Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sand art

Tonight's sandbox art by artist Kseniya Simonova, winner of the "Ukraine's Got Talent" contest:




From an article describing her performance:
The video tells the story of life during World War II or The Great Patriotic War, as it's known in the Ukraine.

It is no doubt the reason for the emotional reactions of some of the audience.
The Ukraine was one of the most devastated countries of WWII, with 1 in 4 Ukrainians killed and nearly 20% of all people killed in the war being from the Ukraine!

The final frame of the animation shows the ghost of a fallen sailor and text that reads: “You are always nearby”.

The sand is on a lightbox, and projected on to the screen behind her so the audience can view the work. Impressive, and beautiful.

Supreme Court to hear Chicago gun ban case

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear McDonald v. Chicago, a case seeking to overturn Chicago's notorious handgun ban:
In orders released Wednesday morning by the Supreme Court, the justices granted review in 12 new cases for the fall term, including a major sequel to the D.C. v. Heller Second Amendment decision of 2008. At issue is whether the individual right to bear arms declared in Heller applies -- or is incorporated, to use the legal term -- against state, rather than just federal laws restricting that right. The case, which will likely be argued early next year, is McDonald v. Chicago, a challenge to Chicago's handgun ban. Significantly, the Court did not act on other petitions raising similar issues, including Maloney v. Rice, an incorporation case in which Justice Sonia Sotomayor ruled while on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Presumably those cases will await a ruling in the Chicago dispute. ...

From SCOTUSblog:
Taking on a major new constitutional dispute over gun rights, the Supreme Court agreed on Wednesday to decide whether to apply the Second Amendment to state, county, and city government laws. In another major case among ten new grants, the Court said it will rule on the constitutionality of one of the government’s most-used legal weapons in the “war on terrorism” — a law that outlaws “material support” to terrorist groups.

The Court had three cases from which to choose on the Second Amendment issue — two cases involving a Chicago gun ban, and one case on a New York ban on a martial-arts weapon. It chose one of the Chicago cases — McDonald v. Chicago (08-1521) — a case brought to it by Alan Gura, the Alexandria, VA., lawyer who won the 2008 decision for the first time recognizing a constitutional right to have a gun for personal use, at least in self-defense in the home (District of Columbia v. Heller). A second appeal on the Chicago dispute had been filed by the National Rifle Association (NRA v. Chicago, 08-1497). Presumably, the Court will hold onto that case until it decides McDonald; the same is likely for the New York case, Maloney v. Rice (08-1592) — a case in which Justice Sonia Sotomayor had participated when she was a judge on the Second Circuit Court. ...

The issue before the Court is whether the Second Amendment applies to the states (and thus political subdivisions such as cities), or only to the federal government. The Court will likely schedule oral arguments for sometime next year. Good news.

Denninger: The banking system is insolvent

The latest from The Market Ticker's Karl Denninger, on the banking situation. Key conclusions:
... The entire banking system and likely The Fed, given the quantity of Fannie and Freddie paper it has been and is "eating", is insolvent. These facts are why the government is lying - they're well-aware of the near-zero cure rates and know that these facts mean that the banking industry has nowhere near sufficient capital to withstand these losses without folding like a paper cup getting stomped on by an elephant.

(Remember that these numbers do not include any commercial real estate losses and we have found that banks are frequently over-stating their claimed values for these loans by 50% or more - as was seen with Colonial.)

It gets better. The FDIC has a negative balance both in its fund balance and the reserve ratio projected for the end of the quarter, which is, big surprise, tomorrow. Oh, and there is this pesky problem that the FDIC has - contrary to its mandate - been issuing bond guarantees for banks, so if and when that banking insolvency is recognized the FDIC will implode into a gravity well also, since it is on the hook for the entire deficiency of those bonds that were issued with its "guarantee" should they default.

Care to argue with the math folks? [emphasis omitted]

Read it all here for the analysis and supporting source links.

More gun control, more crime

From Howard Nemerov, on the relationship between the anti-gun Brady Campaign's scores and higher crime rates:
... Further evidence of bias appears when correlating Brady scores with FBI violent crime rates. Only six states, plus D.C., scored over 50 (on a scale of 100). All but one of Brady’s “top 7” restrict law-abiding citizens from carrying concealed handguns. Brady’s “best” averaged a violent crime rate of 577.3 and a Brady score of 64.1. Brady’s nine “worst” all received a score under 6, and all have liberal concealed carry laws (also called “right-to-carry”). They averaged a violent crime rate of 398.1––45.0% lower than Brady’s “best” states––and a Brady score of 3.4.

Brady’s “best” had an average murder rate of 8.7, while their “worst” averaged 5.3, 64.5% lower. Also, Brady’s “worst” average robbery rate was 85.0 and the aggravated assault rate was 273.2, while their “best” average robbery rate was 243.1 (186.1% higher) and the aggravated assault rate was 304.3 (11.4% higher). ...

Read it here. Brady's anti-gun ideal states have higher crime rates than those states where peaceful citizens can own and carry guns for self-protection. Not exactly a revelation, but empirical evidence is worth stating for the fence-sitters on the gun control debate, those with an open mind who may not have considered the issue in depth. For those with common sense, such a result is likely self-evident.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Matrix, Revisited

Tonight's "what if?" video -- What if The Matrix ran on Windows XP?:

Venezuela tries bullet control

From the land of Dictator-for-Life Hugo Chavez, comes this news [hat tip: Jim P.]:
CARACAS – Legislators at the National Assembly are set to take what appears to be a rather unorthodox approach to law and order in a society notoriously renowned for gunslinging and one of the highest per capita murder rates on the planet.

The defense committee at the legislature has been looking at a proposed reform of the 70-year-old Arms and Explosive Law, which apparently has yet to be brought into line with the Bolivarian Constitution adopted by referendum at President Hugo Chávez’s behest in late 1999.

The head of the committee, Deputy Juan Mendoza, said work was “90 percent” complete. Among the proposals is one particularly eye-catching item.

This envisages what Mendoza called a “specific prohibition under which any person cannot buy more than 50 bullets a year.” Mendoza, a middle-ranking member of Chávez’s governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), said the proposal represented “a form of reducing the parameters when it comes to the use of firearms and ammunition.” [emphasis added] ...

Article here. I imagine our own anti-gunners would wet themselves with glee if they could get something like that passed here.

I suspect, however, that the unintended consequences of such a ban passing and becoming law would likely cause the anti-gunners to wet their pants again ... only this time perhaps not so gleefully.

As the old adage goes: Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. A lesson the anti-gun statist bigots and their power-hungry political and media allies ought to take to heart.

Registration, then confiscation

From our Northern neighbor, on the perils of gun registration:
Toronto police have seized almost 400 firearms with lapsed registrations in a six-month push aimed at reducing the number of guns on the city's streets.

In March, officers began soliciting people who owned firearms once registered across the city as part of what they call the Safe City Project. Many of those who had to surrender their firearms had either let their registrations lapse, or had stashed their guns improperly under beds or in closets.

Most had simply inherited the firearms, police said.

The Firearms Act stipulates guns must be stored in a secure place or be locked so that they are inoperable.

No charges were laid in the push, police said Tuesday.

Targeting people who had registered their guns is a preventative measure, said Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair. [emphasis added]

"Legal handgun owners are not dangerous individuals," Blair told reporters at a Tuesday news conference. "But we know from experience that their firearms can become extremely dangerous when they get into the hands of criminals. And so we have undertaken a number of initiatives to reduce the availability of those handguns." ...

Article here. Registration is, and has always been, a necessary prelude to any effective confiscation scheme.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tetherball

Tonight's cute animal video -- dogs playing tetherball:

Ninth Circuit rehears Nordyke case

Last Thursday, the federal Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, heard oral arguments in the rehearing of the Nordyke v. King Second Amendment case. See here for my post on the original panel's ruling from this past April, along with a link to the ruling.

Here's some coverage of last week's hearing:

San Francisco Chronicle: Court considers county's right to regulate guns

Law.com: 9th Circuit Reconsiders Controversial Gun Rights Case

CBS News: Appeals Court Weighs Gun Rights Lawsuit. An excerpt:
Update 9/24 9:31 p.m.: The Ninth Circuit has just handed down a one-page order delaying consideration of this case until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether or not to hear the lawsuits arising out of Chicago and New York state. The justices are scheduled to discuss those cases on September 29, and are likely to announce their decision soon after.

Gun laws around the world

From a 1997 article by attorney Don Kates, reprinted at NRA-ILA, on gun laws in Europe and elsewhere:
Americans have been gravely misled about foreign gun ownership and the severity and effectiveness of foreign gun bans. It simply is not true to state that "the U.S. has more gun availability and far less restriction than any other modern industrial nation."

That honor goes to Israel where, nevertheless, murder "rates are much lower than in the United States despite ... [Israel`s] greater availability of guns to law-abiding civilians," writes Israeli judge Abraham Tennenbaum (formerly an official with the Israeli National Police and then a professor of criminology). ...

Article here, with some charts and tables.

Anti-gun mayor map

From NRA-ILA, on the anti-gun "Mayors Against Illegal Guns":
Some local mayors have joined "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" (MAIG) which was founded and is funded by activist anti-gun billionaire and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. ...

Despite its very misleading name, this national group of anti-gun mayors has lobbied Congress against national reciprocity of state Right-to-Carry permits, against much-needed reform of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), for regulating gun shows out of existence, and for repealing the Tiahrt Amendment that protects the privacy rights of law-abiding gun owners and limits disclosure of sensitive firearm trace data to protect law enforcement personnel and protect lawful gun manufacturers from bogus lawsuits.

Bloomberg created "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" as a front group to lobby Congress to oppose important pro-gun reforms and support new federal gun control restrictions. And some mayors have joined or been duped into joining this anti-gun Bloomberg crusade. If your mayor has joined MAIG, it is critical that he or she resign from this anti-gun group. You can do your part by contacting your mayor`s office today and urging your mayor to withdraw his or her MAIG membership. A number of mayors have already quit the anti-gun Bloomberg coalition and yours should be the next one to do so. ...

Read the rest here, including a list of mayors by state.

View NRA-ILA's Google maps mashup of anti-gun mayors here (or click map below):



If mayors in your state are on the list, please consider contacting them to resign from this anti-gun group.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cut in two

Tonight's magic trick -- Penn & Teller perform their take on the old saw-a-woman-in-half trick (warming: a little gory):

Flowchart of the day

Today's mainstream media flowchart, a journalist's guide to racism (click on chart to enlarge):



Saturday, September 26, 2009

Onwards

Tonight's animation for the runners out there:

Journalists' Guide to Firearms Identification

Today's firearms ID chart, mainstream media edition (click on image to enlarge) [Hat tip: Gregg]:


Friday, September 25, 2009

Hammertime

Tonight's creative carpentry tool usage (don't try this at home, kids!):

Obama v. Shamwow

Today's comparison, via Tom McMahon's 4-Block World - how to tell the difference between Obama and a Shamwow:





:)

Korean War rifles to be sold back to U.S.

From the BBC [hat tip: Jim P.]:
South Korea has come up with a novel way to boost its defence budget - by selling a vast stockpile of old Korean-war rifles to collectors in the US.

The guns were originally sent to Korea as military aid, and some were also used during the war in Vietnam.

For more than five decades, they have been kept mothballed in warehouses.

Most of those on offer are M1 rifles - a weapon once described by US General George S Patton as "the greatest battle-implement ever devised". ...

Article here. The report says the South Koreans are selling 86,000 M1 rifles, and 22,000 M1 Carbines. So if the sales go through, expect them to become available stateside at some point.

Of course, given that the American taxpayer paid for them and the U.S. government gave them to the South Koreans as military aid to help save their country from the Communists, you'd think the Koreans would simply return them to us with their thanks. Oh well, at least it's better than the dammed Brits, who after World War II intentionally destroyed most of the rifles (some of which were family heirlooms) donated to them by ordinary Americans to help the hapless, then disarmed Brits defend their homeland from the Nazis.

LA Times reports on Tennessee Oath Keepers meeting

From the Los Angeles Times, on a recent meeting of an Oath Keepers chapter in Tennessee:
... Founded this year by Stewart Rhodes, a Yale-educated lawyer and former staffer of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the group calls itself nonpartisan and features on its website a 1776 quote from George Washington warning of an incipient moment that would determine whether Americans will be "Freemen, or Slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their Houses, and Farms, are to be pillaged and destroyed."

"Such a time," the site says, "is near at hand again."

That kind of sentiment helps explain the disconnect that has come to define popular political discourse in Obama's first tumultuous year.

A vociferous group of Americans is warning that the country is not just headed in the wrong direction -- but over a cliff. They are mainstream media commentators, like Fox News' Glenn Beck. They are religious leaders, like "Bible Answer Man" Hank Hanegraaff, who told radio listeners last month that "socialism and fascism" were "slipping quietly through the back door."

And they are everyday people like Rand Cardwell.

Other Americans, meanwhile, are struggling to understand the dire language that has erupted at town hall meetings, on talk radio and at anti-tax Tea Party protests. Some fear that the rhetoric, with its emphasis on gun rights and harsh words for a black president, could be paving a path to tragedy.

To Cardwell, these fears are nonsense, though he concedes that the anti-Obama crowd contains some angry and even unsavory elements.

He says his opposition is rooted in deeply American values -- the same ones Obama acknowledged in his recent speech to Congress, when he noted "our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government."

But as Cardwell watched federal power grow -- first under President George W. Bush -- that healthy skepticism has led him to conclude that now is the time to sound an alarm.

And that is why Cardwell found himself standing before hundreds at a July 4 Tea Party in Asheville, N.C., two hours away from here, reading out Oath Keepers' "Declaration of Orders We Will Not Obey."

Although Cardwell welcomes all concerned citizens to his meetings, the Oath Keepers' main message targets military and public safety personnel, active and inactive. It reminds them that they swore allegiance to the Constitution, not to politicians or bureaucrats. As such, they have the right to refuse orders they deem unlawful. ...

Article here. Good to see Oathkeepers getting some mainstream media press coverage.

Get a haircut, win a gun

From the Bluegrass State, comes this story:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Get a haircut, get a chance on an AK-47 rifle; that's the offer from a Louisville barbershop.

The shop owner said he's just trying to raise awareness to the right to bear arms, but the gun promotion is drawing fire.

A customer at the Okolona barbershop will win a Romanian made AK-47.

Everywhere you look around the shop, you can tell it is a pro-gun atmosphere, from the hats to the mounted heads.

Bruce Gooden teaches gun safety. He's a certified concealed carry instructor, a lifetime member of the NRA and he cuts hair.

The more involved someone is with guns and gun rights, the more chances they have to win the $750 semi-automatic weapon.

“You get one ticket per customer. If you are an NRA member you get two. If you join the NRA you get six,” said Gooden. ...

Article here. Looks like a hair-raising kinda story, but only to the anti-gun crowd. :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Now that's interesting

Tonight's optical illusion, the 2007 Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest winner, courtesy of Scientific American:


No, you have not had one grappa too many. These images of the Leaning Tower are actually identical, but the tower on the right looks more lopsided because the human visual system treats the two images as one scene. Our brains have learned that two tall objects in our view will usually rise at the same angle but converge toward the top—think of standing at the base of neighboring skyscrapers. Because these towers are parallel, they do not converge, so the visual system thinks they must be rising at different angles, as demonstrated by this year's winner of the Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest, sponsored by the Neural Correlate Society.

Article here.

Virginia Rail Express confirms right to gun carry on its trains

From Old Dominion:
After all the howling earlier this week over at the New York Times Editorial Board about Senate passage of the Wicker Amendment, its refreshing to learn that the Board of Directors of the Virginia Rail Express (VRE) voted yesterday to let train riders carry guns. While the Wicker Amendment passed by the Senate this week requires AMTRAK to let train riders check their unloaded guns in cases onto trains as is done by the airlines, the VRE Board passed a resolution just two days later (September 18, 2009) to let riders carry loaded guns.

The new official policy just conforms VRE regulations to Virginia law which is like that of most states, requiring a permit to conceal handguns, and requiring that those open carrying handguns be at least 18 years of age (no permit required). But citizen carry of loaded guns on trains in the DC Metro areas is not really new news.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, pronounced "wamata) has consistently confirmed that WMATA only enforces state or DC gun laws on its trains, so in Virginia the train carry rules are as stated above, and in Maryland, one needs a carry permit for both open and concealed carry. And in fact, almost every state follows either Virginia or Maryland style carry laws on trains. [formatting and links omitted] ...

Article here.
From the UK Telegraph, on our Apologizer-in-Chief's debut before the United Nations:
Barack Obama’s Gallup approval rating of 52 percent may well be lower at this stage of his presidency than any US leader in recent times with the exception of Bill Clinton. But he is still worshipped with messiah-like adoration at the United Nations, and is considerably more popular with many of the 192 members of the UN than he is with the American people.

The latest Pew Global Attitudes Survey of international confidence in Obama’s leadership on foreign affairs shows strikingly high approval levels for the president in many parts of the world – 94 percent in Kenya, 93 percent in Germany, 88 percent in Canada and Nigeria, 77 percent in India, 76 percent in Brazil, 71 percent in Indonesia, and 62 percent in China for example. The Pew survey of 21 countries reveals an average level of 71 percent support for President Obama, compared to just 17 percent for George W. Bush in 2008.

As the figures indicate, Barack Obama is highly likely to receive a warm reception when he addresses the United Nations General Assembly today, whereas his predecessor in the White House was greeted with undisguised contempt and stony silence.

It is not hard to see why a standing ovation awaits the president at Turtle Bay. Obama’s popularity at the UN boils down essentially to his willingness to downplay American global power. He is the first American president who has made an art form out of apologizing for the United States, which he has done on numerous occasions on foreign soil, from Strasbourg to Cairo. The Obama mantra appears to be – ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do to atone for your country. This is a message that goes down very well in a world that is still seething with anti-Americanism. ...

More here.

Young speed-shooter

From California, on eleven year old Jenna Arellano shooting skills:
Since her family took her out shooting when she was five-years old, Jenna Arellano has shown a knack for the sport of speed shooting.

“She took a liking to it and has been shooting since,” her father, Monte Arellano said.

So much so that at only 11 years old this Crescent City girl has just competed in the World Speed Shooting Championships (Steel Challenge) last month in Piru, Calif., as well as receiving praise from one of the top female shooters in the world.

Jenna finished in 4th place in the pre-teen open class division as the youngest participant.

“I practice a lot,” she said, saying her goal is to keep improving and mastering the sport.

Monte Arellano is also a speed shooter and said it has been a wonderful way for his family, including his son, 8, and his wife to spend time together.
He said he is proud of his daughter’s abilities and the way she has learned the importance of gun safety. She learned from an early age to respect her weapon and has learned first-hand about her Second Amendment rights, her father said. ...

Article here. Good to see kids learning safe shooting skills at an early age. We need more parents to get their kids involved in the shooting sports. Not necessarily competitive shooting, but whatever the kid has an affinity for -- hunting, trap/skeet, or just plain old plinking.

Thailand arming civilians to fight insurgents

From Thailand:
YALA, Thailand, Sep 18 (IPS) - With an insurgency threatening to worsen, Thailand’s military is turning to civilians like Nipa Waya to return fire in the three southern provinces close to the Malaysian border.

Nipa, a single mother, maintains a vigil through the night armed with a shotgun at the entrance to a Buddhist village on the outskirts of this southern city. With her, on a recent night, were 15 other men and women, similarly armed, who are part of a civilian-defence force.

"We move around to other checkpoints through the night," says the 43-year-old Nipa, holding a weapon that is almost as tall as her. "I want to help the people from being attacked by the insurgents."

"I feel brave with this gun," adds Nipa, who, till she started this nightshift near an abandoned building two years ago, had neither held nor used a gun. "We got seven days training where we learnt to shoot. We also had physical training, like jumping from towers."

Nipa, a Thai Buddhist, welcomes the move by the Thai military to recruit civilians to combat the shadowy network of Malay Muslim insurgents responsible for the violence that has erupted since early 2004 in the southern provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani.

The violence in the south, which has seen over 3,400 deaths during the past five and a half years, is testing the limits of the relationship between Thai Buddhists, who are the majority in this country, and the country’s largest minority, the Malay Muslims, who are the dominant community in the three insurgency-torn provinces.

It is from this pool of Thai Buddhists and Malay Muslims that the army is recruiting civilians to be part of a network of an armed civilian force. The groups that they belong to have names like ‘Village Protection Volunteers’ and ‘Iron Lady Unit’.

Researchers estimate that over 30,000 civilians have been trained to shoot to help the armed forces, whose current troop strength, according to unofficial estimates, is close to 60,000 in the south. The Volunteer Defence Corps, for instance, is armed with the U.S.-made M-16 and the German-made HK-33 assault rifles. ...

Read the article here. Naturally, the anti-gunners are up in arms, so to speak, blathering on about guns in the hands of ordinary folks making the situation worse, etc., etc. Same anti-gun crap, different country.

The cost dynamics of healthcare

From smart-as-a-whip MaxedOutMama, who discusses healthcare cost dynamics. An excerpt:
Anyway, leaving the guillotines for the moment, let us take a big leap forward in time to our present day, and contemplate two WaPo articles about health care reform.

The first is about the Mayo clinic, and it critically analyzes the assertion in President Obama's health care speech that the Mayo model can deliver cost savings. Now although the title claims that the jury is still out, it is only out in Washington. The bottom line is that the Mayo clinic does not serve anywhere near a representative slice of the US population:
"It's not [Mayo's] model. It's their patients and money. If you have the money, you can attract good staff, good doctors, good nurses," said Richard A. Cooper, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "You are going to force hospitals to find ways to avoid taking care of poor people just because they are going to be penalized because poor people cost more."
...
Cooper and others note that Mayo's other facilities, in Jacksonville, Fla., and Phoenix, have total spending rates that are roughly proportional to those in other hospitals in those areas. And across the Upper Midwest, per-patient spending is low, including at centers where doctors are not on salaries.

It's a long article, but the bottom line is that Mayo's efficiencies are gained from keeping their share of Medicaid patients extraordinarily low,
Even in Rochester, a city of 85,000, Mayo serves a higher-income echelon than the town's other hospital, Olmsted Medical Center. Just 5 percent of Mayo's hospital patients receive Medicaid, an exceptionally low figure, compared with 29 percent at Olmsted, where officials say they do more to help people in the community apply for Medicaid.

and for limiting their services to Medicare patients. Mayo doesn't accept Medicare patients from outside the state unless they agree to pay more than Medicare for services. So they are not serving the old and the poor in proportion to the US population, although they do provide excellent medical care to those they do serve. Mayo has a large referral clientele, and it also has a big group of foreign patients. It would be rare indeed to find a hospital that didn't have better outcomes and cheaper services if the hospital's clientele were hugely shifted toward the young and the wealthy.

So perhaps now my readers can begin to understand why my reaction to Obama's speech was so bad. Either he is appallingly ignorant of the facts, or his plan is to strip funding from medical services for the poor and the elderly. The proposal in Obama's speech was to pay more to hospitals like Mayo that have good stats but may have created those stats by not providing services to the poor and the elderly. Is it right that a hospital like Olmstead with 29% of its patients on Medicaid should get paid less to care for those with the more severe problems, whereas Mayo would be paid more to pay for a clientele that has already been sorted to be in the upper socio-economic group?

Anyone who holds traditional democratic values and who understands what is being proposed ought to be just as upset as I am.

Whether Michelle Obama truly believes that the poor will be rushing to the Vermont Avenue organic farmer's market for their double food stamps and whether Barack Obama really desires to defund the medical system for the elderly and poor is a big question. "Dumb or dastardly?" is how I frame it to myself. [all emphasis above in original] ...

Read it here. A bit on the wonkish side, but an interesting read.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The people's car factory

Tonight's automotive video -- a tour of Volkswagen's high-tech factory in Dresden, Germany:

Filthy hippies everywhere

Pajama TV's Steven Crowder pays a visit to that bastion of "higher learning", U.C. Berkeley [hat tip: Tom O.]:




The finest indoctrination your tuition money can buy.

More insanity, FDIC edition

From The Market Ticker's Karl Denninger, on the latest iteration of financial legerdemain, whereby "healthy" banks will lend money to the FDIC to provide money so the (almost broke) FDIC can insure ... wait for it ... bank deposits:
Who would have thought that a government agency would actually contemplate paying the insured party for the coverage on their own risk?

In a world where we had a rule of law this would be identified instantly as what it is: rank, outrageous fraud.

But we don't live in such a world.

In the world we live so-called "government officials" of the FDIC feel free to engage in such sham transactions, smug in the knowledge that The American Sheeple, along with their handmaidens in Congress, can be counted on to allow a blatantly-fraudulent exercise such as this to be consummated - where the banks that are beneficiaries of FDIC insurance (and whom have also issued literally billions of dollars in covered bonds on an issuance-insurance program that has no legal basis in the foundational principle of the FDIC in the first place) not only do not have to pay for the insurance coverage they enjoy, but actually get paid to have it instead. [emphasis in original] ...

Read about it here. The government is no longer even pretending to hide their financial insanity. The whole system is like a house of cards at this point. A single failed wall will bring the whole thing crumbling down, dramatically.

The FDIC asking banks for a loan to insure the banks' deposits is like your insurance company asking you for a loan so that it can afford to issue you a homeowners policy. Even if you're getting more in loan interest from the insurance company than the cost of the insurance premiums, that's probably not an insurance company that you want to insure your home, because when you have a claim you'll likely discover that the insurance company can't pay. Because it's broke. Duh.

Will the madness never end? Let me rephrase that: When the madness inevitably ends, it will end horrifically, and badly. Prepare accordingly.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I think I feel a heart attack coming on

Tonight's fast food fat and cholesterol bonanza:

The state of the polity

From Fr. James Schall, writing at The Catholic Thing, on the march of socialism:
... Most politicians, especially dangerous ones, claim to bring about a more perfect regime. Aristotle warned that they often ended with a worse regime than the one they abolished. “Righting all wrongs” becomes the political movement’s inspiration. Such, however, is a divine burden, not a political one. In pursuing it, we lose both the divine and the political.

One senses that radical, momentous changes occur daily among us. We try to describe them. Forces not easily observed seem to direct our regime to a new configuration. America is classically described as a republican government limited by a written constitution and a natural law. This understanding no longer holds.

In the new dispensation, we are not the “land of the free” and the “home of the brave.” We are the cause of domestic and foreign ills. We need to acknowledge our sins before the world. Our new leader gladly takes up this noble task.

“Democracy” has replaced “republic.” The republic was a mixed-regime, with separation of powers, checks and balances, designed to guarantee responsible rule by limiting the ignoble or tyrannical tendencies of any one branch of government or of the people themselves. ...

Read more here. As Aristotle noted in his Politics, the "better" regime pursued by the Leftspawn may well end up being simply, more evil.

Monday, September 21, 2009

But, I could be wrong

Tonight's music video - Tim Wilson's But I Could be Wrong (lyrics not safe for work):

Grocery Shopping, Obama style: Your tax dollars, hard at work

From the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, reporting from D.C. on a narrowly averted culinary crisis at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue last week:
Let's say you're preparing dinner and you realize with dismay that you don't have any certified organic Tuscan kale. What to do?

Here's how Michelle Obama handled this very predicament Thursday afternoon:

The Secret Service and the D.C. police brought in three dozen vehicles and shut down H Street, Vermont Avenue, two lanes of I Street and an entrance to the McPherson Square Metro station. They swept the area, in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs, with bomb-sniffing dogs and installed magnetometers in the middle of the street, put up barricades to keep pedestrians out, and took positions with binoculars atop trucks. Though the produce stand was only a block or so from the White House, the first lady hopped into her armored limousine and pulled into the market amid the wail of sirens. [emphasis added]

Then, and only then, could Obama purchase her leafy greens. "Now it's time to buy some food," she told several hundred people who came to watch. "Let's shop!"

Cowbells were rung. Somebody put a lei of marigolds around Obama's neck. The first lady picked up a straw basket and headed for the "Farm at Sunnyside" tent, where she loaded up with organic Asian pears, cherry tomatoes, multicolored potatoes, free-range eggs and, yes, two bunches of Tuscan kale. She left the produce with an aide, who paid the cashier as Obama made her way back to the limousine.

There's nothing like the simple pleasures of a farm stand to return us to our agrarian roots. ...

Read the rest here for more juicy details. Like the price of organic dandelion greens. Aren't you glad you're paying the Secret Service to provide round-the-clock grocery shopping protection for His Royal Barryness and his family? I'll bet that was the most expensive "certified organic Tuscan kale" on the entire East Coast. Oh well, what do the Obamas care? You're paying for it.

[Via Mish]

Alligator hunter

From the Sunshine State, comes this hunting story:
Florida's public alligator hunt is underway, and the nighttime pursuit of trophy-sized specimens in the muggy marshlands is challenging and often unproductive.


(Photo: Arianne Prevost poses with 11-foot alligator she bagged with a crossbow during Florida's public alligator hunt. Credit: Peter Deeks)

But Arianne Prevost of Satellite Beach was in the right place at the right time, and with the right people on Tuesday night during her first-ever gator hunt, as she used a crossbow to bag an 11-footer weighing perhaps 450 pounds. ...

Ms. Prevost photographs well, doesn't she? Can't say the same for the alligator (although that's one big reptile). As an aside, alligator meat, properly prepared, is pretty tasty.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Visual FX

Tonight's homage to visual special effects in film over the last century:

Outsourcing unemployment ... to China

Via Mish, a look at the inevitable spread of unemployment from consumer consumption-driven economies like the U.S. and Europe, to China's export-driven economy (video is about 25 minutes long):

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Baby rocker

Tonight's computer programmer geeky parent:

Federal judge rules police cannot detain open carriers

From Mike Stollenwerk, on a case out of New Mexico:
On September 8, 2009, United States District Judge Bruce D. Black of the United States District Court for New Mexico entered summary judgment in a civil case for damages against Alamogordo, NM police officers. The Judge's straight shootin' message to police: Leave open carriers alone unless you have "reason to believe that a crime [is] afoot."

The facts of the case are pretty simple. Matthew St. John entered an Alamogordo movie theater as a paying customer and sat down to enjoy the movie. He was openly carrying a holstered handgun, conduct which is legal in 42 states, and requires no license in New Mexico and twenty-five other states. ...

In response to a call from theater manager Robert Zigmond, the police entered the movie theater, physically seized Mr. St. John from his seat, took him outside, disarmed him, searched him, obtained personally identifiable information from his wallet, and only allowed him to re-enter the theater after St. John agreed to secure his gun in his vehicle. Mr. St. John was never suspected of any crime nor issued a summons for violating any law.

Importantly, no theater employee ever ordered Mr. St. John to leave. The police apparently simply decided to act as agents of the movie theater to enforce a private rule of conduct and not to enforce any rule of law.

On these facts, Judge Black concluded as a matter of law that the police violated Matthew St. John's constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment because they seized and disarmed him even though there was not "any reason to believe that a crime was afoot." Judge Black's opinion is consistent with numerous high state and federal appellate courts, e.g., the United States Supreme Court in Florida v. J.L. (2000) (detaining man on mere report that he has a gun violates the Fourth Amendment) and the Washington Appeals Court in State v. Casad (2004) (detaining man observed by police as openly carrying rifles on a public street violates the Fourth Amendment). ...

Read more here. The judge's opinion and order are available here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A beer and a smoke

Tonight's alcohol and tobacco fix, courtesy Seinfeld's Kramer:

Gun prices soar after election ...

... in Afghanistan:
The reliable measure of stability in many countries is the value of the currency or the price of equities, bread or fuel - but not in Afghanistan: here the key indicator that nearly every Afghan keeps tabs on is the price of a Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle. And the bad news is that the market is bullish. The stepped-up Taliban offensive and mounting discord over the outcome of last month's election have seen the price of a Chinese-made AK smuggled in from Pakistan rise to $400 from $150 in just three months. "People are arming themselves," a Western official in Kabul noted with alarm.

The surge in the Kalashnikov Index is likely to be sustained by the results of the Aug. 20 elections, widely perceived by Afghans, diplomats and foreign observers as marred by fraud. Fictitious polling booths were set up, and in some places, vote riggers were so brazen they did not even bother to remove the individual ballots from the booklets in which they were printed before marking them. ...

Article here. Evidently, the urge to arm oneself for self-protection from perceived or expected oppression knows no geographic boundaries.

Betcha didn't know ...

... that possession of a concealed handcuff key by an "ordinary" citizen is a felony in Florida:
For wearing handcuff keys on a necklace draped around his neck, a homeless Miami Beach man could face years in prison.

Prosecutors on Tuesday formally charged Michael Gonzalez, 22, with disorderly intoxication, marijuana possession and two counts of possession of a concealed handcuff key -- a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

``It's an actual felony,'' prosecutor Barbara Teresa Govea explained to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge John Thornton, who questioned the charge. ...

Article here. The article states that the law was passed in 1998 after a violent criminal escaped using a concealed cuff key and murdered two deputies. I'm sure all the violent criminals no longer carry concealed cuff keys, given that such carry is illegal. Now, if only the legislature had outlawed murder ... oh, wait. Nevermind.

No knives for British Boy Scouts

The emasculation continues in the formerly great Britain:
Along with a box of matches and a piece of string, they've always been an essential part of a Scout's kit.

But now penknives are going to be restricted on scouting trips as a seemingly innocent tradition succumbs to concerns over the nation's blade culture.

The Scout Association is advising boys and their parents that they should not bring such knives to camp - despite it being legal for anyone to carry a foldable, nonlocking blade in a public place as long as it is shorter than 3ins.

Scouts have been taught to carry knives and have used them to cut firewood, prepare food or carve tools ever since Lord Baden-Powell founded the movement more than a century ago.

But in a recent edition of their official in-house magazine, Scouting, they are advised that neither they nor their parents should bring penknives to camp.

Knife-maker Dave Budd, who runs courses training Scouts about the safe use of blades from his base on Dartmoor, Devon, said the rise in knife crime - up 50 per cent in just one year - demanded ' clarification' of the guidance.

He wrote: 'The series of high-profile fatal stabbings highlighted a growing knife culture in the UK. Now the general public is unsure of the law on knives.

'Scouts often have the need for a good knife, and in the early days every Scout was actively encouraged to put a knife on their belt. Sadly, there is now confusion about when a Scout is allowed to carry a knife.

'I think it is safest to assume that knives of any sort should not be carried by anybody to a Scout meeting or camp, unless there is likely to be a specific need for one. In that case, they should be kept by the Scout leaders and handed out as required.'

He adds that 'campsites are considered public places and so knives are not to be carried'.
...
Last night a Scouts spokesman defended its policy, saying: ‘The Scout Association plays a key role in helping young people develop the confidence, maturity and self-esteem they need to play active and responsible roles in their communities, and to resist the peer pressure that may attract them into local gang culture.

‘We believe that young people need more places to go after school and at weekends, where they can experience adventure without the threat of violence or bullying and the need to carry weapons.

‘Scouting helps to prepare young people with valuable life skills, while keeping them safe by not carrying knives.’ [emphasis added]

Article here. So sad.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why men have toolboxes

Tonight's commercial humor:

Denninger: Deflationary collapse dead ahead

From The Market Ticker's Karl Denninger:




Text and graphs available here.

Of course, if you believe the "Green Shoots" crowd (you know, the same crowd that didn't see last year's crash), then feel free to ignore Mr. Denninger's warning, which is based on math and historical data, rather than wishful thinking.

Prepare accordingly.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Roman holiday

Tonight's humor:
A woman was at her hairdresser’s getting her hair styled for a trip to Rome with her husband. She mentioned the planned trip to the hairdresser, who responded:

"Rome? Why would anyone want to go there? It’s crowded and dirty. You’re crazy to go to Rome. How are you getting there?"

"We’re taking Continental," the woman replied. "We got a great rate!"

"Continental?" exclaimed the hairdresser. "That’s a terrible airline. Their planes are old, their flight attendants ugly, and they’re always late. So, where are you staying in Rome?"

"We’ll be at this exclusive little place over on Rome’s Tiber River called Teste."

"Don’t stay there. I know that place. Everybody thinks its gonna be something special and exclusive, but it’s really a dump."

"We’re going to go to see the Vatican and, who knows, maybe we'll get to see the Pope."

"That’s rich," laughed the hairdresser. "You and a million other people trying to see him. He’ll look the size of an ant. Boy, good luck on this lousy trip of yours. You’re going to need it."

A month later, the woman again came in for a hairdo. The hairdresser asked her about her trip to Rome.

"It was wonderful," explained the woman, "not only were we on time in one of Continental’s brand new planes, but it was overbooked, and they bumped us up to first class. The food and wine were wonderful, and I had a handsome 28-year-old steward who waited on me hand and foot."

"And the hotel was great! They’d just finished a $5 million remodeling job, and now it’s a jewel, the finest hotel in the city. They, too, were overbooked, so they apologized and gave us their Presidential Suite at no extra charge!"

"Well," muttered the hairdresser, "that’s all well and good, but I know you didn’t get to see the Pope."

"Actually, we were quite lucky, because as we toured the Vatican, a Swiss Guard tapped me on the shoulder, and explained that the Pope likes to meet some of the visitors, and if I’d be so kind as to step into his private room and wait, the Pope would personally greet me."

"Sure enough, five minutes later, the Pope walked through the door and shook my hand! I knelt down and he spoke a few words to me."

"Oh, really! What’d he say?"

He said: "Who screwed up your hair?"


:)

Madison police dispatcher misled 911 caller on open carry

From Mike Stollenwerk, on another open carry incident in Wisconsin:
On August 8, 2009 a person named Ryan working at "Fromaginations on the Square" called the Madison police to ask if there was a "law in the state of Wisconsin that allows you to carry a gun," reporting that "a gentleman walked past me with a rather large rather large gun attached to his hip . . . he was walking north toward State Street." Replied the police dispatcher, "[n]o there is not . . . let me get someone to check that area to see if we can find 'em because there is no such law here." ...

Article here. Link to the 911 call audio here.

Gun control and campaign contributions

Howard Nemerov writes on the relationship between gun control, politicians, and political donors here.

Part two of the series, dealing with the campaign contributions of lawyers and law firms, is here. An excerpt:
There is anecdotal evidence that pro-gun control voting correlates with lawyer contributions. For example, Congressional voting on the Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act of 2006––prohibiting federal officers and employees from confiscating legally-owned firearms during emergencies or disasters––showed that “Yea” voters (supporting prohibition) averaged $35,534 from lawyers during the 2006 election cycle, while the “Nay” voters (supporting future confiscations) averaged $51,665, 45% more.*

As with any demographic group, it would be prejudicial to imply that all lawyers are pro-gun control and that their campaign contributions support only candidates who vote that way. However, the industry contains such organizations.

The American Association for Justice was the largest contributing lawyer organization in 2008, spending $2,991,290 on candidates. Open Secrets notes:
Formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), this group of plaintiffs' attorneys and others in the legal profession now goes by the name of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) and boasts 56,000 members worldwide. A lobbying heavyweight, the association has been battling any attempt at tort reform… [emphasis added in original]

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (Senate Bill 397), passed by the Senate on July 29, 2005, represents such tort reform, banning civil liability suits due to injuries and damages resulting from strictly criminal abuse of a firearm. The 65 “Yea” Senators received an average of $366,847 in lawyer campaign contributions, while the 31 “Nay” Senators averaged $645,972, 73.4% more. ...


Part three, discussing NRA grades, is here.

Part four examines the data here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Taking a ride

Tonight's bicycling video - Carla and Henriette Hochdorfer perform their Artistic Cycling routine in the Junior Womens Pair category, at the 2009 European Junior Indoor Cycling Championships:



Impressive.

The secret ghost fleet, and "green shoots" of algae

Via Mish, from the UK Daily Mail:
The biggest and most secretive gathering of ships in maritime history lies at anchor east of Singapore. Never before photographed, it is bigger than the U.S. and British navies combined but has no crew, no cargo and no destination - and is why your Christmas stocking may be on the light side this year


(The 'ghost fleet' near Singapore. The world's ship owners and government economists would prefer you not to see this symbol of the depths of the plague still crippling the world's economies. Photo: UK Daily Mail)

The tropical waters that lap the jungle shores of southern Malaysia could not be described as a paradisical shimmering turquoise. They are more of a dark, soupy green. They also carry a suspicious smell. Not that this is of any concern to the lone Indian face that has just peeped anxiously down at me from the rusting deck of a towering container ship; he is more disturbed by the fact that I may be a pirate, which, right now, on top of everything else, is the last thing he needs.

His appearance, in a peaked cap and uniform, seems rather odd; an officer without a crew. But there is something slightly odder about the vast distance between my jolly boat and his lofty position, which I can't immediately put my finger on.

Then I have it - his 750ft-long merchant vessel is standing absurdly high in the water. The low waves don't even bother the lowest mark on its Plimsoll line. It's the same with all the ships parked here, and there are a lot of them. Close to 500. An armada of freighters with no cargo, no crew, and without a destination between them.

My ramshackle wooden fishing boat has floated perilously close to this giant sheet of steel. But the face is clearly more scared of me than I am of him. He shoos me away and scurries back into the vastness of his ship. His footsteps leave an echo behind them.

Navigating a precarious course around the hull of this Panama-registered hulk, I reach its bow and notice something else extraordinary. It is tied side by side to a container ship of almost the same size. The mighty sister ship sits empty, high in the water again, with apparently only the sailor and a few lengths of rope for company.


(Two container ships tied together in southern Malaysia, waiting for the next charter. Photo: UK Daily Mail)

Nearby, as we meander in searing midday heat and dripping humidity between the hulls of the silent armada, a young European officer peers at us from the bridge of an oil tanker owned by the world's biggest container shipping line, Maersk. We circle and ask to go on board, but are waved away by two Indian crewmen who appear to be the only other people on the ship.

'They are telling us to go away,' the boat driver explains. 'No one is supposed to be here. They are very frightened of pirates.'

Here, on a sleepy stretch of shoreline at the far end of Asia, is surely the biggest and most secretive gathering of ships in maritime history. Their numbers are equivalent to the entire British and American navies combined; their tonnage is far greater. Container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers - all should be steaming fully laden between China, Britain, Europe and the US, stocking camera shops, PC Worlds and Argos depots ahead of the retail pandemonium of 2009. But their water has been stolen.

They are a powerful and tangible representation of the hurricanes that have been wrought by the global economic crisis; an iron curtain drawn along the coastline of the southern edge of Malaysia's rural Johor state, 50 miles east of Singapore harbour.

It is so far off the beaten track that nobody ever really comes close, which is why these ships are here. The world's ship owners and government economists would prefer you not to see this symbol of the depths of the plague still crippling the world's economies.

So they have been quietly retired to this equatorial backwater, to be maintained only by a handful of bored sailors. The skeleton crews are left alone to fend off the ever-present threats of piracy and collisions in the congested waters as the hulls gather rust and seaweed at what should be their busiest time of year. ...

Read the rest here, with more photos.

Seventy six reasons to have a gun

From Terence Gillespie, writing at LewRockwell.com:
... Unlike most tools, the primary use of a gun is to prevent itself from having to be used, at all. In fact, guns are in full use while they’re not being fired. Infrequent use proves, rather than disproves, their necessity.

If you think only tools that are used frequently are necessary then stop wearing your seat belt, cancel your home, car and health insurance and put a sign on your front lawn announcing you live in a gun-free house!

After much thought on the subject I’ve come to the conclusion that the simple act of having a gun is its own best use (Reason #1).

Like a battleship parked off the coast its mere presence changes the dynamic of the situation without having to fire a single shot. By "dynamic" I mean that predators tend to behave themselves and move on to an easier "unarmed" prey. By having a gun you become too dangerous to your predators. Criminals interviewed in jail say they don’t want anything to do with an armed civilian. That change in my human predators is exactly what I want to accomplish.

At best, guns keep honest and polite people honest and polite. Kind of like the masterlock I use on my gym locker. It’s never been touched, except by me, and yet it is used fully every time I work out.

Final Note and Reasons

Before you reach the end of your life perhaps my 76 reasons for having a gun will help you decide whether this power tool should be in Your Optimal Toolkit:

1. The simple act of having a gun is its own best use. Like a battleship parked off the coast its mere presence changes the dynamic of the situation without having to fire a single shot. By having a gun you become too dangerous to your predators. Criminals interviewed in jail say they don’t want anything to do with an armed civilian. That change in my human predators is exactly what I want to accomplish.

2. A right exercised is a right retained.

3. It's the best single tool for protecting your life and the lives of your loved ones. (JFPO)

4. You detest American gun laws based on 1938 Nazi weapons laws. (JFPO)

5. Armed societies are polite societies. (Switzerland).

6. Switzerland is armed to the teeth with virtually no crime (Stephen Holbrook).

7. Because of the patience and discipline you acquire while learning about the tool.

8. So you can de-bunk Hollywood gun myths for your kids. ...


Read the whole list here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Musical interlude

Tonight's musical interlude, 13 year old South Korean guitarist Sungha Jung plays the Beatles hit Come Together:

McCain-Feingold and the book banners

From George Will, writing in the Washington Post:
Last March, during the Supreme Court argument concerning the Federal Election Commission's banning of a political movie, several justices were aghast. Suddenly and belatedly they saw the abyss that could swallow the First Amendment.

Justice Antonin Scalia was "a little disoriented" and Justice Samuel Alito said "that's pretty incredible." Chief Justice John Roberts said: "If we accept your constitutional argument, we're establishing a precedent that you yourself say would extend to banning the book" -- a hypothetical 500-page book containing one sentence that said "vote for" a particular candidate.

What shocked them, but should not have, were statements by a government lawyer who was only doing his professional duty with ruinous honesty -- ruinous to his cause. He was defending the mare's-nest of uncertainties that federal campaign finance law has made and the mess the court made in 2003 when, by affirming the constitutionality of McCain-Feingold's further speech restrictions, it allowed Congress to regulate speech by and about people running for Congress.

The government lawyer was trying to justify the FEC's 2008 decision that McCain-Feingold required banning "Hillary: The Movie" from video-on-demand distribution. The lawyer said, in effect:

Don't blame me. McCain-Feingold orders people to shut up when political speech matters most. It bans "electioneering communications" (communications "susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate") paid for by corporations in the 30 days before primaries and 60 days before general elections. Corporations include not only, or primarily, the likes of GM and GE; corporations also include issue advocacy groups, from the National Rifle Association to the Sierra Club. So, yes, if a book published (as books are) by a corporation contains even a sentence of election-related advocacy, the book could -- must -- be banned by the federal government, and not just during the McCain-Feingold muzzle period.

Stunned, the court ordered that the case be reargued Sept. 9. On Aug. 30, a New York Times story included a delicious morsel about Fred Wertheimer, an indefatigable advocate of increased government control of the quantity, timing and content of campaign speech -- speech about the composition of the government:

"In an interview, Mr. Wertheimer seemed reluctant to answer questions about the government regulation of books. Pressed, Mr. Wertheimer finally said, 'A campaign document in the form of a book can be banned.' " ...

Read the rest here. McCain-Feingold (perhaps more accurately described as the Incumbent Protection Act) is an odious carbuncle on the flesh of the First Amendment that seeks to stifle political dissenting speech.

The high Court heard re-argument last Wednesday in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (08-205). SCOTUSblog has coverage of the oral argument here, and SCOTUSwiki has the merit and amici briefs here for those interested. The NRA, which has long opposed McCain-Feingold, filed an amicus brief, available here.

Let's hope the Court excises the malignant tumor of McCain-Feingold from our beloved First Amendment.

Quote of the day

From the New York Post, on the New York Times reporting (or lack thereof) of the firing of "Green Jobs" czar Van Jones last week, and the Times' excuse that it was short-staffed:
Granted, the Times must devote a lot of personpower to its vast corrections column. But if it is so flush that it can afford to hire, like the boy with the shovel who follows the elephant in the parade, a personal fact checker for TV critic Alessandra Stanley, surely it can scrounge up an intern to report that there’s a communist truther working as the president’s green jobs czar, or that a congressman was demanding his resignation (Sept. 4).

Jill Abramson, the managing editor, admitted only to being “a beat behind” the story but added that the paper had caught up — after the saga was over. The EMS equivalent of this statement would be, “Sorry I didn’t take your 911 call for four days. At least I was in time for the funeral.” ...

Article here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Good brakes

Tonight's unusual automotive story:



Seems to me that as soon as you feel the bridge beginning to raise, you at least drive down to the lower hinge point, so that if your vehicle slips, it doesn't have far to go.

The other trillion

From the Wall Street Journal, on Barry the Prophet's other trillion dollar takeover:
The furor over President Obama's trillion-dollar restructuring of American health care has left his other trillion-dollar plan starved for attention. That's how much the federal balance sheet will expand over the next decade if Mr. Obama can convince Congress to approve his pending takeover of the student-loan market.

The Obama plan calls for the U.S. Department of Education to move from its current 20% share of the student-loan origination market to 80% on July 1, 2010, when private lenders will be barred from making government-guaranteed loans. The remaining 20% of the market that is now completely private will likely shrink further as lenders try to comply with regulations Congress created last year. Starting next summer, taxpayers will have to put up roughly $100 billion per year to lend to students. ...

Read the rest here.

Quote of the day

From Milton Friedman, economist and Nobel laureate, writing in 2002 on government waste:
When a man spends his own money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about how much he spends and how he spends it.

When a man spends his own money to buy something for someone else, he is still very careful about how much he spends, but somewhat less what he spends it on.

When a man spends someone else’s money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about what he buys, but doesn’t care at all how much he spends.

And when a man spends someone else’s money on someone else, he doesn’t care how much he spends or what he spends it on. And that’s government for you.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Not so smart phone

Tonight's Microsoft innovation:

In or Out?

This weekend's reading and general food for thought comes from Army veteran Mark Epstein, on a hypothetical armed revolution scenario:
... The thought of Americans engaging in armed revolt was unthinkable 12 months ago. After SEIU thugs beat-up a man attending a Town Hall meeting, other Americans showed-up at Town Hall meetings armed with semi-automatic weapons — including a meeting the president attended. There hasn’t been a union “beat down” of a Town Hall attendee since. The message is clear: Tyrants and bullies can be dealt with, even if it’s at the “business end” of a firearm.

Although the federal government is monitoring a number of known militia groups, these groups are not a threat to the government. The current threat to the federal government is the average American who realizes the federal threat to his personal freedoms and to his children’s freedoms and financial solvency. Americans are furious. They are not just angry. Moreover, many realize it may take the forceable removal of the Obama administration, as well as its direct and tacit supporters on both sides of the aisle, to restore our freedoms and sanity to Washington. Therefore, what follows is a “potential” scenario, which in no way should be construed as advocating an armed revolt against the federal government. ...

Read it here.

Quote of the day

From Chicago Boyz, on the unorganized militia:
The only part of the American national security establishment that successfully defended America on 9/11 was the portion of the reserve militia on board Flight 93, acting without orders, without hierarchy, without uniforms or weapons, by spontaneous organization and action.

More here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

How not to fly a helicopter

Tonight's human error aviation video:

Not czars, but commissars

From Bruce Walker, writing in the American Thinker:
The three dozen or so people that Barack Obama has surrounded himself with to handle this problem or that issue, and yet are not confirmed by the Senate or operating an agency created by Congress, are not really his "czars." These people are, instead, his "commissars." Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany both called those vague, undefined figures appointed by the Leader to carry out his intentions "commissars" (Hollywood never speaks of Nazi commissars for the same reason that it never notes that Nazi Party members called each other "comrade" - the pretense that Nazis and Bolsheviks were polar opposites rather than identical twins is too vital a myth to dispel.)

In our constitutional republic, government does not have a role in every part of life. That is why Congress has to create departments, agencies and administrations. Everything that the federal government does must, in some way, relate to its powers under the Constitution. The first cabinet offices dealt with clear cut federal duties - diplomacy, war, justice, money, and postal services. Before Congress creates a federal office, a threshold question is whether the Constitution allows the work of that office to be done by the federal government. That is the heart of limited government. ...

Read the rest here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

One guitar, four hands

Tonight's musical interlude - Jerry's Breakdown, performed by Antoine Dufour and Tommy Gauthier on a single guitar:




Neat.

Quote of the day

From ShrinkWrapped, examining the relationship between liberal elitism and fascism:
It takes a special kind of ignorant arrogance to imagine that the Republican intransigence is the major factor in the public's rejection of both Cap-and-Trade and the Healthcare abomination. Among other things, both pieces of legislation are incredibly complex, incredibly expensive, show no evidence of any awareness of the theory of unintended consequences, and have not even been read, let alone understood, by our politicians, including President Obama (challenged today by Senator DeMint to go line by line through the healthcare legislation; the contest would be as instructive as it is unlikely to ever occur.) This legislation is a "process disaster" even before any of the actual resulting dislocations that would occur.

Read the rest of his post here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What's "Virgin" mean?

Tonight's birds-and-bees explanation:

Gun totin' rabbis

From the Big Apple, comes this New York Post story:




From the NY Post article:
It's high noon for the high holidays.

Fearing jihadists will attack synagogues during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a group of badass rabbis has developed a program to turn your average shul-goer into a lean, mean fighting machine.

The group, which calls itself the International Security Coalition of Clergy, was founded by Rabbi Gary Moscowitz, who boasts a black belt in karate, teaches martial arts and was an NYPD cop for nine years.

He's teaching others basic and advanced fighting moves -- how to take down a terrorist by the neck, how to use a table as cover from gunfire and how to execute a nifty running somersault while drawing a gun -- that he says can be used by Jews if they're attacked by terrorists during prayer. ...

Read the rest here. I do note that the rabbi in the video appears to have poor trigger finger discipline. Perhaps he was an NYPD cop when they were still issued revolvers, and developed that unsafe habit (as did many other NYPD cops) with that (relatively) heavy trigger pull weapon. In fact, I believe one of the reasons Glock developed the NY-1 and later the even heaver NY-2 triggers for the Glock 19s that NYPD issues was due to the poor trigger finger discipline of the cops who carried revolvers. The NY-1 and NY-2 triggers also make the Glock trigger feel more "revolver like".

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Power boating, Darwin edition

Tonight's stupid boating mishap:

Not Labor's Day

Via Mish, from Dave Rosenberg, on last week's BLS unemployment report:
While the Obama economics team is pulling rabbits out of the hat to revive autos and housing, there is nothing they can really do about employment; barring legislation that would prevent companies from continuing to adjust their staffing requirements to the new world order of credit contraction. While nonfarm payrolls were basically in line with the consensus, declining 216,000 in August, there were downward revisions of 49,000 and the details were simply awful. The fact that 65% of companies are still in the process of cutting their staff loads is quite disturbing — even manufacturing employment fell 63,000 in August, to its lowest level since April 1941 (!), despite the inventory replenishment in the automotive sector and all the excitement over the recent 50+ print in the ballyhooed ISM index. The fact that temp agency employment is still declining, albeit at a slower pace, alongside the flat workweek and jobless claims stuck at 570,000, are all foreshadowing continued weakness in the labour market ahead. Until we see signs of a sustained turnaround in the jobs market all bets are off over the sustainability of any economic recovery.

What was really key were the details of the Household Survey, which provide a rather alarming picture of what is happening in the labour market.

First, employment in this survey showed a plunge of 392,000, but that number was flattered by a surge in self-employment (whether these newly minted consultants were making any money is another story) as wage & salary workers (the ones that work at companies, big and small) plunged 637,000 — the largest decline since March (when the stock market was testing its lows for the cycle). As an aside, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also publishes a number from the Household survey that is comparable to the nonfarm survey (dubbed the population and payroll-adjusted Household number), and on this basis, employment sank — brace yourself — by over 1 million, which is unprecedented. We shall see if the nattering nabobs of positivity discuss that particularly statistic in their post-payroll assessments; we are not exactly holding our breath.

Second, the unemployment rate jumped to 9.7% from 9.4% in July, the highest since June 1983 and at the pace it is rising, it will pierce the post-WWII high of 10.8% in time for next year’s midterm election. And, this has nothing to do with a swelling labour force, which normally accompanies a turnaround in the jobs market — the ranks of the unemployed surged 466,000 last month. ...

Read more here. Another counterpoint to the "green shoots" and talking heads crowd, and a reminder to take the time to parse the spin from the elected officials looters in Washington, D.C.

Monday, September 7, 2009

404 - File Not Found

Tonight's collection of unusual "404-File Not Found" error pages:



See the collection here, or click the image above.

Nebraska AG announces recognized permit list

From the Cornhusker State:
LINCOLN — Folks from Iowa, Kansas, Colorado and at least 31 other states are welcome to bring their concealed handguns into the Cornhusker State. But those from South Dakota and 11 other states are not.

That's the word from the Nebraska Attorney General's Office, which was required by a new state law to determine which states have comparable concealed handgun permit laws to Nebraska's. That determines which states' residents could legally carry concealed handguns in Nebraska, as well as their home state.

The review found that 34 states have standards equal to or greater than Nebraska's.

People who have obtained concealed weapons permits in those states have reciprocal rights here and can legally carry concealed weapons in Nebraska, said Leah Bucco-White of the Nebraska Attorney General's Office. ...

Article here, with map showing states whose permits Nebraska recognizes.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Google opt-out option

Tonight's satire from The Onion on Google's ("We’re just like Microsoft, only smarter") privacy policy: