Sunday, October 30, 2011

What Grief Causes

Some people turn their grief into a journey to the bottom of a bottle.  Others manage to find some meaning in trying to solve the underlying causes of the tragedy.  Here is one of the more useful applications of grief:

Carla Jacobs was engaged to be married when her future mother-in-law was killed by her future sister-in-law. Roma Jacobs, 78, was begging a 911 operator for help when Victoria Jacobs “Betty” Madeira, 43, fired the gunshot that killed her own mother.

Today, Carla is a member of the Treatment Advocacy Board of Directors and the organizer of statewide efforts to implement assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) in California, where each county must opt in to “Laura’s Law” individually.

The Jacobs family experience of loss and advocacy is the heart of OC Register reporter Greg Hardesty’s gripping story about the psychological wounds left by mass killings and other violent deaths, “Long road ahead for Seal Beach survivors” (Oct. 26). "You know that old theory about 'closure?' " Carla told the reporter. "Well, there's no such thing as closure. It's been more than 20 years, and it's not over. It's not over emotionally. The best way I can describe it is that it's become muted."

Muted – but a catalyst for advocacy. As Carla puts it, "If there's a way to help prevent the next episode like this from occurring, well, that's the only good that can come out of this."

This is a story we hear at the Treatment Advocacy Center over and over – about individuals and families whose ferocious advocacy for treatment of severe mental illness is forged by personal loss and grief.
A lot of gun control advocates are people who were overwhelmed by grief, and focused on the device, not the underlying problem.   Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) is one of those who rather than ask why a severely mentally ill person was loose and able to buy a gun in a state with a pretty comprehensive gun control law, chose to focus on the gun.  She has her focus wrong, but I can at least understand how her grief has made gun control the focus on her life.  It is most unfortunate that she has failed to recognize the core of the problem.

For Those Of You With Cutoff Saws (Also Called Chop Saws)

The fence against which you place material to be cut: how tall is it?  I'm working on a product that makes it quick and easy to cut materials to .01" accuracy on your chop saw (probably priced in the $5 range), and I want to make sure that I don't have to make multiple different versions.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How Much Has America Changed Since I Was Young?

The PJ Tatler links to this rather bizarre news story and asks, "I wonder what would happened if he showed up wearing a cross on his tie."  (At least across the river in Oregon, that was actually illegal because of a Klan supported law passed by popular vote in the 1920s and which was only struck down in part in 1986.)
VANCOUVER, Wash. - Parents of some Vancouver sixth graders are worried about what to tell their kids after a male substitute teacher showed up at school this week in women's clothing.


Students said it was obvious that their substitute teacher was a man dressed in women's clothing and from what we understand, some of the kids had a hard time settling down because they were laughing and making jokes. Some were eventually pulled out of class.
Well, I mean it seems bizarre to me, but I am a primitive.  The school district concluded that there was nothing that they could do about it; it did not violate their dress code.  The comments on the article seem to be pretty evenly split between the liberal "isn't that wonderful?" and "Someone has a problem."

That whole part of the country is getting a bit weird; my sister told me that the assistant principal at one of the public schools in Beaverton had a bone through her nose.  Not an earring or a stud: a bone.  I suppose as long as she doesn't go cannibal on the students, who would care?

Wow! Who Woulda Thunk It!

Professor Bainbridge links to this Fox News story:

The Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights confirmed that it is investigating allegations that Catholic University violated the human rights of Muslim students by not allowing them to form a Muslim student group and by not providing them rooms without Christian symbols for their daily prayers.

The investigation alleges that Muslim students “must perform their prayers surrounded by symbols of Catholicism – e.g., a wooden crucifix, paintings of Jesus, pictures of priests and theologians which many Muslim students find inappropriate.”
You know, in a million years, I would never have guessed that a school named Catholic University might have some vague, slight, almost impossible to detect Christian orientation.  Would you?

Weird Tragedy Involving Kinky Sex

But if you came looking for some titillation, you are going to be very disappointed.  From the October 27, 2011 Idaho Statesman comes a news account of a man who was sentenced to life in prison for a bizarre set of crimes that involved kidnapping and raping his wife, tying her up with chains and duct tape in the trunk of his car, then stabbed his mother to death--22 times.  Why did he do it?

Lee’s attorney, public defender Tony Geddes, told the judge that Lee snapped on Jan. 4 because his life was spiraling out of control. Lee had been fired from two jobs, couldn’t find work, had a new baby to care for and was having marital troubles. Geddes said Lee had been nursing anger against his mother for 15 years, claiming that another woman who lived with the family when Lee was 9 had sexually molested him over about a year.

Geddes said Lee’s childhood troubles began when Lynn Blake got involved with Internet chat groups in the mid ’90s, started attending Wiccan meetings and divorced her husband. Geddes said Lee walked in on his mother having sex with another woman at a Wiccan meeting and was ordered not to tell his father.

The prosecutor was skeptical of Geddes' story, because he had never told anyone about it until after the murder, and does not have a particularly impressive history of personal integrity (even before rape, kidnapping, and murder).  But child molestation victims seldom tell of what happened to them for many years.  There's even a powerful book by that title: I Never Told Anyone:

This is one of those books that you read a few pages, put it down and sob, and read a bit more. I have known a lot of women who were seriously damaged by sexual abuse--but men especially have a hard time confronting it and opening up about it.

Now, if you live in the Bay Area, what Geddes is describing is not even particularly unusual--but here in Idaho, it is still rather shocking. 

Are Felonies Lifetime Firearms Disqualifiers?

Volokh Conspiracy reports on a recent North Carolina state court decision that decided that a man who was convicted of several non-violent felonies back in the 1970s, and is thus disqualified under state law from possessing a firearm, violates the Second Amendment.  At least in part, the issue is that the defendant has behaved himself for thirty years, and because the crimes were not violent.

There is a strong public policy argument that non-violent crimes committed long ago should not be firearms disqualifiers.  People do grow up, mature, and learn to behave.  There is probably even a case that some violent felonies, if long ago, and with evidence that the ex-felon has really changed his ways, should lead to restoration of firearms rights.  I am just a bit uncomfortable with finding a constitutional right under the Second Amendment for ex-felons to possess firearms, because non-violent felonies back in 1789 were capital crimes, and execution tended to interfere rather substantially with the right to keep and bear arms.  It is a bit of a stretch to me that argue that someone who could be executed for a crime in 1789 still enjoys the right to keep and bear arms.

Wealth Redistribution: Occupy Portland Finds Out What It's Like!

The Other McCain links to a news report that indicates that Occupy Portland's PayPal account was drained of $20,000...and it appears to be embezzlement:
Somebody cleaned out the PayPal account of “Occupy Portland” and it looks like an inside job:
What a shocker: people that believe that the government should confiscate wealth and redistribute seem to have decided, "Why wait for the government to do it?"

Mountain Lion In Northwest Washington

Northwest Washington, D.C.--not State of Washington!  I wonder if they could develop a taste for lobbyists?

Buy Low, Sell High

This is traditional stock market wisdom.  The hard part, of course, is figuring out when a stock is low and when it is high.  If you buy a stock and then then the market drops 10%, you may wait a long time for it to recover.  This is why day traders (and even week traders) have to have guts of iron.

I did a bit of day trading back in the 1990s, trading 500 and 1000 share blocks of DSC stock, at a time when computer program trading meant the stock was doing rather dramatic, and somewhat predictable movements up and down, like a drunken sine wave.  I stopped doing it because short-term capital gains on these stocks, in combination with being a highly paid, highly taxed professional, meant that almost half the gain went to federal and state income taxes.  The risk was substantial, and gaining $3000 on a trade meant keeping about $1800 of it.  It only took a few missteps to wipe out most of that gain for the year.

I have long been intrigued by how equity prices and bond prices have a little counterpoint dance: a rising economy lifts stock prices, but also (usually) interest rates.  When interest rates rise, the value of existing bonds drops.  (Think about it for a moment, and this is completely logical: a bond pays a certain fixed interest rate for the rest of its life.  If you can buy recently issued bonds at a higher interest rate, existing instruments with the lower yield will be less desirable.)

In theory, you could buy stocks when the market is down, sell them when the market is up, and use the proceeds to buy bonds.  When the market drops, usually the interest rates fall, and the value of the bonds goes up.  Sell the bonds, and buy stocks.  There are mutual funds that do this, and because they are buying and selling hundreds of thousands of shares of stock and millions of dollars worth bonds at a time, they get some economies of scale that left them make a profit on even tiny market movements.

Individual investors are not so fortunate on the economies of scale.  Even worse--what if you make a mistake about the market bottom?  You buy a stock at $24, and instead of the market recovering, it drops a lot more.  You do not want to sell that stock at $21, but you also do not want to hold it indefinitely, producing little or no income.  At least if you buy bonds at the wrong time, you are earning interest from those bonds, while you wait for the next stock market drop to increase bond prices.

I am beginning to think that these preferred stocks with high yields may be a partial solution to this problem.  If you buy a stock with a 7% dividend (and that describes many of the preferred stocks, such as some of those that I bought recently) and you have misjudged whether the market has reached bottom or not, you are at least getting a return on your investment while waiting for the stock price to rise again.

By the way, yesterday was a great day for up.  I gained as much in my 401k and Schwab portfolio as I normally make at my day job in six months.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Can't Complain

The stocks that I bought yesterday gained more than $1000 today.

Knife Control Laws

Does your city, county, or state have a knife control law?  You know: bans on possession, sale, or ownership of switchblades, gravity knives, or similar sharp objects?  If so, please give me the details.  I have been tasked with writing a law review article on the subject of knives as Second Amendment protected arms.

PJMedia Just Published Another One By Me

PajamasMedia has changed their name to PJMedia (to avoid having to explain the now rather dated origins of the name).  The article is "Buying Group Health Insurance Can Be a Bureaucratic Nightmare."

Obama's Student Loan Giveaway...Is Not Even Much Of A Giveaway

The Atlantic does the math, and says:

For the average borrower, the impact would be small. In 2011, Bachelor's degree recipients graduating with debt had an average balance of $27,204, according to an analysis done, based on Department of Education data. That average has ballooned from just $17,646 over the past decade.
Using these values as the high and low bounds of average student debt over the last ten years, the monthly savings for the average student loan borrower would be between $4.50 and $7.75 per month. Clearly, this isn't going to save the economy. While borrowers with bigger balances would save more, this is the average. And even someone with $100,000 in loans would only cut their monthly payments by $28.50.
Even the accelerated loan forgiveness--allowing forgiveness of the loans after 20 years, instead of 25--has an additional poison pill in it, at least according to this comment:
The only nasty little secret that people forget to mention about the loan forgiveness with IBR or ICR is that, at least with the 25-year (soon to be 20-year) forgiveness, is that you must report cancellation of indebtedness income (CODI) on your taxes the year the debt is forgiven. Thus, if you have $100,000 of debt forgiven, you must recognize income of $100,000. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Close To Matter/Anti-Matter Danger

I keep my master copies of CDs in a secure location; this way, when the CD copies that I take in the car get scratched (as always happens), I can reburn them.  At the moment, I am putting the second disc of the Carpenters Only Yesterday album on the same disc with Styx's The Grand Illusion.  Are there laws about combining such...disparate styles on music on one CD?

Wisconsin Issues Carry Permit Reciprocity List

The Truth About Guns reports that Wisconsin has issued the list of states whose concealed carry permits it will recognize. It appears that they will only recognize these permits if issued to residents of those states.  Fortunately, Idaho made the cut.  Now, if I could only afford to go on a cross-country vacation...

Brandywine Fund

One of those mid-cap mutual funds that I have held since the 1990s, largely because it performed very well in the early years...but since then it has done very badly.  I am thinking of selling it on the next big market swing up.  To be blunt, in spite of starting with $25,000, and now worth above $60,000--I will still end up with a significant capital loss from selling it, because it has performed so badly.

At a certain point, no matter how many warm memories you have for this pet, you have to take the mangy dog behind the barn and shoot it.

More Dirty Wall Street Sorts--And Of Course, Big Democrat Donors

Earlier this month, I mentioned how heavily some of those convicted in the Galleon insider trading scandal (you know, the 1% that Occupy Wall Street is so concerned about) turned out to be contributors to the Democrats.  The October 25, 2011 New York Times reports that:

Federal prosecutors are expected to file criminal charges on Wednesday against Rajat K. Gupta, the most prominent business executive ensnared in an aggressive insider trading investigation, according to people briefed on the case.
The case against Mr. Gupta, 62, who is expected to surrender to F.B.I. agents on Wednesday, would extend the reach of the government’s inquiry into America’s most prestigious corporate boardrooms. Most of the defendants charged with insider trading over the last two years have plied their trade exclusively on Wall Street.
Sure enough, go to, and search for who Rajat Gupta gives money to, and what a surprise!

MCKINSEY & CO/SENIOR PARTNER10/5/06$2,100Dodd, Chris (D)
MCKINSEY/DIRECTOR2/18/04$2,000Khanna, Rohit (D)
MCKINSEY & COMPANY5/11/00$1,000Clinton, Hillary Rodham (D)
MCKINSEY & CO./MANAGING DIRECTOR3/20/02$1,000Pressler, Larry (R)
Gupta, Rajat K
Westport,CT 06880
McKinsey & Company Inc./Management8/2/04$23,000DNC Services Corp (D)
MCKINSEY & CO./EXECUTIVE12/30/05$10,000Democratic Congressional Campaign Cmte (D)
MCKINSEY & CO./EXECUTIVE11/5/06$10,000Democratic Congressional Campaign Cmte (D)
MCKINSEY AND CO./DIRECTOR3/27/06$2,100Farrell, Diane Goss (D)
MCKINSEY AND CO./DIRECTOR3/27/06$2,100Farrell, Diane Goss (D)
Gupta, Rajat K
McKinsey & Company Inc.8/2/04$2,000Kerry, John (D)
MCKINSEY & COMPANY6/5/90$1,000Bradley, Bill (D)
MCKINSEY & COMPANY6/5/90$1,000Bradley, Bill (D)
MCKINSEY & COMPANY INC./MANAGING DI12/18/01$1,000Barve, Kumar P (D)
MCKINSEY & CO./CONSULTANT3/19/99$1,000Bradley, Bill (D)
UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers!  Please come on back!  There's a wide range of material posted here--everything from serious computer geek stuff to history, financial ruminations, and sometimes, humor.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lots of Important Computer Science People Dying

John McCarthy, inventor of Lisp, and the term "artificial intelligence," and a person with whom I had an occasional friendly email relationship, has died.

Question About Two Stocks

Barclays Bank PLC BCS/PRD:NYSE is a preferred stock of Barclays Bank, held in an ADR (American Depository Receipt).  The current dividend yield is 8.51%--which is pretty darn good for something that has an A rating from S&P.

Harris Preferred Capital Corp HBC/PR:NYSE is the preferred stock of Harris Capital, with the current dividend yield at 7.27%.  Unlike the Barclays stock, this is not in an ADR, but is also A rated by S&P.

Both of these stocks have a relatively narrow trading range, and both have a very consistent dividend yield over the last few years.  Both have a call price of $25, so at any point, these securities can be called at $25 (which is a bit higher than they are at right now).  I would think that these would be snapped pretty quickly because of the yield and because preferred stocks are pretty high on the ladder when it comes to bankruptcy proceedings.  It appears that because of the call price, there is little potential on the upside for the stock price--so in a sense, they are more like a bond than a stock.  

Could someone enlighten me while these might not be a particularly good investment?  Yes, there's some risk, but the yield is astonishing in this day and age.

UPDATE: Just got off the phone with the fixed income desk at Schwab.  As the trader I spoke to explained, the rating companies are "more reactive than proactive" and the yield is probably a better indicator of the risk involved than the S&P rating.  However: part of why the yields are as high as they are on these callable preferred stocks is the same reason that Fannie Mae and other GSEs are high yield relative to non-callable bonds of similar duration: you can be quite sure that the issuer will call these preferred stocks, and perhaps on very short durations.  If you think of these as a way to make short-term investments with decent yields in exchange for some risk, that makes sense.

UPDATE 2: I ended up buying some of the Barclays Bank preferred stock (8.51% current dividend yield, symbol BCS+D), Atlantic Power Corporation (symbol AT) which has a 7.78% dividend yield--and the dividend is paid monthly), and Teekay Offshore Partners LP (symbol TOO) which has a 7.70% dividend yield.  The attraction of all three companies is that they have a history of stable and high dividend amounts, and both AT and TOO are in fields that are likely to be continuing growth.  (TOO provides transportation services for offshore drilling equipment.)  Barclays is high yield at least partly because of the risk that Europe's financial crisis may deepen, but to be honest, I cannot afford to wait forever for adult supervision in Washington to cause a recovery of the economy, and unless I can improve my portfolio, I will be working at my day job until I am even older and grayer than I am.

Some Encouraging News

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the International Business Editor for the Telegraph, has a very encouraging article in the October 23, 2011 issue arguing that the balance of world power is going to swing back to the U.S. over the next several years:
Telegraph readers already know about the "shale gas revolution" that has turned America into the world’s number one producer of natural gas, ahead of Russia.

Less known is that the technology of hydraulic fracturing - breaking rocks with jets of water - will also bring a quantum leap in shale oil supply, mostly from the Bakken fields in North Dakota, Eagle Ford in Texas, and other reserves across the Mid-West.

"The US was the single largest contributor to global oil supply growth last year, with a net 395,000 barrels per day (b/d)," said Francisco Blanch from Bank of America, comparing the Dakota fields to a new North Sea.

Total US shale output is "set to expand dramatically" as fresh sources come on stream, possibly reaching 5.5m b/d by mid-decade. This is a tenfold rise since 2009.
 It is not just energy; Evans-Pritchard points to something that I have pointed to previously:
Meanwhile, the China-US seesaw is about to swing the other way. Offshoring is out, 're-inshoring' is the new fashion.

"Made in America, Again" - a report this month by Boston Consulting Group - said Chinese wage inflation running at 16pc a year for a decade has closed much of the cost gap. China is no longer the "default location" for cheap plants supplying the US.

A "tipping point" is near in computers, electrical equipment, machinery, autos and motor parts, plastics and rubber, fabricated metals, and even furniture.

"A surprising amount of work that rushed to China over the past decade could soon start to come back," said BCG's Harold Sirkin.
I have mentioned here some of the surprising goods that I find myself buying that are made in America--like socks!  There comes a certain point where American advantages in efficiency, little or no transportation costs from maker to consumer, and perceived quality advantages, win over the Chinese sweat shops.

Maybe Evans-Pritchard is too optimistic.  Maybe Obama will win the battle over cheap energy, and succeed in making us dependent on Middle Eastern oil and alternative technologies powered by unicorn flatulence.  Or perhaps the Republican Party will make a dramatic turnaround actually stand for free markets and capitalism.  But I need all the optimism I can get right now.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Myths About The Iraq War

A recurring claim is that "if we hadn't spent all that money in Iraq, we wouldn't be in such deep financial trouble now."  As this August 30, 2010 Fox News report points out:

As President Obama prepares to tie a bow on U.S. combat operations in Iraq, Congressional Budget Office numbers show that the total cost of the eight-year war was less than the stimulus bill passed by the Democratic-led Congress in 2009.

According to CBO numbers in its Budget and Economic Outlook published this month, the cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom was $709 billion for military and related activities, including training of Iraqi forces and diplomatic operations.

The projected cost of the stimulus, which passed in February 2009, and is expected to have a shelf life of two years, was $862 billion. 
 Pretty clearly, if the cost of the Iraq War (over eight years) was what destroyed our economy--what did the stimulus bill do?

Very Odd: Rapidly Changing History?

One of the reasons that I shy away from the birther stuff is that for every legitimate issue that has been raised, there seem to be a dozen pretty crazy claims that get made, too.  Here is one that at first glance seems to be worrisome.  The complaint is that dozens of historic Supreme Court decisions archived at that referenced a particular Supreme Court case were changed starting in 2008 so that this case was no longer referenced, or at least no longer easy to find--and after inquiries were made, all of these cases were restored to their historic content earlier this year.  This is from Dianna Cotter at Portland Examiner:

So far, 25 corrupted SCOTUS have been identified, and this number may continue to rise as the scope of the tampering becomes apparent. These cases all relied upon Minor, some specifically referencing its definition of Natural Born Citizen - a definition which makes Obama ineligible to be President as that definition is part of the holding and continuing precedent, issued from the highest court in our nation making it the law of the land, even now.

The most extreme sabotage so far discovered appears to have been done to the landmark decision United States v. Wong Kim Ark which was sabotaged to remove "Minor v. Happersett" three times, along with one reference to "Scott v Sandford", another to the Slaughterhouse Cases  and some accompanying text relevant to the issue. These surgical alterations would alter and shape the national dialogue; leaving a persistent and  incorrect interpretation of the meaning of the 'natural born citizen' clause. There is no doubt whatsoever that this was the specific intent of those responsible for this illegal editing of American history and law.

As previously mentioned, the specific distinction between Citizen and Natural Born Citizen made in Minor v. Happersett is in the holding of the case, the section which creates the Law, and it is this Law which has been repeatedly cited over the decades since. In order to minimize the importance of Minor, someone at Justia deliberately decided to make these supporting citations as difficult as possible to find.
I decided to check the claim, to see if this is birther madness or not.  It involves an apparently consistent (and therefore almost certainly intentional) change to U.S. Supreme Court decisions at that reference Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 21 Wall. 162 (1874), a case that while it is about whether women were citizens of the United States or not, includes a rather lengthy discussion (starting on p. 168) of whether children born in the United States to alien parents are citizens or not.  (The applicability of this to President Obama, born to a citizen of British Kenya and an American citizen, should be obvious.)

The person raising the question used the Internet Archive repository to demonstrate that these changes took place.  I have taken one particular example, U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U. S. 649 (1898), and followed its history through the Internet Archive.  The copy archived April 20, 2008 has this at 169 U.S. 649, 654:
The constitution nowhere defines the meaning of these words, either by way of inclusion or of exclusion, except in so far as this is done by the affirmative declaration that 'all persons born r naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.' Amend. art. 14. In this, as in other respects, it must be interpreted in the light of the common law, the principles and history of which were familiarly known to the framers of the constitution. Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162; Ex parte Wilson, 114 U.S. 417, 422, 5 S. Sup. Ct. 935; Boyd v. U. S., 116 U.S. 616, 624, 625 S., 6 Sup. Ct. 524; Smith v. Alabama, 124 U.S. 465, 8 Sup. Ct. 564. The language of the constitution, as has been well said, could not be understood without reference to the common law. 1 Kent, Comm. 336; Bradley, J., in Moore v. U. S., 91 U.S. 270, 274
  Yet by June 19, 2008, the same page of an historic Supreme Court decision has subtly changed:
The Constitution nowhere defines the meaning of these words, either by way of inclusion or of exclusion, except insofar as this is done by the affirmative declaration that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States." In this as in other respects, it must be interpreted in the light of the common law, the principles and history of which were familiarly known to the framers of the Constitution. 88 U. S. 422; Boyd v. United States, 116 U. S. 616, 116 U. S. 624, 116 U. S. 625; Smith v. Alabama, 124 U. S. 465. The language of the Constitution, as has been well said, could not be understood without reference to the common law. Kent Com. 336; Bradley, J., in Moore v. United States,@ 91 U. S. 270, 91 U. S. 274.
The Minor case is still referenced in subsequent paragraphs, but it is a bit strange that a case that has not changed in more than a century, stuff is changing.  It remains this way as late as May 15, 2011, the last capture in the Internet Archive for this decision.  Yet today, it is restored to its pre-Obama campaign state:
The Constitution nowhere defines the meaning of these words, either by way of inclusion or of exclusion, except insofar as this is done by the affirmative declaration that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States." In this as in other respects, it must be interpreted in the light of the common law, the principles and history of which were familiarly known to the framers of the Constitution. Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162; Ex parte Wilson, 114 U. S. 417, 114 U. S. 422; Boyd v. United States, 116 U. S. 616, 116 U. S. 624, 116 U. S. 625; Smith v. Alabama, 124 U. S. 465. The language of the Constitution, as has been well said, could not be understood without reference to the common law. Kent Com. 336; Bradley, J., in Moore v. United States, 91 U. S. 270, 91 U. S. 274.
The allegation is that because is a very commonly used source of Supreme Court decisions, removing many of the references to Minor v. Happersett would cause people attempting to look into the legal question of Obama's citizenship to miss a decision that at least at first glance, has some relevance to the question.

This sounds so paranoid--but why this odd change to a decision more than a century old, exactly at the time that the controversy over Obama's citizenship came up--and now the decisions are apparently back to what they were before these references were flushed down the memory hole?  It could make you run out and download all the Supreme Court decisions to your own hard disk--just in case.

UPDATE: As some readers pointed out, the modified version of the case above replaced not just Minor, but also Ex parte Wilson, with a hyperlink to the newer method of citing Supreme Court cases: 88 U.S. 422 (which seems to be Minor's volume number, but Ex parte Wilson's page number).  Perhaps what happened was that someone at decided to replace all the old format citations (e.g., 21 Wall 462) with the U.S. format citations, and the script that they used did not do it correctly.  Still, when questions were raised, should have acknowledged that they screwed up, and were restoring them to the original contents.

As others have pointed out, if you were going to do a Ministry of Truth action like this, changing's copies would not be terribly effective unless you did likewise to the many other Supreme Court collections as well.  Never ascribe to conspiracy what can be explained by stupidity or accident; conspiracy requires intelligence, and there is not enough of that around to be a problem.

UPDATE 2: Even more reason to suspect incompetence, not conspiracy.  The modified version has the correct hyperlink for 88 US 162 (where Minor is located), but the text displayed is 88 US 422, which makes no sense at all.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Big Kitties

I mentioned a while back that a mountain lion woke my wife up, yowling outside the window.  A neighbor tells us that there are four of the overgrown kitty-cats prowling the neighborhood now: a female with her yearling, a male just behind her, waiting for her to drive the yearling away and come into season (to be polite about this), and a fourth male in the area.  They have been seen up on the airstrip upslope from us.

There will be no unarmed walks!

A New Scandal Every Week

Even lamestream media organizations like ABC are covering the scandals now.  The Obama Administration has lent more than a billion dollars to two electric car companies buildings cars that even I can't even consider buying because they are for people much richer than me.  Fisker has decided, in spite of the hype when the loan to Fisker was announced in a closed Delaware car manufacturing plant, to build the $97,000 sedan in Finland:
With the approval of the Obama administration, an electric car company that received a $529 million federal government loan guarantee is assembling its first line of cars in Finland, saying it could not find a facility in the United States capable of doing the work.
Vice President Joseph Biden heralded the Energy Department's $529 million loan to the start-up electric car company called Fisker as a bright new path to thousands of American manufacturing jobs. But two years after the loan was announced, the job of assembling the flashy electric Fisker Karma sports car has been outsourced to Finland.
 Tesla is at considerable risk; because it is a public firm, we can see how much trouble.  Fisker is privately held, so the risks are hidden behind a cloud.
An investigation by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News that will air on "Good Morning America" found that the DOE's bet carries risks for taxpayers, has raised concern among industry observers and government auditors, and adds to questions about the way billions of dollars in loans for smart cars and green energy companies have been awarded.
But in both cases, the people with financial stakes are politically connected:
"Their major venture investor is Kleiner Perkins, who has Al Gore as a partner and is certainly politically connected in general," said industry observer Sexton. "Whether that played a role or not is up to the DOE to explain."
Tesla brings political pull, as well. A former Tesla board member, Steve Westly, is an Obama bundler who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the president in 2008 and for his 2012 re-election campaign.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Enabling Servlet Reloading

You can tell Tomcat to enable servlet reloading (based on whether the modification date of the class file is newer than the version currently loaded), but the instructions on p. 26 of Hall & Brown's Core Servlets and JavaServer Pages, vol. 1, do not seem to be correct.  Apparently the updated instructions are here.

Someone Has To Take Care of the 1%

National Review Online reports that two members of Congress are trying to make sure that we don't forget those who most need the government's help:

Sens. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.), have introduced an amendment to raise the “conforming loan limit” for mortgages that Fannie and Freddie can buy, and the Federal Housing Administration can insure, to $729,750. Their measure could be voted on as early as tonight.
This loan limit expired at the end of September and reverted to $625,000. But it was only a few years ago that the limit was less than $500,000.
Because we all know that without the government's guarantee, people who can afford mortgages approaching three-quarters of a million dollars will be reduced to living in cardboard boxes.

But they are not alone.  The October 20, 2011 FoxNews reports on another effort to help us by helping the very rich:

The reeling housing market has come to this: To shore it up, two Senators are preparing to introduce a bipartisan bill Thursday that would give residence visas to foreigners who spend at least $500,000 to buy houses in the U.S. 
The provision is part of a larger package of immigration measures, co-authored by Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, designed to spur more foreign investment in the U.S. 

Read more:

9th Circuit Rejects Righthaven's Emergency Stay Appeal

Righthaven requested the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issue an emergency stay on an attempt by its creditors to execute judgment for the money Righthaven owes them.  This was probably Righthaven's last chance to avoid being forced into bankruptcy.  According to Steven Green at Vegas Inc., the emergency stay motion was denied.

My guess is that the next steps will be:

1. Righthaven files for bankruptcy.
2. Righthaven ceases to pursue its appeals because of this.
3. The lawyers representing the various injured parties attempt to pierce the corporate veil of liability to force CEO Steve Gibson to disgorge any assets that he has.
4. Lawyers representing the various parties who settled out of court based on Righthaven's false claim to own Las Vegas Journal-Review copyrights sue Gibson and Stephens Media for not only return of the settlements, but also legal fees, and emotional damages caused by having to defend themselves from these suits based on false claims of copyright ownership.  I look forward to seeing Steve Gibson wearing a barrel, holding a sign up begging for money.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What's Wrong With This News Story?

The court takes a child away from her mother because of a DUI conviction, and puts her in foster care.  The divorced father says that there's no need to put her in foster care.  He would be glad to have his daughter while the courts figure when the mother can again be trusted with the daughter.  So what is going on here?  From the October 13, 2011 Lincoln Journal-Star:

OMAHA -- A Douglas County Juvenile Court judge on Thursday allowed a dad stationed with the Army in Colorado to become a participant in his daughter's foster care case.

But while acknowledging the father appeared to be a fit parent and that no home study would be required, Judge Christopher Kelly delayed any chance of Sgt. David Sanders getting temporary custody of his 13-year-old daughter for 30 to 45 days.

At that time, the judge said, he will hear evidence about the Omaha mother's situation. He said he had been told she was cooperating and getting counseling, but he had no evidence of that.

Leslie Christensen, Sanders' attorney, said the father should not have to wait 30 to 45 days -- if that's what the judge's order indicates -- for his constitutional rights to take effect.
 Now, if there was some reason why the father could not be trusted with custody of his daughter, then this might make sense.  But the newspaper article seems to indicate that the father is regarded as a fit father. 

I know that a lot of foster parents are really good people, doing their best to provide high quality, loving care for children whose own parents are not fit or available.  But I also know that there are some foster care systems around the country that are monstrous--with foster parents so bad that you might almost be better off giving the kid a bus ticket and sending them cross country.  Foster care should always be what you do if you have no fit natural parent or near relative willing to take care of a child.

But this article tells us that the father appears to be a fit father--and the courts are putting this child in foster care?  What's wrong with this picture (other than insanity seems to have taken over family courts in some places)?

For Some Reason, This Isn't a Hate Crime

From the October 18, 2011 Chicago Tribune:

No arrests had been made as of late Monday in the incident, in which two chunks of concrete attached to threatening notes were tossed through windows at Christian Liberty Academy on Saturday morning.

The move was apparently in protest of a speech anti-gay activist Scott Lively was to give at the school later Saturday at a banquet hosted by LaBarbera's group. The speech went on as planned with a small picket outside.

A note attached to one piece of concrete read in part: "This is just a sample of what we will do if you don't shut down scott lively and AFTAH … Quit the homophobic (expletive)!" The other read, "Shut down Lively."
Some school officials received anonymous emails taking responsibility for the crime, police said.

A post on the Chicago Independent Media Center's website also claims credit, saying it was done to "show that there is a consequence for hatred and homophobia in our community." The post warns that the school "will continue to be under constant attack" if the event is not shut down.
The article reports that, "Police have not classified the weekend vandalism of an Arlington Heights Christian school as a hate crime...."  Obviously not.  It does not have the right victims.

 There comes a moment when homosexuality becomes such a dominant force in a society that freedom of  speech is in serious jeopardy.  The parallels to the "slaveocracy" suppressing freedom of speech in the 1830s and 1840s is pretty obvious.

I'm Sure Who Is Raising Him Has Nothing To Do With It

An October 17, 2011 FoxNews report concerning what some medical experts consider a very bad idea:

A lesbian couple in California who say their 11-year-old son Tommy who wants to be a girl named Tammy are giving their child hormone blockers that delay the onset of puberty -- so that he can have more time that he can have more time to decide if he wants to change his gender.

The couple’s supporters say the Hormone Blocking Therapy has only minor side effects and is appropriate for a child who is unsure of his gender. "This is definitely a changing landscape for transgender youth," said Joel Baum, director of education and training for Gender Spectrum, a California-based non-profit group. "This is about giving kids and their families the opportunity to make the right decision."
 The report interviews Dr. Paul McHugh, professor of psychiatry at Johns-Hopkins University (one of the most highly regarded medical schools in the world, and hardly a center of Young Earth fundamentalism), who says, "It is a disorder of the mind. Not a disorder of the body. Dealing with it in this way is not dealing with the problem that truly exists."

According to the "parents," Tommy threatened to mutilate his own genitals at age 7 because he was so upset about being a boy. I am sure that many children are raised by gay couples who turn out okay.  (Probably no worse than many kids raised in shattered straight marriages.)  But can anyone see a reason why a boy growing up in a lesbian couple home might end up with some gender confusion?

Talk About a Slap in the Face to Obama

As Shall Not Be Questioned points out:
I figured the Obama Administration was never going to live up to people’s high expectations. What I did not expect is that Congress would need to insert a funding amendment that would essentially tell the Administration that it can’t traffic firearms to drug cartels anymore.
And yes, that link takes you over to the press release with the proposed change to the law:
No funds made available under this Act shall be used to allow the knowing transfer of firearms to agents of drug cartels where law enforcement personnel of the United States do not continuously monitor or control such firearms at all times.
Can you imagine anything more shameful than having to pass a law that says our government will not knowingly transfer firearms to drug cartels?

How Bad Is Our Economy?

Over at the Treasury Department, you can plot real and nominal Treasury yield curves.  Nominal is the interest rate that the various Treasury bonds pay; real is what happens when you subtract the expected inflation to maturity.

Yes, that's right, unless you are buying Treasury bonds with at least an eight year maturity, you end up with a negative real yield.  Talk about an incentive to spend instead of save!  Here's where we were October 3, 2005, before the sky started falling:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Satellite Dish Recycling

Dish Network expressed no interest in their satellite dish when we discontinued service last year.  My wife asked me to remove it from the roof, and I did so--but what to do with it?  There is apparently no used market for such items (unsurprisingly).  But I took it to Pacific Steel & Recycling here in Boise along with four pounds of aluminum scrap from the ScopeRoller manufacturing operations, and all of this turned into $10.75.  (I believe that most of that was the satellite dish.)  If you have one of these eyesores on your roof, or sitting in the backyard, think of this as an opportunity to get a little cash and be Earth-friendly!

The Note That I Just Sent To Rep. Labrador (R-ID) Concerning Health Insurance

Dear Rep. Labrador:

Here is a chance for Republicans to both deregulate the economy AND make it easier for low-income working people to get health insurance at reasonable rates.  I am an adjunct instructor at College of Western Idaho.  Adjuncts get no health insurance as an employee benefit because we are part-timers.  Because teaching the next generation is so important to our society, adjuncts are very poorly paid, and many cannot afford to purchase health insurance at the individual health insurance policy rate.

Many of the adjuncts would love to have some way to purchase group health insurance, which would be substantially cheaper than individual policies.  For this reason, the College looked into the possibility of organizing an insurance plan for the adjuncts, one that would be paid for completely by the adjuncts, since the College cannot afford to pay anything towards a health insurance plan.  The College discovered that there is a federal law that actually PROHIBITS this.  Any group health insurance plan offered by an employer must be at least half paid by the employer.

For employers with a poorly paid workforce, this effectively prohibits the employer from offering health insurance--even if the employees would be willing, even eager, to pay the costs themselves.  This is a problem not just for colleges, but for all the other employers of low-paid workers: restaurants; agribusiness; independent retail stores.

Here is an opportunity for Republicans to demonstrate the superiority of laissez-faire economics, and what a joke Obamacare was (which did not create this situation, but did not fix it, either).  Think of the number of your constituents who cannot buy group health insurance through their employers because of this law, and are either forced to pay the higher individual rates, or go without coverage at all.  Please: try and get this fixed.  Otherwise, Republicans are just playing into the Democrats' hands concerning single-payer health insurance.

Very Truly Yours,

Clayton E. Cramer

Monday, October 17, 2011

Deep In The Basement of the Ivory Tower

A friend sent this book to me a few days ago, and when I don't find myself crying along with the author, I find myself laughing so hard it hurts.  Professor X has some very witty writing:
Her paper set this year's benchmark for confused student prose.  A hallucinogenic lit-crit puree of Finnegans Wake and Bridezillas, for long stretches it was undecipherable....

I tried to imagine the circumstances that would result in her submitting an assignment of such desperately poor quality.  The thing read like the free association of a disordered mind.  I pictured her writing it in a bar, or while driving to class or skydiving.  Maybe she composed it as one long text message to herself.  By any rational standards, this was failing work.

How Many Sleazy Things Can We Get In One News Story?

This is an October 16, 2011 Los Angeles Times story about a private detective who hires showgirls to get guys going through divorces drunk as a setup for DUI arrests, to impair the child custody question.  Here's one horrifying segment:
Dutcher had been duped.

The women who'd ogled him worked for Butler's detective agency. Sharon, who told Dutcher she was a divorcee employed by an investment firm, actually was a former Las Vegas showgirl.

A man who once worked for Butler had blown the whistle. He told authorities Butler arranged for men to be arrested for drunk driving at the behest of their ex-wives and their divorce lawyers — and that entrapment was only one of many alleged misdeeds.

Butler, 49, a former police officer, was arrested in February. In addition to setting up at least five DUIs, he sold drugs for law enforcement officers and helped them open and operate a brothel, collecting and delivering the profits, according to prosecutors and a statement Butler gave them after his arrest.

In the March 15 statement obtained by The Times, Butler said his accomplices reasoned that they could shield their illegal businesses because any complaints would be investigated by a state-run narcotics task force, which one of the officers headed.

The alleged crimes implicated three different law enforcement agencies — the San Ramon and Danville police departments and the narcotics task force — and took place in Contra Costa County, a collection of mostly middle-class communities that stretch from the East Bay shoreline opposite San Francisco to upscale suburbs inland.
 There is a lot of really horrifying corruption out there--but this takes the cake: dirty police officers, an elaborate setup to complicate matters in divorce cases.  They better throw the book at all of those involved.

Beating The "Rule of Thumb" Again

I can't believe that books are still be published that repeat the false claim that "rule of thumb" refers to the thickness of a switch that a husband was allowed to use to beat his wife.  This book gives a very detailed, footnoted history of how this feminist claim became commonly believed.  Here is a 1987 ABA Journal article that is, of course, not footnoted, and contains this nonsense.

Tesla Motors & Its Special Deal From The Obama Administration

PajamasMedia has another depressing but unsurprising article about how Tesla Motors--through its connections to the billionaire Democrats--received a federal government subsidized loan to make sports cars for rich people.  There are, of course, all sorts of sleazy connections here and there.

But best of all is this article over at Watts Up With That? about a guy in Colorado who received $50,000 in tax credits from the federal and Colorado governments to buy his Tesla.  He has a bumper sticker on his car that says:
Environmentalists took $$$ from the poor to pay me to buy this car

Saturday, October 15, 2011


My Congresscritter has introduced a bill to help solve the critical shortage of skilled technical workers.  From his press release:
This week Idaho Congressman Raúl R. Labrador introduced the American Innovation and Education Act, designed to allow foreign students with advanced degrees in fields such as high-tech, engineering and medical technology to be immediately eligible for permanent residency if they are offered a job from a U.S. employer in their chosen field of study and to encourage and incentivize more American students to enter into science and engineering programs. 

I guess it's time to email him and suggest that as long as Americans with experience and education in those fields can't get jobs, the last thing we need is to open the doors.

Reading a little more:
“At the present time, many of Idaho’s top innovating companies in high tech, biomedicine and other science fields are unable to fill all of their employment needs with American students. American student interest in the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) fields is decreasing; leaving American companies without American workers at the very time that job creation depends more than ever on a vibrant STEM economy.
 Could American student interest in these fields be declining because there are so few jobs available, and wages are falling?  Why work hard on a computer science degree if job availability and wages are about the same as an easy degree?

UPDATE: If you are in Labrador's district, go here to email him.

Friday, October 14, 2011

It's Designed To Draw Attention To Their Web Site

But it is a well-done and interesting infographic concerning the student loan crisis.  For those not prepared to do much reading before taking out $50,000 in student loans, this might be worth a quick look.

Risks Of Contracting Out Government Services

In the October 14, 2011 Idaho Statesman.  Since I know a lot about this, I'll keep my mouth shut.

The Anti-Semitism At Occupy LA Gets More Blatant

The left's anti-Semitism is never terribly subtle, but the signs at Occupy LA are getting more direct about it.  See the PJ Tatler pictures.  Imagine if signs like this had appeared at Tea Party events...

No Excuse For This

If you have small children in the house, the guns need to be properly secured.  From the October 14, 2011 Idaho Statesman:
BOISE, Idaho — A 2-year-old southern Idaho boy died after being shot by his 3-year-old brother.
Minidoka County prosecuting attorney Lance Stevenson said Thursday that police in Rupert, Idaho are investigating, along with state Department of Health and Welfare officials.
Read more:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Heartbreaking Piece

Kate Bolick has written a very long, very sad article, "All the Single Ladies" in the November 2011 The Atlantic.  It is partly a tragic retrospective on the decision she made eleven years ago, when she was 28, to break up with a guy that she clearly realizes that she should have married, and why.  (She doesn't blame her mother's militant feminism, but you would have to be a fool not to see that this is the major cause.)

It is also an interesting analysis of how changing social structure has created the absurd situation where a lot of women cannot get married, especially in some cultures, such as middle class blacks, and on college campuses, women looking for commitment have fallen into a hopeless situation where the "hook-up" culture takes any incentive for many men to make any commitment.

I guess what strikes me as most sad is that the intellectuals, in their contemptuous shedding of traditional Christian-based values, have created a situation that is not making them happy--but they won't admit that their brave new world has failed them.

More Proof That Republicans and Tea Partiers Hate Obama Because He's Black

The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal survey says:
NBC/WSJ poll: Cain now leads GOP pack

Dennis Ritchie Has Died

If you ever programmed in C, or C++, or C#, or Java, or any of a number of languages strongly influenced by C, or used Unix, Linux, or any of the operating systems strongly influenced by Unix, then you know, or should know, who Dennis Ritchie is.  He is one of the fathers of Unix and C.

Ritchie has died.

What A Tragedy: Jobs For The Unemployed

This October 12, 2011 Reuters news story reports that Alabama's weird law requiring people to actually, you know, be legally in the country, is having shocking, shocking effects:

Jerry Spencer, who founded Birmingham-based Grow Alabama, which works to distribute locally grown food from a network of more than 200 independent farmers, estimates tens of thousands of Hispanic farm workers have fled.
Spencer said the majority of those workers were undocumented, but some legal workers also moved away to avoid the "hassle" the law has created for them, leaving tomato and sweet potato farmers short-handed in the midst of harvest.
"What we've got left is about 10 percent of who was there," he said.
To help farmers cope, Spencer has been rounding up unemployed laborers willing to work the fields. He said those efforts in Birmingham have attracted a lot of interest, but the shift in group dynamics is creating problems in some spots.
"There's a fair amount of reticence on the part of farmers to take the city folk and unemployed workers," Spencer said.
 So, it isn't that illegal aliens are doing "jobs that Americans won't do" but that farmers don't want Americans working in the fields.  The farmers like to see it as the illegal aliens have "inherent respect and honor" for the oldest worker; I would wonder if this might actually be that illegal aliens are docile laborers out of fear of being turned in to la migra.

Americans are out of work--and the Obama Administration is doing its best to make sure that illegal immigrants continue to work at jobs that American citizens and legal immigrants could be doing.