Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Taste of Conquest

I'm reading and very much enjoying Michael Krondl's The Taste of Conquest: The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice (2007) at the moment.  At one point he is discussing the mixture of monetary and evangelistic motivations for the great Portuguese explorations of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries:
Academic historians of the last hundred years or so get all stiff and tweedy when you suggest that people will go to all ends for the sake of their religion.  They'll assure you that religion is just a cover for other, more "rational" motivations.  They would prefer to explain the world in terms of economic self-interest, of class warfare, or of dynastic imperatives.  But has not the early twenty-first century made it catastrophically clear how many people (and not just the desperate, either) are ready leap over the brink in the name of their religion?  The same was certainly true of "the age of discovery."
This has long been my beef with the Marxian dominance in the history profession--the need to explain everything in terms of economics.  Sure, economic interests are very important.  But they are not the only motivation for humans do things.  I think the problem is that so many academics find religion absurd (at least, if it is the religion of the people whose taxes are paying their salaries--Islam gets a special dispensation because it is exotic and the enemy) that they simply refuse to believe that it could be much of an influence on anyone who has ever done anything substantial.

Finally Found The Out of State Insurance Bill

H 587 allows health insurers licensed in other states to sell health insurance in Idaho--something that they have previously not been allowed to do, unless they had offices here.  Pretty obviously, if there was a good motivation for this law in the past, and not just an attempt to make health insurance artificially expensive, those days are gone.

I have read through the bill, and while I do not claim to be an expert in this area, it seems pretty straightforward.  I will be contacting my Idaho legislators and asking them to back Rep. Julie Ellsworth's bill.  If you are in her district, thank her for introducing it.  To find and contact your member of the Idaho legislature, click here.

The obvious beneficiaries will be those people who are trying to buy individual health insurance, but I suspect that this might benefit small businesses trying to buy group health insurance as well.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What Was It Mark Twain Said About This?

"Clothes make the man.  Naked people have little or no influence in society."  And of course, dressing appropriately for job interviews is very important.  Sometimes, just dressing for a job interview is even more important.  From February 26, 2012 CBS Sacramento:
Sacramento police responded to a call at about 12:30 p.m. Saturday that a naked male Hispanic adult had entered a welding shop in the 1600 block of Juliesse Avenue and was rambling incoherently.
Shop owner Chris Johnson called police after escorting Jose Ayala, who asked for a job interview, out of his shop.
“I turn around and I’m like ‘whoa!’” Johnson said of seeing the nude man. “He said something about he was looking for work, and he was good with his hands. I didn’t know why a naked dude would be in my shop.”

You Could Make an Entire Semester Legal Ethics Class From Righthaven

Steven Green at Las Vegas Inc. is keeping up on Righthaven's latest shenanigans.  All the things that Steve Gibson, CEO of Righthaven has done, would fill an entire semester of a class on ethics for lawyers--and generally of the "don't do this" form.  I don't mean failing to file the right papers by February 22 for its 10th Circuit Court of Appeals case, but something a bit more serious.  Federal Judge Hunt fined Righthaven $5000 for misleading the court about the nature of the suits, but the fine was apparently never paid:
“A sanction payable only by Righthaven would not be an effective form of coercion,” Opsahl wrote in his court filing. “Righthaven already owes Mr. DiBiase over $120,000, but has refused to pay a single penny. Righthaven has already been sanctioned $5,000 by Judge Roger Hunt. As with this court’s other judgments and orders, Righthaven ignored Judge Hunt’s sanctions order.”
Opsahl wrote in his declaration that his review of the Righthaven bank statement shows it had more than enough money on Aug. 11 to pay the $5,000 sanction — but instead made a $4,475 payment to an entity called Stephens Investments Holdings.
This seems like a rather serious problem--a court ordered fine doesn't get paid, but a payment of similar size does.  And who is Stephens Investments Holdings?   There is a billionaire named Warren Stephens who owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal and half of Righthaven.  Might this be an attempt to hide assets in preparation for bankruptcy?

I confess that the slowness of the courts to punish Steve Gibson for his behavior utterly mystifies me.  What allows this guy to get away with these stunts as long as he does?

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers.  Feel free to hit the top of the blog to keep yourself informed and entertained.

Monday, February 27, 2012

You All Know Who Kitty Genovese Was, Right?

She was the poster child for the indifference of New Yorkers to violent crime.  She was stabbed to death in 1964 over a period of about 35 minutes while she screamed for help, and her neighbors heard, but did not bother to call the police.  Did you know that the guy who was convicted of her murder (and that of several other women) was, as of 2006, still alive?  He was sentenced to death, but that was overturned on appeal.  From May 29, 2006 Newsday:

A year later, taken from prison to a Buffalo hospital for minor surgery, Moseley struck a prison guard and escaped. He obtained a gun, held five persons hostage, raped one of them and squared off for a showdown with FBI agents in an apartment building. Neil Welch, agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI office, entered the second-floor apartment where Moseley made his stand. Welch and Moseley pointed guns at each other for half an hour as they negotiated. Finally, Moseley surrendered.
Moseley's periodic requests for parole have repeatedly been denied. During one parole hearing in 1984, Moseley volunteered that he had written Genovese's relatives a letter ``to apologize for the inconvenience I caused.''
A parole commissioner responded acidly: ``That's a good way to say it. They were inconvenienced.''

Media Matters Madness Magnifies

The February 27, 2012 Daily Caller continues to give good, juicy topic about David Brock, head of Media Matters for America, one of the major character assassination groups of the Democratic Party.  Apparently, Brock's lover demanded $850,000 from Brock or he would blow the whistle, apparently on matters related to Media Matters' tax exempt status:

A police report obtained by Fox News shows that Brock contacted the Washington, D.C. Metro Police Department in September 2010 after his longtime domestic partner William Grey allegedly threatened to release “derogatory information about him and his organization to the press and donors that would be embarrassing to him and cause harm to the organization if he did not comply [with Grey's demands].”
Grey, Brock told the police, was demanding “17 pieces of property he felt belonged to him.” Among those items were $10,200 in Louis Vuitton bags, $5,000 in “exotic decorative antelope horn bar accessories,” and a $5,000 “antique painted bust of [a] Roman soldier.”
Grey reportedly warned Brock to comply with his demands in a 2008 email. “Please finish this today so I don’t have to waste my time emailing anyone — Biden, Coulter, Carlson, Huffington, Drudge, Ingraham,” Grey wrote.
Read more:
Honestly: Republicans do stupid and immoral things with their spouses (Newt Gingrich, Governor Sanford), but Democrats do these things so much more flamboyantly!  Why do I keep thinking of that Cheech & Chong record?  "Oh, rip the shirt!  How cliche!"

So Sordid That It Sounds Like A Soap Opera

This article from the February 26, 2012 San Francisco Chronicle is just too sordid to summarize and too long to quote.  But it has:

1. The California State Treasurer

2. His wife, 30 years younger than him, and an Alameda County Commissioner.  (For those in other parts of America: the county commission is the elected legislative body for county government in California.)

3. A sex-tape involving the wife and...someone else.

4. Alcohol and meth addiction.

5. The wife injured--and her lover claims it was self-defense.

Will someone please tell me why such sleazy people run California?  I mean, besides the possibility that they accurately represent the moral character of the population?

Sturm, Ruger (RGR)

Do you realize that RGR (NYSE) has had a 156% gain (equity price and dividends) over the last 12 months?  It is amazing what Barack Obama can do to the parts of the economy that he hates.

If You Aren't Scared By This, You Aren't Paying Attention

I have heard this mentioned in a rather "let's not get all panicky" sort of way.  This graph from Zero Hedge shows gross domestic product of the United States, and total debt (including, I think, the off-budget Social Security debt):

There's a reason that Wyoming's lower house is proposing contingency plans for the collapse of the U.S. government, and this is one of those reasons.  How long do you think the national debt can continue to grow faster than gross domestic product before everything collapses?  I am not interested in living in a Mad Max world.  Are you?

Darn, Now My Laughing Muscles Hurt!

Small Dead Animals has a screen capture from, I fear, an American TV station, warning of a severe winter storm coming out of central Canada.

Note that it is not just the Canadian province of Saskatchewan that is misspelled.  And some of the comments by readers over at Small Dead Animals are pretty hilarious as well.

Who Do The Super-Rich Give To? is a good place to go to get detailed information on who contributed to what campaigns, but they also have a pretty nice set of demographic data as well for the overall distribution.  As this page shows:
Only a tiny fraction of Americans actually give campaign contributions to political candidates, parties or PACs. The ones who give contributions large enough to be itemized (over $200) is even smaller. The impact of those donations, however, is huge.
Only 0.06% of the population gave more than $2400 to political campaigns in the 2010 election cycle.  And where did that money go?

By range of donations

 CountTotal*To Dems*To Repubs*To PACs*% Dems% Repubs
Donors giving $200-$2,399672,049$450.0$163.0$182.0$105.036%40%
Donors giving $2,400+146,715$1,136.0$496.0$468.0$190.044%41%

As you can see, donors giving below $2400 were somewhat more likely to contribute to Republicans than Democrats--but when you get to the $2400 and above range (which to my way of thinking, means that you must be pretty darn rich), most is going to Democrats, not Republicans.

The situation in the 2008 election cycle was even more strongly the super-rich giving to the Democrats:

By range of donations

 CountTotal*To Dems*To Repubs*To PACs*% Dems% Repubs
Donors giving $200-$2,2991,074,798$718.0$344.0$270.0$102.048%38%
Donors giving $2,300+281,454$1,921.0$981.0$765.0$205.051%40%

In 2008, even the "little" donors (those giving below $2400) were mostly giving to the Democrats, and of course, the disparity continues when you get into the obscenely rich ranges.

When, on when, are the news media going to drop the pretense that the Republicans are the party of the 1%, and the Democrats are the party of the people?

Non-Ferrous Blades and Steel

The 10" blade on my chop saw has reached the end of its useful life.  (It works fine on wood, but not so well on acetal or aluminum.)  This is not a surprise; I replace these blades every year or so.  This is a carbide-tipped, 90 tooth blade.  I see that Oshlun makes a 100 tooth blade specifically for non-ferrous metals which has some very positive reviews.

I don't very often cut steel with the chop saw, and generally pretty thin stuff at that, but I notice that this blade's description includes: "WARNING: Never attempt to cut ferrous metals with these blades." What's the danger? The blade shatters, sending fragments everywhere? The blade life is reduced? Aluminum and iron produce thermite reaction from the heat?

Would I better off buying the 80 tooth blade for mild steel, even though I only use it for steel very infrequently?

Sunday, February 26, 2012


I understand that the Texas Attorney-General's criminal fraud case against TaxMasters (who, at least when I still had cable TV, advertised heavily there) is supposed to go to court in early March.  I look forward to seeing the news that Patrick Cox, who owns Tax Masters, goes to prison.

Act of Valor

I don't get out to movies in theaters very often, but just to annoy the liberals, when this one gets to Boise, I'm going!  And apparently, a lot of others are doing so across the country.  From February 26, 2012 USA Today:

Act of Valor, the action film featuring military personnel, pulled an upset at theaters, claiming $24.7 million and defeating films from Tyler PerryJennifer Aniston andPaul Rudd.
Analysts expected the R-rated homage to the military's elite to make $14 million.
MORE: The weekend's top 10But tough reviews — 30% of critics gave Valor a thumbs up, says — couldn't slow the movie, which scored well with moviegoers. About 85% of audiences liked it, the amalgam site says.
The film took "a big risk by offering a new approach to entertainment" by featuring real special forces, says Gitesh Pandya of
Yes, it is something of a political act to go see a movie like this.  It's a way to tell Hollyweird that Americans still respect our military and the tough job they do.

UPDATE: One of my commenters liked it very much.  And The Shekel has this to say about it:
For those worried that using actual Navy Seals as actors would somehow diminish the quality of the film, that can be put to rest. The Seals put on a finer performance than quite a number of current "stars" today that I could name. 
The action was realistic - there were plenty of magazine changes, guns didn't fire hundreds of rounds without reloading and there was actual use of cover. It was also intense and it leaves you thankful that these guys are on our side and that they can do what they can do.
The ending of the movie was very powerful indeed. The movie patrons emptied out very quietly after the conclusion - see it and you'll understand why.
So without giving any spoilers away, go and see it. It is one of the few movies that is worth shelling out money at the box office to see on the big screen.

Too Dangerous For Untrained Professionals To Own: TV Sets

February 20, 2012 CBS Chicago reports on an epidemic of small children being killed and seriously injured by...television sets:
The uncle was watching the 17-month-old girl in the living room while the other children were in another room. He heard a loud thump and when he went to check it out, found a 20-inch TV set had fallen on the 2-year-old girl.
In the past six months, accidents involving TVs have left at least four small children dead, and one more injured, in the Chicago area.
It appears that as more of the flat screen TVs are sold, tube TVs (which are often quite heavy) are moving into bedrooms, dens, and other places that lack appropriate spots to put them.  You could almost get the impression that there are a lot of people in the Chicago area who lack common sense.  This explains Chicago politics, doesn't it?

Things You Don't Expect From Slovenia

Admit it: "Slovenia" doesn't create much in the way of expectations for you, does it?  So imagine my surprise at finding this video of a Slovenian jazz choir doing Toto's 1980s song Africa.  There are no instruments--none at all.  Even the opening sound of rain is done with hand claps and finger snapping.

Pretty impressive, isn't it?  The group is called Perpetuum Jazzile, which I am going to guess means "perpetual jazz" or "jazz forever."

I Wish That I Could Call This Absurd

From the February 24, 2012 Cheyenne Star-Tribune:
CHEYENNE — State representatives on Friday advanced legislation to launch a study into what Wyoming should do in the event of a complete economic or political collapse in the United States.

House Bill 85 passed on first reading by a voice vote. It would create a state-run government continuity task force, which would study and prepare Wyoming for potential catastrophes, from disruptions in food and energy supplies to a complete meltdown of the federal government.

The task force would look at the feasibility of Wyoming issuing its own alternative currency, if needed. And House members approved an amendment Friday by state Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, to have the task force also examine conditions under which Wyoming would need to implement its own military draft, raise a standing army, and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier.
 Well, okay, the aircraft carrier might be a bit silly.  (Hint: look at a map of Wyoming.)  Unfortunately, I can only call the possibility of the U.S. government collapsing in its own economic madness unlikely, as opposed to absurd.  I have never had enormous confidence in the wisdom of democracy, but it is fast appearing that the political class is too busy padding the pockets of their owners (Solyndra, LightSquared, for example, on one side, and the constant screeching to cut taxes regardless of what it does to the deficits, on the other side) to realize that they are in danger of bringing down the house of cards.

If Obama gets re-elected this fall, it will be a sign of how incompetent the Republican Party has become at winning elections, not a sign of how good Obama is at governing.  I think continuation of the current political class in control will lead, if not during Obama's second term, at least within a few years thereafter, to national bankruptcy.  Wyoming and other states where adults are still in charge won't go alone; they might decide to form a new, much smaller United States.  They can use the current U.S. Constitution; we're not using it anymore.

Not Often That I Inspire A Book....

A bit more than a year ago, I blogged a quote from Abraham Lincoln about the dangers in trusting quotations that you find on the Internet:
“The problem with Internet quotations is that many are not genuine.”  - Abraham Lincoln
This inspired Philip Mulivor to put together Proclaiming Liberty: What Patriots and Heroes Really Said About the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (New York: Brightman Press, 2011), a collection of quotes from historical figures and those still living concerning the right to keep and bear arms, with proper citations to where these quotes first appeared.  This is especially important for some of the major figures of history.  There is also a section of quotations from court decisions and state constitutions.

The paperback edition can be purchased from Amazon for $12.95; the Kindle edition for $3.95.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

There Was a Time When The Wrong Pictures Might Result In This Reaction

Yup.  Once upon a time, if a small child showed, by his or her actions, statements, or artwork, that he or she knew about sex, it would raise some eyebrows at school, perhaps leading to an investigation to see if the child was being sexually abused.  Now, it just means that the child has access to the Internet or the parents haven't properly set up their cable TV box.

Now, we have the insane situation where a child draws a picture of her father engaged in a lawful act, and the police go crazy:

Police arrested a Kitchener, Ont., father outside his daughter's school because the four-year-old drew a picture of him holding a gun.
Jessie Sansone told the Record newspaper that he was in shock when he was arrested Wednesday and taken to a police station for questioning over the drawing. He was also strip-searched.
"This is completely insane. My daughter drew a gun on a piece of paper at school," he said.
Officials told the newspaper the move was necessary to ensure there were no guns accessible by children in the family's home. 
Well, that's a serious matter, all right.  It's clear that there is no need to see if Kitchener police have access to a working brain.

Apocalypto (2006)

I don't get out to movies much, because most of them aren't worth watching, and I do not generally go out of my way to catch Mel Gibson's efforts.  Partly it is because he is an embarrassment as a Christian.  I get the impression that he grew up in a pretty fiercely anti-Semitic home, and he managed to keep it pretty shut up inside until the incident where he was arrested for DUI.  (Alcohol unleashes a lot of interior demons.)  The whole tragic ending of his marriage shows that the in contest between following Jesus and being of Hollyweird, Hollyweird seems to win.

I confess Mel Gibson has always frustrated me as a film maker.  Even when the films he makes are evocative and entertaining (such as The Patriot and Braveheart), they are so historically in error that it leaves me quite upset.  The Patriot could have been a spectacular film if it had followed the facts of Francis Marion's exploits more accurately.  Indeed, it could have been historically accurate and more interesting of a film, by examining the weird situation of slave owners who were demanding liberty.

Apocalytpo is another one of those frustrations.  If you ignore the historical accuracy problems (and they are severe), it is one of the most astonishing pieces of filmmaking that I have seen in a very long time.  It is especially impressive considering that there is not a recognizable star in the entire film, and all the dialog is in Yucatec Maya, with subtitles.  Sounds boring, doesn't it?  And you would be utterly wrong.  The opening sequences of the film show us a group of Mayan villagers behaving like...people.  One of the hunters is having some trouble getting his wife pregnant, and the other hunters are playing various pranks that make fun of this.

Once the ugliness starts, it is a story of enslavement, survival, and escape.  I found myself thinking of Cornell Wilde's classic The Naked Prey (1966).  And like all Mel Gibson movies, it is violent, and there is nothing cleaned up about the violence.  There is a love story as well--as Jaguar Paw seeks to return to and save his wife and son.  It has an astonishing score by James Horner.  (Fortunately, we were not forced to listen to Celine Dion singing in Maya, "My heart will be ripped out of my chest.")

Yet the historical accuracy problems with the film are a major problem.  Yes, the Mayans did human sacrifice. But this film puts rituals and aspects of Aztec human sacrifice into a Mayan setting, where they are historically inaccurate.  The Maya had abandoned their cities centuries before the Spanish arrived.  Mayan human sacrifice tended towards drowning virgins, and was not on the incomprehensible scale of the Aztecs.  This script, with just a bit of work, could have been accurately written about the Aztecs, a group that deserves bad press, but does not get it.

Think of Apocalypto as the anti-Avatar.  Where Avatar is a thinly disguised tale of the abuse of the Native Americans (with none of the inconvenient details left in), Apocalypto is a tale that, by moving it a few hundred miles west, could have done a fine job of portraying Aztec culture, and why the Spanish (and all the neighboring tribes, who were tired of being Aztec carry-out) felt no compunction about destroying that culture.  Heck, if I showed up in 1519 Tenochtitlan, I would have been looking for a nuclear weapon to use.

Cost Reduction in Manufacturing

I have been looking for ways to reduce materials cost, scrap material wastage, and labor on the telescope caster assemblies that I build--and each time I look for a way to do this, I find more opportunities.  The units that slide inside the Losmandy G-11 and Celestron CI-700 tripod legs have been a particular length, mostly because my first design relied on length to hold them in place.

This never worked very well, because a tight enough fit to make them fit snugly in some units would be too tight to fit in others.  (The manufacturing tolerances on the tripod legs for these models are actually astonishingly good, but even .005" variance was the difference between holding tight or slipping out.)  I came with a different scheme that uses a screw to hold the inserts inside the legs.  This works very well--but it means that the length of the inserts is now substantially more than is required--and acetal rod this diameter isn't cheap.  So I have been experimenting with a shorter length of insert.  This requires material costs a bit.  It also reduces labor, since I have to turn these 2 3/8" rods to a size just a bit smaller than that.  If I have an inch less acetal to turn down to diameter (and that typically takes several passes), that reduces the time I spend.

Perhaps the most significant discovery I made this evening was serendipitous.  I start out with cylinders that I turn to size, then I cut a 30 degree angle on one end of the cylinder in a chop saw.  That is just wasted material that I throw away, and I can't recycle.  Why not turn down a long piece of the material to diameter, then make the 30 degree cuts from that long rod?  The 30 degree cut produces two mirror image pieces.  Now I don't throw anything away.

In addition, to hold the cylinder in position on the chop saw without putting my finger anywhere near that blade, I have traditionally drilled and tapped a 3/8"-16 hole in one of the cylinder, so that I can clamp a fixture to the chop saw back fence, and use a bolt from the fixture into that hole.  I can no longer need to hold a short piece of acetal in the chop saw--and I can use some of my other fixtures for holding round objects securely in place.  This alone is a major reduction in labor.

So Weird I Was Expecting It To Be From The Onion

But no, it's the February 25, 2012 Boston Herald:

Lawyer: Lesbians’ assault on gay man can’t be hate crime
The allegation includes racial and sexual orientation slurs.

Two Astonishing Clear Nights

Venus, Jupiter, and Mars all up with a crescent Moon!  Too busy to roll out the telescope--and now we're back to overcast and a thin blanket of snow.

Friday, February 24, 2012

More Evidence Of What Forward Thinking Sorts The Nazis Were

There's a new book out about the importance that Himmler attaching to getting the SS to do yoga.  From the February 22, 2012 Daily Mail:

A German historian has discovered how the SS in Nazi Germany recommended its members - including death camp guards - practice yoga to enrich their 'mind, bodies and spirits.'

The first ever book probing the Third Reich's fascination with the ancient discipline - intended to attain 'perfect spiritual insight and tranquility' - was published this week, entitled Yoga In National Socialism by historian and yoga expert Mathias Tietke.  

It shows how S.S. overlord Heinrich Himmler was fascinated with the discipline and perverted it and its ancient roots into a philosophy to justify the Holocaust.

Read more:
If you read Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, you already know that there was a very strong overlap between progressives (then and now) and fascism, national socialism, and the other totalitarian sentiments of the time.  This is really no surprise: all of these movements were attempts to scrap traditional Judeo-Christian notions of right and wrong, which kept getting in the way of intellectuals doing what they wanted.

I am surprised at how much involvement various anti-Semitic, volkisch sorts had with yoga in the 1920s and 1930s, and apparently at least in part as part of the general anti-Christian sentiment that was popular among intellectuals (then as now), and after World War II as well.  Just snippets are visible, but this book published in 1998 also confirms the importance of yoga to the SS.

A Rather Dubious Connection

I remember when this first hit the news, my reaction was disgust and anger that these students "outed" one of their fellow students by secretly filming his homosexual encounter in a dorm room, leading to his suicide.  Now that one of the accused students is fighting the criminal charges, there are more details coming out that suggest a bit more ambiguous connection.  The February 24, 2012 U.S. News & World Report explains that Tyler Clementi's suicide was five days after this embarrassing revelation, and Clementi had already come out to his parents before headed off to college, and was "out" to many of his fellow students.

The notion that Clementi committed suicide because of being outed is suddenly a lot less plausible.  If he was willing to tell his parents (which would be about the last people that you would tell if you were deeply ashamed of your homosexuality), and other students, being outed, even in such a repulsive manner as having your actions exposed on the web, does not seem like a suicide-inducing action.  Worse: as this February 24, 2012 Los Angeles Times article points out: they never posted this on the web:
The defense maintains that Ravi did not post the video to the Web, though the images were sent from Clementi’s room to another computer in the dorm -- one where Ravi and his friend, Molly Wei, were.
“Nothing was transmitted beyond one computer and what was seen was only viewed for a matter of seconds,” Ravi’s attorney, Steve Altman, said in a prepared statement Oct. 31, 2010.
More importantly, five days later?  This is hardly an impulsive action, based on the delay.

May I suggest another explanation?  Suicide rates are quite high for homosexual adolescents, and at a statistically significant level of homosexual males:
RESULTS: Suicide attempts were reported by 28. 1 % of bisexual/homosexual males, 20.5% of bisexual/homosexual females, 14.5% of heterosexual females, and 4.2% of heterosexual males. For males, but not females, bisexual/homosexual orientation was associated with suicidal intent (odds ratio [OR] = 3.61 95% confidence interval [CI = 1.40, 9.36) and attempts (OR=7.10; 95% CI=3.05, 16.53). CONCLUSIONS: There is evidence of a strong association between suicide risk and bisexuality or homosexuality in males.

Read More:
Perhaps Clementi gets off the college, spends some time having homosexual sex, finds that it really doesn't make him feel any better than any did before, and decides to kill himself?  A lot of energy is spent telling the lie that "you can't change" when the evidence shows that yes, at least some homosexuals can change their sexual orientation (not just behavior).  The abstract from Robert L. Spitzer, "Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation," Archives of Sexual Behavior 32:403-417 (2003):
This study tested the hypothesis that some individuals whose sexual orientation is predominantly homosexual can, with some form of reparative therapy, become predominantly heterosexual. The participants were 200 self-selected individuals (143 males, 57 females) who reported at least some minimal change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation that lasted at least 5 years. They were interviewed by telephone, using a structured interview that assessed same sex attraction, fantasy, yearning, and overt homosexual behavior. On all measures, the year prior to the therapy was compared to the year before the interview. The majority of participants gave reports of change from a predominantly or exclusively homosexual orientation before therapy to a predominantly or exclusively heterosexual orientation in the past year. Reports of complete change were uncommon. Female participants reported significantly more change than did male participants. Either some gay men and lesbians, following reparative therapy, actually change their predominantly homosexual orientation to a predominantly heterosexual orientation or some gay men and women construct elaborate self-deceptive narratives (or even lie) in which they claim to have changed their sexual orientation, or both. For many reasons, it is concluded that the participants' self-reports were, by-and-large, credible and that few elaborated self-deceptive narratives or lied. Thus, there is evidence that change in sexual orientation following some form of reparative therapy does occur in some gay men and lesbians.
And before you dismiss Spitzer as some sort of homophobic crank: Professor Spitzer was one of those who led the effort to remove homosexuality from DSM-III in the 1970s.

Lipitor Is Now Generic!

I knew that Lipitor's patent expired late last year, but it was still a pleasant surprise to get my prescription refilled with generic, and at a lower co-payment ($30 for a three month supply).  I am sure that my insurance company is also pleased by this, because I am sure that it was not just the co-payment that dropped.

It may not seem like a very big deal--but think of the number of Americans who are taking statins like Lipitor on a regular basis, and that really is a very big deal.

Of course, I keep hoping that the Metformin will let me drop enough weight that perhaps in another six months or a year I won't need the generic Lipitor.

And You Think Our Government Overregulates Business

Instapundit pointed to this remarkable description of what happened when some Greek entrepreneurs wanted to start an online business selling olive-based products:
Antonopoulos and his partners spent hours collecting papers from tax offices, the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the municipal service where the company is based, the health inspector’s office, the fire department and banks. At the health department, they were told that all the shareholders of the company would have to provide chest X-rays, and, in the most surreal demand of all, stool samples.
And the article goes on to compare the efficiency and business orientation of the U.S. FDA to the Greek bureaucracy:

Antonopoulos describes the massive difference between the treatment he and his partners received from the Greek authorities and the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whose approval needed in order to export its products to the USA.
“I contacted the FDA and they sent us an e-mail with directions immediately. I filled in an online form and was done in five minutes. We received the approval 24 hours after making our application.”
 It makes me appreciate the advantages that ScopeRoller enjoys, since I operate in a country that is at least not actively hostile to entrepreneurship.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Next Step in TSA Screening

I kidded a while back that the next step in TSA screening would be so invasive that it would be combined with a colonoscopy.  This article from the February 23, 2012 New York Daily News makes a very strong case for why you should get it done (even if TSA doesn't start including it as part of preflight):

A medical test that everyone dreads can dramatically reduce the chances of dying from colorectal cancer, a groundbreaking new study says.
Researchers have found that colonoscopies cut the risk of dying by 53% if pre-cancerous polyps are removed during the procedure. 
The study, done by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center researchers who tracked patients for as long as 20 years, confirmed what doctors have long believed but lacked rigorous scientific evidence to prove.

Read more:
I have a friend who is making a second round of battles with colon cancer, and it is one of the reasons that I got off my... let me rephrase that... got around to having a colonoscopy done several years ago.   It isn't particularly pleasant, but compared to colon cancer treatment?

Bonuses To Prevent Employees From Quitting

The February 22, 2012 Washington Times reports that Solyndra has been authorized by the bankruptcy court to give big bonuses to some of its few surviving employees:

WILMINGTON, Del. — Several of the nearly two dozen employees at bankrupt solar panel makerSolyndra LLC who were approved for bonuses Wednesday had months earlier received pay raises as high as 70 percent, a fact the company never disclosed in its request for bonus cash.
The company’s bankruptcy attorneys sought permission for the bonuses in a court hearing, arguing that the extra cash is needed to keep key employees from fleeing only to be replaced by more expensive outside consultants.
With little chance of stable employment and officials moving to liquidate assets, the workers needed to wind down the company have little incentive to stay, the Solyndra attorneys argued.
Uh, where, exactly, are they going to flee to?  Another bankrupt "green" company?  

Free Markets & Health Insurance

Well, at least freer markets.  The February 23, 2012 Idaho Statesman reports:

Out-of-state companies would have an easier time selling health insurance in Idaho if a Boise lawmaker has her way.
The House State Affairs committee agreed Thursday to hear the legislation, which removes the requirement that licensed health-insurers have physical locations in the state to sell policies to residents.
Bill sponsor Rep. Julie Ellsworth says out-of-state companies would have to comply with Idaho's mandatory minimum benefit requirement.
And there are a number of definitely non-free market requirements that out-of-state health insurers would have to meet, but anything to improve competition.  Back when I blogged about health insurance costs last year, one of my readers ran some comparisons, and noticed that there were far more health insurances offering services in Washington State than in Idaho--and that, unsurprisingly, health insurance was cheaper in Washington State than in Idaho.  I suppose Idahoans should get on the email or phone to their state legislators and let them know that we would like more competition in health insurance.

Read more here:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I have just spent the last three hours walking some Canadians through completing 2006 through 2008 tax returns for their American mother with Alzheimer's (hence the need to file tax returns from that far back).  As we worked our way through these forms and worksheets, the sheer insanity and Rube Goldbergesque nature of these forms became more and more apparent.

Even worse: they paid Tax Masters $5400 back in September to take care of this matter.  We have now discovered that they did...nothing.  Tax Masters told them do not contact IRS, "now that we are taking care of it."  When I talked to IRS collections this morning, I found out that Tax Masters had not contacted them at all.  Nor, as near as I can tell, have they done anything about this matter at all, except cash the check.  Nor has their experience been unusual.  The Texas Attorney-General's office is the next step on this.

UPDATE: And it turns out that Texas is already almost two years into legal action against Tax Masters:

Texas Attorney General files enforcement action against TaxMasters, Inc.; cites nearly 1,000 complaints about defendants’ conduct and business practices
HOUSTON – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today charged Houston-based TaxMasters, Inc., and its chief executive officer, Patrick Cox, with multiple violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and Texas Debt Collection Act. 

Buying Elections

I get upset about rich people buying elections, because it is part of why the tax laws are written in a way that benefits...guess who?  But I confess that I admire Sheldon Adelson's openness.  From February 21, 2012 Forbes.  After explaining why he has given tens of millions to the Gingrich campaign, and why he will probably do even more for whoever the Republican nominee will be:
Adelson, the 78-year-old CEO of casino giant Las Vegas Sands, certainly can afford to: With a net worth of roughly $25 billion, that $11 million, which jolted Gingrich’s flatlining presidential bid back to life, equates to 0.044% of his fortune. For someone with a $1 million net worth, the equivalent would be $440, or a two-night stay at Adelson’s Venetian casino. Adelson could personally fund an entire presidential campaign—say, $1 billion or so—and not even notice.

Is that fair? “I’m against very wealthy ­people attempting to or influencing elections,” he shrugs. “But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it. Because I know that guys like Soros have been doing it for years, if not decades. And they stay below the radar by creating a network of corporations to funnel their money. I have my own philosophy and I’m not ashamed of it. I gave the money because there is no other legal way to do it. I don’t want to go through ten different corporations to hide my name. I’m proud of what I do and I’m not looking to escape recognition.”
Interesting quotes from Adelson.  He seems to be something that I did not believe really could even exist: a billionaire conservative.

LighSquared Scandal Gets Worse

February 22, 2012 The Daily Caller reports:

The Daily Caller has obtained documents, emails and communications showing how President Barack Obama’s Federal Communications Commission demolished wireless broadband company LightSquared’s competition through a pattern of regulatory decisions apparently aimed at establishing an “open-access” Internet in the United States.
The FCC successfully green-lighted LightSquared’s corporate formation in 2009 by allowing Wall Street hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners to purchase majority ownership in satellite company SkyTerra. A major obstacle that still remained in LightSquared’s way was competitor GlobalStar.
GlobalStar had a similar operation to the one LightSquared was building at the time. A major difference, though, was GlobalStar’s already-orbiting satellites, and the broadband Internet access it was already providing to Americans in rural areas of the country.

Read more:
There are a series of regulatory actions that the FCC took which, while they are individually understandable examples of bureaucratic inefficiency and decision making, collectively turned into a huge advantage for LightSquared--a company with significant ties to Obama and the Democratic Party.  What a surprise!

Cutting Corporate Income Tax Rates

I was skeptical that Obama's sudden concern for business was real.  From the February 22, 2012 New York Times:
While details were sketchy, an official said Mr. Obama’s tax framework would “refocus the manufacturing deduction and use the savings to reduce the effective rate on manufacturing to no more than 25 percent, while encouraging greater research and development and the production of clean energy.”
Ah yes, more money being shoveled into the pockets of the people who will be supporting his re-election campaign.

There is no question that serious reforms are required.  The U.S. has one of the highest corporate income tax rates in the industrialized world.  (Any guesses whether this might encourage multinationals to move manufacturing offshore?)  The article also discusses the problem that our high tax rates encourages U.S. companies to find ways to move profits made in the U.S. into their foreign subsidiaries, where corporate tax rates are lower.  One strategy is for X-USA to pay X-Istan $110/barrel for oil, when the market price is actually $100/barrel, because Istan has a lower corporate tax rate.  This is actually already illegal, but you have to audit X's tax return very carefully to make sure that you catch it--and apparently, big companies are not audited as carefully as you might assume.

The deferred compensation plans that executives of big corporations enjoy are an area that desperately needs reform (although not strictly part of the corporate income tax problem).  To be blunt, there is no reason why a person who makes millions of dollars a year should get any special tax treatment of that income.  Let them have  access to a 401(k) plan, like people that make tens of thousands of dollars a year.  If that isn't enough to hold them, the corporation can raise their salary or stock options, and let them pay at either the high marginal tax rates, or enjoy the capital gains advantages from sale of stock options.  The fact that deferred compensation is only for the fattest of the fat cats is like reversed socialism.

The Power of Metformin

I was in the endocrinologist's office for a follow-up appointment today.  I've lost ten pounds in the last four weeks, and I feel so much better!  I look forward to the suffering of having to start buying new clothes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Is The Pen Mightier Than The Sword?

Or just easier to get access to on short notice?  From the February 21, 2012 Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
A 21-year-old Mableton woman has been charged with aggravated battery after she stabbed a Cobb Community Transit bus driver who tried to break up a fight, authorities said.
The incident happened shortly after 3 p.m. Twyne had borrowed a male passenger's cell phone, and an argument broke out when she allegedly refused to return it to him.
Bus driver Damian Haney, 39, of Lawrenceville tried to calm the situation, but the woman pulled out a knife, police said.
Other passengers took the knife from her, police said, but she then grabbed a pen from Haney's shirt pocket and stabbed him repeatedly in the face. The woman was subdued and taken into custody.
An impressive mugshot of her, too!  Perhaps the most astonishing combination of ugly and stupid that I have seen in a long time.

But I Thought Guns Were Easy For Criminals To Get...

From February 20, 2012 CBS Detroit:

DETROIT (WWJ) – State lawmakers are currently reviewing legislation that targets the use of certain toy guns. A planned proposal before the Senate would make it a crime to possess a toy gun that has its required markings removed or by having a real gun that is made up to look like a toy.
State Senate Republican Rick Jones said that this has become a major problem, especially within the gang community. “People are taking imitation firearms that look real, cutting off the orange end and then threatening people,” he said.
In some cases, gang members have been shot to death by police for pointing modified toy guns at the police.

There is only one thing more stupid than pointing a gun at a police officer: pointing a gun at a police officer that won't fire anything more serious than a stream of water.

Some People May Be Too Stupid To Stay Out Of Jail

From February 20, 2012 KIVI-TV:

A man and a juvenile have been arrested in Boise County for impersonating law enforcement officers.
According to a Boise County Sheriff’s Office press release, about 6:30 a.m. Monday, two males were arrested in Horseshoe Bend, for Impersonating a police officer, eluding police, DUI, battery, and possession of a firearm while under the influence.
Boise County dispatch was advised by citizens that two males were stopping cars with their personal vehicle, a Toyota pickup, by using a flashing light to get citizens to stop for them.
According to deputies, the subjects would then approach the stopped car and request drivers license and identification from the occupants.
The "adult" (and I put that in quotes for a reason) was 21, and lives in Horseshoe Bend.  (Yes, that's the small town outside of which I live.)

Alcohol makes people do really, really stupid things.

Long-Term Unemployment

Business Insider has what it calls "10 Depressing Charts About Long-Term Unemployment."  This particular chart has me asking one question:

How, exactly, does Obama expect to get re-elected with that large a fraction of the population out of work for a year or more?  I know, I know, the Republican nominees aren't exactly something to jump up and down about, but still: more than 30% of the unemployed have been out of work for more than a year.  These are the times that you find yourself half-listening to paranoid sorts who claim the high approval numbers for Obama are because the polls are rigged.  I would be more inclined to believe that much of the population is too easily propagandized into believing that the economy is recovering, and their misery is just about to end.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Very Busy Three Day Weekend

I filled three ScopeRoller orders this weekend--something that I have not had happen in a long time, if ever.

I am just about done on this law review article concerning knives as Second Amendment arms.

I am helping some Canadian relatives straighten out a problem with IRS.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How Do People Write This With a Straight Face?

I was researching legal challenges to knife possession, and I ran into Getz v. Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (Penn. Commonwealth Court 2009).  Getz was on parole for "aggravated indecent assault" involving a minor female, and there were a number of restrictions imposed on him:
A special parole condition was also imposed that prohibited him to possess photographs of anyone under the age of 18 years or child-oriented videos without prior written permission of Probation/Parole Supervision Staff.
Okay, that's reasonable enough.  He got in trouble when his parole agent found a locking, folding 7" blade knife, a camera with a perfectly innocent picture of a 10 year old girl, and some videos.  He did not get off on the knife possession charge; the court decided that was a weapon, and therefore in violation of his parole.  Even though the picture was innocent, and Getz claimed to have not taken the picture, he was in violation of his probation.  The videos?  The parole board's claim was:
It is obvious and notorious to an American of common intelligence that DVDs of the films Shrek, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause and Superman: Doomsday are child-oriented videos, standard tools for grooming children for molestation. Therefore, the Board properly took official notice of the fact that those DVDs are child-oriented videos and found that Getz violated a special condition of his parole that proscribed possession of child-oriented videos by possessing those DVDs.[emphasis added]
You know, I think very little of a lot of what comes out of Hollyweird, but this is way over the top.  Fortunately, the court overruled them:
The problem with the Board's argument is that there were no facts that made it "obvious and notorious" that those films were directed at children. At the revocation hearing, no evidence was presented regarding each movie's content, its rating, and whether the movie was marketed to young children. Simply placing the three movies into evidence and now saying that it was "obvious and notorious" that they were used as tools for grooming children for molestation alone is insufficient for the Board to make out a violation of Special Condition #7 (Count 2).

Saturday, February 18, 2012

One of Those News Stories That I Have Mixed Feelings About

From the February 18, 2012 San Francisco Chronicle:
Teenagers in several counties can get condoms in the mail for free under a program launched this week and supported by state public health officials.

The Condom Access Project allows youth between the ages of 12 and 19 to order a package of 10 condoms, lube and health brochures online at, a website run by the nonprofit California Family Health Council. The package will be mailed to them in a nondescript yellow envelope.

Supporters say the program — aimed at reducing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases among teens — will benefit young people who cannot afford to buy condoms or are too embarrassed to go to clinics where they are distributed for free.
I have mixed feelings about this.  Contrary to the claims of the experts who assert that this will not encourage kids (and a 12 year old is still a kid), it is obvious that it will.  There are girls who are putting off sex out of fear of pregnancy, and there are boys putting off sex out of fear of having to talk to a parent about why Janie's parents are about angry about John and Jane's after school activities.  Anyone that thinks otherwise clearly does not understand that there are teenagers who are capable of planning beyond tomorrow morning. 

At the same time, I suspect that it will prevent a lot of pregnancies, and a lot of STD infections, because many teenagers really do not have the self-control to delay sex to reduce risks.  But maybe not as many as everyone assumes.  Condoms break.  Even when used perfectly (and we all know how good teenagers are on following directions and not getting lost in the passion of the moment), they still have a significant failure rate.  I can pretty well guarantee that the condoms are going to not get put on until immediately before use, and there are pregnancies and STDs that result from waiting until the last minute.

It would be rather nice if there were still parents at home supervising children, but that is so last century.  Even if Janie's Mom is home when she gets home from school (a rather thing today, and especially so in California), Janie's Mom is the big exception.  Far more typically, kids are going home to houses where no adults show up until 5:30 or later.

Narrow-Minded Sexophobes!

Those narrow-minded social conservatives in Illinois are trying to criminalize another form of sexual expression!  From the February 18, 2012 St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
ALTON • Spurred by cases in which bodies of overdose victims were moved to thwart investigations, Illinois state Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton, is sponsoring a bill to make unauthorized movement of a corpse a felony.
It also would criminalize something that even Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn thought was already illegal — having sex with the dead.
Ask yourself: does the dead person care?  They're dead.  They don't know what is happening to them.  Why should we deny the full sexual expression of the living just because of narrow-minded, Judeo-Christian values?  It doesn't hurt anyone, does it?  Just more of the same narrow-minded thinking that modern, progressive sorts decrying Rick Santorum's social conservativism should find abhorrent. Admit it: people get all negative about necrophilia because they think it's icky, and all right-thinking sorts know that icky isn't a valid reason to disapprove of homosexuality, so it certainly isn't a valid reason to disapprove of this.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Progressive Mugged By...

It used to be said that a conservative was a liberal that has been mugged.  Sometimes, but often only in a metaphorical sense.  I think of myself as a libertarian who was mugged by reality (or whatever you call the state of the San Francisco Bay Area).  Front Page has a fascinating article by a progressive filmmaker named Eric Allen Bell who started to make a documentary about the narrow-minded people of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, who were protesting the building of a 53,000 square foot mosque.  (How many Muslims are there in Murfreesboro, anyway?)

He started out full of progressive contempt for these rubes...but the more he looked at the effects of Islam on societies in which it is a majority, the more he begin to see that perhaps the rubes were not expressing themselves well, but they did have a point worth considering:

Over the coming months I watched as the Muslim Brotherhood gained political power in Egypt.  I saw that cab driver’s worst fears come true as Coptic Christians were attacked by Islamic mobs.  I saw Tunisia institute Sharia, the brutal Islamic Law.  After Libya fell, the Transitional Council also instituted Islamic Law.  The nuclear armed Islamic government of Pakistan arrested and punished those who cooperated with the United States in killing Osama Bin Laden.  A woman under the Islamic government of Afghanistan faced execution for the crime of being raped.  Similar news stories emerged from Iran.  A man who typed “there is no god” as his Facebook status in Indonesia, the largest Islamic country in the world, was arrested for blasphemy.
 Several Muslim men in England were arrested for handing out leaflets to Londoners demanding that homosexuals be executed by hanging for violating Islamic Law with their lifestyle.
And it struck me.  Even though these angry townspeople in Mufreesboro, TN had not articulated their concerns very well, they were only half wrong.  
And when he went to the Hollyweird set who were prepared to fund his movie about the dangers and evils of Christianity dominance in America, he started to point out that for all their errors, they were only half wrong. There was a real issue that needed discussion--and suddenly, he became anethema to progressives, for pointing out that the left's alliance with and defense of Islam was contrary to progressive values.

It has clearly been a sobering experience for him.  He now realizes that much of what progressivism stands for concerning Islam is actually a reactionary, cliche-ridden defense of a system that will have no problem whatosever destroying everything that progressives support.