Sunday, January 30, 2011

Discouraging How Many Errors You Find In Supposedly Scholarly Works

I am writing an article about the Sullivan Law for one of the major magazines (who approached me, offering me a completely wonderful amount of money to write it), and I am disturbed at how many errors that I find in what are supposed to be scholarly works.  Kimberly Jensen, Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War (University of Illinois Press, 2008), 161 talks about how the Sullivan Law was passed in 1911 "after New York's Mayor Sullivan was shot in the neck." 

Sullivan was never New York's mayor.  William Gaynor was the New York City mayor shot in the neck by a disgruntled former city employee in 1910. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Picked The Wrong Victim, I Think

Just a reminder that many criminals aren't too bright--but these guys seem to have been very unlucky, too.  From January 28, 2011 KTVB:
BOISE -- Two men found guilty of robbing a man who answered a bogus Craigslist ad are going to prison.

...

Hinton and Nazarko were arrested in September after Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney answered what turned out to be a bogus Craigslist ad for a laptop.

After the arrest, Raney told us he became suspicious and called Garden City Police when the seller asked to meet him in a dark parking lot.
They should consider themselves fortunate that they got arrested.

Educational Faddism

I'm a bit disappointed with what I am hearing from Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.  While there are parts of his proposal that make some sense, other parts just strike me as educational fads, such as laptops for every high school student and requiring students to take online classes.

Look, a laptop is a useful tool, but a disturbing number of my students are getting out of high school not having mastered writing skills that do not require a laptop!  Online classes?  Those make sense for highly motivated students prepared to work in an environment that does not have such direct accountability as sitting in a classroom, but I am skeptical that this describes most high school students.

There are a lot of small school districts in Idaho that need consolidation.  These are districts with 300 students, within a few miles of other districts of similar size.  Every district has a superintendent--often pulling down a very impressive salary.  Luna wants to see this done, but as one of the state senators points out:

But will the discussion go from lip service to law?

Probably not, Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde said Thursday. He expects consolidation legislation to emerge, then fade without gaining traction.

“Every lawmaker wants to see every district in the state consolidated but his own, so it won’t receive much support,” Goedde said Thursday.


Along with consolidation, which makes a lot of sense, much of Luna's proposal seems like something that you would come up with because no one wants to confront the elephant in the bathtub of why public schools (and many private schools) are doing only a so-so job:

1. A lot of parents who do not regard learning as terribly important--at least, not enough to actually role model it to their children.  I know one teacher (in a private high school) who told me of a discouraging conference with a parent.  The son was not doing well in composition, at least partly because he did not read.  Reading for pleasure is part of developing literacy--but the mother admitted that she has trouble finding energy and time to read.  Magazines were about as deep as she could manage.

2. A lot of kids are coming from homes devastated by divorce.  You think divorce is wrenching on adults?  I know someone who taught at a Christian middle school in California, and the devastation that current and previous divorces were having on her students.  (And yes, at a Christian school in California, most parents are divorced or divorcing.  You expect the parents to be any different from the secular world?)

3. Way too many kids have grown up with enormous wealth and parental indulgence.  This is beginning to decline because of the economic collapse, but I'm afraid we have a lot of kids who simply did not see the need to work terribly hard in school--why should they, when everything they want is given to them?

Yes, I want to blame teacher unions.  They are certainly part of the problem, especially in places like New York.  Yes, there are schools more focused on safe sex than good grammar.  But the core problem is that a lot of kids are getting the wrong message at home about education.

Things You See When You Re-Read Something Again

The Mayflower Compact:
And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.
I just noticed, on this re-reading of the text, the word "due" in there, before "Submission and Obedience."  In light of how the recusancy laws of England had caused the Pilgrims to move to Holland in 1608, one could read this as acknowledging that there were limits to the "Submission and Obedience" that those signing the Compact were required to grant.

UPDATE: I've promoted the following from a comment into the main body, because it is both a powerful support for this, and a reminder of what educated and intelligent readers come here:
They probably would have been familiar with the Heidelberg Catechism:

104. Q. What does God require in the fifth commandment?

A. That I show all honour, love, and faithfulness to my father and mother and to all those in authority over me, submit myself with due obedience to their good instruction and discipline,[1] and also have patience with their weaknesses and shortcomings,[2] since it is God's will to govern us by their hand.[3]

[1] Ex. 21:17; Prov. 1:8; 4:1; Rom. 13:1, 2; Eph. 5:21, 22; 6:1-9; Col. 3:18-4:1. [2] Prov. 20:20; 23:22; I Pet.2:18. [3] Matt. 22:21, Rom. 13:1-8; Eph. 6:1-9; Col. 3:18-21.



By the mid 1600s, the Westminster Larger Catechism put it more clearly:

Question 127 What is the honour that inferiors owe to their superiors?
A. The honour which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart,(1) word,(2) and behaviour;(3) prayer and thanksgiving for them;(4) imitation of their virtues and graces;(5) willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels,(6) due submission to their corrections;(7) fidelity to,(8) defence,(9) and maintenance of their persons and authority according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places;(10) bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love,(11) that so they may be an honour to them and to their government.(12)
##(1) Mal. 1:6; Lev. 19:3 #(2) Prov. 31:28; 1 Pet. 3:6 #(3) Lev. 19:32; 1 Kings 2:19 #(4) 1 Tim. 2:1,2 #(5) Heb. 13:7; Phil. 3:17 #(6) Eph. 6:1,2,5,6,7; 1 Pet. 2:13,14; Rom. 13:1-5; Heb. 13:17; Prov. 4:3,4; Prov. 23:22; Exod. 18:19,24 #(7) Heb. 12:9; 1 Pet. 2:18,19,20 #(8) Tit. 2:9,10 #(9) I Sam. 26:15,16; 2 Sam. 18:3; Esther 6:2 #(10) Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:6,7; 1 Tim. 5:17,18; Gal. 6:6; Gen. 45:11; Gen. 47:12 #(11) 1 Pet. 2:18; Prov. 23:22; Gen. 9:23 #(12) Ps. 127:3-5; Prov. 31:23

The Right Way to Fix This

I suspect that all the talk of "anchor babies" is probably exaggerating the number of illegal aliens who come to America for the purpose of giving birth to a U.S. citizen.  I'm sure that it happens--but considering how little long-term planning most Americans do about children, I'm more inclined to think most of these "anchor babies" just happen.  Nonetheless, I see this proposal as a good solution, even if it most unlikely to get through Congress:

Two Republican senators have introduced a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the children of illegal immigrants from gaining automatic U.S. citizenship unless certain conditions are met. 

The move by Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and David Vitter, R-La., follows a proposal in Arizona challenging the constitutional right known as "birthright citizenship." 

Under U.S. law, anybody born on U.S. soil is considered a citizen. The proposal in Congress would amend the Constitution so that children born in the United States are only considered automatic citizens if one parent is a U.S. citizen, one parent is a legal immigrant, or one parent is an active member of the Armed Forces. They could also follow the traditional naturalization process to attain citizenship. 

Racism! Racism! It's All Racism!

Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) is blaming racism for the Democrats losing control of the House:
Virginia Democratic Rep. Jim Moran is blaming his party's losses last November in large part on voters who "don't want to be governed by an African-American."
But Americans gave the Democrats large majorities in both House and Senate in 2008, at the same time they elected a black man to be President of the United States?  Pretty clearly, Americans don't have a problem with being "governed by an African-American."  They do have a problem with one particular African-American, and that is Obama.  This was not a racist repudiation of being "governed by an African-American."  It was a repudiation of Obama's leadership and that of the Democratic Party.

The one thing that is nice about Obama getting elected in 2008 is that the race card has now expired.  Americans clearly were quite willing to elect a black man to the highest office in the land.  They now regret doing so, not because Obama is black, but because Obama is incompetent and turned out to be a radical leftist.  (That it took Americans this long to figure out that Obama was a radical leftist does not say much for the smarts of the voters.)

San Francisco Democratic Party Circular Firing Squad

I don't know who Argonaut360 is, or how trustworthy of a source, but if you are need of some Schadenfreude, feel free to read this!

The Hot Issue: Spending Democratic Party Funds
Against Other Democrats in Supervisor Races

By Warren Hinckle
Aaron Peskin played offense Wednesday night against  charges that he had  misused Democratic party funds attempting to defeat Democrats he didn’t like in Supervisor races last fall. He blamed wealthy Republicans  “interfering” in local elections for his actions – for which he was promptly and publicly rebuked by representatives of Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congresswomen Nancy Pelosi and Jackie Spear, State Senator Mark Leno and the new California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Speaking serially and almost in chorus, the proxies for the top Democratic officials took turns giving Peskin verbal spankings before the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee,  and concluded he was in need of some sort of adult supervision.

Friday, January 28, 2011

That HP M1536dnf I Bought...

I mentioned it yesterday, but I have some more nice things to say about it.  This has a FAX component, along with the printer, copier, and scanner.  (I keep looking for signs that it will diaper my granddaughter, but that may be expecting a bit much.  If you think I'm being completely silly--I went to an HP product idea event some years ago where one of our inkjet printers was doing fingernails, and another one was printing three dimensional objects, using colored starch.)

One of the unfortunate things about a FAX machine at home is that you used to need a separate phone line, so that your human callers would not get the silly FAX squeal when the FAX picked up.  But this FAX is a bit smarter than that.  You can set it up to wait until your answering machine picks up the phone--and then it listens for the FAX tones from the far end.  Only then does it start receiving the FAX.  And it works!  I had a friend in California FAX me something, and it worked as advertised: the answering machine picked up the phone, the display on the HP said "INCOMING FAX" and received and printed it!  Very cool!

The other thing about the M1536dnf, compared to its predecessor, is the weight.  This weighs about 25 pounds or so.  The 4100 MFP it replaces weighs about 75 pounds.  (I had to weigh it for figuring out shipping.)  I've put an ad up on eBay for it; I do hope someone buys it.  It prints fine, it copies and scans--although the automatic document feeder sometimes works, and sometimes doesn't.

The M1536dnf also seems quieter than the 4100 MFP, which seemed to be louder even in power save mode.

The Trouble With Tribbles

The funniest and best episode from the original Star Trek series--and now the University of Idaho has trouble with one Tribble:

A University of Idaho law student is suing the school over its firearms ban, saying the policy violates his Second Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Second-year law student Aaron Tribble, 36, filed a civil suit last Tuesday, challenging a policy that doesn’t allow him to store a registered handgun in his university-owned apartment.

The policy requires all firearms be stored at a campus police substation. The University of Idaho declined to comment.

Tribble, who lives in campus housing designated for students who are married or have children, will represent himself in the suit. A hearing for the case has been set for July 20.
I think there is a very good chance that Tribble might win this one.  Keep in mind that Mr. Tribble is not living in a dorm.  I can see why, in the relatively poorly secured setting of a dorm, the university might have some basis for arguing for a more restrictive policy.  I can also see how they might argue that the university has some obligation to operate in loco parentis in a dorm setting (although it has been decades since universities showed that level of concern).  But university-owned apartments are not in the same category.  These are year-round, permanent housing, in which the university happens to be the owner, and it is apparently not on campus.

Tribble is apparently arguing his case based on both the Second Amendment, and the Idaho Constitution's Art. I, sec. 11 protection of a right to keep and bear arms--which is vastly stronger than the Second Amendment:
Right to keep and bear arms. The people have the right to keep and bear arms, which right shall not be abridged; but this provision shall not prevent the passage of laws to govern the carrying of weapons concealed on the person nor prevent passage of legislation providing minimum sentences for crimes committed while in possession of a firearm, nor prevent the passage of legislation providing penalties for the possession of firearms by a convicted felon, nor prevent the passage of any legislation punishing the use of a firearm. No law shall impose licensure, registration or special taxation on the ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition. Nor shall any law permit the confiscation of firearms, except those actually used in the commission of a felony.
 Starting with In re Brickey (Ida. 1902), the Idaho Supreme Court has consistently recognized that state and local governments may not prohibit open carry of firearms on public streets:
The second amendment to the federal constitution is in the following language: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." The language of section 11, art. 1, Const. Idaho, is as follows: "The people have the right to bear arms for their security and defense, but the legislature shall regulate the exercise of this right by law." Under these constitutional provisions, the legislature has no power to prohibit a citizen from bearing arms in any portion of the state of Idaho, whether within or without the corporate limits of cities, towns, and villages. The legislature may, as expressly provided in our state constitution, regulate the exercise of this right, but may not prohibit it.
 Clear enough?  I am hard pressed to see how the University of Idaho has authority to prohibit possession of a firearm in one's home (even when acting as landlord) if they can't prohibit carrying a gun on the street.  In classrooms?  Probably a "sensitive area" within the rather poor reasoning of D.C. v. Heller (2008).  Perhaps on campus itself--although this is a stretch.  But in a student's off-campus home?  You must be joking.

Does Anyone Use Centronics Interface Cables Anymore?

I am hunting for the power supply for my antique Sony camcorder, and I have found every piece of museum grade computer junk you can imagine: DB25 to DB9 serial converters; Centronics to DB25 cables; DB25 to DB25 cables; stacks of 5.25" rails for mounting hard disks and CD drives in PC towers; a PCI LAN adapter.  There must be somewhere that can turn this stuff into something useful.  I mean, there must be third world countries where rural schools are overjoyed to have just received a hand-me-down 486 PC.

Somewhere there must be some guilt-ridden multimillionaires spending big money to sort, package, and distribute this stuff where someone could get some use out of it--instead of it just filling up a landfill.  The only question is WHERE?

UPDATE: A reader points to Free Geek Vancouver--which does exactly what I suggested someone must be doing. Fortunately, I put an ad on Craig's List, and found someone who does computer repairs on older computers interested in taking my collection of antiquities.  He needs the rails for an immediate project, and figures that he will end up using the rest of it at some point.

There is also PC Recyclers of Idaho, which does much the same thing, closer to home.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

HP M1536dnf MFP

I have had an HP 4100 MFP for about six or seven years now--a fine machine, especially because it was free.  At the time, HP had a "home loan" policy by which one could take various printers home for "familiarization."  These were generally printers that had been used by in-house testing, often early production models that could have been sold to a customer.  The 4100 MFP was, for its time (many years back), a pretty impressive machine.  The printer part was a 25 page per minute monochrome, 600 dot/inch printer. 

The MFP part was a scanner and copier gadget that sat on top of the printer.  It was not spectacularly high resolution, as scanners go, but as long as you were not trying to use it for photographs, it did pretty darn well.  One nice feature was that you could tell it to scan pages to either JPG or PDF. 

During research for my books, I usually made lots of photocopies--enough that I ended up with several feet of notebooks from my research.  With the 4100 MFP, I would put a stack of pages into the document feeder, and tell it to send the PDFs to my email address.  (There did not seem to be any way to just have the documents load directly into the attached PC.)

This worked very well; I ended up putting several feet of documents into a couple of CDs worth of PDFs.  You can see some of them on my website, especially in the right to keep and bear arms decisions and gun scarcity areas.  Nicest of all, when HP laid me off, I tried to return it to them, and they insisted that I keep it, along with a nice flat screen monitor, and a small but very fast notebook computer that they had declared obsolete and insisted that I keep.

The 4100 MFP, like all good things, cannot last forever.  I have had some intermittent problems with the automatic document feeder.  I had a former HP guy out to fix it--but this unit is old.  It has printed at least 400,000 pages, and now I can't even buy genuine HP toner cartridges for it anymore.  There are aftermarket ones available, but on top of the automatic document feeder not working, I decided that it was time to replace it.  This semester, I have started to scan in all the Scantron forms that I use for multiple choice tests in my history classes, primarily to make sure that I can verify that a student did not change his answer after I returned it to him.  Having a working document feeder at home is now quite important.

When I first started looking for a replacement for this several years ago, everything that was even close a 4100 MFP was very expensive--or missing some useful features.  I have an HP Photosmart C6280 All-in-One that prints color photographs--but like all inkjets, it is a bit expensive to operate, and even in monochrome mode, not very fast.  It scans nicely--and even has some nice OCR software bundled with it--but no document feeder.  Trying to scan in multiple page documents is no fun.

I really wanted a duplex printer--not one where I turned the pages over and ran them through again.  I really wanted the document feeder.  I really wanted a laser printer for the operating costs.  I really wanted color, but the price for a color MFP was just too high when I only occasionally need to print in color. 

The M1536dnf MFP seemed to give me everything that I wanted and hit the right price point.  It was a monochrome Laserjet that also copies, scans, it prints 25 pages per minute, with the first page out in about nine seconds from a standing start.  The document feeder, while not as fast as the 4100 MFP, seems to be much more reliable (although I am comparing it to a pre-production version with a lot of miles).  The ReadIris software that comes with it does a marvelous OCR job, and unlike the 4100 MFP, it can read directly into my PC.  And all of this cost $211 with shipping and sales tax!

Okay, it probably isn't going to last as long as this 4100 MFP, which was intended as a small business or workgroup shared printer.  And part of how they get the price down is that it comes with a "starter" toner cartridge, good for about 1000 sheets.  While growling slightly at the cheapness of this, I also realized that this is not just about getting the sale price down.  It is also about the fact that a fair number of these printers are going to get sold, and returned within a week or two.  HP can refurbish the packaging on the printer cheaply and prepare it for resale--but replacing a 10,000 page toner cartridge would be expensive--while replacing a 1,000 page toner cartridge is not so bad.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bad Enough Birthers Keep This Issue Alive...

Now Obama's supporters are doing so.  Governor Abercrombie of Hawaii was first saying that they know that there is an original long-form birth certificate in the state archives, although he seemed to admit that he had not actually seen it.  This news account in the January 20, 2011 Daily Mail has to be among the oddest ways to make a claim in a deniable way that I have seen in a while:
Abercrombie said on Tuesday that an investigation had unearthed papers proving Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961.

He told Honolulu's Star-Advertiser: 'It actually exists in the archives, written down,' he said.

But it became apparent that what had been discovered was an unspecified listing or notation of Obama's birth that someone had made in the state archives and not a birth certificate.

And in the same interview Abercrombie suggested that a long-form, hospital-generated birth certificate for Barack Obama may not exist within the vital records maintained by the Hawaii Department of Health.


He said efforts were still being made to track down definitive vital records that would prove Obama was born in Hawaii.
And here is the article in the January 18, 2011 Honolulu Star-Advertiser, an interview with the governor:
Q: You stirred up quite a controversy with your comments regarding birthers and your plans to release more information regarding President Barack Obama's birth certificate. How is that coming?

A: I got a letter from someone the other day who was genuinely concerned about it; it is not all just political agenda. They were talking on Olelo last night about this; it has a political implication for 2012 that we simply cannot have.

(Abercrombie said there is a recording of the birth in the State Archives and he wants to use that.)

It was actually written I am told, this is what our investigation is showing, it actually exists in the archives, written down ...

...What I can do, and all I have ever said, is that I am going to see to it as governor that I can verify to anyone who is honest about it that this is the case.
Then a friend of Abercrombie's claims that Abercrombie admits that there is no birth certificate--and then within a few hours claims that he had never talked to the governor about this issue.  This is getting stranger and stranger.  Even hard left writers, such as Sam Smith, who edits Progressive Review, admits that this is all rather odd:
The state has produced what might be called a certificate of the certificate, giving the basics of what the original document purportedly says. CNN has suggested that the original certificate no longer exists since all such records were discarded in 2001 but the state denies it. Hawaii is, in effect, denying the absence of something it can't or won't produce.

...

But why not just tell Hawaii to let a pool of reporters and lawyers view the actual document?
The problem remains odd and is getting odder.
If there is a long-form birth certificate, and Obama refuses to allow its release, there must be something really embarrassing on it to justify all this effort to keep it invisible.  Was his race listed as white, or East Indian?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nullification: Sorry, This Is Not Going To Fly

Some members of the Idaho legislature (and in other states as well) are talking about bills to "nullify" Obamacare.  As much as my sympathies are with them on this, this is not going to fly.  There are legitimate criticisms of the constitutionality of parts of Obamacare, and legitimate criticisms of the sensibility of other parts of it, but the notion that states get to ignore federal laws that they don't like just because they don't like them is not going to fly. 

The lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of parts of Obamacare are the way to go on this.  There are parts of this steaming pile that are likely to be constitutional.  Not everything stupid, corrupt, and foolish is unconstitutional.  At some point, we have to actually get the people to show up to the polls in enough numbers to change the composition of the Congress and the White House.  In a society as depraved and corrupt as America, good luck!  We need to start working a bit harder on persuading the masses that right and wrong still mean something.

Computer Speakers: They Last Forever

Back in the late 1980s, a friend of mine and I bought a couple of Bentley AT computers (and we received a slight discount for buying what I recall was about $4500 of blazingly fast desktop hardware). 

What was a Bentley AT?  It was one of many off-brand IBM AT clones available at the time--but with the extra virtue of being a 10 MHz processor with 1 MB of RAM!  (Yes, that's MB, not GB.)  At work, we had genuine IBM ATs, and they would only run at 6 MHz, so for a couple of months, when I was just started coding on a project, I worked at home--I had better hardware there.  (I can't seem to find any pictures of this computer.  I guess that they were here and gone very quickly.)

This was my first computer with a real genuine sound card in it (back when those were still slightly unusual), and it included a couple of Labtec CS-150 speakers.  (Yes, like these!)  Powered only by the output of the sound card, they produced adequate sound, but you could either put a couple of C cells in each speaker, or plug in a 6VDC power supply if you wanted.  My fellow Bentley buyer was a bit smarter than me (he's now a hectamilionaire), and rather than have the speakers eat batteries, he went out and bought a 6VDC power supply.

Well, I still have those speakers, and they still work.  I needed something a bit louder for a Bible study, so I dug around until I found some C cells, and put them in.  They aren't exactly spectacular on sound quality, but they are adequate, and I've had them more than 20 years and they still work. 

But they still eat batteries unless I remember to turn off the switch on the back.  (Yes, the switch on the left in this image.)  I went to Radio Shack to find a 6VDC power supply, figuring, "How expensive can they be?"  The answer is: about as expensive as buying a 6VDC power supply with a couple of nice new speakers--some Gigaware 2.0 Multimedia Speakers.  They were about $21--and the power supplies were about $23.  They look better, they sound way better, and they are louder, too!  I suppose that if I had spent the time hunting online, I could have found something equivalent for less money, but there comes a point where it just isn't worth the effort to save $5.

More The State Gun of Utah

From the January 24, 2011 Salt Lake Tribune:
During an official, one-time-only holiday honoring legendary Utah gun-maker John Moses Browning, a House committee voted 9-2 on Monday to endorse a bill to declare his M1911 handgun as the official Utah State Firearm.

But an anti-violence advocate told the Legislature that sends the wrong message about Utah to the world.
“Semiautomatic pistols are the weapons of choice for those who are committing massacres” such as the recent shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and others in Tucson, testified Steven Gunn, a board member of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah. “Is this the time to adopt as a symbol of the state the same kind of weapon used to kill all these people?”

Only Democratic Reps. Jennifer Seelig, Salt Lake City, and Marie Poulson, Cottonwood Heights, opposed the bill in the House Political Subdivisions Committee. Seelig said that especially because Utah would be the first state to adopt an official state firearm, “In terms of what we want to be known for, no, I’m not voting for this.”
I am reminded of when (if my memory serves me correctly) Baltimore decided that the classic image of Harriet Tubman with a rifle needed updating.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What Are The Odds Of This?

A car crash in Garden City, Idaho that killed three in November--and not just one driver was legally intoxicated, but both drivers.  From the January 22, 2011 Idaho Statesman:

Police said right away they believed alcohol and/or drugs were a factor because Willhide was seen drinking alcohol and smoking pot at a party shortly before his vehicle veered into the path of Taylor’s car on Chinden Boulevard.

But toxicology tests show that both drivers were legally drunk — and both had marijuana in their systems, Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg said Friday.

“(Willhide) was well over two times the legal limit,” Sonnenberg said. “(Taylor) was just under two times the legal limit.”
Many Boise area residents would answer the question, "What are the odds of that?", with "In Garden City, 100%."  (Garden City has a reputation locally as a place of ne'er-do-wells because it is where nearly all the mobile home parks and decrepit trailers are located.)  To hear some advocates of marijuana tell the tale, if pot were legal, we would have less drinking.  Incidents like this, and watching a few relatives and acquaintances destroy everything of value in their lives, suggest to me that if pot were legal, we would have more people getting intoxicated with two drugs instead of one--not people switching from alcohol to pot.

Friday, January 21, 2011

UV400 Protection

I mentioned a few days ago my need for enhanced protection against UV because my opthamologist noticed the beginning of cataracts.  It turns out that not all sunglasses are equally effective against UV.  There is actually a standard called UV400 that specifies that nothing from 400 nanometers down will get through--providing a barrier to both UV-A and UV-B radiation.  I gave up on the clip-on idea because so much light comes in around the clip-on frame.

What I found at Cabela's was a brand called Cocoons, in a form intended to fit over your prescription glasses.  These have side protection as well, to prevent light from coming in on the sides.  I guess it has been a while since I bought sunglasses, so I was a bit surprised at paying $44.95.  They seem well made, and while I don't look completely goofy wearing them, I don't look particularly cool wearing them, either.  (Not that there is much danger of me ever looking cool.)  I do try to always wear them when I am outside in daylight now--even it is looks a little odd.

The only annoyance was that when I went to buy them, they had several sizes on display.  I determined that I needed Large.  In the rack underneath, the various columns were labeled with size: M, ML, L, XL.  I grabbed a box out of the L bin, assuming that all these boxes were in fact L.  Nope.  I discovered when I got home that this was a box labeled (correctly) as ML, so I had to return them for the right size.

There's a Reason That I'm Armed At The Mall...

This January 20, 2011 WDEL 1150 AM account describes Lynique Crummel, a 21 year old, who attacked another woman at a mall with a razor blade in her fist.  Her victim did not even realize at first that she wasn't just being punched.

UPDATE: Commenter pointed out incorrect use of pronoun!  Fixed!

This Should Really, Really Upset You

I know that many of my readers don't have a problem with abortion.  I think reading this grand jury report from Philadelphia will upset you--because here was someone for whom third trimester abortions, even though unlawful, did not get in his way of making money.  From the opening sentences of the report, on p. 1:
This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.
And it gets worse--much worse, on p. 2:
The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again.  Medical equipment – such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff – was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house.
Michelle Malkin has pictures of the baby feet in jars that Dr. Gosnell kept--supposedly for "research."  (Why does Dr. Mengele come to mind?)  Who ran this:
The people who ran this sham medical practice included no doctors other than Gosnell himself, and not even a single nurse. Two of his employees had been to medical school, but neither of them were licensed physicians. They just pretended to be.  Everyone called them “Doctor,” even though they, and Gosnell, knew they weren’t.  Among the rest of the staff, there was no one with any medical licensing or relevant certification at all. But that didn’t stop them from making diagnoses, performing procedures, administering drugs.
Reasons?  According to the grand jury, it wasn't concern about "a woman's right to choose":
Because the real business of the “Women’s Medical Society” was not health; it was profit. There were two primary parts to the operation. By day it was a prescription mill; by night an abortion mill. A constant stream of “patients” came through during business hours and, for the proper payment, left with scripts for Oxycontin and other controlled substances, for themselves and their friends. Gosnell didn’t see these “patients”; he didn’t even show up at the office during the day. He just left behind blank, pre-signed prescription pads, and had his unskilled, unauthorized workers take care of the rest. The fake prescriptions brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. But this drug-selling operation is the subject of separate investigation by federal authorities.

...

With abortion, as with prescriptions, Gosnell’s approach was simple: keep volume high, expenses low – and break the law. That was his competitive edge.

...

The real key to the business model, though, was this: Gosnell catered to the women who couldn’t get abortions elsewhere – because they were too pregnant. Most doctors won’t perform late second-trimester abortions, from approximately the 20th week of pregnancy, because of the risks involved. And late-term abortions after the 24th week of pregnancy are flatly illegal. But for Dr. Gosnell, they were an opportunity. The bigger the baby, the more he charged.
Now, Dr. Gosnell's problem was not just that he was performing third trimester abortions.  That would be illegal in Pennsylvania--so he had people fudge the ultrasound film (discussed on pp. 3-4).  The bigger problem is bigness:
Babies that big are hard to get out. Gosnell’s approach, whenever possible, was to force full labor and delivery of premature infants on ill-informed women. The women would check in during the day, make payment, and take labor-inducing drugs. The doctor wouldn’t appear until evening, often 8:00, 9:00, or 10:00 p.m., and only then deal with any of the women who were ready to deliver. Many of them gave birth before he even got there.  By maximizing the pain and danger for his patients, he minimized the work, and cost, for himself and his staff. The policy, in effect, was labor without labor.

There remained, however, a final difficulty. When you perform late-term “abortions” by inducing labor, you get babies. Live, breathing, squirming babies. By 24 weeks, most babies born prematurely will survive if they receive appropriate medical care. But that was not what the Women’s Medical Society was about. Gosnell had a simple solution for the unwanted babies he delivered: he killed them. He didn’t call it that. He called it “ensuring fetal demise.” The way he ensured fetal demise was by sticking scissors into the back of the baby’s neck and cutting the spinal cord. He called that “snipping.”
 Bad?  It gets worse.  Way worse.  After discussing the hundreds of such "snippings"--most of which can't be prosecuted because Gosnell destroyed the records:
Among the relatively few cases that could be specifically documented, one was Baby Boy A. His 17-year-old mother was almost 30 weeks pregnant – seven and a half months – when labor was induced. An employee estimated his birth weight as approaching six pounds. He was breathing and moving when Dr. Gosnell severed his spine and put the body in a plastic shoebox for disposal. The doctor joked that this baby was so big he could “walk me to the bus stop.” Another, Baby Boy B, whose body was found at the clinic frozen in a one-gallon spring-water bottle, was at least 28 weeks of gestational age when he was killed. Baby C was moving and breathing for 20 minutes before an assistant came in and cut the spinal cord, just the way she had seen Gosnell do it so many times.
I have read enough accounts of abortion clinics like this that, even though they may not be the norm, they are hardly exceptional either.  To say that I am outraged does not even begin to describe how I feel.  But worse, there had been reports going into various agencies in Pennsylvania about these criminal activities for years  and nothing happened--presumably because every abortion doctor is imagined to have a halo and wings.  After all--he is just doing his part to give women the right to choose.  If you think I am constructing a strawman argument, let's see what advocates for "right to choose" are saying when another pro-choicer suggested that perhaps abortions should be prohibited in the second trimester:
This position illustrates an abandonment of the vulnerable women who need later abortions and a willful ignorance of the circumstances under which second trimester abortions occur. An early choice to end an unwanted pregnancy, while medically easier and to some more politically palatable is not necessarily a better or more moral choice. Women deserve to have all the time they need in order to make the best pregnancy decision for themselves and for their families, even if this means having a later abortion....
Women have no obligation to make a decision as soon as they possibly can. The only obligation women have is to take the time they need to make the decision that is right for them. Don’t we believe that women are moral decision makers, and carefully consider their options when faced with an unwanted pregnancy?
You know what?  There are a lot of people who are failing the "moral decision makers" test.  Women who can't make up their about whether to have an abortion for four or five months have already demonstrated that decision making isn't their strong point.  Women who can't make a sensible decision about either using contraceptives, or demanding that their boyfriend or husband do so, aren't going to the top of the "moral decision makers" list, either.  Guys who are so deeply selfish that they aren't willing to use a condom--or willing to support the child that they may be making--they also go to the bottom of the "moral decision makers" ranking, too.  (You will notice that I am not saying anything about rape victims, who make up a small but not trivial fraction of unplanned pregnancies.)

Gosnell sounds like a monster that would look right in place in an SS uniform, except for being the wrong color.  People that insist on justifying elective abortions where the fetus stands a good chance of being viable need to face up to the part that they have played in providing the intellectual posturing that allowed multiple state agencies to ignore what this monster was doing.

UPDATE: The deeper I read, the more apparent it is that the corruption of the pro-choice movement is at the heart of why Gosnell wasn't stopped long ago.  This horror film in real life was only exposed because of the federal raid for the prescription drug mill.  Starting at page 8 is a list of government agencies and non-profit organization that were not simply unaware of what Gosnell was doing--but knew, and chose to look the other way:
Instead, the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions. Better to leave clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and babies would pay.

The only exception to this live-and-let-die policy was supposed to be for complaints dumped directly on the department’s doorstep. Those, at least, would be investigated. Except that there were complaints about Gosnell, repeatedly. Several different attorneys, representing women injured by Gosnell, contacted the department. A doctor from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia hand-delivered a complaint, advising the
department that numerous patients he had referred for abortions came back from Gosnell with the same venereal disease. The medical examiner of Delaware County informed the  department that Gosnell had performed an illegal abortion on a 14-year-old girl carrying a 30-week-old baby. And the department received official notice that a woman named Karnamaya Mongar had died at Gosnell’s hands.

Yet not one of these alarm bells – not even Mrs. Mongar’s death – prompted the department to look at Gosnell or the Women’s Medical Society. Only after the raid occurred, and the story hit the press, did the department choose to act. Suddenly there were no administrative, legal, or policy barriers; within weeks an order was issued to close the clinic. And as this grand jury investigation widened, department officials “lawyered up,” hiring a high-priced law firm to represent them at taxpayer expense. Had they spent as much effort on inspection as they did on attorneys, none of this would have happened to begin with.
And for those who want to imagine that "legitimate abortion doctors" would never have tolerated this, on p. 13:
So too with the National Abortion Federation. NAF is an association of abortion providers that upholds the strictest health and legal standards for its members. Gosnell, bizarrely, applied for admission shortly after Karnamaya Mongar’s death. Despite his various efforts to fool her, the evaluator from NAF readily noted that records were not properly kept, that risks were not explained, that patients were not monitored, that equipment was not available, that anesthesia was misused. It was the worst abortion clinic she had ever inspected. Of course, she rejected Gosnell’s application. She just never told anyone in authority about all the horrible, dangerous things she had seen.
It turns out that Dr. Gosnell was not always an uncaring clod who endangered women and occasionally killed them from his negligence.  There were apparently some women who received much better care, because of their race.  On pp. 60-61, witnesses testified that Dr. Gosnell (who is black) treated white women dramatically and obviously better than women of color.  Could there be an opportunity to pursue hate crime charges against this guy?  The irony would be too rich.

UPDATE 2: As my wife pointed out this morning: isn't this what making abortion legal was supposed to prevent?  Dangerous, unhygenic abortions that mutilated and killed women?

Jaguars

The cars--not the cats. 

The Jaguar's factory warranty is expiring next month, so I took advantage of a coupon for a free vehicle inspection.  I know that their goal is to find things that need doing, and charge you dealer prices, but I figured it was a good way to find out if anything was wrong with the car.  The dealer gets more money for stuff that you pay for, but they still get paid for doing warranty work, so they have an incentive to look it over pretty carefully.

I was not disappointed.  They found a leak at the transfer case, and fixed that under warranty.  (I shudder to think what this would have cost me.)  They also found a recall on the engine control computer, which would have been covered, I'm pretty sure, even out of warranty.

They also found the air filter and cabin filter were both in need of replacement.  This does not surprise me; we live off a dirt road, and air filters don't last very long up here.  The price to replace these two items came to $89--which is a bit much, but I think of it as an incentive for them to make sure that everything that could be done under warranty is done under warranty.  Buying the filters at CarQuest would probably have come to $25 easily, and I don't even know where the cabin filter goes.  My time is now scarce and therefore valuable.

I have been looking at buying an extended warranty for the X-type--but the cost is breathtaking.  I have read that a number of the extended warranty companies really don't like writing contracts for Jaguars or Mercedes now because past experience has been so bad.  The old joke, "The man who wants a Jaguar needs two--one to drive, one to have in the shop" was apparently true.

Yet they are reputed to have dramatically improved in quality after Ford bought Jaguar some years ago.  (That alone should tell you something about Jaguar reputation in the bad old days when you dare not operate two power windows at the same time, without verifying that you had spare fuses--Ford buys you, and your quality goes dramatically up.)  Certainly, this car has been exemplary.  I have had one problem with a seat belt that got stuck, and a keyless remote that failed in roughly 30,000 miles.  That's really not bad.

When I asked for a quote from my credit union's preferred extended warranty vendor, for 36,000 miles, 36 months, with $100 deductible--it was more than $4000.  Jaguar, who presumably knows how reliable their cars are, quoted me $3800.  (That was the cheaper choice; the other one, which I presume would include a chauffeur, was $11,000.)  That's a pile of money, especially when you consider that the Kelly Blue Book on this car is about $11,000.  If I recall correctly, the GM extended warranty we purchased for my wife's TrailBlazer (and which was for more time and miles) was about $1400. 

I am hoping that the absurd price of the extended warranty reflects the fact that most people who buy Jaguars have more money than sense, or have been terrified by the repair bills already.  I confess that there are aspects to the X-type that make me scratch my head.  I have about 20% of the front brake linings left--and the service advisor tells me that I will need to replace the rotors as well.  Apparently, the rotors only last two or three brake linings before they need to be replaced.  Also, unlike GM, there are no wear sensors on the disc brake linings--so you get no warning before they start to gouge the rotors.  (Maybe that's why rotors have to be replaced so often.)  The dealer wants $600 to do front brakes.  Even the Corvette's front brakes were only $350--but then again, I didn't need new rotors.  GM actually does seem to know something about making cars, it appears, at least compared to Jaguar.

It gives me momentary pause, wondering if I should be looking at trading the Jaguar and the Corvette in on something more practical for where I live, such as a Subaru WRX.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

That Was Scary

A student approached me after the Western Civilization quiz today, a little upset because she felt that the quiz relied on information contained in the assigned readings for next week--not this week.  I was briefly dismayed and chagrined, because I had two weeks notice to pull this class together, moving from quizzes, lectures, and a syllabus written around the previous Western Civ textbook to a new textbook--with a somewhat different organization.

I just spent the last half hour going through the quiz, and trying to find where the students could have expected to find the information.  Except for one question, every question had a slide from lectures (visible to the students throughout this week) or a set of pages in the assigned reading that directly answered the question.

One question asked the students to distinguish Egyptian and Mesopotamian beliefs in an afterlife.  The new textbook has a good discussion of Egyptian afterlife ideas but was silent about Mesopotamian afterlife beliefs (unlike the old textbook).  I'll take a look to see how many students gave the wrong answer on that question, but overall, I feel pretty good about the traceability of the quiz.  I may add citations to future quizzes so that students know where they should have been able to find this information--and just like good software has traceability from requirements all the way through final delivery to the customer, college tests should do so as well.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Proof That Lawyers Are Descending Into Feeding Frenzy Mode

Because of a shortage of ambulances to chase.  A lawyer is now asking a court to order Volokh Conspiracy to remove a blog posting that quoted a court filing!  A little of the background:

Check out the Appellant’s Emergency Motion to Seal Portions of Court Filings Referencing Libelous Statements Made by Others in Wolk v. Olson (3d Cir.). To review the bidding, Arthur Wolk sued Overlawyered.com, alleging Overlawyered had libeled him. The case was dismissed on statute of limitations grounds, and Wolk appealled. Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit), Marc Randazza (Legal Satyricon), Ed Whelan (National Review Online), and I signed an amicus brief supporting Overlawyered’s position in the appeal. Wolk’s lawyers then filed a response in opposition to the motion for leave to file that amicus brief.

That response, filed on Wolk’s behalf by his lawyers, made a false assertion about a post of mine on incest law. And it also wrongly suggested — with no foundation whatsoever — that my incest law post gave Wolk “more than a reasonable basis to question whether at least one of the amicus bloggers seeking this Court’s audience, one of whom apparently has a penchant for discussing sexual misconduct, may be responsible for the horrible accusations of sexual misconduct against Wolk on Reason.com.” The response quoted those accusations of sexual misconduct (which had been posted by anonymous Reason.com commenters, apparently prompted by coverage of Wolk’s lawsuit against Overlawyered).
As I commented over there:
I stand by my previous suggestion that anytime a court finds that a lawyer has filed a frivolous lawsuit, on behalf of others--but especially on his own behalf, one of the lawyer's fingers gets cut off.  It would certainly encourage a long, long thought about the merits of the suit.
 But that's only because there might be Eighth Amendment questions about cutting off other lawyer body parts.

A Sad Little Statement Of The Times In Which We Grew Up

Art Deco observes:
I came of age during an era when social relations seemed characterized by entropy. Our mundane life was agreeable enough, but the public life you read about and the common life you experienced in various ways seemed to decay in quality a little more each year, and it was difficult (or at least difficult for me) to acquire a sense of when some sort of equilibrium might be reached, if even a disagreeable one. 

....

In certain respects, the gradual erosion of the quality of life has continued (e.g. the durability of family relations and the set of understandings which buttresses that). In others, there has been good work done on the reconstruction of social norms. I was riffling through the New York State Statistical Yearbook the other day and discovered that the frequency of major crimes in this state has declined by about 65% in the last thirty years. The five boroughs of the City of New York - the sorry-assed Bronx included - have crime rates that would have been characteristic of rural counties when I was in high school.

"What A Drag It Is Getting Old"

You may recognize that line out the Rolling Stones' song, "Mother's Little Helper."  I went to my opthamologist the other day for my annual eye exam, and she mentioned that I was beginning to develop a cataracts, one eye more than the other.  It was barely noticeable, just a slight yellowing, and not to worry--these take decades to reach a point where they require surgery or even cause substantial changes in vision.

My recollection was that cataracts are caused by radiation exposure, both ionizing radiation (gamma rays, neutrons, alpha particles) and ultraviolet light.  My opthamologist seemed unaware of the ionizing radiation connection (but no, my memory isn't faulty on this), but indicated that UV is an issue, and that I should always wear UV blocking glasses when out of doors.  This is especially so in winter, when UV reflection from the snow is a problem. 

We checked on my prescription, and discovered that I have been wearing glasses with a UV blocking coating on them for a long time--and I assure you, I always wear glasses when out of doors.  That's because my eyesight is so poor that were I venture outside my home without glasses, it would likely cause a fatal accident!  Still, I will get some clip-ons to wear when outside, and especially when blowing snow in the daytime.

I am a bit concerned that the use of steroid inhalers for my sinuses (which has been an on and off again part of treatment for my chronic vasomotor rhinitis problem for many years) might be a factor, since corticosteroids are listed as a causal factor as well.  The sinus surgery some years ago made this less necessary than it was before, but I do wonder if there's a connection--especially since the sinuses and the eyes are so close together.

The Wikipedia article makes the point that antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E, should help slow cataract development--but experiments to try this theory have found them ineffective.  This study finds that a more specific antioxidant--N-acetylcarnosine--delays cataract development, but there seems to be some question how meaningful the size of the sample was.  Since this is a topically applied eyedrop, and someone is busily selling this as a product, I think I'll try and do a bit more research and ask my doctor before joining the herd.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

RAMming Speed!

One of the great sequences in film is the scene in Ben-Hur where the galleys are going into battle, and the commander yells, "Ramming speed," while the drummer increases the pace.  It is such a perfect metaphor for Dilbert-like corporations.  (Unfortunately, embedding of this video clip has been disabled.)  However: Roman galleys were not filled with slaves, but freemen.  The galley slaves are a Renaissance development--something that General Lew Wallace, author of Ben-Hur, did not know.

None the less, the pun was irresistible: I installed 2 GB of RAM in my notebook, and the performance gain when I am, as usual, doing too many things at once (editing videos, blogging, putting together PowerPoint slides for lectures, reading email), is definitely quite noticeable.  It is unfortunate that this notebook is limited to 2 GB--perhaps an incentive to buy something faster at some point.

For Those in Salt Lake City

Utah is planning to make the M1911 the official state gun of Utah commemorating John M. Browning on January 24, 2011.  This agenda was sent to me by the family of John M. Browning's descendants, with whom I have been talking about the pressing problem of mental illness :

The ceremony starts promptly at 12:05.
There will already be a Blackhawk on the front plaza and Browning displays in the rotunda.

On front steps if weather permits. Otherwise, just inside front doors by
displays:

12:05-12:10 I will open the ceremony with Color Guard, Pledge, and Prayer.

12:10-12:12 F-16 Fly-by (waiting for Pentagon approval) If weather is poor, we will quickly step outside for fly-by and go back in

12:12-12:20 Gov. Herbert will speak and present the Resolution we passed last session, designating 1/24/11 as John M. Browning Day, to one of Browning's Great Grandsons. (I'll know name soon)

12:20-12:25 Comments from Browning's Great Grandson

12:25-12:30 Comments from Adjutant General Tarbet of Utah Nat'l Guard

12:30-12:35 Comments from Col. Scott Zobrist (Brig Gen. nominee) of 388th Fighter Wing HAFB representing Base Commander General Busch.

12:35-12:40 Rep. Carl Wimmer to comment on his 2011 resolution to make the Browning designed 1911 the official state gun.

12:40-12:45 adjourn to displays in rotunda

Constitutional Ignorance

This article reports that surveys of average Americans and elected officials finds that the elected officials know even less than average Americans about the Constitution:
For five years now, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute has been conducting a national survey to gauge the quality of civic education in the country. We've surveyed more than 30,000 Americans, most of them college students, but also a random sample of adults from all educational and demographic backgrounds.

Included in the adult sample was a small subset of Americans (165 in all) who, when asked, identified themselves as having been "successfully elected to government office at least once in their life" -- which can include federal, state or local offices.


...

But those elected officials who took the test scored an average 5 percentage points lower than the national average (49 percent vs. 54 percent), with ordinary citizens outscoring these elected officials on each constitutional question.
Some of the examples of questions on the test include where "separation of church and state" appears in the Constitution.  (It doesn't.)  So perhaps Republicans opening the House of Representatives with a reading of the Constitution isn't just a dumb stunt after all.

What Is It About Marijuana That Makes People Into Such Fanatics?

I was having a polite email conversation with someone who supports legalization of marijuana.  I explained that my big concern is that by making it legal, it makes it even more difficult to keep it away from teenagers--a group that is at considerable risk because of the apparent causal connection between marijuana use and the development of schizophrenia.  The analogy to alcohol is pretty obvious, which also substantially increases schizophrenia risks.  (Since nearly all schizophrenia hits by mid to late 20s, the schizophrenia risk for people in their late 20s and above is probably nil.)

His argument is that it is easier for kids to get pot than beer--and if we made marijuana legal, it would be harder for them to get.

This is a rather astonishing claim, since simply by being legal, it would reduce the price and increase the number of retail locations.  In spite of alcohol being legal, and considerable regulation, it is not at all difficult for teens to get access to alcohol.  They get it from sympathetic young adults and from parents (with or without parental awareness).  I pointed out that this is a real risk with marijuana.  Adding marijuana to the existing problem of alcohol abuse is likely to make things worse.  Being half wrong (our current situation where alcohol is legal but marijuana is not) is better than being completely wrong.

His response was to say, "If you are really worried about teenagers (I don't believe it for a minute)"

I've made it clear for a very long time that my primary concern about marijuana availability is the mental illness risk, and that risk appears to be primarily for those who start smoking it before the years that schizophrenia hits--teens to 20s.  To make such a statement is to call me a liar.

Why do potheads insist on turning their intoxicant into a religion?  This is not the first time that civil discussions have turned bad because potheads are so hopelessly insistent on seeing every difference of opinion as dishonesty.  If they were pushing for a religion, it would be obvious that they were fanatics.

There must be people who get this fanatical about alcohol.  I just never get into conversations with them, I guess.

UPDATE:  For those who think that marijuana was made illegal because of anti-Mexican feeling, how to explain Mexico's making it illegal when its use in the U.S. was still quite rare?  From The Plant World 11:181 (1907), describing the author's first seeing of marijuana:
it was of common growth in central and southern Mexico, where however, "taboo" had been placed upon it by the Mexican Government. Under flaring head-lines a recently published newspaper article recites the seizure of "eight large boxes of marijuana, the largest collection of the national dope weed of the Mexican peon ever captured in a single haul by the police, and perhaps the greatest quantity of this weed ever seen at one time out of the field." * * * "Enough of this brain-wrecking weed was seized to have caused any number of murders had it reached the poor persons for whom it was intended.'' * * * "The effects of marijuana are like, but worse than those of opium. It has the tendency to craze the brain of the smoker. The weed has a pleasant aromatic odor and its immediate effect when smoked is considered more seductive than opium, but in the end it produces a murderous mania. To fight its use among soldiers is one of the hardest tasks before the army authorities.''
  
If sold in the tedejons of Mexico, and detected, the tendero is arrested, his store closed, his goods confiscated and he is either sent to the army or the penitentiary. In Tucson it is grown to supply the trade which amounts to, so my convict friend informed me, an average of $2.50 per day. The Mexican railroad laborers, he said, use all that is grown here outside of what they are able to purchase at the drug stores. There are several small gardens bordering the river in which the plant is grown, but the fear of publicity and punishment leads the growers to suppress this fact where possible.
UPDATE 2: There is a widespread belief that Prohibition did not reduce alcohol consumption--largely coming from ideologues who just know that laws don't change behavior.  One of the best proxies for alcohol consumption is cirrhosis of the liver death rates.



Remember that many states had already gone "dry" before Prohibition went national in 1920, so it is not surprising that the cirrhosis of the liver death rate started falling in 1910, and stayed at half the 1910 rate until the 1960s--when alcohol consumption rates (the gray part of the graph) started to rise.

Gobs of Interesting Data Concerning Mentally Ill Murderers

Jason C. Matejkowski, Sara W. Cullen, and Phyllis L. Solomon, “Characteristics of Persons With Severe Mental Illness Who Have Been Incarcerated for Murder,” Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 36:1[2008]74-86.  They examined data for 723 persons convicted of murder in Indiana 1990-2002.  Of those, they were able to obtain enough data on 518 to determine their mental health.  Of those 518, 95 had a "diagnosis of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorder, major depression, mania, or bipolar disorder...."  

Among the 95, 72% had a history of drug abuse.  Of that 72%, 47% listed drug of choice as marijuana, 13% stimulants, 4% inhalants, and 7% "other."  Unsurprisingly, 67% also had a history of alcohol abuse.

Confidential License Plates In California

Amazing abuse of a law:

The need for confidentiality for police officers and the others covered by this law makes perfect sense. There's no reason that government agencies, however, should not be able to get home addresses for mailing tickets.

Religion of Peace

I saw this news story from The Press Trust of India over at Volokh Conspiracy and while I wish that I could say that I was surprised, I really wasn't:
Kochi, Kerala:  The police has filed a chargesheet against 27 accused in the brutal attack on Professor T. J. Joseph, a private college lecturer in Kerala. His right hand had been chopped off allegedly by activists of the radical outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) on July 4, 2010.

...

The hand had been cut off at the wrist on allegations of blasphemy by Muslim radicals belonging to PFI for preparing a question paper for B.Com semester students which reportedly had some references to Prophet Mohammed.
Fortunately, doctors were able to reattach Professor Joseph's hand.

Oh yes: and in one of those signs of the courage of the college administration when confronting evil, the college fired him.  Yes, I know that most Muslims would not approve of this action, but there are 54 people accused in this case.  This was not the actions of one lone nut. At some point, when this plot was being hatched, there were no Muslims aware of this who recognized the barbarism of the plan and called police?

One of the commenters over at Volokh Conspiracy (Salahudin al-Rawandi) unintentionally proves my point:
I’m sorry I read this blog as an academically neutral blog. The most I expected was an ideological bent, but this is acidic vitriol, especially when Prof. Volokh insists that its true that Muslims rape their own children. Disgusting.
 But Professor Volokh has not made such a claim.  Professor Volokh's post was extraordinarily calm--only quoting a paragraph from the news story, with no other commentary.  Yet al-Rawandi is clearly more upset about reporting of this Muslim barbarism than he upset about the barbarism itself.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fairfield, California

I see that some pension obligation bonds are available with a yield to worst of 8.603%--for S&P A-rated bonds (CUSIP 30421VAY5).  I'm guessing that this extraordinary return is because Fairfield, California is in some unusual level of financial trouble, even for a California government.  I can't find anything specific about Fairfield, and the official statement gives all the standard boilerplate.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Talk About Fast

Tuesday night, I downloaded the memory upgrade tool from crucial.com, which runs on your PC, tells you what RAM you currently have installed, what the maximum you can upgrade to, and then sets you up to order it.  This is a real advantage, since there are a zillion different RAM configurations now, depending on speed, physical format, and half a dozen other factors that I knew when I talk introductory computers a few months ago, but have now forgotten. 

The price to upgrade form 1 GB to 2 GB (the maximum this HP notebook will take) was only $39.95.  So I ordered it.  I didn't pay anything extra for faster shipping.  It was here today.  Wow.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An Interesting Slogan on Early American Money

Over at Classical Values I saw this mention of a slogan on early American money:
Such attitudes were common at the founding of the country.
The early currency of the United States was printed with the slogan "Mind your business"!

The slogan, which is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, appeared on early US coins and paper currency.
Simon interprets this as "mind your own business"--a very libertarian position.  I was curious about this, because I had never seen this slogan on U.S. money before, so I did a little digging--and what I found indicates that this slogan may not have meant what Simon thinks it meant.  I found sources such as this one that indicate that it was Franklin's rephrasing of a traditional English motto: "Be Gone About Your Business."  This older source tells approximately the same story.  This is a recent scholarly work on Ben Franklin's vision for America that also holds the slogan was emphasizing the importance of "time and industrious labor"--which any reader of Poor Richard's Almanac will recognize as a core Franklin value.  This collection of Early American figures of speech does buy into the "mind your own business" argument, but it seems to be the exception.

Of course, there was nothing terribly libertarian about Revolutionary America.  Some people like to imagine it was so as a method of arguing in favor of libertarian ideas.  But read the sodomy and buggery law of Pennsylvania adopted in 1829 (and which replaced a far more severe punishment), or this 1827 discussion of the laws prohibiting drunkenness:
Drunkenness is punished with a fine of sixty-seven cents and imprisonment for twenty-four hours. Should not a crime, which endangers so much the peace of families and society, debases the nature of man, destroys his intellectual vigour and disqualifies him for all kinds of useful exertion, be visited with a severer penalty? And the same remark will apply in this case, with regard to the standing of the offender, as in profane swearing. It would appear from the great prevalence of this evil, that nothing less than doubling the penalty on its repetition will be efficient in diminishing it.
Argue if you wish for libertarian ideas, but they are not a particularly good description of America during and immediately after the Revolution.

Blog Roll

Since I changed templates, I lost the blogroll that was rapidly getting out of date anyway.  If you have a blog and you want on, let me know.  As long as it isn't too bizarre, I'm probably be able to add you to the list.

Gluten Free Bisquick

I'm impressed at the level of interest in gluten free cooking.  A wife of one of my regular readers runs a blog devoted to gluten free cooking: Gluten-Free Nancy.  It looks like a number of interesting recipes over there.  She agrees that Ener-G's breads are "biohazard" but she says they make nice gluten-free breadcrumbs.

One of the items that I bought at Winco on the last shopping trip was Bisquick Gluten Free.  I grew up with Bisquick, the preferred agent in our home for making pancakes, waffles, and biscuits.  (You know, the kind where you roll out the dough, keep folding it over, and then, after 64 or 128 layers, you use a cup to cut out the circles.) 

A few years back, I stopped buying Bisquick for pancakes, and started buying the Krusteaz buttermilk pancake mix, as well as their waffle mix.  Partly this was because Bisquick, while it makes fine biscuits, is a bit salty.  The pancakes and waffles just were not that tasty, compared to Krusteaz.  Another reason was that Krusteaz mix had everything except water.  There were too many occasions when I decided to make pancakes, and found that we were out of eggs.

Anyway, my daughter suggested that I get some of the Bisquick Gluten Free, which she says tastes just regular Bisquick.  Today, I used it to make the cakes for strawberry shortcake--and yes, I agree!  The flavor is the same, although the texture is a bit more crumbly.  Gluten really is remarkable stuff.

Looking at the ingredients list, I see rice flour, potato starch, and xanthan gum--about what I would expect.  It's a bit expensive (as are all prepared gluten free alternatives), but I can see buying it again, for making biscuits, and maybe for pancakes--although the pancake mix my daughter put together for me as a Christmas gift is just splendid.

Glad To See Rep. King (R-NY) Wants To Do Something!

He's proposing a 1000 foot boundary around members of Congress in which it will be illegal to carry a gun.  Why does this come to mind?





After all, if you intend to murder a member of Congress, and don't mind killing a federal judge, a nine year old girl, and injure dozens of others--a law like this will work real well, won't it?

Canadian Weapon of Opportunity

It could almost make a funny posting, but a Toronto policeman was killed trying to stop this rampage:

A man took a stolen snow plow on two-hour rampage through the streets of Toronto, Canada, Wednesday morning, killing a police officer and wrecking cars and a car dealership.

Police said the suspect stole the privately owned plow in downtown Toronto about 5:30 a.m., according to a report from CTV news.

Police Sgt. Ryan Russell, 35, was struck by the plow and pinned against his cruiser when he tried to stop the truck about a half-hour later, according to news reports. He died in a hospital emergency room.

Shows How Few People Use Internet Explorer Now

Or how uninteresting they must be. :-)  I've had one of my first peer reviewed papers up for several years hereDave Kopel kindly linked to it today, and when I went to look at it with Internet Explorer, it suddenly turned to Greek (or something that you could mistake for Greek) part way through.  I've since fixed it (an unclosed font face tag), but this was not a problem for Firefox or most other browsers, apparently.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Things That Don't Even Sell on eBay

I was digging through the photo and electronics museum that is my closet, and I pulled out a Fujifilm Discovery 312 35mm film camera.  (You younger readers might need to visit a museum to find out what a "film camera" is.)  I discovered that there are a number of them being offered on eBay--but guess what?  No one's bidding!  It's a shame, because it was, for its day, a decent compromise on price and function in the autoeverything category. 

What's impressive is that I don't think that I have taken any pictures with it since Democrats saw "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" as a sign of their liberalism about homosexuality--and yet when I turn it on, it boots up and is ready to take pictures!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

eBay Really Works

I mentioned a few days ago that I had three dead notebook PCs lying around the house, all of them obsolete (some way obsolete).  Two are notebooks that my daughter and son-in-law bought in college; the third is an antique that I bought when I still lived in California, and that my daughter took to college with her back in 2001.  I don't ever remember using it--but I know that I did.

The two notebooks that belonged to my daughter and son-in-law had a lot of personal stuff on the hard disks, so I pulled them out, and turned them into external drives for their new desktop.  What to do with the rest?  I put them on eBay, along with a couple of really obsolete PCMCIA network cards--and what do you know?  All three notebooks sold, as did the wireless PCMCIA card.  There was not a lot of money involved--but at least they were not going into landfills.  The Dell is going to be used to replace a broken screen on a similar model.  I suspect that the other two notebooks will have something similar happen to them.

Looks Like Mental Illness Again

Initial reports are never terribly accurate.  Someone named Jared Loughner has been arrested for the mass murder in Tucson that killed a federal judge and a number of others, and shot Congresswoman Giffords (D-AZ) in the head.  This disjointed, rambling, confused YouTube item is by someone from Arizona named Jared Loughner and describes itself as "My Final Thoughts."  It does not take much effort from reading it to guess paranoid schizophrenia.

His video seems to indicate that he is (or was) a soldier at a military base in the area, and he seems upset that the Army gave him a "mini-Bible" before some tests at some Army base in Phoenix he calls MEPS (which would be the Military Entrance Processing Command).  This makes the claim in this news report that it was an automatic weapon a bit unnerving.  (Of course, a lot of these early accounts turn out to be wrong.)  This CNN report says a Glock 9mm pistol--a lot more likely.

UPDATE: This Fox News account reports:
According to the law enforcement official, the suspect began shouting something before shooting wildly with an automatic weapon. Shots then rang out from the crowd --  a security agent or someone else fired at the suspect who survived.
Being Arizona, it could have been one of the many armed civilians, too.  It is unclear now if this helped or hurt, although it does not appear that the shooter was hit.

UPDATE 2: Jim Lindgren over at Volokh Conspiracy points out that it looks like a mental illness problem--and his politics are not likely significant factors.  But so what?  What little evidence is available comes from someone who purports to have gone to school with him, and describes Loughner as a left-wing radical.  It does seem unlikely, however, that a left-wing radical is following Sarah Palin's site.  Oh yes, a pothead--and now, apparently, mentally ill (my guess: paranoid schizophrenic).  Wait--didn't I read something somewhere about the connection between marijuana use and mental illness--specifically schizophrenia?

UPDATE 3: Early reports about being in the Army seem to be wrong--the Army apparently rejected him in 2008.  This account confirms a history of violent threats, and behavior that fits the mental illness explanation.  Also, some drug charges several years back that confirm the friend's description of him as a pothead.