Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Washingon State's RKBA Provision

Washington State's RKBA Provision

I was doing a bit of research into Washington State arms law, and I ran into some very interesting stuff about the history of Washington State's right to keep and bear arms provision.  Washington State's current constitution dates from 1889, as does the RKBA provision, Art. I, sec. 24:
The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men. 
The "armed body of men" was a response to the use of Pinkertons as strikebreakers--and Washington State was certainly not going to interfere with union men defending themselves by the law of the jungle.

There was an earlier proposed constitution, the first time that Washington asked for statehood.  The 1878 proposed constitution included Art. V:
Sec. 19. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but this shall not be so construed as to justify the carrying of concealed weapons.
This is a pretty typical state constitutional provision for the era; guaranteeing a right, but clarifying that it did not protect concealed carry. (Clear implication: some form of carry is protected.)

One of the standard reference works on the Washington State Constitution contains the rather interesting statement that a delegate to the 1889 constitutional convention proposed adding a ban on concealed carry to the proposed arms provision--and his proposal was voted down.  In light of the dominant view of how far the police power extended at the time--and that the proposed 1878 constitution did have a "shall not be construed as to justify" clause, it would be very interesting to examine in detail the debates about this provision at the 1889 convention, and see if the proposal was to constitutionally prohibit concealed carry, or merely to provide that the arms provision did not protect it.  Unfortunately, only the minutes were kept, although much of the debates was apparently published in newspapers of the time.  It does appear that the Oregon and Indiana state constitution rights guarantees are, respectively the father and grandfather of the 1889 Washington constitution.

Not Quite Sure What This Means...

Not Quite Sure What This Means...

I just received notice from my broker that some Fannie Mae bonds that I bought several years ago are being called.  These were bonds that have a 6.5% coupon, due in 2037, and that cost me slightly below par.  Since they are redeeming the bonds for the full par value, that means that I get 1-2% capital gain, and I earned 6.5% interest each year the last several years.  That was a decent return for a very low risk investment.

That the bonds are being called would indicate that the underlying mortgages have been paid off--perhaps because of a refinance of the loan, or the sale of the house.  Either way, this is probably a good thing for the borrowers, and probably a good sign for the economy.

I am expecting interest rates to rise--perhaps quite catastrophically--in the next year or two, so now I have to figure out where to invest this money in the meantime that gets a decent return, and yet doesn't lock me into the current not very impressive interest rates.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Nailing Woodpeckers to the Wall

Nailing Woodpeckers to the Wall

Couldn't sell this one, either.

Nailing Woodpeckers to the Wall

Several years ago, my wife and I had a builder create our dream home, out in the country. There was a lapse of several months from when he finished it, to when we were ready to move in, because our son was in his senior year of high school. It would have been impractical for him to make the drive every day, so we waited.

One Saturday, we drove up to the new house—and saw what at first glance looked like vandalism! There were holes in the screens, damage to the wood siding—enough that it was obvious as soon as we opened the car doors. What had happened?

Woodpeckers are what happened. As far as they were concerned, this was a weird kind of tree—and well worth attacking. We gathered a variety of suggestions on how to discourage them from continuing their marauding—of which the most stark in its simplicity was: use an air rifle to shoot one, and nail it to the outside of the house. I was told that the rest would see their fallen comrade, and leave our house alone.

This was a bit too redneck for me to seriously consider, but I now see another use for that same strategy. Where the birds were destroying our future house, now it is bird-brains in the House destroying our future—and figuratively, at least, it’s time to get out the hammer and nails.

There are two special elections for the House of Representatives next month: one in Hawaii, one in Pennsylvania. The national Democratic Party is absolutely terrified that if Republicans win these two traditionally Democratic seats, it will throw a scare into other Democratic Congresscritters across the country. Yes: rather like nailing a woodpecker to the outside of the house.

Both races are really quite astonishing—with the Democratic machine in Hawaii apparently quite badly split over who to support. There are two Democrats and one Republican in the race—and this is a winner takes all race. The Republican could win the election with 40% of the vote, if the Democrats split the other 60% evenly.

The district in Pennsylvania, while having a strong lead in Democratic registration, is not exactly blue state territory. At least part of why John Murtha managed to hold the seat as long as he did is that he was, until part-way through the Iraq War, a pretty seriously hawkish Democrat. One of the Democratic strategists interviewed in that Politico article described it having “a lot of ‘Pennsyltucky’ action….” (At least he didn’t start humming “Dueling Banjos.”)

Like many parts of America, it has a lot of Democrats who love America, but were bought off by John Murtha’s ability to bring home the pork. As Americans start to look at the future with genuine concern, the Democrats have reason to be concerned.

I can’t quite tell from Charles Djou’s website if he is a conservative, libertarian, or one of those RINOs that irritate me—but I do know that a RINO winning that special election would be a good thing. I’ve just made a modest contribution to Charles Djou’s campaign for Congress in Hawaii.

Tim Burns, who is running to replace the late John Murtha, is no question, not a RINO. He is a conservative. I’ve just made a slightly larger contribution to Tim Burns’ campaign. If you are serious about stopping the Democratic bird-brains before they knock all our houses down—it’s time to put your money where you mouth is. It’s time to terrify Democratic members of Congress with the prospect of joining the unemployed.

UPDATE: The link to Tim Burns' campaign was broken.  Fixed now.

No, This Wasn't Me

No, This Wasn't Me

John Derbyshire at National Review Online published this email from a reader.  There are enough similarities between my position and what this reader is describing that I thought I should be quite explicit: I did not write that email:
Dear Mr. Derbyshire — I’m the [middle-management job title] for the [name of state] Dept. of Correction BECAUSE OF YOU!! After 20 years in IT in the private sector I got a goverment job after being laid off from [name of firm which outsourced their IT work overseas]. I’ve been in the government for 2 years now making about 60% of what I did in the private sector. State doesn’t pay like Federal.

I knew it would be bad in gummint, but the scale and pervasiveness of idiocy and sloth at every single level is astounding. It’s fractal. Nobody cares how long something takes, or if anything gets done poorly or at all. Everybody here thinks everyone else is a moron, and everybody is right. Management is inept to the point of being criminally negligent. More layers of management too.

Nobody [expletive] cares about anything except maintaining the same routine until retirement and [name of state] is a right-to-work state. At a state with a public employee union, I can’t imagine.
Yes, I am making about 60% of what I made in the dearly departed private sector, which I suspect may never come back, unless adults somehow miraculously end up in control of the federal government.

Yes, I work for the Idaho Department of Correction, and Idaho is a right to work state.

But I am not middle management. I have worked as first level management at various times in my career--and I have been quite effective at that--not that this much matters when looking for a job. Whether you drink on social occasions, play golf, or are a flaming liberal--in the private sector, that matters more in hiring decisions.

I haven't been at my current employer long enough to know whether management is competent or not, nor do I have much visibility into what they do, but I can say that my co-workers make a serious effort to do their jobs well, and my immediate supervisor does a good job.

And of course, I wouldn't send an email that needed bleeping.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Recommendations on Swinging Metal Targets?

Recommendations on Swinging Metal Targets?

You know: the kind that you can carry out to an informal shooting range, set up, and every shot makes a "ding"? Or at least you can see that it moved? Reactive targets definitely provide immediate feedback, which is good for developing shooting skills.

I notice that a number of these target types are limited to soft point rifle ammo. I'm guessing that a target tough enough to handle FMJs would be too heavy to move for pistol ammo.

The goal is a target that can be configured for use with pistol calibers (9mm Para, .380 ACP, .45 ACP) or with rifle calibers (.223, .308). No need to handle .50 BMG, 20mm explosive shells, or small asteroids. :-)

Nasty Stereotyping & the Arizona Illegal Immigration Law

Nasty Stereotyping & the Arizona Illegal Immigration Law

I wish Idaho's legislature had enough conservative Republicans to pass a law like Arizona did.  But much of our Republican Party here is owned by corporate interests, so they don't pay attention to us.  Perhaps the Arizona law creates some risk of increased racial profiling, but if the federal government is too busy whoring after corporate interests and ethnic identity groups, what's the choice?

Anyway, this article from the April 23, 2010 Washington Post has an example of exactly the sort of vicious, nasty stereotyping that many people are warning about:

"It's going to change our lives," said Emilio Almodovar, a 13-year-old American citizen from Phoenix. "We can't walk to school any more. We can't be in the streets anymore without the pigs thinking we're illegal immigrants."[emphasis added]
Is it still 1968? Pigs?

What A Shocker: Obamacare Isn't Going To Save Money

What A Shocker: Obamacare Isn't Going To Save Money

From the April 23, 2010 New York Times:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law is getting a mixed verdict in the first comprehensive look by neutral experts: More Americans will be covered, but costs are also going up.

Economic experts at the Health and Human Services Department concluded in a report issued Thursday that the health care remake will achieve Obama's aim of expanding health insurance -- adding 34 million to the coverage rolls.

But the analysis also found that the law falls short of the president's twin goal of controlling runaway costs, raising projected spending by about 1 percent over 10 years. That increase could get bigger, since Medicare cuts in the law may be unrealistic and unsustainable, the report warned.
These are the professional actuaries in charge of planning--not political hacks.

Look, I think getting every citizen and legal immigrant covered is a fine goal, especially since many of the uninsured are in that state because of poverty.  Some of that poverty, without question, is self-inflicted.  (Money for cigarettes, pot, and alcohol, but not for health insurance.)  But some of it is not self-inflicted.  A Christian commonwealth has an obligation to provide for at least the basics of life, as I have blogged before.  (In spite of the best efforts of the left, the dominant values of America are still Christian.)

What frosts me is the pretense that insuring tens of millions of Americans was going to somehow save enough money to cover the costs.  There are some cost savings that come from getting everyone into the pool, but not enough to cover the inflation of costs caused by this increased effective demand.  Pretending otherwise was just dishonest.  I find myself increasingly thinking of Obamacare as a method of forcing future tax increases that just happened to have a health insurance program attached.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Reasons Not To Get Too High & Mighty About European Witchcraft Trials

Reasons Not To Get Too High & Mighty About European Witchcraft Trials

I am preparing next week's lectures for my Western Civ class, and one of the topics is the burst of witchcraft trials in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance.  There are differing theories for why more than 100,000 witches were tried over several centuries, but before feeling too superior to those "ignorant" people, consider some of these recent news stories, such as this April 2, 2010 Voice of America report:

Beheading of Man in Saudi Arabia for Witchcraft Averted

 A Lebanese man condemned to death for witchcraft by a Saudi court will not be beheaded Friday as had been expected, his lawyer said.

Ali Hussain Sibat, the father of five, was to be executed after noon prayers Friday, but a frenzy of media coverage, appeals by international human rights groups and intervention by several Lebanese government officials, may have saved his life, at least temporarily.

His lawyer, May al-Khansa, said she was still unsure whether the beheading had been waived or postponed.

 And this item from the April 24, 2010 Times of Swaziland:

Witchcraft suspicions lands 21 residents in Court

BHUNYA- A resident from kaLuhleko community who alleges that he was accused of having caused the death of a boy from another family has taken 21 residents of the area to court.

Sonboy Mabuza alleges that the accused persons accused him of having played a part in the death of one Sibonelo Fakudze in 2005. 

He alleges that the accused persons, most of whom are relatives of the deceased, have been threatening him whenever they saw him. He had made an application to the court for a peace binding agreement between himself and the residents especially the Fakudze family. 

And from the April 18, 2010 Daily Nation (a Kenyan newspaper) is a column that opens with a picture with this caption:
Lynching of people suspected to be witches is common in some parts of the country. In Kisii, officers from Nyamira Police Station arrived too late to save a woman who was killed at Kiabiraa Village of Nyamira North District in March.
And there are many other examples.  At least the authorities are unlikely to respond to this accusation with criminal charges.  From April 14, 2010 KHBS-TV:
A Springdale man has been arrested in connection with a reported rape.

Police said Hector Pineda raped and beat the woman regularly for four years.Officers said Pineda denied the abuse, and claimed to be a victim of witchcraft he said was done by the accuser.
By the way, I did find a marvelous account by Benjamin Franklin of a full-scale "weighing the witch" and "swimming the witch" trial from 1730 New Jersey:
"saturday last, at Mount-Holly, about 8 Miles from this Place 2 near 300 People were gathered together to see an Experiment or two tried on some Persons accused of Witchcraft. It seems the Accused had been charged with making their Neighbours' Sheep dance in an uncommon Manner, and with causing Hogs to speak and sing Psalms, etc., to the great Terror and Amazement of the king's good and peaceable Subjects in this Province; and the Accusers, being very positive that if the Accused were weighed in Scales against a Bible, the Bible would prove too heavy for them; or that, if they were bound and put into the River they would swim; the said Accused, desirous to make Innocence appear, voluntarily offered to undergo the said Trials if 2 of the most violent of their Accusers would be tried with them. Accordingly the Time and Place was agreed on and advertised about the Country; The Accusers were 1Man and 1Woman: and the Accused the same. The Parties being met and the People got together, a grand Consultation was held, before they proceeded to Trial; in which it was agreed to use the Scales first; and a Committee of Men were appointed to search the Men, and a Committee of Women to search the Women, to see if they had any Thing of Weight about them, particularly Pins. After the Scrutiny was over a huge great Bible belonging to the Justice of the Place was provided, and a Lane through the Populace was made from the Justice's House to the Scales, which were fixed on a Gallows erected for that Purpose opposite to the House, that the Justice's Wife and the rest of the Ladies might see the Trial without coming amongst the Mob, and after the Manner of Moorfields a large Ring was also made. Then came out of the House a grave, tall Man carrying the Holy Writ before the supposed Wizard etc, (as solemnly as the Sword-bearer of London before the Lord Mayor) the Wizard was first put in the Scale, and over him was read a Chapter out of the Books of Moses, and then the Bible was put in the other Scale, (which, being kept down before) was immediately let go; but, to the great Surprize of the Spectators, Flesh and Bones came down plump, and outweighed that great good Book by abundance. After the same Manner the others were served, and their Lumps of Mortality severally were too heavy for Moses and all the Prophets and Apostles. This being over, the Accusers and the rest of the Mob, not satisfied with this Experiment, would have the Trial by Water.
The description of the hogs singing the Psalms makes me think that Robert Heinlein had it wrong when he said, "Never try to teach a pig to sing.  It doesn't work, and it annoys the pig."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Slave Reparations

Slave Reparations

See this remarkable April 23, 2010 New York Times op-ed piece by Professor Louis Gates about slavery reparations.  If I wrote it, it wouldn't be surprising.  But when Professor Gates says that slavery reparations are impractical, because there's too many that can be blamed on both sides of the Atlantic--you can put a fork in slavery reparations, and call it done.
There are many thorny issues to resolve before we can arrive at a judicious (if symbolic) gesture to match such a sustained, heinous crime. Perhaps the most vexing is how to parcel out blame to those directly involved in the capture and sale of human beings for immense economic gain.

How did slaves make it to these coastal forts? The historians John Thornton and Linda Heywood of Boston University estimate that 90 percent of those shipped to the New World were enslaved by Africans and then sold to European traders. The sad truth is that without complex business partnerships between African elites and European traders and commercial agents, the slave trade to the New World would have been impossible, at least on the scale it occurred.

Advocates of reparations for the descendants of those slaves generally ignore this untidy problem of the significant role that Africans played in the trade, choosing to believe the romanticized version that our ancestors were all kidnapped unawares by evil white men, like Kunta Kinte was in “Roots.” The truth, however, is much more complex: slavery was a business, highly organized and lucrative for European buyers and African sellers alike.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

No Wonder SEC Needs More Authority To Regulate Financial Markets

No Wonder SEC Needs More Authority To Regulate Financial Markets

Clearly, they lacked the regulatory authority required to do their job, and were reduced to this:
WASHINGTON – Senior staffers at the Securities and Exchange Commission spent hours surfing pornographic websites on government-issued computers while they were being paid to police the financial system, an agency watchdog says.

The SEC's inspector general conducted 33 probes of employees looking at explicit images in the past five years, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press.

The memo says 31 of those probes occurred in the 2 1/2 years since the financial system teetered and nearly crashed.

The staffers' behavior violated government-wide ethics rules, it says.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beware The Salt Vampire Nanny!

Beware The Salt Vampire Nanny!

Fans of the original Star Trek may remember the salt vampire.  Now we have to worry about the salt nanny.  From the April 20, 2010 Washington Post:
The Food and Drug Administration is planning an unprecedented effort to gradually reduce the salt consumed each day by Americans, saying that less sodium in everything from soup to nuts would prevent thousands of deaths from hypertension and heart disease. The initiative, to be launched this year, would eventually lead to the first legal limits on the amount of salt allowed in food products.

The government intends to work with the food industry and health experts to reduce sodium gradually over a period of years to adjust the American palate to a less salty diet, according to FDA sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the initiative had not been formally announced.

Officials have not determined the salt limits. In a complicated undertaking, the FDA would analyze the salt in spaghetti sauces, breads and thousands of other products that make up the $600 billion food and beverage market, sources said. Working with food manufacturers, the government would set limits for salt in these categories, designed to gradually ratchet down sodium consumption. The changes would be calibrated so that consumers barely notice the modification.
 First problem: It isn't clear that salt is quite the health problem that FDA and the leftist nannys pushing this issue think, as this column in the February 9, 2009 New York Times by Professor Michael Alderman explains

Second problem: I expect that large numbers of people will start adding salt to their now undertasty food.  What, exactly, have we accomplished?  My wife and I tend to cook with very little salt, but that doesn't mean that I don't eat salt.  It means that I add it to food to taste.

Third problem: Where, exactly, does the Constitution grant authority to regulate salt in food?  This regulation of interstate commerce idea is getting far beyond silly when they start to do this.

Fourth problem: the nannyism that this represents is because, I confess, a real problem.  Large numbers of kids (and some adults) eat way too much salty junk food.  But when I was young, most of us had these weird things that many younger people have never heard of: parents.  You know: the troublemakers who limited our consumption of junk food, and soft drinks, and at least tried to get us to eat reasonably balanced meals.  But since a fundamental part of the philosophy of the Democratic Party is every child should come from a divorced home, and both parents should be working full-time, the government has to play nanny, as a substitute for caring parents who are actually at home, providing supervision and guidance.

The way things are going, in another 20 years, if the liberals have their way, cigarettes and salt will be prescription items, and marijuana will be distributed to all children in elementary schools because so many of the K-6 set have glaucoma and chemotherapy symptoms.

Defining "Commonly Used"

Defining "Commonly Used"

You may recall that the Heller decision held that the category of "arms" that are protected by the Second Amendment are those in common use.  So what does that include?  It appears, from this new survey, that this includes AR-15 pattern rifles:
The first comprehensive survey to look at ownership and use of modern sporting rifles reveals that 8.9 million Americans went target shooting with AR-style rifles in 2009 and that participants using this type of rifle were the most active among all types of sport shooters.
Let's see: that's about 3% of Americans went target shooting with AR-style rifles last year.  Larger numbers doubtless own such rifles but did not go target shooting last year.  Me, for example.  I didn't take my AR-15 target shooting last year--and there are doubtless others in the same category as myself.

Monday, April 19, 2010

8 Out of 10 Americans Don't Trust The Federal Government

8 Out of 10 Americans Don't Trust The Federal Government

From April 19, 2010 AP:
Public confidence in government is at one of the lowest points in a half century, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans say they don't trust the federal government and have little faith it can solve America's ills, the survey found.

The survey illustrates the ominous situation President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party face as they struggle to maintain their comfortable congressional majorities in this fall's elections. Midterm prospects are typically tough for the party in power. Add a toxic environment like this and lots of incumbent Democrats could be out of work.

The survey found that just 22 percent of those questioned say they can trust Washington almost always or most of the time and just 19 percent say they are basically content with it. Nearly half say the government negatively affects their daily lives, a sentiment that's grown over the past dozen years.
I guess that means that two out of ten Americans are clueless.

Those Uncivil, Impolite Conservatives

Those Uncivil, Impolite Conservatives

From April 19, 2010 The Hill:
Gay rights protesters interrupted President Barack Obama's speech at a fundraiser for California Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) Monday night in Los Angeles.

Activists from a group called GetEQUAL began shouting at Obama while he was speaking at the podium. They expressed frustration over the slow progress of repealing the ban on openly gay people serving in the military.

The protests brought the speech to a halt, and the protesters did not lower their voices after others in the crowd urged them to end their shouting.

More Bizarre Conspiracy Theory Garbage

More Bizarre Conspiracy Theory Garbage

One of my wife's students handed her off a video to watch called Zeitgeist: Addendum, and wanted an opinion.  We watched enough to recognize dishonest and emotionally manipulative propaganda.  After watching it, I found that others have had similar reactions to it and its predecessor (one of those films that manages to combine 9/11 Trutherism, Federal Reserve Bank conspiracies, and Da Vinci Code idiocy).

1. Like most of these films being made by and for the 20somethings, it relies on scary music and unique visuals in the style of The Ring to create a sense of foreboding and discomfort.  As film, it is quite effective.  As propaganda, it probably works on a fair number of people who have not yet learned to recognize these forms of manipulation.  If the goal is to pursue truth, the use of these techniques alone discredit the film.  It's rather like the famous intercutting of the scenes of the rats and Jews in Nazi propaganda films.  It works as a manipulative technique, but it should immediately discredit the maker.

2. Like most of this sort of leftist propaganda, it mixes carefully selected facts, conjecture, and sloppy reasoning to mislead the watcher.  As an example, it gives a reasonably accurate account of fractional reserve banking working, but leaves the impression that all wealth is the result of the Federal Reserve System's deposits of cash, and fails to explain that banks take deposits from private parties, and then make loans against those deposits.

3. It makes the claim that "international bankers" are the cause of the Federal Reserve System established in 1913, and then goes on to claim that the "Hazard Circular" produced by British banking interests in 1862 is the beginning of the conspiracy.  Yet at the same time, it claims that these international bankers were trying to destroy Lincoln's use of "Greenbacks" which were paper money not backed by much except a promise to pay--yet the Federal Reserve Notes are essentially the same system.  I guess that I am not surprised that anti-Semites such as Ezra Pound and Nazi dupes such as Charles Lindbergh were among the early promoters of this claim about the Hazard Circular.

4. This film goes on to claim that the Federal Reserve System was created to enslave Americans.  Sorry, but that's a strong and wild claim, just fine for a John Bircher or other conspiracy buff.  The Federal Reserve System was created with the belief that the boom and bust cycle of the American economy could be controlled and managed if the government had more control over the money supply.  The Federal Reserve System turned out to be a major failure in that respect.  It seemed to some observers at the close of the nineteenth century that booms and busts were becoming more severe, and there was this hope that an actively managed money supply could fix this.  The Great Depression suggests that this was not the case.  The guys pulling the levers of the machine clearly did not know what they were doing.  But this isn't a sign of conspiracy, but of delusions of competence.

5. The film claims that it is impossible to ever get out of debt, because there is always interest on loans, and thus the workers are always enslaved.  Perhaps the guy that made the film feels that way, but this is simply not true.  The U.S. has on a number of occasions made significant progress on it reducing the national debt, and certainly individuals are capable of freeing themselves from debt--although it is sometimes not easy.  This notion that our modern banking system was created to keep workers enslaved by work is preposterous.  There has not been a time in history when people didn't have to work to feed themselves and their families.  If there is something that enslaves most Americans, it is the tax burden imposed by government.

6. The film refers to how the Federal Reserve System means that those who borrow money are "detached from their original debt."  What?  Bankruptcy can do that.  Perhaps they were implying that inflation, because it means that you are paying back loans in devalued dollars, makes a loan less painful than it otherwise would be.  But you are hardly "detached" from that debt.  It's just nonsense that the filmmaker wants to make sure that you don't examine carefully.

7. The film asserts that the Federal Reserve System forces an unnamed someone "to compete for labor."  I can't figure out what they are saying.  That employers are competing for labor?  That's a good thing--at least if you are a worker.

8. The film keeps talking about banks as lenders--with no awareness that a variety of cooperative institutions (such as credit unions) and individuals also operate as lenders--for example, when you carry paper on a land or house sale.  Why?  To give an impression of monolithic operations that doesn't fit the real world--but that many college students won't yet know about.

9. The film relies on the beyond absurd claims of John Perkins in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man which have been pretty thoroughly demolished.  Even in those areas where there is some factual basis, this film engages in the sort of selective use of facts that shows that the goal is deception, not instruction.  For example, there is no question in my mind that the overthrow of Mossadegh by the CIA in 1953 could have been at least partly motivated by his decision to nationalize the British oil industry in Iran.  It was not the only reason for U.S. concern about Mossadegh, and very likely not even the most important reason.  But an honest discussion of the overthrow of Mossadegh, which put the Shah of Iran firmly in charge, would acknowledge that the Shah did not restore British ownership of the Iranian oil industry.  Mentioning that inconvenient fact would at least suggest that oil wasn't the reason.

10. The film attempts to portray Hugo Chavez as a patriot protecting his country from Yankee control--rather than acknowledging that Chavez is a totalitarian who thinks that Jews are out to take over the wealth of the world.  But you know: the same mentality that worries about "international Jewish bankers" clearly informs the maker of this film: someone convinced that there is a vast conspiracy of powerful people--a conspiracy moving forward since at least 1862--that is the only thing standing between us and paradise here on Earth.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Arizona Repeals Concealed Carry Permit Requirement

Arizona Repeals Concealed Carry Permit Requirement

NRA reports that Governor Brewer of Arizona has signed the law removing the requirement to have a concealed weapon permit. This makes Arizona the third state (after Vermont and Alaska) to no longer require a concealed weapon permit. Of course, if you are not allowed to own a gun, then you can't carry it.

I'm not opposed to such a change, although I don't consider it entirely a wonderful situation. There are people who are legally allowed to own a gun, but for whom it is probably not a good idea because of temperament. To the extent that a permit slightly discourages such people from carrying a gun, this is sort of good. But I must confess, this works only at the margins; only a small percentage of people that should not carry a gun will be discouraged by the permit requirement.

For those who wish to see Vermont-style carry become the norm, note the sequence: Arizona first went to a non-discretionary permit system, and after building confidence that it wasn't going to be a public safety problem, the legislature took the next logical step. This is also how Alaska did it as well.

UPDATE: A comment over at Snowflakes in Hell indicates that there are some places that may still require a concealed carry permit in Arizona--but not everywhere.

An Interesting Cross-Cultural Opportunity

An Interesting Cross-Cultural Opportunity

I'm in Reno at the Big Reno Gun Show. In the same hotel, the Western Social Science Association is having its annual meeting. As you enter the hotel, there are signs reminding you that all guns must be checked and actions tied open. This must be causing some interesting reactions among those here for the WSSA meeting!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Boise Tea Party 2010

Boise Tea Party 2010

I ran over on my lunch hour, since I don't work a long ways from the statehouse. I'm not a great judge of crowd size; it might have been slightly less than last year's 3000 people, but it wasn't dramatically smaller, and I doubt that it was any larger.

If you want to know how important visuals are--I overheard a reporter from channel 7 talking to his cameraman, and he was telling him to move his camera to get video of them marching up the street to the capital, because it looked so good.

Click here for the WMV version (about 25 MB) or here for the MPG version (about 50 MB).  (If these aren't responding yet--wait until about 7:20 PM Mountain time for them to finish uploading.)

Here are stills that fairly capture the collection of signs that the crowd was carrying.  I didn't see any really outrageous signs--so I guess the "Crash the Tea Party" crowd didn't have the guts to do so.  (I did see a few signs that tell me the Birchers and conspiracy theorists were present--but only one 9/11 Truther sign.)


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Transgendered Elementary School Kids of Maine

The Transgendered Elementary School Kids of Maine

A reader sent me a link to this April 13, 2010 Fox News news story and interview about the Maine Human Rights Commission's proposal to eliminate sex-specific restrooms in elementary schools. This April 14, 2010 Bangor (Maine) Daily News article confirms that this was actually under discussion, but there are apparently a few people living in Maine still who haven't bought into the whole transgendered lie:
AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Human Rights Commission is backing away from controversial plans to issue new guidelines for how schools should accommodate transgender students.

Commission members decided Monday to cancel a public hearing on the issue and to shelve, at least temporarily, work on a guidance document called “Sexual Orientation in Schools and Colleges.”

The proposed guidelines have sparked a heated debate over what steps, if any, schools should take to accommodate students who identify with the opposite gender rather than with their biological sex. The issue becomes particularly thorny when dealing with questions over transgender students’ use of locker rooms and bathrooms and ability to play on athletics teams.
This isn't a matter of lunatic bureaucrats worried about issues that aren't real:
The guidance is intended to help schools follow the anti-discrimination laws within the Maine Human Rights Act and to avoid complaints against schools filed with the commission. The Penobscot County Superior Court is reviewing a commission ruling against the Orono School Department, which had denied a transgender boy from using the girls bathroom.
Keep in mind that "transgender boy" likely means a boy who has not had a sex change, but is dressing as a girl and expects everyone to treat him as a girl.

As I have pointed out in the past, this whole transgender and sex change thing makes homosexuality seem positively normal. There seems to be no stopping point on the road to destruction.

Kafka's The Trial Meets Orwell's 1984

Kafka's The Trial Meets Orwell's 1984

From the April 11, 2010 Daily Mail:
A medical technician killed himself after being suspended from work after someone complained that he made a politically-incorrect joke about a black friend.

Roy Amor, 61, who was devastated at the prospect of losing his job making prosthetics, shot himself in the head outside his house.

He was facing a disciplinary investigation after suggesting to the black colleague that he ‘better hide’ when they noticed immigration officers outside their clinic.

It is understood that the man was a close friend of Mr Amor and was not offended. However, it was overheard by someone else who lodged a formal complaint.

Read more:
I remember reading several years ago that some police departments in Britain were beginning to send undercover officers into bars to listen for racially derogatory remarks.  No, not showing up to deal with racists committing violent acts, or conspiring to commit racially-motivated crimes--but simply idiots saying the sort of obnoxious stuff that reflects poorly on the speaker.  I hope the liberals involved in this feel nice and warm about driving this guy over the edge.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An Experiment With Commenting

An Experiment With Commenting

Let's be polite and see if everyone can behave themselves.  I don't want to spend a lot of time (any time, actually) moderating comments.

I also fixed the permalinks that were broken after migrating away from FTP-based blogging.

Don't Be Too Trusting Of Your Tax Software

Don't Be Too Trusting Of Your Tax Software

I have been grinding over the pretty big chunk of money that I needed to send to the IRS and the Idaho Tax Commission--and wondering, "What did I do wrong?" I made less money than last year--and yet I owed a disturbing amount of money.

I read through the final printed tax forms to see if they made sense. I noticed that I had a truly astonishing amount of interest and dividend income from Charles Schwab--so much so that I decided to pull out of the printed form, instead of relying on the data that TurboTax downloaded from Schwab. And sure enough: it appears that TurboTax downloaded my 2009 Form 1099-DIV and Form 1099-INT without removing the 2008 data (which was quite a bit higher). The net result was a huge chunk more interest and dividend income than I really earned.

I'm writing checks for about $3000 less because I verified the data before mailing. Be careful--and remember that you don't have to be Timothy Geithner to have TurboTax mess up your taxes. (Of course, not being Timothy Geithner, you will notice that it had me paying too much, not too little.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

History of Gun Shows

History of Gun Shows

Is there anyone who is aware of what we now call a "gun show" (a place for the exhibiting, buying, and selling of guns on an occasional basis) before 1968 in the United States? The earliest reference that I can find is a 1960 gun show in Toronto, Canada.

Isn't This Special

Isn't This Special

Nothing like a little agent provocateurism:
WHO WE ARE: A nationwide network of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who are all sick and tired of that loose affiliation of racists, homophobes, and morons; who constitute the fake grass-roots movement which calls itself "The Tea Party."

WHAT WE WANT: To dismantle and demolish the Tea Party by any non-violent means necessary.


Whenever possible, we will act on behalf of the Tea Party in ways which exaggerate their least appealing qualities (misspelled protest signs, wild claims in TV interviews, etc.) to further distance them from mainstream American and damage the public's opinion of them.
At least what I have seen of the Tea Partiers in Boise, they are at least as racially diverse as the rest of Boise (which admittedly, isn't saying much). It's quite astonishing, however, for liberals to openly state that their intention is to engage in this sort of behavior.

Now, it helps that much of the news media is already interested in misrepresenting the Tea Party movement. This isn't surprising. My experience in California politics is that when a group of gun rights supporters would show up at events in Sacramento, most of us would be dressed either appropriate for church or court, a few would be dressed casually--but it would be the one or two weirdos dresses in cammies holding offensive signs that would get all the media coverage. And oddly enough, they were often people that no one else involved in our cause had ever met before.

Needed: Senior Java/SQL Engineer

Needed: Senior Java/SQL Engineer

My employer is hiring. Okay, the pay isn't spectacular, but there's not much danger that the State of Idaho is going to go under, nor is there much chance that the Idaho legislature will decide that prisons are a useless luxury. In addition, while those of you on the coasts may be shocked at the pay scales, keep in mind that the cost of living here is very, very low. When I searched for a list of single-family homes in Boise below $100,000, I got 141 listings. Those of you who live in Silicon Valley can move here and buy a house free and clear with the equity in your California home.

In addition, I work with a very nice bunch of people.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Why I Don't Blog Much Anymore

Why I Don't Blog Much Anymore

Weekends and evenings are full of preparation for my Western Civilization class. In case you wonder how much time goes into preparing a community college class (the first time): I spend typically 10-14 hours preparing a PowerPoint presentation and notes for three hours of lecture, and about an hour preparing the weekly quiz. I spend another hour grading and entering quiz grades.

For preparation, I pick what I consider the most important themes from the week's assigned chapter as the heart of the lectures. Of course, since the assigned reading is typically 20-35 pages, I have to focus on the most important themes--and hope that the questions that I pick for the quiz prod students into doing the assigned reading with some care.

To prepare my notes, I start with what I learned in undergrad and graduate history classes, as well as my reading outside of school. But as I prepare my presentation, I also verify that:

1. My memory hasn't betrayed me.

2. History hasn't changed!

In some cases, there are gaps in my knowledge that I need to fill in--and by verifying important facts against not only the textbook, but a variety of other sources, I often discover gaps in my knowledge that I didn't even know were there! The old saying, "The best way to learn something is to teach it" has a certain truth to it.

I also sometimes find that recent research has either changed the emphasis of particular points since I was an undergraduate, or has discovered new data that significantly changes our understanding. For example, the massacre of the survivors of Jerusalem during the First Crusade has benefited from research done in Islamic sources in the period after World War II. The research isn't as painstaking as when I'm researching a journal article--but I do try to find at least two sources for any significant fact that I use in a lecture.

I am now up to the Reformation--a rather grim time, all the way around--but since the class ends with the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648, I will be done soon.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The New Religion

The New Religion

Like many others, I have long pointed out the religious nature of much of the whackier end of the environmental movement--but I never expected them to start copying Christianity so obviously. From the April 7, 2010 San Francisco Chronicle:

SAN FRANCISCO — Besides approving rules against using plastic grocery bags, mixing recycling with compost, and smoking in sidewalk cafes, San Francisco supervisors have passed a resolution asking residents to observe meatless Mondays.

San Francisco supervisors passed the resolution Tuesday for no-meat Mondays in their latest legislative endorsement of healthy, eco-conscious living.

It cannot stop the city's residents from eating meat. Instead, it is meant to call attention to the relationship between diet and climate change.

National Sales Tax

National Sales Tax?

[Another unsaleable article]

As I write this article, I am just about finished doing my taxes—and I am once again really, really intent on replacing the income tax with a national sales tax. I’m not one of those “gold fringe on the flag in the courtroom means it’s an admiralty court” or “I’m not a 14th Amendment citizen, so you can’t tax me!” sorts. I’m just sick of the incredible complexity and perverse rewards that our income tax system creates.

After I lost my job at Hewlett-Packard, the only work that I could find was consulting—which meant that the firm for which I was working withheld no taxes. I thought that I had calculated the quarterly payments close enough—but I forgot about the rather substantial Social Security tax. (As a consultant, you get to pay both the employee’s half, and the employer’s half). As a result, I’ll be writing a very painful check to the IRS shortly.

It isn’t just the painful gotcha of that big check that has me ticked off at the income tax. It is the complexity of keeping track of property tax payments, health insurance premiums, charitable contributions, amounts that I wrote for books for son going to college—and then, because I make a bit of money from writing and manufacturing telescope accessories—going through all the business receipts for expenses.

By comparison, a national sales tax is fundamentally simple. When a retailer sells a product, he adds a percentage to the price. At the end of the quarter, he totals up his taxable sales, and sends a check for that percentage to the government. I know; I’ve done this before, when I was a gun retailer in California. It’s perilously close to being idiot-proof—and there are relatively few opportunities for rich people to get sleazy little tax breaks written into the process.

Let me emphasize: a national sales tax in place of the federal income tax—not in addition to it. And let me also emphasize a sales tax—not a “value-added tax” as White House economics adviser Paul Volcker is now talking about as an addition to the federal income tax. A sales tax is simple to administer and hard to avoid; value-added taxes are very European in their accounting complexity and opportunities for manipulation.

Now, I’m sure that someone of you are already sharpening your knives because sales taxes are regressive. Yes, that’s true. That’s why most states exempt food, prescriptions, and rent from sales tax. These are the three major expenses that poor people can’t really avoid. But while you complain about regressive sales taxes, think about this: what can a wealthy person do with his money, if he doesn’t spend on taxable goods? He can invest it (which is good for the economy), he can put it in the bank (which makes money available for loans to others), he can buy land, or he can smoke $100 bills. Any other purchase is going to generate sales tax revenue for Uncle Sam.

But there’s something else to consider: 47% of American households will pay no federal income tax for 2009. I don’t mean that they had enough withheld from their paychecks; I mean that they owe no tax; all the federal income tax that was withheld from their paychecks will come back to them. While I would agree that it’s a bit harsh to require the desperately poor to pay income tax, 47% of Americans don’t qualify as “poor.” Not even close. A national sales tax would at least mean that every American would be contributing at least a little bit to the operation of the federal government. That’s only fair—and it might give them a bit more interest in whether the federal government is spending tax money in a sensible way, too.

There’s one more powerful incentive to consider a national sales tax instead of federal income tax: it encourages hard work and discourages consumption. If I know that every dollar of interest is mine, mine, MINE to keep—and I don’t have to give any of it to the federal government—that’s a strong incentive to keep building up my nest egg until it can hatch into something truly wonderful. Economists keep fretting (and with good reason) about the low national savings rate. Here’s a solution.

A national sales tax will also discourage frivolous consumer purchases—by which I mean the latest consumer trash that the Chinese make so that Americans will pay to build up the Chinese military. Which, in the long run, is better for America: if most Americans have a year’s paychecks in the bank, or a 120-inch plasma HDTV in the living room? I know which result is more likely to come out from replacing the federal income tax with a national sales tax.

Best Movie Line Ever

Best Movie Line Ever

From a 1940 Bob Hope movie:

And more true now than ever!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Someone in Boise County Has a Sense of Humor

Someone in Boise County Has a Sense of Humor

I received this postcard in the mail today, as part of a local encouragement to complete the U.S. Census. You might almost get the impression that this is county is conservative, although I wouldn't have known at the election two years ago. Note especially the disclaimer at the bottom of the card.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Now Visible To All!

Now Visible To All!

The final published form of my George Mason Law Review paper is now visible. Clayton E. Cramer, Nicholas J. Johnson, and George A. Mocsary, “This Right Is Not Allowed By Governments That Are Afraid Of The People”: The Public Meaning of the Second Amendment When the Fourteenth Amendment Was Ratified, 17 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 823 (2010).

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Direction of Causality

Direction of Causality

Dr. Helen (Instapundit's wife, a psychologist) has an article up at PajamasMedia
arguing that porn doesn't destroy marriages. I think there is a tendency in some circles to emphasize porn as the destroyer, while failing to see that porn is often a symptom of more serious marital problems.

Nonetheless, the comments (and there are hundreds now) reveal that there are a lot of very upset men and women out there, doing a lot of blaming. Selfishness is the biggest enemy of successful marriages. It's bigger than porn, or alcohol, or marijuana, or football games--because when you ignore the needs of your spouse, it tends to come back and bite you later.

UPDATE: A very funny comment by someone satirizing the way that romance novels (such as the Twilight series) create unrealistic expectations in women--but there is little criticism directed at that genre:

Fortunately, I have the ability to satisfy my wife’s emotional needs at all times by sparkling in the sunlight, flying with her in my arms through the trees when the mood strikes, defending her against all external attacks by werewolves and evil vampires-in-law.

I do this by being idle rich but having no visible means of support; owning the coolest and biggest modern house deep in the woods; being 400 years old yet forever young and virile and, finally, by thinking about her 24 hours per day because, as I do not sleep, I simply watch her…to bask in her remarkable attractiveness.

UPDATE 2: Another riotously funny comment:
Like Italian sports cars, new lovers are great fun for about 1 week. Then the bills start. The parts require constant tweaking. The paint job requires protection from the weather, sun and all touching. The dollars per mile cost is unbelivable. Half the time the car won’t start for one reason or another, and it will leave on it’s own to be in “the shop”. The car never pays for what happens in “the shop” but it keeps going back. It’s always in your mind, and sometimes in her conversation, that to really drive the new model to the limits, you need to be one of a handful of highly trained professionals, with incredible natural gifts. Like her previous driver, not the current one.

And, of course, sooner or later they always get stolen. Usually sooner.

Bad News...Copernicus Was Wrong

Bad News...Copernicus Was Wrong

I was looking for a video explaining why the Ptolemaic system used all the stupid epicycles to explain the "loops" that planets make as we go through opposition...and I had the misfortune to discover that there are lots of websites devoted to demonstrating that not is evolution wrong, but the Earth is at the center of the universe, and not moving. Like this one:

Many huge Banks once thought to be too big to fail, have failed and others are teetering. So also with a long list of other large commercial enterprises… (and even a growing list of bankrupt countries!)

But what about False Science? That is to say: What about ALL "science" that is based upon or dependent upon the Pharisee Religion's Big Bang Paradigm of 15 billion years of Evolutionism!?[1] Is it possible that all of those lies will be revealed and replaced with the truth of a Biblical Cosmos with a non-moving Earth at the center?[2] You know: The never disproved Biblical Model where the sun, moon, and stars go around the Earth just as observed by everyone who has ever lived?[3]
And the rest of it is in that same breathless, 9/11 Truther tone. Wow.

PajamasMedia Article

PajamasMedia Article

"Today's Medical Care: Like Star Trek's Sick Bay"

Friday, April 2, 2010

Java Question

Java Question

Somewhere in recent history, Java compilers started to spit out warnings when you use unparameterized Vectors. For example:
Vector params = new Vector();

params.add(new Integer(randomValue));

The code works--but from a type safety standpoint, this is dangerous. If you retrieve an item from params, but assume that it is a String, you are risking an exception--and of course, you only find out about it when the code executes--not at compile time. The preferred strategy now is:

Vector<Integer> params = new Vector<Integer>();

params.add(new Integer(randomValue));

This gives you type checking at compile time, and prevents someone who does maintenance on your code from retrieving the wrong type--and not finding out about it until runtime.

However, what happens if there is a legitimate reason to have a multitype Vector? For example, params is a list of parameters to be passed to an SQL stored procedure, some of which are integers, some are strings, some are characters. You can just leave the Vector unparameterized, and ignore (or disable) the warnings.

My thought is that it would be best to define a type that includes all of the types that would be valid in this instance. For example, you know that the only valid object types to add to params are Integer and String. That way, you could get the benefit of type checking at compile time that would allow you to add either Integer or String type objects to the Vector, but not other types.

In C, you would somewhat approximate this with a union. Any ideas how you do this in Java? Or is this really not possible, and I should just leave these multitype Vectors as unparameterized?

UPDATE: One reader says use <object>--the other says use <?>. I'll try on Monday.

UPDATE 2: The answer is <object>. This is still not what I consider optimum--it just shuts up all unparameterized references. It would be much better if you could identify a set of object types that are legal to add to or get from a Vector.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Chance To Poke Rev. Fred Phelps in the Eye

A Chance To Poke Rev. Fred Phelps in the Eye

You may recall that the Rev. Fred Phelps, who runs the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, decided that showing up to picket the funerals of gay people wasn't sufficiently annoying, so he started picketing the funerals of soldiers. His claim is that 9/11 is God's punishment of America for allowing homosexuality.

A number of states has passed laws setting limits on how close such protesters can get to a funeral. I don't have a problem with such laws at all. The father of Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder filed a civil suit against Phelps and his band of crazies for emotional suffering caused by their incredibly offensive signs. At trial, Mr. Snyder won his claim for damages--but predictably enough, the U.S. Court of Appeals decided that this was protected freedom of speech--and stuck Mr. Snyder with a more than $5000 bill for legal fees.

I find this argument utterly specious. As I have repeatedly discussed, the nearly anything goes notion of "freedom of speech" that the ACLU has largely managed to get the courts to buy into is not originalist. It is a curious mixture of the post-Sedition Act broad view of freedom of speech that was not generally held in 1791, with liberalism's current enthusiasm for the notion that almost anything is okay: virtual child pornography, for example. (But, at times, not political speech, if said by a business--one category of speech that in 1791 would have been generally recognized as protected.)

You can help Mr. Snyder by making a contribution here. I've already made a modest contribution. If 20% of my regular readers kick in $10, we'll be well on our way to wiping out this debt. I'm not sure what to do about the bigger problem of the Supreme Court's often bizarre misreading of history.

Michelle Obama's Inactive Status

Michelle Obama's Inactive Status

I mentioned a few days ago about President Obama retiring as a lawyer in 2008--and that it was a bit curious. Those who found Michelle Obama's court-ordered inactive status in 1993 suggested all sorts of dark reasons for this. I have updated that posting with information that pretty well demonstrates that her movement to inactive status was not the result of a disciplinary hearing or action.

Google Has Changed Its Name!

Google Has Changed Its Name!

Great April Fool's Day gag when you go to Google today

UPDATE: I mean, I'm assuming it's an April Fool's Day gag.