Thursday, October 28, 2010

Quote of the Day

From Eric, by Terry Pratchett,
The Tezumen were happy.  When no amount of worshipping caused the Luggage to come back and trample their enemies they poisoned all their priests and tried enlightened atheism instead, which still meant they could kill as many people as they liked but didn't have to get up so early to do it.
Pratchett likes to poke fun at religion now and again, and with this quote, he demonstrates that atheists are fair game, too!

It annoys me when an atheist tries to make it seem that all conflict, all death and destruction, ever perpetuated on the Human Race was a direct result of religion--ignoring atheists like Robespierre, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao--or even going so far as to say they merely "borrowed" religious techniques.

As I have looked back on all the world's conflicts, ranging from the esoteric (The War of Jenkin's Ear) to the tragic (two World Wars, the Cold War, two Iraq wars, etc) it became clear to me what causes wars:  one group says "You will do X", and the other group says "Over our dead bodies."  In other words, it is strictly politics.

Since religion, economics, ears, land, resources, and so many other things, get caught up in politics, all these things--and much, much, more--can be traced to the cause of some war, somewhere.

Thus, the Libertarian ideal of "Do not initiate force against another person", if practiced by everyone, would do far more to establish peace, than any other principle that I could think of.

And this would be the case, despite whatever other wacky things individuals choose to believe!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Japanese-American Internment: Lesson Learned?

During the Intermission of the Scarlet Pimpernel, my brother and I got into a very brief argument about the need of a "League of the Scarlet Pimpernel".  I gave the example of Japanese-Americans in WWII, and he responded that those internment camps were far less harmful than the German concentration camps, and that we learned our lesson.

While I would grant that life wasn't taken by these camps, as Joe Huffman pointed out (search for "Japanese" in document), many Japanese citizens lost their homes, never to return to them, for the crime of having Japanese parents.  And they certainly lost their liberty during this time.

And who's to say that their lives were not in jeopardy?  What could have happened to them, had there been a Japanese terrorist attack on American soil?  Or if the war had gone longer, and we were in dire need of resources--including food?

And in a society that respects life, liberty and property--indeed, is founded on the principle that these are God-given rights, which governments are created to protect--how disturbing is it that our government trampled on two of those rights, without just cause?

My brother said we learned our lesson.  But, have we?  What evidence is there that we have?  The best that I can come up with is this:  when I learned about it in history, in public school, the textbooks lamely apologized for it, said that it was understandable for the time, and that we've paid reparations for it, so it's ok.

I have little confidence that we've learned our lesson here.

But what if it weren't a "lesson" for us to learn from?  What if it were a test?  We, the American People, should have done all in our power to prevent the Japanese, Italian, and German Americans from being rounded up, and to try to free those who have been rounded up...but we didn't.  Will this embolden the next Administration that decides something like this needs to be done?

And perhaps this was also a warning:  a signal that concentration camps can happen here, in the land of Liberty, and that, next time it happens, we need to act, and to act decisively.  We can't just look over the Atlantic and say, "Well, it happened in Germany because they were Germans, but we're Americans, so we'll get it right."

I once read an essay online--I can't find it now--that claims that the Government only gets one Waco.  I wish that were true, but only time could tell, and I have my doubts.  But another question we need to ask ourselves is this:  How many "Wacos", how many internment camps, do we get, before we recognize that the signs of tyranny are upon us, and that we need to act now to stop it?

And what do we do when tyranny is at our very doorsteps?

These are difficult questions.  I wish I had the answers to them.

The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel

I fear Revolution.  And I especially dread the possibility of French-style Revolution--where specific "enemies" are identified, gathered together, and executed.

In the past couple of years, as I was exposed to bits and pieces of "The Scarlet Pimpernel", the idea occurred to me:  In the event of such a Revolution, I should create a Scarlet Pimpernel Society, for the purpose of saving as many people from such groups as possible.

Last Saturday, my family took me to see "The Scarlet Pimpernel" played locally, in Theatre in the Round.  It was the first time I saw the musical in its entirety, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! even despite its sometimes cheesy musical score.

And I learned that the Proper Name for my society would be "The League of The Scarlet Pimpernel".

Seeing the play, and reading the program, also helped me to understand just how the French Revolution was different from the American one.  When we rebelled, we were pushing against continuous attempts of the British to try to "reign in" those American rogues.  We wanted to be free, and we didn't want masters ruling over us.  We wanted to be masters over ourselves.

When the French pushed against their masters, they immediately decided to become the new masters--and to execute any "master" of the old regime, and any who sympathised with that regime, regardless of innocence.  As Rose Wilder Lane explained, when the French rebelled, they merely overthrew the old masters, so that they could replace them with new ones, that hopefully wouldn't be as oppressive as the first.

I would also add that it would seem that England, even with aristocracy that was probably just as clueless as French aristocracy, probably avoided Revolution simply because they were more free--they had a greater tendency to respect life, liberty, and property--and that this freedom is far more ingrained in the English psyche than it is in the French.

And, to a large extent, I'm confident that Americans will be able to face adversity, and be more likely to come out of it with some semblance of freedom afterwards, because freedom is far more ingrained in the American psyche than it is in the English!

Friday, October 22, 2010

It's Still An Estate-Death Tax

This is the third post in response to Kent Pitman's blog posts.  In the first, I addressed his desire to gamble with Global Warming; in the second, I addressed his parable of George in relation to Global Warming.  This, the third post, has nothing to do with Climate Change.  Instead, I will address his take on the Estate Tax, and how those Evil, Scheming Republicans have started to call it a Death Tax (and Democrats have never changed the language to obfuscate the debate in their favor, of course :-).

After this, I will stop reading Kent's writings, except his technical least, I will try to.  These initial blogposts, especially, got under my skin, and I'm confident that if I continued to read Kent's blogposts, I'd get a severe case of eczema.

Kent Pitman wants to declare a $1.00 Tax on Death, so that Republicans would have to go back to calling the "Death Tax" an "Estate Tax", and so that Democrats can be on the Moral High Ground(TM) again, justifying the confiscation of yet more wealth.  There are a couple of problems with Kent's proposal.

First.  It doesn't matter what Kent wants to call his tax, it is still an Estate Tax.  you cannot tax someone who is dead; you cannot do anything to a dead person except to desecrate his body and tarnish his reputation--and since the person is dead, even these things don't really matter one whit to the person that's dead.  Thus, the only way you could collect this tax is by collecting it from his estate.  Hence, Kent's tax is as much an estate tax as the estate tax is a death tax.

Second.  Estates do not come into existence when someone dies.  If you want to, you could tax an estate before a person dies, as well as afterwards.  Indeed, property taxes are applied directly to the estate of an individual, so this is just as much an estate tax as a tax applied when a person dies.  Since the latter Estate Tax is applied when someone dies, it makes just as much sense to call it a death tax as it does an estate tax.

Now, apparently you don't believe that a rational person would want to get rid of the Death Tax.  I guess that means I can only give you some irrational reasons for getting rid of the Death Tax:
  • The Death Tax does not tax the wealthy.  The Bill Gates, William Buffetts, George Sorros, and Kennedys of the world hire armies of lawyers and accountants to make sure that the Government gets exactly what the Government asks of them, and not a penny more; and they have the clout to make sure that as many loopholes as possible are put into the laws as possible, so that "not a penny more" often means "not a penny".  Yet these people have the gall to insist on making taxes like this high.
  • The Death Tax is a tax on the middle class.  A family business could easily be worth $3 million on paper, but in practice only brings in $50,000 a year; thus, such a business owner cannot afford armies of lawyers and accountants.  Rather than continue family operations, such a business can be destroyed when the father dies, and the rest of the family have to pay Estate Taxes.  Historically, the Death Tax has been the death of many family businesses.
  • Even where the children have no interest in a business, or there's simply an estate, a Death Tax could destroy the retirement hopes of those children.  I know someone who barely makes enough for his family to make ends meet, and who has some hope in his father's estate for retirement.  While it's bleak hope--he's well aware that he could die before his father does--it's still hope.  And it's hope that could easily be dashed to pieces with a high enough of a Death Tax.
  •  What in the world has Government done that gives Kent any confidence that Government will know how to spend value from an Estate, better than the children of the parents of that estate would?  The children would have to do a lot of spending before they can even hope to achieve the levels Government Waste, even when taken on a percentage basis.

In closing, I will address this statement from Kent:
Hey, don't you always say you should tax people on what you don't want them to do. You don't want them to die, do you?
This is far more in line with what Democrats want to do, than what Republicans want to do; too many of these things, though, have been proposed by Republicans, and too many of such taxes have been able to get enough votes to pass, because of a few Republicans who have broken ranks.  Government, especially Federal Government, should get out of the business of regulating behavior, or of nudging behavior through taxes!  This is a major factor as to why taxes are so bad in the first place.  It's time we give up our deductions, so that we could have a simpler tax code!  And it's time we stop letting government gobble away our life's work, just so that some bureaucrat could pretend to do some good!

For the life of me, I can't think of one Rational Reason that a Democrat could provide on this issue.  Is it "Tax the Greedy Rich!  Except the Super Rich, of Course!"?  Or "Government is Wiser at Spending Money than YouThe Rich, Except the Super Rich!"  Or is it "The Person Is Dead!  Why Should He Want the Money Anymore?"

That Other George: A Parabolic Response

This is the second post in a series of three posts addressing blogposts by Kent Pitman.  In my first post, I addressed Kent's desire for us to "draw a line in the ice".

This second post is related to that, because Kent gives us a parable where he described his teddy bear George, which had a music box that one day broke--and he tried to fix it by repeatedly throwing it against the wall, because that worked the first time he tried it.  Naturally, this applies to Global Warming, because we broke our planet, and now we're just throwing it against the wall, figuratively speaking, in our attempts to fix it.

I will give another parable, in response to Kent's parable:  a car driver named George, who was having engine troubles.  He had never tried fixing his car before, and hasn't even read much about engines, but he figured, how hard can it be?

So he replaced the battery, and it ran for a little bit; he replaced the alternator, and that seemed to help for a little bit; he replaced the spark plugs, tightened the bolts, adjusted the belts, and tinkered with this or that.  Sometimes it seemed to help the problem...sometimes it seemed to make things worse.  Often it had no noticeable effect at all.

Then one day, his car stopped working:  the engine wouldn't even turn over.  So, at this point, George decided to give up, and take the car to the mechanic.  As soon as the mechanic opened the hood, he gagged, and exclaimed, "What did you do to this car?!?"  It was a mess; the car finally died because an over-tightened bolt popped off and put a hole in the oil-pan, which caused the engine to overheat due to lack of lubrication--so the engine fused together.  And the problem that started it all?  A bad solenoid.

The point of this parable is this:  sometimes tinkering with a "broken" engine makes things worse.  This is especially more likely if we don't know what we're doing!

Take Cap and Trade in Europe, for example.  Currently, carbon credits are almost worth nothing, so any business in Europe that wants to pollute is free to do so.  Of course, this came at the cost of coal and steel businesses moving their operations to other nations, and importing the coal and steel--thus, a net increase in carbon footprint, because we need coal and steel to build things and keep things running.

The problem is, society is a chaotic system, made of literally billions of people, each making decisions every minute, trying to figure out how to solve the problems that are before them.  Overall, we can expect individuals to act rationally--because that's the ultimate goal of each individual--but what may actually be rational might only be viewable in hindsight, when everyone has sorted through a bunch of semi-rational, and sometimes even downright irrational, decisions.  Sometimes it may take years to figure out why people have decided to do what they did.

This problem is compounded by the fact that the Earth's climate is also a chaotic system.  197 square miles of ocean, land, mountains, islands, oceanic trenches and rifts, volcanoes, sunlight, starlight, spacedust, magnetic fields, and whatnot--each of which is subject to random fluctuations.  This doesn't take into account the cubic miles of air above, filled with clouds, pollution, dust, ionic bands, trees, buildings, airplanes, birds, and so forth; nor does it take into account the volume below the water or the land.  And all this has been morphing for over four billion years.

For the past two hundred years or so, we've been measuring temperature of the surface, and we've even been doing it sort-of accurately--although there are plenty of irregularities.  We've then used this data to try to extrapolate temperatures for the past thousand or so years, based on tree rings, ice layers, and other data.  Because there are more things than just temperature that could affect tree growth, however, this is inherently less accurate than using thermometers.

Now, we're expected to take these measurements, that, at best, only tell us what the Earth was like for the last 1,000 years or so...and then use this to prognosticate what will happen decades into the future, when (1) we only have the last 1,000 years or so of data for a system your billion years old, and (2) there's always a danger when extrapolating data, and that danger gets worse the farther out we go, because anything can mess up the trend...whether it's a trend in population growth, or in business profits, or in rising temperatures, or what have you.

Then, from our "trustworthy" extrapolations, we're supposed to fix this dynamic, chaotic system we call Our Global Climate--which, due to its chaotic nature, will respond unpredictably with even the tiniest of changes.  (It is said that a butterfly in China could cause a hurricane in New Orleans--the so-called "butterfly effect".)

And the tool we are to use to do these effects?  We are to tax, and to regulate, and to control the Population.  We will use a Smart Grid to tell people when they could run their air conditioners, and when they will just have to "sweat it out"; we'll tell them when they can use their furnaces, and when to "put a sweater on"; we'll tell them what cars they could drive, when they could drive, how far they could drive; and we're just getting started!  The funny thing is that each of these things are meddlings with a chaotic system--the actions of billions of individuals--which, each one in and of itself will have unpredictable consequences--all to control Our Global Climate.

Ohhh, boy!  Butterfly-effect squared!

bound to save the world...isn't it?

And, unfortunately, if we mess things up, we don't have a mechanic to go to to make things better.

The Other Bet of High Stakes Gambling

In my pursuit of interesting things written about Common Lisp, I decided to visit Kent Pitman's website.  Unfortunately for me, the political voice is a lot louder than the technical voice on his website; this is the first of three posts that will address three of Kent's blogposts:  two on Global Warming, and another on the Estate, er, the Death, Tax.

After that, I will try to leave well enough alone, except for in the comments.

In the first post that I will address, Kent asks us to "draw a line in the ice" where we'll accept that Global Climate Change is happening, and then we'll do something about it.  In particular, he wants us to
call that what it is, shall we? It's gambling. High stakes gambling. Gambling with the fate of the world.
He then pointed out that, almost every single advice booklet on gambling advises us to set a limit where we are no longer willing to lose any more, and then stop, before we lose all.  Kent would like us, in particular, to decide how much more Climate Change we cannot handle, and then start to believe from there; he calls this "a line in the ice".

Kent would like us to believe that doing nothing will have catastrophic consequences, but doing something will Save the Planet(TM).  What that something is, I don't know, since even Kent admits that
There may be no sure plan to succeed, but at what point are you prepared to admit that the likelihood of disaster looms if we don't start to trust some plan. Probably meager stuff like reducing emissions by 20% won't do anything. I personally doubt anything like cap and trade will work. Leaving things to private individuals to handle as they see fit won't work—that's what we've done so far, and it isn't fixing things. Serious, coordinated changes will almost certainly be needed with how our whole society needs to operate, and we have to have a constructive dialog on that without partisan political bickering poisoning it.
But will doing something, anything, even if it doesn't work, really have no cost?  Consider:
  • Cap and Trade will put an enormous burden on businesses, that could cripple not just the economy, but our abilities to produce the food, machinery, and distribution necessary to feed six billion people--are we prepared for massive unemployment, or even famine, caused by such a bone-headed move?
  • Global Climate Change, to the extent that it may be a threat to our existence, isn't the only threat.  It isn't even the only plausible effect.  Are you prepared for the possibility that the Rules, Regulations, and Taxes put into place today could very easily destroy the resources, initiative, and drive that will be necessary if we are to survive the entirety of Yellowstone National Park magma coming to the surface, or a large asteroid hitting the Earth?
  • Are you prepared to bet that the loss of freedom and money will be worth it, and will never, or at least be very highly unlikely to be repealed, even if, despite your deepest convictions, Global Climate Change proved to be nothing to worry about after all?
  • At what point are you willing to back off of the Rules and Regulations put forth as "necessary" to stop Global Warming?  Will you stop at One Child Only and Forced Sterilization?  Or Let the Sick and Elderly Just Die?  Or Let's Select a Sub-Population And Quietly Liquidate Them?
  • For that matter, what technologies are you prepared to give up on?  Are you prepared to give up flying on private jets?  (I doubt that Kent regularly flies on private jets, but Al Gore and Arianna Huffington, among others, do so on a regular basis.)  Public jets?  Driving in cars?  Long-distance food?  Computers--especially those massive server banks maintained by the likes of Google?
  • If we are to consider all actions, regardless of cost, are you prepared for the over-correcting that may occur as we pump carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, fertilize the oceans so that algae and plankton could thrive in places where they aren't thriving, release chemicals into the air to break down methane and condense water vapor?  That is, are you prepared for the starvation and loss of habitat that would be the result of another ice age, that may be caused by us?
  • Are you prepared for the possibility that, even though we may be the cause of Global Warming, that such warming may very well be at the eve of a natural Ice Age, and that Global Warming may very well be what keeps the Earth in balance?
It should be kept in mind that every single threat to us via Global Warming is hypothetical, and it is decades in the future.  As Kent should know, a decade in our highly technical society is a very long time, and we have the means to deal with these threats, as they slowly encroach upon us.   But one thing that isn't hypothetical, is this:  Rules and Regulations have killed 100 million people this last century, and have made the lives of hundreds of millions of people this last century completely, utterly miserable.

And if you don't think that regulations can't hamper our abilities to respond to crisis, consider this:  we can't build nuclear power plants, which would be crucial to get our cars off of hydrocarbon fuel.  (An electric or hydrogen car that gets its energy from coal powered plants is still a hydrocarbon car.)  And, even if we could build them, we still have tons of nuclear waste, that could be drastically reduced if we could just recycle that fuel.

But we can't recycle it.  Jimmy Carter said so, by Executive Order, for fear of terrorists getting a hold of the product of recycled nuclear waste.  Yet another regulation putting us in danger, in the Name of Safety(TM).

Finally, are you willing to bet all of this, when the science itself has some troubling flaws that need to be addressed--both with regards to data integrity, and with regards to the peer process itself?  Considering that CRU represents a major portion of Climate Science, about a third of Climate Research has been tainted by Climategate.

I, for one, have my line drawn in the ice--I could care less if the polar ice caps disappear.  It won't be the first time that the Earth had been ice-cap free, and it certainly won't be the last.  And life on this planet has adapted every time.  My question to you, dear Global Climate Alarmist, is this:  where will you draw your line in the sand?  At what point will you say, "Get your government off my freedom?"

Live free or die, for death is not the worst of all evils.

If the Democrats are Redcoats...

As I drove to work this morning, someone on the radio said that the Democrats are Redcoats--that is, they are literally destroying our freedoms, and we need a Revolution--and fortunately, wo can accomplish this Revolution via the ballot box.

Now, if the Democrats are Redcoats, what does that make Republicans?  My vote is for Tories, because they are people who ought to be for freedom, but more often than not, they aren't.

Intolerance is now a medical condition?

I am currently working with medical data at my work.  Sprinkled among that data are Medicare/Medicaid codes of various conditions, that have now become rather standard in the medical industry.  As I checked up on my list of extracted codes, I noticed this one:
SNM:102461004    increased intolerance    CODE
It seems now that increased intolerance is now something diagnosable.  I wonder what treatments are available for hate?

Actually, I have a funny feeling that here, "increased intolerance" means "we're giving the guy the medicine, but it's not working as effective as before" rather than "yeah, I used to like hippies, but you know, they've been getting on my nerves lately".  :-)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Getting a nebulizer

My son is currently having respiratory problems:  he's congested, and he wheezes a bit.  We're a little bit afraid that he may have gotten asthma while we lived briefly in our old place--after all, he slept in the room that seemed hardest hit by the "funny smell" problem.  We took him (and his sister, too, who had some problems as well) to the doctor--who then tried a certain ashma medication on both.  Since it seemed to have no effect on my daughter, but seemed to improve my son's breathing, my daughter got a prescription for antibiotics, and my son got a prescription for this asthma medication.

When we looked into purchasing a nebulizer for our own use, we discovered a funny thing:  nebulizers, locally bought, are expensive, but we could find incredibly cheap nebulizers on the internet.  I wonder why that is, but I suspect that part of it may be that some on-line companies that sell nebulizers don't accept insurance, so they don't have to accept The Game that insurance companies--especially State Ones, like Medicare, Medicaid, and New York's Empire Plan--play:  they cover part of the cost, and demand that the patient only pays a certain amount, and expect the provider of the good or service to "eat" the rest.

Since we needed a nebulizer immediately, we couldn't buy one online, but we decided to rent one for this month, and if we needed to, we would then buy one at the end of this month.

As I've used this nebulizer, though, I've come to understand exactly what it is:  a simple air compressor that atomizes a liquid--indeed, it only pumps air to the little piece of plastic that actually does the atomizing--to make it breathable for infants and toddlers, who can't use an inhaler properly.  Having learned this, it would seem reasonable to expect that such a device would only cost $35 to $60 (on-line only--more expensive models may also have been available)...and that the $100 to $210 price tag on locally-sold devices seems uncalled-for!

In the end, it's probably best that we rented:  although this drug seemed to help in the doctor's office, now that we've tried it for a week, it seems to have had no effect on my son's breathing.  It's likely we'll be trying antibiotics on him, too.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Examples of Failures of LEDs

While driving around this morning, I noticed a few LED arrarys in traffic lights that are dying:  one red light, and two green lights.  Each light has patches that were dark, and patches that were flickering at various states of brightness.

Besides wondering what the heck is causing these LEDs to die in this way (could it be a ban on lead solder?), these lights have caused me to ask another question:  Is LED lighting really ready to take the place of incandescents?

I currently rent my home, and both finances and space are tight for me.  Thus, stockpiling incandescent lights are impractical at this moment.  I hate fluorescent lights, so I have hopes that LEDs will be ready and affordable after incandescent lights are banned.  And while I expect that the Free Market will win in the end, we, unfortunately do not have a Free Market--as illustrated by the ban of incandescent light bulbs.

But seeing these lights flicker have caused me to wonder:  will the LED lights really last as long as claimed?  We already know that fluorescent lights don't--turning them on and off like we do incandescents are abusive to those lights, as is putting them in enclosures and in ceiling fans.

We really should let the Free Market work these details out!

When will we say "Enough!"?

This last weekend, I attended a family reunion for my wife's first cousins.  During one of the evenings, the discussion turned to building permits, to home owner associations, and other such nonsense.  Among the stories:
  • Someone built a shed five or six square feet beyond the limit before requiring a building permit.  Because a building permit was too expensive, the person tore down the building, and then built a two-story shed exactly one square feet below the minimum.  Furthermore, this person spent most of his money building the first shed, and so this new shed was built a plank at a time, producing a significant eyesore for the neighborhood.
  • Another person added a room to his house.  In order to afford the permit, he had to put in two little windows, and only four outlets per wall--but quietly made provisions to expand the window, and add more outlets, after he was finished.  While the inspector was angry afterward, this person made it clear to the inspector, and later, to the judge, that it was legal to alter his home without a building permit.
  • A person managed to move into a new neighborhood without signing Home Owner Association papers; thus, he painted his house freely, without regard to HOA restrictions.  Somehow, the HOA managed to find a loophole anyway (I can't remember the details), and required this person to paint his home using Approved Colors(TM).  So he did:  he chose a drab brown, and then painted his entire house that color.  He then refused to water his grass, and when the HOA complained, he just painted it green.
We swapped several more stories like this, which I won't go into at this time--some of which I don't even remember--but throughout all this, I kept asking myself:  when will we say "Enough!"?  When will we stand up, and demand our Liberties, which is the birthright of every American?

In particular, why do we put up with Home Owner Associations?  I've seen these neighborhoods, and they are drab, boring, and soulless...but then, I suppose that's what you get when you care more about your property walues than you do about your neighbor's freedoms.

When will we say to our local governments, "I don't need your permission to build on my property!"?

And when will we say to local, state, and even federal, inspectors:  "I will build to whatever code I see fit to build to--and if I build a fire hazard, or a house that will collapse in an earthquake, or a house where the ceiling collapses--then I will take responsibility for it myself, up to and including manslaughter for the death of those I love!"?

At what point will we start to stand up to these subtle--and, in many cases, not so subtle--attacks on our liberties?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A New Snow Ordinance

Today I learned on the radio that Salt Lake County is considering an ordinance to require people to shovel their sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowstorm, or face a $50 to $100 fine.  The purpose of this is to make Salt Lake more pedestrian, bike, and wheelchair friendly.

Have these people no heart?  Consider, especially, that provisions are not made for the following:
  • Those with disabilities,
  • Widows,
  • Single mothers with young children,
  • Families on vacation,
  • Those attempting to sell an empty house, possibly while out-of-state.

It's up to the goodness and kindness of the hearts of the officers, and later, the judges, enforcing this ordinance, to make exceptions for such cases.

The article I linked to blames "absentee landlords" and "businesses" as the worst offenders.  Isn't it the tenant who is responsible, and not the landlord?  Oh, wait, it is, except for those big apartment complexes--but even then, will there be no sympathy for those landlord companies that have enough staff to fix things, but not enough to make the rounds for shoveling the snow for all their properties--and who may not be able to pay for extra help, because it's monstrously difficult to hire new people (thank you, IRS!), and because they may already be operating "close to the metal"?

Furthermore, if I recall correctly, if a business is next to a sidewalk, and that sidewalk is next to a street (very common in downtown Salt Lake), then that business owner cannot legally shovel that snow into the street.  For the longest time, I've wondered what business owners are supposed to do with that snow.

Clarification:  It was my original understanding (from the radio blurb) that this ordinance was new; according to this article, though, that this ordinance has been around for twenty years, and this is just an attempt to make it more strict.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Martial Arts Pirate Alert!

I've been seeing these "9mm Won't Save You" advertisements all over the place, and just now, I finally decided to click on an ad, and see what they're claiming. Among their claims:
  • How to get away from a larger attacker who surprises you. (It's instantaneous, keeps you safe from any blows, and puts him so "off-balanced" he's toast for your next move. And the beauty is... the bigger he is, the easier it is for you to do this!)
  • How to snatch a loaded gun right out of a "Gangsta's" hand so [darn] fast it will literally tear his trigger finger off! (And then immediately, without even thinking about it, put him down for the count without even skipping a beat.)
  • How to break up the most common street attacks with a single, simple move. (Instantly "cancels out" anything an experienced street fighter can throw at you.)
  •  And while I'm CERTAINLY NOT going to promise you will become a TRAINED KILLER overnight...

              I CAN guarantee you will have the skills, confidence and near-magical ability to protect your family in a violent attack and NEVER fear any man ever again.
Can we say "Martial Arts Cult"?

Dogs and The End of the World

I will not try to disentangle the tangent-web that led me to a couple of articles about dogs, except to say that I think it involved "Tactical Carbine" classes, Mall Ninjas, and (I am absolutely certain about this last bit) the acronym "TEOTWAWKI".

For those who don't know, TEOTWAWKI means "The End of the World as We Know It".  I had to google the term, and in the process, I discovered these:
These articles can be summed up as follows:  If everyone lost their jobs, they'll let their pets loose, and a pack of 45 wild dogs with no fear of humans will be a VERY scary thing to face, even if you are carrying a lot of rounds of ammunition.  Oh, and I forgot to tell you:  either you're a predator, or you're prey, and all those PETA activists have been trying their darnedest to make us prey.

Although I try to imagine, every once in a while, what I would do if our society collapsed one way or another, I wouldn't consider myself a survivalist per se.  Nonetheless, these articles are interesting to think about!  And it doesn't take much imagination to see how the wild-dog scenario could arise, even without complete societal collapse.

Oh, and my favorite quote from these two articles is this:
Arizona recently outlawed trapping. When this happened, I wrote the rule (predator or prey) and stated that the coyotes would start attacking children within five years. I was wrong, it only took two years. In Phoenix last summer two children out playing where attacked and mauled by coyotes, luckily they survived the attack.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rhythm, revisited

A little while ago I wrote a post, where I stated that it's tricky to get the rhythm of blogging right.  It still is, but that's not what this post is about.  :-)

A couple of days ago, after dinner, I loaded up the dishwasher to get it ready to go.  That  may not seem like news, but after two months of moving, getting a new washer and dryer, worrying that the washer is 220 Volts (what the heck?!?), discovering that the washer plugs into the dryer, unloading boxes, filling drawers, etc, it was nice to be able to load the dishwasher after dinner, roll it into place, and start it.

I think we're beginning to find the rhythm of our new place.  And that's a good thing! (although we still have a ways to go....)

Bullets without Brains?

Sebastian has analysis that challenges MAIG's latest study; I felt he did a good job at addressing the issues, and came to good conclusions.  I'm not quite willing to say it's perfect, but more because I don't trust my fuzzy memory of statistics, than because of any flaws Sebastian may have made.

I am a mathematician, after all, and not a statistician.

In his post, however, Sebastian linked to this article from the UK, discussing a UK police department relaxing the requirements for gun registration.  There are a few things in this article that cause me to cringe, and I wanted to point them out, independent from Sebastian's analysis.

First:  "A bullet doesn’t have a brain, its only intention is to kill."  How the heck can something that has no brain have any intentions?  Are bullets shot at a target just itching to kill something?  A bullet is nothing more than some sort of substance--usually metallic, but not necessarily--propelled by some means.

A bullet has no intentions, and it cannot have any intentions, unless we put some sort of decision mechanism in the bullet itself.  It merely follows the laws of acceleration and inertia, and when it comes to its resting place, it merely follows laws of energy transfer, dependent on the materials it comes in contact with.

Thus, this is a stupid statement, meant to rile up emotions against the police department.

Second:  Lucy Cope, of Mothers Against Guns, stated:

“That is a horrendous idea. The one [registrant] they skip could be the one.
“The blood will be on their hands.
"A bullet doesn’t have a brain, its only intention is to kill.
“Are Bedfordshire Police saying we will save money, but not lives?
“It’s sending out a very weak message.
"If they’re not doing checks, how to they know the gun is in the house?”

Mrs. Cope is essentially claiming that the Police can read the minds of those who apply for gun ownership, and that they can magically predict those who will, or who won't, use guns for nefarious purposes.  What makes the Mrs. Cope think that the Police--or any human, for that matter--are able to do this?  And why should the Police be responsible for the actions of any other person than themselves?  And, finally, is Mrs. Cope willing to admit that she herself has blood on her hands, when someone would have defended their life from a mugger, rapist, or murderer, but couldn't, because the gun they would have used has been banned?

The problem with Mrs. Cope's statement is this:  she believes that humans have no free will, and that humans kill each other because "bullets intend to kill" and, because they lack brains, they have to vicariously live their desires through humans.  Unfortunately for her claims, it is humans with brains that have free will, and it is because of this, that the police cannot predict who will, or will not, kill people.

Finally:  "Lucy Cope...created [the] anti-gun campaign group Mothers Against Guns after her son was shot outside a London nightclub in 2002."

This is a story about the registration of shotguns--guns that are very awkward to carry around in a place, like London, where carrying a bicycle chain for self defense purposes is illegal.  Is it possible that he was shot with a shotgun?  Yes.  Is it likely?  Heck no!  It's far more likely that he was shot with a pistol--a pistol that has been banned since 1998.

But it isn't just about handguns.  All sorts of violent crime has increased since the banning of pistols, including gun deaths.  Would Mrs. Cope have been satisfied had her son been stabbed to death instead?  Or strangled with a rope?  Or would she have preferred her son's head to be smashed in with a hammer, or a rock?  Or beat to death with fists and feet?

Mrs. Cope would do well to ask herself:  is she really against guns?  Or is she against violence?  I, for one, am against violence, and I would like to see everyone be committed to non-violent action whenever possible.  An important key to ending violence, however, is legalized, justifiable, self defense.  And pistols are the most important self-defense tool we have.