Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pretty Ferocious Book Review

The October 31, 2010 San Francisco Chronicle has a pretty devastating review of H.W. Brands' American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900 by T.J. Stiles.  This is not my area of specialization, but Stiles' criticisms are not just of how Brands interprets the facts, but of the facts themselves:

The trouble begins on the second page of the prologue, when Brands quotes Daniel Drew. Unfortunately, the quotation is derived from an autobiography that was shown to be fraudulent 24 years ago by Drew's only biographer. In other words, Drew never said it.

Such lapses in research become fatal when linked to a failure of interpretation. On the next page of the prologue, Brands writes that the Civil War "emancipated the capitalist classes from the constraints imposed by [Andrew] Jackson and his Democratic heirs." This is about as incorrect a description of Jacksonian policies as I can conceive. Antebellum Democrats tried to limit government involvement in the economy, not impose "constraints." Contrary to Brands, Jacksonians did not insist on a level society, just a level playing field. Jackson himself said, "Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth cannot be produced by human institutions." He accepted "natural and just advantages," but rejected artificial distinctions created by government. But such complex historical reality doesn't fit into Brands' simplistic thesis of a contradiction between capitalism and democracy. The tensions are there, certainly, but are crushed into caricature by this ill-informed account.

Read more:
From all that I know of Jacksonian Democracy, this is a pretty accurate description of the situation.  Jacksonians were hardly anti-capitalist.  At most, they were hostile to what they perceived as governmental favoritism towards the rich with the advantages that they enjoyed from creating institutions such as the Bank of the United States.  This was an era awash in laissez-faire capitalism, and the major dispute between what became the Whigs and the Democratic Party was the question of whether the national government should actively subsidize businesses, such as with internal improvements (canals, roads, railroads) or protect American manufacturing through substantial tariffs.  The idea of capitalism as some sort of evil can certainly be found among some groups of the time, but I can't think of any Jacksonian Democrats in that camp.

Great Blog! Friends of Irony

A whole bunch of sometimes amusing, sometimes hysterically funny photos.  (I presume since they provided a copy and paste code block explicitly to include all of these on one's blog, that they intend for people to do so.)  Like this one, showing a tattoo that qualifies as self-refuting. 

Well, Almost Nothing
see more Friends of Irony

And a news story about some Polish neo-Nazis who make a horrifying discovery about their ancestry.

Oy Vey!
see more Friends of Irony

And a pro-life message on a remarkably inappropriate dry cleaning item.

We're Going to Hell for This One
see more Friends of Irony

(If you don't see the irony on this one--coat hangers used to be used for another purpose besides hanging up clothes.)

And this tragic attempt by a public school system to tell everyone about the virtues of the local public school system...but which demonstrates a serious spelling error that I fear might turn out to be an accurate description.

Funny Signs - Hint: Not English
see more Friends of Irony

Or this unfortunate juxtaposition of someone's cute piglet and a T-shirt expressing a culinary preference.

see more Friends of Irony

Reporting The News, Or Making It?

Reporters with the Anchorage CBS news affiliate called the Joe Miller for Senate campaign and left a voice mail.  Then they hung up--or thought that they had hung up.  Then they had a conversation about ways to smear the Miller for Senate campaign--and that ended up on the voice mail.  It makes you wonder how much liberals do like this that doesn't end up accidentally on voice mail.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Whee! Jury Summons!

Boise County has given me three days on which I may be called for jury duty.  Unfortunately, they are all in Idaho City--which is 39.7 miles by the most direct route--but according to Google maps, more than two hours away.  (Bad road?  You have no idea.)  The fastest route is 62.9 miles, but about 90 minutes, because it involves going through Boise (which is not in Boise County).

I am hoping that I call in the night before and discover that they have managed to resolve these matters without a jury.  I do not mind doing my duty as a citizen.  I do mind that we have such crummy roads between here and the county seat.

Idaho Initiatives

While generally ignoring the last minute hit pieces, I use the last weekend to study initiatives on the ballot.

Here in Idaho, there are four initiatives on the statewide ballot.

S.J.R. 101 authorizes the Board of Regents of the University of Idaho to impose tuition on students.  What?  You didn't realize that they did not charge tuition to students?  Much like the University of California used to pretend that we were paying "fees," not tuition, the University of Idaho, apparently because of its land grant university origins, pretends not to be charging tuition.  Other state universities and colleges are allowed to charge tuition. 

The argument for allowing this is to make it consistent across the state.  I suspect that the real goal is to allow the University of Idaho to get more of its operating costs from students, and less from the state government.  While I do believe that there is a virtue to making public university education readily available, I also know that there are a lot of people who get pretty useless degrees because they are not paying even a significant fraction of the costs.  Perhaps if there was a bit more connection between actual costs and student payments, some students would think through whether their education is worth anything.  Of course, since this only affects University of Idaho--which educates only a relatively small fraction of Idaho's college students, I rather doubt that this is going to be a big net change.

The opponents argue that "the state could provide the additional funding to cover the costs of classroom instruction at the University of Idaho."  Yeah, like Idaho has lots of money laying about with nothing better to spend it on than the University of Idaho.  Why should U. of I. get advantages that Boise State does not?

I think (unless someone can convince me otherwise), that I am going to vote YES on this.

H.J.R. 4, 5, and 7 all seem to be slight variants on the same basic theme: authorizing, respectively, public hospitals, airports, and municipal electric utilities, "to incur indebtedness or liability to purchase, contract, lease or construct or otherwise acquire facilities, equipment, technology and real property for health care operations, provided that no ad valorem tax revenues shall be used for such activities?"  That's the language from H.J.R. 4, and 5 and 7 are similar, although not identical.

What does this really mean?  It appears that each of these categories of local public institutions are currently required to get a 2/3 approval of the voters before incurring any long-term debt.  This change to the state constitution would eliminate that requirement, allowing these institutions to borrow money, as long as the repayment costs were paid other than from property taxes.  In short, hospitals, airports, and municipal electric utilities could float such bonds if they were to be repaid from user fees--but not from property taxes.

At first glance, this does not seem like a bad thing.  This won't simplify raising property taxes at all, and it does make it easier to borrow money for public improvements.  I do worry a bit, however, about how allowing these public institutions to increase their total indebtedness without a vote of the people might increase the risk of these institutions getting in over their heads in debt.  Remember that these are not temporary tax increases, which can be turned off at the next election--these are public institutions floating municipal bonds, which are usually 30 year duration.

I am not generally partial to allowing governments to get into long-term debt without substantial public agreement that it is necessary and makes sense.   As a result, I'm planning to vote no on all three of these.

Last Minute Ads

I tend to wait until the last minute to read initiatives, and this election is no different.  I use this time because the most vicious, and generally least accurate campaign ads come out on the last weekend before the election.  Why?  Because if Mr. A says something really vile about Mr. B--there is not time to produce anything in print, or a radio or television commercial, that refutes it.  The television ads and robocalls from Walt Minnick are making the claim that Raul Labrador intentionally and knowingly worked with one of Labrador's clients to flee justice. 

That is a claim that I believe actually qualifies as libelous--asserting that an attorney intentionally conspired to help a criminal escape justice.  Making such a claim three days before the election--instead of two weeks ago, when there could have been a response, if Labrador had a response--is generally the mark of someone who does not dare allow enough time for a response. 

Minnick is probably toast--and I sure hope so.  A few months back, my reasons to back Labrador were primarily, "Remove the Wicked Witch of the West from Speaker of the House" and secondarily that Labrador seemed to be a serious conservative.  I was not particularly hostile to Minnick.  Watching these sleazy, manipulative, dishonest ads from Minnick have made me really, really hostile to him.  I look forward to seeing Minnick join the rest of the Democrats who seem to be prepared to do anything to hold onto power.

Syphilis & The New World

For a very long time, it was believed that Columbus's crew brought syphilis back from the New World, because it is frequently identified as a new disease shortly after his return.  This theory of a New World origin was the subject of considerable investigation.  Lewis & Clark's expedition asked questions everywhere they saw evidence of syphilis: how long has this disease been present?  When was it introduced?  Even in places where the Indians had not ever seen a white man before, but had not even heard of white men, syphilis had always been present.  This was one of the many pieces of evidence that seemed to suggest a New World origin.

I have been reading for the last twenty years or so evidence suggesting that what may have been New World was not syphilis, but a particularly virulent strain of it.  Yet more evidence is discussed in this October 25, 2010 Fox News article reports on a recent excavation of skulls in England that are clearly before Columbus, and have clear signs of syphilitic lesions.

Really Depressing Documentary

It's about the Trail of Tears.  I assigned it to my students, and it is worth watching.  To PBS's credit, they did a very good job of presenting the complexity of why this happened, and why one unrepresentative group of Cherokees signed the treaty that ceded the Cherokee lands.  Was it a bad decision on their part?  Would trying to fight have been a better decision?  Almost certainly not--and President Jackson's famous words, "The Supreme Court has made their decision.  Let them enforce it" are a reminder that the whole system of a rule of law only works as long as those responsible for enforcing the laws obey them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Andrew Jackson's Farewell Address

There's a little collection of primary writings called Reading the American Past that was bundled with the textbook College of Western Idaho uses for U.S. History.  I inflict a weekly writing assignment on my students, often based on one or more of those primary sources.   This week:

Document 11-2 in Reading the American Past is an excerpt from President Andrew Jackson's farewell address to the nation. Read through it: what parallels do you see between his concerns and concerns of Americans today? Which political party today seems most in agreement with Jackson on these concerns? Which political party today claims Andrew Jackson as one of its founders?
Fortunately, the entire text of Jackson's farewell address is also available on the web, and parts of it are well worth reading today, as much as a crackpot as Jackson was about the 2nd Bank of the United States:
It is well known that there have always been those amongst us who wish to enlarge the powers of the General Government, and experience would seem to indicate that there is a tendency on the part of this Government to overstep the boundaries marked out for it by the Constitution. Its legitimate authority is abundantly sufficient for all the purposes for which it was created, and its powers being expressly enumerated, there can be no justification for claiming anything beyond them. Every attempt to exercise power beyond these limits should be promptly and firmly opposed, for one evil example will lead to other measures still more mischievous; and if the principle of constructive powers or supposed advantages or temporary circumstances shall ever be permitted to justify the assumption of a power not given by the Constitution, the General Government will before long absorb all the powers of legislation, and you will have in effect but one consolidated government. From the extent of our country, its diversified interests, different pursuits, and different habits, it is too obvious for argument that a single consolidated government would be wholly inadequate to watch over and protect its interests; and every friend of our free institutions should be always prepared to maintain unimpaired and in full vigor the rights and sovereignty of the States and to confine the action of the General Government strictly to the sphere of its appropriate duties.
 Which political party claims this guy as one of their founders, again?
There is, perhaps, no one of the powers conferred on the Federal Government so liable to abuse as the taxing power. The most productive and convenient sources of revenue were necessarily given to it, that it might be able to perform the important duties imposed upon it; and the taxes which it lays upon commerce being concealed from the real payer in the price of the article, they do not so readily attract the attention of the people as smaller sums demanded from them directly by the taxgatherer. But the tax imposed on goods enhances by so much the price of the commodity to the consumer, and as many of these duties are imposed on articles of necessity which are daily used by the great body of the people, the money raised by these imposts is drawn from their pockets. Congress has no right under the Constitution to take money from the people unless it is required to execute some one of the specific powers intrusted to the Government; and if they raise more than is necessary for such purposes, it is an abuse of the power of taxation, and unjust and oppressive. It may indeed happen that the revenue will sometimes exceed the amount anticipated when the taxes were laid. When, however, this is ascertained, it is easy to reduce them, and in such a case it is unquestionably the duty of the Government to reduce them, for no circumstances can justify it in assuming a power not given to it by the Constitution nor in taking away the money of the people when it is not needed for the legitimate wants of the Government. 
Did Jackson's party lose the plot, somewhere along these last two centuries?
Plain as these principles appear to be, you will yet find there is a constant effort to induce the General Government to go beyond the limits of its taxing power and to impose unnecessary burdens upon the people. Many powerful interests are continually at work to procure heavy duties on commerce and to swell the revenue beyond the real necessities of the public service, and the country has already felt the injurious effects of their combined influence. They succeeded in obtaining a tariff of duties bearing most oppressively on the agricultural and laboring classes of society and producing a revenue that could not be usefully employed within the range of the powers conferred upon Congress, and in order to fasten upon the people this unjust and unequal system of taxation extravagant schemes of internal improvement were got up in various quarters to squander the money and to purchase support. Thus one unconstitutional measure was intended to be upheld by another, and the abuse of the power of taxation was to be maintained by usurping the power of expending the money in internal improvements.
All those shovel-ready bridges to nowhere, I guess.
The result of this decision has been felt in the rapid extinguishment of the public debt and the large accumulation of a surplus in the Treasury, notwithstanding the tariff was reduced and is now very far below the amount originally contemplated by its advocates. But, rely upon it, the design to collect an extravagant revenue and to burden you with taxes beyond the economical wants of the Government is not yet abandoned. The various interests which have combined together to impose a heavy tariff and to produce an overflowing Treasury are too strong and have too much at stake to surrender the contest.
Well, that certainly has changed!  There is little risk that any political party is to going to give us "rapid extinguishment of the public debt" and accumulation of a surplus in the Treasury.  Instead, we get the accumulation of an overflowing national debt.

After warning that Congress had passed a very high tax, he warned of the dangers of this in ways that sound surprisingly modern:
Designing politicians will support it to conciliate their favor and to obtain the means of profuse expenditure for the purpose of purchasing influence in other quarters; and since the people have decided that the Federal Government can not be permitted to employ its income in internal improvements, efforts will be made to seduce and mislead the citizens of the several States by holding out to them the deceitful prospect of benefits to be derived from a surplus revenue collected by the General Government and annually divided among the States; and if, encouraged by these fallacious hopes, the States should disregard the principles of economy which ought to characterize every republican government, and should indulge in lavish expenditures exceeding their resources, they will before long find themselves oppressed with debts which they are unable to pay, and the temptation will become irresistible to support a high tariff in order to obtain a surplus for distribution. Do not allow yourselves, my fellow-citizens, to be misled on this subject. The Federal Government can not collect a surplus for such purposes without violating the principles of the Constitution and assuming powers which have not been granted. It is, moreover, a system of injustice, and if persisted in will inevitably lead to corruption, and must end in ruin. The surplus revenue will be drawn from the pockets of the people--from the farmer, the mechanic, and the laboring classes of society; but who will receive it when distributed among the States, where it is to be disposed of by leading State politicians, who have friends to favor and political partisans to gratify ?
So Jackson must have seen an early draft of the stimulus bill.
It will certainly not be returned to those who paid it and who have most need of it and are honestly entitled to it. There is but one safe rule, and that is to confine the General Government rigidly within the sphere of its appropriate duties. It has no power to raise a revenue or impose taxes except for the purposes enumerated in the Constitution, and if its income is found to exceed these wants it should be forthwith reduced and the burden of the people so far lightened.
Thank you, I'll take crackpot Jackson over the current occupants of his political party.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"Lips That Touch Liquor Can Never Touch Mine"

I was curious to know when this temperance slogan first appears--and it is later than I would have guessed.  I found an 1894 Yale Literary Magazine reference to it--as a filler between ads.
"The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine,"
The ugly young lady recited,
And the wicked old drunkards in the back of the hall
Clapped their hands and looked muchly delighted.

The earliest reference that I can find to this phrase is a book reviewed in Meliora: A Quarterly Review of Social Science (1869), which indicates that a Miss Glazebrook came up with this phrase, apparently as a song title.

In case you are wondering why I am looking for something like this: one of the subjects for class this week is the Second Great Awakening, and the subsequent moral reform movements that come out of it: temperance; abolitionism; mental hospital reform; discouragement of prostitution and other extramarital sex.

Taylor Swift

The fact that Taylor Swift is wildly popular singing sweet, romantic songs like "Romeo and Juliet" gives me some hope for the generation just growing up.  This is one of those songs that brings me to tears of joy.  "You Belong With Me" is just on the edge of stalker madness, but I still like it.

The Minnick/Labrador Race for Idaho House 1 Is Even

The October 26, 2010 Idaho Statesman reports on a survey completed October 20-22 that shows Minnick only three points ahead of Raul Labrador.  With a survey of 400 likely voters, the margin of uncertainty is 5%, so this is a "dead heat"--as even the left-wing Idaho Statesman headline admits.  RealClearPolitics has reclassified this race from Leans Democrat to Toss-Up.  Since Republicans dominate this state--and Minnick only won the 2008 race against a first-time Republican, and by only 2%--I think this is one of those races where a surprisingly small amount of last minute money could do make the difference, in a way that the same money thrown into the Boxer/Fiorina or Angle/Reid races likely will not.  I've already kicked in a bit of money to Labrador's campaign.

The other good news is that RealClearPolitics has now classified the House races as 223 Republican seats (Safe, Likely, or Leaning) and 178 Democrat seats (Safe, Likely, or Leaning).  There are now 34 Toss-up seats--and 32 of those are currently held by Democrats, and one was held by a Democrat until a special election in Hawaii early this year.

The Senate is still a nailbiter: 49 seats in the Democratic side, 45 in the Republican side, and six Toss-Ups--all of them currently held by Democrats.  I still think there is a chance that Boxer (who they now class as a Leans Democratic seat) could go to Fiorina, but I suppose that depends what percentage of California voters this time around are U.S. citizens. 

Let me emphasize: Carly Fiorina can't even fake a caring, decent human being.  I hold her in considerable disgust for how she ran HP when I worked there.  Please, if you live in California, vote for Empress Carly the First.  It's that important.

Rand Paul seems to have suddenly run away with the Kentucky U.S. Senate race.  The commentary of RealClearPolitics seems to think that it was Jack Conway's ads attacking Rand Paul's mocking of Christianity back when he was in college.  (Didn't we all do and say stupid things in college?  And some a good bit later?)  I would think this really worrisome story from the October 23, 2010 Louisville Courier-Journal about Louisville police officers tipping off a prosecutor that he was under investigation on drug charges might be a bigger problem, and that the Kentucky Attorney-General seems to have asked some questions about the investigation.  Who was the prosecutor?  Jack Conway's brother, Matthew Conway.  And what was Jack Conway's position at the time?  Kentucky Attorney-General.  This looks a little improper, I think.  I think Kentuckians might regard this as a reason to not vote for Conway.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Invention and Factories in the Early Republic

Someone, somewhere, must have put together an hour documentary about invention in the early Republic, or at least about factories and machinery transform American society.  Major American inventions of this period 1800-1846:

vertical mill (or at least its immediate ancestor)
the typewriter
the McCormick reaper
the revolver
the telegraph
Morse code
platform scales
the grain elevator
the sewing machine

Each of these is a major step in technological development--and I am sure that I could find far more with just a little bit of research. 

There must be a documentary showing how mills and factories of the period use first water power, than steam power, to create the modern production system.  But I have not a clue where they are.

This Is A Bit Freaky

The Calguns Foundation has been forcing sheriffs around California to cough up concealed weapon permit applications filed since January 1, 2007, mostly to see what definitions of "need" are actually getting permits issued.  (For those of you who live in civilized America: concealed weapon permit issuance in California is discretionary, and often abusive.)

For San Francisco, you can see the redacted version of a need statement that apparently got a permit issued here:
Threat of possible physical violence exists in person of an armed deputy facing termination who has exhibited psychological instability and focuses on applicant.  This person has stated [rest blacked out]
Wow.  If the sheriff's department actually considers this to be "good cause" for issuance of a permit--what does it say about one of their deputies?

How Fractional Reserve Banking Works

The scene in It's a Wonderful Life (1946) where George Bailey deals with a bank run at the building & loan association is actually a pretty decent description of the process--and what happens when panic causes depositors to start pulling their money.  Of course, I'm looking for this because I am looking for an entertaining way to explain fractional reserve banking and the boom and bust cycle of the 1815-1840 period.

Fortunately, the Federal Reserve System was established in 1913 to solve the problem of boom and bust cycles thereafter.  (Try not to snicker too much about its great success.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Apparently, I Waited Too Long To Try And Sell The Corvette

Once winter starts to approach, demand in this area collapses.  One dealer said that they already had too many comparable Corvettes on their lot; another, a Corvette specialist, indicated that they really aren't interested in buying in this season; a third dealer told me that I would be better off holding it until spring, when they will be in high demand.  In August, they sell very well, because buyers apparently don't realize that the snow stuff falls from the sky annually.

I do have a private party that seems interested, but if that doesn't pan out, I'll spend the money on the repairs, and just hold the car until spring--when it will be worth a lot more, because everything will be perfect.  (Assuming something else doesn't go wrong.)

Best Comment, Ever!

October 22, 2010 Reuters carries this bizarre news story from Taiwan:

Chen Wei-yih has posed for a set of photos in a flowing white dress, enlisted a wedding planner and rented a banquet hall for a marriage celebration with 30 friends. 

But there is no groom. Chen will marry herself.
She is apparently under considerable social pressure to get married (she is turning 30) but isn't pleased with her traditional marital choices.  And you thought same-sex marriage was peculiar!  But what makes this bizarre news story was the comment that a reader added:
I give it three months...

LOL: Not In Formal Writing

LOL is a text message or online abbreviation for "Laugh Out Loud."  No, it does not belong in formal writing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nice To See Righthaven Finally Told Where To Go

The October 20, 2010 Las Vegas Sun reports that at least one judge was prepared to dismiss a suit on the grounds that eight paragraphs copied out of thirty was within fair use.  The article quotes Professor Goldman of Santa Clara University School of Law to the effect that dismissing based on fair use this early in the trial is somewhat unusual:
Goldman, a critic of Righthaven's business plan that has been criticized as involving frivolous lawsuits and settlement shakedowns, added: "Putting aside the procedural issues, the court's message to Righthaven was clear: the judge cut some procedural corners because Righthaven's lawsuits -- especially this case -- are bogus."
From what I have read, yes, the question of what constitutes fair use is a defense at trial.  But I think that Prof. Goldman is right: the judge recognizes these suits for what they are, and decided that it was time to close the door before forcing the defendant to spend a pile of money in discovery motions.  That's part of why we settled--discovery runs up the meter, making it so expensive to defend yourself that it is cheaper just to give in.

There are a lot of criticisms of discovery (which is apparently much more available and abused as a fishing expedition in American law than in other places whose laws are derived from England), but the incredible amount of money that gets spent on discovery is something that does not get enough attention.

Unfortunately, the defendant in this case had already settled with Righthaven before the judge handed down this dismissal.  I do hope, one of these days, some lawyer lets Steve Gibson find out what it is like to waste vast quantities of money and time dealing with a trivial dispute.  You know: something like, "Your cat pooped on my lawn!  I'm suing you for $300,000!  Settle now for $10,000, or I will make you spend the next year proving that:

1. You have a legal right to own that cat.

2. That it isn't actually an Arabian sand cat that was illegally imported.

3. That your cat isn't carrying feline leukemia.

4. That it is a real cat, and not a robotic device that you created just to pollute my lawn.

OpenOffice Problem

I need to convert the graphs I've produced in OpenOffice into JPGs.  If I copy them into Microsoft Word, they look great.  If I then copy and paste them from there into an image editor, it seems to clip the right edge of the graph.  Anyone with experience doing this who can help me out?  I have nine graphs that I need to convert.  There has to be a way to do this.

UPDATE: I found a way.  Not the best way, but it works.  I paste the graphs into Word.  Then I make sure the entire graph is visible on the screen, and hit PrtScrn.  Then I paste into my image editor, and crop it down to just the graph.


A friend works for TSA, and tells me that under certain conditions, TSA screeners will be taking actions that ordinarily involve dinner and a movie first--including patdowns to the genital area for explosive devices hidden there.  He is not thrilled at this prospect--actually, he is absolutely horrified.

I have several reactions:

1. Please explain why such an intimate search is preferable to ethnic profiling.

2. If this is response to the underwear bomber, why is it taking so long to get implemented?  That was ten months ago.

3. If it is not in response to the underwear bomber (there were the Chechen women with explosive bras who took down Russian airliners), why now?  Is there something that they aren't telling us?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Corvette

I am fighting the continuing struggle over whether to keep the Corvette or sell it.  All the rational analysis says that I don't need a car that spends three months of the year under a car cover, because I can't get it in and out of the subdivision in deep snow.  I should sell it, and put the capital to better work.

But there days like today where I take the top off the car to drive home, with the Carpenters CD playing, and I say, "I love this car too much."  There is something about this car that can make the adrenalin pump when I drive it one way--and make the world one giant peace and love festival with the fresh air and sunlight in my hair.

It's not rational.  I'm taking it in tomorrow because there are oil drops on the driveway near the rear differential.  Since I had two of the three seals replaced a couple of months back, this is going to be warranty work if it is the same problem.

I just had the front brakes replaced.  The BPMV unit needs replacing (about $2600), but the temptation on days like this is to repair it.  I rationalize such an expense because if I do sell it, it is far easier to sell the car with the ABS, Traction Control, and Active Handling Systems working.  I doubt that I would get the full repair cost back out if I sold it in a year or so--but I love this car so much!

I suppose if I could get a private sector job again, with a private sector salary, it would be an easier choice to keep this expensive tart of a car.

UPDATE: The gaskets may be covered under warranty--but it was almost 9000 miles ago that I had the rear differential problem fixed, so the labor won't be covered.  That makes it easy to decide.  I'm getting this fixed in the next few days, and then it is gone.  I've put the Corvette up on

I'm asking $13,500 for it--which is below the Fair condition Kelly Blue Book private party value for it.  In every respect except the BPMV, it qualifies as Good condition, but that BPMV repair knocks it down a lot.

UPDATE 2: No, even the gaskets won't be covered.  If someone doesn't call me up and show some interest by Saturday morning, I'm going to start hitting car dealers then to see what I can get for it.  One of the local car salesmen I know and respect tells me that Kelly Blue Book trade-in valuation for Fair condition is about what I can actually get from most dealers.  That's fine.  If I spent the money to get the BPMV and the differential leak fixed, I might indeed get $15,000 from a private party--but trade-in Fair is about $12,000, so I could spend most of that difference on the repairs.  Life is too short for dealing with car repairs.

If There Is A More Original Movie Than Being John Malkovich, I Have Not Seen It

Describing it--even the premise--would be a spoiler.  But I will say, I don't think that's the recursion result that I would expect!

Strict Scrutiny on Carrying Concealed

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has ruled that strict scrutiny applies to the Second Amendment with respect to carrying a concealed knife.  I rather doubt that this will survive appeal, and even I don't find the argument for why strict scrutiny applies to be very persuasive unless you already think that.  It is still nice to see.

UPDATE: A reader says that this is a circuit judge's decision--not the court of appeals.  I suspect that he is right.

An Amazing Video

Apparently written and produced by a 20 year old.  When it starts, your first reaction is, "Another whiner."  And then, half-way through, the text ends--and it becomes something of a video version of a palindrome.  A very clever piece of writing, this.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Computer Science Problem

I've run into a mildly interesting problem that some of my readers may be able to solve.  (The rest of you will get about two sentences in and go, "Huh?"  That's fine!)

Here's the problem: a universe of numbers 0-99999, of which only about 6500 are used at any time.  I need a function that maps that sparse universe into a dense universe, and vice versa.  (Yes, this sounds like a hash table problem: maybe, maybe not, keep reading.)  One function converts the sparse universe number into its dense universe counterpart; the other function converts the dense universe counterpart to its sparse universe counterpart. 

If this were a one-time use, or if the numbers actually used in the sparse universe did not change, this would be an obvious hash table solution.  The problem is that while the total size of the dense universe does not change appreciably, which numbers are used in the sparse universe does change with some regularity, as some numbers are released, and others, previously released, commit some new crime, and come back into use.  There is no practical way to store the translation, and it is important that the conversion from sparse to dense be consistent, and that we do not reuse numbers in the dense universe.

Now, it is entirely possible that there is no such solution.  It strikes me as I write this that the requirement that we not reuse numbers in the dense universe means that it will almost certainly have to be as large as sparse universe.  But I would be curious to see if anyone has an elegant solution to this.

The core problem is that there is not much space for a bar code containing the offender's five digit number.  Narrow bar codes require the prisoners get close enough to the prisoner to hold the bar code up to the reader--and some prisoners really don't like correctional officers that close.  (And some prisoners, of course, you do not want to get that close to, either.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Don't Be Stupid

I saw this article in the October 18, 2010 Idaho Statesman about a man accused of knowingly exposing at least twenty men and one woman to HIV. 
Ada County Sheriff’s investigators say Everhart told them in September he had unprotected sex with as many as 20 men and one woman he met online since he found out in October 2009 —  but didn’t tell those people he had HIV.

Detectives have identified and talked to five victims with whom Everhart had unprotected sex since Oct. 2009. All have been informed about Everhart's condition and have been advised to get tested for HIV, officials say.

Read more:
What rather amazes me is that when you look in the personals section of Craig's List, you see people advertising their interest in casual sex with the request of being "disease free."   I have to wonder: in the age of AIDS, herpes, and other incurable STDs, why anyone would be so trusting.  This is beyond stupid.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Does Val Kilmer Ever Appear in a Bad Movie?

I saw two Val Kilmer films over the weekend: The Saint (remake of the 1960s TV series with Roger Moore), and Spartan.  In both cases, I was again pleased at how versatile an actor he is.  I first saw him (or at least, noticed him) in Top Secret (1984), an hilarious, often crude comedy, where he plays an Elvis-like singer on a cultural tour of East Germany in a vaguely 1950s or 1960s (with some anachronisms) period.  He was riotously funny. 

"How did you get your name, Nick?" 

"It came to my father while he was shaving." 

You may recall him as "Iceman" in Top Gun (not a great movie, but not a terribly bad one, and he wasn't the star, either). 

In The Saint (1997), he plays an international thief for hire--but one with a conscience, apparently much to his surprise.  It's a fun film, full of implausible escapes, bad Russian mafia, political intrigue, and Elizabeth Shue, playing the knockout beautiful American electrochemist who has solved the cold fusion problem.  It's fluffy entertainment, and Val Kilmer is just perfect at it.

Spartan (2004), on the other hand, is a very dark story of political intrigue, double crosses, and monstrous creeps in the international sex slave trade.  Kilmer plays a hard bitten, doesn't play by the rules Marine who gets involved in one of those circles within circles, continuing surprises stories where you never know what is going to happen next.  And Kilmer again demonstrates his ability to play a part completely unlike any other.

I have not seen The Doors, but my wife has, and says he is spectacular as Jim Morrison in that as well.

There are some actors that just don't get the credit that they deserve--and Val Kilmer is one of them.


I've been trying to figure out when to start investing again.  Schwab's October 7 report on Treasury yield curve flattening argued that this is a good time to be investing in equities.  As they explain, when the Treasury yield curve is steep and positive (there is a large difference between 10 year Treasury yields and 3 month Treasury yields), it means the risk of rising inflation is high, and the market is factoring in rising interest rates.  A negative sloping yield curve means that the risk of recession is high, and interest rates are about to start dropping.  The yield curve has gone from pretty steep (with a 3.83% difference between the 10 year and 3 month Treasury yields) to fast approaching flat.  Their argument is that a flat yield curve is a good time for stocks.  That's true--but if the yield curve's slope punches through 0 into the negatives, it is a sign of a rapidly falling economy.

However: when I start looking at what is now available, it looks like interest rates are beginning to perk up, in anticipation of adult supervision taking over in Congress.   (I want to think this is going to happen, but at this point I can only assume that Republicans will be taking over Congress.  Adult supervision of Congress remains uncertain.)

I was pleased to see that some of the government agency bonds now have yields above 4%. 
FED NATL MTG 4%30BONDS DUE 10/28/30 is a 4% coupon, currently selling at 99.375, for a 4.046% annualized yield.  It is callable at face value 10/28/2011--and my past experience is that Fannie Mae bonds are always called before maturity--but that's still a decent return for a very low risk bond.
I was also looking at other possible investments, and I found Harris Preferred Capital (HBC/PR), the preferred stock shares of Harris Capital--with a current yield of 7.24%.  (Yes, that's the dividend that they have been paying.)  There is also Barclays Bank PLC ADR (BCS/PRD).  This is the ADR for Barclays Bank, and presumably has all the foreign exchange risks and opportunities that comes with holding shares in a foreign corporation.  But the current yield is 7.74%.  Both of these trade in a fairly narrow range, partly because they are callable at $25, and both are just above that level right now.  There is some risk that if they were called before you received the next scheduled dividend that you could lose money.
I was going to observe that both of these have S&P ratings of A--but after Wall Street's inability to correctly evaluate risk, I'm not sure how meaningful an S&P rating is anymore.

The Blow-Out Gets Bigger and Bigger

RealClearPolitics now says 212 seats are safe, likely, or lean Republican, with 42 seats toss-ups--and of those 42 seats, 40 are currently held by Democrats--and one of those (HI-1) was only taken by a Republican in a special election.  The Senate isn't looking quite so hopeful: 46 seats are Republican safe (because not up this year), likely, or lean, with 5 toss-ups (all currently held by Democrats).  That California and West Virginia are among the toss-up seats should send a message to Democrats everywhere: Obamacare and the stimulus are an epic fail.

Recent Books

I don't have time for a thorough review--or even a cursory review.  (Preparing for class is gobbling up all my spare time.)

John Kelly, The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, The Most Devastating Plague of All Time (2005).  I've read a number of surveys of the Black Death, as well as a few fairly detailed examinations of particular aspects, such as Bertha Haven Putnam's The Enforcement of the Statutes of Labourers During the First Decade After Black Death, 1349-1359 (1908).  There was still new stuff that I learned from reading Kelly's book--which is very readable, and full of human interest stories.

John M. Barry, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History 2nd ed. (2009).  A quite fascinating book not just about the influenza epidemic of 1918, but also about the role of John Hopkins and its scientists at the core of America's development of a first-rate medical scientific establishment at the beginning of the twentieth century.  Like Kelly's book, filled with human interest stories that liven it up, as well as a very detailed explanation of the struggles involved in finding a treatment--and what we have to fear today.

Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003).  Written by a guy who used to work with autistic children, it is a somewhat disturbing novel written in the first person as though by a really smart kid with Asperger's Syndrome.  This book was recommended by a former co-worker with two Asperger's Syndrome kids.  I had such a student a while back, and while I cut this kid quite a bit of slack because I could tell something was a little different about him, reading this book gave some useful insights to me.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Guns in Movies

I think this means Bruce Willis is on our side.  From the October 15, 2010 Daily Mail is a report that a proposal to remove a scene with Helen Mirren firing a machine gun almost caused Bruce Willis to walk:

The particular scene in question shows 65-year-old Mirren in a ball gown shooting an automatic weapon, and looking very comfortable doing it.

Read more:

Time To Give

RealClearPolitics as of October 12 moved the race for Walt Minnick's seat (Idaho's first Congressional district) from Likely Democrat to Lean Democrat.  The latest polling data that they show is from mid-September, so I suspect that they made this call based on unpublished polling data, and the rising momentum of Labrador's campaign.  I threw some more money into Labrador's campaign to help him out.  I also put up my Labrador for Congress yard sign over the weekend.  The campaign didn't have any stakes for it, so I put something together--perhaps the only Labrador for Congress yard sign put together entirely with stainless steel fasteners.

RealClearPolitics now shows 211 seats as either Safe Republican, Likely Republican, or Leans Republican, with 40 seats tossups.  Only one of those tossup seats is currently held by a Republican--and that is Charles Djou (HI-1), who only won it in a special election earlier this year.  This means that all 40 seats that are now considered tossups were Democratic seats as a result of the "I'm so in love with the cult of personality, I have no idea what I am voting for" 2008 election.

This is going to be a blowout election.

While RealClearPolitics still shows AZ-7 as Likely Democrat, Ruth McClung's momentum seems to be strong.  She's running against a guy who organized a boycott of his own state, because of the illegal immigration law that Arizona passed.  The incumbent, Grijalva, is clearly no rocket scientist.  McClung, however, is, literally, a rocket scientistI kicked in some money to her campaign yesterday.  Do likewise.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Couple of Movies

Iron Man was far better than I was expecting.  In retrospect, it may only appeal to engineers like myself, because it is very nearly the ultimate engineer's fantasy:

1. Someone who loves designing cool stuff, and is fabulously rich from doing so. 

2. He has a spectacular house on the Malibu coast, with a garage full of exotic sports cars. 

3. He has a workshop with every piece of manufacturing equipment and software development technology that you could want (and a number of which are so cool that they do not yet exist, and probably won't ever exist). 

4. There are robotic assistants to help in the workshop--much better than cranky human ones that might object to the Howard Hughes-like working hours.

5. He is good looking, and being rich, means that he turns the heads of beautiful (but stupid) women whenever he goes anywhere.  (Alas, Dilbert is more accurate: what Dilbert calls the "ovoid" shape that is more typical of engineers who aren't spending enough time in the gym.)

6. He can build ground breaking technology in a few weeks, while locked in an underground cell by thinly disguised al-Qaeda.

7. He has a beautiful, intelligent, wise, and compassionate redhead who is always there for him.  (I've got that!)

8. And he has the time and the resources, once he figures out what is really important, to go and do it.

Of course, there are elements of this in Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins (which is a far more impressive film--and that's saying quite a bit).  The reason, of course, is that all of these are really exaggerations of Howard Hughes, the original rich, brilliant, eccentric, bipolar engineer.

Iron Man never takes itself too seriously.  It remembers it is based on a cartoon--but it also throws some mildly thoughtful questions about responsibility for our inventions into the mix--without turning this into a mindless America-hating movie.

Not anywhere near as good, but still fun in a silly, "don't examine it carefully because it won't stand it," way was Did You Hear About The Morgans? (2009)  You may recognize elements of the fish out of water/saves our marriage of For Richer, For Poorer (1997), but in some ways this is a bit more plausible.  (Not that it qualifies as plausible, at all.)

There are so many things about the witness protection program that, to my knowledge, this has exactly wrong, that it is obviously not intended to be taken seriously.  (In that sense, For Richer, For Poorer is more believable.)  Still, you just enjoy it for what it is--rather like not analyzing why the Professor on Gilligan's Island could build all sorts of amazing stuff, but not a short-wave telegraph transmitter.

I found myself at first a bit offended by The Morgans' portrayal of rural Wyoming.  It is stereotyped in ways that are falsely mean and excessively generous at the same time--but then I realized that our New York City couple is also a stereotype that exaggerates what are some real aspects to the point of being absurd.

To the credit of The Morgans, guns are both realistically depicted, and the PETA member/hoplophobe played by Jessica Sarah Parker, takes to the rifle effectively, and positively.  (Before you find this implausible: I remember some years ago going to an event at an American Society of Criminology conference.  There was a fairly liberal sociologist from Columbia University who had limited previous exposure to guns--and I was beginning to wonder if we were every going to get the full automatic rifle away from her.  She was just having way too much fun.)  Guns feature in the ending in a way that is relatively plausible for this genre of film, and positively. 

General Business Liability Insurance; Officers and Directors Errors & Omiissions Insurance

I'm thinking that the only way to continue forward in this litigious society involves incorporation of the two businesses in which I am involved, and some sort of general liability insurance.  My guess is that businesses that have gross revenues in the four figure area should be incredibly cheap to insure--but I could be wrong.

The other issue that concerns me is that some of the people sued in the Righthaven suits were sued as individuals--even though the organization that should have been liable (and was also sued) was a corporation or an LLC.  It appears that copyright and patent infringement suits allow piercing of the corporate veil.  For that reason, it would seem that what I believe is called officers and directors errors and omissions insurance is also required to protect officers of the corporation from personal liability for actions taken as officers of the corporation.  Again, I would think the costs of such insurance for a small, part-time business, would be fairly small.  Anyone care to enlighten me?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Most Embarrassing Politician Pictures, Ever

A Virginia Democrat running for Congress with the "I can't quite believe that this isn't a stage name" name of Krystal Ball is upset because some really, really vulgar pictures of her...well, there's no polite way to describe--or even hint--at what she is doing.  Well, okay, ABC News managed to find a reasonably polite description of the pictures:
Ball in a short skirt and Santa Claus hat posing with her husband, an unidentified woman and a sex toy...
There are no naughty parts exposed, but that would actually be an improvement over these pictures from a party when someone must have been much younger, and far less mature than she is now.  She is 28 now--and was apparently 22 when these astonishingly stupid pictures were taken.

Now, if Krystal Ball (which really does sound like a porn star's stage name, and the pictures might make you think the same) had said, "I was young, I was drunk, I don't know what I was thinking," she might get some sympathy.  But her response:

"It's sexist and it's wrong, regardless of political party," said Ball. "And I have a message for any young woman who is thinking about running for office and has ever attended a costume party with her husband or done anything stupid on camera. Run for office. Fight for this country. Don't let this sort of tactic deter you."
Sorry, but if a man running for public had pictures this vulgar and stupid of him around, it would be a disaster, also.  This isn't sexism.  This is a desire for someone running for Congress to have a little bit of seriousness and moral sense.

Need a Heap For My Son To Drive in Portland For Two Months

A taxi totaled his car.  He is moving back to Boise in mid-December, so he needs basic transportation for a couple of months.  It is silly to buy a replacement car for such a short period--and renting a car for two months is expensive and impractical.  If you have a car lying around that isn't getting used, and wouldn't mind letting him borrow it to get back and forth to work, I would appreciate it.

He has been looking at other solutions--but they all have serious problems.  He manages a pizza parlor, and gets off quite late--late enough that catching the bus becomes a problem.  Bicycling at that hour is dangerous, especially once it starts to rain regularly.  The cheapest taxi is $15 for a three mile trip--which seems pretty absurd to me.

UPDATE: This might be an interesting alternative for situations like this:  Okay, the car sharing thing sounds so hippie, but it might be just perfect for a situation where you need a car occasionally, but with more convenience than you get from a car rental company.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Interesting Blog

The Social Pathologist: a Catholic MD in Australia who spends some time analyzing various studies of marriage, sexuality, and related behaviors.  As an example, this post discusses recent scholarly and popular discussion of the dramatic rise in anal sex among women.  This is apparently well on its way to being a normal behavior for American women.  (This also creates substantially higher risks for various long-term disease problems.)

He also discusses several studies that suggest the more sexual partners a woman has before marriage, the more likely she is to divorce or be unfaithful.  There's a lot of data in these postings--perhaps useful if you are working on social policy matters.

Monday, October 11, 2010

RealClearPolitics House Map

As of today, is showing 210 House seats likely or leaning Republican, and 39 seats rated as tossups.  Of those 39 seats, 37 are held by Democrats, 2 by Republicans.  I expect that most of those tossup seats are going to go Republican--and I suspect some of the "lean Democrat" seats are actually going to go Republican as well, because of a shortage of recent polls in districts that are considered so traditionally Democrat that no one is taking the Republican challenger seriously.  As an example, ID-1, held by Walt Minnick is considered "Likely Democrat"--but the race is, I think, a bit closer than that.

UPDATE: As of October 11, they are now showing 211 House seats likely or leaning Republican, and 39 states tossups.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pretty Devastating Letter About American Physical Society Shenanigans

From the October 9, 2010 Telegraph:
Harold Lewis is Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Here is his letter of resignation to Curtis G. Callan Jr, Princeton University, President of the American Physical Society.
Devastating letter, worth reading in full.  Here's an excerpt:
It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

So what has the APS, as an organization, done in the face of this challenge? It has accepted the corruption as the norm, and gone along with it. For example:

1. About a year ago a few of us sent an e-mail on the subject to a fraction of the membership. APS ignored the issues, but the then President immediately launched a hostile investigation of where we got the e-mail addresses. In its better days, APS used to encourage discussion of important issues, and indeed the Constitution cites that as its principal purpose. No more. Everything that has been done in the last year has been designed to silence debate.

Anthony Watts describes it as:
This is an important moment in science history. I would describe it as a letter on the scale of Martin Luther, nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenburg church door. It is worthy of repeating this letter in entirety on every blog that discusses science.

Hollywood Keeps Making Movies Like This...

Do they wonder why they don't make any money on films that insult the values of most Americans?  My friend Dan Gifford describes a statement by Ed Norton about what the director of the new film Stone told him:
“John told me we have to do this film now while things are bad,” Norton said. “We have to show that traditional establishments like religion and marriage that people have relied on for truth have failed them.” Curran does that by showing those institutions as hypocrisies that are the refuge of hypocrites like Maybrey, a deeply flawed, nasty man who, in his heart, may be little better than the convicts he judges for early release.
Dan points out the many, many flaws in the film--problems that make the film so absurd that it makes you realize how remote Hollywood is from America.  It reminds me of a doll I saw in a toy store once--clearly designed by someone who had been given a specification of what humans looked like, but who had never actually seen a human being.

If you have read Michael Medved's Hollywood v. America, you won't be surprised by this.  Medved argued that the entertainment industry makes films that purposefully denigrate traditional values even though those films are not economically successful, because they want the approval of other "artistic" sorts in Hollywood..

More Signs This May Be A Blowout Election

It appears that Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) is neck and neck with her Republican challenger--at least in part because of accepting illegal campaign contributions, according to this October 8, 2010 New York Daily News article.  McCarthy has always been an ineffective, one-issue candidate.  She ran for office on a gun control platform after the murder of her husband and severe injury of her son by a mentally ill black racist.

I am not at all surprised that Ms. McCarthy became a gun control activist.  Had she been of a less liberal persuasion, she might have become a raving racist instead.  A more thoughtful person would have wondered if the real problem was the destruction of the mental health system instead--because the man who murdered her husband and five others was clearly mentally unstable and dangerous well before the incident.

I think Republicans stand a good chance of a really astonishing blowout in November.  This makes it all the more important that they stop listening to the corporate special interests that own the Democratic Party (and have historically owned much of the Republican Party).

1. Cut spending first of all.  That's more important than a tax cut at this point, because a reduction in spending (starting with the Health Care Deform law, and farm price supports) would reduce the deficit, and jump start the economy.

2. Close the border.  There are a lot of National Guardsmen who are unemployed right now, and if you gave them a chance to patrol our border, would be overjoyed to have a paying job.  If need be, Congress could direct the President to call up whatever part of the unorganized militia of the border states is required to patrol the border.  Even military pay for a lot of the unemployed members of the unorganized militia would probably be an improvement over what many of them have coming in right now.

3. Enforce existing immigration law against employers.  Many employers may honestly not realize that they are hiring illegal aliens, but when I read accounts of employers who have submitted the same Social Security number for a thousand different names, who's kidding whom?  How long would it take for a million illegal aliens to get the message and go home, opening up jobs for unemployed American citizens and legal residents?  And if there are not quite enough legal job seekers, and Wal-Mart, agribusinesses, and others have to raise wages so that unskilled and semiskilled laborers are closer to standing on their own two feet--do you suppose that might rebound to the benefits of whoever passes such laws?

4. Remove all barriers to interstate health care pools.  I would imagine that there are a lot of self-employed people out there, and people working in jobs without health insurance, who would be overjoyed to join a 50 state insurance pool with 30 million members in it.  Do you suppose that 30 million members might be able to get a reasonable health insurance plan from the free market?

5. Prohibit foreign governments or foundations from providing funds to build or operate a religious institution in the United States unless that government or host country allows reciprocal rights.  In short, if the Saudi government is going to fund building mosques in America, it needs to allow foreign funding to build houses of worship on an equal basis in Saudi Arabia.  I think you would be amazed at how rapidly the Saudis would stop funding mosques in America.  This does not run afoul of the First Amendment's establishment clause or free exercise clause.  You could even make a case that it actually fully implements the establishment clause, by preventing foreign governments from creating an establishment of religion in America with their taxes--while not allowing an equal opportunity there.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Remove This Jerk From Office

I mentioned yesterday that I contributed to the Labrador campaign against Walt Minnick (D-ID).  Here is a Republican who is something of a longshot--but the fact that Barney Frank (D-MA) is actually having to get people like Bill Clinton to come in a campaign for him is really quite a sign of desperation.  And why not?  Barney Frank is among the members of Congress most responsible for our current economic disaster (and there are many people who have some blame on this).  I've just kicked in $50 to Sean Bielat's campaign.  Remember: every dollar spent keeping Barney Frank in office, is a dollar that isn't available to Democrats elsewhere.

Barney Frank is one of those Congresscritters who, if he represented much of America, would never have survived this scandal (reported in September 25, 1989 Time):
After an initial encounter in which he paid Steve Gobie $80 for sex, the Congressman says he tried to lift the younger man out of drugs and prostitution by hiring him to run errands. He wrote letters to Gobie's probation officer and paid his psychiatric bills. He allowed Gobie the use of a car and sometimes his apartment when he was out of town.

After 18 months, Frank says, he dismissed Gobie upon discovering that he was bringing clients to Frank's apartment.

Read more:,9171,958598,00.html#ixzz11vO7En00
And no, if Frank had been straight, and he had hired a prostitute named Donna Gobie, it would not have been any more acceptable.  But Massachusetts does things differently.  Perhaps this time, since our economy's bad state can be fairly laid at least partly at Frank's feet, we can remove this shameful character.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Minnick's Desperation

I heard a new radio ad that Walt Minnick (D-ID) is running to attack Raul Labrador.  What is amazing to me is how I have heard almost no ads from Minnick emphasizing reasons to vote for Minnick--and there are some reasons that he could use, such as his courageous voting record, voting against Obama and his own party.  Instead, he runs ads attacking Raul Labrador, featuring, of all things, the U.S. Marshal responsible in part for the Ruby Ridge disaster.

So far, Minnick has not quite stooped to engaging in racial politics, but I expect that will happen soon.  Perhaps Minnick's attack ads against Labrador will start pronouncing his name with a Spanish accent, for those who haven't figured out that Mr. Labrador is Hispanic.

I need to get over to Labrador campaign headquarters and get some bumper stickers and a yard sign.

I just kicked in $50 to Labrador's campaign.  You can do something too.  Even if Minnick wins re-election, every dollar Labrador gets means at least a dollar that Democrats have to spend defending Minnick--which means that there is less money to spend on other races around the country.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

If You Want To Understand What Makes This Recession Continue

Ask the authors of Federalist 62.  First, the problem of the health care reform bill that came to 2700 pages:
It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?
The following paragraph explains why people like George Soros always back Democrats:
Another effect of public instability is the unreasonable advantage it gives to the sagacious, the enterprising, and the moneyed few over the industrious and uniformed mass of the people. Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue, or in any way affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change, and can trace its consequences; a harvest, reared not by themselves, but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow-citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with some truth that laws are made for the few, not for the many.
And why employers are reluctant to hire right now:
In another point of view, great injury results from an unstable government. The want of confidence in the public councils damps every useful undertaking, the success and profit of which may depend on a continuance of existing arrangements. What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not but that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed? What farmer or manufacturer will lay himself out for the encouragement given to any particular cultivation or establishment, when he can have no assurance that his preparatory labors and advances will not render him a victim to an inconstant government? In a word, no great improvement or laudable enterprise can go forward which requires the auspices of a steady system of national policy.
The things you find, preparing for class!

UPDATE: Welcome, InstaReaders!  One of the discouraging aspects to teaching U.S. History is seeing where we were--and how rapidly we are accelerating into destruction.  The good news is that my students (many of whom I suspect voted for Obama) can see it as well.  They are concerned, they are upset--and I am hoping that they will become forces for good in the next few elections.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Woman Too Smart For Her Time

I'm reading Mercy Otis Warren's Antifederalist attack on the Constitution from 1787 (for a long time, wrongly assumed to be by Elbridge Gerry).  There are so many things that she managed to predict--sometimes not entirely for the right reason, or in the right form, but the net effect is the same:

MANKIND may amuse themselves with theoretick systems of liberty, and trace its social and moral effects on sciences, virtue, industry and every improvement of which the human mind is capable; but we can only discern its true value by the practical and wretched effects of slavery; and thus dreadfully will they be realized, when the inhabitants of the Eastern States are dragging out a miserable existence, only on the gleanings of their fields; and the Southern, blessed with a softer and more fertile climate, are languishing in hopeless poverty; and when asked, what is become of the flower of their crop, and the rich produce of their farms—they may answer in the hapless stile of the Man of La Mancha,—" The " steward of my Lord has seized and sent it to Madrid." Or, in the more literal language of truth, The exigencies of government require that the collectors of the revenue should transmit it to the Federal City.

There are no well defined limits of the Judiciary Powers, they seem to be left as a boundless ocean,....
The inhabitants of the United States, are liable to be draged from the vicinity of their own country, or state, to answer the litigious or unjust suit of an adversary, on the most distant borders of the Continent...
 Well, I was not literally dragged to Las Vegas, but to fight this suit I would have pretty much had to do so.

One Representative to thirty thousand inhabitants is a very inadequate representation....

Not to worry!  It's more like one representative to 600,000 inhabitants now.

As the new Congress are empowered to determine their own salaries, the requisitions for this purpose may not be very moderate, and the drain for public moneys will probably rise past all calculation....

Ally, Formerly GMAC--Incompetent

I mailed them a check September 22 to pay off my wife's TrailBlazer.  The check hasn't cleared.  Nor do they have any evidence that it arrived.  Their lame excuse is that it must have gotten lost in the mail. 

I send out hundreds of checks a year.  The last time that checks did not arrive it was because someone stole our mail out of our mailbox in Boise.  (The post office does not lose first class mail very often.)

Now I have to stop payment on the check, and arrange an electronic movement of the money--since I have no confidence that Ally will be able to process a piece of paper.

When I called up this morning to talk to them: the first two times I called, my call was dropped, once before I talked to someone, the second time after I was put on hold.  When I decided to give the customer survey a piece of my mind--the software responsible for gathering my comments would not let me leave a message in the specified place.

Everything about Ally seems to be incompetent.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

This Should Not Be This Difficult

I am trying to open a USB printer from Java.  I was just assuming that FileOutputStream os = new FileOutputStream("USB001") or something like that would do the trick.  Apparently not.

You may be wondering why I am opening a USB device directly.  Don't ask.  It is an ugly one-time hack because the label printer does not like PDF files--so I have to throw the printer's native crud at it (a bunch of binary codes, of course).  I need to print a vast number of labels...once.

UPDATE: If there is an easy way to open a USB printer from Java, I can't find it.  What I did find was a kludge, but it works.  Follow the directions at Bruce's Printing Pages to redirect LPT1: (the old parallel printer interface) to your USB printer.  Then FileOutputStream("LPT1:") lets you write to the USB printer.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ecofascism Shows Its Real Face

The British global warming fanatics have produced a new public service announcement that I am sure that they thought was really funny.  As soon as they started running it, the negative reaction was so strong that they pulled it back--and are apparently trying very hard to get it removed from YouTube.  But you can see the ad over here--and I should warn you--it's pretty graphically bloody.  The implication that you go along with our program, or we'll blow up your kids, really shows the fundamental common ground of Al Qaeda and environmental whackos (like the ones that control the Democratic Party).

Friday, October 1, 2010

MyEclipse 5.5.1 Experts?

Ctrl-Shift-G when you have selected a method searches for all references to that method.  It appears to be smart enough that it isn't just doing a string search through the Java source; it only references references to that method associated with that class.  This is a very valuable tool.

Unfortunately, it has suddenly stopped searching through Java classes--now it is only searching through JSPs.  I did a Clean on my project, thinking it might be an index problem.  Any other suggestions?