout at the Supreme Court"

If they keep up this heady pace, I may not need a full-time job.

Yet Another Newspaper That Called Him "Kenyan-Born"

Yet Another Newspaper That Called Him "Kenyan-Born"

In this case, the June 24, 2004 Kenya Standard:

Kenyan-born US Senate hopeful, Barrack Obama, appeared set to take over the Illinois Senate seat after his main rival, Jack Ryan, dropped out of the race on Friday night amid a furor over lurid sex club allegations.

The allegations that horrified fellow Republicans and caused his once-promising candidacy to implode in four short days have given Obama a clear lead as Republicans struggled to fetch an alternative.

This isn't the first example of an African newspaper saying that Obama was born in Africa (although later corrected). Newspapers aren't perfect; they make mistakes, sometimes letting their enthusiasm for a story or a phrase take precedence over the facts. But when you see stuff like this, and combine that with the continuing efforts to keep the original long-form birth certificate hidden--can you see why some people start to wonder?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Kazakhs Are Astonishingly Patient People

The Kazakhs Are Astonishingly Patient People

I just saw the first six minutes of Borat, and it is perhaps the most singly offensive piece of film picking on a country that I think that I have ever seen. Now, Kazakhstan isn't like this--but I fear that more than a few people will see Borat and not know any better.

If Sacha Baron Cohen had started a film like this engaging in this sort of offensive insult to Iran, he'd be dead by now.

I notice that I am not alone in my revulsion:
I got given this DVD as a 'secret santa' present. I sat and watched it the following morning after hearing many rave reviews from my friends about this film. After the entire length of this movie I was left wondering whether I had lost my sense of humour, as I found nothing in this film that was remotely funny.

Borat was nothing more than an offensive movie, full of anti-semetism (despite the actor himself being Jewish), racism, sexism and well the list goes on. If someone had come out with the comments that were made in this film, in an interview etc that person would have been prosectued for what they had said, but because it is a film character doing this it was deemed acceptable.

Rant finished!
Maybe the rest of the movie was really funny. But the first six minutes were so offensive (and not even funny) that if I had been in a theater, I would have walked out. On TV? That's an easy choice.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Atypical. Weird. Stupid. Huh?

Atypical. Weird. Stupid. Huh?

I know that situations like this are not typical of abortions in the U.S.--but it just makes me shake my head in horror, revulsion, and confusion. From the October 14, 2009 Daily Mail:

A woman has admitted to being 'an abortion addict' after having 15 terminations over 17 years.

Irene Vilar said she had the abortions not from poverty or fear but as an extraordinary act of rebellion against her 'controlling' husband who did not want children.

The 40-year-old's confession has unleashed a torrent of attacks from anti-abortion activists on the internet, including death threats and demands for her to be jailed.

The cycle of pregnancies and abortions, which began when she was 16 and ended when she was 33, was also punctuated by several suicide attempts.

Now a successful literary agent with two young daughters, Loretta, five, and Lolita, three, Mrs Vilar has written about her experiences in a memoir, called Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict.

The book, which was published yesterday, has shocked many Americans, who remain bitterly divided over the issue, and has angered campaigners on both sides of the abortion divide.

Charmaine Yoest, president of pro-life pressure group Americans United for Life, said: 'It really underscores everything we always say in the pro-life movement - that abortion is part of a very sad story for women.'

However, pro-choice campaigners said Mrs Vilar's book raises uncomfortable questions about abortion as a form of birth control.

Ya think? I've pointed out before this November 29, 2005 Los Angeles Times article that I think finally pushed me over the edge from weakly pro-choice to reluctantly pro-life--not because either of the cases were typical of abortions in the U.S.--but because I fear that they aren't spectacularly unusual (unlike Ms. Vilar):
His first patient of the day, Sarah, 23, says it never occurred to her to use birth control, though she has been sexually active for six years. When she became pregnant this fall, Sarah, who works in real estate, was in the midst of planning her wedding. "I don't think my dress would have fit with a baby in there," she says.

The last patient of the day, a 32-year-old college student named Stephanie, has had four abortions in the last 12 years. She keeps forgetting to take her birth control pills. Abortion "is a bummer," she says, "but no big stress."

The Article Title Sounds Like a Nasty Anti-Gay Joke...

The Article Title Sounds Like a Nasty Anti-Gay Joke...

or perhaps the sort of hypothetical that a law professor might come up with the force his students to think. But it comes from the October 8, 2009 Daily Mail:
One gay man, two lesbians, a three-legged cat and a poisoned curry plot

A gay man tried to poison his lesbian neighbours by putting slug pellets into their curry after he was accused of kidnapping their three-legged cat.

Gary Stewart, 37, had been at loggerheads with Marie Walton and Beverley Sales for months.

But things looked brighter when he made a peace offering of some curry, claiming he had ordered too much from the Indian takeaway.

As Red Ink: Texas points out:
But apparently in the UK, if you happen to be of a protected class, any attempt on your life, regardless of the reason counts as a hate crime. Let this be a warning to Congress. They are about to pass a defense bill that has had a gay hate crime amendment stuck in it.
I can't find any evidence in the article that Stewart is being charged with a hate crime. But here's the question: if Stewart was closeted--and no one knew he was gay--would he be charged with a hate crime? Would he have to admit his homosexuality to clear himself from a hate crime charge?

Another Article on PajamasMedia

Another Article on PajamasMedia

"Are You More Likely to Be Shot Because You Own a Gun?"

Whenever I Wonder If Anyone Reads My Shotgun News Columns...

Whenever I Wonder If Anyone Reads My Shotgun News Columns...

I have days like this, where it is clear that yes, someone is reading them. The October 1, 2009 issue had an article where I explained that carrying a gun at an event where the President is present is bad public relations--and in general, carrying openly when you have some other option available to you does not help the image of gun ownership in the U.S. I explained that I understand the theory that some have that getting people used to open carry will desensitize the average American, but that as near as I can tell, it works about as well as same-sex kiss-ins. Lots of people know what homosexuals are doing in private, but would prefer not having it shoved in their faces. Ditto with guns.

I've received far more feedback by email than I normally get, generally negative. Some of it is polite disagreement; some of it not so polite. What disturbs me is how much some of the sentiments that I see are beginning to remind of the early 1970s, when radical left groups spent so much time talking to each other--and so little time talking to average Americans--that they became convinced that all it would take to overthrow the U.S. government, and institute a Marxist system, was one spark to get the flames going.

About half of Americans think Obama is doing a fine job. Even of those who disapprove, few really strongly disapprove. I think this is a sign of shocking ignorance, but I know better than to think that Americans are ready to explode in righteous anger about this corrupt and evil system. As long as football games are on, and beer gets delivered to the grocery stores, much of America doesn't care.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Establishment Clause

The Establishment Clause

PajamasMedia has published my piece on the First Amendment's establishment clause
, citing the very anti-ACLU actions taken by Congress, and Presidents Jefferson and Madison. As you might expect, the atheists are suffering brain meltdowns.

UPDATE: I'm always amused at the ignorance of the atheists intent on proving that they know history better than me. One of the comments on that article says:
“History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose. ”

Oops, how’d that happen? That Jefferson, what a leftist, socialist, pre-Marxist liberal anti-American! Want more? There are tons.
My response:

Suggestion: learn to read in context. Jefferson was referring specifically to the Spanish colonies.

That they will throw off their European dependence I have no doubt; but in what kind of government their revolution will end I am not so certain. History. I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avai1 themselves for their own purposes. The vicinity of New Spain to the United States, and their consequent intercourse, may furnish schools for the higher, and example for the lower classes of their citizens. And Mexico, where we learn from you that men of science are not wanting, may revolutionize itself under better auspices than the Southern provinces. These last. I fear, must end in military despotisms.

Jefferson, like nearly all the Framers, regarded Catholicism with considerable contempt. Hence “priest-ridden" not "clergy-ridden" or "religion-ridden." As another example, John Adams (who became more liberal theologically in his later years) attended Catholic services in Philadelphia when part of the Continental Congress, and described it as superstition.

The atheist zealots (and I recognize that not all atheists are zealots) seem intent on cherry-picking quotes rather than understanding.

Australia Obviously Needs Gun Control Laws!

Australia Obviously Needs Gun Control Laws!

From the October 5, 2009 Telegraph:

GUN violence is so out of control there are three shootings a week in Sydney and neighbourhoods are living in fear.

The city's shooting capital is Fairfield, with 34 shootings and drive-bys in just two years to the end of June.

Exclusive statistics from the Bureau of Crime Statistics show there were 157 drive-by and illegal shootings between July 2008 and the end of June, up from 129 the year before.

Police investigated 29 shootings in the Blacktown local government area, 25 in Bankstown, 24 in Auburn and 20 in Liverpool. There were even 11 shootings in the heart of the city.

Opposition police spokesman Mike Gallacher said NSW was awash with handguns, which were being imported from overseas and then traded on Sydney streets.

"Criminals are getting their hands on illegally imported firearms," he said last night.

A frightening array of guns have been seized in the past month, including a .357 Magnum handgun and a .22 shortened rifle with silencer.

In one raid on September 9, police officers managed to seize five Colt M16 assault rifles, three Colt AR15 assault rifles, three 9mm assault rifles, a tactical assault rifle and seven 9mm handguns at Rosebery.

What a shocker: an island nation can't prevent smuggling of automatic weapons and handguns. And after having disarmed law-abiding Australians of semiautomatic rifles.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

BBC On Global Warming--And The Lack Thereof

BBC On Global Warming--And The Lack Thereof

From October 9, 2009 BBC:

This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.

But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.

So what on Earth is going on?

Climate change sceptics, who passionately and consistently argue that man's influence on our climate is overstated, say they saw it coming.

The rest of the article is making excuses for why maybe the people that made all these predictions--and were wrong--maybe really are right, after all. But don't let their lack of success--or the success of the skeptics in correctly predicting this--make you in anyway skeptical of the anthropogenic global warming theory.

Theft of Mail

Theft of Mail

In the more than three years that we have lived here, we have never had any mail stolen. Until now. I put out a package to ship on Monday for a ScopeRoller customer. By Friday, he's asking why the tracking number doesn't show anything. Because the post office apparently didn't grab it.

This really upsets me. While the package in question has a retail value of $175--and a replacement cost for me of about $60 plus an hour or so of my time--it will be of zero value to whoever stole it, unless they or a friend has a Syntax EQ6 telescope mount. I would have hoped that after they figured out it wasn't pawnable that they would throw in a mailbox. But no such luck.

And the astonishing thing is that stealing mail is like a 25 year prison sentence.

UPDATE: This is weird. The customer reports that the package arrived today--two days late, and without ever appearing to have made it into the Post Office's tracking system.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Really Cool Fixer-Upper

Really Cool Fixer-Upper

Wired has an article about a guy who decided that an Atlas missile silo qualified as a "fixer-upper." If I were as obscenely rich as a Democrat, I would be very tempted to own one of these.

Corvette Percussive Maintenance

Corvette Percussive Maintenance

You may have heard the humorous phrase "percussive maintenance" used to describe hitting a malfunctioning piece of equipment--and having it fix the problem. Often, this is because there is some loose connection that just needs some jostling.

For the last year or so, I have been frustrated by a problem with the Corvette's heating and A/C system. The panel that displays outside temperature, thermostat setting, etc., has become so faint that it was difficult to read with the top on the car in daylight, and completely impossible to read with the top off the car. At the same time, all the rest of the dashboard displays worked fine. The dealer had not a clue how to fix it without replacing the entire control display--which would be very, very expensive.

I spent some time thinking about this on the way home this evening, and it occurred to me to start experimenting with the dashboard rheostat that controls the rest of the dash panel illumination. Sure enough, the very faint display changed approximately in relation to the rest of the panel illumination--it was just too faint, even at the brightest setting. So there was power going to the faulty display--and it was varying as it should. Could it be just a loose connection? So I tapped on the front of the faulty display with my finger--and it briefly brightened up, then faded again.

As one of the operative rules of percussive maintenance says, "It hitting it doesn't solve the problem, use a bigger hammer. If it breaks, it needed replacing anyway." So I tapped it a bit harder--and this time it brightened up, and stayed bright. It still isn't quite as bright as the stereo controls, but then again, it never was quite as bright, even when I bought the car in 2002. But it is now so bright that I have confidence that I will be able to read it in daylight again.

An Irish Explanation of Derivatives Markets

An Irish Explanation of Derivatives Markets

This arrived in the mail. It's funny, and it's a reasonably accurate description of what went wrong. There's only one thing missing from it: Heidi starts this insane "drink now, pay later" program because the banker selling the bonds was threatening to have the city health inspector close her bar if she didn't do this. It's an "Irish" explanation because alcohol is the driving force. (As an Irish-American friend's mother once explained, "Alcoholism is the curse of the Irish." Some of us would say, alas, it's only disproportionately the curse of the Irish; there's no shortage of damage elsewhere.)

An IRISH Explanation of Derivative Markets

Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Detroit. She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar. To solve this problem, she comes up with new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later.

She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans). Word gets around about Heidi's "drink now, pay later" marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi's bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Detroit. By providing her customers' freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages. Consequently, Heidi's gross sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Heidi's borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.

At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert traders transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS and PUKEBONDS. These securities are then bundled and traded on international security markets. Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as AAA secured bonds are really the debts of unemployed alcoholics.

Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb, and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses. One day, even though the bond prices are still climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi's bar. He so informs Heidi.

Heidi then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but being unemployed alcoholics they cannot pay back their drinking debts. Since, Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and the eleven employees lose their jobs.

Overnight, DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS and PUKEBONDS drop in price by 90%. The collapsed bond asset value destroys the bank's liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community.

The suppliers of Heidi's bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms' pension funds in the various BOND securities. They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds.

Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.

Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multi-billion dollar no-strings attached cash infusion from the Government. The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, non-drinkers. Now, do you understand?