Thursday, February 28, 2013

If This is Right

Michael Ramirez, probably my favorite editorial cartoonists, posted this earlier this week: 2/25.
Ramirez, of course, doesn't write analysis.  I don't know where he got the figures, and the deficit appears too small, but let's say he's right.

The 40% difference in overall size  3.8 - 2.7 is 0.9 (Trillion).  The deficit?  0.9 trillion.  The 40% larger "budget" isn't all increase in deficit; since the deficit was 161 B in 2007.  The growth in the deficit is 901-161 or 740 B larger.  740/900 says 82 % of the growth in the budget is deficit spending.

From other sources we know the Federal Reserve is creating about $85 billion/month.  Over a year, that's even more than the deficit - $1020 billion.  That says 113% of the deficit is being created out of thin air.  So the Fed is not just funding the deficit by buying out bonds, they're pumping money into the economy at large; probably the major banks.  "Pumping" in the same sense as pumping air into a tire: inflating the economy.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Pick For Secretary of Defense

It's a shame the execrable Chuck Hagel was confirmed as SecDef, and while it was largely a party line vote, and the Evil Party still controls the Senate.  Frankly, I'm disappointed with Rand Paul's explanation of why he voted for him.   Hagel is an embarrassment.  The fact that the Iranian opposition in exile is against him while the current Iranian government endorsed him tells me that it was not likely a disinformation campaign on their side to get us to nominate someone else.  A very likely scenario for the new SecDef and his crew to war game is a problem with Iran.  He's pretty much on their side - like the president. The fact that Louis Farrakhan endorsed Hagel is another straw against him. 

Plus, the guy looks like a milquetoast.  Just not threatening looking enough.  I think we should have a guy who's not just tough, but looks like he just might be crazy enough to push that shiny button.  Fred Thompson is tough, and believable, but doesn't have the crazy I'm looking for.  I'm thinking more like Jack Elam.
This is Jack in one of his saner looking roles, Dr, Van Helsing (yes!) in "The Cannonball Run".  When he points a gun at you, you think "this guy is crazy enough to kill me for no good reason".  America's enemies should think that way about us.  Not as the bankrupt, doddering, weak old fools they currently do.

OK, technically, being dead and all, we can't have Jack as Secretary.  And it's too late, anyway.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sequestration Fun Facts

Working on some ideas that just won't fit together.  So a minor continuation of the previous piece:
Glenn McCoy at

The most important thing I forgot to mention, and really should have emphasized, is that the sequester isn't even a real cut.  As the cartoon says, it's a spending reduction, a DC cut, which means it just slows the rate of increase.  Spending still goes up, even including mythical decreases out at ten years, where nothing will ever happen as planned.  This plot, by economist Veronique de Rugy for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, shows the story. 
The Media Research Center.

Makes it hard to stomach those lies from the Evil Party, doesn't it? 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Careening From Crisis To Crisis

It's really simple.  The reason for the panic over the "sequester" - a few percent of spending - is the same as the panic over the debt ceiling before it, and the panic over the fiscal cliff and the panic over, well, everything for the last few years.  The reason is that the congress refuses to pass a budget.  One of their main constitutional duties is to pass a budget.  Instead, they work by Continuing Resolution, sticking spending bills as riders onto anything else that happens to be gathering enough votes to pass.

And you can't pass a budget and act like reasonable adults if you're trying to keep the country in a constant state of crisis.  After all, you don't ever want to let a good crisis go to waste.  Instead, you line up a bunch first responders (or actors paid to dress like them) and prattle on about firemen not be paid, police not being paid, teachers not being paid - all the while knowing the people watching won't think "wait a minute, those people don't get paid by Washington".  It's the same whenever any government body gets funding cut: go to scare tactics and line up police and firemen.  They never suggest cutting stupid waste - they try to scare taxpayers.  We can't cut the algae to diesel fuel energy program?  The turtle tunnels under roads?  Does the Mandatory Airport Art get funded by them?  That's an easy cut.  How about the corn for ethanol idiocy, excuse me, subsidy, which seems to exist only because Iowa has the first presidential caucus?    

The CBO says the sequester will amount to $44 billion in cuts this year.  The last time we had a budget, it was about $4.4 Trillion, $4400 Billion, with 2.2B of that revenue, and the rest from deficit spending (mostly made up out of thin air).  That makes this "world-ending" cut about 2% of revenue.  $4400 billion dollars over 365 days is just over $12 billion per day, and the sequester costs less than 4 days spending.  Even if CBO is wrong (they often are) and the full $85 billion is cut this year, that basically only doubles those numbers above.  Instead of cutting 4 days of spending, they cut 8 days of spending out of 365.  BFD!

Look, if we can't handle that small a cut, when we need to cut about 50%, we may as well just dig the grave and cover the country over now.  We're never getting out of this mess.  The presidents assertion that we fix this by "closing loopholes" is laughable - or it would be if idiots didn't pass that on as some sort of Gospel Revelation.  You could confiscate every penny - tax 100% of the income of "the rich" and not fix this mess.  The president's claim is class warfare demagoguery. 

And the next crisis is that we run out of money on March 27, again.  All because Harry Reid is afraid to pass a budget that might make him lose plausible deniability.  Allow us to see just what they are really spending - how much and on what.  They want it this way. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Today, I'm three years old.  Well, the first post was actually on February 21, not the 24th, but that was a Sunday, and I've come to think of the closest Sunday as the anniversary date. 
I never knew there was PSP game called The Third Birthday, so thanks to them for great third anniversary image complete with enough apocalyptic imagery to fit in perfectly here.  Now if the girl was Ben Bernanke, that would be perfect. 

I think I need brain bleach for that thought.

As I've said before my overall approach to this blog reflects something I've said before: bad times are coming.  Survival is for cockroaches; let's thrive.  Someone has to know how to make things

I try to post something every day.  Borepatch, Tam, Bayou Renaissance Man; you guys have my admiration.  I'll be first to admit it can be difficult and sometimes there just isn't anything there.  Every now and then my muse goes and does her hair or something.  This year I aim to post worthwhile reading, even if it isn't every day.  Most of the folks who put up several posts everyday tend to put up shorter things than I seem to be capable of writing. 

As I tend to say every year, I have no idea how long I'll be here, but here's to the ride!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Little Musical Interlude

This girl is amazing.

As you see, her name is Joanne Shaw Taylor.  From her bio page:
"Last year I heard something I thought I would never hear... a British White Girl playing blues guitar so deep and passionately it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!" (Dave Stewart/Eurythmics)
You can say you heard her at the beginning.
"She plays with more attitude and flare than most. Massive potential here. Inspiring."
Guitarist magazine

"Joanne IS the new face of the blues"
Blues Matters

223 Day of Resistance - After "Action"

The closest meeting place for the Day of Resistance meetings in the US was close to my home town, so of course we went. 
I'm sure there are readers who will envy our 86 degree weather, but it was a bit uncomfortable when the sun was out.  I'm going to estimate the group was around 200 people; a lot of constitutional restoration signs were on display, along with strong second amendment support.  This wasn't an open carry rally, but while open carry is generally illegal in Florida, it is legal if you're fishing or hunting, or on your way to or from either.  Since this little park is on the Indian River (a saltwater lagoon), at least one guy was carrying a fishing rod and open carrying in a thigh holster.  I think it's safe to say that most of the group was armed. 
The content was a little thin.  We did have the chairman of the county commission vow to oppose any efforts by the feds to restrict our rights, and since our Sheriff was one of the first in the state to sign the petition vowing to stand by our R2KBA, it sounds as good as we can ask for in our little corner of the FUSA. The commissioner's wife gave a rousing speech (she's in a minor office, not specifically related to  the 2A) and another couple of speakers rounded out the day, urging us to gather momentum, contact our elected officials, and keep up the pressure ... interspersed with a talented couple of kids - young girls - who sang.
I didn't notice this guy's III-per sign until I was editing the pictures to post.  My III-per patch is on a jacket and 86 is not jacket weather.  It was more like T-shirt weather

Friday, February 22, 2013

Happy Engineers Week

This is not a joke.

There really is such a thing as National Engineers Week.  Personally, I'd never heard of it until I went to work for Major Electronics Manufacturer almost 17 years ago.  We make a bit of a big deal about it, with a recognition program for "Engineer of the Year" posters, pictures of the winners and such.  If you get picked to the final group, you get a nice bunch of mementos, and a picture with a VP.

Whenever the topic of famous engineers comes up, after the one or two people that most folks think of  -- Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates are most folks' limit - the conversation gets kind of quiet.  I hardly even ever hear people mention Woz anymore and only old guys will mention Neil Armstrong or Werhner Von Braun.  In reality, look around you.  If it isn't grown or used out of the ground, an engineer was involved in getting it to you.  A machinist probably made the first one, and after that, mass production takes over.  (lots of exceptions to this, obviously).

Probably the most popular example of the forgotten inventor "engineer" that magazines like to bring up is Hedy Lamarr.  You might recognize her name as an actress from long ago - the 30s and 40s - when she was considered one of the most beautiful and glamorous women in the world.  But she was also a mathematician who invented and patented - along with a piano player she knew named George Antheil - a system known today as frequency hopping spread spectrum.  Her purpose was to allow US radio controlled torpedoes to escape jamming by the Nazis.  Their system relied on the technology an actress and a piano player had available; piano rolls.  The piano rolls coded the channel a radio could be tuned to.  The torpedo and ship would use the same sequence on their rolls, and were synchronized by motors that were started at the same time.  They wouldn't stay in sync, since the motors were separated by large, increasing distances, and both ends were subject to random mechanical errors, but they would stay in sync well enough.  Lamarr and Antheil offered the patent to the US Navy with no royalties, but the Navy wasn't interested, and did not use the system in WWII.  I've read they did use it after the patent expired, around the time of the Cuban missile crisis, but other methods of designing jam-resistant systems were becoming available then.
I've seen her referred to as the inventor of modern wireless and cellphones but that's too much of a stretch for me.  Frequency hopping is important but modern systems are way beyond that level of complexity.  Celebrate her for what she did.

Personally, I'm a little creeped out by the engineers who have become politicians.  Ex-president and Hesbollah fan club member for life Jimmy Carter is one.  Chinese president Hu Jintao is a hydraulics engineer and premier Wen Jiaobao is a geochemical engineer.  I'd rather identify with guys like Tom Sholz, guitarist for Boston, and one of the main inventors of their distinctive sound.  Tom was a lead product designer for Polaroid, with BS and MS degrees in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, before making the break to music.  A guy who went the other way is John Tichy, who went from playing for Commander Cody (no, not Hot Rod Lincoln) to department head of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Rest of the People Are Starting to Notice

Michael Bane's Podcast this week draws on a couple of articles that focus on what seems to be the growing momentum to civil disturbance on levels no living American has seen.  If not outright, open war.

In PJ Media, commentator Paul Hsieh writes, "Would New Gun Laws Strike Widespread Civil Disobedience?"  You should read the whole thing (RTWT).  He starts with
1)  The strongest advocates of each side hold fundamentally irreconcilable positions.
2)  Ordinary Americans have declared their willingness to disobey the law.
3)  Local law enforcement officials and state governments have also vowed civil disobedience.
... During Obama’s first term, many on the Left who were frustrated by their inability to fully impose their political agendas repeatedly invoked the mantra that America was “ungovernable.” If the president’s gun-control proposals become law, they haven’t seen anything yet.
He's right.  There is no possible agreement between "civilians should not be allowed to own an assault rifle", or the blunter, "weapons of war don't belong on our streets" and the modern, post-Heller interpretation of "shall not be infringed". 

In American Thinker, Neil Snyder writes "President Obama has set in motion forces he can't handle".  Again, RTWT.  While not about the gun argument per se, it focuses on how divisive the "community organizer in chief is", how good he is at setting neighbor against neighbor.
President Obama has done one thing superbly well: he has demonstrated skill par excellence on a national scale as a community organizer. He is second to none when it comes to inciting, agitating, race baiting, stoking fears, and motivating the masses. If you discount voter fraud, more than anything else, those skills got him re-elected. But like a snowball gathering momentum as it rolls down a hill, the forces that he has unleashed will be impossible to stop without pain and suffering.
 All in all, they are sobering, as was the podcast.  It's no longer just us nutty bloggers that are seeing the tide moving.  Keep on prepping.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Tragedy in Short Form

I remember seeing somewhere, some when, what was billed as the shortest tragedy ever written.  Two sentences. Six words.  Rumored to have been written by Ernest Hemingway. 
For sale: baby shoes.  Never worn. 
While sitting at a light in traffic, vegging, not looking at anything, and waiting for things to move, somehow the car in front of me caught my attention.  In the rear window of a nice pickup truck one of those decals, of a form that's pretty common around here:
In loving memory
8/23/04 - 11/24/04
It sunk in.  Three months??  Immediately below, on the tailgate, this.
A short story. A tragedy. Three words, two dates and a magnet.  A marker for the holes in two hearts. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

One Good Thing About Obama

Is that you never run out of stupid ideas to make fun of.

Raising the minimum wage to $9?  Actually, the mere fact that Obama wants to do it and that Paul Krugman is endorsing it ought to tell you that it's not a smart thing to do. 

I'm tired of arguing over this issue because, to be honest, I'm always right and I always lose.  I'm right because I say it will cost the jobs of the people it's trying to protect and it will lead to inflation.  Those things then happen.  And I always lose because not enough politicians have the guts to stand against a minimum wage increase. 

Earth to liberal economists: your ideas never work.  Where I come from, people whose ideas never really work out get fired. 

Didn't work?  You guys did so well with Cash for Clunkers, taking used cars off the market that low-wage people need to buy, and raising the price of used cars by 10% in a matter of a few weeks.  Not to mention costing taxpayers $24,000 per car and paying 12 times the going carbon trading price for the tiny mileage improvements.  You need to be an Ivy League academic to screw up that bad.  You did so well for low pay employees, by imposing the mandatory health care act so that employers cut back their hours to keep them well under 30 hours, so that now they need two part time jobs - and desperately need that good used car to get between jobs.  If I were on minimum wage, I think I'd be screaming at you to STOP TRYING TO HELP ME!!! 

So what unintended consequences will come from a $9 minimum wage?  Zendo Deb at 357 Magnum points out a robotic hamburger maker to replace those expensive workers.  The machine just got cheaper with every nickel of minimum wage increase.  Heck, in China, where workers are much cheaper than over here, restaurants are going to robotic staffs to wait tables and do most of the cooking.  The robotics industry forecasts that service robots - medical, cleaning, milking - will be the fastest growing segment of robotics.  Right now, demand is so high that manufacturers can't keep up.

Want to bet robotic waiters and burger makers are going to come here?  There are jobs that just aren't going to be worth $9/hr - if the shop or restaurant owner can't make enough profit from the employee.  You can be sure some people will have their hours and pay cut, or will lose their job completely.  
Hooters will never be the same...

Monday, February 18, 2013

It's Not About Guns - 2

Two weeks ago, I wrote "It's Not About the Guns, and Maybe It's Not Even About Control", where I speculated that
Maybe they - the ruling class, the self anointed coastal progressives who want to lead us "forward" - maybe they just hate you and me.
Many more well reasoned articles are coming out on this subject.  Author Jarrett Stepman writes "Gun Culture vs. The Culture of Dependency" in Human Events last week.  He claims the real reason for the rush for gun control at far greater urgency than the facts warrant is that the liberal/progressive world view can't stand our independence.  It can't accept that we are responsible for ourselves and our families.
The debate over gun control is, at its core, a larger conflict over culture and an individual’s relation to government. It is a culture war between those who value independence and individual liberty and those that value community coercion and dependence on the government; between a culture that values individual rights and the “self-made man” and one that says that “you didn’t build that,” and that rights come from positive law and the government.
The left fears independence and blames capitalism for gun violence.  In face of such a belief, there is no reason to think "just some reasonable restrictions" are all they are after.   They are after all of it: every last gun, no matter how old the technology or the gun, no matter whether it's a scary black rifle, or highly figured walnut.  To quote a writer from the Daily Kos, as Stepman does,
The only way we can truly be safe and prevent further gun violence is to ban civilian ownership of all guns. That means everything. No pistols, no revolvers, no semiautomatic or automatic rifles. No bolt action. No breaking actions or falling blocks. Nothing. This is the only thing that we can possibly do to keep our children safe from both mass murder and common street violence.

Unfortunately, right now we can’t. The political will is there, but the institutions are not. Honestly, this is a good thing. If we passed a law tomorrow banning all firearms, we would have massive noncompliance. What we need to do is establish the regulatory and informational institutions first.
The ignorance of history, the sheer stupidity displayed here, is mind-boggling.  Every mass murder in history that claimed above a hundred, every mass murder that claimed into the millions was caused by the sitting government over those murdered millions.  What they're asking for is the complete opposite of the "safety" they yearn for.  But the paradox is that violence is inherent in the big controlling government at the heart of  left-wing philosophy!  That's the topic of Andrew Klavan on PJ Media writing about how Christopher Dorner became a leftwing hero.
Haven’t you noticed this? The American left is always waxing hysterical about right-wing violence and the true violence always comes from the American left. The American news media cry out in horror at peaceful Tea Party demonstrations and look the other way when Occupy Wall Streeters commit vandalism, rape, and even murder. The media try to pin any political assassination attempt on conservatives; yet almost all American political assassinations are committed by the left.

The 19th century political philosopher Frederic Bastiat pointed out the fact (that Ayn Rand later popularized) that redistribution of wealth is in and of itself an unjustified use of force against the property of individuals. The fact that it’s a collective use of force in no way legitimizes it. Nor does the sanction of raw democracy which, as the old joke goes, is just two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for supper.
It's looking like the war is shifting from the Federal level to the states.  After the insanity that went down in Colorado, with laws being rammed through before organized resistance could really hit the state capital, Michael Bane writes:
The reason that our strength of numbers isn't working is because my sources tell me that Michael Bloomberg and the Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) organization, who provided the boilerplate for the laws, paid for all the witnesses and essentially organized this whole bit of theater, will finance a primary election challenges from the left for any Democrat who breaks rank and votes against these bills.
Get that?  If Democrats don't fellate Bloomberg, he'll pay for a challenger to run against them in the next primary.  Since primary campaigns are often low budget, and Bloomberg has billions to give to challengers, it's a deadly threat.  
It's time to get going on our state representatives.  We have to block this.  I hear Maryland is next in trouble.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Talking Back to My Senator

Here in Florida, our two senators are Marco Rubio, the young "rising star" (as I keep hearing) of the Stupid Party, and Bill Nelson, the old, "burning out star" of the Evil Party.  As I have tweaked all of my representatives about the flood of gun control bills coming to the floors for debate, I have gotten responses that are sometimes good and sometimes not so good.

I wish I had saved Senator Nelson's email to present here because it was just the sort of political crap you get from the Evil Party.  Dr. Jim over at Every Blade of Grass posted his reply from Babs Feinstein and Nelson's was almost that bad.  But Senator Nelson is actually from my town from when it was even more of a small, southern town.  Locals recall seeing him in church when he was State Insurance Commissioner.  So he gave me the old, “I'm a hunter and I've owned guns all my life, but AK-47s were designed to kill people” line.

I decided to reply to that and include my response here.  Maybe someone else will get some ideas from it.

Dear Senator Nelson:

Thank you for your email explaining your position on the second amendment.  To paraphrase, “I'm a hunter and I've owned guns all my life, but AK-47s were designed to kill people”.

Indeed they are; that's beyond dispute.  They are also probably the most widely made and owned guns in the world.  I've seen one made from a shovel. 

Also beyond dispute is that your hunting rifle was designed to kill people.  I don't know what kind of hunting rifle you have, but most hunters use a bolt action rifle.  These are direct descendants of the German Mauser rifles used by the German Army from the late 1800s through the second World War.  The only real difference between the AK and your bolt action rifle is the semiautomatic action, which wasn't perfected until the early 1900s, after the Mauser was fielded.  

Military style?  Every firearm style has been used by some military. 

What your letter failed to say was that since murder, taking guns into a school and many other crimes committed at Sandy Hook are already illegal; how can making them “more illegal” possibly stop the psychotically insane?  All you will do is impact the law abiding, who already navigate through thousands of pages of laws on guns. 

James Alan Fox, America's leading scholar on mass killings, says the average number of such killings has not changed as long as statistics have been kept; 35 years. 

There is no crisis to react to.  There is literally nothing to see here. 

Yes, Sandy Hook was a terrible tragedy, but more people die every weekend in Chicago than were killed at Sandy Hook, and Chicago has the strictest gun control in the nation.  Even at Sandy Hook, in Connecticut, an “Assault Weapons Ban” was already in place. 

Criminals get their guns from other criminals.  The guns are stolen, not sold at a gun show, according to the FBI.  Background checks will have no effect on this.

More gun control laws will do nothing to stop mass killers.  The Sandy Hook killer committed over 20 felonies.  Another law would prevent this from happening?  Seriously? 

Sometimes the smartest thing to do, and the most courageous thing to do, is nothing. 

I am opposed to all of the new proposed gun control laws.


Yeah, I obviously didn't put in any of the counter proposals from yesterday's post.  Since I was answering him, I wanted to keep it shorter than it was. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Reasonable Gun Laws - Counter Punching

WND commentator "Molotov Mitchell" makes a lot of good, logical points in this video:

He got me thinking about our political fights more in the sense of a street fight or gun fight. He really has a good point: if we sit here and just write or call our legislators over and over, the absolute best we can hope for is not lose any more rights. We will never get any more rights. 

I've written on this topic before and part of this will come from two posts: here and here, along with some new thoughts.

Let's start here: any adult with normal rights can walk into a sporting goods store in most places and walk out with a shotgun or a rifle with no waiting period. But if they wanted to buy an AR-15 or a Mossberg 500 from the factory or a store in another city, why does it have to go through a local FFL's hands? Why can't anyone order a rifle or shotgun from an online gun store, or even an kind of "online superstore" and have it shipped to their house?  It was sold by an FFL that did the NICS check, so why does another one have to get involved?  It used to be that way, until the GCA of '68.  What advantage is there to society from shipping it to an FFL?  It's not like the second FFL prevents someone from stealing it in transit - that's on the shipping company.  It does nothing but give money to local FFL holders. All they can do is look at the buyer's ID - which can be done digitally with encryption when the purchase is made. 

This is the opposite of the current drive to make every sale of every used firearm go through an FFL.  I think the whole FFL system is obsolete, a remnant of the way things worked in the 1930s, and does nothing that couldn't be achieved a dozen other ways.  All it does is keep FFLs and BATFE paper wonks employed.  I want our side to push back on the whole system.

We should push for, at the Federal level, complete concealed carry reciprocity across the country.  Illinois needs to be dragged, kicking and screaming into the modern age.

There's also a silly hodgepodge of waiting periods for a handgun.  In some places it's 3 days, in others, 5 days.  Most places in Florida will waive the wait if you hold a concealed carry permit.  If there's a waiting period, why can't you order a pistol from Bud's (for example) and wait 3 or 4 days for UPS to deliver it? Again, an FFL is shipping it, why does it need to go to another one?  With today's computer security, you could verify age, do a NICS check - anything the local shop can do - online. The whole idea of that 3 day wait was a "cooling off" period, so a hothead doesn't go buy a gun in a moment of anger and then go kill someone, but I personally have a hard time believing there were large numbers of that sort of crime anyway.  It's an extension of the ban on Saturday Night Specials, which (as far as I can tell) only had the effect of removing cheap, reasonably functional guns from people who couldn't afford better ones, and caused some smaller arms companies to either fold or change their product line.  Another penalty on the poor.  But, fine, we'll play your infantile waiting game -- now how does waiting 3 days to pick up a gun in your city differ from waiting 3 days to get it delivered by UPS or FedEx?

Why are silencers - glorified mufflers - regulated as if they were machine guns?  Why are we required to have a muffler on a car, motorcycle or lawn mower, but we're required to not have one on a gun?  I'll tell you why: Hollywood.  They created this illusion that a silencer reduces the 155 to 160 dB of a gun shot down to a barely audible, and it just isn't so.  Silencers should be completely deregulated - not even the $5 "any other weapon" class - over the counter at your local store.  This one actually is for the children.  And for anyone who moves next door to gun ranges or clubs and gets disturbed by the sounds.

We should eliminate postal restrictions against mailing of firearms. We can ship them via UPS, or FedEx, why not USPS?  Don't they need every penny of revenue they can get?

Get rid of the stupid “sporting purpose” tests for firearms. The Heller decision makes it very clear that the Second Amendment isn’t about duck hunting. This particularly affects imports. Unless it as part of some trade war it makes no sense that guns and ammo which are perfectly legal to manufacture and own inside the U.S. can't be imported.  Not that trade wars make much sense, either. 

Get rid of the stupid laws against on short barreled rifles and shotguns. This only made sense when there were plans to ban handguns (originally part of NFA 34). The idea that a shotgun barrel 18.05" long is fine, but one that's 17.95" is some sort of killer monster weapon is just silly.  It's there simply to create law violations.  It's also one of their most enforced laws - probably because it's really easy to measure barrel length.

Note there's almost perfect inverse relationship between the number of guns in private hands and murder rate, across the globe.  More guns really does mean less crime.  
 (found at 90 Miles From Tyranny)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Playing Whack-a-Mole

The big news this morning was that we had spectacular round of Whack-a-Mole in Chelyabinsk, Russia.  As I said in that linked piece, from 2010,
Remember the arcade game?  Moles pop up in a field of holes and you club them down with a mallet?

Unfortunately, our planet is engaged in cosmic game of whack-a-mole.  How bad is it?  I've undertaken realistic scientific simulations using a common sledge hammer and a hamster and I have to say it's not pretty.  In fact, it's so "not pretty" that decorum prevents me from posting pictures of it.
It didn't take long for authorities to say they believe they found the impact point of a big surviving chunk, as it punched a pretty nice hole in the ice of Chebarkul Lake
Army units found three meteorite debris impact sites, two of which are in an area near Chebarkul Lake, west of Chelyabinsk. The third site was found some 80 kilometers further to the northwest, near the town of Zlatoust. One of the fragments that struck near Chebarkul left a crater six meters in diameter.
The meteor was estimated, according to Russia Today, to be 10 metric tons, and moving at 30km/sec or 67,000 MPH.   Turning that into the energy released, it's (1/2) mV^2 or 10,000 kg times (30,000 m/sec) times (30,000 m/sec) or 9,000,000,000,000 (9 trillion) joules of energy. The handy-dandy "convert to" website says that's the same as 2150 tons of TNT - a 2 kiloton bomb.  NASA says the meteor was "only about the size of a bus and weighed an estimated 7,000 tons, it exploded with the force of 20 atomic bombs". They don't provide enough numbers to test their calculations. 

There are some cool videos that give a good look at the fireball so you can see how bright it was, like this one.  and a longer video that shows a street scene so you can see how many windows and doors were blown out by the explosion.  A real shaky-cam with lots of excited commentary in Russian (I assume). 

Of course, this meteor was not related to the much publicized asteroid 2012 DA14 which passed by uneventfully as predicted. 

That's the thing about the Great Cosmic Whack-A-Mole game: not every piece that can cause some damage is known about.  Most of these unknown, untracked hunks, like this one, could knock over buildings or pretty thoroughly mess up a city.  It's a game.  You're in it.  No, you were not asked to join. It's part of the risks that come with life.  The next one could come in a second or not for 100 years.  It could land in the Pacific (most likely - it covers the most area of the globe), or it could land in your backyard.   

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Precision targeting Cupid.
Don't recall where I found this, but I've had the image a long time - probably last Valentine's or the one before that.  Obviously produced by Executive Search Dating,  whom I have no affiliation with.  Just liked the picture, although that crossbow doesn't look like it fits little cherub cupid very well. 

Mrs. Graybeard and I have been married a long time, over 30 years, so we've seen lots of Valentine's day celebrations - and a couple that were less than celebratory.  One time, about 20 years ago, Major Southeast Defense Contractor was engaged in serious competition for a contract worth billions.  Several days before the 14th, they had me working lots of (free) overtime, then sent me to southern California to put on a demonstration.  I was not only out of the state, I had been unable to do anything about the holiday.  It literally was hard to get time to even make a phone call - that was before cellphones on our bodies 24/7.  When I got back, I hit the card shop, hoping they had some Valentines still out.  There wasn't a pink card in the store.  Everything was green for the next holiday - St. Patrick's day.  So I got one of those, captioned everything on it with a Valentines theme, and re-wrote it into an elaborate joke. 

It's still one of my favorite tricks. The other involved buying a Spanish card and horribly mis-translating everything. 

A happy day to you and yours.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Say Goodbye to 75W Incandescant Bulbs

I wasn't aware until today that 75 W light bulbs were outlawed on January 1st, following 100 W bulbs into the dustbins of history. Lou Frenzel writes in Electronic Design:
As of the first of the year, the manufacture and sale of 75-watt incandescents is against the law.  That ban happened to 100-watt bulbs last year.  Next year, 60 and 40-watt bulbs go on the no-no list.  All of that is due to the controversial Energy Independence and Security Act (ESIA) of 2007.  The Act does not ban the actual use or purchase of these bulbs, just their manufacture and sale.
Outlawing purchase takes care of itself because all stock will eventually get sold.  And since these bulbs burn out, the "actual use" part takes care of itself without the Feds having to get up close and personal.  Similar to the ban of T12 fluorescent bulbs I wrote about last June, and the 100 W bulbs mentioned in that quote, it's all the result of our insect overlords deciding we aren't smart enough to choose our lighting needs on our own. 

Consider it a nudge.  We may not have an officially recognized "Nudge Unit" like they do in the UK, but it all comes down to that book by Cass Sunstein many of us have written about many times before.  

Like most people, I've had a few CFL bulbs here, and I've had pretty uniformly bad results with them.  First off, not one has lasted as long as claimed (a topic of serious discussion in engineering forums), second off, there's that problem with mercury contamination when they die, and finally, I don't like the light color - even the ones claimed to be daylight bulbs.  In one fixture (ceiling in my garage) they last no longer than incandescent bulbs and cost several times more. 

At the moment, I'm writing under the light of four LED bulbs.  Those were on sale at four for $60 (instead of the usual $80) and each puts out the same number of lumens as a typical 60W incandescent.  I've only had them in since October, but this fixture is one of the most used in the house, and might be on as much as 8 hours a day.  I'd like to go to more LEDs around the house, but they're still pretty high on the cost curve, and there are very few equivalents to the 100W bulbs I like in many places.  Maybe my stockpiled 100W and 60W bulbs will last long enough for a couple of price drops. 

Frenzel points out a reality that many greenies miss, but misses another himself:
I think the big question for the home owner is: Am I really saving money?  Probably not.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the Department of Energy, residential lighting represents only 9 to 13% of total electrical power usage.  Most electrical energy goes to refrigerators, air conditioning, water heaters, and other appliances.  So if you replace all your bulbs with CFLs or LEDs you are only saving a fraction of your total electrical bill.
While he's right about the lighting representing a small portion of electricity use, in places with a real winter, incandescent bulbs make a real contribution to heating the living space.  Energy efficient bulbs may save electricity in the fixture, but make you spend it on your heating.  As always, solutions that only look at one small part are usually not solutions and make the problems worse.  They always act as if the law of unintended consequences doesn't apply to them.  

left to right, regular incandescent, CFL, LED, from Sylvania

Banning light bulbs without a good replacement is just another example of big government overreach.  Like declaring it's time for solar power, legislators think they can mandate changes to inescapable laws of nature.  Solar power will have its day, and LED bulbs will have their day, but neither of those days is today.  CFLs might have already been as good as they're ever going to be.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

You've Heard of "Offshoring" Jobs

But have you heard of "onshoring" or "reshoring":  bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US?  I first read reports about this a few years ago. When companies first started moving tech jobs over to India and China, there was a much bigger gap in pay between the US and those countries.  As supply and demand has worked, there simply are not enough people in the world who can do those jobs, pay increases over there have massively outstripped raises here in the states and the economics is becoming less attractive for many reasons.

Design News has an article on the subject. 
China’s low labor costs once compelled companies to outsource production abroad. Today, wages are five times higher than they were 12 years ago, and are estimated to continue rising at 18 percent a year...
The Atlantic Monthly covers the subject, too.
The heart of their argument is this: Through most of post–World War II history, the forces of globalization have made it harder and harder to keep manufacturing jobs in the United States. But the latest wave of technological innovation, communications systems, and production tools may now make it easier—especially to bring new products to market faster than the competition by designing, refining, and making them in the United States. At just the same time, social and economic changes in China are making the outsourcing business ever costlier and trickier for all but the most experienced firms.  (emphasis added - SiG)
Strangely, it was just over a year ago that I wrote on this same topic, linking to an article in ... the Atlantic Monthly. They said in that piece:
We do still make things here, even though many people don’t believe me when I tell them that. Depending on which stats you believe, the United States is either the No. 1 or No. 2 manufacturer in the world (China may have surpassed us in the past year or two). Whatever the country’s current rank, its manufacturing output continues to grow strongly; in the past decade alone, output from American factories, adjusted for inflation, has risen by a third.
Finally, as I said in last January's piece, I've worked in electronics manufacturing since 1976, virtually my entire adult life; first as an electronics technician, and eventually as an engineer.  If there's one constant, it's the refinement of processes to run more automatically and require fewer but higher-level people.  I suppose the other constant since '76 has been people telling me we don't manufacture anything in America anymore.

There's a big political pie here, and His Royal Oneness is droning on in the background about manufacturing now.  I would bet his mental image of manufacturing is unionized workers of all kinds - the better for that conveyor belt of money that unions and government exchange.  Profitability for that kind of job is not very likely at all.   
(Atlantic author James Fallows at an electronics manufacturer in China). 

Monday, February 11, 2013


From Deroy Murdock at the National Review Online:
As gun stores currently enjoy land-sale business, some Americans are arming themselves to insure against circumstances as yet unseen. They justifiably worry that a government that aims gun barrels at Amish dairy farmers is capable of the unimaginable. (Emphasis added)
From a story on the overuse of SWAT Teams and Tactics for the war on some drugs, and the militarization of local police forces, "And Your Little Dog, Too".  

I think every single story of excessive force by Federal Agents and local SWAT teams in that article has been carried in this space - a few in here, for example.  If you have friends who are unfamiliar with this overreach, or if you're missing some details, it's a good place to start.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Taking Advantage of an Abundance

One thing that Florida has plenty of is sun.  This time of year, it attracts people from all over the country - northern hemisphere in fact - for days like today.  This morning, it was close to 60 and the high didn't quite hit 80, with a nice breeze from the Northeast.  Our population swells with "snowbirds" who come here to get out of the worst of winter.  In the spring, usually after Easter, those people leave, and the rest of us live in a hot, steamy place. 

In a combination "science project" and preparedness project, Mrs. Graybeard bought a solar oven made by these guys.  We picked it up here, on a good sale - keep your eyes on it if you're thinking of one.  Or course, you can make a simple solar oven, with a couple of boxes, or reflective insulation panels, and we played with one of those a while back.  This one is full of good improvements, like a glass lid that makes a good seal, easy ways to change the angle of the box toward the sun, and a cooking rack that swivels so that nothing spills.    Think of taking the idea, living with it for a while, all the while figuring out ways to improve it and make it more useful, and you'll end up with something like this.  They boast it will allow you to roast an 18 pound turkey, and I have no doubts you could.   

With only a little effort to keep it centered on the sun, the built in thermometer said the oven was 325.  Today had more clouds and it was closer to 250.  Of course, 325 is a decent baking temperature and 250 will cook things, just more slowly.  One of the fun things you can do in these, is "hard boil" eggs;  I use the quotes because there is no water used.  You simply put the eggs in a holder - a cardboard egg carton is ideal - and they hard cook in around half an hour.  These were after about 45 minutes:
A tin of corn muffins cooked in about the same time, maybe an hour.
They're fully baked inside and taste great.  Yeah, we ate the first four before taking this picture. 

In addition to baking, you can dehydrate foods, and pasteurize water to make it safe to drink. They claim that you can use it like a slow cooker - put your food in it before you leave for the day, point the oven where the sun will maximize heat around mid-day, and your meal should be slow cooked when you get home.  We haven't tried that.  We're still experimenting with the performance we get out of it. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Two Words for a Lazy Saturday

Two words for a lazy Saturday, over a thousand miles away from the Great Blizzard Nemo or Snowpocalpyse or whatever you call it.  Dry.  Fire. 

It's no secret that good dry fire practice helps make you a better shooter.  If you live in an area of wide open spaces and can go out to shoot anytime you want (and your ammo stock pile is really deep), maybe you don't think of dry firing often.  For those of us in the "cit-tay" where we need to go to ranges, and even then can do nothing but shoot square range, a dry fire program has some training benefits.  Dry firing is recommended by everyone from the Appleseed Project to trainers/tactical ninjas like Rob Pincus at I.C.E.

At the Appleseed Event we went to, they recommended marking a dot on the wall that we could put our rifle sights on and dry fire.  Another approach is something like the Laserlyte Training System.  The system consists of the target and caliber-specific laser cartridges that fit in the bore of your gun.  The target is a combination of LEDs and photo sensors.  You fire the laser at it and the photo sensors record where the laser hits. Later, by putting the laser on the sensor at lower left, it turns on an LED at every place you hit. 
In this video, Rob demonstrates and explains an important part of the training.  You don't want to train yourself to not expect the BANG.  When you pull the trigger and don't get the BANG, program yourself to do the Tap-Rack-Bang drill.  If your EDC is the type of gun that doesn't require racking the slide to reset the trigger, like a revolver and some semiautomatics, it may not be a concern, but if you're using most Glocks or XDs or other polymer guns, program your brain to do that drill without thinking.  That way, if you ever don't hear that BANG in real life, when you really need to, you do the drill automatically.
As you can see, sometimes I put the trainer on a shelf and do various things I can never do on the square range.  These were shot from about twice arms length, shooting from a draw to just off my right hip, gun rolled over to about 45 degrees off vertical; in other words completely un-aimed.   An advantage of the system is that I can practice drawing and firing while moving around the room, something I just can't do at any of my local ranges.  I could get more aggressive with it, put in a tree or somewhere out in the backyard and make it a physical workout, which is actually a pretty neat idea, now that I think of it.  This is far more dynamic than putting a pencil dot on the wall and lining it up in sights for plain dry fire, but if you live in the boonies and can actually set up targets and do this with real, live, ammo, then you don't need one. 
The disadvantage, of course, is the cost.  The trainer MSRP is $231, but you can get those for much less.  Midway has them for $140 today (but out of stock...).  For any one caliber, the cartridges retail about $80, from a much higher MSRP.   If you plan to train with a lot of different calibers, it can get pricey, but you can get set for one caliber for $220-ish.  You could buy a lot of ammo for that, if you could buy ammo.  On the other hand, it's not expensive compared to most training classes.

Think about it.  It's a good tool.

Edit Sunday 1225P:  Added a missing word.  This sentence was wrong:  "You could buy a lot of ammo for that, if you could buy ammo." didn't have the second "could".

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Maybe We Can't Think Like Gun Grabbers

Joe Huffman at "The View From North Central Idaho" has an excellent post up on how the coming nastiness might unfold.  You should RTWT.  I especially noticed this part early in the post because it echoes what I talked about Monday:
About 10 years ago I was talking to someone from the CIA who managed a group of psychologists. He was explaining how difficult it was for people in the U.S., even in the intelligence community, to understand how our Muslim adversaries thought. He told me, “They think differently than we do. It’s even possible they think differently than we can think.”

It may be that we have the same sort of problem with the anti-gun people and they with us. After all, many of the things they say sounds like crazy talk to us. And they insist what we say is “crazy talk” as well.
It's why they call us stupid and crazy.  Things that are common sense to us, like that magazine capacities won't affect psychotic killers, are completely out of their way of thinking.  And things that are common sense to them, like "just give the robber what he wants and he'll leave you alone" are things we know to be so often untrue.  Like this 36 year old Miami mother who was robbed, gave up her purse and was shot in the face

To paraphrase Reagan, "It's not that they're ignorant, it's that what they that know isn't so".

But that's not really what the whole piece is about. Boots on the Ground is about how an American civil war 2 or revolution 2 might play out - whatever you call it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Outstanding Paragraph of the Day

From the DiploMad 2.0 blog. on the All So Obvious things that need to be done to right the US.
At the federal level it is obvious what needs doing. Slash and burn. Departments of education, interior, energy, health, labor, commerce, and transportation should be eliminated asap, as should the EPA and USAID. Yes, completely eliminated. The Department of Justice needs to be radically reduced in size and power; eliminate the ATF and DEA, for starters. The FBI has completely overstepped its original mandate and needs to be reined in. The State Department can be cut by one-third almost immediately, and closer to one-half in a couple of years. DOD needs to focus on its mission and shed programs, offices, and employees that have nothing to do with defense. Lawyers. My God, does DoD have lawyers. Slash and burn. Get rid of all the environmental nonsense in DoD. Drop the vast, corrupt, and bloated domestic PX network. In a time of WalMarts and Targets, why have a PX? Negotiate a discount for military personnel. The same with VA hospitals, most of which are substandard; get veterans a voucher system they can use at private hospitals. The CIA? A complete overhaul and reduction in the massive stateside bureaucracy which interferes with and stifles CIA's proper role overseas. NASA? Privatize as much as possible of the space program, keeping in government hands only the most secret and sensitive operations. Don't get me started on Homeland; it needs a radical downsizing or even a splitting apart.
I couldn't have said it better - and I've said at least 80% of it.  Aww, you've almost read the whole thing - go read the rest.

The comments over there seem to be in agreement that this ain't going to happen without a "reset".  Too many vested interests that won't give up their money.  Same thing as we all say.   
I've used this graphic since 2010, but since the congress refuses to pass a budget and just funds everything by "continuing resolution", it's still the most recent budget graphic! 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

We Don't Have a Mass Shooting Problem - 2

Last August, in the wake of the Aurora Colorado theater shooting, I posted part 1 of this. It relied on a news reporter from

Tonight's update relies on Megan McArdle at The Daily Beast.  Ms. McArdle interviews Northwestern University criminologist James Alan Fox, who has been studying mass shootings since about 1980.  Go RTWT, - as usual, I'll whet your appetite with a couple of quotes:
James Alan Fox: Mass murderers are extraordinarily ordinary.

Most mass killers kill people they know, with a clear-cut motive. They typically plan their crimes in advance, often weeks or months in advance. They are calm, deliberate and determined to get justice for what they perceive to be unfair treatment.

The idea that they suddenly snap actually makes little sense. They snap and just so happen to have 2 AK-47's and 2000 rounds of ammunition around for just such an occasion? Hardly.
Not lunatics who suddenly snap? They plan in advance for month?  Calm, deliberate, looking for justice?
Most of the time, the motive is to get even with those they hold responsible for their misfortunes. Usually people at work or at home, or sometimes a class of people (women, Jews, immigrants, whites, blacks, etc) . . . so the victims are chosen randomly, but not the type of victim, or the place to find them.
A crime like the Sandy Hook massacre is exceptionally rare.  But they're getting more common? 
If one examines the full range of cases--all shootings with at least four victims killed, the numbers have been trendless. Over the past 35 years, there has been an average of just under 20 incidents per year.

Think of it this way: the number of incidents and victims is relatively constant, but the population has been growing - so the number per capita is decreasing. 
Megan: So you have been saying that many of the most popular remedies for mass shootings won't work. They aren't all identifiably crazy before the shooting, so mental health screenings for gun buyers won't stop them. Neither will waiting periods, because they're long-term planners. And restricting certain scary guns (an "assault weapons ban") won't have much effect, because they'll just pick another gun.
Very perceptive, Megan!

Monday, February 4, 2013

It's Not About Guns and Maybe It's Not Even About Control

We all know that saying, right?, "Gun control isn't about guns, it's about control".  Lately, thanks to the prodding of many fine folks, I've been considering that maybe it's not even about control.  Maybe it's about hate.  Let me put it plainly.

Maybe they - the ruling class, the self anointed coastal progressives who want to lead us "forward" - maybe they just hate you and me.  We're ... distasteful.  Those "cousin humping" rednecks with their stupid, icky guns!  (I see Sebastian beat me to some of this)

One of the people who influenced me in this was Michael Bane, who wrote plainly:
Our enemies aren't antigun, they're anti-people-with-guns. It's not the guns they's us.
Part of the problem is our world views are so different.  We are responsible; we've stood up and taken the awesome responsibility of the lives and safety of not just ourselves, but our families and even strangers who we happen to be around.  Sheep and sheep dogs, is another common idea.  The coastal/blue county elites apparently believe that only the wise and wonderful government should be armed, which is ok because they can go try to emulate Lindsey Lohan or one of those "famous for being famous" twits and not have to be a grownup.  They don't trust themselves with this responsibility, so they project that distrust onto us.  This leads the self-adoring elites to simply declare anyone who has a different viewpoint to be "stupid" or "dumb".  Look at how they savage attorney Gayle Trotter in this Twitchy feed, who testified in the senate's gun-grabbing committee hearing last week.  Twitter isn't a place where one can present well-reasoned arguments or even just facts, but instead of just calling her stupid or crazy, maybe they could cite some studies instead of just name calling.  Of course they can't because the facts are on our side.

How many people have you heard call for the deaths of not just the NRA president and his family, but the NRA itself?  How about that Donald Kaul in the DesMoines Register saying
Declare the NRA a terrorist organization and make membership illegal. Hey! We did it to the Communist Party, and the NRA has led to the deaths of more of us than American Commies ever did. (I would also raze the organization’s headquarters, clear the rubble and salt the earth, but that’s optional.) Make ownership of unlicensed assault rifles a felony. If some people refused to give up their guns, that “prying the guns from their cold, dead hands” thing works for me.

Then I would tie Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, our esteemed Republican leaders, to the back of a Chevy pickup truck and drag them around a parking lot until they saw the light on gun control.
Many people have wondered out loud just how far this goes.  Do they really want to instigate an open civil war to allow the state to clamp down with absolute tyranny?  How many millions do they want to kill?  It's said that before you can succeed with genocide, you need to create a common sense that the victims are not really human.  They're dogs or pigs (or the descendants of pigs and monkeys) or worse.  Al Gore delivered some shocking rhetoric last week when he ventured into this territory
The scientists now know that there is in human nature a divide between what we sometimes call liberals and conservatives, and it gives an advantage, you can speculate, to the human species to have some people who are temperamentally inclined to try to change the future and experiment with new things, and others who are temperamentally inclined to say, wait a minute, not too fast.

This is the stuff of Eugenics, the early 20th century progressive movement to get rid of those inferior races.   Al is saying conservatives are genetically different.  The slope from genetically different to genetically better and worse groups (Gore seems to be here already) and then to totally ignoring anything you have to say, at best, or eliminating you at worst is not just a steep slope, it's greased and ready.  It took less than 30 years, at the beginning of the 20th century when life was much slower than today, to go from sterilizing blacks and other "undesirable" groups to the gas chambers in Europe. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Thousand Rants and Diatribes - With New! Improved! Corruption

Blogger informs me that this is my 1000th post since starting this blog, a few weeks short of three years ago.  Obviously, I could have posted this any time since last Friday night when I put up the last post - the reason I didn't is I saw the numbers working up and decided to post this today, because it's my birthday.  A double personal milestone.  I realize that in the real world, those two facts and about $3 would get me a cup of Starbucks plain coffee, but ya gotta find your encouragement where you can.

But let's not talk about me, let's talk about other idiots.

One of the topics I like to write about occasionally is health and fitness.  I think I wrote the first piece mostly on my phone while waiting for Mrs. Graybeard to come out of surgery, getting her second hip replacement.  I especially like to point out the involvement of the leviathan in health care, and how you could make a fortune by always betting against whatever recommendation they make - if anyone would take that bet  Wellness programs, coming soon to a government mandated health care program near you, are a prime example.  While there's absolutely nothing wrong with the concept of wellness, nobody truly knows (in the hard science sense of knowing) how to create wellness in an "unwell" population. 

Take the "Capitol Wellness Expo" coming up this week up in DC.  In his column in Townhall (that link) Derek Hunter writes:
The master of ceremonies for the event is a woman named Judy Kosovich, an attorney who, among other things, has written of the need for people to reconnect with the Earth. OK, that’s not so weird, right? Well, maybe not conceptually, but when you read what she’s written it gets weirder.
She opens her article "Time to Go Barefoot Outdoors" on, Ms. Kosovich writes:
Now that the weather is getting warmer, you might want to consider walking on the earth barefoot. Why? Because the earth has an abundance of electrons that will neutralize the excess positive charge you are probably carrying around
In most of the world, this is known as getting shocked, and it's viewed in a negative way.  Think of grabbing the door knob after walking across the rug on these dry, winter days - or sliding across the seat in your car and grabbing the door.   To be fair, not every accumulation of charge is big enough to be felt, but you can be sure that Nature Will Not Allow you to build up too much charge before it's equalized.  And, also to be fair, this is not an idea unique to Ms. Kosovich, and is advocated by some in the Paleo fitness/diet movement.  I bring this up not because I'm opposed to going barefoot (although I do think that electrical charge thing is bunk), but mostly to let you get a picture in your head of what sort of event this is.  I'm picturing granola munching hippies, maybe in a drum circle, making sure they eat organic soy protein (quite possibly the most industrially processed food in the world).  Back to Hunter's piece:
The event is sponsored by the Orwellian-sounding Citizens for Health which is chaired by James S. Turner, a lawyer with the D.C. firm Swankin & Turner. Turner, it turns out, is the “sugar daddy” of Citizens for Health in more ways than one.

Bloomberg Business reported last year that Citizens for Health, “A group that bills itself as the ‘voice of the natural-health consumer’ has received about $300,000 from the sugar industry to help campaign against high- fructose corn syrup as an alternative sweetener.” That $300,000, by the way, constitutes “more than half” of Citizens for Health’s funding last year.
The sugar industry?  Of course, they're opposed to HFCS - it's competition. Citizens for Health, if they really cared about health, should turn the money down and say "a pox on both of you". 
The sugar lobby has an interest in attacking any alternative to the sweetheart deal, so to speak, it has with government. That deal comes in the form of federal government support that artificially keep sugar prices high – 41 percent higher than in the rest of the world, according to the Heritage Foundation.

Why are consumers paying out of their own pockets to support the sugar industry, especially when we are facing an obesity problem in this country? The answer is simple – money.
If you're not from Florida or certain other parts of the south, you're probably not aware that Big Sugar is a political powerhouse.  They keep lower-priced, foreign-made sugar out of the US, and have been implicated in widespread pollution of Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.  They are known for buying influence at all levels of government: local, state and federal.   Again, Big Sugar was paying Citizens for Health to lobby against their competition, high fructose corn syrup.  Hunter, again:
There’s nothing wrong with lobbying, even though it’s become a dirty word in American politics. A lobbyist, used in the pejorative form, is simply someone who advocates for something with which the person using the word disagrees. We’re guaranteed in the Constitution the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances. The problem is with government itself.
The federal government has gotten so big that they dribble out millions of dollars like a toddler dribbling turds out their Pampers.  They lose track of more money than most of us will see in our lifetimes, so it's only natural that they would attract all sorts of sycophants and parasites, trying to find some of those dribbles.  

Politics makes strange bedfellows because they're all in there scrounging for lost change.
(XKCD 1065)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Patents - It's Complicated

Last night's post led to a couple of good comments on the patent system at large.  As I've done a few times over the years, when someone's comments lead me to writing several paragraphs, I turn it into the next post.  First off, read the comments here.  At this time, there are only two: this one and another here.  There may be more by the time you read this.

To begin with, I think all systems of laws can broadly be broken into "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", to borrow a term.  I think Anon@11:06, waxes close to the "knowledge should be free" ideal (and pardon me if I'm putting words in your mouth), saying that all patents are unlawful monopolies and anti-intellectual.

I think I've said before that I'm too pragmatic to be a good idealist; I can hold mutually contradictory opinions on many topics, and this is one.  Personally, I've developed a couple of really large Intellectual Property efforts in my life, totally outside my profession, and I've given both of them away.  We're talking working nights and weekends for years, just to give away what I know. Giving them away was my choice.  If those weren't spare time projects, they could have been done faster and arguably better, but then there's that whole "how do I make a living?" question if I'm doing it without a job or any other income to live on. 

The reality is that developing products often takes a lot of time, energy and money, and someone has to pay for it.  The people who develop those products work hard and deserve to be paid for that work.  Think of the products that take a team of 10 or 100 or thousand workers several years and huge amounts of money to develop.  Think about developing a new microprocessor: how many people work on a new processor at Intel or AMD?  What about the invention of the semiconductor itself?  What about a new jet like the 787?  How many thousands of people in hundreds of companies developed things that go on to that plane?  The companies that develop big things like those tend to be big, publicly traded companies and they're betting other people's money.  Is a company going to spend that kind of money if there's no promise of at least some period where they can protect that hard-won knowledge - or some of it? 

How much of modern life wouldn't exist if that motive wasn't there?  I think one of the reasons that our country has developed such might is the patent system and inventors keeping the rights to profit from their inventions.  When you look around the globe, it seems that the countries that allowed this with a good patent system are all the free, prosperous, Western countries, while the countries that don't recognize IP are, well, China, the former USSR, and other, less-desirable places.

That's the good side of patent law. 

In terms of the " it should be freely available for others to improve upon " argument, patent lawsuits can only be won if the company can prove they lost money, so if you want to improve someone's product, you are free to do as much of that as often as you want, as long as you don't sell it.  Post about it online.  Post videos of how you hacked it.  Just don't sell it.  That puts you in competition with the patent holder. 

And that's where DiveMedic's comment, about "Large companies with armies of lawyers game the system, taking what they want and either settling out of court or tying it up in court for years,"  He's exactly, 100% right.  This is the bad side of patent law.  Or the ugly side.   

They could be trying to protect their investments, or they could just be predatory.  If it goes to court, just being predatory gets kicked out (or it should). 

Consider when Pepsi Dude (John Sculley) was at Apple, and seemed to be determined to sue everyone for everything, rather than innovate.  When a company has a building full of lawyers on retainer, it costs them the same amount whether they're out suing someone or not, but if those lawyers bring in money, they can cut expenses or actually be a profit center.  It pays for management to beat those lawyers like rented mules to get every cent that they can. They are specifically going after small guys because the small guy is likely to be unable to afford lawyers and fold early.  Just like our government goes after small fries and not the big corporations with whole floors in HQ filled with lawyers (here, for example). 
(Dilbert, obviously)
This is why, as I mentioned yesterday, smaller companies are looking at patents differently than 20 years ago.  The money to be made in high tech is being the first on the market with the cool product.  A 20 year patent doesn't mean much in that world.   They don't waste a minute, they get it on the market.  When the Chinese (no IP laws) buy one, copy it and start selling it at half the price, the originator cuts their price and profit margin, all the while running like crazy to get the Next Big Thing out on the market. 

This is just scratching the surface of a big topic.  It's a mixed bag of good, bad and ugly stories. There are stories from the past of brilliant inventors being shut down by patent holders (see for example the story of  Edwin Armstrong and David Sarnoff) and important inventions being blocked from the market.  There are predatory uses of patents.  On balance, like everything else, bad people will use it for bad ends; good people won't.